tv Mark Updegrove The Last Republicans CSPAN January 1, 2018 5:31pm-6:41pm EST
[laughter] but you ought to come just to find out. [laughter] so thank you again and good night. >> thank you very much for coming. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv is on twitter and facebook, and we want to hear from you. tweet us, twitter.com/booktv. or post a comment on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv. [inaudible conversations]
>> good evening. i'm larry temple. as chairman of the lbj foundation, it's my true privilege to welcome all of you to this program tonight. i happen to think that the lbj library has set a pattern or is setting a pattern. three weeks ago we had two stars on this stage; bob schieffer, moderation, in conversation with former secretary of state madeleine albright. well, tonight we've got two more stars on this stage, john avlon and mark updegrove. johnjohn avlon is a true risingr in this country in the media and journalism world. john got his start as a speech writer for rudy giuliani both when he was mayor of new york
and later as a presidential candidate. john avlon today is the editor-in-chief and managing director of "the daily beast," but he's way more than that. he is a very active writer in this country. every major magazine has seen one of his pieces. moreover, he's on television all the time. you can look at cnn, you look at msnbc, you can look at pbs, you can look at c-span, and you'll see john avlon. i will also tell you he is a prolific writer of books. he's written multiple books. the one that's most prominent, the one that's most spotlighted is about washington's farewell address. and he reminds us that that's truly topical today. because in his farewell address, washington warned this country against excessive partisanship,
greedy self-interest and foreign powers that might affect our elections. [laughter] now think about that. [laughter] if that's not topical, i don't know what is topical. [laughter] i will also say that john got -- started to say fame, maybe notoriety because he has been blacklisted by president trump. [laughter] [applause] i got a chance to see john avlon on the stephen colbert show on monday night of this week. he was a star there too. but he said something that resonates very strongly with me. what john said that night is he perceived his duty, his responsibility as a journalism expert -- he didn't call himself an expert, but he is -- as a
journalist to call a lie a lie and a fact a fact. and i wish that there were more people like him with that same attitude. i think we'll all see a long time ahead john avlon on the public stage of this world. and i think we'll all be glad that we met him on this stage tonight. now, let me tell you about the other star. i'll bet all of you think you know mark updegrove. those of you that have been coming here for many years have seen him on this stage with the possible exception of harry middleton, mark updegrove has been on stage more than any other human being, period. he was here as the indomitable director of the lbj library from 2009 until he left last february. but he was very prominent before he came to this library. he was a historian on the
presidency that was well known throughout the country. he had been the editor of "newsweek," he had been president of "time" in canada, and he'd written two books on the presidency, one of them called "second is acts" -- second acts saying what some presidents did after they left the presidency. the other book was called "baptism by fire" of what happens with presidents that come into office at time of crisis. now, lyndon johnson, i heard chastise himself once about the fact that lyndon johnson wasn't in either book, but in spite of that, he was picked to be the director of this library, and we were ever wonderful to have him. he set a new standard. i will tell you, and it's not hyperbole and it's not texas bragging when i say there are 13 presidential libraries, and during his tenure here he was widely known and respected as
the single best, the single best director of any presidential library. [applause] and mark left his mark on this library in so many different ways. the highlight probably is the civil rights summit in 2014 in which we had not one, not two, not three, not four, but five presidents; president carter, president george h.w. bush, president clinton, president george w. bush and president obama. all were on this stage. never in the history, in the history of this country had there been five presidents in a subsequent program anytime, anywhere for any reason. mark made that happen, and it is the hallmark of the success that he had here. and then last year, in 2016, the vietnam war summit was a program
that was comparable to the one he did on civil rights. i have said that i think there are a rare few people in this world that are visionary, that are creative, that know how to come up with an idea that's new and different. there are also a small number of people that know how to implement an idea, implement a program. and those are normally two different people. mark updegrove is both. he knows how to come up with a whole new creation and then knows how to implement it. and he's that rare individual. he left to become the director, the ceo of the museum, medal of honor museum, and he still serves in that capacity. but he also has written even more books on the presidency. he wrote "indomitable courage"
