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tv   The Life and Presidency of George H.W. Bush  CSPAN  November 15, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm EST

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the negotiation on every one of those pieces of domestic legislation i talked to you about by a president who would invest personal time meeting with rostenkowski over two dozen times, meeting with congressional leaders on a wit over two dozen times and meeting with congressionals m leaders on a regular bakasisin d meeting with the cabinet and making the hard decision on issues like energy policy, so in an odd way i could say we spent about 90% of our time on policy and maybe five to 10% of the time having a vertical component at all and it probably wasn't enough. >> back to your question about the sensitivities that george bush had going with foreign leaders that helped them be so successful as a president in your opinion is there anybody running for president now and i guess that would include the
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vice president who might run that has the sensitivity to deal with the problems of the world that would even come close to george bush. >> i am working awfully hard not to get dragged into this and i have not endorsed although a couple of my kids have. i will say this, i am very partial to the governors or former governors because they dealt with in the legislature and they've worked on a bipartisan basis. they have a record you can examine and they've gotten results, and i think that there's almost a handful of good republican governors running it is typically one or two senators that have some experience at the state level.
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we are at a time that we need that. '. i would like to ask you what he knew in 1991 in mission accomplished i think the coalition president bush put together was very successful. why did you think that we handled it when we arrived in 2003 after the operation afghanistan began? >> i think what happened on iraq in the second a second invasion in iraq and afghanistan is that we handled the invasion on the military side right and under 41 he decided he did not want to try and stay there and even though he was criticized for withdrawing rather quickly,
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everybody now recognizes that it was a great position. i decision. i think if we were going to deal with iraq, we either should have done it the same way as 41 or invest resources and mobilize the iraqi army that was ready to be mobilized instead of just disbanding them and bringing additional resources in there and keeping a presence in august that's my personal opinion. >> thank you all very much. [applause]
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is a ♪ is ♪ >> ladies and gentlemen please welcome our grade spelling is president of the george w. bush
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presidential center. [applause] >> hello, hello. good evening everybody. thank you so much for joining us at the bush center at the beautiful campus. i hope for most of you it is welcome back. we are so thrilled to be here and i want to first recognize the first lady and gerald turner and dale turner the president at this university that we are partnering with. thank you all for being here. [applause] >> we have been keeping a very busy calendar here with our engaged at the bush center series and we are hosting the former chairman of the ben bernanke so be on the lookout for that and we have a very new fascinating book on mckinley even though it might not sound that way. so please plan on joining us for
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both of those. we also want to call your attention to the holiday season special exhibit called a season of stories christmas at the white house, 2003 opening on november 19, just in time for all your holiday visitors. it will feature a number of handcrafted decorations depicting the love of storybook characters that were displayed at the white house for christmas in 2003 and we hope you will come and experience that. it's also terrific for families of course. but tonight we are excited to present you with a conversation between president bush and the author jon meacham. they will discuss the new book destiny and cover the american odyssey of george herbert walker bush. john was granted exclusive access to president bush 41 as we call him the diaries to write the book and he delivers an unprecedented and comprehensive trailed of a great man whose
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long held a special place in our history and in our hearts. now please join me in welcoming to the stage my boss, the 43rd president of the united states george w. bush and author jon meacham. [applause] the >> thank you all. [applause] >> they already love you and haven't even read the book. >> it's all downhill. >> thank you for coming. and i welcome keith, mary and maggie from nashville tennessee. thank you for being here with us i know the subject of your books quite well and i read your book
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much to the amazement of some of our fellow citizens. [laughter] >> and i liked your book and i hope everybody here reads it. it's the first serious biography of my dad. but before we talk about the book i think people might be interested in the background. your background. where were you raised, college. >> i grew up in tennessee on a civil war battlefield. i went to some great schools and an episcopal monastery which is redundant when you think about it. i went to the school that managed to produce both pat robertson and ted turner so we have a fit and if we can't then i went to the university in the
