tv Washington Journal Douglas Brinkley CSPAN February 18, 2019 4:02pm-4:52pm EST
kid, my grandfather, who fought in world war ii, he never would timeabout the war but one he did and what he shared with me i'll never forget. he wrangr forget how his hands and tears came out of his eyes. he fought for our freedom. his tears showed the passion, our he did to fight for country. freedom, that's what it's all about. the road: voices from on c-span. announcer: coming up later today, our road to the white with, 2020 coverage, presidential candidate kamala harris. visiting new hampshire. preside
day for a discussion with presidents. which president had the best relationship with congress during their years in the white house? douglas: there's not a best in recent times, but john f. kennedy had an incredible elationship with congress. i've beenrying about it. may 16, 1961, a president in office, white house the only few months and he's able to go to a joint session of congress and say i want $25 billion to go to the moon. that's about $180 billion in today's money and congress said sure, we'll find it for you if that's your pet program and you started finding republicans and democrats working together on this moon shot idea of jack kennedy's. he had most of his time a 70% approval rating, kennedy, while president and even when he dipped he was able to get things through congress in that
very sport 1,000-day presidency f his. so from a bipartisanship point of view john f. kennedy. but a legislative point of view when you have a rubber stamp for your party, democrat or republican who has both houses of congress, you can push through all sorts of legislation, lyndon johnson, the great society was an example of that when you have medicaid and medicare and npr and pbs and wild and scenic rivers and urban poverty programs. and there were no conservatives to stop l.b.j.'s big government. so when you look at a president in a relationship with congress, i think the question to ask is you look at which presidents were able to create a bipartisan cast to get things done and which presidents were able to do the most because their party was in charge the both of legislative and executive brafrpbls.
host: staying on l.b.j. who came up through the legislative branch before moving to the white house, is it a given presidents who come up in congress and serve in congress always have better relations than presidents who come from another aspect of society? douglas: that's a good and interesting question. yes would be my answer, at least they have a respect for the process on capitol hill, they understand how legislation is made, how bills are the art of compromise. talking about lyndon johnson in the 1950's, for example, when the soviets put sputnik up, johnson went haywire we're losing to the soviets and basically attacked president eisenhower. what did eisenhower say? he said if you feel that way put together a space committee and come up with something we should do and we'll work with
you and johnson and eisenhower created nasa in 1958. the point of that anecdote is simply that there are times when a master of the senate like lyndon johnson was can have it both ways and be a party leader and criticize the president but have so much power that the president is willing to collaborate and it becomes a win in that case creating nasa for the democrat and republicans. host: by the way, we invite our viewers to join in this discussion, doug brinkley again with us on one of these holiday mornings on presidents' day as he often joins us for a look back on history and its real estateship -- and its relationship with the issues, epublicans 202-748-8001, 2 and ndents 202-748-800
democrats, 202-748-8000. c-spans can find it at c-span.org, presidents in different leadership categories and one of those categories was relations with congress. we just were talking about presidents who come up through the legislative branch and i want your thoughts on why barack obama ranks so low in this leadership category, and is fifth from last in the latest historian survey when it comes to how well he worked with congress. doug brinkley? doug: because barack obama was an island on to himself and he came in and inherited the great recession and had to do some big things with stimulus packages that conservatives didn't like, the bailout of general motors but most importantly the affordable care act or obamacare, when he did
it right out of the gate in the first months of office, it triggered the tea party movement and once the tea party movement was born, mitch mcconnell famously said when our republican party is anything that obama puts forward, we're not doing any business on. and you had kind of a stalemate going on, the white house versus congress in the obama years. the president to get higher marks with executive power he started signing executive orders galore particularly the second term but some of them are being undone by donald trump. it's always better if you're president to go through congress because it has a more lasting effect. but if presidents feel plum oxed they look -- flummoxed they look for end runs and you see president trump doing that with emergency powers on the border wall and saw barack obama do that, for example, with signing national monuments to preserve the nature, like
bears ears national monument in utah. host: at the bottom of the list, andrew johnson, the president who had the worst relationship with congress according to that presidential historian survey, the top five, lyndon johnson, george washington, franklin roosevelt, abraham lincoln and thomas jefferson. doug brinkley, quickly on a plug for the presidential historian survey, how many historians are we talking about here and how often do we work with this on you? doug: well, we try periodically to cast a wide net of historians and scholars. we desperately try not to be partisan. we really want the best people in political science and history to weigh in on our surveys. there used to be one by arthur schlessinger, junior's father, the schlessinger pole but it always was pro democrat liberal kind of bent to it. so we are at c-span committed
