tv Charlie Rose PBS October 25, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> welcome to the program. we begin tonight with politics and senator jeff flake's announcement he will not seek reelection in 2018. >> two senators corker and flake both decided not to run for election next year. the issue would have amounted to a blaring alarm. >> rose: continue with jennet conant, her biography of her grandfather james b. conent is called "man of the hour." >> my grandfather believed our only hope for civilization was diplomacy and deescalating tensions, not escalating tensions. living in the shadow of the bomb, we had no choice but to go forward and try and control it. >> rose: we conclude with marvin kalb, his memoir is
called "the year i was peter the great: 1956 - khrushchev, stalin's ghost, and a young american in russia." >> he held on to the leaders of the communist world and to the leaders within the soviet union and he said you and i have to have another talk, and they met after midnight, and khrushchev went on for four hours and, for the first time, attacked joseph stalin, the man about whom you could only say great and wonderful things because if you went the other way you wouldn't survive. >> rose: costa, conant and kalb when we continue. +++ath0 >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: several prominent republicans have begun to speak out about president trump. today senator jeff flake a long-time critic of the president announced he will not run for reelection in 018. in an appearance on cbs this morning bob corker said the president was dividing the nation. >> i guess like all americans, i would have hope that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation, charlie. hopefully what presidents do is try to bring the country together, to unify around common goals and not to debase our country, if you will. >> rose: in a tweet president trump called senator corker incompetent and a light weight. last week senator mccain said this -- >> we live in a land made of
ideals, not blood and soil. we are the custodians of those ideals at home and their champion abroad. we've done great good in the world. that leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. we have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. >> rose: then former president george w. bush, without mentioning the president, said this -- >> we've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynomism immigration always brought to america. we see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. >> rose: all this after president trump met with senate republicans to discuss his tax reform agenda. joining me is robert costa of
"the washington post" and washington week on pbs. bob, explain to me what is going on in washington within the republican party as you've seen these people especially jeff flake today announcing on the senate floor he will not run again for reelection knowing he would not have the support of the president? >> what a moment today here in washington, charlie, to watch two republican senators but, as you said, especially senator flake who gave this emotional address on the senate floor, two senators corker and flake both decided not to run for reelection next year. the issue would have amounted to a blaring alarm for the political establishment, for their own party and for the country, and that latter aspect is important to note because this is not just about the republican civil war. what you now have are veteran republican senators who have influence in the chamber, speaking out about the future of the country, calling president trump their own party's president dangerous, a threat to national norms and
institutions, his conduct unbecoming, the list goes on anden. >> rose: and questioning his truthfulness. >> and questioning his truthfulness, charlie. it was a question of character today in congress. >> rose: so what's going to be the outcome of all this? you have, at the same time, steve bannon saying he's going to challenge people in the primaries. the president has important legislation which these senators who said they're not going to run for reelection, therefore they're free to say and do and vote their conscious. >> there will be many consequences on capitol hill. this throws a wrench into what's going on. the party's trying to get tax cuts through. they don't have a bill. they're trying to have a consensus on framework. the president went to lunch, tried to make the pitch. an hour later flake makes a bombshell of a speech and the states across the country where there are republican pray mares in the senate will have an
effect. >> in nevada where dean heller is facing a challenger, in tennessee a wake in the wake of corker's decision. in mississippi, an ally leader of mitch mcconnell, is likely to face a challenge from a bannon-backed candidate. >> rose: another case where he said -- the president said he'll support senator wicker. >> and senator barrasso of wyoming and fisher of nebraska. does the president have the political capital and standing to pull them over the finish line? he wasn't able to do it with senator luther strange in alabama beaten by judge moore. >> rose: is flake simply a senator from a political family saying i've had enough? >> it was. it was also a culmination of a year of criticism, of withering
critiques from senator flake. he wrote a book called the conscience of a conservative which buzz about going against president trump's nationalist ideology. you see a totem of traditional conservatism. began in a conservative think tank, in congress, close to vice president pence when they were both in the house. this is a mainstream conservative who doesn't like the direction the g.o.p. is going. >> rose: so civil war in the republican party. >> we do. we've had civil war in the republican party for nearly a decade, ever since the obama presidency began in january 2009 and the rise of the tea party, we've seen the unraveling of the consensus that was established by president reagan, hawkish foreign policy, supply side economics being for tax cuts, that was the core of what held the republican party together over the last ten years because of the global economy and really as a reporter i've picked up the rise of grievance and anger at the global economy, at the political establishment. we see it breaking apart and as
