tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg July 5, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm EDT
♪ >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: david mccullough is here, one of this country's best known historians, he's won two pulitzer prizes and the presidential medal of freedom. his new book is a collection of speeches he's delivered over the last several decades. it's called "the american spirit: who we are and what we stand for." i'm pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. david: i am glad to be back. charlie: you've been outspoken about president trump. david: i have. along with a great many other
historians and that was last summer. charlie: i think you and ken burns formed a group. david: yes we did. they were -- we were all saying pretty much the same thing. it was concern for the country. and concern about values and behavior, belief in the truth. belief in tolerance. belief in kindness and empathy. charlie: these are all things you think should be presidential qualities. david: yes, i do. and i think a certain confidence is essential and you don't base your campaign or your attacks on your opponents using fear and
smear and unkind actions and words. and it -- i think that what disturbed all of us who did that -- made that effort, the historians and biographers, is that a sense of history and understanding of history is essential in leadership. leadership of all kinds. and that our most effective, most conscientious presidents, not always the most talented or eloquent, have been students of history. charlie: including those who have not been university president. the one you know best is harry truman. david: you never went to college, but you never stopped reading history -- he never went to college but he never stopped reading history.
now with our 45th president we have a leader who doesn't know much of anything in the way of history and has said so. dismisses biography, dismisses books, dismisses reading, dismisses history. but my feelings about the importance of history, as you've said, go back several decades and that's what this book is a collection of. i think it's -- we must encourage, stimulate, and bring history back to its importance in the whole system of education. i think it's -- we must charlie: a couple of things. when eisenhower sent there are four key qualities to measure a leader by, character, ability, responsibility, and experience. character, ability, responsibility, experience. david: and dwight eisenhower wrote one of the best books ever written about the second world war. charlie: let's talk about that. i don't have any reason to contradict that but i'm surprised.
david: he did, and he wrote every word. charlie: is it better than what winston churchill wrote? david: it's crusade in europe, it's a military point of view. you can't compare anybody to churchill. charlie: but you would say it is one of the best books ever written about world war ii history. david: yes. i knew his editor and he told me, he wrote every word of that book. and kennedy, of course, was a great student of history. charlie: profiles in courage. david: yes. on the mantelpiece in the state dining room in the white house there's a quotation first carved into the mantelpiece by franklin roosevelt from a letter john adams wrote to his wife abigail, the first night that he, john adams, stayed in the white house. he was the first president to spend the night there. and he -- roosevelt thought it was so important to be there
forever. when the white house had to be rebuilt during truman's presidency, truman made sure it went back into the mantelpiece. and then when kennedy was president, he had it carved into into the marvel part rather than the wood which it had been prior to that. what adams wrote to abigail was, may none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof. and what i love about it is he puts honest first. and that's -- strength of character is what matters in that job. strength of character and confidence that the american spirit is enduring. and the american spirit -- charlie: which is the title of the book. david: yes. and i -- i have spent a lot of
time with john adams and harry truman and theodore roosevelt. and i feel often that lots of other biographers and historians have expressed the same thought that you get to know these people in many ways better than you know people in real life. charlie: you read their letters and diaries. david: exactly. and the letters are so reveal, so often touching and eloquent and -- and the relationship between bess and harry truman that is found in those letters, the relationship between abigail and john adams found in those letters, there are over 1,000 letters between abigail adams and john adams. and neither of them was capable of writing a boring letter. or a short one.
and you're reminded that history is human. history is not about memorizing dates and statistics and quotations. it's about human beings. and that's why it's so important. jefferson said, any nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects what never was and never can be. and of course he said, when in the course of human events, and the operative word there is human. none of these people who occupied our highest office has ever been perfect. charlie: remind me -- jefferson didn't write books. david: no. charlie: did he write letters? david: yes, indeed. charlie: as many as adams? david: no, but the main thing with jefferson is he destroyed every letter that he ever wrote to his wife, or that she wrote to him. he would write to friends of
theirs and say if you have any correspondence from my wife would you please return it to me because i'd like to have it. then he destroyed it. charlie: why did he do that? david: nobody really knows. charlie: what do you think? david: i think he felt his private life must remain private. charlie: why didn't you write about jefferson or washington? david: i like to write about people i feel deserve more attention and credit. i like to bring them front and center stage. i like to write about the wives of these people. i like to write about people you've never heard of. because why should they remain in the shadows or in the wings as it were? and the other -- i'm drawn to people who set off -- set out to accomplish something worthy, noble, even, that they knew would be difficult and which turned out to be even more difficult than anyone imagine d and they succeeded. and i have written about
washington, charlie. my book "1776" is about washington. but not a full biography, right. charlie: was washington the greatest man of the founding fathers? david: yes. charlie: no question? david: no question. charlie: in every way? david: no, not if you are tabulating i.q. or -- charlie: no, those qualities that made the revolution. look, character, ability, responsibility, spirit. david: all there. and it should be always remembered he was the leader of our country for 16 years, not eight years. because he was the commander in chief all through the war when we had no president. and then he became president. so he was at the helm. he was in charge for 16 years. and he was setting examples of behavior, of courage, of perseverance. that's -- perseverance can accomplish all kinds of things.
