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tv   After Words  CSPAN  October 15, 2015 11:02pm-12:02am EDT

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american public was that ronald reagan had a lot of changes that took place physically and mentally. it chronicles that situation. if indeed it has affected him, would you say that adversely that he was less capable after the assassination because of the physical and emotional changes? is that what you are suggesting? >> everyone that worked with ronald reagan in the white house
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said he had his good days and bad days. nobody said that about him when he was governor of -- i i believe there was a change. he somehow miraculously lifted himself up by sheer will. some days when reagan was so detached when he didn't come down to work, he watched soap operas, we chronicle all of that but something within reagan pulled it together and allowed him to have a very successful presidency, in the top ten of all presidents. >> that's an interesting point. as you say, this assassination attempt occurred within six weeks of taking office. he goes on to win another election and do phenomenally
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well in debates with exception of one. he inspired a nation and lifted them up economically, won the cold war. what more could he have done? where did this assault change things for the worse or did it in fact empower him to do more? >> it's impossible for me to say that. all i can tell you is that you ask a question where could he do more? he delegated a lot of authority in the white house. perhaps he could have done more stuff himself. perhaps, if he had his full energy level, that he would've known about the iran contra situation. we believe he didn't even know about that. that was taking place without his knowledge. but it's all speculation. what isn't speculation is that his own advisors, at one point, after he was reelected, were saying, we might have to remove him from office because he is
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not concentrating. he is not able to grasp things. his own guys. that's the key point of the book. >> you point that out and say a study was done and they observed him for a few days after they were concerned about this and he passed with flying colors. it was just a concern and like in your words, he may have had bad days. >> just a concern? you don't launch an investigation run by a name guy name cannon without a reason. it wasn't just an investigation, they were worried. all the guys, they were worried about him. they were loyal to him, by the way, way, they were loyal and so relieved that when he came into the oval office that day we described and he was able to engage in all the issues, they felt a sigh of relief.
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they didn't have to go to the vice resident, george bush and invoke the constitution. but believe me, there was concern at the highest level and this was not undertaken lightly. >> you know, i was was with the president for about nine years in different capacities. in the campaign of 1980 which of course is just before the assassination attempt on his life, life, it was very clear during the primary, especially, that mrs. reagan made it clear and all the political people agreed that he should only go out for four days a week and then be down for five or three days. the reason is he is an older candidate number one. you don't want him to look old, be tired, that's not good thing. >> sure. >> this seems to be very much
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the same thing. he tired easily. he was almost 70 years old. i'm not there yet but i'm telling you, these things happen. to suggest that all of a sudden there is an attempt on his life, he comes out and has a couple days where he takes naps in the afternoon, something we all knew about. he used to joke about it himself how can you jump to the conclusion that he had these terrific eight years following the assault and you're suggesting he was harmed mentally and physically in a way that would bring to cause him doing things different differently than he did otherwise. >> you just made my case for me. you said, before the shooting, he needed rest. he was older man. he had to look vibrant. you had to give them time off. that was before he was shot. >> correct. >> then he was shot and almost died. he is on the operating table and they don't know whether he is going to pull through. the trauma is so intense. are you going to tell me that that didn't affect him adversely from that moment forward?
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>> i was -- >> we were already placing him. >> we were pacing him for good reason. >> we had to. >> of course. >> in a trauma like that, it can only exacerbate, all right, the condition that was in play before. i believe reagan was a very strong maine. a lesser man would have died on the operating table we go through his regimen. his horse back riding, his ranch, he was a very physical guy. he embraced, as teddy roosevelt said, the vigorous life. that's what really pulled him through. he fought against the trauma that was inflicted upon him by his assassin. then he rose above it and he
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became a great president. that's all that we have in the book. it doesn't diminish ronald reagan. it enhances his legacy, in in my opinion. >> you think, okay. >> as you say, he was a great president. he wasn't just somebody who did good things, the american people just loved him. there's a reason for that. it's not just just his accomplishments which is half of it or a person portion of it, but also because of the person he was. one of those qualities he had was that he was a good and decent man. he came across a kind man and yet there's many opportunities you have taken to talk about affairs in his life from 70 years ago. a1 night stand, women talking about different things that would suggest intimacy with the former president or the president after he divorced jane
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i understand if i'm reading a kitty kelly book why all of this is in there with great detail. it seems to me if you thought it was necessary for us to know that he had this wild side, all you needed to do was say -- why go into all these details. what is the purpose of talking about all these when many of which there is no we way to know what really happened. >> number one we don't go into great detail. it's not a tabloid book. we don't use anything that wasn't double sourced with names on it. okay. we took out a whole bunch of stuff that we found out that couldn't really nail it down and the people wouldn't put their names on it so we did not use it. now, just as in killing kennedy and killing lincoln, same thing. we want to present these people as human beings. human beings. we are all sinners, we all have our downside and we all do things we are not proud of. every single human being on earth does that. the overarching the book is that
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ronald ragan was a great man and this is the essence of his greatness and we spell it out. for me to ignore that, what he did, and he did it, there is nothing in the book that isn't true, all right. while i wrote about kennedy in the same vein and lincoln in the same vein and patent in the same vein. george patton had an affair with this girl while he was on the ballot. we are not on in the business of deifying anyone and i understand why people don't like that and they don't have to read the book, but when you read the book, you will get a picture of ronald reagan as he truly was with the good and the bad. i agree with you, i think the man was majestic in the way he inspired fellow americans, in his kindness, but he wasn't a saint. >> nor did he ever suggest he was. he certainly -- >> that's right and i think ronald reagan would like that book very much. >> no, i would disagree with that.
