tv Interview with Representative Gerald Connolly CSPAN July 4, 2016 10:00am-10:31am EDT
okay. >> you mentioned bridges. i may or may not have a comment about this. very nice bicycle bridge over i 40 in southpoint shopping center. as i understand it, it is a great bridge, very expensive, 7 billion sticks in my head, don't know if that is accurate. hard to see where $7 million go. >> beauty is in the eye of the beholder. that is a disappointing bridge to me because the lines are not graceful, the transition i should say. ..
thank you very much, it's been a pleasure. [applause] >> if you would like to have your book signed or meet him, he will be over there signing books and you can get them here or take them upstairs or if you have them with you that's fine too. thank you so much for coming. i really appreciate it. [applause]
[inaudible conversation] >> this is book tv on c-span2 and we want to know what is on your summer reading list. send us your choices at @booktv is our handle. you can also posted on facebook or send an e-mail to book tv at cspan.org. what's on your summer reading list? book tv wants to know. >> congressman gerry connolly, what are you reading? >> i just finished richard reeves book on president kennedy, profile profile and power. excellent book, a delight to read. he got to be rather critical of jfk, but the maturation of this
man in his all too brief time in the oval office, nonetheless, pretty admirable. having lived through those days as a young person, it was a delight, really, to to go back and live through what kennedy did as president. >> what made you picked that up? >> i had been to a lecture at the library of congress. they have a series of presidential biographies and the last one was richard reeves with kennedy and they usually give you a copy of the book to read. i had read this book a number of years ago and i thought i wanted to read it again. i was so glad i did. it was a delight to read. >> i'm also reading jane mayer's book on dark money. that is less less of a delight to read, not because of her but
the story is about the unbelievable influence of right wing billionaire money. it's not only buying televisions and for time in front of the candidates, it's think tanks and universities and so-called citizen movements that are really fronts for very special interest with big money and she documents a very disturbing thing, i think for all americans to consider the wholesale purchase of our political life in many, many aspects by a group of determined people who have a lot of money. >> where did you get the idea for that book?
>> actually, it was sent to me here and i knew i wanted to read that someday and someday came. i'm about halfway through that and as i said, that's a less enjoyable read. >> what kind of books do you generally gravitate toward? >> let's see, my regular reading is history and biography and then public policy. for fun and a break, all read mystery and literature. i'm an old english lit major and i don't get much time to really read literature as much as i would like to let periodically i'm able to. >> your congressional district is right across the river so you don't have the long flights home for reading time. where do you go? >> i've always, my my whole
life, been a compulsive reader. if i'm waiting between events, i pick up a a book and read. if i'm traveling on an airplane, i just recently went to china so i've had a lot of read time on that flight so i was able to get a lot of reading in. it's like breathing air for me. you have to read. >> we ask your staff prior to coming over here today about some of the books you have recently read and to wear on court justices. >> yes, i have a fascination with the role of the third branch of government. in part because it gets so little scrutiny and it's sort of a myth of some terrific
priesthood that somehow sits in that big model building that looks like a greek temple and they periodically, like thunderbolt throw down words of wisdom and guidance, and that isn't how it should be. they are a branch of government and they need to be held accountable like the other two branches of government in their own way. so, i very much want to better understand who are these people who make up that court? what is the nature of their decisions? how does it impact american life? >> if you're reading a book like that and you see something you disagree with, what is your reaction? >> well, it depends on what that is. if it's sloppy, sloppy, if someone gets history wrong, it bothers me that there was no fact checking or the mistake could be that fundamental.
i remember reading a book in that category and the author got, it was a book about a president in our lifetime but it was talking about gettysburg and i got who commanded the union army at gettysburg wrong. it was a pretty fundamental heir. why didn't fact fact checkers get that and if you're a historian, why why didn't you get that? >> you ever read books that you disagree with politically? >> oh yes. craig surely, for example, is a very conservative author but i've read some of his work. i think you have to understand other points of view.
you can still learn and be informed from someone else's point of view. >> are there books that you go back to from time to time? >> i'm always reluctant to. >> reporter: a book, although i do, but, but life is so short and there is so much to read. i don't want to have to go back over ground i've already tread. >> with the reading that you do, do you ever find you can affect public policy through this knowledge or through the reading? >> yes, i do. when i was in graduate school, i took a course with a historian named ernie mae who wrote a book on the uses of history. the purpose of that force was to help illuminate how policymakers misuse history, largely through analogies. for example, lyndon johnson who
was vice president and kennedy sent them out to south vietnam to assess the situation. lyndon johnson got really taken by one of the leaders and felt he was the leader fighting against all odds and all enemies and hanging in there as this basket of democratic ideal. that leader was no such thing but that was the analogy for lyndon johnson. now what could go wrong with johnson getting that wrong? we saw what went wrong. that was in his head and when he became president, he expanded the war based on a lot of world war ii analogies that were not apt and not appropriate for the situation in america.
