tv Charlie Rose PBS November 11, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PST
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, presidential historian jon meacham talks about his new book, destiny and power, the american odyssey of george herbert walker bush. we were sitting in his retirement office in houston and he tread letter, broke down in physical sons, long before he finished, and cried so loudly, in fact, that his chief of staff came into the room. and she said why did you want him to do that? and i said, because if you want to know someone's heart -- and before i could finish, the president finished, my sentence by saying, you have to know what breaks it. and i asked him what did you learn from all of this? and he said that life is unpredictable and fragile. >> we conclude this evening with hannah rothschild of the famous
rothschild family, in europe, she talks about her new novel, "the improbability of love". >> the core of the book is about how we value art and why we pay stuff for it and what it means to different people. >> rose: jon meacham and hannah rothschild when we continue. funding for charlie rose is provided by american express. additional funding provided by -- >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose.
>> rose: jon meacham is here. he is a pulitzer prize winning historian and executive editor at random house. his latest book is destiny and power, the american odyssey of george herbert walker bush. it draws on extensive conversations with the former president, his family, and his inner circle. the book has made national headlines and the elder sh offers tough assessments to dick cheney, donald rumsfeld and even his son, walling the con city also be praise, a review in "the new york times" says quote the book reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer. judiciousness, balanced, deliberate if the, and with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. all of that having been said i am pleased to have my friend and a friend of this broadcast, jon meacham back at this table. welcome. >> at least you didn't say despite that. [laughter.] >> rose: where do we start? this has been a 17 year project. >> 17 year odyssey, first went up in 1998 with our mutual friend michael to see him,
almost immediately found president bush t to be a more complicated and interesting person. >> rose: in conversation? >> in conversation than the caricature in the press. >> rose: how so? >> a quiet, persistent charisma. i understood how he became president. it was person by person by person. absolutely always, always paying attention to you, to the other guy, wanted to make sure you were comfortable, and, you know, part of that fundamental political transaction, what is the fundamental political transaction of politics? you can trust me with your fate. >> rose: right. >> and almost instantly i saw, oh, this is how he did it. >> rose: so then the idea of a biography? >> it developed over the next ensuing seven or eight years. the key element was he granted the unconditional access to his vice presidential and presidential diaries, probably the last documents of their kind
that we will have. >> rose: why is that? >> special prosecutors, stuff getting subpoenaed, he did it because he wanted a historical record, he was never really sure what he was going to do with it. occasionally mentions in the diary, they are audio diaries, that's an important thing. one of the litter things we all have. late at night, early in the morning, on marine 1, on air force one you can hear the chopper blades going as he decides he is going to say this will not stand. and i think it was they are but tick. he would hate that word of course because he never wanted to be put on the couch, but he never complained to anyone else, including mrs. bush about the burdens of the presidency, because as he told me once, nobody wants to hear the president of the united states say oh woe is me, you are just damned lucky to be there, so the one person that he could complain was to himself. >> rose: to himself, yes. >> and there is that interesting moment in which you have him
which was a revelation for me and i think anybody, who knows anything about politics and policies with a certain, follows wit a certain passion in which he becomes a bit despondent after the war had been won. >> this is the gulf war, first gulf war. >> rose: what is interesting about this and this whole biography is this is not speculation. >> no. >> rose: this is from the words of the man himself. >> right. our friend evan thomas told me, he said very sweetly said, you know, so many of us have to speculate what was going through their mines. here we know. >> rose: he tells us. >> his voice, in his own words. >> and in that inimitable the voice. he never celebrated the victory in the gulf, he was way ahead of the pundits he knew that artificial 89 percent approval rating would not last. he knew the economy would be the essential thing. he wished there had been a battleship missouri surrender. he didn't like it that saddam was in power.