it breaks apart president trump has a grip on the base but people like senator flake, mccain, former president george w. bush, all are speaking out appalled at this turn. >> rose: appalled at where they think the country is going. >> they are. they're appalled at what they see as the rising populism, this nationalism, grievance-based politics, a republican party they all went up through as an institution, something they believed in had certain values, they now see it in disarray, and they don't really know how to control it or bring it back and that's when senator flake spoke today about the fever in the country, he was really speaking about that sentiment. >> rose: but he's also speaking about what he thinks the president is responsible for. it's more than -- it seems to me that if george w. bush speaks the way he did without naming the president but everybody knew who he was talking about, if john mccain says what he said, they're really talking about that holding the president responsible for the tenor of our
times. >> that's correct. and flake's speech was more personal when it came to president trump. he said he couldn't defend the president's conduct or behavior. he said it's not normal, and how he has to think aboutensing to his children and grandchildren in the future. it was a question of character in the feature today. what we saw from senator mccain and former president bush, they don't like the flavor of the party. >> rose: people will ask you where were you when you saw this happening to the country, if in fact the things are as negative as they see them, where were you and did you take a stand? there's this motion of history's judgment. >> there is, but i always, as a reporter, am skeptical of that, in a sense, because the establishment sources i talked
to in the republican and democratic party use that kind of phrase, where were you when trump was president, and it's what they see as an apocalyptic moment in this country where norms are being erased and institutions are crumbling before eyes. but you have to add many people in the country, seems almost like half the country at times, they don't see the country in those terms and they don't see the trump moment as an apocalypse, they see it as a breakdown of an establishment they have come to loathe and they actually applaud how this is unfolding before them. >> rose: and what percentage of the country do you think that point of view you just articulated represents? >> we see in the polls probably about 25 to 40% of the republican base is that hard core group, but we saw in the suburbs in the midwest, in the rust belt in 2016, a movement toward that point of view, even if they were not attending trump rallies or wearing the make america great again hat you saw
places in the country because of loss of manufacturing, anger, racially charged politics, they were able to go around that kind of politics because of many factors. >> rose: when all these questions are put to donald trump, does he simply say it is because we are -- we represent a new force and we represent populism and we come here to change the country and people are unhappy with change, but that's what we were elected to do? >> i asked that question, charlie, to a few confidants of president trump today, how is he watching all this, what has he seen when he watches corker question his incompetence, talk about adult daycare when senator flake makes these kind of remarks, and the they say the president is well aware of the challenges this presents to his entire presidency, because the president doesn't think in ideological terms. he's not trying to have disruption as the point of his entire presidency. he actually wants to get something done, they tell me, on taxes, maybe even healthcare,
and when you have senators like corker and flake so averse to having any kind of deal or association with the trump agenda, it limits the president's ability to make change. he's sitting on confidence of appointing neil gorsuch to the supreme court and nothing else. >> rose: will this lead to other people feeling like they have to speak out in terms of how they feel about where the country is today? >> i think you're going to continue to see retired republican lawmakers speak out, the safety of retirement that allows them to be more candid. maybe senator wicker and senator heller, republicans in 2018, will re-think their campaigns next year. maybe they won't. ryan and mcconnell, when will they, if ever, break from president trump because for now they are with him in lock step
in many presidents trying to move forward on this agenda, and there is no real unraveling there. >> rose: bob costa from "the washington post." thank you so much. >> thank you. >> rose: jennet conant is here, her books include tuxedo park, 109 east palace and the irregulars. her latest book "man of the hour" is a biography of her grandfather james b. conant. as a young scientist he supervised the production of poison gas in world war i and oversaw the man hasn't project which produced the atomic bomb and was at hard for 20 years. this is amazing. this is a book at you were born to where you. this is a book that you had to write, this is a book you always intended to write. ( laughter ) >> a friend of mine said a labor of love but maybe more labor. >> rose: but in fact us with
it the look you knew you had to write at some point is this. >> i knew i had to write it. >> rose: you have been dancing around it. >> i have. tuxedo park was about another manhattan project, a laboratory. i did oppenheimer, a close friend of my grandfather and his wartime colleague, and they oversaw the production of the bomb together. so i was all around it, and, you know, i eventually worked up the courage to tackle his life. he had a very big life. >> rose: he did. in fact you said he had several lives. >> he did. well, you know, he thought he was going to be an academic scientist. he was a very famous chemist and he was on track to win a nobel prize when he got tapped as president of harvard, and he became president of harvard at a very momentous -- >> rose: this was in the '30s. >> 1933. hitler rose to power, as he wrote. franklin roosevelt became president and he became head of harvard.
