tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 7, 2015 2:00am-4:01am EST
of the mass media that increase the power and reach of the presidency under fdr but then the u.s. became a true superstar. where did you get that idea? >> i have written seven books and fdr i think is the first modern president. not only did he gain power as president in a modern sense but he understood the importance of the mass media at the time radio and newspapers were the dominant media but typically with the power of radio. sanders said they could enter their homes as they wanted to be reassured
people were familiar with his voice. . .chief notion. host: did people care what herbert hoover and alvin coolidge was doing? guest: they did not. that is how i defined celebrity in chief. the ability to bring americans in the world of the president and be interested in the president as a person. then using your celebrity to get interest in your agenda and policies. herbert hoover tried a number of ways to connect with people, but the depression got so bad and people thought he was so out of touch that he could not get in touch. he had something called hoover ball where he was there a medicine ball around, thinking it would show him as a vigorous
regular guy on the south lawn. it never caught on with the country. a lot of americans run off throwing a medicine ball around like the president was. he just did not get it as far as connecting with popular culture. franklin roosevelt did. host: chapter two, theodore roosevelt: the strenuous life. six president stand out as the biggest stars ever to occupy the white house in modern times. teddy roosevelt, fdr, jfk, ronald mildred -- ronald reagan, bill clinton, and barack obama. what did they have? host: charisma. the ability to connect with american values -- not all of, it depended on the time and what people wanted. fdr was optimism. theater roosevelt, his distant cousin the idea of vigor and taking on powerful interests.
there was also the sense -- an aura about them. they seem to understand that americans have got through it a series of phases and defining a president. today, the president needs to be an entertainer. needs to be part in the culture to keep people interested. our most effective presidents understand that. are released or unable to act on it or do not understand. the other presidents i talk about who are not celebrities in chief, they had some celebrity but did not capitalize on it well. jimmy carter. both bushes. nixon, lyndon b. johnson. anybody familiar with history knows that they were presidents who were not celebrities in their own right as presidencies war on.
several celebrities in chief had notoriety and built on it. it makes a big difference in shaping the perspectives of issues and the in -- and the president as an individual. host: teddy bears, baby ruth bars, and billy bear. guest: teddy roosevelt, this is an example of him as the forerunner of the modern celebrity residence. he captivated the imagination of the country. what you're referring to, there was a case where he was a rate name hunter. he like to hunt all over the world. he went out to hunt bear and one of his guides brought him a baby bear to shoot. president roosevelt decided he won not do it so they released the bear. the teddy bear became a popular plush animal. it was different versions of how
it came to fame. one version said a german manufacturer started producing teddy bears, others said american manufacturers did. but it became popular. we know about the teddy bear and that came from teddy roosevelt sparing the life of a young bear. also billy bear, the brother of president carter. he tried to attach his name to a commercial product which did not work. this is not unusual, commercial products being attached to presidents. when grover cleveland was presidents, he had -- his wife was a woman much younger, and she was the first celebrity first lady. many people used her name, frank or frankie on products without
her permission. in those days, the white house let it go. it does not happen anymore. but we have history of presidents being capitalized on by business. that is a case of it. guest: you write about grover and frances cleveland, a celebrity couple. the newspaper turned frankie into a celebrity. what was it about these people? guest: in that case, grover cleveland was much older than frankie, as she was called. the media jumped on that as an interesting moment. they were married when he was president. she was interesting to a lot of people and to the country because she was educated charming, lovely. this was the recipe for following it closely. when they were married, they tried to go on their honeymoon
in rural maryland. a huge cavalcade of reporters tracked them down. they woke up the morning after they were married and solve -- saw all these reporters on the grounds. president cleveland was upset and never forgave the media for spoiling their honeymoon. he set up a house in washington where they could live not and the white house, because their celebrity was so intense. host: ken walsh, you say the modern era began with fdr. how sophisticated have we gotten -- we being -- house of the skate have we gotten in promoting our presidents? guest: extremely sophisticated. i started covering the white house in 1986, this is my fifth president. we thought ronald reagan mastered the media of his time, and he did.