about hardship done johnson -- lyndon johnson which is widely regarded as a good insight on president johnson because it was taken from interviews and other discussions of people that knew president johnson. and then he wrote the book about the civil rights summit, "destiny of democracy." well, he's gone on to the write about two other presidents, the two bushs, the last republicans. it's wonderful to have him back. we miss him, and i just ask you to welcome to this stage john avlon and mark updegrove. [applause] >> how y'all doing? [applause] so we've got a little role reversal going on, because mark's usually the one sitting in this chair -- [laughter] but it is a total honor and
flight to be here tonight. -- delight to be here tonight for my friend mark's unbelievable new book, just out this week. >> thank you. >> it is a wonderful portrait of american politics and power but also the personal bonds of two extraordinary americans, two presidents which you frame as a love story. and it is. it's really profound. and i've got to say it's a not-so-subtle contrast to some of the things going on in our country right now. [laughter] but we'll get to that. [laughter] how did the idea come to you to write this book, and how did you land it? because, you know, that's a difficult negotiation, i imagine. >> well, i'll answer your question, john, it's a very good one. i just want to -- first of all, i want to thank you all for being here. it's so great to be home. i want my chair back, but -- [laughter] it's so good to see so many old friends, and the days i spent at this library are really the best of my career, and it's just wonderful to be back home in
many respects. [applause] thank you to my dear friend larry temple for that gracious introduction. it can only go downhill from here, larry. [laughter] and thank you to my dear friend, john avlon, for coming in from new york city to do this interview. larry mentioned that john was on the stephen colbert show earlier this week, which he was. there was a bit that john colbert did about my book last monday night, a week ago from monday, in which he took the cover and said this is the bushs looking lovingly at donald trump's poll numbers -- [laughter] among other things. [laughter] and it was this great little bit that he did. it was wonderful for a couple of minutes, and then i thought -- i was on the so much the world. and then john is a guest on colbert, and i said, that sun of a gun -- son of a gun one-upped me. if you get a chance to google john avlon and stephen colbert, you'll see his just wonderful hit on the stephen colbert show.
>> thank you. >> and you get a great sense of what a great mind we have in john avlon. to answer your good question, john, this was a story that needed to be written. this is the, you know, we've only had one other father/son president in the history of the united states, john adams and john quincy adams. and there was 24 years, nearly a quarter of a century, between the presidencies of those two men. john adams was in his last 16 is months of life when john quincy adams was in office. he was in quincy, massachusetts, a three-day stagecoach ride -- make that a six-day stagecoach ride away from washington. so he really wasn't able to be in washington to be any kind of influence on his son, son's presidency. but george h.w. bush was a spry 76 years old -- [laughter] when his son took the office. again, he had just been there eight years before, and he was in a position to be a real influence on his son's life. so this is a story that needed to be told.
and 41 agreed to do it if 43, george w. bush, agreed to do the book. i wasn't sure whether he would say yes or no. i went up to dallas. i knew george w. bush a little bit. he took the meeting, and i was shocked in the beginning of the meeting he said i've decided this story needs to be told, and you're the guy to do it. i was so unprepared, i didn't have a tape recording device. [laughter] and he sat there and put his feet up on the desk, and he fingeredded an unlit cigar, and he started talking about his dad. and i realized there was so much to him that was a mystery about his father, particularly his father's storied early years when he went to war as an 18-year-old, signed up for the navy to get into world war ii at 18, was in the pacific theater and shot down when he was 19. his life was spared, but the lives of his crew mates were not, and he realized that there was some purpose that he had on
earth that he was spared and his friends were not. he went -- decided to forgo a family pass to the riches of wall street and go to the oil fields of odessa to make his way in the oil business. bake a hud at -- became a husband at 21, became a father soon after. lost his daughter, his second child, before he was 30 years old. so these are amazing years that ushered him early into manhood. and george w. bush really hadn't talked to him a lot about it. so it was a wonderful privilege to get this story out of both of them in the intimate way that they were willing to tell it. >> and just the process of getting people to unpack, because these are, you know, for two figures who have this historic throwaway, they are not particularly given to reflection or psychological rumination. they really reject it.
