tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN August 15, 2011 10:00am-12:00pm EDT
in this case, it is no secret that the fbi does blogging -- bugging. the general outline of what they do is known. a lot of the material in the book is stories about what goes on in these break-ins that do not reveal any sensitive material whatsoever. host: ron kessler, thank you for talking to our viewers. we will continue looking inside the fbi this week. tomorrow will be the counter- terrorism unit. wednesday will be how they allocate resources. on thursday, cyber threats. we will wrap up the week looking at forensics. we now bring you to the event of the gop presidential candidates talking about special interests that are contributing to the campaigns of his republican obama -- opponents and president
obama. i do know that nothing gets us more excited here in washington than a presidential campaign. today at the national press club we are welcomed -- pleased to welcome one of the candidates for the gop presidential nomination. buddy roemer served four terms in the u.s. house of representatives, so he is no stranger to washington. before being elected governor of louisiana, as both a democrat and republican. he served as the chief executive officer of business first bank, a community bank in baton rouge, louisiana. the wreck his career, buddy roemer has been known as a reformer not afraid to cross party lines.
a longtime proponent of campaign finance reform, governor romer has made fighting the special interest money in washington a platform of his campaign. last month, governor romer promised to reveal and challenge the control of the special interests over our nation's capital and demonstrate what he calls the freedom to lead that can only come from reducing their money. putting his money where his mouth is, or perhaps more accurately, putting his mouth where his money is not, the governor roemer has pledged to run a campaign without accepting donations of more than $100 million or not excepting donations from political action committees. welcome, governor. >> is an honor to be here. welcome, everybody. i believe america it is a great
nation where all things are possible regardless of your starting point in life. most nations have strong points, decent people, and its own opportunities. i do not put them down. but america has always been a special land. formed through the declaration of independence and through the constitution, to stand against a tyranny of a foreign came and a culture of elitism and class segregation in england. how america has prospered -- america has prospered into the world's economic power, the land of opportunity. i run for president because america is a great nation and a great people, and america is in trouble. 20% of its work force, 25 million americans, are out of
work in this recovery or have quit looking, or are under employed. we have a million fewer jobs than 12 years ago and the jobs we have to pay less. we have given away our manufacturing jobs. we do not make things any more, we distribute them. made in america is an endangered species. we are now dependent on consumption and government. we owe more than any nation ever. we face endless deficits averaging $1.10 trillion a year for the next decade. we have undisciplined spending, we borrow 42 cents out of every dollar spent. we have an unreadable tax code laced with loopholes.
interestingly, the bulk of our debt comes from our competitors. in that same vein, we are addicted to foreign oil. we refuse to seal our own borders and we have decided to build other nations while paralyzed in the thames -- attempts to save our own. it is unsustainable, america. growth is the only solution in the 21st century. if we plan a nation better than we received, if we plan to work our way free again. growth is essential to the land of opportunity. we can do this. this can be done. i am positive on america. we can grow again. at least a half a dozen strong
initiatives must be employed. we must level the playing field against those nations who compete unfairly, choosing to steal our best jobs while they use child labor, forced labor, prison labor, no work safety or environmental safety standards, it into trade, and even currency manipulation. we have outlined a certain set of remedies that will be featured at my next major speech in new york. a president must defend american jobs from unfair competition. we have waited too long, and for some, it is too late. these unfair practices will no longer be tolerated when i am president. i will call them out one by one.
we must win the battle to control federal spending. at 25% of gdp, it is excessive, unsustainable, and confidence- destroying. for six months, i have detailed a 1% reduction in spending per year in spending. it has taken us five years to do it. $140 billion a year. reductions began in energy subsidies. the elimination of the department of energy, and modifying entitlements, year one. we must deregulate small business, beginning with rigs and regulations imposed since january 2001, and extend the
deregulation period for five additional years. two of every three jobs are formed by small businesses. that is defined as 499 employees or fewer. 81,000 pages in the federal register last year alone of new regulatory comment on small business. they do not have big checks. they just work for a living and they build america. two out of every three new jobs. they are the new key. regulations are the new taxes. health care costs must be lowered on diabetics. i understand the business. we must eliminate cost. we will start with obamacare itself and institute tort reform, open insurance competition across state lines.
so simple, so hard to do. they get big money. we will expose pharmaceuticals to price competition and we will incentivize providers to reduce expenses by allowing them to ve.p 25% of what they say i we should be energy independent in a decade. we will drill where there is oil and gas. we will drill safely, put a million people to work, use on domestic forms of energy and eliminate the department of energy. we will tariff foreign oil except canada and mexico. we will be saving money for america. we will restore the value of the dollar and reduce the cost of gasoline by doing that. we must completely revise our tax growth.
low marginal rates for individuals and companies with no loopholes or deductions. we will make the u.s. a tax haven with low marginal rates and minimal tax on investment and capital gains. simple is the key word. finally, banking must be reworked, by having capital ratios rise as banks grow larger. they are not safe. we will eliminate too big to fail. we will restore a version of glass-steagall. much needs to be done, but that is not what i want to talk about today. none of these things will happen under the current political system. special interest loans this town. -- owns this town. special interest owned this capital.
special interest owned the tax code. special interest owned the budget. they bought and paid for it. the tyranny of the big check, i call it. we need to make changes to grow. we need to take bold action but special interest has never had it so good. why should they change? corporations have never made more money than they have made in the past 12 months. why should they change? our political system is institutionally corrupt. i am not pointing my finger at some person, although you could do that. i am pointing it at a system. special interest rates the tax code. you cannot lead it. they can. every year, the cost of elections rise 3 billion, 4 billion, 6 billion, and the
same 1% 42% of americans give all the money. -- or 2% of americans give all the money. we are owned by special interest money, pac money, corporate money, and it is getting worse. let us look at the record. health care reform did not include tort reform. i wonder why that was? tort lawyers give a lot to both parties. we did it in louisiana. you would think i was the devil myself, but we did it, and lower cost. health care under president obama did not include the provision that insurance had to compete across state lines. you cannot buy a policy across state lines now.
prohibited. it is in the law. take givers those insurance companies, those rascals. it did not require pharmaceutical companies to compete on price. big bucks these guys have. a 2300-page bill was produced, unconstitutional in its mandate to citizens, and it did not touch three of the biggest health care costs on earth. read jonathan alter's book "the promise" about the pharmaceutical industry. special interest money in the billions. did you know washington, d.c. addresses and lobbyists gave more money in the last presidential campaign than 32 states combined?
i bet you did not know that. i bet it is just an accident. and it is worse now than four years ago. we have the political action committees that can give twice as much as individuals. why is that? and there is no limit on the number of pacs. they are the bond dollars. now there is a happy crew. they are designated by the candidates to go out and pick up checks. bundlers as they are called. $200,000, $500,000, $2 million in mitt romney's case.
i read a harvard law school student's paper recently. he let me do it. he looked at the givers in presidential campaigns, the bundlers. he called it checkbook diplomacy. normally, in a presidential term, about 30% of the ambassadorial appointments are political, 70% are not. obama is 57% political. 23% of them were bundlers. i will give you some names. japan, sussman, great britain, risking, france, gutman,
belgium, 775,000, and they year, switzerland, $475,000. 24 of obama's nominees bundled over $11 million. the numbers are hard to come up with because the numbers are not disclosed. the minimum wage is at $11 million. and that the not include money to the inaugural committee, and a leadershippac, or the dnc. both sides do it. i do not just to pick on the president. he is the worst, but both sides to it. his 30/70 ratio is 65% political. selling important jobs like a third world nation. it is not right, it is not
healthy, it is not good for america. the tyranny of the big check. lobbyists who are fund-raisers. you can be one or the other. i do not have a problem with either one. i know that when i was a congressman, although i did i didpa money, -- not take pac money, i did meet with some individuals. it is valid to be a lobbyist, but not only if you bring a check. i think a registered lobby should not be allowed to both lobby and fun race. you know who agrees with me? the american bar association, as of last week. the name jack abramoff comes to mind.