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south south which is best understood as a combination of downtime at the end of deliverance all put together. growing up i read a lot of just loved biographies of great men. william manchester's the last land was a really important book for me and i'd and i loved politics. my grandfather was a judge in tennessee. he used to have coffee with all the local political guys every morning downtown so i would go down there go down there at a very young age which means it's why an quite as strange as i am into the district attorney would be there, senators would come by. it was kind of the courthouse in chattanooga so for me politicians were always real people and what always -- when i went into journalism after suwannee which my grandfather pointed out this kind was kind of like being the last to board a sinking ship which i thought was on kind of accurate but i
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always wanted to do is write about the great events but they were great events that were shipped by the people and what impresses me most about politicians into one of the many character flaws that i like is that we all know that the folks in your line of work are fallible, you make mistakes, but you do great things and all the human frailties are still there if you manage to rise above that the country in the world on a better course and that is fundamental human drama is why i do what i do. and so you've written books about jefferson and roosevelt all dead. [laughter] >> that's true. >> then you decided to write
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about somebody alive. what's the difference >> you can't call the others to check things out. you can talk about that. i fear because your dad -- because your mom was so generous and you were so generous i worry that i would have a hard time throwing a punch if i have to but because of the ethos of your family created around this project which was you call them like you see them. we are not looking for. so because of that and it emanated from your father the problem became i never met jackson and i never met
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jefferson or fdr. i never met churchill and so when you're writing your writing and you know this, you've done to great books. if you're writing about someone you don't know, you don't know what you're missing. if i tried to describe what it's like to have dinner with your dad were sitting around with your father and i wrote that section and i would think you know i didn't quite get it exactly right what i call the quiet and persistent charisma but he's no jfk or ronald reagan and yet he became president of the united states because person after person in any stage of his life almost anyone who met him with exceptions we could count on one hand believe that he was someone whose hands in the affair of the nation and the world would be safe.
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your dad created a difficult but very task writing about him. what you know because you did it? mind was mimosa bubble different perspective when you were president. [laughter] >> something i didn't realize that he kept a lot of diaries. he had spoken into his tape recorder for years and he gave you full access. so how did that happen class and that they had no idea. >> you and i both come from a
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common gene pool. i don't know about you with direct conversations are never a big thing in my family except for where the always go for the martini. he kept diaries and a campaign diary in 1980 of sporadically as vice president he was very good at even and audit number of years because in even numbered years he was out campaigning say he was on the road for congressional and senate candidates and then starting on november 4, 1986, he said i'm beginning a diary about the biggest challenge of my life coming biggest omission of my
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life i'm going to run for president. and as the day they lost the senate and starts kind of dark. as president he missed a week or two maybe. should speesixteen but here the blades of helicopter in on air force one uk the engines and he would sometimes do it late at night when he sounds just a step away from the grave, just beating down from the day. what is revealing about them as reading them alone is fascinating. it's important as john quincy adams. it is as close as anyone accept
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the gentleman to my right is going to get being present because he's talking. if you are told the truth which he is not capable of doing that. and even when he was having the worst possible day even if gingrich had done something or had read the newspaper, -- "newsweek," that's an inside joke -- [laughter]
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november 3 and november 41992 defense league 72. his mother is asleep he can sleep at a quarter after midnight. i'm paraphrasing slightly. [applause] and those are tough words for a sitting president but then what does he do, he says have been be strong, be gracious finished strong. don't show them that it hurts and what stunned me the most is listening to the diaries was this is one of the most
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emotional men who could ever have held that office at. he won my heart. there is a scene from the mission of presidents reagan and he showed them to the children's look emea -- leukemia ward. he's standing there at the press is behind it, all the cameras and he realizes where he is and he starts to cry. and he won't turn around because if he turns around with tears in his eyes, the story becomes about him, not about them. now, i know a lot of politicians and there are not a lot of them who would have turned around and
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tried to create some kind of moment and he says this poor little kid has this old man crying over him, but i just hope he knows that i love him. that's george herbert walker bush and that's the george herbert walker bush at the biographer that's the biographer that i believed was a sweet and noble man, far sweeter and nobler and i hope this book helps change that. >> may be far sweeter than others. we knew that she was a diary keeper.
