After Words with Senator Mitch Mc Connell CSPAN December 23, 2016 8:00pm-9:00pm EST
booktv, television for serious readers. >> tonight on booktv in primetime, we wanted to show you a few programs frontal the "after words" wore series. first up, senator mitch mcconnell talk about hi life in politics. the become is "the long game. a memoir." >> 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 here is 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 speak to the press when it's to your advantage. you talk about a time when billgates came in to see you and you just sat there and people were uncomfortable waiting for one of you to speak, someone on told president george w. bush you were excited over a certain vote and he said, really? how can you tell. why so few words. >> guest: well, i'm in the afraid of talking but i learn morally listen -- more by listening so astart 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 the era of trump, probably very different approach to commenting on public affairs. >> host: you're not the first one i remember the late bob mow vac used to -- novak idea to day the hardest interview wait senator mike commandfield and he would ask him a question ask he way said, yep, and he thissest one was hubert humphrey. >> guest: do you don't net get in trouble for what you don't say and theirs wrong with being cautious about your comments. certainly don't mind talking but i like to know what i'm takenning about before i venture down the path. >> host: you're not so cautious in your book. a lot of unexpected material in there the polio, your fistfight we dicky mcgrew. your vote forline don johnson in
1964 over several rights and then win it gets to professor obama and senator harry reid, your tell tell derek cars port you don't hold back there, and then i think most people would be surprised to learn you'ren all-american tailgater at the university of louisville. let's start with polio. 1944. your two years old, living with your mom and identify points, alabama, and thank your dades os in the world and your doctor says, mitch has polio. it's hard today to imagine how terrifying those words must have been for a parent then. >> guest: absolutely. subsequently learned that there was a serious epidemic number 1944 all over the country, and the disease is very, very unpredictable. some people -- of course you have the flu. think you had the flu, and
couple weeks later some people would we completely normal. a couple weeks later some people would be in an iron lung for dead inch my case it faked my left quad trisend -- quadricep. the muscle between your knee and thigh, and this little crossroads, five points, alabama, not even a stoplight there, where my father, as you indicate, was living with her sister while my dad was overseas fighting the germans. happened to be 60 miles from warm springs and roosevelt, having gone there himself in the '20s, trying to -- >> host: he had polio. >> guest: he did injury an an adult. >> guest: got it as age 39. completely peril paralyzed before the waist. >> host: your more had no way of knowing.
>> guest: the worst case worst worst case cierre -- scenario would be a -- i'm two years old. my mother took me over to warm springs, taught her a physical harm regimen and told her to administer it four times a day and keep me off my feet. so she late literally watched my like a hawk for two years, every waking moment, tried to convey to the the subtle message, they didn't want me to think i cooperate walk but i shouldn't walk. >> host: how do you keep -- what two-year-olds do. >> guest: she matched me every minute and prevent me from prematurely walking. voicely she told me that years later. my first memory in life was the last visit to warm spring where
they told my mother i was going to be okay. i'd be able to walk without a limp and we stopped in a shoe store in la grange, georgia, on the way back to alabama to get a pair of low-top shoes which were a symbol i would have a regular childhood. >> you have a chapter in your book called resilience. i guess resilience must come that. >> guest: impressions being made on us that really early age or significant as some people think, it sure had one on me, which was if you stick to something, you keep working at it and giving it your past, the chances are you may actually overcome whatever problem you're currently -- >> host: do you have in impediment today? >> guest: some. the quadricep is more important
going down steps than if so not great at going unstairs. when i was a kid i wasn't good at running long distances us builds could i bay play baseball. >> host: you're fatherren couraged you to have a fight with dickie mcgrew. >> guest: i had no choice. was seven we lived in athens, alabama, and i had a friend across the street named dickie mcgrew, a year older and considerably bigger. also a bully and he kept pushing me around, and my dad was out working in the yard one day and he saw that, again, he sad seen it before. he called me over and he said, son, i've been watching the way he has been pushing you around. want you to go over there and beat him up? i said, dad, ease holder than i
i'm and bigger than me. so he said i'm older than you and i'm bigger. so with this hobson's choice, i went over and started swinging and i bent his glasses. that was inincredible lesson when people are trying to push you around. >> host: you have a chapter, standings your ground. >> guest: yeah. >> host: let's jump ahead to kentucky, the university of louisville. people at croons might wonder what do the senators talk about when they're on the floor. the aids are-watching you, you're talking bet the louisville sports program. before get to that your honors thesis was henry clay. >> guest: in 1950. >> host: that inspired you to want to be a united states senator? >> guest: i had gotten interested in politics in school. rant for president of the student body in high school and
