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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 6, 2010 10:00pm-11:00pm EDT

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and congress that oversees a candy. those interested in politics will see a political action does influence the scientific process. science depends on wealthy people to a certain extent but depends much more heavily on the way the government supports and pays for science and as a political process we have to encounter directly whether stem cells research or thinking about how to improve the nation's health or simply providing funds for scientists of the nih and the national science foundation to do their work. >> you're book is laid out in four parts, becoming a scientist, doing science, political science, and continuing controversy is. why did you lay it out that way? >> the things people would care about, why are you a scientist, and, in fact, what i'm pointing out in that section is you don't
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have to thank you are a scientist from the third grade. you can have -- america is forgetting and allows a prolonged adolescence. i think people need to understand you pick a town in scientists in your late 20s. i wanted to devote to, how much to say about the science i have done, technically complicated and i didn't want to insult the audience by watering it down but i wanted to take a tried and follow it to looking at one aspect of my career that was frankly important because it led to a nobel prize and the discovery of genes and pouring in cancer. i wanted in that section to trace of both my own activities as a scientist and link fact to a very important social problem mainly can serve. then because in a sense there was a chronology to this i did most of my scientific work and not all before i became a government leader, i wanted to
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talk about being the director of nih, running a large agency, to do science with public money and explain what the complex are between society and science and how they get resolved. in the last section of the reason i moved those out was i wanted to spend time talking about how we publish our work, how the stem cell controversy arose, how we are approaching the development of science have better health and poor countries, and those became sector as essays that address in greater depth i could have done in the narrative, issues that all scientists must think about. >> your mom had breast cancer and i want you to tell how that influenced you as a researcher and scientist. >> certainly was an influence. i was at the nih working on the genetics of bacteria. i learned that model organisms
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like bacteria can to just about him in disease but also as a doctor and a son with a mother battling this is the use i wanted to feel it was somewhat more connected to the problem. i don't think that was the only reason, not that they chose to do work about cancer, but i saw an opportunity in my thinking about cancer as a problem mainly we didn't understand how a normal cell became a cancer cell and there were a couple new tools having to do with how we measure dna and rna, some with viruses that cause cancer in animals that led me to believe this huge medical problem that affected my family would be amenable to some solutions by taking advantage of these opportunities to do interesting science. >> this is based on lectures you gave in 2004 at the new york public library. tell us about those and how did they morph into the book?
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>> that's a fun question. a famous biographer friend of mine asked me to give those lectures and i didn't read the fine printing. the norton elections, then i saw norton sponsoring the letter signed a contract with me and i had to turn them into a book and i thought we published the electors but if anyone finds out when they tried to turn them into a book three don't make a book so i then labored away. i was fairly busy running memorials cancer center in but i found the time after four years to take the lectures as a starting point and write a whole lot more, go into up about issues i found interesting. the process was good, it was just hard at times but i am very glad now that i was given the contract which i signed without fully appreciating the implications iraq the book is called the art and politics of
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science, thd >> coming up next, booktv presents after words, an hour-long program where we invite guest host to interview authors. this week, u.s. presidential biographer nigel hamilton discusses his new book, "american caesars" about the 12 u.s. presidents since world war ii. the award-winning author of jfk, restless youth and a 2-volume biography, bill clinton, examines each man's pass to the white house and has particular strengths and weaknesses. he also takes a close look at the more challenging issues of each administration and the fashion in which the president tackle them. he speaks with fellow historian and author, richard norton smith >> host: nigel hamilton author