they seem to be very in the moment, it's not particularly planned out. they've always rejected the idea of a dynasty. how did you get them, and what are your favorite stories about getting the interviews that you did to get them to reveal? because they are remarkably candid, unfiltered comments. i mean, some language we can't use in front of a family crowd. you know? but it's, you got them to really be reflective and candid, and what were some of your favorite interviewing stories about them? >> you know, it was -- i liked, again, the intimacy. >> yeah. >> i think they were -- they realized the story needed to be told. in some ways, they were revealing things about each other that the others didn't know. and that was the amazing thing. i would tell sometimes 43 something, and his dad would say, oh, that's interesting. i didn't know that. they're, as you said, john, they're famously circumspect. george w. bush, sometimes when he was getting introspective, would say, well, this is sort of
psychobabble, but with -- or and then he would tell me something that was particularly revealing. i remember one conversation with george h.w. bush in his very small office at kennebunkport, and he was sort of getting hard of hearing. it was just the two of us in the office. he was in his wheelchair, and our legs were touching behind the desk in his office, and he was talking about what he would have done with iraq if he were president when his son was president. this is pretty heavy stuff for an historian and, of course, that's the subject that we all speculate about, would 41 have done what 43 would have done. and he said, well, in the final analysis, yeah, i think i probably would have done that. it's hard to tell, but i think so. he's sort of laconic at this stage of life, but i wonder is that the answer from a former commander in chief or answer of a father who wants to protect
his son. >> yeah. >> i'm not sure he really would have done what his son did, but i think he was being protective. at that moment when he was thinking about his son's actions with the war in iraq, i think he was being protective. >> the extraordinary loyalty -- and this isn't kind of a family contriveance, right? this isn't kennedys don't cry. love really is a word they use a lot, and loyalty. and the family values not in the political expedient way of deploying that term, but the real family values they embody. w. talking about unconditional love from his father, that character and service and humility really matter, civility matters, the idea of responsibility that comes with power, that all of that flows from the father, prescott bush. how do you codify that tradition
in the family and then contrast it with some of the values we see in our politics today? because, to me, it is stark. >> yeah, it's dramatically different. the bushs, there is a family ethos. and it's palpable. >> right. >> when you're around the bushs. i think prescott bush, as you mentioned, john, he stands for civility and decency and putting service above self. and that was something that was passed through the bush family. george h.w. bush talks often about the lessons that he learned though at his mother's knee. his father was a great influence in his life, and i'm not sure he ever felt like he measured up to his dad in many ways, which is remarkable for the 41st president of the united states to say. but he talks frequently about his mother, and she would often say, george, don't be a brag attorney owe, you know? talk about the team, george. i don't care how many home runs you hit, george, how did the team do? did you win? because if you didn't win, it's
a moot point. and so that humility that is really the hallmark of the bushs in so many respects is clearly lacking in today. and not just from our commander in chief. it's lacking in our public discourse to a large extent. in the age of social media, it's inherently self-aggrandizing. but we talk about the father/son, if i could just talk about that relationship for one sec -- >> yeah. >> there's this great story that the elder bush told me about being with his son in midland when his son was about 3 years old, when george w. buzz 3 years old. -- was 3 years old. and apparently, he resulted in a fit of temper about something as they're walking along the streets. and george w. starts flailing away, almost cartoon style like a win milker you know? his arms -- windmill. his arms are just going 360 degrees. and he's trying to hit his dad. and his dad is keeping him at bay -- [laughter]
by just putting his palm on his flushed forehead until he tuckers himself out. and then he just stopped, and they walked along again. laugh and in a way, it's a metaphor of the reckless, you know, the young and reckless days of george w. bush because in some ways he tried to land a blow -- [laughter] with his dad and merv did. and ultimately, they just sort of walked on. his father always had faith that he would do the right thing ultimately and wouldn't bring up the, that ill-tempered moment, you know? >> but there's also, you know, let me press you on the fathering and the parenting, because there's some wonderful details in the book. moments where you could see h.w. leading by example. one example is w. walked off a summer job a couple days early, and, well, you tell the story because it apparently made a big impression on w. in terms of a
parenting style. and, again, it's a future president parenting another future president. it's both relatable and inherently historic. >> yeah. and it goes back to sort of the story i just mentioned as a metaphor. >> yeah. >> george w. bush worked as a roughnecker in west texas, and he made a considerable amount of money. he had agreed to work for, say, eight weeks, walked off the job in his seventh week because he wanted to spend time with his girlfriend. and he goes to see his dad, and his dad said you didn't honor the commitment that you made. i'm ashamed of you. i'm disappointed. and george w. bush walks out of his dad's office disconsolate. he's disappointed his father. that was his father's greatest weapon, to talk about how disappointed he was at any given point. he wasn't particularly emotional at any point, he never yelled at his kids, he never hit his kids, there was no corporal punishment in the bush home, but that expression of disappointment was the best thing that he could do
to sound a message that said straighten up and fly right. so that happens. he leaves his father's office, and then he gets a call from his dad later on that afternoon, and he said can you and kathy, his girlfriend, come to the astros game tonight? i have a couple of tickets. so he expressed his disappointment, but he also welcomed him right back into the fold. and that faith that he had in his son to ultimately do the right thing never waned. >> yeah. i love that that is the story that he carries with him. there's another fascinating one too where his mother barbara, they have a family intervention because he busts him for smoking at 17, and h.w. weighs in. >> h.w. weighs -- well, barbara bush, they take him out to dinner. he's at that point 16 years old. and it's up in kennebunkport, and george w. thinks, well, this is a big deal, this never happens. the parents never take me to dinner.
