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tv   Bob Woodward on President Lincoln  CSPAN  July 28, 2016 9:05pm-10:11pm EDT

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another tall, skinny illinoisan whose very political ascent would likely not be possible without lincoln. president obama twice carried essentially the same states that lincoln did, and, as was true after lincoln's death, there are big questions nowadays about whether that coalition can endure to transfer power to a key aide to the twice-elected president. in the 19th century, illinois resident ulysses s. grant. and today the illinois-born hillary clinton. these mentions of illinois raise a third also easily answered question -- why here? in a real sense, the university of illinois, located between springfield and chicago, is mr. lincoln's university. as we in champaign-urbana prepare to celebrate our own sesquicentennial next year, we were created by the act signed
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into law by lincoln five years earlier and the only one in that original group founded in lincoln's home state. indeed one of the reasons i was drawn to come to illinois last year to take the job as law dean is the prospect that the university of illinois can build upon the legacy of, and become linked with lincoln in the way the university of virginia is associated with thomas jefferson. who to my mind was not as great a president and not as great a person. this brings me to a fourth question, why bob woodward? that might be the easiest one of all. many people consider "the new york times" the country's newspaper of record. but bob woodward of the rival "washington post" is america's reporter of record. he has been at the "post" for 45 years and is responsible for two of its pulitzer prizes for investigative coverage of water gate and also 9/11. but mr. woodward is much more than a reporter. he has an inciteful and prolific historian of, among other things, america's presidents.
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in this regard he has written or co-written 12 number one best-selling non-fiction books, more than any other contemporary american author. a native of -- where else -- illinois, and a graduate of yale college who spent five years in the navy, mr. woodward has won virtually every major american journalism award. i am particularly thrilled that he is our lead-off lecturer, because one of the first major works to expose the supreme court's inner operations to outside view, figured significantly if my decision and a handful of years earlier in the decision of my older brother, also a law professor, to attend law school. i have reread "the brethren" at least half dozen times over the last 25 years, including during the term i worked for justice blackmon. like mr. lincoln, it continues to be powerfully relevant to modern, legal and political disputes even though it was penned almost 40 years ago now. all of this brings me to the
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last question which is the only one that seems hard. how did we get mr. woodward to come share his thoughts with us this evening? the answer to that also turns out to be quite simple. we asked. i have heard that long before people knew who he was, mr. woodward would assiduously determine whom he wanted or needed to talk to for a project he was working on, approach them forthrightly and say, i'm bob woodward from the washington and i need your help. when we at the university of illinois reached out to mr. woodward and explained to him straightforwardly why we needed his help on this project, he graciously obliged. for it turns out, that above and beyond all of his accomplishments and talents, mr. woodward is a generous and kind man to whom it is now my privilege to turn over the podium.
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>> thanks. thanks. it's great to be here, and i do not have a coat and tie on because i got stranded out of waington for a week because of the snow. and the dean generously offered his best suit, and i declined. because my daughter, who's a freshman in college, said, now you look like a real professor. underdressed. it's really genuine pleasure for me to come to a law school or talk to lawyers, which i've had the opportunity to do for many decades. my father was a lawyer here in illinois. wheaton, illinois, outside of chicago.
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a circuit judge, then became an appellate judge. so i was raised in a household where he drummed in to me the following. he said always carefully pay attention to the lawyers, because they have the most profound and meaningful and lasting things to say, unless you listen carefully. great advice for a journalist. i want to tell one lawyer story that actually connects to lincoln in a way. this was the 1980s. we were doing a lot of stories about the cia covert operations
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in the -- and the reagan administration was trying to prevent us from publishing these stories. there was a big debate, a lot of hand-wringing. at one point on a saturday morning, i went to see edward bennett williams, the very famous criminal lawyer. ed was my personal attorney and represented the "post." so i went into his office. i need your advice. i want to talk about these tough decisions about whether to publish national security secrets. and he said, just a minute. i need to tell you something. "what is that?" he said, well, i also -- i represent you, i represent the "post," i represent the cia director, bill casey also,
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personally. and i am general counsel interest president reagan's foreign intelligence advisory board. i said, ed, now wait a minute. you represent me, the "post," the cia director, the president, isn't there a conflict somewhere in this? and he smiled and looked at me and said, "i'd like to represent the situation." a lawyer's dream. and if you look at lincoln and the way he used his power during the civil war, in so many ways he, as a lawyer and as president, represented the situation. i want to identify some of the characteristics i think lincoln
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had, and then let me go through the list. first of all, lincoln accepted himself and who he was. he was a pragmatist. he had a moral center. he had a sense of strategy. and of course, strategy is trying to plan what you want to do in a year or six months, and not just crisis manage. he also had a strategic patience. he was not in a hurry, even on the most vital matters. he was persistent. he was ruthless as commander in chief in war. he understood deeply the importance of morale for the troops and the generals, and he understood the importance of human relations and carrying out his office. he also -- he was a big ego.
