tv After Words Bill Press From the Left CSPAN June 24, 2018 12:01pm-1:00pm EDT
>> next on booktv's "after words," television and radio host bill press retraces his transition to progressive politics. he's interviewed by syndicated columnist mona charen. "after words" is a weekly interview program with guest host anything top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> host: bill press, a new book "from the left: a life in the crossfire." this is a memoir as well as political testimonial about where you stand, right? >> guest: it is. good to see you, mona. i call it my memoir part one. this is the end of the road. >> host: barack obama wrote a memoir in his 30s so it doesn't say anything you wrote a memoir now. >> guest: thank you for
helping me make that point. i had a good run and he wanted to talk about some of the fun things that i've been able to do so far and people i've met so far. i really want to get a story down. we have five grandchildren. >> host: are they the ones who are pictured? >> guest: yes. >> host: very cute. >> guest: wanted to let them know what granddad has been up to. >> host: you are a delaware boy here who is bootsy carter and why is he in the story? >> guest: booty, i had a cousin, i do have a cousin named bootsy, but booty i never realized the connection, so booty carter was a wonderful guy who lived in iowa city is where he grew up a count on the banks of the delaware river 15-mile south of wilmington. i kind of forgotten town, 1200 people, small town. i had a great life growing up there as a kid fishing and
hiking, swimming in the river. to me it was great. i didn't realize until afterwards it was really a good little place to group if you were white. but delaware city was a segregated town and some went to the white school, and the college kids we call them went to school about a mile outside of town. >> host: you had the local school you could walk a couple blocks. the black kids had to hike a mile? >> guest: yes. and were white businesses and black businesses, and white churches and black churches. i grew up with that. i didn't realize how long it was, but my father had a gas station that he built himself. he was one if not the only business in delaware city, businessman, who would do business with black customers and welcomed black customers. and even let them by valentine,
there were no credit cards then, but the end of the month my mother would send out bills to people for the gas they bought. he would extend that to them, to african-americans. booty was one of his best friends and really a leader in the black community in delaware city, and my father always made a point of including him as a friend, then once a year we would have a christmas party at our house and he would always make sure that booty and other african-american friends were invited. as i recalled he was early one who would, but he would always come. i was struck by this, he would insist on using the back door. my father said, booty, what are you doing? i don't want to embarrass you. i don't want to be an investment to you or to your neighbors. i appreciate you invited me, and that really stuck with me and, i mean, living through that experience and looking back and
the inward was common, everybody use it and there was no mixing of the races. sad. >> host: so there are two expenses in the book where you describe having to lie down flat in a vehicle to avoid danger. one was in croatia, right, where you with god and your dent in a boat escaping enemy fire. you can talk about that if you'd like. the other one i want to get you is because it tells us how your life developed was in south central los angeles during the riots. >> guest: yes. let's talk about that one because that certainly, the more powerful of the two. although being shot at was not -- what does churchill say about this? >> host: the most exhilarating thing in life is to be shot at
and missed. >> guest: yes. so i was in los angeles and then doing radio and tv in los angeles. at the time i was with channel 13. the rodney king riots happened. we were on where the studios were located at i, at the time i was a member of first amity church which is a a black churh in south-central l.a., wonderful, wonderful community. so i wanted to be come the rights, the most important segue, i wanted to be with my people, right? i suggested to our news director bob long that i do, i was in commentary on the evening news, 10:00 news. i suggest i do my commentary that night from the church because i knew people would gather there. also new that the mayor was going to be there. he said that's a great idea. you go down there now and i'll
send a crew. some went to the church and it was people coming in because i told her you gather there and then suddenly it really started getting really hairy. buyers got closer. we could hear gunfire. we were out in the back deck of the church and you could just, ash was falling. cars in the parking lot covered with ash. bob long called the entity said dude, you're stuck, we can't get a crew in there. it's just too dangerous point what was anybody in. i was standing outside with couple ministers and parishioners and which is looking out and one of the guys turn event said, so how are you going to get out of here? i was the only white person there. one of the only white persons in the competition. i said my car is right here. he said no, you're not.
