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tv   Book Discussion on JFK Conservative  CSPAN  December 15, 2013 7:30am-8:31am EST

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going after connally and not after kennedy. >> james reston, jr. is the author of "the accidental victim: jfk, lee harvey oswald, and the real target in dallas." >> and it's a rare constant in american political life. but if you look at congress in 1901, less than 2% of members came from working-class background. got into politics and that eventually wound up in congress. fast-forward to the present day. the average number of congress met less than 2% of the career doing manual labor jobs, service industry jobs. and so this is one thing that really hasn't changed, you know, different aspects of the political podcast. big money in politics and the decline of unions and while all of this is happening, there's one of the constants during the, during the last 100 years or so
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is that working-class people are not getting elected to political office. >> doesn't matter there's a socioeconomic disparity between most elected officials and the citizens they represent? nicholas carnes looks at "white-collar government" tonight at nine on "after words." and in january in depth with mark levin. he will take your questions for three hours beginning at noon eastern sunday january 5. all part of booktv weekend on c-span2. c-span2. >> and online for december's booktv booklet, we want to know what your favorite books were in 2013. throughout the month joined other ridge to discuss the notable books published this year. go to and click on book clubs to enter the chat room. >> we continued our block of programming on president john f. kennedy in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his assassination on november 22, 1963. up next, ira stoll examines
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president in his public and foreign policy record and argues it defaults his conservative political leanings. this is just under one hour. >> it's a big thrill to be here at politics and prose, which is a great institution. thank you for having me. when i first arrived in washington it was august 1995. i was 22, and my friend, josh, let me stand his couch until i found a place of my own. he was quite kind to offer me his couch for an open any period of time. it was quite generous but at least as i recall, he or his roommates were not quite so kind to give me my own key to the house. that meant that when i came back
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from my days of apartment hunting, i often had some time to kill in that lovely august washington weather before josh got home from work. sussed a lot of time here in this air-conditioned bookstore. it's great to be here surrounded by so many friends and family members, quite a distinguished crowd we have here, some other authors here and a lot of newspaperman and women. there's a crowd of people here from crimson, which means i've had friendships within that lasted more than 20 years. and my parents are here, my brother and sister-in-law are you. i want to particularly thank jonathan pflueger, no, for their contributions to the book. but enough about me. about the bookstore and about the other people there. let's talk about president kennedy. today is the publication date of this book but there've already been some reviews, and most of
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them say things like, he argues the jfk was a conservative, or ira stoll makes the case the jfk was a conservative. and it is true, i do argue in this book that by the standards of both his son and our own, john kennedy was a conservative, cut taxes and tears, restrained domestic spending, wanted to reform welfare and built up the military in pursuit of the cold war advantage against what he considered to be a godless soviet regime. but i'm not just being modest when i say that i think the strongest arguments in this book or kennedy's conservatism come not from me but from kennedy himself. they are kennedy's words, not mine, and he was probably a better writer than i am anyway. so let's hear some of them. the book begins with congressional candidate kennedy's july 4, 1946 speech in which he spoke of a right of the individual against the state, and christian morality.
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he said america's basic religious ideas were being challenged at home and i in the cynical philosophy of the many of our intellectuals, abroad in the doctrine of collectivism. i mentioned candidate kennedy's 1950s beach -- congressman gingrey these 1950s beach at notre dame in which he warned the ever-expanding power of the federal government. the absorption of many of the functions that states and cities once considered to be the responsibility of their own must not be a source of concern to all those who believe as did the irish patriot, control over local affairs is the essence of liberty. there was senator kennedy's 1955 speech at assumption college in my hometown of wors worchester, massachusetts, where he said about the cold war, i believe religion itself is at the root of the struggle, not in terms of the physical organizations of christianity versus those of
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atheism but in terms of good versus evil, right versus wrong. and in his remarks during the 1960 campaign at the tabernacle in salt lake city where he said, the enemy is the communist system itself, insatiable, and seizing and it's a drive for world domination. it is also a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies, freedom under god versus ruthless, godless tyranny. or kennedy's famous lines in the inaugural address, the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forefathers fought are still at issue around the globe are the believes that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of god. we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty. ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for
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your country. or president kennedy's speech about tax cuts in at the new york economic club in december 1960 do what he said, our two choices not between tax reduction on one hand and the voice of large federal deficits on the other. in short, it's a paradoxical that tax return to high today and tax revenues are too low, and the sound this way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now. the purpose of cutting taxes now is not to in her a budget deficit but to achieve the more prosperous expanding economy which can bring a budget surplus. okay, you can say, that's just rhetoric. what about actions? that tax cut did pass, pass the house in september 1963 and the senate after kennedy's death and he became law. kennedy did shop increase military spending while
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maintaining restraint on domestic expenditures, and he and his successors could also cut tariffs on imports using the trade negotiating authority can be the one for congress. he escalated the war in vietnam, stood on the soviets in berlin and in cuba, and to appoint a supreme court justice, byron white, wrote the dissent in rovers as weight. people might ask why should we care whether kennedy was a conservative beyond the usual partisan motives of claiming a popular figure for our side. after all, he's been dead for 50 years, the soviet union is gone, tax rates now are a lot lower than they were during the eisenhower and nixon administration when the top marginal rate was 91%. well, i do think that many of the issues committee dealt with, economic growth, immigration, free trade, a sound dollar, peace through strength are still with us today and that his policies can be a guide.