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a giant ego. had a giant ego. probably had no real friends. he was probably the most activist president. he almost believed in executive supremacy. he suspended habeas corpus in various regions. he said in justifying, defending what he was doing, that it made no sense "to lose the nation and yet preserve the constitution." in reading a number of books and doing some research about lincoln, there's a book by joshua schenky, which is called "lincoln's melancholy."
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the thesis is that -- and there a he some truth to this -- i think that lincoln had melancholy. i think if you examine the deeper, maybe that melancholy was really a habit of introspection. but in his book, "lincoln's melancholy," he said the following -- which i found quite striking. "what primarily accounted for lincoln's increasing success and his vital relevance was not his own growth to a place where he could speak to the country's needs, but the country's regression to a place where lincoln was needed. an assistant who works for me looked through all of this and said, "you know, lincoln was in
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many ways like the batman of christopher nolan's movie trilogy. not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed." i think that's true. lincoln certainly was the most modern of the presidents. now in 2016 i think if you look at the politics of this country, we are at a pivot point in history, and it is vital that the next president, whoever that might be, gets some things right and get the important things right, or at least comprehend the dimensions, impact and meaning of failure to get those important things right. over 40 years of writing about
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presidents and trying to understand them, i have asked is myself the question -- what's the job of the president? and my answer is that the job of the president is to figure out what the next stage of good is for a majority of people in the country. then develop a plan and carry out that plan. and it must be the next stage of good for a real majority. not one party or one interest group. one -- i did not realize that this notion i had been using for a long time was one of the points lincoln made in one of his speeches. and it was february, 1860, as president elect. lincoln said the following. "i hold that, while man exists, it is his duty to improve not
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only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind. and therefore, without entering upon the details of the question now, i will say that i am for those means which will leave the greatest good to the greatest number." yes, it is true, america is the last great hope, as lincoln said. but i think lincoln realized that failure was possible. the country was young when he was president and not yet powerful. america was an experiment. and, in truth, now in 2016, the experiment is not over.
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what i'd like to do is review the eight presidents i've worked on, and extract -- try to distill out, as i said, what they may have learned from lincoln, or maybe should have learned from lincoln. one of the scholars, jacques barzoun, said the following. this is about lincoln. "what gave lincoln his enormous strength in relation to others was that he had learned early in life to accept himself. he knew that he was ugly, ungainly, awkward in society, untaught, except by himself. and as a congressman for one term, unsuccessful. the great point was that he did not resent those deficiencies. he neither tried to cover them up, nor referred to them continuously from embarrassment.
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they were part of him, and he accepted all of himself as inevitable, as a fact of nature." that realization freed him from some of the demons that have plagued other presidents. i think specifically, of richard nixon, which i will get to and dwell on probably too long. lincoln was a pragmatist in an important way. one of the things he said, "our government rests in public opinion. whoever can change public opinion can change the government." and this is -- what he did as identify the essential element of democracy. he also said, "with public sentiment, nothing can fail.
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without it, nothing can succeed. consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts laws or pronounces decisions." a clear dig at the congress and the supreme court. part of what he did -- and just how he handled the press during the civil war and harold holzer's book on lincoln in the press, he makes a number of important points. what lincoln did -- and this again is reflective of the pragmatism. he did not initiate press suppression. he remained ambivalent about its execution. but he seldom intervened to prevent it. he let it go.
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he said and made it very clear that the secretary of war has my authority to exercise the executive discretion on this matter. it was his way of saying he represented the situation, and he was going to delegate it to somebody else, because it was a task that was difficult and he kept his hands off it directly. most important part of -- about lincoln of course is he had a moral center. he had that sense of strategy, strategic patience, as i mentioned. the great achievement, the emancipation proclamation. if you look at the histories of this, what he did, he reeled it out over a long period of time. he just didn't declare it.
