tv Interpretation of U.S. Presidents CSPAN December 28, 2014 8:00pm-8:56pm EST
mccullough discusses the presidents and some of their most memorable qualities. this is about an hour. >> thank you very much for being here and introducing me. i want to tell you that you are in for a rare thrill of an experience. i saw patrick do what he does this way in rome two years ago and it took my breath away, just like watching a magic show. i think that you will come away with a feeling that many of us have that what he is doing is of immense importance, interest total body of work is a major american accomplishment in art not just in politics. in understanding the times we live in.
one of the most obvious lessons of history is that it isn't about just politics and war and boring statistics and provisos. it is about everything. it is about people. history is human. when, in the course of human events, our founding document begins and the operative word is human. this struck me powerfully one day when i was driving down massachusetts avenue and came to the sheraton circle, i was late for an appointment. all of a sudden i hit this surrender strategy. everything stopped. i was late and i was getting frustrated, and i looked over at the statue of phil sheraton in the middle of sheraton circle, a very good statue done by the man of mount rushmore fame.
i wondered how many people driving around the circle have any idea who that is. they go around your twice a day 10,000 people. i began to get a little down about that prospect and the fact that i was late for my appointment, when all of a sudden gershwin's "rhapsody in blue" came on and lifted me out of my doldrums. i began thinking -- he was more important to us as a people? is it still sheraton or george gershwin? my preference was for george gershwin. [applause] [laughter] i thought, they are both important but you can't leave gershwin out. i feel very much that patrick oliphant is the art for version of george gershwin. he is a major american phenomenon.
the fact that we are going to get to enjoy his way of seeing life and seeing our time is a privilege, believe me. i remind you, for example, of thomas nast, the one who really put old boss tweed down. tweed something up perfectly, as you may remember -- you said, my constituents don't care a straw what you write in those newspapers. most of them can't read. it is those dam pictures that get me. [laughter] then of course, in france -- to my mind, surpassing them all is our honored guest today patrick oliphant. where are you, patrick? he is at work. [applause] >> thank you.
that is very generous of you thank you. >> go ahead. i want to preach a little more. i think that the phenomenon of the human face is one of the most extraordinary aspects of the human brain. when you think that there are very little difference is between one face and another minute, fractions of an inch, and yet you could be in grand central station at rush hour with 10,000, 20,000 people going by and if some old friend of yours you haven't seen in 20 years go by, you recognize them instantly. think about what that says about the brain and how it evolves in order to know faces. we have, right here in our wonderful gallery, one of the national treasures.
the declaration of independence. july 4, 1776. almost everything about that painting is an accurate. [applause] the[laughter] there is only one thing that is totally accurate -- the faces. 48 different faces, which are all rendered superbly. he did them in person. because it was of the utmost importance that they be identifiable and accountable. they wanted to be known for who they were, and at the time -- keep in mind, when they were signing the declaration, they were signing their death. i didn't want there to be any ambiguity about who was there and to matter. that is what we are seeing now, all the time in our own public
political and national life. all these phases. -- faces. once in a while, someone comes along who can see more in a phase than most of us do, and you can make it indelible in a way that it will never be forgotten. you will never see the same phase in the same way. he is rendering the president who was in office when patrick first came in 1964. i was stationed outside president johnson's office right after the kennedy death to look over some photographs to be used in the usia of the president, with a photographic head of the usia. we weren't allowed to use any photographs that the president didn't like. i could hear talk behind the door of the white house, of the
oval office -- i wonder if i will get to see the president. just as i was about to leave, the door opened, and this had came out -- thsi ehhis chen came, at a much higher level than a head should be. [laughter] i heard the only immortal words that i ever heard the president enunciate. he said, "anybody see my razor?" [laughter] take it from there pal. got any next to the stories? -- any nixon stories?
here he comes. [laughter] imagine, he can stand up there and do that. nothing on the board. >> that's all you need for nixon, isn't it? [laughter] >> this gallery is a teaching gallery, which covered to me, is one of the most exciting developments at yale in the last 25 years. the idea that all the different disciplines, as they say in academic life, all the different
aspects of human life, can be taught here by professors, instructors, lecturers, in virtually any department. imagine coming here to see this work when you are studying the politics of the last 40-some years. what a different lift it would give to the experience. it takes a while. [laughter] patrick, i get the feeling you have a good time doing that face. >> it comes back about once a year. a strange afterlife he has. good for a cartoon even now.
