tv The Presidency CSPAN January 31, 2015 12:00pm-1:21pm EST
former member of president clinton's administration look back at the policies of president clinton's white house. they discuss achievements as well as policy setbacks. the clinton presidential center and the university of virginia's miller center hosted this event. it was part of the 10th anniversary of clinton presidential library. >> welcome, we are happy to see you here, i am susan page, i covered the 1992 campaign of the clinton campaign, and i can tell you that domestic policy is catnip for bill clinton. i believe that president clinton
had nothing that he enjoyed more than exploring the earned income tax credit. his pechant for policy included the first law that he signed as president, the family medical leave act, as well as the children's initiative, the other laws that we will discuss, and if you wonder the impact of these laws, i was speaking on a radio show and one of the producers was not there because her family is going through a rough patch, and she is able to do that without imperiling her job, and she would thank president clinton for that if she could be here today.
alexis herman deserves applause for being here because her flight was canceled, so she jumped in a car and got here at about midnight. [laughter] [applause] she has promised not to take a nap until the panel is over. [laughter] alexis herman helped organize the 1992 democratic convention and with bill clinton won that she became the deputy director of the transitional office in the white house. she handled the white house office of public liaison in the clinton's second term. bruce reed was the chief advisor, and the director of the domestic policy council, and he has been the chief of staff for vice president biden and left recently to focus more on k-12
education, so we welcome him. finally, we have andrew rudalevige of bowdoin college, thanks for being with us. we are going to take some of your comments. as i said before, you look like a reasonably smart group, i don't want to go to far, so all of you have these cards, so if you want to ask a question write it out in a legible fashion and we will get to it later in our program.
i want to ask you, this is a question that was asked in another panel, tell us about the first time you met bill clinton and what you thought. alexis, you can start. >> the first time i met bill clinton was right here in little rock arkansas in 1978 and he had just been elected governor. he decided to open the doors of the governor's mansion for the 20th anniversary of the little rock nine. i came down with the delegation from the carter administration with ernest green, who was the first graduate, a senior of the little rock contingency, and a few of us came from the labor department to celebrate with bill clinton at the governor's mansion.
it was so special. that night, he and first lady hillary invited us back to the mansion for beer and barbecue. [laughter] i will never forget it. that was the first time that i heard him tell many of his wonderful stories about lots of things, but especially, at that time, why he was so glad to be governor, and how he had the opportunity to bring the little rock nine back. >> what adjectives would you use? >> he was excited. you could see that he wanted to do things. my grandmother always looked at us and said that us kids were
always fixing and doing, and when i looked at bill clinton, i not, this is somebody who wants to get a lot of things done, even as governor. he was just so smart, and so clear, and so proud, that he could be a part of history by inviting the little rock nine back to little rock for the first time, and for the first time, into the front doors of the governor's mansion. >> bruce, when was the first time to you met bill clinton? >> i met him first in 1990, so high -- so i had already signed up to work for him before i met him. and the speech he gave in new orleans at that convention was one of the best speeches that i had heard up to let point -- up until that point. it was the first time i is heard a democrat talk about values as well as programs, and everybody in the audience knew that he was going to be president someday. the first time that i worked with him was a few weeks later.
we were working on a manifesto on how to turn the country around, and we had written 10 different policy planks, and he called up and dictated an entire new one on education that was more detailed and better, and it was like that all the time. my impression was that, first off, hearing him, as a speechwriter, hearing him, you think, i want to write speeches for this guy, but he does not need any help at all. [laughter] and a mystic policy, as you said, was his first love. you would just hand him something and it you could take credit for the great things he thought of as a result. >> have you met the clinton? -- bill clinton? >> i saw bill clinton from a balcony in 1992, but no i have
not met him. [laughter] >> we are going to talk about domestic policy in the clinton administration, and the legacy so set the stage for us, the political landscape that he faced in 1992. >> sure, thanks susan, and i want to give my thanks to the eller center for the opportunity to speak, and for the opportunity to learn. let me mention a few things, then. i want to remind rather than to instruct, and i want to remind us that the miller center is intruding, but first and most basic is the broad placement that the clinton administration has, and what political scientists often call political time. a yale scholar writes about the cyclic shifts in parties and governing coalitions and leadership, and the cycle either enable or in some cases restrain presidents who are elected, he even if they are against the
prevailing grain of the party order. then we want to talk about president's preemption, and we think of dwight eisenhower, who was elected despite the continuing dominance of the new deal coalition. bill clinton seems like a pretty good example of this, he comes into office in opposition to the quite successful effort of president reagan to shift the national policy to the right. at the same time, presidential preemption continues with those who are not in tuned with their party. president clinton was closer to the century than to the congress. he entered office at a.
when the prevailing rhetoric was not that different than today -- office at a period when the prevailing rhetoric was not that different than today. there was talk that it was not redo be a better roses for governor clinton, and that was right. it was the most partisan to date since 1934. senator alan simpson says "there are guys in our caucus who are always out to screw bill, and it became absolutely tedious, they would say, it is our duty to screw him." an oral histories provide something of a thesaurus for more fragmentation, a talk about fiefdoms, orbitz, factions and tribes, and the white house versus the white house, and over in congress, you have 12 years of pent-up democratic demand's were spending and for different kinds of policy, and 40 years of treating republicans with some disdain as a supposedly permanent minority, so the polarization goes both ways.
