tv After Words with Senator Mitch Mc Connell CSPAN July 1, 2016 1:30pm-2:31pm EDT
>> c-span: created by cable american television companies and provided by your cable provider. >> afterwards is next on the book tv with senator mitch mcconnell who talks about his life and politics with senator lamar alexander . >> this is a book about a shy boy who grew up in alabama, overcame polio, was inspired by henry clay at the university of louisville to become a senator, did and then set out to become the majority leader of the united states senate and did but mitch, i have a confession to make. when i was asked to do this your was what i thought. how can anyone get mitch mcconnell to talk for an hour? because in your own book you point out that you only the press when it's to your advantage.
you talk about a time when bill gates came in to see you and the two of you just sat there and people are uncomfortable waiting for one of you to speak and your account someone once told resident george w. bush that you were excited over certain boat and he said really? how can you tell so why so few words? >> guest: i'm not afraid of talking but i found i learned a lot more by listening so frequently i start out listening and think about what i want to say before i do it. i think it's fair to say that i'm in an era of trump, probably a very different approach to commenting on public affairs. >> are not the first one. i remember the late bob novak used to say the hardest interview he ever had on meet the press was with senator mike manziel because he asked him a question and he'd say
you and he asked him another one and he say no and he run out of questions and the easiest one was hubert humphrey. one question and he talked for 30 minutes before you don't get in trouble for what you don't say and i think there's nothing wrong with being cautious about your comments. i certainly don't mind talking but i usually like to know what i'm talking about. before i ventured down that path. >> you're not so cautious in your book. there's been a lot of unexpected material and there's polio, will talk about that, his fight with vicki mcgrew. your vote for lyndon johnson in 1964 over civil rights and then, when it gets to professor obama and senator harry reid, your democratic counterparts and the senate conservative fund, you don't hold back there and i think most people would be surprised to learn that you are an all-american tailgater at the university of louisville, will talk about
that why don't we start with polio? it's 1944. or two years old. door living with your mom and five point alabama and the doctor, your dad is a season the war and the doctor says mitch has polio. it's hard today to imagine how terrifying those words must have been for parents then. >> guest: absolutely and i subsequently learned it was a serious epidemic in 1944 all over the country. and the disease is very, very unpredictable. some people, first you would have the flu. you would think you have the flu. and a couple of weeks later, some people would be completely normal. a couple weeks later, some people would be an iron long or dead . in my case, it affected my left quadriceps, the muscle between your knee and your thigh. and in one of the great contortions of my life, this
little crossroads, five point alabama, there was not even a stoplight there. where my mother, as you indicated was living with her sister while dad was overseas fighting the germans . it happened to be 60 miles on warm springs . and roosevelt, having gone there himselfin the 20s , >> host: because he had polio before he did. he got it at age 39, completely paralyzed below the waist area. >> host: what your mother had no way of knowing if you might be like the president, completely paralyzed before not completely but what they predicted, theworst-case scenario for me would have been a brace on my leg . and so i didn't have as severe acase as president roosevelt had . what's imagine i'm two years old. two years old, you know what kids are like. my mother took me over to warm springs, they talked for
a physical therapy regimen and told her to administer it four times a day and to keep me off myfeet . so she literally watched me like a hawk for two years. every waking moment. and try to convey to me the subtle message, they didn't want me to think i couldn't walk but ishouldn't walk , a very subtle message. >> host: how do you keep a two-year-old from walking? that's what two-year-olds do before she wants me every minute and prevented me from prematurely walking . obviously, she told me that years later. my first memory in life was the last visit to warm springs. where they told my mother i was going to be okay, that i'd be able to walk without a and we stopped in a shoe store in lagrange for john the way back to alabama. i had to get a pair of low top shoes which were kind of a symbol that i was going to have a normal childhood and i did have a normal childhood.