so it was a time when science was changing the world, and the technologies of war were completely changing the way we fog. >> rose: okay, let's slow this down. how did he end up being president of harvard? >> well, harvard was at a moment when its eminence was fade ago bit. it had new competitors and it was trying to figure out who should run the university, an it was the height of depression, so it was a challenging time to become president of harvard. and they did this elaborate search, and somebody came to my grandfather and said who do you recommend? what do you think are the challenges facing harvard? and he gave such a brilliant talk to this guy that the fellow went back and said i think this obscure chemist named conant is the man for the job, and there was a huge horse race right up to the 11th hour. they thought it would be somebody else and in the end they gave it to this chemist nobody of.
it was a very controversial decision. he was 40 and not well known at the time. >> rose: was it controversial because he also was identified with poison gas? >> actually, the poison gas, you know, he headed up the secret laboratory in world war i to make poison gas, but he had emerged as a hero of the war. it had been seen as a weapon that helped end the war. >> rose: as was the atomic bomb. >> yes, and the chemists all emerged from world war i as the sort of famous figures. chemistry was changing the world, the pharmaceutical business, industry, gasoline, rubber, you know, huge industries were being spawned by en as changing the nextsort of century. so they were visionary scientists now. so having a visionary scientist as head of harvard seemed the way to go. >> rose: it's interesting to me because harvard is looking for a president now. >> yes, i know. >> rose: and one of the questions is what kind of person do we want. >> and facing many of the same
challenges. >> rose: do we want a lawyer, do we want a scientist, do we want somebody from, you know -- >> well, my grandfather was doubly controversial because, like now, it was economic hard times. >> rose: yeah. and there were accusations of elitism, as there are at harvard now, and lack of diversity. >> rose: right. and my grandfather was from the other side of the tracks. he was from a working class neighborhood. he was from dorchester like the kenties, he didn't want to oversee a school of rich men's sons, so he immediately changed the admissions policy and started a national scholarship program and he said we're going to widen the admissions and we're going to admit people of every background and geographical area and religion, and this was unheard of at the time. of course, because harvard did it, all the other universities in the country followed suit, which is really why he sort of
has become known as the father of the american meritocracy. >> rose: he is also identified with the s.a.t.s. >> yes, he was interested in educational testing. he invested in educationing testing and led to the development of the s.a.t. all because he wanted to pursue the notion of fairness and merit and that you advance on your talent and not on your birthright. >> rose: how do you remember it? was a very sweet man.m as a he had been through three wars, two hot and one cold, and he built these terrifying weapons and i think he had been humbled by history a little bit. he realized that, you know, the nuclear force that he had helped usher into existence had not made the world a safer place, that it made the world a far more vulnerable place. >> rose: and he also realized that, in concreting this awful weapon, you know, that he had to think about its future.
