tv Charlie Rose PBS March 12, 2015 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> rose: welcome at that time program tonight a conversation with dan pfeiffer former senior advisor to president obama. it is a look behind the curtain at the inside of the obama administration. >> i think the best is that we passed health care. to me that was what validated to me that this was going to be i different sort of presidency. what really dref me in the campaign was this idea that we were-- the president would do two things. he was going to take on fights other people had shied away from. and that he would succeed -- succeed rather than fail. an i had some pretty-- i questioned that our capacity to be a different sort of president when it looked like health care might fail. that we were able to do it there was just the elation in the room. the president had said to us that it-- passing health care ranks up there with winning election as one of his-- and i couldn't agree
more. >> rose: dan pfeiffer for the hour next. fundee for charlie rose is provided by the following: >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> rose: additional funding provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: dan pfeiffer was senior advisor to the president until his resignation became effective last week. before that he served as the president's communications director. former deputy chief of staff operations called his depar ture the end of an era. he is the last of a select
group which stayed with the president from the beginning of the campaign for the white house. announcing his resignation president o billiona said he's been smart steady tireless and true to the values we started with. he is a good man and a friend and i'm going to miss having him just down the hall from me. early this week i talked to dan pfeiffer about his years in the white house his decision to leave and the challenges facing president obama. here is that conversation. >> you have had a remarkable experience. you're in your early 30s and you have since 2007 been at the side of the president of the united states. how do you decide when to leave? >> you know that's a pretty complex question that maybe has a simple answer which is i just knew it was time. like just had the feeling that it was-- that sort of i had done a lot of what i
wanted to do. i had this really compelling desire to try to get my own life back. i had been in a very intense work situation for a very long time. and i-- and i thought about it because we have these natural junk turs every two years people decide to company or go. i had sort of thought after the midterms in 2014 would be a time probably my last chance i think to go. and i right after the midterms i thought we were in a really bad place. i felt i couldn't leave. i didn't want to leave at one of the low points of the presidency. but then we had really gate last four or five months that helped the president regain his-- or grab hold of the narrative and i saw that and thought thought if i was going to leave this was the timement but it was really hard, it is a hard thing to do. >> rose: we'll talk about you an about him. the best moment for you? >> i think the best moment was probably the night we passed health care. to me that was what validated to me that this was going to be a different sort of presidency.
what really drove me and the campaign was this idea that we going-- the president would do two things he what take on fights other people had shied away from. and that he would succeed rather than fail. and i had some pretty i questioned that our capacity to be a different sort of president when it looked lick health care might fail. we were able to do it and just the elation in the room. the president had said to us that it-- passing health care ranks up there with winning elections. as one of his-- i couldn't agree more. >> because it's what he said that is what he came there to do in part. >> exactly. one it's one of a faw times you could make a massive difference in millions of peoples lives. but also, it proves that what we were trying to do sort of the core case of our campaign, could be realized. >> and it was really hard took a long time. >> i know you believe that there will not be a supreme court overturning obama care or the affordable care act.
there are others who believe it could. i mean here you have created something that is legacy. your high moment and it may be in peril. >> absolutely. and a lot it focuses on how it would affect the president and people without passed health care that it would be very very hard. now probably the more important thing and i think that he enjoys-- he's proud of the fact he passed health care because it has given health care to millions and millions of people. if we have millions of people who can't afford it because of the supreme court it will be a huge problem. we will have to find a way to fix it. but it's going to be really really hard to solve that problem. and so our hope is --. >> rose: do you-- so you don't really have a plan to fix it because you don't believe it's going to happen. >> we don't believe it's going to happen. we believe it shouldn't happen. and we have no sort of trick in our-- up our sleeve to volume of-- solve this it is a simple fact which is if the supreme court rules this way millions of people will go without health care. and we can't-- we can't
change that certainly in the short term. >> rose: i thought you might say the night that osama bin laden was killed. because that had been a priority for the president since almost his first meeting with the cia. >> yeah right. >> rose: when he took office. >> and yet now he faces the challenge of isil. >> uh-huh. how is that moment? >> that was-- that was possibly one of my most surreal moments. because i was in the middle of watching a movie at a movie theater on a sunday afternoon when i got an e-mail from the national security advisor and said can you come to the office for a meeting at 6:30. my first thought was this isn't good. because that is not an e-mail you normally get. normally it certainly would be more explicit about what the topic was. an when i asked he made it clear he couldn't tell me over e-mail. so i got to the office having no idea what it was going to be fearing the worst something terrible
happening during our campaign in libya at the time a threat to the homeland. and then to find out a short you know a few minutes after getting in the white house that president-- had fulfilled this promise had done somethingqj( helped turn the page on soft the decade post 9/11. and then you know that whole experience and then leaving the white house at like 2:30 in the morning with being able to hear from my office people chanting uferx sa over pennsylvania avenue,-- usa it was one of the great front row seats to history i got to have to be able to see not obviously the operation or the decision to do the operation. but you know sort of that night and how it all came together with the speech and everything else. it was fascinating. >> rose: how was his mood after that? >> exalted. >> i don't think it is exultant. i think it was please plooed
for america. relieved that the operation-- i mean this was that the president could take he had to do it against advice of some of his cabinet. >> i can only imagine what it was like to be sitting there to hear about the one helicopter going down to think for a second that he is going to have a situation like jimmy carter had. >> . >> rose: the thought had to pass his mind. >> absolutely. and to think that this could end up he placed a big bet and looked for a secretary like it would fail. to have done that. and to have a chance to call president bush and president clinton and talk to them about it i think he was relieved it had gone well. i think proud that a you know that he being able to accomplish something that had taken so long. and i think happy for america. because it clarely meant something pretty powerful to the american people. you could see that in the response all across the country that night. >> rose: not an easy decision.