>> host: and you are for. >> guest: at this point, that's went on for two years, she walked me like a hawk. >> host: what an amazing ... you got a chapter in yourbook called resilience. i guess resilience must come from that . >> guest: if impressions being made on us at a really early age are as significant as some people think, it sure had to have one on me which was that if you stick through something, keep working at it and giving it your best, the chances are you may actually overcome whatever problem you currently have. >> guest: >> host: doyou have any problems today? >> guest: the quadricep is more important going downstairs and up . i'm not great at going downstairs but i've had a perfectly normal life. when i was a kid i wasn't good at running longdistances that i could play baseball . it doesn't have the kind of back and forth like basketball does. >> host: let's move on to dykema group. your father encourage you to
have a fistfight with vicki mcgrew. >> guest: he didn'tencourage me, i had no choice. this was a situation i was about seven, we lived in athens alabama . and i had a friend across the street named the mcgrew was a-year-old or that i was in considerably bigger. he was also a bully and he kept pushing me around. and my dad wasn't working in the yard one day and he saw that, again, he had seen it before. he called me over and he said son, i've been watching the way he's been pushing you around and i want you to go over there and i want you to beat him up. i said that, he's older than i am and bigger than i am and he said i'm older than he is and bigger than he is given what this would some say hobson's choice i chose dickie. i went across the street and started swinging and i beat him up and bend his glasses and it was an incredible lesson in standing up to bullies and i thought about that throughout my life at critical moments when people are trying to push you around
. >> host: you so you got a chapter on standing her ground. >> guest: yes. >> host: let's jump ahead to kentucky, university of louisville people looking at c-span might wonder what senators talk about while there on the floor. if there watching you, the chances are you're talking about the universityof louisville sports program . before i get to that, your honors thesis was an senator henry clay . >> guest: the compromise of 1850. >> host: that inspiredyou to be a us senator? >> guest: i got interested in politics in school. i ran for president of the student body in high school , of eight high school, a very contentious race. >> host: you said you were hook. >> guest: i was. [laughter] so i began to follow politics. i remember at 814 when the conventions, the coverage of conventionswas really dull . they put us on the podium and
listened to all the speeches on tv. >> host: there was a big unit radio and we sit there and listen to the whole thing. >> guest: pretty boring you may have been doing this too but i thought i was the only 14-year-old . maybe you were watching too. watching those things from gavel to gavel so i began to try to practice this craft and see if i could get good at it and i ran for president of student council at college to and that law school and play was the most famous politician in kentucky. >> host: what about clay inspired you most? >> guest: well, the fact that he and not terribly significant state some would argue had become a major statesman.
in kentucky, people focused on clay so i wanted to learn more about him so ...! >> host: but he was known for crafting compromise which today is a dirty word to some people. >> guest: but absolutely essential, the constitution is full of compromises and uni in our daily lives and do it every single day in order to make the senate function . so i did my senior thesis on henry clay and the compromise of 1850 and continue to follow him as a lot of aspiring kentucky politicians do. >> host: there was another aspect of the university of louisville and that's its athletic programs.describe your tailgatingschedule . >> guest: well, football is an important part of life. >> host: but you take it pretty seriously before i do. i have about 12 season tickets every year, i have
regulars, one goes back to college and we go to every home game and an occasional away game. we make a day of it. we go out early, warm up, he has an rv in the parking lot and talk about what will happen in the game and then we go to the game and we talk about what did happen in the game and it's a complete lengthy exercise and one of the great joys of life. >> host: let's jump ahead a little bit. we're talking about the early 1960s when you were at the university of louisville. you and i both go to washington, we each realize in a green mustang and you worked for senator marlo cook from kentucky, i worked for howard baker and i can remember in 1969 editor baker saying to me you need to go over and meet that smart young legislative aide from marlo cook, mitch mcconnell. but let's go back to louisville. in louisville you lead a march or part of a march on
