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tv   Former President Obama at Rice University  CSPAN  December 25, 2018 8:00pm-9:02pm EST

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terms of housing, robert weaver. host: we would like to thank juan williams, the author of "what the hell do you have to lose? trump's war on civil rights." announcer: here is a look at our prime time schedule on christmas night. starting now, former president barack obama and former secretary of state james baker with presidential historian john meacham at rice university in their years inng office. women in the workplace. then, queen elizabeth ii delivers her christmas message. finally, combating loneliness and social isolation. president barack obama joins former secretary of state james baker and presidential historian john
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meacham to discuss their experiences in office, bipartisanship, and u.s. leadership in the world. e university in houston, texas, this is about an [applause] hour. [applause] mr. meacham: thank you. thank you. mr. president, welcome to texas. mr. obama: it is good to be back in houston. congratulations on the texas victory yesterday. mr. meacham: they beat the titans so no, sir, we don't want that. tennesseans say, if it weren't for us, you would be part of spain. i made that joke to george bush when he was governor and he
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went, that's pretty funny, asshole. mr. baker: if it weren't for us, you wouldn't be saying y'all. mr. meacham: president reagan whom secretary baker served so wonderfully and so well used to say that when he was in hollywood, he would get a call to come to dinner and speak and perform and reagan would say, but i don't sing or dance. and the organizer would say, we know, but you can introduce someone who can. so my job is to introduce to people who can. i wanted to start with secretary baker, and thank him for the remarkable institute. but even more important -- [applause] mr. meacham: the half-century of service to america and to the world. mr. baker: thank you. [applause]
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mr. meacham: it is -- as someone who spends most of his time thinking about the past and talking to dead people, it is when they talk back that you are in trouble. i must say, it is hard to imagine, and it is a great tribute to our country, that two such different people come to the pinnacle of power and are able to lead the nation and the world in such a remarkable way. we have a man from texas, and princeton, a marine, who served republican administrations. we have the 44th president of the united states from hawaii by way of the ivy league. and what brings them together is what i think brings the country together, which is a shared sense that we have to push forward to a more perfect union. and so the subject of a more perfect union is what i would like to talk about tonight. [applause]
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mr. secretary, ordinarily the president would go first, but in an age before beauty moment, i would like to ask -- mr. baker: you got that right. mr. meacham: what i would first like us to talk about is how the world worked on your watches, how washington worked on your watches, and how they didn't work, and what we can learn from both those positive and negative experiences. and so for narrative purposes, sir, when you went to washington in 1981 as chief of staff, what was the ambient reality of washington for you? it wasn't perfect. it wasn't a great bipartisan valhalla. there were tough fights. but what did it feel like and what did it feel like and but what did it feel like and
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how hard was it to get things done? mr. baker: thank you. before i answer that question, let me simply say, mr. president, you honor us by being here tonight and we are very -- [applause] mr. baker: we are very appreciative and very grateful for your being here. we were having dinner and when ed was announcing all those big dollar numbers, i looked at the president and said, mr. president, 10% of that is yours. he said, the hell it is, i'm not letting you off that cheap. [laughter] i want the rolodex. mr. obama: jim still uses a rolodex, by the way. [laughter] [applause] mr. baker: john, what was it like. i think it is fair to say, considerably different than it is today. it was not, as you pointed out,
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a big kumbaya moment. i worked for a president who was considered to be an ideologue. he was considered such a hard-line conservative that he used to joke, he used to tell people, do you know, our administration is so conservative that the right wing never knows what the far right wing is doing. but we were able, he was able, to reach across the aisle. people forget this, but president reagan had a democratic house for his entire presidency. all eight years. tip o'neill was the speaker of the house. he and president reagan really didn't see anything hardly eye to eye on policy, but they both , i think, arrived at washington wanting to get something done for the country. and they would fight like hell during the day, and at night, they would retire somewhere at
