tv 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival CSPAN May 22, 2016 4:00am-6:01am EDT
to exercise some leverage and that is the way, with the possible exception of british emancipation in 1833 in the west indies which was also in a geopolitical situation of danger that britain faced, masters never want to free their slaves. jefferson wanted to believe these masters were different from masters throughout history because they were enlightened enough to break away from the british empire. if you could do that, my fellow americans, you can do anything. not true because of course the revolution in some ways was a revolution to consolidate the hold of slaveholders over their slaves. this is the situation we find jefferson in, that is bucking the opinion of his neighbors and that is the fundamental problem. >> can you talk a little more
about france? >> we love france. i will start and you will finish. france is really important. >> did people hear her? >> we are talking about france. the pivot of our book we would agree. what we needed to do was get jefferson out of virginia. he was having a rough time there as you know, and give him a chance to be a visionary, to get some perspective on the american revolution and the state of virginia. being in france enabled him to do that. to suddenly see that a space that he wanted, had great doubts about his fellow virginians and they are all over his book about the state of virginia. in france those doubts diminished because he saw something much worse. he saw the old regime and he said what we have in america, we have wholesome families, farming their farms, this is the foundation of a healthy, natural society and also, this is the
crucial argument we make and it is one of annette's great contributions of course it is all her book, to our understanding of jefferson, that is how jefferson's ideas about slavery took on a new color when he was in paris. >> he is there and he sees 18th-century france, free revolutionary france peasants actually starving. there is great unrest.
>> and no political power. there is in france no legislature, there's no way for the people to be able to actually speak and to change things. and so he sees a decadent political system that he locates as decadent because of the family. the family life in france is decadent to him. women, women out in the street -- >> scary. >> was scary. he liked them, you know, obviously. [laughter] women out in the street, all these things. sigmund was not around then, zig money freud was not around then -- sigmund freud was not around then, but women out in the streets looking for pleasure, they should be back in their nurseries, they're not attending to what's at home. is so he has this idealized
version of family. we talk about the importance of home, of family, he's not at home until he gets to retirement. he's there 17 years. family, heath idealizing the women. his wife is dead and he's there by himself. he begins to look at the world, at virginia, in a very, very -- through a sentimental haze. and he begins to look at slavery through a sentimental haze. once sally hemings comes, james hemings is there, they are faces of slavery. he sees himself as a slave holder to these two people, he's paying them wages. they are staying put. they have an opportunity to be free in france, and they don't take it. they stay with him. and he's able to convince them to come back. and so it is, that changes him. he begins to think about slavery not as a state of war, as peter said, but as something that could be made good.
he could be a good slaveholder. and once you start thinking about that, that's the road to perdition. that's just, and that's where he went. >> that was my question, because in france he did encounter the situation where his slaves could just walk away. >> uh-huh. >> and become free and leave him. >> uh-huh. they could have left. and he made a deal with sally, and there's every reason to believe he made a deal with james. when jefferson goes home, he's supposed to come back. so james would have had every expectation that they would come back and finish out the term. but he comes back with jefferson, and a couple of years later when he comes back, he continues as a paid employee for jefferson. he still has the legal ownership over him, and jefferson promises to free him, and he does. so here he is, he learns how to manage these particular people.
now, i hasten to add, as i said before, these people, james and sally hemings, are not like the other slaves down the mountain. you know, he is not making any deal with them. and those are the people about whom -- i mean, we're concerned about the hemings as well, i wrote a whole book about them. but you're thinking about the enslaved people who are not in his blood family. what is their, what are their prospects? what is their future? so people he knows, he sees himself acting as a slave holder to the people who are in his family, and he is treating them in ways that most slaves, enslaved people are not treated. >> we have one minute, and we want a really good question that can be answered yes or no. [laughter] >> no takers? see, you scared everybody. >> oh! [laughter] >> you scared us. >> how about a lousy question, it doesn't have to be a good question. >> an answer to this, were you very critical when you were writing this of mr. jefferson
and his beliefs and truths? >> were we critical of jefferson in his beliefs. we're critical when it's appropriate. it's funny, the reviews are interesting because we have gotten mainly good reviews, i will say. but there are people who think -- and some of the customer reviews, now, he doesn't look at these things, i look at in this stuff. [laughter] some people think we hate him, and some people say you're defending him. so it's really hard to know. i mean, people -- if you -- people look for what they want to look for. i think we think we try to be balanced about it. he's not a perfect person, he's not a god, he's not devil can. >> so the answer is yes and no. >> yes and no. [laughter] [applause] [inaudible conversations]
victims were, like harry, perfectly normal both mentally and physically and desperately wanted to have children. >> nazis cited buck v. bell in their defense. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals coming up around the country:
>> in hyde park, new york, it's the 13th annual roosevelt reading festival, and this year's harlem book fair will be held on july 16th. for more information about the book fairs and festivals booktv will be covering and to watch previous festival coverage, click on the book fairs tab on our web site, booktv.org. >> and we're back live from the gaithersburg book festival. e.j. dionne is next in conversation about his newest book, "why the right went with wrong," with cnn breaking news editor david marks. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> thank you all so much for
braving the elements and coming out to gaithersburg today. it's great to have all of you here, and welcome to the seventh annual gaithersburg book festival. i'm lissa muscatine, i'm the co-owner of politics & prose bookstore with my husband, brad graham, who's right here in the red coat. and we and our wonderful staff -- [applause] thank you, guys, thank you. we and our staff are delighted to be the festival's official bookseller for the fifth year in a row, and we really want to commend and thank the city of gaithersburg, the mayor, all the festival sponsors, volunteers. of they have done an incredible job that you probably aren't even aware of behind the scenes to get ready for this weather and make this festival a go even with all the rain. they've done a terrific job, and we're very grateful for all that they've been through in the last 48 hours and the weeks before. and, of course, we thank all of you for being here. just before we get started, a few administrative notes.
if you have any sort of device on you that might make an unwelcome sound in the next hour or so, if you could turn it to silent, we would be grateful. if you're tweeting today from this event, please use hashtag gbf. and then lastly, we hope that you'll all take the time to fill out a survey to help the festival's sponsors and others learn what we can do better in the years ahead. if you complete the survey -- and there are copies here in the tent and also online -- you have a chance to win a $100 visa gift card. and lastly, e.j. will be signing immediately after the presentation. we do have copies of his book in the p and p book tent which is conveniently located about 20 steps from here, right over here, so we hope you'll visit us there for his book and some others. and i do want to just take a moment because i suspect all of you are book lovers and you're also, sadly for you, a captive audience for me for at least a moment. i just want to remind everyone
here that although this festival is a free event and we want to keep it that way, it does help the festival if you buy books here. and that's because the more books that are purchased here, the more likely publishers will be to invest in sending authors like e.j. and others to events like this one. and, of course, having authors of this caliber is part of what makes this event better and better each year. and i also just want to say on a personal note for me and brad and all of our staff at p and p that we hope and appreciate when you choose to make your purchases through politics & prose through the rest of the year or through any independent bookstore. you provide jobs in our community and offer a space where citizens can meet authors in person, contribute to the marketplace of ideas and really be part of our collective forum for public discourse. and this is really, for us, one of the most important parts of our mission as an independent
bookstore. and we can't serve our communities in that way without your support, so thank you all for being supporters of local independent bookstores whether it's us or others. we're all many it together, and we -- in it together, and we appreciate having your patronage. so thank you so much. at politics & prose, i think many of you have probably been to the store, and those of you who haven't, we invite you to come. we have about 500 author events a year. we're always delighted when e.j. dionne is one of our speakers. he's a longtime friend of the store and also a personal and professional colleague of mine and brad's from our days in journalism and my days in politics. but most important for your purposes, he is a man worth listening to. especially in this strange, unpredictable and unprecedented moment in american politics that we currently all find ourselves in. e.j. began his journalistic career as a reporter for "the new york times," he migrated to the washington post in 1990, and he became a columnist at the post in 993. -- 1993.
