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Senate Madness - Elite Eight

In today’s Elite 8 match ups, Daniel Webster squares off against Charles Sumner in the 19th Century bracket, Henry Clay faces Scoop Jackson in the Mixed Era, LBJ goes toe to toe against Mike Mansfield in the 20th Century bracket, and Ted Kennedy battles Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Modern Era.

19th Century

1. Daniel Webster vs. 3.  Charles Sumner

1. Daniel Webster, Whig - Massachusetts, 1782-1852: Dubbed “The Great Orator,” Daniel Webster fought to keep the country unified during the pre-Civil War debate over slavery. Indeed, he became the de facto spokesman for those seeking to save the union after delivering what’s been called, “The Most Famous Senate Speech” in a debate that lasted over nine days with a senator from South Carolina. Ironically, it was another speech – arguing in favor of the Compromise of 1850 and saying that bickering over slavery was pointless because it wasn’t going away – that ended his Senate career. That speech played well as a middle-of-the-road position in many parts of the country, but not in his liberal home state. Soon after, he resigned the Senate to become Secretary of State. Webster died just four months after Henry Clay – another #1 seed – did.

3. Charles Sumner, R-Mass., 1811-74: A prominent abolitionist on slavery, Sumner wrote the seminal piece of civil-rights legislation in 1870 during the debate over Reconstruction. The bill was far ahead of its time: It declared all men, including ex-slaves equal and to have equal access to all walks of life. The legislation passed in 1875 after Sumner’s death, but was ruled unconstitutional (leading eventually to the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision declaring “separate but equal facilities to be allowable). Sumner, though, is perhaps best known for being beaten with a cane by Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina in 1956 – in fact, Sumner was beaten so badly he didn’t return to the Senate for nearly three years.


Mixed Era

1. Henry Clay vs. 14. Scoop Jackson

1. Henry Clay, D-R, Whig - Kentucky, 1777-1852: Henry Clay’s ability to navigate a fractured Senate is credited with fending off war between slave-owning and free states -- at least three times. He was pivotal in the negotiations in the creation of the Missouri Compromise, which allowed the United States to continue its Western expansion. For his efforts, Clay earned the nicknames “The Great Compromiser” and “The Great Pacificator.” How revered was he? Abraham Lincoln called him "my beau ideal of a statesman" and often used his quotes in his speeches. He was the first ever to receive the honor of being laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Clay also engineered the only censure of a president -- Andrew Jackson. Clay's death, which took place a decade before the Civil War's start, was regarded as the end of the Senate's "Golden Era. 

14. Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson, D-Wash., 1912-83: The 30-year senator (1953-1981) and 43-year member of Congress wielded tremendous influence with colleagues on Capitol Hill and was regarded for his deep bipartisan ties. His counsel was sought after by presidents, especially on foreign-policy issues. He was liberal on most social issues, but he was hawkish on military affairs. For example, he supported U.S. efforts to get involved in Southeast Asia, even saying in 1975: “The basic decision to go into Vietnam was right.” He was popular with the American Jewish community for his support of Israel and crafting legislation to help Russian Jews emigrate more freely to there. He was one of the first senators to benefit from television’s advent, notably during the McCarthy-Army hearings of the 1950s; Jackson said McCarthy was “hunting headlines instead of hunting communists.” He also was seen as the “Senator from Boeing” for his work procuring funding for the airline maker in his home state. He ran for and lost the Democratic nomination for president twice – in 1972 and 1976. He got his nickname, “Scoop,” by the way, because his sister thought he reminded her of a comic-strip character.


20th Century

1. LBJ goes vs. 11. Mike Mansfield

1. Lyndon Johnson, D - Texas, 1908-73: Lyndon Johnson was dubbed the “Master of the Senate” by author Robert Caro, and he drew the blueprint for what we think of as the modern majority leader. LBJ understood the rules and what made senators tick. Ironically, his greatest accomplishments – passing the Great Society measures and the Civil Rights Act – came when he was president, earning him the nickname "Super Majority Leader." As a young majority leader, Johnson helped usher through President Eisenhower’s civil rights bill that only passed by weakening key enforcement provisions to pacify Southern Democrats. 

11. Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., 1903-2001: Succeeding Lyndon Johnson as Senate majority leader after LBJ was elected vice president, Mansfield helped deliver many of the Great Society’s legislative accomplishments -- like Medicare and Medicaid. He also played a key role in breaking the filibuster against the civil-rights legislation.


Modern Era

1. Ted Kennedy vs. 2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

1. Ted Kennedy, D - Massachusetts, 1932-2009: Regarded as the last lion to serve in the Senate, Ted Kennedy worked across the aisle to achieve major legislative accomplishments -- on health care, education, civil rights, and raising the minimum wage. He also was instrumental in Barack Obama’s presidential quest, delivering him key support in the middle of the heated 2008 campaign between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. 

2. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (Modern), D-New York, 1927-2003: He was known for his intellect (he wrote 19 books), his forward thinking (he foresaw the Soviet decline), connections to history, and his ideas to come up with solutions to big problems -- from auto safety to cities to racism. He could work across the aisle and had a hand in the 1980s Social Security fix as well as working with Bob Dole on a health-insurance fix (not what the White House wanted) in the 1990s that never came to fruition. He also was one of the only Democrats to speak out against late-term abortion, calling it "infanticide." The New York Times called him an “often brilliant synthesizer whose works compelled furious debate and further research.”