tv Charlie Rose PBS April 14, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PDT
>> glor: good evening, i'm jeff glor filling in for charlie rose who is off tonight. we begin tonight with hugh laurie. he stars in the a.m.c. miniseries "the night manager." >> the anxiety that comes with dealing with something precious, not to say "house" wasn't precious. it was. i mean, incredibly so. those scripts were absolutely gems, but they were gems i didn't know about until i get the script on a tuesday and we're shooting it on a wednesday, so there's no time to anticipate and get anxious. with this, i've had 23 years of, "it's coming, it's coming, it's coming." and finally someone hands you the fab jay egg, and please, let's not drop it. >> glor: we conclude with frank wisner editor? chief. >> who supported handgun control with the brady bill, and who did more-- although he later
regretted it-- to make abortion legal in the years before "roe v wade" because he signed a bill saying a woman's doctor could give her permission to have an abortion. you think the republican party. he doesn't get past iowa. >> glor: hugh laurie and jacob weisberg when we continue. >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following: >> 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. >> glor: good evening, i'm jeff glor of cbs news sitting in for charlie rose who is on
assignment. hugh laurie is here. he is perhaps best known to audiences for his eight-season run on "house." laurie returns to television this saturday in adaptation of john le carre's 1993 novel "the night manager." he plays richard roper, a billionaire international arms dealer who is being trade by british intelligence officials. "rolling stone" calls laurie, "the perfect gentleman villain." we are pleased to have hugh laurie at this table once again. welcome. >> thank you very much. thank you. >> glor: "the perfect gentleman villain." >> i don't know what that means. >> glor: it sounds good. >> it's excellent. i already have a whole line of it, shirts in the manufacturing process. i don't know-- i mean, i'm neither villainous nor gentlemanly. but the character is an interesting combination. there is a very, very-- he has a sort of superficial, affable charm-- in fact, more than charm. i'd say he's positively
seductive, and yet the world has created-- the seductive world he has created is about the on something very dark and very wicked. >> glor: before we talk about richard roper, quickly, le carre, long obsession for you. this novel, in particular. >> absolutely. this is the-- this is-- these are the holy texts of my childhood, certainly my teen years. i absolutely-- i devoured every le carre book. principally, of course, the book is about the cold war, the smiley novels. and then 1990 came. the wall was pulled down, and i, and i suppose a lot of other people, too, imagined if spies were now out of work, then possibly spy writers would also be redundant and i worried that le carre probably would not-- he would have to hang up whatever spy writers would hang up. tied in a ribbon. i happen to know he writes longhand. >> glor: does he really? >> he's old school.
>> glor: how about that. >> much to my delight, not only had me equaled-- he found a subject that was equal to the incredibly high stakes of the cold war. he had actually found something, if, any exceeded those stakes because the international arms trade is a truly dark and-- these are dark and complicated waters. >> glor: he changed with the times. you also had to change with the times to update this story for modern times, and it begins in-- in cairo, egypt, just a few years ago. but you have been trying to bring this particular novel to some sort of screen forever. >> i have, i have. i read it-- i read it as soon as it came out. i read all his books as soon as they came out. it was probably, literally warm, as i held it. and i was-- i remember it very clearly. i got to the end of chapter 3, and i called my agent, and i said, "i would like to option this book." not really knowing-- in fact i still don't know to this day--
what that means. >> glor: i don't know what that means. >> i knew it was something that grown-ups did. i have never done it since. and already i was-- even though i had probably one of the first copies, i was already too slow and the great sidney pollack had already optioned it and had it, i think, for 15 years, and the script was written by the the great robert town but no film was forthcoming. i thought this was a story i so desperately wanted to see on the screen. , i did, of course, i had the temermt to imagine myself in the role of the night. >> glor: in your younger days. >> yes. the world turns and hair falls out. >> glor: laurie, always youthful. >> thank you, thank you. >> glor: so town wrote the script for a movie. >> movie. >> glor: based on it, not this, not the tv series. >> that's right. he wrote a movie, and then i think he made some rather odd public declaration that john le carre was not filmable.
and that didn't go down too well with the great man. >> glor: not the only person who feels that way, i would assume. it's tough to translate, is it not? >> i suppose it is. i mean, he tends to write-- he's writing thought rather than deed a lot of the time. there isn't a lot of-- in what we think of as a sort of prototypical le le carre story, there aren't necessarily a lot of car chases. not much blows up. it's all up here. stuff blows up, up here. although, we do actually have our share of that. we probably blow more stuff up than all the other ones combined. we're quite a combustible pyrotechnic show. it's about ordinance. it's about explosive materiel, and we do blow stuff up. >> glor: but it's a deliberative, contemplative show, compared to much of the television you see today. >> i would say so, yes.