but in those days it was the three television networks. he was a former television and movie star himself. he understood how television worked and was able to dominate the dominant media of his time, television. since then, there have been so many changes and our media world -- in our media world. today, president obama mastech the social media, using the white house website sarah promote his agenda and himself. using television shows that other presidents disdained, like the late-night comedy shows, and shows that presidents did not even have the opportunity to go on it like "between two ferns," the zach galafinakas comedy show. president obama understands that different electorates draws different things from different
media. presidents will have to do the same thing to carry their agenda from now on. host: 202 is the code if you want to talk to ken walsh. (202) 748-8000 for democrats. (202) 748-8001 four public and's. (202) 748-8002 for independence. we will start taking those calls in a minute. did president bush have a celebrity to him? guest: every president does when they are first elected. a lush of fame and notoriety. president bush and have that. what happened is that he disdained a lot of the communications tech weeks that modern presidents use as time went on. i do not think he was ever that confident on television.
certainly his father did not feel that. president bush was a very engaging guy. very gregarious. a lot of people could want with him in person. but he could not do that more broadly. he also felt that many things president obama today will do, president bush did not do because he felt it was below the stature of the president to be on the late-night comedy shows for instance. i think he missed a lot of opportunities there. he also had the same problem his dad had and that he was not a good communicator and syntax. making mistakes using his words and so on. he was gun shy about that -- he got gun shy because of that. he lost his celebrity as time went on. i the end of his residency with iraq war and the afghanistan war and the economy going sour, he was almost an anti-celebrity.
a figure people were making jokes about, not that people were drawn in by. that is the fundamental difference. host: we will show you a picture of hesitant reagan. you can see it over there mr. walsh. how often do presidency use celebrities to enhance their image? guest: it happens often. receive president reagan and nancy reagan with michael jackson. i think people are saying in -- taken up short by this. michael jackson showed up in full regalia. presidents have tried to capitalize on other people's fame for many years. teddy roosevelt was the pioneer of this. there are pictures available in his library and other places with huge numbers of hollywood stars. far more than any other president pushed together who would celebrate his birthday every year and celebrated his
money for what became the march of dimes, the campaign to end polio, which president roosevelt had. jame s cagney, pat o'brian, one person after another to capitalize on that. president reagan did that. some presidents tried and did not succeed. there is a famous picture -- i am told it is one of the most sought pictures of any president -- richard nixon with elvis presley. nixon -- elvis presley was a fan of law enforcement. he wanted to get a law enforcement badge so he could help law enforcement track down the bad guys, in his mind. he went to the white house, also showing up in regalia. nixon was a straightlaced guy. he looked at elvis who had a cape should open to his waist chains, and said something like
"elvis, that is quite a good up you have on." elvis said "you have your audience and i have mine." there's a picture of them shaking hands awkwardly. nixon was unable to capitalize on the entertainment world. host: i have that picture and my office. let's take some calls. we are talking about the presidency in the 20th century and some history. ohio, independent line. caller: to your guest in past and present presidents, how many past presidents had a military background? we know our last two democrats did not have a military background. do you agree that presidency is in the strength of the cabinets? i am not sure obama has a cap. he addresses every problem.