you're not going to drive home. i lived in west hollywood which was about five miles away. >> host: but at that moment white people were being dragged out of trucks and hit with stones and terrible things were happening. >> guest: it was a war zone. so he said i've got an idea. i'll take you. he said no, and taking hold. come with me. he was part about a block away. we sort of sneaked through hiding behind walls and stuff and got to his car. he opened the back door of his car and he said get on the floor, i'm going to cover you you with this plague. he said whatever you do, don't move. i'm going to have to stop, start, know but whatever, you don't move. i was scared to death. this brave guy, , he drove me right through lots of noise. i don't even know whenever he went through. got me to west hollywood home where my wife, carol, did know
what was going on, really frightened for me and for the city. you know, i feel so badly that this guy i think really saved my life, certainly was a good samaritan beyond what you can imagine, and i don't even remember his name. >> host: he will know who he is when he reads the book. >> guest: that whole experience of being, go into those riots. one other quick thing. bob long my news director and i may be that same night i forget that we went up on the roof of our studio one night and you could see the gangs coming up la brea avenue, and going from one set of the street to the other breaking the windows, torching the building, going to the other side. no cops came. no firemen came. it was just anarchy. >> host: a lot of people held
the police responsible for that and felt that it was dereliction on their part. >> guest: i was also doing talk credit at the time at afi on the air, and police officer came in and said the building was being fired on, there were snipers in the area. again, , right, what do you do? crawl under your desk or whatever. we actually, they moved the radio station up to the hills above pasadena for two days just to vacate the area and broadcast from the chief engineers home. we all just camped out there for two days. >> host: one of the things you talk about in the book is how you came to be at this church which is a protestant denomination, right? and you were raised catholic and study for the priesthood. back to delaware for a bit. let's talk about you attraction to the priesthood. did you feel like you had a
vocation, or was it something that you thought i want to be involved in public service so this seems like a route to the? >> guest: it wasn't that dramatic. i wasn't knocked off my horse like st. paul. >> host: were you ever on a horse? >> guest: poorly. may have tried a couple of times. i grew up a catholic. my parents were, my father was catholic. i was raised a catholic, went to catholic, went to mass every sunday, and then with two catholic high school. so for me it was just like that was falling off a horse. it was no big decision. but when i was in high school i was thinking that what is going to do after he graduated. it was really public service that i was interested in, and i was thinking of either becoming a lawyer and being a public interest lawyer, or the priesthood appealed appeal to l
tell you why. it's sort of like the priests that a new at the school, i i t to a catholic boys high school in wilmington, great school, good life. they played a lot of golf. everybody loved it then. they were like considered upon the pedestal, you know? people invited into their homes. they were like little movie stars. and no family, no responsibility, no bills to pay or whatever. it looked like a pretty good life to me, and the public service life. it wasn't a religious thing, it was more a lifestyle that appeal to me. i decided to give that a try. i i mean, i did. i was in for nine years studying for the priesthood. and the tenth tenth ear on a lf absence just to make sure that a wanted to leave, i decided by then it was would not what it wanted to do for the rest of my
life. i was never ordained. the head of the most part of a religious order, the head of the order said look, you've been your nine years, we've got invested in you, you cut investment in us. let's at least give it a year of trial before you cut the cord. >> host: the thing that confused me as we describe this in the book is that when you talk about leaving the path of the priesthood, you say how my catholic? well, what do i believe? you listed a bunch of things we basically said i am, but, he basically said but i don't believe in jesus and adorably he was divine, policies of things that would pretty much market out as a nonbeliever. try to broader than pope francis. there is a breach of their that i guess i know which is, so i come out of the seminary and i still, still a person of faith and i was looking for a
meaningful religious experience and faith experience for which i could not find in the catholic church. when i left the seminary i was living in switzerland studying there. i came back to the united states. i did not want to go back to the small-town delaware. i was able to get a job teaching school in san francisco. talk about that for. i'm in san francisco and went to a few catholic churches and he was just wasn't meaningful at all. and i joined methodist church, wonderful, active church in san francisco. then when i moved to l.a., this was a baptist church, first ame baptist church, same thing. i first there went with the german and a a lot of the serve and the sermon was like quite a long and the music was and i said if i ever have another church it's going to be here.
>> host: great treachery so my catholicism is, , i guess some people call it cafeteria catholicism, but having been born and raised catholic i do feel like i have to join any other organized religion. i'm kind of skeptical about all organized religions to tell the truth. i've never gotten a letter from anybody saying you are no longer a catholic. >> host: right. >> guest: after this program, maybe they will. >> host: sorry to do that to you. eight switchman and you find yourself in california and you bounced around a bit with different political jobs in various things and you helped a really nasty guy get elected to the state legislature, is that right, state senate? >> guest: board of supervisors. he could be a wonderful person to be around. he can also be not a good boss. to work for.