there is a house committee that noted during that. that they would enact the communist manifesto if only they had jurisdiction. [laughter] by contrast, the president really reflected more of "the bipartisan consensus that happens horizontally between the governors." this reflected the governor's wing of the democratic party. and that mattered, because it meant that some of the domestic policies, and again, to paraphrase one of the oral histories, could be very good macro politics but not good for micro-politics. they would attack sacred cows or at least sacred interests. given that members believe that money salt problems in the
duress -- in the domestic arena, we also talk to other decisions, there was a lot of pain at the table. despite these divisions, or partly because of them, the clinton administration had a very large domestic agenda. one study was mine so it must be right. it counts more than 500 presidential messages to congress across eight years, comprising close to 1100 specific policy proposals, not all of them domestic policy, but the majority. this does not include the executive actions that developed partly in response to the recalcitrance of congress in 1984 to move on that agenda. to remind people, this is immense to move that proposal forward, and it includes poverty, education environmental laws, civil rights, reinventing government and so on. there was such a rush of ideas
that one observed that if you put people first, you will see the clinton put people first because he could not decide which policy to put first. maybe we can talk about that a little bit. and the third is the sheer breadth of that list suggest that we have an impossible task as a panel. domestic policy is hard to define and get a grip on, and the earned income tax credit as you mentioned is tax policy, but it is hard to deny that it is not social policy as well, it is anti-poverty policy. i think also in the clinton white house, this was practice there was a standard model of white house staff work, and i think it is safe to say by the oral histories that the clinton white house was not standard. i will be looking forward to hearing more from the panelists about that, and the way the
domestic policy really wanders into economic policy, as you mentioned and the last panel these are hard to separate out from the large independent task force forces, how policymaking involved, i looking forward to hearing some great conversations. >> these oral histories, as you may know, some of these are coming out today at 4:30, and that is why these events are held today, so it is way to be a treasure trove for historians and people. let me tell you how i met bill clinton. it was in 1990 and i was working for "newsweek." dan quayle very much wanted coming he had a rough time in his early days as a vice president, and he was trying to make his reputation extremely cautiously, and we landed in little rock, and there was a
governor who met him and he could not be a bigger force. it was quite a contrast between the two of them. here we have two people who were at the center of domestic policymaking in the clinton administration, so i wonder if you could tell me about the many pieces of legislation and executive orders that president clinton put in place during his tenure. tell me about one of them that you think has exceeded your expectations, and has been a success even beyond what you would've hoped for at the time? i want a lexus to go first. >> while susan, i think there are so many. -- wow, susan, i think there are so many. i think the family medical leave act was really the best, it has laid the cornerstone for the administration, but when you think about the millions of
families that have been helped and the lack of partisan attacks on it, the acceptance of it, and the way it has been expanded over the years to include veterans' families, and to talk not just about children, but carried about parents, and the original legislation, but now we talk about what needs to be a parent and just to have children in your care, or aged relatives, so this is a bill, in my view, that has managed to eve all with societal changes. without a lot of partisan rancor. just last year i had the opportunity to go back to the department of labor with the president to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the family and medical leave act. adjusted hear the stories of how
it still endures, that was one story that you told at the beginning, but there are just millions and millions and millions of stories like that, and i think as we look today at family policy and what we have to do, we have to continue to strengthen it, and it wish we could embrace the spirit of what happened that day when the president signed the first bill in february, at the beginning of his presidency. >> i think there is a generation of americans who could not imagine that your job should be imperiled because you need time off to take a basic child. bruce, thinking -- take care of a sick child. bruce, thinking about this, what do you think is the builder had the most impact? >> it is striking that the whole
thing work. you come up with ideas, and you say, that sounds pretty good but in part, it is easy to forget just how beaten-down the political system was, and the american people were after the 70's and the 80's when so much had gone wrong and there had been so many false starts on policies, the middle class had huge problems and no faith at all that the government could do anything to solve them. and i would say the biggest outside surprises would probably be on the social side.
we know that putting more people on the -- police on the street was great, on welfare we knew it was a good idea to move people from welfare to work, we did not anticipate that all of these things together would reduce child poverty by one third, and then there were some ideas that just came out of a think tank or an all nighter that became national policy. charter schools, when bill clinton first started talking about that in the 1992 campaign, there was one that opened in 1992, and by the time he left office, there were 2000 others i think more than 6000, and many of them are spectacular. the city of new orleans has turned around its school system all on charter schools. >> did you get the impression in the clinton administration that there were times when you announced something in the morning, that you had not the final touches on until minutes before you came out to another is that true? >> that was always the case.