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of "american caesars" e.u. have spent a lifetime thinking about and practicing the art of biography. this book samong other things may be a group biography of the last 12 american presidents. what do you think a biographer of those who subject? >> guest: i think the first thing he does is truth. also i think he does, or she, a degree of curiosity. i think it is fatal for the biographer to go into a project with a set opinion. i think a biographer needs to have an open mind and clearly you need some driving interest in curiosity but i think you have got to be willing to change your mind if the facts and the documents were the interviews you do. leads you to a different view of the character and that
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happened several times in american caesar's. >> host: does a biographer also owe his subject empathy? , and i mean by that it has become a majority in some corners. i mean a biographer is engaged in the almost godlike resumption was act of re-creating life, and if you are going to explain the human being, character and his motivation and lots of action presumably you need to try to step into issueshis shoes, perhaps even side his skin. is that something that you think is necessary? >> guest: i don't know that i would say necessary because it depends on what i gave-- kind of ladder for your going to write. personally, i have always, until now, avoided writing biographies about people i don't like, because they think as you say it
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is difficult to empathize with them and then you may end up judging them unfairly or not being able to put yourself in their shoes. but, if you do have to write about people you don't necessarily care for, and in this book, the 12 presidents, there were several i basically didn't like, i think you owe it to them-- i don't know whether empathy is the right word-- that you a look to them to try and keep an open mind. i think intellectually be able to project onto them and of course a big challenge with "american caesars" was to see them not necessarily as domestic presidents that as caesar's, as the most powerful men in the world and how they responded to that challenge. which had never existed between -- before the second world war. >> host: we have a very literate audience here at c-span but for those who don't now, tell us who is the inspiration
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in terms of classical literature for this book? >> guest: well,-- was a roman historian at the time of hadrian, who was working in rome in the caesar archives, and you got this idea that he would like to write the life of the great roman dictators were caesar's from julius caesar's onwards and he chose the first 12 from julius caesar threw to do mission. many of them assassinated, and some of them terrible tyrants and dictators, some of them great men like caesar augustine is. and that book that he wrote became famous and since pretty
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began it has never been out of print. it is basically our source material not only for the lives of those great roman emperors but for the character, the personality, because being in rome he was able to do interviews with people who have actually lived through some of the lives of those caesars and by telling not only their public lives but their private lives, he gave this unforgettable insight, this window onto the world of rome at the height of the roman empire. >> host: he is often credited with psychological driven free. in fact he had a classical one, the president. >> guest: yes, that is true, but the big difference i think is that see tony's did something that has never been done since as far as i know is a biographical a story in.
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and i don't know if my book is the first time it has been tried since roman times, but sarah tinney has decided to write about those emperors, first in terms of how they became president -- maxis are and how they operated as caesar and only then to look at their private lives so he separated the public from the private workout now over the last few centuries we have become more and more interested in the psychology of human beings so certainly every biography i've written whether jfk or clinton orb bill marshal montgomery or whatever i have always tried to place into an understanding of the character right from the very beginning almost before he was born and an understanding of the site-- psychology in the upbringing. when i was asked if i would like to write a new version of the roman caesar, the 12 caesars i
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looks back to sarah tony s.. i really like that idea that you first look at the public life, so that you can actually see clearly the political challenges and the administrative challenges, the leadership challenges that both men faced in the time when they were caesars and only then look at their private lives, and so i wrote an initial chapter on harry truman and showed it to my editor and he said well this works marvelously. you first cms president. you first see him in the way that he had to deal with these extraordinary responsibilities on the death of roosevelt and how he dealt with them and only then do you stop and look at him in terms of his personality.
