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tv   Q A  CSPAN  August 23, 2010 6:00am-7:00am EDT

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>> philip terzian, literate editor of "the weekly standard" magazine. what did you learnwhen you were a speech writer for a former secretary of state? >> i learned that any relationship between the act of writing a speech for a secretary of state and the delivery of the speech by the secretary is purely accidental and serendipitous. i learned a great deal about the bureaucracy of the state department. was most interesting and frustrating to me was that i would be given -- i would be told that the secretary would be giving a speech and no guidance and i would ask what he wanted to say and what he wanted
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to emphasize and nobody really knew. i would write a draft based on what i thought he would want to say and then at that draft would be sent to 40, 5460 people, various bureaus in the department and embassies overseas. these people would slow listen the revisions back. it was my job to collate all of these revisions, or do i accept some and reject others? there was no definitive answers. i did it ad hoc, the way that i thought it should be without any guidance or direction and then somehow it became a product in the end. interestingly, the only time that i ever heard the secretary give a speech that i delivered was a totally atypical situation where i came in and there was a conference in the department and he had to give a talk at lunch and they needed something. i typed it up and pulled it out
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of my typewriter. i gave it to whomever and at lunchtime, i wandered down to the dean acheson auditorium and i went down and heard it and it was excruciating because he had not read the text before delivering it. i think he made some slight revisions which he had a little trouble seeing. nobody in the room knew who i was, but i felt like sinking into the floor of the country was how long did you do this? >> a year. >> and he resigned all after a year. >> this was before he resigned. >> what you're were you there? what's 1979 to 1980. no, 1978 to 1979. i had been a speechwriter for
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larry o'brien who was chairman of the democratic national committee when i was in college. that was when i first learned that nobody in washington actually writes what is published in their name. senators would produce these essays number written by people like me. in that sense, one of the things that i regretted about political and rhetorical life in washington is that every major figure from the president on down is merely reading what somebody else in some committee has produced. it seems to me there is a kind of curious disconnect the that -- i wonder how much they had to do with the production of
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the speech. these phrases that are indelibly associated with them were written by some poor guy in an office somewhere. it is different from the historical task in that it is all the bureaucratic system, now. senior politicians really are just actors in a sense when they give speeches. >> we ask you to talk about your job as literary editor and your book "architects of power: roosevelt. eisenhower and the american century". let's start with the background three were were you going? >> i was going in kensington, md., a suburb of washington. my father was a naval officer in world war ii he came back and was assigned to bethesda hospital,. they stayed.
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i was going here a few years later. -- i was born a few years later. i went to public schools in maryland and a private school in washington. i have been a washington commuter most of my life. there was an interval where i lived elsewhere. i was just thinking the other day that there was a riot on the subway here in washington and my parents were oddly a protected. at age 07, i would be put on the bus and sent into town for school and piano lessons alone. there was never a thought of anyone accompanying me i learned how to get around in the city.
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i was a rider on buses and what not at a very early age. >> where is the name terzian from? >> is an armenian name from my father's family third. my grandparents were immigrants. my father was going in the united states very shortly after they arrived. they arrived in 1907. there is a photograph that i have in my bedroom of my armenian grandparents. it was taken on their way to the united states. my grandfather and grandmother are there with my grandfather's
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mother, my great-grandmother. they are all dressed in the national costume. my father wore boots and a fez and my grandmother is wearing this interesting female national costume. my great-grandmother was an old woman. when they pulled into new york harbor, my grandfather took the fez and threw it into the waters because he was no longer required to wear it. my great-grandmother was tragically rejected at ellis island. she was sick and was sent back and killed. anyway, my father's family made it here. >> were to get your start in literature? >> that is a good question.