policymakers do it all the time. people will talk about munich and chamberlain and robert kennedy and the cuban missile crisis said they didn't want, he talked about the preemptive strike in cuba and he said i don't want my brother to be the tojo of the 19 60s, meaning a pearl harbor like strike. the uses of history actually really do matter. in many times there are hearings or markups here in the house where i will hear of somebody cite something and it's kind of fun to add to it in terms of yes, but the other part of that history is xyz. so so actually having a bit of a command of the history is very useful. >> do you share books with your colleagues? i do. >> yes, there is a group of us in formally who are constantly
sharing titles back and forth. my buddy brian from buffalo and i both love narrative history so were always trading what were reading and what's good so yes. >> are there authors that you go back to time and again? >> yes, we are all waiting for robert carol to come come out with new books -- robert caro -- so there are books like that. i remember when william manchester finished his serial
viagra fee of churchill and i couldn't wait for that come out and read it. yes, there are some authors like that. that's kind of fun to have a group of us waiting for that book that were all anticipating to finally hit the market. i think it's a little bit of an adult version of how kids felt about the harry potter series, waiting for that next want to come out. >> did you read the harry potter series? >> i read everyone to my daughter. >> what did you think? >> i loved it. i was so excited as a lover of reading that my daughter, and all all her friends suddenly, reading was not a chore. it was something they couldn't wait to get their hands on that next book and read it. eventually, as she got a little older, when the next volume came out, her friends would actually get permission to be at the bookstore at midnight and purchase the book and ran home and start reading. i thought any author has that ability to excite and to get kids reading as not a burden or
an assignment but as a joy or a pleasure, she's got a lot working for her. >> where'd you get your books? bookstores or are they sent to you, amazon, library? >> all of the above. i collect books, my wife will tell you way too many. i probably possess thousands of volumes. friends give them to me on occasion, for for birthday and christmas and whatever. i borrow books from friends and one of my staff members shares my love of this and we similar taser were constantly going back and forth in terms of what about this and what about that. what i won't do is use a candle or a book online and the reason
i won't is i do not wish to contribute to the demise of the published book. i want bookstores to be around forever and i want people to always be able to have the option in the pleasure of reading a physical book. some on my staff think that's a little old-fashioned, but i still mourn the closure of bookstores, borders and dalton's and so many others that used to be fairly ubiquitous and many of them have now gone. >> your head of the fairfax community library comes in to see you and lobby you for a member of congress, what are their concerns and what is your answer? >> their concern largely is funding and obviously i'm
supportive of our library system. we have a very robust system in our community. most people who live in our county have library cards, including this one, and their role has evolved so there's a lot of technology now involved in the libraries and it's also a safe place for a lot of kids to go to be able to do research and do their homework and i can relate to that because frankly when i was a kid, usually after school, i went to the library to read. i read periodicals read periodicals or whatever newspaper i could, i read magazines and i read books. the libraries we have today are in many ways of far cry from those kind of libraries, but the functions are not that dissimilar. >> to remember that first nonfiction book that you read that stimulated your love of reading? >> when i was young, i would say
like around the fifth grade, i was reading all of jules byrne and all of charles dickens and edgar allen poe. i remember being blown away by reading david copperfield. it was just extraordinary story an extraordinary character. you enter into this other world. i have that habit of, if i liked an author, i wanted to read everything by that author. i still i still do that, like in mysteries and history, but if i like an author, i read read everything he or she has written. so i've read all of -- lan and dick francis and robert parker and you name it, i've read everything because they get hooked and want to run through
their portfolio of writing. i was that way as a kid. i just enjoyed reading. i didn't enjoy it because of who they were, i did it because of the pleasure of the thing. >> congressman connolly, are you a a fan of william shakespeare? >> i am. >> why? >> he is really foundational for the english language but he's foundational for literature, he is, in in many ways really the philosopher of english language. is there a human emotion or experience that he did not anticipate and express better than you or i ever will. that is an incredible role to play and skill to possess and
nobody has done it better than william shakespeare in the english language. we just celebrated the 400th anniversary of his birthday. he allegedly died on the same day he was born. it was also cervantes birthday and of course cervantes play is similar in terms of the role of the spanish-language and i actually was thinking about it the other day in terms of just how powerful a figure he really was and what genius he possessed. he was under deadlines. it wasn't like he had years to write his opus. he had deadlines to meet because we have a play to put on. so it's doubly impressive what
he produced in his lifetime. it's just genius. inspired by god. >> what is a book you would recommend about congress? is there an author in your view who has gotten it right? >> well robert remi wrote a book on congress that is a bit of a history on congress and i think it's as good as any to get yourself oriented. you know, there are some figures here in congress who are worthy of examination who served long times in the house. henry clay, john quincy adams. john quincy adams served 17 years in the house.