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they're so much he said, she said affairs. one night stands. >> that is fallacious. >> do you have evidence of a one night stand? >> do you have evidence -- >> all of the things we write about are footnoted in the book which you would know if you had read it. did you not read the book? >> oh yes i read the book. >> they are footnoted on the page and in the back of the book. no anonymous stuff. >> all right. why nancy's personal life tossed in there as well? >> because it's the same thing. nancy reagan was three people. first the striver who wanted to marry ronald reagan and you have to explain why. where she came from. how she got to hollywood. what happened there. then the diva who got a governorship. she was very smart and very
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protective of ronald reagan. there a lot of people who believe he would not have become the governor of california or president of the united states without nancy reagan. i can't say yes or no on that but i can say the portrait of her is act accurate. she was a diva in the white house. she was to some, overbearing and to some cruel. but then nancy reagan emergence in the end of the president's life as a true hero. somebody who was unbelievably sensitive to her husband's ailments, protecting him and making sure he had the best care, devoted her whole life to it, for a decade. it's an amazing story of love. we portray that story very vividly. >> you do in the end, but every chance you take nancy reagan and put a very negative light on her. >> that is not true, bay. >> for the first 200 pages it is. >> let me state this for the cspan viewers that are watching
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this interview. >> you are reading this book on an ideological level. you adore ronald and nancy reagan. for me to put anything negative in the book against them offends you. i understand you are an ideological person at but i am not. i sourced everything. i footnoted everything. there is no tabloid step in the book. there are no irresponsible allegations in the book. it all happen the way we wrote it. we took painstaking, we went over this with three or four reagan scholars where they read the book. is it accurate accurate? is it out of context? are we overstating question are we understating? i didn't hear you say anything about jfk when i wrote about him or abraham lincoln when i wrote about him. >> no-no. i said --
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>> i'm reading it from this point of view, i knew the man as many american people did. he's a very kind man and a great man. he's strong and courageous. you give a great story about when he was in the screen actors guild and he was the vice president at the time. there was that awful, violent strike. can you tell the readers, i think it's a wonderful story about the kind of person he was. they were suggesting that he go through the l.a. tunnels to get there rather than break the picket line. tell that story. >> it's a good question. i just gold and you and now i'm going to complement you. what you just put your finger on is the genesis of ronald reagan. when he first arrived in hollywood he was a shallow, intelligent, but he wasn't a
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sophisticated man. he made it as an actor in an almost miraculous way which we document. politically he didn't really know what he was talking about. he would almost join the communist party and they didn't want him. the communist party didn't want him. they didn't feel he had the avatars. then there was a strike in hollywood. they were against the screen actors guild and the studio heads. it got so vicious that the communist strikers were threatening the actors if they came to the set, okay. so the actors had to go into a tunnel. they had to go underground to get to the studios. or, they had to go on the bus and they had to go on the floor the bus.
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ronald reagan refused to go on the floor the bus and refused to go in the back door. he sat on the bus so everybody could see him. because of that he was threatened and so was his family. they were threatened directly by the communist party had phone calls. what reagan did was he got a gun. he carried a gun in protection. he never wavered, he never back down any made it quite clear he was a man of courage. now, that experience turned him against the communist and that stayed with him his whole life with him and that was the centerpiece of his presidential administration. we ate out vividly. we lay out that he was a man of courage and all the things he did, all the things he stood up for but we also bay, as you know, say that he did inform on others in hollywood in the fbi. so, right. we are telling the truth about ronald reagan. that is why this book, i think, if, if you're really interested in the man, is well worth the read. i ask you to agree with
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everything. >> i know you don't. >> we presented a balanced picture like we did with lincoln and kennedy and patton. >> okay, i agree. then you went and told about his sitdown meeting and how that man used to try to intimidate and reagan came to that meeting and there was no intimidation whatsoever. just a showdown. >> gene kelly, the famous jean kelly, singing in the rain was at the meeting. through his prism, we write about it. reagan never back down. he never back down. >> so let me ask you, on page 50, you write, nancy reagan has an inner steel that her husband lacks. now what we just talked about was something that occurred before he knew nancy. certainly before they were married.