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i was a bookish little boy. i was an avid reader. we have books in our house. my parents were not what i would call literate, but the world leaders. my father collected rare books about natural science. i started reading history and things like that at a at a fairly early age. when i was age 10, i found an old typewriter that have been discarded in our basement and i brought it upstairs and cleaned it up and started banging away on it. in time, i taught myself to type with two fingers. i started writing and found that i enjoyed pushing words
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around on a page. at around 10 or 11, i decided that i wanted to be a writer which was a somewhat unconventional choice in our household. in time, i discovered that i did not really have a knack for telling stories. what i liked about novels was the language of them and what the tallest about the 18th century in london. i always like novelists in the style of faulkner. i like stylistic writers. i switched from wanting to be a novelist to wanting to be a journalist. i had a romance for the newspaper business.
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we were a very political family. we took all the newspapers in the house. i would read walter lippmann and others. i decided that that was something that i wanted to do. i did not mention this to my parents. a journalism would have been like joining the circus as far as they were concerned. it was not a profession. i do not think that they really thought that i had a serious job. >> in this book, a short book, 120 pages, "architects of power: roosevelt. eisenhower and the american century", you start off in the opening paragraphs. as i write, congress is contemplating a memorial in washington to dwight d. eisenhower, and the prospects are not encouraging. the press is almost uniformly
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hostile to the project and ours is not an age of monuments, or not, at any rate, monuments of the sort eisenhower would deserve. >> that is outdated now. the day or more to build a monument. -- they are going to build a monument. one thing interested me and one thing surprised me. what interested me was how we memorialize people like eisenhower nowadays. there are some people that want a living memorial. others, like me, what a more traditional statue -- want a more traditional statue. i am not quite sure -- i think
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it is going to be done in a sort of compromise. it tells us a lot about our times. i talk a little bit later in that apology about franklin roosevelt and his moral -- memorial. i thought at the time that it was very much a monument to the 1990's more than two franklin roosevelt. it was our vision of what roosevelt was, not necessarily roosevelt's idea of what he was. it emphasized things about him and deemphasized things about him that i thought was deceptive. there was controversy about whether he should be depicted in his wheelchair. they removed the cigarette from his hands.
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the statue of mrs. roosevelt is missing the fox that she wore around her neck. i think it was interesting in and of itself. eisenhower, i looked at him in the same way. "the washington post" was very skeptical. it the national review had a piece about the eisenhower memorial. they said that washington did not need another monument, and who was this guy, anyway? >> i found this quote. "if they are to put up any memorials to me, i would like to be placed in the center of that green plot in from of the archives building. i should like it to consist of
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a block about the size of the desk." for years, i saw that blocked in front of the archives and it is about the size of a desk and they spent $50 million plus on the memorial. what happened? if you wanted a block of cement there, why did not leave it alone? what's it is a surprising interval -- >> is a surprising interval after he died. in roosevelt's case, i remember when that block of granite was put up. felix frankfurter had just died in this was found among his papers. lyndon johnson was president at the time and he was a great hero worshiper of fdr so it was done almost overnight. the trouble was, there had been
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an ongoing project of a roosevelt memorial. there is a famous one that was advanced in the late fifties as a modern stonehenge. it was in a semicircle. there are endless debates -- you can find books and reprints on the latest plans someone should write a doctoral dissertation on the history of the roosevelt memorial before they finally settled in the 1970's on the plan that was ultimately built. my reaction to the roosevelt memo was a sense that clyde d. eisenhower was a man of
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humility and would not want a grandiose monument to himself. my response is that nobody would. no president is going to write a memo saying that i am such an extraordinary figure that i think a battleship's size monument should be built to meet commemorating my achievements over the decades. i think that roosevelts memo -- i think he is being modest in a bid coming way. i think that in the back of his head, he knew that something else would someday be built in his honor. it is typical of somebody like fdr that he would say, "please come i don't want anything." the only person i can think of that wasn't ashamed of that was douglas macarthur who wanted a fitting mausoleum and got it in more full -- 10th norfolk.