>> rose: that was his decision, by the way. >> his decision was that the 35 nation coalition, he had put together with a lifetime of experience of telephone calls and, you know, his mother called him have half bush when he was young because whenever he had a treat he would give half to a friend. perfectly trained diplomat. last president of the greatest generation, first president post cold war world. you know, the united states is a lucky place. business mark is said to have remarked for some reason god loves drunks, little children and the united states of america. and we did, man and moment met when we needed a perfectly trained -- >> rose: let's go back to the deupon denczi, he actually said it, oh, my gosh i am not sure i want to run again. do the american people deserve to have everyone that has every ounce of energy in this job and i had it up to now, i am not sure i have it anymore. i think at some level hef realized that he had almost finished the work he had been
put on earth to do. he was getting sick in this season. he had episodes, heart episode based on a thyroid condition, his thyroid was over active. the medication for that, the dosage for that was very hard to get right through 1991, through 1992, had something else that is new in the book. he has a second episode of heart episode right before the 1992 convention in which he says, you know, if i thought it were really serious i would have to go into the pressroom and say i am not running and i am not sure what the convention would do. but the emotional life of a president, which fascinates people like us so much, is so often something that we have to tiptoe around and try to peek in, he gives us everything here, and part of what surprised me the most about him was how emotional this seemingly button
downed, new england wasp really was. >> rose: a man of great manners. oh, my lord. >> rose: and a man of not -- not walking around like a peacock. >> oh, my lord. the a strange career choice for a man whose mother said i don't want to hear about the great i am. never be a brag dach owe, he would come in and say i had a triple and she would say how did the team do? and. >> rose: and you explain it because it is not politics. it is service. >> it is service. >> rose: that drives him. >> it is attention to do things. you and i talked about this. it is a tension between wanting to win, to be number one, to be -- to make his mark in whatever game it is, including politics, and this ambient sense of service that goes directly back to the sense that the founders had and theodore roosevelt had and franklin roosevelt said. >> rose: that was part of what he was despondent and complains about he doesn't understand the
new generation. >> h he doesn't. >> rose: he doesn't understand he had the stuff he believed in. >> i nearly fell out of my chair when i listened to the audio of november 3rd, 4th, 1992, it is a quarter after 12:00. it is the night he loses the presidency of the united states to bill clinton, barbara is asleep in one room, he gets up, goes in the living room of the houstonian and turns on the tape-recorder and he says, duty, honor country, i always thought that is what americans were made of, but quite clearly it is not. i don't see how i just lost to a draft dodger. now those are tough words saying that the country might not be about duty, honor country anymore but the remarkable thing and this goes to your point about his manners is even at his darkest hours when he is dictating into this recorder, he will talk himself back up into the game. so as he ends this entry, he says, what do you do the next few days? you do it with grace, you finish strong, you say your prayers, you never let them see that you are down.
and his code was one of camouflaged competition. >> rose: the ambition was not to be seen, but it burned brightly. >> you know that first appeared appears in his andover teacher's report which andover shared. >> rose: and they said what? >> they say he works hard but never wants to let anyone know it. >> rose: let me go back to, so you decide that this is a worthy subject. and you are interested in this, first contact with the bush people, did they say, thank god it is you, meacham, we have heard all about you? you are the perfect guy to do this? you know, back up the pickup and just put all of the stuff we have for you. we just have been waiting for a man like you to show up and thank god you are there. >> i don't remember the pickup. there was skepticism because i had been for a long time at newsweek, you may remember that in the fall of 1987 newsweek did a cover story. >> rose: saying.
>> fighting the wimp factor. he hated that to this hour if you were sitting there he could tell you the whole story. it was -- it was a long conversation about it. interestingly, dinner -- yes, i >> rose: but she made a condition. >> she did. the one condition. >> she would not give you her diaries unless you allowed her to approve the quotes. >> the quotes, not the context, not interpretation and i took 90 pages to her. >> rose: and?. >> and she took nothing off the record. as far as presidential families go, i can't imagine a more gracious, opening, open and welcoming group, because they
are comfortable with what they did. but, you know, the 43rd president was not a big fan of this project in the beginning, he said that publicly. he was skeptical of me. and what i finally -- the case i made, because it was my initiative, was in is a man who needs to be seen as his own figure, not simply as precursor, at some point king david was just king david, he wasn't a forerunner of something else. and so i read the diaries, classic george herbert walker bush, he said i want to make sure to read the diaries and make sure you think something is there. he once said to gene becker his chief of staff, you know, what if meacham just finds an empty deck of cards? which is classic bush because empty suit, not a full deck, and he told me, two things, that are sort of heartbreaking and you can't hear
other presidents saying, he said sometimes i just feel like an asterisk. >> rose: i know. >> lost between the glory of reagan and the trials and tribulations of my son, sons, and the other key element, i think, was when he argued that he just didn't know that there was enough there. i have. >> there, there meaning. >> from him. >> rose: and what he says or his historical record? not so much his diaries but recordings he worried it was not that much stuff to write about? >> about him. i know, i know. i have a note from him from 2008 after i published a biography of andrew jackson and he writes, it is a little overwhelming to think that i would be following a lion. >> rose: yes. as i call the book american lion. >> rose: which won a pulitzer prize. >> and he size me afterwards because i had written about franklin roosevelt, andrew jackson an he told me, i
remember sitting on the porch on kennebunkport, he said i am not fdr, i am not churchill, i am not a lion, and what he was is a unique american odyssey, we shall not see his like again, and he was -- part of his appeal is that he didn't think he was -- he doesn't understand -- even to this hour i think he doesn't fully appreciate the impact he had on the country. >> rose: and the impact was? >> well, he ended the cold car without gierg a shot. he without firing a shot. >> rose: and also navigate add sense that the russians did not .. feel he was jumping all over them in his own victory celebration? >> for those who think the personal doesn't matter in the political, our friend henry kissinger sometimes say it doesn't matter whether with they like you, it doesn't matter, characters of nations are not the characters of people, not true at all. >> rose: in his belief? >> in kissinger's belief.