the capital about civil rights. you were in washington as i was to hear martin luther king's speech in august 1963, the i have a dream speech. you had goldwater come the university of louisville because you were president of the college republicans but you voted for lyndon johnson in 1964, what happened? >> guest: i think the civil rights movement was the defining if you are a generation and in 62, i was fortunate enough when i was college republican president, goldwater accepted in invitation to come to you about, it was terrific. in the summer of 63, people like you and myself got to see the i have a dream speech and that 64 i was an intern at senator cooper's office, two important things happened and 64. we broke the filibuster, the civil rights bill that
senator cooper was in the middle of breaking a filibuster and we nominated barry goldwater, one of the few people to vote against the civil rights bill. i was mad as hell about it and i was so irritated about goldwater voting against the civil rights bill and kind of defining the republican party in a way that i thought would be unfortunate that i voted for lyndon johnson which in retrospect was a huge mistake. [laughter] but it was a protest, a protest vote and . >> host: that feeling carried over into your senate base. you voted, when president reagan vetoed the section on south africa for apartheid, you voted not to override his veto. >> guest: i voted to override it. >> host: you voted to override which most republicans did not do. >> guest: i felt that reagan, who was roundly ignored by people like you and me, who was simply wrong about
whether or not south africa sanctions could work, i know there are people who think sanctions never work, occasionally they do. they worked in south africa, they worked in burma read a couple years later and i thought reagan was wrong and i did vote to override his veto. >> host: you mentioned burma. how do you get interested in yanks on sunday, that was an extraordinary thing that lasted over 20 years. iremember you watching you stand up and make speeches on the senate floor, i wondered what you were doing. >> guest: i started following her after she won the nobel peace prize in 91 . and for listeners who are not familiar with her, she , her father was sort of the founder, the modern burma but he didn't live very long. he got assassinated. she went off to europe and went to school, lived in the united states for a while, married a guy from britain.
her two sons had gone back to britain in 1998 to care for her sick mother. when this movement started and she was sort of thrust into the leadership. the military, which had run the country since the early 60s decided to have a free and fairelection and got creamed . and their reaction of getting creamed in a free and fair election was to arrest all the people who got elected and put her under house arrest in his own house where she remained most of the time for 21 years so we would flip notes to each other over the years and i offered along with some others, a burma sanctions bill that actually ultimately made a difference and ... >> host: you visitor her, did you not a long time ago? >> guest: amazingly enough, the regime began to crumble and in 2011, we were able to
talk on the phone and i actually went to burma in january 2012 and got to see her in person and invite her to come to the university of louisville later that year and she didcome in september 2012 . and now she's leader of the country, even though the constitution prohibits anyone who's married to a foreigner or who has been married to a foreigner to be president. but it was done actually to keep her from being president. she's de facto president, she put in a president who is a close ally. >> host: you mentioned the mcconnell center at the university of louisville, what is it? >> guest: it's a scholarship program for the best and brightest kids that i started about 25 years ago. you have to be from kentucky
and there are 10 each year, 10 freshmen, 10 sophomores, 10 juniors, 10 seniors and so it's designed to try to compete with ivy league schools and to get sharper kids to stay in kentucky for education, believing that if they say they're they're more likely to stay there after school. 70 percent of graduates have chosen to stay in kentucky where most of the shark it go off to the east to school never come back. what i do is bring in speakers and we've had some great onesover the years , hillary clinton was there while she was secretary of state and joe biden been there while he was vice president, chief justice roberts had been there and it's not only for the 40 get to be privately with where the speaker is but they address a larger public audience while they're there. >> host: let's switch to politics, something you like to discuss and something you are good at. your undefeated, you on races in kentucky, 12 counting
primaries. let's talk about the first one, bloodhound commercials. you were, i think all of us, the united states senate are political. not all of us will admit it but all of us are and you certainly were. you were 30 points behind. >> guest: in july of the election-year. >> host: bloodhound dad, what was that? >> guest: it was a desperate situation. roger ailes who is now well-known ... >> host: how do you find rodriguez? >> guest: in those days he was doing political consulting, doing commercials . >> host: he was willing to take on somebody in a democratic state was 30 points behind before he had a couple quiet he thought were going to win that year and me . i appreciated the fact he was willing to take me on but this is a tough competitor, you can see how he started seeing this for nbc and started fox4nownews.com rupert murdoch. here's the situation. it was july of the election. i was down ...