he's also a regular commentator on npr and msnbc, a professor at georgetown and the author or editor of a dozen or so books. now, many of you probably know e.j. or think of e.j. as a liberal democrat down to his dna. [laughter] so you may be a little bit surprised if you haven't read the book yet to learn that he actually grew up as a conservative in a conservative family. and that is where he begins his new book which is called "why the right went wrong." for e.j. conservativism is not, in his words, some exotic, irrational creed even though his own views have shifted toward the center-left. he describes himself an unapologetic liberal and, i can attest to this, a temperate disposition. [laughter] but he believes the tradition is
a vital component of a balanced, vibrant democratic order. i think what brad and i admire most about e.j., and i'm sure this is true of many of you, is not just the clarity and integrity of his thinking, but that he models exactly the sort of intellectual engagement that is so essential to and so up missing -- so often missing in our country today. and if you listen to any of his weekly npr commentaries where he's paired with david brooks, the influential conservative columnist at "the new york times," you may likely find yourself feeling as i almost always do, and that is to say i find myself wishing -- indeed, praying -- that our wider political discourse could be as thoughtful and reasonable as david brooks and e.j. dionne are even when engaged in passionate, heated debates with one another. in "why the right went wrong," e.j. explores what has happened to the republican party and the american conservative movement over the past half century. this is neither a hostile critique, nor a dismissal of the importance of the conservative tradition.
it's an exposition and exploration of why e.j. feels things have gone awry and how disstressing he finds this for our democratic values and system. perhaps because e.j. is a reporter by trade, he doesn't just pontificate, he does a lot of research before coming up with his conclusions. for this book he reached out to a wide cast of republican politicians, thinkers, strategists and writers, and as is always the case with his work, the final result is a brilliant, lucid theory of the case, a timely and needed critique of conservativism from goldwater in the 1960s to the tea party and trump of the present day. and i think he'll tell you a story about what the paperback cover may say on it. because trump's not on the current cover, you may notice. and even in this presidential year that has turned conventional political thinking on its head, e.j.'s book deepens our understanding of the tensions and rifts within the republican party, offering an
historical map of how and why a more reactionary brand of conservativism has left little room for moderate republicans in the party today. we're very delighted that e.j. will be in conversation today with the wonderful david mark, a breaking news editor at cnn politics and former senior editor at politico. he himself has been an author at this event, i think last year, he's written several books on political speech. so please welcome e.j. dionne and david mark to the gaithersburg book festival. [applause] >> well, thank you very much for that wonderful introduction and for braving this inclement weather that we're facing in late may. we wouldn't have expected that. but it is such a pleasure and honor to be here with e.j., i first read "why americans hate politics" when i was in college back during president bill clinton's first term, going back a little ways, and had the opposite effect on me. made me want to get into -- >> that was the hidden agenda.
[laughter] >> so it's a real pleasure personally to be able to speak with e.j.. one of our favorite terms was, quote, reasonable republicans. this is something you often hear on capitol hill from the likes of harry reid, nancy pelosi, hillary clinton has picked up on this theme to one form or another. so when i saw e.j.'s book was coming out several months before i was even invited to be in conversation with him, i was thrilled to see there was a treatise worthy of being written in the manner in which e.j. did. as lissa noted, you have sort of a different ideological outlook than the subject matter of your book. as noted, you describe yourself early on in the book as an unapologetic liberal of social democratic inclinations and a them to rate disposition. so what advantages do you think this provides you in the analysis. and conversely, why should
conservatives listen to you about the subject? >> why should any key want to read a -- any conservative want to read a book about them by a liberal? first of all, let me say a couple of things, i am tempted to shut fun r up for the rest of the session and just ask c-span to run lissa's unbelievably generous introduction over and over again. [laughter] but i don't get that kind of cable treatment, because i'm not donald trump. [laughter] [applause] so i want to thank lissa and brad and underscore what she said about independent bookstores. you know, politics & prose is truly one of the greatest bookstores in the world was it's not -- because it's a community organization and a community asset, and that's true of all the great bookstores like it around. i want to thank david -- yeah. [applause] i want to thank david, and he is an expert on political language and sound bites. so by the end of this day, but i want you to get me the five sound bites certain to get
everybody in the room out there buying my book. >> okay. [laughter] >> including c-span for broadcasting this. i always tell people -- don't think of it as buying a book. i have five more years of college tuition to pay, so you are contributing to the education of my daughters. [laughter] i want to thank the city of gaithersburg for this. my wife actually worked for some years for the city of gaithersburg on affordable housing. i want to thank the current mayor, council mayor katz i guess they call him now was mayor then, and -- when my wife was there. and there were some great people that my wife got close to, louise kaufman, karen simms -- how many people actually are from gaithersburg? bless you, because one of the people very dear to us who passed away too young was jeff simms. some of you may remember, he was the jv coach at quince orchard high school. our son played basketball for whitman, and we had some
wonderful -- and my wife is actually a good athlete. i always say my children have all the athletic talent that their father doesn't and their mother does. and we still mourn jeff's loss. but bless gaithersburg for doing this, and thank you all for braving this rain. they let baseball fans go or under -- [laughter] you know, have protection, but we go on. to go to the question, i did write this book as somebody who grew up a conservative. you know, my -- oh, i want to thank, by the way, my cousin susan and her husband patrick who i haven't seen in a long time. [laughter] they know perfectly well that our family had a long republican tradition. her mom was elected tax collector in the city of water bury, connecticut, in the '65 republican ticket. it was a john lindsay reforming ticket in the city of waterbury. [laughter] and my, i had a relationship with my dad where we loved to argue. and my dad was a very open minded guy, and he actually
encouraged me to argue with him. he gave me his -- it wasn't a mistake. he knew what he was doing, but he gave me a subscription to the new republic that i had asked for when i was 13 years old. and i always say i changed my politics, i'm a completely odd person because the great society actually encouraged me to change my politics. around the time -- when i was 12, i was a goldwaterite. i tell the story in the book about watching the famous goldwater speech, a time for choosing, and my dad and i knowing at that moment the reagan speech for goldwater where every conservative in the country -- including us -- identified ronald reagan as the guy who was going to save the conservative movement. and typical for me just as the movement was on its way up, i got out and moved to the other side. [laughter] i grew up a red sox fan, so i am a underdoggist by nature. [laughter] but i looked at the great society and said, hey, wait a minute, these liberals and democrats are trying to solve problems that actually need to be solved.
so i passed through a period of being a liberal republican and then decided eventually that didn't work very well. and the other thing that influenced me a lot -- and some of you may have had an experience like this -- i was in a religion class in my public high school, and we had to read a religious book. i chose to read martin luther king's book "strength to love," which if you've never read it, is a wonderful book because it's a collection of dr. king's sermons. it really made me look at the world, at racial justice and social justice, in a different way. so, but after all these years of journalism and commentary, you know, i wrote this book because like a lot of people, and mainly people on my side of politics but i think a lot of other people, i was very frustrated with what conservativism had become. i was frustrated by the obstruction in the obama years, certain people who -- one of whom is very prominent now -- who even denied the legitimacy
of president obama's election by claiming he hadn't been born in the united states. and this wasn't the conservativism that even as i became a liberal i had continued to respect. and so why should a conservative read this book? well, fortunately for me, one of my favorite reviews of this book was by henry olson in national review, the kind of flagship publication of the right. and he asked the same question, why should any conservative read this. he agreed with my premise that -- he disagreed with other things in the book. i don't want henry's reputation destroyed, he's a good conservative. [laughter] but he agreed with my premise that the republican party since goldwater has been locked into a view that it hasn't been able to get out of. the core argument of the book is, the first sentence of the book is "the history of contemporary american conservativism is a story of disappointment and betrayal."
