tv After Words CSPAN March 6, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm EST
watching the non- fiction authors on book tv, they have a longer conversation and delve into their book. book tv weekend, they bring you author after author. it spotlights the work of fascinating people. i love book tv and i am a cspan fan. >> next on watching tv "after words" program, washington post columnist ej dionne talked about juan williams of fox news about republican politics. >> ej dionne, the author of why the right went wrong conservative is the. thank you for doing this.
you are a much esteemed columnist for the washington post, but people but people think of you as a liberal communist. is this intended for liberals, conservatives or both? thanks for doing this, i really appreciated. it's for both. i make the point that a healthy conservatism is in the interest of everyone. i grew up in a conservative family and only became a liberal in my early teen years and my dad and i had a lot of great arguments. he encouraged them. i always loved him for that. he thought it was a good thing for kids and parents to argue about politics. so i say that because i don't look at conservatism's as some bad -- i wrote the book because
we need a strong conservatism because they are likely to stick up for tradition even though sometimes tradition has to change. we can come up with ideas that do need criticism and conservatives have always been skeptical of efforts to remold human nature and i agree that human nature is a constant that you have to deal with, but i am am very concerned with what has happened to the american life over the last 50 years. i think the structure, the destruction of the inability to get things done is far more to the radicalization of the right compared to anything that's happened on the left. the prime example of that is obamacare which was a plan obama put forward that relied very heavily on ideas that conservatives put forward five, ten, 20 years before.
it resembled mitt romney's plan in massachusetts. it it had ideas from republican plans from bob dole that he put up as an alternative to bill clinton's healthcare proposal. yet, it wasn't enough. i could recite examples of that all the way down the line. >> i think there are other examples. let's go back to the start of your book because we are in a political season and you start the book by talking about the rise of donald trump and you suggest that trump, the roots of the rise of trump are in conservative history, and it helps to explain why in your opinion the right went wrong. explain how the roots of trump are in conservative history. >> the first sentence of the book is the history of american conservatism is a history of disappointment and betrayal. i argue, and i quote right right at the beginning of the book
eric erickson, a very conservative blog where he said the republican party created donald trump because they made a lot of promises they didn't key. ever since barry goldwater, the republicans promise to create a small government which no republican president could do whether you are talking about nixon or reagan or either president bush. they promise the cultural changes in the 60s. most of the country didn't want to rollback those cultural changes and their efforts failed. more recently, a lot of republicans, including trump have said they would try to change the ethnic makeup of the country back to where it used to be. that's a call for deporting 11 million people. that is one way in which trump is explained by this history. the other is that the republican party has relied for many years on the votes of white working-class voters. as conservative riders in the
book, among others, the party has gotten word working-class votes and done absolutely nothing material or you for working-class voters. i think when at the trump vote, it's very heavily a vote of people who are just angry and tired. one of my favorite quotations is from john kennedy who said in his inaugural address in 1961, he who foolishly rides the power on the back of the tiger ends up inside and i think the republican establishment has been writing this tiger of resentment and along comes donald trump and he says wait a minute, they're fake and i'm the real thing. a lot of people are rallying to the real thing. >> in fact, in the book you talk about the goldwater campaign and i think you describe it as a
disastrous campaign. he lost to president johnson, but you described his appeal as based on white southern male backlash to the civil rights movement. does trump reflect that route? >> he does often reflect that. some of his language actually goes back to richard nixon or george wallace's language. he explicitly uses some of that language in the speech. goldwater was one of the most consequential losing candidates in american political history. he fundamentally altered the republican party. the republican party was the party of lincoln. it was a party of african-americans. it was the party very strong in the northeast and in the west. when barry goldwater came along, even though he was no way race as himself, he was a decent man
who was supporting local civil rights laws back in phoenix, but he was against a federal civil rights bill and he echoed the segregationists in this because he was in favor of civil rights and he thought they interfered with private property rights. son suddenly the math changed in the regional makeup changed fundamentally. it shifted to the republicans in overtime that called for the realignment in the north where first african-americans went in droves. nixon had gotten a third of the votes, ike almost half. then, in the northeast and midwest, a lot of moderate republicans said this isn't our party anymore. they started to leave. then the last thing the goldwater campaign did is it set off a purge when conservatives took over the party, they purged all of the liberal liberal republicans overtime. we forget there were a lot of liberal republicans.
