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. Rostenkowski on a United Airlines flight to Chicago. He discusses differences between Democrats and Republicans, saying the Democrats are more concerned with the social welfare of people. He also says that he would like to see the House of Representatives change from two year terms to four year terms.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a shot of Rostenkowski aboard a flight to Chicago. He and the videomakers are continuing their discussion on the effects of television in Congress. Rostenkowski states that those in congress will adjust to the television cameras in time. He then goes on to talk fairly negatively of the media and its biased coverage and cites that as one of his concerns. “Everybody believed that what was in the newspaper was totally accurate. People have over a period of years found out that maybe there’s an opinion of the pencil press that might be inaccurate. I think that television is learning it’s own lesson. People are now questioning the accuracy of reporting, even on television. We’ll make an adjustment, but it’s the process that takes so long.”
01:38Copy video clip URL One of the videomakers points out that there may have been some confusion over the question and that the actual question pertained to some of Rostenkowski’s daily practices in the House of Representatives, specifically as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. The Congressman begins to talk about some of the ways to improve the voting process in the House and how he plans to handle his new workload when elevated to the position of Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Rostenkowski states the Al Ullman, current Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was able to balance both the chairmanship and voting on the House floor. As chairman, Rostenkowski believes he’ll be able to do the same. He also emphasizes the importance of “quality, not quantity” votes while keeping a good voting average.
04:30Copy video clip URL One of the filmmakers asks Rostenkowski what he believes the difference is between a Democrat and a Republican. Rostenkowski states rather quickly that President-elect Reagan’s programs will clearly display the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The Congressman goes on to say, “I guess Democrats are more concerned with the general social welfare of the country, with the programs that we’ve enacted–Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security–and I don’t mean that Republicans aren’t, except that it is very difficult to bring them along to change.” Rostenkowski then goes on to say, “Let me say this: I don’t think that Reagan is going to be a bad president, but just to contain or maintain the status quo is quite simple. To create the atmosphere for change and improve society, that’s leadership. I said that when I made my announcement today. I’m going to work as hard to make his presidency a success as I can, because I hope we’re going to affect the American people favorably. But we’ve got a society that isn’t too enthusiastic to sacrifice, and that’s what will be interesting in the next two years.
06:30Copy video clip URL Weinberg then asks Rostenkowski if he thinks it would be better if Congressmen ran every four years as opposed to two. Rostenkowski quickly says, “Oh, absolutely.” He then begins to share his thoughts on the differences between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Rostenkowski gives some very thoughtful insights into why he believes House members should receive four years in office. He then broaches upon the subject of advancement in the House, specifically referring to the salaries of many members. “Really the expense of being a candidate these days is very discouraging to people. Plus the fact that once you’re elected you’re limited to income; your life is a mirror, glass house.” Rostenkowski goes on to talk about a proposed salary increase that many House members are trying to give themselves.
10:45Copy video clip URL Weinberg then asks Rostenkowski about the types of pressures he will experience as the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Rostenkowski responds by talking about some of the tax policies Ronald Reagan will put into effect when in office. He discusses how tax policies are accepted or rejected in the House and how that may affect him as far as any outside influences that come his way. Rostenkowski eventually states, “There’ll be people that will be disappointed in me. … I hope I don’t disappoint anybody, but you know, every shot in golf makes somebody happy and somebody sad.” Weinberg then asks Rostenkowski about his relationship with Gerald Ford. Rostenkowski and Ford were avid golfers and used to play together quite a bit.
14:30Copy video clip URL Weinberg asks Rostenkowski what he believes is the most important daily newspaper for him to read as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Without hesitation, Rostenkowski says, “The most important newspapers are in Chicago as far as I’m concerned.” He then names off a couple of newspapers that those in Washington tend to read: The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc… Weinberg then asks whether Rostenkowski will change his reading habits as chairman. Rostenkowski responds, “Certainly, I’m going to have to become a student again, become more the technician than I think I have been. But then again I’ve been on the Committee sixteen years and I’ve acquired some knowledge. I guess it’ll be more intense because I’m going to have to try to render some leadership in the Committee with respect to positions that I think we’re going to have to take.” He then goes on to talk about what his position as chairman will be like once he’s there. “You assume national responsibilities more obviously than you did, but I think that over a period of growing, of knowing more about the budget, realizing that you cannot authorize programs and then be irresponsible and not appropriate money for them, but I don’t think that that happens because you’re chairman. I think that happens over a period of time as you start becoming more influential and more responsible.”
18:25Copy video clip URL Weinberg then asks Rostenkowski about some of the other vital issues he will be fighting for both inside and outside of the Ways and Means Committee. Rostenkowski emphasizes the need to protect the social security system and improve health care. He goes on to talk about his philosophy as an “urban area Congressman” and how he believes that won’t change once he becomes Chairman of the House Ways and Means.
20:36Copy video clip URL Quick cut to a shot of Rostenkowski as he walks towards the restrooms in the back of the plane. The filmmakers then begin to talk to a man that had been sitting next to Rostenkowski during the flight. The two ask him whether Rostenkowski’s statements were phony or fabricated. The man doesn’t outwardly say that the Congressman’s statements were phony, but he does place an interest in Rostenkowski’s comments about health care. This only lasts for a few minutes before the tape ends.
22:03Copy video clip URL Tape ends.