>> host: 1984. >> guest: i was down 18 points. i had a meeting in louisville and i said roger, is this race over? here's what he said. he said i've never known anybody to come behind this late to win but i don't think it's over. a very competitive guy. i was running against a pretty smart democratic incumbent who didn't have a lot of obvious vulnerabilities. we were looking for some kind of issue, a needle in haystack if you will and it turned out, thiswas back in the honoraria days , the guy didn't have any problem with people making speeches with for money but he had been making speeches for money while he was missing both on the set for so ailes turn that in to a couple of ads featuring a kentucky hunter type person what bloodhounds and looking for collison to get him back to work and it electrified the campaign, got
people interested in it, got people talking about it and then there was a sequel later where we had. [laughter] it looked like him, actor who was being chased by the dogsand ended up up in a tree . and the key line there was, we've got you now area they would treat him right at the end, not exactly a landslide. one book precinct. 4/10 of one percent. but there was a way of looking at it, even though reagan carried 49 to 50 states we lost two seats in the senate and he was the only democratic incumbent senator in the whole country that year to lose. >> host: i think your democratic opponents next time would say your method of campaigning which is to smash in and out before they get started . probably, and i'm just guessing, your toughest campaign was the last one, 2014 because you had to senate conservatives coming at you from the right, you had harry reid coming at you from the left and it was a
pretty big brawl but you started right out by an ad that called your republican opponent, now the governor of kentucky bailout kevin. >> guest: even i witnessed the result in 2010 and 2012. >> host: i was glad all the attention was on you. >> guest: the senate conservatives allies had basically cost us five races. in 2010 and 2012. by nominating people who couldn't win. so at the beginning of 2014, i said not only in my own race butother races , were not going to let that happen anymore and so what we did, not only in my race but other races around the country, we got the most electable people nominated. basically took them on because if you're dealing with a group of people who think compromises dirty word
and always want to make a point but never make a difference, the only thing to do if you want to win the election is to beat them so we on every primary including my own and as you indicated, my primary opponent was a pretty credible guy. the next year he got elected governor of kentucky but in my primarycarry two out of 120 counties . >> host: you say take them on, it's like that fight with dickie mcgrew. that's one of your top age, josh holmes said this in 2013. the senate conservatives fund has been wandering around the countrydestroying the republican party like a drunk tears ofevery bar they walk in . you reference this cycle is they stroll in the mitch mcconnell barn , he's not going to throw you out. he's going to lock the door. those are pretty fighting words. >> guest: i think that needed to be done and as a result, if you look at 2014, the more as a result of that approach not only in my race but several others, we took the senate back.
we had the most electable candidates on the november ballot everywhere. >> host: let's cross the aisle and talk about the senate democratic leader harry reid. you and i read senator bob bennett funeral three days ago and you and senator reid bothspoke and he said what i've often heard both of you say , that people think mitch mcconnell and i don't like each other we are good friends there it you say in your book you are friends with harry reid. but then you say he's got a jekyll and hyde personality, when reid hears that he says your classless and you like donald trump are think women are dogs and pigs. you say, not in your book but you said other places that he may be worse majority leader so the senate is a place of relationships and what about this relationship to the democratic and republican leaders? are you friends? are you not? >> guest: i've been very public about a couple of things about harry and number one, i didn't like the way he
shut the senate down and prevented people from voting. i didn't like the way he ran the senate and i think his public rhetoric is frequently very inappropriate. so i don't think ... >> host: like what? >> guest: the example you just mentioned. a few weeks before we were taping this,he took all donald trump's outrageous comments and attributed them to me . i don't do that to him. but i don't think there's any equivalence here but nevertheless, i think to a lot of people it looks like we are feuding all the time area we are feuding all the time. we have to talk on a daily basis. i do have vehemently objected to the way he ran the senate and my goal in this current majority is to be as different in every way from harry and the way he ranthe previous majority .
in other words, i'm trying to do everything totally different so i do object to the way he ran the senate and i do object to this inflammatory rhetoric like calling alan greenspan a political hack area alan greenspan may be many things but a political hack he certainly isn't. calling george w. bush a loser were saying the iraq war is lost right in the middle of a major military exercise there so i can't fail to express my objection to that kind of rhetoric which is frequently flat out wrong. >> host: let's take one other person. you talked about the senate conservatives fund. you write about senator reid ergo you have a chapter entitled professor obama. why don't you choose those words? >> guest: the president is a very smart guy i think he knows a lot about a lot of things.
