tv H.W. Brands on Reagan CSPAN July 5, 2015 4:00pm-5:08pm EDT
history and writing to writing students and undergraduates, he has written several dozen books on american history and politics and is no stranger to the bestseller list. the first american about benjamin franklin thought finalists for a pulitzer prize. written on ulysses s grant andrew jackson jackson woodrow wilson command theodore roosevelt. he he lectures frequently on historical and current events and can be seen and heard a national and international television and radio. he has broken several times here at the national archives. for his latest book use details. he researched reagan's handwritten correspondence minutes of meetings memorandum of conversation edited speeches and much more. this new book has drawn praise from a number of sources that reagan's legacy
continues to fuel the ideas and from the choices facing his would-be successors. this astute biography is further evidence that he continues to cast a long shadow over a still largely conservative political order. please welcome hw brand to the stage. [applauding] quakes thank you for that kind introduction. i can say that none of the books that i have written what i been possible without the records of the national archives. keep up the great work and make it possible for people like me to do what i do. the book i'm going to talk about today is the sixth and final volume of a series that i started about 20
years ago and it was originally planned as the history of the united states i pitched the idea to a publisher who sort of laughed at my face saying in these days nobody writes that kind of work in history and you wrote that nobody would buy it. this particular publisher said command i will be able to guess the ages of some of you by your reaction to this with a publisher said, who do you think you are anyway will durant? the few of you talk about. well, he wrote the story of civilization, history of humanity that about 25 volumes. i knew the answer i was expected to give was a no, of course not. the real answer is i want to be
because i read all those volumes but a lot of the end was very intrigued and quite charmed by the idea that you could be guided through a broad sweep of history by a single guide. i had already been in the business of teaching history long enough to know that certainly in american history the work of a a broad survey of american history is parceled out to typically four five four, five or six different authors. i naïvely originally thought that that was because in the academic world expertise is apportioned. apportioned. you would find the colonial experts were right on the colonial time. time. the expert of the early national and so on. that is part of the reason. reason. after i get into the business myself i also discovered that the more mercenary reason is that the more authors you get on the title page the more of their graduate students are teaching in various places around the country who might actually adopt the book.
so i did not want to write the history by committee.i wanted to do with myself and realized it was rather ambitious but decided to go ahead. after absorbing than syncing my way through the initial discouragement at the idea of doing it and decided i would not do it had on but in the form of the series of biographies because i looked at the bestseller list and saw that it is relatively rare to see something on the bestseller list this as a is a history of this her history of that the people like biographies. i would write this history but do it in the form of a series of biographies. the first volume was about benjamin fricke.
i have had the honor to come back and speak about a number of the books in the series of which the final one is ronald reagan. i will tell you a little bit about why i wrote about ronald reagan, reagan, and it has to do with the fact that in the first place that a volume in the series before this volume five reagan is volume six i needed someone who can pick up the story 1945. i want somebody would get me as close to the present as reasonably possible after having written five volumes i wanted to end it was six. that rules out certain other potential candidates. when i started the series i did not intend to my did not even expect that most of the
biographies would be of presidents. volume one is about benjamin franklin. i have sometimes been asked why benjamin frank franklin was not present. the short answer was that he died. he died just he died just as george washington was being inaugurated. there is a deeper reason. he did not have the personality to be president. but the subsequent books in the series have turned out to be presence. and this primarily is because of the way i conceived of the series in the first place. place. it was going to be a history of the united states. i needed biographical subjects who occupied someplace near the central american public in life. if life. if i had chosen an inventor artist, poet i would really be testing readers patients when i went from that particular life to the broader themes of american history. presidents are pretty much