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>> as i was reading your book, i heard the news conference by bob gates in which he said, "there are now 40 four-star officers." i was not able to get the exact number, but i do not think there were 44 four-star generals in world war two did you talk about the general's and all that. what has happened to our military? >> i think it is something of a phenomenon of a peacetime military. it has been observed that when national armies -- the less they do, the more spectacular
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the look of their uniforms. the people who are more businesslike and do the actual fighting are less interested in those things. it is true -- i can remember -- maybe it is still true. when i was a kid, the world almanac would list the generals. i do not know, i have never calculated. the number of four-star generals in world war ii was probably the same or perhaps even less. another thing is that if you look at portraits of eisenhower
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or omar bradley or some of the other generals, they have perhaps two or maybe three rows of stripes on their uniform and now they have it from their shoulder and they run out of space. i remember that during the abu ghraib crisis, she would wear a uniform and i suspect that she had to rows of ribbons on her uniform and i think she had been in the army for two years or three years. i think there has been some great inflation. >> you said that roosevelt was a stylish aristocrat and eisenhower was a plain spoken
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officer with the difficult judgment. both were politicians of genius with a talent for transmuting in their different ways private convictions into public inspiration. what led to to want to write about these two men in the same book? >> well, i have had a lifelong fascination -- i started reading about him when i first target reading. he was the first president i was conscious of. what has intrigued me about them is a couple of things. they were both dissimilar men. they were very different in their own way.
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one was from the east coast and one was from the midwest. one was written one was by no means rich. one had his career fall into his lap and the other was a boy who clawed his way up the ranks in the army. they were very different personally. at a very critical moment in american history, they came together. they complemented one another. one benefited from his association with the other. in a funny way, they both had very similar attitudes towards american power and the ability
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to do things and do good. to me, although there are innumerable other people who get credit for pulling america into global stature, say president mckinley and theodore roosevelt, but franklin roosevelt led america to a superpower in the world. eisenhower was the president that was the instrument of roosevelt's desires. in the 1950's, he consolidated and build on america's superpower status. this is not unimportant. he converted the republican party from where it was.
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the most prominent republican of the day, robert taft, was very isolated. he was opposed to the creation of nato. he had been very isolationist before the war and after the war as well. taft was a brilliant man. i do not mean to demean him in any way. he was unquestionably an isolationist in the republican party. it seemed inevitable that taft would be president. a taft presidency was feared. one of my reviewers criticized me for ignoring the president in between the two.
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i actually wrote him back and i said that my intention was not to demean harry truman. i would make the further point that everyone -- first of all, truman is, to some degree, roosevelt + 7. he is an extension. >> eisenhower, you do have to make the case. i did not make this as a slight to truman. >> you obviously were asking yourself how this works. saturday's "will street journal -- "wall street journal"spoke about someone picking five of their favorite books to read in
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your case, the five best were who showed the best statesmanship in the white house. how does this work? >> i cannot remember if it was an e-mail or a phone call from someone at the wall street journal. she had read my book, or at least seen it. she wanted me to do one of these lists. it was not clear what kind of list it would be. i asked if she could give me 45 minutes to think about this. i got back in touch with her and told i could give her the top five books on eisenhower or i could give her the top five books on presidents and foreign policy. she said that was a good idea.
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i chose five books that demonstrate how presidents conduct foreign policy. >> the first one on your list is "hands-off." you said it was a graceful account of the origins and later history of the monroe doctrine which, in 1823, declare the western hemisphere off- limits to european colonial expansion. the doctrine did more than survive to terms, it became a permanent policy. >> after that list appeared, the only living author on it set me a note and thank me for recognizing his work -- thanked me for recognizing his book. he said it was a good list.
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i rode back to him and i said that i was actually an english major and never took a course in diplomatic history. as it happens, several books were published before 1960, -- if you worry about taking track of the monroe doctrine, you just have to is the book that was published last year and ignore everything else. i actually told the journal that you probably should mention the subtitle or else no one would know what it was about.
