tv 2016 National Book Festival CSPAN October 9, 2016 9:00am-10:31am EDT
the first thing you need to do to change it is to begin to communicate, there are four things you need to make washington work. number one is communication. if you don't talk, you are not going to get anything done. number two, you have to follow up on chemistry. clinton made make me nervous but we had a relationship, there was a chemistry that made up it possible for us to turn that into action. the other thing we've lost his ambition. what are we for any more? republicans or democrats, do we really know? do we know what either side would actually do? if there is a majority in the congress or the white house? last but not least, i'd seen it. leadership. one man or one woman that will face the slings and arrows of the media and say we're going to develop an energy policy in america. were going to have all of the above, we're going to do it. it could change stuart on a dime. but it's going to take a personal strength because i've seen it, washington is a
tough place. i rode the high road and got knocked back down into the valley but the best thing about being in the valley is you learn when you get back up how you can do things better so it can change. i don't see it right now. i don't see it with mitch mcconnell. i don't see it with nancy pelosi. i do see hope in paul ryan. i don't know what to expect of schumer who will probably be the senate democratic leader . he's smarter than reed. he's every bit as partisan as harry reid. there's one difference, he's transactional. he can do business . they don't say itthat way in new york city but they understand . so there is hope out there but it begins with the white house. i've got to get a different mro coming out of that place.
we will have some time today for questions and i've been asked to remind you that those who query our distinguished guest with the video did for libraries archives. jon meacham is a frequent speaker at this festival. reflection of his eminence as a journalist and historian i had not met them until yesterday so i consulted don graham who employed him for many years at "newsweek." he pointed out jon is a former boy wonder. he became national affairs editor of "newsweek" at 26 and by the age of 37 hit been named editor. those are not always fun years at "newsweek" especially in the time for sitting a grand sale of the magazine in 2010. but jon excelled even ine age of adversity. he was a wise, thoughtful andal successful editor of "newsweek" under impossible circumstances. as john's colleagues will tell you, even in the earliest years of his assent he was wise beyond
his years, much more capable ofe drive with an ironic detachment than your typical as we would say today millennial. week after week, jon would replenish the building with new ideas are often drawn from his deep knowledge of history and religion and literature. sometimes one wonders spider or they'll deliver on the promise exhibited at the dawn of their careers. not jon meacham. is passage from journalism to book writing and publishing has been marked by distinction, as success of his 2004 book, help them to emerge as a public intellectual. american lion, andrew jackson in the white house was awarded the 2009 pulitzer prize her biography. more recently jon's book thomas jefferson the art of power was on the times and the posts best books of the year lists.
jon is here today to talk about "destiny and power: the american odyssey of george herbert walker bush." a surprisingly intimate look at a sometimes underestimated occupant of the oval office. my colleague carlos who posted non--- peoplesoft the unique trick, after which the historical rehabilitation of its subject by deepening rather than appending common perceptions of the 41st president. it is a book that asks us tote consider as we witness the contest between two widely disliked contenders for the presidency, the importance of personal honor in our leaders. o ladies and gentlemen, jon meacham. be [applause]meacham. >> thank you.
i appreciate that a great deal. i feel a little bit more warmly received at this particular book festival that i did eight years ago when i was to talk about andrew jackson, who had a rough couple of months as you all may know. but i was on my way to give my talk about jackson, and the woman ran up to me, which doesn't have enough as a basic rule, and said oh, my god, e.g. i said yes, you know. existential he thinking that's hard to argue with. she said will you rate right here? i want you to sign a new book. i said yes, ma'am.it hand of god she brought back jon grisham's latest novel. [laughter] so whenever i think i am a boy wonder who survived boy wonder, i remember that there is a woman somewhere in america with a
forged copy of the runaway jury. [laughter] so momentum mori as medievalist called the. i'm thrilled to be here. thank you all for being here. you are the reason, many of the recent a lot of us do what we dr in the lonely hours of footnoting and trying to make sure that you get everything right. you are the ones on our minds. to make sure we maintain our covenant with you in terms of grading compelling, hopefully compelling narrative nonfiction. i don't know if y'all notice there's a presidential race going on at the moment. i just want to say right off the top, the movement in 25 years from george herbert walker bush as the republican nominee for president to the incumbent republican nominee for in 25
president, george bush who could not talk about himself to donald trump -- [laughter] to quote henry adams, this proves darwin. [applause] >> that's where we are. that's where we are. my view of president bush is that culturally andhat is temperamentally, and this is not a nostalgic boy, culturally and temperamentally he has more in common with the founding fathers than he does with this political generation. it does not mean he's a perfect man. we always learn more from sinners than we do from saint. saints. he was driven by consuming ambition to control the fate and destiny's millions, even billions of people. he made compromises along the way, and we will talk about those.ts.
but at the end of the day, in his part he was about honor and service and duty. he believed at every point thate he wanted those of us who came after him to say that he had always put the country first. and i think a fair-mindedor judgment suggests that he came as close as an being immortal cn do to doing that. and again we will talk aboutirs. that. now, the history of this book is somewhat interesting to you allg but because you hear it means you're a part of the broad dork caucus. so i hope you have your cards. you get a free library card and just to watch c-span. in the doctor's office. i think the key thing to understand about him comes from to biographical moments. so i want to start there.