>> rose: in kissinger. >> in bush's matter he believed that. >> they absolutely believed everyone had a moment in a stun, and if you want to see a character of bush and the gentlemanly he displace go to november 29 when the berlin wall is falling, and he is able to put himself in the shoes of the hard-liners of the soviet union and able to think what would i be doing if, as he once put it, if i were seeing this putting this in gorbachev's ear, i think he meant eye, sticking it in gorbachev's eye, because this is going to be tough, there is an enormous set of factors of national pride. there could have been a backlash. gorbachev could have fallen, took an enormous amount of pressure, mitchell, gebhardt all of these people are saying oh he doesn't get poetry of the fall of the wall. it is insane. george herbert walker bush understood the poetry of that,
that he understood more importantly that poetry is not all politics is about. he had to govern in prose. >> one of the things that connected the first world war to the second was resentment. >> and, in fact, if you asked him, what are you proudest of? he says, german reunification. >> rose: yes. >> because of the life he lived, you are exactly right. he understood that the europeans, thatcher, mitterand, others, major, to some extent, were very wary of a unified germ germany because as churchill said the hundred is always at your feet or at your throat. >> there is a man shot down in the pacific in 1944 and yet he watched japan become a great ally and trading partner of the united states. he believed that a reunified germany would stabilize europe and he was the one who was looking forward. he was the one willing to move past history.
i think in the popular mind you look at someone like bush and you see someone hopelessly attached to the past -- it wasn't. it was about the future. >> rose: he was guy keep pa beta years. >> two years in economics, nine sociology. >> rose: 18 years old. >> on that day, june 12, 1942, 3 things happened. he graduates from high school in andover, he turns 18 and takes the oath as a naval enlistee to be a naval aviator, at pearl harbor he considered joining the royal canadian air force so he could get in the fight more quickly. he immediately joins up in june, he becomes a naval aviator and flies torpedo bombers, he flies roughly 58 combat missions. on saturday, september 2nd, 1944 he is shot down over chichijima in the boland island but finishes his missions and drops the bomb on the tower where he was aiming, he has two crew men, he tells them to hit the silk, he comes back out this way.
that's the way they were supposed to get out. he bails out, he is almost decapitated. of course he bails out but the plane keeps going, he gashes his head. he lands in the sea. his life raft fortunately landed near him. he spent four hours out there. a submarine on what was called lifeguard duty picked him up. and i asked him, do you think about the men you lost, dell delaney and ted white? do you think about them much. >> rose: crew members? >> crew members he lost, men in his care, and on one of the many occasions, many occasions, that he cried, when we went through this process, he said i think about them every day. and i had to ask, why was i spared and did i do enough? and he did do enough, by all accounts. and i think that why i was spared is one of the key factors that led him to the pinnacle of political power, because he realized that every moment he had been given he needed to make
himself commensurate with that sacrifice. add that to the loss of their daughter in 1950. >> rose: he cried when you had him read the letter. >> they lost robin in -- >> rose: four years old. four years old to lieu keep, i can't neither barbara nor george heard the word leukemia until the diagnosis was given to them in the doctor's office in midland. they had gone to texas, gone, finished the war, gone to yale, for two and a half years, he got in a red studebaker drove down to texas to get in the oil business, stopped in abilene, orders his first meal, ordered chicken fried steak he is not sure if it was steak fried like a chicken or chicken fried like a steak. >> it didn't matter he had a lonestar with it. >> robin becomes sick, and he goes back and forth to new york as they try to treat her. he wrote a letter to his mother
about robin in the late 1950's in which he said, we need a girl. we need a doll house to stand against the forth forth. we need soft fragrance curls to go with all of the crew cuts .. we need someone when she gets in bed isn't rough and tumble but seems to fit just right. it is an amazing letter. and i asked him to read it. we were sitting in his retirement office in houston, and he read the letter, broke down in physical sobs, long before he finished, and cried so loudly, in fact, that his chief of staff came into the room. and she said why did you want him to do that? >> and i said, because if you want to know someone's heart, and before i could finish, the president finished my sentence by saying, you have to know what breaks it. and i asked him, what did you learn from all of this? and he said that life is unpredictable and fragile.
