tv QA Q A with Charles Krauthammer CSPAN June 23, 2018 2:51am-3:52am EDT
, which ising constitutional and alaska, is stable. most important, i think, from all of us is to educate our , and the best way to do that is a stable school. >> be sure to join us july 21 of july 22 when we feature our visit to alaska. watch alaska weekend on c-span, c-span.org, and listen on the free c-span radio app p p -- app. >> pulitzer prize-winning columnist, dr. charles krauthammer died recently. his death was announced by two former employers, foxnews channel and "washington post." in 2005, he was a guest on c-span's q&a. this is one hour. brian: dr. charles krauthammer, what is a medical doctor doing writing a column and appearing
on television? charles: i've been wondering about that. i've a very checkered, irregular career. i was once asked by an intern at the new republic magazine where i used to work, how do i get to be a nationally syndicated columnist and i said, well, first you go to medical school. it was pretty unplanned, i had intended to be a psychiatrist. i practiced for three years. and then i just had a tug, a feeling that there was a wider world out there i wanted to get involved in. and i studied political theory as a graduate student and i went back. i came to washington and one accident led to another and ended up doing what i'm doing. brian: if we had to find about three big thinkers, books on your shelf, who would they be? brian: if we had to find about three big thinkers, books on your shelf, who would they be? charles: i think the single most influential thinker when i grew up, which was late '60s, early '70s, the time of the student revolution, was a very short book by a political philosopher called isaiah berlin, an oxford
philosopher, called "the four essays on liberty." and one of them was two concepts of liberty in which he sort of made a distinction between what he called "positive liberty" and "negative liberty." and it was sort of a liberal credo. it was against the craziness, the left-wing radicalism of the age. and it was a very clear essay in which he stood up for what he called "negative liberty," which is how we understand it in the west, being left alone. whereas there were all these ideologies, nazism, communism, socialism, fascism, which offered you a "positive liberty," which meant we were going to find your higher meaning being, but by regimentation, which was odd and paradoxical. and he kind of pierced that in that essay. and i've been sort of small "l" liberal every since, cured of any radical impulses. so that, i think, was the most -- the single most influential text, a single essay. john stuart mill was my favorite political philosopher.
also his -- the famous "on liberty." as you can see, liberty is a theme here. and a fiction writer, borges, jorge luis borges, who was an argentinean short story writer, you can see i like the short form, who wrote rather mystical and magical, very short, fictional stories with deep philosophical roots. and that's -- if you had to have the three, that's the three. brian: when did you start reading? charles: reading seriously or reading letters? brian: either one. when did reading matter to you? charles: i think when -- i mean, i was at mcgill, i'm the graduate and i read for my courses, but it wasn't until i went to oxford afterward and studied political theory with a philosopher called jean plamanat who made me read the great political writers, hobbes, locke, et cetera, one a week and writing him an essay every week. i remember i handed him my first
essay one week and i came in to see him and he said, krauthammer, i don't know about your creativity, but you're certainly creative in your spelling. that kind of put me in my place. but reading with him for a year was my first sort of experience -- mind-expanding experience in political theory. and in a sense that year, year-and-a-half is what has stayed with me all this time. brian: were you serious when you went to oxford? charles: no, but no american is serious when he goes to oxford. brian: why? charles: you go there to have a good time. it's always an interlude. you're between undergraduate and whatever school you're to go to after. grades don't matter. it's a new country. the country is wonderful, it's all new and you tend to go and have a good time. brian: now is there any distinction for you about going to balliol college at oxford? charles: well, it was where a lot of americans had gone. it had -- it was rather specialized in political
philosophy, which is what i was interested in. and it had a graduate dormitory, which in 1970, when i was there, was the only one in town that was coed, that was its highest distinction. and that's where i met my wife who was a student at st. anne's. brian: is her name robyn, is that -- charles: yes, that's right. brian: and what profession is she in? charles: she was studying law. she practiced law for a while. and then in july of 1978, i quit medicine and she quit law on the same day. and she has been an artist, a painter and sculptor ever since. you can tell our parents were somewhat disappointed with us given their investment in our professional education. brian: what were your parents like? are they still alive, by the way. charles: my mother is. brian: and tell us about your parents, where did it all start for them? charles: it's a rather epic story, my father was originally from ukraine but he lived in
france most of his life. a naturalized frenchman, he was -- he went to law school there, was a lawyer. during the war, world war ii, he fought with the french army, you know that only lasted six weeks. afterwards he went to cuba and brazil, back to france, america, where i born, and ultimately to canada, where i grew up. it's an interesting story. by the end of his life he spoke nine languages, and by the real end of his life he was speaking them all at the same time. so he was -- i would interpret on his behalf. whenever he needed a word he would pull it out of any language he could find, even if his interlocutor had no idea what he was talking about. it was very charming. my mother is from belgium, left on may the 10th 1940, which is the day the germans invaded, made her way through france, ended up in new york working for the free french, translating american army manuals into french for the free french. met my father in cuba, long
story, and she now lives in new new york and in miami. brian: how did they meet in cuba? charles: my dad at the time was running a diamond factory, which was producing industrial diamonds for the u.s. military. my mom was visiting her parents, who didn't get into america, didn't have a visa, but ended up in cuba, as a lot of jews did. and she met him at the hotel internacional and the rest is journalistic history and a lot of other history. brian: did you have any brothers and sisters? charles: i have a brother, born in brazil, lives in l.a., a physician. brian: so what -- just start with all that background. what impact do you think that had on you? charles: well, i think it had a lot of influences on me. it was a very worldly upbringing.
