Munchies With Moynihan and Kerrey

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New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey

New York's Daniel Patrick Moynihan is retiring after 24 years in the United States Senate, and Nebraska's Bob Kerrey is retiring after 12. Good friends and legislative allies, the two recently lunched with TIME's Ann Blackman in the Senate Dining Room and talked about what they're leaving behind.

Q: Has the Senate changed much since you have been here?

MOYNIHAN (looking at the Senate luncheon menu:) We have J. Lohr Riverstone Monterrey chardonnay. Pretty upscale. It used to be corn bread and bean soup.

Seriously, there are changes in the way we communicate. Before television, senators came to the floor. That's how you learned what was being said about something you might have to vote on.

After the '94 elections, a stunning event [he waves his arms for emphasis] we lost the Senate. Downtown they got into a habit of negotiating the principal bills directly, White House to leadership. The leadership on Gingrich's side even left out the Republican committee chairman and ranking members. You could end up with a 1,300-page bill that a great majority of us had never seen.

KERREY: Not long before I got here, C-Span came to the floor of the Senate. A confirmation that would normally take 30 minutes suddenly ook seven or eight hours because everyone wanted to get on TV.

Look at the way campaigns are run. When I ran in 1988 for the first time, crowd events were important. You still went to political events. Today the most important thing is to get a television camera there. And that is not as important as television advertisements or direct mail.

Q: You have both pushed for tough fixes in Social Security. Will Washington ever rein in entitlements?

KERREY: Eventually we will be forced to. The size of the problem gets larger, but so long as we are able to postpone it, there is no political penalty for delay. And yet the do-nothing plan has real consequences. If you support the do-nothing plan, you support a 25 to 33 percent cut in benefits. Beneficiaries in the future will pay a price, but politicians don't.

Q: Is the Senate as intellectual a place as it used to be?

MOYNIHAN: It has never been intellectual.

KERREY to MOYNIHAN: Do you favor abolishing the CIA?

MOYNIHAN: I don't know what the point is of saying that because it won't happen but, my God, I would like to bring some discipline to them. The discipline of saying, open up. Because of its mode of operation, the CIA pointedly missed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Q: What would be the strengths and weaknesses of a Bush presidency?

KERREY: He will have to follow through and fulfill a promise to reach across the aisle and work both sides. Governors have a set of skills that members of Congress do not. Governors as a rule do not understand Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, the Clean Water Act. Governors typically don't deal with foreign policy.

Q: What will be the biggest shock for Hillary Clinton?

KERREY: There is considerably less support in terms of how you live. Most of the time you drive your own car, do your own stuff. When I was governor, I had convicted murderers shine my shoes every night when I went to sleep. She and her husband have had a continuation of the extraordinary support and protection that you get when you are chief executive. It is considerably different in the Senate. Your schedule is not your own. The first time she has to sit here and wait till midnight for a vote it will be kind of exciting. The second time, considerably less so. Plus, it's not enough to tell me what your opinion is. You better want to hear mine or you will not get anything done around here. And that's a real challenge for people who come from the executive to the legislative. If you are governor and have a legislative package, there is a pretty good chance you will get it. You have to be pretty ineffective not to get half of it.

Q: What will be the Clinton legacy?

MOYNIHAN: I think we ought to leave on that one.