to trying to be as fair and down the middle and not tilt these polls. of course they're not scientific. somebody's position, they rise and fall depending on different circumstances. andrew jackson used to be much higher than he is now but there's new thoughts about the trail of tears, native american history, first peoples history and jackson takes a hit. but, you know, at the same time jackson is very popular now with conservatives because donald trump has moved his portrait into the white house, es himself as a jacksonian populist. so sometimes we get pulled in the direction of current politics, the job of the historians and we're talking about over a hundred historians every year, that will weigh in on this and try to come up with a list that we find useful. what you just ralted off the top five with -- rattled off
the top five with presidents of legislative background. they also happen to have been five presidents with the exception of johnson because of the vietnam war but the other ones that are wildly popular in general because there are mount rushmore presidents if you'd like. the pom of the list, andrew will cling to that because he came in after the civil war, hard shoes to fill, abraham lincoln from tennessee and there were all sorts of calls for impeachment and he became the first impeached president and yet he got some redemption later after he left the white house, before his death he ran for the senate and won from tennessee. so he was not a good president but he also caught a bad wave of the circumstances of the time. host: presidents and their
relations with congress is our topic with doug brinkley with us until the top of the hour at 9:00 eastern. you can join the conversation like sam did from durwood, maryland. line for democrats. go ahead. sam: do you agree, professor, that donald trump is the biggest liar in american residential history? , one of , you know the problems -- he certainly lies an awful lot. i don't know in the old days we have a way to count them. but today with "the washington post" putting teams of fact checkers on things, it's indisputable he fabricates lies and this lead as part of his political ammo. incidentally, when we're trying to judge presidents, it is a little hard to judge sitting presidents and where they're going to be seen in history. i just would use donald trump as an example. right now he could be either
impeached or resign before his term is out. he could be a one-term president, get the nomination and get knocked off by a democrat or be a two-term president, win yet again, and people will talk about this being the age of trump where perhaps he has three supreme court justices appointed and changes the federal judgeships and has big moments in foreign policy yet to come. you just can't tell when you're in the middle of things but right now on the point of who gets the pinocchios as president, donald trump is in a league of his own. host: brooklyn, new york, next, an independent agustus. next. caller: don't you think that the -- inaudible]
for all the presidents to come. host: i'm not sure i got the question, agustus. agustus: was it fair for the senate to declare obama a first come president? [inaudible] host: i think he's referring to mitch mcconnell saying he wanted to make barack obama a one-term president? doug: well, yeah, and that would be normal of mitch mcconnell, he's a republican and wouldn't want two terms of a democrat. what was unusual is mcconnell made a public statement that he wasn't going to agree to anything obama wanted, that he was not going to search for bipartisanship legislation and in the same way right now, no democrat wants to be in a photo-op. you want to run for a democrat, the single worst thing to do
would be in a photo smiling with donald trump. with everybody calling in, one thing we can agree on, whatever line you're calling in on, a democrat or republican or independent, we're in highly partisan times and the figures polarizing are donald trump, barack obama and hillary clinton. they're like lightning rod figures and you say something nice about one of them and you're beat up by people and you criticize one and we seem to be spinning with anger in what's transpired in the last 20 or so years. george w. bush, while not ranked high on our poll as a successful president, although he was a two-termer. but we see him growing in public stature simply by staying out of washington, d.c., being in dallas and kind of not being engaged in the political warfare of the moment. and i should tell c-span viewers, a lot of presidents do
a little better once they're out of office, believe it or not. over time it heals some of the orst wounds and you can see an upward elevation of presidents. eisenhower in recent years has moved very high up. he's a top 10 president automatically now. when he left office, people wouldn't have thought of him as that. same with harry truman. they used to say to err is truman but yet a 20% approval rating and he couldn't run for re-election in 1952 because he was so unpopular. and yet now he's usually ranked number five as one of our great presidents for his handling of the cold war issues like the marshall plan to europe or the creation of nato, establishment of israel. you know, the founding of our homeland security, energies of the national security council, c.i.a., created the department of air force, on and on. truman is seen as one of the greats and so is eisenhower.
