tv Book TV CSPAN December 28, 2009 7:00am-8:00am EST
your seat, i thought i'd interview craig, ask him a number of questions about his book. and then also throw it to the audience if you've got questions as well. so we'd like to keep this as lively and as moving as possible so please as we move forward, if you've got something you want to throw up here, please just raise your hand but let me ask the first five or six questions. [laughter] >> does that sound good to you, craig. >> works for me. >> okay. >> in our archives here, craig, we have hundreds and hundreds of president reagan's radio addresses from that 1976 to 1980 time frame. and when i saw he had so many radio addresses, i thought to myself, you know, from the outset right after the '76 convention to be on the air that much and then having read in your book -- i think he was
writing a biweekly news column, he was traveling around the country, you know, dozens and dozens of speeches he was giving from the convention onward, it would seem to me what must have happened at the time was campaign staff said well, we're not letting this go. from the moment you leave the convention, do all these things in order to position yourself to run for the presidency. was it that purposeful or was it just more by happenstance? >> as a matter of fact, the campaign after 1976 pretty much disapaid. -- disapated. the group went away except two. there was not a grand plan that started after the convention in '76 for him to mount another challenge, a third challenge for the republican nomination in 1980. pretty much the campaign had all separated and a lot of the staff
as a matter of fact was playing footsie and all those others who ended up taking ronald reagan for the 1980 nomination and so compounding that was the fact that a lot of the staff from '76 thought that '76 was reagan's last shot and that, in fact, he would be too old to run again innianne 80. >> i think around 1978 it seems to me that president reagan not even candidate reagan at the time happened upon an issue that i'm sure he had been watching for years. but it seemed to be like the wedge issue in that time frame. that really helped vault him back in the national dialog and that would be panama canal? >> yes. >> was it an extremely important decision for him? >> it was an enormously huge issue in this country. it was -- it was so huge in this country that president carter,
who was fighting for the panama canal treaties in 1977 -- lobbying the senate and trying to muster grassroots support for the canal treaties. in a national television address advocating the passage of the treaties, he attacks private citizen ronald reagan. he said there's a man going around this country who says we built it, we paid for it. it's ours and we're going to keep it and that's not quite true. just imagine that, the president of the united states is attacking one citizen out of a nation of 240 million people. that's pretty astonishing. the cbs news the next day calls governor reagan and says, governor, would you like 30 minutes of airtime to respond to the president of the united states? reagan thought about it for about 3 seconds and said, you bet. and they put him on national television, and he gave a 30-minute response to carter's attack and carter's position on the canal treaties. the issue also brings up, too,
the fisure is in the republican party and he's approached by then-rnc chairman bill brock. brock want him to sign a direct mail piece to raise money to oppose the treaty and governor reagan said, sure, i'd love to. he makes over a million dollars for the republican national committee which was a lot of money -- it's still a lot of money but it was a lot of money in 1977 so now governor reagan is putting together a national truth squad to travel the country to mount a grassroots campaign to oppose the treaties and he goes to brock, he said, bill, would you mind if i had some of that money that i raised for the truth squad. brock said no. he wouldn't give him one reason and the reason brock wouldn't was because of course -- he was from tennessee, a former senator from tennessee.
he and howard baker were very good friends and the senator minority leader who hadn't taken a position on the troy and he was close to gerald ford and was supporting the panama canal treaties and he was frustrated with brock and the national republican committee and never raised another money for the rnc until after he took control of the party, after he got the nomination in july of 1980. >> so he -- if i have my history correct, the panama canal treaty actually passed. >> yes. >> is it fair to say that president reagan lost the battle but won the war in the sense that it positioned him from a philosophical standpoint to help coalesce the conservative coalition. >> absolutely, john. by the time the passage of the treaties in the senate of 1978, the american people who two
years ago supported all the treaties and the polling show the american people vastly opposing the treaties. you're right, he lost the battle but he won the war because it coalesced a lot of the conservative movement for his eventual third drive for his nomination in 1980. >> can you talk a little bit about jack kemp? >> i was not working on the hill at the time but by the time i got to capitol hill his name was already famous. he might have been a young republican and somewhat of a back-bencher. it was remarkable that some of his ideas, especially, on supply-side economics, those he had gone from others had found their way to ronald reagan. and reagan started espousing them, you know, quite early on. he was truly a very influential figure on reagan. >> somebody some day is going to have to do a book on how important jack kemp was to the conservative movement and the republican party. jack kemp was in many ways -- he