pthose two men in the pacific during the second world war and the loss ofin infused this life code to always look forward, to make yourself worthy of your being spared, and it created in him what his parents had already laid the foundations for, which was this drive to serve, and to succeed. i said to him once, you know, if it is all about service you could have opened a soup kitchen. and he said that's right. my goal has always been with the big left hand, my goal has always been to be number one, to be the captain of the team, to be the last man tapped for skull and bones, goal, my aim is gold. his tension in life is between service and what it took to succeed in politics. >> rose: family, the one thing, things that have come out since you have written this is the relationship, much talked
about between 43 and 41. we now know several things. that he had great resentment against donald rumsfeld and dick cheney for how he thought cheney on the one hand had an army of people in the white house that served on his own staff. and rumsfeld, whom we have long not liked because he thought swagger. but the interesting think. kick ass, take names. >> in making those criticisms, he says it is my son that was responsible. >> it is classic, isn't it? the only criticisms that i know of he has ever made of the 43 administration, and he says the buck stops there, a couple of things on this. what i think is really important to understand is that he was -- presidenpresident bush when he criticized cheney and rumsfeld
in part, his son's rhetoric, he was criticizing more style than substance. 41 and 43 were closer together on the central -- >> rose: the idea that saddam should be removed? >> right. >> rose: that's the idea. >> right. and they were closer together on that that, than people think. most of the people in this zip code continue to think he was sitting at walkers point shaking his head. that's not true. we have the letter he wrote his son saying, ratifying his course. what did bother him was the swaggering style of the -- and the criticism of 43 was that he shouldn't have said axis of evil and he didn't think that would be seen as historically benefiting anything. these comments were made in 2008, 2009, 2010, when there was much conversation, as you will recall, of expanding the war on terror past iraq and afghanistan, possibly to iran, so that is the context there. and when i took -- i took
everything. cheney saw this, rumsfeld saw, this i took all the comments to everyone because this is history, not journalism. and gave them everybody a full chance to respond. and 43, who was surprised, and intrigued, because he said my father never said any of this to me, said well, my rhetoric could get pretty hot at times and then he joked that -- but they understood me in midland. and it is a generational and cultural difference. >> rose: let me go back to, was it last night or two or three nights ago you were in dallas, at the bush library. >> yes. sunday night. >> rose: sunday night. and you were interviewed by bush 43. >> right. >> rose: what was that interview like? what what was he curious about? >> he was curious about why i chose to write about dad, his father as he put it rather than -- to go from jock son and roosevelt, why.
from jackson and roosevelt, and what did i think made him go? what made him a tick? why was e adventurous. >> rose:. >> >> was he genuinely curious? >> he wrote a book about his father. i think he was curious, he was maybe curious about he didn't know the answer to, was what was in the diaries? what surprised you in the diaries? >> which brings up this story. that he, bush 43 wanted the diaries for his own book, and he did not, could not get access to them because bush 41 had given them to you. true? >> i think there is an element of truth to that. >> rose: what is the element that is not true? [laughter.] >> i believe my firsthand knowledge is that the diaries had been given to me for the use of this biography and an ultimate scholarly edition of all the diaries and that had been our agreement for a number of years, and george bush,
george herbert walker bush stood by that agreement. >> rose: so he said to his son, i am sorry, i have given my diaries to jon meacham. >> charlie as you know i am a boy from chattanooga, i don't know, i doubt that conversation ever took place. i think it was -- but the story i understand to be true is that 43 was not happy about this. >> his rhetoric could get pretty hot. [laughter.]. >> rose: like a bush -- >> i don't know, i don't have firsthand knowledge. >> rose: but i assume it is true, don't you? don't you assume it is true? >> i suspect -- >> rose: he wanted to write about his father, it was his father, he wanted to say how much he loved him and say things that no one ever knew and this is the one thing that would have shown the world his own -- but here -- >> here is a bit of speculation, if you will. >> rose: let's have it. >> i think that if president
bush 43 self describes his project, his biography of 41 as a love letter. >> rose: right. >> i have a feeling that if that decision were taken, if that decision had been taken, that they were going to stick by the agreement with me, that as an independent biographer, i believe that the contents of those diaries would have more impact and more credibility if they were coming from someone who was not in the dna pool. >> rose: this is an admiring biography. >> sure. >> rose:. >> it is not uncritical. >> rose: no, but the criticism that i -- that is notable is the criticism that he sort of denied any knowledge of iran-contra. >> yes, he did. that evidently made you seethe. >> well, what puzzles me. >> rose: to use your words. >> what puzzles me about the reaction to iran-contra was he
was in the loop, he famously said, i wasn't in the loop. so why would he lie? >> i think he -- >> rose: machiavellian. >> i think it was machiavellian. >> rose: end justifies the means? >> well that's the key point of a political life, isn't it? i mean the reason -- >> rose: that's it? he lied, he thought it is okay to lie if the end justified the means? >> yes. it was an operation to try to free american hostages and to open up channels to iran. now he did it very briefly, let's be clear. he initially denied that it was true, and then became an advocate for trying to get everything out as soon as possible. but he would shift his story. some days he would say, i can't tell you what i told ronald reagan. and some days he would say, well i expressed reservations and other people would say he expressed reservations. what i think it tells you, he was an old spy master, he was a realist, he wanted to be loyal