>> no. >> rose: people like secretary gates had acknowledged that he was opposed to the nature of the execution of what you wanted to do. plus it was seemed better to bomb them. >> it was a big gamble. >> rose: and a lot of people raised a lot of reservations. what is it about this man that said i'll take the risk? >> i think if your name ehud barak hussein obama and you get lkted to the presidency just a few years after the illinois state senator, i think you have you know sort of a belief in you know in your luck maybe and a willingness to take big risks. if he didn't didn't take big risks he wouldn't be president. and i think he knew this was the one this might be our only shot and he had to take it. but it came with great political risk. i think that is one of the things he doesn't get enough credit for but that he is willing to you know risk his political standing at grave risk for to try to do things.
>> rose: if he thinks it's the right thing to do. >> saving the auto industry trying to save health care. the bin laden ray across-the-board he is willing to do that. >> rose: you said one of the realities of washington is that everyone looks at things through a political filter and give you political motives for everything you do. >> right. >> rose: whereas in fact sometimes decisions which are always 51-49 which are always, a lot of people say do it this way someone else say does it that way. always there is a tough decision to be made that this guy you know has a certain peace of mind about decision-making. >> yeah. >> rose: you saw that when you wrote around the car with him when he was running for president. >> right. he's very sort of deliberative and calm at the point of decisions. and very rarely ever looks-- even if a decision goes poorly, you know he will try to learn the lessons from it but you know he is you know he will-- his belief is to try to do the right thing and
let the chips fall where they may. >> rose: andoff eneverything is given a political dimension so it's not necessarily they did it for the right thing. >> i mean that is one of the great frustrations for myself and i think for everyone who is working probably in any white house is that you make a decision because-- the president pages a decision because he thinks it's the right thing to do the right policy and it is always interrupted with this bizarre political dimensions. like the president today announced his support for you know the president today pushed for an increase in the minimum wage in order to help fire up the populous democratic base. no actually he did it because he thinks people need more money in their pockets. and i am confident this is not something unique to us. i'm sure that president bush and president clinton's aides felt the same way. and the truth i think about washington is that most people most of the time, politics is always in the background. but they're trying to do the thing they think is best for the country. >> rose: why did you go to work for him in the first place? >> you know i was a sort of
a frustrated democrat. you know, i had done a couple of campaigns. i lost a couple. and it sort of felt like there was-- politics was growing boring for me. the gore bush racial was no different than thecarey bush race. the senate races were sort of the same. and it all lead to a lot of stalemates and a lot of inaction. and sort of out of nowhere, and i got very lucky. because i was working for senator ephenback of indiana who was thinking about running for presidentment and he dropped out right about the exact time thatback bam was thinking about getting in. so i just had this tremendous bit of fortune that at the exact moment that i was available to do a job, this candidate who who represented what i-- inspired me for the first time in a really long time, who represented what i thought was like a chance for something different in
politics came along. you know and it's like this tremendous life-- like it could have played out a million different ways but it just happened to be literally at the exact moment, i came free he started to run. >> rose: so tell me about the man you met then when you were applying for a job. and the man that you said good-bye to, i guess on air force one. >> yeah. >> rose: to say i'm leaving. you are on your own. >> well, i say a couple things. first is at his core he is the same man to me. and a lot of our conversations are the same. you know when i first started working for him we would travel you know on commercial air flights to iowa, new hampshire. and just be me the president, reggie love and maybe one or two others. and you know we would be-- we would be sitting in the lounge or wherever else getting ready to go on the plane. and we would be talking basketball and movies tv.