brought fire to republican kind. he gave us of a hopeful economic message which conservatism and republicanism had never had before. we had always been -- the republicans and conservatives had always been kind of the green eye shade balanced budget, you know, folks and the democrats were the party of hope and opportunity. their economic message was, you know, to spread the wealth or, you know, but we didn't have something that was hopeful. in september of 1976, kemp has introduced what is called the jobs bill and it's brought to reagan's attention. what it is, it's a massive across-the-board personal income tax, 33% across-the-board for all americans. reagan sees not only the political opportunity here but what it also does economically for what he believes for the
country and he endorses it immediately and by 1978, less than two years later, it is the centerpiece of his economic philosophy to the american people and tax cuts were very important, too, for reagan for two reasons. everybody thinks it was all about stimulating the economy and that's true. but from reagan's standpoint, he was developing and honing a message of optimistic conservatism. and part of that had to be a reliance on the self as opposed to reliance on the state. and so tax cuts were a way to reduce the individual's reliance upon the state and increase the reliance upon themselves. and that was what really attracted reagan to tax cuts was that it made the person -- you know, gave them more control over their own destiny. >> now, having read your book, it reminded me of just how many republican candidates saw the
weakness of jimmy carter and decided, i'm going to get into this. i mean, it seems like almost a dozen, maybe it was ten. do you recall how many it was? >> that ended up running? >> that ended up in the republican primaries. >> well, it ended up with six but there were eight or ten who looked at it including former president your. -- gerald ford. >> we went through all the republican primaries heading in 1980. it ended up towards the end of being a ronald reagan versus george bush. do you have a view of all the others that were winnowed out of the field. was there any particular candidate that really should have had more momentum, had they run a better campaign and ended up there at the finish line beyond bush or was it really bush had run the best campaign next to reagan? >> i think bush had run the best campaign next to reagan. and had run the most aggressive campaign. and probably had the best campaign staff after reagan in some ways. i think that -- i always wondered why bob dole didn't catch fire more.
certainly he'd been on the ticket with gerald ford in 1976. he was a national political figure. he was a genuine war hero. he was a very effective, competent legislator from kansas. he had a beautiful story to tell, you know, jack armstrong, all-american story but he never caught on with the voters and i could never really figure out why that never happened. >> now, while you have noted that president reagan obviously ran the best campaign, he was victorious in the primaries, in your book you call it a blundering start. >> uh-huh. >> take us back to that time because the reagan presidency almost wasn't the reagan presidency because of a very bad start. what happened. >> what happened was this, after 1976, after kansas city, reagan does what he wants to do, which is to go out and to communicate to the american people his views on america, conservatism, the
world, communism, opportunity, freedom -- all those things he believed in and, you know, it's in june of 1977 he gives 13 major policy speeches. he's on the tonight show with johnny carson. he's testifying on capitol hill against the panama canal treaties. he's hither and yon and reagan was like a thorough bread. is that the more you ran him, the better he ran. but if you pulled him off the side and you put him in the stable, then he starts -- you know, his muscles start to atrophy so he's doing this all through 1977, 1978. his campaign aids -- he's the front runner for the runner in 1980 but the only way ronald reagan is going to lose the nomination is if he defeats himself in the primaries. so john sears and the people associated with john sears are taken off the road.
he doesn't gives interviews or speeches and it allows the candidates to climb into contention and in 1979 the ronald reagan who should have been the far and away front runner for the republican nomination is getting 27% support of republicans nationwide. and it was mainly because he had campaign aides who were telling him to go against his own instincts. his own instincts were to stay out there and talk to the american people. he'd only gone to new hampshire once in two years and he hadn't been to iowa in years before the 1980 caucuses. he almost lost the nomination. >> they stuck it to him in iowa. >> yeah, exactly. >> he lost the iowa caucuses and then it was new hampshire do or die. >> new hampshire was absolutely do or die for ronald reagan. here's what's interesting is that the current primary process now is that new hampshire falls
