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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 26, 2011 3:30pm-4:30pm EST

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life rights when it makes a story because it wants the story to be accurate. and, you know, it must -- i believe that hollywood studios much prefer someone who, you know, gives themselves and their life rights, gets involved to the point where it's accurate. but isn't like, you know, running around a set trying to control everything. so the goal, of course, is a partnership in which, you know, i can write the book however the book has to be. if a movie is made, they can be involved in some way to consult on the film. but, you know, it's a good question. it's different for every project. you know, usually a main character if book becomes a success, they're going to get a lot out of it that has nothing to do with the payment that i'm going to give them. they can become famous, first of all. they can use that in any way they want. you know, the people from the facebook book, i believe, profited very well from it. i believe everyone involved did very well from that book, including mark zuckerberg. i think the social network and accidental billionaires were good for mark zuckerberg and for
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facebook. i don't think he would have been on the cover of "time" magazine, and i really believe it was a big part of making their image cool. mark is way cooler in the movie than he was before the movie. and everyone knows him, and they know him in a way that they would never have known him. and i think that's a big positive. >> how was it that you were able to use a picture of mark zuckerberg on the front of your book? >> i mean, you'd have to ask the publisher. i believe it's a photo of a public figure. i think, you know, i've seen a lot of obama books with obama on the cover. i think there are different rules, and i'm not a lawyer, but as long as it's true, um, you can't -- you're not libeling anybody. as for photos, i think if it's a public figure -- honestly, i have no idea how that works. i don't know anything about the law. i'm sure there are people who do. >> do you think you'll ever get the chance to chat with him? >> yes. i think i will. when i met cheryl sandberg, we were college classmates, and, you know, she came up to me and said, you know, they did not
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like the book when it came out, they disagree with it, they say it's not true. however, now everyone's cool with me and, you know, it would be kind of fun if i came to facebook and talked. i think i was enemy number one for a good year. there's probably a ben mezrich dartboard in there, but everything's worked out, and the company's doing great, and eventually the ipo, and they'll all be worth a trillion dollars. i think she's really an incredible person, so i have no ill will towards them, and i don't think they have any ill will towards me. >> you can watch this and other programs online at next on booktv, katherine migar recounts the political career of robert strauss. he was well connected inside the beltway and served as chairman of the democratic national committee from 1972 to 1977, ambassador to the soviet union in 1991 and as an adviser to
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several presidents. this is a little under an hour. >> good evening, everybody. thank you for staying tight while we waited for people to trickle in, and thank you especially for coming out and braving electrical storms, thunderstorms, tornado warnings and everything else. we really appreciate you being here. i'm liss muscatine with my husband brad graham, i'm one of the new owners of politics and prose, and we welcome you all here tonight. this is one of about 475 author events that we do at the store every year, and we believe it's part of our mission as a great independent bookstore to bring authors to our community and our community to them and really to provide not just great books for people to read, but also a place and a space and a forum for public discourse. before we get started, um, let
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me also thank c-span for bringing this event to a wider audience. we're glad you're here. and let me just give you a few rules of the road in case you've not been to one of our events before. our guest will speak, and after that she will take questions. if you could go to -- i guess we only have one microphone right here. please say your name as a courtesy and ask your questions. she will answer questions for about 20 minutes or a half hour or so. after that she'll sign books. you can come up here, and she will sign going in this direction. we also ask you two favors. one, please, fold up your chairs at the end and stack them on the book shelf. that will really make life easier for our staff. and, also, if you have a cell phone on now, if you would not mind silencing it, that would be much appreciated. um, in introducing our speaker tonight, katherine mcgarr and her book, "the whole damn deal," let me just begin by saying that not too many people have famous great uncles.