then slowly they purged most of the moderates out of the party. if the republican leaders wonder why trump and ted cruz have been so strong this year it's because most of the people are no longer republicans. that was all set off by goldwater. >> i come back to you ej because i think you describe in the book listening to ronald reagan give a speech in support of barry goldwater. a time for choosing. you told him you were electrified by that speech. i was a 12-year-old conservatives sitting there with my dad and i had the experience that night of millions of conservatives where we saw this guy, ronald reagan as the guy who would lead conservatives out of the wilderness. every conservative knew that
goldwater was about to get clobbered. here you saw this guy who could deliver his basic message in a way that seemed to have the capacity to reach lots and lots of other people. i note in the book that one of the fascinating historical points is that there were two politicians who made their careers on one speech. reagan in 1964 where from that moment on had been identified as their leader by conservatives and barack obama with the 2004 convention speech. i actually have fun in the book comparing what each was doing with their big speech. reagan was really trying to define a conservatism opposed to establishment liberalism. obama was trying to push aside that conservatism as decisive and create a consensus in the
2004 speech. goldwater became a hero that night. my first chapter i argue that he is a hero but also a problem. the chapter on reagan is called the ambiguous hero because it was reagan, the movement leader who many on the right wing really identify with. there was also the reagan who governed who often had a govern with democrats and was free about compromising when he had to. reagan raised them a bunch of times but his heroic status with conservatives meant they didn't really think he wanted to do that whereas when george hw bush did it after reagan,, they didn't blame reagan but they blamed the elder bush. >> let's go back a little bit because when we talk about the roots of modern conservatives is
, i think there is a little bit of a precursor to that in terms of what was going on in the 50s. i'm very interested in the idea that you have william f buckley, you have at that time robert welch whose with the john birch society taking on president eisenhower and saying eisenhower is not a real conservative. in fact i think he called him a commie. how do you explain how we get to goldwater from eisenhower who i think would fit as one of your moderate republicans and what does it mean when you have william f buckley, author of a best selling book for modern conservatism and take on welch? >> right, i talk about that book
that was written by his brother-in-law. yes the buckley's were right there at the beginning. national review was founded in 1955. the first words of its first editorial spoke of its war history yelling stop. what they wanted to stop was the flow of liberalism in america that started with franklin roosevelt and continued through harry truman. many conservatives, including buckley by the way did not like eisenhower because they saw him as a republican enabler as the liberal tradition. i argue that ike is the alternative model for a different kind of conservatism. we get back to that. ike, both buckley and welch represented two sides of this rising movement. buckley was obviously more intellectual. he wanted it to play in the same
arena so that national review was started as an alternative to the great liberal journalists and back then the reporter. he wanted to take liberals on straight up as intellectual equals. now one of the things i do talk about and here again, race is is very important to this conservative story. national review early on actually identified with the segregationists in the south and i quote an editorial in some of the things that buckley wrote, essentially defending defending the exclusions of blacks from the electorate. it's something buckley later came to regret and he apologized for but i think it's important for them to be honest with themselves as to how much they were conscious about racial backlash. on the other side buckley was
very much against so many of the other prejudices. he fought anti-semitism for example which had at times a strong hold on some people and he also fought the john birth society. he fought buckley who said when welch called him a communist it was an objective age of a theory. he said is a communist he's a golfer. but he didn't think ike stood for anything and he was very critical. the national review read them out of the conservative movement. they had very long pieces and editorials which i quote in the book. yet this influence never left. when i talk later in the book, when when i can get there about the tea party maybe their ideas and their favorite books were old conservative books. if you look at glenn beck's reading glass when he was very