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i know we have a bipartisan audience here, so i want to lead with some take away kennedy principles on leadership. the first is to get a wide spectrum of advice. this was true with kennedy on two of the key issues he faced, cuba and taxes. on cuba during the missile crisis, there were kennedy advisers who said do nothing. after all, americans would be just as dead if nuclear missiles were launched from cuba as if they were launched from mainland russia your adlai stevenson, kennedy's ambassador to the u.n., made exactly that argument. and so did other less stereotypical liberal kennedy foreign policy advisers like mcgeorge bundy. other advisers like the air force general curtis lemay basically advised bombing cuba back to the stone age. so kennedy got his full range of
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advice from do nothing to launch a preemptive attack on cuba. on the tax cut, kennedy was careful to give advice not just the people who favored the tax cut, him but from those who oppose the. the liberal harvard economist who was ambassador to india came back and met with kennedy at the white house, and advised kennedy and also in writing on taxes, i will oppose a tax cut. and albert gore, sr., the father of bill clinton's vice president also spoke to kennedy about the tax issue. there's a great scene in the book at eleanor roosevelt funeral, it's not just -- there's a book by lubavitch. our town -- tim russert in were administering their own business at the funeral in a kind of
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modern washington way, well, here in the '60s during the kennedy administration the same thing was happening at hyde park at eleanor roosevelt funeral. and al gore, sr. kind of cornered the kennedy and was talking to him about the tax cut. entity as, what do you think i should be about the tax cut? the conversation grew so heated that dwight eisenhower was standing in the corner trying to say hello to his successor, and he couldn't even get -- album his way into the conversation. and then after -- on the airfield where the two men were returning to washington, kennedy sent for gore who was on another plane and had him right back on the president's going to continue the conversation. so that's the first kennedy role of leadership. get a wide spectrum of advice. the second rule though is once
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you decide, the decision is made. it was reported back, well, guys, you one. the president finally told me to shut up about the tax cut. al gore, there were newspaper headlines about al gore denouncing the kennedy tax cut as a bonanza for fat cats. and there's a tape of kennedy denouncing al gore, sr. as a son of a bitch. to get a wide spectrum of advice. when you decide, decide. and the third, kennedy leadership principle i deserved this, stick to your principles. there's a myth out there i think propagated by a few liberal historians who were not representative of the broader kennedy administration that
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kennedy underwent a sort of liberal conversion, final months of his administration after he gave his speech at american university. i write in the book that that's a distortion. it's not only a distortion of the chronology, because after the devilish american university speech kennedy went to berlin and said anyone who thinks that it's possible to work with the calmness, let them come to berlin. but even jacqueline kennedy in her interviews with arthur schlesinger, jr., which are only recently released, dismissed it as nonsense. annika she said even after the detente, he knew khrushchev was a gangster. so kennedy at the beginning of the book i have been in 1946 getting his speech about how the rights of the individual, how these rights come from god and they're going to be challenged
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by the atheistic soviet union. and they really think that was his view all the way through the end of his career and through his presidency. we are coming up on november. it's going to be the 50th anniversary of president kennedy's assassination. in doing the research for this book, i went to visit kennedy's childhood home in brookline, massachusetts. it's kind of a testament to the fiscal spending restraint of president kennedy, because the birthplace home in brookline is only open about april or may through october or november. so the government doesn't have to pay to heat the whole house, and it can also hire the chore guys, the park ranger tour guides as seasonal employees so it doesn't have to pay them full time benefits. and it doesn't have to go
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through the civil service hiring system. i think the history graduate student who took me around said, who was a seasonal employee said, you know, if it were all year round, employees are, they would all be veterans because they would get priority in the civil service hiring system, not that there's anything wrong with that. but i was there and there was a little kid shop in the basement and there was a discard both been that the been sent to the review but have made the cut to be carried as part of the problem inventory of the basement of the jfk birthplace gift shop. a small selection, not as fast as here as politics and prose. there are a couple of kids books. they were giving away. i picked one of them up and read it with my daughter in the