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5:00, start making irish jokes and drinking bourbon, and find a and found ways to cooperate found ways to get the nation's business done. in foreign policy, i think it was an easier time, perhaps. having said that, nobody should have any nostalgia for the cold war. i am old enough to remember those days when we had drills as schoolkids hiding under desks, because nuclear annihilation was a distinct threat. so in foreign policy, perhaps we had it a little bit easier in formulating the policy because we knew what we were for. we were for whatever the soviets were against, and we were against whatever the soviets r, but the implementation
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of the policy was extremely difficult, even back in those days, just as it is today. so things were different. i think that perhaps a few more things got done on a bipartisan basis. i am reminded on domestic policy of how president reagan's 1986 tax reform act was passed with democratic votes. and it was a tax reform, by the way, that was a true tax reform. it didn't jack up the budget deficit or the debt of the united states. it was revenue neutral. and how, also, he and tip o'neill were able to come together to protect for 30 years, at least, the financial solvency of social security by
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republicans giving a little bit more in contributions and taxes, democrats giving a little bit more in jacking up the retirement age. and it worked. it worked for 30 years. i believe it was from the standpoint of bipartisanship, which i know is an issue that is dear to president obama's heart, more to seeerhaps some of that happen. it didn't happen totally in foreign policy. when we decided, when president bush 41 decided he was going to address iraqi aggression in kuwait, both the house and the senate were controlled by democrats and both said, no you are not. this is not something we ought to do. how many lives is it worth, mr. secretary, to do what you want to do? that sort of thing. but president bush was wise enough and adroit enough to go out and get the rest of the world on board first and then
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he was able to bring the congress alone. he wanted the congress, not that he thought he needed it, because he thought he could do it under his commander-in-chief powers, but he wanted the congress to be in order to be able to say he had the support of the american people. [applause] mr. meacham: mr. president, you took power in, 16 years after the reagan-bush 41 era. pretty clearly, something happened in the 1990-1994 period, the rise of gingrichism and the revolt against 41 in 1990. how much of secretary baker's description of washington was true for you when you came to power and how much does it sound like we are describing thermopylae?
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mr. obama: not much. but first, let me complement jim, not only for the extraordinary work being done that is being done here at the institute -- [applause] mr. obama: as well as the ambassador and all those who support what you are doing. i had a chance to meet some of the young people who are interning here, the excitement that they have about the prospect of serving their country in various ways got me excited and inspired. jimalso, let me complement for the extraordinary service he rendered the country. i had the pleasure of visiting my buddy, 41, briefly this afternoon. jim, oraid this to you,
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john, in the book that you wrote, and i continue to believe it, when it comes to foreign policy, the work that president george hw bush did with jim at his side was as important and as deft, and as effective a set of foreign policy initiatives as we saw in recent years. and deserve enormous credit for navigating the end of the cold war. [applause] in a way that could have gone sideways in all kinds of ways. one of the challenges when you are president or working for a president is you don't get credit when nothing happens. and nothing happening is good a lot of times.
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[laughter] [applause] so, now, what i would say is, and what i'm saying here is not particularly original, but i think it's accurate, by the time i took office, there were a number of trends that had started to advance what some commentators are calling the great sorting. and what i mean by that is, when jim arrives in washington in 1981, you still had a whole bunch of conservative democrats, many of them from the south. you had republicans, many from the north, who were extraordinarily liberal on environmental issues or civil
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rights issues, on a whole range of topics. and, you know, political scientists used to get angry about the fact that american parties don't make any sense. there's just this hodgepodge of various interest groups that are all kind of stuck together. there's not always any rhyme or reason for it. but the advantage of that was that you had overlapping , and overlapping ideological spectrum in each party, so there would be some democrats who you would have a conversation with , who in turn were going to put pressure on tip o'neill and say, doggone it, if i'm trying to keep my seat in tennessee, you are going to have to give a little bit because reagan is really popular down there.