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>> host: you do in effect deprive the reader of the sense of a life being livedlived, evolving, growing reacting and all of that pre-story story if you will shaping the individual who comes into office. >> host: it is anti-psychological approach, at least in the early part of their lives, but advantage as i say if figure and if you are interested in the history of the united states united states is an empire since world war ii when it abandoned isolationism, i think it serves to clarify the issues with which these great residents for the most part had to deal. >> host: there is a statistic that is jaw-dropping early in the book. i think i've got this right, in 1938 the united states was responsible for 14 overseas
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military installations. today that number exceeds 1000. how did we get from-- from 14 to 1000? >> guest: that is the story of american empire, and the united states i think was like 17 in terms of the military ranking before world war ii. the army was desperately understaffed. >> host: how much of that though was the of disillusionment following world war i, that world war i had been in effect sold to the mac and people as a crusade? >> guest: absolutely and it was the same in britain. in fact john f. kennedy wrote his thesis that was turned into a book, why england slept because he didn't want to know more about the armaments and the tragedy of world war i. but once the japanese attacked pearl harbor the whole scenario changed and what i have found so
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fascinating in looking back at fdr was the way that the united states geared itself up so incredibly quickly to fighting not only a world war but a world war onto vastly separated fronts in the pacific and in europe. >> host: it is interesting because well first of all, did you acknowledge that there would be candidates for caesar before fdr. for example what teddy roosevelt be a figure or woodrow wilson? >> guest: certainly there were characters who well would be caesars and i think often they were referred to as caesars. but, very quickly, that notion of the united states becoming a monarchy or an empire was abandoned, and it is only with
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world war ii that the united states forever abandoned isolationism and the real reason is the atomic bomb. once the united states had developed the atomic weapon, i mean people talked about disarmament but i mean the file that you could disarm and somebody else would have the bomb was just-- so really out of necessity the united states became not only competent in world war ii but the great democratic hegemony of the post-war. >> host: i am wondering, you are native brick. does that give you particular insight into the imperial mindset and in fact what are one of the factors of the american century post-war, the relative withdrawal of britain from that world? >> guest: absolutely. i don't think i could've written a book-- i certainly wouldn't have had the arrogance to
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undertake it, because a lot of people said nigel isn't this rather ambitious to tackle 12 american presidents? i had written quite deeply about two american presidents, jfk and bill clinton. >> host: let's make sure our viewers know, you have written about young jfk, a book that certainly stirred a fair amount of controversy and a 2-volume biography of bill clinton including the clinton presidency and of course in your multivolume biography, bernard weil montgomery, you certainly met up with dwight eisenhower. so you brought all of that into this enterprise. >> guest: i felt i had a sort of handle but as you say, the real advantage, and felt i had in relation to my colleagues in the united states who teach history, was that i have actually grown up in a decaying british empire.
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i was born in 1944. churchill was still dreaming of holding onto india. the african colonies, one of the most fascinating things about fdr in my chapter is the way that fdr basically tells churchill that it is no good. >> host: it is interesting, you obviously have hinted at this, but you portray churchill with all of his heroic qualities, wiser than wise qualities as essentially a man looking over his shoulder, and fdr as someone with a sure grasp of of the future that has yet to unfold. >> guest: i think fdr was a real visionary, domestically but also globally. he is definitely the hero of this book. and that ring something up, because we have 12 figures and it is interesting that the first four, roosevelt, truman
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eisenhower and kennedy are the great caesars. >> guest: in my view. >> host: in your view exactly. of course that raises the question of what happened post-kennedy, i mean hasn't all been downhill? to the nature of the empire or the imperial exercise itself vietnam? was that individual presidents, coincidence? what combined to trace this trajectory from fdr to the presidents? >> guest: the short answer would be all of the above. but i do think the big turning point was lyndon johnson and the vietnam war and in a sense that is the most tragic chapter in the book. >> host: do you see johnson is a tragic figure? >> guest: absolutely because he was a man who was raised in the south, in texas, who hadn't shown any particular enthusiasm
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for civil rights, but who then took up that mantle of civil rights reform. and basically rammed it down the throats of congress and certainly southern politicians, and who knew that it might be fatal for the chance of democratic candidates in the future. and i think he showed enormous courage in that sense, and there is a wonderful moment, which i hadn't come across before, when in 1964, when he was still an unelected president, he simply assumed the mantle after the assassination of jfk, there is a moment when he drafts a letter of recognition to say that he would not stand for the presidency at the national convention. and people were so worried about senator goldwater and the republican right that he was almost pressed into service.
