tv QA John Lewis Gaddis CSPAN May 27, 2018 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT
questions from the house of commons. after that, tim ryan delivers a speech to new hampshire democrats. this week on "q&a," yale university professor john lewis gaddis. the professor discusses his book on --
his book "on grand strategy." , you: john lewis gaddis grew up in a small-town in texas. john: that is right. brian: some famous people are from there besides you. jeff bezos. lyndon johnson taught school there. john: right. brian: what impact did that town
have on you? john: it was and still is a very small town. i thought it was a great place to grow up. it never seems that way to a kid. looking back, you can say this. i think one of the best examples of why it was such a good thisience comes back to theme of the book
the hedgehog and the fox. my colleague at yale, we were having dinner. he announced that when he was little, he had a pet hedgehog growing up in england. paul, becausetop i had a pet armadillo growing up in texas. brian: did you know when you were growing up lyndon johnson taught school there? john: we all knew that, but we were warned, don't ever trust that guy. he's going to be president of the united states sometime.
it was clear to people even then when he was a young schoolteacher that he was a rising star. my dad despised him and said, don't ever trust him. don't ever vote for him. and yet my grandmother was totally charmed by him. brian: did you ever meet? john: i never did meet him, but i cannot member he appeared their in the 1948 campaign. i have a photo of him with my grandmother and with my dad, who is there, but he is disgusted. wass seven at the time and across the street, we actually lived across the street. the explanation i was later given was lyndon talks dirty, so the kids were not allowed to come. the other fellow from there, jeff bezos, the richest man in america. brian: how did that happen? john: i do not know and i have not intersected with him. he has a huge range there.
i do not know the history. i have never met him, but i would love to. brian: when did you leave? john: when i went off to school, 1958, i guess. i was 18 or so. brian: that in 2004 we had a long discussion about a lot of things. you went to ohio university and then jumped to yale. you have done what course? john: since i got to yell i have done several different courses, including one big one on cold war history. the one i think is most relevant to this book is one called studies in grand strategy, which is a seminar which i did collaboratively with paul kennedy and with charles hill. the three of us formed this course that in the late 1990's.
there was a real absence of grand strategic thinking at high levels in the united states. we did not have the allusion we could do much about it immediately. we decided to set up a course that would tell our students what they need to know with the idea would keep this the inside their heads until 20 years from then or 30 years from then, they rose to positions of responsibility and could actually begin to draw on it. that has always been the theme of the course. long-term investment. brian: for all three of you there all the time? john: we were at the time we taught it and we continue to be the last two or three years. i have now turned it over to professor beverly gage, who is now running it. i still sit in on the class. yaleas brought other professors, which i am delighted to see happening. i am a student at
yale, what year do i do this? john: junior of undergraduate. there would be about 40 people, but there would have been 140 who applied for it. there are more people who want to get into it then are able to do so. brian: how often does it meet? john: once a week. brian: for how long? -- in the old regime it would meet two hours once a week. the new program is doing two meetings per week. one for lecture, one for discussion. this is a new experiment being tried this year. brian: how did the three of you get together? that's a lot of firepower. john: the three of us, i had known paul for years. paul kennedy. i got to know charlie hill as soon as i got the ale. i can tell you specifically how we get together.
we went to a briefing on nato expansion in 1998. there was a couple of spokesman from nato who came at their request to address yale university. had a question of how smoothly the expansion would go. this was, at the time, the expansion just to include poland. they framed the discussion in terms of how easily the polls and the checks and the hungarians would be accommodated within the committee structure process and how everyone would get along in these meetings that took place in brussels. it was the only rationale that was given. finally, one of our colleagues grew impatient and said, but hadn't you considered that expanding nato to the east could arouse suspicions in the eyes of the russians? this was the pre-putin time.