and what i argue is ever since goldwater conservative politicians made a series of promises they couldn't possibly keep. one was to reduce the size of government. well, ever since goldwater neither nixon, nor reagan, nor either president bush could reduce the size of government. why is that? two great analysts of public opinion back in the 1960s, lloyd free and hadley cantrell, described americans as ideological conservatives and operational liberals. that basically means that we have a mistrust of government, but we actually want government to do quite a lot of stuff. and i think the best example of this are members of the tea party who often said they wanted to reduce the size of government. there they go by in that train. [laughter] they want to reduce the size of government but, please, don't cut medicare or social security. now, it's sheer accident that many of them might be at, near or over the age of 65. but it's true of all of us. we want things from government.
and the other two key promises were to roll back the cultural changes of the '60s. now, there continues to be resistance to various aspects of that, to civil rights, but i don't think -- it's very clear, a majority of americans not only don't want to go back, but when you look at the gains made by the gay rights movement in such a long period of time, a lot of americans want to continue a journey toward greater toleration and inclusiveness. and then of late, they've sort of promised to remake the ethnic makeup of the country back to where it was around 1950. you can't do that without deporting, say,11 million people. most americans know that. i'll stop here because i've gone on in my first so-called answer to your excellent question. [laughter] but, you know, this produced a cycle of radicalization and disappointment which produced donald trump. i quote erick erickson of red state, the conservative commentator, who said the republican party created donald trump because they made a lot of
promises that they didn't keep. >> speaking of donald trump, the presumptive republican nominee, he actually makes a cameo appearance of sorts in your book -- >> oh, i want to say more than a cameo. [laughter] >> well, in the debate over the panama canal treaty in the late 1970. and you say that he kind of prefaced he looked forward to the make america great slogan again. i'm wondering where you think trump fits on the continuum of republican conservative politics over the years both substantively and stylistically. >> great question. there is, just so you know, i was writing -- i wrote the first draft of this book, and then trump started to emerge in the summer of 2015. fortunately for me, a, there was already a fair amount of trump in the book. b, trump broadly fit in with the argument of the book. and so i had had a chapter in the early draft of the book on the reformed conservatives,
people who were trying to change the movement, and i altered that chapter a bit, and it's now called reforming conservativism or trumping it -- [laughter] in which i talk about trump. and the make america great again slo began was actually -- slogan was actually a reagan slogan. i think when you hear it what's really important to hear about is the keyword in that slogan is "again." because, a, the implication is we're not great anymore and, b, the only way forward is backward which is, essentially, you know, in some deep sense at the heart of the trump campaign. trump is, i think, peculiar to the republican party because, a, he was a long time democrat. every day, it seems, he takes a position that is somehow contradicted by something he probably said 10, 15, 20 years ago. but he is, he represents a very particular wing.
he's part tea party, although the tea party movement, i think, in this election split between trump and ted cruz. he's the part of the tea party that was more nativist, more restrictionist on abortion, in some cases more reactive on race. i'll use -- i'll put it that way politely. and that, a lot of that part of the tea party voted for him. he is also the candidate of the white working class in the republican party. and one of -- another central argument of the book is that the republican party is dependent on votes from white working class americans ands has delivered nothing -- and has delivered nothing for them over the years. and that's not just some liberal social democrat like me saying this in the book. i quote former governor tim pawlenty of minnesota who talks about the republicans as the party of sam's club. i quote two very smart conservative writers whom some of you read in "the new york
times" who wrote a book saying basically that if the republican party does not be actually start delivering something to these working class supporters, they're going to be in a heap of trouble. that heap of trouble is donald trump. and he picked up in a way with where rick santorum left off in the last campaign. remember, rick santorum also became the voice of working class republicans. you know, a lot of people who come to my events are liberals, so just for fun i want to say a nice word about rick santorum. i don't know if any of you ever saw his victory speech after the iowa caucuses, but it was this really quite beautiful speech where he was talking about his grandfather, a miner, and he noted that his grandfather's hands were all gnarled from that work. santorum looks up and said those hands dug freedom for me. i don't agree with rick santorum
on much of anything, but i loved that line. it also spoke to this working class part of the republican party. and then the last thing about trump that i think is most surprising is, you know, not only did he nail down this nomination, he got to where he was with victories in very conservative states like arkansas, tennessee, and alabama. but he nailed it down in states like new york and pennsylvania. and i think oddly trump and stand greenberg, the democratic pollster, wrote a very good piece on this. there were a lot of moderate republicans who felt they had no place to go. even more moderate candidates were actually quite conservative so trump, by default, also picked up some moderate republican votes. so he had this very peculiar coalition, and it's one reason why there's still a lot of conservatives who don't trust him. neoconservatives think he is not interventionist enough on
foreign policy. fiscal conservatives wonder, you know, is he a dealmaker who'll be happy to make any sort of deal with the democrats on the budget. and the real truth with donald trump is no one with actually knows where he stands which will either be a great asset or great liability before this campaign is over. >> you write at length about the most recent republican president, george w. bush, and you actually express some sympathy for his intentions if not necessarily his actions, particularly on the faith-based initiative which was largely forgotten. it occurred large hi before 9/11 -- largely before 9/11, it got subsumed by world events. but explain what you think could have happened there. what was the potential many that kind of idea? >> mike gorsen, some of you know george bush's speech writer, and at times during the bush administration i was sympathetic to compassionate conservativism in terms of where i thought it might go and ended up being critical of it in practice because i didn't think they took
it very far, and they were reluctant to spend public money to begin with on programs for the poor except for his very good initiative in africa, the pepfar initiative, which he deserves real credit for. but i once told mike who is really an orally compassionate conservative that i didn't realize how much i'd missed compassionate conservatives until they all disappeared. [laughter] but what i argue is bush had two lost opportunities that when he ran for the first time, you know in 1999, 2000, he understood that the republicans had really lost a lot of ground to bill clinton. and he was trying to remake the image of the party. so he made a point of talking a lot about education. and, in fact, the no child left behind law which a lot of people became critical of later passed with the support of a lot of liberal democrats including ted
kennedy and george miller of california. and he used faith in a very interesting way because, you know, he talked about rallying the armies of compassion in the country, and he was specifically talking about all the people who did work with churches and synagogues and mosques. now, the problem with compassionate conservativism, i argue, is twofold. one is at times it simply seemed more like a slogan than a program. i actually talk in the book about an interview i had with george bush back in 1998 when he was running for governor. i said, you know, this is all very convenient for you, this faith thing, because, you know, your conversion allows you to draw a line in your life at age 40 so no one can go back and look at what happened before. it appeals to a big chunk of the republican party, the evangelical conservatives, but also it can appeal to moderates and liberals because you sound like you care about the poor.
that was the only time he got steely with me, and he looked at me and said, you know, if it were that cynical, people would figure it out. which i realized wasn't a direct answer to the question, but anyway, it was -- you know, and so there was that side of it. but i think that there was part of bush for whom this was a real thing. but the other problem was philosophical. the compassionate conservatives, i thought -- and i still think -- follow the two categories. one were the conservatives who really did have a bad conscience about the failure of conservatives to lift up the poor. and they were looking for alternative ways of lifting up the poor that would include government support not only for religious institutions, but for the third sector. there were people like mike gorsen or the late david quo, a democrat who ran the faith-based office for about six months before he left the bush administration. he later, even though he stayed close to bush, he later described the bush
administration as mayberry machiavellis, which is an interesting formulation. [laughter] he didn't want to be quoted on that, but somebody did anyway. [laughter] because he's not, he doesn't like to attack like that. you know, and, but those folks were serious. but there were a lot of other people who simply wanted to reduce the size of government and figure, well, just like the churches take care of it, it became an excuse for dismantling government. so in the end, you know, a couple of things happened. one, 9/11 happened so that whole emphasis became secondary or tertiary to bush. and a lot of republicans in congress never liked the compassion interview. i had a great interview where it was said they just didn't want to play ball on this at all. so i thought that was the first opportunity he lost to create a new republican party. the second was after 9/11 where i argue that he could have created a kind of eisenhower republican party again at that moment of genuine national unity, and he went in a
different direction, and, you know, became -- went back to rallying the base and became a much more divisive figure especially after the iraq invasion which, unlike afghanistan, did not have, it never had the same kind of support that afghanistan did. >> we certainly want to open up to audience questions, so get your questions ready. i'll ask one more and then open up the floorment briefly -- up the floor. briefly, in march, house speaker paul ryan gave a speech in which he expressed regret, even apologies for using the makers and takers line of the 2012 campaign when, of course, he was mitt romney's running mate. i wonder what you make of this, if, in your view, this is a sign of progress. >> well, it's a sign of a kind of progress that he's walking away from the words. the question is will he, from my point of view, make progress by walking away from the policies that underlay it. i'm very critical in the book of
the makers and takers language, you know? i point out that paul ryan was very devoted to ayn rand as a young man, and i can never resist pointing out that one of ayn rand's books was called "the virtue of selfishness." and i really do think that the ryan budgets are the problem more than the words. but i do think there were conservatives after the romney campaign. i have, you know, a long description of what went wrong for mitt romney and an analysis of the whole, the whole of the 47% speech. and, you know, the idea here is that people who are dependent on the state for some of their lives are somehow takers. it's as if all government investment in people is simply promotes dependency. and that's flatly wrong. i mean, the government helped me go to college, you know?