it's adult. it's literate. these are smart characters maneuvering for positions of power to dominate each other through wit and strategy rather than physical muscle and firepower. and so in that sense, i suppose it is more contemplative than average blockbuster, but then the average blockbuster accelerate to the point it no longer obeys the laws of physics. they can't even bear to have something fall at a natural rate. has to have an accelerated -- gravity works fastener movies than real life. >> glor: you won't be in the next "transformers." >> that's pretty much my way of declaring that, yes. >> glor: you initially wanted to play jonathan pine, who is the hero in the-- in the novel, and in the tv series. >> yeah. >> glor: youinded up playing the, ended up playing the villain richard roper. so richard roper is. >> richard roper is-- well a man
of advanced years, obviously. >> glor: stop it! stop it! >> it was just odd for me to stand there and watch this virile young stud crush my dreams in the pawsm his hands. never mind. yes, richard roper is a well-born, well-educated, well-connected englishman of a certain-- how can i put it-- of a certain tribe who has been given every possible, imaginable privilege of modern living. i mean, there is no more sect who are more blessed than this-- than the one from which this character comes. and yet, his response to these blessings, the way he acknowledges the incredible gifts he's been given is with cynicism. i think that is probably his greatest crime, sort of cosmic crime. he is actually described in the novel and, also, in the story as
the worst man in the world. of course, there are lots of competitors for that role these days walking the streets, probably not far from here. but i think what distinguishes roper is that-- is his cynicism. i think he has had this extraordinarily good fortune, these extraordinary blessings, and his response is simply, "how can i have sport with this? how can i-- how can i wring every last ounce of fun out of my spear year position, my impregnable position." >> glor: so does that get into your head? >> already there, thrrd there, that's how i roll. that's why they chose me. where else were they going to go? no it, doesn't, of course, you're obliged as part of the process to try and identify what it is-- the way in which the character rationalizes, because most people do, unless they're
psychopaths. they tend to justify why they do what they do. and they've got to find a way of falling asleep at night, and he's certainly done that. and his way of doing it is it's cruel and it's heartless, but i suppose to himself, he imagines it's cruel and heartless because it's a cruel and heartless universe. and i'm doing what most people don't dare to do and simply acknowledging that. >> glor: richard roper is the villain but thinks he's the hero. >> in a sense, yes. >> glor: some version of a hero. >> some version of that. except there is another fascinating dynamic. we only started to talk about halfway through the making of the show, which sat the same time, he knows he's wrong. he knows he's a damned soul. and i think possibly he might even be, in his rather weird-- there may even be a christ analogy here-- that he actually knows he's going to be betrayed
and engineers his own betrayal. >> glor: because he knows he deserves it. >> at some level i think he might. i think he might. >> glor: you're ep'ing this show as well with, or executive producer credit. >> i am, for whatever that's worth. >> glor: because you love the novel and know the material. >> i'm not sure i approve of actors getting these credits that extend beyond. >> glor: some of them are pretty extensive, are they not? >> it's like getting the order of lennon. you stick it in a drawer. i don't know what you're supposed to do with it. the truth is, i meddle, i'm a meddler, lacking confidence in my ability to do my own job, i meddle in other people's. i do that whether i'm an executive producer or not. >> glor: you meddled on the set here. >> i did. i always do. >> glor: in what way. >> "is that the best way? wouldn't it be better to be over here? shouldn't we go faster? wouldn't it be better to be standing? are you sure you want to wear that shirt?"
i mean, at any level, i am a complete pain in the ass. >> glor: i appreciate it. but what-- and the reaction ranges depending on who you're dealing with with, right? >> yes. yes, it does. and some people quite properly resist it. i must say, i don't-- i mean, i won't commit in return. i think it's good to have one's-- whatever instinct you have for the way something ought to be done or the way it ought to be staged, it's good to have that tested sometimes and actually think, wait a minute. why-- why did i imagine that this whole scene was underwater? because it's certainly not written underwater. that was a silly example. there is no scene underwater. but it's good to have that challenge, and to be forced to say, "oh, i know why it is. i know why this is better." and as often as not, maybe more often, to say, "you know,
actually, you're right. you're right. let's go with your idea," which, by the way, i also do. >> glor: do you think you've gotten better at commenting, at critiquing? >> you mean sparing people's feelings? >> glor: yes. >> i don't think-- i go-- i go quite-- i will go crosscountry a uld never come out and say,- i "just do it faster." or-- no, no, i go to a lot of-- i expend a lot of energy trying to make it-- make it seem like it's someone else's idea. in fact, it's amazing how often you can actually say, "oh, by the way, i love that idea you had about, you know, we should do this--." >> glor: underwater. >> underwater. and it's amazing how often you can get people to go, "did i? okay, great" ey thought of something.that you know, hypnotists and mentalists will tell you-- psychologists will tell you.