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he was close to 40 years old when he married nancy. this is heard before. here's a man who is incredible. he has enormous courage just like you say and you're suggesting and you're saying he lacks an inner steel? >> what were saying is he lacked the ability to do the dirty work. he didn't have the heart to fire anybody. he couldn't even scold anyone. reagan wasn't like that. while he was a man of courage and he stood up for his convictions and wasn't afraid of people who wanted to hurt him, he didn't have the heart to yell at anybody or fire anybody or tell them they weren't doing the job. that's what nancy reagan brought. she did it. that's the steel we were talking about. >> okay. let me go back to that point.
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through the book, as you read it, it, this was the first note that i took concerning that. you have nancy as the individual who is running the show. he is almost a puppet and she is the puppeteer. you are constantly referring to her as the one who becomes dominant in her personality and she has more influence over him then his aide. >> no doubt about that. she had the last words b mac will this is where the clarification needs to take place. she had the last word on his personal life and social life, she never interfered with policy >> you know what, i think you're correct on that. nancy was in lockstep with ronald reagan on policy. we didn't find any disagreements that they had politically.
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so reagan was anti-communist, nancy was anti-communist. reagan was pro-capitalists and smaller government, so was nancy. we didn't see any tension there. what nancy reagan did after the assassination attempt was she took off all of the stuff she felt ronald reagan, her husband, shouldn't have to deal with. it was a lot. nobody got in to see him without nancy saying yes. that's big. that is power. we chronicle that, but i think you are correct whereas nancy reagan and ronald ragan agreed on policy. we never found where she pulled him aside and said maybe we do this or maybe that's not correct. they were pretty much of one mind politically. >> alright, let's, let's go on to another one. let me ask you. there is a mixed message i believe for the reader in the book on his religion.
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on the depth of his religious beliefs. you mentioned at times that he didn't go to church, for instance. say that does not make an issue out of his belief in god but at the same time you do mention there is spirituality there. in your words, what message are you trying to relay to the reader? is this a deeply religious man in your opinion? >> i think he was a spiritual man and certainly, he used his belief in god to defined his public policy. i'm going to give you an exclusive. are you ready for this? i have a letter, a handwritten letter by ronald ragan that he wrote to an abortion right person in 1980. it says that he opposes abortion because it is his belief that
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god created all human life and it is sacrosanct. he formed his position on abortion, which he changed, by the way on his spiritual belief system. i have it in his own hand, he wrote it in his own hand. organized religion never never really attracted ronald reagan. he's protestant. his ancestors were catholic from ireland. he never really embraced it very much. however, i do believe that he believes that this country was founded, all right, to have a special place place in the world and that came from god. that drove that shining light on the hill. that concept that he endorsed. he was a spiritual man, not enamored of organized religion. >> let me give you something i i learned along the way. i interviewed his pastor when he
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was in pasadena. this man with his pastor. i talked to him about that. i was thinking about writing a book myself. he said, the reason he did not attend church was that when he went into the church, everybody would turn and look at him and there would be a little bit of excitement. he thought it was so unfair to disrupt the spirit that was there by his arriving. certainly that was true when he had secret service attending the services with him. he preferred having the minister come to his house. likewise, in the the white house, often he would have a service there. does this not suggest that maybe indeed he did, he was a religious person in all aspects in the sense that he did appreciate the services, the scriptures and those sorts of things?
