tv The Presidency Candidate George W. Bush CSPAN November 26, 2018 12:00am-1:04am EST
governor and president to talk about the candidate, his political strategies, and the behind-the-scenes efforts leading to his successful elections. speakers included karl rove, mike mckinnon and dan bartlett, and bush era secretary of education margaret spellings. the program opens with a brief >> i am the executive editor of the texas tribune. i would like to welcome you to the eighth festival. it is hard to believe that we have done it eight times. this is sponsored by encore. they play no role in determining the panel's content or line of questioning.
of staff. you can clap. [applause] he has served as a political strategist since the 1994 gubernatorial campaign. he is the cofounder of american crossroads, a conservative superpac. he is a contributor to fox news and the wall street journal, so he is a member of the mainstream media. emphasis on mainstream. wall street journal? dan bartlett has served as deputy vice president since 2013, overseeing government relations and social responsibility initiatives. he was previously the president and ceo of hill and nolton strategies. he served as counselor to george w. bush, working on strategic communications.
and margaret spellings. she got more applause than karl did. she is currently the president of the north carolina system. i am advised that is upside down. she is the boss of bosses. that is a mouthful. overseeing economic growth and health initiatives. she served as secretary of education under president bush. senior advisor during the tenure as governor. that is our panel. so, i want to start with the news today. we will go through this quickly because you all work with brett kavanaugh in some form or fashion in the white house. the question for you is, how do you keep this from happening? how do you not get the dumpster fire? you had the opportunity sometimes, surely. >> this is unprecedented.
normally, if a member of the senate judiciary committee received a letter, worthy of further investigation, they would have turned it over to the committee investigators because there is a strong history, they have a strong investigatory staff. these people are chosen by the majority and minority but they remain there for years. at minimum, you would have turned it over to them. or if it was of a higher level, it would have been turned over to the fbi. so the fact that dianne feinstein sat on this for 60 days until after the nomination and just after the hearing is something that we have not seen before. no white house can prepare for this. if you have a member of the
senate who is willing to sabotage the process as badly as she did. mark: well, i interviewed a friend of mine, john kennedy from louisiana. i was trying to make a decision about what to do when i left after karl beat us. i got my phd and it worked for a guy named john kennedy who became part of the administration. i interviewed him last week for the circus. the significant point for me, we cannot think more highly about brett kavanaugh.
he will be a great justice. i told my democratic friends give me 10 years and you will agree with me. you would be very proud and very happy that he is there. if he goes down, watch out what comes after him. it will be a hard right ideological candidate that will be confirmed. he kept saying to me, i want the facts. wouldn't an fbi investigation give you more facts? for his reputation, they should do an fbi investigation. the notion that you want the facts but you resist an investigation does not make investigation does not make sense to me and sends all the wrong signals. just flip this over to you because this is what you thought as well, right, dan?
dan: you want to control your own destiny. my fear was that would not be the case. i felt like this was going to be difficult to sustain. as mark said, we had the opportunity to help assure two supreme court justices. the process you go through to prepare for this is intense. the amount of rigor that goes into the background, the candidate and the preparation. having a little glimpse of it. brett is a very close friend. i say that with anybody, this has been a sad day for our country. i think the biggest fear is, who will put their hat in the ring going forward when you see a situation like this? it is hard for us to think that we will see this in the future, well-qualified people wanting to step up.
one of the most powerful moments from him was when his 10-year-old girl was saying a prayer for dr. ford. i never dreamed it would escalate to where we are today. >> you don't think the politics of this were foreseeable? you are putting this together in the white house. you know what the senate is like. don't you forsee that we are walking into a minefield? >> you assume people will respect the fundamental rules. if there is a serious question about the character or conduct of the nominee that there will be a referral when that information is received, not two months after it was received. 94% of republicans voted for ruth bader ginsburg.