my parents had been everywhere. their friends in new york and in canada had also been everywhere, not by choice, but sort of scattered by the war. and that sort of confluence of influences i witnessed, i grew up with. the other thing is that you grow up, especially if you're jewish, you're also post-holocaust, you grow up with a sense of the tragic element in history. it tempers your optimism and your idealism. and it gives you a vision of the world which i think is more restrained, conservative, if you like, you don't expect that much out of human nature. and you are prepared for the worst. and the most interesting political aspect of that is you have enormous respect for the american political system which the founders had an equal skepticism about the goodness of human nature, and constructed a structure which would contain the impulses, good and bad, check and balance to produce a stable and a just society. so in a sense, all of that ends
up giving you a deep appreciation and even love of america. brian: what were the politics of your parents? charles: none. they were beyond politics. there were -- life was involved in raising a family, trying to make a living, maintain your friendships. politics was not central to our lives. in a sense i learned my politics when i left home. brian: and when did you leave new york and where did you live in canada? charles: my father moved us to canada when i was five. i grew up in montreal. i went to mcgill until i was 20. i graduated in 1970 when i was 20. i went to oxford and then i never returned to canada. i was always an american citizen because i was born here. i went to medical school in boston and then later i came down here.
brian: did you have a short time johns hopkins? charles: no. brian: somewhere i thought i read that. charles: no. brian: your whole medical experience was at harvard. charles: yes. and i was a student there and then i did a three-year residency in psychiatry at the massachusetts general hospital. in my last year i was one of the chief residents, published a few papers on bipolar disease and then came to washington in 1978. brian: so what year did you get out of medical school? charles: 1975. brian: if you're a psychiatrist, are you first a medical doctor? charles: yes. brian: when did you choose psychiatry for your early years? charles: i chose it when i went into medical school. i went into medical school coming out of a couple of years of political theory, and i thought psychiatry would be the perfect compromise between the sort of the broad thinking of political philosophy, a philosophy on the one hand, and the practical aspect of life in medicine.
it wasn't exactly what i -- it turned out it wasn't exactly what i had hoped it would be so it's one of the reasons i left. what impact has psychiatry had, -- brian: what impact has psychiatry had, the knowledge of it, on your writing? charles: none. there are no special insights that psychiatrists have into human nature. you and i have the same capacity to analyze political leaders, their motives. people assume if you have a psychiatric degree you kind of a delphic insight into what makes people tick. what psychiatry does is it gives the knowledge about the mental illness. so when you deal with people who aren't well, you do have insight that laymen don't have. you also know how to treat it and drugs and all that. i have tremendous respect for psychiatry. but analyzing political or social life, it's of no advantage whatsoever. and i've tried not to pretend in my career as a journalist that it does. in fact, in the first years of
my writing as a journalist, i didn't hide the fact that i was a doctor and psychiatrist, but i never highlighted it. brian: can you remember the time when you said, i don't want to do this, the day that you said, i'm not going to be a psychiatrist, i'm going to be a writer. charles: in my last year of residency, when i had to look at the future, which was the rest of my life in the field, and i said, no, that's not what i want to do. i think i might have made a mistake here. i wanted to do something else. brian: what year did you marry robyn? charles: 1974. we're married now 31 years. brian: what year did you have your diving accident? charles: 1972. i was a freshmen in medical school in my first year and ended being hospitalized for a year and two months. but since it happened at harvard medical school, in one of the swimming pools of the hotels at the complex, i ended up doing my
year-plus stint as a patient in harvard teaching hospitals so that i was able to do my second year of medical school in the hospital as a patient. even though i wasn't able to attend any classes, i'd study at t. and they were very good at having the professors tutor me at night. then i rejoined -- then i was released from the hospital, i rejoined my class for the third year. and then i graduated a year later. brian: i don't know about if you mind telling the story, but what happened in the diving accident. charles: very simple, i hit the bottom of the pool with my head and it caused no injury except a breaking of the spinal cord. brian: and you spent and how long in the hospital. charles: two months. brian: what the reaction to that when it happened to you, i mean, during that time? charles: well, being a medical student and that week studying neurology, which was rather ironic, the book i had with me when i was hurt was neuro-anatomy. i knew exactly what happened the
second it happened. and i knew exactly what the consequences were and i knew what the future was. and i think that was a help to me, because i never had any illusions. and a lot of my -- the bedmates i had on the wards where i was had a lot of illusions. and i didn't have them, which i think was useful. so i knew you had two choices, you could give up or you could just pretend it hadn't happened, or do you everything that you could to. and what i resolved is i would never -- i would try never to let it change my life, or change the direction of my life. the irony is that i'd intended to a psychiatrist, which is about the one -- that and the radiology was about the only thing i could do. and that's what i wanted to do, so i went ahead and did it. brian: in that first year, what did you do to get through that period, anything special? charles: well, i was -- first i spent that year basically in physical therapy, exercising, regaining my strength.