guest: a number of points. residence have a history of military background -- presidents have a history of military background. they like to turn to those with a military ground, starting with washington. you have many military heroes who were elected because of that. ulysses grant. andrew jackson. eisenhower was the hero of world war ii. he led the invasion of normandy. president bush the father had been in the military. he was in world war ii. it goes on and on. more recently, president obama had not been in the military. president bush the son was in the national guard, but not in the military in that sense. there is a long history of americans turning to military members for leaders in times of
trouble. president obama does not have that background, but that is something americans prize. i think of the cabinet president obama is not the only president who has superseded his cabinet. a lot of presidents talk about government, and then when they get into office, the cabinet is not a dominant force, it is the white house staff. that is true for the obama administration. the cabinet carries out the decisions the white house staff makes. it is not an uncommon pattern in our presidency. host: has the significance of the cabinet in the last 50 years , 60 years faded? guest: i think it has. let's look at harry truman's. you had people who were experts in foreign policy in particular,
helping president truman. the kennedy cabinet was up there in terms of stellar individuals who were in the cabinet. you had stellar individuals over time. i would say president obama has had capable and consequential people in his cabinet. it is just that he is much more comfortable running the government through the white house staff. history will be written that that white house staff is one of the most powerful we have had. president obama taking credit for things, that is common. when i first started, president reagan -- reagan only had -- it would take credit for anything positive that would happen in the economy. he would go to mom and pop implement operations in role maryland or something just to celebrate their hiring a few
people to show the economy was getting better. this was something common. hesitant like to take credit for things even if there cabinet or white house was not responsible. host: daytona peach -- daytona beach. hello. caller: how are you doing? i have three comments. you made a comment a few minutes ago on george bush being -- in his first term. he had every reason to be fairly meek. he did not win his first term. i challenge anybody, go to wikipedia, look it up. he lost the first election. more people voted for al gore than they did george bush. he did not win. host: what is your second point? caller: ronald reagan was an
actor. he knew how to play. that was his profession. he knew how to play the american people. he got on the big screen and tells us everything we wanted to hear and make things look good with being -- number three, mr. jeb bush, you are kind of bring up talking about the e-mails and all, and being forthright with his e-mails, they need to be forthright with all of the votes in florida that went missing between him and catherine -- to make sure his brother wanda the 2000 election. host: thomas in daytona beach florida. guest: we would take them in order. the caller referred to the 2000 election where the supreme court decided that in a 5-4 decision,
awarding the state of florida to president bush. a couple catered fight over who had want florida, al gore versus george w. bush. the caller is right. george bush 1 -- al gore won 500,000 more popular votes than george bush. he democrats could not get past that no long time when the supreme court made his ruling because they felt al gore won the popular vote, which he had. but the supreme court is the arbiter in cases like this. that is what happened. as far as reagan, president reagan had been an actor. he was in movies and television. he had a lot of skills that are valuable for presidents to have. he was once asked -- a reporter in consternation said a lot of
people think you are a big movie actor, how are you qualified to be president? he said, i think it is difficult for me to imagine a president who was not an actor. because he feels those skills are important. that is the way reagan was. he had brilliant performances on television -- i am not saying that critically. it worked for him. the d-day anniversary speech when the space shuttle blew up, it is rather president's speeches are remembered. reagan's where. jeb bush, you talk about the e-mail situation, he did try to help his rather win florida. i think when it looked like florida was going to al gore, jeb bush was upset because he was governor at the time and thought he let his brother down. the problem there is dynasty. our people ready for a third bush in the white house?
that something jeb bush has to use in terms of using his own celebrity. host: ken walsh do any of the people in 2016 have that je ne sais quoi? guest: i have been thinking about that lot lately -- that a lot lately. hillary clinton is the most famous of anyone running for president -- she has not announced but we are already expecting her to run. in terms of the e-mails you talked about and the last segment, anything she does is channeled through our perceptions of her as a celebrity. she has a unique resume. she was first lady. a senator from new york. secretary of state. people know her. she has astronomical name identification. people have ingrained perceptions of her.
she will have to take her celebrity -- and she is -- and channel it through positive waves -- ways. she will have to go through scrutiny and negativity from people who do not like her. but she is so famous that people pay attention. it is up to her to channel that celebrity and positive ways. so far it has not worked out. she has not entered the race yet. as far as republicans, jeb bush -- hillary clinton has the dynasty situation with her husband, who was president. jeb bush wants to be the third bush. he has his own dynasty question. he is not nearly the celebrities hillary clinton is, but people are drawn to him because they are interested in him with his unique resume in this dynastic family.
