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tv   The Presidency  CSPAN  February 1, 2016 12:01am-1:01am EST

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>> up next, journalist paul brandis discusses his book, under this roof. the white house and the presidency. 21 presidents, 21 rooms, 21 inside stories. he explains how presidents from george washington to barack obama have left their imprint on the executive mansion. the national library for the study of george washington at mount vernon hosted this hour-long program. >> good evening, everybody. i'm the director of the washington library here at mount vernon. it's my great delight to welcome you to one of our four evening book talks and i would like to welcome the c-span audience who is here as well and everyone
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watching live online, all 10 of you, i am sure. thousands and thousands of you of course. bring authorsto to the mount vernon community, free every month and we try to frame the relevant books and important history topics as well. mount vernon has had a long relationship with the ford family, going back to henry ford's original donation of the fire engine which helped keep the mansion safe. melbourne is continually interested in making sure the mansion is safe from destructive fire and that is important. the mount vernon ladies which is owned and operated george washington's estate since the 1850's and has never taken any government money, we only except money from
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private, patriotic people in foundations and that allows us to maintain the health for the public, but it is a continual challenge going forward. tonight we have an extremely exciting speaker, paul brandis, who will talk about his wonderful book, about the history of the white house. member ofward-winning the white house. he distributes content for clients around the united states and abroad. he is also a washington columnist on how -- on finance. he moderates panels on topics and energy.ecurity he's a frequent speaker around the country before all sorts of groups. an innovator in social media.
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he has the biggest following among all accredited members of the white house press corps. he won the award for best journalist on twitter. has 240 6000 followers on his twitter account. i was talking to him earlier and i set him right on your heels, i have 400 followers on my twitter account so, watch out. , but, when it became all the rage, it was like, who is running that. we are delighted to have paul here. he worked across wall street and was a foreign correspondent.
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he covered the collapse of the soviet union. he has traveled over several continents. more than george washington. he is on many boards. one factoid to give you is part of the investment capital group that purchased the russian rights to air the super bowl and became the first person to show the championship game in russia. >> i did that by myself. >> i did this at the rubenstein. he is here to talk about his book. he is jumping the gun. i have one more thing to say. we know the importance of
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telling stories about houses and things that go on in them. the white house is, arguably, more well-known than mount vernon. everyone give him a big mount vernon welcome. [applause] >> thank you. ok. ok. well, thank you. what an honor to speak at mount vernon. i am thankful.
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thank you for the introduction. thank you to mark san angelo. -- st. angelo. he is the director here. my thank you to all of you. there are lots of books about presidents and the events they went through over 240 years. i want to add the layer of the white house and how it is changed over the years. how it changes to the building that reflects the building of america. i will break this down into two areas. i'll give an overview of how the white house expanded.
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let's start out by seeing if this works. pointing out that, we americans like to think of our country as a young country and, in the overall scheme of things, it is not that old. when you think about it, the white house is one of the oldest continuous residences for heads of state in the world. i do not know what happened with the numbers. presidents have lived in the white house longer than kings and queens in buckingham or tokyo or the kremlin, would became a capital -- which became the capital in 1918. there is a gentleman who never
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lived there, washington. he picked the winning design for the mansion and, tragically, he would die about a year before john adams moved in. construction of the white house took eight years. this is what it looked like. this is a wonderful painting by peter for the white house historical association and you can see the basic contours of the building taking shape. this was the south lawn and roosevelt island is off in the distance. a wonderful painting that is. anyways, the construction took eight years and cost $72 million
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today. by the way, the real estate website says that it would be $393 million, prime location, 18 acres. pretty good. there is any new tenants in about a year or so. there will be a four-year lease. if we like them, it will be extended. adams, this is what it looked like. this is the south lawn. at the time, you notice no north.
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it would not be added for another quarter-century. these steps, at the time, it was 1800, these were the principal entrance to the white house. this is the north entrance here. that is basically what john adams saw when he moved in and he was quite pleased. on his first full day of the white house, he wrote abigail and wrote her a letter amounting to a benediction for building and he said, i pray to heaven the best of blessings on the house and all that shall inhabit it. may none but honest and wise men live under this roof, which became the title of the book.
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roosevelt was moved by this. fdr found the phrase when he came in the white house and the ordered it carved in the mantle above the fireplace. when you go in the state dining room, this is what it looks like, carved by roosevelt. adams did not last long, losing the election to thomas jefferson. when jefferson moved in, being the architect he was, he made some changes, adding pavilions, the east and west wings. jefferson also was fastidious at the time and the president of the united states could run out to the outhouse.