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and fewer still have famous great uncles and then decide to write books about them. but katherine has done just that, chronicling the life of, well, and i'm not really sure how i'm supposed to describe bob strauss because in this book there's a whole catalog of things that he did not like to be called. he was not a lobbyist, he was not a fixer, he was not an influence peddler. but i suspect that he would agree and probably take great pleasure in being identified tonight as one of the truly great and iconic figures of american pom -- politics during the last chunk of the 20th century. many of you may know bob strauss, worked for him, worked against him. many have -- who do know him have probably been cajoled by him, certainly insulted by him which, of course, was a compliment of sorts. and you no doubt, as my freshman sara was telling me earlier, have your own stories of the
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pots he stirred throughout his career. whether or not you have met him, know him in any capacity at all, you will certainly get to know him very well or better by reading this wonderful book, "the whole damn deal." through prodigious research, interviews with key players including the protagonist and along with the very hard work necessary to write a good book, katherine has captured the man and his time. and at least in my case reminded readers how much our political life and our political discourse has changed. since bob strauss' heyday. and i think, you know, some of us who have lived through that era and are living through now kind of shake our heads and say, you know, is there something missing these days? maybe a lot. so i really am delighted to welcome a first-time author, katherine mcgarr. she will tell us the story of how this biography came to be and a lot more about her famous great uncle. so thank you so much for being here. please, join me in welcoming
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katherine. [applause] >> thank you very much, lissa. for having me and everyone at politics & prose and c-span, and thank you all for being here because i know it's a miserable night out, and i really appreciate it. um, so lissa and i were talking about how do you write a book about your famous great uncle and remain in the family and, also, write an accurate book? and the way i tried to get around that was doing a lot of research, especially at presidential libraries and at national archives because the uncle bob, as we call him in my family, that i knew growing up is very different from the man in the book. and people ask me all the time, what surprised you most about bob? what did you learn that was so surprising? um, and i kept trying to think of some really great, smart answer. and i never came up with one. but i think the thing that surprised me most was how much power he had. um, he was just such a powerful
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player in washington, and, um, when i was a child, um, during his heyday, so i never really got to see that. and when he's with his family, he's a different person. with his grandchildren, it's about his grandchildren. it's not about him, and he's not the big personality. and one of his grandchildren told me they didn't even know that he'd won the presidential medal of freedom until they saw it sitting on his shelf and asked him what that was. so he was a little more modest with his own family. um, i did spend my seventh birthday in the ambassador's residence in moscow. this was when george h.w. bush appointed bob ambassador to the soviet union at a critical time, when it was crumbling. bob landed there in the middle of the coup when yeltsin was rallying people, and he went over there ambassador of the sow yet union, and hi came -- he came back around christmas time and he was ambassador to russia.
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he said i think i'm the only fella that's been fired as ambassador from 12 countries. [laughter] i did not know that that uncle bob had flown into a coup, i just knew he got me a pink cake for my seventh birthday. so i began writing this book at the columbia journalism school. i took a book class with sam friedman, and i think that where bob wielded the most power and where he made one of his biggest marks on history, um, was in keeping the democratic party together from 1972 to 1976. and that was when the party was really torn apart starting in 1968 after the debacle of the 1968 convention and the assassinations of robert kennedy and martin luther king, and the party was splintering over vietnam and a number of issues. and he came in and really held the party together first as treasurer of the democratic national committee and then as
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chairman of the democratic national committee. and the democratic party then looked a little bit like the republican party today in that it's very fractured, and there were sort of, you know, an extreme wing, the mcgovernite wing starting in '72 of the democrats and now the republicans have the tea party. but what the republicans don't have is a bob strauss figure. they are still figureless. they're still fractured. um, so bob really came in at a key time. so i started researching his time at the dnc first. that was the first chapter that i where. i started in the middle and his election to the chairmanship. and the national archives has all of the transcripts from the dnc meetings, the executive committee meetings, and these are, these can be some pretty dull reading material. [laughter] but not when bob was chairman. bob was really known around town
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and around the country because he did become a household name after he was chairman which. you cannot say of the current rnc chairman. he was hilarious. so i was laugh anything the national archives, and i think they frown upon -- they frown upon everything in the national archives. [laughter] but they frown upon laughing. but bob was hilarious, and he went about his job with a sense of humor. and during this, it was a very controversial election when he became chairman. this was after mcgovern lost in '72, nixon won every single state except massachusetts and the district of columbia, so you can imagine, i mean, nixon did that well, how badly mcoregon -- how bad of a candidate mcgovern turned out to be through no fault of his own. and this was what bob was up against. and i found this at the nixon library. they have recordings, um, of the
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phone calls that nixon was making with his staff. and one of his aides, chuck coulson, who i think is a pretty familiar name, was calling the president. they were really tracking this dnc chairmanship election very closely, surprisingly closely. and they were talking about george mitchell, um, who became the senator for maine, you know, very powerful senator from maine. but at the time he was in his 30s, and he couldn't compete with bob, and chuck coulson said about mitchell, he's from maine, he's smart, but he's not a strauss kind of a guy who really saw -- is a powerful, strong, brilliant individual. and when i heard coulson saying that, i thought what did bob tell him to say that? [laughter] that's sort of how it was viewed. and then he said strauss would normally be the most effective guy they could get. we're going to win either way. and, obviously, the nixon folks did not win either way because the watergate scandal broke wide
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apart, and he ended up out of office. and also there was no purge of the mcgovernites, and that's where bob was skilled because even though he was coming from a more conservative place, if you didn't embrace the mcgovernites exactly, he definitely tried to appease the mcgovernites. he made sure they had what they needed, and he made sure that hay boar had what they needed -- labor had what they needed and the black caucus and the women's caucus who were trying the grow, trying to expand. so he really was not just a compromiser, but a very skilled negotiator, making sure that everyone had a little bit of what they needed. and that was because he always said that his goal for 1976 was to be able to deliver a party to a candidate. he said, i'm not going to deliver a candidate to this party. i'm delivering a party to the candidate.