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he had meetings with reporters and editors. there were coordinated leaks. imagine that. to the press to free blacks, or to religious leaders. and this went on from july to september of 1862. he knew he needed a military victory or success, and he waited until he got it. and what he did then, he announced he was going to free the slaves on january 1st if the rebellion did not end. it, of course, did not end. and the military order, which is what the emancipation was, really was an invitation to slaves to leave their masters.
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this pragmatism that he had -- and it's something to measure now candidates by. but it went far and deep for lincoln. harry williams, the historian said, "lincoln would not have been able to comprehend the attempts of modern writers to classify his ideas in to an ideology. indeed, he would have not known what an ideology was. another quote of lincoln saying, "my policy is to have no policy." very important to the way he conducted, not just the war, but everything else. how he conducted the war is very
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instructive and i think important as we get -- as we start looking at some of the eight last presidents. he supported, lincoln, the great humanitarian, supported the scorched earth economic strategy carried out by grant and general sherman. and agreed that brutal aggression was the only way to subdue the rebellion. lincoln didn't like war, but it was terrible but the larger purpose and strategy to save the union was key to this. he also understood the importance of morale for everyone in the country and the
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military. on july 14, 1863, he wrote union general meade a letter after meade had failed to pursue general lee following union victories in gettysburg and vicksburg. and so what the letter said was the following. "my dear general, i do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in lee's escape. he was within your easy grasp and to have closed upon him in connection with our other late successes would have ended the war. as it was, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. i am distressed immeasurably because of it. what lincoln did, didn't send the letter. he realized that it would be too
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graphic an attack on the general. and i sometimes have thought, if we could ever get the unsent letters or e-mails of presidents or presidential candidates, we would learn a great deal about them, and we would also learn that it is important sometimes to write these things out and not linger on them. >> the other important part. and this is a poor aspect of lincoln, how he understood the importance of human relations. kathryn graham, owner and publisher of "the washington post" for years, was working on her autobiography. i ran into her and she said, "oh. the weirdest thing happened last
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night. i was at a reception, and jimmy carter, the former president, was there. and cart came up to her and put out his hand and said, oh, mrs. graham, i admire you so much. i like you so much. and mrs. graham said to me, "you know what i thought? what the fuck?" sorry, we're in an academic environment where we can quote people accurately. and she said, now think of this. we fought with carter and his administration for years. the whole time he was there. we couldn't find out what was going on. there was no real relationship. and then she made the larger point which is critical.
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she said, "you know, it's hard not to like someone who says they like you." true. if you're in disagreement with somebody, or you're negotiating with them, they say, you know, i like you. not all the barriers come down, but some of them. lincoln realized this in so many ways. when he was a private lawyer in the 1850s, it was involved in a lawsuit where edwin stanton, the country's foremost lawyer, was involved in this case in ohio. and stanton and lincoln learned stanton would speak very negatively about lincoln and call him privately a back-woods bumpkin. stanton was a democrat, and he
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later practiced law in washington, and there was still this bad-mouthing of lincoln the whole time. and what did lincoln do? he appointed stanton secretary of war. and it turned out that stanton was one of the best war chiefs the united states ever had. after lincoln was assassinated, it was stanton who said, as it is remembered, "now he belongs to the ages." and so lincoln was able to bring people, even enemies, close to him and use them for his purpose. this sense of human relations, much is talked about in the histories about lincoln's second inaugural famous address. and then if you look at it in
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the context of pragmatism and in the context of human relations, and read what that second inaugural said, with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as god gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have born and carried the battle, and for his widow and his orphan. to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. that isn't just pragmatism. that is human understanding.
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now, the eight presidents i've tried to understand and write about, nixon, august 8th, 1968 accepting the republican nomination for president. nixon said the following, the next president will face challenges which in some ways will be greater than those of washington or lincoln. astonishing thing to say for a -- somebody who's been nominated to run in one party. and nixon's argument was, well, we're at war abroad and at home. and then he said, the long dark night for america is about to end. let me read that again. nixon, august 8th, 1968, the
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long dark night for america is about to end. it was six years to the day on august 8th, 1974, that nixon and announced his resignation. and it was gerald ford who responded to the nixon resignation and watergate by saying, "our long national nightmare is over." april 29, 1974, before nixon was -- he was three months away from resigning. the house impeachment inquiry had subpoenaed more secret tapes. so what nixon did is invoke lincoln in defending his argument to not comply with the subpoena.