>> yes. and he had tried desperately, even before the weapon was ever used, to control it, and he had written a letter to secretary of war stemson to give to truman to argue that they had to control weapons, there should be an international agreement, but they had failed to achieve that international agreement, and then he lobbied ferociously against the hydrogen bomb and he and oppenheimer lost that fight. it was a very bitter fight. >> rose: teller won the fight. teller won the fight and oppenheimer's reputation was destroyed in the process, the famous grey board hearing, accused of disloyalty, striptd of his security clearance. >> rose: this was a man who literally led the scientific aspects of the manhattan project. >> and in my grandfather's view was largely responsible for the fact that we completed an impossible weapon in 27 months and ended the war when we did, and he was driven out of washington like a thief in night, and my grandfather thought it was one of the great
tragedies of american political life. >> rose: he went back to princeton, did he? >> he did. he got a job at the institute of advanced studies of princeton but was no longer allowed to sit on any of the government committees supervising the weapon he had built and knew more about than anybody, so it was a west of talent. you know, for my grandfather who had helped create this weapon and then saw it proliferate, he absolutely visualized the situation that we're in today and, in 1945, warned -- he wrote a famous speech in which he said in 1945, if we get ourselves into a situation where we're in a nuclear standoff and two countries have stacks of weapons, it will be like two gunmen with itchy trigger fingers, and we could be the loser. so he foresaw this very, you know, situation with north korea then and tried desperately to
avert disaster by cautioning restraint and intense diplomacy and not resorting to preemptive strikes is that why was he never called back to government? >> well, he was so upset after the oppenheimer hearing, he was so disgusted, he called washington a lunatic asylum. the communist hysteria was so terrible. >> rose: he called washington a lunatic asylum? >> he did. there are many moments in this book at parallel what we're going through today. you know, it was a time in the '50s when people's reputations were being destroyed by one story, a time of name-calling, of just bitter -- bitter personal fights in washington. so i think he was to dismayed that he asked eisenhower for an appointment, and eisenhower made
him high commissioner of germany. it was a very important job because germany was the front lines of the colonel war. if we didn't solve the german situation, you know, it was felt we could get into a third world war and a nuclear war with russia. >> rose: we were a member of the berlin airlift and a whole range of things that took place, and a place where the spy novel came out of and all else. >> yes, so he felt he could be of service, he went to germany, rearmed germany, ushered them into the n.a.t.o. treaty and tried to make them a block against soviet aggression as he saw it in the '50s. >> rose: what was his core of comp tense? was it simply he was brilliant? was it creativity? managerial abilities? >> i think it was an ability to bring really cold, calm reason
to enormous national crises. i mean, really, that's what he was known for. he was able to cope with situations of great urgency and danger and bring a lot of reason, a lot of history and an enormous ability to cut through a lot of the politics, the military ambitions, the diplomatic complexities and come up with a solution. he was a problem solver. >> rose: how old was he when he died? >> 84. >> rose: did he regret? did he write his own memoir? >> he did called "my several lives." it was a good book, a dry book -- >> rose: they often are. they often are, especially in those base, buttoned-down yankees. >> rose: that's why george bush xli deserved credit. he got john meacham to write his own book because he said most of
them with some exceptions, ulysses s. grant, de gaulle -- >> stoic. >> rose: -- they were not writers in some cases and also because -- almost like it was the thing to do after you left office, you had to write a memoir and they'd write it, but they weren't writers. i think we see something different with obama because he's a writer. >> yeah. no, duty to country was all, and he was too stoic a yankee to admit any doubts. he never publicly second-guessed truman's decision to drop the bomb, but privately i think he very much agonized about the second bomb, the nagasaki bomb. and i think his guilt was not about -- >> rose: why was the nagasaki necessary? because they had not come to the peace table after the first one? >> yes, but what most people don't understand is the second order was never given to drop the nagasaki bomb. groves issued the directive.
>> rose: lord groves. general leslie groves, the head of the manhattan project, he issued one directive, to drop the bombs as they became available, so they dropped the hiroshima bomb, the war wasn't over. the explosion bomb became available and they dropped that. as my grandfather always stated, you know, truman could have issued an order to stop the second bomb, but a second order to bomb nagasaki was never given. and a third bomb was in h the works. >> rose: why didn't they drop that one? because by that time they surrendered? >> exactly. it was quite a ways off. >> rose: how long between the second bomb and the surrender? soon after nagasaki? >> yes. >> rose: yeah. his guilt wasn't about the bombing of japan. you know, in a war of 50 to 70 million dead, as horrible as those losses were, they pale -- >> rose: and the
predictions -- i don't know what the number was, but a huge number of americans would have died if they had to invade japan. >> they peeled in significance to the number of the dead. my grandfather's belief was the bomb brought the war to a quick end and saved lives on both sides of the conflict. i don't think that could be debated. his guilt was he ushered in nuclear weapons and failed to control them. >> rose: how does he think they might have been controlled? >> believe it or not, you know, ewe can't put ourselves in their positions, but having witnessed the first nuclear explosion at alma gorda in 1945, they thought this weapon was so destructive and horrifying it would end war itself, that once people saw these weapons could obliterate whole cities, essentially end civilization, that nobody would want to use them. so they thought they could eliminate war itself. sounds very naive but
oppenheimer, they really all came to believe this. >> rose: do we know how close hitler was to getting a bomb before -- >> he wasn't at all close. no, the german nuclear program took a wrong turn. the great debate is whether heisenberg deliberately, you know, dragged his feet and put up obstacles because he didn't want hitler to get the bomb, or whether they made a miscalculation. it's one of the most debated and closely examined areas of war. >> rose: the mind of heisenberg. >> yeah, the mind of heisenberg, the entire american nuclear effort was aimed at beating heisenberg to the bomb. he was such a brilliant scientist, their fear that he would get there first was absolute. it drove the bomb process. >> rose: did einstein write a letter to roosevelt? >> he did. what happened was -- you know, fission was discovered by the
germans, the americans replicated the experiment. leo was a refugee scientist living in new york and convince add bomb was possible. he wasn't famous. he was a refugee with a thick hungarian accent, nobody would listen to him but got his best friend, einstein, the most famous living scientist, to write roosevelt a letter saying these powerful new bombs could now be built and america had to build one. >> rose: be there first. yeah, and that convinced roos stroalt kick off the manhattan project. >> rose: it's thought to be are too grave. >> i lived my whole life. i grew up wit.