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but,. >> host: do you think that is what he had in mind? >> guest: yes i think you may have had in mind but i think it is interesting that, in a way if he had stood aside he would have had to be in this book as the fifth grade president, because what he achieved with civil rights really was extraordinary. and he inherited kennedy's involvement in vietnam. it wasn't a war at that stage, and i think in many ways, although a great man, johnson was not quick to be a caesar. he had trouble somewhat around the world as vice president, but essentially his realm was the united states. his real realm west texas, and-- and i don't think he had the confidence in the same way as
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jfk, developed as such a young man. i think he had the confidence to overrule his advisers and to say well goldwater may be is still pushing from the right at we won the election and we are not going to war. >> host: it even in a larger sense, you know we all have sort of a set of criteria for the ideal president. presumably we all want our presidents to have a sense of history and a perspective that brings. is also possible though for them to become prisoners of history? clearly lyndon johnson's generation was branded by a munich and the munich analogy capped servicing appropriate or in addition he also was haunted 's going communists in 1949.
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you know, he recognized that inciting the civil rights bill he was signing away the south. i mean you just wonder whether all of this came together to influence in any way vietnam? >> guest: i disagree with my fellow historians who tend to believe in movements and patterns that can't be changed. i think a good example of rejecting this notion that you are imprisoned would say the history of munich, of appeasement, of appeasing a dictator or threats, is the way that resident eisenhower, the third great caesar in my view, the way that he dealt with the suez crisis in 19507 because the british, the french and the israelis went in to take back the suez canal, and they assumed
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the united states, even though the most powerful country in the world, would simply stand back and say naughty kids and allow it to happen. eisenhower did not. he was the president of the united states and and the commander-in-chief of the american armed forces, and he said no, and he basically bankrupted the british by saying we are not going to support the pound sterling. i mean the president is in an extraordinary play to change history if he or she one day it is interesting because on the at that time, it was an active
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political risk on his part. >> guest: and courage and i think looking across these 12 lives, think one of the common fees for those presidents is you, are there things that run throughout this period, these lives, themes essential to leadership under all circumstances? i mean what do you learn collectively from these lives? most of all. >> host: that will probably tell us about the incumbent. >> guest: exactly. if you think of the difficulties, almost every one of these presidents had whether you are talking about reagan in their first two years in office, it is a huge learning curve and in that sense you think, surely there has to be a better
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political system that trains people in advance for this. but, i don't know that there is. i mean i was interested in, when i was writing about bill clintom sure is the cleverest, intellectually the smartest with the highest iq of every president who has ever occupy the white house. he just has an extraordinary able mind, but in a way he was the worst president in terms of the caesars, in terms of taking over the reins of power once he reached washington. he was obsessed with public approval and you can psychology eyes that but the fact was-- >> host: winning an election wasn't enough? >> guest: knowing the other thing he didn't understand was you have to have a terrific chief of staff. i spent years as a military
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historian from marshall's perspective. i'm new monte and monty would say you have got to have a good chief of staff and he worked him to the phone, and when he goes mad with all the work you toss them out and it takes on another one. two presidents-- well,. >> host: the situation arises but that doesn't keep jimmy it in his presidency and as you write, to his detriment. >> guest: and clinton. it is like, let's hope future presidents will read this book and at least learn some of the lessons because they are so obvious. it is not as though you know no-- yes it is always going to be a learning curve but there
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are-somethings we can learn from history. i think the ability to be a good administrative chief, once you enter the white house, is absolutely crucial and looking at these past examples it would because it is probably one of power of the present setting the ous aspects of let alone the country function are often overlooked. >> guest: again, one of my changes of mind as a biographical historian was ronald reagan in this book, because i had been brought up in