i usually stay away from presidents or politicians in general. >> why? >> because i might like them. [laughter] >> would also make it harder to be -- harder to mock them? >> i generally stay away, from getting involved in them, which is more easy than you think in washington. [laughter] this guy, i did meet after he was in office. gerald. he was a very good fellow, nice
kissinger and all his people, and i don't know why -- i think i was just a milling around in the crowd. i walked over to him and i drew a band-aid on his head. [laughter] you can get wrestled into the ground for that sort of thing. [laughter] the secret service guy came over and said he do that again you will never come down here again. [laughter] >> i spent a day with president ford. he invited me out. i thought he was very level balanced intelligent
commendable. by no means slow upstairs, by no means. i think you took an example -- think you took an example these people can be typecast in the most unfair fashion. i think, his presidency is waiting for somebody to write a good book about it. brief as it was, it was very interesting. i personally think what he did to pardon nixon was a noble and admirable national, international interest decision, which clearly cost him getting reelected. that was not to his advantage to have done so, that i do believe there is always kind of subsequent evidence to indicate he knew this was the best thing for him to do. i have a gerald ford fan.
-- am a gerald ford fan. as time passes i think more people will see him that way. it is interesting how our view of the president's changes. when i was a boy i was all excited about the 1948 presidential election. truman against a dewey. i grew up in a traditionally republican family and i was very interested in politics. i was still in high school. i wanted to stay up to hear how it came out and i was too tired. the next morning, i went -- my father was in the bathroom and i said, dad, who won? he said "truman" like it was the end of the world. 25-30 years later, i went home, i was sitting there with him after dinner. he launched into this whole tirade about how the country was going to hell.
i had heard that all my life. [laughter] then he paused and he said, to bad old harry is it still in the white house. [laughter] oh, i've got a story about our next character onstage. when the panama city became a big event in washington, i was called by president carter to come down and advise him on what the policy ought to be. my book on panama had just been published. i was turned over to a very nice, young aide's assistant. she has subsequently become a good friend. we were setting at this tiny tiny little office, and it was clear quite quickly that she didn't know anything about the panel mock now.
my heart went out to him because he had a real responsibility and it wanted to help him. my wife and i were sitting on one side of his desk with barely room for our knees and he was on the other side. i looked down on the floor and there was a mousetrap with cheese on it by a hole in the wall. [laughter] i said, excuse me, is that what i think it is? he said, oh, yes. i said, you have mice in the white house? he said, generations of them. [laughter] and we can't get rid of them. and i thought, well they have every right, they have been here for generations. i was thinking, maybe that is a possibility for a new series of cartoons for you. historic mice in the white house. [laughter] >> you write it, i will draw it. [laughter] >> is there any symbolism that
the image was of him pounding away at the rabbit with a paddle. 1[laughter] >> imagine if you tried to put a band-aid on his forehead. that is a killer rabbit. very good. [laughter and applause] >> this is one you will like david. after all, he did give us one of his unforgotten sons. >> go, here he comes -- oh, here
he comes. i think i have interviewed seven of the 10 presidents that patrick is going to render in mortal today. -- render in mortal today. one of the things that struck me -- there doesn't seem to be any common denominator about these presidents. there is no trait there is no type. jimmy carter is as different from ronald reagan as anybody could have been. if i had to say which one i liked best, it had virtually nothing to do with their politics. that is george bush sen, sr.
when they were all still with us, he would be the one i would pick. he is a wonderful, friendly, real man, a gentleman, and interesting, with many good stories to tell, which he tells extremely well. generous in the extreme. i was at his apartment at the university -- at college station, where the bush senior library is. the apartment above his couch five photographs. one was of president bush and margaret thatcher, one with gorbachev, ronald reagan, the standard presidential political portraits. but in the middle, about twice as big, three times as big was
a picture of george h w bush -- of george h.w. bush was a picture of joe dimaggio and ted williams. there was a wonderful picture of each of them, and he explained that he awarded them some kind of presidential recognition and they had taken the picture in the rose garden. each had signed it. i said, what a great picture. and i meant to just as a photograph, it was superb. these spaces that are indelible. two weeks later, a big tube arrives at our home -- it was a picture. he gave it to me. in a letter, in the accompanying letter this wasn't a nice little note, this was a real letter. he explained that each of the three had signed 33 of the
prints. they each get to keep 33 of the 99. joe, who always professed to play only to the money, sold his. [laughter] but here he has got 303 pictures and he gave me 1 -- not only was that extremely thoughtful and nice, but that is a historic treasure. it is worth a lot of money. i won't sell it. i have a baseball player -- but it is a measure, i think of the man. i think mrs. bush is fantastic. i would not want to be her husband. [laughter]
she really rules the roost. i remember when she made her first appearance as first lady on saint -- onstage at the kennedy center. this is coming after eight years of nancy reagan, who was a very different kind of woman. she walked out like this, and she walked up to this lady, and she took the microphone and said, well, what you see is what you get. [laughter] i thought, good for you. did we get out of sequence or something? i don't think so. i think he is emerging.