special interest money, pac money, budled money. i know congressman the sarah was recently appointed to a special committee -- becerra was recently appointed to a special committee. he will be having a fundraiser. we can call on the members called on the special committee who are encouraged not to take lobbyist money for the duration of their term. this is an important committee. do not know if it is it a good idea, but it is now will law. they should be freed, the members of this committee, to do what needs to be done. by the way, the congressman's answer, i will continue to do
what i have to as a member of congress. so, yes, we are going to move forward with the fund-raiser. so what is his role as a member of congress? collect fat special interest checks from lobbyists and pacs so that he can be reelected? is that his job? could it be that he should represent his district and rebuild america? we asked the leadership of the congress to have no pac money for the terms of these members. watch the money. i challenge the leadership, why don't we let the people decide with their votes, not special
interest with their big checks? and now there is something new. it is called the superpac. the governor of texas has seven of them. they do not have to report or disclose who gives them the money. and the amount is unlimited, corporate or individual. now, these pacs are supposed to be independent. it independent of what? in mitt romney and rick perry's case, one of these superpacs is run by their former chief of staff. now there is independence. employees of the campaign fund these things. it is bogus. it is phony. it is a way to get around
disclosure and limits. chief of staff, maximum givers, people that have maxed out individually for over into the superpac. a business partner of one of the candidates $80 million last week. they did not want to reveal it. -- gave $1 million last week. what are we fighting? -- hiding? these are shadow individuals and corporations. the only candidate in my party that have them are romney, perry, paul, bachmann, and huntsman. why? don't do it. i challenged them, do not do it.
join with me. let us restore some honesty and faith and purpose in this system. do not do it. they are phony. i promise the american public will learn every detail of every one. special interest trying to buy influence. superpacs run for and bought by the candidates. did you know that the candidate himself or herself can go to the fund-raising dinner of the super pac and speak? oh, there is no connection, it is there? it is a joke. except our country is on the line. look at banking reform, which got me into this campaign. i am a banker in a small city. my bank is not quite a billion
dollars. one good loan at a time. took no penny of bailout money. not a dime. and unlike the big boys on wall street, if we do not do the right thing, if we do not honor our commitments, we fail. read gretchen morgan singh in "the new york times." the best. she details the banking scandals and the phony reform that we just had. we are still on the hook. too big to fail is still the law. glass-steagall is still dead. goldman sachs is the largest financial giver, and no one went to jail there. how about the home owners? and by the way, when obama's first campaign kicked off, he first went to wall street.
nice job, mr. obama. jobs for sale. the president is a great fundraiser. that is what i'm looking for in a president. how about you? in times of crisis, in times of peril, in times of uncertainty, i believe a president, from whichever party, must be free to leave a resurgent nation -- lead a resurgent nation. i asked my colleagues to leave their contribution to the previous amount. except no -- accept no pac money, no lobbyists running as fund-raisers. you can do it.
i get reelected to congress every time, not a penny from a pac. you can do it. let obama raise a billion dollars from special interest. we can beat him because we will be free to lead, to make the tough choices, and explain to the american people why, rather than in some dark back room. i want to pledge to my fellow candidates, since they have pledged everything else. i want to pledge that you reform this institutionally correct -- corrupt system. the debate has always been between disclosure and limits. republicans generally on the side of disclosure, democrats generally on the side of limits.
interesting now in the 21st century we have neither. we have lost them both. our political system has been corrected. the supreme court has ruled, and i think correctly, although by a narrow margin, that money is speech. but it gives congress the latitude to legislate broadly- based, carefully done, honoring the constitution. my suggestion of six things would be full disclosure requirement. real-time reporting of money, not quarterly. every 48 hours. that is how long you can hide it. 48 hours. no registered lobbyist can participate in fund-raising. their choice, your decision.
four, criminal penalties, if violated, right now is a joke. nothing happens. 5, except no -- accept no pacs. individuals will come. six, eliminate the superpac entirely. i challenge my fellow republican candidates to stand with the people against the special interest, the new tyranny pulling america down, hiding in the shadows, writing the legislation, never more prosperous while america suffers. special interest. i am the only person running who have been a congressperson and a governor. i have fought corruption by insisting on full disclosure and reasonable limits all my life,
no exceptions. i am a main street banker turning small business around. i know the need and power of confidence in this uncertain world. we must have a president that we are confident in. i challenge the next president to restore the confidence. the challenges that the next president faces are indescribable. you must be free to lead. i challenge you to rely on individuals, open contributions. i challenge you to lead on institutional corruption. here i stand from day one, my rules. no pac money, $100 limit maximum. every nickel disclosed.
this campaign for me will be about developing those six points that i laid out about how to turn this country around. that is what i do. i took a state with 12% unemployment, broke the lowest bond rating in america. we had seven upgrades. the unemployment was cut in half. it was tough. i was not popular. no was my first answer, but we scrub the budget. disclosure.igne we have turned this around. it can be done in america. i need a million people to invest $100 in me in these primaries, 1 million families.
all you will get is a free to be the president who will build a team of republicans, independents, tea partyers, and conservative democrats to rebuild america's future. i hope to make the next debate. i announced three and half months ago that i -- three and half weeks ago that i was running. we are spending our weeks in new hampshire to earn the right. when we make that debate, we will challenge the field, person by person, to stand free of the special interest and put americans back to work again. the race is wide open. you cannot pick a winner, but you can make one. thank you. >> the governor is happy to take questions. i would ask that you introduce
yourself and identify your organization. governor, you describe the corrupting influence of corporations. do you think the interest of u.s. companies have diverged from the interest of the nation? if so, how would you propose to realign those interests? >> excellent question. i do not have an easy answer, but two parts. have interests diverged in building a nation and a company? yes, and that is not abnormal. bylaws, a company's their constitution, to enhance their profit for their shareholders. not to name the he, and goldman sachs, any other, but they have done just that. we find in the pursuit of money, that they sometimes take
action that changes the budget for met that will -- format that will enhance their ability to eliminate jobs in america and open them up overseas because it is cheaper for them. that is not always in america's best interest. i think america needs more than 8% of its workers in manufacturing. we need to make something. that is why nafta was a problem for me. we need fair trade. corporations will not profit. i think our interests can be aligned. if we have a tax code where ge cannot get off making $5.2 billion and pay no taxes in america. we can eliminate the foreign tax credit. why should we deduct taxes owed to us? we can lower the rate for
corporations. it can be 15%, not 35%. we could be a tax haven. there are ways to align each other. one of the dysfunctional relationships, though, is the dependence that politicians make on the big checks. corporations are only too happy to make it. ge was the largest contributor among corporations four years ago. they contributed $4.3 million. they paid no taxes on $5.2 billion last year. guess who helped write the tax code? guess who goes around with the president as his economic advisor? i just hope he does not listen to him. a corporation has to make a decision. is it going to be an american corporation and enjoy the
benefit of our marines, quality of life, the freedoms of life we have in america, and not paid its taxes? or are we going to have our interests converge? i think we can do it? . i went to the harvard business school, with a lot of these characters. they know me, i know them. we need their jobs. we do not need them to transport their jobs to other nations. they will have to do that sometimes when there is a competitive disadvantage, but generally, we have let our jobs be stolen by countries that protect their jobs. it has to be one way or another. we will be the protector hours or break down their barriers.