the government -- i benefited from student loans and social security benefits and veterans benefits after my dad died. government invested in me, and i've paid back more in taxes than i ever took out. that's true of a lot of americans. it's true of all of the americans who went to college on the g.i. bill. now, granted, everybody supports the g.i. bill because we say, rightly, those vets earned it. nonetheless, that wasn't investment by government -- that was an investment by government in people. and there are plenty of americans who at various moments of their life who through no fault of their own become dependent for a while on this help. but the idea i've always liked is john stuart mills' idea that the purpose of this government help is what you want is help toward doing without help. and i think we spend way too much time focusing on, you know, the problem of dependency. and, yeah, there are some people who stay dependent for a long time. there are enormous numbers of
americans who needed some help along the way and then in order to become self-sufficient. and so the whole makers and takers idea is flawed in that way. and it's flawed in another way, and paul ryan is a very serious catholic, and he does speak about the poor sometimes with real compassion. well, what is this about? some of our brothers and sisters are, you know, don't have the same good fortune that the rest of us might have at a given moment in our lives. and i don't think, you know, i was glad the conservatives took the word "compassion," because as much of conservativism is asserting that somehow being a bleeding heart is a bad thing. and let me just tell one story on that, if i may. it's one of my favorites. this is not in the book, i don't think, but it's one of my favorites covering politics. when mario cuomo ran for mayor and lost, there's a wonderful political talk show host, really arch conservative running in the primary.
he happened to be peeking to a group of african-american -- speaking to a group of african-american ministers, and he started attacking bleeding heart liberals. and tim mitchell shoot up tall, and he says, mr. farber, i worship a savior with a bleeding heart. [laughter] one of my favorite moments ever in a campaign. [laughter] >> well, on that note, we'd love to open up the floor. >> oh, sorry. >> i think we're over here, and then we'll switch. >> oh, okay. i saw his hand first, sorry. >> do you think that ronald reagan, do you think ronald reagan deserves the adulation that the republican party assigns to him today? >> i mean, the short answer is, no, in the sense that my politics are different from ronald reagan's, so i don't feel the same way conservatives do. i oppose some of the things reagan did as president. on the other hand, i understand where it comes from.
you know, in the book i talk about how ronald reagan might have difficulty winning a republican primary at the moment. here's what i certainly give ronald reagan credit for myself as a progressive which is the way the cold war ended. and i think ironically, you know, there's great debate over how did reagan bring the cold war to an end. my conservative friends would tend to focus on the military buildup and reagan being very tough. but i argue that if that's all you focus on, you leave out the fact that reagan understood before most people that gorbachev was actually someone we could do business. that was margaret thatcher's phrase. she saw it too. and that reagan never liked nuclear weapons. and it's worth remembering about ronald reagan, he didn't intervene in very many foreign conflicts. the only war he fought was in granada which had an army of about a hundred people. and, you know, if you remember when the marines were blown up
in that tragic episode in lebanon, i was actually, covered that war and interviewed the marines about a month before. and they were saying, they were questioning what are we doing here. so i disagreed with reagan's decision to put them there. but he pulled them out right away. he did not go to war. so that side of reagan i very much respect. the other part of reagan i respect is, you know, if you look at him -- reagan is a complicated figure. my chapter on reagan in the book is called "the ambiguous hero," and i argue that on the one hand keys are right -- conservatives are right who want to see him as an idealogue, and he certainly held to conservative principles. you can't listen to that speech he made for goldwater and not think he was an idealogue, but he tended to govern both as governor and as president with democrats in the legislature in california and in congress when
he came to washington, and he was willing to do business democrats to govern the country. chris matthews wrote a book about tip and the gipper. and so all those sides of reagan i do respect. and the other thing is i really like reagan for having a sense of humor. i like all politicians who have a sense of humor including the ones i vote against. but thank you for the questionment. >> if i could just add briefly, my own sense is there's still a debate among moderntives how much to -- conservatives how much to rely back on reagan. he's been out of office for 27 years now, but nobody else has come along of that stature, so it's almost an oldie but goody at this point. >> right. i quote an article where the title was if he were alive today, ronald reagan would be 103 years old. and the point was i think that was his anal when they wrote that article -- his age when they wrote that article. and their point was, you know,
you can't just keep recreating reaganism. 2016 is not 1980. the problems of 2016 are not the same as the problems of 1980. so there are a lot of conservatives who say that. younger conservatives, i think, are especially likely to say, you know, how can we keep talking about this event of 30 years ago? now, in fairness to conservatives, you know, progressives, we progressives still talk about fdr. and, you know, rightly so. my wife gave me a poster for christmas once, my favorite roosevelt/truman poster from 1944. so i accept how you honor your past, but i think a lot of conservatives say we can honor the past, but we've got to face now just as democrats had to do with fdr. >> yes, sir. >> yeah. you touched on the end of the cold war and reagan's role in the cold war.
it seems to me, i want to see what you think about this, a lot of the problems republicans have had is the fact the cold war has ended. it seems like during the cold war being anti-communist was something that united different types of republicans together. since the cold war has ended, like starting in 1992 was the first election after the cold war, they've only won the popular vote for president once, you know? so do you agree that's a major thing, the fact that this was a major sort of organizing principle for religious conservatives and foreign policy conservatives and economic conservatives, and now that it's over, the cold war ended, they're sort of a bit unmoored? >> no, that's an excellent observation. i think a lot of conservatives would agree with at least some of what you said. you know, the classic formulation when national review magazine started -- by the way, for people who want to know this book is broadly, even though i make arguments, this book is broadly a historical book that
takes us from 1964 forward through the various presidencies. the, you know, conservativism was an alliance of traditionalists who later kind of took the form of the religious right, although religious right isn't exactly the same as traditionalist conservativism. free market people including libertarian-leaning people and then colding warriors -- cold warriors. and those groups actually had real differences with each other. the more libertarian conservatives were never wild about the cold war, for example. the traditionalist keys were never always fans of the free market. they valued things, you know, they saw faith and many other matters as more important than the market and the economy. nonetheless, you know, national review created a doctrine called fusionism which sort of held these together and, certainly, anti-communism could unite them. and in a way, anti-communism and anti-liberalism, you know, could hold them together.
