tv The Presidency Ronald Reagan Communism Pope John Paul II CSPAN November 20, 2018 8:02pm-8:42pm EST
the white house. the supreme court, and public policy events in washington dc, and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. next on the presidency, ronald reagan's attorney general edwin makes talking about the 40th president's views on communism and his relationship with pope john paul the second. at a conference organized by the white house writers group. the program was also recorded as part of the hoover institution's video series. uncommon knowledge. peter robinson moderating the conversation, just over half of an hour. ronald reagan and pope john paul ii, partnership that changed the world. today in washington at a conference devoted to that subject. with us today and eyewitness to the relationship between president reagan and pope john
paul the second, the former attorney general of the united states, -- [ applause ] >> welcome to uncommon knowledge. i am peter robinson. a graduate of yale and the law school at the university of california berkeley, edwin makes the third served as legal affairs secretary for the newly elected governor of california ronald reagan, from 1967-1968, and then of chief of staff to the governor from 1969 until he left office in early 1975. from 1981-1985 he served in the reagan administration as counselor to the president. from 1985 until the end of the administration he served as the 75th attorney general of the united states. he now holds a marital status at the ronald reagan chair in public policy, and emeritus
once again a distinguished fellow, at the hoover institution. no one knew ronald reagan better, and this is ronald reagan and his attorney general, if he is not a good man, then there are no good men. welcome. >> thank you. >> [ applause ] to quotations, both from 1982. one is the historian arthur schlesinger junior writing after a visit to moscow, quote, those in the u.s. that think that the soviet union is on the verge of collapse, are getting themselves. the second is ronald reagan addressing the british parliament also 1982, quote, in an ironic sense, karl marx was right, we are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, but, the crisis is happening on the west by the soviet union. ". >> how did ronald reagan of eureka college in illinois,
miss what the great historian arthur schlesinger junior of harvard, and beg you, how did ronald reagan see what he was missing. one of the things is that ronald reagan went into the study of communism with an open mind. [ laughter ] and, was not determined by his ideology. as i suspect that mister's lesson jurors at least was somewhat missed chided -- misguided by his ideology. with ronald reagan, first of all most people do not realize that he was a voracious reader, he liked to study, he studied the founding he was very well- versed in the constitution, he was well-versed in the bible, he had an enormous repertoire of information that he uses, that is why the discussion was given this morning about his speech writing.
before he would do anything else, before the speechwriters would get working he would give them the concept of the speech. and then, later on, as they went, he edited really based upon all the things that he knew. one of the things that he knew was communism. because in the 1940s, when he was president of the screen actors guild, the union communist party usa was trying to take over the movie industry, they wanted to use it for propaganda. so, they were infiltrating the various unions. the camera means union, grips union, stage managers union and they try to also take over the screen actors guild. and so, ronald reagan literally that all of those -- let all of those unions in defeating the communist getting him interested in the subject and leading to him reading about it, domestic communism communism in theory and also international communism so he formed his own ideas by the time that he became governor really. already he was talking about these ideas of how do we overcome what was then our enemy in the cold war?