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and conversely, democrats would have to deal with the fact that there were going to be some republicans they could reach across out to because eventually they were going to have the same view on certain issues. change there are a range of res why that changed. some of it had to do with, frankly, the shift in the media, because in 1981, your new cycle beycle were still going to governed by the stories that were going to be filed by ap, washington post, maybe new york times, and the three broadcast stations. : right. whether it was cronkite, brinkley, what have you, there was a common set of facts, a
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baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to. and by the time i take office, what you increasingly have is a media environment in which, if you are a fox news viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a new york times reader. it means the basis of each respective party had become more ideological. it means that, because of gerrymandering, members of congress now are entirely sure secure they will win their seat if they get the nomination. what they have to worry about is, do i have somebody from farther to my right or farther to my left who is going to run against me in a primary? they then are not willing to stray from whatever the party line has become. you have got folks like limbaugh and others who are enforcing
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what they consider to be ideological purity of some sort. and when you combine that with the perpetual campaign that is fueled by highly ideological, very wealthy donors, what you had by the time i arrived was a is a congress that has difficulty getting out of campaign mode and into governance mode. and we saw that even when we were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the great depression. you know, i still feel bad for charlie crist down in florida, the governor, hugely popular, but hadn't gotten the memo that he wasn't supposed to cooperate with me, and supported the
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recovery act at a time when the economy was contracting faster than it did right after the crash in 1929. and the poor guy, you know, he is looking at it saying, this is good for florida. our housing market is tanking. i need to make sure we shore things up. our budget has imploded. we need federal help. this makes sense. i think the fact that i gave him a little bro hug, that was it. [laughter] mr. meacham: typhoid mary. mr. obama: i felt bad for the guy because he became a cause re inside the republican, the limbaugh, fox news media world, which is how marco got
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elected, essentially saying you are not a true believer. and i think the challenges we continue to have -- it has gotten worse, not better with the internet and all these .hings taking place is one of the things you discover as president is that the post-world war ii order that was constructed by fdr, truman, and eisenhower, and george marshall, that that basic notion of liberal -- not liberal in , you know, partisan terms, but a pluralistic, liberal, market-based, rule of law-based democracy and those sets of
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universal principles, democratic and republican leaders believed in those things. and that is the running thread basically from 1945 all the way through reagan. there were certain ideas that jim, regardless of how it was viewed, whether it was far right or right, there were certain ideals that you assumed you had to follow because that was part of american leadership in the world and it was part of what made us a great country. those are now being contested, in part because of the fact that we don't have this common base of information, and i think the that the biggest challenge we are going to have over the next 10, 15, 20 years is to return to
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a civic conversation in which if i say this is a chair, we agree that it is a chair. [laughter] [applause] we can disagree on -- whether it is a nice chair, whether you would like to replace the chair, move it over there, but we cannot say it is an elephant. >> i thought we were against obama chair. [laughter] [applause] >> that was a good chair, by the way. [laughter] the folks that tried to remove it this last election did not have a good time. [applause] [laughter] president obama: anyway. but i do -- one thing i realized when i got to
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congress, which is part of the reason i didn't stay very long -- [laughter] is that, and i am making a great generalization. there are some wonderful people in congress, but the fact is, members of congress are from early motivated around keeping their seat. >> and it is getting worse and worse. >> i cannot tell you how many times during my presidency i would have former colleagues of mine in the senate who are good people and sensible people, come up and say, mr. president, i would love to help you, but i would get killed doing this. and i think that kind of pressure, jim, i may be mistaken, wasn't as those >> no. that it did not exist, at
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least not on every vote. once in a while get an ideological vote where the leader would come in and say, look, we are -- you have to toe the line here. but that was not on every single item, in the way it is today. >> i totally agree with that, mr. president. i think another way to say it is, perhaps, that the responsible center in american politics has disappeared. and that is because of the -- [applause] jim: it is due to a lot of things. first of all, we are a pretty evenly divided country, red state, blue state. we do have a constitutional requirements to redistrict. if you live in a state dominated by republicans, they are going to draw more and more safe districts on the right. and for democrats, more and more safe districts on the left. people who go to washington today to represent us in congress no longer take their
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families up there. there is no longer any social interaction in washington among, between the two parties. and lastly, the last thing, maybe not the last thing, but next to the last, you have the advent of the internet. and that makes it really easy to be divisive. divisiveness sells. comity does not sell. if you can get somebody to say something outrageous, that person can get on tv, right? you istly, i got to tell think part of this problem is the responsibility of the media. our media today are no longer objective reporters of the facts the way they were when i was there. [applause] jim: they are, as you pointed out, they are players.
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they are players. you tune into fox news, you think you are listening to the house organ of the republican party. tune into msnbc, you would know you are listening to the house organ of the democratic party. fmr. president obama: those kind of slick moves are what made baker so effective as a -- [laughter] >> that is why we are here. fmr. president obama: that is exactly right. jim: trying to say cnn, not msnbc. >> well, it is -- the observation you made about not moving families there, look, when i was senator, i did not move my family there, in part is a healthy reason, which lot of spouses now have careers.
