AMERICAN NOTES: Advice and Descent

When Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, 48 U.S. Senators boarded a special jet and flew to his funeral Mass in New York City. Then, in January 1971, 39 Senators climbed onto another jet and flew to Senator Richard Russell's funeral in Georgia. The weather was foggy, and the Air Force plane carrying the Senators tried twice to land, swooping by the runway at an altitude of 90 feet.

Had the plane crashed on either the New York or Georgia flight, the Senate would have been practically destroyed as a political institution. Should a majority of Senators die, the Senate could...