>> host: but eventually you do find yourself working for jerry brown. tell the story about how that happened. >> guest: well, so i did teach school and then i got involved in politics volunteering starting volunteering for eugene mccarthy for president. and then got a political job. i like politics of much i got page of working for supervisor roger. then i ran a campaign for republican for the state senate, wonderful, wonderful guy, and fundamentalist number one if i mentalist in california. i begin his chief of staff. we won the campaign and i became his chief of staff in san francisco. his name was peter. i moved from his office to lead an environmental organization called the planning and conservation league. it was as head of gcl that i it jerry brown who secretary of state running for governor.
this was 1974. i didn't support them for governor because it was a speaker of the house who carry all of our legislation so he was our guy. i like jerry brown. jerry gets elected. during the campaign jerry brown has like four thinks he set hee thought of going to do, boom, boom, boom. one of them wasn't going to start office, create a new office deal with state land-use planning. i heard him say that so many times. one time i i see them on the pe which is happen to be on play together, sat down alongside them and i said i just want you to i never could say anything publicly but you don't have to create a new office. there's already an office. it's part of the governor's office that nobody knows about called the office of planning and research. he said no kidding? i said yes. boom here to get elected and then -- trend with how much time
elapsed between this conversation and when he was elected? >> guest: maybe three or four months i guess or something. and then he pointed someone else so i'm just going on the way and then i get a call from the legal advisor who said jerry would like to talk you about that office of planning and research. he had a mind like a steel trap. he remembered that, and he knew who he wanted in there. somebody else an interim basis, but then my call was to come in as a deputy, and within a month or so move up and become the director, which i was for four years. >> host: sorry to interrupt. >> guest: just final point. but again this was his way of doing business then. this time around much different, much more organized, thanks in great part to his wife, but at the time it was pretty loose. i said i would love to do.
he said the governor wants to talk to you about it. i'm here. for the next three months and then carol and i have a long planned vacation to france for about three weeks or so. but otherwise i'm here. the night before we left, we were packing and jerry's secretary called, i kid you not, about 10:00 at night saying the governor wanted to know if i could join him for dinner to talk about this job. >> host: and your wife didn't kill you? >> guest: almost. we went out for chinese food and talked about a lot of different stuff, and at the end of the conversation he said would you come back? >> host: so you did get the vacation. >> guest: yes, i scored as you about land-use planning and we can come back to that in a minute. i do want to ask about the way jerry brown operated because you tell stories about working on his presidential campaign and the sounds completely loony. he wasn't even on the ballot and
he decides i'm going to write in this state and that state. do you want to talk about that? >> guest: first of all when i got to sacramento, ronald reagan was governor. the contrast between ronald reagan's style of government and jerry brown's style of government was night and day. i used to see governor reagan come in, there was a three-car motorcade and you could, 9:00 in the morning, boom, drove in from his house in east sacramento, uf the elevator to his office. 5:00 you could set your watch by it. he would be out of the door. with jerry it was, he lived in a bachelor pad across the park, slept on the floor on a mattress, seen many times, , and he would just saunter across the capital park may be around 10:0 10:00. and he would be there into two or three in the morning. but, some meetings always
started later than they were supposed to. they always lasted longer than it was supposed to. they seldom covered them out of that the meeting was all about. you never knew where jerry was going to go. but what i discovered is, both of them got things done. it was amazing how you can get things done one way or another. one suits reagan's personality and the other suits jerry brown's personality. but then, when you want to run for president got to be a little more organized. so jerry surprised the hell out of all this by just announcing one day to a reporter sitting on his couch talk about something that he was going to run for president. he had not done any planning. there was no outward organization in place, no operation. he entered the maryland primary but he's governor of california and interest in maryland primary. he was at the time the most handsome, the most exciting, the most rock star politician in the country, but still you have to
have an workstation. >> host: didn't use by then it's already too late to get his name on the ballot in most of the states? >> guest: he wasn't on the ballot in maryland. we all thought it was a joke. the secret was nancy pelosi is father was mayor of baltimore, and it was a machine of politics faith. they didn't like jimmy carter. they're looking for somebody else. none of the above may be an jerry witt and and ran with that and won the state of maryland. then he recruited me, yanked me and for my opr job to join the presidential campaign, and the problem was, we went to oregon, rhode island, new jersey and other states and we won all those primaries as unofficial candidate. but if your name is not on the ballot it doesn't really count and the are some states where if your name is not on the ballot
you cannot -- it was impossible to ever get the math to get enough delegates. i would have a link to this day that had he been on the ballot in all 50, however many primaries there with the time, he would've been the nominee and it would've been elected president. and then he and i joke about the sometimes, we were all in our early 30s, what we would have done. >> host: it would almost be like now. [laughing] >> guest: there's that but almost like now. >> host: okay. tragic it was an exciting time and was exciting to be working for in sacramento and around the country with as i said the most exciting, dynamic, creative politician, and smartest in the country. >> host: you talk a little bit in the book about your belief in land-use planning and plenty. i would say search is a you
believe in plan in general. i had a sliver of agreement with you about one thing so i thought i would highlight that. circle it, which is you talk about the fact that we bail out people to build expensive homes on coastlines and then they get subsidized insurance from the federal government or state government, and not too smart as ross perot used to say, right? >> guest: no. it's insane really. and it continues and is building in flood -- there's certain places where you know, it's not happen this year but it's not safe to build there. people say that about earthquakes in california but you never know where the earthquake is going to strike. but floodplains are identified. >> host: and beaches. >> guest: beaches. >> host: on the east coast especially. >> guest: but also on the west coast. in terms of tide surges and all of that. and also fire zones.