host: what about any of the other republicans? guest: i don't see a lot of glamour or juice there, so far. a lot of coverage of scott walker the governor who has risen to the top of the polls. we do not know how long that is going to last. he would be almost an anti-celebrity. he is not a guy who goes for glamour. he is a tough guy governor. going against president obama this would be a whole different change. i wouldn't guess that scott walker would do interviews with youtube hosts like president obama did. he would be much more of a traditional's communicator --
traditional communicator. he has to build his celebrity in positive ways. host: the next call for ken walsh. norman, oklahoma republican. caller: i wanted to ask him -- in my opinion, the news media and print media are the ones who make them into celebrities. i don't find obama the least bit glamorous or hillary for bill clinton. i think those are the ones you mentioned. reagan and jfk they had wit and humor that went beyond the media. i don't think the media was
fascinated with reagan, but they were with kennedy because of his hollywood connection and wit and humor. so i was just wondering -- host: thanks for calling in. a response from ken walsh? guest: reagan and kennedy are two people i talk about in the book as celebrities in chief. they are qualified in all the basic ways. our caller made reference to kennedy glamour, a lot of people interested in kennedy. he played on the contrast to eisenhower, the old soldier. kennedy was a hero in world war ii. the commander of pt 109. he brought glamour to the white
house and a lot of formal events. he had a beautiful wife good looks himself, lovely children and the white house played on that. they used the glamour of the kennedys to tailor his appeal into the idea that he was a new kind of president, a vigorous, energetic new leader. the torch was passed. the white house was very clever in many ways of using the media. television was emerging as the dominant media of the time. they put out wonderful photos of the kennedys, the wonderful events they had at the white house. pictures of the children and family at the white house. the famous picture of john junior hiding under the president's desk while the president was working. there was an opening under the desk that the little boy could
get into. they released that photo. the media was entranced by the kennedys. they were drawn into the celebrity world. kennedy was also fascinated. his father was a hollywood producer. he was always fascinated by that world. he was interested in the intersection of politics. that all came out during the kennedy administration. president reagan, the caller said the 80 did not seem as interested. i think the media was very interested. i covered reagan. he understood the media of his time the three broadcast networks. this was before the 24-hour news cycle. he was able to come up with strategies to brilliantly manipulate the media in ways that made him look good.
they came up with something called the line of the day. they would kill her events of the white house to go along with that line -- tailor events at the white house to go along with that line. it was impossible to ignore wonderful images and he was terrific at generating wonderful images. his media adviser was able to come up with wonderful venues and back drops and places for the president to speak. and the television networks founded irresistible. i think there is less of that today. but in those days, if you look at some of his events, they were brilliantly staged and they understood television very well. reagan was very, very good at television. even though people criticized his acting in the movies he played in, as president, as
people have said, he played the role of a lifetime. i'm not saying that critically. that worked for reagan. he understood television and understood that what the country wanted from the president as a celebrity, someone that was interesting and would bring back the optimism, which reagan did. host: george washington, abraham lincoln, where they celebrities in their day? guest: washington, absolutely. we did not have the mass media that we had today. it was a whole different world. george washington was probably the most famous person in the continental united states when he was elected president unanimously by the electoral college. the country felt that nobody could lead this new country but george washington. he was a man of integrity. people widely recognized him as a man of integrity. he could hold the country
together, which he managed to do. there are many examples of this. when he was elected, he made the trip from mount vernon, his home in virginia, up to the temporary capital in new york. it was all must like what we think of today as a rock star cavalcade -- it was almost like what we think of today as a rock star calvin calvinvalcade. when he arrived in new york, there was a tremendous series of archbarges waiting for him. there were many images of washington distributed. they admired him, so much. he was our first celebrity president. washington certainly qualified as a guy who was a celebrity in his time.
lincoln, a different situation. he was very controversial. we hear those words a lot today. he was elected largely by the north, completely by the north, because the south had seceded. he was very controversial. but what happened with lincoln, he understood the media and the idea of image in the media of his time, which were newspapers. he was running for president in 1860. he thought that he had such a roughhewn image. he had a photographer take his photograph. usually he would take head shots of people in this relatively new situation called photography. but he realized that when he saw lincoln, he was not a good-looking man.
he showed up wearing wrinkled clothes. his eyes were sunken, his wrinkles were obvious. so brady pulled the camera back. this picture was taken before a famous speech that he gave at the cooper union. it was an important part of his campaign. what the photographer did he had a full-length picture of lincoln so you couldn't see the close up of how he really looked his facial features at wrinkled clothes. he had him put his hand on a book to give him an airtight erudite image. it was used for many years after that as the president's official photo. when he grew a beard, the photo was retouched. lincoln, when he died, is when his celebrity was triggered.