[laughter] his first state of the union his first economic message to congress, we woke up the morning of the speech and realize, this is not any good at all. so we sat around the table in the roosevelt room and redrafted the thing from start to finish and then we went with him to the theater to practice. he would rewrite speeches from the practice room. that speech, george and i were retyping it as we got into the limo, with 15 minutes to go, and then he went to deliver the speech, and there were 3000 words in the speech he delivered that had not been in the written text. [laughter] >> gene sperling is here, and there is some story, some domestic initiative, a smaller one, that i was getting a day early for "usa today," so i was talking to gene, and i was trying to get a detail, how much the grant would be, or some specific thing of a policy, and he would not tell me. and i kept saying, i can't write the number about this -- the story about this number, and he said, we don't know what the number will be. [laughter] >> if you have any doubts about
it, we are admitting that now. >> when you think about the domestic record of the clinton administration, we are talking about domestic policy initiatives, what d's think will loom very large? >> i guess i would say an approach rather than an issue, i think the approach was more consistent than people give credit at the time, and certainly some of my colleagues in academia with think that now, in regards to the notion, i wanted to talk broadly about the idea of reinventing the
government, right? not just in the national performance review sense, but i think it is pretty clear that you can't change things without engaging government, it is not enough to attack it. i think dealing with the development of issues and bureaucratic reform and service reform and the like, that can only go in conjunction with people you are trying to perform with. i think if you ask how do you change civil service reform act or how you think about government and its interaction with markets and private actors, leveraging private investment, it is not just about cash, it is about responsibility, because this is one of the things that is reflected in the oral histories.
there is a speech quoted by a couple of people back in 1991, and i think it was when present clinton said "government has the opportunity to provide -- has the duty to provide opportunity and the people have the duty to take that." you do see a relatively consistent focus on that balance to i think education, actually is an interesting area where education reform is made safe with the democratic party during this era, and i think there were a number of issues, crime, welfare, and education makes the case. >> can i comment on that? because i think you said an important work, the approach. i do guerrilla thought it was all like this, but there was a lot of engagement, and i think because the president really wanted -- i do really think it was all like this, but there was
a lot of engagement, and i think because the president really wanted to make change. i can't believe we did not talk about the middle east. in the middle of everything that sandy and the national security council was doing, i know we want to give tuition american -- give jewish americans and arab americans talking at the same time about solutions in the middle east, and this had never happened before, so here we were in the old executive office building trying to do this at the last minute, to bring everybody in to get a perspective, that the president really did engage the american people on all of his policy initiatives, and sometimes, we were the better for it, because he listened, he really listen to, and i think it contributed so much to his own thinking as we evolved and bruce would stay up half the night trying to capture it all. >> so you talk of a things turning up better than you thought they were, so let's talk about the other side of law an
executive order that just did not deliver the way the you had hoped, just did not work out did not and of the way you'd hope. it is white you go first on this one? -- bruce, why don't you go first on this one? >> we worked long and hard and we were led by the hud secretary andrew cuomo and got help from others to negotiate an agreement with the gun manufacturers to do on their own but we were unable to get done through congress and it was supposed to be a coalition of gun manufacturers and it ended up being just one smith & wesson, and it was a historic agreement that would have made a huge difference in the way that gun industry worked, but the nra immediately organized and effective boycott
the practically put smith & wesson out of business, they had to sell to new owners, abandon the agreement, so it ended up in that instance, that the politics that had made it impossible to do anything in washington also consumed what we were trying to do to affect that. >> alexis, can you think of an example of something that did not deliver the way hewitt hoped, did not turn out the way you had hoped, -- the way you had hoped, did not turn out the way you had hoped? give me an example of something that turned out to be a disappointment. >> actually, i have a couple for me. one is on the trade side, trade policy. the president always talked about how trade was important to the administration for job creation, but we were always trying to find the right balance of what it meant for
environmental standards, for labor standards, in trade agreements, and how do you bring in the right coalitions to have that dialogue. and i remember that the president championed for the first time ever a global child labor standard, and all countries bought into that. we were able to open up into that space and have a real dialogue and have a coalition of labor within the government. it was my hope is we continued with the many conversations that we had about trading in the administration, that the coalition that helped us to pass that first global child labor standard, it was a foundation that i was hopeful that we would be able to keep the coalition together, to help us on other
fronts, and of course that did not happen, and it still has not happened today, and the other was for the president did and did not get talked about a lot but we always talk about unemployment rates historically, prosperity for all groups in the economy, how the employment rate -- unemployment rate came down, but we had a time to focus on youth jobs. the president invested in the largest youth initiative in over 30 years from the federal government, and we were able to get congress to agree for a five-year commitment, which was very unusual, because we were hoping to lead an institutionalized approach to