right in the center of things and enable me to tell that brought story without diverging too far from the life and career of the president. it turned out that most of these -- actually everyone after franklin was president. andrew jackson was volume 2, ulysses grant volume 3 theodore roosevelt franklin roosevelt, finally ronald reagan. again, finally ronald reagan. again, back to the reason for reagan. with each of these books i try to associate with the individual more precisely to choose the individual the somehow epitomize what i conceived in my head as the central task of american history during this particular time. so so my book on benjamin franklin is called the first american because it seems to me the central theme of american history during the
18th century was the emergence of american identity. benjamin franklin like everyone else of his generation, george washington, thomas jefferson, you name it you name it, they were all morning was an died american so how so how did this happen? my book on andrew jackson was about the emergence of american democracy. moved onto the adult stage as the previous figure steps on command this is partly because as a biographer i will be the first to confess i don't do childhood very well. this is maybe my personal taste. the obligatory letters from little franklin roosevelt to
his mother. there are lots i could've chosen from them about one hour to make the point. let's get. let's get on to the adult life. i deliberately arranged it so that my figures would be adults by the time they have to take over from the previous. by previous. by the time they received the baton. so jackson is 23. ulysses grant is in fact 23 when andrew jackson dies. theodore roosevelt is just three or four years out of college when ulysses grant dies. and so on. get down get down to franklin roosevelt's dies and 45. i want someone i want someone who is an adult and has embarked on life. i need somebody as well who seems to me to summarize what happens in america and the second half of the
20th century. i thought about lyndon johnson. lyndon johnson was president who was central to the civil rights revolution that remade american society. he would have been a good choice except for two things. robert caro has pretty much stolen lyndon johnson from everybody else until he finishes. now, i. now, i think in fact that as soon as caro finishes there will be run for a one volume of lyndon johnson will have care of his kind of dominating the johnson market, and market, and i'm not going to step into. even if that weren't the case for my purposes johnson steps off the stage too soon leaving the white house in 1969 dies in 1973. there's still a quarter-century ago. i thought about richard nixon, and nixon command he carries the story a little farther forward.
problem. there is an enticement because there's a problem. the enticement for the biographer is the pics has that dark streak in his personality that biographers really like. happy families are like and boring. it's the unhappy ones. is the unhappy individuals that have that dark streak that are appealing to the biographer but they are not necessarily appealing to the biographer's publisher because just as there is a rule with broadway musicals when you know you have a success when the audience comes out whistling theme song. well publishers like it if readers can be doing the equivalent. you know i could not imagine when i talked about this to my publisher i could publisher i could not get them to imagine anyone whistling, don't know what the watergate theme song
would be. this might be instructive, but it would not be uplifting. i'm i'm a circle back and new nixon, but i wound up ronald reagan in part because his -- his life worked really well. he lived in the 21st century. but the other reason is to thought to other reasons. i had just written about franklin roosevelt. franklin roosevelt is the iconic president for the first half of the 20th century. frank roosevelt more than any other president is the one who was associated with the creation of the modern american welfare state. he is the liberal launch the age of liberalism. you could call her at the age of
franklin roosevelt in the 1930s and i would say it continues through the 1960s. there is a direct line from the new deal in the 1930s through the great society of the 1960s and the essence of the new deal and a great society is the liberal belief that when there are important social problems, government can't preeminently the federal government is the agency of choice, the solver of first resort. when there is a big big problem, when the economy is in the depression returned to washington when lyndon johnson once launch a war on poverty in the johnson, johnson and all the people who voted for him other roughly 59 percent of the almost 60% who voted for lyndon johnson and 64 say yes, government as the solution to our problem and that is where look. that attitude changed. it was changing during the 1970s and it was decisively reversed when