we never know. barack obama came in quite well overall for his first time out on one of these polls. we'll have to see how his stock goes up and down in coming years. host: and again, one aspect of that poll, one of those rankings is relations with congress for presidents and that's what we're focusing on this morning in this segment of the "washington journal." coming back to that survey and specific question about who did best when it came to relations with congress. lyndon johnson of course during the vietnam war, george washington number two served as president after the revolutionary war, franklin roosevelt during world war ii, abraham lincoln during the civil war which brings up a question about war presidents and their relations with congress. do they usually do better with those relationships during a war or is the war usually just overarching everything else so you don't hear as much about the disagreements? doug: i think if you're a
wartime president, it's a big perk for your standing in history. now, abraham lincoln comes in and in 1860 he wasn't even on the ballot in seven southern states and he came in in some people's minds as a third party candidate, the first republican president ever. and you know, you can't say that it's a perk to be a wartime president when half the country took down the american flag and put up a confederacy flag during your tenure. lincoln is in a category of his own. certainly for franklin roosevelt being a wartime president, he was a polarized president in the sense of the new deal was big federal government, government at large and angered conservatives mightily and the name roosevelt was almost a curse word in conservative republican america. but world war ii made him our president. we were all in it together and suddenly everybody got behind
f.d.r. for his industrial mobilization efforts, for his wise strategies from everything from d day to the manhattan project. and so, you know, he gets elevated. the big deal with presidents is they have words of necessity. i think we had to fight the war of 1812, mr. madison's war. but yet the mexican-american war with james k. polk was a war of choice and if you're going to be a president with the war of choice, you need to win that war decisively and quickly. polk did that in his one and only term. you see william mckinley winning the spanish american war in six months, woodrow wilson wins world war i. truman we can say won the korean war though it was close. vietnam gets lost by lyndon johnson and nixon and with more recent wars, bush 41 won his gulf war while bush 43 did not win his war in the middle east.
so you know, it helps to be the president that wins. george washington is always going to be ranked high in every category. he's our first. you know, the fact is our country loved military generals as presidents up until recent times. it's not just general washington or general andrew jackson, but there's a whole host of presidents, zachary taylor, william henry harrison. ulysses s. grant, dwight eisenhower and even ones who weren't generals, you had people that made their careers and we judge them from their heroisms in war, theodore roosevelt in the spanish american war with the roughriders and jack kennedy, pto-109. and now they're running a show on all the presidents leading up to bill clinton. clinton was a unusual entity we had a president with no military service whatsoever who
instead had a rhodes scholarship at oxford and was against the vietnam war. now it's not a must credential to run for president but used to be the big thing, it wasn't being a lawyer or senator as much as it was you were proving yourself as a soldier and a leader of men in the military. host: ohio is next. mike, independent, good morning. mike: yes, good morning, gentlemen. honor to speak to mr. brinkley, a great historian. i think noticing barack obama, president obama near the bottom of the list, i think one of the things that should be brought up is on the first -- actually when he was first inaugurated president, that as far as i can tell or my opinion, the treasonous republicans got together at the caucus room
steakhouse, even newt gingrich had met at this where people like former senator jim demint said that even things that we are for that barack obama is r, we have to come out against it. and to believe president obama didn't know they got got together and were going to be against things that even that they liked because he proposed them, that they were automatically going to be against it. host: professor brinkley? doug: i want to make it clear obama is ranked fairly high. i think he's number 12. i don't have the list in front of me. host: i have it in front of me. overall he's number 12. what we were talking about number four was his ranking on relationships with congress. doug: right. i want to make that
distinction. so he's doing well in the annals of history, barack obama. the caller brought up a key point and affirm play find something i was saying -- amplified something i was saying before and there was a movement after the obamacare act and all the capital that used up for obama. remember, any kind of -- the affordable care act was something progressive that never could get done. theodore roosevelt tried it, f.d.r. tried it, truman tried it, lyndon johnson went after it. none of them could do it. obama did but he spent every dime he had on the affordable care act. once he pushed that forward, the vote was very partisan, democrats voting for it, then it left a bitter taste in the mouths of the republican party and they decided to fight obamaism by basically doing zero cooperation with him. and that's the way that administration played out.