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michelle was like, yo, i got a job. but part of it, jim, i think is also that there is a -- the there is the perpetual campaign that takes place, which puts enormous pressure on every member of congress. they know they were being watched every minute. they are being scorecarded and graded by whatever ideological group is there every single minute. >> right. >> they don't feel like they can afford to be away from -- if you they move their families, someone will say, the guy has gone to washington and he doesn't believe that we are important anymore. and so you create this hothouse atmosphere in which folks are running scared all the time. and the ability to step back and
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islect, to compromise, reduced. now, i will say that the gerrymandering issue is a solvable problem, jim, unlike some of these issues. i mean, there are larger forces at work that are also creating this great sorting. we have an economy that has created differences of opportunity in urban versus rural areas, for example. >> right. >> those trends, because of globalization, a whole bunch of forces will probably not reverse themselves anytime soon, and that has created divides in the country. but gerrymandering is one thing that you can actually solve. california shifted to a
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nonpartisan, independent commission that carries out gerrymandering. i am actually a strong proponent and have been supportive of eric holder's efforts to try to get more states to adopt a, you know, a nonpartisan way to do that. and i say that as -- when it comes to gerrymandering, it is absolutely true that democrats do the same thing republicans do. if they are in control, they will try to maximize the number of seats they have, and vice versa. we are in texas, by the way, which is a champion of some gerrymandering. [laughter] >> it is a fundamentally nondemocratic approach, because essentially what happens, the elected official chooses the voters, rather than the other way around. and i, i actually -- when people
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ask me what are a few things that can be done to improve the functioning of government, this is an area where you can actually have an impact, and in some states, you are seeing referendums in which the average voter gets it. any think this is an important thing. [applause] jim: i agree with you. i think if we could get -- i agree with you that if we could get to the point that independent commissions would draw our district lines, it would be wonderful. the problem with that, mr. president, is it means taking power out of the hands of the politicians. i don't know where it is going to work. i know it is beginning to work in california. fmr. president obama: you just had a referendum in michigan passing this. so you are seeing citizen initiatives around this, in part, because they recognize what is currently in place is not working.
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one thing i will say, my observations during the time i was in the white house, sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that the problem has to do with the people who are there. and if we just kick all the bums out, it will get fixed. there are some bums, don't get me wrong, who need to get kicked out. we will not mention names. i am sure you have a list, i have a list. some of them overlap. mr. meacham: some just got reelected. [laughter] mr. obama: but i will tell you this, if you don't change of the incentive structures and the underlying dynamics, then we will continue to see these problems. good people will burn out and get discouraged.
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and voters will continue to be frustrated. what it does is leave a vacuum for those who garner attention through the most divisive, controversial, outlandish statements to win. people ask me often, what surprised me most about the presidency? it is the degree to which the united states underwrites the international order. it is not always in the obvious ways. but if there is a problem around the world, people do not call moscow, they do not call beijing. they call washington. even our adversaries expect us to solve problems and expect us to keep things running. when you start getting dysfunction in washington, which
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is difficult for decisions to get made, and policy making to run in an orderly process. what is one of our greatest assets, which is an extraordinary civil service, right, career staff, say at the state department, when that begins to get undermined, that does not just weaken our influence, it provides the opportunities for disorder to start ramping up all around the world, and ultimately makes us less safe and less prosperous. so we have a stake in making sure we have our act together enough. everybody else, whether they admit it or not, tends to follow our lead. mr. meacham: and there is a line between dean acheson, george marshall, jim baker, to
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secretary clinton and secretary kerry. that was a coherent conversation among secretaries of state. you would be here on the specter more over here, but -- spectrum or over here, but it was a coherent conversation. were you surprised in the past 24 or 28 months or so, to see the attack -- he is voldemort, i am not going to say his name. mr. baker: who is that? mr. meacham: voldermort. mr. obama: you have to read harry potter to your kids. mr. meacham: with baker, it is grandkids. the institutions the president is talking about and that you drew on, the united nations, the 12 resolutions during the gulf war, an extraordinary coalition madrid itself, the peace
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conference, those institutions were pretty effective through this man's presidency. now, and i am not just being clever, over the last two years, we have begun to fear the breakdown of those institutions. did you see that coming? mr. baker: i did not see that coming. i tend to agree with you. i certainly agree with you, and i know president obama would agree with you on this, american leadership in the world is absolutely imperative. no other country can do it. everybody expects us to lead. [applause] mr. baker: everybody expects us to lead and we won the cold war because every president, from harry truman through george h.w. bush was steadfast, whether they were democrats or republicans. we won the cold war, because we had alliances that leveraged our power and that we could rely on. and those alliances were
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evidenced by by nato of course, but by our security agreements with japan and korea, in the economic sphere, the world bank, the imf, so on and so forth. those institutions were created by americans in order for us to do what the rest of the world needed to have done, and what was good for america. and i think it is still good for america. i don't think we ought to be denigrating those institutions, or attacking them. do they need some of them, reformation? absolutely. as someone who spent a lot of time working with the imf -- there is a good one -- the u.n., there is another good one. even nato, this president is right in one respect, for sure. nato -- our european allies need to pay their way. what they have agreed to pay.