popular with the tea party. some of those were old john books. it's called the new new old white because there's a lot of echoes in the tea party. >> you also have to deal than with gene mccarthy and the whole mccarthy movement that takes place during the 50. >> right. joe mccarthy was just as fascinating in buckley's life. buckley wrote a book who later wrote a book defending him. later in life he wrote a fascinating novel about joe mccarthy that was a little more complicated than his original view. yes, mccarthy kind of had all the charges against liberals who want communist but he was charging that they were communist. i think those echo over many years. i'm a liberal who is wary of
yelling mccarthy every time conservatives make an attack. not every attack is mccarthy just as i'm aware of using the word fascist one is not appropriate. nonetheless, this tendency to see a kind of enemy within is very much there in parts of the right. you've seen it in the obama years. this notion that he was a secret muslim and all that. i think that too has roots in mccarthy back in the 50s. >> let's go, now word up to the goldwater period. let's go through the goldwater agenda. his platform if you will as he's running in 64. he he is for ending social security, he's for ending aid to school and federal role welfare program. he's an opposed to union and
that comes through in so many of the leading conservatives of that era. of course we come back to race. he felt brown versus board of education was unconstitutional. this is very goldwater and here comes ronald reagan in support of goldwater. they lose but nonetheless, as you argue this is the seedbed for modern conservatism. it's antisocial security. anti-racial integration at that point. >> one of the fun things about writing this book is before i started, i, i sat down with a lot of conservatives, politicians for former politicians and columnists. they knew i was a liberal and they knew i was going to be critical of conservatism of the. i also wanted to figure this out i had a great conversation with
then weber who described himself as an 11-year-old going to his aunts house who were loyal republicans and he asked them what they put up a goldwater sign in the two said well could we just put up something that said vote republican and he said why don't you want to put up a goldwater sign and they said we don't really like what he's saying about social security. then they told me that was my first lesson in the cost of ideological politics. this was the core of the goldwater program. he said i don't intend to reform government because i want to reduce its size. of course all of this went down badly with a lot of americans who had accepted the new deal. he had one and did well in 1960
and some republicans think nixon one but lost on stolen votes but they were willing to live with some of the new deal. they had thought it became part of the american way of life. goldwater didn't. what happened is when you go all the way out to 1980, first reagan off that great speech, he got himself elected governor of california and indeed he turned out to be just as persuasive as all those guys thought he was. he also came along when there was a big backlash in 1966 with the huge push back against lbj and the great society and civil rights, one of the issues he used was opposition to an open housing law in california. you have the beginning of the student rebellion on campus at berkeley and reagan pushed back against the student rebellion.
he was a very good governor of california and helped build modern california. nonetheless he had been there eight years and had been far less popular and reagan beat him. then when he governed he did a number of things. he did cut government in certain respects but he compromised with democrats in the legislature in other respects. he was a governor who signed a bill repealing the abortion laws. he later recanted that position and become pro-life, but he signed abortion liberation bill while he was governor. the conservatives, see him as fundamentally conservative because of what he had always said from the time he left the democratic party in the 50s all the way through that time he was still a spokesperson for conservative ideas.
