Picking Up the Morse Tradition: Taking on Excessive National Security Secrecy and Asking the Tough Questions
As prepared for delivery
More than sixty years ago, Wayne Morse took a folding chair not unlike the kind most of us have in our homes down to the Senate floor. Now, if you’ve never seen the Senate floor, it’s an ornate space filled with a hundred old wooden desks -- one for each senator. The desks, though immaculately maintained, all contain carvings on the inside of the names of senators who have held that seat in the past. It’s a historic room befitting one of the world’s oldest deliberative bodies. Suffice it to say, a folding chair didn’t quite fit in. As the story goes, on this particular day, Senator Morse was not sitting at his desk. Instead, he unfolded that chair in the aisle dividing the two parties, sat down and refused to move. To add some context, Morse had just recently left the Republican party in protest of General Eisenhower’s decision to choose Richard Nixon as his running mate. He had not yet joined the Democratic party; that would not happen for another few years. He was technically an independent, neither aligned with the Republicans nor the Democrats. He was a man without a party so he sat like one -- independently. It was a gesture of principle above politics and above party. It was Wayne Morse through and through.