youth unemployment around the nation. we had five big regional commitments from governors and mayors to keep it together. it lasted for actually a couple of years after we left office, and i was very hopeful that those regional coalitions would be able to continue to focus on our nation's youth, and continue to bring down the rates of unemployment, but it did not happen. i think we may have had a five-year commitment beyond, so a tenure initiative, but that was one of my big disappointments, because the president really worked so hard to get a long-term commitment for a change that would not get caught up in budget battles and budget cycles of non-funding. >> and reading through the oral histories, did anything strike you as the inconsistent when they came to the things that not just wet well but also the things that did not go well? >> i would say on things that did not go well, on the focus tended to be on the process and sequencing. did anyone want to --? >> go ahead. >> choices have their own political spill over affects
and when you have a huge agenda and lots of that you want to get on and you want to get it all done quickly, you run the risk of sort of choking the congressional channels, if nothing else, in terms of being able to pass those policies. there is an old lyndon johnson quote about congress be like a whiskey drinker, you get a lot of whiskey into a man he tries to sip it, but if you try to shove it down his throw, he will just throw it up, right -- his throat, he will just throw it up, right? [laughter] so a lot was shut down congress's throat that they did not like the taste. there was a lot that we shoved down there. [laughter] >> a guess my arguments are about sequence and the effects that you go forth with a very large health-care initiative that does not work, and what does that do to other parts of the agenda, what does it do to
the broader politics, and i think in the second term efforts to push forward entitlement reform, there were distractions from that as well and so those are the biggest concerns you see here is in the histories. >> i think it was the patients bill of rights. we don't need to say more about that. it was a great effort. >> i just want to remind people, if you think of your own questions, something you would like to ask, fill it out, just hold it up, and we will have someone come by and get it, and we look forward to your questions. we don't really want to focus on the negative, but since opportunity costs, you were talking about domestic policy initiatives, and we can't talk about that without talking about
health care, and we don't want to go into the weeds on that but can you talk about what it costs? i don't mean a cost, but opportunity costs, and also, was there a silver lining or some counterintuitive benefit from that and from that experience? who wants to go first? bruce? >> for starters, i think the fundamental challenge that we take on health care is that americans are deeply skeptical of what government could do. we did not have enough time to reassure them on that front before we move forward our health care plan, and it was more than they were ready for. as far as silver lining, the president did come back three years later and passed the children's health plan, which covered 5 million kids by the time we left office. and the health-insurance industry, in anticipation of passing health reform, did a lot of things to hold on costs that we were planning to do, it was
well worth the effort, and it is always hard, and it always has costs. what about you >> -- >> what about you? was or any silver lining to that experience? -- was there any silver lining to that experience? >> we needed health care reform for how best to do it, so i think the engagement of the dialogue that the policy issue full and center to the american people, so i think that was established, and subsequent debates were all about how do we get it done? and when you talk about cost, i think we learned a lot. we learned a lot about what it meant to enroll all of the key stakeholders who really had a stake in this debate. we learned a lot from the
business community, from the provider community, so we so we end -- so we engage a lot of people where i don't think that would've happened, and looking back, i think we had a shot, maybe i am just being optimistic, at understanding how important that dialogue was to enroll people. >> as an academic when you look at this, what is the impact of the whole debate over health care and health care overhaul for the clinton administration? >> obviously in the very short-term, it was damaging
politically in 1994. >> arguably, yes. >> but perhaps, certainly, and i do think it does lead to a broader conversation, and it leads to incrementalism, and i don't think incrementalism is a bad thing, and anything that is more of a triumph than purists like to think sometimes. but you have, as bruce mentioned, port ability -- portability. you have a little bit later on the coast is made clear for medicare expansion under a different, and his successor in turn had a revisiting of the same issues, but i guess the clinton a ministration did not get the benefit of all of that but it certainly had an impact on that.
was hoping you could say more about that. >> do you want to say more about that when it comes to health care? what i want to ask you, take us behind, you were both involved in domestic policymaking in the clinton administration, is it just behind the scenes in the debate over a big domestic policy where there was a not -- a knot to be untied. >> this was, two years into a divided government, and the
leadership of both parties was trying to stop us from getting a bill that we could sign. senator dole was both the leader and the prospective nominee, and the republicans were concerned it would hand him some kind of political victory, and many of the congressional them are credited never wanted to do in the first place, so is the clinton very much wanted to get a bill done, but the republicans try to make it as difficult as possible, so they made extemporaneous offense -- attempts. so he had a classic hopson
choice for he had to decide whether to keep his campaign promise -- hobbsian choice whether he had to decide whether he wanted to keep his campaign promise or move forward. there were a number of white house advisers, and he wanted to hear many competing kinds of views. and you got to pick and choose from both sides to best argument and everyone was kind of restraint when it came to what he should be doing, and that was probably the only time that he said that.
[laughter] >> that was a singular moment for him. >> but the president took all of of it under advisement and then retreated into the oval office afterwards with a handful of us, and with to the same exercise again and then the chief of staff presented the case, and i presented the case for it, and the president looked at the vice president to kind of away in and the president said, you really should do what you think is white -- what you think is right. so he finally said, let's do it.