i think he would do a better job of dealing with others if you would spend less time trying to equate whoever he's talking to at the moment with his brilliance and more time listening. just to draw a contrast between the president and vice president i've been in a number of major deals with the vice president that were important for the country. he doesn't spend any time trying to convince me of things he knows i don't believe and i don't spend any time trying to convince him of things you go that he doesn't believe in other words, you don't waste any time at all that we get down to figure out what we can do together because he knows how far i can go and iknow how far you can go . i think the president would be better off. he's a brilliant guy, he's a successful in his political career, rising quickly to the top inamerican politics . but i don't think these sort of incessant lectures are very helpful in getting an
outcome if you are in some kind of negotiation. >> guest: >> host: let's talk about divided government, you talked about that a lot and expressed her disappointment that you and the president haven't been able to accomplish more together because i heard you say that divided government is the time when you do hard things because you spread the responsibility around. now, democrats say about you that you said early on that your main goal is to make president obama a oneterm president . i heard you say that you made a speech early on, it's time to go to work on entitlements and offer a hand to do that and you never heard back from anybody so useful is it that we haven't taken advantage of this seven years of divided government? >> guest: obviously i have a point of view on that. on the one term president, i
admire bob woodward who was the only major reporter in town that reported the rest of what i said after that. >> host: which was? >> guest: that in the meantime we had plenty of work to do and we had to look for ways we can work together . that was convenientlysnipped off by almost everyone . but i think divided government is probably the only time you can do big, transformative things. i'll give you a poor example. reagan and bone meal raise the age for social security. reagan and tip o'neill did the last comprehensive tax reform. bill clinton and the republican congress did welfare reform and balance the budget three years in a row. big stuff. arguably, none of that could have been done in unified government. the give you an example of when unified government could produce a big outcome, george w. bush had just been
reelected in2004, yes all of us tackle social security . i was number two in our conference at that time and i spent ayear trying to get any democrats , any democrats, even joe lieberman, the most reasonable democrat to join with us and their attitude was, you have a white house, you have the house, you have the senate. you want to do something on social security, you do it. what that means is, we will see you in the next election so my big disappointment with barack obama is there are two things that have to be done to save america. from the path we're headed. entitlements eligibility changes. in other words, you have to change the eligibility for very popular things like medicare and social security . to fit the demographics of america tomorrow.
tax reform in any other way other than getting additional revenue to the government. these transformative issues we have been unable to address because the nation's ceo doesn't want to do it. >> host: the best example of when we did do that was civil rights in the 60s, when we were working for senator baker, and in and out of democrats, get enough votes to get 67 which is what it then took to end debate or cloture and they did that because of their special
relationship. john sherman cooper as a youngster signing the voting rights act in 1965 when you had a conversation with lucy. >> i saw lucy in 2008. i had never met her. and lucy, we have never met but it was in this very room when your dad signed the voting rights act in 1965, nobody knew i was there. i was in back of the room, spent a few more hours there. daddy said to me, witness something important and explain on the way down the hill who will be prominently featured in his remarks and the reason, why would you have a republican
there? she said president johnson said to her not only did most of the republicans vote for it, but the nation will be more likely to accept it if they think we have done this together. defending why she was there in 1965. >> host: they had a relationship, senator baker used to tell me about the time he heard his father in law take a phone call in his office and heard dirksen say i can't have a drink with you tonight. i did that last night, 30 minutes later there was a russell outside and two beagles came in followed by the president of the united states. lyndon johnson said if you won't come down and have a drink with me i am here to have one with you and they disappeared in the back room of the same office for the civil rights bill where it
was written so that relationship precedes divided government. let's talk about the senate as an institution, you alluded to it earlier. you said your main goal is to restore the senate as an institution. you are something of a historian, you went on to the floor before you were majority leader and said you wanted to run the senate the way senator mike mansfield did, 16 years at the time we came, what did you mean by that? >> guest: we were talking about this earlier. first of all you have to open the senate up. last year of the previous majority, only 15 rollcall votes the entire year. the first year of the new majority in 2015 we had 200. the open the senate up, let people vote. number 2, when we talk about
regular order, most people don't know what that means. it means a bill actually worked on together comes to the floor with bipartisan support and has a better chance of success. the best example i can think of that happens to be your bill that completely rewrites the no child left behind bill passed in the early bush 43 years which proved to be unworkable and unpopular and by the time you brought it out of committee you had democrats and republicans lined up, took it to the floor, relatively open for amendments, everybody got everything they wanted and in the end the past with a large majority. we have done that time after time after time under this new majority. it was great promotion for the bill which most people would
think would be easy. and internet tax moratorium, major opioid and heroin addiction bill, we are hoping to achieve something important again coming out of your committee-related to incredible cures that seemed to be around the corner for our country. what does all this have in common? at a time of divided government, things that we can agree on, do those. when people -- we know you have big government systems but why don't you look at the things you agree on and do those? that is how this majority is totally different from the previous one. >> host: i have heard you say you have to do as johnson did, give the other side credit. fixing no child left behind never would have happened to senator patty murray, leading
democrat hasn't been is interested in the result is i have by medical research but it is not a bad thing to give somebody else credit. usually you get where you want to go. working for little more than that. what is different about the senate today and what is the same? >> guest: what is different is two party labels mean something today. when you and i came to washington, conservative democrats, the two party label today are more descriptive of america's two party system, they are right to center and democrats are left of center so i think the labels work today more than they did then.