people built in these canyons in l.a. particularly and you know the fire is going to rip down this canyons and there's no style of building that you can come up with that's going to protect them when those fires hit. >> host: they would not build it or if they didn't have subsidized insurance. >> guest: absolutely. so my father retired to lower delaware, and after he passed, he had given the little house to the five of us, six of us kids. and hurricane sandy came along and was lost that house. it you wanted to rebuild on the property, then they required you to put up on stilts, otherwise we were getting, people,, everybody was getting flood insurance while they were building flood prone houses in
flood prone areas. >> host: and expensive houses. >> guest: not that land-use planning is a great big thing of mine anymore, but to me it makes basic sense. we were able in california to get builders, developers, labor unions and environmentalists together to a certain extent to say, let's identify instead of fighting over every project, let's identify where a new district should go, where new housing should go, and when you wrote should go and try to keep it compact. that seems to be a good sense of the way of approaching it. >> host: zoning it, isn't it? >> guest: sony is part of it, sure. rather than fighting over every single plan or project, while were on the subject and fiber, you would call yourself an environmentalist, one thing jumped out at me when i was reading this, you said there were two issues that are the biggest threat, and when you said is climate change any of the said his population control?
i thought, really? i thought that went out with the 1970s? >> guest: i think, first of all, i'm not for any, i'm not saying one child per family or anything like that, but i think certainly in certain parts of the world particularly the developing world there are limited resources and ever ever-expanding population, and he gets to the point, i don't know, maybe colonies on mars or on the moon are the answer. >> host: we have tons of resources. >> guest: with eye flight across the country i see a lot of undeveloped land. a lot of it is unlivable. >> host: if you look at just the price of commodities over time you see the keep falling which suggests there's plenty of
them. if they were scarce the price of would be going up to even the price of those basic commodity of all which is food, and the second most basic commodity argue become a well, food and water, fuel. those prices have come down, too. doesn't look like we're facing a world of scarcity and the population has come down, population growth, as people get richer they have fewer children. maybe not the same probably you think. >> guest: i don't see it as a pressing problem that we thought it was. i still think it's an issue. >> host: all right. >> guest: shortly climate change i believe is one. you know what stuns me is, disappointed about climate change is i don't think this is an issue that should be a partisan issue. i don't think we should be, i think there are differences in what we do about climate change, but i think to deny climate change, denied that it's
actually having now and will have serious, contingent more serious effects on our lifestyle and our crops and where we can live and all of that, the economy particularly, is just stick your head in the sand. >> host: i was just part of the reason we have such a poisonous debate on this subject is about your rights, there are some people who simply say it's a hoax or it's not true, it's been made by china, whatever. >> guest: it's made up by china toward the american economy, i don't know, but moving right along. there's some of that but it's also a lot on the left of this, if you don't agree with everything the proposal that we make for how to deal with this issue, then you are a denier. they chose that term on purpose because it conjures up holocaust denier. the fact is we can have reasonable differences of opinion about how dire the threat really is from climate
change. there's a lot of discovered about that within the scientific community, a lot of uncertainty about it which is not the same thing, i want to jump to say, as saying that it doesn't exist. there's a lot of debate about how severe it will be. and then there's a huge amount of debate about what the best course is, worldwide tax and other people say you just have to do certain things to protect low-lying areas and take mitigation efforts and so on. honestly, don't you think both side you to backup the extremist talks in order to even begin a constructive conversation? >> guest: absolutely, but i think the beginning point has to be recognizing the existence of climate change. it is real. the temperatures are rising if you look at 13 of the last 13 hottest years in recorded history have been the last 13. >> host: recorded history isn't that long but still. >> guest: i say do what we know. and to recognize that, the