>> politicians from both parties have stopped -- talk about outsourcing -- stopping outsourcing for years. they have been unsuccessful. working with both parties, what would it take to convince congress to pass significant trade reform? >> cut off the big checks. ge does not hold trade reform. they liked the system like it is. goldman sachs does not want trade reform. they took a couple billion dollars from libya and invested it. well, they lost every penny of it. they like the system as it is. the guys with the money do not want change, they just want power. they are making a fortune the way the country is right now with families in south carolina, new hampshire,
nebraska, indiana, ohio, without work. and no one seems to care. i listened to the debate with my colleagues the other night. i did not hear one specific jobs plan. i would do away with the deduction in the tax code. section 162, which allows one to make a call center, for example, overseas, and they deduct the expenses of that from their american taxes. it ought to be changed. we ought to defend our jobs. corporations are free to do what is in their best interest, but it is in their best interest for america to be strong again. maybe i'm old-fashioned on that. and i in a global guide. i have been to china more times than there are people in this room. i have seen the child labor. i have seen the smoke there.
the smoke is so heavy, that acid is so strong. there are no standards. and i'm not putting wal-mart down, they are a distributor. they have profited from that. that is fine, but we need to make something again. and we need a level playing field. there are ways to do it. i have mentioned two, the deduction of foreign tax credits is one of them. there are others. it will be controversial, i it meant that. but i think it is right for a president to stand up for our jobs. >> think progress.
you talked a lot about corruption in the campaign finance system one thing that strikes me is, when a corporation was formed in march and then donated -- how is an example like that similar to what is happening with finances right now? >> i stayed up last night scribbling my speech. i left out hundreds of examples. this mitt romney thing -- independent of him, they formed the this superpac, this corporation, gave him the money, and then immediately disbanded. and i do not mean to pick on any one candidate. they are all guilty. it is not right. and it is an example of the corruption of non-disclosure. it is an example of having a
partner and not telling her or him things that affect them. this sort of hidden, shadow-kind of play will not serve candidates well. i do not know if i will ever be a major candidate. i have been out of politics for 16 years. but i could not stand by any longer. it is not that i know everything, or that i am a saint. but i have been in congress, i have been a governor. i have been at the highest levels. and i have watched it work. your freedom is corrupted by the big check. and it is part of a system of a wink and nod.
just check out the members of the special committee. how many fund-raisers will they have in the next 60 days? how much pac money will they collect? and not everyone who gives a check is evil. but how do you distinguish between the two? they end up in the tax code and hurting america. it is in their interest to have disclosure, i think. finally, let me say, in age of the internet, i have gotten donations from all 50 states. i have only been to four of them. there is a feeling out there that something is not right. people say, buddy, you ought to run as an independent i changed parties wants. that is enough. i struggled as a conservative
democrat. i voted against tip o'neill in my first vote in congress. i love ronald reagan. he was crucified by the press. but he turned out to be a pretty darn good president, a man of honor. but the system has gotten a lot worse since then. i saw early when i got to congress that pacs were deliberately secretive. the reason they did so is so that the checks would be bigger. so i decided not to accept that. and it has grown my feeling, as i have been in private enterprise the past 20 years, as i have been building banks, depending on the honor and word of my customers and myself. the big checks that get in between them honor are dishonorable.
our system is institutionally corrupt. i do not know of another nation that sells ambassadorships like we do. >> gannett newspapers. you mentioned small business and oil. [inaudible] >> we are talking about small companies, not the majors. i am really focused on where the jobs come from, and it is not from the oil companies. i think before you rely on small, independent companies to drill, there has to be safety standards and their need to be a reserve fund in case there is damage. i would do those things. i am talking about a more general approach. president obama is trying this in different ways.
he is saying, let's look at the regulation and see what is bad. i want to throw out all the regulation and take what is good. that is a different approach. did that answer your question? ok. >> cnn. you have been talking about how money is a systemic problem [inaudible] what are your views on the present system of redistricting? >> you can smell it. i do not have any -- an easy answer there. i went through redistricting when i was governor of our state. i think we did it without controversy. louisiana is a unique state.
french in the south, and german, protestants like me from the north, with a wonderful mixture of african americans, about a third of our population. in that redistricting, we tried to mitscher that we did not advantage any party. it was approved by the justice department, and i was proud of that. there are abuses in redistricting. i have not taken the time -- and it has been 16 years since i have been involved -- to know how best to proceed, but let me answer you this way. i am suspicious of the current practice. i do not think redistricting should be used as an excuse to change the nature of a state. i will just leave it at that. >> governor, you talk about your
concerns over the large trade deficit as part of our economic problem. why is it that no one talks about the need to rebalance our trade as part of our economic strength? >> it is like all these candidates have taken a pledge for free trade, as if it has worked so well in america. 12% of our gdp is in free trade. we sell to it -- 12%, we buy 90%. that means we give away not quite $1 trillion a year. -- we by 19%. about $70 billion of our wealth will be going overseas this year. i like trade. i have a fair trade adjustment that i will talk about in some time. i think trade is healthy, a potential growth in jobs in america. but it must be fair, or we will
end up with the trade that we have had for the last 20 years where we give away our best jobs and take what is left. take a look at japan and germany. i have spent all my life looking at the world, traveling, trading, doing it as a banker. but the two protectionist countries were japan, which was devastated by world war ii, eliminated 50 industries in america, and did not let us go there. nice move. the second largest nation on earth. the biggest nation economically in europe is germany. they have protectionist trade. i think we do not need to be protectionists, but to be fair traders, and that means
protecting our workers with a fair playing field. i am getting into my speech now. we can do better. that is what i am saying. we can maintain our trade relationships. it will not affect germany. it will not affect britain. it will not affect argentina. or brazil, generally. but china will be affected. trade must be fair. the people of china are great and glorious. they work hard. i have been there many times, i honor them. but their government does not practice their trade. they manipulate the currency and they use labor that would not be
allowed in america. how can we compete against that? i will tell you in just a few days. but it includes a tax revision to not reward corporations to promote their going overseas, and a freer trade adjustments. >> why isn't that protectionism is a dirty word in america? >> it was not with george washington, with abraham lincoln. for 160 years our country had terrorists. no income tax, did not need it. -- had tariffs. income tax passed in the early 1900's and did not have a hold on revenue until world war ii. it was after that that we adopted free trade. it did not work. here was our plan. we thought we would capture all of the refrigerator manufacturing in the world.
i read about the plan. it was an opportunity for america. next, we have free trade where we can go to these other countries and manufacture their stuff. we are the best. we were greedy. well, guess what? china was smarter. they said, come on over. they took all prototypes, the patented materials, and they built plants all over china. we are suckers. what did nafta do for mexico or the united states? i remember a guy running for president saying that sucking sound is the sound of our jobs going to mexico. he was right, but we discussed that. i will not be dismissed. they will come at me with everything they can because they
have a vested interest in the status quo. yes, we have lost 20 million jobs. ok, they will get over it. remember bill clinton's argument? we will improve our education system and the workers that will lose their job will get better jobs. is that what happened? in my generation, 55 in boulder -- i am 67 -- the number of our population that a graduate from high school ranked first in the world. from ages 25 to 40, we rank 11th. good job, department of education. well done. do you know who is first? south korea. not even close.
look, it is a global world. i am not for to change that. you do not protect jobs by guaranteeing them. you have got to compete. you cannot have unions do wrong things. you cannot have management do wrong things. the way to compete is to cooperate. that is me. i am a reach across the aisle, region, reached across race, religion, and put a team together that would rebuild america on strong economic principles. and it is not just a simple speech. it will require a dozen strong actions. i would tariff foreign oil. i would drill for one year and then start tariffs. when president obama took office, the price for a gallon
of gasoline was $1.86. it is because our currency was devalued, a policy of the federal reserve. ridiculous. the federal reserve is not in the jobs business. it is in the currency valuation business. i am getting into my stump speech now. i apologize for that. >> as you well know, campaign reform efforts are not new. what is it about now that you think would make a difference? >> good question. two things are different now. the obvious this this of the evidence -- obviousness of the evidence.