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afternoon, after i we joined her after this little research trip. and she said to me, it's a sad story, daddy, because at the end he dies. you know, i think there's something to that, but i tried to show in this book that though kennedy died, his ideas and his legacy haven't. starting with bill clinton, who kicked off his presidential campaign with that famous black and white video of him as an arkansas teenager shaking hands with president kennedy, and who returned to the jfk library when he was pushing nafta, his controversial free trade
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legislation, which eventually passed and had the effect of being a big tax cut on imports. and continuing through president reagan who, here in virginia, did his training for the 1980 presidential debate at a kennedy hunt, virginia hud country retreat which he had rented for the 1980 campaign, and used it as his base. and can be invoked -- kennedy invoked the jfk tax cut and jfk foreign policy toughness, repeatedly. as he said during the 1984 campaign, whenever i talk about president kennedy, my opponents tear their hair out. and going through president bush, who also invoked kennedy
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for his tax cut and for his foreign policy. you know, you can argue about whether they are accurate representations or not, but i think that's part of both the greatness and the tragedy of kennedy, that even though the tragedy is that because he's not dead, we can only speculate on where he would have been on these questions. but the greatness is that everyone is still trying to figure it out 50 years later. and i think the best, the best words that capture that are actually kennedy was a great reader of poetry and there was an elegy which included the line
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what he was, he was. what he is slated to become depends on us your so with that, i'm happy to take your questions. [applause] >> there's a microphone -- >> right. i should say first of all that i'm a liberal from newton, massachusetts, which is what most people in newton were when i was growing up. did kennedy -- >> the red sox game. >> did kennedy the conservative feel that half the people in this country were takers and people were living on the dole, and welfare queens and all that stuff that people talk about?
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>> that's a terrific question, and i write about welfare in the book. there's some surprising stuff there. i actually credit kennedy with being the pioneer of welfare reform. i'll just read you -- read you from the book where he recognizes the perverse incentives that welfare, the fort was reformed, imposed. this is from kennedy's program for economic recovery and growth. he said quote under the age of the dependent children program, needed you are eligible for assistance if their fathers are deceased, disabled or family deserters. in logic and humanity, a child should also be eligible for assistance if his father is a needy unemployed worker. for example, a person who is exhausted unemployment benefits
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and is not receiving adequate local assistance. too many fathers unable to support their families have resorted to real or pretended desertion to qualify their children for help. he also called for states to put welfare recipients to work. am recommending a change in the law that permits states to maintain with federal financial help community work and training projects for unemployed people receiving welfare payments. under such a program unemployed people on welfare would be held through what feels our new blue ones and the local kid would've been additional manpower on public projects. sounds like mayor giuliani's work program. in signing into law the public will for an immense of 1962, kennedy spoke of a new approach, in addition to support from rehabilitation and training for useful work instead of prolonged dependency. so you know, and i also have a bit toward the end of the book about robert kennedy who, you know, is often seen as more
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liberal than jfk, and robert kennedy -- here's robert kennedy campaign in 1968 and kokomo, indiana, quote, we've got to get away from the welfare system. the handout system and the idea of the dole. we've got to have jobs instead of welfare. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> good evening. so kennedy of course had some ambitious health care reform plans he was never able to make the just begun his his health care reform ideas connect with the argument for him as conservatives? >> sure. so the idea of medicare have been around, and you know, it was kennedy proposed it, and he dated a friend in very, in very
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conservative language. and i'll find out for you. it was funny, he also -- this connects to the welfare point where he said, he proposed this medicare plan as a very modest proposal, got to meet absolutely essential needs. and with the deductible requirements to discourage any malingering or unnecessary overcrowding of our hospitals. he went on from this program is not a program of socialized medicine, a program of prepayment health cost without the freedom of choice guaranteed. every person will choose his own hospital and doctor. the program is a sound one and in accordance with the traditional american system of placing responsibly on the employee and employer, rather than on the general taxpayers to