spirit and perseverance is what he says in the quote that i use for the start of this book. charlie: i know you've been asked this a million times, what about alexander hamilton? david: alexander hamilton is a subject that i ran into in writing about adams and writing about jefferson, a degree, and washington. and i know that he's very much vogue right now, and i have not seen the show. charlie: why not? david: i guess because i've been too busy. yes, i have. and i'll probably see it someday. i'm not against it. anything that will get them into the tent, i'm all for. i thought ron's book is terrific. i think one of the points that needs to be made more of is, we
are living in in a time right now when there are absolutely wonderful historians and biographers writing wonderful books. never in my lifetime have there been so many good writers, good historians, working hard as hell to produce marvelous books. charlie: what's your judgment on hamilton? great man? one of the most brilliant men? david: all that. but numerous human flaws. charlie: women or other than -- other men? david: i don't think he had to go the way he went. charlie: meaning, he should not have done that duel? david: yeah, didn't have to do that. i didn't like the way he treated adams. charlie: that's what it is. [laughter] david: that i do know something about. hamilton is in vogue right now and fine. fine. we can never know enough about that founding era.
not just because it is the revolutionary war, but because it's the american revolution, which is still going on. the political revolution. benjamin rush said, it'll keep going on forever. we're still working on it. that's our advantage. we're constantly trying to make life better. our system better. and we've had good people who are willing to give every effort. imagine john kennedy say, we will go to the moon. and we did. and kennedy almost never talked about himself. truly interesting. and there's a lot to be learned from each of these people. and i also feel very strongly, as i try to stress in this book, that it's not just the presidency that matters. it's congress. and we've had very great people in congress. we've had congresses accomplish
many worthy achievements that we should never take for granted. charlie: you make that point well. we sort of tend to have congress in contempt because even -- president obama said to me, i said to him, do you think america has the strongest military, the best technology, do you think america has the strongest financial system, you think america as the best rule of law, so what could go wrong? he said to me, our politics. i said, what do you mean? he said, we've got gridlock in congress. it's within the congress. factions within the parties. david: one of the clearest lessons of history is that very little of consequence is ever accomplished alone. it's a joint effort. as soon as congress recovers from this spasm of not working together to accomplish essential objectives.
charlie: common ground. david: exactly. and you have to work across the aisle. you have to accept that the other individual can have a very different opinion without you attacking him or her in unfair and unkind ways. you just can't do that. because you're going to need that somebody on some other project or some other mission later on. i think that what ted kennedy's death was a serious blow to that kind of across the aisle camaraderie and working together in the congress. charlie: he worked with the bush administration on education. david: he was constantly working with other people in the other party. charlie: trent lott wrote in a note in his office that said if they only knew. meeting the sense if they knew how much you worked for.