obama is still able, why he's ranked number 12, the killing of osama bin laden, the expansions that he did with national monuments using executive orders. his promotion of climate change, the paris accord, the iran deal, the opening up of relations to cuba. so you can see him using his executive power in effective ways but there's a warning label put to that because when you get an adversary, particularly one as fierce as donald trump coming in, in many ways he's defined himself as undoing obamaism, taking the old mitch mcconnell line and seeing obama as the enemy and anything that has his signature or fingerprints on can't be good. and that's where our politics are right now. and it goes back and forth both ways. it's just very hard for people to govern from the center now because of social media you get attention if you're on the far
left or the far right. people want sensational comments to be made. i'm watching democrats right now running for president having to outleft each other, take it one step further. but beto o'rourke, no wall, not even a hunk of wall along the border is supposed to exist which makes elizabeth warren then have to go beyond that. so we're in this sort of period where the parties are being run y a base that tends to be more extreme than the average american voter. most americans are center ight, center left. but they're run largely by the basis. host: a hour left with doug brinkley, prolific author from rice university. can you talk about "american moon shot?" doug: i wrote about john f.
kennedy and the great space race, online and available right now. i did a lot of research with it because i teach at rice in houston. i look at the whole origins of space exploration. i looked at how we brought over the nazi rocketeers of world war ii, 137 former nazis went to fort bliss, texas, el paso, to test missiles in the white sand proving ground and they then moved to huntsville, alabama, imbedded with the u.s. army, in this race we had with the soviets to be the first -- try to be the first to man space and we lost and they put yuri in before space before we put allen shepherd in. but we started jacking things up, poured a lot of money in the southern zone in the 1960's, meaning technology hubs in texas where i'm at right now and san antonio, houston, but
also mississippi, louisiana, alabama, florida, virginia. they were all great beneficiaries of space dollars and we fulfilled kennedy's pledge and got to the moon and the summer will be the 50th anniversary of neil armstrong famously saying one step for man and one giant leap for mankind. we'll all be glued to reliving that this summer, the official moment that's july 20th will be the 50th anniversary coming up. so my book reflects on all of this with a lot of new research, including i got to interview neil armstrong for an oral history hour with him before he died. host: back to the phones. dan is waiting in buoy, maryland, a republican. you're on with professor brinkley. dan: thank you very much. by the way, i read a book years ago by a guy named david brinkley, called "washington goes to war" and was an excellent book. i have a problem with your current guest, mr. brinkley,
because in my view as i've seen this over the years, he definitely has a left-wing bias. and i sort of want to challenge something he said in a way, and historically it's a important way to look at a president, i believe. now, donald trump says things that are exaggerations, i definitely agree. i watched this very carefully. but i would look at the kind of lies, maybe whatever fibs, every politician lies. but i look at l.b.j. and the gulf, got us into the war, 58,000 dead, a pathetic loss. he also said he wasn't going to get into the war and he put us in the war. in terms of the combat. also, i look at obama. obama said you can keep your doctor. he said you can save $2,500 every year, every family, and he said that you could keep your policy. now, the point i'm raising is, i'd like to hear a couple of
the lies donald trump has told which in any way has come close to matching those in terms of damage done to this country because those are -- it isn't -- by the way, fact checking by "the washington post," if you're using that as a historical cool, it's absolutely absurd. host: professor brinkley, i'll give you a chance to respond. doug: well, i don't think "the washington post" is absolutely absurd. i think donlt trump's lies are well documented. but the caller makes a good point, even though you don't think i would say that when he was quite nasty toward me. but the gulf of tonkin is a horrendous lie by lyndon johnson and does lead to those 58,000 dead. and i think the caller is making a point, what are the big lies, the ones that really count, the policy lies that have a larger consequence than donald trump's rhetoric or, you