and it took a lot of time. that was whole day, eight hours a day, on the mat, training, weightlifting and all of that. and then in the evening i studied. so i -- my day was taken up. brian: so since that time, what's a day like for you? charles: it's like your day except it's a little bit harder. you know, all the routine stuff takes a little bit longer, life is a little more expensive, but ultimately it's not that different. brian: do you drive? charles: yes. brian: and how you deal with that, i mean, is there anything special? charles: i've got hand controllers. it's pretty simple. brian: is it one of those special vans where you just roll into it? charles: exactly. it's right outside in the parking lot right now. brian: is there anything that you think has been different about your life because of this condition? charles: oh, i think everything. i mean, i -- and when i was in my teens i spent 80% of my waking hours doing sports. that doesn't happen anymore.
so i missed out on -- i mean, there are a lot of things that you lose, but on the other hand, brian, everybody has their cross. everybody has a cross. mine is a particularly obvious one, a difficult one. but, you know, i never asked the question, why me? i mean, why not me? everybody else -- you know, we all have our tragedies. i got in mine early. him and the in fact, as i age, and my friends are aging, some of them are in one way or other adjoining me. and i've had 30 years of practice. so i've got a head's up. i mean, look, i'm not looking at the upside here. parking is easier and that's about it. there's not a lot of upsides. but, you know, you take the hand that you're dealt with and you do what you can with it. brian: if i read correctly, you have a son, daniel, who's at harvard? charles: yes. brian: what's he studing? charles:e's studing political science and economics. brian: does he think like you?
charles: he thinks better than me. he's far more sophisticated intellectually and politically than i was at his age, partly, i think, because he grew up in this town and exposed to political ideas and thoughts from a young age. but yes, he's quite remarkable. brian: does he want to do what you do? charles: i don't think he's got a clue what he wants to do, except perhaps i think he knows he doesn't want to be a doctor. that's about the only thing he's ruled out. everything else is ruled in thus far. brian: so your first major piece for a national audience was in what publication? charles: the new republic. brian: what year was that? charles: 1981 i joined the new republic. i had written a few pieces as a freelancer from the outside in '78-'79. brian: in '80 or somewhere around there, you went to work for jimmy carter. charles: i went -- yes, when i came to washington, when i left
psychiatry, i came here to work in the bureaucracy at nimh, national institute of mental health, as a director of psychiatric research. so it sort of a continuation of my expertise. and it was a non-political appointment but at the time through a series of accidents i ended up being asked to be a speechwriter for the vice president, walter mondale, and i did it. and then when they -- we lost the election in 1980 and i was unemployed, the new republic, for which i had written a few pieces on the outside, invited to come to be a full-time editor. and that was the beginning of my journalistic career. brian: is there a label that you could have put on yourself in 1980? charles: oh yes, at that point i was what you might have called a henry jackson democrat. i was a cold war liberal. i was a believer in the great society, but i was also a believer in a tough approach to the soviet union, which means i had pretty much of a home in the democratic party at the time.
you had pat moynihan. you had henry jackson, the great senator from washington state. and later on that element of the democratic party shrunk to nothingness. and as it did, i was without a home. i remain generally without a political home. but you could obviously fairly call me a neoconservative now. brian: now, because we talk a lot about the conservative/neoconservative, what's the difference being a neoconservative and a conservative? charles: there are several distinctions. one has to do with personal history. neoconservatives are people who started out as liberal, and as the dean of neoliberal conservatism once said, they -- loving it by reality and
mugged by reality and evolve in time into conservatism. that is number one. if you ask a neoconservative how did you vote in 1968, they would say lyndon johnson. if you asked a conservative -- i'm sorry, if you say it 1964, they would say lyndon johnson. and a conservative was a goldwater. that is one distinction. the second is because of that, neoconservatism are objectives of liberalism which means in foreign affairs. there is a critique by conservatives, neoconservatives is that neoconservatives are too utopian. wilsonian if you like. we want to democratize the world, and the answer is yes. what distinctions us from liberal is that we do not rely on the institutions that liberals rely on. the u.n., treaties, all of that wilsonian stuff. we believe in power, american
power in particular. what distinctions us from other conservatism or traditional conservatives, they are more likely to be realists. they're not interested in the governance of other countries. they are just interested in how the government reacts related to the united states. you might look at the additional -- traditional conservative and a look it other nations. neoconservatives care about what is inside of the ball and how governs themselves. the idea is, if you can change the way society governs itself, afghanistan, iraq, lebanon, the soviet union, then, the policies will change and you might have a safer world. brian: do you have a favorite president in history?