i had fathers who was a rebellious son. it was a strange them growing up in japan knowing your father built the weapon that was dropped. >> rose: did you want any other profession? >> i wand to be a writer and a journalist. >> rose: you think of yourself more as a writer, historian. >> i think of myself as a writer, i'm a storyteller. >> rose: what fascinates all of us, i think, you know, late there are's a battle about the hydrogen bomb. those were -- i don't know how teller won the battle. how did he win the battle? >> he won the battle because it was the height to have the communist scare and, you know, a lot of forces within the military and the government were convinced that we needed beggar bombs and more bombs to make us secure. the phrase of the day was
"overwhelming superiority," not unlike our president trump, under the mistaken impression that more bombs would make us safe. well, what we now know of course is there is no missile intercept system that can catch every missile and no matter how big your defenses, you're not absolutely safe. one missile getting through would be a human catastrophe, whether it's in seoul or gaum or pacific coast. >> rose: or japan. yeah. so, you know, more bombs don't make you completely safe. >> rose: winston churchill said that the atom bomb more surely than the rocket carries the warning that another world war would mean the destruction of all regulated life. >> yes. and that's why my grandfather really believed that our only hope for civilization was diplomacy and deescalating tensions, not escalating tensions, that living in the
shadow of the bomb, you know, we had no choice but to go forward and try and control it, that that's the situation that we were in. he liked to quote jefferson, you know, that the survival of democracy depended on eternal vigilance, that we had to be strong, but we had to negotiate. we couldn't withdraw. >> rose: what year did he die? he died in 1978. >> rose: did he know the kennedys? >> oh, well, he knew the 're all from boston and we're all from dorchester. yes, sure. he wasn't fond of joe kennedy because -- >> rose: because of his -- he was an ic isolationist. he wanted to make a deal with the germans -- >> rose: wanted to make a deal with the ambassador of the court of st. james. >> yes, and he was on the opposite side and thought people who wanted to make peace with the germans and go to business with the winning side were just
a disaster, so he and kennedy were very much on the opposite side. >> rose: joe kennedy. but the sons were all at harvard under him, and -- in his years at harvard. so he -- >> rose: did he have a relationship with the president? >> he did. he worked for jack kennedy and he was -- >> rose: admired him? yes, and like so many americans, you know, he had such great hopes for kennedy, and kennedy made him in charge of a number of education initiatives, shared my grandfather's belief that we had to do everything we could to invigorate the public schools tomake sure that we preserved the equality of opportunity and social mobility. >> rose: that is almost -- that made america great. >> rose: i didn't know any of this other than the education and the harvard porg and the s.a.t., but his commitment to -- his belief in education and commitment to education not just
for those who had easy accesso the best schools but the future of the country depended on making sure there was diversity at universities and that the best of our young people had opportunity to get the best education. >> he was -- you know, the war shaped his education philosophy, and he believed that the best weapon against our enemies was to show that democracy was better than dictatorship and the way the do that was to have great public schools to show that the american way of life furthered the hopes and aspirations of all of its citizens, and, you know, he felt that the diversity of our beliefs and the tolerance of that diversity is what made us great and what separated us from repressive regimes like russia and north korea. all the weapons in the world wouldn't matter if we lost our core values. >> rose: and we worry about that today. >> yeah, we do. >> rose: thank you for coming. thank you. >> rose: great to see you.