>> that is his hair, anyway. >> i interviewed reagan in the white house very soon after he was shot. i thought it was wonderful that he would be willing to do an interview so soon. when i went in to sit down with him, i was studying him to see if there was any sign of the stress or the trauma or the loss of weight, the scar on his head, anything, any sign. nothing. i was within 3-4 feet of him. absolutely incredible. he looked not like an older feller who has been carefully done up and touched up, not a bit. he was just as natural and as calm, as cordial as if we
is there a symbolism to the umbrella that bush is holding? >> that alluded to the crash in the pacific. >> oh, yeah. >> did he ever mention that to you? quite an interesting fellow. even though he did give us one of his only begotten sons. [laughter] >> oh, boy. >> what? [laughter] >> he's doing it.
>> imagine being able to do that. three minutes. >> not a lot you can say about him. [applause] >> i would like to tell you one quick story about mr. bush, jr. mainly through the help of ted kennedy. we got a bill through congress on the creation of a monument of john adams in the this are difficult on be a -- there is nothing in our capital memorializing john adams. president bush -- president george h.w. bush -- was newly in
office and he signed the bill. ted called me and said you should come down. i had never been to anything like that, and i wanted to. we met for lunch at a hotel that we were going to walk over through lafayette square. ted was suffering from a lot of back pain. it was clear it was difficult for him to walk, but he insisted he wanted to walk and he never complained. so we started out to go to the white house 2:15, 2:30, and all the way he was going that dam president and republicans are doing - that- that dam presidn president is doing this, republicans are doing that. i said, i have to tell you, i like the president.
he said, so do i. [laughter] that is what we have lost in washington. because you are different you don't have to consider your enemy. the people that could work that way, howard baker, alan simpson are desperately needed back in office. >> isn't that right. [applause] >> the guy in the bed there -- i>> i asked pastor last night it an idea ever came to him through drawing and he said very rarely. as remarkable as is drawings our, his talent is, there is nothing like it right now, but
he is still doing three cartoons a week. he has to have three ideas a week. his ideas are always original. one of my favorite aspects of his work is the little character he includes down at the bottom, whose name is punk. i asked him, when did punk emerge? he said, i brought him with me from australia. we talked about the trouble he had getting through customs. [laughter] every new idea, three times a week for 40-some years. many people have a staff to help do that. his staff is in his head.
>> don't listen to him. anyway, where was i? >> i tried to take a lot of courses in the art school as an undergraduate. particularly, portrait painting and drawing. i studied with dean keller, who was a wonderful portrait painter and whose works hang around universities in many places. he was a terrific teacher. he made you really learn anatomy, drawing everything. joseph albers had taken control
of the art school. dean keller had been banished, in effect, to the little turret room up in one of the old sections of the art school. he didn't have any students. i went up to see him and asked him if i could be his student, and he said if i could round up to other students he could have eight to qualify, he would teach the course. i did and he did. but one day i was sitting in his drawing class, taught by another professor, we were busy drawing one of our fellow students -- it was her turn to pose, sitting on a chair, wearing what she had on. we were all working away and all of a sudden this voice from behind a german accent, said "you have to ask yourself -- is
she romanesque or is she gothic?" [laughter] it was albers. instantly, i knew exactly what she was. she was very gothic. i thought, what a brilliant analysis from this man who is famous for the square -- he a lot more than the square. -- he knew a lot more than the square. what do we have here? >> i drew him already but i want to do him again. >> oh, i know. this is one of patrick's more celebrated images. i asked him if by chance this had emerged just from fooling with pencil.
he said it had not. he has done more than one version of the president in this form. he was not asking is he romanesque or gothic. [laughter] but is he on an island somewhere far off in the pacific? [laughter] >> with no years. he doesn't hear anything. >> oh, he doesn't hear! i missed that symbolism. >> i thought i'd put someone down here.
>> oh, and of course -- what's wrong with me? [laughter] [applause] i take issue with your supposition that there is no common thread. you think they are all different, wonderfully individualistic. >> i know you can prove me wrong. >> i'm about to do that. >> with hat do you see? talk about sleight-of-hand. >> does anybody remember goldman
>> ok, ok. [applause] >> wonderful great. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> every sunday 8:00 p.m. and midnight, you can learn from leading historians about president and first lady ladies, their policies and legacies. to watch any of our programs or check our schedule, issued c-span.org/history. you are watching american history tv. >> each week, american history tv brings you archival film that helps to tell the story of the 20th century. >>