and possibly impair league effort to turn russia into a democracy, drive russia into the arms of the chinese, thereby reversing the great compliments of the cold war? one of the briefers actually held his hand to his head like this and said, gosh, we never thought of that. the three of us walked out and we told each other, we have to do something. that is where the idea got started. brian: let me show some video of charles hill so people can see what he looks like and we can talk about his impact. clip] >> we were neighbors over the back fence. we were independently, all three of us getting the same messages quietly from students who were
migrating, voting with their feet, coming from certain other majors, heading toward history with the plea, why can't we think big? brian: think they. -- think big. what does that mean? john: it means long-term, it means think interconnectedly, it means raise big questions. if you are thinking little, you're thinking about committee structures in brussels. if you're thinking big, you thinking about the impact on russia and china and relations. brian: where to charlie hill come from? john: years of service as an american diplomat. that was his first career. he was on kissinger's policy plans. he was chief assistant to george
schultz during the reagan administration. he is still one of the greatest resources for the reagan administration because 22,000 pages of handwritten notes he kept on conversations that took place in the reagan administration. on his retirement, he came to yale before i did and started teaching outside any known department. charlie was always the kind of free floater, and still is. his interests which came from the foreign service as a profession don't actually -- they actually mashed with my interest as a diplomatic historian and with paul kennedy's interests in his study of the rise and fall of great powers. brian: here is the third member of your team. paul kennedy. [video clip] such rich materials around him, and they were lying there. bismarck.
origins of the second world war. churchill. we could teach a lot of stuff topics, larger trends in history, lessons to be pulled out of getting the students to read thucidides. when they write about this course, they want to put charlie hill on the right and paul kennedy on the left and you in the center. john: that is true. brian: is that true? john: more or less. brian: do you mix it up? john: we do and we have a lot of fun. brian: what do you disagree on? john: everything. we exaggerate his room is rouse students -- exaggerate disagreements to rouse students. we are still neighbors and close
friends. but the students enjoy this kind of dialogue and debate among their professors. i think they take some reassurance in knowing there are several ways of looking at a problem instead of some party line. i think they respect the possibility for arguing vigorously within a framework of mutual respect and civility. friends. we are good they know we go out to dinner and they come over to our houses. we are close enough with them that is possible for the students. the combination of vigorous intellectual debate among close personal friends who are dedicated teachers, i think has been a wonderful thing and a very rare thing. it depends so much on personnel. very few places would be able to applicant this. -- replicate.
this. brian: i have read the suggestion has been made that when you became somewhat -- i don't know if the word is closed, but you became a friend of or briefer to george w. bush, some of the people came off of your -- supporting your in academia. john: i would not say a became a close advisor. what i found out to my surprise is he is a close reader of history. on 9/11,d a short book called surprise, security, and the american experience, i was called down by condoleezza rice, who i had known for a long time, and she said, could you briefed sure. my team? i said, i finished lunch, she says, by
the way, could you spare a few moments for the president? i said, yeah, i probably could. we go immediately into the oval and there is president bush. and vice president cheney. bush has got his copy of this book out, heavily annotated. he says, sit-down. i had kind of expected of photo op. he says to down, tell me about bismarck. this is not what i was expecting, for short. i had to improvise a lecture on bismarck for george w. bush on the spur of the moment. from that, i did go down for a series of other seminars. he regularly ran small seminars with historians. often on biographies. let's do woodrow wilson, let's do lincoln. i was one of several people who would go down periodically for that. that was the extent. it was not really what i would
call real advising. brian: is it true you suggested he play was the churchill and begin painting? john: it is true. that happened about four years into his retirement. dallas.and i were in student, several students who had worked for him. i said, we would like to drop by and say hello. and we did. somed us come by at ungodly hour like 7:30 in the morning. i asked him, how are you? he said, i am bored. i don't have enough to do. i said, you should take a painting. i told him about the churchill as a painting as a pastime, each we use in the grand strategy class. brian: a small book? john: a small book.
he has turned out to be very good at it. brian: did he send you a painting? john: he has not done that, but it knowledge is me in his book of paintings he published, portraits of veterans that he did. brian: i don't want to take up the whole show, but i want to go back to -- tell us about bismarck. john: bismarck was fairly simple. bismarck's great skill as a strategist was that he knew the advantages of shock and off. -- awe. this is how he unified germany. he instigated wars with austria, hungary, and eventually france. just started them himself. having done that, having achieved his objective, which was the unification of germany, he stopped. he became a consolidator rather than an instigator. 's next 20 years in power as german chancellor were devoted
to trying to build reassuring alliances to build a web of alliances with all of germany's neighbors so that they would get used to the idea of a unified germany. it was that distinction between shock and all -- awe and knowing when to do something else. this was what bush was interested in as well. brian: your position on iraq? john: like a lot of other people, sympathetic to the idea originally of going in. i took the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, intended to take it literally and believe it like a lot of people. there was a huge intelligence failure, obviously, in that regard. had we known that, had we known those weapons were not there, i would not have paper going in under those circumstances.