ronald reagan was elected president in 1980 and so in his first inaugural address ronald reagan famously said government is not the solution, government is. i would argue that this is the attitude that has predominated the american political conversation ever since. it is not that there has not been any new programs, new federal programs between 1980 and alcohol but if you compare the numbers of are created between the 1930s and 1980s : new federal programs came often and easily they come sell them and they come hard with the fate of obama care which is still hanging in the balance five years after its passage being a good example. so if there is one individual who embodies the conservator's current and american politics in the
second half of the 20th century it's ronald reagan. haven't have written about roosevelt i felt obliged intellectually academically, and intellectually academically, and historically to look at the counterparts to franklin roosevelt. i convinced myself and hope to convince the readers of the book that one way of looking at it as they are sort of the two parentheses of the american century. roosevelt (and reagan is the right. so that is why i wrote about ronald reagan. now i will tell you about what i discovered or at least what i concluded. i will not to view everything. but i'm but i'm going to share with you some of the experiences i had been doing research for the book. the first the first thing i will do is tell your story. this is a story that relates to ronald reagan when he was
the least likely political bureau in the united states. in fact this is reagan during what i call to myself is wilderness years a brief summary of reagan's biography. reagan was born in illinois grew up in dixon went off to college in eureka illinois: their illinois: there into radio in the midwest, found his way to hollywood and he had a modestly successful film career. but but it was only modestly successful. he never quite cracked the top marquee. he was okay at playing easy rules. you rules. he did not have it within him to play the really tough and dramatic roles. going to give you a little bit of i don't claim the inside myself. this is how i explain that,
and it has to do with some of the resurgence did. but it was research that came from a direction that i did not expected all. it was not it was not something i found in the records of the national archive. it was something that was doing a book tour. in fact, my last published book i was doing was ulysses grant. i i was doing an interview with radio host. i believe the host was in chicago command we were having this interview. as often happens through the end of the interview people call them. to the end of the host asked me for my next project was. i said i said i was working ronald reagan. the host at that time but his end of the microphone and said to him when we get
off the end of something he won't tell you. okay. good. i i had no reason to expect to was an expert on things related to ronald reagan. there was some insight he was going to share. i've always. he said if you want to understand ronald reagan what you need to remember is that ronald reagan was the son of an alcoholic father. now, when he told me this it was no particular news. reagan himself reported on this in his memoir. and so memoir. and so i was waiting for him to send more because this wasn't -- he wasn't giving me new information. he went on to say i speak of the subject as the son of an alcoholic father. father. and i will tell you that there is a characteristic emotional style that people
in that situation grew up with. and here is the way works. this is what is telling. he. he said, one day your father is your best friend and you're throwing the baseball around in the back way to the backyard and is tell you a funny story takes you a freshman. the next day he is beating the living daylights out of. and every day of your boyhood when you wake up you don't know which father you're going to be dealing with. and as a result of this you grow up keeping people and emotions at a distance because the one person who is your father should be a role model, the one who should be the one who shows you how to deal with emotions is someone who is
utterly and sometimes violently unreliable. now, i heard this. i said, i said, i will take this away and see what i can do with it. i went back and reread reagan's memoir and reread nancy reagan's memoir. the first thing the first thing that struck me was a passage from nancy reagan just a sentence where she said that now i tell you this reagan and nancy reagan or so close emotionally to each other that they were almost the entire emotional universe one to the other. and and no one understood ronald reagan better than nancy reagan and vice versa. versa. what nancy reagan said in her memoir which i recommend you call my turn it is one
of the most candid memoirs of anyone in american public life, at least i have encountered. she said that said that is closest she was to her husband, as close as i was there were those moments when the curtain came down and even i did know what was going through his head global is going through his art. so for nancy reagan to admit that about her husband i thought was quite striking. but there was another passage that i found even more striking. it is just a sentence or two. and if you -- i have read it before and it did not mean as much to me as it did the second time after having this conversation. there's a moment the reagan describes an easement 11 to 12 years old living in illinois and communal school called winter afternoon.
