tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC July 15, 2012 4:30pm-5:00pm PDT
bottle. richard nixon wanted to be president but johnson wanted to stop them. how they connived against each other in vietnam. with us today michael duffy, nbc's andrea mitchell, casey hunt and howard fineman. first up here we find ourselves in the midst of a presidential election. and thanks to our panelists we're learning about the men who have been american presidents. this was a sleepover at the white house complete with jamies i suppose that bill clinton held for the club. ford, look at him, ford, bush, carter. they all camped out there. and when they don't have sleepovers, they use this clubhouse at lafayette square as their meeting ground. this is a great scoop. we've known there have been friendships in and out of these relationship bus you've got a real club that's functioning and affects history.
>> it's amazing. it starts in 1953 when herbert hoover goes up to harry truman on the di ass and said we ought to be the club. i'll be the president. you be the treasurer. truman says let's do it. 60 years later it has its own rules and rivalries. chris: why is it important to history and why did you write this amazing book of the importance of how it helps? i keep thinking it's one of those mountain climbing teams. if anybody falls they keep him from falling all the way. >> i think these men having made these decision, having emerged from the jobs each with their own scars know how hard it is to do it, know that other guys have gone through stuff that no one else has. they can share experiences that no one in their families can even understand. and that binds them together. chris: a support group for mostly great men.
listen to president eisenhower talking to jack kennedy during the cuban missile crisis back in 1962. >> what a conversation. you and i grew up with it, the chance we're going to nuclear war and here he is accepting advice from the man who accepted the nazi surrounder. >> only a week earlier, kennedy had blasted eisenhower and his legacy in a very political campaign speech, midterm election speech. and it just infuriated eisenhower so he broke all his personal rules and came back and blasted kennedy on foreign policy. yet when the crisis broke,
kennedy used the c.i.a. direct tor which was trusted as an envoy. because eisenhower was the first suspicion that this was part of a political -- chris: by the way he taped the conversation. >> it was bad advice. chris: we now know he said we're going to hit new york. >> but when you're president of the united states and you don't really fully trust your advisors you entrust someone who had sat in that chair before, probably more than anyone else and kennedy did. chris: i wonder if he knew he was being taped. >> confront a new president.
chris: that's an amazing thing because kennedy getting killed was an incredible moment. here was the old president, the president coming in and helping l.b.j. do what he did. >> there are two things about that. first of all, ike as a figure was a tremendously reassuring president and personality in american life. if there was a kind of monarch, if there was a retired monarch and symbol of american society, it was ike who had led us in world war ii, who became president during a time of calm american life. so there was reassurance. being a little boy, i remember that. more interesting is the advice that ike gave to lyndon johnson about what l.b.j. should say before a joint session of congress. ike was a republican president and really more of a conservative one in certain respects than we remember. what he told l.b.j. is that he should promise to carry forward the sweeping liberal agenda of
jack kennedy who had been assasinated. that the best thing that l.b.j. could do with the country and for l.b.j.'s own standings within the party and the presidency was to promise to carry out jack kennedy's agenda. so here you at a pivotal moment a republican president advocating a democratic agenda. amazing statesmanship on ike's part. chris: there's a great story in your book about how ronald reagan taught bill clinton how to salute. explain it. >> he goes to visit him in l.a. you don't know how to salute. you have to bring it up sharply. so they sat in began's office practicing together. chris: so it's up slow and down faster. >> bring it up like it's covered
with honey. chris: and he learned it? >> when he was in the movies. chris: here's brill clinton getting some bipartisan from jerry ford. it was one when in his most embarrassing spots. >> this morning there is a high level bipartisan call for compromise. writing in the "new york times" former president gerald ford and jimmy carter said today that they favor a bipartisan a censure. chris: it would have made a lot of sense. >> they all come out of this hearing like the upmost need to protect the office of the presidency. no one else understands what that office truly means aside from the men in that chair. you're facing one of the greatest embarrassments that could have occurred for the office itself. over jerry ford is looking to protect that and to keep his party from taking it too far to the point it would hurt the
country. >> note parenthetically that they had such a fierce fight over the presidency, ford and jimmy carter. they became such close friends. jimmy carter was broken up at gerald ford's funeral service and i know you worked for jimmy carter. i knew jimmyford -- jimmy ford, he really got to love him. chris: that's an interesting almost father-son relationship. >> strange really. when clinton becomes president nixon really wants to work with hip, to be a sort of secret advisor behind the scenes. they do become late night phone pals. they talk a lot about russia. and they talk about how to organize the president's day. he asked how did you do it? and he loves the fact that 30 years later there's another young president saying how do you do this job? chris: he brought nixon back, didn't he? >> i think he did.
the republicans couldn't really do it. a democratic president could. so clinton did. and when he died, clinton actually says, you know, there are days when i miss him the same way i miss my mother. chris: i wonder if nixon said you're the kind of son i wanted. i wonder. that's an interesting relationship. >> my point is that he felt like a be sieged outsider himself. he's had the legal problems and there was a strange kinship between the two. chris: what about obama today? he's getting these interesting new uncles coming up, helping him out. what's going on with them? >> well, sure, he met with all of them in the oval office very early on in 2009. you know, he's been very grateful how the bushes have been. president george w. bush have stayed largely on the sidelines. i don't need to play the critic.