74% voted for stephen breyer. harry reid intruded into the process and we had 50% of democrats vote for roberts and 10% vote for alito. >> merrick garland. karl: oh, fine. my point is this. both parties are now at each other's throats. the publicans better not aid the procedures of the democrats because it is our country that is being trashed by this area i do not care if you are republican or democrat. this process stinks. brett kavanaugh, whom we all know, brilliant, great integrity and he chose a life of public service rather than to cash in at some big law firm. how many people will say yes, i will subject myself to this kind of abuse are you he has undergone seven fbi investigations and not a single
hint of this kind of crap. if anybody thinks that the things that we have on the table now are the only three by the end of the next week when the fbi investigation is over, you're kidding yourself. more trash will be coming out of the ether. >> we all went through fbi checks to get in the white house. they call your high school friends. they call the friends of the friends of the friends. margaret: i think it is heartbreaking to watch two individuals with their lives being destroyed. they will be known in the obituary as that person. it is a sad day for our country when people like brett kavanaugh, 30 years of public service, one of the most stellar colleagues we ever had and his life is ruined.
i hope he can keep his family together and move on, no matter what. bad day. >> do you think you will get on the supreme court? >> i do. >> the fbi, i think if the vote went through today, it will just give more balance for those people. it will be more he said she said. who knows? we will see. >> to that point, what you have to do is say -- and the door shut on this day. >> he was clear. he wanted the current allegations.
we have ramirez as and the 10 gang rape parties to be considered by the fbi. i thought that was a good move on his part. out of all those people on the committee, he is one of the best. arriving at something that repairs the reputation, that restores something to the process. >> it is not fair to have the candidate trying to defend the prerogatives when he is a victim in the process. >> we will go back to where we were going to start before all of these hearings. texas is now in year 25 of the republican hegemony as car likes to call it. >> i did not use that word. >> this started in some ways before the george w. bush campaign, but it really began its run there. some democrats won in 1994 and nobody won after that except for the republicans. did you see the state shifting?
this was a moment of luck. was the state just changing like that or was it this candidate? margaret: george bush was successful as governor and president because he was a compassionate conservative. remember that? remember when republicans could be for free trade and family reunification? no child left behind? all those sorts of things that people could get around together. karl probably disagrees. it was more of this vision that government is necessary, but not necessarily government. it was appealing to the people. we have lost that along the way.
karl: i think it is broader than that. we are talking about texas and the compassionate conservatives. karen hughes was the reflector of the phrase, but the phrase began when bush, talked about i am a conservative with a heart. that is different than what is going on nationwide. both political parties are being disrupted. today, not back then. today, we are in a period, for the last 8, 10, 12 years, populism has been flowing through the political system in america as it has for most western democracies and being felt on the left and right. partly in reaction to the financial crisis and partly in response to other things. both political parties are disrupted from top to bottom, nationally.
>> i think i am a pretty good surrogate for a lot of what happened in texas, which is, i had been a to and i worked with democrats. i was at a point in my life where i was paying more taxes, feeling a little more conservative. before that time, texas was a two-party state. there really was no republican party. george bush came to this compassionate conservative idea. i remember issues that were compelling to me. there were a lot of us that crossed the bridge at that time because it was a compelling idea and vision. we had not had that alternative. when he came to town, that is why a lot of us signed up.
>> why were the democrats leaving? >> if lloyd bensen had showed up in 1996, he would have been republican, i think. >> this started before bush. 20 years before bush and it begins with the urbanization of texas, in migration from around the country, then along comes bill clements. the '78 victory is an accident. he takes advantage of it and credentials a lot of people come and begins to develop in east texas and then central texas. then we have a series of leaders.
ronald reagan and george h.w. bush. in 1980, we forget this. the new york times had 10 battleground states. texas was one of those battleground states. this was a movement that took place over a number of decades. the kind of campaign he ran and the governing that he did were enormously attractive. margaret: with two democrats. karl: he came into office and developed a close working relationship with two very tough, hard to deal with, but very smart democrat who cared about texas. when the young governor, baseball boy from dallas proved to both of them that he had the smarts, a vision and a willingness to work hard, that helped bring about a lot of positive changes that reinforced his message.