a big high school, about -- very contentious race. >> host: you said you were hooked. >> guest: i want so abegan to follow politics -- i won so i began to follow politics and i was age 14 when the conventions were -- the coverage of convention was really dull. they'd focus on he podium and listen to all the speeches on tv. >> host: or we used to -- there's a big zenith radio and we would listen to to the whole thing. >> guest: pretty boring. thought i was probably the only 14 year -- >> jamiel have been two. >> guest: only 14-year-old in america, thought. maybe you were watching, too. watching those things from gavel to gavel, so i began to try to practice this craft and see if it could get good at it, and i was -- ran for president of
student counsel in college and in law school and clay was the most famous politician in kentucky. >> host: what -- >> guest: like andrew jackson. >> host: what about clay inspired you most? >> guest: the fact he -- in a not terribly significant state, some would argue, had become a major statesman, is why i -- in kentucky, people -- i wanted to learn more about him. and so -- >> host: he was known for craft compromises, which i a dirty word today with some people. >> guest: it is but essential. this constitution is full of compromises compromises and we do it every day to make the senate function. so i did my senior thesis on henry clay in the compromise of 1850, and continued to follow him as a lot of aspiring kentucky politicians do. >> host: now, there was another aspect of the university of
louisville, and that is this athletic programs. describe your tailget tailgating schedule. >> guest: well, football its an important part of life. >> host: but you take it seriously. >> guest: i do. we have about -- eye buy 12 season tickets every year, go to every home game. and an occasional away game wimp make a day of it. go out early. one hover my of my prepared rv in the parking lot and talk about the game and then go the game and then talk about what did happen in the game. it's a complete lengthy exercise and one of the great joys of life. >> host: we're talk beth the early 1960s when you were at the university of louisville. we both drove to washington, we just each realized in a green mustang. toward the end of the 1960s,
and i can -- you worked for senator marlowe cook from kentucky, and i worked for senator howard baker and i remember in 1969 senator baker said to me you need to meet that smart young legislative aide for cook, mitchell mcconnell. in loves you led a march on the capitol about civil rights. you were in washington as i was, to hear king king king's speech, the "i have a dream" speech you. had goldwater come sneak university of lot because you're president of the come republicans but voted for lip i -- lyndon johnson in 19 of 4. what happened. >> guest: the civil rights movement was the defining issue of our generation. when i was college republican
president, the acceptedded an invitation to come to u of l. and then we got to see the "i have a dream" peach and then in '674 i was an enter in senator coomer's office. two important things happened in '64. we broke the filibuster of the civil rights bill and senator cooper was in the middle of breaking the fill buster and we nominated barry gold water who was against the civil rights bill, and i was irritated and thought it would be unfortunate i voted for lyndon johnson, which was a huge mistake but it was a protest vote,. >> host: well, that feeling carried over into your senate days. you voted -- when president reagan vetoed the sanctions on
south africa for apartheid, you voted not to override his veto. >> guest: i voted to -- >> mean you voted to override hit hiss veto which most republicans did not do. i. >> guest: i just felt lying reagan who is widely admired by people like you and me, was simply wrong about whether or not south africa sanctions could work. i know there are people who think that sanctions never work. occasionally they do. the worked in south africa, they worked in burma, years later, and i thought reagan was wrong and i did vote to override his tivo. >> host: you mentioned burma. holiday dud did you get interested in suu kyi. i wondered what you were doing. >> guest: sunny started following her after she won the nobel peace prize in '91 and for the listener who are not
familiar with her, she -- her father was sort of the founder, modern burma but didn't live very long. got assassinated. she went off to europe, went to school, lived in the united states for a while, married a guy from britton, had two sons from england, that gone back to burma in 1988 to care for her sick mother, when this movement started, and she was sort of thrust into the leadership. the military junta which around the country since the early 'of 0s decided to have a free and fair election and got creamed. and their reaction to getting creamed in the free and fair election was to arrest all the people who had gotten elected and put her under house arrest in her open house where she remained mose of the time for 21 years. so we would slip notes to each
other over the years and authord some burma sanction bills that ultimately made a difference, and --y jo. >> host: you visited her. >> guest: amazingly enough, the regime began to crumble, and in 2011, and so then we were able to talk on the phone, and i actually went to burma in january of 2012 and got to see her in person, invite her to come to the university of louisville to the mcconnell center that year and she did come in september of 2012, and now she is the de facto elected leadership -- leader of the country, even though the constitution prohibits anyone from -- who is married to a foreigner, who has been married to a foreigner to be president. put in the constitution exactly to keep her from being president. she is -- de facto president.