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and he is he said lincoln at an equivalent time in his presidency was being subjected to unmerciful attack. a book i did in the fall called "the last of the president's men" about alexander butterfield, who revealed nixon's taping system and spirited away thousands of documents from the white house, the nixon white house, that he gave to me. now you sit and dream as a reporter about somebody spiriting thousands of documents out of the white house. and among the documents that butterfield took was -- and butterfield's account of what happened -- i think it was christmas eve 1969, nixon was
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president and went for a tour of the executive staff offices in the office building next to the white house. and he discovered that there were about a dozen support staff who had pictures of john f. kennedy in their offices. nixon went bananas. he called butterfield in who was deputy chief of staff at the time. and said this is an infestation of kennedy pictures. i want them out. i want the replaced with -- you guessed it -- nixon pictures. butterfield launched an investigation of this, was able to persuade people that it was not proper, that it was suggestively disloyal if you had
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pictures of other presidents in your office. i was kind of skeptical of the story. and then there's the document that butterfield wrote directly to the president. and the subject was sanitization of the executive office building. sanitization, as if there was some disease because staff people had pictures of another president. and think about it. what do you think lincoln's response would have been if he discovered that there were staff people in the white house or the government who had portraits of george washington or thomas jefferson? i think it is unthinkable and this inability -- and if you trace the nixon story, you see
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that he's not accommodated to the idea of who he is, the opposite of lincoln. when gerald ford became president, the next year, one of the things he said, again, contradicting nixon, he said "none of our problems today are as severe as those facing lincoln." he quoted one of the things lincoln said in one of ford's kind of natural spontaneous statements of humility. he said, oh, lincoln -- ford's in dispute with congress. he said, well, lincoln said the following. we of the congress in this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves.
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ford also said of lincoln that his compassion, lincoln's compassion for others came from an understanding of himself. i think the kind of merging somewhat of the pragmatism and the strategic sense of what the country needs, excellent example of this is gerald ford. i remember it was september 1974. ford had been president about one month. and he went on television. some of you may remember this. and gave -- said he was giving
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nixon a full pardon for watergate. and any other crimes he may have committed. now, ford, of course, went on television early on a sunday morning, hoping no one noticed. but it was widely noticed, but not by me. i was asleep and my colleague, carl bernstein, called me up and said, have you heard? and i said i haven't heard a thing. i was asleep. and carl, who then and still has the ability to say what occurred with the most drama in the fewest words said, "the son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch." and i was even able to figure out what had occurred. at the time, i thought, perfect. nixon goes free. the only one to get a watergate
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pardon. it is the ultimate corruption. you look at the polling at the time and the suspicions about the pardon, that was a widely held view. and you can argue and i think the historians of the '76 election, when ford lost to jimmy carter, that the pardon had an aroma that there was a deal, that something really untoward had occurred. and i believe this. i have real strong convictions that this was, in a sense, the perfect corruption of watergate. and then 25 years later, i undertook one of my projects, which became a book called "shadow" about the legacy of
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watergate in the presidencies of ford through clinton. and i called gerald ford up. i had never met him. i had never interviewed him. i asked to talk to him about the pardon. and he said sure, come on up. he was in new york at a board meeting. and i had the luxury of time, two full-time assistants. we looked at all the contemporary coverage of the pardon, got all the memoirs, got the legal memos from the ford library. i kept going back to interview ford. and to try to piece together what happened. i interviewed him in colorado a number of times, where he had a home, and many times at his main home at rancho mirage, california. i remember the last interview asking him, why did you pardon nixon?
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he said, you keep asking that question. i said, but i don't think you've answered it. and then he said, astonishingly, ok, i'm going to tell you. and he then said what happened is that al haig, nixon's chief of staff, came and offered me a deal. he said, if you guarantee that the president will get a pardon, he will resign and you get the presidency. and ford said, however, i rejected that deal. i knew i was going to become president. nixon was finished. so there's no way he could work that deal in the way haig described. and passionately, ford said, look, let me tell you what happened. at that time, he -- ford had a
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letter from the watergate prosecutors saying that nixon is going to be investigated as a citizen. likely will be indicted, tried, probably be convicted and go to jail. so ford said we're going to have two more years of watergate. the country could not stand it. and there was this plaintive tone that he had of i needed my own presidency. the cold war was still going on. the economy was in great danger. and then he said he acted preemptively to get nixon off the front page and out of our lives. and i remember writing "shadow" and this part about the pardon and realizing ford was right. what he did was quite gutsy. and this is in the book.
