tv [untitled] May 5, 2012 12:30pm-1:00pm EDT
>> there have been a few regnery best sellers. >> from 1986 until four years ago, i published 22 new york times best sellers, so, yes, some of them make money but you lose money on the other books, it evens out. >> when did you start publishing political books? >> well, we published, soon after "red horizons," i got a book that we called "the senatorial privilege" and that was the big book on chappaquidock, it was a book a new york publisher agreed to publish and then had breached the contract because, well, because they didn't want to publish it. we did, and it was a huge sensation, so that was certainly a very political book, and then there were a lot of others. the first -- when bill clinton was elected, obviously, that gave us a very green pasture for
all sorts of stuff to publish, and the first one -- i think we published eight or nine clinton books that were best sellers, the first was a book written by a reporter in little rock that covered clinton for the time he was governor and attorney general, she'd see him every day, meredith oakley, and she wrote a book -- we called that book "on the make." it was one of the first anti-clinton books that was published. published barbara olson, two of her books. the first was her book on hillary clinton, and the second book was the one on the clinton administration's -- the end of the administration, the pardons and the trashing the white house and stealing the furniture and all those things. actually, that book was a very interesting experience for me, because she was killed, i think, as the book went to print, and we proceeded after talking to
her husband, ted, at some length, agreed to proceed with the book. i actually did an awful lot of the publicity for that book myself, and, again, it was a number one best seller. >> al regnery, when you were president and publisher at regnery, did you publish for a niche audience? >> you have to, unless you're publishing -- pretty much any book is a niche audience. we were publishing largely to right of center or people interested in politics. we figured out pretty much how to reach that audience, that's the reason we were so successful with those books. the company still is, i'm not head of it anymore, i'm on the board, and i still stay in close touch with them and they keep doing the same things, and it does reach that audience, largely, probably of conservatives and gives them books that gives them more information about what they think. >> why did you leave regnery? >> i turned 60, and when i
turned 60, i'd been publishing books for nearly 20 years, and i thought there's got to be one other thing i can do in my life. i had been either in government or law school or practicing law for, i guess, 15 years, and i had, you know, done a number of other things in my life, and i wanted one more chance to do something else. the american spectator was having a lot of problems, it was a venerable amazing that, again, a conservative magazine that i thought deserved to be rebuilt, and i thought it would be a challenge for me to do it, and i've been doing it for four years, and it's now back on its feet and successful. >> still editor? >> bob is still the editor, yes, we work closely together. >> to whom did you sell regnery? >> well, we had actually sold it about ten years before i left to tom phillips, eagle publishing is the company that controls it,
still does, and when we had done that sale back in -- about ten years before i left, i guess, then i stayed on as president and publisher after that until i left. >> in the title of your book, al regnery, you went from publisher to writer, you use the word ascendance of american conservatives, why? >> well, the thesis of the book is the conservative movement, starting, as i mention, from pretty much nothing in 1945 to where it is today is certainly an ascendance. the uphill part of the title designates it's always been a struggle. there's always been a pretty strong counterforce on the left that's done everything it could to make life difficult for conservatives. whether it's in the press or in academia, politics, wherever, and so what i -- what i basically point out is that every step up was a struggle. it continues to be a struggle,
but nevertheless, there has been this uphill -- this growth of it into where today, i think, it's probably the most formidable political force in the country, conservatism is. it has probably more clout than many conservatives realize in terms of what it accomplishes, it really controls one of the two major political parties, which are about evenly matched. conservative movement today has a huge communication system, it controls all kinds of things like talk radio and newspapers, magazines, websites, publishing companies, it's pretty much everywhere, and that's, i think, quite an assent from where it started. >> a question i probably should have asked right off the bat, but what is a conservative? >> good question, people have been battling with that question
for a long time. there is no clear, simple answer to what a conservative is. basically, i guess, these days you could say a conservative is somebody who believes in certain principles, they believe in less government than more, they believe in lower regulation, less regulation of all things, letting people do what they want to do, they believe in individual freedom, they believe in the constitution, in federalism, a strong foreign policy that is in the interest of the united states, i guess those would be most things. there are, obviously, lots of other things too, but those would be the foundational principles of what most conservatives believe. >> one of the things i took from your book is the grassroots group, the fact the conservative movement has now built a structure on which it can operate, the federalist society, paul wiric, his role in building the grassroots.