eight days after the iowa caucuses. if you would take the current primary schedule and overlay it in the 1980 schedule reagan would have lost the nomination. george bush would have won the nomination. ronald reagan would have become the william jennings bryant of the republican party. a guy who ran three times and lost three times. what worked in reagan's favor were two things. one, himself, because he chose to take control of his own destiny and two, new hampshire fell in two weeks after the iowa caucuses which allowed him time to get back in the race. >> so i think what you're saying is if he had not -- if we took modern day schedule, overlaid it on the reagan campaign, he wouldn't have been president reagan. >> he would not have been president reagan. >> talk to me about new hampshire now. because at least my impression is and modern politics as big debates may be important in a a campaign, they are often a
slugfest and end in draws, but the nashua -- at the nashua high school debate that you write about seems to be an extraordinary exception to the rule. can you talk to us about the importance of that. >> well, reagan leaves iowa. he's collapsed in all the national polls. his campaign is heavily indebt. and still his campaign aides say -- and reagan campaigns the way he wants to campaign. the age issue was a huge issue in 1979, 1980. but what ended up happening is that he's traveling and he's going so furious and he's going so fast that the political press traveling with him -- they hang a sign on the bus that says free the reagan 44 because they're so exhausted from the pace set by a
man twice their age. but going into the nashua telegraph debate and why it is so interesting, it shows a lot about ronald reagan was that reagan is losing in new hampshire. he needs a one-on-one debate with george bush to make his case of why he'd be a better nominee than george bush. as the debate negotiations are going on, reagan creeps in the polls and now this table is turned so bush wants the other candidates involved. then the federal election commission steps in and says, no, this newspaper cannot pay for the debate. it's an illegal corporate contribution so the reagan campaign steps up, okay, we'll pay the $3,000 for the debate. now you have again the tables have turned again so that this is now the new hampshire -- the nashua telegraph is only three days before the primary. and reagan is surging in the
polls but he hasn't caught george bush yet but he wants the other candidates involved to dilute the anti-reagan vote. bush puts his feet in granite and says absolutely not. these other candidates are not going to be involved. reagan says i'm paying for this. i think they should be involved. so what happens is that you have this famous confrontation at nashua high school. there's 2500 people there. it's hotter than blazes inside. somebody described it -- people yelling, screaming and the melee and somebody described it as the bar scene from star wars. [laughter] >> and so you have where reagan tries to address the other candidates and they are labeled the nashua 44 and he wants to address the crowd and explain why the other four candidates should be involved and the editor of the national telegraph saying turn off his microphone. turn off his microphone.
and they won't turn off the microphone and reagan grabs the microphone and he stands up and, you know, he takes a step towards him and you look at the video and you think he's going to hit him. [laughter] >> he was so mad. you know, his aides had never seen reagan as mad as they saw that night and his hands were shaking and that's when he thundered i'm paying for this microphone. >> a classic moment. >> and after all that tumult, and after reading your book there's no question it harkens you back to the time when that was a very tough campaign as it went down to the wire between reagan and bush. and as a former staff person in the bush administration, i ask this question with, you know, all due respect, you know, when you read your book it's just surprising when you see with the speed that president reagan decided towards the end to ask
george bush to come on the ticket. there was a lot of back room negotiations involving former president ford but could you just bring us back to that time because it's just remarkable to me with such a tough campaign and the camps were so bitterly opposed to each other that the president, you know, reached out his hand to bring bush on the ticket. >> there was a history there between governor reagan and ambassador bush, who was not -- they ended up being the best of friends and mutual respect and all around. but proves the old adage that politics does make strange bedfellows. they had a history going back in 1978 that started out a little bit rocky. there was a congressional candidate down in texas a young fellow by the name of george w. bush who was running for congress in 1978. and he had a conservative primary opponent named jimmy reese who was the mayor of odessa. reagan endorsed reese over bush and contributed to his campaign. and this did not set well with
the bush family as you can imagine. and as a matter of fact, ambassador bush called then-governor reagan to complain about him endorsing his son's opponent. you already had that situation. and then, of course, bush is running in the primaries against reagan and the age issue again is i can't underestimate how big the age issue was in '79, to '80. it was shot through every story that was written or reported off radio or tv about ronald reagan, about was he too old. was he up to the task? all this. and bush is trying to exploit this, as any other campaign would, you know, he's jogging for the media and he goes to the ymca and does push-ups for the national media and it's all to exacerbate the age issue. so you had that and then on top of that, you have bush attacking reagan's tax cut, his voodoo economics.