he was becoming a figure of almost spiritual importance, particularly in the african-american community because of the end of slavery. he was becoming more popular because of the war being won. when he was assassinated, he was elevated to all most divine status in many ways -- to an almost divine status in many ways. there were pictures of him being welcome to heaven with angels and was washington -- and george washington. he had a whole new level of fame because of an awful reason, he was assassinated. he is now seen as one of our greatest presidents. lincoln was a growing
celebrity, especially after the war was being won. basically, he is entered this whole pantheon of spiritual leaders and political leaders over our history since then. host: richard houston, we are talking about u.s. presidents. caller: thank you. i'm really enjoying this program. i think you are making the presidency more human. i have kind of a concern. we have a president to in my opinion is a great entertainer. but my disappointed has been that the policies never seem to come to fruition. everything kind of seems to end up a mess. what i would like to know is which presidents do you think have been great entertainers or celebrities but also the most
effective administrators and policy makers? guest: a very good question. you mentioned president obama as an entertainer. this is a controversial but also real question presidents have to answer. we are celebrity driven culture and presidents have to acknowledge that. i think obama has. people are uncomfortable with this, especially more traditional thinking people. president obama's argument is that he has to go with the voters are. they understand that people get their information from different places. it is not that people are just getting their information as that used to from people like me, white house correspondents, news conferences interviews with the mainstream media.
basically, people go to the late-night talk shows. a lot of young people have gone to john stuart, the very famous comedian. he is become very popular with young people. president obama has communicated through that, through youtube, social media. this weekend, he is going to be participating in popular culture again by showing up at the comer moderation of the selma alabama 50th anniversary of what they called bloody sunday, a very bad outcome for civil rights demonstration 50 years ago. president bush's son is going to be there as well. president obama he has to be something of an entertainer. this was very clear his first year of office.
because of his rhetoric and ability to bring people into his rhetoric, he won the nobel peace prize only a few months after he was elected and he hadn't done anything yet. the white house even conceded this. he was surprised that he won. he won because of the promise of hope and change and that he would listen to countries around the world and have a more harmonious foreign policy. i will let the viewers judge how that turned out. the other part of the question presidents who have been most effective and have understood how to run the government. i think you have to put franklin roosevelt right up there in the top tier. the government was much smaller then, though he expanded the government in a great way. he had a way of understanding not only how government should work but also what the country wanted from government. the reassurance that people needed in those very difficult times. he succeeded in that. there's a wonderful story about franklin roosevelt after he died
. there was a to amend this outpouring of grief in the united states for franklin roosevelt -- there was a tremendous outpouring of grief in the united states for franklin roosevelt. the coffin was being brought to his home in new york and a man was weeping inconsolably. he was asked, did you know president roosevelt? he said, no, but he knew me. he had a tremendous amount of empathy and used his celebrity to convey to the country that he understood what people wanted and needed, and that he could deliver that did the government. he was the -- deliver that through the government. he was the only president elected for terms. he combined celebrity and effectiveness in a very historic way. host: the president has become
so central to our national identity that nearly everyone once to know -- wants to know how they act, their strengths and weaknesses, and their intentions. we tend to think of them as superhuman or extra normal. no wonder we are deeply interested in what they do and who they are. democrat art. caller: hello? my question is, we have all of these -- host: you know what, i can tell if it is art or ari. we are going to put you on hold. someone is going to talk to you about putting the moyne done on your television. next call is alicia, in oregon.
caller: this is a very interesting concept to look at a president -- i have a few comments. these are some of my views on the presidents. i have lived through a lot of presidents. i vaguely remember roosevelt. i remember eisenhower and from there on. i think reagan was a very excellent president and he was real, a real person, and it shows through. it was not all an act. jfk, he did several good things, and i think can being murdered -- him being murdered, everyone will remember him. i think he was elected because he was young and all the rest of
them had to been old -- has beend been old. i think when he was murdered, our respect for the president took a nosedive. host: three things on the table for ken walsh to respond to. guest: first of all it is striking that you mentioned elenor roosevelt. the first ladies have been very important in this concept of celebrity. eleanor roosevelt was a celebrity first lady. she had her own constituency. she was devoted to civil rights women's rights, helping people in need during the depression.
