I think it was the first time I'd been sent to the Senate since I'd come back from London and gone to work for CBS News. Anyway, whenever, it was a long time ago. The first thing I heard was the voice of then Republican leader Everett Dirksen thundering (he really did thunder; they could probably hear him across the river in Virginia), "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come!"
He was quoting Goethe, he said, but the idea was the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When it passed, overcoming a Southern filibuster, it, along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, gave black Americans rights the rest of us already had--you can vote, you can sit where you like on the bus and at the movies, drink from any water fountain, and so on.
That Senate was full of grownups. Even the leader of the Southern filibuster, Richard Russell of Georgia, though wrong on this key issue, was not, overall, a fool. Later, they named an office building for him. Oh yes--one for Dirksen too. After all, his side won.
I remember those days and how much fun Senate-watching could be--and then I remember last week when it wasn't any fun at all. Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support modest gun control measures—background checks on would-be buyers, for instance. The Senate voted no to everything.
The Senate badly needs some new grownups. I'm sure Dirksen's ghost would agree. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come? Gun control is such an idea, Senate. Grow up, wake up and admit it.