and as john said, it was an intervention. barbara bush said you smoke! you smoke! [laughter] what are you doing smoking? and george h.w. says, well, barb, you smoke too. [laughter] then the subject just kind of dies. [laughter] what i love is that sort of, you know, you can't lecture someone for doing something you do yourself, you know? there's just a bit of yankee, you know, common sense which is lovely. there's an amazing interview you did with, i mean, the interviews really are extraordinary in the book, but where w. really rejects in pretty pointed language the idea that he was ever a prodigal son. >> you know, and that was interesting. there are a lot of misconception ises about george w. bush and about the relationship that he has with his father. but one is this expedient narrative that he was prodigal son, the ne'er do well, the one who was never expected to amount
to anything and certainly wouldn't be the political heir apparent. that is just dead wrong in many -- there are aspects of it that are true. but, actually, he was quite auspicious in many respects. one of the things he said to me, and i've got to clean up the language a little bit. he'd said i chased a lot of tail, and i drank a lot of whiskey, but i was never the prodigal because i never left my family. and he never did. he always embraced his family. so, and talked about that, the fact that he made it on his own. one of the bush, the things you're almost expected to do as a bush is make it on your own. to achievement achieve some sucr own. to leave the nest, often strike out in a different place as george h.w. and barbara bush did, to make your own mark, and then once you can provide for your family, to go into public life and to put something above yourself. and ultimately, george w. bush
does that. but his family never leaves him. he always loves and respects and admires them. and i don't think he was as rebellious as some people think he was. >> yeah. i mean, there's some great anecdotes, and one of the great diss he has of the kennedy family comparison is we're not like them. the kennedys never had to work. [laughter] and i love that there was this sense of the bushs that, you know, that order existed. you had to strike out on your own, broaden your horizons, make money to take care of your family, and then it was public service. >> yeah. >> and there's a, there's a practicality and a humility to that that, i think, keeps them grounded and relatable in a pretty extraordinary way. so let's talk about the politics of the family too, because it's called "the last republicans" for a reason. there is this throwback quality to them. but there's a flow-through too. you look at prescott bush who's the grandfather, who's the senator from connecticut.
he took on joe mccarthy in the senate. i hadn't pulley appreciated that when h.w. was beginning his career, he took on the bier chers in houston. and there's this pattern of trying to isolate extremist elements but unite the party as much as possible. talk about that tradition within the family. >> no, and it's funny because it's relevant too because you can see a battle now for the soul of the republican party. there's nothing less than that. you can see these extremists going up against the establishment. but that's been true are in the republican party throughout its history. you have these radical elements that battle more moderate, a more moderate faction. and as you mentioned, prescott bush went up against joe mccarthy. he was one of those who censured joe mccarthy.
dwight eisenhower had great faith in prescott bush. in fact, put him on a short list of vice presidential candidates he was considering and thought that he should be president himself. he expressed that aspiration for prescott bush. >> no nixon people. [laughter] >> but he was extraordinarily moderate by today's republican standards. in fact, as you pointed out to me at lunch, he was the president of the planned parenthood chapter in his hometown in connecticut. >> yeah. >> so a very moderate force. when george h.w. bush throws his hat in the ring, it's as county commissioner for the republican party or in harris county, texas. and he's battling john bier chers, as you say, who are extraordinarily radical and virulent in their thinking. and they don't want an establishment republican particularly from the northeast to tell them how to run things.