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and that is something that is not going on today in the republican party. they're, you know, they're trying to deliver a candidate to a very divided party. um, so he didn't know who the nominee would be in 1976. he certainly did not think it was going to be jimmy carter. no one thought it was gown to be jimmy carter. you know, he preferred scoop jackson or hum free or musky, anyone over carter. but he looked past that as chairman of the dnc, and he really saw it as his mission to keep his electorate together, and he didn't care who the nominee was, and he didn't care what they stood for, and that was a criticism leveled at him throughout his career, that he was not an idealogue. but all he cared about was getting a democrat in the white house and, um, and he really did not care who it was. and it turned out to be jimmy carter, and they went on to become great friends. jimmy carter who i don't think is necessarily known for his sense of humor, um, really loved, grew to love bob. and i interviewed him, and he
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said that they grew as close as two brothers. and bob could make him laugh, and, you know, bob would always insult him when he introduced him because that's how you knew bob loved you, and you would make fun of him for his pants being too short. there's a lot of ways bob could make fun of jimmy carter. and he used, he used all of them. um, and then carter appointed him special trade representative, um, str at the time, and currently that's the office of the united states trade representative, and ron kirk is ustr. and he, bob came in if a very weak cabinet position. that's a cabinet post. um, but he really used his underdog status to his advantage, and, um, they -- he, he became known as someone who really reached across the aisle, and he was friends with republicans and democrats. and for someone who started his
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career in washington as treasurer and chairman of the democratic national committee, that would seem surprising. i think what helped him was that the democratic party was so split, he was almost working across an aisle already. any party that has george wallace who, you know, ran for president many times, white supremacist, and barbara jordan, black congresswoman, in the same party -- and he was very friendly with both of them -- anyone who can do that can work across the aisle in congress for republicans and democrats, and carter saw that. and carter saw what he had done as chairman of the dnc. um, and so he also thought he could do that abroad. the tokyo round of the multi-national trade negotiations had been stalled, um, for some time. they'd started in 1973, and, um, there were over 100 countries involved. and so it seemed like a very daunting task for someone to take on. but bob was willing to do it because he didn't have a large bureaucracy to work with.
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it wasn't like the department of commerce where he'd have, you know, a lot of people under him. he had a very small staff, and he thought that was a good thing. and, um, he really accumulated power through his friendships in congress. with democrats and with republicans. um, and i think it's especially pertinent now with the recent passage of those three bills, um, last night, the trade bills with colombia and panama and south korea. and, um, everyone's making such a big deal about, you know, how they got those through so quickly and how bipartisan they were. and it's true, but this bill was also divisive, and it wasn't just three countries that bob was negotiating with, it was 102. um, this was one of the really large gap rounds of trade, and so i wanted to read a little bit, um, about how bob negotiated through congress.
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um, at the part -- the bill ended up passing 395-7 in the house and 90-4 in the senate. and, um, after the house vote came in, bob said to stu i'den sad who was domestic policy adviser, stu, who were the seven sons of bitches who voted against my bill? [laughter] so he expected a victory, and he got one. and this was a controversial bill, it was very divisive, and he still got his 395-7 vote and 90-4 vote. so at this point in the book he'd been negotiate canning, and now he's trying to sell it in congress. and this was a point at which the kennedy round, um, had really gone -- you know, the kennedy round was unsuccessful because the congress didn't end up passing the legislation needed to, um, enact it. so, um, there would not be a trade agreement until april, but strauss thought it would be foolish to wait for the final
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product to begin selling it. it would be on a special fast track legislative path introduced by the trade act of 1974 which dictated once the bill was presented to congress, no changes could be made, no deals could be cut, no amendments could be added and no filibusters would be permitted. congressional staff and coming up with the legislation, he wanted there to be no surprises. i am not a damn fool, strauss has said in a congressional hearing before the house ways and means committee in july 1978. i think i know balance when i see it, and i know political reality. i will not drop a baby on your doorstep and say, take care of it. i would hope you might be a midwife in that process, and we'll be working with this committee closely. in an unorthodox move, he even invited senior congressional staff in to highly sensitive foreign negotiations. he wanted them to have as much at risk in the outcome as he did. quote, he worked the hill like crazy. people loved him up there.