put in a president who is close ally. >> host: you mentioned the mcconnell center at the university of louisville. what that. >> guest: basically a scholarship program for the best and brightest kidded started 25 years ago. you have to be from kentucky and there are ten each year, ten freshman, ten sophomores, ten juniors and ten southeasterns. it's design to try to compete with ivy league schools, and to get sharper kids to stay in kentucky for education, believing that if they stay there, more likely to stay there after school. 70% of the graduates have closen to stay? kentucky, and most of the sharp kids would go to east and go to school never come back. bring in speakers and we have had some great ones over the years. hillary clinton was there while she was secretary of state, and joe biden has been there while he was vice president and chief it justice roberts has been
there and it's a treat not only for the 40 mo who get to meet private live with the speaker and then they address a larger public audience. >> host: let's pitch to politics, a subject you like to discuss and something you're pretty good at. or undefeated. have won six races in kentucky, 12 counts primarieses let's talk about in the first one, the blood hound commercial. i think all of us in the senate are political accidents, not all of us will admit it but we all are. you surely were. >> guest: yeah. >> host: 30-points behind? july. >> host: show to bloodhound ad, at was that. >> guest: it was a desperate situation. roger ailes, who is now pretty well known dish. >> host: how did you find roger ailes. >> guest: this doughs he was doing political consulting. >> host: willing to take on some in a democratic state who was 30 points behind.
>> guest: he has a couple of client his thought would win, and and me i protectedded the fact he was willing to take me on. this is a tough competitor. you can see how he is that righted cnbc and started fox. here's the situation. it was july of the election. i was down -- >> host: 1984. >> guest: 1984ment down 34-points. we had a meeting in louisville, and i said, roger, is this race over? here's what he said. i've never known anybody come from this far behind this late to win, but i don't think it's over. 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 that -- thed in until the hay stack, and this is back in the hon rare ya days. which i d. have any problem with people making speeches for money
but he had been making speeches for money while he was missing votes on the senate floor. so ailes turned that in to a couple of ads featuring a kentucky hunter type person with bloodhounds, out looking for the senator to get him back to work, and it electrified the campaign, got people interest it, talking about it, and then there was a sequel later in which had a guy who looked lick huddleston, an actor, who was being chased by the dogs and ended up in the tree and the key line there was, we got you now. not exactly a landslide, one vote a precincts. >> four-tenth's one percent. >> guest: even though reagan carried 49 out of 50 states we lost two seats in the senate and he was owe the only democratic senator to lose. >> host: you next opponent will
fine your midwest of campaigning, which is to smash them in the mouth before they get started. probably -- i'm just guessing -- your toughest campaign was the last one, 2014. because you had the senate conservatives fund from the right, harry reid from the left. and and it was a pretty big brawl but you start right out by an ad that called you republican opponent, now the governor of kentucky, bailout -- >> guest: will, you and i witnessed the results in 2010 and 2012 -- >> host: i was glad all the attention was on you. >> guest: the senate conservatives fund and its allies had basically cost us five races in 2010 and 2012. by nominating people who couldn't win. so with the beginning of 2014, i said, not only in my race and
other raised we're not going to let that happen. and what i did, we got the most electable people nominated. basically took them on, because if you're dealing with a group of people who think compromise is a dirty word and always want to make a point but never want to make a difference, the only thing to do if you want to win the election is to beat them, and so we won every primary, including my own, and i was -- as you indicate, my primary opponent was a credible guy. the next year he was elected governor of kentucky, but in my primary he carried two out of 120 counties. >> host: you say take them on. eight like your fistfight withic dickie mcgrew. been our aids said the senate conservatives fun has been destroying the republican party like a drunk who tears up every bar they walk in. the difference is they strolled