do you think we have somehow lost a sense of purpose and lost the narrative? david: no, absolutely not. we have been through worse times by far. we have had serious obstacles in our path. over and over. but we've always come through. charlie: mccarthy and all of that? david: civil war. influenza epidemic. the american revolution. most people don't understand, at the time of the american revolution, one third of the country was for it, one third was absolutely against it, the remaining third were waiting to see how it came out. it wasn't as though the whole country wanted this to happen. and these problems created suffering and denial of fairness and denial of equality and life and death in a way that we're not used to. and we -- in many ways we are spoiled by all that we've been
given by our predecessor, not just in the way of material wealth, but in the way of opportunity. think of our education system. yes, it's gotten much too expensive. yes, it's -- it has its flaws, its problems. but we have created the greatest universities in the world. charlie: 18 of the top 20 universities around the world are american. david: yes. why do all the young people from abroad want to come here? because they know this is where it is. we take it for granted. we've worked medical miracles in your and my lifetime of a kind no one would ever believe possible. charlie: smart people think that curing cancer is within sight. david: there are big things coming. very big things coming. ♪
♪ charlie: but you write about politics -- you wrote about the brooklyn bridge. that was your first book. david: i wrote a whole book about americans that went to paris. charlie: we interviewed about it. david: i don't think politics and america should be seen as the whole of history. charlie: that is my point. david: much of what history is really made of includes neither. it can be the art, it could be poetry, it could be the music that's going to last the longest by far. and we have to include that. that's part of being human. charlie: what's the responsibility of government
when it comes to culture and science and supporting those very important sectors? david: very important that government support is there. pbs and the humanities, arts, science, absolutely. if anything, there should be more. and i'm all for it. i've worked hard to keep those institutions going. i believe in them fervently. charlie: something i know about you, i just want to say it, because it fits with the conversation we had it you think there's a great book to be written about gerald ford. david: i do. charlie: we don't really know do, we? david: no. truman said you have to wait 50 years for the dust to settle. that was very wise. and so i think these presidents that look different after a while, and you -- historians ought to wait. now of course, this is my own
personal feeling. and some marvelous books have been written, as you know, about leading political figures within the 50-year lineup. but your -- if you're working in this field, there's always something new to discover. i have never embarked on a project wherein i didn't find something nobody knew about. that's the wonder of it. that's the excitement of it. charlie: you always find something. david: and sometimes it can be big and exciting. and that's why i think how we teach history is -- ought to be more in the spirit of the lab technique. you don't just tell the student all about what happened and who did it and why and what it cost and so much. give them a project to work on
where they are doing the digging, they are figuring out the story. and give you a photograph, graduating class, tuskegee university, 1912. you get the credit for that photograph. it's up to you to write a paper on that subject. and i tell you, you, young charlie rose, you're going to be the leading expert in the country on the graduating class of tuskegee university in 1912. and it happens. they did it. the sinking of american oil tanker off the coast of florida by german submarine in 1942. terrific subject. and they get into it. and they really care about it. and i had a fellow, gave him a picture of sergeant york, the famous hero of world war i.
and he -- i asked him, he was very befuddled about it , he had never heard of this man. and i said, how much do you know about world war i? he said, i know nothing about world war i. i know there had to have been a world war i because there's a world war ii. he got to work and he wrote a superb paper on sergeant york. and 10, 20 years later, i ran into him on the street in washington, he's a lawyer. he said, i was in your class at cornell. i said what photograph did you get? he said i got sergeant york, and i said, i remember your paper, it was superb. it could have been published. and he said, i just want you to know that world war i has been my hobby ever since. it takes, it works. charlie: one thing can stimulate a lifelong curiosity. david: absolutely. charlie: you also said, i think it was you who said, nothing ever happened the way it happened.
david: nothing ever happened -- nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. charlie: oh. david: so often it seems it was always on a track. never on a track. and none of our predecessors ever knew how it was going to turn out any more than we do. and no such thing as a self-made man or self-made woman. never was. never will be. charlie: because there is always circumstances and timing and -- david: and influence and help. charlie: and education. david: and your rival you enemy, could be the spur that makes you do what you do in a way you wouldn't have otherwise. charlie: i'm all over the place but it's curious to me. john adams, did he have a lot of people who didn't like him and was it because of his personality? david: i suppose so. he was very well liked. that's a misnomer. there were people who found him irritable because he spoke the truth all the time. it could be painful.
but he was admirable in so many ways. he was the one that said washington should be in command. he is the one who said jefferson should write this declaration of independence. he's the only founding father who became president who never owned a slave. as a matter of principle. the next president to come along who never owned a slave as a matter of principle was his son because abigail was adamant on the subject. and we can never fully understand the influence of the women that have been part of history from the beginning. there is a whole field that needs more exploration. charlie: you have said too that the best presidents were historians. david: yes. charlie: woodrow wilson was a historian. was he considered a best president? david: he was a professor of history. was he a best president? he's certainly one of the top presidents. no question. was he perfect? by no means. charlie: nobody is perfect. but was he in the top 10? wilson?