and this sent around ronald reagan around the bend. so by the time you get to detroit really on paper, the guy who made the most sense to go on the ticket with ronald reagan was george bush because he was somewhat more moderate. he was -- had a proven vote-getting ability in the primaries in the northeast. he'd won the pennsylvania primary and massachusetts and others. he had more foreign policy experience. and he was the guy who was going to be the one who would best unify the convention because as you all know, unify conventions win in the fall and divided conventions lose in the fall. and there's great resistance ñg governor reagan and mrs. reagan taking george bush because of these lingering that have been left unaddressed. there's this one day of what was madness in detroit where they try to put together the copresidency which some of you would remember with gerald ford the dream ticket where, you
know, you had reagan running for president and they tried to get gerald ford to serve -- to run as vice president. i always thought jim baker a had the best line on the whole situation because if you had reagan -- reagan and ford elected as president and vice president would you address ford mr. president or mr. vice president or mr. vice president or mr. president. [laughter] >> where you had this whole day where there were negotiations and it was carried out on national television between walter cronkite and gerald ford and the copresidency and rumors being passed along from delegate to delegate to network. and it all made it on to network television and it recycled back and so you had a day of madness whether or not there would be a dream ticket or a copresidency. would they address the convention in, you know, sin? -- unison. this is now 11:30 at night worth. this is the night ronald reagan has been nominated by the
republican party. he tries three times and he finally gets it and he can't savor it because he doesn't have a running mate. at 11:30 that night, after all these negotiations and i need to tell you about henry kissinger's role in this. they go in the room for five minutes, the two of them in detroit, and they come out and reagan tells the guys -- tells peter and lynn and dick allen and others i can't tell you what's going on but it's not going to work. and so they sit there 11:30 at night and reagan is looking at his aides and he said, well, fellas, what do we do now. he's got no running mate and after a few minutes, the governor says i think it's time to call george bush and george bush is just blown away. he had no idea. he was convinced like everybody else in america that gerald ford was going to go on the ticket
with reagan. >> it directly follows on that, it goes back to jack kemp. i guess the -- why did. his star not rise at least high enough to be more seriously in consideration for the vice president? >> there was a lot of affection on the part of the delegates and governor reagan for jack kemp. and that comes through in all the people i talk to, and all the material that i went through. there were probably -- the biggest thing that kept kemp off the ticket with reagan, the aides felt it was too much to ask the american people to swallow the took of a former movie actor and a former athlete. it may have been too much to ask the american people in 1980. because really the delegates -- i won't say the vast majority of the delegates but a great number of delegates really wanted -- really wanted jack kemp and, of
course, the reagan's personal reference was john axle. but he's from nevada. he was conservative. nevada only had three electoral votes. reagan was going to carry it anyway so it wasn't they added anything to the ticket. >> at this point do you have any questions from folks in our studio audience? don't be shy. okay. oh, we have many questions. [inaudible] >> normally we would hand you our microphone but because of our technical difficulties, we might have you -- [inaudible] >> can you go ahead and repeat the question for her? >> henry kissinger was negotiating the treaty of detroit on the part -- on behalf of gerald ford. and kissinger was a pretty tough negotiator.
of course, he had negotiated the peace with honor, the withdrawal from vietnam. and after these tough negotiations in detroit that day, one of the reagan aides says is that -- is that, you know, for the first time, you know, after dealing with kissinger all day for the first time in my life i felt sorry for the north vietnamese. [laughter] >> yes, sir. >> i know this is a bit unusual but when you ask your question if you could come up to the front and ask us because we want to make sure we're able to record it on the microphone. >> in the early days, was he well served by his advisors? and it seems to me when he made serious error is when he did not go with his intuition. >> absolutely.
when reagan was at his best when he was relied on his own judgment and own temperament. i think also it comes through in the book and what -- and it came through at the time was that reagan was best when he -- when he was mad. he really -- dick worth said he never knew a candidate who loved confrontation as much as ronald reagan. he relished confrontation. mike deaver said he was the most competitive s.o.b., you know, who ever lived. , you know, this idea that reagan floated from opportunity to opportunity is nonsense. everything he had in his life he fought for. and when he took matters in his own hands, as he did in new hampshire and won the primary, and as he did in the fall when he decided and, you know, that he was going to debate jimmy carter that reagan was best off when he took matters and his own career and matters into his own hand, absolutely. >> any other questions? over here.
>> it's an honor to give you this microphone. [laughter] >> dr. shirley. [laughter] >> you spent an enormous amount of time studying the campaigns, the '76 campaign and the '80 campaign, and yet most academics focuses on 1981, january, to 1989. what is it that you have learned from those campaigns about ronald reagan that we don't learn from studying his presidency? >> good question. is what i learned was how much the republican party establishment opposed ronald reagan. there was almost a corrupt bargain in the late '70s between
some elements in the republican party establishment and the media because this age issue was really corrosive. and it finally together reagan, you know, this is a guy who was 68 years old. he tossed it up with jokes about his age, you know, no, he's not getting older. he just keeps riding overlooked horses. he handled it all so very well but, you know, the media kept pounding on it and the republican party kept pounding on it. it makes sense in a way because this was a guy who took it to the republican party establishment. starting in january, 1977, now, gerald ford has lost to jimmy carter. the republican party has been dismated by the election and one state in republican has republican control of the governorship and the legislature and that's kansas. 49 other states have either near or total democratic control. of their state governments.
there are states in the south that don't even have elected republicans in any constitutional office. that's how bad off it is. and only 18% of the american people claim allegiance to the republican party and only 11% of voters under 30 claim allegiance to the republican party. so reagan looks at the landscape and says, we can do better than this. so he goes out there and he starts giving speeches about the new republican party that he envisioned. the new republican party i visioned cannot be the party of the corporate board room or the party of the country club. it's got to be the party of the individual and not the state and the man on the street, the cop on the street, the homeowner, the entrepreneur. it cannot be the party it's been for the last 30 years because this isn't working. well, the entrenched remaining elites of the republican party don't like this. who is this maverick populace coming out of california to tell us how to run our party? you know, he was just a democrat, you know, 15, 18 years ago.