eleanor roosevelt because her husband had polio and could not get around the country very well, became what he called his eyes and ears. she was known for that. she was a celebrity, she did things that first ladies never did before. she went to the coal mines urban ghettos, the troops. she added to her husband celebrity and they were a celebrity couple. a lot of people remember eleanor as the sting from her husband because she -- distinct from her husband because she had her own image. ronald reagan, a lot of people remember him very fondly. he was an actor, as a mentioned earlier. he was very much operating on the public stage. he was brilliant at strange
-- stage craft. liberals felt he was taking the country in a conservative direction too quickly, slowing the growth of government, confronting the soviet union and so on. at the end, he was very popular because he was able to channel celebrity in positive ways and people just like tim. that is something that people tend to forget in evaluating presidents. likability. i remember democrats complaining they could not come up with candidates or spokespeople who were as likable as president reagan and that really hurt them. president kennedy one quick point about that. his assassination deepened the
cynicism in america in many ways about whether things would turn out right for us, whether we were justified in being confident about the future when this young president was struck down before he realize to his full potential. the real place for the country's cynicism deepened about the presidency was in vietnam, when the country felt like to buy president nixon and president johnson -- lied to by president nixon and president johnson. and second, the watergate scandal. those of the two things that i think really undermined faith in the presidency. and we never really recovered from that. host: you have a chapter in your new book, first ladies, partners in celebrity. jackie kennedy has a mystic
quality as a first lady but she spent half the time outside of the white house? guest: she did. she didn't like the political side of being first lady. her husband understood this and gave her an enormous amount of leeway. she made a huge splash wherever she went. she had such a glamour persona and such a sense of celebrity about her. she was very young substantially younger than her husband. she was fluent in french and very cultured and brought a lot of cultured events to the white house. people were very entranced by this. she was a modern media person, basically. what was she doing? she had a tremendous impact on fashion. a lot of women copied to the
pillbox hat. also, the other thing i might add, another case where the assassination intensified them myst mystique. a lot of people remember her at the funeral. she handle that with enormous grace. host: north carolina, you are on with ken walsh. caller: the caller earlier said something about the only president ever impeached.
according to my information andrew johnson was also impeached. they were both impeached by the house of representatives and acquitted by the senate. richard nixon would have been impeached had he not resigned. i would like to know if you knew why andrew johnson was impeached. host: your understandin -- guest: your understanding is just the same as mine. andrew johnson was not the kind of accommodater or brilliant politician lincoln was. he had tremendous fights with congress, to girly the lincoln facti -- particularly the lincoln faction who wanted a tougher stance with the south.
johnson was not very deft at this. he had problems with appointments and ran afoul of the senate. it was a rather technical issue of his appointments that caused the impeachment. underneath that was this tremendous stirring of animosity towards him because of his handling his ham-handed handling of reconstruction because he was allowing the south to do things with former slaves that lincoln would not have allowed, for all we know. people in the north felt that he was letting the south off much to easily -- too easily. there was tremendous animosity towards johnson. that is why the impeachment occurred. clinton was impeached by the house.
the way our system works, the house brings charges impeachment, and the senate decides what the punishment should be. in clinton's case, as in johnson's case, the senate decided not to remove him. that is the acquittal you mentioned. next and, the only president who resigned, saw the impeachment coming. and rather than going to that -- through that, resigned, because of the watergate scandal. i think you got that pretty much exactly right. host: can a president sell a book if you announces he is reading it? guest: he can. i would welcome president obama to read my book and talk about it. host: it is a case where some presidents who have this mystique and celebrity, can just carry a book, from one meeting
to another or up the stairs of air force one, and people will be interested in reading it. presidents can draw attention to television shows movies, other books, novels rather than nonfiction. presidents can drive sales and interest in different types of things and music, too. president obama has had different artists at the white house and it adds to the celebrity of the resident and the artists, too. beyoncé is a big fan of president obama. president clinton had a lot of hollywood and entertainment figures of the white house, t oo. it worked as a synergy to add to the celebrity of these presidents. host: you write that jfk's staff
exaggerated the extent of his reading in order to project the air of an intellectual. and clinton wanted people to know what he was reading. it was an effort to expand his a celebrity -- to expand his celebrity and impressed different constituencies that he was paying attention to their history. guest: kennedy exaggerating the amount he would read, he was not interested in classical music but his wife brought all of these famous classical performers to the white house including public a famous cellist. he didn't even know when he had to applaud.