glaciers are disappearing. ice caps are melting. >> host: that are not disappearing, , they are meltin. >> guest: they are not there and they ain't coming back and we don't know. there could be, i'm guessing it's not a problem. i just think there's a lot we don't know tragedy i see said e stop accepting it and it's okay, what are some of the possible impacts and how can we avoid those? that to me is an interest of everybody. >> host: but it's wrong to suggest as al gore did that we can prevent this. because even if we want would p burning all carbon tomorrow, it's still going to continue to warm for some time. we don't know how long because of the amount of co2 the time in the atmosphere. >> guest: we are past the point of no return. >> host: it is only an issue of -- >> guest: you're right, will not going to end it. no more by the way then we're going to bring back call as a
major industry for a lot of reasons. not just the environmental reasons but as you know the economic reason. natural gas is -- >> host: better and cheaper and cleaner. >> guest: you and i can fix this, mona. >> host: we can't. because an ugly to get to some of the things we really disagree about. so here i'm going to quote you, from page 131. this is your sojourn in central america, and you say, regarding nicaragua. by the way, i'm going to warn you that i i worked on nicaraga issues and it worked in the reagan white house i remember all this very well from my own personal experience. so you say quote, there was no reason except that stale meaningless here communism left over from the cold war for the united states not to recognize the sandinistas much less the contra needs does. meaningless here communism?
let's just talk about that. you don't talk at all in your book about the human rights abuses that they committed, about the fact they made an outright attack on the courts, that they get cuban advisors on every block basically teaching them how to spy on their own people, that they had tens of thousands of political prisoners, that they made war on the miskito indians. none of this comes up, and i'm wondering just the longer he said communism. what about -- >> guest: i also don't talk about, i'm pretty sure my memory may be, is failing here, -- >> host: maybe you mentioned him right. >> guest: i also don't talk about human rights abuses of the somoza. it was the dictator of nicaragua we support of fact we invaded nicaragua twice in our history. >> host: but why does that --
>> guest: i think we have a, commune extend a very shameful history in latin america with nicaragua, with what we did in chile overthrowing that elected government there. back to nicaragua, the human rights abuse of somoza but the sandinistas were elected, they were elected partly because the nicaraguan people didn't want to live under this dictator anymore, and the sandinistas was the revolution religion of thed and there was elected government of nicaragua. and we decided by the way, i was in contravention of american law at the time to support rebels in the civil war against the elected government of nicaragua, the elected government of nicaragua was a proxy of cuba
and, therefore, of the ussr. they were originally elected in a broad coalition that included -- democrats, small d, they merely saw what the sandinistas were doing copy cubit and turning, trying to turn nicaragua into a communist totalitarian state, closing down newspapers, locking up opponents and doing secret trials in prison for the opponent for all those things, whatever you might think about the dictator, he was not an agent of our chief in en, the ussr figures not an agent to cuba another one of our chief enemies want the ussr to hit us with nuclear missiles in the cuban missile crisis if you
recall. why we so eager to make excuses for for a regime like that on the grounds that we have so much to be ashamed of? >> guest: first of all i've been to nicaragua. i've been there maybe five times 50 people that i talk to nicaragua a lot happier under the sandinistas than they were under --, they voted him out as soon as the got the opportunity but go on. >> guest: they did, people are much happier there. i'm not holding the sandinistas of as the perfect role model for american democracy but a think they're better for the nicaraguan people and with no business trying to overthrow them. that's our job. i also don't buy the threat that cuba was such, the cuban missile crisis yes, candidly handled that ever got out of that. but other than that this idea that for decades we had to consider cuba as a mortal enemy that will invade florida. i thought is ridiculous.
try what they were sending mercenaries throughout latin america and the world to undercut and undermine democratically elected governments. >> guest: so did we. so i would say -- >> host: way to second. so bill buckley my old mentor used to say that this argument you're making out which is so did we come suddenly, it was for completely, if we intervened was a complete different purpose. so it's like saying -- let me get the line -- [talking over each other] i'll give you there may be an element of that, but it was not the primary reason. the fact is that most of the time the united states when it did intervene was doing so to stop and even worse regime from taking power. even worse than the ones they have. we don't always get to pick an ideal beautiful democratic machine. but here's a great line from bill buckley.