-- favored going in under those circumstances. i made a mistake because of the people made a mistake in intelligence. there is a lot to be learned from that. paul mentioned thuc ydides. you hear this from historians. they want you to read the peloponnesian wars. what there is timeless? john: he told us in his history that he intended to be a work for all time, not because history repeats itself, but because it resembles itself. and because human nature never changes. that was his own vision of the significance of his work. that has been borne out, it seems to me, by time. i first read him under very strange circumstances. i was hired by the late admiral
turner to teach in the 1970's, just at the end of the vietnam war. i had no military experience. i was quite appalled to find out i was expected to teach this book i had never read, thucydides, to these guys coming back from vietnam. none of us understood with the connection was. we dutifully did with the admiral said and got to the end of it, and we began reading about the doomed athenian expedition to sicily, which was another of these situations in betweene distinction vital and peripheral interests have gotten lost. credibility became the big issue. dominoes. thinking was there. -- domino theory thinking was there. it opened up the floodgates with the students.
for some of them, to talk about their experiences in vietnam. for me, what that did was to show the extraordinary instructional value of the classics in dealing with recent issues. newport, from that time, and still today, has built its course, its strategy and policy course, on thucydides and other classical texts. that became a model for the course that we developed some two decades later at yale. brian: there is a footnote that got my attention. you talk a lot about machiavelli and the prince. i have to read this back and ask why. the only book that rivals the prince in unsettling my students is the second volume of the lyndon b. johnson biography which argues lbj could never 1965 we shall overcome speech had he not
stolen the 1948 texas democratic senatorial primary. why does that freak out your students? john: if they read machiavelli, what they read about is the need to make unpleasant compromises if you're going to be in politics. there are some things you have to do in order to achieve later objectives. the idea that you can maintain moral purity and still be in machiavelli,or simply impossible. machiavelli talks at one point about a rebellious province that had to be pacified. for geo-pacified it by taking the governor of this province and displaying in the public spit -- square the two pieces. one life lost and the province
pacified. my students say, or going to have to do something like that to achieve our objectives? i say nothing is simple, nothing is easy in life. i do another course on biography volumeh i regularly use two, because it talks about the famous democratic primary in texas. in 1948, there was no republican party there, and had johnson stole the election, which he won by 87 votes. it is very clear it was a stolen election. craftily begins that volume by -- with his account of the we shall overcome speech in 1965. a classic speech by lbj, in which lbj talks about teaching school in my hometown of cotulla .
he makes the point johnson would never have been able to make that speech had he not gotten .nto the senate i post to the students, what would you have done? what is moral and what is not? it is actually competing moralities, which is an isaiah berlin idea. in machiavelli and johnson and in caro. there is no good solution, but it is important for students to understand they will themselves in some way, maybe less dramatically, confront difficult choices like this. brian: why are so many professors in love with isaiah berlin? john: he was quite a character. i got to know him slightly when i was a dr. in the early 90's. he was best known for his distinction between foxes and hedgehogs, which goes back to the ancient greeks, but it was
berlin who popularized that being then, the idea fox knows many things and the hedgehog knows one big thing. that became iconic. berlin is associated with that. is other ideas, which i think are even more relevant, one is this idea that politics is a matter, not so much of good and evil, but of competing good things. one good thing may well have to be sacrificed to achieve some other good thing. maybe you give it up altogether. maybe you postpone it. and is the more natural frequent political choice that has to be made. the idea you can go into politics and remain morally consistent or pure, berlin says, is perfectly unrealistic. this is the nature of politics. 1997. here he is in
this is an interview from swedish television. john: event to listen very carefully. -- you have got to listen carefully. [video clip] i am being tied to a tree, i cannot move. freedom means not being tied to a tree. -- as a freedom is -- am i the master? that is the third idea for whichhe is remembered, freedom reconciles all contradictions is actually no freedom at all. it is authoritarianism. that is overbearing totalitarian
government. you are told the contradictions happen reconciled. that was installing, for example. for example. the negative freedom is the freedom to work at these choices for yourself. that can be a painful process, but you are in charge. you have no master. i have found all of these ideas fruitful.grateful. -- because i knew them and respected him. i let him be a commentator on this new book. i had the feeling that when i was writing this book, isaiah was perched on my shoulder, or was looking over my shoulder, a spooky kind of feeling.
