tv QA John Lewis Gaddis CSPAN May 27, 2018 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
-- announcer: next, "q&a." then, theresa may taking questions from the house of commons. after that, tim ryan delivers a speech to new hampshire democrats. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," yale university professor john lewis gaddis. the professor discusses his book, "on grand strategy." ♪ brian: john lewis gaddis, you 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 experience comes back to this 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. i was able to top paul, because i had a pet armadillo growing up in texas. so, that is part of the fun. [chuckles]
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 can remember he appeared there in the 1948 campaign. i have a photo of him with my grandmother and with my dad, who is there, but he is disgusted. i was seven at the time and was 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. brian: the other fellow from there, jeff bezos, the richest man in america. how did that happen? john: i do not know and i have not intersected with him. he has a huge ranch there.
i do not know the history. i'm very curious. i have never met him, but i would love to. brian: when did you leave? john: when i went off to school, would have been 1958, i guess. i was 18 or so. brian: 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 yale 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.
we became convinced there was a real absence of grand strategic thinking at high levels in the united states. we did not have the illusion 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: are 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. she has brought other yale professors, which i am delighted to see happening.
younger yale professors. brian: if i am a student at yale, what year do i do this? john: junior year 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? john: normally -- 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 to yale. i can tell you specifically how we get together. we went to a briefing on nato expansion in 1998. there were a couple of spokesman from nato who came at their request to address yale university. i had a question of how smoothly the expansion would go. this was, at the time, the expansion just to include hungary, and the czech republic. they framed the discussion in terms of how easily the poles and the czechs 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 pre-putin. and, possibly impair the effort to turn russia into a democracy, drive russia into the arms of the chinese, thereby reversing the great accomplishments 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. [video clip] >> we were neighbors over the back fence.
in the early to mid 1990's, 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 big. what does that mean? john: it means long-term, it means think interconnectedly, it means raise big questions. think across disciplines. 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 did charlie hill come from? john: years of service as an american diplomat. that was his first career. he was on kissinger's policy
planning staff. 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, they actually meshed with my interests 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] >> he had 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 about big topics, larger trends in history, lessons to be pulled out of getting the students to read thucydides. brian: 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. where possible, i will admit we exaggerate disagreements to rouse students.
we have done that for years and 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. they know we are good friends. 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 at the same time dedicated teachers, i think has been a wonderful thing and a very rare thing.
it depends so much on personality. very few places would be able to replicate this. i'm not sure if they can keep it on after we leave the program. brian: i have read the suggestion has been made that when you became somewhat -- i don't know if the word is close, but you became a friend of or briefer to george w. bush, some of the people came off of supporting you 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. when i did a short book on 9/11,
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 brief me and my team? i said, sure. 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 a photo op. he says sit down, tell me about bismarck. this is not what i was expecting, for sure. 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. he'd say, 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 consulting or advising. brian: is it true you suggested -- he play winston churchill and begin painting? john: it is true. that happened about four years into his retirement. my wife and i were in dallas. i had a student, several students who had worked for him. i said, we would like to drop by and say hello. and we did. he had us come by at some 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 up painting. -- i told him about the
churchill essay painting as a pastime, which 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 acknowledges 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: my point about bismarck was fairly simple. bismarck's great skill as a strategist was that he knew the advantages of shock and 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. his 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 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, tended 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 favored going in
under those circumstances. so it's one of these things where i made a mistake because people made a mistake in intelligence. there is a lot to be learned from that. brian: paul mentioned thucydides. 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 it 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 which the distinction between vital and peripheral interests have gotten lost. credibility became the big issue. domino theory thinking was there. a very similar situation
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 reading "the prince" and all that. 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
have given the 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 politics is for machiavelli, simply impossible. machiavelli talks at one point about a rebellious province that had to be pacified. borges pacified it by taking the governor of this province and displaying in the public square the two pieces. that was enough to pacify the
entire province. one life lost and the province pacified. my students say, are we 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 in which i regularly use caro volume two, because it talks about the famous democratic primary in texas. in 1948, there was no republican party there, and how johnson stole the election, which he won by 87 votes. it is very clear it was a stolen election. however, caro craftily begins that volume with his account of the we shall overcome speech in 1965. teaching school
cotulla, my hometown. 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 into 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 doctor 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 distinction, the idea being the fox knows many things and the hedgehog knows one big thing. that became iconic. berlin is associated with that. but his 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. whatever, but this is the more natural and 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. brian: here he is in 1997.