he said one man sees a buzz coming and pushes a little old lady into the path of a bus. another nancy's advice come and pushes a little old lady out of the path of the bus and they're both condemned for pushing little old ladies around. it really matters why you are doing something. >> guest: right. i would agree. by the way, bill buckley, i loved, he was a friend of my, debated him on crossfire and we had some good times together. i admired him a lot, but i didn't agree with him on everything obviously. i think that's a simplistic approach to our foreign-policy latin america which as i say, overall is still not that good today. i never saw again the idea that danielle was a friend of the del, i think the dell was for the cuban people than -- and danielle was better than what i've get gets in an article abt the economic status of cuba
compared under castro. >> guest: i'm always willing to learn more. as you know, then within is the whole iran-contra think that i just thought we should've let the nicaraguan people, if they want to throw the sandinistas out, fine, that was their choice. >> host: as long as the government -- as long as the government permits reelections and that's what the nicaraguan -- trying to prevent. luckily it turned out differently and partially partly because they were forced out election. but anyway, okay, all right. you have great quote in here from somebody, it's funny have to mention it now because we just praised bill buckley, and the one person bill buckley sparred with and did not like at all is gore vidal. most of the time he was very
happy with his interlocutors and as you know gracious person and always, but gore vidal would try anyone. but he did say this funny thing that you quote, and bring us into the next phase here, which is the only person, he would deal a person who can never escape abort is a man who needs his vote. i love that. try to that is by the way from his great novel i think the best novel about washington called washington d.c., i think i've read that and build gingers ago, i i think i did. you quoted that because you ran for state senate, right? >> guest: i ran for --, insurance commissioner? >> guest: yes. i was going to run for u.s. senate and i sort of gavel in that lipid and then dropped out. then i did one for insurance commissioner try what and how did that go? >> guest: i used which means i didn't win. by the way, my other favorite quote of gore vidal i think having the book also is that
never give up an opportunity to have sex or be on television. >> host: that's classic of him. >> guest: you know, i still have the political bug. when you you've got your to sch it, the political itch i guess. i was always thinking about, maybe i could run for state assembly or maybe state senator i kept sending my sights higher, and so i just had to go for broke and one for u.s. senate. i quit my job on kate abc-tv in l.a., raise all of the money. i took up offers, raise a little money. quit my job and i started this exploratory committee. so peter wilson was a youth center at the time, ormer governor, and there was a democrat who speak of the
assembly leo mccarthy was very first welcome have a lot of support from organized labor. the establishment candidate if you will hear i realize it was a way if you'd been the primary. i just dropped it and endorsed it. then later this position of state insurance commissioner became an elected position for the first time, and to me that was, should be a consumer protection bureau basically, helping people with health insurance and car insurance was a big use at the time. a lot of redlining. i thought that would be a good job and i went for that, lost in the primary to john garamendi the staff congressman from california. that was my experience. i got it out of my system. >> host: no, you didn't do you just said you have not gotten it out of your system tray to for running for office, yes, i'm going to quote you back to yourself, you said i guess the ran for office for the same reason every other candidate
does. it smells a desire to do some good and peoples life. it's also the burning need to be recognized, admired, approved and fawned over. as my old boss peter used to joke, politics are the only fatal disease of those who have want to die from. i loved this because it's so honest. so refreshing. people don't admit that part of what motivates them is it's nice to be admired. >> guest: it is. that's what motivates these people. >> host: that's why they don't want to give a traitor by the way, you can take the same light and apply to studying for the priesthood. as i mentioned, i loved the idea that people were fawned over and admired and they were on a pedestal and looked up to and the whole thing. i think people going to politics going to religion for the same reason they go into politics, or vice versa which is why by the way if you go around state capitals and this capital, you'll find a lot of former
priests, nuns, preachers, ministers, either holding office or working in the agencies. >> host: people sometimes ask why would somebody who's been in this congress for x number of years, why would they not want to go make money or do something? the edge is it so ego gratifying, right? >> guest: it is. and i think also there's a feeling that you're doing some good, that you can make a difference, that you can approve peoples life. there is a public service motivation but you can't ignore or deny the ego gratification side. >> host: when you recount of putting this whole, when you are running, you mortgaged your house and you said you learned a lesson, which is all we spent other peoples money, opm. is that like a basic rule of politics than most people know? >> guest: it's a basic rule of politics which too many people
break. we did, too. we didn't have a lot of money at the time, and that's one thing that carol will rightfully always hold against me, that i talked her into taking out a $100,000 mortgage on the house to throw into the campaign, and we never got it back. >> host: live and learn. >> guest: so many people, take a younger people, particularly women, running for office all over the country, state legislators, city council, all of them. god bless you, but my advice is other peoples money. remember that. first of all, the whole question about you and i could talk about this, getting money out of politics or least regulated it were controlled again, there's a big issue but the way the system is today you have to raise money in order to compete. just don't spend your own money. if you can't raise the money to compete, then you are probably
not a good candidate. >> host: one argument on behalf of the supreme court's ruling in citizens united is that it makes it easier for somebody who is not infinitely wealthy to run because they can raise the money. that way you don't always have to have ross perot being -- >> guest: you can raise the money from big corporations who did just be able to get to politics and, therefore, your more beholden to the corporations. >> host: and big unions, same. >> guest: they don't have the same deep pockets. >> host: huge pockets. okay, now let's talk about -- let's talk about you are then jumping too, you also we should say that chairman, was a come of the democratic party in california?