>> glor: is that happening right now? i'm wondering what's going on. >> you'll never know where are. >> glor: speak of crosscountry, you didn't have to go crosscountry, as when you filmed "house" which i know was at times a frustration for you and would be for anyone the amount of travel involved. but this particular series, it wasn't the same-- >> no, it was much more-- it was much more contained. it's six shows, and that basically tells the story of noel and in those six shows we get from beginning to end. so it is-- it is very contained. the-- but then against that is the fact that i have dreamt of this, doing this story for 20-odd years, so the anxiety that comes with dealing with something precious-- not to say "house" wasn't precious. it was. i mean, incredibly so. those scriptes were absolutely gems, but they were gems i didn't know about until eye get the script on a tuesday and we're shooting it on a wednesday. so there's no time to anticipate
and get anxious. with this, i've had 23 years of, "it's coming, it's come, it's coming." and finally somebody hands you the fab jay egg, and, "please, let's not drop it." >> glor: "house "is a gruff character, to say the least. "the night manager" is a villainous character. "veep"is a comedic job? interestingly, because american audiences came to know you as "house." and then they saw you in "veep" and you have a wealth of comedic experience. wean this, but many people didn't. was that a necessary transition for you, a necessary role for you to introduce that side of yourself to-- >> wow. i mean, i wish i could say i ever thought about any acting role with that sort of sophistication. honestly, what it was, was pure selfishness. i love watching "veep." the chance came to actually
watch it even closer-- that is to say, physically be there. that's hd-plus. it's like extra hd, ultrahd. >> glor: 4"k." >> 4"k," and 3 "d." there i was watching-- i can't say the best cast in television. i'm now obliged to say the second-best cast on television. certainly, a truly extraordinary collection of people doing something as wella anyone's ever done anything. i honestly think that julia louis-dreyfus is one of the marvels of our time. and to actually be up close and watch her process, because, of course, when you see the show, you see whatever it is 27, 8 minutes of, you know, parred down storytelling. what i was able to see, what people who worked on the show were able to see is hour upon hour of absolutely sublime improvisation. >> glor: and how much of that
makes the final product? >> well, it's pretty harsh. it's pretty harsh. there is a lot of-- i suppose at some point they release-- you know, you will be able to see some of the that stuff in the form of, you know, extra material. but even just in rehearsals, i saw things-- i saw her do things that i would have cheerfully paid 500 bucks to sit on broadway and watch her do that and nothing else. given noct-- she's given a glass of water and the thrust of the scene s, you're angry, go." that means literally, literally that. and i believe she could entrance an audience for an hour just on anger and a glass of water. does this sound like i'm slightly besotted? i am, as is everybody who works on the show. she's leader of the. >> glor: that's great. >> she's leader of the administration but also leader of the show. and it's a wonderful thing to watch. >> glor: that's the improvisational training. that's-- or that's just her
natural character. >> i don't know. i don't know. it's an interesting thing. she's-- because what is-- what is talent? is it-- is it something that she was just born being able to do? or is it something-- was it an appetite she was worn with that she then applied herself to for years and years and years in many, many different areas where many, many great, great creators? i don't know what it is. but either way the combination is astounding to watch. >> glor: when talent meets circumstance it's a good thing. >> right. >> glor: if you had to pick, comedy or drama? >> wow, i don't know. i don't think of them-- i don't think of them as being-- displf as being different? >> no, i don't. >> glor: as being-- >> i mean, i thought, in my mind, i thought "house" was a very funny show. and i thought-- there were times when i thought this is actually funnier than anything else that i've seen or been involved in. i think this is just brilliantly
written stuff. but it could also turn on a dime into something absolutely shocking or heart-wrenching. it's nimbleness. it's quickness of-- change of tone was extraordinary. i don't know. i think they all-- i think they all come from one place. you know, there's a-- storytellers and actors are trying to represent something that is real and life is really tragic and really comic at the same time. you know, i think both things-- that's the sort of miracle of our species, really, is we deal with tragedy with jokes, and we sometimes find great sadness at the same time. it's-- we're a very odd-- we're an odd species. i don't know, maybe it's the same with dolphins. i don't know them well enough. >> glor: maybe the first time dolphins and humans have been compared at this particular
table. >> you're welcome. >> glor: congratulations. >> thank you. >> glor: the end of this year you have "chance" which is on hulu. >> yes. >> glor: another doctor for you. >> yes. technically he is a doctor. >> glor: a shrink. >> but he's a shrink. here's a neuropsychiatrist. and yes, i suppose for about a page and a half, reading the first-- the first time i read the script, i thought, well, that's a shame. i'm not going to be able to do this because it's a doctor. >> glor: because of "house." >> because of "house." and a payment after that i'd completely forgotten. it is such-- it is such a different world, such a different attitude, such a different tone they actually forgot. and i hope-- i could be wrong-- but i hope that the audience would be able to do the same. i don't mean to forget "house" but at least not have it cloud the story we're telling. >> glor: so "the night manager" is six episodes. the chance is now two-season commitment? >> it's a series, yes. yeah, i don't know.