>> rose: books. >> books. an in flash forward you know here we are eight years later, we will be having the same conversations the president and i. but then i will step back and realize we're not having them outside the gate of the southwest gate in manchester you know we're on marine one or we're on air force one flying to the vatican to meet the pope or these amazing things. so in that sense he's very much the same. now there is photo evidence that we have all aged a lot in that period of time. >> rose: gray hair. >> a lot of people sent me photos of myself from the early 2007 days and one i can't believe how much i have aged and i can't believe they hired a child basically to work on that campaign. >> rose: he is battle hardened, to use your words. >> yeah, i think he is more battle hardened. he's been through a lot. he's had to make tough decisions. he's been attacked relentlessly. i think for many many years now. but at his core the same genuine good person with the same faith and good of the people exists. >> rose: how do you explain
what sometimes seems to be a visceral reaction to oppose him? >> well i think it's the main thing, you know we're talking about congressional republicans. >> rose: in part. his ratings went down across-the-board. >> well look we live in incredibly polarized time. >> rose: is it personality? is it policy? is it -- >> i think-- . >> rose: the fact that he got there too young and didn't have the right experience so therefore i don't think he's ready to be president? whatever it might be? >> i think it is first and foremost it has to do with a polarization in the country right. like for our huge massive landslide win in 2008 47 percent of the country voted against the president right? and our very big win against mitt romney 49% of the country voted against him. and so there are like we live in a 50/50 country right now and people are getting republicans and $crats are getting more adamant in their views so a
republican is much more likely to oppose a democratic president and the verse for democrats. >> rose: he was in selma on the weekend. do you think race has anything to do with it? >> i'm incredibly hesitant to ascribe without knowing to ascribe racist motivations to anyone or anything. look i think there is no question there are people who oppose the president because he's african-american. probably because he is. >> rose: right. >> and i don't think-- but i don't think the majority of the-- i don't think racism driving the majority. i think it's political. it's cultural it's policy. >> rose: you have been there when the prime minister of israel came to speak before the congress. >> right. >> rose: susan rice said on my program. >> she did. >> rose: the words she used it's got to make you crazy if you are president and a
prime minister is coming over snaeking-- speaking to congress trying to affect policy and trying to get them to turn against the president. >> well, i mean, i think that there's a real danger in what is happening. >> rose: and narrow his options. >> we're at a dangerous point in the politization of pore enpolicy. the speaker inviting the prime minister. you know, trying to really politicize and make the u.s. -israeli relationship partisan. i think that's very dangerous as susan rice said. and then you have this news yesterday that 40 some republican senators sent a letter to iran to try to basically work with the hard-line elements in iran to scuttle the president's diplomatic efforts. >> rose: saying they will oppose agreement and therefore -- >> right. i mean like, look, i think that speaks to one it's a very dangerous trend. but one it also speaks to the nature of sort of the republicans' approach to the president. which is essentially, i think, sort of electoral
nullification. they are trying to do everything to nullify his win in 2012 whether that is try to kur his executive power that they gave-- whether he is the commander in chief in charge of our foreign policy. congress has a consult ative role and they will have a chance to vote if they choose to bring a bill up to try to deal with this. but to actually write a letter to iran to try to scuttle a u.s. foreign policy initiative. i can't imagine-- . >> rose: which one the president considers the most significant he could make i assume. >> this is very dangerous. >> rose: in his presidency. >> absolutely. certainly one of the most significant. and this is a very dangerous thing to do. and i think i hope people-- i hope republicans will step back and realize sort of what exactly it is they are doing here. i can only imagine what their response would have been if democrats had done a similar thing you know when george w burke was president. >> rose: so what can he do? >> well, look he's going-- . >> rose: one thing it said
is it puts them in league with the hard-liners in iran. >> first we have to see if we can get a deal. and they are working on that. the second is we have to sell testimony and i think the challenge what he has done and will do again is to say to the republicans what is your alternative. you know, are you against a diplomatic solution. are you suggesting that we use force? are you suggesting we go to war with iran. and then you have to go to the american people and explain the consequences of that. >> rose: that's essentially what he says about the prime minister of israel. he basically says you don't have a policy. and therefore all you have is to offer some things he they will never do and therefore you will be in you are going to act on what you said you will do you have no option but military. >> right i mean there is-- if you lake you have two choices a military solution and diplomatic solution. we should at least play the diplomatic one out to see if we can come to a resolution here am it is very dangerous and why the letter from republicans is dangerous if we don't get a deal how-- the world as describes blame for the failure to get
a deal is very important. because if it is seen as the united states walking away or scuttling the deal because of angst actions of congressional republicans that will make it harder for us to keep the world together in our sanctions regime to insurance they keep putting pressure on iran. >> rose: leone panetta bob gates and so many other people who have been on my program over the last since you have been with the president in this administration have said the biggest threat to america's national security is dysfunction in washington. >> uh-huh. >> rose: if the president had one goal he believed that he could create bipartisanship. what happened? >> i think let's stipulate we can always do things better. that the president could call more members. we could meet with more people. but i think the problem here is two large-- two larger problems. one is the republicans made
a specific strategic decision famously articulated by mitch mcconnell that their goal was to not work with the president do everything they could to oppose him and defeat him. they decided that was in their political interest and they followed through on that. so the president can do a lot. he can't really decide what the republican political interests is for them. so that was one. and the second is which i think exacerbated a growing problem was the campaign finance decisions from the supreme court which gave such sway to billionaires on both sides. >> rose: right. >> particularly on the republican side where they are very afraid of primary challenges to have these super pacs there to sort of help push them into more conservative places. so that is you know been part of what has been part of the problem. the president in the first few years was able to get a lot done. with the democratic congress. republicans came in they had had trouble managing their own business as we saw from the dhs bill. but this is something we have to keep working on.