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republicans and democrats. and bob just had a wonderful credibility with the hill. they knew him. he'd been a very successful chairman of the party. as str, strauss earned his reputation for being a man who could work across the aisle. at a 979 congressional hearing when a representative commented on how they had so far achieved bipartisan cooperation in the trade legislation. we truly have, strauss said, what has impressed me is that i have come in from a very partisan position as chairman of the democratic party -- don't tell me you're going to move to the other side, van ec said. no, but i tell you this, it's mighty comfortable snuggling up to my friends. it has stood me in pretty good stead. i think that's one of the main differences in politics then and politics today, the cheap shots along the way that he wasn't taking. with congress as with the europeans, strauss found out what the other fellow had to have. his choking point.
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as he told journalist elizabeth drew before the passage of the bill, the things you earn on the hill are not free, you know, you earn them. the reason i can get some things done up there isn't because of my personality, it's because i worry about their business. a personality will carry you only so far. you have to deliver. if you can show the average person in congress how he can vote right, no way in the world an average member of the house and senate can know what the issue is all the time, they're so torn apart, they'll go with you. although he made it easy, strauss encountered criticism both from protectionists and from free traders who thought he'd made too many side deals to protect american industries such as when he sacrificed bourbon in order to protect tobacco, partly so that his old friend, wendell ford, would not lose his seat in kentucky. a state which produced both. protectionist to the point of skewering carter and strauss for giving away the story wrote in his 1990 book "trade wars
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against america," sell -- seldom has the congress been mesmerized z by as in empty promises in the string of that year. the carnage drawn up by the trade act and wonder how congress could have been so vulnerable ferrell. since the roosevelt-sponsored law of 1934 a fraud. strauss' promises were not entirely 'em empty, though, which meant free traders could skewer him too. interest group by interest group in the u.s.; the farmers, the steel people, he cut separate deals with them and made side deals some of which i have to say i didn't want learn about until later, eisin stat said. after he left str, i used to joke every week one of the groups he had promised something would call and ask for the commitment that bob gave them. [laughter] although free trade advocates and critics aired their gripes
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for years to come, the congress was obviously satisfied with vase' job. -- strauss job. the trade agreement act of 1979 passed almost unanimously. carter noted in his diary on july 23, 1979, that he was disappointed with the coverage of the passage of the trade bill which he considered to be a great achievement of his administration. he also wrote washington post editor ben bradley the following note: other than a non-headline notice in an on capitol hill column, the post did not even mention the passage of the trade act. it was different in 1962. strauss and the congress deserve recognition and the act was very important signed, a reader, jimmy carter. [laughter] in 1986, bradley, a friend of strauss' with whom he joked easily, forwarded strauss the note from carter writing, i was over to my bank vault this
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morning putting in another million dollars of washington post stock, and i found these things cluttering it up. what did you pay him to write me this? um, and all kidding aside, strauss was disappointed, too, and he said when i got up the next morning, i could not wait to read the marvelous story about what a wonderful str we had in robert s. strauss. he said i could have cared less about the staff, and he said this in the presence of his staff. he said, there was not a damn line in there. i almost had a stroke. [laughter] but for his work on the tokyo round, on january 16, 1981, and this was after he had run carter's failed re-election bid, so he always -- carter always joked that he had two ambitions in life. one was to be president, and one was to retire to plains and that bob helped him achieve both. [laughter] so anyway, january 16, 1981, this is after bob had lost carter's election or carter lost
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it for himself, and he presented strauss with the presidential medal of freedom reading at the time the following citation: for americans politics is the art of the possible. through intelligence, ability and the many friendships earned during his service as leader of his party and his nation, robert s. strauss has refined that art into a science with diligence, persistence and wit, he successfully concluded the multilateral trade negotiations at a time when many believed they were doomed for failure. for strengthening the system of trade which links the nations of our increasingly interdependent world, he's earned our gratitude and respect. um, so that was the end of bob in trade, and, um, he knew nothing about trade going into it. and, um, he always liked to joke that, you know, he didn't have much substance to him. but when he was str, he would get up at the crack of dawn, and he had had his staff make him, you know, flash cards with all the acronyms on them, and he was a quick study. and he always joked, i'm a quick