in mitch mcconnell's barn. he's not go throw you out. he's going to lock the door. thosing are fighting words. >> guest: i think that's what needed to be done, some as a result, if you look at 2014, as a result of that approach, not only in my rails but several others, we took the senate back. we had the most electable candidates on in the november ballot everywhere. >> host: let's across cross the tile and talk about harry reid. we were another bon bennett's funeral a few days ago and you and senator reid both spoke. he said people don think mitch mcconnell and i don't like each other but we are friends. but and you say in your book, -- reid says you're classless and you liketon donald trump thing women are dogs and pigs you. say north your book but i think
you said other places he may be the worst majority leader. so the senate is a place of relationships. what about this relationship between the democratic and republican leader? are you friends or not friends? >> guest: i've been very, very public about a couple of things about hari hairy, 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: well, the example you just mentioned, just a fee weeks before we are taping this he took all of donald trump's most outrageous comments and attributed them to me. i don't do that to him. so i don't think there's an equivalents here but nevertheless i think to a lot of
people looks like we're just feuding all the time. we aren't feuding all the time. we have to talk daily. i do vehemently object to the way he ran the senate, and my gold in this current majority is to be as different in every way from harry and the way he ran the previous majority. i'm trying to do everything totally different. i do object to the way he ran the senate. and i do object to the inflammatory rhetoric issue like calling alan greenspan a political -- or calling george w. bush a loser or saying the iraq war is lost 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 talk about the senate conservative fund and write about senator reid. you have a chapter entitle "professor obama." why why did 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 he would spend less time trying to acquaint whoever he is talking to at the moment with his brilliance and more time listening. just to draw a contrast between the president and the vice president, i've been in a number of major deals with the vice president. that were won't andworth doing for the country him doesn't try to convince me of thing head knows i don't believe. and i don't spend time trying to convince him of things that he doesn't believe. in other words, don't waste time on all of that. we get down to trying to figure out what we can do together because he knows how far i can
go and i know how far he can go. i think the president would be better off -- he is a brilliant guy, successful in his political career, rising quickly to the top in american politics. but i don't think these ininsees sent lectures are -- >> host: let's talk about divided government. heard you talk about that a lot and say -- suppress your disappointment that you and the president haven't been able to accomplish more together because, i've heard you say, the divided government is the time when you do hard things because you spread the responsibility around. now, the democrats say about you that you said early on that your main goal is to make president obama a one-term president. i've heard you've say you made a peach early on issue it's time to go to work on entitlements
and offer a hand to do that and you never heard back from anybody. so, whose fault is i that we haven't taken advantage of this seven years of divided government to do more? >> guest: obviously i have a point of view on that. on the obama one-term president. do admire bob woodward, the only major reporter who report it the rest of what i said. >> host: which was? >> guest: that in mean time we had plenty of work to do and had to look for ways we could work together. that was cone -- conveniently snipped off by almost everyone. but i think divided government is probably the only time you can do big transformative things. give you an example. reagan and tip o'neill raged the age for social security. reagan and tip o'neill did the last comprehensive tax row. bill clinton and a republican