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after the book came out, caroline kennedy, the daughter of john f. kennedy, called me up and said, you know, i've read your book. my uncle teddy kennedy has read it. we agree and we're going to give gerald ford the profiles in courage award that's given out by the kennedy library once a year. and it is not going to be an award for being president or for being gerald ford. it's going to be for the single act of pardoning richard nixon. and she said the tradition of her late father's book, about politicians who do things that are contrary to their own interest in the national interest.
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and i did not go to the ceremony, but i watched it and it was a cold shower for me. because teddy kennedy got up and said, look, at the time of the pardon, i denounced it almost as a criminal act. and now, 25 or so years later, you look at it and you realize it was exactly in the tradition of my brother's book "profiles in courage." and then gerald ford got up and talked about partial vindication. i remember watching this and thinking here i was convinced it was an act of maximum corruption, that the pardon was.
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and then it is examined many years later, dispassionately. and what looked like corruption actually is an act of courage. and that is sobering for somebody in my business. you can say, oh, yeah, this is -- the following -- this war made no sense. this was a good war and so forth. and the decades go by and it may look quite differently. jimmy carter, as somebody using lincoln in december 1979, as he was gearing up to run for reelection, in one of his speeches, carter said, at the height of the civil war, lincoln said, "i have but one task and that is to save the union." then carter went on to compare his responsibility in getting the 50 iranian hostages out as
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the same problem. he said he would devote his concerted efforts to that. and you look again at the histories of this and jimmy carter became obsessed with 50 americans. and to compare it to lincoln's effort in the civil war to save the union doesn't quite parse. but at the same time, in 1978, carter is president, any of you remember what he did at camp david when he invited menachem beygan and the egyptian president to the united states. took them up to camp david for a couple of weeks. and they reached an agreement, a kind of peace treaty.
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it did not solve the problems in the middle east, but it was a big step forward. i remember i was amazed at what carter did and the persistence of doing this. and i asked one of carter's aides, well, how did he pull this off? and the aide who was very close to carter said, look, if you had been locked away at camp david with jimmy carter for 13 days, you, too, would have signed anything. persistence can sometimes achieve great things. ronald reagan, what's interesting about reagan and lincoln is -- that reagan used lincoln politically. but in an interesting way also,
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reagan understood abraham lincoln. july 17th, 1980 at the republican convention, reagan accepts the nomination. and he quotes lincoln. said, so president lincoln said "no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." quoting lincoln. then reagan said, "if mr. lincoln could see what's happened in this country in the last three and a half years, he might hedge on that statement." in other words, the carter years. reagan also said in his inaugural, in 1981, "whoever would understand in his heart
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the meaning of america will find it in the life of abraham lincoln." true. i think he got it. in 1984 when reagan was running for reelection, he said -- said well i want to quote president lincoln. lincoln said we must disenthrall ourselves from the past and then we will save our country. and reagan went on to say, well, four years ago that's what we did. we saved the country. is reagan had -- he said that he shared many points of philosophy with lincoln and a couple times
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called him father abraham. president george bush sr. in some of his comments about lincoln seemed to understand the duality of lincoln. he said if you look at some of the paintings of lincoln you see his agony and his greatness. and he i kuwaits the two. and he then also says, bush sr., lincoln was at once a hard and gentle person, a man of grief and yet of humor. president clinton used lincoln to argue that -- said lincoln saw that the clear duty was to revive the american dream and
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then clinton said now the responsibility is to revive the american economy. one thing my assistant found in the research, in january, 1998, president clinton was here at the university of illinois talking about the land grant colleges and it was not a particularly memorable speech but at one point -- and it's hard to believe this happened but it did, clinton said -- oh, i think lincoln would have liked the pep agaban. [ laughter ] i did a little checking and someone said he spotted someone he liked in the pep band. we'll never know.