and so the one thing i learned was that how many -- the long answer to a very good and short question was that how tough a road to hoe it was for ronald reagan in 1976 and 1980. you know, we all look back now 29 years later, yeah, i was for ronald reagan. no that's not true. many elements inside the republican party were opposed to reagan and viciously opposed to ronald reagan. >> okay, i get a question. we have a number of friends in common that have done polling for the republican party for many years. and my sense of the results from the 1980 race were that reagan was one of those rare individuals who found a way at the time to stitch together these emerging collision --
coalitions of economic conservatives who were different who might be foreign policy conservatives who again were quite different than a whole circle of people that might be social conservatives. and i think his success in great part was he found a way to drive an issue set that would pull all those constituencies together to create a majority coalition, right? do you see that as being possible in today's modern day republican party? [laughter] >> john, not only do i not see it possible it has to happen for the republican party to survive. what reagan saw -- reagan's organizing philosophy was freedom. the democratic party from the time of the new deal until today, and it has been justice. justice -- you have to have, you know, big government to enforce justice. but freedom really needs only a constitution, a bill of rights,
intelligent courts and a restrained police force and it was organized around the concept of freedom. that the individual was more important than the state. and that the privacy and the dignity of the individual were more important than anything else in this country. the republican party has drifted away from that in the last eight years. and became essentially the second big government party in america. and so voters when faced with a choice between the real big government party in america, the democrats, or the fake big government in 2006 and 2008 chose the real big government party. i think the republican party -- you know, if you look at this practically is that this is a nation of over 300 million people. it's vast. it's huge. it's diverse. and i think it's very arrogant that we can organize the
government from one corrupt city on the potomic. localism, you can call it populace conservatism or localism but it makes far more sense to meet the needs of the american people to handle most things at the state and localities and individuals the way jefferson envisioned it as opposed to -- and the way reagan envisioned it as opposed to what we have today. >> okay. >> if you have a question -- >> how did he get away with it? >> fight back. do it with the tea party protesters or town halls. >> there was something on tv the other night, the republican tea parties. >> no, that's right. [inaudible] >> well, i think part of what we have to do is to -- fortunately we have our own way to communicate with each other now. we don't to have depend on abc, nbc and cbs. >> so far. >> so far. but we have other ways.
but what's interesting is that if you look at recent polling data is that 40% of the american people call themselves conservative while only 20% call themselves republican. i think that speaks volumes about the state of the republican party in america today is that -- but it's the way it was in 1977. history has repeated itself. the republican party, because of nixon, because of ford and the corruption of watergate and because of the fecklessness of gerald ford because of the ties of corrupt corporate elites became, you know, a minority party. and so now they are again in the minority. the way back is what reagan said. reagan said, don't trust me. trust yourself. he eviscerated the trust-me of carter and they have to take it from the trust-me government of barack obama. >> okay. i'm sorry.
[inaudible] >> what were ronald reagan's views of the federal reserve and his position on the -- [inaudible] >> on the federal reserve -- >> what were his views on the federal reserve and all the income tax? >> well, he was once asked in 1980 about a particular tax cut. and he says i favor a tax cut anytime. i don't know -- [inaudible] >> well, but he reformed it in 1986 when he was president. and, of course, in 1981 the tax system was the top marginal rate was 70%. he brought that down to, you know, the high 20s. so we knew what his attitude was about the tax system. and also, of course, you had, you know, a series of rising steps in the tax system and it was simplify down to three simple, you know, tax rates. [inaudible]
>> well, let me just say one thing, i don't know if i can address that specifically. ronald reagan saw a concentration of power, whether it was by corporate america or by government, as a threat to individual freedoms. and that too much concentration of power inevitably led to corruption. so i hope that answers your question. >> i think we have another question over here. oh, right over here. thank you. >> getting back to the book, john sears, in 1976, a friend and i cornered reagan in new hampshire and ask him for permission to run as delegates for reagan from new york. reagan gave us his total blessing. he couldn't be more enthusiastic. he said go ahead and do it. that was reagan being reagan. so we went around the corner and talked to john sears, and he said absolutely not.