the evidence has accumulated. number two, we are a nation at risk. i do not like to dwell on this, but it is a fact. if we continue the next 10 years the way that we have the last 10 years, we are in serious trouble. i am not saying that i am not worried about tomorrow, but i look 10 years down the road. i want an america where our kids and grandkids have a choice of opportunity to get jobs, that they do not have to work for a distribution company. if they want to have a small business of their own. campaign reform, to me, -- and i saw this eight months ago when i first had this thought. i went to my wife and i said, we have been happy out of politics.
i did not think i would get back in. and i may not have a chance, honey, but i would like to go to new hampshire and talk about the way america should be. could be. so that is what i have been doing. i was embarrassed, four months, about saying how was running for president. i have spent all my life studying and getting ready to make a difference somewhere. but it is hard to say i am running for president. i decided there were two issues that were not going to be mentioned in any debate but are at the heart of who we are. one is special interest money, bundled money, pac money, superpa money, wall street money, tort money.
i said, i bet no question in the debate will ask how do you raise your money and why, and do you think money has an influence over a legislative package and a nation's future? i said this issue will not be brought up unless i bring it up. number two, i did not think the unfair trade practices of our trade competitors would be brought up. i thought other candidates would either not be knowledgeable about it, or afraid to bring it up. because it is so out of tune with the establishment. i have never been an establishment guy. i do not even called it courage. it is just too i am. i am willing to challenge the status quo because i believe we can do better. but i do not think scrubbing the
budget alone will do it. i do not think revising the tax code alone will do it. we need to do those things, but we need to do more. instead of rebuilding other nations, we need to rebuild our nation. and i am not talking about the marine corps or the army. but i would let the small business people of america to be organized and stand up for themselves and stand up for america. it might not be me. there might be better people running. i just have not heard them say a thing about these issues. what are they waiting for? america is dying, bleeding to death. and they bring a band-aid to the table. i am not impressed. and they are not impressed with me, they laugh at me.
$100 limit. he can raise a couple thousand, maybe a million or two. i remember running against a corrupt the governor in the louisiana. he had never been beaten, and he beat me four years later. he spent $15 million, i spent $1.6 million. it can be done, but you have to get right in the face of the tiger. you cannot link against corruption. you have to take it on. so my remedies are clear and can be done by anyone who has courage. i would challenge the mitt romney's of the world, the rick perry's, the michelle bachmann's, the ron paul's, jon huntsman, herman cain -- i do not want to leave anyone out --
gary johnson. whomever. i challenge them to accept this pledge. no pac money, no superpac formed. keep your limit at 25,000, i am fine with that. i think we will energize the campaign. no more wall street fund raisers. they might hear something -- did not know that. anybody else? >> national journal. correct me if i'm wrong. i believe you said last weekend in new hampshire -- you were in new hampshire rather than i with your colleagues. do you see yourself concentrating your energies in new hampshire or traveling to other states? >> i will concentrate on new
hampshire. south carolina -- it is one of the only places where i do not have a draw. i love iowa. my first speech three months ago -- all the other candidates were there. i got up in front of a big crowd and i said we are going to eliminate the ethanol subsidy. i thought there would be heart attacks. but the point is, we can do anything together. i thought tim pawlenty, newt gingrich, were going to die. buddy, you cannot win. you cannot lead without eliminating the ethanol subsidy. what are you or do? whack social security? that will not help. i will go across america as i have the chance. but with limited funds -- and i
will not spend what i do not have. a big day for us is a couple thousand, from all over america. but i will husband my resources andi do sneak off and to massachusetts and raised a monday -- good money under mitt romney's knows but don't tell him about that. >> thank you for joining us at the national press club today. >> thank you. thanks, patti. >> my pleasure, thank you.
now that texas gov. rick perry is running, virginia gov. bob mcdonnell will take over as head of the republican governors association. the association made that announcement this morning, two years after gov. perry formally announced his candidacy. virginia governor bob mcdonnell had been the vice chairman. 20 u.s. governors are republicans. our live coverage continues momentarily over on c-span2 as the heritage foundation hosts a discussion on the potential threat from an electromagnetic pulse, also called emp that could be caused by unusually powerful solar activity or a nuclear bomb over high altitude. here on c-span we will be live again at 1:00 eastern as president obama begins his bus tour through the midwest. he is starting in cannon falls, minnesota, and will hold a town hall meeting on jobs and the
economy. c-span2 will be live begin at 2:00 eastern with a look at the future of social security and possible changes to the program going into the 2012 elections. you will hear from former congressional budget office director douglas holtz-eakin and bernstein who served as economic adviser in the obama administration. two and half years into the obama presidency, a panel of presidential biographer sat down to discuss how president obama is doing so far. historians bob caro, h.w. brands and journalist george packer at hampton institute to talk about how history will judge president obama compared to past presidents. this runs an hour and 25 minutes.
i realized the bumper sticker was a little worn, a little of used by the elements, but in fact, of course, it was quite legible and still very red, white, blue. not to be too silly or clip, but i did wonder if it was some kind of metaphor for what this president was going through. how successful is he? how bruised, in fact, is he? how, to paraphrase it koch, is he doing? i wanted to started out by saying all so if i were president obama i am not so sure i would want to be here this afternoon to hear the answer. with all due respect, the idea of being discussed and bisected by the biographers of lyndon baines johnson and franklin delano roosevelt and by a new yorker writer who has said, i quote, he, mr. obama, is not that messianic figure many of his supporters think he is, i
think that would be daunting to anyone. i do not mean to suggest that any of these gentlemen is prepared to draw or quarter the president. in fact, some of them have written and said very fine things about him and his campaign. some of them may or may not have voted for him. two of them, bob caro and h.w. brands had dinner with the president at the white house earlier this week. and that is all i could find out from either of them about what went on. that will be the end of that conversation. some of these gentlemen also indicated, however, differences between our 44th president and the man -- yes, they are all men -- who succeeded -- seceded and. each one of the panelists had deep insight into what it president should do, what makes a president in president, what makes him succeed and indoor, and in fact, what can bring him down. just over 2 1/2 years into the
obama presidency, what better time to discuss this. 16 months -- yes, we have 16 months to endure all of the nonsense -- 16 months before the next election, what more critical subject? let's begin with an introduction. by the way, just to make the rules clear, we will play among ourselves up here and let you listen in and talk about some very interesting points, and hope, and then i will open up for questions from you. so, please, get your questions ready. i will introduce everybody in the order and what -- which they are seated. george packer became a staff writer for "the new yorker" in 2003 and covered the iraq war. his book was named one of the 10 best books of 2005 by the new york times, and that, among many other awards he won four of that book. george packer has also written
about some of the most inhospitable countries in west africa. in 2003 he got two overseas press club awards, one about the occupation and reconstruction of iraq, the other about the civil war in sierra leone. he is the author of "the village in waiting" about his experience in africa and also offer of the book "blood of the liberal's" 3 generation of the history of his family. he has written two novels and a new workbook, "interesting times." reece served in the peace corps in togo in west africa and is currently working on a book about -- and this is a quote from him -- institutional decline in america, a small subject. welcome to george packer. >> thank you. thank you all. i am happy to have beaten the
traffic. >> george drove out and nobody gave him the back road map. so, here he is. bob caro, who many of you know because he is one of us and lives out here. as you well know, he has written extraordinary adjective busting biographies. for his biographies for it -- and lyndon johnson, he twice won the national critics circle award for best non-fiction book of the year and has gotten virtually every other major literary honor, including the national book award, gold medal for biography from the american academy of arts and letters and on and on and on. i would love to beat them all but i would rather give to our subject in a minute. his first book was of course " the power broker" robert moses, and the fall of new york. the modern library called it one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century. i would say, echoing the words
of many, many before me and still to come, that it is the single best book about a city and certainly our city, new york city, that you will read. to research the years of lyndon johnson, his ongoing biographee, he moved to the texas hill country and to washington, d.c., to literally live the life of lyndon johnson as he was growing up and getting started. his first book in the series "the path to power" was called by "the washington post" truly prove that we live in the age of viagra a. the second volume was called by professor -- professor, columbia "brilliant, and no review does justice to the story." and the third volume was hailed by the london times as a masterpiece. robert caro has written one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age. we are all eagerly awaiting
volume four. welcome to bob caro. >> you were doing great until the last line. >> he hates it when you ask on the next volume was coming out. >> h.w. brands, and we can call him bill, his first trip to the east end of long island. a special welcome to him. he was born in oregon, went to college in california. in the family business he sold cutlery across the american west for a while and earned graduate degrees in math and history and oregon and texas, has taught and vanderbilt, texas a&m and at university of texas austin where he is the dixon allan anderson centennial prof. of history. bill writes on american history and politics and his books include "traitor to his class -- and jackson." several of his books have been best sellers. two finalists for pulitzer prize. he lectures frequently of
history and current events. you can see him on tv, you can hear him on radio, and he is now working on a book about yet another president, ulysses s. grant. please welcome h.w. brands. gentlemen, welcome to all of you. let us start briefly with an assessment from each one of you about how this president is doing. is he your eat your peas president, or i got osama bin laden, or something else? >> thanks. [laughter] >> the only thing i can say to you is, how we think he is doing will look a lot different in some years than it does now. it always does. if there is anything i learned from my books is things look so different at the time than they do a few years down the road. in fact, i can give you an example from robert moses. robert moses was so popular in
new york city -- i want to harness mann, and we had to write -- everybody in my class had to write for their junior paper, robert moses is the perfect example of the great knight in literature -- >> knight. >> in the 1970's, he was the great villain of new york. everything changed. >> you are saying -- you are not going to answer my question. >> sure. i would say that things that looked so important and vital and the obama presidency right now are going to look different. for example, the events of the moment are what captures everybody's attention. so, it is seldom mentioned right now that when he took office people were walking around wearing about whether they had more than $100,000 in the bank because the bank might fail.