snow on the ground temperatures below zero. he walks up to the house and just as he is about to walk the walkway almost trips over his father passed out drunk in the snow. and is writing this at the age of 80. sue is so is looking back seven decades and remarks that i stood there for a moment and ask myself why should i do. should i waste waste my father and get him inside where was warm? should i just walk on by delete from where was warm? should i just walk on by even for a moment, to be considering, should i just leave my dad out here in here in the snow and freeze to death with my life to better my father were dead that strikes me as quite a
significant a significant revelation. reagan in his memoir does not make much of it. he quickly goes on. the rest of his memoir is how his mother had told he and his brother have a father have this disease. this was the way he was made to understand what alcoholism was. it's a disease. don't hold it against him. clearly him. clearly at some level he is. anyway this was one of those things that i kept in mind and observing reagan. reagan. and in answering the question, the basic question in all of this is how did ronald reagan accomplished what he accomplished? i would get to what he accomplished but i will come around the story. reagan goes off to hollywood his film his film career it's about the sigh. then a gradually fades out in part because he could not go to those emotional
wellsprings that actors have to go to if you're going to convey emotion. you have to set -- you have to have some emotion inside yourself that you're willing to access. but he but he wouldn't and couldn't go there. in fact anticipating a little bit when reagan decided to go in the politics he committee announced he would run for governor of california. daniel goldman metro-goldwyn-mayer heard that reagan was running for governor and said, no, you got them all wrong. jimmy stewart for governor, ronald reagan for best friend. that is the kind of all that he played. anyway, even at that level is built career fizzled out. he was demoted he was demoted from the big screen to the small screen which was a serious demotion. and not only that he he had a three minute gig every sunday night host
of virginia theater. he would introduce this made-for-tv play. for the rest of the week he was a spokesman, basically for the general electric company. for eight company. for eight years during the 1950s reagan was essentially a walking infomercial. and this was what his career had come to. then in to. then in the early 1960s he lost in that job and he managed to find a role. there was no future for this guy in show business. and his life had been show business of one sort or another. he had no idea what the future would bring. now anybody bring. now, anybody who had looked at reagan in 1963 before he
went into politics would have been hard-pressed to identify any of those talents in any of those editions from any of those character traits that make for political greatness. greatness. you could do a line of ten people any ten people off the street and say which one will change the american political world, and you have a hard time saying this is the guy. as guy. as a biographer, i know what he became. as is the case with a lot of biographies, you biographies, you don't narratively start at the end of work backwards but you conceptually do. the reason i wrote about reagan was because he became president of the united states. if reagan had dropped dead at the age of 52 neither myself or anyone else would set about writing a biography. it is because he became this person who changed american politics and i would say change world affairs as well
that we are interested in the first half of his life. you look back at the first half of his life and it's hard to figure out what it is and that that gives rise to this thing it will become fundamental question is, how did he do? how to this person of unremarkable talents presence, and everything else accomplished what he did? now i will tell you story. reagan in the middle of his career gives talks on behalf of general electric. sometimes they are in ge plants are very very often lunchtime talks to the rotary club. he always called it the rubber chicken tour. he was often introduced by people who had never met him before some people who in particular a guy who will introduce is someone who has
never met ronald reagan, has only seen the name in print. he's a little bit uncertain as to how last name is pronounced. it is built our is spelled rva gan. is it reagan reagan. all right. in this story are introduced is puzzling over this question on the morning before he is going to give the introduction. he is getting kind of anxious because he doesn't want to make a fool a fool of himself and mispronounce the guests name. so he is wondering around thinking this over. he encounter somebody else who apparently lives in the neighborhood as well was walking his dog. and some kind of small hound and so and so the guys going to make introduction asks the guy walking the street to my have this problem. you problem. you happen to know how this guys name is pronounced.
then the guy walking the dog says oh, yeah. it's reagan, ronald reagan. reagan, you're sure it's reagan? just. it is reagan. that is a belief because i was afraid i afraid i was going to get a loan. reagan. he starts walking away saying reagan. and as he is walking past the guy. by the guy. by the way that's a cute dog. it's a bagel. so this was the story that ronald reagan told of himself. the reason i'm telling you is that this is part of the answer that is going to sound -- is part of the answer to how ronald reagan accomplished what he accomplished. i'm not accomplished. i'm not going to give you the full blow-by-blow of my
interpretation of how reagan accomplished what he accomplished. first of all told you what he accomplished. before do accomplished. before i do that i'm going to make a disclaimer. those of us in the biography business often use a shorthand. those of us in particular right presidential biographies, we tend to say this because no the things that happened during the presidency of the person we are writing about where compost by the personal writing about. now i will be the first to acknowledge that is not universally true.