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help finance retirement and health cost. so even proposing that the government program he's aware with the language about malingering about the risks of perverse incentives. and i think, you know, and your rights that liberals were in the administration were disappointed that in 1962 instead of making a big push for medicare, he chose to make trade, trade, care of negotiation authority a main priority with congress. kennedy got some stuff through congress. he got the trade promotion tradn authority. he made a big put on taxes and cut up to the house. part of what administration does is to use iris. now maybe in a second term if he had won, he would have decided he was going to make medicare a priority, but you know, he didn't live that long so we don't know. but i think that's an accurate
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summary of the case on medicare. >> if i may follow up but just briefly. do you not think that part of the argument he made for medicare in that speech, and similar to welfare response you gave, you not think that perhaps he's making him that light was, that argument to sort of get conservatives support for his arguments? of course, at the time saying the opinions of anything socials whatsoever was just poison. so of course he wouldn't want to argue it's not socials. of course, we're not wanting to do this. so do you think that might've been just a way to try to get the message out to get more conservative supports? >> i think that's a fair point, but the rhetoric, the rhetoric was offensive or the rhetoric was designed to appeal to people who were not his natural base.
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those are all fine arguments, but the fact remains that he didn't get it done. and that people who served with him and said they were disappointed that he didn't make it his priority. it was his choice about what to make a priority. he gave, you know, five or six speeches about the tax cut in prime time on television, at the new york economic club, the business groups. he did not give five or six speeches about medicare. maybe if he did it would have passed. >> hytner. so kennedy, though, self-identified as a liberal. he said he was a proud liberal. he was hated and despised by many conservatives. so i'm wondering if we were doing here is more of a question of terminology in the changing nature of liberals and liberalism. i mean, the number one book in
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america on "the new york times" bestseller list the weekend he was about to be killed, he was killed was all about how he was a secret communist. so i'm not quite sure what you mean by the word conservative or liberal in this respect. >> sure. i talked in the book about how the meaning of those terms have changed over time, but it's also true that kennedy was interviewed and said, i'd be very happy to tell them i'm not a liberal at all. that was kennedy in an interview with the saturday evening post in 1963. the quote -- so yeah, so there's this claim that there was a conversion, and i think part of it may relate to what the previous questioner asked about, trying to win over people who aren't your natural base. and that speech where you mentioned where he said it's okay to call me a liberal, i talk about that for a couple
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pages in my book. there was a speech to a liberal party of new york in the 1960 election. now, the liberal party of new york is a sort a special creature. it had broken off from a socialist party over communism. that was an anti-communist party, and you know, kennedy framed that very carefully. he said, well, if a liberal means this, that and that, it's okay to only a little bit on this, that and that, you know, i don't have it at my fingertips year, look in the book. it's carefully framed. and other people -- and it's a true, there were conservatives at the time who did not like j jfk. but there were conservatives at the time who did like jfk. a lot of those southern democratic governors endorsed him, partly on the race issue.
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those were not people who are liberals at the time who were a big fan of. certain conservatives at the time, william f. buckley was a big fan of the kennedy tax cut. of the conservatives didn't get it. they thought is going to increase the debt and deficit spending also, for being someone who's pushing for civil rights. so it seems that these people like certain parts of them. data like other parts of them. they like the economic policy, thought he was weekly because he didn't bomb cuba. it seems to me there's a whole lot of balls up in the air here. >> well, the liberals -- >> conservative strikes me like you're picking and choosing just certain things. >> again, i think the best argument for that is not -- it's not my words, but kennedy's words, in the words of the people who served with him. and again, not just from the
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early '50s, but from after kennedy died. you know, i quote some of them in the introduction to the book where, where ted sorenson, kennedy was a fiscal conservative. ..