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i guess that they ran out of space. dexter perkins was a very prominent diplomatic historian. he taught at the university of rochester. the book is a wonderfully written book. it goes beyond and talks about some discussion about conditions in latin america. the point being that we still think in terms of the monroe doctrine. >> how does it apply today? >> it applies today in the sense that we still practice the monroe doctrine. president kennedy cited by name
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during the cuban missile crisis. it is not an instrument to prevent european colonial expansion anymore, but outside interference in hemispheric affairs, whether the soviet union or nazi germany or whatever. it is the business of the united states as a sort of a big brother of the hemisphere. >> what physically appeared? >> it was drafted by the secretary of state john quincy adams. it appears in monroe's state of the union address. it was a kind of parenthetical idea aimed at britain.
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>> the second book, the diary of james k. polk. the tennessean old was an austere, detached, deeply jaundiced chronicler. pouring out is that the frustrations in plain language. you want to say that mr. buchanan is an able man, but is in small matters without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid. talking about the former president. >> the future president. >> at that time, yes. >> that is funny on several levels. what he is talking about is this is right after the election of 1848 when polk was leaving and zachary taylor had arrived in washington and the feeling
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was that no one in the cabinet should call on president elect taylor until president polk had left the white house. buchanan felt that it was important that he meet with general taylor. so, what is funny about that is there has been speculation over buchanan's lack of interest in women. polk himself as acting like an old maid. it is a very funny passage. there are innumerable additions.
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>> the to read the whole fiery? >> yes. >> how long is it? >> it is about 400 pages and it covers only his presidency. i do not know if he kept a diary beforehand. he died right after he left office. >> how much reading do you do? >> i read all the time. i am an insomniac and so i read late at night. i read at the breakfast table. i read at work. i read on the train. i constantly read. i do not own a kindle or an ipad. >> theodore roosevelt's and the
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rise of america to world power. this is a series of lectures and it talks about -- the second part of this is how did roosevelt and his embrace of global power arrive at his convictions and become the first commander in chief actively to project american power around the globe? your book also talks about global power and how eisenhower and roosevelt fit into that. >> it was a series of lectures at johns hopkins. it is interesting to me because roosevelt's reputation was at a very low ebb at the time. there was a famous older prize- winning biographer of roosevelt, a man called henry pringle. he described him as a grown-up little boy roaming around the
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world and making trouble. if you ever have seen "arson and old lace," that is sort of the image of roosevelt in terms of the old uncle running around the house. there was actually a book published a year or two before that which was a short book and it might even be shorter than mine. it was a resurrection of roosevelt as a serious figure. to some degree come of those books raised a roosevelt revival. you could argue that mckinley, with his war on the spanish empire, have been the first president to actively use power
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overseas. mckinley was killed and roosevelt took up that role and was a very activist president in that way. he was certainly the first global presence in that sense that i use it. >> edmund morris comes up with the third of his trilogy on theodore roosevelt. how do you rate his writings about roosevelt? >> i rate him very highly. i reviewed the rise of theodore roosevelt and i got a long long letter from edmund morris. at the time, he said that i had understood the book particularly well. that was quite flattering. i like morris because he has a literary flair and sympathy for his subjects that is pleasant.
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he does not have an ideological axe to grind. it is an interesting portrait of roosevelt, who is an astonishing human being treated in some ways, roosevelt is a force of nature. sundays, he seems like he is crazy and other days he seems like he is an astonishingly urbane and rapacious person to that no president or more books than theodore roosevelt. he was an astonishing reader. >> do you have any tricks about how to read the most you can get out of something? >> i am a slow reader. i do not know what the term is, but i tend to read books and i inadvertently stick around.