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we should not be required forever to pick up the tab on that. but these institutions make america stronger and we ought not to be running them down. [applause] mr. meacham: mr. president, you first. here is an exam question they would have at rice. assess the validity of this statement, if you would. american politics between 1933 and 2017 can be understood as a kind of figurative conversation between franklin roosevelt and ronald reagan. that the field on which we made most of our domestic and foreign policy decisions was regarding the relative role of the market in the state and the relative use of force between commonly agreed-upon rivals and foes.
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the moment between your leaving the white house and now, feels like an incoherent part of that story. do you agree that you govern in a world that was basically shaped by those american traditions? and if you agree, how does one go about recovering and restoring the conversation? mr. obama: i think it is correct that despite all the differences -- i was listening to jim talk about tip o'neill and ronald reagan going at it. the truth is, during that period you described, the ideological band of american politics was pretty narrow compared to most other countries. there was a broad consensus around a number of core issues and principles.
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and there is a reason why i was comfortable asking, for example, bob gates to stay on as my secretary of defense when we were still in the middle of two wars. there was a reason why i could consult with a jim baker about a particular issue comfortably. it wasn't a strain. it was because we had a common baseline of assumptions and values around certain issues. i think what is also true is that that consensus was hugely beneficial to the united states, and that over the course of the post-world war ii era, it was hugely beneficial to the world.
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it didn't mean we did not screw up or make mistakes, were not hypocritical or self-interested. we are a nationstate governed by politicians, and so the world had all kinds of opportunities at various junctures to say, oh, the united states doesn't believe what it preaches, it is supporting folks who are not democrats, they are doing things for convenience, all those things. but at the end of this period, let's call it 60, 70 years, the world was wealthier, less violent, healthier, more tolerant, more democratic. the average person's life chances were improved across the board. and yet, billions of people -- look, the chinese, essentially, were free riders on the system we built and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of
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poverty. it is justifiable for us now to want them to stop riding for free, you have got to carry your weight now that your status has changed. but we did something very valuable there. here is what is also true. what is also true is that, and this is true for any political system, any consensus that over time, contradictions appear, and there are things that were not tended to. in the united states, one of the major fault lines in america was always race. we made halting leaps towards changing our laws and our
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customs and our culture so that we were more likely, at least, to live up to the ideals of the declaration of independence and the notion that we are all created equal, despite not getting there. now, as we started doing that, the consensus starts weakening. that is why when lyndon johnson when he signed the civil rights act of 1964, the first thing he says is, we just lost the south for the rest of my lifetime, maybe more. because he understood that part of that old consensus had tamped down this big contradiction which is, we talk a lot about democracy, but we are not treating everybody the same. gender. part of the reason everybody could get along pretty good in
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congress in a 1957 or 1965 was that there weren't any women there to say, "what you guys are doing is stupid!" [laughter] [applause] mr. obama: suddenly women show up and they start questioning things, and suddenly men are kind of uncomfortable. it changes consensus. same with lgbt issues. right? so within the united dates, we -- within the united states, we had a whole range of issues that were not being addressed as they come up, which is a healthy thing. they could not be buried. suddenly, that consensus felt less uncomfortable. when it comes to the economy, part of what happens is that the globalization -- where you actually had a consensus between bill clinton, george h.w. bush,
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george w. bush, and certainly elements of my administration, we wanted to get the trans-pacific partnership done, for example. the consensus around things like free trade. it did not fully address the fact that although net-net, the whole world was doing better because of globalization and the internet and global supply chains, there were folks whose factories were being closed and suddenly found themselves to be redundant workers. you suddenly had a winner take all economy, where back in the 1960's, the ceo may be made 10 times more than the guy on the assembly-line, and now it is 200 times or 300 times. and the capacity of nationstates to regulate global capital so that at least they have some control where they say, let's
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speed things up, slow things down, let's ease the transition for communities that are being hurt by whether it is automation or foreign competition, that becomes harder to do because everybody is worried about what their quarterly reports will look like on wall street. that creates frustrations and contradictions. i think a legitimate critique of that consensus, you know, i consider myself to be a part of and still believe in, is that we did not adapt quickly enough to