i mean, that's what they say. but-- we've got to get it right you know. they're not going to just let us, "oh, sure. do whatever you want for two years. it's yours. let it run to rack and ruin." >> glor: you started taping? >> no we start a week from now. it's set in san francisco and we'll shoot in san francisco. >> glor: and he is a conflicted, tortured-- >> we've got an idea for a tv show. >> glor: older. >> we it's about someone who is not conflicted. that's a tough pitch. of course, he's conflicted. >> glor: about? >> and, of course, he is older. well, he is-- it becomes a sort of obsessive tale about the relationship between the healer and one of his patients. it has-- many people who read the novel, a great novel by cam nunn, made reference to the wonderful film "vertigo," james stuart. it has something-- which is
also, of course, set in san francisco. it has something of the same obsessive, slightly unsettling yoyousettlenoirish quality. so far, as we've not shot a single frame of it, is perfect and shows great promise. as soon as we start, if i were to talk to you in the middle of the next week, "it's a disaster. i've messed it up." >> glor: but it is "the night manager" and the wonderful, youthful hugh laurie. starring in it. hughuthank you so much. >> thank you, thanks very much. >> we're going to do exactly what this gentleman wants us to do and everything is going to be fine. >> you're a rich man. >> yes, i'm a rich man. i'm going to give you all the money we have, wallets, jewelry, we'll give you everything in the restaurant till and then you'll leave, right. george, check the till, please.
>> no alarms. >> no alarms, george. slowly. everybody stay very, very calm. just keep look at me. >> back off! back off! >> abbey, abbey, step back. >> he's your boy. >> yes, he's my boy. >> glor: good evening, i'm jeff glor of cbs news filling in for charlie rose who is on assignment. jacob weisberg is here. he is chairman and editor in chief of the slate group, which schdz "slate" magazine and panoply. his latest book is ronald reagan. the biography claims he remains profoundly misunderstood politically and personally. it was called "one of the best books on american politics i have read in years." jacob weisberg, welcome. >> thank you, jeff. >> glor: misunderstood politically and personally by both sides of the aisle. >> i think so, i think so. and we could go into it.
on the right, i think reagan is misunderstood as someone who was-- had very fixed principles and always lived by his principles. i think reagan's success as a politician was based very largely on how prag make the he was, how open to compromise. he once said when he was governor of california if he could get 70% of what he wanted from a legislature of the opposite party, he'd take it. and, you know, i think at this moment when politics is so polarized, it's interesting to look back on the reagan era as a time when the president was really ready to work with congress, and even though there was a lot of political conflict about all sorts of big issues, there was an assumption that on important things, there was going to have to be a compromise. >> glor: 70%, and that stayed in effect when he was in the oval office, you believe. >> well, this was something he said when he was governor of california, but he had a similar dime and i can that it was a democratic legislature in sacramento, and them he was dealing with a democratic congress when he was elected president and got his economic program through a congress that
he did not control, and he did it partly by compromising, partly by charming people. and partly by winning over the public and using the public as leverage in relation to congress. >> glor: so more of a compromiser than people believe or at least those with who might co-opt his message might tell you. >> yes. that's one important part of it. another is there was a gap between what reagan did and what he thought he was doing in many cases on domestic. for example, reagan left the government in california twice twiceas big as he found it. he felt-- he left the federal government no smaller than he found it. tax rates were reduced, but the overall tax burden was not. and, you know, i think reagan often had a somewhat distorting lens viewing his own accomplishments, what really happened, what didn't happen. and very often the people around him bought into the idea that he
had transformed the federal government. and, really, he didn't. reagan didn't eliminate a single federal agency. he didn't reduce federal spending overall. he left a very large deficit-- a very mixed legacy, i think, as domestic policy figure, as an economic leader, as opposed to his foreign policy legacy which i rate somewhat more highly. but there's that gap between what they think he did and what he really did. >> glor: you call him the second most important president of the 20th century after f.d.r., why. >> it's a long way down from f.d.r., who overcame the depression and won the second world war. reagan has no accomplishment on that scale. but in-- in international policy, i think reagan was a pivotal figure in the peaceful conclusion of the cold war. and i don't think that was an accident, and i do think he played a role beyond the role that another president might have played in relation to gorbachev and what was happening in the soviet union.