on june 12, 1924, he was born in milton, massachusetts. 18 years later as a senior at andover academy, three things happen. he turns 18, he graduates from andover, and he joins the navy becoming the youngest flying officer in the navy. he told me that he very muchld wanted to go into the service actually right after pearl harbor there he looked into joining the royal canadian air force because you could get into the royal canadian air force without graduating from high school. his father prevailed on him to wait another six months or so. in his way when asked them, why was the impulse there so soon f after pearl harbor? president bush said it was a red, white and blue thing. your country is attacked. you get into fights. soon
on september 2, 1944, he was flying a mission over the islands to take out a radio tower, communications and supply point going back to the home islands. for roaches japanese flag. the plane is hit. the wings of the plane go up in flames. the cockpit fills with smoke. he realizes he's going down, but he keeps going. he keeps going over the island to take out the power. he goes back out to sea, tells his two crewmates to hit theco silk, the bailout. he turns the plane so that they can do that.do he turns back and then he bailed out. at this point tragedy almost broke out. a huge bailout of the plane, if you think about it, the plane doesn't stop.es the plane keeps going.en he bai he gashes his head on the tail of the plane. another six or eight inches andu probably would have beenthe plae decapitated and that would've
been the end of the story. he plunges deep into the hecific. his life raft has fallen off their bye. he gets in the raft, cries, the riches of the sea water. he his two crewmates have not made it. and at some point today, in name, there in maine for another two weeks, people think about ted white and dale blaney the with the two men who lost their lives that day in his care. he was 20 years old and had two other men lies in his hands. i think the farther we come away from the culture the father would come away from that generation. it's difficult to remember the immensity of the with responsibility we put on remarkably young men. one of the many moments the president tried in the courts of our images for this book, i interviewed him for nine years for this. sometimes is like the world's
worst lost on wasp therapy him he would cry, i would try and we would change the subject. [laughter] most of our debates were moved through -- anyway, i asked him what did you learn from this? and he said the chief question that came out of his mind about the war experience was why was i spared? why was i spared i submit to you that in many ways george h. w. o bush's frenetic journey from the autumn of 1944 really undo this hour to some extent is driven bi his eagerness, his need to prove that he was worthy of beingly spared when others were not. that he had to prove himself worthy of their sacrifice.
it's an elemental drama, and i believe deeply that that is a big part of what has driven him. he came back to it in different times during the interviews, always with tears, always sort of late and the conversation. the other thing about his speed in life is he has always been moving rapidly. this is a method for 18 holes of golf in 32 minutes. i played with them once and my excuse was i was medgar evers by secret service guys with submachine guns. that's a lot to blame for my game, but it's there. but it was a frenetic journey forward, always moving. in 1980 when he was running against ronald reagan for the republican nomination, bush was so excitable that he shook the hand of a department store mannequin. [laughter] lyndon johnson would've tried to register that mannequin.
[laughter] and god only knows what bill clinton might have done. [laughter] and he always had long, always looking for, always moving to the next thing, looking forward, looking forward. i've never met a man in that level of politics with so little interest actually in how history would view him. he believed that he got some things right, something is wrong, and that people like me and those who come after me will have to make our best decision. and there's a level of confidence in the. i would also submit that the values and vision in many ways, a character and the ambient dignity that the bush family brought to our national politics is something that we are in woefully short supply as we enter the fall of 2016, and recovering some of that dignity
will be one step toward a more sane political life. the second thing that affected him deeply was the loss of his daughter robin in 1953. they lost her to leukemia. she had been born in 1949. george w. was born in 1946. jeb had just been born in january of a think tank and 53 robin was four years old. they had never heard the word leukemia until the herd the diagnosis in the pediatricians office in texas. remember that come from texas after yale in 1940 when he moved to odessa, texas, first mrs. bush, his mother was so convinced that the move to the frontier, that she would send her daughter with a box of soap because she didn't think texas had any. they moved to midland. they get the diagnosis. the doctor says, with all sincerity, i think the thing to
do is simply take her home, make her comfortable and she will be gone in a few months. george bush being george bush could not accept that. he walks outside, gets on a pay phone and calls his uncle, jon walker, who is the head of the hospital in your. he says bring her up, we will do what we can. she survived through some very difficult treatments through october, columbus day weekend of 1953. it was a great have to close the crisis of the bush marriage and the bush family life. it brought them closer together. as you all may know, many couples who lose a child drift apart. interestingly, mrs. bush was strong when president bush was weak. and he was weak when she was strong. he could not stand watching robin be treated in the hospital. he couldn't stand the shots.
he couldn't stand seeing her in pain so he would bolt out of the room leaving barbara to maintain the order and the love in the hospital room in our. after robin died it wasa president bush who would hold mrs. bush all night, as she cried and sobbed for month after month after month, as she tried to cope with this unimaginable loss. so i also asked president bushod in the course of doing this,ter. what did the death of robin t w teach you? and he said without hesitation, that life is unpredictable and fragile. unpredictable and fragile. i submit that he led his life and he governed the nation in what henry kissinger once referred to as the most tumultuous four-year period since truman, with this tragic sensibility, with the sense that
everything could end tomorrow and, therefore, you had to do the best you could today. you had to do everything you could to make the world a little better because one could never be sure when everything would b taken away.ou i think these two experiences, not particularly well known, it's not read my lips, it's not dana carvey, are the things that really shakes the man who became the 41st president of the united states. -- shapes. a couple things on the other side. my view of president bush is t that he was a much more effective politician than we give them credit for. part of that is because his last political act only netted 37% of the reelection vote. he was running against bill clinton who as it was later said was that sam walton of partisanship. you know, by 1992 president bush
was not in a political world he understood in many ways. it was the rise of reflexive partisanship, the rise of alternative media. remember, before there was w twitter and it was dropped, there was a union and ross perot and cable tv and bill clinton. as mark twain once said, history may not repeat itself but it does rhyme. and 1992 rhymes with 2016. remember, bill clinton went on arsenio hall. george h.w. bush thought arsenio hall was a building at andover. [laughter] that's where we took spanish. he had no idea.me [laughter] no idea. so he was just not come it was not this time. it had been 12 years under reagan and bush.th we've not had, we have not had more than eight years of single party rule since james monroe
except for the roosevelt and truman era pics it was already a historical anomaly for him to be in power. but there are three things that he did a long the way to amass power that were not widely admirable, and my own view, my biographical view is that hedi always redeemed himself. and that's what makes this tone, this level of conversation for my purposes possible. the first what is his running for the senate in texas in 1964e george h. w. bush opposed the 1964 civil rights act. it's not something we like to talk about, particularly not today in washington, right? but in 1968 in the wake of the assassination of dr. king, george h. w. bush who would want a house seat in 1966 representing the seventh edition of texas in houston vote for
open housing. he goes down to texas to memorial high school for a ferocious meeting with his constituents. they were screaming things at him. they were using epitaphs that they should have used then and you sure as hell can't use now saying we didn't send you out there to help these people.in and bush stood his ground. he was 41. he stood his ground and he saidy i cannot count sending african-american soldiers in vietnam to fight for america and then say they can't buy a house in a given neighborhood. he quoted edmund burke who said that your representatives do not send offer you a mayor of you will but offers you his best judgment. and in that moment he showed a measure of political courage that help give them the strength to keep pushing on.