charles: well -- the obvious ones of course, lincoln, washington, but if we are looking at recent history, i would rank fdr number one, reagan number two, and true -- truman as three. brian: where you put george w. bush? charles: the current president? history will determine. i think he ranks high now, but, ultimately, i always say you can write and argue all you want but history will decide who is right and wrong. you can suggest in your argument that the war in iraq is right, the war in afghanistan is right but we will learn in 10 years or so if iraq was a success. i think it will be in assuming this bush doctrine of changing the middle east, changing the culture of the area, the area to 9/11, as a way to prevent the new 9/11 is correct. but again, it is theory and being tested on the ground as we speak.
if it works out, and iraq, lebanon, places like that, i think he will be ranked very high, perhaps as high as reagan. brian: why fdr number one for the current last century? charles: he shaved american democracy internally and age of fascism by softening it and making it less harsh, capitalism and governance number one. secondly, he defeated the great enemy of that time. without a doubt he stands head and shoulders above the others. brian: what you think about his social power? charles: i think you did what you had to do. social security was a great triumph. it sustained a hold to generations and took the elderly out of poverty. and the very sense of caring implied by all of his other programs, some of which worked in others were not. it was necessary in an age where capitalism had created a calamity and where there's siren songs of other ideologies,
on democratic -- undemocratic ideologies in europe already to just sweep america. they swept europe the never reached here because we had fdr who understood the threat, the need, understood the ideological challenge and chose a path in between of a compassionate government which is necessary. as you know, a lot of these programs are now outdated, but at the time, they were completely necessary and saved american democracy. brian: which publication was the first to ask your writing into something for them? charles: time magazine, two years after i started the new republic asked me to do an essay once a month, which i have been doing ever since on the back page. the next year, the washington post asked me to;. -- start a column. the year after that, it was
syndicated nationally. --when do you write, and where do you write? charles: in one office. i don't know what it is, but if i'm anywhere else, i can think, but the writing is not going to happen. i work in downtown washington, i set it up 18 years ago. i write usually on wednesdays. my column goes out to the syndicated newspapers, thursday at 11:00 and it appears in washington and other places friday morning. brian: there is something called brainy quote. ever seen as? charles: no. brian: the web is full of krauthammer and they just pull quotes from you. i'm going to read some to get your reaction. charles: i'll tell you i so believe them when you read them. brian: the first one you said is a three-year died of rubber chicken and an occasional crow.
charles: i haven't got a clue. what was the year? oh yes, i know what that must be. the ordeal presidential candidates have to endure to be crowned king. brian: the second one, after endless days of commuting on the freeway to an antiseptic sealed window office, there is great urge to backpack in the woods. charles: sounds poetic but does not sound like me. unless i was headed somewhere with that. brian: astride this one. every two years the american politics industry filled the airwaves with the most virulent wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country, and then declares itself puzzled that america had lost trust in his politician. charles: that when i recognized. it is true. in a column of his writing that in the airline industry, they go
at each other the way democrats and republicans do, they would highlight the crashes, crying, and all of that. no one would ever step on an airplane. other industries know that is catastrophic. politics is the only industry in which the competing sides destroy each other and people are puzzled when the turnout is low and people are alienated. that is built into this insane system we have. brian: you can tell me the time of day you write. charles: i usually write all day. i'm not one that wakes up in three and the morning and rights until seven and goes off to fish. brian: do you fuss over the language? charles: yes. i am a fusser. i know it is a problem. when i was a psychiatrist, when you discharge the patient, you have to give a discharge summary. it was very long. eight singlespaced pages.