so he ran a kind of halfhearted effort to become the republican nominee in 1968. he had a significant number of votes against nixon. rockefeller from the left and reagan from the right. could he get enough votes to open up the convention, nixon made it through with the votes of southern republicans. that was the beginning of nixon's southern strategy inside the republican party. then in 1960, 1976, reagan, 1976, reagan nearly beat a sitting president who took power only after nixon's resignation, but he came within a handful of delegate votes for the nomination. when ford lost, he was clearly established as the strongest republican for the nomination. craig shirley, of conservative writer wrote a book on the 76 race, arguing that that set
goldwater up for a victory in 1980. i think that's probably true. >> you mean a set reagan up. >> set reagan up, i'm sorry. in fact, goldwater reagan thing is fascinating because i did a lot of, in my interviews with conservatives, and another conservatives, and another person i talked to was bill kristol. he first said, you have to think about the reagan side and the governing side of reagan as well as the movement side. then he talked for a second and said actually what they need to do is realize that the goldwater side didn't work and then they need to embrace reagan. there's that ambiguity of goldwater and reagan. >> what's interesting to me is initially, the republicans seem to value family planning and are open to the idea of contraception, certainly, maybe even abortion but now, if you get into nixon, you know what
were going to have a southern appeal to the south very explicitly after the civil rights movement of the 60s but were to appeal to the church and people who are faithful and the catholic church have been voting democratic. part of that issue was abortion. >> yes, the family planning issue is so interesting. another thing about the goldwater campaign is that he really began to pioneer the use of moral and religious issues during that 64 campaign. another great book reminded me of this 30 minute video where goldwater's campaign put it out and then later disowned it called choice. it's really worth finding on youtube for those who want to go back. it showed all of the decadence that conservatives condemned for
years. it showed race and women dancing with very little close on, all this kind of stuff. it kind of appealed to conservatives who said our country is going down the wrong path. you almost heard the words take our country back all the way back in 1964. four. that moral element was first injected their pipe barry goldwater. family planning is an odd issue because for a long time in a lot of states the democrats were the party that often opposed legalized family planning because they were primary the catholic party. abortion kinda began to change the equation because there are a lot of americans who were for family planning who weren't for abortion. when nixing ran against george mcgovern, he was running against what were called permissive
values. the slogan that was often cited against mcgovern, it turns turns out it was actually words set off a record but that didn't come out until many years later. mcgovern was the candidate of legalizing drugs which he wasn't really full four. and abortion which the party was split on but at that point they started becoming much more pro-choice then republicans were. >> this was an era of sexual revolution because you have the advent of birth control, the pill. i think that to played into the area of wanton behavior and loose morals and some of the
republican values. >> absolutely, some of the traditional and evangelical christians, that's also when you started to see real change on what was broadcast on television so bringing it right into your home, the 50s had shows like ozzie and harriet and father knows best which were very traditional family shows. suddenly mass entertainment was beginning more and more racy which really bothered a lot of conservative people in the country. so this was building up in the early 70s and interestingly, it was jimmy carter who first rallied the evangelical vote because when it turned out that jimmy carter was a born again christian, a lot of the press said what in the world is that. one writer said we treated evangelical christians as if they were some exotic prize when they were millions and millions of our fellow americans. carter rallied the evangelical vote but in the late 70s, a a group of very shrewd conservatives said wait a
minute, all of these social conservative voters out there and a lot of them had started voting republican because of civil rights. we can rally them for the republican party. they approached and said we'd like you to lead the movement. that's when moral majority was born. by the time reagan ran in the 80s, this was a growing organization. those were the elections where they really began to rally this vote. jimmy carter's greatest drop-off between 76 and and 80 was among his fellow evangelical christians. over time moral majority, those folks morphed into the christian coalition when pat robertson run for president in 1988 against
george hw bush. so what you have on the right are a number of strains in a number of ongoing conflicts because. >> let me just come back to that because i think that is a theme of the book that i wanted to bring the viewer and listeners attention to because you talk about this sense of grievance, but trail among republicans against fellow republicans. so if we go back to goldwater, obviously he loses in the sense that he's not being listened to or he didn't convey the message properly but then you come to nixon and they're disconcerted about how he deals with not only race but kissinger and the like. then you come forward again and there's this sense that ronald
reagan promised to cut government to lower taxes and governments getting bigger and taxes are getting higher. even though reagan is a great republican icon of our day, back then there was some discontent. this then becomes a theme in your book that time and again i'm a why can't republican officials, elected officials take back america or make america the 1950s america they were more comfortable in, especially them white southern male. nixon is a fascinating figure as everybody knows. in some ways he was one of the most liberal presidents we ever had. it was he who opened the united states to china and established relations.