he won the crowd over anti-move forward.ure of the second thing that was not take a admirable was in 1988 presidential campaign. many of you remember it. it was not high-minded. we talked about the pledge of allegiance. we talked about furloughs. we talked about flag factories and flagburning. it was a values campaign in many ways. a lot of people thought it was unfair to the governor of massachusetts. but what does bush do after he wins that campaign? immediately the press conferencp after the election in the george brown convention center in houston where he announces that jim baker will become secretary of state, he's asked about this, he's asked about the campaign. and bush said that's history.d we are moving forward. he drew a direct line, somewhat to his political detriment, between what you said on the
campaign trail and what you did as the responsible officer of government.ir he learned this i think in china when he was there. remember, this is a man who is a number of congress, the ambassador to united nations, chairman of the republicanan national committee, envoy to china, director of the cia, vice president for eight years. he never hosted a reality show, but besides that the every possible qualification for president. [laughter] so he said that it was history. what he learned in china was that, think of a phrase from chairman mao the campaigns were about firing the empty cans of rhetoric, the empty tens of rhetoric. ronald reagan would've never said that. franklin roosevelt would never have said that. they saw a connection between politics and governing, that if he did not run for a particular mandate, he would have trouble
governing. and that happened in his term. he did not run for a particular mandate. he ran as a particular man.saidt this argument was highly personal. it was that he could be trusted with the affairs of others. my own personal reaction to him, one of the reasons i wrote this book, is that i had a very caricature sense of him when he was president. i was an undergraduate through most of his presidency. i attended a small college, a universituniversity of tennessed the university of the south. that maybe one or two of you who are not familiar with it. [laughter]ge it's best understood as a combination of down abbey and deliverance. [laughter] and so my best friend in college was a man you all may have heard of, he's on lynchburg tennessee. his name is jack daniels.
[laughter] and so i was a little fuzzy on a couple of things that unfolded. i thought the golf war was about destin, florida. so when i met president bush, i had this kind of dana carvey few of them. but almost instantly, this is a late '90s, relies he possessed a quiet, persistent charisma. how many people here have met george bush? a pretty good number. how many here have received -- probably a dozen people in this room. he has this ineffable sense of command. i.t. shall pressure a teacher once who defined the chart as the capacity to make others love you without a quite knowing why. and that's true of george bush. there's something about him.oncd it's why the canadian uber within. if you only knew him throughqu
television and electronic media, you probably are not going to be as impressed. but as he once put it when event for president in 1988, i have 30,000 friends, anti-gay. george bush saw life as one long reunion mixer.obably he was never happier than when he was, had a vodka in his hand and they were throwing horseshoes with somebody. back to 80 it quickly. the campaign is a disaster. he comes in and tries to build a culture of compromise. he's the last president to pass significant bipartisan legislation with significantes n majorities, plurality is from both caucuses. it passes the americans with disabilities act. had the young man walked up to me last night and said that he was a special needs kid, the young man, and that he thank god everyday for president bush. because without president bush
he could not have gone to college because the accommodations for his test taking and making sure he got the help he needed would not have existed without the americans for disabilities act, which is the single most untraditional republican bill you can imagine. was cited because he believed it was in the spirit of fair play. george bush is a man who when he was a child, his nickname was he have half. because if you had a treat or a desert, he would cut it in half and give the other half to the other kid. his brother said that he was born with an innate empathy, and there is something about, and as we head into next week and the next 40 days, which sounds biblical, we may be facing a biblical thing -- [laughter] and the moon shall turn to blood. [laughter] i don't see the lines and the lambs lying down together, but
maybe in a swing state or two. character is destiny.s the greeks were right. and policies change, circumstances change, but character tends not to when people reach the point ofth running at this level for president. and george bush's character was always one, while driven bytendt ambition, driven by appetite, hr was delighted, if he wanted to win and if you want, the nature of around was somebody had to lose, and that was just fine with him. but by god, he was always going to reach out right afterward and bring people together.if extorts on this. so in march of 1989, jon tower fails to become the second ofd defense. bush reaches out to dick cheney who is being announced to become the secretary of defense.
that opens up a place in the house speakership. this is like a wing of the butterfly that produces the hurricane. newt gingrich runs for that job. rick ogston from minnesota named ben weber runs newt gingrich's campaign. is -- the papers are full of stories, directly attacked by newt gingrich's confrontation to this is a minute put out a memo to his republican colleague saying use the following words to describe democrats, sick was one of them. un-american, outrageous. this was the opposite of the world that george bush had grown up in. three of george bush's best d friends in washington were democrats. .. rican, outrageous, this is the opposite of the world that george bush had grown up in print three of george bush's best friends in washington were democrats. ashley of ohio, montgomery
mississippi, and a senator from chicago. he kept his stuff in the gym so he could play ball with the democrats pretty wanted to reach him because he believed with franklin roosevelt that the science of human relationships was absolutely essential to the art of politics. that was the heir he breathed. so when gingrich when, bush calls and asked rich and ben weber, the the guy who ran the campaign within the caucus to come to the white house for a beer. they they go to the residence, and have a beer, and as weber put it, only george bush would have remember to invite the guy who ran the campaign in the house. he was the typical thoughtful thing to do. heat they have the beer, and gingrich and weber can tell that
there is something bush wants to say but isn't quite same. that's the definition of being a wasp. and finally is there standing up weber says, mr. president, what is it that worries you most about us? and bush is relieved to have an opportunity to say so he says, i worry that sometimes your idealism may get in the way of what i think of as sound governance. i want to repeat that at the risk of pulling a rubio. i worry that sometimes your idealism may get in the way of what i think of as sound governance. and weber said, he always appreciated bush did not say your ideology, your ideology, your nuttiness, your purity, your flexibility, he said idealism. he was giving them credit that
they genuinely believed in philosophical agenda in which they're trying to build the republican house majority. it would in fact happen five years later. but what he wanted and what he didn't get was reciprocal credit that he was now the senior constitutional officer in the united states of america. is the one public official as jackson pointed out, elected by all the people. he had a constitutional duty, cultural duty to try to govern soundly, not simply score points to get to the next midterm to help a given movement, to win partisan points. i know this sounds as though i am discussing. [inaudible] but this was just 25 years ago. a quarter century ago and this was his ambient reality.