>> guest: yes, for three years. >> host: that was an unpaid position so you also do work, you on tv, radio and constantly sounds like you are working incredibly hard trade also volunteer state chair. did tv and radio as my real job. >> host: sounds like that was -- >> guest: a busy time. >> host: you jumped across the continent to come here and be on crossfire, from the left. >> guest: that's where we met. those days. that was a great experience, so doing radio and tv in l.a., which is the second largest market in the country, not a bad place to be, but i was always intrigued by the national media, and particularly what struck me at the time was that when you watch the sunday shows, particularly, all you saw were the same people from the same area. all boston, washington corridor and then i read in the "l.a. times" that, and as i was with
the abc affiliate, i would try, i would call the brinkley show, maybe i could come on once. wouldn't even return my phone calls. i read in the "l.a. times" that cnn is looking to hire someone to replace michael kinsley was a great cohost on the left, he was leaving crossfire. and listed the people they were interviewing and they were all the same old again. i literally made a cold call to rick davis, executive producer of crossfire and said hey, there is some wisdom west of the potomac, and maybe it's just a different kind of voice and rick said, our put you in the next of -- >> host: of tryouts try to write. >> host: do remember what the first was when you auditioning basically? >> guest: i do. i was on with bob novak, and our
guest, i believe it was only one guest, which is unusual. usually there were two but i know i guess that i was hoping was then senator don nickles. >> host: oklahoma? >> guest: from oklahoma. the issue was tax policy, tax cuts. not my long suit, right? but i really boned up for that. by the way, this was is gravy. >> host: he lived and died tax cuts. >> guest: so i remember after, and at the end of the show we had, we used to call it they get yap -- yip yap. it was max, min and have, real quick, that you go back and forth. one last little shot.
and then we just night from the left, from the right. i remember novak turned to me and said, so, what i want to know is what do you think? do american people pay too much in taxes are not enough in taxes? the only thing as i had the presence of mind to say, i think some people pay too much and some people don't do enough, and i think anybody should pay their fair share, or something, which is weak politically but i did know where to go. >> host: you never back down so that was one of your strengths in the show, i think. now, looking back, you were there for six years? so who was the most, why doesn't have to be the most, but who was one of the most persuasive gas that you can remember? >> guest: john mccain. >> host: on what subject? >> guest: just about anything i admire john mccain because he is such a maverick which i
like, considered myself somewhat of a a maverick 50 was also brutally honest. he was willing to take on his own party. i wrote the book critical about barack obama called buyer's remorse which i got a lot of crap for for my fellow democrats but i thought there's something so i believe barack obama met the progressive side down. so john mccain felt that his party was not living up to what he believed the republican party should be. he was going to say so. he did have a great sort of relationship with the media. you like teasing and being around the media. you had to admire what he suffered for this country, what he's willing to do and the fact he stayed in prison when he could've gone out given to his father was picky said no, until my buddies get out on going to stay there. you know how it is. you get up close to people in power and some of them you come
away with more respect and some with less. with john mccain i came away with the most respect for. >> host: joined the course of the time at crossfire we had the whole monica lewinsky thing, and one of the -- one of the stories that you tell is night after night you're doing the same thing, each new little wrinkle in the story, analyzing and arguing about on crossfire and use one night, i think you and pat buchanan said can't do it again, enough is enough, let's do something else and you suggest what about nato expansion which was an incredibly important issue that arguably we are still living with the consequences. so you do nato expansion, and what happens? >> guest: ratings went -- the thing about television, you know by the next morning what your ratings were the night before they're different in radio the television, it's -- pat and i
just bagged, please, please don't make is to monica lewinsky again tonight. this nato expansion was a tickle important issue to pat. i was somewhat interested but ii wanted to get away from monica. we did it and it is, it still, we're living with the consequences of that right now. ukraine and boone pune and allf that. >> host: exactly. >> guest: we did and nobody cared. and so basically rick davis or the others who was in charge at the time said we told you so. >> host: what does that tell you about the state of india get in politics and how much of this entertainment values determine our national debate? >> guest: it doesn't say a lot of good things about the state of the media today. i want to go back just a second because the first night that the davis told me that something was big was going to hit, he wanted