the large enemy abroad and then, you know, i'd like to think most conservatives felt the less dangerous enemy at home. although in the mccarthy period, it wasn't clear they saw any, some of them saw any difference. and the end of the cold war not only took away some of the glue that held the coalition together, but it split conservatives. because a lot of conservatives, pat buchanan way back when talked about this, rand paul talks about this, ted cruz and donald trump talk about this a little bit. a lot of conservatives who are against big government don't like a big military, don't like military intervention. and as long as the enemy was communism, they were ready to be interventionists. but after that was, after the soviet union fell, a lot of conservatives returned to their anti-interventionist roots. so you do have a real split on the right even on that fundamental issue. so your point, i think, is well taken. i talk about some of the problems with holding this
coalition together. conservatives aren't unique in having coalition management problems as democrats are noticing at the moment. but they have a very particular philosophical set of problems that they've been struggling with for about 70 years. >> and if i could just add on, i do think that's interesting. trump brings up a real anti-interventionist strain that in some way even overlaps with, say, bernie sanders supporters and those much further to the left end of the spectrum. >> yeah, trump is hard to read because he doesn't want to intervene, and he wants to bomb the heck out of whomever. [laughter] so i spez you send a lot of -- suppose you send a lot of airplanes out or something. but he does have that, you know, he claims he was against iraq which it's not at all clear that he actually was against the iraq war initially. he later said he thought it was a mistake. a lot of people said it was a mistake later. but he does have that anti-interventionist strain at least at times in his rhetoric,
and to did ted cruz at times -- so did ted cruz at times. >> can we take both nationalists hats? is i think we're running low on time. >> consolidate. >> i can skip the hard question this way. >> republicans have said from day one, especially marco rubio, that barack obama's the most polarizing president in american history. you talk in the book about the dinner that was held at the caucus room the night of his first inauguration where they basically, ryan and mccarthy and several others got together and said we're going to oppose everything he stands for, and then mcconnell comes out two weeks later with our main goal is to make him a one-term president. if obama was polarizing, aren't the republicans ten times more polarizing? >> i'm so tempted to say yes. [laughter] thank you for citing the book, because i do tell that story. i think the problem with hanging this all on obama is that, as i write in the book -- and robert drape, a journalist, wrote a
great account of this, so i want to credit him, this caucus room meeting was on the very day of obama's inauguration where they decided we're going to fight him and fight him, and on the very first vote on the stimulus, he didn't get a single republican vote in the house even though the whole house of cards that our economy looked like at that moment was threatening to the come down. and then mcconnell laid out a similar strategy about a month later. so, you know, and the notion of blaming trump on obama, the guy who denied the legitimacy of his presidency, well, sure. i suppose every president is responsible for everything that happens on his watch. and, yeah, i wish we could have done more as a country about the suffering of working class people, some of whom are voting for trump. but hanging this on obama, to me, is like blaming the guy who wants to stop the fight for starting the fight. so thank you for that sympathetic question. there was somebody with a -- yeah. >> please. >> and, actually, it's a richmond marathon hat.
>> oh, i'm sorry. >> that's okay. >> i admire you for running a marathon. >> on the media show brook gladstone commented that 77 of the comments made by donald trump that were fact checked are pants on fire or four pinocchios versus 23-24% of hillary clinton's. what would you say to trump supporters that would say would you listen to facts and discount the lies? and my other question would be can you address the role, the unspoken role of racism in both parties? >> wow. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> the -- no, you're accurate about trump's inaccuracy. i mean, it is remarkable to me and this isn't just, again, a liberal view. a lot of conservatives were frustrated with this all through the primaries.
he seems to be held to a different standard, or he just kind of pushes the standards aside. i'm very curious what kind of standard the media's going to hold him to. you know, i'm in the media, and if you look at the amount of free time that trump has gotten compared to every other person who ran for president or who is still running is astonishing. at one point i looked at my wife and said what do we have now, trump state television? [laughter] so it's very disturbing. i think you're seeing some of the accountability starting to happen. and, again, my conservative friend said why didn't the media do that during the primary. might have had a different result. but i think it's going to be a real challenge to the media, because he seems to slide right by it. in terms of race, i don't want -- that's a long answer. i take race or very seriously in the book. i argue that conservatives have to come to terms with the fact that racial reaction was at the heart of the creation of this conservative coalition beginning with goldwater.
goldwater himself was not a racist. he supported local civil rights measures in arizona, but he voted against the '64 civil rights bill. his language on civil rights in terms of federal power and property rights mirrored the language of the segregationists. and, you know, you had a complete flip in, that started as i argue in the book under the new, late in the new deal where democrats had been the party of segregation in the south. and the whole center of gravity of republicanism shifted from north to south. and it's still something that republicans are struggling with. and you can see this many some of the things trump -- in some of the things trump says and some of attitudes of trump supporters in language that reagan used about, like, welfare queens. there's a lot of -- the difference is whereas before race was done through a dog whistle, sometimes trump is doing it through a bull horn. it's a very odd shift.
but it's, you know, it is there, and, you know, democrats have their long past to answer for, and republicans have the present and the more recent past to answer for. >> if i could take interviewer's prerogative here and ask what may be the final question. there's a whole set that you describe toward the end of the book about so-called reform reform-cons. you referred to some by name earlier. i'm wondering if you think this is new and innovative or more like a repackaging of the old time religion? >> i'll give a clintonian answer. yes. both in a way. in other words, on the one hand i think some of the reform-cons are serious in addressing the fact that other than supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulating business, conservatives used to be very proud of being policy innovators and have kind of given up on that.
so they are trying to be more innovative in policy, and so i think there's a certain seriousness there. but i also take them -- i actually argue in the book and i think trump shows this, they still can't fully break with, you know, a view that says we really don't trust government to act and that you really can't farm out government to, you know, the third sector consistently.
the kind of consecutives to think again is about, what the alternative was when goldwater came along, and with apologies to supporters of adlai stevenson in the audience, both on c-span and here, i have a lot of nice things to say about dwight eisenhower because i think ike represented the alternative form of conservatism, and i do think ike was a conservative. a joe scarborough is one person who agrees with me. he said conservatives have to stop looking at ike as liberal in golf shoes. and that ike was somebody who believed in fiscal prudence, believed in a strong america, was prudent in the use of american power but believed in a strong america and a public role for religion. a religion was prominent and he said there is a role for government. two big ike programs, the
interstate highway system, and i talked to a republican who quit congress because he says we can't even pass a transportation bail anymore. so the interstate highway system and the federal student loan program that helped millions go to college. but he was trying to preserve the american way of life and that was the goal of a consecutive. he felt that you didn't roll back all the changes made in the new deal because they responded to certain needs of the country, and ike was obviously probusiness so i like ike -- a line that ike used at the end of the 1952 campaign. i'd like conservatives to do two things. they need more of what sarah palin calls the hopey changey thing. i think conservatives are too gloomy about what america is now. too gloomy about the changes the country is going through. think we are potentially -- one
of the strongest positions we have ever been and if we were such an awful country we wouldn't have an immigration problem because people wouldn't want to come here the way they want to come here now. secondly, think they need to listen to ike who said that knee they're wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him. the country is changing. i do not think it's changing for the worse in many ways it's changing for the better. and the odd thing is in order to conserve you sometimes need to change. it's somethinged edmond burke understood, and i'd like conservatives to go back to their burke. >> i hate to say this but we're out of time. >> thank you so much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
>> be signing and you can get copies of the book in the book tent. thank you all for coming. thank [inaudible conversations] >> that was a discussion of the change within the conservative movement. next up in ten minutes "new york times" reporter james risen talks about his book "pay any price: greed, power, and endless war." [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> but the fact is that we have gone again latinos from big numbers to power for the first time.
and that is a huge change. and i think it is incredibly important that we realize that new power is here, and that we can talk about thing that in the past we have no chance to talk about. and therefore, when we have a candidate who says, donald trump, that mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals and drug traffickers, i think there's a new power and we can respond to that, and we're responding to that. but what is interesting is that -- where were all the candidates nine months ago? where was the press nine months ago? where was the u.s. government and the mexican government nine months ago when donald trump said that mexican immigrants were criminals and drug traffickers and rapists? where were they? nowhere to whether found. and then we responded. we latinos responded.
we said, no, you are absolutely wrong. what you're saying, mr. trump, not right and it's absolutely wrong, and we responded. we just didn't wait for another cesar chef -- chavez or the hispanic congressman. we responded. all our artists and each one of you on social media, who is saying, what you are saying, mr. trump, is absolutely wrong. the vast majority of immigrants are not criminals nor rapists. wants to build a 1900-mile wall between mexico and the united states. good luck. you know why? because almost 40% of immigrants, undocumented immigrants, come by plane or with a visa. so, he wants a big wall. well, he's going to have a really big wall for that. no? and then he wants to change the constitution and deny
citizenship to the children whose parents are undocumented. well, he would have to change the constitution for that. in other words, he is absolutely wrong, and i think we have the right to start changing the conversation, and i think we are changing the conversation. talking about latino power. let's suppose that he wants -- he is saying he is going to win the hispanic vote, and let me tell you some news, mr. trump. you're not going to win the hispanic vote. [applause] >> these are the numbers i got from the univision "washington post" poll a few days ago. 81% of latinos have a negative opinion of donald trump. 81%. so, how would that -- what would that mean in terms of if he were to run against hillary clinton or bernie sanders? only 16% of latinos, 16%.