and he paid for it. he said, read read my lips in an uneasy marriage to supply fighters he worried all the time that he was going to have to break it. he had to break it in 1990. as he put it he knew he was going to be dead meat is only george bush could say. dead meat, dana carvey, told you i asked him how did he build his impression of george bush, he said the key to doing george h dubya bush was mr. rogers trying to be john wayne. [laughter] so you not gonna do it. so i spent a lot of time with these people. so to me that is the key, the key of the legacy that this is a man who did put the country first, it's president obama's view, view, i interviewed him for this. he was not perfect by any means, it is arguable there was not
much to do in the second term but i would suggest, given where we have come in the last 16 years now, now 20 years since he left office, that we really need to consider recovering as best we can, the virtues that were embodied in this particular man. the partisanship change, the media landscape changed, it is not the world which and he in any way gropper would have understood, but there are certain values that can be, i think ultimately recovered. i did this book partly because president bush and mrs. bush you can hear marineland, the engines of air force one. you can hear the coffee
slurping, sometimes a martini or two. sometimes he is just beaten down. fascinating document. to make sure it got the whole story i asked mrs. bush if she would share her diary. i will say when president bush 43 and his mother had decided to let me read his mother's diary, the reaction in dallas was notm. warm. as he put it, that is not good for me. last night -- last not but what i found was incredibly decent people. but again, not perfect. but these are the kinds of people that you hope ultimately end up leading the country. i want to close with this.
i mentioned the death of robin bush. the george bush i got to now is the one who i think is still not as well-known as they should be although i'm doing all i can. neediness wonderful retirement life. he's been in a wheelchair now for four years. suffering from it or not parkinson's. i saw him three weeks ago. he still follows every day and it's devastating. when he does speak he is quitet on point. we were at lunch the summer and mrs. bush was showing a bracelet that he had given her. she looked at him and said how is the romantic devil? he misses also shortly after the moment when he was jumping out of the plane at 90 he was going to land at saint anne's, the parish near the house. mrs. bush said at the end we are
doing about the church because then we could just bury him right there. [laughter] said they have been married for 72 years. when i was talking about the book last fall, i was with an audience and down from there was a slightly older man with his wife and i made that point.boutt 72 years? the guy out front said jesus christ. [laughter] i think he had a long ride home. [laughter] that's a true story. he just couldn't get there. but this is the real george bush. this is a letter he wrote to hio mother in in the late 19th and is. it's about george w., jeb, have both been born, so that was
1959. they think the letter was written 57 or 88. she died two weeks after he lost the election to bill clinton. this is the george bush that i got to know and i hope you do, e too. the rail, there is about our house a neat. the running restlessness of the four boys as they struggle to learn and grow needs a counterpart. we need some starch chris rock to go with all her tour in neat blue at home and spirit we need some soft blonde hair to offset those crew cuts. we need a dollhouse to stand firm against our force and racket thousand baseball cards. we need a legitimate christmas angel, one who doesn't have cuts beneath the dress. we need someone who is afraid of frogs.
we need someone to cry when i get mad, not argue. we need a little one who came case without leaving bag or gm or column. we had one once. she would fight and cry like all the rest. that there was about her a softness. her house for just a little less weekly. she would stand beside our bed till i held her there, silently uncomfortable she would put those precious fragrant locks against my chest and falltand bd asleep. her piece made me feel strong and so very important. my daddy had a caress of a certain ownership which touched a slightly different spot but c she is still with us. s
we need her and yet we have her. we can't touch her and yet we couldn't. we hope she'll say in our house for a long, long time. in the course i asked in houston in mind before he finished, he broke down within a stored evern level of physical solving. so much so that his chief of staff whose office was next-door came in and she said why did she want president bush to do that? and i said, if you want to know someone's heart and before i could finish my sentence, the president said you have to know what breaks. thank you very much.ntence [applause]
>> eggs. we have time for some questions here. how much time do we have? >> john, i just finished your book. it's fantastic. i read a lot of history of presidents. two questions. one new answer. he said every other page when george bush was home he wrote in his diary. i was going to ask him a ditty type it?sw other his invention use the home he microphone. >> in a tape recorder he bought recorder he thought as the staples of the era. he didn't want it to be a government tape recorder. he carried it in his, carried it everywhere. he often did it late at night, early in the mornings. he is the office in the
residence and he loved that study off the oval office and would often do it. he got up at about 5:00 every morning. they would take the dogs out and come in. good read about five papers and then he would go down and do some patient. fortunately, he tended to do more in times of crisis did not, which were most diary keepers is the opposite. part of the power of the diary i think is that he didn't really believe.in it was part of his codes thatst president don't complain. as he put it, they don't whine about what was made if you are just lucky to be there. i think he said things to himself that he could not say tu mrs. bush, to governor new comer to do well, to brent scowcroft, to the people around him.
i actually believe that the therapeutic document. and when to publish a volume of the diary, the ds to be gone. the way he's going, i'll be gone first. so don't wait up. >> related to my second part is sort of alluded to that. throughout the book, you cite this and it's a quotation on the diary and i'm wondering as an historian, do you have the opportunity to get opportunity to get into the deep persons mindset like that. andrew jackson certainly didn't have a diary whatever a diary or whatever. >> that would require self's mis reflection. >> unless it had a lot of impact on your personal feelings towards him and writing the way you wrote the book. >> thank you for saying that. the reason i did the book is because he offered me the diaryt and he offered to talk to me at much as i wanted. if you do what i do, that doesn't happen much.