he had made a deal with the republicans in new york that they would run an uncommitted slate and maybe they'd go for him and maybe they wouldn't but if we challenged them they would never go. he lost every seat and every delegate in new york as a result. >> not everyone. >> i'm talking about '76. >> his brother, fred was a reagan delegate. >> but that was the point. the point was he wouldn't let us -- sears would not let anybody else run. fred got there because he was a senator. [inaudible] >> anyway, sears said don't do that. four years later, of course, reagan has learned this lesson. and fred eckert and a bunch of us went -- ran, won, and we carried all but about six delegates in the state of new york. swapped the uncommitted slate so my question is, why did he wait so long to dump sears? [laughter] >> which he did after the
january -- after the new hampshire primary. >> the day of the new hampshire primary. >> is that, you know, you got to remember national politics was vastly, vastly different in 1974 and '75 than it is today. john sears was -- you know, had been nixon's delegate-hunter in 1968. he was primo republican operative. and the reagan folks, you know, out here he leaves the second term governorship here and they're intimidated by national politics because it's dominated by the east coast party operatives. it's dominated by the national media. they don't know the national operatives very well. they don't know the national media very well and up pops this guy john sears who had wanted to run actually ford's campaign but then got passed over because, you know, stu spencer and rog
morton and others were runing it so he ends un, you know, running reagan's campaign but this was a great acquisition in the eyes of the national media because they didn't know much about this guy reagan from california even after all his careers in hollywood and the ge lecture circuit is, you know, 3,000 miles is a long way, a long distance telephone call. you don't have the internet or cable television or talk radio, you didn't have cell phones. so it's a big country. and most of those guys are 3,000 miles away. so the guy they do know, john sears who has got all this national political experience, he's going to run reagan's campaign. well, that really impresses the national media. but reagan comes close as we all know he in 1976. some say because john got him close. some say because john messed up in new york and in ohio and in new jersey and other primaries. but there wasn't a good
acceptable backup, which is why it took so long to fire john in 1980 because there wasn't anybody of john's stature. and the other thing weighing on reagan and actually mrs. reagan as well was the fact that john had all these friends in the national media. and if reagan's campaign in all of '79 or early '80 is in very bad condition. it's running -- it's losing money. they're running a huge deficit. bad stories are coming out of the press. staff in-fighting. then you've got, of course, the age issue is still there. and he doesn't need another spat of bad political stories, you know, by firing his campaign manager because if he fires john, that means john's two top aids, charlie black and jim lake are going to go with him. so they arrive at this strategy to fire him the day of the new hampshire primary believe they would win the primary and it would minimize the story and because they found an acceptable alternative.
it's a very long question to -- a very long answer to a good question. >> today follow-up on this because when you read craig's book, you get to this, you know, roughly about 100-page section where almost every page you're saying, why isn't he firing him? why isn't he firing him? oh, you finally he gets as he says the new hampshire piece but i'll ask you this, i don't know if it's relevant to the campaigns. it certainly seems relevant to the president's administration, we had here last week former attorney general ed meese, former national security advisor dick allen and this subject actually came up not having to do with john sears but just the topic of apparently it was very, very difficult for ronald reagan to fire anyone. in other words, he just didn't like to do it. now, he brought himself to do it, you know, because of the importance of the act and they're in new hampshire. have you picked up any of that in your research? was that part of the reason?
>> you know, if he had any failings or flaws is that he gave too many people too many second chances. but he knew that sears was not the guy who's going to run the '80 campaign. so he actually -- he and mrs. reagan sat down with bill clark and asked bill clark if he would run the campaign, of course, judge clark was chief justice of the california state court and he de-muir and they came up with this fellow billier who worked on the nixon administration and they reached up bill casey and he ended up replacing john but it was because reagan, you know, had been pushed hard enough -- he just had to get rid of john. and as a matter of fact, charlie black, i think, had one of the wisest takes on john sears' role in the campaign. he said ronald reagan never would have been important if he hadn't hired john sears in 1975 and fired him in 1980.
>> well put. i don't know if any of you that have either read craig's book or heard about it have seen any number of the book reviews but it's getting great reviews. and what i notice in it, craig, is that one of the news items that's popping out in these reviews is the story about putting the finger on the individual that you believe was involved in this famous incident of the theft in the turning over the campaign debate materials of president carter. can you just go into that a little bit. >> there's a fellow named paul corbin. he was a little bit of a rogue and i got his fbi file and it was 2,000 pages. he was in the '40s and the '50s was a labor communist organizer here in the united states with, you know, various labor unions out in the midwest and he ran various scams.
he's arrested a number of times. he became very close to the kennedy family. ended up running wisconsin for jfk in 1960. and then wisconsin after that. and became very close to bobby kennedy and was on the kennedy family payroll from the early '60s to the day he died in 1991. he was on the payroll of the joseph p. kennedy foundation, the merchandising mart which the kennedys owned in chicago. he was supporting ted kennedy in the primaries over jimmy carter in 1980. and, of course, as we all know, is that senator kennedy lost and lost badly to jimmy carter. and the kennedy family was furious with carter in 1980 because he ran what they thought was a very vicious campaign against senator kennedy. and corbin took it upon himself to exact -- meet out revenge, exact revenge.