>> i am embarrassed to admit this, but the way they put it just now, it never occurred to me before. listening this morning to the panel of polls, what communism was like. obviously for ronald reagan, in hollywood in those days it was not like living in poland, but, he had direct experience of them. >> seated, even to the point where he would come to work, armed, because there were threats on his life. >> a man with a plan, let me quote your 1992 more with reagan, quote, reagan was more than simply anti-communist. he was an anti-communist with a game plan. can you explain that? >> well, he actually had a strategy, first of all, he knew that they were vulnerable from an economic standpoint, because so much of all of their wealth really was being put into supporting their military, and their aggressiveness around the world, so he knew that they
were economically vulnerable but he also knew, and he had a strong belief that freedom ultimately will overcome oppression. and, he knew that it was very difficult for any government, even a very oppressive government like the soviets had, to keep their people under wraps, for a long period of time. and, ultimately the human spirit would result in people wanting to be free, and very sympathetic to situations particularly because these were not just russians who happen to have a soviet form of government, these were countries that many of them had not been free before they were taken over by the movement. >> and, i want to go back to this point because it is so basic, the kind of thing that is likely to be forgotten in coming years. and, that is the extent to which ronald reagan is holding these views and acting on them, and standing out. so, richard nixon, henry kissinger, the day of ditente, jimmy carter and gerald ford coming after he resigned,
refusing to meet people because of defense of the soviet union, giving a speech of overcoming our fear of communism, and then, this is absolutely the dominant mode of thinking. in both parties, nixon, carter, and then of course we have dig alan's famous account, ronald reagan in 1977 is a former governor he has not declared for government yet talking about foreign policy and ronald reagan says would you like to hear my theory of the cold war? >> of course governor. >> my theory is simple, we went, and they lose. the question is, what gave him, whatever it was, the courage, the insight, how, how did he so self confidently place himself in opposition to the entire mindset? well, he was not just being
facetious as some people confused him at the time as that became known, but actually what he was saying is, i have a strategy which is not just giving in, or, allowing a moral equivalency between marxism and freedom, it is a matter of knowing, that they have vulnerability both from an ideological standpoint and economically, it was his feeling that they can be beaten, and that freedom can win and another words it was a belief in the system that had been the foundation for american thought, american political thought, since the 1780s. and, he felt that what we knew in this country, our sense of freedom, that ultimately that can overcome even the tyranny of the soviet union. >> with reagan, you describe the elements of the president's thinking and you write this quote, it followed that the united states and the western world in general should stop
retreating, before the communist challenge, and begin competing in earnest against the soviets, again, explain. >> it was an idea of competing in a number of ways, it was not to engage in military action, that is the last thing that ronald reagan wanted to do or felt necessary to do but to compete in terms of economics. to compete in terms of information, to compete in terms of persuasion, of people. to support resistance movements, in the communist world. to support leaders, in other words, to actually let people around the world know that marxism and leninism is not for oh dane and it is not necessarily going to succeed, but there can be strong nonmilitary but neither the less ideologically, and in some
ways striking the sense of patriotism, in some ways, faith, there are a number of ways in which to compete with and ultimately to overcome the entire regime. >> strategic defense initiative, you held the first meetings on that subject in your office in the west wing, and then in a televised address, from the oval office on march 23, 1983 the president announced the initiative. research that might lead to a system that would enable us to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, before they could reach their targets, no longer mutually assured destruction but actual defense against missiles. how did that fit into the president's game plan? >> ronald reagan had always said and this goes back to his days as governor, that a nuclear war could not be won and should never be fought. because of the destruction of any kind of conflict with just
wipeout not just one nation but perhaps many nations. and so, that is why he felt that we should be able to do something better than that. and he had met with edward teller for example -- when he was governor, because ed teller was at the university of california, and, he talked with him and he talked with others, and that was why, a group of people had been working on this idea also, and that is why we had this meeting in my office. which, some people who were very interested in the subject, as a result we put together a conference, with the governor, and the president in 1982 with edward teller, and that led them to his idea being flushed out into an actual strategy. and then the next step was to talk with the joint chiefs of staff. and, within the military there is a lot of competition for budget dollars, so there was some resistance from certain areas of the pentagon, but