>> on second thought, maybe we won't do this. [laughter] in the cabinet meetings, did you come in with a prepared organized statement in favor of signing the bill, what was that like? >> i have spent four years working on the issue, so i thought about what i was going to say. [laughter] but the most striking thing was just how everyone played it straight. there were plenty of times in the presidency when there is so much on the line that you don't want to overstate your argument, because you know the generations
are going to have to live with the consequences. >> when that meeting started did you think, he is going to go my direction on this, or were you uncertain as to what president clinton would decide to do? >> this was one of those issues where everyone in washington was assuming he was going to sign it for political reasons, and the political advisers were already certain he was going to sign it, and people thought he was not good to sign it unless this was the right thing to do >>. -- to do. >> what was the single most persuasive point you made? >> he definitely agreed with me on the merits of the welfare bill, and the millions would move million -- and it would move millions of moneys to help
people work, but i think the most pursuit -- persuasive for him and others was that i told him that he made a promise to the american people and the people who were trapped on the welfare system that he was going to be the president to change it, and that he would not have another chance, there was no guarantee that we would have another way to gamble. >> and i think wikipedia, which is another 100% reliable source to use -- [laughter] --they say that it was easy to work for him? >> he have a clear philosophy of how he wanted to govern. he had been a governor down here, he had been on the receiving end of what worked and what didn't and what he liked about it and what individuals had to do, what government could do, so we were making up new ideas as we went along, but he always knew what the values were that he was trying to hit. >> alexis, take us behind the scene on some of the eight over domestic policy, which was a big debate, and where it was not
clear what was going to happen. tell us what happened. >> i would just echo what bruce just said first about welfare reform, because i was really on the end of receiving much of the criticism. as the director of public liaison, i was trying to get the supports of many of the traditional stakeholders of the president who were not supportive, and bruce just said something i think is very important. at the end of the day, the president believed it was the right thing to do. he had a philosophical point of view while i had a lot of anxiety and angst from many can stick -- from many constituent who were not supporting the bill, what made a difference was to be able to say that the president believed in it and was
able to do so with dignity and that we were committed to really helping people move from welfare to work without all of the demagoguery that had been so much a part of this debate. so it really was his credibility that was on the line, and people had to trust him on this one. now when you ask me about others, i would say another one, and bruce certainly knows, was affirmative action, and that was the whole mend it don't and it debate. it was a big, big issue on whether or not to end affirmative action, we were having a strong economy, people were getting jobs, so there was this belief that it was time to end affirmative action. so inside our white house, there
was a great debate among the president's staff, and the recommendations were not all aligned, and the american people were divided on this issue. and so this was another one of those policy calls that the president, where i don't think either of us really knew where this was going to end up with him, and he was the one at the end who said, let's amend it but not and it -- let's mend it and not end it. it was involving a lot of people in the conversation within the business community, and it was still about trying to open doors for those who had been left out and creating a level playing field. that there were things in it that did need to change, and trying to figure that out and
away were we could still move forward was important to us. congress wanted to end it, and enrolling the congress and a debate to support where the president was going was a big, big job. but in the end, we made our recommendations, we made our case before the president, some for, some against, and he came out of that conversation saying, what we are going to do, we are going to mend it, not ended. >> i'm sorry, -- not end it. >> i'm sorry, it is at this situation where it shows how divisive it was, welfare affirmative action, and stepping into that debate at the national level was like at the hurt locker, he had to defuse every single one of them and take the policy out and take the race out of it and do the right thing so that innocent people were no longer political footballs in a political debate that was not
getting anything done. >> it is easy to forget how the policies that president clinton adopted were often controversy all. andy, do have any comments on the? -- that? >> certainly his background with the government and at the state level, something that has faded away now, but i still think he saw the governors as a band of brothers and sisters against the pragmatism and depredation of washington, so he comes in trying to make some of these policies say for the democratic party, and some of these issues were quite divisive, and some folks thought that was the worst decision ever, as well as those who thought it was an obvious step to take, so you have, i think, those debates going on,
and not always settled in the best way, and somebody was talking about this, maybe bruce, talking about the state of the union address as a mechanism for finally settling these debates. it was maybe two minutes before the speech was given, but nevertheless, you have to decide what the decision was going to be, so yeah, the process again develops at a relatively coherent way over time. in a way that perhaps does not start out with broader acceptance of the new terms of the debate within the party.
>> alexis, did you have something you wanted to add? you had something you wanted to say? >> i will wait -- it looks like you had something you wanted to say? >> i will wait. >> can i just say that this was an organizing mechanism for the government. in the first year, we all came to the realization that being president got you may be 10% of the way you wanted, though place you wanted to go with your own people, and that you needed an army behind you. he had such a special bond with
the electorate, that that one chance to speak to them about their ideas, it served as an organizing principle for all of us. we had a deadline we had to meet, we had our to do list for the year, and it put enormous pressure on the congress. his 1996 state of the union was the decisive moment in that election. it was over by the time he was done. >> i did not really do much preparation for this panel, but i did do one thing. i read the 2000 state of the union address. it was long. [laughter] >> not the longest. [laughter] >> but what you just said, after all of these years later, it really struck me what you just
said. it really was an organizing tool. he really laid it out. in this instance, it was really the summary of what has happened over the eight years. >> i have to say, states of the union, they are no fun for the press, because for one thing the white house never had a text in advance, you could meet your deadline, but with bill clinton, he would start talking, you are never entirely sure when he would finish, and sometimes the text for only a limited resemblance to what he was saying before the joint session of congress. there was one i had to file for two editions before he was talking. >> the longest one, i was very proud to have taken part in a couple of the longest ones world records, the longest was 89 minutes, we had just lost the
congress, there was a lot of division in the white house, and we went through several different competing drafts, at one point late in the process i was not sure he was going to take my word for, so i wrote something, and they ended up sending it to him, and then heaped put the whole thing in and then some. we did not have time, we did not finish in time to edit anything out. that went 89 minutes. >> i never thought much about the press doing the state of the union. >> yeah, you should think about the press. [laughter] >> there would always be members of congress sometimes, and they would be slipping. -- sleeping. [laughter] >> people are going to be reading the story, and this is before we were so digitally focus, and i was worried he was going to announce at the main thing after i had filed, so it looks like i had totally misunderstood that he had resigned. [laughter] >> but the whole political system in washington hated his state of the union, and there was always an editorial about oh, what a failure, but what a fundamental misunderstanding of what they wanted washington to do.