just commenting on various things. if you read the book, you know he comes in and out at different points in the book. he appears in chapter one. he comes back when i discuss machiavelli omicron chapter four -- in chapter four. he comes back yet again what i am talking about cleveland , -- franklin roosevelt, a great hero to berlin. and when he is making his most extreme moral compromises in world war ii, relying on the soviet union to achieve victory omicron europe with the russians doing 90% of the fighting for us. at the price of enslaving half of europe for the next four decades or so. a huge, difficult issue. isaiah was, as a young reporter
for the front office working him washington, sending a reports to the combination of his own observations and his later ruminations, which came out of his writings, were perfect. you can think of him as a kind of philosophical commentator on each part of this book as you proceed through it. out -- leave in and weave in and out. brian: he was here years ago and then he went to canada from a political party. john: more recently heading up the central european university. brian: here is a clip of isaiah berlin coming to america in 1941, talking about british information. in new york in
1941. your job is to engage in propaganda that will get the americans into the war. >> that is what you are doing? >> that is what we were doing. if anyone wants us to know anything, we could supply information. wasinformation we supplied supplied to all. the whole truth. brian: typical berlin. , you talk things about winston churchill being, you tell me, excited about pearl harbor. this solvedurchill, so many problems. strategy,s grand which he had decided -- once he
had decided not to surrender in 1940, the only thing he could do was wait for the americans. wait for roosevelt. britain could never hope to win the war on its own. the best it can hope for is to island, preserve its fleet. in the end the americans would have to come into the war. how that would happen, how it could be done, was franklin roosevelt's issue he had to deal with. roosevelt's strategy was one of waiting also, but waiting for several different points. waiting for american rearmament to take place so the resources of this great continent could be harnessed and applied, he is fully rearming the country in a rapid way, and then he is
waiting for american public opinion to change. american public opinion was very or 1940.ist in 1939 it is beginning to shift as americans see what is happening in europe. the isolation is and begins to thin out. forevelt is also waiting his own fort sumter, just like lincoln was waiting for the attack on fort sumter, attacked by the confederacy, which then provided the justification for war. roosevelt did not know where was going to come from. he did know the japanese were under great pressure. in part because of an american oil embargo. the japanese attack on pearl harbor solve the great number of problems for roosevelt. there was only one problem left. it was the japanese who had
attacked and not the germans. how does roosevelt bring us into the war against germany? he did not have to think about for more than two days. hitler's, for reasons which are not well understood, declared war on the united states. that solved roosevelt strategic problem and churchill's as well. brian: have you learn? -- how do you learn? what has been your system? john: both by reading and teaching and reading more and teaching more. if that makes sense. i don't think you really know what you have read well until you have tried to teach it to a group of young people. i think as you teach to a group of young people, you realize there are things you still don't know enough about to teach and that drives you
back to additional reading. the intersection of reading and teaching, and after you get to a certain point, writing also. for me, the active writing something down, like this book, is a working out of ideas in my own mind, which is another approach to thinking. i really did not know what i thought about some of these issues that are discussed in this book until i wrote the book. now i can go back and see what i think. i think it is a creative interconnection of all three of these things. reading, teaching, and writing. brian: you mentioned professor modernized the- hedgehog in the fox. i'm sure you can do this. lyndon johnson, was he a headshot or a fox? -- hedgehog for a fox? john: mostly a fox, because he
was a manipulator. he was a skillful operator. he was -- could pull all the buttons and do all the maneuvers. sense,hink in another and this is another issue raised by caro, johnson was deeply inside the hedgehog. wouldehog idea, caro argue, came from teaching in my hometown in 1928. he was teaching in a segregated mexican school and was very much moved by these kids who did not get very many resources. he goes there only one year, but the experience stuck with him. what he wasnk saying is i want to get to appoint in life where i can do something like that -- something
for kids like that. the question is, how do you get to that point? you get to it by stealing elections, by manipulating legislators, wheeling and dealing. i think it comes full circle with the we shall overcome speech, where he goes back and talks about, my hometown, cotulla and what that meant to him. brian: the find, once again, i hedfg -- and a fox -- a a hedgehog and a fox. knows one bigog thing and will have one lens of looking at the world. john: a fox will be aware of many competing priorities, may have different priorities. a fox can lose a sense of because there is no
one central idea. an unfocused fox is a spinning wheel. the obvious solution is to be both. brian: nixon? john: nixon. a complicated figure, but elements of both. i would say mostly a fox. a very clever at seeing opportunities and exploiting them. particularly about foreign policy, about the opportunities opening up for opening china, the extent to which he moved rapidly to exploit those opportunities and made the most of that, not all presidents would have done that. it would have been difficult, for example, for lyndon johnson to have done it or hubert humphrey, if he won in 1968. the democrats were under some much pressure from having lost china back in the 1940's.