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jefferson was very fast it is and said it was not dignified for a president, adding the reservoir the collected the rainwater and it was a big improvement with jefferson also changing the entrance to the side and this became the principal entrance to the white house and a window above the door carved by scottish stonemasons who would waste no opportunity for that. jefferson also made the extra
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change with a modern plan and he actually made this into his office. jefferson's office, this goes back to the northside and this was the office that the state wanted as a dining room. this is the historical association. i will come over here and show you what jefferson did, surrounded by all the books. you may not know that thomas jefferson actually had a pet mockingbird up here in the upper right of the painting that he allowed to fly about and he would sometimes feed his bird out of his lips. he had it trained and it would sit on his hand. just a wonderful painting.
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the painting also shows jefferson meeting with one of his closest assistants and meriwether lewis of lewis and clarke. lewis was recruited from the area of virginia and he was an officer in the army, offered a chance to come and work. going back to the floor plan, he let lewis live in the east room and he had partitioned off small rooms and a small working space. so, jefferson and lewis would go all day long and they plotted
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the crowning jewel of the jefferson administration. let's jump ahead about a decade to dolly madison, who we were talking about earlier. she is a fascinating first lady. a wonderful first lady. everybody loves dolly madison. she is outgoing and everybody wanted the invitation when the medicines were in town. not so much because of james. everybody wanted to meet dolly.
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she knew how to throw a party with the food and the booze that was top shelf. a lot of her entertaining took place in the blue room and she had a different color preference. the most famous piece of artwork in the white house is a portrait , theorge washington gilbert stuart portrait of george washington. it is not the average painting, eight feet by five feet, half the size of the screen. it is gigantic. she knew that the british were coming and refused to leave until the painting was safe.
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she said she is not leaving. the president was out in front. a couple of assistance tried to take the painting down. the frame was bolted to the wall. they took a hatchet and it was only then when she left. truly courageous. i think they named some snack cakes after her a little later on. there is a story of a president who was nearly killed in the
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white house on his own inauguration day, andrew jackson. one of the very few photos we have of jackson was taken in 1845, after he left the white house. a striking picture of him and he died a couple of weeks after this was taken. what happened was that there was a well wish and crushed up against the wall. the aides pushed him through the window and evacuated him to the wildest party and these are some of the early ones. these are the early stages of the white house with jefferson adding the bathroom and a change in times with running water coming in during jackson and gas lighting during james k. polk. i will start with him.
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we do not think about him very often. he was consequential as a president. probably the most consequential one term president we ever had. more territory was added during his years than any other time. more than the louisiana purchase. and, he was a big believer in technology during the mexican-american war. he would keep in touch with his commanders in mexico, using high-tech electronics in a
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wartime setting. presidents are criticized for taking too much time off with bush and clinton and obama playing too much golf. i think they deserve a little bit of time off. this guy did not take any time off. he literally took a handful of days off in his entire four years, worked his fingers to the bone, micromanaging everything to a granular degree and he dropped dead a couple of weeks after leaving office. i think all presidents, whether riding a horse, playing golf, watching movies, they deserve downtime. we will talk about the movies in a few minutes. james k. polk was president when the first known picture of the white house was taken. you see there is no balcony on the south. the balcony is known as the truman balcony after harry truman had a long and nasty fight. for most of the history, that is
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what the south look like. let's jump ahead with this gentleman. i'm sorry that the screen is a little blurry. he needs no introduction. this is a famous photo of lincoln taken. i think this was taken on february 18. this photo has been colorized. look at this. lincoln is in the flesh and it is just remarkable. if you look at lincoln and you want to pause, he was such a powerful photo and he suffered from depression, the war was stressful. and you can see all of this in
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his face with a sadness in the eyes. this is two months before his assassination. lincoln was impressed by the telegraph and he got a coast-to-coast telegram and he ordered the federal government to discontinue the usage of the pony express. at the time, it would take eight days to get something to the coast and with the telegraph, lincoln did away with the pony express.