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the fact that there were people being left behind. and that frustrations were going to flare up. that all of these changes that were happening were happening really quick, and you had to address them and speak to them. in those environments, you start getting a different kind of politics. you start getting politics based on, that person is not like me. it must be their fault. you start getting the politics based on a nationalism that is not pride and country, but hatred for somebody on the other side of the border. and you start getting -- [applause] mr. obama: the kind of politics that does not allow for compromise because it is based on passions and emotions. mr. baker: identity politics. mr. obama: which is why, by the way, when i hear people say they
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don't like identity politics, i think it is important to remember that identity politics does not just apply when it is black people, gay people, women, no. the folks who really originated identity politics were the folks who said, 3/5 clause, all that stuff. that was identity politics. that is still out there. maybe that was a little too controversial for houston, but -- [laughter] mr. obama: jim crow was identity politics. that is where it started. so part of what is happened is that when people feel their status is being threatened, they react. what i would agree with is that the washington consensus, whatever you want to call it, got a little too comfortable
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with -- they are only looking at gdp numbers and looking at the internet, and everything is looking pretty great, particularly after the cold war. after what you guys engineered, jim, you had this period of great smugness on the part of america and american elites thinking, we have this figured out. you remember the book that came out, the end of history. mr. baker: the end of history. francis fukuyama. mr. obama: that came to bite us in the back. that was kind of a long lecture. i'm sorry. we are trying to have i not -- trying to have an after dinner conversation. i should have thrown a joke in there or something. [laughter] mr. meacham: mr. secretary, what do you want us most to remember about your public service legacy? mr. baker: you mean what are my -- what am i most proud of about my public service legacy?
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i suppose, jon, i am most proud of the fact that i had the privilege of serving two presidents of the united states as chief of staff. i had the privilege of being secretary of the treasury. i had the privilege of being secretary of state. i had the privilege of running five presidential campaigns for three republican presidents and spending 12 years in washington, and leaving washington unindicted. [laughter] [applause] mr. obama: that was something there. good job, sir. i give you credit. mr. meacham: i think susan gets the credit for that, sir. mr. president, what about you? mr. obama: he stole my answer!
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no i'm a, -- look -- mr. meacham: of your eight years, what do you want us to think about, in terms of your presidency? mr. obama: there are obviously accomplishments that i am extraordinarily proud of and believe deeply in. i think the affordable care act was important. it was incomplete, but it was a starter house on the path to a smarter, more rational health care system where we are not spending 6%, 8%, 10% more than , other countries for worse outcomes. i was extraordinarily proud of the paris accords. look, i know we are an oil -- we are in oil country and we need american energy.
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and by the way, american energy production, you would not always know it, but it went up every year i was president. and that whole -- suddenly america is the biggest oil producer -- that was me, people. [laughter] [applause] mr. obama: sometimes you go to wall street and folks be grumbling about antibusiness. i said, have you checked where your stocks were when i came into office and where they are now? what are you talking about? what are you complaining about? just say thank you, please. [applause] mr. obama: because i want to raise your taxes a couple percent to make sure kids have a chance to go to school?
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but all those things -- i really would put a secondary to what jim said, which is, michelle and i and our girls, we came out in tact. what i mean by that, the core values we brought into the office, pretty homespun values , tell the truth and try to see the other person's point of view, treat people kindly and with respect, work hard, think things through. you know, we were able to sustain that in a difficult environment for that to sustain. not only did i not get indicted, nobody in my administration got indicted. [laughter]
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[applause] mr. obama: which by the way, was the only administration in modern history that that can be said about. in fact, nobody came close to being indicted. partly because the people who joined us were there for the right reasons. we were there to serve. but i guess there is a larger point to that, and i am in the process of writing right now. the first time i was in the oval office was actually after had been elected. i had been to the white house but i hadn't been to the oval office. i had been there for several meetings. but the tradition is, shortly after the election, the current president invites his successor in. so 43 has me over. laura was with michelle. they could not be more gracious.