know, inability to be fact-based. that's something that people will debate, you know. we'll have to see all the trump years manifest itself and the same with barack obama. i think the big misleading -- to be able to say what's the -- barack obama ran a very squeaky clean eight years when it comes from not having indictments come flooding out of his administration. but i think the affordable care act was sold in a disingenuous way in the sense of what you would get out of the affordable care act. and so, you know, i think that's an interesting question. one person may tell 5,000 lies but all of those add up to a one gulf of tonkin lie, i think that can be debated. host: michael, deerfield beach, florida, a democrat. did morning. dan michael: yes, good morning.
as much as i'd like to inquire about the space race, we had a shuttle that was a conflict between the military and nasa and i'm calling from broward county, florida, where we have students and the march for our lives and the shooting, the anniversary on the 149. my question is the second opinion is famous historically giving the rights to states to fight each other and bear arms which is exactly what happened in the civil war. so under what president was it all he supreme court and that became misconstrued to giving individual rights, was there a specific president that enabled that? doug: that's a good question and i don't have the answer for you. it's evolved over time. i think your premise is correct. we tend to go back to our founding documents all the time but as you know when we were
dealing with guns in the early republican, it was about having a militia and is misconstrued over the years. we have efforts at gun control, the brady bill being the most famous after ronald reagan was shot in washington, d.c. in march of 1981. but the power of the national ifle association i think has been able to massage the public's view of what the second amendment is in favor of gun ownership. but it is there, the right to bear arms. the question is did the founders envision these kind of bazookas and semiautomatic weapons that exist today? and so i think gun reform is going to be a big issue in 2020. donald trump, if he's the nominee will be saying democrats want to take your guns away and the democratic nomenee assuredly will talk
about gun shootings and the like and talk about the need for gun reform. it's very much a problem in our country right now. but hopefully we'll be able to find ways to keep these weapons out of unstable people's hands. host: we started this conversation talking about presidents and their relations with congress. one president we haven't touched on yet is richard nixon. i want your thoughts, professor brinkley, and as we do, a clip from former nixon administrative assistant, tom coralogas talking about president nixon and his relationship with congress when it came to foreign policy. [video clip] >> the china clip, -- the china thing, what's he doing over there and i remember saying to leadership, see that phone, i can call our advance guys here and now and they'll know everything going on and you in this room will all know what's going on. so when he came back from
china, he'd been there how many days, 10 days? >> about 10. >> what did he do? the gentlemen suggested to the tour in china, what time you landing at andrews from china? he landed at 7:00, 8:00 at night. why don't you come straight to the capitol. so they cleared the capitol grounds, the parking lot, the helicopter comes swooping in and lands in the parking lot and nixon goes in and speaks to a joint session of congress what he did in china. i remember roger mud on the television, here's nixon's relations with congress have gone this way and that way and what did he do? he comes back from china and lands on them. tells them what he did. that was all part of what jeff is discussing on the relationship that he had created personally with the hill. host: professor brinkley on
nixon in congress. tug: interesting story. i mean, really, nixon studies are just ripe right now. there are some people arguing nixon was the last of the new dealers. that was the last president lyndon ed to do equal johnson on signing legislation. nixon was for affirmative ction. he put in play the environmental protection agency, clean air and water, one can go on and on with nixon in his legislative accomplishments and foreign affairs is mentioned, the 1972 trip to china is a big deal in history, a major moment. but a lot of it gets overshadowed by watergate and the fact that he had the tapes that are very incriminating. i edited two volumes of the nixon tapes and some of his language, i know other