and so he secreted the campaign briefing documents out of the carter white house and gave them to bill casey who by that time was running the reagan campaign. and as a matter of fact, casey put paul corbin on a retainer to the reagan campaign. here's a guy who just worked for ted kennedy. he had a background of working in communist party politics, labor politics. had been arrested numerous times for running scams in the midwest, you know, was -- all sorts of criminal activities. and, of course, governor reagan doesn't know anything about this, whatsoever. the irony is the briefing books and he believes the reagan campaign got the briefing books but the irony is that the briefing books were nothing more than a compellation of reagan's speeches, radio compensataries, columns, various interviews over 30 years if there's one man in america who knew where he stood
and stood for the previous 30 years was ronald reagan. the briefing books were useless but it was a huge issue in 1983 when it became -- it was found out three years later that the briefing books had been taken out of the carter white house. >> any other questions out there? i know i've got a few more. but i'll be happy -- yes, sir. >> what was it about sears that made him so hated and so detested among the people that he worked for that he was called john satan. >> john p. satan instead of john p. sears. conservatives -- everybody had their own reason to be mad at john. is that in 1976, the conservatives including especially my old friend thought that he was trying to moderate
reagan's positions. and then in 1980 what he's doing is he's picking off one reagan ally off another. marty is first forced out and lynn is forced out. and it really came to almost blows -- this is another thing in the book, too. is now on the eve of the new hampshire primary, now john is trying to get ed meese out of the reagan campaign. and they have this meeting. mrs. reagan, reagan, john sears, and john's two principal aides and they had this meeting in new hampshire that goes until 2:30 in the morning and nothing is resolved and they are trying -- john is trying to get ed out of the campaign. and reagan finally explodes. and he stands up and he says you're not going to get ed, by god. and he's moving towards sears. and charlie and mrs. reagan have to get in between the two because it looked like reagan
was going to punch sears he was so mad for him trying to take out his old friend ed meese. they ended up in the middle and charlie is getting john out of the room as fast as possible. reagan is still yelling at him. so john finally had just made one enemy too many and he had to go. >> okay. a couple last questions. the first is obviously towards the tail end of the '80 campaign, many people are on the edge of their seat because of the potential for the negotiations by president carter to obtain the realities of the hostages being held in iran, i know this is somewhat speculative but knowing what you know about the race and the poll numbers at the time and all the, you know, the concern and the debate that was taking place over that issue, if iran had let the hostages loose prior to the election, do you think that that would have been enough to make a
difference so that carter could have been been victorious? >> no. and i'll tell you why. you know, and i thought about that a lot, john. the american people had become so cynical about carter and the hostages and by november of 1980, a majority think that carter has used his manipulator for political purposes for the hostages. it went back to the morning of the new hampshire -- i beg your pardon, the morning of the wisconsin primary. teddy kennedy has gotten off the mat. he's won new york and connecticut. the next primary is in wisconsin and he's surging and he looks like he might beat carter again in this primary. president carter goes on national television that very morning to announced a, quote-unquote, major breakthrough. a lot of you will remember. and he unexpectedly wins the wisconsin primary at a time when people thought kennedy might pull it off. and there was no major breakthrough. and there was never an explanation why there wasn't a major breakthrough.
i still remember david broder, the grand old man at the "washington post," wrote a piece, a column just eviscerating the president and basically accusing him of no uncertain terms that he was using the plight of the hostages to advance his political fortunes. and that actually there was polling data that came out in october of 1980 that said the american people by a vast majority said if we had to make any concessions, whatsoever, to the iranians to get the hostages back it would be better for them to stay there than to make any concessions. they'd actually become more hawkish on the issue than even reagan was. >> okay. one last question for you. as we all know history shows, i think, president reagan took 44 states and was victorious in that election. but what i was interested -- what your book reminded me of even the weekend before the election the poll numbers on both camps had the race still a
point or two difference, right? it was a remarkably close race so you can understand how both sides well, we could pull this out. then over the weekend it just absolutely tumbled over for president carter's campaign. have you done much research to understand why that happened? it was such a vast tsunami? >> it wasn't the first time where reagan broke late and won a campaign big. new hampshire -- the day of the new hampshire primary all the polls and all the newspapers are saying too close to call. and the primary that's supposedly too close to call reagan wins 50 to 23 over george bush. but there were other races. in some cases some people were reluctant to tell pollsters that they really, really liked this guy. i think that was an element. i think that he -- that people waited in some cases and then decided that he's an acceptable alternative. as far as the collapse it was partially because of the last
breakdown of the hostage negotiations but it was also because of the debate, the cleveland debate the week before, that really started the process. and reagan, of course, as we all know he and carter debated one week before the election. still to this day, the most watched presidential debate in american history, over 105 million people watched it. >> that's the there you go again. >> and that's the line everybody remembers. when carter was attacking reagan over his opposition to medicare back in the early '60s and when reagan, you know, turned and said that, but i really think that when reagan closed the sale with the american people, that's the line everybody remembers but i think he closed the sale with the american people with his 3-minute summation when he looked in the camera and he looked into people's living rooms and said to millions and millions of people, are you better off than you were four years ago? that was the line i think that closed the sale with the american people.