they are only 44 of these guys y and there aren't that many stilk kicking. to so it was a remarkable historical opportunity. i feel very privileged to have chance to do it. i should say there were no conditions on the project. no one read it, no one refuted. the one exception was mrs. bush's diary because it had so much personal stuff you r should get the diary from 1948 until this morning. she gets up at 5:00 every morning and writes in her diary. several of her children said please don't tell me what she said about me. but she was going to steal thati for fifth years at her she died. people say how did you get herid to give it to you? by technical, historical answer. i don't want to overwhelm you with an eyebrow if there is a g vague. i accepted the one condition on the project, which was she
wanted to see any direct quotations from herself, which gives the document is spent 70 years that i was totallyi do reasonable. so i took her 90 pages of excerpts.pt read a fascinating afternoon used in one day. she was reading along and never once in a while she would say my eye was an opinionated 37-year-old.cinating you know man, the apple doesn't far off from the chronological tree. at 91 you're not pulling a lot of punches. >> thank you. i was just interested in how you are drawing comparisons between what's going on in the campaign now and president questioned how he could do himself.d it is interesting on an pr and i can't remember the analyst name unfortunately, but just on friday they were talking about some people believe the direct
line from lee atwater and karl rove to what is now going on with trump, only that during the bush's era and perhaps relevant to their personalities, there's that is, it better at that they did not say these things themselves and now the difference is they use other people to kind of put these negative thoughts and it would be politically advantageous to them. but they did use that as a tactic to win their election where it's not trump has taken it to another level and he is the messenger himself. >> trump needs no subcontractors. >> i think that connection ishe very unfortunate and i am just wondering why there, you know, you painted a very positive picture of president bush. i was very disappointed about lee atwater and willie horton
situation. so that comes to my memory. i am just wondering if in your view, have as a decent man participating and not said the nature of our politics in the context of american democracy that it encourages decent people to do the wrong thing in order to achieve their objectives or is this just maybe you don't see it that important. i don't get the sense from yourr comments today. i haven't read the book unfortunately so i don't want to say that you don't cover it, but i want to get a sense from your comments today that he felt that was important. >> right. but i try to say when i talk on the 88 campaign, we were talking about the furlough ad from the horton ads although the horton ad for an independent expenditure group and we canig spend the next three hours on that. but you said something quite
early in air, which is politics is not a pure undertaking. if you want to amass power to try to be in a position of is no influence when the crises of the age column, you are going to cut some corners. you are going to have some moment where you say you need two things for your countenance things that are said or done of which you are not proud. i don't think there's any doubt that 1988 campaign has examples of george bush and his apparatus pushing certain trope that on reflection and even in real time are very uncomfortable and risk falling into fear-based politics. there's no question about that.
to my mind, what redeems george h.w. bush is that once he got power, he did everything he could to do good with it. so you didn't see that in every midterm. without that redemption, it would be a very different story. now it's very direct line -- i would go back even further. from 31968 and where we are because some of the same people were in the campaign in 1968 is the popular understanding of the southern strategy come along to people i guess the republican party dealing with the frankenstein monster that it goh out of control and now has orange hair. that is one of the questions. i'm a little skip the goal of that argument in terms of a direct line.
i think that we have to judge political figures on the totality of their lives in the totality of their records. and i believe that the country is better off because george bush was president for four years. i don't think he was perfect. unquestionably the attack politics of the southern strategy were used in his camphs came, but you know, i remember interviewing bill clinton about this. he said the thing about the bushes is there's not a racist bone in their body. michael dukakis told me he totally understood by willeyim court would be used -- willie horton would be used in the campaign. all of this is in the boat. so i understand the argument about the direct line. my sense is if you are looking for philosophical or moral consists in the, looking at the
american presidency or those who seek it is probably not the first place to look. so you need to look at moments on the totality of the life where they managed to transcend those shortcomings. that is my view. >> you have probably answered this question used incorrectly. i recently saw the play in stanton, bloody, but the andrew jackson which is a parody of jackson and of our current campaign about unbridled populism and manipulation of that populism. do you see any parallels today? >> you know, i have resisted this for a couple reasons. one is the jackson brought an enormous amount of it. they can argue whether it's good experience or not, but he had been a judge, senator, general. so the idea that fundamentally
the choices represented in the next 45 days or so are the one most eventually prepared candidates an american has every in the least conventionally prepared. i interviewed mr. cobb about this. he makes no bones about this. i should say by the way as well as voted for presidents of both parties. an ex-pat to again. and so, what i hope to see in terms of trump and populism in that argument going forward is that we can take the energy, thu anger at the globalization, thei forces of globalization and find some way to channel those into construct of reforms as opposed to finger-pointing and blame casting on the other. it is an arguable point that the
united states of america has become stronger in direct proportion to how widely we have opened our arms. from the very beginning. [applause] we are dynamic in proportion tot people who come here. we are the only nation on earth where you can become an american simply by saying you want to be an american.pr we are not based on ethnicity. we are not based on religion. we don't have to be born into a different tribe or clan. we are devoted to an idea. i worry that the currentci populist trend is trying to limit the definition of what it is to be an american. that is historical and dangerous. [applause]dangerou
and let me preface my question by saying i have an issue about commissary and it is a superb piece of work. >> thank you. that's enough. >> one more thing. >> it's all downhill from here. >> is an aggregate ranking. >> thanks, sir. appreciate it.t. >> constraints on presidential scholars the places you're george w. bush 22nd among the president. how would you respond to that? >> that was the atwater's ghosts it takes time. this is the earliest possible point to do this both. my friend has a good rule to dictate 25 years to really get a sense of what the passion school. i think you're right. one term presidents have a hard time about my fellow tennessee and had a pretty good first term of a depending how you think
about california, maybe not. so it is a tumultuous term. but i think when we look back on an existential nuclear struggle, it took reagan and bush to be honest it to democrats and republicans in the people themselves from truman forward in the cold war. i think we were fairly lucky because i think ronald reagan did things in the 80s that bush could not in terms of setting a rhetorical example of an also reagan is a great negotiator. remember, he was head of the screen actors guild. he used to say people think negotiating with gorbachev is tough, they should've met jack warner.s part of th bush was able to come in and do things that i don't think reagan would've been very good at. i think that number will go up. i really do.