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study but not very deep. but, um, he obviously got very deeply into a lot of these issues, and from there he went on to negotiating, helping to negotiate -- helping not to negotiate peace in the middle east. um, and yet another job where he really had no background and rose to the occasion and then again under republican administration, as i mentioned, george h.w. bush appointed him to be ambassador to russia. and he said at the time it was quoted in "the washington post," you know, i'm no russia expert, but i never knew anything about any job i've had until i got there. and that's something else you can't say today and still have your appointment go through. [laughter] you know, it was a different time in the press and also in the congress. um, there was a lot less vitriol, and it was, it's funny to read the congressional hearing for his nomination. um, at some points on my computer i would do a control f
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to find the word laughter because whoever was typing it out would write in laughter, and you could see all the jokes welcome back was making during -- was making during his nomination hearings. so he had congress in his pocket, and that doesn't really happen anymore. it's probably for the best. [laughter] um, and i'd be happy to take questions now. [applause] >> if you have a question, come up to the microphone here so that that it can be part of the recording that's going on. that would be great. and if nobody does, i have a lot of questions. [laughter] hope somebody else has some questions. >> where is he now? >> um, he is going to be 93 next week, and he still lives, um, at the watergate where he has been living since the '70s, um, and he still, um, goes in and has lunch at the front page which is the restaurant in the robert s. strauss building which is the
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law firm he founded is located. >> yes. i want to thank you for, you know, it's just nice to see young people so engaged, actually. my name is larry, and i do really appreciate politics & prose for always giving us this mat form. it's a wonderful opportunity. not so much a question, but it really -- what you said before was really true. i mean, there are very few people who can cross the lines, the aisles anymore. and i guess as an american citizen i've kind of gotten very depressed, um, because i'm tired of being governed by people who lack more common sense than i do. [laughter] and i set the bar pretty low. [laughter] so i would, i would like, you know, to know what kind of relationship -- i was hoping you would talk a little bit about that, what kind of relationship you have with bob and how did it grow? i mean, he's your great uncle, he's not even your first uncle. and how much time were you able to spend with him, how much did
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he contribute to this book? >> yep. >> um, does he like the book? [laughter] um, thank you. >> sure, thank you. thank you for coming out in the rain. he is my great uncle, my mother janemy strauss mcgarr is his first niece, and she's sitting in the audience. so i grew up, i grew up very close to my grandfather, i grew up in dallas, and my grandfather lived in dallas, and that's bob's brother. so we saw bob on most thanksgivings and christmases and sometimes passovers. and during the summers we would see him in dell mar. he spent all his summers going to the race track, and he's still chairman of the board of the delmar race track at 93. and he and aunt helen, his wife helen who loves his life, would give me and my sister eskimo pies, and i thought that was the only place you could get eskimo pies. uncle bob was the magic eskimo
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pie supplier. so that was all i knew of him then. and when i started on this book project, i lived in washington for a few months, and so i saw him quite frequently then, and we had a lot of discussions. but he knew that his memory is not what it used to be, and he was worried about that. and he was worried about getting me bad information. so he gave me access to over 70 interviews that he had done with a ghost writer that he hired, um, back in the '90s when he was trying to write his memoirs. ..
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he said he would wake up in the morning and lick his wounds in the shower and get on with his day. that meant he didn't remember a lot of the failures in his life or the tension in his life. so i did need to go beyond and going to the archives and i really had the best time at the carter library, especially there's a chapter of the book that looks at bob as carter's ambassador to the middle east peace process so carter sent him over to hold -- he thought -- carter thought he and secretary of state responding too much time on the peace process.