to reagan. remember, this is breaking in 1986, right on the eve of, eve of the 1988 campaign. the phrase i will use is i believed that his reaction to iran-contra was unworthy of his essential character. he is a gentleman, she a man of honor, and in the crucible he decided to obfuscate on an important foreign policy decision and it was also the wrong policy. george schultz and kasper weinberger were against it, they said in meetings with george bush and ronald reagan, meetings that bush later said, and made the case against it, bush later said he didn't think that they were against it. neither george schultz nor kasper weinberger could understand how on earth george bush could say that. i have a feeling that the president bush probably selectively remembered these things. the other way, and the other criticism here. >> rose: that is very generous. >> well, it is, but you have to
judge him whole, right? >> rose: of course you do. >> but there is another thing. he was against the 1964 civil rights act. >> rose: i know. >> fundamental piece of american scripture at this point that piece of -- that bill, but what did he do in 1968 when he got into congress? he voted for open housing to lift racial discrimination from the real estate sales. he ran a brutal campaign in 1988. >> rose: at water. >> against michael dukakis, who he referred to as a midget nerd in his diary but what happened again he got to washington? he did everything he could to establish a political culture of consensus. tell me a republican president today who would sign the americans with disabilities act. find me a republican president today -- >> rose: well, neighbor his son. maybe, maybe. maybe. >> rose: i mean, nobody -- >> that's right, that's right. but one of the things i call
this destiny and power, he always believed he was the best man for the job. people thought he was going to be president, thought it was a possibility long before it became a probability. >> rose: yes. >> if you believe that, then your compromises along the way are not cynical but instrumental. >> rose: i understand that. or machiavellian or whatever. >> but there is also reagan. >> rose: yes. >.how did he see reagan? was he in awe of reagan's political skill? >> yes, yes. that's a good way to put it. you know, he was against him, again, as we say in the south, gen him as we say in the south, opposed him from 1968 forward, barely got on the ticket, as we know, in 1980, only after the ford deal fell apart. >> rose: which would never have succeeded anyway. >> but when you think of moments of rows not taken, let's just say that henry kissinger and alan greenspan and ed meese
and bill casey all negotiating that deal had managed to make that deal happen and make a reagan ford ticket running against carter mondale, reagan ford would have won, neither george bush would ever have been president of the united states. i asked them both this question. >> rose: and? what question did you ask? >> if, if -- i said to the president and then i said to 43, if gerald ford had become vice president and not george bush would you ever have been president? 41, no. 43, no way. so our modern political world took shape in detroit in the third week of july of 1980, and it remind you cash. >> rose: george bush was on the ticket as vice president and he was elected president and then defeated by bill clinton and you think that defeat, you know, marked the end of the 20th century politically in the and the beginning of the 21st century. >> last president of the world war ii generation and member of the boomer generation that viewed the world differently.
>> rose: but it was all about reagan? >> reagan, he quickly grew to like him and i think reagan quickly grew to like bush. now mrs. reagan is a whole different topic. mrs. reagan never signed on to the bushes being part of any kind of -- >> rose: she didn't look voodoo economics and all of that. >> and didn't like the fact that bush had run in the primaries -- you know, george bush would put on jogging shorts and run through snowdrifts to get pictures taken to show off he was 55 years old and reagan was 69 so there was an implication that reagan was too old and bush played to that, mrs. reagan never forgot that. mrs. reagan was very tough on mrs. bush. and if it is da wildly unfair. you cannot imagine a more loyal set of people. >> rose: this last question because this is in the news today. it is this notion of what -- of how -- what was the reliship between the father and son, beyond the criticism of cheney and rumsfeld, during the iraq
war? >> i think that there was one substantive conversation that we know of at camp david in 2002. george w. bush walked his father through the diplomacy, through the inspections, through everything. the president, the former president said, if the man won't comply, you have to do what you have to do. when the operation was launched in march of 2003, there was an exchange of letters between the two men. the letter from father to son is incredibly warm, ratifying his course, and says that you are now facing a set of problems that perhaps no president has faced since lincoln, because that iraq operation was still seen then as part of a war on terror to keep americans safe on the homeland. and dada -- >> rose: i didn't think that, i thought it was a war because
they thought saddam had weapons of mass destruction. >> that would then possibly get into the hands of trips and be used against us. >> rose: right. so you get the feeling that there is huge love within this family. >> yes. >> huge sets of family responsibility, goes back to prescott and however far back. and now there is jeb. >> right. >> rose: and it looks like, it looks like an unsuccessful run. army days -- early days. >> agreed. but does that disappoint him? does he speak to that? >> oh, you don't talk about that? >> no. we closed this up before the, the book was being published before. >> rose: no care about the book, i am talking about the man you know. >> i think -- i think he cares so deeply, he feels all the press criticism, he feels every bad poll.