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it starts in 1948 when they go to odessa and they felt that they were going to russia. the first time your dad drove through texas and stops the local diner in abilene he orders chicken fried steak not knowing if it is chicken fried steak fried like a chicken so they ordered a lone star so it doesn't matter so there is one moment in 1948 where you were
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listening to the mother goose records she had just gotten. you jabber in the leg with a knitting needle. [laughter] if you have the woman at the highest levels of politics and have sentry this is what you get, the first impressions of texas politics. she said in 1963 in society
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which didn't dallas and houston are big forces, she saw that about her husband in 1963. we have her account of the day of president kennedy's assassination. an incredibly moving. we have the first time she met the reagans and points out how intensely attractive favor and saw that. now she wasn't always quite as complimentary about everybody. i don't know if you've had any experience with that, mr. president. but what it is is it is an honest account of shape the way that we live now created the want to understand the 1968 convention in the running for the vice president you read this. if you want to understand what it was like to be married to the chairman of the republican national committee during watergate.
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what i find is that she was one who kept the family going when george h. w. bush come bush from an immensely wonderful father is always a next generation he was out there that he was building an international business. you and i talked about this. what is your first memory of your dad, do you remember? a >> baseball. the >> baseball. >> otherwise he was in kuwait and trinidad one of the several times he cried with me it was like the world therapy. he would cry, i would cry, the kleenex would run out.
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the chief of staff would come in and say i can't leave you alone. did you have any idea january 6, 85 on that cold saturday in the first presbyterian church that you were marrying a woman that could move 37 times and endure what she endured in raising a loving and stable family and he burst into tears and said no, i didn't know that. but i couldn't have done anything that i did without her. >> interesting. [applause] >> so, one of the things that amazed me in the book -- i am trying to help you. >> i appreciate that. >> it's an economic stimulus. >> i guess it is. >> personal. >> tell the story about losing the senate race.
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he runs in 1970 the second time in the senate. it was supposed to be george h. w. bush, which was going to be a parallel race of what happened in tennessee with a handsome young republican like your father against an aging liberal that's what's going on in my home state. over here it was going to be george h. w. bush again. >> so remember i said on one hand we can talk about folks they didn't like. i think we can say safely governor wasn't high on the christmas card list. there were few people they hadn't forgiven.
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actually there were a lot of them. there's one in particular we don't have to talk about but what happened is john connolly realized what was going on and he realized what is going on, so he puts lloyd bentsen in the race. if you read the dallas morning news all the clips from that era, two things jump out at you. one is george h. w. bush was one sexy guy. every story talks about how he had kennedy's glamour, the country club matrons would swoon over him. just again and again it had this thing about his appeal. the papers all started writing like right now we have paul war veterans who are pretty good looking and served in the house. and in texas in 1970 i don't have to tell the former governor, the advantage was for the democrats so he loses the race. he beat gore but then sends bush
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because benson was more conservative than connolly's move and they got the non- nation and there we go. so, president bush goes up to me with nixon. someone suggested the un to him and bush started thinking about this but when he goes goes into goes in to see nixon, nixon decided he wants to make him an assistant to the president working for bob haldeman. again, what's the second prize at this point? and so president bush makes the case he says you know, i think i could do more good for you at the un. nobody is up there making the case for you. nobody is supporting you and it was a brilliant tactical argument because nixon is looking at the son of bush with whom he serves in the vice
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president. a polished son, the ivy league son of a senator and thinking what he is saying is right. if he goes up there, he can make the case for me. having this figure is going to work for me in new york but that process happens after he sent haldeman and bush to find a white house office. right as watergate is breaking up and beginning to -- the story is beginning at this point. so there's another element and he calls back and says you know what, i thought about this and you are right we will send you to the un. he had the shortest white house staff courier about anyone. it was 40 minutes by my count. that account. that helped him. but there was another wrinkle which is mixing his head and another thing, don't live on the
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32nd floor apartment of the older history where the un ambassador left. go to greenwich, establish residency and then vote and run against a tobacco and a friend in connecticut for the senate. mixing thought bush couldn't make it here but he turned him into a connecticut republican, he might be able to beat him and what is so wonderful about him that speaks to his devotion to texas and the fact that he raised his family here and build his business here is at that point, he thoroughly thought of himself as a texan, and he never bid on it and you know better than i do the president of the united states suggests a pathway to the senate do tend to listen. you tend to think about that. there's very little evidence and
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this is all from your mother's diary. >> you made an interesting point in the book about comparing his position on the un at the 64 race and then actually taking the position. ..
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>> >> grandfather. >> and its 1965 when he lost the race but used it is coming into being and ross is thinking of challenging him in the primary. and he goes to heaven baker
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says i want to be a congressman to say i am not using this as a stepping stone. i want to be president. this is 196541 years old yet to win a race except there's county chairmen but he has spent destiny a word that he does not like the was meant to do great vagueness. powless. [applause] these examples but there was a letter written and said this classmate will become president so people were talking about the possible power play at the possibility of the war was probable which is a real revolution to be.