>> glor: "pivotal figure. >> you have to say gorbachev was the pivotal figure. gorbachev initiated the changes. the difference was gorbachev wanted to reform communism. and reagan wanted to destroy communism. he had a key insight based on an pliks of common sense to situation where's people didn't always use a lot of common sense. and, you know, he thought communism was ridiculous. he felt he had dealt with communists in hollywood, and he thought they were kind of stupid, and he thought they weren't that hard to defeat. and he thought nobody would choose to live under communism, that people in the soviet union merely needed to be exposed to the way people lived in the united states to want to reject it. so he had this idea that communism could collapse if d i think in a lot of ways he created pressures that made that more likely and made it happen sooner. and the biggest one was the big
pivot between his first and second term. this is another place where i think there's a lot of conservative mythology in ron reagan. the second term wasn't the culmination of the first term in relation to the soviets. it was the row piewdation of. in the first term he had a huge military buildup, no negotiations, no talk about disarmament. and in the second term, that didn't work for him. he wanted to have-- he wanted to make the world safer. he wanted to reduce the nuclear threat, and because of what he'd done in the first term, hadn't been successful, he pivoted, became the most radical advocate of disarmament there was, argued for complete elimination of nuclear weapons, supported gorbachev, and basically flummoxed everybody around him because they didn't know where it was coming from. but i think that change is what really made-- enabled gorbachev to do what he did. >> glor: not the first pivot ronald reagan ever made. he transformed himself
politically long before that. >> and that is one of the things, jeff, that i think is so understudied and so underappreciated, partly because it's very poorly documented in relation to his hollywood career before and his political career after. but he spent these years working for general elect in the 1950s, when he was both the host of this weekly television program, "g.e. playhouse" that he stipes acted in, but always introduced the show, but also was the internal spokesman for g.e. he would go around to all their different facility where's they made jet turbines and light bulbs and all the different things a huge conglomerate did. and really it was in that for the period of about eight years that he goes from being a liberal democrat who supported truman and at some point thought about running for office as a democrat to being so conservative, that g.e. didn't really want to have him as the spokesman anymore. but also, you know he was to the
right of barry goldwater, quite literally, and was the chief spokesman for one of the most important spokesmen for goldwater's '64 presidential campaign. >> glor: i've always been fascinated by reagan's writing which i think sometimes doesn't get as much attention as some believe it needs to, whether it's the journals, whether it's a policy position he might take, what did you learn looking at that? >> i'm glad to hear you say that because one of the ways i really related to reagan was when i discovered, working on the book, that he was a real writer. he wrote every day of his life. he wrote letters. >> glor: extensively. >> extensively. and his writing is interesting. and he's a good writer. sometimes joke if he was around i would give him a column as the house conservative in "the slate." he was persuasive-- his early training was as a radio announcer, and he often said that he wrote for the ear not for the eye. so the way he wrote was for his-- to be read out loud
himself, either to an audience or the radio. in a way, i think the most interesting writings of his are these radio commentaries that he did between the 1976 campaign, when he narrowly lost to gerald ford, and 1980, when he ran again. during that period, cbs offered him this slot doing commentary on the evening news, which would have been the most powerful slot in political commonitary. he turned it down. he said, "i want to do radio commentaries instead," and started picking up stations for these short essays he would do every day. and it's where he developed his ideology and where he practiced that particular kind of writing. >> glor: is that what he retreated into. there's the emotional distance that you talked about with reagan that he cultivate first ild and then used later as a an-- in your words-- a weapon. he went to the writing to find himself, to sort of cultivate that distance. >> i think that's part of it.
and anybody-- you know, reagan has been accused of having no interior life which i think is sort of an absurdity. you can't be a writer and not have an interior life. he wasn't often writing about himself and his feelings and he often kept them to a distance. i think this gets to the psychological enigma of ronald reagan. nobody felt close to him. nobody felt they understood him. even his children, they felt like there was this wall they couldn't get through. nancy reagan was the one person who was probably truly close to him, other than his mother. and i think it does come out of this difficult childhood he had. you know, reagan grew up-- he lived in 10 different homes fore he was 10 years old. his father was an alcoholic and dragged the family around from pillar to post, these towns in western ill noto chicago, get arrested, go back. and they were poor. it was a miserable childhood. reagan used his imagination to transform it into this idyllic tom sawyer boyhood.
>> glor: it wasn't the lack of an interior life. it was the cultivation of a-- sort of a lack of an exterior attachment to many that-- that helped him, by keeping that circle of friends and advisers very, very, very small? >> well, i think when you grow up in that way, not being able to-- where the reality around you being very unpleasant and difficult and your family life beg brutal in the way his was, i think one of the coping mechanisms is a kind of disassociation where you tune certain things out, don't see things that aren't pleasant, don't hear them, and use your imagination. this comes back to the writing because i think writing is one of the ways you escape from a reality that is unhappy. but the way he would create his own imaginative reality. reagan was also attacked, and rightly so, for making up stories. he told himself stories and he believed those stories and it was part of how he avoided
dealing with things that he couldn't cope with. >> glor: you call it a willed blurriness. >> yeah. >> glor: what does that mean? >> well, part of it is physiological. he had very poor eyesight growing up. and his hearing went bad when he was making one of his dering-do bankroft movies in hollywood when the late 1930s when someone fired a blank near his ear and he basically couldn't hear out of one ear and as he got older those things got worse. he didn't see that well. he didn't hear that well. but i think he also chose to tune certain things outs. and i think that turned into a chiend of functional behavior, if you will. in politics, if you can convincingly ignore certain things, it's a skill. it's an asset. and because he had this detached, slightly out of it, can't quite understand him quality, he used that to good effect. and one of the interesting questions now is at what point did his alzheimer's kick in?