sometimes it's not even kind of truth. martin luther king and all those people who marched and demonstrated had a lot to do with it. however, there was in the 1960s and essential role for pres. in guiding them legislation through congress. i am going to say that ronald reagan changed the american political conversation that it had been moving in a direction since franklin roosevelt since ronald reagan has been moving back in the other direction. i will tell you what reagan set out to accomplish. reagan, one of reagan, one of the secrets of his success was the fact that he focused very narrowly on a very small set of goals in particular. he had two goals that he reiterated every time he gave his speech. i begin my book with what those people who like ronald reagan and those people who work around reagan simply call the speech. it's a speech he gave on behalf of barry goldwater in the autumn of 1964, a week before the election when goldwater was clearly going to lose and lose badly for to linda johnson.
but in order to raise some money to keep the campaign from ending too deeply and maybe to energize the public to go to the polls the campaign agreed to put this political office onto the. speeches in southern california, seems to giving give a good speech. put him on tv. it is not an exaggeration to say that 30 minutes before reagan went on television about october 9 the nation for those few people who could remember reagan as an actor but no one thought of reagan is this political figure. almost nobody. 30 minutes for minutes before he went on tv at night. by the time that 30 minute speech and there were lots of republicans who were smacking their foreheads and saying we nominated the wrong candidate. if we nominated this guy
might have a chance a chance of winning. the story of republican conservatives the modern conservatism is how ronald reagan went from that reaction. so the day before he gave that speech the very next day there will ronald reagan for president committees being formed around the country. you never run for any political office and started thinking about. anyway, ronald reagan articulated in that speech and pretty much every speech he gave for the 25 years of his political life reiterated the same two things. number one shrink government home. number two defeat communism abroad. one of the secrets of reagan's success was his insistence
on focusing on those two goals. goals. i told you i would give you a scorecard. i will i will say that he got one at the. the one that i got not all by himself, the one that he got completely right is to complete communism. he pushed soviet communism to the brink of dissolution. reagan gave a speech before the brandenburg gate he said mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. while didn't come down right away, but it can now within the next two years and was followed by the demise of the soviet union. gorbachev had a lot to do with this. the elder george bush had a lot to do with that it dissolved peacefully. if there is a central figure in this drama is ronald reagan. he gets one out of one. he gets half out of one on the goal of shrinking the. in the way he only got half of this is significant for
the weight today. ronald reagan became president a litmus test for republican conservatives on fiscal issues was the balanced budget. households have to balance the budget and match the income of the out. government is do the same thing. reagan entered office is that kind of fiscal traditional fiscal conservative. but during the course of his first term he made a fateful decision to accept tax cuts without insisting on spending cuts. reagan proposed a budget. i want to cut taxes and spending. spending. what he got was guarantees of tax cuts for bringing the top marginal rate from 70 percent down to below 30 percent. crept back up crept back up a little bit. but he got the tax cuts. takes those to the bank coming out process for
spending cuts of the promises for spending cuts any political realist knows that as much as certain groups in congress might complain about tax cuts they don't really complain that hard because they know they will be running for reelection if they tell their constituents to guess what my cut your taxes. people don't complain about having a taxes cut. spending cuts or harder. reagan did not get the spending cuts. cuts. he get the tax cuts. the country have structural deficit that had been a very large problem ever since the reagan years. not surprisingly reagan blame the democrats in congress. they congress. they just would not go along with me. well he should have known and did know but did not act on the fact that when you make political compromises
you must insist that the two parties of the compromise stick together. if you separate them, then you might get part of it but you will get the other. anyway, this anyway this is what reagan accomplished. how? welcome i am running out of time and want to leave some for questions. i will questions. i will make this relatively brief until you come i realize this is not a particularly republican city. i spoke in dallas the couple nights ago. they were interested. you are all interested in politics, so i will tell you the formula and you can share it or bury this is a formula for how the republicans can reclaim the white house. and it goes like this. he he should be is much like ronald reagan as you can. what is it about.