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as he sees his career in a different light if the date york the best man for the job that what you say and do i of the campaign trail year after stated douceur to baines to get to where you would to be but that is politics but what you do once you have that power? attended 1860 or hw was not the biggest the end of the goldwater revolution but he gets that power with the job in works like a dog to meet u.n. matter to help his
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president. that was his duty at that time. there is a feeble after example he would get power them put the country ahead and that is a rare political story. >> guest: when you write the book on the will not find anybody. [laughter] how long does it take for historians to get a clearer view of the presidency good as between history and a journalist. >> i take it is between 20
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and 25 years where you let the dust settle there is a 25 year rule that at that point we to see things it is very clear at this point particularly on the domestic sphere people didn't take your dad had much of the investment but you will see that disabled americans but those most sweeping piece of civil rights legislation was with the american disabilities act with the fall of the berlin wall the barriers are coming down in his interest was rooted in that.
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was supposed to the civil rights act? what does he do april 68? with the african-american soldiers fighting in vietnam will have every right to buy a house where they want. he came down to memorial high school with an immense amount of hate. and he told me a guy said we didn't put you there to do this but he took the heat because he thought it was the right thing to do. but when he had the power of the responsibility and the authority he put the
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ultimate interest of the country directly ahead of the country. he tells a story of going back to washington if you want to be as far away as possible. so sitting in the airline chair led to say i of a democrat in your district. said he sat back. i am convinced he did it because he thought it was right but if you put the country first then ultimately politics takes care of itself. >> and he ran unopposed.
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>> one of the things when i wrote my book. [laughter] nobody has bought that or the royalty checks would be heavier. [laughter] but this speaks to dad's character how much the '92 campaign that you alluded to that so deal had the impression that anything about welcome read the guy who beat him to the white house? >> tuesday i cannot believe we just elected someone in
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another line was i like bill. it was the day before your grandmother died. and we have footage from the videographers. and covered everything you could have imagined and was there the steady in the dining room and to personify culturally and temperamentally your father
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has more in common with franklin and theodore roosevelt and the founding fathers with the public service is an extension of yourself and that the top is fabulous but it is worth telling again. december 7, 1941 with the news of pearl harbor coming across the radio went to 20:00 p.m.. immediately decides he wants to be a aviator to even consider joining the royal
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canadian air force. because of the existing situation of the war in europe. 1942 he is already tried to get signed up. to give an impromptu speech we shared go it is a long war you will be more useful and then to say after worthwhile -- he could change her mind but he said no but then break away for what his father wanted witches of pattern. to graduate from high school and turns 18 and takes a
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note as they gave full amnesty. when we talk about his military career, the two men that died is a there every day you don't think about them? he said no. did i do enough to save them? the answer is yes. then why was i scared? and that experience to have a code that every but it counted.
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that life is unpredictable and to have so much of life with the loving brothers and sisters. to have been given this chance and much is expected. >> one of the interesting portraits of the book, can you talk about dad's view of dixon and their relationship? >> your father was a rare.
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>> 41 is very short. [laughter] >> having both is the way to go. [laughter] we believe in the middle way. [laughter] retirement isn't working as you thought. [laughter] he was in the eastern with that famous speech with the diary entry that night that said what kind of a man is this really? the only shows who he really wasn't the very end. he appreciated dixons patronage, he made his life hard with watergate, he gave him the rnc, the u.n., now
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nixon's view of your father is important because you during the political culture and your father told me this. so he admired your father's death is consistently has a loyal appointee he once said he takes our time. to serve in a non-executive jobs where you may have had trouble articulating division with your server in the president of the united states her dad said in diaries and to me that he thought that if he was so
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with didn't have the guts to do it but that other critical element was chairman you saw his duty as the protection of the party. to say go out there and tell everybody and he would not do it. as they were growing for their part as the scandal broke out. >> but the cabinet meeting the. >> chairman bush was only one of three people who actually had the guts to say he thought he should go.