his presidency was considered, by and large, a fairly failed affair, but after but after he served as president he came to the house and he found his voice. he was an incredible champion of the right of people to champion their government. he was an incredible champion of abolition way before his time, he was a statesman and although he drove southern slaveholders to distraction here in the house, nonetheless, they respected him. his intellect and his doggedness , and he was an incredible figure. there are some great heroic figures who served here in the house were also worthy of reading about and learning. >> there's a brand-new biography out on john quincy adams, by the way, the spring. >> that's right.
i'm thinking about reading it and looking forward to it. >> have you ever thought of writing a book? >> yes, i have i served 14 years and local government and i think local government deserves a lot more appreciation than it gets and i would love to write a book may be on local government. i'd like to write about the congress during the civil war because, think about what else they did. that congress, while while the civil war is raging, we do the homestead act, will we do the university act and the transcontinental railroad, i mean there are some really extraordinary things they are
doing while we are doing the civil war which you would think would kind of consume you. but they have the vision and foresight as did abraham lincoln, to continue to invest in this country. i think that's rather extraordinary story and i would like to write a book about that. the other one that sort of is inside and waiting to come out is just a broader, more philosophical view of what i would call the unexamined thought. a lot of conventional wisdom that never gets examined and upon examination you go oh, that that couldn't be more wrong now that you bring it up. i have lived here 40 years in washington and i think a lot of unexamined thoughts drive us and can do harm. the domino theory of southeast asia during the vietnam war, it was the predicate for the whole thing.
what was wrong? nobody admitted it. it was always repeated. as a result, incredible loss of life and treasure and a wasted part of the decade had tore this country apart and did a lot of damage in vietnam. one wonders about what might have been if that thought had been subject to a lot more scrutiny and challenged. >> have you read a bio on every american president? >> i don't know if i read one about martin van buren or not, but most of them, probably at probably at this point most of them. >> are they helpful? >> yes, i think they are, to study not only the history and how it happened and what they did, but in some ways the
internal life of these figures and what they went through. what's very striking to me is most of the occupants of the white house, historically, who spent their whole lives hungering and thirsting for this find themselves pretty unsatisfied when they reach it. often they leave the white house disappointed, disillusioned or broken. very few of them leave, historically, wishing for more. that tells you something about human ambition and about political ambition in particular >> finally, what's on your summer reading list? what are you looking forward to? >> i'm hoping some friends provide me with some reading material.
i actually stopped by a bookstore recently and i got a couple books. i'm looking at reading a book about michael collins who was an irish revolutionary hero in the beginning of the 20th century and it had a lot to do with the irish free state. he was assassinated during the civil war and so, i also have a biography i picked up, up on aaron burr that i'm looking forward to and there's a lengthy historical narrative about pre-civil war and what was aligned to create the secession in america.
those three are next. i don't know if i'll get to them this summer. i'll probably read them before the summer, but will see. >> do you read book reviews? >> yes, there's a review in the washington times that i read every week and i wish the washington post had a section dedicated to book reviews but they don't have that anymore but they still have it online. >> gerry connolly is a democrat from virginia. this is the tv on c-span2. >> when i tune into it on the weekend, usually its authors sharing about their new releases. >> watching the nonfiction authors on book tv is the best television for serious readers. >> on c-span they can have a longer conversation and delve into their research. they bring you author after
author after author. it's the work of fascinating people. >> i love book tv and i am a c-span fan. >> book tv recently visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they are reading the summer. >> so right now, i just picked up a book called white donkey, it's by a veteran of the iraq war and he also has a very famous comic strip among the marines called comic land and it's a story he wrote about the experiences he went through in iraq and what his friends went through. i'm very excited to start reading that. >> what drew you to that book? >> as in iraq war veteran i'm always trying to understand what i went to and other men and women went through and i thought this would be a good book for me to read. >> you have anything else on your list? >> and minute try and read up on
as many hamilton books as possible and then i was recently in chile so i've been following and reading a lot of pablo. >> book tv wants to know what you are reading this summer. tweet us your answer @booktv or you can post it on our facebook page, facebook.com/book tv. >> here's a look at some authors who have recently been posted on "after words". historian pamela had looked at the history of gun ownership in america. another reported on the history and rise of isis and california senator barbara boxer look back at her life and career in politics. in the coming weeks in "after words", eric will discuss his time in iraq working as an interrogator for a private military contractor. seymour hersh will discuss the events around the killing of
osama bin laden along with other covert operations that have taken place during the obama administration. also coming up wall street journal columnists will argue the political left is using scare tactics to silence. and natalia holt discusses the women instrumental in the space program in the 1950s. >> it was pretty unique to jpl and that they had a women supervisor and they were just a very powerful group at jpl. they spent their days, in the in the beginning they did a lot of trajectory. they calculated the potential of different rocket propellants and they did trajectories for many of the early missiles they worked on like the corporal and the sergeant and then things changed when the space race happened and when nasa was formed. then these women roles become