-- i know you're asking, who are the 16% -- but 16% of latinos would vote for donald trump against hillary clinton or bernie sanders, 16%. can he win the white house with 16%? no, he can't, because, remember, mitt romney got 27% of the hispanic vote and he lost the election. john mccain got 31% of the hispanic vote, and he lost the election. so, with 16% of the hispanic vote, donald trump cannot win the white house, and that is where our power resideses. we have 27 million latinos who are eligible to vote. unfortunately not all of latinos go to vote. but i think donald trump is helping us because many latinos who are thinking, i'm not going to vote. they see donald trump say, i'm going to vote.
so that's changing so 13 million, 14 million latinos going to the polls in november, can change. and no one can make it to the white house without the hispanic vote, and that's where our power is. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. [inaudible conversations] the tent is filling back up for the next event in a few minutes james risen will present his book. we'll be right back.
[inaudible conversations] tapes hundreds of awe their programs all year long. here's a look at events we'll be covering this week. on tuesday at barnes & noble in new york city, historian sean willans will argue that political parties and partisanship are necessary to ensure a working democracy. also that day we'll be at george washington university. we're back in new york on wednesday, for a program at the carnegie center for ethics and international affairs, where former center for disease control and prevention official, ali kahn, will talk about the world's deadliest diseases and what safety measures he thinks
should be put into practice in advance of the next pandemic. on thursday from our studio in washington, dc, senator barbara boxer of california, will discuss her life and career in conversation with senator amy klobuchar. and that day, at the heritage foundation in washington, david satter, former moscow correspondent for the final times -- the times will weigh in on boris yeltsin and vladimir putin. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> when i tune into it on the weekend, usually it's authors sharing new releases. >> watching the nonfiction authors on booktv is the best television for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and delve
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> i want to welcome everyone to the seventh annual gaithersburg book festival. i'm one of montgomery county's council member, the council member at large. gaithersburg is a wonderful city that proudly support the humanities and we're pleased to bring you this fabulous event, thanks in part to into support of general sponsors to volunteers and when wow see them, say thank you. i have a few announcements. for the consideration of everyone here, please silence all devices. if you're tweeting today, use
the hash tag #gbf. we need your feedback. surveys are available at the tent, and on our web site, and completed survey and you get a chance to win $100 visa gift card. james risen will be signing books immediately after the presentation. copies of his book are on sale at the politics and prose tent. i had a quick word about buying books. even though this is a free re vent it helps the book festival if you buy a book. the books we sell at our events -- the more books we sell, the more pressurers will want their awe they'res to speak with it. punching books from politics and prose that support local jobs and supports ore book festival. so if you enjoy this program and n a position to do so, please do buy a book. with that said, -- they gave me a script to read -- i'm going to glow duals the author and tell you a little built bit him.
lives in montgomery county. he is by my count somewhere around 61 years old, born in 1955. he is a pulitzer prize winner, has written on the abortion wars in this country, and he has written on bush administration relationship to the cia, and he has represent the book we're going to be talking about today, "pay any price" which is about endless war and endless greed. and i think it's really a timely topic because we're still paying for the wars we got into. we found ourselves in a society which is more and more a surveillance society, and we're constantly being asked the question, how many freedoms will you give up? i guess the question needs to be, what would you give them up senator and are we really being told the truth about what is happening in the world? and i think that we face some really fundamental foreign
policy questions. i was always jared. saw a piece about prince bondarf from saudi arabia, a picture of him and he was conveying osama bin laden's thanks to the bush administration for the help they gave him in afghanistan, and i remember reading that and thinking, who didn't know what these people stood for at the time? who was confused that they had anything in common with democratic values or western values? and who doesn't look at that in retrospect and think, what the heck? what are people thinking? we have paid an enormous price for this. we armed essentially osama bin laden, armed the taliban, appears that in isis today we have group of people who are playing around with our jeeps, our trucks, and our weapons, and at some point you begin to
wonder, is this coincidence or is this deliberate? i'm old enough to remember the end of the cold war. i think like a lot of my friends we all thought, end of the cold war, time to have a peace economy, swords into plow shares and america would blossom again because we wouldn't be drain our resources on a war. but we have a new perpetual enemy and a perpetual war, not against a country but against -- not even an idea, just a description of a kind of action, terrorism. and i think that brings us to where we are today. so i'm really glad you're here. your book is important. you have received astounding rules and ones who loved "state of war" say how depressing this is. it amply identifies the message that came out in the first one. so with that, thank you for being here. >> thank you very much for having me.
it's great to be here. i live in the area, and so i really appreciate being at gaithersburg. i have done a lot of book fairs around the country, but it's nice to do one here at home. and so i appreciate the introduction. just want to maybe go over a little built 0 -- a little bit about what "pay any price" is about and discuss how i think it fits into where we are today as a country. basically i wrote -- in 2006 i published a become called "state of war," which was about kind of the first few years of the war on terror, and the many of the abuses of power that the bush administration and the cia and other parts of the government were involved in secretly. revealed the nsa domestic spying
and talked about other aspects of what the government was doing. "pay any price pie i look at almost a sequel to" state of war. "it's more about the corruption that has come in the war on terror 15 years after 9/11. we now -- i like to -- i think the theme of this book really is that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, america thought we were going to have a search for justice or a search for retribution against the terrorists, whatever phrase you want to use, that we all felt at that moment, and 15 years later it's become a search for cash and a search for power, and a lot of people who have found that the war on terror is presented enormous opportunities for them, and have taken full advantage of it.
the war on terror has become a permanent state of being for the united states, and we have this sense of an endless war that we are paying for in hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars, and so what i tried to reveal in "pay any price" is to turn over the rock, lift up the rock and show you what is really going on behind that. the economic and financial side of the war on terror and the degree to which people are making a lot of money based on the war on terror, and people in the government who have used it to increase their power or status. so i think it's both financial and status and power, are all kind of wrapped up into different motivations. one of the problems i have seen
is that we as a country have allowed fear to take hold, and so the balance that has traditionally existed between civil liberties and security has been badly skewed by the government and by the endless fear mongering over the threat of terrorism. i often try to compare this time period to the early cold war period, now known as the mccarthy era, when immediately -- in the early days of the cold war, right after world war ii, americans didn't really understand the soviet threat, and because we didn't really fully know much about the soviets as a country, we allowed fear mongering to take hold, and
it epitomized by senator joseph mccarthy's paranoid witchhunts against people. and it increased that sense of fear increased the demands for greater involvement in foreign wars, like vietnam, and i think today -- in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we had a similar -- we have had a similar period of fear-mongering because we have the sense that we don't really understand the terrorist threat, and it's similar in some ways to our failure to understand the soviet threat in the late '40s and early '50s, and because we as a country don't fully understand the muslim world or what is happening among islamic radicals, we have allowed ourselves to treat them as an abstraction and when you treat something that important as an abstraction it becomes very easy
to conduct fear-mongering about that. if you have -- there's very few americans, even today, 15 years later, who could probably tell you the difference between shia and sunni, or tell you what are the belief systems behind some of the terrorist organizations or even the radical organizations. so i think that's real problem, the lack of knowledge in the united states has made the country's public opinion on these issues easily mallable, and i think that is at the heart why into many people have taken advantage of the war on terror and extend and it make sure it doesn't end. so, i think that's kind of the point of the book, and what i try to do in the book is show a number of examples, and i think one of the -- my favorite
examples in the book about the waste and financial abuse that has taken place relates to the bush administration's decision to airlift almost $20 billion in cash to iraq in the years after the invasion of iraq. it was a -- one of the most astounding stories i found, and the more i dug into it, the less you can tell why anybody ever thought it was a good idea at the time. in 2003 and 2004, the bush administration, cooperating with the coalition provisional authority, which was created by the bush administration, to run iraq, airlifted u.s. currency, large ballots of cash,
$100 bills, of between -- i think it the cash was $14 billion in hundred dollar bills, and flew it all to iraq, and then they, through electronic transfer sent another 5 billion, and almost -- more than half of it disappeared. and that didn't mean it was all stolen. it meant that it was possibly unaccounted for or disappeared or had been wasted. and what i describe in the book is how the -- finally, after people just ignored this issue for years and years, that the special inspector general for iraq, stewart bowen, and his office, finally began to investigate what happened, and they tracked down almost $2 billion of the cash to a bunker in lebanon in a small village in lebanon, where it had clearly been transported from
baghdad and was being hidden by powerful people who had basically stolen it, and what bowen found that no one in the u.s. government or the iraqi government wanted to to do anything about it, and wanted to basically just let the secret lie there, and it to me -- the secret bunker in lebanon became, as i said in the book, a better monument to the american enterprise in iraq than the toppling of saddam's statue in 02003 that became the iconic image of the early days of the war. so, i'd be happy to take questions from anyone. maybe that would be the best way to go? >> sure. >> anybody have questions?