david: i never ranked presidents, but yes, i'd say he was. certainly washington was a great reader of history, so was adams and jefferson. and theater roosevelt began a quite good naval history of the war of 1812 when he was still a student at harvard. and then of course franklin roosevelt was a reader of history. eisenhower was a great reader of history. truman, as we have said. kennedy. barack obama, great reader of history. charlie: do you consider yourself a man of massachusetts? david: no, i'm a man of pennsylvania, connecticut. we live in massachusetts. i grew up in pittsburgh, pennsylvania. which had a great influence on me. charlie: how so? david: for one thing, it was a city full of history. there was a lot of history talked about. it was during the second world war when i was in grade school,
we were very much involved in spirit and attitude in the reality of the war. we in pittsburgh were helping to win the war. we were the arsenal of democracy and so forth and so on. and the conversations at the dinner table were about so much that happened in pittsburgh. the fires and the floods and the strikes and all of -- things like that. and history of our own family. i think that what your parents and your grandparents talk about has great influence on one's interest in history. i think one of the best things that parents can do for their children, or their grandchildren, to encourage an interest in history, is to take them to historic sites. take them to washington, take them to williamsburg, take them to the historic sites within your own neck of the woods.
take them to famous battlefields. and take them to the new american revolution museum that's just opened in philadelphia. phenomenal. absolutely phenomenal. there's never been a great museum about the american revolution until now. charlie: two things before we close here. where do you put the presidential medal of freedom among the honors that have come to david mccullough? david: you mean in what cabinet? [laughter] charlie: no you know what i mean. david: i consider it the highest honor i've received. if i had to tally up what maybe matters most to me is that none of my books has ever been out of print. charlie: wow. david: in 50 years. charlie: people still reading every one of them. david: yes. charlie: it's great to have you here. david: thank you, charlie. i consider it a privilege to be your guest. you're tops. charlie: thank you.
of the trump white house and the slow pace of the administration's agenda. is that criticism fair? here to put it into context are three men who held the job. jack watson served a president carter's last chief of staff. john podesta was president clinton's chief of staff from 1998 to 2001, and andy card was chief of staff for president george w. bush from 2001 to april, 2006. also joining me is chiss whipple, author of a new book about the chiefs of staff, it's called "the gate keepers." i'm pleased to have them all here. let me again with this -- begin with this question is it the toughest job second to the presidency in washington? >> it's the toughest job because you're helping the president do the real toughest job and -- which means you have to have discipline and bring order to chaos. and you also have to pay attention to what's happening outside the white house as well as inside the white house and
you actually have to make sure that the president is served with the challenge in time to meet the challenges so when a decision is made it is relevant, not irrelevant. >> it's also tough because one of the chief roles of the chief of staff is to make sure the president is hearing all the choices that he needs to hear, that he -- that he's getting all the -- charlie: to be an honest broker. >> to be a very honest broker. and also as part of that role, honestly, to tell the president no when he needs to be told no. that's not easy. charlie: that's in the easy for anybody. >> for anybody. >> particularly in this white house. >> this president doesn't like to be told no. charlie: a person who didn't come up in the political give and take of -- an compromise of the political world. >> also i think reince comes out of politics, all of us had some experience doing some policy.
but it's -- it can be brutal. but it's also a tremendous honor to do it. and having, you know, done a lot of different jobs over the course of my life it's the one where you have the most impact, most immediately you see it the most and as andy noted, you're helping the president achieve his vision for what, you know, the direction of the country. >> you serve as the president -- at the president of the pleasure of the president but your job is not to try to please him. >> i was going to say, what i learned -- learned from talking to these guys and interviewing all 17 living white house chiefs of staff for the "the gate keepers" is that presidents cannot govern effectively without empowering a white house chief of staff as first among equals in the white house to execute their agenda and also most importantly as andy says, to tell them what they don't want to hear. it's almost impossible to overstate the importance of
having a chief of staff who is a gate keeper, meaning he controls access to the oval office and gives the president time and space to think. he's the honest broker, as jack just mentioned, making sure that every decision is teed up with all the information on every side, he prioritizes, helps the president prioritize the agenda and he's in charge of the administration's message. now nub of that may sound familiar at the moment because in my opinion, we don't have a white house chief of staff who has been empowered. charlie: right now. >> right now. >> in 1986, before these gentlemen -- i'm the oldest fellow here. charlie: maybe second. >> they had a wonderful symposium, john chancellor as the sort of moderator of all the chiefs of staff at that time. some people who had been key to the administration but not chief of staff, like ted sorenson.