it is a real problem for the country. because the president-- did a handful of things that any normal congress should be able to do. >> rose: tell me candidly and in terms of self-analysis. >> yes. >> rose: and his own self-analysis, what you could have done more. the obvious things people talk about is that you did not in fact stroke the republicans enough. also did you not call even people in your own party enough. the president doesn't like to do that. that's not in his nature. it is said that's true even about foreign leaders. that therefore he calls on himself a sense of equal blame. >> well i think you know we can obviously do more to have done more early on to build more deeper relationships right. i do fundamentally disagree with the approximated that and that may have helped on some of the smaller things like nominations and things like that. the president has taken some steps particularly in the last few months here to try to address that.
and we've tried to improve as time has gone on. i do fundamentally disagree with the notion that if the president just played golf with john boehner more. >> rose: i'm not talking about playing golf. we're talking about the kind of courting which lyndon johnson did which is often referenced. >> i think the johnson example is an unfair one only in the sense that johnson did very very well with a large democratic majority as the president did. when he had a mixed congress. >> rose: it was a sense of a lot of very very conservatives who did not want to go where the president wanted to go at that time. >> he was able to-- . >> rose: because they were democrats and chairmans of committees. it was a massive selling job by the president. but is that just simply not in his nature? >> no i mean he did-- i think it's-- i think when people look back at this time people will say why couldn't you pass bills like president obama did. passing health care with zero votes to spare something that countless presidents had taken on and failed is a remarkable legislative achievement. it required him to sell stroke convince campaign. >> rose: threaten. >> i don't know if he was
going to threaten am but to be very clear about the importance of voting for it. lz. >> rose: lincoln johnson threatened. abraham lincoln threatened. >> there were a lot of things you could get away with when lincoln and johnson were president that you couldn't get away with now. >> rose: you have no regrets that there was not more. because this was a central campaign theme in 2008 a central campaign theme. >> look, if we-- if we could have-- if we can make it better, we absolutely would. and i think look looking back on it there were obviously things we could do better. i look at that, it is not just in outreach to republicans. >> rose: democrats as well. >> right, but beyond outreach you come in, we came in at a time of tremendous crisis. we were trying to keep the economy from falling off the cliff. i wish we could have done some more things. i'm incredibly proud of the record of accomplishment that we have had through the six years that i worked there. >> rose: you should be. you spent your life doing that so you ought to be proud of what you have done.
but there is at the same time a piece i read in "the new york times" on-line about foreign leaders. the president is cool and business like. is that simply what ought be to eck ready as his style and don't expect him to be something he's not? >> well look he is who he is. he is a person who adores people. like if you see him campaign you see that. >> voter. >> voters, the public interesting people that he gets a chance to meet with. you know i think he is not a transactional human being. right. he-- i think that is to his core. he is business like he's smartment but he also doesn't need the admiration or affirmation of other people to get up in the morning. and that has allowed him, i think, to be-- there are always two sides of the coin here which is why doesn't-- you know, one of
the examples request doesn't the president get more mad all the time. it's like then people are like well good thing we have such a calm, cool headed leader you know. or why doesn't-- you know why isn't the president sort of more you know why is he so disciplined. or like i think-- who he is serves him quite well. he's to the going to be someone else. he is not going to be lyndon johnson ronald reagan or george bush. he is going to be who he is. and i think george bush is always known as a very friendly guy. >> as bill clinton. >> but george bush also had horrendous relations with many of the leaders and countries in the world. the president has very good relations. his style has worked for him. >> but help me understand. this is really interesting. because we are right at the point of understanding. i mean you have seen him up close, up close up personal. you've talked about life. you've talked about culture. all those kinds of things. where does that come from. is that all in the first
book that he wrote that explains being an outsider explains the lifestyle he's had. is that what is in the end shaped the guy that's been president and we expect him to be things that he's not because his experiences were different? >> i mean, i think the first book, you know is having a president to have written a memoir like, gives people a window into his-- the creation of his identity and a way in which other you may not have for other presidents because that was not the book of a person who is going to run for president. that was a raw memoir. >> an well written as ever critic wrote. >> look, i think he is very comfortable in his own skin. >> rose: help us understand that. >> because he went through a process because of you know as a of can american growing up in hawaii with-- . >> rose: hardly knew his father. >> hardly knew his father. >> rose: raised by mother and grandmother. >> and it is very sort of
pollydid did-- culture of hawaii, he had a chance to sort of explore who he was sort of come to terms with it. he sort of had a moment not long after he was in college when he sort of moved to new york. you know to transfer to a school there. and got you know sort of very serious about life. and i think in that period he helped define who he is. and what i think makes him-- and i think what really defines him as president is he loves his job. but he doesn't need his job. and because he's comfortable in back barack obama. i don't think that is true of a lot of people who seek high office in this country. >> rose: so what will he do when he leaves office. >> i think he will enjoy being a little bess-- little less in the bubble. i think he will enjoy taking on you know a hand-- some of the issues he has cared a lot about whether in the foreign policy space or my