or that he came to office with a war in iraq. that was really a problem. and in that most important, he came to office and no one really mentions this, at the very -- tied of conservatives that you could say began at the end of lyndon johnson period and it just came to a crest and this crash of irrationality of the tea party movement. these are all things that he stepped into. so, i think that however we feel about him now, history will look at these more in the context of those things and a lot of other things. >> ok. bill, let's go to you for another history point of view or not history -- up to you. >> i think president obama is doing about as well as any president could under the circumstances. he became president and was
handed an extremely difficult hand it to deal with. it was difficult precisely because it wasn't absolutely terrible. you probably remember the cover -- it was either "time" or "news we" right after he was elected and he was at that -- in this franklin was opposed and a photoshop something and he had a cap on his head and a cigarette holder and the cover was, franklin delano obama, and there was some thought obama was going to usher in a new new deal. well, in fact, a lot of obama process supporters hoped that was exactly what was going to happen, but it wasn't going to happen. because things were bad but not bad enough. if you recall, when obama was elected, the unemployment rate was 6%. and wall street was teetering and nobody knew whether it was going to go over the edge or
not. what this meant was that he had a huge challenge -- he had to deal with bad economic times. but unlike franklin roosevelt, they were not so bad that he was free to do what ever he wanted. franklin roosevelt was elected after the country had been in a full-blown depression for two and a half years. and in part because of this, americans generally gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to do. he could do no wrong because things were so bad, they couldn't get worse. obama had in mind that there were some major changes to the american financial system, to the american system of government, but he couldn't undertake the steps to get there because everything that he did it had to be weighed, would it spooked wall street, will this make a finance -- the financial crisis a full blown depression? in fact, the full-blown
depression did not occur. and one could argue that, well, with the sort of things, you never know whether it wouldn't or would have. but it did not occur and he ought to to get some credit for the fact that it did not occur. but he is not going to get credit because in american politics, you don't get credit for things that didn't happen. you get credit or responsibility for things that did happen. and so, he has managed in the american economy about as well as i think it could have been managed, given the opposition in congress and the fact that he's got republicans and how -- controlling the house of representatives. i would say he has done about as well as could be done under the circumstances, but i know there were plenty of people who voted for him who were thinking this is going to be a transformational president. it is not going to happen, and it is not going to happen because the context is not
right. things are bad, but not bad enough. >> the first time i heard someone say if they were worse off he would be doing better. but we will get back today. george, how is he doing? >> he has been very surprising. he is so different than the candidate that i think it has taken a long time for the public to sort of catch up with the real president he is as opposed to the figure who sees the world of imagination -- seized the world's imagination in 2008 when he street to the nomination and his meteoric rise to the election. he is not a roosevelt. heat is not a figure who would fit -- he is not a figure who would fit a depression or new deal time. reminds me of an earlier time, maybe a progressive era figure, in his high mindedness, in his
story broke qualities. he is so reasonable. his speech is so lofty. and moralizing -- he is very comfortable moralizing. he reminds me a little of wilson in that sense. he is a bit remote and aloof like wilson and i think he would have probably done better if he had been governing at a time closer to the progressive era when there were -- when it was not one crisis after another, when there was no fox news, there was no michele bachmann, it was -- although there were tendencies like there have always been in politics. a time when an appeal to civic mindedness and political reform and those higher quality is actually had a real audience, especially among sort of the professional middle class across the country where the real backbone of the progressive movement. instead, obama is a reasonable man speaking into a hurricane
all the time. that is why if his presidency has fallen short, i think why it has. >> you are presenting the picture of a man who is at sides with the times are around him. >> i think so. he may be behind and had at the same time. i think he is always three steps ahead of sort of the more ordinary politicians and perhaps the public. you mentioned i am writing a book about -- i think he may see his job as a man -- to manage as well as he can a period of american decline. i do not think this is a prisoner who believes we will astride the world like a colossus again. >> he did say in the second or third press conference in a row, he said, and i cannot do it verbatim, this is a time -- we have a chance to do something big. we can make a big change. not a striding the world --
>> cutting $4 chillum -- $4 trillion of the debt. all american presidents have to talk that way. there is kind of a gap between what we expected the president and what i think obama is really thinking, which i can't be sure about. but there are a lot of indicators based on action. the thing he failed out is a strange thing -- connecting to the public. this is what he did so well in 2008 but since then he has had a terribly difficult time moving people, persuading people, being heard above the noise of the hurricane that is out there, which is a political hurricane, economic power came, and cultural hurricane -- a news hurricane. there is so much noise and obama is so thoughtful and so on willing to descend to the sound dates and a cheap phrases that a president actually needs in order to reach the public in a deep way. i think he has failed to lead in
that sense. that is the disappointment. >> this is to of the people were saying i wish he would just do something, i wish he would be the man i voted for. >> ask yourself, how many phrases can you remember from his presidency? i could quote, based on the great books of these two gentlemen, one dozen or two dozen phrases from the first couple of years of johnson's presidency and roosevelt. there was something called the new deal, something called the great society. what phrases stick for obama? >> audacity of hope. >> that was before he became president. and my point in the -- is a sense he became president he has been so consumed with the tremendous problems he inherited and coming up with, in his way, reasonable policies and solutions that it is almost as if decant -- he can't do that and reach out to the broad public with those memorable phrases that i think are part of the job. >> which you have to have.