at the time, you would do it at the time by picking up a house phone and speaking into a machine. i never mastered how to pause or stop the machine so i just had to go. it was really incoherent the first couple of months. in the end, i got the hang of it and i like dictating my first drafts as i have a horror of a blank screen. the minute i type on a blank screen, i'm fussing and editing and i get nowhere. so what i do is i think it out in advance. i usually do an outline so i know the structure. once you got in structure of anything, it is done. then, i speak it as though i were explaining it to you or my friend or anyone, then i have all of that on tape and he gets transcribed in and up on my screen. then, i'm just editing. and as you know, editing is easy, writing is hard. i'm editing to myself and i
spend hours and hours, go over it, and i like to polish. that is how i do it. i do not sit there and compose. i just say it and work it from there. brian: have you written a book? charles: no. i did the collection 20 years ago and was not happy with how it turned out. i'm working on a book coming out of a speech i gave last year. we sort of try to set out my ideas on foreign affairs called "democratic realism," and i think i will probably have that done by the end of the year. brian: let's try another quote. in the middle ages, people took potions for their ailments. in the 19th century, they took snake oil. citizens of today's technological aids are too modern for that. they take antioxidants and extracts of cactus instead. charles: i think i was writing about the fads in medicine. particularly over the counter
stuff. i was writing about holistic medicine. i'm skeptical about that. i believe in traditional medicine. that must be what that one was about. brian: this one is kind of awkward but you will remember it i'm sure. in the old days, one gawked at the unfortunates, and donahue's geniuses to get them to talk. charles: it was my first major piece, a cover piece and it must've been 1981 or 1982. it was called the "cult of confession." i was writing about the fashion which was new at the time and donahue was the sensation of a time, of getting people to come out in public and to talk about their sins. at least sins is the word you would use a few hundred years ago. to do it is a kind of public display, which i found very interesting -- a phenomenon very odd. it was kind of a secular version of confession.
of course now, it is completely commonplace. and if i wrote about it, people would wonder why i found it strange. brian: one last quote. your quotes are all over the place. post-watergate morality, by which anything left private is taken as presumptive evidence of wrongdoing. charles: i'm not sure what the context was but i have been worried for many years. i hope not to piously, about the invasion of privacy in public life. it scares away a lot of good people. it also judges people in private life in a way that is unfair. all of us have our sins. and our foibles. if you hide anyone's you can destroy him or her very easily. i find it too easily a sport. you see it going on in hearings on the hills, when candidates run for office. again, it is part of the cult of confession where, on the one
hand, you have people who step out and want to make spectacles of themselves, as they wait to become public figures. on the other hand, you have public figures for whom we are making public spectacles by going into the lives. i think for a democracy it is unhealthy. we ought to have around in which people are judged by how they act in public. i'm glad we did not know anything about fdr's interior life of the time. we might have lost it when we needed him. and churchill and all of the others. i'm not sure there any advantage or gain to democracy and having this microscope on their interior lives. brian: has your life as a communist changed since the internet? charles: absolutely. research is instantaneous. it is almost infallible. you can get everything you want very quickly. i would use to send my search assistant to the supreme court to wait outside and they have to race outside to get it to me in time for me to read it, analyze it, write it for the next morning. now, you go online, and have it
instantly. email, instant reaction from your readers. and the blogs, which to some extent are a very good check on the mainstream media. on the other hand, they are in a -- an echo chamber for possible innuendo and falsehoods. like every new invention from the jet to nuclear weapons, there is an upside and downside. brian: time magazine, the new republic, the washington post, when did you do your first television? charles: i don't remember but i know it was in the 80's. it was called gretzky and company at the time. evolved into a show that i have been on regular since the invasion of kuwait in 1990. my life has been pegged and triggered events in my life. at that time they asked me to go on the show in the summer of
1990. i have been on every week ever since. brian: when were you asked to go on fox? charles: i don't remember exactly what i did go and do a lot of cable shows, cnn, msnbc, fox, for several years. just on an irregular basis and i was asked whether i wanted to do fox regularly. i have and i have enjoyed it a lot. brian: out of all the low -- out of all of the platforms you have had, what is the one you have gotten the most reaction from? charles: probably a tie between fox, because it is national, and the washington post because it is read in washington. it is the high school bulletin board for washington. here, everybody who is involved in politics and politics to washington is steel to
pittsburgh. it is the industry to the town. if you are involved in politics, you review the page and you read me on friday. so i got a lot of reaction. brian: was there column you have written that has gotten a lot of feedback? charles: if you write about dogs, you're guaranteed to get enormous reaction. i once wrote in defense of the border collie which was under assault by the american kennel association. i'm hazy on the details, but i became a hero to dog lovers all over america. offered a lot of honorary positions. the most recent heavy reaction was when i wrote a column, very critical of the passion of the christ film. i got 2000 emails. i remember my research assistant told me by about 5:00 in the afternoon, on the morning it came out, that i had about 800