congress did welfare reform and balanced the bug three years in a row. big stuff. arguably none of that could have been done in unified government. give you an example of when unified government couldn't produce a big outcome. george w. bush as just been reelect fled 2004. he asked all of to us tackle social security. i was number two in our conference at that time and i spent a year trying to get any democrat, any democrat, even joe lieberman, the most reasonable democrat to join with us and their at thattitude was we have the white house, the house this, senate. you want to do something on social security, jew do -- you do it. that means we'll see you in the next election. so misdisappoint if with barack obama, two things have to be done to save america. from the path we're headed. entitlement eligible changes, understand you have to change the eligible for very popular things like medicare and social
security, to fit the demographics of america tomorrow. not america in the '30s or the '60s. social security in '30s, medicare in the '60s. the president knows that. he is a very smart guy. he doesn't want to do it. could preparesive tax rome. it's been 30 years, we need to do it again. not for the purpose of getting more revenue of the government. it's for the purpose of making america more competitive but the president won't do tax reform in any other way other than to get additional revenue for the government. so these two big transformative issues we have been unable to address because the nation's ceo doesn't want to do it. >> host: i suppose maybe the best example of when we did do that was in civil rights in the '60s and we both saw that. i remember when i first came up here working for senator baker, if everett derekson was the republican leader and has the
ott office you have and senators came in and you outs democrats and republicans worked together to get 67 which is what i took to end debate for cloture, and they did that and johnson and dirksen did that together bought of their special relationship and you have in your book a story -- senator john sherman cooper took you as a youngster to the sign offering of the voting rights alaska and you had a conversation with the president's daughter, lucy. >> guest: i saw lucy in 200 . never met her. at the celebration of her dad's 100th birthday. said, lucy, we have never met, but i was in this very room, when you dad signed the voting rights act in 1965. she said, was, too. i said i'm sure everybody knew you were there and nobody knew i was.
i was in the back of the courtroom. she said i'll tell you why is was there. my daddy said know, get in the car, i'm going to take you down to witness something important. and explained to me on the way down to hill why everett dirksen was going to prominently featured in this remarks and the -- she see why -- said why have a republican there and said that president johnson said to her not only did most of the run republics vote for it but the nation will be more likely to accept it if they think we have done this together. lucy johnson in 2008 explain while she was there in 1965. >> host: of course they had to do that, they had relationship, senator bike baker used to tell me he howard is in father-in-law, dirksen, take a phone call in his office and heard dirksen say no, mr. president, can't come down and have a drink with you tonight. i did that lavers night and my wife is mad at me.
and 30 minutes later, there was a russell outside and two biegeled came in followed by a president of the united states and johnson said if everett it if won't wave a drink with me, i'll have one with you and the disappeared into the back room of the same office that the civil rights bill was written. so that relationship precedes probably divided government. let's talk about the senate as an institution. you aallowedded to earlier. you said your main goal is to -- you thought about getting your ph.d in history. you went on the floor before you were majority leader and said you wanted to run the senate the way senator mike mansfield rage who to was the major writ leader 16 years at the time we came here. what did you mean? >> guest: we were talking bit this earlier, my critique of harry reid's period as majority leader.
you have to open the senate up. the last year of the majority, there were only 15 roll call votes on amendments the tirer into. the first year of the new majority in 2015 we had over 200. so open the senate up. let people vote. number two when we talk about regular order, which most people don't know what that means. >> host: blaze the eyes right there. >> guest: it means a bill is worked on together, come out to the floor with bipartisan support, and has a better chance of success. the best example appears to be your bill, to completely rewrite the so-called "no child left behind" bill passed in the early bush 43 years and was unworkable and unpopular and by the time you brought it out of commiteye you had the democrats and the republicans lined up, took today the floor.