that conservatives today should emulate? the first thing is to speak conservatively 100% of the time. ronald reagan in that first speech in 1964 to his farewell address in 1989 was 100% conservative. this is what ronald reagan even today is an icon of the republican party because everybody from just right of center to the most because everybody from just right of center to the most dullest of the tea party activists can read reagan speeches, watch reagan speeches on youtube and it is almost chapter and verse the conservative message that has been embraced ever sense if you like rhetorical conservatives reagan is
your guy. you cannot hear him, read him make any kind of flip from that 100% consistent conservative message. so that is the thing you want to do in your speeches. but there do in your speeches. but there is something else you need to do. you need to to violence will little story about reagan. you need to learn how to make people laugh, learn how to make people smile. i realize this sounds minor but one of the secrets of reagan's success was something he learned during those wilderness years on the circuit. he would speak before audiences who did not know some audiences that might be skeptical, hostile, but he would always warm them up with a story, joke. and if you read reagan speeches nearly everyone begins with a joke. what is the the purpose? the purposes to get people to laugh. reagan learned that he was
speaking on those places that if you can get people to laugh with you and you're halfway to get him to agree with you. but there is a larger message are some of that reagan -- i don't know if reagan thought this through. he was not a particularly reflective guy. it may have reflected his career in hollywood where he was a celebrity and wanted people to like them. some of you are, some of you know conservatives. i don't mean to stereotype conservatives are i will say -- -- i would say that most conservatives tend to be pessimists. a lot of them come across as grouchy even as angry. now,
i think you will have to agree at least regarding pessimism because the definition of a a conservative is a person who is distrustful of change. if you're distrustful of change you think that changes usually for the worst. but an american conservative politics there is this starts started them often angry emotional undercurrent command i will give you the example of us foremost an american thinking at the time barry time barry goldwater. his philosopher is no different than ronald reagan's. but there is a sewage, their appearance to the american people could not have been more different. barry goldwater was stern lectured caught scary to a lot of people. and the johnson campaign
went to town on that. reagan, by contrast this friendly guy some this likable guy tells jokes, smiles is conservatism with a friendly face. in fact, reagan was that rare almost unique in american experience example of an optimistic conservative. reagan said again and again he formed his belief that america is the shining city on a hill and will get more shining as time goes on. again and again. he put it on his tombstone. america's best days are ahead. for somebody to say that in the late 1970s was running for president between the vietnam war for the rise of the 1960s, watergate it wasn't the most natural
thing. remember jimmy carter. we have these problems. america's best days are ahead. here is how the republican candidate can win. take that conservative message and put a smile on it. be friendly. the appealing. i'm just thinking that if ted cruz's get have a character transplant he's your your guy. i will stop there and take questions or objections. there are microphones here. clicks so shortly after reagan came to washington in 1980 1980 clark clifford longtime democrat fixer attorney german and truman
and johnson ministration triggers opined that reagan was nothing more than it does. would you speak to that? >> well, he definitely got half of the right. reagan was amiable. reagan did have that emotional reserve. he seems to be amiable from a distance. if you saw him on television you would think, here is someone i like to get to know. the closer people got the more they realized that there was this coolness at his heart. he had almost no friends aside from nancy. there were people be associated with but he never let his guard down sufficiently. about about the dots part, i became convinced that reagan was no dummy and the new
more than people thought he did. i did interviews with pretty much every surviving senior member of the cabinet and will share with you what they told me. almost in the same words and will let you decide what to make of it. usually within the first five minutes they assure me that they would say you know ronald reagan was a lot smarter than people thought he was. okay. that tells me something. something. when they say that people thought he was. people didn't think he was smart at all. if you smarter than a dunce isn't that damning with faint praise. none of them said it was he was the smartest person i ever met. this also -- bob gates robert gates was talking to me the number two guy in the cia during the reagan administration. gates told me that he thought it was downplayed
because reagan likes to keep the expectations low. i will tell you that reagan knew enough and did not know too much. and i think this is actually important if you're going you are going to affect change from the position of the presidency. and in many ways jimmy carter is the one who shows what happens when you know too much because carter became notorious for micromanaging. i am sure on an iq test carter came out much higher than reagan. carter was one who thought he ought to master all the details of politics. well, the federal government executive branch is a big thing.