and at what point did whatever chosenness about that blirness become again a physical artifact. >> glor: it was fascinating as well to hear the stories again about nancy after she just passed away, and the role that she played in not just the reagan white house but ronald reagan's life. what was she for him? >> well, i think she was just absolutely crucial figure. it's a great love story. she really was-- i mean, he doted on her in this way that she would be away from the white house for a night he would be writing mooning love letters. and sealed only really unhappy when she wasn't there. but she, partly having that emotional stability enabled him to do the things heaped to do in politics. but maybe equally important, she looked out for his interests in a way he didn't awn didn't. she thought he was naive, guileless. people would take advantage of
him. and she was sort of, you know, enforcer in a way who was sort of willing to do things reagan wouldn't do, but push him to do the things he didn't want to do as a conflict-averse person when he needed to fire somebody, when he need to make a hard decision he was avoiding. >> glor: who did it, him or her? >> usually, she pushed him to do it. but he didn't always do what she wanted him to do. she didn't want him to run for reelection in 1984. she was really-- after the assassination attempt in 1981, it really, she was-- it had a terrible effect on her, and she thought-- that's when she turned to astrology and started consulting the stars whether he should appear here and not appear here. and she just became paranoid. you can't even say paranoid. she was just worried that he was going to be shot again and killed and she wanted him to go home to california. and he didn't make that decision. but then, you know, by 1987, when the alzheimer's, again, is probably having some effect, he would not fire don ailed regan, who was his chief of staff, who
nancy very much blamed for letting iran-contra happen to him. and at some point, reagan wouldn't do it, and nancy leaped the name of his successor to the "washington post" and it was a sort of unser moans departure. i think she was capable of actually going around him if she felt strongly enough. >> glor: she played that game. he did or did not? >> well, i think ronald reagan was conflict-averse in a way i certainly relate to. i'm sure you do. firing people is a horrible thing to do. people who had been loyal to him. he just department want-- he didn't want to do hard things. and sometimes hard things had to be done and she would push him to do them. >> rose: did he let her in? >> it was interesting. there was one line, "i'm closerr than anybody to him, but there's a wall i run into." that was the enigma to ronald
reagan. the wrong way to read that is, "is there is nothing there." but there is an interior life that ronald reagan had that probably we will never have access to. because if he didn't share it with nancy, he didn't share it with anyone. whatever the thoughts in his head were, that you can only project. >> glor: what would ronald reagan make of the current political season? >> i think you would have to say he'd be appalled what happened to his republican party, the positive aspects of reaganism. >> glor: but they venerate him. there's still an enormous amount of reagan discussion on the trail. candidates who are still around or not. >> the first debate i think ronald reagan was invoked 42 times, and god was only invoked 13 times, which gives you a sense of hierarchy inside the republican party. but i think they-- i think they venerate him because of his, is but they don't necessarily follow his example very closely, either, in terms of his specific ideas or his manner.
>> glor: why do you think he would be appalled by what is taking place right now? >> for two reasons. first of all, because reagan believed the republican party should be inclusive. he was proimmigration. the term "amnesty" comes from ronald reagan. he used it to describe his policy in positive terms. but he wanted to-- he wanted to widen the party's appeal, bring people in. and he really rejected the idea of any kind of nativism, zen phobia. and, you know, i think the party's policies are sort of antithetical. trump is the most extreme example, but there is now, really in some ways for the first time air, kind of open bigotry in the republican party, which reagan strongly rejected, even though many people would argue that his appeal to the reagan democrats and to blue collar workers, to a lot of former democrats was, you know, based in part on certain racial assumptions, coded racism. there's a fair argument there.
but he didn't think that was what he was doing and really it hasn't been explicit in the republican party until now. >> glor: who would he vote for? >> hard to say. you look at ronald reagan as someone who supported amnesto imgration, who sumentd handgun control on the brady bill, and he did more-- although he later regretted it-- to make abortion legal in the years before "roe v. wade," because he essentially signed a bill in california saying a woman's doctor could give her permission to have an abortion. you think about that person running in the republican party, he doesn't get past iowa. but the other way-- and i think this is bigger than the policy gap that has grown up-- is the temperamental one. reagan had genuine humility. he knew his limitations. it wasn't just an act with him. that's very rare in politics. you summer don't see it from ted cruz, let alone-- i mean, trump
who you can only really talk about in terms of some-- what level of narcissistic personality disorder. reagan was kind to people. he had a genuine sense of humor. he was a nice person. you know, he was personally generous. and when you spend time reading his letters, when you write a biography, you're sort of living with the person a little bit. you can think whatever you want about reagan, but he's hard not to like. and, boy, that's the opposite of ted cruz, who it's hard to find anyone in the world who will admit they like ted cruz. >> glor: those lindsey graeme comments keep cropping up. you're doing the trump-cast, the podcast. no lack of material for you for the last self months now, a year-- whatever it is. are things changing a little bit right now? >> well, a week ago i definitely thought it was turning a little