but irony parenthetically is going to be fascinating to watch over the next 20 to 30 years to what extent bush 41's historical stock is on a seaside or on a proportional with his son, right? -- 41, i know this. bush 41 for a long time believed his historical stock would always be on a seesaw with break-ins, that he was an asterix as he put it himself because of the dynastic drama it is going to be interesting if people reevaluate george w. bush what that does to george h.w. bush because they get confronted similar problems in very different ways. another complicating or there is going to be free of clinton dynasty stories, it is going to be like c-span meets lancaster
>> book tvs live coverage of the 16th and you'll national book festival continues from the convention center here in washington, dc. the next author you'll hear from in the history and biography tent is another presid >> we are pleased to be joined by ken burns, documentarye. filmmaker and author whose mostl recent look is more of a children's book.documentar "grover cleveland, again!". >> said in a very lucky of four daughters ages 35-size. when they got to be five years old, i would read them bedtime stories and family with them and with it the president and to gradually learn and i would prompt them. i would say george gray davis say washington. i would say john, david dave adams. when they got to the middle of the pack, grover, cleveland,
benjamin, harassing. it's a cleveland again and it gets very excited.d. we should do a children's book to introduce people to the presidents, to introduce them and tell about their families and siblings in pets and hobbies to talk about central features of their administrations without necessarily descending intold do scandals. he could talk about race, money, things that went wrong. but you could communicate a love for the idea of public service and people who went there. we've had people with great physical disabilities who are president for longer than anybody else but couldn't stand on the road. people who are dyslexic, people five feet tall and 64. the people, tiny people, people that got very unexpectedly. some who grew up and due politics in their father's
tavern. it's a wonderful story. too often, kids think history is boring and too often our kidss like history disappear. the word history is mostly made up of the word story plus high. we had to be telling our children interesting stories in american history. not sanitize, but interesting stories. >> host: ken burns will be with us to take your calls. we will be talking about history. presidential history. we will also talk about some of his documentaries on what is current yup air by ken burns. did you have a favorite president when you wrote this? >> guest: i think it has been my lot to fall into those think abraham lincoln as the greatest president and having said that tommy have to say besides george washington. without george washington we just don't have a country without his example is the first
president we don't ensure that we are going to have a succession of presidents. once you've established the republic, without a doubt abraham lincoln is the best. i must say having worked for many years under roosevelt, franklin roosevelt who i knew was probably moved up to almost parity with again. they can take care of the greatest crisis. franklin roosevelt took care of the two next greatest crisis, depression and second world war. grover cleveland is very interesting.he is eresti you can win a trivia contest. he can win three in a row. o as is the peculiarities of the american democracy, it is the electoral vote that matters by samuel tilden found out in 1876 and grover cleveland found out when he won the popular vote was president, won the popular vote again but wasn't president.
the only person to have seen on consecutive terms. >> host: do we attribute crippling our presidents too much? s. so yeah, i think so. the founders would be shut to come back and understand that for basically two-yard, certainly since franklin roosevelt that the president has been by far and large the most important person in the government. they always assumed that there would be times as they were in the night team century. in fact, most of the 19 century when what happened at the other end of pennsylvania avenue onn capitol hill mattered much more than what the executive is w doing. they weren't with the cults of personality. now we live in a media culture. there's something manageable about the singularity of the presidency and so congress seems willing to go along with this
abdication. >> host: ken burns, before we got started, we're talking about the gettysburg address and abraham lincoln. >> i was wondering in this age of media comic even with wonderful glorious c-span, whether we know how it was. only y only you would cover it. chances are that the main networks and the cable might say that there was a dedication, that i can imagine the cynicism of somebody standing up in rent and saying while he was talking, the president came to gettysburg to distract attention from his military campaign meaning tennessee at chattanooga. we never hear it. we carried on you guys but with this nominee of the information, what we know 152, 153 years later its centrality to our catechism that this is the
declaration of independence to point out, that the first one says all men are created equal but the guy who wrote a own slaves and now he's doubling down. we are going to have it. nobody has to place to renault in 153 years since he delivered it. >> host: (202)748-8200. 748-8201 from out in pacific time zones. you can also contact ken burns via social media. just for attacks and if you do send a text, please include your first name in your city. (202)838-6251. that is (202)838-6251.oc with all your documentaries, did the book ever comes first? is that a company books of many of them. >> guest: now, but the word to t comes first. it is very much the dynamic of our media culture that the word in the unmanaged are somehow in
conflict with one another. you know that is not the case. in the beginning is the word with us. when we begin a project, we don't have a set research. which would limit the amount of time we could learn things were separating. which we encode everything we learn and that the tablets delivered her mount sinai,n whenever a stock research and wn never stopped writing. we write unconcerned with whether we had images to illustrate and more importantly perhaps they go in and those images and can turn with whether it's going to fit in on paragraph 2 of page seven of episode one. we just want both of those things to operate in the editing room becomes like a house and senate committee room the place where you hammer out the difference for the horsetrading goes on. for us we would never create what is supreme. people remember the pictures,
but if you ask people why they like the civil war's theory, all of these are oral. it might not say i love the pan richmond and berlin which looked like her lynn at the end of world war ii and is very effect is. they remember the words and we have to take it from the bible if they are interesting and authoritative source that in the beginning is the word.ls >> host: over the sharks? >> guest: wenzel sharp is a unitarian minister. they lived a comfortable middle-class existence in it. probably the biggest drama was what he was going to say i'm a day and they got a call from the church leadership in january january 1939 to go to prague and get and other refugees out. within a month she was dodging gestapo agents. he was laundering money in foreign capitals. they were riding in invisible
ink. you couldn't make this up it is so dramatic. we have defined and not about the story of don.of them. tom hanks added and it's a good story and it reminds us as we are in a refugee crisis secondre only to the second world war how critical these things are. >> host: baseball, chaska miscible work under roosevelt, better. what is next? >> guest: i'm just finishing with window back an 18 hour series on the history of vietnam war which i think will be our best work. it is a controversial subject but i think we made a pretty straight film. we are not trying to say this is definitively wet hot in. we are letting a lot of different places coexist within the american ex. , but also it had the great good fortune to interview north vietnamese and vietcong soldiers as well as carrots yours and i
think it's going to be a fairly complex portrait of a very complex subject. on pbs starting sunday,, september 17, 2017, 1 year from now. end quote campaigning. you can imagine the soundtrack of the 1960s and 70s is phenomenal. we've got about 90 people we want to introduce to you. e at the end you'll know folks who just had thanksgiving at. >> host: ken burns is ourida. guest. jeffrey, you are on the air with ken burns. >> guest: hello, ken. i can't believe i'm talking to you.okto i am looking forward to vietnam. i am just one of your many fans. i was first introduced to your work through the civil war in 1989. i have one comment.