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>> for the members of that group in the senate or most of them. what he disliked, and here again we have often talked about it, was the sort of posturing, attitude striking, never getting anything done liberalism. he regarded it with genuine contempt, genuine contempt. he really was contemptuous is the right word for it of that attitude in american life. alsop went on. and liberals were protesting. >> okay, well, i grant you that. i don't want to monopolize this, but are there also 101 quotes of conservatives talking about how much they loved kennedy in your
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book? >> the reagan chapter, yeah -- >> that's in the '80s. i'm talking in the 1960s. >> well, in the 1960s, the republican party was dominated by richard nixon who wrote in his memoirs that during the 1960 presidential debate, kennedy successfully convinced tens of millions of viewers that he was to the right of me on communism in cuba. >> all right. >> could you give us a definition of liberal and conservative then? maybe the same today. and the real question is liberal then, conservative today. >> yeah. well, that's a hard question for another book by some political scientist. i mean, i write in the beginning of the book that there is an article in some political science journal that went on for
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about 25 pages on the question of defining what a liberal meant and a conservative meant -- or, no, what was liberalism in the 1950s. political science quarterly. and the author finally punted. above all, we must resist the temptation to reduce 1950s liberalism to a simple idea. there's a similar article by alan brinkley, the columbia professor, about conservativism in the '60s. he pointed out that conservativism includes many ideas that often -- including many that contradict each other. so, you know, i hi for the purposes of this book -- i think for the purposes of this book, i grew up in the 1980s, and conservativism was tax cutting, and it was strong military and a robust foreign policy, peace
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through strength. and a kind of respect for tradition on social issues influenced by religion. free trade. so -- and undergirded by the idea that people have god given rights that come from -- or natural rights that are not created by the state or the government, but that we all have. and so whether those are classical liberal ideas or conservative ideas, i think those were kennedy's ideas, and, you know, they're ideas that i think are probably shared by a lot of americans who may call themselves centrists or don't put themselves into categories of liberal or conservative.
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a conservative word is, if i can confess, it's a bit of an attention-grabbing title. but if i could put all the things on the title of the book, i would do that. [laughter] >> thank you. >> wouldn't your -- i walked in late, so maybe you addressed this, but wouldn't it also underpin and underscore the point that you're picking if you -- that you're making if you look back at the 1960 campaign and how successfully kennedy alleged that there was a missile gap which -- and that eisenhower, the eisenhower administration enabled this missile gap to occur, and that was apparently one of the turning points in the '60 campaign. it would seem to reinforce that same point that you're making, and i wondered if in your book you made any reference to that. >> yeah. i mean, i have a whole chapter on the 1960 campaign.
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one of the things i haven't talked a lot here about is kennedy's catholicism. and in the stick to your principles department, i mean, there were oh politicians at the time who had been born catholic and switched, they converted to protestantism. the governor of new jersey. so, so the catholic issue was a big issue this the 960 campaign, and -- 1960 campaign, and part of the chapter is about how kennedy handled that. but the other two big issues in the 1960 campaign, one of them was economic growth. and that was, that was kennedy attacking the eisenhower/nixon administration for not creating enough economic growth. and related to that, the cost of the lack of economic growth wasn't just domestic in that there were not enough jobs, but it was, it was international in that we were losing ground to
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the soviet union in this global competition. and, yeah, the military was definitely a part of that. and nixon was kind of maneuvered into promising that if he was elected, he was going to spend more on the military. but he had been vice president for eight years, so it was, it was a little bit awkward. and for sure, kennedy was talking about the missile gap and, you know, there are articles that have since come out saying it was phony, that, in fact, america had a big military edge at the time. but they still went ahead and built a lot more nuclear weapons. and partly that was a choice for economic development. i mean, there was, there was a proposal for big public works on stimulus-style domestic spending program, but kennedy said, well, the way he was going to do the spending was through the military.