brother's keeper his initiative for young men of color. >> rose: what is that my brother's keeper. >> he knows the power he can have. >> rose: on young african-americans. >> and like one of the most powerful things i get to see is when the president does a town hall or round table discussion with these young people. and he's done with it latino young many african-american young men native american young men to sit with them and say i too didn't really know my father. you know i too struggled you know growing up. i too would sometimes get angry when people you know when i couldn't-- when people looked at me as they were crossing the street or getting on the elevator with me. to seat impacts of those kids to say if he can make it this far i can certainly make it out of school and make something of myself. it is an incredibly powerful way he can change people's lives in one encount err. >> rose: -- told me at heart is a writer and that she thinks that is what he will do when he leaves office. after he leaves office he will be a writer. >> i think he will really
enjoy writing. i certainly am confident he who write a memoir. >> rose: is one of the failures of administration whatever your accomplishments you have not been able to take the american people with a narrative that they understood -- understood and responded. >> i think in the first two years, i think we all stepped back you know and looked at it and realized that the trees had overwhelmed the forestment we were doing health care. we were saving the auto industry. we were doing the stimulus. and each one of those things were sort of their own thing. they didn't weave a broader narrative. we got much better at that that is within of the reasons why he won re-election. but i think this goes to the core challengement but is on the issues the president cares about public opinion is moved significantly in his direction over the course of our time. in the white house. whether it's on core economic policies. >> rose: same sex marriage. >> same-sex marriage, immigration reform, the core economic issues around minimum wage around taxes
about whether the wealthy should pay more. and so we have moved aggressively there. now congress has not moved in part because they're-- you know, these are 70% issues responding to the 30% who disagree because they are the ones who decide republican primaries. but he has moved the country in a direction that if we can continue it and win the next presidential election i think we'll sort of set the four corners of political debate in this country for a long time like ronald reagan did at the end of the '80s. >> rose: what you also did though is that you were able to identify a group of voters through one very smart use of technology, and the digital revolution. but also identifying them and finding a way to communicate with them. and in fact you have said in things that i have read you know whoever gets the democratic nomination a signal test will be whether they can put together the coalition you put together in 25008 and in it 00-- 2012 but did not put together in
2010 and-- right? >> right. this is the challenge because this group of vote evers has come out in the last election in the two thatback bam was on the ballot and they did not come in the two elections he wasn't on the ballot. that grup of voters is the future of the democratic part of the progressive vision of this country. >> rose: who is in that group. >> millennials young people it's latinos african-americans who return to the political process or join it for the first time because of president obama. it's a lot of single women who had not been in the political process. and if you can get those people to come out and in many cases that's a growing population of the country you know that will be-- that will be the-- . >> rose: the demographics of the future. >> yes. and whoever is going-- if we can turn the obama coalition into the democratic coalition, that will be a very powerful force for the u.s. economy. >> rose: what do you think is the likelihood of that is. >> i think it's good it will just take a lot of work. >> rose: what happened to
that coalition in 2014? >> i think a couple of things. one they never felt particularly connected to congress. i think they sort of see it as not really worth their vote because-- like they understand why it makes sense to wait in line for hours and vote for president particularly this president. i don't know why it makes a lot of time to wait-- i think it's the wrong judgement but i think that's part of it. >> rose: how frustrated was he that he couldn't go out in to 14. >> you know where i am going. >> i am. >> rose: he couldn't say this is what i believe in. this is what we have done. make the case as a national political particular. because some argue that what happened is the republicans made him the decision-- shoorxz democrats were trying to mick it a local race. and you had to make it a national race to win. that is one of the things we understand. >> he was frustrated. >> rose: more than frustrated. >> he was pretty frustrated. >> rose: he understands there are states like alaska or arkansas where it would make sense for him to campaign in 2008 let alone
now. but broadly across the country he was very frustrated that-- . >> rose: express his frustration to me. >> he was-- i don't know what, like,-- . >> rose: what is the most emotion you have ever seen this man? >> the most emotional in terms of like deeply affected would be after newtown. >> rose: again gun control. >> yeah. and then i think one of the most angry i have seen him was after the senate failed to pass background checks in 2013. >> rose: gun control again. >> because there was probably no issue that better exemplified the dysfunctionality of that congress. an issue background check with 90% support could be defeated only a few months after a tragedy like newtown. like if you couldn't do it then, when in the future could you possibly do it. >> rose: i have asked often what is it like different inside than outside. what do you see and know that we don't see. >> if you read some of the the books written by-- about it, they are largely right in the overall arc of things