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the united kingdom where i was there when reagan was president. reagan was considered by my colleagues to be a joke. they didn't overly much about him as governor of california and nobody had any idea that his political convictions went so deep and so far back into his career, and i ended up having-- didn't always agree with him-- but i ended up having enormous admiration first of all for the deaths of his insurance that communism could be confronted from an economic point of view and the soviet union could finally be brought down by economic competition. but the other thing i admired him for was his temper. we hadn't talked about that, but i think one of the themes that
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runs through the book is that certain presidents did have the a caesar. you, because on the surface, if we are just about self-confidence, conviction or whatever you want to call it, jimmy carter had no lack of self-confidence. ronald reagan had no lack of self assurance for two very presidencies. >> guest: right. i don't think so confidence is the right, necessarily the right requirement. no, i'm talking about temperament, such as jfk showed, the ability to distance yourself a little bit, to stand back. you know, looking at the way jfk handled the cuban missile crisis, to listen to the advice he were getting from your
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cabinet and your national security advisers, but to be able to filter that through your own mind as an independent mind and to remember that you were elected by the people of the united states, not by these people sitting around a the table. and that you owe your loyalty to them. i think that is terribly important and i'm not sure jimmy carter really have that. he had this absolutely sincerity and a visionary quality. i mean, he saw the challenges-- it wasn't a lack of patriotism or belief in the national on the contrary, he believed that so deeply that the problem was he believed that so deeply that he wasn't listening to the other people. >> host: you quote him early on as someone he hope to establish a relationship with the soviet union and came to a
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relationship with great written. >> guest: he would come out with these remarkably naïve notions, which in a way were very christian, very charitable. they lacked a certain realism if you are going to be emperor of the united states. i keep saying empire because americans here do not like to consider themselves an empire. we got rid of the british 100 years ago and we don't want to go back there. >> host: certainly we don't see ourselves as a colonial power. >> guest: that is exactly how the united states is seen. if anybody travels outside the united states the very quickly become aware of that and as you said earlier on that number of military bases well over 1000, well well over 1000, means that the united states is operating at a military level that it has never existed in the history of
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humanity. not even the romans were as powerful as that in their time. so, you know, it is a huge challenge. >> host: it is interesting, there are so many interesting things in this book. i think is fair to say the revisionist history in a number of respects, for example running, one of the threats that runs throughout the story of the last 70 years is america and the middle east and particularly our relationship with israel. and most of his admirers would point to gain-- camp david accords is perhaps the highlight of carter's presidency. you present that in a garret-- very different light. >> guest: i presented in jimmy carter's retrospect and light. he came to think-- at the time he was very proud of it. after all he brought these enemies from egypt and they had come to a peace agreement and
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the israelis would withdraw some of the occupied territories. but over over the years, he felt that he got the poor end of the stick, that the israelis had really run rings around him and that the israelis have gotten really everything they wanted and peace, which is what he really wanted in the middle eas, certainly in his administration but even after that. and, i know certainly most of my jewish friends and colleagues think rather badly of jimmy carter for that. i am sad about that because he is certainly not anti-semitic and he is a brave man who constantly goes over there. he is truly interested. i think i quote in india and once, who is the mahatma gandhi
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of modern times. >> host: not least of all from reading your portrait one gets the sense that he is a better former president that perhaps it was the president. >> guest: i think he would go without actually. a great man but not a great caesar. >> host: it racist to me a fascinating question of someone who is thought about the ex-presidency and it may very well be that the largest part of carter's legacy is to redefine this nebulous office which has pluses and minuses. if you look at bill clinton center, it is as ambitious in its outreach and various humanitarian efforts but correct me if i'm wrong, there is not an operational, diplomatic element
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toward jimmy carter who they of freelancer. >> guest: exact and it can be very embarrassing to the incoming president if he feels he is being overshadowed and if the former president-- i think during president ford's time going to china. >> host: a week before the new hampshire primaries. >> guest: pour gerald ford had good reason to feel wow i gave this man a pardon, which is almost the centerpiece of that chapter. i think that was a terrible mistake. >> host: so you are not, think it is safe to say, interested and full disclosure. those on the c-span audience know i was close to present aboard and we had a personal relationship but i think it is safe to say, unlike lyndon johnson he lived long enough to have the satisfaction of knowing that most americans had come to