>> so we had plenty of partisans back in the 90s. >> margaret: you were one of them. >> i was not. i was in the mainstream media. why wasn't this blowing up? there is something different about this period. >> one of the things that i think has always helped, it is a part-time legislature, so you only have one object 40 days to get things done. let's be honest. the civic partisanship that we see on the national stage is largely driven. you have a situation where more members of congress wake up worried about a primary opponent, it is a fundamental issue that we have to address. you would hope that the
information would make us more -- it has made us more efficient. after we had returned to the environment, not only worried about the joints, there are people in russia and elsewhere that can engage in the election. the technology has lit this on fire. >> margaret, you came up through the texas house. when did you switch?
margaret: what we are missing now, politics and policy. what is our idea today? you said it all the time. good policy makes good politics. i do not know what good policy is anymore. i think our challenge is to define those first principles that unite us. they are missing. >> what drives politics now? what do you tell a staff? >> to her point, there used to be a consensus broadly within the national parties of what the ideas were. there used to be -- but there is not any more. it is impossible to be a free trade pro-business democrat with medicare for all and guaranteed universal jobs. what is a republican when you have bush, trump, republicans and the freedom caucus? it will short itself out. the party that gets its act
together first is more likely to dominate american politics for some period of time. >> free trade is what drew me towards the republican party. >> we should see it in the white house. from a standpoint of economic impact. it was a foreign-policy issue. we were trying -- [laughter] >> just kidding. >> we would bring in people, free trade democrats and they would say if i vote for this, i
will get a primary opponent from the left, from the labor unions. the same thing on immigration reform. republicans would work for it, but they would get a primary opponent. >> gerrymandering got much worse. >> it is not a new concept. i am worried. i do not like this either, but there is no good answer. we have commissions in california and arizona. the democrats went out and said here is how we jimmied the process to get more democrats than we would have gotten. it should reflect the share of their congressional delegation. california gerrymandered against the republicans.
only one state in the union has been able to pull it off. that is iowa. they are pleasant midwesterners. the rest of the other three years come they can be nice, pleasant and fair. otherwise, it does not work. >> marks, you were in a weird position before you joined bush. was the difference in those two years politically just the republican candidate? >> covering that 1990 race, amateurs won the race. the state had in some way was already purple and was ready for
a republican to win if he had not screwed that up. >> that is exactly right. it would have started earlier with george w. bush. and richards had no right winning that race on the basic demographics of where the state was at the time. williams, how much was up? >> he was up double digits in september. >> any reasonable republican candidate would have likely won that race. but with everybody looking into 1994, expecting a hailstorm. >> in typical fashion, the democrats did not see it coming.
>> i was a young staffer on the bush campaign i drove up to the reelection speech. i remember it like it was yesterday. it was one of the flattest speeches i had ever heard. it was interesting right out the gate. there was no energy in that campaign. they really struggled with what her message would be for reelection. we came out strong with a specific agenda and it was a solid campaign. >> she was enormously popular. those two trend lines did not cross until september. she was enormously popular. she was the delight of the democratic party. we had to prove that he was capable of governing and had a
he cared deeply about them and when he talked about them, people would say, he cares about this. when he got to talking about welfare, it was an entirely different way. talking about the people in the wagon and all the people riding in the wagon. bush talked about welfare and the way that we are losing some of our best and rightist. we have to help people become the best that they can be in life. >> to underline that, karl gets a lot of credit for being the architect, but bush is often overshadowed. just to give you a reflection of that, whenever he sat down with me and my media team, here is what i think, here is what i will think. there was never any discussion.
the best example was the campaign for president on the issue of immigration. a bunch of people were saying this is crazy. we want to reform in a border from the way. he just said stop. i do not want to hear it again. what i think, here is what i i do not care if it is problematic because i believe in it. >> bush's normal reaction is if this polls badly and i think it is the right thing to do, i will do it. >> that was a long day. it was interesting. he was -- i will never forget. it was a local affiliate.
we were already back -- this was a day that the new criminal justice system was going into effect. a bunch of guys were out there. it was going to be a great photo op. we were going to take a shower and then go back to dallas. we got the call saying, we think you shot the wrong bird. it was a funny story. everybody is freaking out about it. he's coming up with a quip. so he gives me a check. he says go take care of this. >> like south texas politics. get this taken care of. >> so i'm out there. this poor guy was crushed. the guide knew. he was freaking out. the game warden is like, we never had anybody captured on camera that they shot the wrong bird. so we all drive into downtown houston. they are all looking at us thinking, what are we going to do? there has to be rangers.
so i literally said, is this like $100 in court fees? we all took a picture. the battleground was east texas. it humanized bush in a way. she was on her own hunt in northeast texas where i used to hunt. we had never shot a bird in years on opening day. they had gotten bored because there were not any birds. they coaxed her into shooting a gun in the air. bush was able to be self-deprecating. he just ran with it. she was like, poor george.