wait relatively open for amendments, not that absolutely everybody got everything they wanted and it pass witness a large majority. we have done that time after time after time under this new majority. whether it was trade promotion authority or five, year highway bill which mose people took be easy. we hand done that in 20 years. comprehensive energy biles, cyber security. permanent internet tax moratorium. a major opioid and heroin aaddiction bill. we were hoping to achieve something really important again fromming out of your committee, related to some of the incredible cures that seemed to be just around the corner for our country. now, what does all hays have in comment? we're focuses on the thing wed gray open and do those. when pea elect a divided government people say we know
you he big differents but look for the things you agree on and do those. that's why this majority is totally different than the previous one. >> host: you have to do, as johnson did, with dirksen, give the other side credit. in my case with fixing "no child left behind" never would hey happened irsenator.y murray of washington hadn't been as interested in resolving -- as i have in our bill about medical research, but never -- it's not a bad thing to give somebody else credit. usually it helps you get the -- you came here 50 years ago. working for -- a little more than that working for senator cooper. what's the most different about the senate today and what is something that is the same? >> guest: well, i think what is different is the two-party labels mean something today. when you and i first came into washington there were liberal republicans and conservative
democrats. i think the two-party labels today are more descriptive of america's two-party system. the republicans mostly all right to center. right of center, and the democrats are mostly all left of center. so i think the labels mean more today than the did then. that different. what i think isn't different is that there isn't as much animosity or unwillingness to work together as is portrayed in the media. with the internet and 24-hour cable television going on, people get hammered with what they teach them in journalism school, that only bad news and conflict is news. so people are way more upset about stuff than they ought to be. they are legitimately upset about where they are in their lives and it's a fact that the
average american is three or four thousand dollars a year worse off today than they were, for example, when president obama came to office. that's a legitimate complain. but the senate is not i dysfunctional. not many people know that. >> host: we talk about -- if -- i remember when i came to the senate as a senator, having worked in it before issue 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 concept. you're the majority leader but if they listen carefully on c-span you'll stay, i ask consent that the senate open tomorrow at 9:30 and that we have a prayer and good to this bill and if one senator objects, you have to start over. how would now -- if you had to
suggest to someone a back to read, about understanding the senate, do one or two come to mind? >> guest: my goodness. probably put people to sleep because the senate is ironically working out pretty much the way green gauche e gorge washington predict it. he was asked what do you think the senate would be like he said it would be like a saucer under the tea cup and the tea would go 0 down to saucer and cool off. i would did he say na? snorts 100 years ago were elected midst state legislatures and only a third of the senate was up every two. so i think on purpose the founders wanted the snooted be a place where the brakes could be applied easily. and then over the years, as you suggest, the notion of unlimited
debate empowered every single senator to have an impact. if the house is like a triangle with the speaker at the top. the senate is more like a level playing field and the majority liter has the right of first recognition. after that it's a jump ball. the senate is a place where thing slowed down, are thought over, and rarely done on a strictly partisan basis unless you have a huge under on your party. >> host: the first chapter of robert care rowe rod book about lyndon johnson, master of the senate, but is called "the death over the senate." that struck me as -- after the election, he engineers come in and if the democrats won more than the republicans they up bolt the republican desks' move
enough over to the other side to move it out. a wonderful way to think about the way the place works. let me switch gears completely. you were married, have three daughters, while you were -- jefferson county, which is louisville, a bachelor 13 years and then at the suggestion of a friend you had you assistant telephone the assistant for the chairman of the federal maritime commission and that was hugh you met elaine chao, who wrote head marry. not a very romantic beginning. >> guest: i had befriended a couple of people when i was a staffer in the senate and kept up with them over the years. went home to try to have my own career, and i had, as you indicate, been single for quite a while, single when i came to the senate. and i wanted to meet somebody new.
so i called up julia cheng block and said do you now anybody new? she said i have the woman you should meet and that was elaine chao. hertz family is her family is a classic example why why we ever want to totally curtail immigration in this country. >> host: tell something about her family's story. >> guest: her mon and dad, born in mainland china, when they were young they were dodging the japanese invasion of china. then when guy dot older there was the communist revolution. they separately managed to get out of mainland china and go to taiwan, and they had met briefly on the mainland, and my father-in-law had taken a liking to her so he searched in tie -- taiwan for two years to find her. they got heard, had three daughters can my wife, elaine is is the oldest but he was an
ambitious young man himself wanted to do better. so he came to america three years by himself, worked multiple jobs, trying to get start in the shipping business. he had been a ships captain. in taiwan. he wanted to by more than that. and so he -- for three years worked multiple johns to -- jobs to get a start. he called for "late more than mother in law. they came over on a freighter. finally ended up in a small paper in queens. and he kept working, and kept having kids. ended up with six daughters, four of whom have gone to harvard business school, one is a slacker, only a lawyer. and he built a very successful shipping business.