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the point of view that what he did was necessary and indeed an act of political courage. the kennedy library gave him the profiles in courage award and that sort of thing, icing on the cake. but i take it you question that consensus are you still think that it was a mistake? >> guest: yes i think it was a terrible mistake. i think richard nixon was one of the most dangerous president that we have ever had, and i think he was truly close to being a madman. >> host: you compare both johnson and nixon to caligula. [laughter] >> guest: johnson in terms of his private life. we haven't mentioned that but each of these presidents had it
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private life reg love life if you would like to call it and they are often at complete odds with the public figure, and you have to ask yourself well, does the private life actually impact? it raises that question. i mean clearly john kennedy behaved recklessly in his the cuban missile crisis that was the opposite of reckless. so what is the connection? >> guest: i don't think, you know, if i was a psychologist or sociologist i might try and draw some statistical inference but i don't think it would be worth a really. i think the fact is all the caesars were individuals. if you need a hell of a lot of and about agility and ambition to get to the white house. they work stirred mary characters and going through extraordinary tensions just to get to the white house let alone the responsibilities they carried and how they manage their private lives differs from
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one to the other. harry truman is the perfect example of the devoted husband. i love that story, when he is in berlin. he is about to decide whether to drop the atomic bomb and he is put in a philip by the russians at pots dam and the american officers infantry says, mr. president is there anything unique? i can get you anything, anything you would like, women. and treman said to him, son, don't ever mention that again. i married my sweetheart. i am devoted and we are loyal to each other. he was a truly honorable husband. >> host: that tells us something important about harry truman but is the risk particularly in the modern culture, sort of celebrity
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k. -- jfk that we spend too much time on our private lives? >> guest: there is a risk that we do but i'm afraid it is a lost cause. try and stop the media. exclude c-span of course but try to tell the media not to concentrate on the personality and the private life and particularly the scandals. i mean, i have tried to be, set the pattern for doing this and i have tried to be truthful about the private lives. i've tried to be an and judgmental about these private lives, but they are in succession pretty extraordinary. the one that most fascinated me actually was some gloomy gus, richard nixon when he was a young man. >> you see the hardest to know of these 12 figures?
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>> guest: i think so because he was quite a brilliant man, but he was so dark and had these different sides to him. i mean he was part liberal and part conservative, right wing conservative. we now know from his psychiatrist, we have the notes of his psychiatrist, who said and i think i quote him saying he was an enigma to himself when he was an enigma to me and he was the psychiatrist. even nixon's first girlfriend, he pursued for five years, she was a democrat. and she said after five years he sympathetic writer free about and nixon says now you are
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getting somewhere. [laughter] which go see your point. >> guest: he would look apparently according to the psychiatry, look into the mirror and at one point when he was suffering a bout of depression. i think he was vice president than. he would look in the mare and he said to a psychiatrist, i don't recognize the man i see. ften thought and i want your reaction that the presidency is not how it ended at up that it happened at all. >> guest: oh yes, and as i say in the book i'm not the first to say it. i think robert dallek wrote a wonderful book on this but basically i think he was guilty of high treason in sabotaging johnson's peace negotiations with north vietnam. >> host: given his personality -- he said himself i am and introvert and extrovert
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position. those are those that look at him as a closet-- but he was not a natural and the democratic vote seeking, doorknocking process. and yet, he reached the top of the greasy pole. >> guest: but you know the secret, that he studied acting in college. he was recognized as the great shakespearean and potentially great shakespearean actor and you see that when you see the archival film of his extraordinary, like the checkers speech and those moments when he goes before the camera and talks about the silent majority and talks about his people, his