>> rose: marvin kalb is here, his career spans three decades of award winning journal. >> glor:. a cbs news state department correspondent, later anchor of "meet the press" on nbc, served 20 years as founding director of the schuren st at harvard. his latest book, "the year i was peter the great: 1956 - khrushchev, stalin's ghost, and a young american in russia." i'm pleased to have my friend marvin kalb back at this table. welcome. >> thank you so much, charlie. great to be back at the table. >> rose: i psalm your grandchildren are finally proud of you because you've written a memoir they have been becking you to write. >> absolutely true. a lot of people have been after me to stop writing about vietnam, the middle east, russia, write about yourself. and i said, no, that's not the
job of a journalist to write about other things and other people, not yourself. so when my 12-year-old grandsonn aaron and 9-year-old daughter eloise began to get to me and i yield to them on everything, and my wife joined in at a few, my brother joined in, and the idea was you don't have to write about your personal life. you can do a kind of professional memoir, which is what i tried to do in the peter the great book. >> rose: basically, what you say, i guess don hewitt said people have great stories to tell and the story doesn't necessarily have to be you and your own personal life, it can be who you saw and met along the journey. >> exactly. >> rose: in this book, why dud you pick 1956, an why do you call it the year i was peter the
great? first, why '56? >> well, 1956, in my judgment, is one of the most important years in russian history in the 20th century. you've got the russian revolution, you have the end of world war ii, you have stalin's death, you have the end of communism in 1991, but in 1956, khrushchev did something that was literally unheard of and rattled all of soviet society and the communist world in '56. >> rose: february of '56. february of '56 was the time of the 20th communist party congress. it was a normal congress. crukhrushchev gave a seven-hour speech of how marvelous we are. then when everyone was going on, he held ono the leaders of the communist world and the leaders within the soviet union and he said, you and i have to have another talk, and they met after
midnight. khrushchev went on for four hours and, for the first time, attacked joseph stalin, the man about whom you could only say great and wonderful things because if you went the other way you wouldn't survive. he ran a tough dictatorship. when he died in 1953, everybody of any kind of power position was sort of struggling with what do we do now? how do we run this country? do we do it as stalin did it? the answer was no, because no one was stalin. khrushchev comes along three years later and historically shatters the idea that you could not criticize the great leader of russia, could not do that. he did it. >> rose: his successor doing it. >> he did it in an honest,
stunning way that left people so shattered when they listened that they were popping nitroglycerin tablets, sop died of heart attacks on the spot, some committed suicide. he attacked stalin. you couldn't to that. he said over and over again that stalin was a murderer, he was a killer, he destroyed our country in the 1930s and he almost, almost, by mismanagement of world war ii, almost lost the soviet union to nazi germany. it doesn't have to be khrushchev, for anybody in a position of authority in russia, that was the worst crime of all. >> rose: how did the contents of the speech get out? >> that was the tricky thing, charlie. he said, at the time he spoke, "this must strictly be between the two of us." but his son sergei khrushchev who lives up in providence,
sergey said one thing about his father was he said one thing but would operate under the table to make sure something else happened. what happened was he made sure every communist leader around the world was aware of what he had said. in poland, the communist leader filled in the head of the polish communist party. a reporter was then told what he said. he then gave that to western reporters. the israelis were the ones who picked up the speech and gave it to the c.i.a. the c.i.a. then released the speech in early june of 1956, by which time the word had spread throughout the soviet union and, at that time, and the great historical moment of 1956, wasthat the russian people began to feel a touch of freedom, a
whiff of freedom, personal freedom. they had never ever experienced that, and it was intoxicating, and they liked it, and they wanted more, and khrushchev had let loose something which in a dictatorship is very dangerous to let loose because you never know where it's going to end up, he let it loose, the russian people did what intelligent people would do, and then khrushchev was faced with something horrendous. the spirit of freedom began to leak out of the soviet union into eastern europe, went to poland first, czechoslovakia and hungary. the hungarians took khrushchev literally. they said it's a good thing to attack our communists, we're going to do that, and we're going to do something else -- we're going to cut loose from the soviet union. we're going to be independent. we want to be like yugoslavia.