and the facts are usually pretty close to right. sometimes they seem nor dramatic than the meetings were in real life. i was in that meeting and i don't remember, like these people yelling at each other and being this huge thingment but it's like you don't ever get to see the man, barack obama in the -- like in the books written by outsiders. i think david axelrod's book he shows that very well. because the one the source is, i think much more likely-- people were close enough to be in the room with the president are usually not the ones talking if they are the ones talking they actually-- the president. >> rose: what do they say what do you see. take us inside the room. how is it different whatever the decision is that we don't know. >> well i think it is what is different about it is how well you know how wealth-- sort of the amount of thought that the
president puts into these things and how he wrestles with some really hard decisions. >> rose: we know all that. >> but it's like-- . >> rose: he thinks about it and wrestles with it. we know that. >> but the question is how does he wrestle with it. and there are a couple of ways this happens. one way is you know he will-- sometimes you will be in the room and you actually don't know what his position is because he is arguing the other side. for the purpose of this is a law professor in him. to test out the you know the opposite argument to see how strong it is. the opposite case. and he will be arguing and he will start calling on people to-- who he knows disagree with his actual position and try to get them to make the argument to try to like insurance-- he's always pushing against the idea that he's going to get a rubber stamp from the staff. and it's a fases naturing thing to watch his mind work as you sort of see him slowly work his mind around the problem from all the
different sides to come to the final conclusion. >> rose: here is a man who is seeking opinions an other people's ideas, could be trying to make the best possible decision. >> right. >> rose: also what comes out in terms of people who talk about him is one this supreme confidence bordering on if not arrogance. >> i hear that a lot. irmean i think he is confident in myself right. i don't find it arrogant, of course. he-- but it's to the-- it's not a knee-jerk competence. it is not just like my gut ses this, this is what we are doing. it is a confidence in his own decision-making process to-- . >> rose: so it is an intellectual arrogance. >> no, i think it's the confidence that he has gone-- that he has looked at the issue in a very deliberative way and has sought out other people's opinions and come to it. and that once you have made the decision you have to stick with that decision and ride it. >> rose: that is why he gets some criticism as you know. that is what the red line is in fact about. he made a decision and then
changed his mind. >> right, but i think-- . >> rose: for a better decision you might argue. >> right like i think i mean that actually goes, i think, to the intellectual rigor which is that he a decision was made. and the entire apparatus of the government is heading in one direction. and he did not feel comfort with it. and he got a lot of opinions and he stepped back from that. and that ended up being a better policy. >> rose: but it also raised some questions among foreign leaders too. >> you know, i hear that. i think he's proven his willingness to use force necessary. >> rose: one of the things i have said that really resonated with me is that the people who succeeded in the white house and you used david-- as the best example are the people who were-- worked the hardest. and who were the smartest and who got their earliest and left latest. i means that's what life is about too. >> yeah. >> rose: give us some sense of that. i mean the people working with the president feel like that they have a remarkable
opportunity. and so therefore they are there at a unique time in their life to give everything they've got. >> it is that is perhaps the thing i'll miss most is the people and a sense the camaraderie. >> are you in the ship together. and it is a group of brilliant people who were all trying to do the best they can. they also have, you know particularly some of the folks older than i with families. sort of like i will spend two years you know or 18 months or three years doing this. they will just dedicate their life to this man and an issue they feel passionately about. like-- who helped fund health care for the president. she had had a very nice life two small children had left government. she came back in and gave you know, i think four years of her life to pass health care and implement health care that is what she did her whole life. to see people put their passion into it. one of the things that i have taken from this experience is i like when the bush folks are in the white house i will always
think like oh you know what -- what terrible decisions they make. why do they do that? the thing i realized is that no matter and my pledge to myself is that now i know how hard the calls are people make here. and that the people after dealing with a set of competing equities that no one on the outside knows that going forward you know whether it is ep are can or democrat in the white house next, i will not criticize those people for the decisions they make. may disagree with the policy. >> rose: george bush had been good about that. >> hes had been excellent about that. and for the most part his staff has been very very good about that. they you know, there is a whole-- . >> rose: i'm talking about the president specifically. >> so the president has been incredible about it. you know i've had a chance to be around him a little bit. >> rose: does it kang your opinion of what you thought about him? >> 100 percent. >> rose: how so. >> just a very, you know-- you know comes off as a really
good person. >> rose: do you think his brother will be a very powerful political candidate? >> i think there are real questions about whether the country is ready for another bush. you see that in polling by the republican party and polling just generally. >> rose: do you see the same thing about another political race between a bush and a clinton? >> i think you know just based on like actual data people are-- people remember the clinton years much more fondly than the bush years. >> rose: there is also the sense that you have seen a polling that there are people who are saying you know we've been there done that. >> i mean that is inherently going to be part of any campaign for a clinton or bush. >> rose: you don't want to say anything bad about hillary, do you. >> i don't. look i worked my tail off to beat her for a year. but i have grown very fond of her and her service to the president. >> rose: so what do you think about the e-mail crisis. >> look, i think that you know that this is what david a elrod referred to as