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and that was a way to get support for it from the democrats in congress. >> thanks. i want to say for me personally you've made your case really well despite the fact that kennedy was a successful democrat and probably in most people's eyes certainly to the left of barry goldwater. [laughter] that just for the sake of completeness, could you sort of recount his history with civil rights which we all know partly but i don't feel totally, that i totally know his overall sort of feelings about things and what he was sort of drawn into and what he really accepted with gusto in terms of his civil rights positions. >> yeah, sure. well, civil rights was a little bit like medicare in that at the beginning, kennedy certainly didn't make it a priority. and he came hate to it. it's a mixed record. i mean, i don't want to -- there
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have been books out, there was a book with the title "bystander," you know, that really was very harsh on ken few about -- kennedy about civil rights. and i think in a way it's unfair to impose present day standards on him. but he did get elected with the sport of a lot of -- with the support of a lot of these southern governors. so just to name a few real admirable, i think, accomplishments of kennedy on civil rights, he did appoint thurgood marshall to the second circuit. thurgood marshall was the lawyer for the naacp who won the brown v. board of education decision. and i actually have, there's a great anecdote in my book that i collected as a reporter of the new york sun at the dedication of the thurgood marshall courthouse in new york where the
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judges of the second circuit were gathered for a photograph, and there was some problem with the flash equipment. marshall showed up a little bit late for the photograph be, and the photographer said, oh, gee, i thought you were the electrician when he showed up. and marshall handled it really well, he said, oh, do you think, do you think i could get a job as a union electrician? [laughter] because be, you know, the racism at that time wasn't just in the south, it was in the new york city trade unions. there's a really, i think, touching story after medgar evers who was field secretary of the naacp was shot in his driveway, when his young children saw him die, he was
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buried at arlington. and kennedy invited the children to the white house after the funeral and spent some time with them, which was, i just think, really sad. and then, of course, he sent federal agents in to integrate some of the southern universities over the p opposition of the southern governors. so i think all that stuff is he heroic. on the other hand, he didn't really propose civil rights legislation until 1962, 1963, and he didn't really push as hard for it as some people think he should have. and his whole approach to civil rights was really more of of, i think, a grassroots approach than a legislative approach. there's a scene in the book, you know, people think of the white house tapes as something that happened under nixon, but really the white house taping system
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was ip stalled, it was -- installed, it was operating under kennedy. so we have all this great evidence. and there was a meeting after the march on washington between kennedy and these civil rights leaders. and how does the meeting start? not by kennedy saying, oh, how can we work together to pass new landmark civil rights legislation, because he was afraid that was going to derail the tax cut which he thought anyway would do more to help blacks by growing the economy. but he said to them, gee, you know, why can't you guys be more like the jews? now, there were a people who were discriminated against, and they managed to educate themselves. and, you know, why can't you be more like that? and, you know, when you think about it, it's incredibly patronizing. it might have been good advice, but unless, you know, you actually heard it on the tape, you wouldn't believe it. and then after this meeting he
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went out to the rose garden with marthe been luther king and said, you know, you've really got to get rid of those communists who are in your inner circle. and king had written articles in "the nation" denouncing the kennedy approach on human rights as essentially cautious and defensive. so it's a mixed record. and i think that's how i would sum it up. >> so i wondered if you could touch just a bit on johnson. caro seems to paint a picture of this guy who's haunted by kennedy's death, burdened by some of kennedy's policies, but he also wants to advance some of them, and he may want to use kennedy for his own purposes, or the memory of kennedy. what are your thoughts sort of on how lyndon johnson factors into how we view kennedy today? >> well, i'm not a johnson
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expert, but there's a couple of interesting bits in the book about johnson. the first is that when he was picked as vice president, the liberals were outraged. they saw him as a southerner, kind of a gradualist on civil rights. so some of the union guys, the head of the united autoworkers, there was a mini rebellion against kennedy. a lot of those guys would have preferred stevenson anyway, so at the convention when johnson was picked, there's this famous scene where kennedy almost had to uninvite, uninvite johnson to be vice president. part of that was because of this uproar among the liberals. but later on i think you see johnson emerging as more of a liberal figure, at least on domestic policy. and there's another scene in this book where johnson, after kennedy had been shot, meets
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with walter heller who's a liberal kennedy economic adviser and tells heller, you know, tells heller to, you know, come up with a plan for war on poverty and says, you know, kennedy, to be honest, he was a little conservative for me. now, one of the historians who read this book before it was published, a johnson specialist, said, well, you know, there's tapes of onson saying to businessmen, you know, kennedy was a little are liberal for me. so i don't know whether it's evidence of the conservativism or liberalism of johnson or the essential political nature of all these politicians, but i think what johnson did in terms of escalating vietnam and increasing dramatically domestic spending along with some tax increases is just different from what ken thety can did -- kennedy did. he came from a different
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background with. obviously, he grew up poor as opposed to kennedy who grew up with houses in hyannis port and palm beach and apartment at the carlyle in new york and private schools, ivy league colleges all the way through. so, you know, they just came at it from different angles, and, you know, you can't, you can't know what would have happened in that second kennedy term if kennedy had lived, but my guess is that you wouldn't have seen as big a domestic spending program as we got under johnson just because he had, you know, he had had a first term, and there were just very few signs of it, if any. >> hi, ira. >> hi, kate. >> so my question for you is i'm curious, um, what you think the formative influences were for jfk's conservativism.