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i read the endings of novels before i get to the ending. a lot of books, i read by skipping around, and at some point, i realize i have read the whole thing. but, no, i am not a speed reader. >> this is from the august 7 "wall street journal." >> i have never done this before, so i did not know what to expect. they seemed pleased with it. >> the fourth book you mentioned -- house helped draft wilson's 14 points plan to end the war and worked closely with the president on the versailles treaty and the covenant of the league of nations. but then he was abruptly
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dismissed from the prickly wilson inner circle. >> wilson was going beyond -- he was talking to people. wilson had a paranoid streak. he was very controlling. he ultimately feuded with his about everyone in his circle. i have always felt that it was wilson's personality that doomed the league as much as anything else. he was incapable of dealing with opposition or descending argument in any practical way. colonel house was kind of an intriguing figure. he was a texan but was from new york. he became the first informal --
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he did not want a cabinet post. he was an informal adviser to wilson. he had wilson became very close. wilson became very dependent on him. when world war i broke out, he sent house over to london to try and stop the war, and then to advance american interests, whatever they may be. the intimate papers of colonel house is a work edited by charles seymour, a diplomatic historian at yale who later became president of yale. i actually discovered it in my 20s. it was the title "the into the papers" that intrigued me. he was president of yale in the
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1930's and 1940's. whenever i met an elderly yale graduate, i would ask them if they were there when charles seymour was president and they are surprised that anybody has ever heard of charles seymour. they always say the same thing. he was the last of the old fashioned presidents of yale. he had an edwardian air about him. >> the last out of the five best is the alonzo handy "for the survival of democracy." the consensus on the new deal remains unsettled, but roosevelt global leadership in the late 1930's until world war ii made america the superpower it remains.
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>> i think it is a brilliant book. i think that it is the best, to me, the best description of roosevelt's thinking about foreign affairs. as a kind of thesis -- he has a kind of pieces that the profession have a more profound effect on foreign affairs and the recognized and how limited the options of the british and us and others. he also makes the point that roosevelt was a steady and consistent voice for liberal democracy, what ever you want to call it, during that time. some of the greatest minds of
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the time were being seduced by communism and fascism and others predict roosevelt was a force for democracy -- and others. roosevelt was a force for democracy and practiced it. i think that handy does a masterful job of describing all that. >> in your book, you dedicated to grace and the hounds. let's start with greasy. >> gracie is my daughter. i should give my family credit for this book. my wife and children had urged me to do a book. this was in response to that. gracie is my daughter.
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she is 19 and a drama major at the university of virginia. coleman is my son, and he is a medical student. >> how old is he? >> he is 25. he went to canton college in virginia. >> my wife and daughter have the same name. my wife is vice-president of communications at hudson institute here in washington. i think that c-span is filming in the event there as we speak. my wife was quite distressed that i was coming to see you because it would distract c- span from the important business of going to the hudson institute. who are the -- >> who are the hounds? >> they are our dogs.
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we refer to them as members of the family. i thought it would be a little kitschy to list them by name. what do any of your children have an interest in history? >> they do. they will not pursue it in any professional way. >> if a young person were to come to you today and say, "philip terzian, give me a couple books on history that i should read." would you tell them? how's it would depend on old they are. the book that i discovered when i first started to read was called the american past, by roger butterfield.
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this book was published in 1947. it is a history of the united states from 1789 -- well, it starts with the revolution and ends with world war ii. it was a book that i must have read -- and that, my parents' copy disintegrated because of my rough handling of it, but it got me interested in history. i also was interested in english history at the time. "the american past" is a wonderful encapsulation of events and ideas in short form. there are a lot of illustrations so you can picture things as they happen.
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it is really quite a good book. i have always -- i presented both of my children with copies of the book. over time, they have enjoyed it. >> i have an enormous stack of "weekly standards" here. it leads off every issue with a book that is reviewed. let me start by acting -- asking about this part of your job. how would you define a literary editor? >> "the weekly standard" is divided into two parts. i am responsible for the books and arts section. what that is is undefined.