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>> maybe, but you know well said he doesn't go to church because it's disruptive? >> probably obama. >> yes, barack obama. that's what his pastor told me. he probably took it from ronald reagan. however, i will tell you when ronald reagan got married, the sacrament of marriage, he got married in a secular way. there are only two people at his wedding. you know who they were question at bay do you remember? >> mrs. holden. >> yes they despise each other and they were fighting during the wedding ceremony. it's a very interesting part. i think we can all say that ronald reagan, organized religion was not at the top of his list. his marriage was conducted in a way that had no religious connotation whatsoever. his children are all secular except for michael. i think michael is a religious guy, but i'm not sure. so, i think once again we are
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telling you about the man. what he did, what he did not do, in a very accurate way. >> let's stay on this point for just one moment. you believe this crusade against communism was indeed part of a spiritual struggle? >> yes. >> is that what the driving force was? >> it's not what i believe bay, it's what ronald reagan believed. ronald reagan believe that communist or college aryans, violated the laws that god gave us. that is to be free and express ourselves and earn a living the way we want to and own propertyk
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on page 76, you indicate, you said of course no man is perfect and reagan still possesses his trust in astrologer. i see atrophic contradiction here. here's a man deeply religious. >> i can explain it. do you want me to explain a? >> please do. >> ronald ragan couldn't care less about the astrologer. nancy loved the astrologer. so to make nancy happy and keep her happy, he went along with it
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>> i agree entirely, but that's not what you are saying here. >> we absolutely say that. we say, reagan didn't -- it was nancy driving this train. it wasn't reagan making these appointments or phone calls. it was nancy. >> okay bill -- >> weight, bay, nancy was so involved with astrology and the stars that at the inaugural ceremony when he won the governorship in california it was held at midnight. why? because that's when the stars were aligned. do you think he wanted to be there at midnight? come on. >> okay well bill, i would have no trouble if you had mentioned this as nancy and here he is the good husband. >> we did bay, we laid it out for you. >> here you were, such as his trust in astrologers.
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the word is his, not hers. that is where i have an issue. >> all right, look. >> if you want to get that nitpicky about it, he went around with nancy just like nancy when a long with him on the lyrical realm. he went along with her on the star realm. in my opinion, he couldn't care less about the stars. it kept him up late at night. he would've rather had the inauguration at two in the afternoon. >> i agree with that. i wish you would've written that again, twice, at least twice you have said ronald reagan was not a great intellect having struggled to maintain a c average in college. don't think he has an a average intellect. what is it bill?? do you consider him to be --dash. >> another excellent question by
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bay buchanan everybody. here it is. reagan was not a philosopher. he was not a proactive thinker in the sense that he was introspective. but he had a brilliant talent for absorbing information, cutting out the bs and being able to communicate the information to the folks which is why he was successful politically
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>> so carter is a good man, but
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he is a terrible -- >> it broke my heart. i really feel like reagan was part of it. >> that's right. if you like your son should watch this interview and then we read the book and then he may take away something different. >> i don't know how much time we have, but we have interesting points about john hinckley. and there are so many places in this book where you said that there are 17 things that could happen if only all of them did and it was up to the last-minute.
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>> ted kennedy on his list. >> he was delusional. and jodie foster, the actors, that she would somehow respond to him. and hinckley train himself. he planned everything else. and he should never be allowed out. >> and we have attempted to call him an offer talk about that.
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>> people were concerned. it was heartbreaking. >> the pain is tremendous. and her son was alone. and he did what he did. and forgiveness is paramount.
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>> it's interesting that morning, you write about the morning and it was a fluke. >> and he was even uncertain. >> even at the last minute he thought that he would kill himself in front of jodie. >> delusional, lunatics, those that want to kill someone and the opportunity presents itself. ..
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>> >> he took a walk it was the courage and the convictions and his believed to protect
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america first and foremost,. day you not believe that? >> yes i do but i take we cover that with work -- margaret thatcher, gorbachev and the success of his policy toward the soviet union. we made that quite clear the way he structured his administration he was very successful in the foreign policy rome and on the domestic front if you combine the two rehab a great president teeseven his relationship with margaret thatcher. interesting it wasn't always smooth sailing weber strong individuals. >> we have that transcript of a the reagan that your phone call and thatcher was period said she had a right to be this is what i mean
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when i say there are things about ronald reagan that were not noble he did not tell his best pal and she was hauled out to dry because she told her parliament the united states will not do this i of france with ronald reagan he would tell me if he doesn't and she likes him up we have the transcript which is fascinating but this is what we do in the book. we laid out whole thing and that is why these folks are so successful because people get the big picture. through was that reagan's lead role in tears and had for given him and was his best friend and champion? margaret thatcher. so even though there was a detachments over grenade then they came back together because they were i'd like mind they wanted freedom to override totalitarianism.
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>> host: what about the falklands war? you spend a great deal of time there. >> guest: it was reagan's militaristic point of view that was sublimated there. this is the fascination of reagan. he didn't want the war he opposed margaret thatcher fighting the argentines over those islands. how many times have you heard in your career that reagan was a warmonger? how many times? we put that in there to show you he wasn't he did not want the war. he did not think it was worth it to do that. but then he invades grenada. what is the difference? the communist were there. that is what led to his views.
