Rostenkowski: The Man And The Power

This is an early fifteen minute sampler for the documentary "Rostenkowski," a portrait of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a powerful figure in Chicago (and national) politics. The tape is full of anecdotes relating to the particular style of politics in Chicago and the man himself. This revealing tape shows us the phone calls, handshakes, and political deals that run this country.

00:00Copy video clip URL The tape begins with a black screen.

00:09Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of a Rostenkowski parade float outside of a campaign rally at Pulaski Park in Chicago.

00:22Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Rostenkowski speaking to the crowd, urging them to give the other candidates speaking at the event the “thrill of their lifetime.”

01:50Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Rostenkowski at his desk in his Chicago office. The Congressman talks about the neighborhood he’s lived in all of his life and how it has changed over the years. “I think we’ve made the turn. I think that that’s why it’s exciting for me to see to have gone through what was a very active community to a somewhat dormant community, to almost difficult living, to now where the investment is sound, the people are starting to look to the inner city again, and I do everything I can in Washington to encourage that.” Rostenkowski goes on to talk about his family’s history of public service.

04:02Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Rostenkowski at the campaign rally speaking to the crowd about the Democratic party and its ideals. “You know what’s great about the party? The greatness that’s really made the city of Chicago one of the outstanding communities of the world is because we’re concerned, because we like to see things done in an orderly manner.” He continues by talking about former Mayor Richard J. Daley’s significance to the city.

05:18Copy video clip URL Cut back to Rostenkowski’s office in Chicago. The Congressman is speaking about the hierarchy in Congress, specifically about Southern Congressmen and the power they gain through tenure while in Congress. “If that’s the way the game is played, you gotta play it. And I’m not ashamed to go up to somebody in Mississippi or Texas, if they’ve got something before my committee that they’re interested in, I’m not ashamed at all to tell them that there’s something in their committee that I’m interested in. And if you don’t move, I don’t move. You know, that’s very political, but you get things done.” Rostenkowski then goes on to talk about how he is viewed in Congress. He also talks about his only loss in an election.

08:17Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of a Rostenkowski billboard along the expressway in Chicago.

08:22Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Rostenkowski talking about his need for the people of Chicago to identify with him. He goes into detail about the many officeholders he works with throughout the state of Illinois. At one point, the interviewer, Tom Weinberg, asks Rostenkowski whether he may be planning to run for higher political positions either in Illinois or Washington. Rostenkowski answers this question with a confident swagger and states that he is only running for Congress and that he has no plans of retiring soon. He talks a little bit about his early days in Congress, his seniority that has accumulated over the years, and his friendship with Richard J. Daley. Rostenkowski goes on to say, “I should think any citizen that says, ‘I don’t want to be mayor,’ I think there’s something wrong with that. … Public service is really an obligation on the part of citizens. I don’t want anybody to think that I wouldn’t think about moving to another service. I think when you do that, you lose the enthusiasm that you speak of that I have, and I just think that it’s good for everybody to be expecting promotion or to look forward to it.” Weinberg then asks Rostenkowski whether being mayor of Chicago is important to him. Rostenkowski responds by saying he has a great deal of respect for that office, but does not explicitly say he would like to be mayor someday.

11:46Copy video clip URL Cut back to the campaign rally, where Rostenkowski is speaking to the audience about the difference between Democrats and Republicans. “The difference between us and the other party is that we working at what we do. We enjoy what we do. When we argue, we come to a consensus, and we go to the polls, and I’m not going to hide this at all. If ten people vote in our community, you can bet nine of them will vote Democratic, and you know why they’ll vote Democratic? They’ll vote democratic because basically we reflect their views. We’re concerned with what little people get out of their government.” Rostenkowski goes on to sincerely thank his supporters. He also speaks of his pride of living in Chicago throughout his career and applauds his wife for her hard work in raising their children.

14:54Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of Congressman Rostenkowski and his wife, Laverne, walking to a polling station in their neighborhood on election day 1980. There is voiceover audio of Rostenkowski praising his wife for her hard work in raising their children.

15:18Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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