he feels -- >> rose: and follows them? >> >> rose: and watches the news is. >> watches the news religiously. he is a political junky. he follows it all. i think .. he is hoping against hope that the republican party returns to an appreciation for a two term governor of florida whom he believes to be the best man for the job. >> rose: was it tolstoy who said, happy families are all alike, unhappy families are all unique this their own way? >> it is a happy family. i mean my lord, history has struck them twice, could strike them three times. i think that both george w. bush and jeb bush are in politics because it is the best way they think they can pay homage to the most important and interesting and compelling man they have ever known. >> rose: their father. >> their father. >> rose: david mccullough who knows something about history,
quote, the more time passes the more the dust settles, the clearer it becomes, george h.w. bush and the strength of character he brought to his long service to his country deserves more attention and appreciation and now comes destiny and power, jon meacham's altogether fair, insightful biography of the 41st president, made especially compelling by the author's remarkable access to bush's private white house diaries. this is a timely first-rate book. thank you. back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: and a the hannah rothschild is here. she is a writer, documentarian and a philanthropist she recently became the first female chair of the board at the national gallery in london. her debut novel is called "the improbability of love". it explores the london art scene and european history, also features a talking painting. the times of london said she
captures the contradiction between art as money and art as the soul of humanity. i am pleased to have hannah rothschild at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: good to have you here. >> thank you. lovely to be here. >> and look at this. and a new novel, a rothschild writes about a familiar word, from writing fiction about the art world. where is that photograph taken? >> that's is a house that belongs to earl spencer in prince william and prince harry that we rescued, actually. >> rose: your father has been remarkable in terms of restoring old homes. >> exactly. and that is -- that is probably the kind of the cherry on the cake, i think. and not talking about myself of course but talking about the house. >> rose: speaking of your father and in full disclosure, you and your father are great friends of mine. >> yes. >> and did he introduce you as a young girl to the joy of art? >> very much so. so if wanted to see him i had to go to museums. in fact, they were like kind of our playground. >> rose: he once said it was the joy of being with him.
>> exactly. >> rose: rather than seeing the art. >> absolutely. the art i thought was kind of boring and hung around and didn't say anything. i used t to wish that pictures would talk. it is like why don't you say anything? >> when did you begin to love it though? >> i think it was literally when i started to learn about it so so when i started to learn about who had owned it and who the people were in the pictures it and then when i was 16 iand think i came face-to-face with a painting by -- crown and that was my first real emotional sucker punch. >> rose: yes. >> you know, that was my goodness me, this person understands what i am feeling into what role does it play in your life now? >> well a huge role, partly because as you said i am the chair of the national gallery, but because i write about it. >> rose: right. >> partly because i am surrounded by it. we also run a house called wood soon manor which is stuffed with art. so actually wherever i go now, so that child drug around to
galleries little did i know it would end up being my chosen place to be. >> and i want to talk about the art scene later but more about you. i mean, assume painting is your preferred form of art? >> it is, it is a thing i know about so maybe that's why. >> rose: yes. was it difficult to step this chair that your father had held before because it is history making? >> well, it was the -- i was appointed by the prime minister so it was appoint direct nepotism but i have been absolutely honest, my father is my secret weapon. >> what way?. he has been there, he has done that, he is fantastically wise, he is very pragmatic. so most issues that crop up i can say what would you do in this situation? he would say well actually what i did -- and it is nice. it brought us close together. >> so what is your first order? >> first order? >> rose: first order of business. of magnitude. the national gallery has been told to prepare for between 25 and 40 percent cuts in its government grant which is a huge -- >> rose: 40 percent?