for him, it was a specific list of things i am going to do for you. his question as always, we can debate this, but what are we going to do about it? the press hates that, but washington's chattering class hated it, because there were lots of boring little details about how he asked resolve the problem. >> he was fixing and doing, you know? [laughter] >> to sscattered -- two scattered comments, there is talk about things like empowerment zones, enterprise zones, and private investment into privilege communities in 2000, and that made it through the end of president clinton's memoir. and there he is, he is talking about december 15, 2000, when they finally got the new market initiative passed, and he was
still pushing on the stuff after the election, so there was a lot of consistency there. bruce mentioned 1995, and one is the -- one of the interesting things about the oral history is that you can actually see the policy debate involving in the white house and people popping in and out, pick morris -- dick morris pops in not so secretly and then there is the democratic platform resulting in reform and then a sense of not the turn is, but a sense of what is politically expedient or the right thing to do. but another is more consistency in that. >> we have several questions good questions to deal with in congress, as a democratic president for -- had a democratic congress to start and then a republican for the
next six years of his tenure here is someone from our audience. he says, "president clinton was known as bipartisan with congress, what was his secret to winning gop votes?" what was his secret, bruce? >> well, i think that we tried it both ways with the democratic congress and the divided government, and there were certain advantages and disadvantages to both, and with the democratic congress there was more of a family feud, you're arguing with people you know and love, and it is harder to tell them no or to have them take no for an answer, with a divided government, it is much more clarifying, because you can
make your case, they can make their case, it is tending to be more of a contest of ideas and who wins the american people and who gets the prize or the lion share -- lion's share of the prize. he was a genuinely open to the other side's plead of view, and he thought they had a lot of interesting points, and his goal was not to crush the opposition, his goal was to take whatever good ideas they had and put them into his plan, and dare them not to support it and that was a very effective way to get things done. >> alexis, thinking about how the president was dealing with congress, when you saw him working with republican members of congress, what seemed to work? what was his approach? >> what always struck me was
that as bruce said, he always listened, but he knew them coming he knew them. he could talk about their districts and where they came from and he understood their part of you. so it wasn't just that he heard what ever particular conversation was, but he had a context for why they thought that way. and it was not unusual for him to say to me, i know that business leader so and so is close to congressman so-and-so and he had a good idea, and he would say i what you to call up and find out more and see what else we can learn. i think for me, he knew them. he understood where they were coming from and the context, and while he may have disagreed with their ideas, he had a contextual understanding. >> what about dealing with newt gingrich? you know, newt gingrich owed to clinton a lot, he helped them
win it republican congress -- helped him win a republican congress, so what was it like when newt gingrich took over and what kind of relationship did you see the two of them have? >> well, when he wasn't being a partisan hack, gingrich was quite a policy walk. he had a genuine interest in ideas, -- policy wonk. he had a genuine interest in ideas, he was like clinton. clinton was a collector of ideas. some people collect stamps, some people collect other things, clinton collected ideas. gingrich was a little bit like that is welcome, he suddenly stumbled into power, not really ever anticipating that he would get that far, and now he could get some things done.
so when the two of them were together, it was a little bit like a renaissance weekend. i remember one budget negotiation over new year's at the end of 1995, where all of the leaders were down at the white house trying to take one more stab, the government was to shut down for a second time, they were trying to take a stab at the budget agreement, and clinton was sitting in the cabinet room with gingrich on one side and bob dole on the other. ingrid was having the time of his life talking to clinton about all of these great antipoverty ideas and dole look
like he had just swallowed a lemon, he was the most miserable guy on the planet. >> alexis, you were leading the labor department at a time when>> i had to spend a lot more time on the hill because they controlled the congress. i had to sit with than in readers like arlen specter and orrin hatch. i took a page out of the presidents playbook. i spent time getting to know them, to understand their issues, and what they wanted to get done vis-à-vis the labor department. i worked very hard at embracing what it was they wanted to do. for instance, arlen specter was committed to youth sex offenders. he wanted very much to do more to help that particular population of young people make that transition into work.
he was very committed to apprenticeship programs. i would go back to the president and say whatever we're doing in terms of budget, when he and others were working, policy issues, i would point out to the president that we need to include some support for some of the key concerns that republican members, particularly on the labor committee, had in our work. it made a difference. >> the interests of the president don't always align with his fellow party members in the congress. was it a good thing or bad thing that republicans ended up controlling congress? >> he had good enemies throughout his career. good enemies to have. that said clinical scientists , have a wet blanket when thinking about residential relations with congress. we tend to think systematically.