and it is simple. when i heard you were in the tv i wanted to call you just to personally thank you for teaching so many of us so muchh about our history. >> jeffrey, that's great. >> we have a very complex society which would do well to know more history, but unfortunately we are knowing less of it and that is what takes the books are so important. people like jon meacham, john mccullough is in here but he just had a book on the right brothers. you have a group of people including c-span and public rod casting that his interest in trying to rescue our past from the soft and soothing presence. >> host: david mccullough sat in that book last year andoo talked about his most recent
book. >> hello. i want to thank ken burns for all the work you've done in this area. in particular want to bring up the issue of what happened when campaigns divide people 50/50. 50% of the people of one candidate and hit the other and therefore they demonize them are usually the rest of their careers. >> this is the central threat to the american democracy. abraham lincoln understood. he said no european or asian or african army could take a sober that if we were going to die, we would die by suicide. we saw that near suicide in our civil war. the story of arthur slusser junior now deceased that there's too much poor of this not enough of them. our campaigns have evolved from issues to demonizing the others.
we should only be demonizing ou accepted enemies and saying i disagree with you about this point, but you are not about american. we challenge whether there are americans, and whether they are good person and whether they are saying.ma it distracts us that they had two ratings that it doesn't fit their knowledge. there's still lots of important questions out there about health care, foreign policy, domestic policy and the economy that noon one is addressing because it's all kind of gladiatorial comments about who kids in the hardest slow. i couldn't agree with you more. i started a nonprofit called the better angels society after lincoln's first inaugural whenen he appealed to the betterd angels. it's hugely important rethink a democrat and republican alike can say we have to get along. we have to figure out how to
disagree without being disagreeable of them will save our countries. >> host: is this campaign you need? we think about what he went through. >> guest: here is what it is. since the beginning of contested election, john nonobscene thomas jefferson, they have been bitter and vitriolic, but somehow the different this habitat size in the last few election cycles and that is to the detriment of thep republic. it used to be that people would say i disagree with what you are going to do and maybe surrogates we do things. now we've lost our temperamentae judgment and we are saying terrible things about the otherb and we have to come back down to earth. the problem is it is hard to excite their base and tell them we don't mean that. he now? we are all the same. americans come and 99% of us want essentially the same thing for ourselves and our posterity
and our country. some of us go about it a different way than the other rest of us. it's hugely important to just talk about the issues and rapid demonization as jim was saying. this is where we are going to get into trouble. we have an election cycle where all the bad features about the elections, 1800 or 1928 because he supported a repeal of prohibition. it's all in one breath at this time and it is pretty low. >> host: ken burns, this is from the syndicator either illinois or georgia. what do you think the donald trump presidency with comparedat to a past president? >> guest: i don't know. obviously historians can predict the future. i know it is almost unanimous among historians that this is the least qualified of the most
temporarily unsuited person sets up program for national op is that as almost zero grasp offor foreign policy, that has a strange infatuation with theti russian dictator. he said he admired has power and someone, garry kasparov stated my dad is like admiring arsenic is a strong drink. there's lots of names that make this very troublesome for americans and more than that is the demonization of the other. the opponents for us in the republican party was 16 or 17 other opponents. when you get the kind of schoolyard olene stuff, you cheapen the conversation and make it impossible to go back to a playing field in which we can talk about real issues. the democratic nominee is not without her own issues. hers are the issues of a politician in the national scene or decades and the function of
her being part of the machine that is demonize the other. his issues are the lack they can disqualify him. >> host: christopher rutledge, pennsylvania. they throw your wonderful films and projects. tell us how your daughter's have influenced your projects. >> i don't know where they haven't. that may have been the easier and simpler way to do it. what a lovely comment. i am blessed with four daughters. life is fair, cons a companion and reminder i now work with my oldest daughter commissary. they made a film with her husband, david mcmahon, the filmmaker and also completed a film this spring on jackie robyn is working on several more projects. my tombstone i would want to read good father if nothing else
i would be happy. >> host: next call for ken burns' comrade in gastonia, north carolina. go ahead. >> hello. i seen you in 2003 at the louisiana purchase at monticello that cold morning. you give a good speech. my question is in rejection and john quincy adams and the election of 1824, who was jefferson on to them pulling for? the reason i am asking this is when i visited monticello many, many years ago, jefferson in his dining room had pictures above the wall of people he had fond memories for. >> guest: you know, jefferson died in 26. you're talking about the opinion
of an old man. i don't know the answer to that question certainly. i imagine that atoms, the son of his dear friend, but also at times his mortal enemy probably had some affection because that already patterson did not. but they would've recognized inn andrew jackson the kind of a morphing of the democratic ideal that he had espoused the small governments, more agrarian andn yet jackson would consolidate just as he was paid the mostst r important feature of thomas jefferson's presidency was not small government as he espouse all his life. not states rights but theof purchase of louisiana which is big government with a b. and g the doubling the size of the country is a pretty big gesture. one of the things i like about working on a children's book, you have to delve deeply as you
get into our jazz series.mes th sometimes the thing in the opposite at the same is also true. you combine that with every president never presidential election. i just would remind you that if hubert humphrey had won the dance xt eight, richard nixon would've been the biggest critic of humphrey had had the guts to open up relations with china. it took only a purulent anti-communist like nixon to be able to say wait a second, we are not recognizing the most populous country on her into this landmark event in foreign policy. the thing in the opposite of a thing happen at the same time. >> host: from ken burn's news book, "grover cleveland, again!," this is about john adams. a group of people started attacking soldiers in boston. shot to the ground, five
american diet called the the boston massacre good boston massacre. lawyer john adams agree to defend the enemy soldiers because he believed everyone had the right to a fair trial and he won the case.him for >> guest: this is by david mccullough immortalize john madden said we loved him for being so put a shift in obstinate. he said you're a better writer but nobody likes me. but look at that. he was a man of extraordinarypr. principle. when they go back to american history, when i look at that and delve into the qualities of leadership, it is always somebody that could possibly appear in profiles encouraged. always somebody willing to serve the country and placed the country's interests above theirr own self-interest. it is always the person who was before the other. i was very surprised by the hallmark of the greatest president that each one of them could put themselves in the shoes of the other. even someone who opposed themm and understand them and walk a
mile in their shoes. i think if americans vote forpe the person was the qualities of leadership that even this children's book reveals, there would be no problem. we'll go on throughout time. post co. clare, huntington station, new york. ui but tv with ken burns. >> guest: high, clear. >> caller: hi, ken. i want to echo a lot of the comments being made about your books. i was particularly thrilled with your civil war because it was the first time it in a series that dealt with african-american contribution to this country. i have never seen a series of baseball. i talked about the league.nk i think you're a leader in the pantheon of civil rights is particularly at a time in the60 60s when things were a bit time that quiet and i happen to work for an organization at that time that was still redlining.