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and don august 6, 1974, is the most important issue facing the country is inflation. it is a big issue but perhaps the fact you are about to be impeached is later. and bush says would ever pass to happen pass to happen soon because august of the even numbered year. and your father also said i have support in the senate to say someone is not giving you the truth. how eager our people to give you bad news?
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so he leaves the cabinet meeting and writes a letter urging the president to resign so the president of the rnc rode a letter to nixon to tell him his patron but it is better to go. >> what would you like them to ruth have to remember about 41? >> it was a noble undertaking to put the country before his own political interest. the 1990 budget deal. the deficit require that.
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president bush goes know-how to announce it so gingrich says he cannot so he goes out to the rose garden that he wants to criticize he has no plan of his own. is it that that point as well it is october and june 27, 1990 with the statement was released thence a dogged -- invades kuwait. the last thing george h. w. bush will do is put the troops in the field at risk. what he has americans in harm's way.
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gingrich said just don't do it. take the pledge back going to the midterms that wasn't the capacity as the build an army to do that type of political games to one what was his attitude? was he worried or concerned about me during my pregnancy -- presidency? >> there were just interviews but no diaries. >> web do start? >> of course, he was worried about you and mrs. bush and your daughters you know,
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all the stories. he watched too much news and read the york times. [laughter] >> host: i agree. [laughter] [applause] >> that is the difference. i did not greet "the new york times". [laughter] >> guest: of course, that is that i would ask you at white as this is as true as i hope this is ayatollah debt to president bush 43 forgiving be of immense amount of time for his wisdom is that they're answering questions and.
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[laughter] >> host: i did it because i knew john would be fair i was concerned frankly when he approached me about the book i was a little skeptical but i believe did his attention and said it is a deal good book. >> guest: thank you. [applause] i want to ask you. the central legend is that bush 41 is easier to go into iraq in 2003 i announced all the time i will bless you to read it. >> host: it is called a role reversal.
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[laughter] okay good. page five and ended 71. he admitted iraq was one issue a wanted to know what he thought. >> guest: we spent time talking about bush 43 asking bush 41 for advice day often said not much guided space by nine-point of american history including u.s. grants but what i also found
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of the personal questions as i said to do president bush how much you talk to your dad about the needs you want people to think they're overly dependent and bush said it is not a bad observation i took that as a yes. but this is 2002. >> host: but he admitted however that iraq was one issue of wanted to know what he thought for but the presidential retreat where his father had spent so much time is at peace anwr he explained where things stood. i told that i was praying we could deal peacefully period for the alternative. bush 43 recalled walking a diplomatic strategy in the
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middle east. the older bush use reply ratified and then eluded to afghanistan but if the man will complot -- comply you have no other choice. >>. >> that is the great thing about objective historians. >> your is of a letter that the 41st president said the 43rd they ordered operation in iraqi freedom.
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that the world will be safer >> edited to a very good job to read it. >> you had nuclear weapons. but here is the 41st to the 43rd. >> your hand written note just received touched my heart. you we're doing the right thing. your decision just made is the toughest decisions you have had to make up until now. but you made it with strength and the compassion and. it is right to worry about the loss of innocent life the iraqi or american maybe it helps a little bit you
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carry the burden remember brabants words of love you more than time could tell. i do. devoted the, dad. [applause] . .
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recently announced the publication of this new book. crippled america. >> we wrote a book as the title crippled america's very top. but unfortunately, we have to do what we have to do. and i think one of the reasons we have been doing so well in the campaign is because we tell it like it is. we know that america is crippled and and he owes 17 and 18 and now it's actually very soon going to be $19 trillion in debt. we have a military that doesn't have proper instructions from leadership. we don't know what we are doing. we are losing all over the world trade with trade deals every country no matter what country you talk about you can pick a name out of a hat. and we can't go on like this any longer. it's impossible to go on like this any longer. i always mention as an example
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the sergeant. they get five of the people they wanted. and they want it badly and that's not the way it's going to work anymore. so, we write about it in the book and we tell lots of different stories of lots of different things and i think it's good to going to be very instructional and important to me. when i did feel i the people i think one of the reasons it was so successful is that it was largely instructional and even today when i speak so many people hold up the art of the deal as another book. so, this is one that probably not since the art of video i have to tell this had i worked so hard on a book and it was in a complaint of your code time we wanted to get it out really, really quickly so that it pertains to what's going on right now. the moments of time and we got it done, and david did a fantastic job.

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