there is always the idea -- you see it in today's news cycles. if only the president were better, stronger, played more golf had better dinners with , whomever. >> we have all been there recently. >> yeah. you might or might not have had a political scientist at the bottom of your story, saying it doesn't matter. it matters what the structure of the party is at that time. i think that is true. president clinton had high legislative success rates in 1993 and 1994. that job drops off dramatically in 1995 and 1996. it does rebound, partly because of the structural position of the office. he has the veto power. he has the ability to veto bargain over the course of a long appropriations process, and of course after the government , shutdown, it is clear the president has won politically. you have members of congress who are not willing to risk that again, and then other things arise in 1998.
republicans were so sure that big gains were theirs, ready to come in those midterm elections, that they said you can have what you want in the budget, we don't care anyway. we will change it when we are back in the saddle. i think the structural things matter. that said, you know, at the margins, and a lot of folks are close. it matters if staffers have good relations and information about congressional preferences. if we assume congressional preferences are fixed and can never be changed or the way in which a president presents a policy is irrelevant, we do a great disservice to the ability of politicians to persuade. right? this is not a dismal science. this is a place where good politicians change the grounds of consideration so the you -- so that you match the existing preferences. in the oral histories you have a lot of stories about president
clinton talking to members of congress. one of them says, if you cared about florida state football by god, president clinton cared extremely much about florida state football. he knew about florida state football. he did not know he would need to know about it. that does matter at the margins. the margins are everything when you have close legislative control. >> president obama started out with a democratic congress. in january, he will have one entirely controlled by republicans. lessons first in looking at things with that political reality? >> happy to join you in chicago 20 years from now at the 10th anniversary of the obama library. i would say that what made clinton so successful in those circumstances was he was a big believer in principled compromise. he did not have to get his way in everything.
he was much happier to win on the things he cared about, let the other side have some of his -- its wins. results were more important than a debate. that was a lesson learned from dealing with the state legislature down here, and also from watching the spectacle of washington throughout his political career from a distance, and seeing if you did not make a difference for the american people, even if it wasn't all the difference you wanted to make, you are wasting your time. >> a lot of americans look at washington now and throw up their hands. it seems so dysfunctional. do you see lessons from your tenure with president clinton that could apply to washington today? >> i do. you asked me earlier about my first impression of bill clinton. the one word that i did not say was "comfortable." he is someone who is comfortable
with himself. he's comfortable taking risk, and he is comfortable being in a space with you when he doesn't agree with you and you don't agree with him. i think today -- he was able to have real relationships with people. i think what is missing today in washington are real relationships, where you can go in, have the conversation, have the dialogue, and not rip one another apart, and it's not a one-ups game because i disagree with you. i think in the absence of relationships and the absence of knowing something about your history and your background, it all becomes very sterile. it all becomes about winning.
we lose sight that government is about compromise. it is about finding common ground. it is about doing what is best for the american people, and not protecting constituent politics. i think somehow we have lost , sight of that today. it may sound old-fashioned, but i think if we could just go back to figuring out small ways to open up a dialogue on issues where we can find common ground and do some practicing, because i think people don't have to practice feeling comfortable in one another's space again. >> there are not many of those relationships anymore. if someone were to ask you, do you think bill clinton and newt gingrich liked each other? >> it's impossible to be around bill clinton and not like him. i think that he liked having
friends on the other side. as alexis said, he could see where they were coming from and he took that into account. he was willing to grade people on a curve and cut them some slack. he liked understanding his enemies. he laughed when house members showed up for the christmas party to have their picture taken with him the night they voted to impeach him. [laughter] >> did he like bob dole? >> i think he had enormous respect for bob dole. dole was a lot of fun to be around, and had such a wry sense of humor. he did not take himself or the system to seriously. >> here's a question from the audience. given we are in the cradle of
president clinton's political life, how do you think his 12 years as governor prepared him for presidential domestic policy leadership? i am not sure who ask this. bruce, would it be new -- you, because you work with him at the dlc? >> the best thing that happened to bill clinton's political career is he spent most of it here, but that made all the difference. he saw what was happening. when you are governor, you're responsible -- you have to get things done because you run into people at the grocery store who tell you whether you are screwing up or not. and you have to do a lot of the work yourself. he had a good staff down here, but he came up with a legislative agenda every two years down here that was as good as anything gave him once he was in the white house. i think it gave him an ability
-- arkansas was a nominally democratic state, but he had to persuade a very skeptical set of -- skeptical electorate and set of state legislators on an affirmative set of government policies. he had to convince them that government could do something well. that was hugely important when he took his case to the country, which as he said at the time thought government could not run a two-car funeral. if he spent his national career in washington, he would not have even known that phrase. >> alexis, you saw his experience as governor coming through as president? >> of course. he was very hands on as president. that's because he was so hands-on as governor. he was the leader of the free world, leader of our country. he had real managerial skills. a lot of people don't think about bill clinton as having managerial skills, but he really
did. he knew how to get things done. he knew how to break down the silos in the white house with his own staff. he knew how to break down silos in the cabinet and get the kind of collaboration that was needed across agencies. i think that is because he had that point of view. -- point of view as governor. >> as president clinton signed a lot of executive orders, more than 300 executive orders, many more than president obama, but president obama costs -- obama's white house is talking a lot about executive orders as a way to take action when congress refuses to do so. how important were executive orders when it came to domestic policy? what were the limitations? >> it was really important once we had lost the congress to have an avenue for action.