ronald reagan, as he had them develop a strategic plan for our defense, said, and i wanted to also look at the idea of a strategic defense initiative, a ballistic missile defense system, and they came back to him, about eight months later with their plan, and one of the things that they said that as we have looked into it, the joint chiefs believed that strategic defense initiative, in way of combating nuclear war, through missile defense, is not only militarily necessary, but it is also morally necessary. and so, they really gave him the assurance, that he was on the right track with this. and i might say that if the nation had pursued that with the same energy and enthusiasm that he gave it during the rest of his term as president, i think today we would have a very robust system already deployed, and it would be a lot
safer in view of what is happening around the world with two nations that now nuclear control capabilities, that were not even contemplate at that time. >> north korea and iran. >> the new york times, call the strategic defense initiative, quote, i am not making this up i'm quoting it, a pipe dream. margaret thatcher, had doubts about it at the time but in her memoir, she wrote that looking back on it, ronald reagan's original decision on sdi was the single most important of his presidency,". now, can you explain what the new york times meant? what they thought they meant when they referred to it as a pipe dream? >> well, the new york times, is often wrong, let's put it that way. and, --
>> -- [ applause ] >> and, they were so wrapped up in this idea, and quite frankly, not really believing that the soviet communism was as much of a threat, they were part of that group, that felt that even the moral equivalency ideas were not foreign to the new york times, so, that was why they had no confidence in it whatsoever. now margaret thatcher, it was interesting, because basically the entire idea of a hedge against war, and, the nuclear balance and those types of things were something that in europe was very much the basic idea and the basic foundation of the defense system at that time. just as nato was going to be installing potentially nuclear weapons in europe to combat what the soviet union already had there and that sort of
concept, one of the things she was worried about as i read in the materials, about her later, was that she was worried that somehow this would violate or would degrade that sense of nuclear balance that was preventing war in europe, so, i think that the more that she learned, and was indicated by what was mentioned there, i think that she really came to understand what ronald reagan had in mind. and, his idea was, that we have technological capabilities that we are never going to think of, one generation ago particularly the generation that preceded this. look at the things that happened there, why can't we put that same energy and good thinking, the same exploration into something that would prevent nuclear war in the future? >> also correct me if i am mistaken, it was also quite an aggressive move, you cannot do something like the strategic
defensive initiative research unless you have a grant economy and technical dynamism that the soviets could not match. >> that is correct and the strong economy was one of the major strategies that he had in dealing with the soviet movement. you remember when he took office, in 1981, we had three major problems in our country. number 1, we had the deepest economic crisis that we had had since the great depression. secondly, we had a national security threat, and, we had a great deal of jeopardy, potentially, because on the one hand we had an increasingly aggressive soviet union, they already captivated a great deal of eastern and central europe, they were operating there, or their satellites were in africa, we had a soviet bastion in cuba 90 miles off of the shore we had a marxist bastion in
nicaragua that was in el salvador, the hemisphere was under attack. so, it was a really very serious situation. that is why, ronald reagan was so intent of number 1 getting a strong economy, number 2, the problem is while the soviets were more aggressive, our military had declined considerably in the aftermath of the vietnam war, and, so another important thing was to take on the military and build up the military to where we had traditionally been, during and since world war ii, and then finally he believed that it was necessary to engage the soviet union on a moral plane. that his wife, the eagle -- that is why the eagle empire speech and the focus of evil, that he felt was important, to rise, in the military, in the
diplomatic strategies. >> once again from your memoir with reagan, a vivid example of the reagan strategy in action was the liberation of poland, he conducted this effort with pope john paul the second himself, the president greatly admired him, let me ask a word or two about the relationship between those two men? >> ronald reagan is raised in a small, his father was catholic but his mother was a member of a small protestant denomination, disciples of christ, and although, i think that everyone around him understood that he was a man of faith, organized religion, well, he did not go to church often as president. he said it was because of the disruption of the secret service, true enough, but also organized religion, seems not to have played a central role in his thinking a relationship with god? yes. and then, ronald reagan, and myers, and cooperate with, or