he borrowed a gun. he shot the wrong bird. the feedback we were getting from east texas is, he is human. it really humanized him. karl: what bartlett does not know is he is in houston and all the way and we are keeping track of this. we know that he has one check signed by bush, amount to be filled in. word comes that he has been taken to the game warden, to the department of parks and wildlife in custody of the game warden. i cannot remember who said it, but they said, will we have to bail bartlett out? >> he did it so many times towards education, welfare. he said if you ask him what time
it is, it is time for tort reform. >> what is the legacy of the policy shop? texas had a real push pre-bush and during bush for public education. margaret: the book that we had was this thick. there was policy proposals and budgets, the requirement of what we had in the presidential campaign that is different from now. it is pretty different. >> do you hope that this will be state policy for a little bit?
when did you start to see it start to fade? was it immediately? i know you were busy in washington. margaret: it was gradual. people have their own agendas. education was a huge thing for bush, less so for perry. it rolled down the hill a little bit. the climate for education reform has changed nationally. we were in an era that you could have standards and accountability. one thing i wanted to mention, we had an organizational structure that was extraordinary. the human organization that was around a great media shop. and a strategy. >> being a new candidate, he got his training wheels off.
>> i love the stuff about beto going to all of the counties and making it a big deal. we were doing that in 1993 and 1994. i had to swear a little more. the f word is coming. margaret: are you running for something? >> when did you and bush start talking about the presidency? how early was that? karl: 1996 in san diego. >> it was not before 1994?
karl: if you look back, you can see the beginning in 1995, at the meeting of the republican governors association. there is a huge class of new governors that come in a 1994. anyway, the old ones are in the front of the classroom and in the back or all the new kid, shooting spit wads at each other and cracking jokes. there was a camaraderie there. these were people in tents upon trying to do new things to make their states that her. you could see in retrospect that they were clicking and the natural leader in their group was bush.
>> the other thing that happens, i saw it happen with mark white. i saw it happen with ann richards. if you are the governor of texas, people start talking about you running for president. it is not just texas, if you are the governor of california, new york or florida, chatter starts happening. karl: literally, we had just nominated bob dole. people were coming up to bush and saying, i hope you run for the next election. remember me for 2000. >> in 1998, it became a full dress rehearsal. using the playbook to start the national attacks, coordinating all that. it was on. >> they were talking to him.
some days he looked in the mirror and said, you should do this. karl: let's just say, his attitude in 1996 on 1997 and 1998 was tolerance. his attitude was i am the governor of texas and i have 20 to do. i am not made up my mind, but i recognize that if i do want to do this, things need to be done. do not count on me doing it. >> i went back to the committee and we discussed it when we started organizing. karl: i went back to the secret papers. >> so you went back to your garage. >> i am not saying where they are located.
undisclosed location. cheney visits there frequently. in may of 1997, al comes down. he is from jackson, tennessee. very successful in the private equity world. he does something that people in business do not do. he becomes very act of. hugely involved in education reform. deeply involved in think tanks. he and his wife come down to spend the night with bush. if you want to run for president, here are some our people. he says there is this interesting guy named larry lindsey you should speak to. bush said i want to meet that guy. solving the problems of dependency and welfare and poverty. throughout 1997 and 1998, he is starting to collect the intellectual capital for all of this. there are two events that really kick it to another level. one is april of 1998 where he goes to california. george schulz has heard about him.
former secretary of state. very close to reagan. he calls up and says i hear he is going to come out here. a fund-raising network around the country. we had to raise less money out of texas. also, we created a network around the country. he called up and said i want to host bush at my house. i will pull together some interesting people. there were three economists. all of them had been big luminaries. there was this young russia expert at stanford named condoleezza rice, a pretty good piano player.