we went wild. he signed more well for reform -- welfare reform labors in his time than all previous presidents combined. we would do two or three executive actions a week, and the theory behind it was not just that this was a way for us to get things done with or without help from congress. it was also a recognition that if we did everything in our power, it was going to be very hard for congress to hold out. that's what happened on welfare. we had so many waivers, we finally did one that imposed time limits on welfare for a portion of the welfare population, and the republicans that we were dealing with on the hill finally threw up their hands and said ok, we surrender. we will send you a bill. you are going to get the credit, anyway. >> alexis, can executive orders do a lot? what can't they do? >> they can make a real difference.
you were talking about the welfare reform executive orders. by this time i was secretary of labor. i was having to administer the portion of the welfare to work. between bruce and gene, getting these calls -- we would not have had the transportation subsidies, the expansion we had to have on the childcare initiative, even the credits we were able to get for businesses who were hiring people who were making that transition. there was so much the president had to do on welfare reform to -- through executive order to make the legislation a success. it wasn't about in-your-face to congress. for him, it was about making the bill work the way it was intended to work. it was about results. in the end, that is what got recognized. >> the other thing about it, the
default in washington is to do nothing. let's try some big things, we fail, we do nothing. executive actions were a way to make sure the agencies were always working, but congress could not just go home and take credit for doing nothing, and so we wanted to keep our pedal to the floor the whole time. clinton did executive actions right down to the day he left office. he did a radio address on the last weekend announcing more police funding, more executive actions on crime. it was a way to put points on the board and dare the other sides not to. >> andy? >> i think january 17 or 19th 2001, there were eight proclamations setting aside land for environmental protection purposes. i think -- a couple points. counting executive orders is misleading. we have heard a number of areas, these were not executive orders but waivers or things that were
done through departmental administrative directives, and also, if you're looking for a how-to manual about how to stir the wider executive branch to act, you don't have to look further than elena kagan's treatise, a novella in the harvard law review in 2000 or 2001 in which she lays out , here's how we wanted to use administrative memoranda to spur a regulatory process in the departments and agencies to act on some of these things that haven't been done. the regulatory process had been used largely to stop regulations from moving forward and was utilized as a way of prodding new regulation. sometimes, that wound up backfiring.
the ergonomic stuff at the end. on the whole -- >> how did that backfire? >> congress enabled a law to shoot it down. this is a way you can take action. congress has its own collective action programs. -- problems. if you have moved the ball to here, congress will have to organize itself to move it back. i think you do see in that kagan essay a nice template for how i -- a president who wants to act can use the executive branch to do that. >> one of the reasons i begged elena to be my deputy was i was tired of lawyers at the agencies telling me no, and i figured let's get the smartest lawyer, put her to work, and we will roll them for a change. >> when you talk about the ergonomics debate, that was one of the last regulations i had to promulgate, right? i can remember talking with the president, with the white house team about, are we sure we want to do this at the end?
this is going to be pretty controversial. you know who -- you know? it was really about stimulating that debate. we may not get to enforce it. we may not get to see it live to see the light of day, but we put the debate out there and now, do -- now you know the whole , conversation about ergonomics is a very different one in the workplace. >> i will ask you a last question. we are here because the miller center has done this incredible history of oral histories with officials when they are leaving office and they can speed more -- speak more candidly, and they know these oral histories will be held for a long time before they're released. some of them will be released today. i want to ask you, what did you say in your oral history the -- that you're really nervous about, and that you would like to preemptively explain what you really meant? bruce? [laughter]
>> one of the things i'm most nervous about is that no one will ever read them. when elena was nominated to go onto the court, i was her paper trail. the library was under enormous pressure. it released all the memos between her and me, the e-mails between us. i was bracing for a massive round of calls when they released everything. the sheer volume -- i think there was one reporter who eventually called. oh, that looks interesting. that's what i'm most nervous about, that i won't even be able to convince my kids to read them. [laughter] >> anything you think you said oh, she did not mean it? it was taken out of context.
>> what i am most worried about is i can't remember a doggone thing i said. i remember all the calls. a wonderful woman from virginia kept asking me questions. i am trying to figure out the next phase of my life and what i was going to do. i had just got married. i kept saying, can i call you back on that? what i'm most worried about is that i'm not sure what i said. [laughter] >> i know i speak to the audience in thanking you for your interest in this -- your interesting discussion. thank you so much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> lunch will be served just outside of the great hall. thank you. >> tonight we look at how cowboys became a symbol for a
reunited america during reconstruction. heather cox richardson explains how cowboys individualism is viewed as the counterbalance to the reconstruction era dominance of the republican party government. that is tonight at p.m. and 10 p.m. eastern on american history tv. >> the 1915 world's fair officially known as the panama-pacific international exposition was held a century ago in san francisco. the fair was a celebration of the panama canal completion and was also seen as a way for the city to showcase his recovery -- it's recovery from the deadly 1906 earthquake. laura ackley discusses the fair and illustrates some of the inventions that were exhibited that year. this 40-minute event was hosted by the california historical society.