>> conservative politics, anyway, is a bottom-up operation instead of a top-down. there's nobody at the top telling people what to do. there are all these thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people, whatever it is, who are scattered around the country who have some connection to it, who can be inspired to do things and who do do things for the cause when they are called upon to do it. those are the grassroots people, whether it's an election, whether it's a campaign, whether it's fighting something in congress or working on whatever other issue it might be, there can be as many as, i don't know, 8 or 10 million people, i suppose, that can be brought to bear on whatever the issue is, that's the grassroots. >> al regnery, what's a neocon and how do they fit into the
conservative movements? >> neo conservatives first emerged in the early '70s, largely new york intellectuals, many of them jewish, they were mostly professors at well-established universities, who were anti-communists, they believed in a strong foreign policy, they were largely domestic liberals, and they became concerned about, oh, a number of different things. actually, i guess, most of them when they first started were concerned about the welfare state and the great society and the fact that we were spending all this money on welfare and it wasn't working, daniel patrick monahan was one of the first, ultimately became senator of new york, irvin crystal, daniel bell, there were quite a few others, and they were writers, primarily, magazine editors, and they began writing first about social policy and liberalism was
actually doing more harm than good, this social liberal business, and then subsequently became concerned about foreign policy and our really lack of spine in fighting communism. and little by little, they sort of merged over into the conservative movement. many of them actually became republicans during ronald reagan's election, and he had -- there were, i think, probably as many as a couple hundred people that sort of fit this category that were working together, largely on foreign policy, there was an organization called the committee for the present danger that was formed and a couple of other related groups that these people would, again, write, do lectures on the fact particularly that the carter administration was giving it all away to the soviet union and that we needed to have a stiffer spine. reagan liked them, he was a former democrat himself, he understood them, a good many of
them went into his administration and worked on, primarily, foreign policy issues. then the newer neo cons are really not terribly related to those people. henry jackson, who was a senator from washington state, was one of the few sort of elected neo cons. most don't get elected to office. henry jackson did, he was a democrat, he was a staunch anti-communist, he was a very, very strong on national defense, and he had a number of people work in his office actually who then went on to be today's neo cons, and the ones that -- today's neo conservatives are largely interested in foreign policy, in projecting the united states' position around the world. they are not particularly interested in domestic policy, and there is a great deal of contention between the neo conservatives and the more
traditional libertarian conservatives who see the neo cons as basically subverting what is traditionalist american foreign policy, so they are part of the movement, but they are one of those appendages who are part of it for certain. >> al regnery, you would be considered in many circles in this country a lightning rod. do you enjoy that? >> oh, it never really bothered me much, i guess, it probably comes with the territory. yeah, i guess, frankly, i sort of do enjoy it. i like to stir things up, and i guess if i'm a lightning rod, it means i've had some impact with what i'm doing, and that's really why i do it. i mean, being in the publishing business, being a writer on topical things, what i'm trying to do is influence public opinion, and i know doing that i'm going to please some people, i'm going to irritate some people, and if i don't irritate them, if i don't become a lightning rod, i guess i'm not sure i would be succeeding the
way i should be. >> are there any of the books that you published that you regret publishing? >> no, i don't think so. there were some that didn't sell very well, of course, you always wish you could only publish the best sellers, but you don't know that until you get into it, but we never -- i never got sued by anybody for libel. i don't think there was anything i ever published or regnery continues to publish that wasn't honorable and wasn't well-written. we always emphasized we wanted the things of the best quality. i always tried to only publish authors that were either professional writers or professional in what they were writing about, and we edited things carefully, we vetted them carefully to make sure they were correct, and i think they almost always were. >> "upstream" is not published by regnery, it's published by threshold divisions, why is that? >> well, when i decided to write
it, i told my friends at regnery i was writing a book and i wasn't going to show it to them. they had no choice, and i felt that it would, if we published it ourselves, it would look like a vanity book. i thought having my name at the top and the bottom of the spine would probably -- you couldn't do that, really, and have an honorable book, so i shopped it with the bigger publishers in new york and had two or three that were interested, and simon and schuster wanted it, i'm pleased they did. >> mary madeline? >> she is, she was the one that signed it up. i guess, in a way, i like to think that the fact simon and schuster published this book is part of the story, that the ascendance of the american conservatives put conservatism into the mainstream, into the big publishing companies and that sort of thing. i doubt if they would have published this book ten years