if you try to master everything, if you spread yourself too thin he did nothing at all. the secret of his success was his focus on these two particular items. when reagan wanted to focus on this particular areas he knew enough. i can testify i can testify having read the transcripts of reagan's negotiation. it is clear that neither one is a master of all of the details of all because and each element. he was much as gorbachev and that is experts to fill in the blanks. so reagan understood that you don't have to know everything to be present. you have to know enough and
then you have to know who to hire. in this case i have long had this theory that i have no way of knowing how to test this theory but that if you could somehow take all the presidential elections in history and average out the iq the intellectual iq the standard school-based kind of iq if you could average out the winners is the losers i would not be all surprised if the winning candidate on the both the lower average iq. this this shows the limits of iq is a measure of importance but also that ordinary american voters are
not necessarily drawn to the smartest person in the room. secondly, that kind of intelligence does not necessarily conduce to the effective results as president. you can hire smart people. you can't hire judgment. that is really what separates the presidents who affect change from those who don't. next question clicks thank you for a great presentation. family began looking at some of the reagan emphasize the importance of words and the importance of focusing. so i looked at the title reagan the life comparing it to reagan's second memoirs. i was wondering if that's the title of the second memoir how do you think five welcome i'm sure your purpose is probably to write the definitive he really
liked his book. i don't know if you want to discuss that. >> the subtitle is in subtitle i did not i did not choose. i resisted the subtitle. the publisher for some reason thought that that somehow did not convey that this was a biography. so i don't know what else it would be. be. nonetheless i sent it off the manuscript. it came back in paid proof with greg and the life at which time i long ago learned that fine print in the standard book contract says that while the author has control over everything that goes inside the book the author has almost no control, sometimes the author is asked to consent to what goes on the outside
of the book. the outset of the book includes the title. the standard book contract says that the publisher in conjunction with the author will determine what the title is. the title is part of marketing. i i did not want to put life and times. and let's be assertive about this. i'm not -- i would not be the one to claim that this is a definitive life and furthermore, it is way too soon for anything to be definitive about someone like ronald reagan and this is that we are still too close to the events. too close to the events in two senses. number one what is the meaning of the end of the cold war? now, now if russia under vladimir putin decides to revise this hostility with the united states and if in five years those russian
missiles still thousands of them, and that the united states and the united states missiles and it russia that it will start to look as though 1991 was not that big a deal. we we don't know exactly how all this stuff plays out. secondly, although i made what i hope was good use of records at the reagan library and records available elsewhere there are many that are still not available and they will become available probably over the next ten, 20 or 30 years. it will probably be 50 or 60 years before anything really approaching a definitive life. there have there have been a couple of reviewers who have been kind enough to say this is the definitive life and times. i'm not going to argue with them. the best the best of the first takes on reagan. he covered reagan as a journalist from the california years through washington. and candid for obvious reasons in his interest
focuses on the political life. he has two big volumes. one volumes. one is president reagan and one is governor reagan. canon gives relatively short attention to reagan before he goes in the politics. in this politics. in this case maybe that's why the publisher said. it really does include the first 50 years. with 50 years. with candidates mostly 50 to 94. your turn. clicks it's pretty easy to run into people who have met with reagan. i talked to quite a few folks who met with him in the white house who will tell the same story he would read something to them. when they got to the question and answers he would turn to one of his aides are cabinet official. why don't you. and that and
that has always made me wonder how much beyond the two big ideas, how much of the reagan agenda was his agenda, or did he just continued to be a walking infomercial as president? >> i would say the agenda with reagan but the details of those other issues or filled in by other people. and i'll give you the extreme example turned out badly and we could look can look at the ones that turn out reasonably well. deregulation. to regulated and that regulations out to be lifted to unleash the entrepreneurship of the american people. reagan did not get into the details. this is the basic principle. you guys put you guys put in operation. the particular area in which reagan's inattention to