the minute they did that, khrushchev was bombarded with pressure led by molatev the foreign minister, and he was saying if you don't crush this immediately, you're out. >> rose: because we will throw you out? >> we will kick you out. and khrushchev had that decision to make. do you crush the hungarian revolution and, many that way, i retain my power sp o. >pow -- power? or do i let them have their freedom? who cares. let them have their freedom. but he couldn't, wouldn't do it, crushed the hungarian revolution and, in so doing, destroyed the reputation that he had, and more than that, he destroyed the possibility for the russian people to further enjoy the concept of freedom. >> rose: the book is called
"the year i was peter the great." you were in moscow because you were a young almost -- >> yes. >> rose: -- you had been at harvard. >> yes. >> rose: you were getting a ph.d. in russian history. >> yes. >> rose: you spoke fluent russian. >> yes. >> rose: and you had an opportunity to go and work in the u.s. embassy in moscow? >> and i grabbed it. >> rose: and you grabbed it. i thought it was marvelous. >> rose: and because of that, you got an opportunity to attend some diplomatic functions. >> yes. >> rose: and khrushchev comes to one of those functions. >> yes. >> rose: and he meets you because you were taking care of, that night, a famous soviet general, essentially the chairman of the joint chiefs in russian terms. >> exactly. >> rose: one of the heros of world war ii, wasn't he? >> yes. >> rose: and you talk about how you were having a drinking them with him and made sure the person that was serving you were giving you water and you know he
likes vodka and he's drinking vodka, you water, he's impressed you can hold your own even though he's drinking water, he doesn't know that. he takes you over to meet khrushchev. >> he does. >> rose: what happened? when khrushchev came to celebrate our july 4 party, i met him. >> rose: you met him at the american embassy in russia? >> yes. there were four of us at the embassy then, woefully understaffed, four people who spoke russian. then ambassador bolin, a marvelous diplomat, said marvin you will be in charge of the marshal khrushchev. so i read up on him and i knew he liked vodka. i worked out a deal whenever i
was served, marsha drank eight vodkas. so he was a bit tipsy. khrushchev gives him the finger we're about to go. i walked over with marshall and he said in a very loud voice, i have finally found an american who can drink like a russian! but, of course, i didn't drink. so bolin looked at me strangely, quizzically, and khrushchev says, young man, he said, it's wonderful that you can drink like a russian. he says, tell me -- khrushchev was about 5-5. he says, how tall are you?
and marshall and i had been just talking about great russian battles, and i spoke about a battle that peter the great that won in 1709. so peter was open my mind -- on my mind and i said i'm 6 centimeters shorter than peter the great. khrushchev loved that. from then on, no matter where we were, if he saw me, he says, oh, here comes peter the great. that opened many doors. it was very grateful. >> rose: tell me about your travels around russia. >> i visited every place i could go. i went to central asia, throughout the caucuses into ukraine up into the baltic, everywhere because i was so unimportant at the embassy that ambassador -- if i went to him and i said, mr. ambassador, do you think it's all right if i went somewhere, he would say, sure, because in '56, it was a
special year, it was just opening up. stalin had died three years before, the country was just opening up, and they were allowing diplomats to go places where they had never been allowed before. so when i would show up at these places, i was alone, but i spoke russian, u i knew about the country, i was aware that russian people, by the way, are quite wonderful people, but you've got to get over a little bit of caution on their part when they're dealing with a foreigner. but once you get over that, they are very warm, very hospitable, and i was treated very well at that time. >> rose: you also met edward r. murrow. >> oh, yes. >> rose: i mentioned your tenure as moderator of "meet the press." we think of you at cbs as one of our great foreign affairs and state department correspondents. >> thank you. >> rose: so we claimed you
before you went to nbc. what was the meeting with murrow about? >> the meeting with murow was, when i got back from this 13-month assignment in russia, i went back to harvard. i was writing my dissertation, and one day i got a call passed on to me by the librarian who said, edward r. murrow is calling you. i said, hang up, he's not calling me. forget about it, must be a mistake. she came back later and said, no, it's the same guy. i picked up the phone, the minute i heard his voice, i realized what a total nut and fool i had been, and i apologized immediately. he said, no, no. he said, i read the article you did for the "times" -- i had done something for the magazine section -- >> rose: on russia? on russian youth. and he said, i really liked it, and i would appreciate it if you come down tomorrow morning at 9:00, will you be here?
