Vermont’s senior senator, Patrick Leahy, will be leaving the Senate at the end of his term.
His political career spans more than four decades, and he recounts it all in his new memoir, “The Road Taken,” from the aftermath of Watergate to the election of Donald Trump as president.
He reminisced with Linsey Davis from ABC News about his childhood, discussed the shifts he’s witnessed in the political climate, and shared his enthusiasm for the “Batman” comics he grew up reading.
Thank you so much for your time today, Senator Leahy.
LEAHY: My presence here fills me with joy.
PRIME: Let’s go back to when you were younger. According to legend, when you were six years old, you rode your tricycle through the halls of the Vermont state capitol all the way to the governor’s office because your family lived so close. To what extent do you feel that your early exposure to politics prepared you for a career in politics?
LEAHY: Of course, things were different. The State House is basically unguarded if you ask me. A simple exit is possible. We just assumed it would always be there. Us kids used to hang out there all the time. We could have a blast in that area. Then I met everyone and found out firsthand what had happened. My dad, a self-taught historian, always liked to regale us with tales of the statehouse in Washington. And you learned early on that, hey, we’re a part of this, too. Yes, I definitely felt that way.
PRIME: Looking back on your career, you entered the Senate at the age of 34. How do you think that your youthfulness affected the way you worked and prioritized issues during your time there?
A senior senator asked my age on my first day, and I told him I was 34, so that’s something I remember about LEAHY. “You ever think you’re too young to be in this place?” he asked me. That’s what my opponent said, but I won the election, so I argued. He seemed to appreciate my firmness in our exchanges, and we ended up getting along famously. While attending law school at Georgetown, I was fascinated by the Senate, if only to observe the many interesting people who serve in it. The Republican and Democratic parties at the time featured some of the brightest minds in the country, leading to vigorous debate.
PRIME: And you’ve worked through some major events in American history, from the immediate aftermath of Watergate to 9/11 and the subsequent pandemic. Or of course now, in yet another critical juncture following the insurrection and its aftermath of January 6. What are your biggest worries about the state of the country today?
LEAHY: When I first arrived in the Senate, people of varying political persuasions respected the government, our laws, and the fact that we have a future, all of which establish fundamental norms for how you should act. My current concern is that an increasing number of people simply don’t give a hoot about having human contact. So, people started crowding into the Senate chamber, demanding to know where the House members were (despite the fact that the senators didn’t have a clue), and incorrectly stating that the House was supposed to be present (despite the fact that the Constitution stated otherwise). I never expected to witness such a thing in my lifetime.
PRIME: And you said, just a few moments ago, that you had such respect for your fellow senators, that you thought they were some of the sharpest minds, that you looked forward to the debate and discourse that was going to take place. Do you think we’ve forgotten something important from that era?
I agree, LEAHY. People come in and make a statement in the hopes that it will make the evening news, and I feel like that’s one of the things we’ve lost. They don’t hang out there, and they rarely argue. Is there going to be a stance of party affiliation from you? I don’t think it should be like that. I appreciate it when senators show up to debate, listen to all sides, and cast a final vote.
And finally, sir, we can’t let you go without asking about one of your greatest loves: “Batman.” You describe, quote, how you dove headfirst into reading all of “The Dark Knight” comics. The books were your promised reward for sweeping the printing shops’ floors, and you said you intended to read them in bed with the lights out. You also became well-known for appearing in cameo roles in five different “Batman” movies. Why do you feel such an affinity for Batman? How does it feel to finally see your childhood dream realized on the silver screen?
LEAHY: I would have never imagined it! I actually did start reading! When I was four years old, I got my first library card. I find great enjoyment in the Batman comics. It’s a topic that inspires me to tell stories. All of the money I’ve made from my “Batman” books and movies has been donated to the Montpelier, Vermont, children’s library. There, in the depths of the adult library, is where I got my first library card, and it was also where I got my first library book. A new wing has been added. It’s meant to serve as a tool for motivating children and teens of varying reading abilities to pick up books and read.
PRIME: We greatly appreciate your assistance, Senator Leahy. We greatly value your participation and thank you for your attendance. The viewers can get a copy of “The Road Taken, A Memoir” at any bookstore.
Thank you very much.
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