[Rostenkowski raw #106]

Raw footage from the 1981 documentary "Rostenkowski," a portrait of the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, a powerful figure in Chicago (and national) politics. In this tape, Joseph K. Dowley, chief counsel to the Way and Means Committee, is interviewed. He discusses what a "powerful and important position" the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is, and informs us that it has traditionally been a stepping-stone to the House Speakership.

00:00Copy video clip URL Various shots of Weinberg making a phone call and pictures of Rostenkowski with various political and social figures. No audio.

02:30Copy video clip URL Tape cuts to the desk of Joseph K. Dowley, chief counsel to the Ways and Means Committee.

02:44Copy video clip URL Audio comes in. Dowley is interviewed by the crew. Dowley discusses how holding the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee position could lead to holding the position of Speaker of the House. “If the ultimate goal is the speakership, I think the history of the House shows that some twenty-two Speakers of the House came from the Ways and Means Committee. Many of them were chairman. So in the past, that’s been a breeding ground for speakers. Now it hasn’t been in the recent past, but certainly there is a tradition for coming out of Ways and Means and getting into the ultimate goal.” Dowley then goes on to talk about his responsibilities as chief counsel to the Ways and Means Committee. “My role is to act as a filter and to try to educate [Rostenkowski] when there is a topic that he is going to be discussing with people, if he’s not familiar with it to try to get [Rostenkowski] oriented so he can relate to what it is they’re bringing to him.” Dowley also talks about a few of the other tasks he does in the office, one of them being speech writing. Most of the time, Dowley and other members of Rostenkowski’s staff write speeches for him, mainly when he is traveling throughout the U.S and talking about tax matters. “He’ll read what we give him. He’ll use it, but he’ll characterize it in his own way.”

11:08Copy video clip URL One of the crew members asks Dowley if “what they say is true–that Dan Rostenkowski is just a lazy guy.” Dowley responds by saying that the comment is an unfair characterization. “He has his interests and his disinterests like other members, and when he is interested, I don’t think you’ll find a member who works harder.” Dowley then goes on to say that “Laziness is often mistaken for selectiveness” in defending Rostenkowski. Dowley ends the interview by saying that he has “never met anyone with as much energy as [Rostenkowski] has.”

12:12Copy video clip URL Quick cut to orientation of freshman representatives. Rostenkowski asks those in attendance to take their seats. He then begins to talk about what the House is expecting of the new representatives. Throughout most of his speech, he keeps a very laid back demeanor and stays fairly relaxed. Rostenkowski describes what their experience will be like as a representative. “It’s true that the most important thing you in your first two years of service in Congress is getting yourself re-elected, keeping a high profile, visible at all times, trying to let your people know the service that you’re giving them.” The Congressman then goes on to make a point about upholding and staying true to the democratic philosophy by voting for bills that one may not truly support. “We hope that if you’re not really totally in favor of legislation, that it won’t hurt you in your district, certainly by supporting a program you might be helping someone else.” As Rostenkowski continues to speak, the camera pans to a close up of the seat of Harold Washington, a freshman representative at the time. Rostenkowski goes on to say, “We’ll try to give you, if you need the excuse for supporting legislation, to give you the excuse why you can support it.” He then states, “So when you’re solicited for a position on a bill, I hope after you’ve looked at it you can come up with an honest opinion and try if you can to give us votes because it’s the whole program that is going to be necessary that we’re going to have to try and reflect on in the future.” Rostenkowski then ends his speech, hands the podium over to Jim Wright, pours himself a glass of water, and sits down.

22:28Copy video clip URL Tape ends

 

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