i think he struck up a pretty good relationship with george h. w. bush. so the relationship with clinton is prickly and complicated. chris: it is an interesting friendship-rivalry. before we break, the famously close relationship between the bush and bill clinton didn't start out so swimingly. clinton was flummox at al gore keeping him at a distance because of the lewinsky matter. but he couldn't resist spouting off. he held out a texas twang and gave his best bush impression. i'm a governor, my daddy was president. i own a baseball team. but al gore was right in using the lewinsky issue. >> now if he decides he can't help himself and starts campaigning against me, the shadow returns. bill: the shadow. we learned when book visited the white house after the recount of
2000, he asked clinton if that shadow offended him and he gave him a pass. and of course clinton became close to george bush 41 and the family. they consider clinton a brother of another mother. and listen to this. >> is that so ridiculous our odd couple partnership, that barbara began to refer to me as her black sheep son, you know, the one that -- [laughter] strays. there's one in every family. gets the politics wrong and make some of the mistakes. chris: you got all in the book? >> yes. chris: how ike helped ronald reagan against richard nixon and some of nixon's own skull duggery.
chris: welcome back. his book about the most secret club of the most powerful men of former presidents, there was one who was hardly a teammate. richard nixon. after nixon was pardoned, nixon went on an upstaging trip to china right near the new hampshire primary. ford was put in a position to having to defend the guy who had once again embarrassed him. >> he's going under the guidelines. >> you see no complications to foreign policy in his trip? >> none, whatsoever. chris: i remember reading that. he showed off, getting all the press attention, national news. at the very moment jerry ford was trying to run for president. >> at the same time jerry ford never apologized for the pardon. he knew exactly, you know, how
damaging it was to him politically and the thing he was proudest of that caroline and ted kennedy gave him the profile and courage award for having pardoned richard nixon. you know there was a lot of deep resentment over that trip. chris: he was out secretly giving advice to ronald reagan in began's first race for the presidency. >> one of the thing that impresses me in mike's book in addition to the general brillian is what you see about ike. ike who's a master behind the scenes playing the role of the former president with these other political fillings. we all know that ike didn't like -- political figures. we all know that ike didn't like richard nixon. he advised ronald ra gay on how to deal with -- reagan on how to deal with criticism, some of the things that had been stirred up by the liberals in california.
ike is responsible for launching ronald reagan's presidential career, according to the book, reagan goes to getiesburg right after reagan wins the governship in 1966. and in 1967, ronald reagan did make his first board of effort to get the republican nomination. so really ike was there at the launching of reagan's presidential campaign. chris: ike's about to get a big comeback in history. let's talk about something that's tricky and ma nasing. back in 1968 at the height of the vietnam war, johnson had left -- he said i'm not running again. then he began to do peace talks and just before 1968, he was negotiating with the north vietnamese and south vietnamese. johnson had a talk. >> that's right. he had both sides talk.
he knew that nixon was walking behind the scenes to undercut the negotiation. he challenges nixon in 1966 and nixon backs off. five years later -- chris: what do you mean 1966? >> i meant 1968. nixon goes to johnson who has a month to live. and he says tell your friends in the senate to back-off or i'm going to release the fact that you were taping me back in 1968 -- chris: bging me. >> and johnson said, if you release that, i'll tell them what you said. chris: two scorpions in a bottle. we haven't tumped jimmy carter. he's not the kind of guy that goes into a club or wanted to be accepted into a club that would accept him. >> i think we haven't touched much on him. he has always been kind of a problem. he's the guy that you have to call because he knows all of these foreign leaders from his years on the world stage.
but you know, as mike points astutely carter goes on these trips. he kind of goes off on his own. chris: he thought himself as better than the other presidents. >> he certainly would tell you that he's been a better ex-president, he said this, than the other presidents. in september he becomes the longest living ex-president in history. he's had to make a second career of something and he create this is job that no one else has. it becomes a model for bill clinton. >> fact when he went to north korea and went on cable television before reporting back to the national security council and the white house, the clintons were furious and then they set colin powell to haiti to baby sit him because they were afraid he was going to cut deals in haiti. >> when bill clinton was trying to figure out what he's going to do with in his post presidency, he modeled the bill clinton and
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you. will hillary clinton run for president? and if you can't answer that yet, what will her decision be based upon? >> i think it shall go because it's what the clintons do and she'll look at the competition and say i'm better than this. chris: fortify the decision. >> i think it will be based on whether she think she can win. chris: you think it's a go? >> i do. >> i think it depends on what joe biden decides to do. he's talking more and more about it. chatted that the clinton are paying very close attention to. i think he would have a hard time -- chris: he's older. >> he is. but it depends what happens in 2012. if romney were to win -- chris: he sure has a youthful manner. >> he's getting younger all the time. [laughter] chris: it's a good job, an
internal youth job. >> two things about hillary, we've said that this is a men's club. the men in this club. don't forget that about hillary who's whole life has been dedicated to breaking glass ceilings. number two, her mom who died recently at the age of 92 was very, very active and totally with it until the very end. hillary's got those genes and i think depending on how she feels whether chelsea has delivered a grandchild on time or not -- chris: what you're saying if she doesn't run -- this is the reason why she probably will, she'll be thinking about until the last second of her life which means she doesn't want to be thinking about it. >> once people run they'll run again. chris: guess who spoke first bill or hillary? >> hillary. she's been thinking. when come back, who's going to
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transformative signature achievement. >> i don't think we can say. it depends whether tes re-elected and what he does with that, changing the direction of the party back to a more -- to use more liberal construction than clinton put on the party. chris: great round table. mike duffy with "the president's club." thanks for watching. see you back here next week. these sweet honey clustery things have fiber?
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right now at tpaoeu 5:00, we have more information about the two americans kidnapped and held hostage this weekend. and also a nba star spends the night in jail. and a change is coming up in the weather, and we will show you how far temperatures are expected to drop. good evening. i am diane dwyer. o