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>> host: wasn't that in some of the silent majority? punished. >> guest: but in fdr's case it was idealism. again that is why i so admired him. there was a man born an aristocrat who could see beyond his own circle and see the true populists of the united states. but, in richard nixon's case, i think it was actually, some of that was really jenny went, that he came from, i mean when you go to his little house at the nixon library. >> host: a combination of the idealism and resentment. >> guest: resentment is
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terribly important there. he grew up poor, from a very early age and his brother dying of tuberculosis. and a father with his terrible temper and fearful of the father and so determined to do well in school. he used to carry issues around in a paper bag so they wouldn't get dirty and going barefoot to school. i think what would happen in those great moments of crises when he was accused of corruption and it looked as though president eisenhower would drop him as nominee in 1952, that it looked as though nick's and would have to retire or resign from the vice presidential nomination, and go in front of the public and give that checkers speech. but i think that is the moment when he reaches back into himself, and it is not just resentment. it is that moment when he puts away his political ambitions and
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all that and he reaches back vice president in american history had ever had. there, nixon ostensibly praising general eisenhower and going up to adlai stevenson and calling on everyone to release their-- eich breaks his council. he knows exactly-- ike the instinctive politician who spent a lifetime denying he was a politician knew exactly what was being done to him. and the amazing moment, that is really and, his genius really,
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nixon, that he could turn that kind of potential defeat and to potential victory by being able to see other people's weaknesses. we didn't buy the notion that nixon was in effect the last new deal president? >> guest: to some extent, yes i would. he did believe in health care reform. major public initiatives. >> host: with some of that mecca people are conservative. politician, accommodating himself to the prevailing consensus?
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>> guest: richard, i would say it goes deeper than that. i mean, can what moved me with nixon's absolute adulation of his mother, very religious womae children but they were terrified of her calling them out for doing something sinful or whatever. and i think again, he would reach into himself for a notion of responsibility for society, for the less well-off. his mother was a true christian in that respect, and so yes, i don't think it was-- >> host: today wouldn't he be a man without a party? >> guest: yes, definitely he wouldn't fit into the character of the republican party. i think very few of these republican presidents would actually. you see in almost every case they are fighting tea party
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style elements within. >> host: in his initial sting observation because i wonder if that is not actually applicable on both sides of the aisle, that fdr had to put up with huey long and others on the left, but he wasn't-- people thought he wasn't decisive enough. this was an opportunity, not just to save capitalism but in harry truman talked about liberals. john kennedy had criticism from the left, but is it fair to say that all of these presidents-- >> guest: they were forced into the middle. basically there were the extremes on the left in the right and in the end, they are forced into that middle and what was so interesting to me was, if you exclude to a large extent the domestic policies, you see
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the miracle of how they managed to deal with that domestic policy side as best they can. but how they still have the reserves they need and the insights they need to recognize a more global perspective in terms of both american interest and global peace. >> host: is it safe to say that reality intrudes and ideology recedes? >> guest: definitely. i think a lot of them have to take a very deep breath and basically forget politics or at least ideological politics, and look at the reality of the situation. >> host: it is interesting that john kennedy is the fourth of your great caesars and i'm wondering, my sense is that
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nixon famously said it would take 50 years before people could write objectively about him and the irony is, i would argue in 50 years in kennedy's case that the deification that followed the assassination ensured that the pendulum would swing to the other extreme, and only now in some ways the kennedy presidency that-- for a long time we heard he didn't get much legislation pass. there's a tendency to minimize, but in fact if you look at the two overriding issues of the age, the cold war and civil rights, he demonstrably comitie is that favorite term, grew in office and in fact before his death had embraced the politically difficult position on both. >> guest: just as eisenhower had adopted a more progressive position on civil rights in the previous administration. >> host: has he is opposed to
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southerners would be as in a reasonably short period of time to a new racial order. >> guest: well i think you put your finger on it when you say time, in a short order because a lot of these presidents if you put them together in a room with have very similar approaches, very similar visions and patriotic terms, in terms of social responsibility. they would differ in terms of when can they happen? when is the great american public willing to accept it? and in eisenhower's case, obviously he felt his head and had been by the supreme court in