there isn't as much animosity as is portrayed in the media. the internet, 24 hour cable television, people get hammered with what they teach them in journalism school, people are way more upset about the process than they ought to be. they are legitimately upset about where they are in their lives. it is a fact the average american is $4000 a year worse off today than they were when president obama came to office so that is a legitimate complaint. the senate is not dysfunctional. it used to be. one of my great frustrations is
not many people know that. >> host: when i came to the senate as a senator i thought i knew what i was getting into but didn't realize what it was like to work in a body that operates by unanimous consent. you are the majority, but if they listen to carefully on c-span, you stand up at the end of the day and say i ask consent that the senate open tomorrow at 9:30 and we have a prayer and go to this bill and if one senator objects, one senator objects you have to start over. if you had to suggest to someone a book to read about understanding the senate, do one or two come to mind? >> guest: it would put people to sleep because the senate is
working out pretty much the way george washington predicted. according to legend he was asked when he presided over the constitutional convention what people think the senate will be like. he said he thought it would be like a saucer under the teacup and the tea would slosh out of the saucer and cool off. senators until 100 years ago were not popularly elected, they were elected by the state legislature and only a third of the senate every two years so on purpose the founders wanted the senate to be a place where the brakes could be applied pretty easily and then, over the years, as you suggest, the notion of unlimited debate empowered every single senator to have an impact. the house is like a triangle with the speaker at the top, a level playing field with the majority leader having first recognition but after that is pretty much a jump off.
stepping back from all the minutia, what should people take away about the senate? things slow down, rarely done on a strictly partisan basis unless you have a huge number of your party. >> host: the first chapter about robert caro's book on lyndon johnson, master of the senate, master of deceit too, called the desk of the senate. after the election, the engineers come in and if the democrats won more than the republicans, they are moving up to the other side to even it out. that to me is a wonderful way to think about it. the way the place works. you were married, have three daughters. the mayor of jefferson county, you were a bachelor for 13
years, and with the suggestion of a friend, telephoned the assistant for the federal maritime commission and that is how you met elaine chao who you married. that wasn't a very romantic beginning. >> guest: i befriended a couple people when i was a staffer in the senate, and single when i came to the senate and i wanted to meet somebody new so this friend from a long time ago, elaine chao, whose family was a classic example why we never want to totally curtail immigration.