me to know, they've been told something big was going to hit about clinton and is not going to be good, and i was going to be on the line. and when i found out what it was, that first night, and john sununu was the guest host or the other host that night, i took the position what he did was wrong, i cannot defend it, but it was not an impeachable offense. that's who i took up an estate and i'm glad i did. to me that was solid ground all the way through. but back to what you said about the media, i mean, we are, the rest be a certain amount of entertainment i think so that people will watch. can't just be totally boring, but the entertainment value has taken over, particularly table news today. i mean, how much time have we spent, not you and i, and in the last few days talking about stormy daniels? you know, and it kind of gobbles
up everything else because it's so salacious and people get into it, and the media, i must admit, to help fan the flames. there's a story there but the media does help fan the flames antisera and they think all, that will get eyeballs, that will get ratings, and that's what we go with. i think this is good investigate journalism being done today, but not enough and i'd rather see more of that and real hard-hitting stories about who the hit than just the easy, go for glitz and glamour kind of stuff. >> host: so the show you on, crossfire was criticized a lot at the time for being a lot of snarling people yelling at each other on television, but when you convert to what we have now it seems like the lincoln-douglas debate because at least there was a half an hour devoted to one subject so you could died in. what do you think?
>> guest: totally. i have a certain bias but crossfire was the first and i think the best political debate show ever on television, it certainly plastered in anythingh bill buckley. >> guest: i see you that because i admire him a lot. nobody had the wit that he did. but compared to what we had today it was that it was very focused, , half an hour on one topic with two expert guests and then to my coast who enough to ask good questions keep the conversation going. at the end of it people i think when you are a lot more about the topic and they could decide whether wanted to come down on it. compare that to what i see so often today which is just the screaming and no develop a relationship maybe two minutes or something to make a point, and then they move on to something else. it's early cheapened it.
sometimes up with cable television has destroyed american politics. everybody plays, that's what happened by the way to crossfire which i think was, you know, all my praise for crossfire, i was worried there six years. the show lasted i can use. tom braden and michael kinsley get a lot of that credit. cnn decided at a talk about in the book that they wanted a different kind of show. pat gone, i'm gone, the total format of the show has changed. they moved into george washington university in front of a studio audience, and it became literally a gong show. >> host: before we're getting close to his baton somewhat to get in one final thing, and that is looking back over the last 40 years of arguing and polemics and so forth, is there a big issue on which you have changed your view? >> guest: that's a very good question.
there are issues i talk about when i was raised a catholic, right, i was really taught that homosexuality is totally forbidden and wrong, morally wrong. don't believe that anymore. i was taught that abortion was under no circumstances ever to be condoned or permitted. i don't believe that anymore. those are a long time ago. >> host: since you became a progressive would you say there's any progressive view that you no longer think is right? >> guest: i must tell you nothing pops into my head. you know, groucho marx said these are my principles, and if you don't like them, i have others. >> host: that's a great line. >> guest: that's a very good question and i wish i had a good answer for you. >> host: something to think about. >> guest: because i don't want you to think i'm stuck in the
mud, you know? and i'm sure there are, they are not right at the top of my head right now. i mean, i remember like medical marijuana, pat and i used to debate that. now pat buchanan is with me. maybe i brought them around. >> host: what were the things to criticize obama for for not being sufficiently progressive? >> guest: let's start with obamacare. i think obamacare was a sellout. obamacare to me from my point of view, it left the insurance companies in charge because let the pharmaceutical companies in charge and he had an opportunity to do, which i think is the best plan, medicare for all. we could debate that, right? but what troubled me about obama was that he took that off the table, wouldn't even let it be part of the discussion. and to my mind, if you start by
taking your strongest position off of the table, then you're not going to get it. i think we ended up with a plan that didn't cover everybody. it covers many. and as i say didn't really think about prescription drugs are not as many people having coverage. >> host: bill press, great to talk to you. try to get back to you on that. >> host: nice talking to you. ..