he died in 1997. this is an interview from swedish television. john: you have got to listen carefully. [video clip] >> i am being tied to a tree, i cannot move. out.m in jail, i can't get i'm free to leave. freedom means not being tied to a tree. positive freedom is -- asks a question -- am i the master? [end video clip] john: that is the third idea for which he is remembered, freedom which reconciles all contradictions is actually no
freedom at all. it is authoritarianism. that is overbearing totalitarian government. you are told the contradictions have been reconciled and you have nothing left to do. example.stalin, for or mao in china. 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 immensely fruitful. because i knew him and respected him. actually death, i carefully.im more
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 in chapter four. he comes back yet again what i am talking about franklin roosevelt, a great hero to berlin. and when roosevelt is making his most extreme moral compromises in world war ii, relying on the stalin soviet union to achieve victory in 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.
and a compromise. isaiah was, as a young reporter for the front office working him washington, sending a reports to the british, 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. it was just fun to let him weave in and out. brian: he was here years ago and then he went to canada to form a political party. john: more recently in hungary heading up the central european university. brian: here is a clip of isaiah berlin about coming to america in 1941, talking about british information.
[video clip] >> you arrive 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. the information we supplied was supplied to us by the military therefore was not the real truth. clip]ideo brian: typical berlin. one of the things, you talk about winston churchill being, you tell me, excited about pearl harbor. john: for churchill, this solved
so many problems. churchill's grand strategy, once he had decided not to surrender in 1940, the only thing he could do was wait for the americans. wait for roosevelt. with the falln, of france, is fighting on its own. never hope to win the war on its own. the best it can hope for is to hold off on its 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 long before pearl harbor. he is waiting for american public opinion to change. american public opinion was very isolationist in 1939 or 1940. it is beginning to shift as americans see what is happening in europe. the isolationism begins to thin out. roosevelt is also waiting for 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 solved a 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, for reasons which are not well understood, declared war on the united states. that solved roosevelt strategic problem and churchill's as well. brian: 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 credibly, 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 berlin modernized the hedgehog and the foxes. i'm sure you can do this. lyndon johnson, was he a
hedgehog or a fox? john: mostly a fox, because he was a manipulator. he was a skillful operator. he could pull all the buttons and do all the maneuvers. but i think in another sense, and this is another issue raised by caro, johnson was deeply inside the hedgehog. a hedgehog idea, caro would well, and johnson as inually came from teaching my hometown. 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. i really think what he was saying is i want to get to
a point in life where i can do 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: define, once again, a hedgehog and a fox. john: a hedgehog knows one big objectivehas one big and will have one lens for looking at the world. a fox will be aware of many
competing priorities, may have different priorities. a fox can lose a sense of direction 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. 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 pressure from having lost china back in the 1940's. nixon was very good at seizing
opportunities and running with them. he was also 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 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. for nixon, you descend into the psychology of grudges and maybe
that's a deeply hedgehog idea that can override more sound thought. brian: you mentioned steven spielberg's "lincoln." here is an excerpt. [video clip] >> the compass 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? [end video clip] hedgehog? fox? john: both.
that was iconic for me in writing the book. the very brilliance with which that is played by 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 direction, but realize -- and that sense of direction was for lincoln, winning the war and abolishing slavery, which is what the movie deals with, but lincoln was a consummate politician as well. he 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 politician 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 was so fixated on this larger role -- goal and 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 than truthful about various things, the intervention in the dominican republic and a whole series of things that led to the
credibility gap. 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 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. that is a tough trick, a tough triangle to maintain. brian: i saw a poll showed yale students are about 80% democrats. john: i would have guessed higher than that. brian: do you ever take a poll of whether they are hedgehogs or this?after you've taught
john: we don't want to give too much importance to that dichotomy. berlin meant it as a teaching tool. it forces you to ask a consistent set of questions about a variety of people. it is useful up to a point. but i think the points can be drawn too finely, trying to make find the sanctions between hedgehogism 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 fitzgerald. the sign of a first-rate
intelligence is to hold opposing ideas 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 that idea and come at it with foxes and hedgehogs. say they are the opposing ideas, and how are they held simultaneously. brian: i want to ask you about academia. one of your funders, nicholas brady was a senator and secretary of the treasury. [video clip] >> -- i will support 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.