>> host: tell something about her story. >> guest: her mom and dad born in mainland china, the japanese invasion of china, when they got to be a little older it was the communist revolution. they go to taiwan. they met briefly on the mainland and my father-in-law searched in taiwan for two years to find her, they got married, had three daughters, my wife elaine is the oldest but he was ambitious, wanted to do better so he came to america, three years by himself, trying to get a start in the shipping business, he had been a ship's captain in taiwan, he wanted to be more than that,
he got his start, called from a late mother in law, had enough money for an airline ticket, came over on a freighter, they were the only people with the bulk commodity, finally ended up in a small apartment in queens and kept working and ended up with six daughters, four had gone to harvard business school, and built a very successful -- that is the kind of story you see all across america which is another reason why even when we are frustrated by immigration, we were virtually all of us unless we were african-americans brought here against our will,
the sons and daughters of risk checkers so the constant renewal process we have through people who come here legally with ambition and want to accomplish 10 to be the best americans, elaine and her family -- >> i want to ask about some senators. the living one is john mccain. you and he had a big brawl over the first amendment, most people know that your first amendment view had to do with no limits on campaign finance disclosure and you voted against the constitutional amendment would have been desecration of the american flag. john mccain disagreed with you, mccain-feingold was the law that passed, that was in akron on he is battle. what is your relationship with
john mccain. >> a knockdown drag out fight over issues. it went over ten years, really pretty stressful at various points. i called him up the day after he won, one of the worst days of my life was watching a republican house and republican senate and republican president pass a bill i was opposed to, deeply opposed to. i lost to the supreme court, saw them the day after and said congratulations, you won, i lost. and we found there were a lot of other things we could work on together, became best friends and allies on a variety of things and that is the way the senate out to work. and frequently does. not sure many people in the public know that. >> do you consider john mccain an american hero?
>> absolutely. >> i would like to ask you to give me one or two sentences about each of the following united states senators, all of them deceased. henry clay. >> the great compromiser. >> lyndon johnson. >> is a senator? overrated. i think the master of the senate was mike mansfield. master of the senate. >> host: everett dirksen. >> guest: indispensable player who knew when to oppose and want to join up, unsung hero of the civil rights movement. >> host: senator john sherman cooper. >> role model, great conviction, very smart. >> host: ted kennedy.
>> guest: one of the many books about him have been written, he roller it and you and i were passionate which he was about almost everything but in many ways i think the most accomplished candidate, never got to be president, never was attorney general, in almost every way the most accomplished candidate, the most accomplished senator. >> host: we used to laugh with him about going to lincoln dinners and all you had to do was mention ted kennedy's name when i made my first speech on the senate floor about american history, he came over unsolicited, took my bill, got 20 democratic cosponsors, he knew exactly how to make the senate work.
senator robert bird. wikipedia >> guest: could have been senate historian. >> host: during the presidential campaign, chris christie got all over marco rubio for repeating himself during the debate. when i start boring myself and i know i am beginning to drive the message home. >> guest: i am one of the few people who thought marco rubio was doing the right thing in that debate. good politics is repetition. if you are trying to drive a message you have to repeat it a lot to make the point, with our colleagues. one time is not enough. you can count on not paying attention the first time. if you are really trying to make
a point, repetition is a good thing. >> host: i want to ask about a period of time and your immersions, after a few times your elected whip, the number 2 position, number 13, then a month later trent lott went to strom thurmond's birthday party, and had to resign from the leader. position you always wanted. you seem to be the logical person, took the position, and you had triple bypass surgery, what was your range of emotion? >> guest: my feeling, never was going to have an opportunity to be the leader of the party. fortunately the health problem
worked out fine. i was bypassed by someone 10 years younger than i am and have significant health problem. i wondered if i have an opportunity to have the job i had been hoping to have for quite a while. it was a challenging period but like other challenges i don't want to make my story seem unique. if you just don't quit and just keep plugging, chances are you will get where you are headed. i always tell students the only way to fail, quit or die. we all have speed bumps, we all have setbacks, do we take it off, and i got my second chance,
decide to leave the senate and got to be leader of the party i wanted to be but there was another disappointment, wasn't the majority leader, it was minority leader. >> host: you gave the blame to some of that on republican on republican violence. you talk about that quite a bit in your book, the politics of futile gesture. what do you mean by that? >> guest: why don't we shut down the government to defund obamacare? that is a futile gesture. obama is in the white house. obama is not going to sign such a bill. the politics of futile gesture is a way of describing tactical maneuvers that have no chance of success, only divide the party. and that has been a challenge.