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george w. bush as president talked about lincoln quite a bit. i did four books on george w. bush's wars in afghanistan and iraq and in one interview in the oval office with bush we're getting at what he's trying -- he's trying to explain what his plan was after 9/11 and he said the following, "i'm a product of the vietnam era. i remember presidents trying to wage wars that were very unpopular and the nation split." he then, sitting there, and he points to a portrait of abraham lincoln that hung in the oval office and he said "he's on the wall because the job of the president is to unite the
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nation. that's the job of the president." president obama on lincoln a month after obama's inaugural he just said, he said "lincoln made my own story possible." and that's exactly true. and i remember interviewing president obama about the afghan war for a book i did called "obamas wars" in 2010 about the decisions obama made and in a case like that this you're not -- i'd sent him a 15-page memo saying this is what i'd like to ask about, obama because -- every president now
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lives in an environment where there are two questions at press conferences, there's the shouted question and there's the kind of gotcha environment so when you send a long memo saying i've worked for a year on this and i'd really like to talk to you and here are the questions, presidents tend to respond. so wheniewing him about afghanistan and what his decisions were you may recall in his first year he ordered 30,000 more american troops to the afghan war. but at the end -- and i wanted to try to ascertain how he looked at war, because i am convinced it's very important that presidents be tough in
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their articulation of what the united states will do and what it will do to preserve its interests. so at the end of the interview i handed president obama a quote from a book called "day of battle" by a former colleague at the "washington post," rick atkinson and in the middle of the book rick just pulls back and says i'm going to tell you about war. and this is the quote i handed obama that was typed up which said essentially that war made -- war corrupts everyone. that no heart leaves war unstained because it is the business even in a necessary cause of killing over people and obama said "i'm sympathetic to
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th this." he said "go read my nobel prize acceptance speech." well, i had seen the nobel prize acceptance speech, i'd read it, ever seen something and read it and not understood it? happens to me too often so i went home and got out the speech and there in plain english obama says, war is sometimes necessary but then he said it is always an expression and manifestation of human folly. and i realized at that point he just does not like war. and the problem is when you are involved in a war as commander in chief, you've got to really be tough. a couple of years ago i was having breakfast with a world
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leader, head of government of one of our closest allies and i asked about obama and he said, you know, obama's so smart and i like him, but then he said but no one is afraid of him. and my heart sank because i realized that the distaste, the disgust for war loomed so large with obama that he has not conveyed the message of fear which is what a leader must do. what is interesting is lincoln was the master of this. lincoln was the one who knew that the general sherman's march through georgia was necessary to
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win the war. the other interesting thing about lincoln is that he was a fatalist. this idea that events are inevitable, kind of predetermined. kind of a mystique about it and it was 2005, i was giving a talk like this in washington and hillary clinton, then senator from new york, was there and also giving a speech and after the speeches, we chatted and she said "oh, i quote from one of your books on bush so often that i think i should pay you royalties." i stupidly said no rather than how much. [ laughter ] i said "what do you quote?"
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she said "it's the end of "plan of attack" about george w. bush's decision to invade iraq. and it's the last line of the book and i sent questions to bush, we'd done hours of specific interviews and he was standing in the oval office with his hands in his pockets and i just asked, i'm not quite sure how the question came to mind because it was not on the list of questions i had and it was "how do you think history will judge your iraq war?" and bush his only -- i think the mention of history caused him to think about those exams in history at yale that he did not
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do that well on. [ laughter ] he kind of flinched but he takes his hands out of his pockets and says "history? we won't know. we'll all be dead." [ laughter ] a less-than-comforting thought. [ laughter ] but if you think about it, it's true. the point about gerald ford, it looks one way and then in history it may look the opposite. so i asked senator clinton, i said well, why do you quote that? and she said "oh, well, you can't think and talk like that and be president of the united states." and i said "well, what do you mean?" and she said "well, you just can't, you've got to take charge, you've got to do things. you can't leave it to the historians." and i thought if she ever became president, made a big decision and somebody was in the oval
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office asking her about how history might look at it her answer would be "i'll write it." [ laughter ] but she said you just can't think and talk like that and she got quite exercised and pounded her fist in her hand because i was pushing back a little bit and she said "you just can't, you can't give yourself over to those events." and to make her point she said "george washington would never talk like that." and you know really pounded her fist again and said jefferson would never talk like that and bill would never talk like that. [ laughter ] and i envisioned the new mount rushmore. [ laughter ]
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washington, jefferson, bill, and maybe hillary. [ laughter ] and i was going to say something and -- but i caught myself and thought we won't know, we'll all be dead. [ laughter ] i'm going to stop there, thank you so much. you did me a big favor by inviting me. thank you. [ applause ] >> that was terrific, bob. on behalf of the college of law and this great university of which it's a part i want to thank you for that elegant and profound essay.