it was he who signed the bill creating the environmental protection agency. he created osha, the occupational safety and health administration he indexed social security. a lot of lot of these conservatives who were very disappointed in nixon, they talk about a group of conservatives who say they were suspending their support for nixon. he didn't do very well, in the campaign against nixon but he did run against him. then reagan finally came and jerry ford was also seen by many of them as insufficiently conservative when he took over from nixon. he picked rockefeller, the great liberal enemy as conservative. he was certainly, compared to to them very liberal and a spender in new york. so ford had to appease him by dumping rockefeller and putting toll on the ticket. he barely lost jimmy carter. reagan did not rollback abortion
rights. reagan could not reduce the size of government. as i no, the size of government was almost exactly the same when he left office is when he took over. he ran very large deficits. that actually helped pull us out of the great recession. his spending was more on defense than social programs. if conservatives hold that against him, they surely held it against george hw bush when he raised taxes in a budget deal that newt gingrich rebelled against. then you get the second president bush and i argue the tea party really began without the name. conservatives didn't really want to define it as a failure of conservatism so they defined it
as big government failure. never mind most of that spending was in baghdad and not in buffalo or biloxi. they criticized him for the prescription drug benefit under medicare even though they hadn't tried to repeal it. much of their constituency is over 65. they criticize him for no child left behind and for being open on immigration and bush genuinely was open on immigration. he tried to pass immigration reform. so at the end of each of these republican presidencies, a lot of conservative said what did we do all that work for. we are still not changing the way the politicians say they are going to change things. we should not be the least bit surprised that the whole thing is blown up in 2016. will this is a key point. they have this notion of being betrayed by their fellow republicans and then we come to a critical point in the book,
bill clinton and the impeachment of bill clinton which you describe is one of the low points in american history. can you explain? >> that whole mess was a low point in american history. the clinton had his relationship with monica lewinsky, he denied it and denied it and denied it and then finally admitted it. a lot hung on his definition of sexual relations in that. there were two reactions in the country. two majority reactions in the country. one majority reaction was this was wrong and the country wanted to condemn it. the other was that we know a lot
of politicians have led less than exemplary sexual lives and we don't really want to impeach him for it. they didn't want to impeach him partly because the country, luckily for him was in very good shape at the time this scandal broke. we had a roaring economy and the budget deficit was replaced by a surplus. americans felt generally good about the country. all during the impeachment battle clinton approval rating stayed quite high, some times hitting the 60s. the questions they ask is do you approve or disapprove of the job president clinton is doing. they approved. they were fine with him on the job they just didn't like the scandal. the whole election in 1998, the midterm was fought around the impeachment issue and the republicans were really pressing, and in a the party in the white house actually gained seats in the house of representatives.
they adopted a position that said we will censure him and then we will move on. we will declare that yes we don't like this, but we won't try to impeach him. a funny thing happened after that election. newt gingrich was deposed as the republican leader and by the way that saga is an important subtext of a large part of my book. gingrich, from the evidence, probably wouldn't move to impeach clinton. i think he did leave the tea leaves of that election. once gingrich was pushed aside when another story about his sex life emerged. the new republican leadership let the control of this issue fall to tom delay and the chair of the judiciary committee wanted to push on with impeachment and they did.
