Benevolent Policeman? The History of Congressional Committees

Harry Truman thought a congressional committee ideally should be like a ‘benevolent policeman’ Not changing the facts but investigating them. He should know, as he headed up one. Yet he was also critical of committees during his time that he felt did not meet the criteria he set for his own. Since an investigation of a U.S. army defeat by a Native American tribe in the 1790’s, to a look at an attack on the Capitol today, there is a voluminous history of Congressional committees.

That makes even this hour and one half plus episode an incomplete history. We take a look at some of the committees, including HUAC the House Un-American Activities Committee, not only in the 1940’s but it in it’s earlies form under Martin Dies in the 1930, we take a look at Kefauver’s crime commission that became a TV sensation and a Civil War era committee that is viewed by historians to have hurt the Union effort in that war.

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