coordinate actions with the leader of the biggest, most organized denomination that exists, explain, what is it in john paul the second, that a protestant kid from the midwest appreciates? >> first of all, ronald reagan had a very strong faith. he had been involved in church activities as a child, his mother was active in her church, and she made sure that he was very active all the way through his high school years before he went to college. he was a very active member of that church, and, beyond that, he also was very well read he had an exact p take -- encyclopedic knowledge of the bible. one of the things that he pointed out, ronald reagan had more allusions to biblical topics, and biblical verses and
so on in his speeches than all of the other presidents put together. and, so, religion was a very important part of his life the reason why he did not say much about it is that he never wanted anyone to think that he was using his religion for political purposes, or that he was showing off how religious he was. i suspect that actions of previous presidents had something to do with that version. if you look in that direction, but in any event, just in his daily life, and everyday conversation, it has been very interesting just within the past month now, to have believe it or not, copies of a letter that he wrote to nancy's father as he was dying, to give him almost a cab sold version of his religious faith, hoping that that was something that doctor davis felt would be helpful to him before he passed on. >> december 13, 1981, general jerry declares martial law in
poland communication to the outside world, solidarity, on and on it goes. and, the president, and, pope john paul the second, meet in 1983 as i recall, there is coordination of some kind, that is what i want to ask you about. >> actually 82. >> i'm sorry i misspoke, june 1982. solidarity, we know the story there is a decade, solidarity regaining its legal status in 1989 and in 1990, taking office as president of the democratic poland. now, a couple of quotations once again. allen, the president's first national security advisor quote, this relationship between reagan and the pope was one of the great secret alliances of all time. second quotation, george michael, john paul the second's biographer.
the claim that the two men entered into a conspiracy to affect the downfall of communism is journalistic fantasy,". so, how do you characterize what took place between the white house and the vatican and between those two men? >> well, it is interesting that even last night there was a little bit of a dispute, between two people who are speaking about just what this was. and, i think that, it is somewhere between allen and weigle, i think that, there is no question. i think that what you have here, first of all going back to ronald reagan, and his religious faith, i think that it was that faith, which made him admire the pope, and particularly this pope because he had a very strong person on behalf of his faith, on behalf of his church, and, that whole thing of what he had done up to that time, ronald reagan admired. and, admired him, as the leader of the church. so, it was natural i think, for
him to admire that kind of leadership, but beyond that, what you had was two people, both leaders, one in the secular world one in the religious world, with parallel interests, and so when those parallel interests were obvious, as what happened in poland they are, where they were under attack if you will, then, it was logical for ronald reagan, particularly with his ideas about defeating communism, to cooperate. i would say that what you have is parallel interests, as george weigle says it was not just some deal or as carl bernstein wrote about, it was not an alliance, or, a treaty or anything like that. what it was was to people with interests in common were cooperating. and, as they were cooperating, they learned to trust and appreciate and like each other. >> now, you set on the national security council for all eight years of the administration,
let me ask a couple of questions. if i am asking for classified information just slap me, but a couple of questions. >> we will put you in jail. [ laughter ] >> how many times do you believe that there was a credible threat that the soviets might roll into poland?>> well, i think there was always that possibility but i do not remember at any time particularly during the year 1981 wear that appeared to be an imminent threat. >> i see. >> in other words the soviets always had large military forces, and they always were using them, to oppress or threaten a number of nations. the countries and others. but the idea of an imminent threat, i do not think, at least i cannot remember of it being talked about prior to december.
>> ronald reagan taking office, and the military building up, of course, had barely begun by 1981, did that change the psychology? was there some sense in which the american, or ronald reagan's presence would have me the soviets think twice from the military point of view? >> well, i think that that is in all probability the answer is yes, >> but we do not know? >> what is happening at the present time in the soviet union, the president was on his last legs and then you had the others, and, as ronald reagan said, when it came to whether he would meet with the soviet leader? he says i want to meet with them but they keep dying on me. >> [ laughter ] >> finally in 1985 he got a live one, and, gorbachev, and i think that that was very important. because, at that time, gorbachev, was a diehard communist, no question about that. but, he also understood the west, better than his predecessors.