they didn't want to go through it but we went through it anyway. >> what was the impact then? i'm really interested in the >> the intriguing thing is if you look back at that time, why did the republicans push on with impeachment? i think they wanted to stain the clinton legacy forever. they wanted to get over and hide the fact that clinton actually realigned the country. turned out they hadn't realigned the country toward conservatism. they never liked bill clinton. they wanted to tarnish his legacy so it wouldn't be a usable legacy. a lot of republicans in congress weren't elected and competitive
districts. they didn't hear those voices that said we don't like the scandal but we don't want to impeach him. we heard voices but said let's go full speed ahead with this. also, the '90s were were when the polarization really set in. i take a look at comparing the 1990 congressional elections with the 1994 congressional elections. even in. even in 1990, a lot of democrats, particularly southern emigrants were still voting republicans in house races. by 199494 the republican party had become an ideological conservative parties. those voters who wanted voters were now voting republicans. you really saw the party begin to pull apart. i argue in the book, it's not surprising that the fruit of this polarization which really took hold in the '90s was the impeachment of bill clinton. >> now the interesting thing is here, in your book you talk
about clinton moving toward the conservative ideology when he talks about this is the end of the era of big government. so now he is taking on the language of the conservatives. it serves them well politically. he does well and what remains moderate to liberal because he wins twice, but doesn't that indicate that this movement is forcing clinton to the right? >> yes, in the book i quote a progressive activists who's been around a long time who said just as nixon was the last president of the liberal era, clinton was the last of the conservative era. now i think is a little more complicated than that but it's an insightful comment. clinton understood after three democratic defeats in
presidential elections that there appeared to be some difference. i think some of that was necessary that it was possible to be --dash in the end, there there are cost of that with the crime bill. clinton has acknowledged this. it led to an over incarceration in the country. members like iran paul are trying to fix it in congress and a lot of people are saying this is an outrage and i think it is. but there was a need to say you can be anticrime without being conservative. i think the welfare bill that he signed was far too punitive.
we need to provide adequately for poor people and what we got was a bill that was inadequate to that. more generally he games up ideological ground. he didn't have to say the era of big government was over. ironically he was saying that at the same time he was actually cornering the republican by defending medicare, medicaid, education and the environment. these are all areas where government was playing a big wear role. they wanted to play a big role in that area. that's why clinton won the budget fight. there are some ambiguities there. it was successful and there was quite a bit of it that was necessary, but i also think he gave more ground than he had to to the other area which again bill clinton himself acknowledges himself that the financial initiatives went too
far. so you see here, clinton moving to the right as he's responding to the agenda in all the ways you just articulated. then you come to george w. bush. we come back to this theme of betrayal, the expansion of medicare under the prescription part d. you get to some people who are discontented with his national security and his weapons of mass destruction issue, one that, trump recently touched on. in all these ways, the theme of the base of the party, the grassroot always feeling like were not really getting our money's worth from conservatives, from republicans, intermarriages again. why?
>> they were fascinating figures. they reacted to clinton in much the way clinton reacted to the defeats that came before him. they understood that clinton had cornered the republican congress. they understood that a republican party that looked completely uncompassionate was not going to win national elections. compassionate conservatism was invented. it was actually invented back in the '90s by some serious people who were quite serious about it. bush really grasped that idea and if clinton had a third way and were trying to create a fourth way, they were very proud that they had turned the education issue into an issue that really helped bush and decreased the democrats had vanished on that issue. after that election when bush
failed to win the popular vote, rhodes, who thought he was gonna win the election clean without the fight over florida went back and mapped out and did some pulling. he discovered there really wasn't a big moderate vote. so bush partly packed away from the strategy and moved toward a bay strategy. he did embrace some of the passion and conservative ideas but they had no traction with the republican congress. of course 9/11 happened which change the course of the bush presidency. if the iraq war had gone better and it turned out to be a good idea and not as history will show, i think, a bad idea and if the recession hadn't happened, conservatives might not have turned on bush and might've accepted a few of these corrections he had in mind. instead, they didn't even notice