-- the story of bowen and his findings, but was surprised andtive appointed that -- disappointed that congress did very little about this. >> right. >> there was attention from public media, and you did some work on this, and in addition there seemed to be very little attention paid to the information that came forth from some whistle-blowers, other than the attempts of the administration to try to -- >> right. >> i wonder if you can talk about the context of all of this and why this happened. >> about whistle-blowers in general? >> well, -- [inaudible] --
>> i think the problem with this story is that it's very inconvenient, and by the time that bowen found the bunker, obama was in office, and he discovered this kind of at a moment where obama wanted nothing further to do with iraq, and nobody in -- everybody in america was fed up with thinking about iraq and wanted to make it all go away so i think it's one of those cases where there was a collective sense of amnesia about iraq in the united states. i also think that the -- even before that, the bush administration was -- the first few years of the iraq war were so chaotic and so incompetent, that no one wanted to go back and try to figure out in any meaningful way what happened in
the first few years of the iraq war, because that would open this pandora's box before all of the thing -- about all of the things that happened in iraq, and it's really remarkable, as the country that we haven't gone back to investigate virtually anything that happened in iraq. i mean, people focus on how there hasn't been any investigation of torture, but we have also done nothing to, like, learn the lessons of what happened in iraq or afghanistan. and i think that's crippled, in my opinion, the military's ability to learn from their mistakes itch think there was a great new book by someone who served in afghanistan recently, and he said one of the problems was you had one year deployments for units and you were there for one year. there was very little, like,
institutional memory, and as he put it, he says we haven't forth one war in afghanistan for ten years. we fought ten wars one year at a time. that really true.the entire war on terror. there's been very little institutional memory building or lessons learned, and when one -- for instance, the only attempt on a large scale of that was the development of a new counterinsurgency strategy in the late bush administration, and that really was a -- the problem with that was it didn't really resolve -- it never was designed to resolve what was really at the heart of the problem in iraq, which was the political situation, and so we had these isolated lessons learned. like, okay, this is the better
way to do, you know -- to fight an insurgent group, but if you don't couple that with any kind of political settlement or recognizing that terrorism is a political act or that insupersis -- insurgeon sis are developed because of basic political problem, then you'll keep repeating the problem. that's what has happened and that's why isis is here today, because the united states and the iraqi government have failed to deal with the disenfranchisement of the sunni population of iraq. and now we are using shia groups, iraqi see ya groups, to fight isis, when in fact one of the ropes why isis was able to gain support among the sunnis of iraq was because of the shiite death squads in the sunni areas. so i think the basic problem is
that we have failed to hold anyone accountable for almost anything, and we have not tried to learn any real lessons. we keep just think that you can kill your way out of the war on terror by killing the number three guy in al qaeda. i've always joked that there's been -- we have killed the number three guy in al qaeda 25 times, and that doesn't seem to solve the problem, but nobody wants to admit that. >> first i want to say how much i respect you for standing up to the powers that be, that basically would take on anything like what you're talking about. that take ease norm mouse courage and i'm sure you have been put through the coals for what you have been writing back. >> thanks. >> the second thing i'd like to
ask you is, if you had solutions -- we know what the problems are, but seems to me like actions don't have any consequences. in other words, there's no accountability. >> right. >> whether you can put that on who is at the top, who is in congress, whoever the people are -- it seems like we have the inspector generals that go and present information and that's the end of it. nothing happens. that's it and it's done with. >> right. >> so i'd be interested to hear what you learn in that department. >> yeah. that's an excellent question that i've struggled with myself. i'm basically a journalist and i write things. don't try to solve problems. but i can offer my observations about what i think -- how i think it might happen, and i think it really gets down to -- politicians respond to political pressure, and they -- if the
american people said, we're fed up with the war on terror, then it would end, and i think they have been -- the politicians and policymakers have been very good in the last few years of keeping the cost and casualties low, and so with the use of drones, which is kind of become the signature weapon of the war on terror -- you have -- and you don't have a draft, so you have an all-volunteer army and you primarily use -- heavily rely on drones and airstrikes, and so it's -- if you're an american, you can look at this war and see that it's got a very low casualty rate and you can say, you know, we have this great fear of terrorism, and this is a low-cost war, and so that is -- i think the calculation a lot of americans make in saying, well,
i'm going to continue to support it because it's got low casualties for us and i'm very afraid of isis or whatever. part of that has to do with the fear-montherring i'm talking about. isis is essentially a group built that founded in the ashes of the chaos of iraq after our invasion. a saab any organization create as al qaeda in iraq that was part of the insurgency that grew up after our invasion upset the sunni power structure in iraq and created a new government that was dominated by shia, and so we created -- we overturned the entire social structure of iraq without realizing it. we thought we were just going to
oust saddam hussein but we overturned the entire structure by changing the ethnic makeup of the elite and the power structure in iraq, and we are living with the consequences of that but nobody really wants to deal with that basic political issue, and so we continue to look at it as a counterterrorism issue rather than a political issue. >> drew think this game of terrorism is whack-a-mole, and we'll take out one and do a good job on, there will always be another because of what other groups 'think can be accomplished and just wait figure their opportunity. >> until we deal with the underlying political problems, there's going to be insurgeon --
insurgent sis. by taking out heads of groups we slow them down, certainly, burt i think we have been lulled -- the military and political leaders have been lulled into thinking that's the be-all and end-all of what we should be doing in terms of counterterrorism. think counterterrorism is not going to work without a basic political involvement in changing the politics of the region, and in particular today in iraq. syria is now devolved so far into chaos it's difficult to do much about that, but isis will not survive if in a stable -- politically stable iraq, and that is to me the most important
thing we have to do, is find a way to develop a sunni-shia political coalition in iraq that will reduce the willingness of sunnis, especially in anbar province, to support isis, and we -- i think that we are missing the -- we have not made that the priority that it should be, because you can kill individual -- we have shown we can kill a lot of individual terrorists, or insurgents, in afghanistan as well, but we have failed to do will the underlying political problems we create it of our invasion of iraq, and we failed to deal with the underlying mitt cal problems in afghanistan. the pashtun in southern afghanistan feel disenfranchised by the -- was the karzai government, now the gani government which they see as being dominate bid the northern alliance which we brought into
power in 2001, and so it's again a balancing act. how do we get the pashtun more involved and less inclined to support the taliban when the basic problem that we have ignored for years is the corruption in kabul of the government we created. so i think those are the -- if you -- my point is it you try something for 15 years and doesn't work, you might want to try something else, and i just think we got to do this smarter than -- it's not -- to me it's a moral issue but also how to do this in a smarter way. >> would you comment on the economic side that the geopolitics played in the original invasion. >> the geopolitics of oil?