nixon was very good at seizing opportunities and running with them. too much of a fox on domestic issues. he cut too many corners. he let himself get caught. i suspect fdr cut a lot of corners on the way. i know lincoln cut a lot of quarters -- corners. in both of those cases, if they had got caught, they had good explanations for doing so. it is hard to see what the explanation what has been for the watergate break-ins, except short-term political interest, which does not make sense anyway because he was going to win that election by a landslide. into the, you descend psychology of grudges and maybe that's a deeply hedgehog idea that can override more sound
thought. brian: you mentioned steven spielberg's lincoln. .ere is an excerpt [video clip] it will point you true north from where you are standing. it has no advice about the swamps and deserts you will encounter along the way. it in proceeding to your destination you plunge ahead heedless of destinations and sink into a swamp, what is the use of knowing true north? brian: headshot? fox? john: both. that was iconic for me in writing the book. brilliance with which that is played by dana lewis seems to encompass -- daniel day
lewis seems to encompass what he is all about. he talks about the importance of having a goal, having a compass setting, having a sense of -- andon, but realize that sense of direction was winning the war and abolishing slavery, which is what the movie deals with, but lincoln was a consummate politician as well. ,e understood that to get there he cannot go straight to that objective. he will run into the swamp or over a cliff. he has got to circumvent, he has got to navigate, he has got to maneuver. before long, maybe he has got to bribe a few people and whatnot. he is as manipulative a -- as nixon or lbj ever were. the brilliance of that movie is the extent to which it shows
this in lincoln. the great difference with lincoln is he wasn't so fixated goal andarger role -- could so eloquently express it, and i think that is the genius of lincoln. lbj is interesting because he had a larger goal. i think it was ending poverty and racism in this country. but he allowed himself to be distracted by the vietnam war and lost the ability to persuade credibly. his credibility began to go down the tubes shortly after the election in 1965. he was caught being less ,ntruthful about various things the intervention in the dominican republic and a whole series of things that led to the credibility. the press is tougher on johnson than it was on lincoln.