i said, yes, sir, i will be there, and i got a fresh shirt and went down. it was supposed to be a half-hour meeting, and murrow and i finished our discussion three hours later, an ed, whom i think you met, charlie, didn't you? >> rose: no. ed was the sort of person who was deeply like you, very curious about the world, wanted to know people, wanted to -- and he asked me questions about young russians, what are they like? do they want to go to school? do they want to work in the field? what's their relationship with god? he asked that. what's their relationship with parents? he wanted to know everything. and after we had dealt with that great story, about 10:30 in the morning, he reached town and took out a bottle of johnny walker black label scotch, put it down, put two large glasses and began to pour. >> rose: at what time?
10:30 in the morning. and i was shocked when i saw that. and he said, oh, dear, he said, you don't drink. i said, no. does that mean there's no job? he said, no, but it's going to make it that much more tough. ( laughter ) but when we were finished with the three hours, in a very murrow gesture, put his arm around he me and said "you're one of us." >> rose: wow. and i melted, which i would have done anything for him. >> rose: what's the state of journalism today? >> oh, we're in trouble. >> rose: how so? for two reasons, really. one is financial, that, as a result of the arrival of the internet, we have lost this whole world of ads and the kind of things that used to sustain newspapers, now still do. there is an enormous amount of medical type ads on tell
investigation. so that keeps that aspect of news going, but newspapers have been reduced. you pick up a newspaper today, i was just visiting with my daughter in columbia, south carolina, there's a very nice newspaper called "the state," but it's a tiny paper, and that is all over the country now. >> rose: there was a book just written about this. >> it's extremely important because we're at a point now where you have to ask yourself, everything is going on in the world, we have a relatively new president who has injected uncertainty into our political and i think national environment. as a result of that, you have to depend on the press. but yet the press is being attacked by the president as fake news. so you undercut the validity, the legitimacy of news, and to do that you raise a question, well, where do you get your information from?
what can you do that is honest, honorable, that is not fake news? and each individual in this country is now faced with the need seriously to address the question of information, where do i get it, is it reliable, and that takes work. are the american people up for that responsibility? at the moment, i'm not sure. i want to say yes, but i'm really not sure. >> rose: and we also have seen recently the press become, by this president, be call the enemy. >> charlie, that was something that, in my judgment, crossed a line. i've done something i've never done in my life. i have been involved in
journalism now for more than 60 years. in that period of time, i never thought it was my job, as with this book, i'm telling a story, i never thought that i had to editorialize. that is not my responsibility. let that be the editorial writer. but when the president of the united states donald trump said that the press, people like you, that the press were enemies of the american people, to me that crossed a line. that phraseology, i don't know that the president, to be fair to him, knew the origin of that phrase, but that phrase comes right out of dictators of the 20th century. it was a favorite line of joe stalin, it was a favorite line of adolph hitler, it was a favorite line of mao tse tung. it was not a favorite line of
thomas jefferson type people. they were the bad guys. they adopted that because -- >> rose: that the press is the enemy of the people. >> is the enemy of the american people. for the american people then to be fed information that undercuts the legitimacy of the press, that it's all fake, why to that? two reasons, one, psychological. the president wants to be above it all, and i believe that there are -- i call it creeping authoritarianism. i could be dead wrong about that, but that's my judgment about where he would like us to go. and the other thing which, to me, again, is frightening is that if we live in an era of uncertainty, and we do, how do we know what is going on, unless we have a press that we can trust? but if we can't trust that press, then where to you get
your information? and the president would like us to believe that everything he says, everything people supporting him say is true, and everything else is fake, then we are depending upon his version of fake news, and that then leaves us extremely vulnerable. it was not an accident that the first amendment to the u.s. constitution speaks of freedom of religion, freedom of the right to assemble, freedom of the press and of speech. tathat is because, without that freedom, everything else is jerp advertised. we've -- jeopardized. we've got to have that. >> rose: the book is "the year i was peter the great: 1956 - khrushchev, stalin's ghost, and a young american in russia." marvin kalb. for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com.