it bob, let me go back to you and talk a little bit about the lbj comparison, which, in many ways, it's terrible comparison but maybe there are ways that are not. start with the difference between the way president johnson got things done and the way this president is or is not getting things done. >> how did lyndon johnson get things done? i will answer you with a quote from a senator named scoop jackson from washington who served in the house and senate. he said president of -- president kennedy was a wonderful communicated, but when he needed a vote, he would give all the reason the arguments why he needed the vote but if the senator said, if i give you this vote, you will kill me with my constituencies, kennedy would always say, i understand. he said, lyndon johnson wouldn't understand. he said, lyndon johnson would
jaw on you, and you, or cajole you, he would do whatever he had to but he would get your vote. and you see this with johnson over and over again. you see him getting votes in the senate that you don't believe are possible to pass as legislation. >> is this the model, is that what americans want for the president? do they want and lyndon johnson who controls -- cajoles, or pick your verbal choice, or do they want a reasoned diplomat, which is what our current president appears to be? >> it depends on what lyndon johnson we are talking about. are you talking about 1964-1965 when he passed medicare, medicaid, two great civil rights bills which seemed impossible to pass, and 70 separate education bills, or are you talking about the lyndon johnson and 1966, 1967, 1968 -- who tried to get
us into a war -- who got us into a war in asia, tried to get basically, as james reston wrote -- this is after johnson's first escalation of 125,000 troops, which he did on a saturday because it thought it would not get much coverage on sunday. preston said the president of the united states got us into a land war in asia last night in secret. there is something to be said for a president who establishes a persona. i think the persona obama has established is thoughtful, smart, honest, at calm, and is trying to negotiate his way through -- the word hurricane -- the best weekend. i think there is a lot to be said for that. >> bill, you have written about another wartime president. to what extent are these awards -- is there any parallel with
the world war ii, with fdr, or are these awards so utterly different that, again, back to the hurricane word, that he can make is with through it? >> the wars that the united states is fighting in, iraq and afghanistan, maybe a little bit in libya, are so different from world war ii that there really is no meaningful comparison. because, with this group, if we were told there was a war going on and afghanistan, you would hardly know it. very few people i know have relatives who are fighting in iraq or afghanistan. it is a war that is bought by an all-volunteer, which means, a professional army. i have been on college campuses teaching since the 1980's, and there are no protests against the war in iraq and afghanistan. public opinion poll after public opinion poll shows that americans think the united states needs to get out of afghanistan, but it gains no traction because that opposition
-- there is nothing to mobilize the opposition. now, with franklin roosevelt, one of the reasons -- a principal reason we were able -- he was able to get so much done during the first 100 days -- which, by the way, he had no idea there would be a 100 days. he called congress into an emergency session to deal with the fact that banking system was collapsing so he was going to send an emergency banking bill and send them home. but there were so willing to go along with what he sent, so let's try something else. one thing led to another and another and by the time he ran out of things to send to congress, 100 days has passed and that became the yardstick for all future presidents to be read -- measured by. but roosevelt had a huge majorities in both houses of congress so he could get whatever he wanted. barack obama in essence had to deal with a divided congress from his inauguration. it is true, the democrats had majorities and both houses. but due to changes in the
definition of a filibuster that still somewhat confused me, now based to get anything through the senate you have to have 60 votes. he did not have that, so he had to deal with an opposition that decided to go into opposition against his presidency -- mitch mcconnell said at the beginning that the first order of business is to make sure barack obama will be a one-term president. roosevelt didn't have to deal with that. obama pauses situation was entirely different. there is something else. i think obama was the victim of his own brilliance as a campaigner. i have been observing american politics since the 1960's. the first campaign i vaguely remember was 1960 campaign. i studied a lot of them and i have never seen a politician other than a victorious general -- they play by different rules -- but an ordinary politician who came out of nowhere. before the summer of 2004, almost nobody had heard of barack obama.
four years later, he is president -- elected president of the united states. and he was of this individual will allow people to project onto him their hopes for what america could be in a difficult time. and his campaign slogan, yes, we can, was absolutely brilliant. yes, we can, what? what ever you want. [laughter] that is fine for a candidate, but once you get elected, the operative phrase is no longer yes, we can, but no, you can't. because you have to choose. when you are a candidate you don't have to choose. you let everybody believe what they want to believe. it is also worth remembering -- and you will have your own opinions on this -- absent the financial crisis of 2008, john mccain would be president of the united states because as long as the most salient issue was the war in iraq and afghanistan, obama's background, his
biography, didn't measure up to mccain. but more or less out of the blow, the ground changed and wall street shuddered and mccain's biography now as the military veteran, the war hero, prisoner of war, it no longer meant anything. so, people were willing to give obama a second look and they decided, okay, it is time for a change. we will give him a try. ok, so, now he is president and all sorts of people think he is going to bring in this brand new revolution, this reform, and all of this other stuff. well, it wasn't going to happen because the crisis wasn't quite deep enough. he had to tread gingerly. i happen to think -- i am guessing -- but i happen to think that obama is probably waiting to get this debt ceiling issue resolved one way or the other so it could move -- he can move back into campaign mode. he is a brilliant campaigner and i think he will be able to
connect with americans the way he did in the campaign. >> based on what? what does he use it as his slogan is your? >> i would say -- the only adult in washington. only person dealing with this thing reasonable. but there was a recent poll showed 80% of americans think with the deal with the debt ceiling and deficit, there ought to be some combination of spending cuts and tax increases. but the trouble is that that particular public is not the one that republicans in the house of representatives are responding to. they are looking over their right shoulders to a much smaller public, the one that will throw them out in the primaries neck -- primaries next season if a vote and anything in a way of tax increases. but once this issue is off the table -- it will be in one way or the other -- then he can reach out to the broader american public. i think he does very well with the broader public. as long as the republic --
public is split up between democrats on one side and republicans on the other, then he can't reach those republican zealots, but i think he could reach the broad -- >> you think once he gets by august 2 he comes out of this -- pops out of a eighth as a different person now goes back to who we was? >> i think he goes back to where he was in the summer of 2008 when he could campaign instead of having to govern. a better campaigner than governor. >> it is going to be hard for him to do that. during the two and a half years of his presidency, forget about the official unemployment rate, the real unemployment date -- rate, basically one out of six americans are out of work right now. which is a staggering number. it is not quite the 1930's level but the closest we have been since the 1930's. i think what obama is -- that will be what he has to account
for for what the campaign. i honestly don't know what the campaign is going to be. this is part of the deficiency i see in his leadership. he has not articulated a vision that americans can quickly understand and either subscribe to or not. the only -- in washington is basically what he is. i did not think that is a widely the wildly successful campaign. one thing obama lacks that lbj had is a movement. fdr had labor behind him and all the disk contents and the 1930's that and some ways oppose them but eventually, once he will long was out of the picture, became this overwhelming majority the problem to reelection in 1936. lbj had the civil rights movement. pushing from below and behind the scenes was cajoling, twisting arms, flattering, etc. in congress. there is no movement behind
obama. the only movement we have had since the biggest financial crisis since the depression is a tea party movement which is hostile to him. they filled a vacuum. obama could not create a movement. but once he became president that 10 million--- 10 million names, the list of 10 million names was is e-mail list, which was sort of the movement that brought him into the presidency, it disappeared. they went home. they would no longer be asked to do anything. and without a movement in a critical time like this, it is very hard for the president to summon the troops in the thick of a campaign in which he is going to be on the hot spot because republican going to say, one out of six americans is out of work. >> what do you say to this driver of the car -- the innumerable people i have spoken to who were obama supporters who are still obama supporters, who are nonetheless disappointed?