emails and they were running a rather negative. i asked what was the ratio between positives and negatives, and the answer was, i'm still looking for the positives. that was an avalanche. i thought it was a terrible movie. i did not criticize it except for politically and religiousl i thought it was deviating from the gospels and being rather negative toward the jews at the time. i had the impression it was deliberately so, so i wrote it. being a conservative, i had a constituency rather shocked by that and they expressed their shock in numbers and intensity. brian: you had a note in a column you wrote about the pope. i once to ask you about this. not much of a believer, is that
about your own religion? charles: yes, that's me. brian: can you put more on those bones? charles: well, i mean, whenever you talk about your own geology -- theology it sounds grandiose, so i will be as modest as i can. i grew up in the jewish tradition orthodox home. i very strongly was jewish in terms of my theology, which luckily, judaism did not exist -- insist on theology a lot. it is a religion of good works, not a belief. you don't have to have a belief to be saved, etc.. it a religion that does not demand a lot. i don't give it a lot because i'm a skeptic. i'm not at all an atheist. out of all these, the possible
theologies, atheism is the least plausible i think. you have to think about the existence of the universe and to assume it invented itself is rather odd. the most important question is, why is there and can there be anything, and how can there be consciousness? atheism is not an answer that is possible in the way to me. short of that, i'm a skeptic in the way let's say a jefferson was. i do not accept in accounts. i suspect there is something out there, mysterious, and einstein in mystery. beyond that, i haven't a clue. i once said to a friend that i do not believe in god but i fear him greatly. i'm rather impressed with the fact that the universe is inexplicable and any terms in which we understand. there's something out there that
we do not understand that induces a little humility and theologically, i try to remain humble because i do not understand. brian: do you take a risk when you say something like that with your conservative constituency? charles: i'm not worried about risks. when i went to journalism, i decided this is what i wanted to do. the point of it was to say what i believed, and i didn't really i believe and i didn't really care one way or other adjoining me. and i've had 30 years of practice. >> you say you are a sounding board member of -- hebrew high school? >> yes. it's the hebrew word for roots, foundation
after school to learn his religion and tradition, and he wasn't learning anything. so i met two other dads who had the same concern and we set up a tiny school where they would learn text. liturgy, the bible, jewish history, and the commentaries on the bible. instead of snoozing and talking -- schmoozing and talking, the jewish text may be interesting but it is not important. we set up this little school and it turned out there were other parents who wanted their kids to learn something. now it has a five year program and it drives. brian: in addition, you served as chairman of pro-musica, a society funded by your wife robin.
charles: that is an idea that he she had -- that she had that there were some provisions of classical jewish music. not religious, not folk, not the kind of stuff people know, but classical works written by jews, for instance, there is a group of students at the turn of the 20th century who wrote in the jewish tradition, russian composers which was mostly law, something known as the st. petersburg school. our idea was to retrieve the works, have been performed in washington, and we had help from the kennedy center and we're trying to put together programs that, over time would expose that kind of lost music to others. brian: how often has a president reached out to you for any reason? charles: very rarely. brian: what is your relationship with ronald reagan?
did you know him at all? charles: not really. i had close contact with him once. i saw him at work as a journalist. he had me and two other journalists once in the mid-80's, that was the closest i've forgot to him. my theory is not with presidents but with people in government. you don't want to be that close personally because it makes a hard to be objective and critical. i'm not one who depends on sources a lot. if you read my column, i'm making it all up, and i find it is easier that way because then you maintain your distance. which i think helps if you are commoner. brian: if you sit down to dictate, could you have in your mind that you are trying to talk to? charles: i used to think i'm talking to my son. explaining things to him when he was, say, in his early teens.
that way i would be clear and well structured. he's a big boy now, so now i basically talked to a friend at dinner, and telling them what i think about certain issues. that way you are more informal and the language is less filtered. brian: do anybody that gives you immediate feedback after your column runs somewhere? are people that call you up and say good bad or indifferent? charles: no. brian: so there are days you never hear a thing? charles: there are weeks and months i've never heard a thing. i shoot arrows into the dark and haven't got a clue where some of them land. brian: what about being on fox? charles: i get a lot of email. i'm sent a lot of that which i read. again, it is the regular -- it is you regular. -- irregular. brian: is fox fair?
charles: the reason i think it raises the ire of some new people is because it offers an alternative to the mainstream media, which for generations were obviously and clearly liberal. a notch or how they got the quote because i said it in private to a friend that the genius of roger ailes is that they discovered a niche in broadcast journalism, half the american people. meaning you had half of the country, it is rather evenly split between conservative and liberal, at least half who did not like the diet of news they would get through an obviously liberal filter. there's nothing wrong with having a liberal filter but it is not good if that is the -- of that dominates the airwaves.