and that is the kind of story that you see all across america which is another reason why even in moments when we're frustrated about our attitudes about illegal immigration to remember that we were all virtually all of us -- unless we were african-americans who were brought here against their will, sons and tours of risktakers. so this constant renewal process we have people coming here legally with ambition and want to accomplish, tend to be the best americans and so i think elaine and her family are a classic example of that. >> host: i want to ask you about some senators, one livering and the rest deceased. the living one is john mccain. you and he had a big brawl over the first amendment, i think most people may not know that your first amendment view had to do with basically no limits on campaign finance disdisclosure
and you voted against constitutional amendment that would have banned desecration of the american flag. you're out there on the first amendment but john mccain disagreed with new. mccain feingold was the lawsuit that passed. you fought it in to supreme court and lost. what your relationship with john mccain today. >> guest: very close. that's a good example of being able to have a knock down-drag out fight over irissues. was over ten years. pretty stress between betweenfu- stressful between. i called him up after supreme court -- i watched the republican congress and senate pass a bill i was opposed to. i called him up after the win in the supreme court, hi said, congratulations, john, you won, lost, and we found there were
other things we could work on together and we became fast friends and allies on a whole variety of things and that's the way the senate ought to work and frequently does. anytime sure many people in the public know that. >> host: do you consider john mccain an american hero? >> guest: absolutely. >> host: i'd like you to give me one or two sentences about each of the following united states center -- senators. henry clay. >> guest: the great compromiser. >> host: lyndon baines johnson. >> guest: as a senator? >> host: ey. >> guest: over rated. think the master of the senate was mike mans field and not johnson. >> host: well, mike mans field. >> guest: master of the senate. >> host: everett dirksen. >> guest: indispensable player who now win to oppose and join up anding a unsen hero in the
civil rights move. >> host: senator john cher man -- sherman cooper of kentucky. >> guest: role mad model as a young man, great conviction, very part. >> host: ted kennedy. >> guest: he was the lyon of the senate, one over many books about him have been written, and he roared and you and i both knew when he was passionate, which he was about almost everything. but in many ways i think the most accomplished kennedy -- never got to be president -- never was a attorney general but i think in almost every day the most accomplished kennedy. >> host: the most accomplished senator as a kennedy. and maybe the most accomplished -- we used to laugh with him about going to lincoln day dinners and all you had to do is mention ted kennedy's name to fire up the crowd.
yet when i made the first speech on the senate floor about american history he came ever unsolicited and took my bill, went out and got ten democratic cosponsors within a day. so he knew exactly how to make the senate work. senator robert byrd. >> guest: could well have been senate historian. >> host: during the presidential campaign this year, governor chris christie city got all over senator rubio for reef beating himself. in your book you say, when i start boring myself to tear is noe beginning to driver the message home. in other words, you think redundancy is a good thing. >> guest: yeah. i probably one of he few anymore america that thought rubio was doing the right thing in that debate. i think good politics is rep
particulars, -- repetition and f you're trying to drive a message you have to repeat it a lot to make the point. try to do that in meetings we have with our colleagues. inoticed. >> guest: well, one time is not enough. you can always count on about three-quarters not paying attention the first time so if you're really trying to make a point, repetition is a good thing. >> host: i want to ask you about a period of time in your emotions during that time. after three terms finely elected whip, the number position in the senate. november 13, 2002. then a month later trent lott went to strom their mond's billing okay party and said something about thurmond and had to resign as leader, a position you always wanted. you would seem to be the logical person to to move up bum senator bill frist took the position and then at the end of january you had triple bypass surgery so
what was your range of emotions discussion that two and a half months about all those? sunny. >> guest: i think my feeling was i probably never would have an opportunity to bed the leader of my party in the senate. i was ten years older than bill frist. fortunately the health problem i had worked out fine. but i had doubts during that period. i had just been bypassed by someone who is ten years younger than i am and had a significant health problem. so i wondered if i would ever have an opportunity to have the job that i had clearly been hoping to have for quite a while. >> host: so. >> guest: so it was a challenging period but like other challenges eye and others have -- i don't want to make the story seem all that unique. if ju just don't quit and just keep plucking, the chances are
you'll get where you're headed. i always tell students, the only way to fail inners america is to quit or die. and we all have speed bumps and setbacks. are we dedefeated by them oar shake it off and except going if go my second chance. billioned to leave indiana and i was lettered of the part then there was another disappoint: wasn't the majority leader. it was the minority leader. >> host: and you gave the blame for some of that to republican on republican violence you've talk about that. about the politics of futile gestures. what do you mean. >> something like i would don't we shut down the government to defunded obamacare. that's a futile gesture. obama is in i white house,