bit. i think it is. i think if trump doesn't get 1237 delegates going into the convention he's very unlikely to be the nominee. after the first ballot, many of the delegates committed to him are going to peel away and something else happen. it doesn't look like the numbers are pointed to him getting 1237. i also think the party's rational self-interest will kick in at some point and there is just-- the powerful factions in the party that don't recognize it will be a disaster to nominate him. on the other hand, i don't know what-- trump has exposed a gap between what the leadership of the party thinks and what a huge segment of the people who vote republican think on trade, on immigration, on the size of government. trump supporters don't want their social security and medicare cut. they don't necessarily favor big tax cuts for the rich. i mean, his appeal is much more an appeal to working class that's suffered from economic
transition from globalization and so on. and so i don't see those people falling back into line. and even if trump is not the nominee-- and my bet is that he won't be-- i don't think the party can just heal that breach. >> glor: paul rain said he doesn't want it, won't take it, so you're talking about john kasich or ted cruz or the mystery candidate. >> or jeb bush or marco rubio or mitt romney. at some point after the second ballot, third ballot, if nobody has a majority it is-- we haven't seen had since-- 1976 with reagan and ford was the last contested convention, but that didn't get past the first ballot. we don't really have a modern press department for what is going to happen in cleveland. >> glor: was there a candidate or is there a candidate who is in some ways reaganesque. >> temperamentally rubio. when you look at the early field. rubio had-- they all play this game of, you know, reaganite
optimism, but rubio, i thought temperamentally, was in the ballpark. >> glor: are you surprised at what happened to him? >> yeah, i was. because i thought-- he was the strongest candidate the republicans had. >> glor: the establishment had. >> i think he had-- of the people running, you of i thought he had the highest propensity to defeat hillary clinton. and i think there was evidence to support that in the polls. and he was doing really well for a while. he had one debate where he was disastrous, but in most of the other debates he was very good. and, you know, you can see he's young. he'sula 10o. you could see the party coalescing around this kind of figure. and trump killed him. i mean, he kind of flamed out by reacting to donald trump. and, you know, he tried to play trump's game, and nobody other than trump plays trump's game of, you know, trading insults. and, boy, he just went-- he went down so fast after that happened. it was a real object lesson. >> glor: what's next for him?
>> rubio? he's not relinquishing his delegates. we'll see what happens at the convention. i don't think his-- his name has not been mentioned by the great mentioner as a possibility. given that he was defeated so badly when he was. but i think he has-- i think he has a future in republican politics. i don't think there's anything that happened to him that precludes him from running next time or being a running mate. even trump mentioned him. rubio disavowed it, but trump mentioned him as a possible running mate. >> glor: so this could be the most interesting convention since reagan and ford in '76. >> yes. >> glor: potentially more dramatic. >> i think we have no model for this. because since the parties sort of reformed themselves to make the selection of the nominee more democratic and driven by the primaries with some modification, it's been every year the political reporter's dream of a brokered convention or contested convention. it doesn't happen. this year it sure looks like
it's going to happen and it's going to be-- it's going to depend very heavily on the rules committee and the credential committee and all this minutia of politics that nobody but the real nerds like me pay attention to is going to matter this time. and the rules of the convention will determine who the nominee is. and the rules-- you know, there are some interesting-- there are some interesting quirks to how it rules. there are new rules at every convention. the rules are set at the convention. and the people-- delegates who are bound on the first ballot around what candidate they vote for are not bound on the rules vote. so if the rules committee decides we have to stop trump, let's pass a rule that does more to liberate delegates to vote for who they want, the delegates who are bound to support trump but don't like him anymore or never did like him can vote for that rule. it's going to be, it's going to be complicated, interesting. one of the things-- the worst place to understand it may be
standing on the floor of the convention. >> glor: and so the future of the g.o.p. is then decided in large part based on what happens at that convention, or after the election. laying all this groundwork saying "if i don't get the nomination it's because i was cheated out of it." because trump his kind of ego and narcissism doesn't support the idea he could lose a fair fight. if he lost, it was by definition, an unfair fight. i just don't think you put that humpty dumpy back together. i think there is a nationalist, nativist trump wing of party and if he's not leading it, somebody cels. and it could be a faction inside the party or it could be a separate party that laefsz the republican party or it could take over the whole republican party. but when you look at how much--
people who think those things have in common, with, say, a jeb bush or mitt romney or even a marco rubio, it's minimal. i don't think those people go on in the same party for very long. >> glor: three parties? >> we've had third parties in america. no third party has replaced one of the major. >> glor: strong, powerful, very impactful parties. >> who knows? i think it could be something me like a george wallace or a strom thurmond. i think there are third parties that break off and the richard hofstadter, the famous american historian, his great line is, "third parties are like bees in american politics-- they sting and then they die." so they have their impact. they don't have their impact by winning elections. they have their impact by pulling the major parties in their direction glch i was talking about one. >> glor: i was talking about one that exists for some time and i don't know whether you see that scenario potentially playing out, beyond this