ago, but i like to think that partly because of the other books that i published, they recognized that you could successfully publish a conservative book, that it would get reviewed successfully and it was a professional thing to do, and, therefore, they -- they agreed to publish it, which as i say, pleases me very much. >> why did you write it now? >> well, i -- i thought that as i -- what i knew about the conservative movement was somewhat unique, that i had access to a lot of people that other writers might not have access to. i interviewed dozens and dozens of people for the book that were sometimes hard to get to, and what they gave me actually was unique information that hadn't been published before in many cases, and i thought that, particularly younger people, needed to know what the history was. there are a lot of people these
days who call them conservatives, why are you conservative, they really don't know, or you ask them, you know, what did barry goldwater add to the movement or what did russell kirk write and they have no idea. i thought if there was an accessible book, and i tried to write it in a way to make it accessible to the ordinary reader, it would add something to the whole debate, and in the course of writing it, there's a good deal of u.s. history as well. what i did was in writing the book about the conservative movement, i looked at what was going on at the time and to see why conservatives were doing the things that they were doing, and in the process, i learned a lot and wrote a lot about whatever it might be. for example, there's a long chapter in the book about the supreme court, and what i concluded was that starting with the warren court in 1953 and through the next 25 years that the court had decided a number
of cases that had a huge impact on the conservative movement. actually, just the reaction to those cases changed politics dramatically, and so as i say, the sort of history of the supreme court is in there from the view of a conservative, and throughout really the political history, i guess, of the entire 60-year period from world war ii, is covered. i talk about the great society at some length and what it was doing and why and what the reaction to that was, and to the vietnam war, i even go back into some of the things before world war ii, woodrow wilson, herbert hoover to show what the situation in the country was when we started. >> is it fair to say you concluded earl warren was a gift to the conservative movement? >> you could say that, i guess, people would argue with that, but earl warren had a huge impact on this country, and he and his fellow justices of the supreme court. warren had been the governor of
california, never been a judge when he became the chief justice. he was used to making executive decisions as a governor and as attorney general, and that's sort of the way he approached -- approached judging, and he had these cases that came before him, these cases that made a tremendous difference in the country. the first, of course, was brown v. board of education, which was actually pending in the court when he got there, and the court was completely tied in knots over the case, they couldn't get a majority. a very persuasive politician and was able to get the other eight justices on his side and decided brown. of course, when he did, for the next five years the country was in turmoil over whether or not schools were going to be desegregated, and even people that said schools should be desegregated agreed that it shouldn't happen by the decree of nine unelected justices, it should happen in the state
legislatures or the congress or somewhere where there's accountability. of course, there was many cases after that, really changed the way state legislatures and ultimately congress elected people. again, still the same way, prayer in the schools was another one, which was really the thing that energized the christian right and brought them into the political process. subsequently, after warren, the roe v. wade decision, i think the conclusion people said was exactly the conclusion that should have been, that's not me saying it, that's what i quote people saying, but the court had no business doing this, has nothing to do with the constitution, there's no real constitutional law in the case, but they are simply mandating the things that happen. so all these different cases, there were criminal justice cases and a good many others that really changed the way the social structure of the country worked, all done by these few
supreme court justices. now, to the extent that the conservative movement reacted, in many cases, it reacted with a great deal of energy, and it resulted in huge influxes of people into the movement. i mean, obviously, as i said, the abortion case was one that brought in the whole right to life movement, people that mostly hadn't been involved in politics before and realized that if they were going to preserve their -- what they believe, they'd have to get involved politically, so now, of course, how many hundreds of thousands of millions of people in the right to life movement, but what they are about now is electing people that will appoint judges that will do what they want or may have an impact in the state legislatures or the congress, and the same with prayer in the schools and some of these other cases, so, yeah, the reaction, i think, has been a tremendous growth in the conservative movement that even 25, 30 years after the case is decided, still exists.