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so it gives you that idea that is why spend time there >> host: but that is something that he crossed margaret thatcher that shows to leaders very much in line in respect of one another for their own country. it meant offending someone but is it clear that reagan did not tell her because they didn't want anybody to know. >> but he could have told her. sheba such a good friend of she would have kept his confidence. why he didn't i don't know but would you read the transcripts he is very sheepish he says i really sorry he does not defend himself. but they were both the same
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person. dave boyd said say we will get the bad guys to protect our nation. that is what bound them together. >> host: she was there to give the eulogy at his funeral. it was beautiful. >> of course, he wrote a letter to her as his last act of president about communism and how they pulled this off together. did you find as you studied reagan a depth of humility? >> it is hard to say. i think ronald reagan he didn't go for self aggrandizement. john kennedy did, abraham
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lincoln did not. ronald reagan did not. but i don't know if you would describe him as pope francis perkins he had confidence that he was right , he had a certain swagger to address the world and the nation. i know what i'm doing and i will do the right thing. but he would not brag of lot >> i thought he had even thermostat if she's one. >> i covered his inauguration but i did not know him and you did so that is interesting insight. >> he had a plaque on his desk that said you can accomplish anything if you don't care who gets the credit and he lived by that. >> i agree with that
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statement is probably one of the reasons he was such a great person he treated everybody. un di queue were his cousin. a great aspect of the man of a human being to be president of the united states. he was truly humble. so let me ask after he left office you think it was the attempt on his life but it is true with people in demanding positions if they don't keep busy mentally they would fail to deteriorate mentally with
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alzheimer's patients as well. is very bright red blood dash fiber did he goes to mexico. she thinks it is the fall from the worse back with a concussion and subsequent operation. talk about that you think that is something? >> guest: all of those struck the accelerate what everyone have inside you is a hereditary types of way but it wasn't our intent to be medical but to show what happened to take it from a historical point of view to tell people who like him and don't i want everybody to read the book what he was really like to replace the
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myth with fact and we accomplished that obol sites he was not a war maugre. that was said that he didn't care about the people absolutely not true. by his embrace that he believed if you allow american capitalism of the freedom to prosper everyone will work who wants to work. we show that pretty vividly of the communist soviet union reviving the economy that carter restored reagan didn't want to do the
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economy just for him he didn't like the fact those our struggling to get jobs and he cleaned it up. >> i think he would say that he inspired them to greatest team what he was inspirational but his policy allow the people to prosper. >> host: he said we will get off your back but you have to do the work. that is what made him great a good and decent man who was deeply religious with great courage of his convictions. i don't know of a case has been made the attempt on his
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life is a change in history. >> guest: i disagree entirely but that is what is fun about killing reagan. if he was not shot there would not then have been the oval office meeting with his top advisers to consider him removing him the presidency. >> how do you know, ? >> he read his governorship sufficiently there is no problem on the job there i believe he campaigned in a way that was very efficient and very energetic not watching television and so popper is it his first weeks in the presidency he had a golden said he was shot and it changed. the document that pretty
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strongly but i like your opinion. i'm glad you read the book and glad we have this conversation. >> what is the most significant aspect for people to do a and loved him? >> everybody will take home something different just as is jesus and kennedy i got heat on everyone i didn't say we didn't talk about spirituality resurrection i got it from that side you did not make him a saint i laid out the man and a methodical way in the entertaining way i hit on things i thought were important we have all lots of new stuff in that book it
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is entertaining and you can put it together yourself to do a balanced job by a proud of the book a problem reagan would like the book he's in heaven he probably knows about it. [laughter] >> host: i have to disagree i read the book i was delighted to think i could talk to you about a man that i did love millions of americans is appreciation and how he continues to inspire that i handed it to my son but you are undermining and the meeting is true greatness by the ruling in a lot of stuff that is irrelevant it by suggesting he wasn't with it the all the things that he did after. >> host.
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>> guest: i will say stand behind the book i know you are you emotionally attached >> host: i am. >> guest: i am not. i of the historian who writes in on this but nothing we say will be challenged because we can back it up this election in the book is debatable but i did not set out to write state ronald reagan here is what made a great that few human beings could never overcome. and dash is a compelling story and a dramatic story and i am glad to talk to about it. >> host: i have to give the author of the last word to be fair. i look forward to the next one. . .
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time to go back and talk to an author who had written and preset the stage for our viewers. >> host: and we heard this right before he came out in july. here is charles shields talking about a portrait of harper lee. get on the interstate, go about an hour and a


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