he had to these scripted on that. president clinton was a tremendously interested guy in popular culture. you saw that day after day. host: dorothy missouri. please go ahead with the question or comment for ken walsh. caller: good morning. i am proud of barack obama for his stamina, his guts. he has the guts to stand up and he has been good with history in america. we don't know now how good he is, but we will know in the end just how good he is. he has been a great example. michelle obama is a great example. and i thank them that i live to be 70 years old and see this happen. this is a wonderful subject on
which we can thank you. i will buy your book. guest: i want to mention an example about president obama. he is a relatively young man compared to some of our other presidents. president reagan was much older. he is very unflappable. you rarely see a weakness in president obama in the sense of his ability to conduct his office through adversity. and not talking about policy, but him as an individual. the other thing you mentioned me about obama. role model side. he understands that he is a role model and he uses his celebrity to pay attention to that. particularly young african-american men see him as
an example of what they can achieve. he is devoted to that premise. i've talked to a lot of people and what a lot of people say about obama, both critics and fans democrats and republicans is that you could not ask for a better family role model than obama. he does appear to be devoted to his wife, michelle, and his children. even republicans will say, as far as family values, he can't do better than the obama family. and i think that is something a lot of people recognize. host: eric, lutherville maryland. good morning. caller: good morning. my question for mr. walsh is during his lifetime, who does he think has been the most narcissistic president and why? thank you. guest: i have covered five
presidents so i have that perspective. i think before then, kennedy was before my time. i think he was a very narcissistic president. president clinton was as well. i covered all eight years of his residency and he was a very self-indulgent person. i will let you decide -- i'm not an editorial writer. is an individual, clinton loved the intention --attention. -- attention. he they the saxophone and wore his sunglasses during his campaign. it connected him very much to popular culture. people felt he was a cool guy and he loved that impression of himself, that he was with it and connected to popular culture. it was self-indulgent personality that he had.
we saw that in the monica lewinsky scandal. it resulted in his impeachment and acquittal by the senate. i think that kennedy and clinton were pretty narcissistic. other presidents were narcissistic in other ways but terms of being self-indulgent, i think it was kennedy and clinton. host: last call for our guest ken walsh comes from guy in california. caller: good morning. i want to know how you think the crossover between the culture of entertainment and the culture of the presidency damages or trivializes he office and what the first steps the president should take to minimize that damage. host: what do you think, first of all? caller: i think going on to youtube and speaking before the super bowl can bring a lot of
attention to the office of the presidency, but i think internationally, it can make us seem sort of trivial. and i think it might not be the best way for president to approach their public relations. i would like to know what you think, overall. guest: i think president obama is testing the boundaries of exactly this question. it is in the context of celebrity in chief part. he enjoys being part of popular culture and he enjoys popular culture it self -- itself. you see that in many ways. i think he is testing the boundaries of how far president can go. as is michelle, the first lady. her presenting an oscar from washington during the academy awards ceremony a couple of years ago, that is an example of how thoroughly they are into popular culture.
i see that in many ways with president obama. the interviews he does, the events he talks about. i the idea of trivializing the president -- you have to realize we are in a different worlds now. there are many ways for presidents to can indicate. we have to be careful in concluding that a president is to realizing things when -- trivializing things when many constituencies, that is a positive thing for them. i feel that he is going out of his way to communicate with them where they are, and different types of media. i think we have to be careful to realize that the world has changed in recent years and president obama may have a better understanding of that and a lot of people -- then a lot of people. i think the next president will have to use the same methods. they will maybe not be as adept
at it. but they will have to realize that this is part of the presidency now. going to voters in all of our diversity as a country and appealing to them in cyberspace -- diverse ways. host: you have a chapter in here about presidents as trendsetters and trend spotters. the hat industry was not pleased with jfk's hatless moments. nick's and was not responsible for many fads but he started the trend of wearing a small american flag on the lapel of his suit jacket. the last caller was talking about the super bowl. but you have something about a president calling in plays? guest: our interest in sports --
and was a big fan of football. people did realize the extent to which he was a fan of the all. he would actually devise plays for professional and college teams and send them in. i'm not aware that any of them worked very well. it was a famous play that he sent into the washington football team. it caused a 20 yard loss. but folks would use them. you get a play from the president, the coach would give it a try. but it did not work well. in fancied himself an expert on football but his plays did not work very well. host: we have been talking with ken walsh, the author of "celebrity in chief: a history of the presidents and the culture of stardom. "