it has been a bigger challenge in the house of representatives than the senate bill is only a couple people have that approach but it has been a challenge. on the outside you saw the actions of the senate conservatives. the way we dealt with that on the outside is to beat them in the primaries and then you don't have a nominee who comes into the senate who wins and comes into the senate with that kind of mentality thinking our job is to throw stones every day and never achieve anything. >> host: one of the disadvantages is the message you would like to deliver which is the republican majority is accomplishing, gets diluted, some republicans saying it is not. which makes it harder to elect a republican president. >> not just about messaging. we all want to do things for our country, with no matter what our backgrounds are, not everybody
but virtually everybody comes here wanting to actually accomplish things for our country and you have to deal with it with the government you have. barack obama whether i like it or not, he has been there for eight years, to suggest that we should spend 100% of our time simply fighting with him rather than trying to look for some of the things we can agree on that will make progress for the country struck me as absurd. >> host: why did you decide to write the book now? >> guest: it was becoming majority leader. after all these years. i called it the long game. it didn't happen overnight, not an overnight sensation. i thought it was a time in which the senate needed to be operated differently but it was a pivot point for the senate and i think that is the reason i chose. >> host: if there were one law
you could pass, what would it be? >> guest: i would fix the entitlement eligibility problem. the one issue that can sink the country is the unsustainable -- the way medicare and social security are crafted is unsustainable. it is the one thing that could tank our country. >> host: senators have a weekly prayer breakfast wednesday. tom daschle who had your job, and he often thinks, he wishes he was prized even more than he did the power he did, and take advantage, this incredible accidental power that you have.
ever think about that? >> guest: all majorities are fleeting. with the american people decide i could be the minority leader next year and the majority position does present a real opportunity even in a body likely senate which is difficult to make function. there are advantages setting the agenda, what we call a rider, first recognition. and you don't know how long this will last. you have to deal with the government you have. i wish obama was not president but he is. >> host: three or four minutes left. i went to -- the speech i made to senator kennedy was about encouraging the teaching of american history in school so we
can learn what it means to grow up to be an american, when a senator can do that they go to various desks, and invariably, what i want to ask you, my last question, what message would you like us to take back to our students, about the united states senate and the future of our country? >> guest: i think the senate has been the legislative body, that is the place where things are sorted out, the place where only rarely does the majority get things exactly their own way. the place where stability can occur. most people obviously don't think that.
in an era in which everybody want instant gratification, if you are looking for instant gratification, the senate would not be a good place. >> host: at a time when many americans are not optimistic about our country's future, what would you want those teachers to tell their students about their future in this country? >> guest: because of our willful ignorance of american history we always think the current period we are in is tougher than others. we have had nothing like the civil war period. we haven't had a single incident where congress from south carolina came and almost be to death one from massachusetts. america has had plenty of tough challenges. world wars, depression. this is a great country. we are going to deal with whatever our current problems
are and move on to another level. i'm just as optimistic as i ever was. this generation is going to leave behind her america than our parents left behind for us. >> host: and optimistic message from a kid who had polio and overcame it, set his sights to be in the united states senate, made it and became the majority leader after about 50 years of keeping -- you need to be careful, and senator mitch mcconnell, thank you for talking. >> c-span, created by america's cable television companies as brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> booktv recently visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they are reading
the summer. >> i just started this morning a phenomenal book called the age of discovery which talks about the renaissance, da vinci, michelangelo, columbus, 500 years ago. i'll be tumultuous events in the world that led to major opportunity and relate what is happening now. we are in an uncertain environment, so much going on, globalization, spread of technology, the internet, things can happen. and create hundreds of years of prosperity. >> host: will it take all summer? >> guest: it is 350 pages. and i share congressional writers caucus. when not reading i am writing hoping that it will be read. >> guest: >> host: booktv covered you talking about your books. is in their congressional book club? >> guest: the congressional
writers caucus, 25, 30 members of congress, both sides of the aisle just enjoy writing and we do workshops, have offers to talk about the process, creative rituals and it is a wonderfully refreshing group of members. the 19 booktv wants to know what you are reading this summer, tweet us your answer at booktv, or you can post it on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv. now joining us on booktv is chris jackson. what do you do for a living? >> guest: i am publisher, editor in chief of oneworld books. it existed 20 years ago, and reimagining, reanimating for today. >> host: what is the focus of one word? >> guest: across my career,