>> can you package, 40 percent. >> rose: and the chancellor -- >> we thank the chancellor for that. we are waiting and we won't know until december, quite how big it is going to be. and i am absolutely determined that it should remain free. it is free of charge at the moment. anyone can walk in off the street. >> rose: isn't it wonderful? >> it is amazing. and i know in the massive course that also free although you are encouraged quite strongly to make a donation. but i am determined it is going to stay free. >> rose: how else do you want to change it? >> i don't think i necessarily want to change the institution. it has been there for nearly 200 years, but we do have a fantastic site at the back which would make an amazing extension, so in addition to getting 40 percent for running costs i wouldn't mind an angel who would like to give me 200 million for a new building, if anyone is watching. >> rose: are you still going to make films? >> i think films are difficult, the way i like to make films is to embed myself so i like to follow people around for ten
months. and i have a few other things to do. so i think that is going to be tricky. >> and the book, the novel. >> the novel, where. >> where did that come from? >> well at first, the talking picture that you alluded to came from the little girl running around the national gallery wanting pictures to talk to me. so eventually i got them to talk, you know, oh, my god, does it talk. so that was it. and then of course, you know, being in the art world and meeting people and seeing them, i mean, you know, what great characters, really, the russian oligarchs and the sheikhs and the politicians and, you know, the hard careworn curators and the artists themselves, all people you have had on this show as well. >> rose: yes, yes, yes. >> as you know, they are quite rich fodder. >> rose: they are indeed, and distinct personalities as well. >> very much so. >> rose: so we just had an auction in which someone paid 170 million, that's highest ever paid for a painting, isn't it? >> i this think is that more the
picasso in algiers? >> rose: i think it is. >>, you know,. >> rose: i was not in the running for either. >> nor was i as a matter of fact. i mean that's the thing is, museums now can't afford to buy pictures, you know. that is the sad thing. so -- but -- >> rose: and the other thing, i wonder if it is said is trophies for people rather than a pure art, love of art? >> yes, it has to be, there is no -- there is no way that you can say something which is just a piece of material with bits of oil on it can worth 170 million. i mean the wonderful thing about paintings, of course, is the price is just about desire. it is about how much someone wants to pay for it. >> rose: yes. exactly. >> >> rose: and how bad do you want it?. >> how badly do you want it? >> and how much money do you have? >> but do you want it? does anyone really have 170 million to waste on a piece of -- >> rose: i wouldn't say wasting, but i think $174 million they could spend on a painting. >> but it is looking, it is very much about this, the book is
about how we value art and why we pay stuff for it, and what it means to different people, so obviously that meant somebody to lioni and his mistress. >> rose: the person who sold it. exactly. paid quite a lot for --. quite a lot to the auctioneer, you know,. >> rose: and a lot of other people who drove the price up that high before they dropped out. >> so in that price, as well ase there is of course 150 stories around it and pictures go in and out of fashion. so that a painting, you know, that modern lioni i don't know what it sold for 50 years ago but probably a fraction today and even less when he painted it, so it is kind of a crude desire, and it is a crude, you know, adoration and admiration, and that made it a market. >> rose: it is the second highest price ever paid for an artwork so you were right in the first place. bought by a chinesedbusinessman. is that right? >> yes. >> i didn't know that. >> rose: but the chinese are playing -- i mean my impression
about the chinese is that they are primarily buying not western art but their own art, vases, things like that. >> someone said that when newly rich nations start by buying, you know, things from their own history and then they get kind of more confident, and then they will start to buy the totem mick pieces so .. buy at the moment, which is picasso, so with confidence they start looking further afield. so perhaps that is why this chinese -- >> rose: i have often asked this question and i haven't had the chance do know some really, really good collectors who have a very good eye. people that you know. and they all say to me and they will say to me that somebody with a great eye, i mean they know, they know what is the best picasso. you know, they can see and they have an instinct for it is really, really good, because
they have studied, because they have immersed themselves in it. what is your definition of a good eye? >> well, i think a good eye is someone who matches instinct and the knowledge and experience. so that you can have someone who is, you know, got lots and lots of money and lots of experience but doesn't necessarily have the instinct. i think a food eye is about pouncing at that minute. >> rose: and also good collectors i mean a food eye also is being able to see an artist before he or she is famous. >> yes, yes. into you know picasso is going the make a lot of money for thee most part, it is already established. >> exactly. >> but somebody who is a young beginning artist or arriving artist who does not have an international reputation a good eye can see it. >> and you have people, that divine, the great duo, obviously the great academic, and they make a market, so between them,
with divine's great selling powers and barohn's incredible scholarship, barohn finds the masterpieces and divine makes them seem, you know, as gham rouse and desirable and everything else, i mean he even apparently got his restorer to slightly alter the shape of some of the reynolds and gains of the lady's eyes to look more like the film stars of the day. you know, so i think you can make a market. you can -- >> rose: did -- what did it take for you to decide i have enough to write? i know enough, i have met enough interesting people to understand the dynamics of a culture? >> that is a very, very good question. i don't think i ever thought i knew enough. i don't think i still do know enough. i think i set off on a journey and then it seemed to work, and when i knew that it was kind of quite fun, after all, this is quite fun and this is lively, then i thought, i have got something here, but i certainly don't know enough.