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so he wanted to send a personal representative that he could trust over there to help feed through the process. this is a very tense time in bob's life. he did not get along well with the national security adviser or the secretary of state. he was under him in the state department and bob wanted to report to the president. bob a few years later said that fans was right and he was wrong. reporting to the secretary of state. a lot of what i learned about bob was not from him. i learned a lot about his personality and sense of humor but as far as what he was doing on a day to day basis and the dialogue from the situation room, that was dialogue from the situation room that has been released at the carter library. so lot of what i have in here
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did not come from that. came from archives. [inaudible] >> oh yes. i would not give an editorial. editorial control over the book. because i had just come out of journalism school. i was all wide-eyed and i said you can't read the manuscript before we print it. and he didn't. he and his longtime assistant of 40 years did read an early copy mostly for major errors but i had also fact checked the book on the phone so that was sort of the way -- i made sure that i didn't have any major problems in here but he didn't have editorial control. i am still invited -- [laughter]
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[inaudible] >> i think so. i think so. i called him right after he read it. i was a little nervous. he said i don't just like it. i love it. sort of a kind of thank you. and i am sure there are things he doesn't love. he was very sensitive about being called a lobbyist. there are some -- i addressed that in the book. he was sensitive about it for good reason. he did do a lot of work that lobbyists might do but there were different standards of the time and he never did anything that i know of illegal. that would require him to register as a lobbyist. i don't think that would be in his own book. >> who was the earliest to get
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into politics particularly him? get into state politics first? i thought so but what was his relationship with johnson? in exchange, if he had person to person about the vietnam war? >> yes. he was the first strauss to get into politics and he mainly got in through john connolly who had become governor of texas and john connally in 1959 ran into bob on the street in dallas. he was a lawyer in fort worth and strauss was a lawyer in dallas at the time and he said i am getting a group of fellows together to go to washington to talk about johnson's presidential nomination. do you want to come along? that was the beginning of the end. he went along and helped support the johnson nomination effort in
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1960 which failed. kennedy won that year. after that, because connolly was johnson's protegee strauss became one step closer to the white house when johnson became vice president and on the day in dallas when kennedy was assassinated he was one of the hosts of that luncheon downtown and he was very involved in all that. i wrote it in the book that it is right for people to doubt my objective in. i would doubt my object to be but tried to be more skeptical. bob would tell me stories about being in the hospital comforting nellie connally after her husband -- john connally was shot also. i was a little skeptical and i nodded and went along but the reason it is in the book is because at the johnson library they have the john connally
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collection and a record of everyone who visited him in the hospital and bob really was there on the day of the shooting so he was extremely close to connolly and through connally became close to johnson and johnson gave him some of vice which is not to be treasurer of the democratic party. dealing with all that money will get you in trouble. you shouldn't do that. and he called him again on the branch when he was running for chairman of the party and advised him not to run for chairman of the party either. so they were friendly but the relationship is most leaf through john connolly. [inaudible] >> oh yes. he supported the president first and foremost and he always thought that partisanship ends at the water's edge and it happened that his party was in
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power. but he supported johnson on vietnam. and he later said that he regretted that. that he wished when johnson asked about vietnam he told him what he thought about the board that he was against the war. but publicly bob was doing his best as the 68 convention to get all the votes humphrey needed to support the vietnam plank and so he was very behind his candidate first and foremost and he really put his own political ideals and public policy ideals -- and johnson always used to say that -- he would never left -- after he didn't tell johnson the truth about vietnam he decided he would always tell the president the truth if he was ever asked and it turns out that almost every president after johnson did ask for advice at one time
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or another. including reagan. even though he had been in the carter administration and rand carter's campaign against reagan, nancy reagan arranged for strauss and the former secretary of state, republican phil rodgers to speak into the white house when -- they went into the treasury building and went through the underground tunnel. bob had never been there before. it looked like a fallout shelter. he couldn't believe he was there. and wind up to the residents of the white house and advised the president on what to do about the iran-contra scandal. and he advised him -- said he needed to bring in someone like howard baker, someone who really had a lot of credibility in congress with both sides of the
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aisle, had relationships with the press and nancy reagan took this to heart and at the time strauss didn't think the president had been looking to him because the president disagreed and said i would never do that. i won't fire reagan. that is what he said when he got home that night and he got a call from nancy reagan's the same night and she said i don't suppose there's any way you would want to come help us in the white house, would you? he declined saying that would not be a good idea for anyone to become involved but several weeks later don reagan was fired and howard baker was brought in. in his memoir, regan said why brought strauss who had everything to gain from reagan falling out of grace? should be called in -- i will never know. it is true that bob was a democrat and a partisan but anyone who knew bob knew that he