election, whether it's trump leading it or somebody else. >> it's really hard to say. but i go back to the point of the gap he has exposed. you have the republican establishment or the republican leadership-- whatever you want to call it-- getting a lot of people to vote against their own interest and against their own beliefs, working people whose interests are not aligned with tax cuts for the rich, in shrinking entitlements, government programs-- all the things paul ryan talks about. these people don't support, but they vote for republican. and somehow, they kind of-- you know, the genius of ronald reagan, right, was to bring everybody under this big tent and somehow bridge that gap. i think it's no longer bridgeable. what form that takes, whether that's a third party, fighting within the party, the party tearing itself apart, i don't know, but i think we're in a different world politically at the end of this election cycle than we were at the beginning. >> glor: is there anybody who
can bridge that gap on either side of the aisle. >> on the democratic party it's different. i feel parties have trade places. when i first started writing about politics in the 1980s, the kind of cliche was-- and this was very much about reagan-- that the republican party looked for converts and the democratic party looks for her ticks. and that was true in the democratic convention in 1984. i mean, if you sort of stray from the union line, the party's line on a lot of issues, you were the-- you know, the parties were more interested in villifying you than in winning the november election. somehow clinton, trying to emulate what ronald reagan had done on the right, got it together for the campaigns. they all agreed around a person and they were able to compromise around policies in the interest of winning. the democrats, i think, are still doing that. they're vague primary fight but i don't think it's a fight to the death. i don't think it's a fight for the heart and soul of the party. i think democrats recognize the value of winning in a way that the republicans used to under
ronald reagan, and the republicans now are more about their internal conflict than they are settling for part of what they want as opposed to getting none of it. >> glor: but does that internal cop flict get resolved this year or it lingers on? >> i can't see how it can be resolved this year. it's a deep-- it's a deep cleavage that's been festering fair long time and is now being exposed. and i don't think that kind of thing, that kind of conflict gets neatly wrapped up. the way it does verily get wrapped up is partly by people moderating their positions, but it's partly around a person. when you have a ronald reagan show up, all the people who were fighting in the republican party about whether we should have detawpt. whether we should be trying to repeal medicare or leave medicare alone. they all say, well, we don't agree about those issues but we all agree about this guy ronald reagan. we really like him.
and part of it is reagan's ability to convince all those people they're going to get something out of his presidency, even if they're not going to get everything they want. and those are the politicians who are transformational within parties because they-- they can do that. and you know bill clinton in 1992 was very much a case study in this. the peep who were pro-free trade agreements and people who were anti-them, didn't quite know what bill clinton was going to do when he got in office but he brought them all along and he got them to live with his decision when he came out for nafta and supported deficit reduction instead of bigger stimulus spending. that's political talent. and who has that on the republican priet now to do that potentially? i don't see anyone. >> glor: paul ryan? >> well, paul ryan is-- i think he is too identified with a set
of views. personally, i think he does have the kinds of right qualities to do that. people get along with him. he's kind of a consensus figure pup know, the job of speaker of the house, which is a job nobody can succeed at, where you immediately start being head hunted by everybody siewns get it. he is the only person who could be a compromise fig tower take the job, and so far, he's done all right in the job. so personally, yes. but paul ryan is so identified, i think, with libertarian politics and minimalist government and with tax cutting, that i think his ideological appeal to the trump wing of the party-- we call it that now-- is not going to be there. they might like him, but i don't think they're going to support him. >> glor: what would ronald reagan make of paul ryan? >> i think ryan is someone who very consciously models himself on reagan. the interesting thing, i think if ryan was not operating in the context of today's republican
party where you can't really be for immigration, you know, you can't be for a set of rational policies around drugs-- i think his views would be much more like reagan's. i read him as a kind of reagan conservative, government minimalist, semilibertarian, wants to cut back the state. i don't think hose policies make any sense, by the way, and i don't think his numbers add up any more than ronald reagan's did. in fact i think they add up a little less. but i think his views are very much reagan conservative views. >> glor: with the same ambition reagan had. >> well, he is young and ambitious. it's hard to say. reagan started in politics very late. he was already in his 50 whe bee he got involved in it. ryan started much younger. he's biding his time. but what's interesting about ryan to me as a politician is, again, you know, putting aside some of the criticism i would make about his views and wanting
things on the economic side that are actually impossible because the numbers don't add up, he's a principle-driven politician. >> glor: as part of the american president series the book is called "ronald reagan." jacob weisberg is the author. thank you very much. >> thank you, jeff. >> glor: thank you for joining us. we'll see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
this is "nightly business report" with tyler mathisen and sue herera. >> gaining steam. stocks hit new highs for the year and for that, you can thank this year's worst performing sector. disrupting cancer. a tech billionaire who changed the music industry and was at the forefront of social media, wants to reinvent the way research is done and he has a plan and the money to do it. what's disgusting? >> 40,000 verizon workers walk off the job and the strike is leading to a war of words between a presidential candidate and the company's ceo. all that and more tonight on "nightly business report for wednesday april 13th. good evening, everyone. i'm sue herera. tyler mathisen is off