by establishing a channel in which you have a different filter, i think it had a huge response and it is a very necessary component of the diversity of what people had available to them. brian: why did so many people in the media business get agitated with fox? charles: because of its success. brian: just because of its success? charles: if it were not successful it would be ignored. it commands an audience. people hunger for that kind of approach. it has a lot of influence, and that is why the monopoly that the mainstream, old cell medium had. it was broken. this is the classic example of a monopoly shuttered. brian: you were born in 1950. what do you want to accomplish for the rest of your life that you had not done? charles: i want to write the book on foreign policy. i would like to write not a
memoir but a pastiche of incidents in my childhood, particularly my parent's generation which was a ver interesting generation. also, you want to live as long as you can because you want to see how things turn out. that is the real downside of dying. you don't find out what is going to happen in the middle east, what is going to happen with all of the things you care about in the world. so, i'm hoping to hang in there and learn what history is going to say to us. brian: it was 1972 when you had your accident? charles: yeah. brian: are you basically a paraplegic? has that had any negative impact on your health? charles: no, i've generally been healthy all the way through. you would have aging with a few minor exceptions, it has had no
impact on my life in terms of health. it probably will not have an impact on life expectancy. brian: and your father died at what age? charles: 83. brian: how old is your mom? charles: she's 83 and doing well. we all left canada in the 70's, she lives in new york and miami. she is a snow girl. brian: i think was 1998, correct me if i'm wrong, you signed the letter, the project for new american century. charles: i don't think i did. i've heard that a lot. brian: it in the database. charles: i'm not defensive about it, -- brian: would you have signed it? charles: tell me what it was about and i will tell you. brian: is the letter signed from
all a lot of individuals in this current market sango get some -- saying go get some. charles: i don't think i did. there's nothing wrong with having done it, 1998 was the year in which congress passed a law precisely to that effect, and president clinton signed a law which was the regime change act in terms of iraq. it was already national policy, the only question was how you are going to do it. that was anybody in 98, there wasn't anybody in 2001 who envisioned invasion. until 9/11. that made it urgent and the risk of not acting high. which is why we ended up there. nobody advocated, as far as i know, invasion at the time -- the most i heard from john kerry
who proposed it once and speculated about it, was the idea of having insurgency in the south of the country where the shiites are supported by the united states which would establish a free iraq and the part of the country and wage war against the government. that i think was the farthest anybody was thinking of a military engagement. the short answer is i'm quite sure i never did, although, if i did, i would be interested to learn about it. secondly, if i had, there would be nothing remarkable about it. thirdly, the idea that this is the kernel of some conspiracy hidden in the depths of the body
of politics waiting to emerge, is ridiculous. conspiracy is hardly out in the open, and an open letter is about as open as you get. brian: i was interested in whether or not from some points stand a success story. where you have a lot of people that did send that letter and think alike on this issue who managed to pull it off. charles: i'm not sure how central it was. if 9/11 hadn't happened, it never would've happened. 9/11 changed everything. would we have invaded afghanistan without 9/11? no. would there be a revolution in lebanon without it? no. this is all because the world changed in 9/11 and we had to rethink about what we had to do. i think the administration's response was that we had to understand that 9/11 had to do with the political dysfunction in the arab world. the fact that uniquely, compared to latin america, east asia, it had been left behind. it was really a cauldron of intolerance, dictatorship, and hatred of america that was a result of that. that is why all of this
happened. i'm not sure that this is a success story. i think there was a change in history which allowed all of this to happen. but i'm not sure the iraq's question was the most important question in the world before 9/11. brian: had he been at the right hand of the president of the united states planning this, would you have advised him differently on how to deal with the public? besides the obvious, the weapons of mass destruction, selling it. charles: i wasn't at his right hand, but i wrote about it. i wrote about a month before the invasion as the real reason to do iraq was not weapons of mass destruction, it was to change the culture of the middle east. it was a risky endeavor. to change the culture, in order to change the conditions which had led to the terrorism, al qaeda, 9/11.
i was not happy that we pinned it on weapons of mass destruction. i understand why do was, because we needed u.n. support and all of that hinged on the legality of the weapons of mass destruction. i've written about national law for years and i'm a great skeptic, i think it is worthless. i was not impressed by the necessity of you in action or all of this explanation. i understood why he had to do it is a lot of americans worshiped at the church of the u.n. and wanted you in action. with us, we had to have it. turns out it was a mistake. brian: you write about syria being an important part of the puzzle, why? charles: it's the last remaining bad actor in the entire region
from the iranian border to the mediterranean. you have got turkey, lebanon, israel, new palestine, iraq, jordan, kuwait, all democratizing to one degree or another, already tolerant heading in the right way. syria is a bad actor destabilizing everybody. lebanon cut supporting -- lebanon, supporting the insurgents in iraq. if it changes, which i think it could, if the regime there is changed, i think it would be -- it would completely change the complexion of the region and would secure it for the democratization that we really want. brian: how big a supporter of you -- of israel are you? charles: i believe it is right to exist. i believe it has been unfairly attacked over the years. it has been the target of the international left which is a
scandal. i think it is a shame. if israel were ever destroyed, it would be on our conscious for generations like the holocaust. brian: how important is it to us, and how much more money can this country spent on israel? charles: the aid that we are spending on israel is mostly military. their economy is becoming stronger and stronger. ultimately, perhaps, within a few years, it will wean itself off of the money. i do not think the money is the real issue. the issue is, a causes a lot of arabs to be angry with america. i understand that. the answer is not to throw them into the sea. the chinese are angry with america over our defense of taiwan. the answer is not to throw taiwan into the sea, but rather to find accommodation. i think we have tried very hard to do that. for the first time in many years, i'm an optimist on the fact that that might happen.