and therefore i think that he realized that the united states certainly by the time that he became a general secretary in 1985 he realized the american military was now going to be the most beautiful -- powerful military in the world and it was a force, that was enough so that the soviet union did not have military superiority, which it essentially had until that point. >> one more question about your years on the national security council. we read, this book, that book, another article, to my understanding, which is limited, it is kind of an impression is a man i want to ask you, to fill us in a few would. bill casey with cia is making sure that solidarity is working with lane kirkland to make sure that solidarity gets funds, copy machines, and so forth.
and then judge clark and his successors and national security advisors are giving information to the vatican, they are sharing information with the vatican, they have forces that we do not have, and vernon walters, former general vernon walters acting as a kind of emissary visiting the vatican, in range of one dozen times. all of that happened, the coordination is constant, and at that level there's a lot going on between the reagan white house and the vatican. >> yes. >> all right. >> yes, well, >> if you feel the urge to elaborate give into it. >> it was a logical follow-up, to do this, to provide ways in which without using military force, we could strengthen those forces that were combating marxism, and which were constantly moving towards, organizing people in the various countries under the oath of the soviet union, and organizing resistance, and only
organizing a situation, where it would not be possible for the soviet union to continue, particularly with their aggression, let alone just to maintain where they were at that particular time. it was a way in which to carry out the strategy that ronald reagan had. moral engagement, making it very clear through the diplomatic contact with the soviet union that we would not stand for any more aggression. even without using military force. it was never plainly said in those words but it was very clear that we would not take any more aggression such as they had had in afghanistan and other places. and then thirdly, that we would do everything that we can to rollback the previous soviet aggression and that is where the assistance information intelligence assistance, information to people, radio free europe and radio liberty, all of those kinds of nonmilitary ways in which to provide resistance to the soviets. >> and if a may a couple of last questions here. when he visited washington in
2004 for president reagan's funeral, gorbachev was asked if ronald reagan won the cold war? and his reply was, quote, that is not serious. >> and the article in the washington post continued, the changes that he rot in the soviet union were undertaken, not because of any foreign pressure or concern that because russia was dying under the weight of the stalin system, the soviet union just fell in under the weight of its own roston system, -- rotten system and it would have done that if ronald reagan was never born. how do you answer that? >> just by looking at the facts, what would have happened, i think that had it not been for ronald reagan, and the united states having built up that strength and so on, and the other things that had taken place. the soviet union might have fallen under the weight of all of its wrongdoing, academic wrongdoing, economic military
buildup and all of that. it would have taken at least 234 for decades or may have never happened. because, one of the things that the soviets would have done and gorbachev would have done if he followed his predecessors, was as soon as there was any arms resistance, or any popular uprising, he would have called in the troops, and put it down. and so, what ronald reagan did was, create a situation in which number 1, the soviets could not continue as they had been, either with aggression, or even with captivating the other nations and so on, perpetually. but also, the fact that they were, gorbachev was not able to maintain the soviet primacy more than the other countries perpetually. that is why i think that if it were not for ronald reagan it would have been perhaps several decades before the soviets would have fallen or maybe never because one of the things they would have done is utilize their force in order to get
more funds and resources, and that sort of thing. they were already working on things, technologically with pipelines and other things, to improve their economic situations which ronald reagan stopped and the economic warfare as well as the information warfare and other types, together i think, was what ultimately led to their demise, all coming down through popular resistance in 1989 and then the implosion of the soviet union in 1991. attorney general neese, in rome february 1988 had a private meeting, with pope john paul the second. i have already asked you to tell us what happened on the national security council, can you let us in on what you and the pope discussed? >> [ laughter ] it was a great meeting. the opportunity to meet this great man, and everything that has been said about him is true from my standpoint, what i know about him and also meeting him,