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and i have to make the point that they had set up a transition process that was flawless and generous and thoughtful so that every member of 43's staff had made themselves available to the person who was going to be taking their place and had prepared manuals and books about how things work. because, despite the political differences, which were real and significant, they recognized there was a value above those differences. when i walked into the oval office, there was a reverence there for that office. it is independent of you.
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and if you don't feel that, then you should not be there. because -- [applause] mr. obama: because a lot of fights, a lot of sacrifices, a lot of bloodshed is represented in that office. not just soldiers at iwo jima, it is maids in selma, it is workers in a coal mine, it is farmers in the dust bowl. and you are carrying that vessel. and i never lost that reverence
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for that office. every day i would come and i would say, i am going to make mistakes, there will be decisions that are compromises. jim knows this, when you are in that office, there is never such a thing as 100% solution, because by definition, if it was easy to solve, somebody else would have solved it. it only comes to you when there is no good answer. through all of those ups and downs, you had to have a part of you. the bushes had that. ronald reagan had that. bill clinton had that. that sense of man, this is sacred. this is important. and there is a civic religion and a set of ideals and principles that we will not get perfect, but we should strive to
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perfect. and that, i think, is something i never lost throughout the time i was there. my staff, we used to put stickers on people's binders and folders saying, guard against cynicism because you have to be realistic, but you cannot be nihilistic. whether you are president, secretary of state, or a young staffer who is there for the first time. mr. meacham: i would like to close, if i may, by giving ronald reagan the last word. which is always safe. mr. obama: well, in this crowd anyway. mr. meacham: not far from here in secretary baker's office, there is a picture of that chief of staff -- secretary of treasury of the time, baker, sitting next to reagan.
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the picture was taken by david hume kennerly, the great political photographer in 1987. reagan looks a little puzzled and in reagan's wonderful handwriting, these fiction reads -- the inscription follows -- "dear jim, i look like i am lost, but not worried. you will straighten it out like you always do. ronald reagan." i think i speak for all of us when i think secretary baker and president obama, because they have strayed out a hell of a lot for us. thank you. mr. obama: thank you, very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [applause] >> coming up on c-span, a look at women in the workplace.
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elizabethtain's queen ii delivers her annual christmas message. after that, a program on combating loneliness and social isolation. then, constitutional law experts and attorneys discuss freedom of speech. >> washington journal is live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning, we will look back at key developments in this year's trade policy and what to expect in 2019 with a bloomberg trade reporter. harvard law school professor alan dershowitz joins us to discuss his latest book, "the case against impeaching donald trump." join the discussion. day fourstmas day is of a partial government
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shutdown. the house and senate returned thursday as negotiations continued on a spending bill to reopen the federal government. you can watch live coverage of the house on c-span and the senate on c-span 2. ♪ >> the united states senate, a uniquely american institution, legislating and carrying out constitutional duties since 1789. on wednesday, january 2, c-span takes you inside the senate, learning about the legislative body and its informal workings. we will learn about a history of conflict and compromise with original interviews.
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>> arguing about things, kicking them around, having great debates is a thoroughly american thing. moments in history and unprecedented access, allowing us to bring cameras in to the senate chamber. follow the evil lucian of the senate into the modern era, from advice and consent to their role in impeachment proceedings and investigations. the senate, conflict and compromise. a c-span original production exploring the history, traditions, and roles of this uniquely american institution. 2 on c-span.nuary to learn more and watch original full-length interviews with senators, here farewell speeches, and take a tour inside
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the senate chamber and other exclusive locations. now, sarah lacy holds a discussion on women in the workplace. a discussion hosted by and mckinsey & company. sarah: i'm sarah lacy, founder of chairman mom. it is my pleasure to tonight host a discussion about women in the workplace. welcoming our in speakers tonight, alexis, managing partner at mckinsey & company and co-author of the report, along with sue, president of stubhub.


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