detail blew up his face and even he would analysis was in the iran contra scandal. iran contra scandal emerged. the part emerged. the part that deals with reagan specifically and iran not reagan was greatly concerned over the fate of american hostages held in lebanon. reagan entered the white house while there were 52 american hostages held in iran and made a big deal against jimmy carter for not affecting the release of hostages. those hostages were released on the day reagan was inaugurated. several several americans were taken hostage in lebanon by hezbollah which was supported by the government of iran. reagan became closely involved in negotiations to attempt the release of the hostages even to the detail of sending weapons to to run in the hopes that that would help spring the
american hostages in lebanon now, i had access access to reagan's diary. in reagan's diary it is clear that he understands the connection between the arms shipments to iraq and the release of the hostages. time and again he writes okay. the current plan is we send them a new shipment of antitank missiles, and they released to hostages. in fact,. in fact it is always written in a few. the go on and say we got a new deal more weapons and they will release the hostages. in reagan's in reagan's diary, and reagan's own hand it is clear he knows there are hostages. he is not he is not paying attention to the details of the arms shipment and in particular not paying attention to the connection between the profits from the
arms sales to iran and the money that's going to the contras. now, one comment about the hostages when some of you will remember when reagan went on television after the story broke and got up in front of the american people speaking from the oval office and swore that this was not arms for hostages. and if you look at him and listen to his voice and read the body language he certainly sound sincere. now, if. now, if reagan had been a better actor than he was my might have been willing to say he was just acting and for all of us but i think it was something more complicated but also simpler that reagan had this deep-seated belief that the united states never did anything wrong at least not
used that they would say that's absurd. i seen this in politics and you've probably seen it in perhaps your own life and the life of people around you. it's one thing to note something and another to feel it and believe it and people live in this state of cognitive dissonance where they know one thing but it's actually the real deal. if the quest is question was sort of the detail of policy, reagan i am convinced it is not the profits were being diverted to the contras and i would say on the basis first of all the reaction that he had when he was informed by ed meese and everybody that saw reagan, his
face went white and he wasn't shocked by this but beyond this i talked to john poindexter who was the security adviser at the time and i said did you feel as though you were kind of hung out to dry as a result of poindexter and oliver north fired and poindexter said no that was my job to protect the president from start he didn't want to know so i didn't tell him that the money was being diverted to the contras. actually, poindexter told me one other thing and this is -- and maybe i'm anticipating the question by 1986 ronald reagan was 75 years would come 76 by the end of the year and he was
-- the question came up later where reagan announced to the public whether there were any symptoms of that early on some people thought they saw things as early as 1984. some of you perhaps remember that debate between ronald reagan and walter mondale. in the first debate reagan didn't equip itself at all. he is a trained actor, he knows how to memorize his lines and couldn't remember his closing. all the candidates remember the opening and closing statement. he repeated himself and the trend of "the wall street journal" the next day asked the question is reagan to president.
ron reagan wrote he thought those were the initial symptoms but poindexter told me he thought one of the reasons for iran contra scandal got out of hand is that there was this stuff in the west wing and he was becoming forgetful. this would culminate in a very poignant but also scary moment when he's out of the white house and is being asked to give evidence in one of the criminal cases and so he did the deposition. and he answered then he answered more than 80 of his questions i don't know, i can't remember, i don't recall. and these were not they were not as basic as do you remember
who you are chairman were chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was? in a really tough heart-wrenching when he was asked do you remember who michael d. burch birth was, he was the closest friend, closest political associates in the california case and he can't remember. finally, at the end he said it's almost like i was never president at all. it's anguishing to read this because here it's someone whose life has passed by before his eyes into somebody that is only two years out of the white house, so how much of these symptoms were there? i do not use the label for the term alzheimer's until he does it himself but i don't need that to demonstrate.
he'd ever been a workaholic that it would translate into better outcomes. he went home at night, typically 5:30 or six and he would often sleep in and wouldn't come down until 5:00. can i point to any incident and aspect of policy that suffered because of this? i can give you evidence to the contrary that when called upon ronald reagan can still perform well. here's weekend was the end of 1986. he couldn't sustain that day
after day after day in fact he called it off at the end of sunday. they continued to negotiate and another one for late sunday afternoon and finally, he called an end to it. they were very close in agreement that would land the elimination of the superpowers but reagan finally said no i'm going home and his explanation was holding sunday dinner for me and so i have to get back. have we run out of time? i think we have. you've been a wonderful audience.