presidents spoke like that in american history but didn't tape themselves saying things. it's a conundrum to deal with richard nixon. in some ways, you know, you could see the dark side of nixon existing and roger stone and others of today and in other ways you see nixon alive air and with clean water with china. he's a large president. we lived in the age of nixon with a long time. eight years as vice president under eisenhower in addition to two-term president. people forget when he won in 1972, nixon's second term for re-election, when he beat george mcgovern it was the biggest landslide in history. nixon was popular. but we talked about "the washington post" earlier, "the washington post" and others got nixon during the watergate hearings and he's been tainted
as president because of it. host: middle river, maryland, is next, walter, republican, go ahead. walter: good morning. mr. brinkley, i want to challenge you on a couple issues. first you said that "the washington post" was a act checker. i have to say they're a fact checker for the democrats. they're not a true fact checker because we've found them wrong many times the last couple years under the trump administration. especially when mr. trump had found out he'd been surveiled and wiretapped and all the things the f.b.i. was doing to him when the announcement was made a couple months ago, "the washington post" came and said no such thing happened it's a four pinocchio so please don't get on the high horse about "the washington post." it's driven by a democratic agenda, you know it, i know it, and anything trump says they say is a lie. so please be a little more
fair. talking about lying presidents, my insurance went up under the a.c.a. about $4,000 a year. i didn't save $2,500 a year like obama had promised me. i'm 55 years old and retired now. i've gotten through the mess of a.c.a. i implore you, please be fair. and i hope in your classes you let students object to some of your commentary. host: professor brinkley. doug: we talked about the obamacare situation a little bit ago and was very critical of obama and i don't know why the caller has such blinders on that he can't see or hear i just said that, just said with a he said. "the washington post," look, near times "washington post" and "wall street journal" are still the three standards on fact checking with omni budsman. do they make errors?
yes. but to pretend that donald trump doesn't fabricate things on a regular drumbeat basis, that's false. he does. it may not bother you. it might just be his style. you might want to call it something other than a lie, a exaggeration. feel free to do that. but we're looking at a president who is wild with his language. that doesn't mean other presidents weren't. i edited ronald reagan's diaries and done three books on president reagan. all these right-wing people that call in here act like any time you try to be a centerist or try to talk honestly on president's day -- presidents' day that you have an agenda, part of their tree-state paranoia. reagan would fabricate things and he would read or misremember and say things that took place in a hollywood studio and act like he was
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ivan eiland is on your screen. executive branch and legislative branch and powers of both. declaring as to national emergency, from where does a president derive that power?c guest: that's interesting because i think the framers of frown onitution will any declaration of emergency power. this has developed over time as the executive has become much more powerful than framers intended. the framers of the constitution, to give a little background, they sort of rejected the national emergency paradigm because the american constitution is not set up to be efficient legislation. people criticize congress or government in washington for not more efficient passing things but of course the system is designed to slow things up. checks andof
balances is primarily to spread don't haveo that you tyrannyand not only the of the executive because they had the king george model of britain in mind but also legislative tyranny because the british parliament they felt was a tyrannical body, as well, effect on them. so what they did was, the only thing that resembles the national emergency in the original constitution is that suspend, raise habeas corpus, during invasions or insurrections. those are pretty dire circumstances and they don't general national emergency because i think they would have been very uncomfortable with it. this declaration of national emergency have been trivialized and they were building up in the early 1970's, i think, hundreds of them. at once.lmost 500 so this national emergencies act designed toactually
sunset some of those and rein in the practice. well, it reined in to some extent because now we only have 30 and we had 59 since then and some have gone away but we have right now. so one might ask, well, is this all that serious? well, most of these emergencies have been used to sanction other countries and there's been largely an agreement, there's the executive but authorityas abdicated by allowing this to happen so we things.trivialize these ♪ [music]