>> three current events questions, number one, is george bush a good president, in your view? >> well, that's a tough question. i think in some ways he's been pretty good, and in some ways he's been pretty was, never made claim to be a conservative. he has done some things that conservatives liked. done other things they hate. he's appointed pretty good judges. conservatives generally like his tax cuts. they don't like his spending policy. a lot of conservatives don't like his foreign policy. they don't like the whole iraq business and particularly what's happened in the last -- since the invasion. there are other things they don't like about him. certainly the fact that america is held in such disrepute around the world i think is something that conservatives generally don't like about him. so it's certainly a mixed bag. >> you recently wrote in the "wall street journal" that john mccain needs conservatives, but
conservatives don't need john mccain. >> well, that's -- i guess, again, we go back to the question of principles. and where conservatives are in it for the long-term, they think, why do i need somebody who may or may not adhere to what i believe? and as you know, there are a good many talk show hosts and others who say sit this election out, let's regroup, let's get a better candidate the next time. let mccain do his own thing and don't support him, and maybe he'll win, maybe he won't. i think as we get closer to the election, most conservatives will consider the options. and they will say, well, mccain certainly has some things we don't like. principally the things conservatives don't like about mccain are the mccain/feingold bill, which they feel really trampled on the first amendment, and his stand on immigration. and there are some other things, too. but those are big public issues,
which he took i leadership position on and thought he was wrong. so how can we trust him to do what we think he should do. by the same token, 80% conservative voting record in the senate, surrounded himself with people like jack kemp, frank keating, sam brownback, ted olson, a whole number of other people who are very staunchly conservative people. so where do you go? if people get down to the election and they say, do i want john mccain picking the next three or four supreme court justices? or shall we leave it up to hillary clinton or barack obama, my guess is they'll largely say john mccain. >> are you going to sit this one out? >> no. i'm not really a political -- i'm not involved in everyday politics. but i don't think i'll sit it out. >> and finally, as a conservative, would you rather run against hillary clinton or barack obama? >> that's a good choice, isn't it?
hillary clinton certainly has the record that would be very energizing to conservatives to run against. and i can say if she wins, i think it will do enormous things for the movement, because they'll be energized to spend 23 hours a day to fight everything she does. obama actually has the most liberal voting record in the senate. so when he starts talking -- stops talking about hope and starts talking about what he's actually going to do, there may be some pretty good opportunities to have some pretty good campaign things against him. i suppose in the end clinton is probably the easier candidate to beat. but i think either one of them can be beaten. but then who knows? politics is so uncertain. a week is a long time in american politics, and between now and november, who knows what will happen? >> al regular nery, former publisher of regneri publishing,
and now author, thanks for having us at your house in alexandra. >> thank you very much for being here. >> next weekend on history bookshelf, kathryn jacob talks about her book, king of the lobby, the life and times of sam ward, man about washington in the gilded age. it recalls the political life of sam ward, who during the mid 19th century was one of the most powerful lobbyists in washington, d.c. history bookshelf airs on american history tv every saturday at noon eastern. all weekend long, american history v is joining cox communications cable partners in oklahoma city to showcase its rich history. to learn more about our local content vehicles and our 2012 hour, visit c-span.org/localconte c-span.org/localcontent. this is american history tv on c-span 3.