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we have a small gift to remember your visit here this evening and before we depart i just also want to thank a lot of people who worked very hard to make this very worthwhile event come off so smoothly. the communications and event folks in the college of law, especially dean carrie turner. she worked with all the people on this great campus so i want to thank everybody and wish you a wonderful night. [ applause ] coming up this weekend on american history tv on c-span 3, saturday night at 8:00 eastern on lectures in history, virginia commonwealth university professor karen raider on student instructional films that were made during the cold war out of fear the u.s. population was falling behind the soviet union in science education. and sunday morning at 10:00, on
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"road to the white house rewind" the 1952 and 1948 national conventions. in 1952, dwight eisenhower accepted the republican nomination and adlai stevenson received the democratic nomination on the third ballot. and in 1948, the first televised conventions were president harry truman accepted his party's nomination. >> the failure to do anything about high prices and the failure to do anything about housing. my duty as president requires that i use every means within my power to get to laws the people need on matters of such importance and urgency. at 6:00 on "american artifacts" we'll taken a early look at the new smithsonian museum of african american history and culture with its director lonnie bunch. the museum opens its doors to the public in september of this year. >> we were able to get an amazing collection of movie posters such as the ones behind you. that's an early oscar michaud movie poster from the 1920s.
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and this is -- part of our job is to help people relearn the history they think they know. that movie post jer from spencer williams. he is known by most people as playing in "amos & andy" but he was one of the most important film director in the late '30s and early '40s. then historians john meach m meacham, annette gordon reade talk about writing american history." coming up next, the second part of a series of lectures on abraham lincoln's legacy hosted by the illinois college of law. last week we heard from "washington post" journalist bob woodward who reflected on abraham lincoln and the 16th's president's influence on his successors. columnist george will looks at judicial review and the constitution. he argues that majority rule is
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inseveritiable but not inettebly reasonable, a concept he believes lincoln supported. this is an hour. >> a splendid institution where i am honored to serve as dean. i am pleased to welcome you here to the beautiful follinger auditorium to the series of lectures "the new lincoln lectures, what lincoln means to the 21st century." in this series, we are privileged to hear from a remarkably accomplished and ideologically diverse set of national thought leaders on lincoln's legacy and hiss continuing relevance 150 years after his passing. as i said when i introduced our inaugural lecturer bob woodward in january, the law school has chosen to focus these lectures
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on abhraham lincoln in part because he is one of the greatest lawyers in american history. the fact that he assume misdemeanor other important roles -- president, legislator, military strategist, newspaper owner, et cetera -- merely adds to his legacy and legend. as we know, many of the themes of lincoln's life and his life's work, the treatment of race and non-citizenship, the relationship between the national government and the states, the scope of executive power, the interplay between the president and the supreme court, the conduct of a presidential election campaign in a time of bitter partisanship among others dominate discourse today nearly as much as in lincoln's era. so this remains the right time for all americans to reflect on lincoln's meaning to each of us
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and all of us. this is especially true for those of us here at illinois. in a real sense, the university of illinois, located between springfield and chicago, is mr. lincoln's university. as we in champagshachampagne ur celebrates our says anniversary, we must remember we were the only one founded in lincoln's home state and who better to help us in this time and this place think about what we can learn from lincoln as a country and as individuals than george will, one of the finest minds this region has ever produced. mr. will was born and raised in champagne with where his father was on the faculty at the u of i. he attended the child development laboratory in town and went on to graduate from the
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university laboratory high school. he worked for the now defunct urbana courier newspaper where i understand he had a friendly rivalry with roger ebert who worked summers at the news gazette in champagne. from champagne mr. will went on to trinity college and oxford university and then on to princeton where he earned his ph.d. and the rest is history. he's undeniably one of america's most prolific and important thinkers and writers. his 12 books include "one man's america" "state craft as soul craft" and "men at work, the craft of baseball." hiss regular column has been indicated by the "washington post" since 1974 and today appears in about 500 newspapers. for 32 years he was a panelist on abc television's "this week." he has been awarded the pulitzer prize for


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