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and i know you mentioned his catholicism which is, obviously, probably a big one. and you also mentioned his, you know, personal wealth and his background. but i'm just is sort of curious whether you think there was sort of real sort of ideological conservativism as opposed to just some of these formative influences, you know, whether you saw evidence of that in his writings or in his, you know, his conversations. >> yeah. well, you know, i think the best clues we have are these speeches where he talked about the individual versus the state and god given rights. that's the closest he got to a kind of comprehensive statement that went beyond, you know, we need more missiles or we've got to send a man to the moon. i haven't mentioned the moon shot. but that was, i think, really more part of a cold war battle with the soviet union. and he was also a very
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competitive guy. i mean, he -- it's a cliche almost at this point, but he grew up in this big point be playing touch football and doing sailboat races, and the big competition at the time was between the u.s. and the soviet union. i mean, and he'd been in world war ii which was another big battle against this totalitarian, evil empire. and he really wanted to win that. because he liked, the kennedys liked to win. so, you know, that's almost -- i don't know if that's ideological or more psychological. it's always dangerous ground for a biographer to start getting into motives. but i think he really believed this stuff about the godless soviet union.
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i mean, going back to that, going back to that brookline house that's opened just in the summers, it was a project of rose kennedy after president kennedy was killed. it was really her thing. and she did an audio tour. if you do the last tour of the day, it's one of these things -- you don't even need one of those cell phones or, you know, magic ear sticks, you know? you just go around, and they press a button, and you walk into the room, and you hear her voice talking about it. and each room of that house she's talking about some sort of, you know, they lived near the catholic church, and she liked to go there with the kids every day so they saw mass wasn't just for sundays, and, you know, there's a picture of
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mary and jesus in the bedroom where kennedy was born, and there's a picture of the vatican in the dining room. and he made these speeches about godless evil capitalism at notre dame and at assumption which are, which are catholic colleges. and, you know, you could say, well, he wanted -- he was pandering to the catholic audience or the catholic vote, but then you get this testimony from people who said, you know, they saw him praying at night before he went to bed, or barbara sinatra saying that when he went to visit in palm springs, he used to, he used to, he used to constantly be going to mass before chasing all the girls, which she thought was strange. [laughter] so, you know, he's sailing off of maine, and they're sending
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some, you know, navy tender boat to take him to some obscure chapel out there to go, to go to mass. so i think that, i think -- and he was skipping bacon on fridays to remember the day when jesus was killed. i mean, i think that stuff was serious for him because people, it wasn't known other than by his closest aides. i mean, no one would know if he skipped mass on a sunday, you know, when he was in maine. so i think that was, i think that was a serious thing for him in a way that i think a lot of academic historians or journalists who are not personally religious can't quite, um, get their minds around. >> i hope you'll just let me ask one more question which is a
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more forward-looking question as opposed to formative influences, but i know you're also an opinion journalist as well as a historian with this book, so i wanted to ask you kind of what you think that the takeaway should be from this book for conservatives today, and particularly i guess with the government shutdown going on what you think what lessons jfk, you know, might present or might give to, you know, the congressional republicans right now. >> right. >> so sort of, i guess this is a question about your larger purpose in writing the book as a conservative and what you sort of hope is going to be, you know, passed on to your own party. >> right. well, i think keeping an eye on the ball of economic growth and peace through strength and free trade, um, a sound dollar, domestic spending restraint are all important policies, and i think those leadership principles of getting a wide spectrum of advice but also sticking to your principles and
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when you decide, decide are good advice. but, you know, i'm not really in the business of giving advice to politicians. i'm more in the business of trying to figure out what the facts were of history so that, you um, so that the politicians can read it and decide for themselves what worked and what didn't work. and, you know, i guess the other thing that i would say also is that, yeah, kennedy really tried to focus on, with congress on what was possible. i mean, he didn't go for medicare. i mean, he stretched what was possible, right? he went for the moon. but for the tax cut, he really, he tried to find stuff with