>> oil. >> well, that's been the issue for iraq for -- since the first gulf war. i think now we can look back and say that we really are in a 25-year war with iraq. we starting in 1990, with saddam's invasion of kuwait, we have been militarily involved in iraq almost continue continuously. you forget you hat no-fly zones that continued the air force's involvement and the navy's involvement in enforcing the no-fly zones. so if you have been at war with one country for 25 years off and on, there has to be some fundamental reason for it. and i think -- i don't believe
in conspiracy theories but i also believe that there are basic factors behind major events. one of the basic factors behind america's continuing interest in iraq is oil and energy policy. doesn't mean that there weren't other reasons why we invaded iraq at different points, but certainly the basic reason for the first gulf war was that iraq invaded kuwait. why did iraq inavoid kuwait? because it had been involved in a lengthy war with iran, had gone broke, and it wanted to get kuwait to relieve its debt and also wanted to take over its oil. and so oil has been in the background of all of the major things that have happened in the
various war wes have had in iraq. the question is always -- it's like a long marriage. we have had this weird obsession and fixation with iraq for 25 years, and now after so much time, it's difficult to unspool everything. it's like if you have an argument with your wife that goes on for a couple years do you remember how it started in you don't really. >> you made some good points about how we have not fought the war on terror the way that it should have been done. i'll wait for the train. train -- [whistle] >> could you talk some about what you think the signs of the
risk is that posed to the west and to the u.s. by terror right now that we have to think about, are these long tsa check-in lines and airports that there have been -- some of the points that trump has made about how he will take the oil back. but as you look at things, just how much at risk are we now and does that mean overplayed. >> it's definitely overplayed. the terrorism risk is not as bad as in my opinion, as the political leadership of the country has made it out to be, and i think one of the problems is that there has become -- as i
was talking about before, fear-mongering has made it very easy to turn this into an abstraction because so few people understand what is driving these islamic groups. i think here it's very easy for politicians to play games, political games, with the issue. and so i think what you first have to realize is that this is not an existential threat to the united states. there's no -- isis and these other groups do not have the power to fundamentally change anything about the united states. what they can do is minor damage. they can take -- have relatively small attacks, and so that is --
i think we have to put into context as a country how much are we willing to change ourselves and our society for -- to counter something that is really not a fundamental threat to us. i don't want to downplay the logs of life in various terrorist attacks. it's always a tragedy. but the question really is, what is the -- what do we as a country -- how much too we want to change ourselves, transform our society to deal with this? and i don't think anybody -- we have not really had a good debate about that. no one has thought it through and we just keep allowing these incremental changes to happen, like tsa, without thinking about the loss that we are giving up
of privacy or civil liberties to deal with a threat that we don't really fully understand and we haven't informed ourselves enough about. and so i think that is my basic problem, is that we have allowed fear-mongering to get the better of ourselves. >> you said how people have used the war on terror to enhance their status or power. i wonder if you could talk more about that. >> i think if you look at some of the real abuses of power that have happened in the war on terror, you look at the nsa, which was an agency that really has been totally transformed by
the war on terror. it was an agency at the time of 9/11 that was outward looking, was a component of foreign intelligence virtually all of its electronic surveillance was foreign, and today 15 years after 9/11, it has become a large deck surveillance organization -- large domestic surveillance organization on a scale never seen before in the united states. that has taken advantage of the growth of the digital footprint of americans' lives, the social media and all of the things -- credit cards and everything we do now electronically that we didn't even do ten or 15 years ago, and has grandee grandee nom mouse -- gained enormous pour,
and that's a classic example of how kind of incrementally and without much debate an agency can just completely transform itself and gain enormous power. one of the -- my favorite chapters in the book, i talk about a woman named dianne roark who was a whistleblower at the nsa. she was a house intelligence committee staffer in charge of oversight of the nsa at the time of 9/11, and she found out secretly about the nsa's domestic spying program that began after 9/11, and thought it was a rogue operation and she started going around to everyone she knew in the government to try to warn people that it existed. and she slowly to her horror, realized that all of the people she was going to already knew
about it and were all keeping the secret, and she was like this lone person trying to fight against this secret group of government officials, and unfortunately then she became the subject of an fbi investigation for her efforts to conduct -- do this whistle whistle-blowing so that's the kind of power imbalances that happen in the government. >> you mentioned whistle-blowers. to piggy back off that, what have you noticed about the effect of the war on terror on the press? has been we have to rally around the flag, our country right or wrong? and getting all this information
and the know my browser hoyt so i better keep my head down and my mouth shut. >> yeah. that's happened to me. the press has been under enormous pressure during the war on terror, and it's become more and more difficult to do aggressive investigative reporting because of the crackdown on leaks, and i think that this crackdown on leaks is part of this larger growth of the national security state since 9/11, where as the classified world expands, the government wants to keep it secret, and we in the press -- our job is to try to find out what the government is doing, and so increasingly we bump up against what -- against classified information because
there's so much more of it now. everything is classified. and so the government has tried to target us and whistle-blowers and that has led to severe pressure on the press. we in the press make mistakes all the time, but i think one of the things that -- the function we really perform is in this era when there's so much fear-mongering, is a said before going on, we're one of the few institutions that can try to bring out the truth about what is happening, and so the pressure on us from the government is really damaging to the ability of the american people to find out the truth about what is going on in the war on terror. >> can i interject a quick question?
>> sure. >> for 50 years, most of my life, the israeli-palestinian conflict was seen as the fuse around all the other time bombs in the middle east, and that seems to have changed, and -- or there -- are is there still a core of that and the other thing is, what about saudi arabia? they armed all these people and funded them. >> those are two very good questions. you're right, for a long time people thought that if we just debt with the palestinian-israeli issue, that would solve -- be the key to up locking the problem -- unlocking the problems. it certainly still is important, but the other problems have grown so complex that it's difficult today to see that as the be-all and end-all of the middle east settlement anymore.
i think the -- we have basically got a cold war in the middle east going on between sunnies and shia. on one side saudi arainways leading the sunni -- arabia is leading the sunni countries, arab countries and iran is leading the shia ethnic shia population. traditionally, throughout most of islamic history, as i understand it, sunni -- the sunnis were dominant in the muslim world. now with discovery throw of saddam hussein and a new shia government in iraq, that upset the soon me world, led by saudi arabia, because they see it as enhancing the power of iran, and it's those two -- that dynamic which has really altered the
entire region. that's the basic political change we create with our invasion of iraq, that we, by turning iraq from sunni dominated to shia dominated, we upset the geopolitical balance of the region, i argue and that has led to a new cold war between the saudi arabia and iran, and that is kind of running in parallel to the problems of the palestinians and the israelis. so it's added a whole nuther lay of completionplexty to the geopolitical aspects of the region. >> what do you think the effect of our response to global
warming, not just the droughts in the area, hour it's -- but the fact that we're now oil producers and not as dependent? you said earlier that oil was basically sort of the seed for a lot of these troubles, and presumably we'll be less dependent because we'll have more solar power and all that. >> right. >> the other question has to do with the way we really handled the cold war, seems to be through containment. george tenet was very immersed in the russian culture and understood its weaknesses and understand what was going on there we don't have a george kenyan right now and we need some sort of philosophy, whether it's a peace corps approach, a social approach, rather than military, or some sort of other
type of maybe not -- more efficient way of dealing with it. >> right. >> get to the hearts and minds of people rather than bombing them. >> yes. that's a great point. one of the things i think about is that we have kind of taken the position that the british had in the world in the 19th 19th century. the british really controlled an enormous empire in the late 19th century, and they did it for a long time, and they maintained -- they went beyond just wars. they actually governed a lot of these areas, and we have, i think, shied away from trying to take over a governance role in the regions we have occupied because we look at that as imperial. imperialism. which it is, and so we have this kindf