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terms of schooling. but, he embraced the moment and he sent the troops down to arkansas and i think that is really a salient moment in american history. and the thing with john f. kennedy, you know, he was concerned that he should get a second term in office, so he was constantly trying to put things off until his second term. well, martin luther king and many millions of black people were not willing to wait for that and i think he showed great facing up to that. >> host: do you think television-- the irony jfk is seen as the first television president someone whose mastery of the media and news conferences contributed to his legend but it was the pictures, not only on the front page of the times but on television, the
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the like which in effect to some degree forced his hand. >> guest: yes, it definitely changed history in that respect and that is true always, but eisenhower had accepted that he had to have training. i think he got training from edinboro. >> guest: robert montgomery-- montgomery actually, was his coach. >> guest: they recognize that we were saying earlier the bully richard nixon in the fall of go one three networks, have acf that is not really possible for president today is that? >> guest: know, the diffusion
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of communications means that you don't have that sort of before you finish the sermon, know, they are twittering and the internet is commenting and-- >> guest: i think we are going to see different kinds in the future. >> host: that is obviously where we want to go. i mean first of all what are the lessons of this book for barack obama? as you know we are taping this on the eve of midterm elections. certainly part of the conventional narrative is that there is a considerable amount of disillusionment on the left with this president, who really makes only a cameo appearance in fit at this point in your narrative? >> guest: the obvious parallel is with bill clinton in 94, who
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was stunned when he lost both houses, not just one house but both houses, chambers of commerce-- congress. and it is remarkable, you think i quote the moment when bill clinton, after losing-- bill clinton's image, we are talking about photojournalism. his image was more fun to candidates during the midterm election. >> host: why was he so polarizing? >> guest: for a number of reasons. >> host: was that cultural? >> guest: today one talks about possible racism involved in that hilarity but in bill clinton's case you couldn't say it was because he was white. i think it was definitely the counterculture thing which newt gingrich played very successfully, the idea that these people were too soft and they avoided service in vietnam, so there were some of that but i think a lot of it was just like we were saying earlier, the
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first two terms a learning experience and he made this terrible mistake in taking an old kindergarten friend as his chief of staff. he wanted somebody he could trust or to be honest he had quite a lot of secrets in terms of his private life. he wanted a chief of staff who would respect him and it was a terrible mistake, because you know he has a brilliant mind but it is not a good administrative mind. he needs somebody, just like eisenhower during world war ii had general adel smith who they say kicked as but you have to have someone who is the bad cop to your good cop. so i think bill clinton is a wonderful example of how it resident can lose the midterm election and yet once as they said of bill clinton once he got through he-- he is not a member
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of congress. he is in this unique role as president of the united united , as commander-in-chief and the whole world looks to him. it is not just the electorate or electing senators and congressman. the whole world, specially the democratic world looks to him for global leadership and if you think of bill clinton, the way he actually brought peace to bosnia, but even in domestic terms how he dealt with the oklahoma city bombing, the fact that there was terrorism coming from within the united states. >> host: clinton brilliantly, through triangulation, stole a lot of republicans close. he basically co-opted the center weather was welfare reform or balancing a budget are saying the-- is over. does that option exists for this president in this incredibly polarized, ideologically driven
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political climate? even if you he were so inclined? >> guest: i don't know. i don't know that i would have a guess. >> host: did carter? >> guest: i respect president obama enormously, not only for his intellect but i think he does have a great temperament. esa mix of fdr and jfk. jfk was quite a cold man in his own way. >> host: given the tumultuous events of the last few years,? >> guest: you can, but i think the focus has been recently on those candidates for the midterm elections and i think once that is over and people see just how difficult the problems of unemployment and foreclosure are, and they see congress


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