they say, he is not -- i voted for him, i will vote for him to it -- again, but i am not getting what i want from him. >> that is politics. it's over its. you wanted a miracle worker? yes, we can come up with the slogan of a miracle worker and you didn't get it. you got a human being who has amazing qualities. you take them off very well, bob. >> what is left out is what is governing. they had movements. but turning a movement into law s. what is governing in a democracy? governing in democracy is passing laws. lyndon johnson called it writing it into the books of law. we talked about civil rights for 100 years. now it is time to write it into the books of laws. they had a civil rights movement of the seven is controlled congress. no civil rights bill -- will go back to when -- have passed and
the senate 87 years, since reconstruction. johnson has to get this bill through. it does not matter -- the southerners will not lead it through. to watch him do that is to see genius and the art of governance. he works out this deal. the southerners say let the weak bill pass -- johnson says, wants to show a pass from the. if we get a bill pass it can be a bad bill but we can all -- always go back to pass that later. i got to get past. he gets the southerners to agree that they will allow a weak bill to pass along as they could be assured if the liberals tried to amend it to the stronger bill they will have a block of votes on their side to sustain a filibuster. johnson knows they need a block of votes. he is not within one or two votes, he is 10 or 12 votes short. you can see in the memos and the johnson library trying to figure out where can i get 10 or 12 votes. and he figures it out.
there is a dam on the snake river between idaho and oregon, and the westerners, the rocky mountain states, 12 democrats there -- 12 democratic votes. they have been trying to get this dam for 20 years and the south have always blocked. he goes to the westerners and says, i will give you the dam if you agree to vote with the south -- and they agree. he linked a dam in the northwest to the civil rights movement and got it within three or four votes of passing and then london johnson comes into play. -- lyndon johnson comes into play. now we have to get it one by one parent watching, knowing what the senators want. giving them what they want and to withhold what they want. it is to see this brutal force. but the end result is governance. he has gotten of the bill
passed. >> let me add here, bach told me the other day -- bob told me when he won the national humanities medal in 2010, president obama said to him, and a quote -- "i was mesmerized and it helped to shape how i think about politics." the question is, what has president obama learned about politics? [laughter] >> sorry you asked me that. i think that so what -- so far, the things george and bill said, the difficulties of doing this, were really very well. but part of the problem is, senator obama was only a senator for three years and for part of that three years, and large part, he was out campaigning. it is very hard -- hard to learn the senate.
it is really another world. so, when you come in -- i would like to think he was on and learning curve. >> but on the job learning is not what we want for our president, is it? >> can i say something about -- your great story about how lbj got the civil rights bill passed. the equivalent would be the healthcare bill. obama really needed every last vote. i studied that pretty carefully. i was in the senate allot during the last vote. he did it, got it done against great odds but i remember when scott brown was elected in massachusetts. many democrats said, forget it, we will never get it done. obama was the one who basically said, we are, along with nancy pelosi. but after the midterms i went down to virginia the next day and to southwestern virginia, which is coal mining country. a 30-year congressman rick
boucher, tremendously popular, defeated by some who did not live in the district. i asked, why would you throw out this popular congressman who brought home a ton of bacon to the port area? you know, obama disappointed us. we thought he was a new kind of politician and instead we saw him wheeling and dealing and trading medicaid payments and the louisiana compromise and dealing with the insurance companies and hospitals and giving everything away in order to get this health care bill. he was not supposed to be that type. in other words, obama is living in an age where two hours after the deal that lbj would cut with the weather -- whoever was then, the whole world knew and it is stomach turning. so, obama had to -- he master legislation in that case and it killed them. >> he didn't have to do that. what lyndon johnson would have said is -- the important thing
is -- actually, being lyndon johnson, he was always trying to say the important thing was to get a bill passed. we can always go back to fix it. once they lose their virginity, it will be easier next time. that is the guy i am writing about, actually. a lot of phrases like that. my feeling actually is that obama could say the same thing. it would be easier to fix it than to pass a bill -- not to say -- i do think it is a bad bill -- it would be easier to fix it and to start over again and he did it. >> is it all about politics? is it all about whether he can govern and not living up to campaign promises? or how much we are seeing has to do with personality? is there historically a president who has withstood it
so much comment about -- is he too aloof, is a not down and dirty enough, is he too down and dirty, is he not part of the group? the personality thing. then it started with george washington. the reason i say this is there is this notion that somehow, semi-monolithic media has broken apart into all of these different fractions and the people now can watch fox news if they don't want to hear what cnn has to say. you can choose your media outlet. so you are not confronted with the opinion that disagree with yours. that was really a model of american journalism and the 18th and 19th century. and there were newspapers who were attuned to particular -- parties have their own newspapers. presidential administrations had their own newspapers. so, we are reverting to that time. this may or may not be coincidental, but it was also a time of relatively generally weak and comparatively -- comparatively insignificant presidency. the presidency achieved anything
like its modern form only with the beginning of the 20th century. but through the 19th century, congress was the dominant force in american politics and everybody thought that was the way it should be. there were brief exceptions to this. crises like the civil war. and occasionally you would get a force of nature like andrew jackson. but until the 20th-century, the president was not the center of american politics. and in terms of the role of personality -- personality matters tremendously. but the personality that worked for andrew jackson did not work for abraham lincoln and abraham lincoln's personality would not have worked in the days of fear roads. and franklin roosevelt's personality would not work today and lyndon johnson's would not, either. the personality has to match the times. with lyndon johnson, if you have been at the johnson library where you could see mockups of his oval office, and the thing
that gets the attention of the school kids is the television -- television set but the three screens and johnson was considered such a voracious consumer of the media he would watch all three of the evening news shows at the same time. imagine the president today trying to keep track of all of the media outlets. it would be quite impossible. and so, a president today faces a different kind of challenge. one of franklin roosevelt's secrets of success was his mastery of the principal medium of the day -- radio. and roosevelt's fireside chats became legendary as roosevelt's way of getting around the largely republican newspaper press of the day and speaking directly to individuals. problem reagan, jfk a little bit, ronald reagan a little more, was the master of the medium of his day -- television.
now, i don't know if the media -- a very, very plural, today -- can have a master. it definitely is the case but it is a lot harder for the president to get the message out. but i would just add one thing on this point about obama. george is absolutely right that the american economy is in the worst shape it has been in since the great depression. having said that, barack obama just might get reelected. the fact that he just might get reelected is an astonishing statement given the context of the economy. when the economy is doing as badly as it is today, presidents don't get reelected. historically, there should be an uprising within the democratic party. he should be having to fight off challengers for the nomination. he is not. if i were making eight -- today i would say obama would win next year in part because the
republicans can't figure out who they are and they got themselves in a situation where the only type of candidate they are able to nominate -- and here i will share, this is not simply because i live in texas and i am hoping that my governor is going on to different things -- but i think rick perry it is going to get the republican nomination. and we can talk about why. but he also can't beat obama. and this is typical of where the republicans are. they are so split and so hostage to their right wing that the on the person who can get the nomination is somebody who can't win the general election, and that is where we see obama's strength, and reaching out to the broader public and not just the fractionalized public. he will run by default. >> that is going to be my next question. what right now, both in terms of government and in terms of reelection, what is the biggest
challenge that president obama faces? is it the economy, is it the tea party, is it the republican party, is a divided congress? what do you think is the biggest thing he has to get over? any of you. >> you know -- you never know -- you don't know what the internal polls are showing. that -- one of the things that so strikes me about learning about lyndon johnson is you've read the newspapers on what is happening in a certain month and then you go to the minutes of the meetings in the white house and the internal communications and it is like, what is in the newspapers and magazines, it is like a shadow to the substance. this is what they are really thinking. i would just say one thing that seems to me -- there are only four or five states that are really in play in this election, and they all seem -- ohio, michigan, pennsylvania --
that all seem to me to be states where unemployment is the great -- yes, the rust belt. >> and florida where unemployment is very bad. >> that is the one i left out. i think that if you are trying to get reelected, and if in fact this is what the polls are showing, the internal polls are showing, he has a tremendous problem in being reelected even by default. >> because of the five states. >> because of those. bill, what do you think of the biggest things he faces right now? >> well, i actually am an optimist. if i were in obama's can i would be an optimist. i will start with the current debt ceiling negotiations. i think things have shifted in the way that he wins no matter how it turns out. if they get a deal, whether the big deal, medium, or smaller deal, he can say, we got this deal.