it was pretty tough on lincoln in that day and age. that is what i think you have to do in -- to do, and leadership is to maintain the compass heading, circumvent the swamps, but be able to explain what compromises you have made if you have to make some and get caught making them. be able to explain why you did that. trick, a tough triangle to maintain. -- a poll showed yelled students are about 70% democrats. e students are about 70% democrats. john: i would have guessed higher than that. brian: do you ever take a poll after whether they are hedgehogs or fox's? john: we don't want to give too
much importance to that dichotomy. berlin meant it as a teaching tool. you to ask a consistent set of questions about a variety of people. it is useful up to a point. the points can be drawn to finally, trying to make find the sanctions between hedgehog is hedgehogisms of -- and foxism. it becomes artificial. the more interesting question is how you can combine the attributes of the hedgehog and the fox. that means knowing when to be which, and this gets around one of charlie hill's favorite observations, from scott's -- from scott fitzgerald. to sign of intelligence is
hold opposing ideals in mind and retain the ability to function. charlie always announces this to the class but never tells them what it means. it drives them crazy. my book is an attempt to take withidea and come at it foxes and hedgehogs. say they are the opposing ideas, and how are they held simultaneously brian:? brian:-- held simultaneously. brian: i want to ask you about academia. nicholas brady was a senator and secretary of the treasury. [video clip] >> -- on the constitution of the united states. >> i come from 30 years in the banking business. and though you don't hear the term anymore, i was always taught the best loan you could make was a character loan. -- beyondooked behind
hard numbers and took a leap of faith and counted on the character and strength of the individual involved. brian: this man comes from the republican party, paid money for this course, does that matter? has he tried to steer you in a certain direction? john: no. we had one piece of advice from neck when the money came through -- nick when the money came through. i asked him, mr. brady, thank you for your generosity. what should we do with your money? he said, t common sense -- teach common sense. it was wonderful advice that hugeed us hugely way -- leeway. he has never tried to tell us, do this, do that, hire this person. .e maintains a lively interest
he is in his upper 80's now that i hear from him frequently -- but i hear from him frequently. when he does give advice, it is good advice. five years ago he called me up and he said, you know, you and kennedy and hill are not getting any younger. nick was in his early 80's at that point. he said, you had better start thinking about a successor. he had us put into place a very gradual succession process. has beverly gage as director of the program, and she has brought in a good number of younger yell faculty members -- yale faculty members. that has led to an expansion in the range of what we do.
social protest, economic inequality. 's a sense ofick how an institution remains healthy. it has got to bring in new blood. has got to be open to moving into new areas. if it does not do those things, it stagnates. i would say he is the perfect donor, making things possible and monitoring things carefully, but never actually instructing. just good, sound, common sense advice. brian: let me go back to the hedgehog and the fox. george w. bush? -- i thinknk he was there were elements of the hedgehog in the first term.
a lot of people would say this was the influence of his advisers. not so much bush. but -- you have are the criticism. neoliberalism, or neoconservatism, whatever term you want to apply. but that as he gained confidence in the presidency at the end of the second term, he became more leader, are -- his own and it seems to me was beginning to make his own decisions to a greater extent. we don't have documents yet, so this is an impressionistic judgment. it is shared by many people who write about the administration. helps to explain what he was interested in bismarck when i first met him. he was struck with this idea, shock and awe might be good up to a point, but it is not a permanent strategy. you have to build reassurance later.
what impact that had, i have no idea. brian: what was the date when you met him? john: it would have been the summer of 2004. brian: and the war started -- john: 2003. brian: barack obama? john: more hedgehog than fox. what i mean is someone who is a heavily process person, someone who considers process to be extremely important to the extent that processes can take on lives of their own and sometimes lose sight of what they are for. syria. for example, the management of the syrian situation. i have never seen a clearer explanation of what the united states is trying to do in syria
or who the enemy really is in this situation. that all started with obama. tohink obama did very little notice or take note of the domestic crisis that was brewing. the growing solution meant of the middle classes in this country -- disillusionment of the middle classes of what government was doing for them, and this huge change in american consciousness where americans now have little confidence their children will do better than they did. but historically, americans have always had the confidence their children would do better. if thisnge has taken -- change has taken place, that is an astounding change in the morale of the country. most of the happened on obama's watch. i don't think he was aware of
it. donald trump saw it and has exploited it. irresponsibly, but -- but it wast not responded to in the obama administration. brian: donald trump? john: too soon to say. there may be interesting strategies implicit in what he is doing. he is a destroyer, or he believes in destruction in a positive sense. he thinks you have to break things up before you can fix them. how much of this is a sense of the capacity to build anything new and how much of it is just destructive, it seems to me remains to be seen. in as he didn come in 2015 and 16 and run circles around everybody else in this primaries and campaigns has some
kind of political genius going. maybe it is malevolent genius. maybe it isn't. but this is someone who is picking up on something in the american character that was out there that nobody else was picking up on. -- if it does not deserve respect, it deserves serious analysis. it is where we are going. it is about what is being done. i do think there is a tendency why doald trump to ask, we have to have continued division of the korean peninsula? what is it for? he is probably asking the same iran issue.on the , what islness, asking
it for? bite it has got to be a company with building something that is a continuation of the existing arrangement or something new. that is where i am worried. i don't see the evidence he is capable of building something in the place of what he destroys. brian: what is it like inside of yale talking about donald trump? john: it can't really be done on a rational basis most of the time. within the university -- a univ ersity like yale, the feelings are so visceral, it is hard to have any conversation that does not say printable things. -- predictable things. anybody who tries to say something less than predictable is out to be disregarded. people do not try.