[laughter] bush shows up in the dining room or living room and the day is spent mostly on a conversation on anything they want to talk about. there is a spontaneous discussion about the monetary fund and the reform of it. they have an agenda that they want to talk about. he loved information. he is asking really good questions. at the end of the meeting, he says to me, that young man can be president and goes to say goodbye to his guest. he says ronald reagan's campaign for presidency began in the same living room. somebody asked him a question about the international monetary fund and bush lays out in detail, arguments for reforming
it. having absorbed all this information and then explains why he is in favor of this reform but not that reform. two of the economists are sitting in the room listening to their new student. immediately reporting, that guy paid attention. [laughter] from then on, it was among the conservative, intellectual types. this guy is real and he is serious about it. we stopped having to look for opportunities and had to regulate the people come to town. margaret: we curated groups of policy experts that wanted to be with the guy. he came to town to help us with a political agenda. >> how did you meet him? margaret: through karl. he wanted to learn a lot about public education.
he was a very good student. he was hungry for information. >> so the first time before 1994? >> that was not the right time for him to run. his father was president. margaret is the big dog of school finance, represents the school board. she is a huge player in austin and bush says, i want her in my campaign. we say, we want you to organize and be the political director of the campaign. she says, this should be fun. bush had the sense of, i want her close.
she is capable of doing anything in the campaign. i do not want her to be stuck. margaret: i will say this. i love george bush. one of the longest serving staff members. i made sure that my boss reserve my job, just in case. >> you took him into all the markets at the beginning of that campaign and got him better at public speaking. the public speaking was not great. did you think he was a formidable candidate? >> here is a telling story. i do not think i mentioned this. at first i was really excited and then i was petrified. it was a huge job. i went back and study presidential advertising. i talked to all the people.
one thing i noticed is it is constantly evolving. voters get used to it. it evolves. the one thing i had noticed right into our era that was happening and is a powerful ingredient to successful communication. people are very skeptical about any political communication, especially political ads. you can say whatever you want, you do not have to tell the truth. people know that. there are challenges to how to break through that. ours was the authentic. do something that says this is real.
i did very few ads with george w. bush that were scripted. the good thing was, when he was not reading a script, he sounded really human. him and the conversation or whatever it might be. during a presidential campaign, you have three opportunities where you can really move the dial. the announcement speech is really an opportunity because you get to be unfiltered. the press gives you a free ride. why are you running? a lot of thought goes into it. there is a conventional thing that we do at those where we introduce the candidate. you get to tell your story.
i went to the rance and shot a film with george and laura bush. i was asking about their daughters. he talked about being in the delivery room. he completely mangled what he was trying to say. we all laughed. it was funny. we did it two or three more times and got it perfect. we went into the editing room. we all laughed in the editing room. five minutes later, go back. put in the bad version. i go over to the campaign later. they say, are you crazy? it is authentic. people can relate to this area that it is funny. it is more vulnerable. it is human. let's admit the obvious and
lower the bar on the oratorial expectations of our guy. >> one of my favorite lines. we had just done a primetime press conference. he had one of those moments. it was 30 seconds of dead air time. i looked at him. i got stuck in a rhetorical cul-de-sac. [laughter] >> there were a lot of cul-de-sacs along the way. [laughter] we did learn. when you put them in the right environment and you did not try to overly script them -- i will never forget september 20. it was one of the best beaches he ever gave. he said, i have never been more
comfortable in my life giving a speech because he just owned it. this is like two hours before the speech. he said i know what i am going to say. it clearly did not work with bush, but the other challenge is i always have this happen. somebody would spend an hour with george w. bush. he made like 15 world headlines. when he is letting it rip, he is letting it rip. every word matters. we had a lot of things. if you are always ahead of yourself and what you are thinking, it is not easy. margaret: a couple things i want to add. when bush went into spanish
spontaneously, people ate it up. it was authentic. it was real and obviously connected. >> his spanish was probably just as good as his english. [laughter] >> good point. >> it is perfect. karl: at the beginning, when we went around to the small counties, part of that was nobody in the big counties was going to pay attention to us. bush went to seminole or jacksonville. it was a big deal. the other thing was, this gave him a chance to play around with what he wanted to say. from the beginning, there were three things.
education, juvenile justice, welfare reform. the fourth one was the only additive that came from the outside. the other three were his. this gave him a chance to go out there and figure out how he wanted to talk about these things. he was a history major. he is a competitor. he would go out there and talk about, meeting the crowd and revise. it is also a recognition that when you are running for governor of a big state like texas, it is a bigger stage. it is a lesson he learned on a presidential level. he very quickly recognized it was a bigger stage with bigger necessities and bigger requirements. >> i know the politics have changed a lot since this all started, but if you had a candidate come to you now, a potential candidate with these
qualifications, do they run now? can you run these plays anymore? if a george bush in whatever state you found him. you know what i am saying. you have the same relationship. can you run this kind of a play anymore? >> it is very different after this, we are going to line up the mics. ask jeb bush. now is not an environment where you want to be a legacy candidate from a long, established lineage of politicians. that could flip completely in a cycle or two. >> every election in some degree is in reaction to the previous election.