at one point in the symposium, it was a public event, we all got a question about well, what, in athletic terms, would you compare the chief of staff's job to. it came to me first, i said, you could say blocking back, some would say quarterback, some would say goalie, to keep the other side from scoring too much. and i said but the one role that comes to my mind immediately is javelin catcher. charlie: no one catches the javelin. i guess somewhere this came, maybe it was haldeman once said, give me a tough s.o.b. do you have to be an s.o.b. to be good? >> it depends on the president's personality. the one thing the chief of staff cannot do is be inconsistent with the way the president runs the white house. no, i don't think you have to be an s.o.b. >> you have to be tough sometimes. you have to make a hard decision and be able to either fire someone or reassign someone from one position to another position.
that's not easy. because you know these people. you're working with these people. so toughness, yes. >> there are three functions that any chief of staff has to meet. first is the care in feed -- care and feeding of the president. that's a logistical challenge. it's also paying attention to the state of mind of the president. the emotional roller coaster the president might be on. that is a very large job that people don't pay attention to but it is all-consuming for a chief of staff. then you have the policy debate. the chief of staff manages the policy debate. in the necessarily the policy but the process so there are fewer unintended consequences to the policy. which means you have to have lots of views, people speak truth to power. that's honest broker. >> i think they're being modest about the importance of the white house chief of staff's role. as i learned from doing the book, from watergate to the iran-contra scandal, to the iraq
war, to the monica lewinsky scandal, to the failed rollout of obamacare, to batched executive orders on immigration, the white house chief of staff often makes a difference between success an disasters. it's really that critical. think about when jim baker, who was everybody's choice as -- the gold standard, jim baker swapped jobs with don regan, the treasury secretary. regan came in, he was completely ill suited for the job. and the next thing you know, it was no coincidence that a harebrained -- scheme was cooked up in the white house basement and became the iran-contra scandal. never would have happened on james baker's watch. i think these guys are being a little modest. charlie: the money question. what would you change if you were now chief of staff for donald trump? >> i would try to enforce a rule for the president and everyone else in the white house, taste your words before you spit them out. or tweet them out.
because the president's words make a big difference. they make a difference in the white house staff. the bureaucracy. the executive branch of government. congress. and the world. and so i would want discipline around the words that are spoken, by the president, and subordinately by any anybody at the white house staff. which actually gives more discipline over don't leak. >> i think probably the first thing i'd like would be to take his phone away from him. so he can't -- yeah. look. i think this is a chaotic structure. it has been from the beginning. i think that reince priebus went in knowing it would be chaotic, you had steve bannon coming off the campaign, jared kushner, the son-in-law, playing an important role, went through succession of national security advisor within a month of the administration.
but i think at some level i think that president trump's success has been in sowing chaos and i think he thought that would work for him as president. i think at this point, you know, it remains to be seen whether you could be effective as president, certainly he's having his challenges on capitol hill. just think about trying to -- if you have the strategic job of setting an agenda to work with the hill, for example, on policy. and you're trying to message around that and create the backdrop and backup so that people feel they can stick with you and every day the story is changing. he just -- you know, they make plans and they're blown up, virtually every day.
that in part i think is the result of the investigation and the president's inability to stay away from it but i think it's also just the nature of the way he's always, i think, conducted himself in business and certainly the way he conducted himself on the campaign trail. so it may be a tall order to get any chief of staff to have the authority to discipline that process, to do -- i fundamentally agree with what andy is saying but it's a tremendous challenge. >> you can't run the white house the way you run a family manhattan real estate firm with equally empowered advisors and not a chain of of congressman command, and not somebody empowered to execute the agenda. s that white house that's broken. it may be broken beyond repair because ultimately it's not reince priebus's fault, he's made a lot of rookie mistakes but at the end they have day only donald trump can decide to empower his white house chief of staff to execute his agenda and
tell donald trump what he doesn't want to hear. does anybody imagine that happening? charlie: nor can anyone point out to you someone who says no to him. when i say, who says no to the president, no one stepped forward with a candidate. >> there's another important point in addition to all this. discipline this white house is lacking a disciplined message a disciplined process, the tweeting constantly, daily, morning noon and night, is not helping because it's putting out inconsistent and indeed contradictory messages, where the president is disagreeing not only with himself but with his secretary of state or someone else. but there's another problem. >> they're trying to mediate the deal between qatar and the arab states and the president is taking sides. >> but -- and here i think if i were to -- if you were to ask me
what is the central problem, the most important sort of -- unalterable problem, it would appear, there's an insufficient respect for the truth. falsehoods are being stated, are being given, almost every day in one way or another. there are things that are shown to be untrue. that puts your staff, your chief of staff, god love him , in an imposition position. you're sent out day after day after day to defend a statement that's not true. charlie: and you assume they know it's not true. >> well that's -- i can't get into the minds of the people who are saying these things and certainly can't get into the mind of the president.