if they don't, he has shifted the onus so he is the one that is sound very reasonable and republicans are sounding increasingly shrill. he can run against eric cantor and the ones who would vote against anything, any kind of debt ceiling raising, and he will come across looking like a reasonable person. one of the real wild card is foreign-policy. and a lot of really bad things could have happened so far during obama's first term that and didn't. and foreign policy has gone reasonably well. now, there are still lots of really bad things that could happen between now and a year from november and if any of that happens he has to start dealing with that. >> too many wild cards. >> how about you, george? >> i think it is a profound sense of discontent in the country, which has been with us the sense 2008 -- since 2008.
he did not break through it. in 2008 he and arrived with all the wind at his back. not an overwhelming majority like roosevelt or johnson but really big majorities in congress, with a big majority in a popular vote, unlike anything we have seen since ronald reagan actually, were george host: bush in 1988. we can do it counter-factual of the things he might have done in a different order or way that produced different results in terms of popular support, but he has been fighting a head wind from the very beginning. starting with the fact that of the republicans shamelessly having largely created this mess, refuse to do a thing to help him to clean it up and in fact basically made the calculation if they don't help him out, the country will decide it is his burden and when things don't get better, that it would
be his fault. i think that was a very cynical decision made by the republican party even before the inauguration. he lost the ground he came in with -- where the country really invested his hopes. >> because he lost it or because circumstances lost it for him? >> i remember those early weeks -- february, march, april of 2009, a whole lot of things happened that looking back seemed like critical things, that at the time i was not even paying attention to. it seemed like we were on a much longer time horizon. in american politics today, one week can make a dramatic difference. for example, of the aig bonuses came out in i think march of 2009. there was a tremendous national up more. it was the first time the anger over the financial crisis really found a target. and instead of harnessing it,
finding a way to say, i am just as angry as you and we are going to do something about it because the people who brought the country to its knees should not be profiting off of taxpayer bailout money -- instead, basically geithner went into obama and said there is nothing we can do about it. these are contracts. larry summers said, yes, these are contracts. the house was all up in arms and there was demagoguing bills about 99% taxation of the money which probably would have been constitutional. in his high-minded way the obama decided i'd rather decent -- do the unpopular but right thing and not touch the bonuses and not be a demagogue about it and he lost some of the public confidence. there are other things that happened around the same time -- the stimulus bill, they never explained to the country what it would do and how it was going to work. >> sell, it was their own -- >> from the very start they were
so consumed with all the things coming at them, more things than any human being could possibly deal with, that he began to lose his hold on the public from the first days. >> could i get a clarification? i don't mean this as a job. when you say high-minded, do you mean it as a criticism? >> no, it is great. to have a man who can think an articulate and as honest, and for whom the english language is a friend and and and in -- not an enemy, and can write a speech accepting the nobel peace prize that invokes, without naming him -- neebor, and who can read a speech about race that invokes without naming him james baldwin. this is a miracle that we have a president like this. it is a great thing. but it is not the only thing he needs. i was reading this essay by max weber -- there are two
politicians. one that practice the epic of responsibility and the other that practices the ethics of open-end ends. obama practices the ethic of responsibility. it is the key word. and it becomes the kind of an end of itself to be responsible. the republicans practice to practice the epic -- epic of altman ends. we do not care, we will go with our convictions. obama has one but not the other and republicans have won but not the other and neither can present the full personality of a leader. >> we will turn now to some audience questions. why don't you folks get your questions whether it -- ready. more to come. while we start circulating the microphone, i want to do some version of a lightning round, which is, very quickly, what is the single best accomplishment of his administration so far? very quick, one thing. >> to focus the debate of this country on long-term issues like the deficit.
>> passing a health care bill. 40 million people who did not have insurance before had it now. >> i would say the same thing -- the health care bill. >> ok. let's go to some of your questions and then we'll come back here. where is the microphone? why don't we start in the back where you were? please, stand up. thank you. >> i think bill was wrong when he said the severity of the economic crisis was not severe enough to make a difference. when obama came in there were three economic crises at the same time -- first with the middle class was disappearing, indicative of the national debt to gdp ratio which was half of gdp in 1980 and now five times gdp -- $75 trillion, and possible number to look at. from 2001, the private-sector stop creating jobs. so, you have no way to create jobs and using summers and
geithner he paid no attention to the two things and i am wondering why he ignored the two issues. maybe he did not know what to do about it. >> thank you for your question. then i couldn't agree more. i think obama does care about these issues. he talked about them constantly during the campaign. he may not know what to do about them. i think with the stimulus, they got what they thought they could get. maybe they did not push hard enough to try for more with a different kind of proportion of spending to tax cuts. it was too weak given both the short term gale force winds of the financial crisis and the long-term erosion you are talking about. i don't know if politicians know how to solve the problems any longer. joe biden runs the middle-class task force and we never hear about it. nobody knows what they are doing. it is as if they have kind of given up the idea that they will
actually persuade the public that they can solve these big problems. and you are right, the people he picked not only -- as we all know, were some of the purveyors of policies that led to the financial crisis but also more the types who, when it came to things like the iowa bonuses, advised the president to ignore the public, to do the high- minded thing. in that case, i think the wrong thing. so, his advisers don't have a feel for the poles of the country. and i think inevitably present becomes isolated in the white house. we don't hear from obama for long periods of time. this is not on the economy, but on afghanistan did throughout 2009 he gave one speech on the war while he was in very serious meetings planning an escalation. he is great at those meetings. for some reason, he fades out in the public's imagination. a weird thing given what a gigantic figure he was in our imagination.
>> something george said earlier -- your question about the role of personality. one of the striking things to me about president obama is his inability to get effectively matt in public. he is the great conciliator, he is the one to bring people together. if you look at american history, the biggest steps forward -- or you could say the biggest steps, occur when a president, typically the present, separates the sheep from the goats, when he singled out those bad people and is able to isolate them and reduce their numbers so they can't resist. both roosevelts were brilliant at this. the first of roosevelt, theodore roosevelt, talks about the malefactors of great wealth and franklin roosevelt railed against the economic royalists. because politics is an erosion of -- emotional game and unless you can engage people's emotions, you can't lead a movement, it can't get people to do what they would not do on their own.
obama is a very cold personality. and i don't know -- at least, i do not think based on what i have seen -- that he is the kind of guy who could get mad. he does the opposite. rather than drawing a line saying here are those malefactors, he says, let's all be adults. right, that means there are no lines. there are just adults and children. >> and people get angry at him for not getting angry. you hear more and more from constituents saying, why doesn't he shake them, why doesn't he yell? >> here it may be an aspect of his personality. >> who he is. >> this is something you probably can't fake. >> bob, and we will go to another question. >> one thing not mentioned was neither of the two rooseveltss was black. the entire hour and 10 minutes, the fact that obama was the first black president was never mentioned and you have to wonder -- i certainly do not know the
answer -- how much of what you all are talking about is because he is afraid of looking like a cliche, like an angry black man did i did not know the answers. >> i think that is a critical point. thanks, bob. another question. where's the microphone. let us go to this side. let's get a microphone, please. >> what eric cantor got some bad about this week -- >> the president said it was nothing to worry about. but i did not know if we are supposed to -- >> what do you guys know about that? >> you guys were just at the white house. did you find out? >> on monday. >> if i had been invited i would have been asking that question. >> a good question. the president certainly trying to downplay it yesterday in his press conference that i assume press conference that i assume we have to