the conservative things bush did such as the enormous tax cut, to enormous tax cuts that were enacted under bush. instead they focused on those areas where bush did embrace a big government. in the end, he had the worst of both worlds, bush did. he he didn't get the traction among moderates or progressives buddy hope to get on his initiatives of immigration reforms or these other areas. he did win, by the way, a big share of the latino vote in 2,002,004. that's very important to him. we can get back to that, but after the republicans blew up his immigration reform bill, those bills want lasting but he didn't satisfy conservatives either. so you had, over time, this rebellion against bush. i also talk about the fight for the republican nomination in 2008. you did have the relatively moderate conservative john
mccain prevail but the point i make is that in both 2008 and 2012, the more moderate conservative prevailed because the conservatives on the right hand of the party split the vote up and in mccain's case, you had mike huckabee checking mitt romney in the iowa caucuses. you had fred thompson checking huckabee in south carolina. he prevailed with a minority of the votes in the primary because the more conservative candidates, huckabee, romney and thompson were splitting the conservative vote. that is why sarah palin ended up on the national seed. mccain wanted a more moderate running mate but he knew the party was still under conservative control and did not want rebellion on the floor of his convention and so he ended up picking up sarah palin. even when it lost the right in
the party was able to generate an enormous impact. >> what i'm coming to is your drawing this picture of conservative tisza since barry goldwater is the high degree of polarization that has come to identify the party during the two terms of barack obama. obstruction, polarization and his --dash they would say obama is a monarchy. he's trying to use executive powers and executive authority to pass bills were put in place rules and regulations without going to the congress. the result has been a high degree of political polarization print let's put that aside for a moment.
inside the republican rake, there is a high degree of polarization that we can see playing out in the primaries and caucuses. you get donald trump, but why this sense that the grassroots feels betrayed by the republican establishment at the same time the grass roots say we don't want any part of governance. that is what really troubles me that somehow it's as if the republican party thinks it's more important to show the faience obstruction then to actually take the opportunity to work even with an opposition party president and governed the united states of america. >> you no, i obviously agree with you on that and i think it's deep in the cake. in the beginning of the book i argue that the polarization in our country and i cite the
democrats have move left and i cite a bunch of of evidence but one piece of evidence that's key to your point is that if you ask people would you prefer politicians who compromise to get things done or people who stick to their principles, about 60% of democrats of democrats want to compromise to get things done and only a few republicans want to compromise. you do have this fundamental difference going on. i think the leadership of the republican party from the very beginning, independent of the rise of the tea party had decided that defeating obama required spoiling his program because after all he had promised to bring red and blue together. he said there was no red or blue to america. all they had to do was try to block as much of that from coming to pass as possible to declare that obama was a failure. in an odd way, that put his fate
in the hands of republican. in the book i tell the story first told really well by robert draper of this meeting in the caucus room restaurant on the day obama was inaugurated. it was leading republicans and they basically plot to say working a block obama right out of the box on the stimulus. a month later mitch mcconnell tells senate republicans, here's our strategy. again it involves slowly blocking obama. he actually says our goal is to stop the second term of obama. it was all political, not about governments. >> right. so this is the way they proceeded. i . out in the book there's a lot of criticism that he could have schmoozed better, yet he could have, but i think it was
this was baked in the cake of this obstruction strategy. he could've gone golfing with every member of republican congress and i don't to go to made any difference to this overall strategy. >> so then if in fact they pursue this policy of obstruction, defiance questioning where he was born, his faith in everything, why is it that as we are in the political cycle of 2016 we see the republican grassroot conservatives say we don't like the republican establishment. they don't like mitch mcconnell throughout john boehner it seems like they just feel as if this review wasn't enough. >> it wasn't enough because the establishment was trying to play a double game which is they
wanted to cast themselves as a responsible governing party but they wanted to cast themselves to the grassroots as people who will stop all this terrible obama stuff. so no one in the party, you got paul ryan doing it a little bit but even he is an opposition to everything obama does. so no one saying here's where we want to go is there any common ground we can find with obama. it's all about rolling back things government does. that's why i point to eisenhower as providing an alternative path. now that's a long time ago the eisenhower era and it would obviously have to be -- but i think the philosophy is very much the plight that they are in now.