you knew that god had taken care of the church, by having a reader such as that, to be the pope at that particular point in history. but, the opportunity just to talk with him for 15 or 20 minutes was just a great privilege for me, and we talked about some of the things that again, our two countries had in common, and that was of course, the morality of youth, a topic very much on his mind and something that we were concerned about in the justice department and elsewhere, the drug problem in the united states. we also talked about, some of the catholic bishops which you have heard a little bit about last night i believe, how there were problems with them, in the united states, doing things that were terrible to what ronald reagan was trying to do in other areas, in which the pope said well, sometimes even bishops make mistakes. and, so, it was really a great conversation, and i remembered,
that day. >> should you walk out of that meeting as lutheran as you were when you walked in? >> i believe that i did but i look to him with great appreciation to the head of the catholic church. >> last question. >> nobody under 30, 30, grown people, nobody under 30 can remember a single event that we just talked about. so, think of your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, what do they need to hold onto? can you sum up ronald reagan, what even to the country and the world? can you sum it up in a couple of sentences? what do they need to hold onto? >> i think that they need to hold onto the fact that what our founders of the united states had in mind, as a basic principle and foundation for their thinking, the sense of freedom, the sense of responsibility, those kinds of concepts, as important today as
they were two centuries ago, and they will be over the next centuries in the future. they have to know that in order to know that they also have to know our history. history is extremely important and ronald reagan had studied history minutely, and so he was able to incorporate foundation and origins of the country into almost everything that he did. and so, that is why his concern about the constitution and why he was so concerned about appointing judges, who would be faithful to the constitution was a part of his being. so, we have to have new, young people understand our history, but also understand what freda some -- what freedom is all about and an idea of what happened during the cold war so that they can understand why it was so important, to free poland, and the other captive nations. if they have this understanding of history, and the perspective on why that is important, the
freedom of other peoples in the world, particularly to continue freedom in this country, i think, then they will have the room that they need they will not happen or have that in education systems and the high school or even grammar school level, also the higher education level, this is probably the greatest challenge that we have as far as providing future generations with the basic understanding that they need of our history, and the principles, and the morals, and also patriotic foundations, which have gotten us to this particular point in our history, and the history of the world. >> thank you.>> [ applause ] coming up, thanksgiving weekend on the c-span network. on c-span thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern supreme court justice elena kagan followed by chief justice john roberts, friday at
8:00 p.m. eastern, chris christie and others discussed the opioid epidemic. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, photojournalists talk about their favorite photographs taken on the campaign trail. and sunday at 6:30 p.m. eastern, gun laws, and self- defense. on book tv on c-span 2, thursday at 8:30 p.m. eastern retired general stanley mcchrystal talks about 13 great leaders. friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on afterwards, political writer derek hunter. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, or photographer lindsay a dario talks about photos that she has taken in the middle east. and sunday 9:00 p.m. on afterwards, prize-winning journalist josi vargas, one america history tv c-span three, un-american artifacts, celebrating the first english thanksgiving at berkeley virginia, near jamestown. in 1619, friday at 6:30 pm on the presidency, reflections on
former first lady barbara bush. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on lectures in history, how the pilgrims became part of america's founding story. and sunday 9:00 a.m., constitutional scholars, philip moffat and back heel amar talk about how the u.s. constitution defines impeachable offenses for the president thanksgiving began on the c-span network. listen to c-span weekly podcast, this week, part one of the two-part interview with three nationally known presidential historians. douglas brinkley, edna greene medford, and richard norton smith, sharing historical context for the trump presidency. >> andrew johnson like president, meaning, somebody who has impeachment swirling around them and somebody who is not able to close or heal a racial divide in the country. >> there is a real animosity between the press and the
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the partnership that change the world, speakers include two former national security council staff members who served under president reagan. the white house writers group organizing this 50 minute event. [ laughter ] >> a fellow at harvard center has held a number of permanent positions in diplomacy and academia serving for example is the national security council's director of european and soviet affairs, during the administration of president george w. bush. >> what concerns us today, her service on the national security council in the white house of ronald reagan. a resident scholar at the university of california berkeley, a fellow at ashland university, a fellow at the pacific research institute, and a frequent contributor to