"I believe the constitution is really an ineffectual means of governing the country," Howard K. Smith, co-anchorman for ABC television news, said Thursday night at a meeting of the Law School Forum.
Speaking to a group of about 450 people, Smith cited frustration caused by "negative or ineffectual government" as a source of "the manifest unhappiness of Americans with their lot over the last few years."
Smith said that the large number of "stops" in our governmental system makes it difficult to get any action from either the legislative or executive branches. Smith said he thinks there should be major changes in the American political system, including elimination of the committee system and seniority system in Congress, and in the present system of financing political campaigns.
Smith said he thinks government financing of campaigns and limited, free television time allotted to each candidate, might "keep the number of kooks down" in the government.
Speaking on the possible impeachment of President Nixon, Smith said, "Until there is an upsurge of public opinion in favor of impeachment, I don't think Congress will impeach."
Smith said that the great pace of change in this country since World War II also lies at the root of American discontent.
"I speak not against the national propensity for change, but against national failure to foresee the consequences of change," he said.
"We need greater emphasis on long-term foresight in international, political and environmental problems," he said.
Smith said that in spite of his criticism, his travels and life abroad have convinced him that the greatest opportunity for successful growth and change still exists within the United States.
Smith acknowledged a "cliquishness" in the Eastern press. "I don't think it's conspiratorial, but there's a kind of snobbishness which causes much of the east-coast press to write alike," he said. "I think New York City has the most parochial intellect in all the United States."
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