what's interesting is that in the days afterward, all the elites at the "new york times" and cbs and the "washington post" all said carter won the debate. all the american people and all the polling said reagan won the debate. as i said in the book is that the distinction between the two was the difference between an amusingly -- an amusing little chardonnay and a frosty bottle of cold beer. [laughter] >> well, look, it's just been absolutely terrific to have you here, craig. it's just been craig to be on stage asking questions of you and taking it from the audience. you've been so insightful. and i personally found your book just absolutely terrific. so for any of us who have not yet read it, it's well worth your while so thank you so much for coming. [applause]wá
>> craig shirley is the president of shirley & banister public affairs, a marketing and relations firm. his writing has appeared in the weekly standard and the "washington post." to find out more, visit craigshirley.com. >> richard wolffe covered the obama campaign in 2008. he has a book out called "renegade: the making of the president." do you want to tell us following the president during the 2008 campaign? >> i was one of the very few who was there at the very beginning to the very end. the book came about at the candidate's suggestion. he thought it would be a great idea for me to write a book. i told him it was a stupid idea until i figured out that there was something about his story that was worth telling. and the way that -- there's something obscured and maybe hidden and reserved about him and that's how i approached the book, not the story of the
campaign but the story of him as it played out through the campaign. >> had you read his book prior? >> yeah, i read both of them. by the way, his first book is a lot better than the second book. yeah, dreams of my father is an extraordinary piece of literature and a tough standard when you're looking at his story but you can't let a politician write their own story and that's how i approached this one. it was one view of someone who moved on to a bigger stage and there were many other aspects of him that weren't featured in his book at all. >> you talked about your earlier reservations of writing this book. what was your preconceptions of the candidate? >> by the time he suggested it i had been covering him for a year so i moved from preconception to real conception. and i do think there was this contradiction -- two
contradictions in a way someone so public could be unknown and secondly, that someone who had these unconventional renegade qualities, that's the name of the book "renegade" which was a secret service code name which could be unconventional could also be cautious and risk-averse in taking the green botanical substance that he took. -- gambles that he took. there was a conventional and the unconventional and the risks. >> it was a long campaign. how did it affect the candidate? >> oh, he was a terrible candidate in 2007. he was bad at debates. he hated being in the public eye. he made lots of mistakes all the way through. he learned as he went and it was fascinating to watch that process of someone who adapted to events. you know, the one thing you get that i think is beneficial as a journalist or writer covering
these long, long campaigns is to see whether they learn. whether they candidates adapt to events either for them or in the current affairs. and that's the only sort of road test of them 'cause you can never replicate what happens in the white house. but you can see, are they adaptable? do they know something more than their talking points? and that's what i set out as a day-to-day reporter to try to figure out. >> the american public when they see the media who travel with the candidates often time they'll see them on a plane. everyone together. and it looks very collegial. is it? >> it's a mixture of collegiately and intense communication. all those people on the plane are competing with each other and they are all pretty much at the top of their game so you're locked in this one room not just with a campaign and their staff but with the people who are trying to beat you every day, often several times a day.
so it's a strange mixture -- you know, i guess in silicon valley they call them frienemies. >> if you want to watch the entire program you can go to booktv.org we covered mr. wolffe earlier when the book came out, since that time, and since the book's been published, how have you seen the president change? has he? >> if you talk to people in the white house they say he hadn't changed at all. that's the myth of every president. from what i've seen of him up close and at a distance, i just think it's inevitable that you change when your glass of water comes on a silver platter and people click their heels whenever you ask for something. the presidency is of a fabulously efficient machine that is built to serve the interest of one person. so, yeah, that affects you, just as it affects you when you walk in a arena and 16,000 people are screaming your name.
it's subtle. it may not be dramatic. it doesn't affect you fundamentally but subtly over time i think it does change your outlook, your ability to see your own self in the mirror. >> what did the president think of your book? >> you know, i haven't asked him up front. but i do know he grabbed a copy from an aide on air force one. and the aide was reading it out loud acting out some dramatic rendition involving the aide in the book. he leaved through at least a few pages but i still don't know what he thought about it. >> does your book have an index? >> it does and i paid fighter. >> the author is richard wolffe, the book is "renegade." thank you very much. >> my pleasure. >> you've been watching book tv on c-span2. every weekend we bring you 48 hours of nonfin
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