obviously 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 that only divide the party. and that has been a challenge. i think it's been a bigger challenge in the house of representatives than in the senate. only a couple of people in the senate who have that kind of approach. but it's been a challenge, and on the outside you saw it with the actions of the senate conservatives fund. the way we department with that -- dealt with thralls on the outside is to beat them in primaries and don't have a nominee who come into the not who winds and comes in with that kind of mentality, thinking our job is to throw stones every day and to never achieve anything. >> host: of course one disadvantage is the message that you'd like to deliver, which is that the republican majority is accomplishing lot, gets depleted because you have some
republicans saying it's not, and even presidential candidates saying it's not a. which make us it harder to elect a republican president and keep a republican majority. >> guest: night just about messaging weapon all want to do things for our country. no matter what our backgrounds are, think virtually -- not everybody but virtually everybody comes here wants to actually accomplish things for our country, and you have too deal with the government you have. barack obama, whether i like it or not, got elected. he's been there eight years. and to suggest that we ought to spend 100% of our time simply fighting with him rather than trying to look for some of the things that we can agree on that would make progress for the country, always struck me as absurd. >> why did you decide to write the book? i think becoming majority leader after all these years.
i called it the long game. it account happen overnight. was not an overnight sensation. thought it was a time in which the senate needed to be operated differently, it was a pivot point for the senate, and i think that's the reason why i chose this particular title. >> host: if there were one law -- if you were the king and there were one law you could pass, what would it be? >> guest: i think i would fix the entitlement eligible problem. i think the one issue that can sink the country is the unsustainable current -- the way medicare and social security are currently crafted is unsustainable. it is the one thing that could completely tank our country. >> host: senators have a weekly prayer breakfast on wednesday with don't talk about that much but tom daschle said something that stuck in my mind.
he remind i minds us he often think head wishes he had prized even more than the did the power he had when he had it. in other words, he was saying issue take advantage of this incredible accidental power that you have. you ever think about that? >> guest: i do. and all majorities are fleeting, and depending on what the american people decide this november i could be minority leader and minority leader position does present a real opportunity, even in a body like the senate, which is very difficult to make function, there are advantages to setting the agenda, and what we call the right of first recognition, to move the country in the direct you'd like to go, and sow so you just don't know how long that it goetz to lost last. don't want to miss any opportunity to make at the country better and have to deal
with the government you have. i wish obama was not president but he is. >> host: we have threw or four minutes left i want to -- that speech i made to senator kennedy but the cosponsors for was about encouraging the teaching of american histories in our school sod our children can grow up learning what it means to be an american. take the teacher on the senate floor, when a senator can do that and go to they're views desks and try to find webster's disk and different desks and inverily one will ask me the question i want to ask you, my last question. senator, what message would you like for us to take back to our students about the united states senate and the future of our country? >> guest: well, think the senate has been the inin -- a place
where only rarely does the majority get things exactly their own way. the place where stability can occur. and most people obviously don't think that. in an era in which everybody wants instant gratification, if you're looking for instant gratification, or perfection, the senate would not be a good place for you. >> host: and at a time when many americans are not optimistic about our country's future, what would you want those team teachers to tell their students about their future in this country. >> guest: well, look, i think because of our woefulling nose orr american history we always think the current time we're in is tougher than the others. we have had nothing like the civil war period.
not a singlele incidence where a congressman from south carolina came over and almost beat to death a senator from massachusetts. america has had plenty of tough challenges, world wars, depressions, this is a great country. we're going to deal with whatever our current problems are, and move on to another level, and i'm just as optimistic that i ever was this generation is going to have behind a better america than our parents lefts for us. >> host: well, that's an optimistic message from a kid who had polio, overokay. it, set his sights to be in the united states senate, made and it became the majority leader after 50 years of keeping his eye on the ball. chet adkins used to say in this life you have to be mighty careful where you aim because you're likely to get there and senator mitch mcconnell did. thank you for talking. thank you.