a pimp el on the ass of progress. 18 months from now or 20 months from now whenever it is that people go to the polls i can't imagine anyone is going to change their vote because of this. >> rose: yeah, but some say it raises questions about things that may have-- in transparnsesy and other issues having to do you know, whether it's maureen dowd. the one thing you know, you know what the conversation in washington is about. >> right. >> rose: that is part of the conversation, this is a reminder of things they didn't particularly like. >> look, i think that-- . >> rose: and had misgivings about. >> right. but those-- . >> rose: that's the danger. >> yeah, of course it's a danger. but it is a much greater danger for a candidate that no one knows when you have information like this. people, you know a lot of-- the republicans have looked at the clintons for a long time at hillary for a long time. they know a lot about her. this is one of those things that is happening because there is a vacuum in our political discussion right
now. and you know once there is an up and running campaign i think this will be faint memory. >> rose: what does the president think of bill clinton? >> you know he has come to really-- . >> rose: come to -- >> well yeah. >> rose: meaning he was somewhere else. >> he -- know him. it is interesting the president came out of you know, he ran for president not long after coming to washington. he didn't-- he didn't have a relationship with president clinton in any real way before he ran for president. and then i assume he had a combative competitive primary. >> rose: and then all of a sudden in to 12 he needs him. >> he was a huge help to us. >> rose: he needs him to explain his own policy. the president himself called bill clinton the explainer. >> right. look-- . >> rose: what does that say about shall did --. >> it says two things. >> rose: about the commander in chief. >> it says bill clinton is very good at doing that. and two it says that he is-- when you can have someone who created 20 million jobs and is thought
of by both parties people as someone who lead the economy well, can come out and validate your economic decisions. >> rose: it's a good choice to make a speech. >> absolutely, absolutely. >> rose: but they never really have gotten close have they? >> look i think they have a very good relationship. i think there's like a small president's club. because there are only a handful of people on the planet who experience what you have experienced. and you know he enjoys his company and calls him for advice periodically. >> rose: he does. >> they have conversations absolutely. >> rose: does he call george bush. >> yeah they talk. i'm sure he probably talks to president clinton more for obvious reasons but he does talk to bush. >> rose: what is it that you did for this president? you spent from a campaign for the president in 2007 to several weeks ago as a principal advisor essentially about communications but you-- in the end your policy role was broader than communications. >> what did you do? >> i think i-- what i tried
to do was to help him figure out how to explain his policy to the country. to offer him political advice about how and help him offer advice about how to fav gate washington. but also he what i tried to do particularly in the later years is i was one of the few remaining people from the early days was try to be a touchstone to the early campaign promises. >> you were one of the people that had memory. >> yeah. >> and coy say how important this was to our campaign what it meant to our supporters to do xy & z. and then i think the last and final thing is that i sort of took it on myself for when i became senior advisor, you know after the re-election to try to add an a decisional filter to all decision making that i was involved in, to say to myself, what would barack obama 15 years from now when he is sort of like padding around the obama library
think about this decision. you know and it was something that may be a little mohr painful politically in the short term, buttiers from now he will care a lot about. and to try to add that perspective. try to think about how he will feel about it years from now. >> rose: give us this the primer on how social media has changed politics. >> as you saw it from inside the white house. >> well this is like the period of time from the beginning of the campaign is probably the greatest change in how information is condition assumed and dissell natured since the invention of the printing press. when we started facebook was fairly known twitter barely existed. the iphone had not been in ventsed. it's changed in fundamental ways but what it meant are the following things. one now people can choose the information they want. and so we have to work much harder. it's not enough to just do
cbs abc nbc. still incredibly important to a huge percentage of people. a huge percentage of folks get their information but it's not enough. so you have to do sort of-- you have to dofering. you have to do buzzfeed, you have to do vice you have to do cbs it also means that now it is-- you know we've moved from this, what we call broadcast mod well just we tell people things to a network model of communication where we tell a handful of people things and then they share it on faceback and twilt we are their friends. sort of a network model as some call it and that gives us an opportunity in the sense that we can talk to people a lot about things that may not be what the news is quartering about exactly at that moment in time. exactly like if-- is leading all network newscasts it used to be we could talk any more about health care now we can a use the internet to go to web pd and talk about health care. >> rose: you made this point there is no message of the