bush saying i will restore honor and dignity to the white house was in reaction to what the previous four years had been about. jeb started out saying they were going to raise $100 million. if he had started out talking about florida, he might have had a better chance. if you define a bushlike candidate -- our strategy was money, establishment/endorsements, substance and relevance. yeah, you could pull a similar act under the right circumstances. next time around, i expect they would get a unifier. if they nominated joe biden, they have a better shot at winning because in part, it will be in reaction to the 2016
election and things that happened after. >> what was 1994 a reaction to? karl: 1994 was a reaction to looking at 1991, 1993 and seeing that the state had problems. one of the things that was happening was they liked her, she was highly entertaining and she had a 62% personal approval rating on election day. we ran past her by saying this is about the future of texas and i want to do something to educate every child and make sure that they read, i want to make sure that i save a generation from a dependency on government and being sucked into the criminal justice system --
as long as those things came to people minds at the end of the campaign -- we loved having the picnic every summer because she is so outrageous versus the guy who wants to get things done for texas. >> good afternoon. thank you. i would like to revisit judge kavanaugh. it is a multipart question. is it plausible that the man you all knew, this upstanding, great, everything -- but maybe in the days of high school and college, fueled by alcohol, that he was a different man? if some of this stuff that happened like with dr. ford or something, do you think that means that he should not be elected or rewarded to the supreme court? not whether he would, but should he? is that a disqualifier?
>> the first question, i will take and the second one, i will let you take. [laughter] oftentimes, the character of a person reveals itself throughout their life. you truly see the character of somebody during times of high stress, which we all experience. at your core, you are who you are. in high school, you make more juvenile decisions. your core character is the same. i have gotten to know quite a few of his childhood friends as well.
i have had several beers with brett over the years on multiple occasions. at our neighborhood. on our front porch. i have never seen the man ever out of control. that is why it does not seem to me that all of a sudden, this is a different person that flipped a switch. that kind of binary thing. my personal experience with him as an adult but also the people i talked to and got to know him back then as well. margaret: i think that is a good question for psychologists. it depends. depends of the predominant view of how severe or not the particular event was.
is it a disqualifier? we might all have different opinions on what is and what is not. karl: i am with dan on this. someone at 16 and 17 and then suddenly different the next 30 years? what we do know about harvey weinstein and others is that it is a practice and attitude and conduct that exists for decades. we are not neutral. we worked with this guy. we saw him up close. we saw him in moments of stress and pressure like you cannot imagine. we saw him dealing with difficult issues. he had to do with us. [laughter] this was one of the most accomplished, kind, diplomatic, thoughtful, insightful, gentle, kind people you could ever hope to be around.
>> we are very protective his wife worked for president bush. she was our favorite as well. we would not -- karl: doe-eyed ashley is what my wife called her. we were very protective. where are all these people now? where were they 15 years ago? 20 years ago? 30 years ago? >> growing up in the church, do you say that to all the kids? in pennsylvania? who are coming out?
karl: i do not know the priests. i'm an episcopalian, so i am not allowed to have strong opinions of things that are religious. i have friends who are deeply questioning their faith because of this. i am not blind to the fact that these things happen in our world. again, do you think if we have a priest prey on one child, that they only do it once in their lifetime? no. they do it time and time again. >> this question is mostly for rove. bush's reelection was the last presidential election where a republican candidate won the popular vote. what does the republican candidate need to do to convince a plurality of the electorate to back them? >> a majority of the electorate or plurality? >> plurality.
karl: we are in a strange. five president selected recently won the majority vote. the republican party has to get itself right with the changing demography of america by the mistreating that it is open to that diversity. we need more alberto gonzales es. more mia loves. there is a center-right majority in this country for limited government and personal responsibility. be argued by candidates in a way that draws people into the party. you nighters when more often than dividers. we are at a point in our