are you in this new civil war t museum they open today? the african american museum or i think you deserve a place in it for what you contributed to african-americans. >> guest: claire, that is such a nice thing to say. for too long with solely top-down version of our past and neglect did lots of different stories with african-american history in february which is our coldest, darkest and shortest month as if it is politically correct addendum to a national narrative.e. but not in the center of it. i you need to do is pick up today's paper and bring this on the front nine. it's been there since thomas jefferson declared all men created equal but you'd see on the see on a few people and set in motion an american narrative always struggling with the question of race. i'm interested in how my country works and i don't go looking for it, but you find it every time you dig deep in the american history. it's important what we are not
charged a subsidy one person's' history for another. we are just trying to expand. when thomas jefferson said at the end of the sentence that we should be in pursuit of happiness that meant we are in a country in the process of becoming, always getting better. when he said all men are created equal, he meant all white men of property free of debt. he didn't been african-americans are a lot of different things that we added that. so with the opening of the african-american museum on the mall represented is not a narrowing or replace it never history.y. it's an expanding of our history. the south has 9 million peoplepe in the civil war started. 4 million were owned by other people. 45% of the south were slaves. that means you can't speak about a monolithic south unless youde are willing to include and add the dramatic african-american story that's all i've done. it's democratic to do that. thank you for the complement. >> host: ken burns,
>> this letter was sent to mere weeks after -- days after barack obama was reelected in 2012. it is at the top of an e-mail from the christian coalition of america. i was struck by it at that time because it came right on the heels in between the election and thanksgiving and it had this caption underneath it. instead family prayer, pennsylvania named team ready to. if the image here. of course it's a black-and-white photo. it's a white family saying grace before a meal. and then it had this line of text further explaining kind of the transition from the photo to the message of the christian coalition of america. it said this. excuse me. it's that we will soon be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first things getting in god has still not without his blessings upon this nation. although we now richly deserves such condemnation. we have a lot to give thanks far, but we also need to pray to our heavenly father and ask them
to protect us from those enemies out time and within who want to see america abuse during. so that is a message that comes from attached this image right after the reelection of president barack obama in 2012. at the time i was working on the boat but i immediately saved it because it seemed to me an artifact in a symbol of this visceral reaction to the reelection of barack obama in 2012. part of the book is about unpacking what is that about when we see these kinds of reactions. this kind of throwback imagery to a previous time, a mythical golden era of what is behind that sense of nostalgia and loss and grief. the book is called the end of white christian america appeared i went to prevent some confusion. what i mean is really a metaphor for the whole cultural institutional edifice that was built on its assembly but
primarily by white protestant christians in this country they really did set the tone for a national conversation and really shaped a lot of american ideals. it would be hard. many of you may have walked here, to walk very far without tripping over an institution that was started by white christian america, white protestant, the ywca, the boy scouts. he would not be hard to find these things. and yet, these institutions in the world that they were really a part of has really passed from the americans team. so that's really what the book is about. you can see this in demographic ways, architecture. i will focus for setup of the conversation here. if i can show you one chart unfortunately i will show you a few more. if i could show you one chart it would be this one. this really shows us several changes that have been just over the last eight years.
shaded in this light gray, the period of barack obama's presidency, this is all white christians together. the percentage that all white christians come protestants, mountain national, orthodox comprised of the american population. in 2004, 59% of the country. by 2008 by barack obama was running for president two election cycles ago the number was 54%. today the number is 45%. in the next year at our latest data shows that 45%. suggest during the last two election cycles during president barack obama's president be, we have crossed this amazing threshold and we've moved from being a majority white christian country to a minority white christian country in just a short amount of time. so this is in fact even if people don't know the stats bowwow, many white christian, particularly white conservative christians feel this shift in
their bones and this is part of some of the reactivity we are seeing. just to put one more symbolic issue across the same time. , i am putting up your support for gay marriage over the same period of time. if you just again go back to 2008, what you see is four in 10 americans support a gay marriage when barack obama was running for president 2008. the number today is 53%. we've gone from a country were only four in 10 support same-sex marriage to her a majority supported. that's a major cultural shift on a bellwether issue in a short amount of time. part of the book is telling us a story of unpacking the reactions in the grief and the anxiety around the reactions of these kinds of demographic and cultural change we see in the last decade of our nation's life.