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it was this technology that helps him manage the civil war. if you have seen the steven spielberg movie, lincoln, it is very authentic and gain of they lewis plays the part -- and daniel day-lewis spends a lot of time in that room that was adjacent to the white house. the use of the technology was mirrored by presidents. another president we do not think about, rutherford b. hayes, was a very high-tech president and was friends with edison and alexander graham bell, inviting them. this attention helped speed up the entry into the marketplace and he knew what he was doing. the number of the first white
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house telephone was 1. that was the number. not a lot of people could call. there are 2-3 other phones and who was going to call? there was a phone at the treasury department and some private citizen had a phone. there might have been three phones in all of washington, at that time. the president answered the phone himself sometimes. pretty sure that does not happen.
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so, let me come back to the second floor and lincoln for a second. i want to tell you about a great misunderstanding about him concerning the "so-called" lincoln bedroom. today, this is the current floor plan of the second floor and this is what is today called the lincoln bedroom. not so. that was his office and he called it the shop. this is what his office look like. it was the nerve center of the lincoln presidency with his cabinet here, his speeches here, everything happening in this room. he had maps on the wall to track the civil war and you can see that window on the left that looks out on the wall -- small and -- on the mall. there is the half-finished washington monument. they stopped the construction and we can look the aunt that and at how the war was going to see the confederate flag and the
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campfires of troops. the enemy was often close. remarkable wartime conditions. so, that is lincoln's office today and it turned into a bedroom by truman and this is what it looks like today with the rosewood had that was purchased by mary lincoln. lincoln never slept in that bed, by the way. the furniture is authentic. the question is if lincoln did not sleep in the bed or the bedroom, where did he sleep? this is the authentic for plan and he actually slept down here
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in the southwestern corner where the presidents now sleep. mary lincoln had a separate bedroom and the crush of visitors during the civil war was great. the whole life was confined to just these couple of rooms and he insured his privacy and security with a secret passageway builds that led to a yellow room that they called a library and this was the second floor during his day. it is not just the lincoln bedroom.
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lots of room have changed identity and purpose over the years. here is one more story about how those rooms changed. this is, again, the current second floor and i added the north side of the white house and the second window from the right. that is a private dining room of first family's and, if i come in early, i see the light on and that is a private dining room with a sometimes shadowy wind and mrs. obama fixes herself a cup of coffee or something. here is president ford sipping his morning oj. look at the cool tv. remember those tvs? here is nancy reagan on the
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visit to the white house in 2009. this is the private dining room. but, people do not know about this room. it is, today, a private dining room and it actually has a morbid history. william henry harrison, the first president to die in office died in the room. he died in that room in 1862 and lincoln had an assassination, autopsy, and informing performed. a lot of creepy things occurred in the room and the presidents,
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when they are eating breakfast, they are aware there is kind of a morbid history and it did not he can become a dining room until the kennedys moved in with jackie kennedy. she wanted more privacy for her kids and she converted the room into a private kitchen in 1963 in the last year of the kennedy presidency. as long as we're talking about the kennedys here, prior to this, this was the dining room and mrs. kennedy did not like the fact that she was going downstairs to the state floor.
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it was cumbersome and intrusive. now, as long as we're talking about the kennedys, everybody knows about the way -- the restoration made in 1961 and 1962. they never got the credit she deserves. it is the changes to the west wing that we need to talk about here. we know that, three months into teddy's term, he had the worst humiliation with the bay of pigs and, in the aftermath, the president decided he was knocking the information he wanted quickly enough and it was not the right information. he wanted his own set up and he got the situation room and he moved it to the old executive building and this was the first situation in the early 1960's.
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this is what john f. kennedy wanted and what he got. he went faster without going through the channels in the state department and he wanted raw and unfiltered information. that is what he got. the irony is, after the bay of pigs situation, there was a big role in what was the greatest foreign-policy achievement, the cuban missile crisis against the soviets. so, the situation room was huge in his presidency for that reason. the situation room is badly named. this is not one room.
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a several rooms. this is the oval office for and above. you can see that it is several rooms. the night obama got bin laden, this is where that was taken. that is what kennedy did to the west wing. other kennedy story is a little creepy and it concerns the documented cover discussed events of the 20th century. it concerns the kennedy assassination. mrs. kennedy redid the mansion and she wanted to redo the oval office and there is caroline kennedy, who hated the green carpet that went back to truman.