you know i went today to mets and i know nothing. there are so many extraordinary things to learn about. >> rose: yes. >> i know nothing. >> rose: your favorite novel is scoop? >> yes. >> rose: why that? >> well, because it makes me plaintiff and also makes me slightly horrified and advice rates the character and .. it is like a brilliant artist with a couple of strokes. >> rose: you also wrote a biography, did you not? >> yes my grant aunt known as the jazz baroness who fell in love with felonious monk. >> rose: that's a great story. i remember now. it is such a great story. tell us about her. >> so she was born in 1913, in kind of a real fantasy kind of world of europe at its height so when she grew up. >> in london or paris? >> she was born in london and she was so coveted she had a maid made sleep at the end of her bed and another made at the 0 other end of the bed so she
lived in an encrusted came. >> rose: cocoon. >> literal cocoon .. and she had to do nothing, she wasn't educated all she had to do is get married, that was the only thing expected of her and that went well, she met a and symptom barohn and got married and one day she went to visit a friend and the friend said, have you heard of felonious monk? she said, no. she said, he said listen to this record and she said i have to catch a plane. i can't. listen to the record. the record is around midnight, he put the needle on the record, it went round and round and round and it was hike a vinyl version of a spell and she never went home. >> rose: never went home. never got on the plane. >> never went on the plane. >> rose: what happened between her and felonious monk?. they ended up living together for the last ten years of his life. they lived in weehawkens not far from here. >> rose: this is a character that if you made that character up -- >> people would say it is rubbish. >> rose: here is -- one piece
of music about felonious monk and abandons all plans. >> everything, and she literally abandoned. >> rose: not knowing whether he would step her in any way. >> you know what, she didn't meet him for four years because he was, at the time, he had been busted for heroin. >> rose: yes. >> and so he was locked up and didn't even see him. >> rose: but she waited for him. >> she waited for him. >> rose: what a great story. as the movie. >> it is a movie -- well, it is going to be a series, yes, for a well-known television station. [laughter.] >> rose: bc? >> no. bbc? >> i don't know if i can say. >> rose: for who? >> amazon. into a lot of original programs that's very good. okay. and how is the family? >> a big question. >> rose: are they fighting with each other? >> always. >> rose: all of the fights and -- >> you know -- >> rose: fathers and sons are speaking? are they? >> the fathers and sons, you know, have had lunch recently. >> rose: did they? >> oh, yes, yes.
>> rose: all things are back? >> you know, any family, any big family, we know is complicated, and ours is absolutely no exception to the rule, i can tell you. >> when you got ready to write in novel there was a gift coming to you which is knowledge of the contemporary art market and they wrote in "the new york times" she, she has been involved with the art world for long enough to really capture it well. inner novel is not unsympathetic, but it does expose some of the fairly sharp practices in this world which is unregulated and to say the least not very transparent. >> yes. so i think it is a strange thing that you have this world, because as you said it is worth -- it has a worth of 100 billion and very, very few regulations. so, for example, this thing of, you know, when you go into an auction and the auctioneer can take bids from off the wall, and meaning that, you know, he can have somebody there who wants the painting, and he can bid that person up, you know,
without necessarily having an opponent. >> rose: yes. >> that is odd, you know, i don't think that is completely straight. there is another thing, of course, where you can go and you can offer someone a huge guarantee to underwrite how much their work is going to get, and somebody will actually underwrite iting so that they know at the end of the day if it doesn't fetch that -- so all sorts of slightly nefarious practice dogs guarantee high prices. and is that right? is that a fair market? is that a level playing field? >> rose: probably not. >> probably not, you know. can you prove it? probably not. >> rose: you chose antoine watu? >> well, anyway, i say, some people say watu, but i say watu. >> rose: but with you close him and he was a 19, 18th century painter whose beef career helped provide interest in color and -- >> we, well, i say there was very, very little known about him, which is brilliant if you happen to be -- and if i had written about picasso, let's
face it, there would be -- they literally know he was born and he died and in the middle he had rather a miserable life and i thought, perfect, you know, i didn't want anybody to know too much going on. there was enough going on. >> rose: was it hard growing up as a rothschild? >> well, you know, i don't know any other way to grow up, i mean, that's the only thing i knew. no. so what i do -- into but my impression of you is that you have grown with new adventures have grown more confident? >> yes. i am complete a completely different person than the person you first met. >> yes. completely. >> completely. >> rose: and why is that? >> i think it was very difficult to live up to some of the people in my family. i mean. >> rose: yes. >> my father, there was my grandfather, my aunt emma. there was great aunt mica and miriam the queen of the fleet. you know, the men and women were all larger than life, and i had to go out and achieve things on my own right and make my own
mistakes, to feel kind of that it was all right. if that makes any sense. >> rose: it turned out all right? >> so far, so good. >> rose: thank you so much. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: hannah rothschild, "the improbability of love". thank you for joining us. see you next time. >> for more about this program and early episodes visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. >> captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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