day. >> right. >> rose: what it is now is a thousand messages. >> right. >> rose: of which maybe ten are urgent messages in what we are dealing with foreign policy or domestic policy or political policy or all kinds of things that you never could anticipate you would have to do with. >> essentially the interesting thing about it it's like the presidency. >> right. >> you're dealing every day you're not just dealing with one problem one issue every day you are battling a whole range of issues because it's the nature of presidency. >> and this is a way in which is a good thing for people that work in the white house. which is the-- it used to be everyone in the white house working on all these different things as you say right. and the end result the treatment of every person working on a policy initiative is to have it somehow communicated to the white house at a presidential event or a speech. but there used to be a very limited menu for that. so most things would never get to that level. now you can maybe you're speaking about something urgent with a presidential
speech but you're doing a taped video about our anwar policy or an interview on web pd about health care so there are other ways to get beyond the initial filter if you will. which is good because for a lot of the public which is you know cares passionately about an issue but can never get information could never previously get information about it because what the news was focused on now they can. and so that's good. what it does is makes our job a lot harder. makes it harder to weave this coherent narrative because you can't tell one-story to everyone at the same time. but i think it has real benefits for our democracy. >> do you think you effectively communicated well this president? >> i think yes obviously we have done better in a lot of areas, no question about that. and i wish i knew everything i knew now in 200 the we walked in the door. >> how would it be different. >> i think you would understand how to separate
i think one of the things i talked about a lot in the white house is over time you learn how to separate the signal from the noise. and so you only have "x" amount of time and energy. and i think of all the things we spent our time chasing down rabbit holes in the first two years, because they thought they were going to bring the presidency down there would be this huge problem and you could sometimes ignore those and focus on the things that actually mattered. and they could only get that with time and perspective. >> the other thing that interests me that he said before is that often he said i couldn't do something because i knew i would be perceived, for example i might have wanted to do something with this policy but i worried it would be characterized as class warfare. now you say the word having to do with secretary clinton redistributionist. which is a label that they wanted to talk to this president about. >> there are those who believe that he has now as he says the final quarter i guess without you there
that somehow he is unbounded now. that he's going to be what he always should have been. is there some element of truth to that that he knows that he doesn't have to face another election. he knows he can't change the republicans. he knows he has to use the executive authority and executive action as much as possible. so he did free at last free at last. >> i think there is some truth of that in the sense that look, it was very important to him that we kept the senate in 2014. that mattered to him. it mattered for his policies. because thee were a bunch of senators that he knew and were good public servants in the states. but it also held him back some. it made it harder to sort of execute aggressively on his agenda. and as we talked about it made it harder to make his case to the country and with that behind him he is more safe. i also think he feels-- i know he feels the ticking of
the clock the sands of the hourglass, if you will. that he says to us all the time, you will never have a better opportunity to do more good for more people than we have right here. now all of a sudden it's like every single day matters. >> and do you understand about what they said about pilots in world war two that their life will never be as exciting as it was when they were decide -- defending? -- >> i worry about that. >> rose: you do. >> i do. that you know i'm president. and i probably-- 39 and i probably have had the best job i ever had. a couple of years ago i was having launch with a bunch of reporters with people asking pe if i was going to leave. i said not yet i don't think so and this reporter said why would you. you have already written the first line of euro bit wear. >> rose: someone said you will always be known as an obama. >> i'm pretty proud of that. and you know a million
things could have happened differently in my life or in the country that would not allowed me to have this experience. sometimes i wake up like way earlier than i probably should. and i think and i sort of it takes me a minute to realize that this all actually happened. that i got to work on this campaign. i got to work for this machblt i got to know and become friends with this man and work in this white house at this time to realize that that all actually happened because it seems impossible to imagine some times. >> rose: the intriguing question for me is if you had it to do it all over you the president the chief of staff whichever one it was the first lady would it be different? have you learned such valuable lessons so that you wish you had the mind-set in 2009 that you have in 2015?
>> certainly i like the benefit of my experience back then. i do think that what is true is that knowing everything i know now if we all were to go back to 2009. >> would he be more to the left. would he be more aggressive. would he be pore -- >> i think if we went back to the campaign itself we would lose the campaign. because what we had in that campaign was we were detached from the conventional wisdom in washington. we had not experienced real failure. and we won because we were incredibly and potentially naively and afraid. >> exactly. you have something innocent then did you not know. >> right. >> how difficult it could be. >> right. i have often suggested that the best people to run for presidential campaigns are ones who have not worked on them before. because you like you have this-- having fear you know you are sort of like the
tightrope walker that has never fallen. probably a little different after you have fallen off the tight ro robe. >> rose: thank you dan dan, dan pfeiffer for the hour. thank you for joining us. see you neck time. >> for more about this program and earlier episodes visit us yen line at pbs.org and charlie rose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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