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she said, i want to redo the office. she picked everything out and the workers told her they both needed to be away for about two days to do the job. it was 1963 and the only two days when they would be away happened to be the third weekend in november and, literally, as they made their way from fort worth to dallas to get into the motorcade, work and went into the oval office and removed the resolute desk, ripped up the carpet, and as the president went from fort worth to dallas, they put in the new carpet on the day of his murder and the color is a deep blood red. this was taken the afternoon of
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the association -- assassination in 1963. daniel patrick moynihan, who went on to be a senator, he saw the carpet and said, it was as if they knew a new president was coming. mrs. kennedy saw the carpet the next day for a few minutes while the casket was in the east room. she returned to the white house only twice for the rest of her life, it was too painful for her. these the stores i try to find and talk about. here. and, roosevelt, nixon, look at how young the girls look when they came back.
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that is why the more confident pictures i have taken. i mentioned a movie theater. the movie theater is one of the great perks in the white house. here are the reagans watching a movie. barack obama liked to throw super bowl parties and i think this was 2009. if you look at the records of what they watch over the year, they reflect the tastes of the president and the times they live. there is one movie -- in the
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quiz section of the evening -- that resonated with more presidents than any other. can you guess the movie? it will be obvious when i explained. >> patton? >> everyone from eisenhower to the president. gone with the wind is a good guess. that is not it. >> manchurian candidate? >> that would be -- that would be -- no one ever gets this. the one movie that resonates with so many presidents is "high noon." the gary cooper western. a lot of people have seen it. eisenhower loved the movie, so
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did ronald reagan, george w. bush, bill clinton claims to have seen it 20 times -- "i love this movie!" was that good? "what's your name?" why high noon? the sheriff, it is up to him to defend the town all by himself. presidents, that resonates with presidents. they sometimes feel the world's burden is theirs alone and this helps them make life and death decisions on the run and that is why the presidency is called the loneliest job in the world. with good reason, i think.
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there are a ton of other stories i can tell you here. i will stop and thank you so much for inviting me and i appreciate the opportunity to speak to you. thank you. if somebody has any questions, feel free. [applause] by the way, do not speak until you actually have the microphone. question, anybody? >> how much as the footprint of the structure changed since they burned down? did they rebuild on the same
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architecture? how did it change? >> the outer shell of the white house was there and they told around it -- built around it. it expanded with grant as president. they thought about moving the house over a bluff right after the lincoln assassination. in the truman era of the white house, they gave margaret a p get it fell through the ceilingiano and they really thought it was going to collapse. they had to move into the blair house. it was interesting. -- they gave margaret a piano and it fell through the ceiling. they really thought it was going to collapse. they had to move into the blair house.
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it was interesting. >> you talked about coming into the white house in seeing the dining room lights. can you talk about some of the things that you have found to be a pleasure in the job, as well as a burden? >> the pleasure is the reason why i decided to run. it was such a privilege. you are enveloped by history. i was in the east room. i have been there a million times. you go into the center of the room and you have the famous gilbert stuart painting on the wall where gerald ford, sworn in
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after nixon resigned. the history is just remarkable and you cannot escape it. when you walk when they can walk and were thomas jefferson and franklin roosevelt rolled around, it is mind blowing to go in there. >> in the floor plan, i think it was the current white house on the second floor where they have a room noted as "cos." what is that? >> the chief of staff office. >> it looks like it is in the private area. >> oh? i will go back and look at it. sure.
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>> fascinating. have you cover the ford children smoking marijuana on the roof of the white house? >> i was just a lad. i have heard that. there is somebody in the room who could comment on this. i will not put that on the spot. i have heard that story and with jenna bush. their children. date -- they are children. it may be true. it is probably true. >> i was interested to see the painting of the white house while it was under construction and we were told that, during
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the complete reconstruction of the white house in 1950, when they gutted it, my friend got the bricks and built the slave quarters in the greenhouse from the bricks? >> the entire structure was not from the bricks, but they were part of it. that is correct. >> the reconstruction, 1948-1952, truman told the guys to get the job done. and wood, frames, they were a huge waste and if you are an archaeologist, this became a good project. >> faceting presentation. i have a question from the
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introduction. what did the russians make of the super bowl? >> i do not normally get a super bowl question. living in russia, this is how long ago it was. the redskins were a good team. the year for, -- the year before, they had won the super bowl. and, i actually figured out that i had big screen televisions and i could make this happen and i called called the nfl and
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pitched them this and they said, convince us and we will let you do it. i came back and the russians, i do not know what to make of it. they think that they invented a -- a's ball. they do. they did not know what to think. question? >> mount vernon has the best questions for any speaker. there must be something to ask this man. i will go ahead. >> this gentleman. >> what is the most interesting story about grant? >> grant, i am not sure if this is apocryphal, he got a speeding ticket.