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was straight shooter and he was going to tell reagan the truth and give reagan the best advice that he could. he loved being called to serve by his president. never turned down a president and that is how he ended up over 70 years of age in a communist country in moscow. he turned down bush for that ambassadorship. he can't turn down a president. he always tried to do his best for republicans and democrats. >> a line about -- >> jim wright joke in the 80s. i don't know who the next president is going to be but i can tell you who his next friend is going to be, bob strauss. bob had a reputation for getting close to the president whoever he was. one of my favorite stories and i got it as i was finishing the book and was so excited. i went in and interviewed tom
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brokaw and he told me a story about when they were in ohio for the presidential debate, long anticipated 1980s debate between carter and reagan and bob was being excluded from the debate. the georgia mafia were prepping carter's sure he knew strauss would be free for lunch so invited him to lunch and they said they would be just have one more been a piece. just one more. than they said they would each just split. they split one more martini. they split one more martini. later in the afternoon and they were still drinking and brokaw says you know your fellow is going to lose and they're going to bring in new people and you're going to be out of power. he said brokaw, you watch. he knew his fellow was not going to win. he knew he was going to stay in power no matter who was in the
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white house. [inaudible] >> yes. bob did get his way. [inaudible] >> he was ambassador to the middle east peace negotiations for a very short time, several months in 1979 and because of all the attention that he was creating within the department of state they decided to bring the ambassador to run the campaign. and he thought he would be better served as chairman of the campaign. [inaudible] >> in the political arena? is he really told you -- >> i can't speak for bob. i don't know how he feels but i know he wishes that were more like it was 30 years ago when
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people work -- partisan politics ended at cocktail hour and republicans and democrats had drinks together and when partisan politics ended at the water's edge and it was public for the rest of the world, america came together. >> you talk a little bit about strauss's relationship to george mcgovern in the 1972 convention. >> asking about george mcgovern and i heard you were mcgoverning. strauss did not have anything personally against mcgovern and vice versa and each of the other was a perfectly nice fellow. but bob really thought that the government could not win the nomination and most democrats outside of the mcgovern camp did not think mcgovern could win the nomination and he did not --
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after the 1972 convention which bob went into and he went into that convention paying for that convention and he came out of it jobless. mcgovern provided all his people. and so flying back home he said to helen i am going to start working now to get my hands back on the party machinery. but he didn't do anything to hurt mcgovern's campaign and i was surprised to learn given to mcgovern is and strauss i didn't think bob would be that involved in the mcgovern campaign but as our was reading through the transcripts that jean westwood who was the mcgovern chairwoman, bob did helped to raise money and get emergency computers. he was not going to stand by and let the democratic nominee go without funds.
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he really focused his efforts on fund-raising for congress and even though that was a sweep for nixon democrats did very well in 72 in congress. and bob was very committed to that. i interviewed mcgovern by phone and he said bob, he thought that bob was a lip set and had every right to be because he was passed over and did lot of work and it went unnoticed and mcgovern made commitments to especially at women's group he was teamed up with. relatively unknown and not really tested politically. he was the representative from utah that he promised it to her and the old guard was without a friend and when strauss became a chairman they left before they were asked. >> was his girlfriend accused of
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being a racist? is it true? i heard the rumor. >> the question is mcgovern being a racist. he was very -- [inaudible] >> i never heard that. [inaudible] >> did not have political ambitions at the time? >> bob would have liked to be handed the presidency i think. but he did not want to run for office. he preferred being behind-the-scenes. and he said if he ran for the house if you have to go around and eat barbecue with everybody in america and kiss everybody's bass are like it when they're kissing my ass. he wanted to be handing out checks and not being on the
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receiving end. [inaudible] >> there was talk in the 80s about ethics. a serious -- i was surprised. the new york times running a little squib about bob strauss could be our first jewish president and he would always say he is foolish enough to love the rumors but smart enough to not pay attention to them. >> i think he was the first jewish president of the methodist fellowship. >> are you from texas? i can tell. so when growing up in stanford, taxes which was a small town of 3,000 or 4,000 people in west texas, born in 1919 and there were only two jewish families in this town and that is because their cousins were living there.
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so one jewish family in town and that means they were totally socially integrated and they belong to the club and they were very respected people and when i got his fbi file because bob was an fbi agent in world war ii it turned out no one forgot they were jewish. when they were interviewing the town people they were high type jewish folks so it was very relevant but not relevant to bob as he was growing up. he didn't see any anti-semitism and as i said in the book he thought the girls were at the baptist young people unions. that is where he was. he wanted to get elected president but the minister -- i have no idea what i am talking about. the minister said he couldn't be. he always said if it wasn't for that he would have been elected president and sometimes he said
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he was elected president and they had to take it back because he was jewish. i think among his peers it wasn't that big of an issue that he was jewish. when he got to the university of texas the student body population was larger than the whole town he grew up in. it did become an issue. he will only invite his jewish fraternity and it was kind of a rude awakening for him. he did not know that would be the case. he enjoys surge in popularity. and so he managed to be the one in his fraternity to represent the fraternity with the other fraternities. he got out of what could have become a bobble for him in texas and really was popular across campus. he became a member of the cowboys if you are from texas it is a very prestigious and popular group, the texas cowboys.