but think about this. if there's not a respect for the truth if there's not a respect for the importance an the legitimacy of fact, how can you have a rational debate? how can you have rational debates about what policy should be if no one cares what the truth is, what the reality is, you can't. that's why there has to be a come to jesus meeting here, somewhere, sometime, which i have low expectations for it happening. charlie: do you agree, andy? >> i think there is -- there are some things that are so obviously true that the president said were not. like day one, how many people attended the inauguration. i mean that was -- a bizarre thing to ask your press secretary to go out and claim it was the biggest crowd ever on
the mall, when it was demonstrably not the biggest crowd ever. but he probably had more eyeballs and ears paying attention because of media and the fact that more media outlets were covering everything so, but, yes, i think sometimes challenged by the reality that they want to deny. charlie: what's the perfect qualification for being a chief of staff? >> i really don't think you can define it that way. because the person is in essence a partner with the president. so different presidents are going to want different kinds of people. in clinton's case, he loved a lot of input. the title "the gatekeeper," if i tried to be the gate keeper with bill clinton he would have just gone crazy. you have to work -- the care and
feeding in part is to work and be understanding of the way the president works. he's a tremendous thinker. he's -- you know, he brings lots of voices to the table. he invites people in. sometimes that can be maddening. but often it's quite creative. he's a policy guy. so i had to find ways to feed that so that he didn't feel cut off from the people who he wanted to talk to. charlie: he wanted to see a lot of information so you had to make sure he saw a lot of information. >> and talked to a lot of people. cabinet secretaries used to call me up all the time and say, i have to go see the president. i have to have a conversation face-to-face. i would say, 202-456-1414. he stays up all night. call the white house operator, they will put you through to the president if you have something you have to say to him, call him up. >> did it work out that way? >> some people were intimidated by that which usually meant they
didn't real illinois have to talk to the president. others took advantage of that. i had the advantage of knowing who he talked to every night because i saw the log of his phone calls. >> discipline is not to prevent the president from getting information. the discipline is to make sure when he gets information, somebody knows about it besides the two people in the oval office. the discipline i had was i want to know before, during, or after ewe visited with the president. the best complier to that rule was the president. at the end of the day he would say you might want to talk to so and so , he came to see me. if he didn't tell you about it, go see him. >> i don't think any of the guys at this table would have allowed donald trump to be alone in a room with his f.b.i. director, given the circumstances at the time. charlie: donald trump -- wanted to be alone. >> but no competent chief of staff would have permitted that.
>> no empowered chief of staff. >> one other thing about the calls for a great chief of staff and i think all of these guys share this, i think temperament. if you think about holdman was the pluperfect son of a -- but you don't have to be. jim baker and leon panetta shared something these guys also have, they have grounded, they were comfortable in their own skin, they've been around the block, they could walk into the oval office, close the door and tell the president what he did not want to hear. it was dick cheney who put it to me when he was gerry ford's, a terrific chief of staff for gerry ford, said you can't have a tough thing you have to tell the president and have six or eight guys who say, it's your turn, it's your turn. there has to be one person. and we do not have a chief of staff as we speak who can tell the president no.
charlie: is there anybody who can tell the president no? >> you know, i sometimes wonder if donald trump could find the civilian equivalent of jim mattis who evidently has the gravitas to change the president's mind on torture, for example. and tell him no. he needs to find somebody like that. because history is littered with the wreckage of presidencies that tried to govern this way, including gerry ford's. >> back to your first question, who makes a good chief of staff, i completely agree with john. the role of the chief of staff is going to vary from president to president and vary drastically. it would be hard to imagine two presidents more unlike in the delegation department than president reagan and president carter. president carter, like president clinton, was a man -- was a president who wanted the information, who could
assimilate and absorb and organize in his own mind and in his own way vast amounts of information. i knew that about him. the essential criterion with a chief and the president is mutual trust. they know each other, they know the minds of each other, and they trust each other. the -- for the chief of staff, i would say, it's important for him to admire and respect the president as not just a leader, which he clearly is, a leader, by role and definition, but a moral leader. and conversely, the president needs to know that his chief of staff is not there self-serving himself, he's there to execute the role for the president in
the best possible way he can, given the president's personality, given the president's priority, given the president's goals. >> chris mentioned don regan as a model of failure. who has been successful in business. arguably a successful treasury secretary. you can't be imperial if you're the chief of staff. that was, i think that was regan's down fall. you have to be like a sports manager. you have tremendous talent in the white house. you have to be able to build a team that's going to be cohesive and work together as opposed to just, you know, operate by dictate from the chief of staff. i think that's what regan tried to do. it broke down, down the hall with the national security advisor and that led -- charlie: and the first lady. >> she finally stepped in and solved the problem. >> he liked the chief part of the title a lot.
