Previous versions of The Center’s web suite included several special features based on the MacNeil Collection. We will re-post them as they are updated to modern programming and internet access standards.
Time: The Weekly Magazine
The September 14, 1962, issue of Time: The Weekly Magazine featured Senate Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen on the cover. The accompanying 3,500-word story, “The Leader,” was based on reporting by Neil MacNeil, congressional correspondent for the magazine. He, along with Time writer Jeffrey Birnbaum, interviewed the Republican senator from Illinois for 10 hours.
Neil MacNeil Reporting on Everett McKinley Dirksen
"Neil MacNeil Reporting on Everett McKinley Dirksen" is organized chronologically. The header for each entry lists the date, the author’s name (usually MacNeil), the person to whom the report was sent, and the title notation. In the vast majority of cases, several reports or drafts on a single topic apparently were prepared—a Roman numeral designated the version. There are many omissions in those cases where MacNeil prepared multiple drafts.
On mid-afternoon, Tuesday, August 5, 1964, rumors began to fly around Washington DC that there had been a new, provocative attack on U.S. naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin by North Vietnamese patrol boats. This incident followed Sunday’s attack on the USS Maddox, a destroyer patrolling the waters off the coast of South Vietnam Wire stories forced President Lyndon Johnson to summon congressional leaders to the White House for a briefing. The next day, Time Magazine reporter Neil MacNeil filed a 19-page account of the meeting with his editors.
Peccadillos of the Famous
On October 9, 1974, Congressman Wilbur Mills (D-AR), powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was involved in a traffic accident in Washington DC. Mills was intoxicated and accompanied by Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanny Foxe, an Argentine stripper. The ensuring publicity prompted Time Magazine editors to sound out their reporter on Capitol Hill, Neil MacNeil, about his approach to covering the story. MacNeil responded with a 10-page memo entitled "peccadillos of the famous."
The 88th Congress
As the historic 88th Congress drew to a close in the fall of 1964, MacNeil, offered his appraisal. "Much of the time, the Congress looked clumsy and awkward. The Senate staggered through two debilitating and seemingly senseless filibusters," he wrote. "The House seemed constantly in need of someone to wipe its nose." But appearances deceived: "If this congress [sic] frequently looked inept and bamboozled, it was moving all the same at the very same time implacably toward its impressive record." As MacNeil concluded, "Beyond cavil, the record already in hand is one of the most extraordinary in the nation’s legislative history."
The Fall of Saigon
At 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 29, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford summoned the leaders of Congress to the White House for an historic, hour-long meeting. “The president entered the room, his face deeply anxious, his manner tense,” wrote MacNeil in his report. Ford told them that he had convened a session of the National Security Council at 7:30 p.m., Monday evening, and there gave the order to evacuate all Americans from Vietnam. MacNeil filed his five-page report of the meeting on April 30. He ended by quoting Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield: “It’s the end of an era, the end of the post-World War II era. We have to bind up the wounds, as Ford said, and start anew. We have to recognize that we are limited in our resources; we can’t police the globe. … I hope we’ve learned from what we’ve gone through and that we never get involved in any civil wars again. The president set the proper tone: Put it behind us. Bind up the wounds.”
Congress and Vietnam, 1965
“The growing danger in Vietnam, the obvious escalation, and the increased commitment of U.S. troops have brought a new wave of anxiety to Congress,” reported on June 16, 1965. “Most fascinating,” he continued, “was the splitting away of the House Republicans from straight down-the-line support of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy—which put them at odds also with the Senate Republicans.” MacNeil went on to describe in his 11-page report how Melvin Laird, chairman of the House Republican Conference, had hinted at the possibility of “ending any Republican support of our present Vietnam policy.” He, along with House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford, preferred to use U.S. air strikes rather than committing more ground troops to the war. Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, however, did not share the criticism of his House colleagues against President Lyndon Johnson’s strategy. “Lyndon Johnson is no damn fool,” Dirksen said privately. “It is unimaginable that he would take a step … that flew in the face of the best military brains.”
Mike Mansfield on the Challenges of Senate Leadership
On February 24, 1964, MacNeil profiled Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) for a cover story. In his report, MacNeil focused on Mansfield’s approach to leading the Senate.
Barry Goldwater in 1964
“We get an extraordinary reading from an extraordinary man on Barry Goldwater and the American press,” MacNeil told his editors. “The reading is from Everett Dirksen, the man who placed Goldwater in nomination and cinched that nomination by ending any doubt of the political course of delegate-rich Illinois.” Dirksen, it seemed, was “gravely concerned” by Goldwater’s tendency to speak recklessly. “We’ve got to stop this hip-shooting,” said Dirksen. “It is simply too dangerous in the world as it is, with Latin American and Viet-Nam.”
The Senate Evaluated, 1986
In September 1986, MacNeil interviewed five senators who would retire following the end of the session: Charles Mathias of Maryland, Tom Eagleton of Missouri, Gary Hart of Colorado, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, and Russell Long of Louisiana.
Presidential Transitions, December 1980
MacNeil reported on the transition from Jimmy Carter’s administration to Ronald Reagan’s in the month before the Inauguration.