>> we're at the african-american exhibit at the oklahoma history center. this is oklahoma's first exhibit of the african-american experience. strangely enough, over 500 museums. and when this exhibit opened in 2005, it was oklahoma's first permanent exhibit of the african-american experience. and it covers everything from the preterritorial days up until civil rights movement to the present day accomplishments of african-americans. this was my mother and she was the first african-american to be admitted to the university of oklahoma school of law. 1946, when laws in oklahoma prohibited african-americans and whites from even going to the same schools together, sitting in the same classrooms together, there were dual separate educational is systems in oklahoma. and she was the first person to try to break down those barriers. and she did it by applying to the university of oklahoma school of law. she had to be rejected because the oklahoma laws and the oklahoma constitution printed african-americans from going to school with whites. but in doing so, it set up a
supreme court decision that in 1948 said basically that she had a right to get a legal education in oklahoma as soon as anybody else has a right to get a legal education in oklahoma. it did not end separate but equal, but it certainly put the dual educational system on trial. she had a pretty good lawyer. his name was thurgood marshall. and he was then the general counsel for the naacp defense fund. the naacp said that nationally they were going to bring an end to segregated education. and throughout the united states, they were looking for cases that could get them to the supreme court. and so my mom had just graduated from college in 1945. and she was a valedictorian from her class in high school, an honor student at the university, and so the president of the local naacp and the chick shea knew my family. my mom happened to be in the room when they were discussing it so she agreed to be the plaintiff. they went and applied for admission on january the 14th,
1946, and she was rejected. and they began the legal process. now, that legal process took from then until january of 1948, two years, to actually work itself through the legal process. the case was first started in norman, oklahoma at the county level. and she lost there. and it was appealed to the oklahoma supreme court, where she lost there. and then they appealed that to the local -- to the united states supreme court. the supreme court ruled unanimously that she -- should have that opportunity in oklahoma. well, my mom was really excited about that, and she was at the supreme court when they made the -- when they had the arguments. and so she came back to oklahoma really excited, thinking she was getting ready to go to law school. and within seven days, the school -- the admissions period would end. and she got a telegram in the mail that said that oklahoma had just opened the langston university school of law. so within seven days, they created a law school, a separate
law school, just for her. the school was located in the state capitol building. and they hired two part-time attorneys, and a part-time dean. and that was to be the separate but equal law school for her to attend. and she did not attend that law school at all. but the law school stayed open for a full year. in the meantime, the head of the oklahoma state naacp, rascal dungy, came up with another strategy. he said, all right, i have six other students to apply to the university of oklahoma, one in engineering, one in medicine, one in architecture and geology. and he said let me see you build those schools overnight. so oklahoma basically knew at that point that the deal was up. that they could not afford to have a dual separate educational system in oklahoma. not only oklahoma, but every other state-supported university of higher education in the united states, knew the same, they had the same problem. you see, up until that time, they had been -- states had been using what they called the out of state tuition plan. this was a plan where if african-americans wanted to
study some discipline that was not available in their state at the historical black colleges, they would offer to pay some stipend for them to go out of state to go to school. and they had been using that, you know, for decades. but this supreme court decision basically brought an end to that, saying that was not good enough. they deserved a chance to have an education within the state at a state-supportedel school. and so that basically brought an end to the dual education system in high education. now, once admitted to ou, that didn't end everything, because she was admitted on a segregateded basis. the state law still applied. so what they did in my mom's case, they had all of the other students in the law school come to the front of the class. and they had theater style seating so it was kind of like sitting in a theater e you walk in, step up a row, and so they put all of the other students at the lower part, front of the class. and at the top of the classroom, in the very back, they put a single chair with a sign over it saying colored and a chain around it. now, that was to reprent