the staff part he didn't like so much. >> a word not used by any of us in terms of the role of chief of staff but i think all of us would agree on, the really effective chief is also going to be very good at enabling people to do their jobs. the chief doesn't try to do it all himself. in the same way the president can't so cannot the chief. so the chief has to identify people that he or she, that time will come, when we have a woman chief of staff, form the team, form the team that you know and that you have confidence in, that you trust, and enable them to do their job. charlie: back to the power thing. one of the things it seems to me gives the chief of staff a lot of power is often you have the last word with the president. you're the last sound in his ear before he makes a decision. and i mean, that came up, i
think, it is sometimes said when you had dick cheney around and colin powell around who prevailed might have been who -- >> first of all, the chief of staff has to have prifrl vision and know where all the people -- peripheral vision and know where all the people with great tunnel vision are. that helps to make sure that any word to the president is not out of context. you want the words to be within context. and strong personalities in the white house, it's a team, it's a team of rivals in every white house. because there are very confident
staffers who are legitimately hired because they have great expertise. many of them have type a personalities and they think they're the only person with great expertise and you have to manage that process and make sure the playing field is in fact level and not skewed one way because a dominant staffer is bullying the process. so -- but the last word i found the president would frequently seek me out as the last word but it wasn't so much about the decision, it was the process by the way the decision was being made by the president. and i would be able to say, sally may have been a little too aggressive in that meet, jane was ready to speak up but was intimidated by sally, you might want to call jane. charlie: it is sometimes said, with donald trump, he's 71 years old, people say, he's not going to change. bill clinton was in his 40's, barack obama was in his 40's. jimmy carter was in his early 50's. did they change before your very eyes while they were president? or did they essentially remain the same person? >> i think every president changes as they serve. because -- the burdens are is so
great. i mentioned at the beginning the president should never make an easy decision. the president only makes the toughest of the digs. sometime there is is no good answer. it's eight bad options, pick one. but you've -- and you own it. but then -- you have to make the decision with such great optimism that the bureaucracy will say, the president want this is done, i am with it. congress will say, we will follow. other world leaders, like tony blair will say, i'm standing with you. but they're brutally tough decisions. you want an optimist as president. you certainly don't want a pessimist. if someone walk swoose the oval office and says, i'm going to make a bad decision today they shouldn't be president. they're going to make a tough decision but it will be the right decision because they have to make it. >> i think we've seen many examples where pimature in office. and i think that's the question is out on that. one of the things that i think
is true of most of the modern presidents is they've been curious people. they wanted to learn. they wanted to consume a lot of information, as we've all talked about. and through that process, through the weight of the decisions, through putting people, you know, men and women in uniform into harm's way, from understanding the collateral damage of decisions, they mature. they -- that's why their hair turns gray. that's why all of our hair turned gray. but i think they make better decisions, you know, if they have learned to assume that burden but also maintain that sense of both optimism and i think a sense of ambition. so they need -- you need to keep that ambition throughout the presidency, i think. charlie: the book is called "the gatekeepers: how the white house chiefs of staff define every presidency." thank you for joining us.
alisa: i'm alisa parenti from washington, and you are watching "bloomberg technology." let's start with a check of your "first word news." president trump has arrived in poland where he could receive a rockstar welcome. the white house was reportedly promised a reception of cheering crowds as part of its invitation. mr. trump travels later to germany for the g20 summit. the visit to warsaw also comes before a high-profile meeting with russian president vladimir putin. there are some concerns about mr. trump's relative inexperience with global affairs ahead of his extended meeting with the former kgb spy master. u.s. u.n. ambassador nikki haley condemned north korea's icbm