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he had horses and a buggy and like to go out around town and was speeding down the road and going too fast and he started to give the president a ticket and grant said, do your job and he got the five dollar ticket and grant thinks him and went back to the white house. one of my favorite stories. he is the president while -- who got the speeding tickets. >> i had read that eleanor roosevelt used to have also to people come during her time. what was the wackiest one that she had?
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>> she would sometimes invite total strangers she met on the streets and there were often not enough bedrooms to go around. i am sure that polarity would ensue. and she would just like to talk to people and that is what she did. she was an interesting character. >> was sally hemmings on staff? >> you are talking about jefferson's mistress with it is believed that he fathered six children with. i do not think she was. that is a good question.
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>> one of my favorite stories in the book relates to wilson, the last virginia president who got married and they had interesting relationships. >> his first wife died while he was in office and he wanted to meet somebody else and thought he never would. about a month later, he saw a woman on a street corner who happened to be a friend of the person he was with, his personal physician.
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her name was edith and the president was smitten. they began to date and the president -- as if being president was not impressive enough -- he really wanted to impress her and he shared top government secrets with her. it was a huge security lapse and i would think that being president was enough. that is what he did and they wound up getting married and, during the first world war, edith learned to code and decode government messages for the war department and she sent messages abroad and decipher them. very interesting.
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wilson had a stroke in 1919 that nearly killed him and he could not speak or move for a long time. it was one of the greatest coverups in american history. his wife, doctors, staff, they completely cover this up. the president was absolutely paralyzed and she took it upon herself to do his job and she looked at papers, signing documents, deciding what was and was not important. this was kept hushed. eventually, people figured it out when the president did not appear for weeks on end. this is one of the most under told stories it is remarkable -- under told stories. -- undertold stories. it is remarkable. >> you are a great storyteller. i remember you telling me about
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a speed dial. >> a speed dial? >> you hit a button on a phone and you got a gentleman in california. >> that has nothing to do with any of this. it is like the super bowl. where do these questions come from? >> is not being reported -- this is not being recorded. >> i ended up hanging up on ronald reagan one time. no big deal. i was working for a public relations company. they are still in business, despite this story. on the staff, after reagan left the white house, on staff at
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this public relations company was sheila tate, a former assistant to nancy reagan. it was 11-12:00 and they decided to take a break and these offices. we went in there and there is a rolodex on her desk and somebody started looking at it and said, oh here is the private number for the reagans. on a dare, i called the number. i was 24 years old. i thought that an assistant or
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someone would answer the phone. they picked up the phone and there was the unmistakable "hello?" and, we just hung up and hightailed it out. i was certain that we were all going to get it. nothing ever happened. so, that is the time. that is the time i hung up on the president. >> one last question to finish this off. >> that will go in the next book, maybe. >> hi. excellent presentation. i have not been to the white
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house in 40 years. would you consider giving a behind the scenes tour to a few of us? >> i think that i just did. the best way to get in there, with security so strict now, is to go through your congressperson. that process is laborious. you have to start 6 weeks in advance. i cannot get people to be on the gate and i do not encourage jumping the fence. if you can take the tour, you should. it is wonderful. you see the east room and the state dining room. you can see the adams benediction. if you are lucky on the day you are there, when the president is coming or going, they may take you out back and you can watch
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the chopper, which is really a thrill. i hope you get to do that. >> let's give him a big round of applause. thank you all for coming out tonight. a couple administrative notes. these books are for sale outside the door. we will chain them to the desk. if you run out of the stock of books, you can purchase them from us at a discounted rate and we will ship them to you. you can have them personalized for you or anyone.
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it is a nice gift for thanksgiving. >> if you like the book, get on amazon and write a review. that would be helpful. shameless plug. >> thank you. let's give them another round. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv every weekend on c-span. follow us on twitter to keep up with the latest history news. night, on the communicators, differing views on nets neutrality. the company was the first to sue
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on internet service providers. and, christopher lewis supports the fcc plan. >> we objected to the way they went about the internet standards and they adopted them as regulations that were pursuant to common carrier authority. this was applied to calming carriers and it has been repealed for all the common carriers and we do not think it is the right form of regulation of the internet. >> we are worried about consumers and that drives us. we want the best they can and to
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make sure everyone has access to the internet. when you see the two-tiered internet made. this creates concern.


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