it is almost that way with students, but not quite as much. are in a kind of bubble like many places on the coast are. one of the things we have tried to do in the summer, with our grand strategy students, we have always built in what we call a summer odyssey somewhere, which generally has meant some kind of trip along -- to some exotic part of the world where you are on your own and you have got to cope and you are learning something. the kind of thing you would never be able to do when you are a grown-up. the exotic climes we have been now pushing with our students are simply america. how many of you have taken a road trip across america? surprisingly few.
we are financing road trips across america for yale students with the encouragement to stop in small towns and stay there. a couple have been to cotulla. stayed for as long as two weeks, just talking to locals. they write this up as their projects. it is very simple. we just ask them, write about what you saw, write about what you heard. they can draw their own conclusions from this. i think it is an extremely useful thing to do. it is just our small effort to try to break down some of the isolation that somehow the elite universities have locked themselves into, the bubbles into which they have placed themselves. brian: when you were here in 2004, when you were a young man?
i say that because we were born george canning- was still alive. use in your book. -- what do you think you would have thought of the book once it came out? john: the biography? brian: your biography. john: i like to think he would have approved of it. it was a big book and there were things he would have been shocked to see of -- to see appear there. there were places he would dispute my judgments of certain things. he was so adamant this would be my own book, i'm not sure if you were alive he would ever say much about this. he is so respected that the need author's independence in doing a biography.
that is where it would come down. we both agreed he would not have that dilemma. it was always assumed it would be a posthumous biography. i know you have been asked this before, but who are two or three biographers in history and politics that you think have done the best job? means several different things. i try to teach several different kinds of biography. caro has always been on the list for the dilemmas it raises, even though the idea of a five volume biography is economically no longer possible. withe been very impressed the biography of isaiah berlin, which has periodically been on the list. -- i like to experiment
with biographical genres. was on the, jd vance list and has been for a couple of years as a biography of a family. a truly for mental work of fiction with biographical implications has been on the list. one of my favorite characters is the emperor augustus, who was octavian. he gets a chapter in my new book. there is also a wonderful epistolary biography of him by john williams, written some 30 years ago, which is all done as letters. they are fake letters williams has invented. but they are from the real people who would have known the young octavian and the rising augustus. he is described in their words.
he never appears until the end of the book. brian: i have got to ask you a last question. i read that you have been reading a biography of bob dylan. is it worth reading? john: sure it is. brian: are you a follower of bob dylan? john: no, i was just curious. brian: our guest has been john lewis gaddis. his new book is "on grand strategy." thank you. ♪ announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. programs are also available as c-span podcasts. announcer: on the next q and a,
biographer patricia o'toole on her book, the moralist: woodrow wilson. c-span.next week on >> join us live next sunday at noon eastern for our year-long special, in-depth fiction addition. jentemporary novelist gish will be our guest. >> you're are talking about creativity, and i know any writers -- many writers. people who have a lot to say are undaunted by the perspective and storytelling. the idea that there is a storytelling -- that there is a triangle, that you must want to do this if you're going to be a fiction writer, it is necessary, but not sufficient.
it is not going to make you a great writer. but then you sit down and you discover that actually, they could all do it. there is nothing about learning to do those things that impedes creativity. announcer: her book is called typical american. watch our special series, in-depth fiction addition with noonr gish jen, live from to 3 p.m. eastern on c-span announcer: c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, 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. announcer: at the british house of commons this past week, prime minister theresa may was questioned about funding of the uk's national health service by liver -- labor party leader jeremy corbyn. she was also asked about citizenship fees, international trade, and the state of brexit negotiations. this is 45 minutes. >> thank you. order. questions for the prime minister. kerry mccarthy. >> question number one, mr. speaker. >> thank you, mr. speaker. speaker, this week has been the start of the grand felt power -- the grenfell tower inquiry. this was an unimaginable tragedy and justice must be done for the victims, survivors, bereaved and thwi