i thought the oslo agreements were a fraud and deception from the first day they were signed. in fact, they turned out to be, but there is a new realism in understanding the issue. over time, if we can find accommodation, which i think the arabs may be getting ready to do, that's will help to improve our relations with all of the arabs. brian: the issue you are most concerned about for the future of this country? charles: i think for the next -- for our generation it is the war on terror. no question that the problem today, the threat today is that these guys will get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and kill one million americans in one day. that is an existential threat. that is without a doubt the issue of our time. i think we will prevail. i think because of what we are now pursuing in the middle east,
the arab spring we are seeing, our generation may be able to manage this issue and solve it. then, the rising issue will be china. china is the second issue, that it is not immediate. it is a long-range issue and it will be the issue mid century. luckily, i will be gone and others will have to deal with it. china today is what germany was 100 years ago about rising power looking fourth place in the sun. if we mismanage it the way the europeans mismanaged it a century ago, we will have real problems. brian: only a couple minutes left. you're serving on the commission of bioethics, why? charles: because domestically i believe that is a very interesting problem, difficult problem, and important. and it is neglected. we are to get a mastery of the human genome and human consciousness.
that is going to scare us to death in a decade or two, or three. this council is starting to think about how we might address the problems. brian: are you on the same wavelength as george bush? charles: on these issues? brian: in stem cell research? charles: i believe it is to strike. i would allow the use of human embryos discarded by clinics which would open a vast amount of material for stem cell research. the line the president drew is not going to hold. brian: when you look ahead at the 2008 politics. any idea which democrat in which republican are going to go through? charles: i haven't got a clue how it will be working out. it is an extremely rare election. two-term presidents always have
an heir, the vice president. eisenhower had nixon, clinton had gore. it is not going to happen because cheney is not running. i like condi rice, but you want to be the commissioner of the nfl instead. brian: when you are writing about her being confirmed, you said who had the politics of this right. my guess is hillary as usual. charles: i think she will be the democratic nominee if she heads toward the senate. she will be a strong candidate. brian: you say she understands the political game? charles: she is extremely smart and clever, and knows how to position herself. brian: what kind of a president would she be? charles: probably a disaster, but i have been wrong before. brian: on that note, charles, 50 so much for joining us. >> this language of attack,
announcer: this weekend on american history tv, live coverage from the gettysburg college civil war institute annual summer conference. starting this morning at 8:30 eastern, at villanova university on union troops and pornography, followed by author kent masterson brown on union commander george gordon knead at the battle of gettysburg. later, former pamplin historical park director wilson green on the battle of the creator during the siege of petersburg. our coverage continues monday at 9:00 a.m. eastern, with new york historical society's jonathan landy on desertion among african american troops during the civil war. at 10:15, arizona state university's brooks simpson on president abraham lincoln and his relationship with his commanding generals, george
mcclellan and use screen. -- and ulysses s. grant. lou whoe elizabeth ann operated us by ring out of richmond. watch this weekend on american three tv on c-span3. announcer: this week, the c-span bus travel to juneau, alaska as part of our 50 capitals toward, with the help of our cable partners. the bus continues the trip across alaska by ferry to the city of fanes, ahead of fairbanks. be sure to china's july 21 and 22, which will feature our visit to alaska. orch on the span,.org, listen on the c-span radio app. announcer: on thursday president trump posted a working lunch
with a group of republican governors. each governor spoke about different initiatives in their states, from the white house roosevelt room, this is 30 minutes. >> and as you know, this is a great group of governors, very distinguished governors, and we're having a meeting. we had a victory just a few moments ago on the internet sales tax. a lot of states and cities now are going to be benefitting from what's going on. that's a big, big victory for the governors in this room. i know they wanted to see that happen, and i don't think it was a surprising victory. it was the right thing to do. it was a 5-4 decision, the supreme court, just came down, so i have a very -- a lot of happy faces in front of me. that's good. going to be a very good meal. i want to thank you all for being here. i thought i would go down while the press is here i thought maybe we'll go around the room and mike congratulations. >> thank you, mr. president.