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congress. it's a different situation, right? the democrats controlled both houses of congress during the kennedy administration. some of them are conservative democrats who are not too kindly disposed towards some of the things that kennedy was trying to do. so i think, you know, focus on what's possible, stick to your principles and look for, look for things that can be a win/winker you -- win/win, you ? like the free trade and the tax cut and the military spending. i mean, all that stuff there was broad, pretty broad support for that sometimes cut across party lines or ideological lines. so, um, i mean, growth is a
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great example, right? who's against growth? i mean, maybe some hard core environmentalists, but -- [laughter] but, you know, or winning against the soviet union. who was against that? so kennedy managed to -- and i think all successful politicians -- managed to find i think frank luntz would call them 90% issues. >> all right. we'll make in the last -- in the last question. >> thank you. i'm really intrieged by the book, someone who has been viewed as a liberal essentially from a different lens and thinking of them as-of a -- as more of a conservative. but that may mean our language has changed. the language has changed too. and i'm wondering now, you mentioned the senate dem can accurates, particularly the chairmen, who were generally conservatives and much more
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interested in programs that, well, they were interested in programs kennedy didn't necessarily support, particularly in civil rights. but i'm remarking now and thinking about your just your very last comments about how he seemed to focus more on the art of the possible because there are many people who think that if lyndon johnson hadn't pushed through those programs, particularly the civil rights act and some of the other major legislation, it never would have gotten through under kennedy. so it's sounding to me more like maybe pragmatist is a word. and maybe that's a word that's become a, it's not a word that you hear about in a great, with great acclaimed today. people have their, you know, their points of view, and you've got these camps. and maybe what, you know, part of the legacy of this book may be that pragmatism and really not only thinking about what you want to do, but also thinking about what's good for the country and what the country can
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handle, maybe that's, maybe that's part of what the president ought to be doing. >> yeah. well, i guess if you're a conservative democrat from massachusetts, you get called a pragmatist. if you're a liberal republican from the south, you might get called a pragmatist. you know, kennedy, kennedy said sometimes it's not the labels that matter, and i go back and forth be about whether he was right about that. i think the labels in some ways with yiewstles lenses for -- useful lenses for helping us remember what actually happened x. that's, you know, that's really what i hope people will take away here. >> well, thank you very much. et seems like an interesting -- really great book. [applause] >> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with booktv guests and viewers, watch videos and get up-to-date information on events.
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>> well, a longtime, familiar face to c-span viewers is on your screen here on booktv, former new mexico governor bill richardson, former congressman and now author bill richardson. how to sweet talk a shark. where'd you come up with that title? >> well, i've negotiated over the years with some very bad people; the north koreans, saddam hussein, the cuban, the sudanese, people that the u.s. doesn't get along with. and i relate the stories of these negotiations, most of them successful, on how you deal with a shark, with a bad guy and how that relates to difficult negotiations at home, you know, with a spouse. when you negotiate to buy a car or buy a house or a brother or sister. so it's a how to deal with people, and the essence is
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really you've got to relate, you've got to use humor, you got to connect with people. you've got to know where you want to end up. you have to use decency, but also you have to have a certain cultural skill. so the book is about a lot of negotiations i've had over the years as an ambassador, as a governor, as a secretary of energy. but a shark, you know, sharks are not easy to deal with. and it's important that you relate to that shark to get what you wallet. you know, in my case with diplomacy as a political prisoner or a cease fire or bringing peace or humanitarian work. but it's a fun book because i had a very good ghost writer who worked for the daily show, kevin bleier, who's right in the back there.
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so it's a good read. it's a fun read. and this is what i'm doing now, i'm teaching, i'm writing books, i'm consulting, i'm giving speeches. people actually are paying me to give my boring speeches. [laughter] >> any future for political office for you? >> well, you never say never. not for now. i'm happy doing what i'm doing as a private citizen. >> so how do you use humor when you approach the north koreans? >> well, you use humor to make the other side at ease. most dictators are very formal. they try to intimidate you. but, you know, there have been times where i'll kid somebody about their reputation. hey, you're known for torturing people, so i'll say where do you cut all the fingernails off of people? where are the prisons? and they look at me and they either want to kill me or laugh. and generally,


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