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to me, it is mostly book reviews, but i also like to run articles about art, music, dance, personal essays. i's a famous writer dies, will try to get an obituary essay on them. the nice thing is that we try to close my section of the magazine poll earlier, so i am also able to contribute to the rest of the magazine which is a great pleasure. it is an amenable place to work. there is a weekly parity that i sometimes do. there is a section called "scrapbook," and i often write those. >> you also wrote for "the new republic." what year was that? >> 1974 to 1978. >> as your politics changed
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from there to now? >> yes, i was not as left wing as one would be at the time. i did not know how would describe myself politically. there is a kind of transition to some degree. i grew up in a very left wing household. my parents were liberal democrats. i think they would -- if they were alive, they would be horrified that i wrote a book that has nice things to say about dwight d. eisenhower. in our house, we were ranting and raving about eisenhower. i had a secret admiration for
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eisenhower. to some degree, i am a natural reactionary or much more interested in the past then the future. i was an observer and participant of the 1960's when i came of age, but all of it horrified me. i always have found that when people get nostalgic about may 1968, i revered institutions.
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i remember, as a child, people would complain that the west was in a calcified state. why was anyone surprised when you look at the geriatric leadership that was stuck. these old men -- my reaction was, "who wouldn't give their right arms to have the world led by those men today?" after i went away to school, i slowly moved to the right. the 1970's had an effect on me. i was moved to the right, seeing my parents party from the outside.
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>> as i look at these reviews, there is a review of william goldman, the man who wrote "lord of the flies." christopher benson reviewed the best of the best. is the decision on what book to put in here yours? >> is. >> do you ticket review the will have a conservative point of view? >> no, not at all. i would say that we have a conservative temperament at the magazine. we do not consider ourselves a
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-- i do not think we are particularly dogmatic. we are unpredictable in some ways. i gave the "history of the 1940's" a favorable review. the decision about which books to review and who to review them is entirely mine. but my working hypothesis is that the readers of the magazine have had their fill of certain things by the time they get to my section. i like to change the subject a little bit.
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books on foreign policy, terrorism, iraq, things like that, they have a slightly higher threshold to cross to get into my section. i think of it as having an educational and entertaining function. from all the evidence, readers seem to like that. the kind of like the unexpected mixture of subjects. i get a lot of letters from readers saying that they had never really thought they would be interested in james brown, but that was interested as a. if you are not picking your own books to review, where do you go? >> i read all the national newspapers. there are certain magazines
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across my desk for today that i looked at. >> do you have a place that does the best job? >> oh, nothing particularly stands out. i am not oblivious about these things. i almost never looked up the atlantic website. >> as an editor of the book review, how much to you have to say about what in some up in the magazine? if you do not like what it would your has done, what do you do about that? >> i either cut out the parts i don't like. occasionally, it will say things that i don't think are quite right for the sum of detract from what they're saying
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-- they somewhat detract from what they are saying. i do not think i have ever had a writer complain about that, as long as i explained to them why. >> sometimes i think that i want to learn about the book and i learned about the reviewer. what makes a good review? >> my attitude is that people want to learn something and they want to know whether this book is worth obtaining. some tended to use the book review section to which academic wars and criticize people that they did not like.
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one reviewer delighted in a piece of trash such and such. even if a book is all that great, i would like to have an essay on the subject. i have tried to be conscious of the journalist. people purchase our products. there is no harm in appealing to them in that sense. when i was at "the lessons was tons," i prided myself. i think an awful lot of literary journalism as well as political journalism is directed
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at a small, interlocking audience. they are scoring points. they are responding to something that appeared last year. i do not think the general reader is aware of that were interested. i believe it is a disservice. >> the title of the book is "architects of power: roosevelt. eisenhower and the american century". philip terzian, the key for joining us. >> thank you. it was a pleasure. >> for a dvd copy of this program call 1-877-662-7726.
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