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for a jew it was pretty popular. >> i have one question. anybody else? we were talking about this earlier. who are out there even comes close today to be a bob strauss? >> we decided no one. a lot has changed since bob's time. there is a lot more money in politics with people going a long weekends to campaign. there is not the same relationship in congress and also the press can't protect politicians the way the press protected bob strauss. he could say the most outrageous things and it didn't really affect his career. it was a larger-than-life personality doesn't work in this
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climate but also being someone who really doesn't buy into ideology and is practical and wants to negotiate and find a compromise is not popular today either. people are either having to listen to their districts a lot more and i probably know less about this than everyone else in the room but it would be hard to have another bob strauss for many reasons. climate and because he was a 1-of-a-kind character. [applause] >> if you all could hold up york shares we would be greatly appreciative. the book is at the front and kathryn mcgarr will be happy to sign copies. [inaudible conversations] >> you are watching booktv on
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c-span2. forty-eight hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend. and now more from c-span2's cities for. this weekend we visit birmingham, alabama. up next an interview with carolyn maull mckinstry, author of "while the world watched," birmingham bombing survivor comes of age during the civil rights movement. >> what i remember when the bomb exploded is not really thinking it was a bomb. the first thought that i had was maybe that it was thunder or something. the sound made me think of thunder but as quickly as i thought that the windows came crashing in and i heard someone inside the church say hit the floor and when i fell on before i could tell after a few seconds
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i could hear feet. i could tell that people were getting up and running out. my first thought was for those two younger brothers i had brought with me. i knew that before i could leave or go to safety i would need to figure out where they were. so i went outside and surge downstairs and upstairs and was never able to find my brother there at the church. we would find later in a different part of the community. september 15th started as a very routine day. sunday morning i was trying to cope with my sister into getting her hair combed and finally my mother said just leave her here. i will bring her later with me. so my two younger brothers, they left with me. my oldest brother dropped us off at church and we arrived right about 9:30 and after putting them in their classes i went upstairs to the church office to
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gather my equipment i could call it. i was responsible for taking attendance and i was responsible for recording financial giving for the day and created a summary report i would give later. so i did this, collect all these reports, passed them out and sat in class for a while and at 9:59 would get up, collect those reports and create the summary. on this particular sunday, we were very excited. all the young people work excited because it would youth sunday. that meant we were in charge of everything. we saying, gave the devotion. we did the assuring. we were excited about that. as i started up the stairs to complete those reports i passed the bathroom where my friends were and i spoke to them and they were combing hair and talking and everyone excited in their own way about different
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things but i didn't linger because of the report and as i started up the steps when i reached the top the phone was ringing in the church office. in those days the church office was right behind the sanctuary. so when i reached the church office and heard the phone rings i went in and answered it. there was someone i worked under who was not there and the caller, mayor caller on the other end said three minutes and as quickly as he said that he hung up. i still have my items in my arms, my materials in my arm and i turned and walked out into the sanctuary and only because we counted it i know i took about 15 steps before the bomb exploded. >> what was the last thing you said to them before you left them in the bathroom? >> see you later. when i passed the bathroom licet see you later.
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birmingham was a very segregated place during that time. it was a very difficult, dark and difficult place during that time. as a young person prior to the age of 14 we did not experience a lot of the difficult days. our parents did such a great job of sheltering us. many of our activities were provided for us at the church and in the school so that we didn't miss the places we could not go or the places we were not allowed to go. they provided picnics and swimming parties and contests and all kinds of activities right here at the church. we didn't really know to what extent we were missing a lot of things. i think that our parents did not want us to know that there were a lot of restrictions out beyond
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the home parameter. so there were many things they didn't tell us about. they sheltered as. when they opened the first fed food place rather than allowing us to know they did not serve black people, raptors and having a skillet to a side window when they did serve them they kept us at home and they always told us that it was about money. that they didn't have the money to do these things. in a real way we did not know many of the barriers that exist out there. it was a real gift in a lot of ways not knowing that the barriers were there. there were no imaginary barriers in our minds say we can't do this because those people or this person or whatever. we really grew up thinking that we could do anything we wanted. we could be anyone we wanted to be. this was stress the lot in my elementary school and my high school. i guess they felt we would find out soon enough what things were
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possible and what things weren't but they really did a tremendous job preparing us so if the art and a became we would be ready. i think our church was heartbroken. is a real and innocent girls. they were not part of the movement or served in any way with that and they had their full life ahead of the. they were very bright, very smart young girls in school. in two of the cases they were the only children. denise and cynthia were the only children their parents had. so the church was really shocked that we had people in our city who were willing not only to kill young children in the name of segregation but to bought a house of worship. to m


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