no one else was more prudent than eisenhower. he was very pro-business he believed passionately in the american way of life. he was strong but prudent in the use of american power in the world. our influence grew during the eisenhower years. yet he accepted that certain reforms eventually become part of a country's way of life. they say he's very much a conservative in the tradition of the first conservative, he accepted the new deal had some problems from the left over in the 30s. he also said government does have something to do with us. he talked about the interstate highway system and the student loan program that helped millions of americans go to college. so this was somebody who i think conservatives had very good reason to feel happy with the state of the country when he left office. i think what you need is a quiet
revolution in the republican party. there are hints of it now. there hints of it in the compassion and conservative ideas. there hints in a group called reform conservatives but i argue in the book they need to go farther than they have. i think perhaps the only way this will come about is if the republicans lose a third presidential election. there seems to be a magic in the number three. clinton's adjustments claim after three losses. david cameron's adjustments in britain came after three defeats. i think that will happen here. let me ask. >> was that a prediction? >> i think that if the republicans do lose this presidential election and i'm not prepared, all things being equal on the numbers in the demographics, they should win
this election but i think it will be a closely run things so i'm not prepared at this date to say for certainty democrats will win it. i think if they win then i think you will see the kinds of changes, at least there will be a shot at the kinds of changes in the movement that i predict. >> he had not tapped the after 12 and he said there needs to be more outreach to minority and women and young people. what were seeing in 16, especially from the leading candidate, donald trump he has nothing to do with that. it's almost back to the grassroots, the southern strategy the agree -- the white male that you describe the book it's almost that there's a side of that autopsy that was performed on another party in
another country. they just shoved it aside. one of the the common responses i have gotten in my argument is if were in such bad shape why did we do so well in the 2010 and 2012 midterm elections by do we control all these governorships? but i would argue back is yes they've done well in the midterms because the republican party are now so dependent on the votes of older americans who vote very heavily in midterm elections. the republicans are very weak among younger americans who vote much more in presidential elections than in midterm elections. i hate to say this as a person of my age, but the future doesn't live on with older people. it lives on, it's in the hands of younger people. so while they have been able to do well in these midterms and maintain a certain base, it
doesn't all go well in the long run for the republicans as a national party. they need the younger generation which is more moderate or progressive on social issues, heavily latino asian and african-american and the party that takes this path is, over the long run not going to remain a majority party as i say, there are republicans who acknowledge this. one one person i quote at some length in the book is jim pelosi the chair of the republican party in california. republicans, it's ronald reagan state for the republicans used to be strong there. because of the way the republicans have alienated latino and latin american voters it is is a solidly democrat state. if national want to go down this other row they should take a look at us first because if they do that they're going to end up in the same fix we republicans in california are in. so that is where i do think the party needs to look beyond where it is. one lesson from trump is that
white working-class voters are really angry and kind of tired of the republican establishment that has not delivered very much for them. so i see a two prod reform strategy embodied in the defeating campaigns of santorum. the party has to pay much more attention to its white working-class base and donald trump is showing them that. the huntsman lesson is that they do need some moderation on some of these social issues and immigration or they're gonna lose on that side. yes huntsman and santorum are really brought together but independently in different ways highlighted to core problems up through publicans have. >> of the the future for conservatism in the opinion of ej dionne boils down to what and
how do liberals respond? >> thank you for that. the future of conservative tisza lives in the prudence imbalance that was represented do not pretend you can rollback all the things government has done. do not pretend government is some kind of alien force in american life. pursue fiscal prudence and try to defend the best part of tradition. i argue that we do need and national conversation on the family. family breakup is a problem. at the problem for working-class and poor people. especially because the economy has battered them so much and has created real problems let's