one that looked beyond hard numbers and took a leap of faith and counted on the character and strength of the individual involved. clip]ideo 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 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, teach common sense. that is all he ever said. it was wonderful advice that allowed us huge leeway. he has never tried to tell us, do this, do that, hire this person. he maintains a lively interest.
he is in his upper 80's now but i hear from him frequently. he comes to our events all the time. 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. older than any of the three of us. he said, you had better start thinking about a successor. he had us put into place a very gradual succession process. it now has beverly gage as director of the program, and she in turn has brought in a good
number of yale faculty members. that has led to an expansion in the range of what we do. social protest, economic inequality. but this is nick's a sense of how an institution remains healthy. be leadership cannot permanent. it has got to bring in new blood. it 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? what would he be? john: i think 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. rumsfield, the others. you have heard 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 his own leader, 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. i think it 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. by that, 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. i take, for example, syria. 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. i think obama did very little to notice or take note of the domestic crisis that was brewing. the growing 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 this change has taken place, and i think it has, 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.
he just did not see it coming. trump saw it and has exploited it. and maybe done it irresponsibly, but it was 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. anyone who can come in as he did
in 2015 and 2016 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. i think that -- 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 for donald trump to ask, why do we have to have continued division of the korean peninsula? what is it for? what does it accomplish? could we do something else?
he is probably asking the same thing today on the iran issue. the usefulness, asking, what is it for? accompaniedot to be 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 a university like yale, the feelings are so visceral, it is hard to have any conversation that does not say predictable things. anybody who tries to say something less than predictable soapt to be disregarded,
people do not much try. it is almost that way with students, but not quite as much. i think we 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 a trip alone to some exotic world on your own where 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. and have 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. their owncan draw 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 the same year -- george kennan was still alive. he died the next year and then you did your book. you said he didn't want to read it. what do you think he 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 appear there. there were places he would dispute my judgments of certain things. but he was so adamant this would be my own book, i'm not sure if he were alive he would ever say much about this. he is so respected that the need for the 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. that was always the deal. brian: 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? john: 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. i have been very impressed with the biography of isaiah berlin, which has periodically been on the list.
i like to experiment with biographical genres. for example, jd vance was on the list and has been for a couple of years as a biography of a family. "hillbilly elegy." experimental 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. students are very fascinated with that mode of biography. 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. davis. 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: visit us at q&a.com. interviews are also available as
c-span podcasts. onthe next q&a, a biographer her book about woodrow wilson. that is next sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span. next sundayive at for our year-long special featuring best-selling fiction writers. novelist, gish j en, will be our guest. a lot toople who have say are completely undaunted by the rules of storytelling. the idea that there is a storytelling triangle and you must learn to do this, it it is by this.y quantified
if you do this it is not going to make you good writer. but then you sit down and discover, actually they can all do it, you know. there is nothing about learning to do those things that impedes creativity. watch our special editionn depth fiction on sunday, june 3, live from noon until 3:00 p.m. eastern on booktv on c-span2. announcer: c-span's washington journal, live it every day with news and issues that impact you. coming up tomorrow, talking about oil supply and the impact on gasoline prices this summer. , where weature
discuss battlefields where americans once fought. be sure to watch washington journal >> at the british house of commons this past week, prime minister theresa may was questioned about funding and privatization of the u.k.'s national health service by labour party leader jeremy corbyn, and was asked by others about citizenship fees, international trade and the state of brexit negotiations. >> order. questions to the prime minister. >> question number one, mr. speaker. >> thank you, mr. speaker. mr. speaker, this week has seen the start of the grenfell to