george h.w. bush achieves the office, and he invites them in. he has the spirit of inclusion where he brings them into the party operation. he unites them by including them. it's a remarkable gesture and very emblematic of who george h.w. bush is. >> there's another extraordinary gesture and moment, and it's such a contrast to the way people pursue congressional office today. there's the fair housing act, and the letters from george h.w. bush's district, like, 500-2, they don't want him to support the fair housing act. and he writes in his, as you say, this is a character-testing moment. and he does what he thinks is right at great political risk. talk -- flush that out a bit more, because that's a key moment, and it's also the kind of character you don't see from congressmen today. there's an allergy to doing what they believe is doing the right hinge if they feel they're going
to get politically hit from it. >> you know, it's an amazing moment. john was here, he moderated a panel from our civil rights summit a few years ago which larry just mentioned. when george w. bush was here, i mentioned this in the introduction. he asked me not to introduce him. this is typical bush style, asked me not to do an introduction to him, but to talk a little bit about his father. again, there's the bush humility coming out. george h.w. bush campaigned for the senate in 1964 unsuccessfully against ralph scar scarborough. he was defeated, but one of the things he did was campaign against the '64 civil rights act which, of course, lbj signed into law. and demonized his opponent for having supported the civil rights act. flash forward four years later, george h.w. bush is a congressman from texas. he didn't get elected to the
senate, but he became a congressman in '66 and was reelected in '68. martin luther king is assassinated, and the 36th president, lyndon johnson, wants to sign the fair housing act into law, the third in his trio of civil rights laws; the civil rights act, the voting rights act and the fair housing act. george h.w. bush is under thunderous pressure the oppose fair housing act, but he's just been to vietnam, and he sees african-american soldiers fighting aside from, aside white and hispanic soldiers, and it makes a deep impression on him. if these men can go overseas to represent their country, put their lives on the line, surely they should be able to come back home stateside and live where they want. .. ,
talk about the tension with the rising conservative movement, even within the reagan administration. >> that reference to eisenhower is very pointed. he battled conservative forces as well. robert taft was competing with eisenhower for the republican nomination of 1952. there were very radical elements him outside to, but his sheer likability was enough of a force to carry him over the force, the prestige of the general who would help lead us through world war ii. that reference as a moderate is very pointed.
you have this northeastern pro-business republican on social issues. compared to today you would almost be a liberal compared to most voters today. he is sort of becoming, by the time he leaves the senate in 1962, george h.w. bush is a hybrid of sorts. he is part northeastern republican, like his father and his part of a westerner who has a slightly more conservative believe, but the conservative wing of the party never quite trust george herbert walker bush like they do reagan. it proves to be his undoing in 1992 when he violates his no new tax pledge and the radical right of the republicans is in sheer rebellion.
that proves to be his downfall. george w. bush is more a product of texas, and that conservatism comes far more naturally to him than it did his father were would have his grandfather. you can see that relatively conservative politics by 2000 standard is now relatively moderate by the standards of 2017. >> oh yes, the compassionate conservative is code word for hippie. [laughter] is led by his faith and leads to his conservativism but there's a lot of that cool hand luke swagger which i
learned from the book was his favorite at the time and how do you incorporate that counter counterculture cowboy. >> he sorta is. he goes back east and really follows his father's past two and over for his father and grandfather gone and where his father would also go. and then he goes to yale and onto harvard business school, but when he goes to yale and harvard, he is very much a texan. this is a guy wearing beat up levi's, chewing tobacco and carrying a spit-up in his hand, walking rounding cowboy boots. when he goes to harvard he's wearing his national guard
jacket to make a statement to the counterculture that dominates boston massachusetts at that time. certainly overrepresented on the harvard campus. his father runs for president. is it possibly because he didn't want to embarrass his father, he takes our love and loyalty really serious and makes a significant change that probably changes the trajectory of his own possibility. he's very involved in the campaign, plays the enforcer with access, learns about politics but there's an extra moment where, after his father wins, he asks staffer by the name of david wade to write up a fairly lengthy report about presidential sons, and it is kind of a despairing document. it basically says, shut up and keep your head down. you can't succeed or fail without reflecting.
mediocritmediocrity is really a win. he clearly reads it and internalizes it and says, he turns the card table over and says i'm not going to follow that script. it's amazing that when he asked for and what he discards entirely. >> it's an amazing moment. >> game for mediocrity approach that was allocated by looking at the live presidential offspring, he had real aspirations and ambitions. i do think as he said to me, the bushes are not particularly introspective people, but he said to me there was a certain sort of expectation. what he meant by that is that i was never over. he never said hey junior you're gonna do this or that. justin happen that way in the bush family.
but to borrow his words, you would make something of yoursel yourself. there were some about i was tasked and some of it that was self-imposed. he was ambition ambitious and it took him a long time to find his way. both he and his father are products of their generations. that explains some of the differences. george w. bush was a member of the greatest generation pretty signed up to go into the navy, much to his father's chagrin. his father wants him to go to college and become an officer and then becom go into the service. he decides he wants to get in right then when his country needs some and he comes back, doesn't talk about it, doesn't rebel, he's very much in keeping with his generation. george w. bush, on the other hand, while he was in the hippie place on the campus of harvard university, typically
in the late 60s, early 70s, didn't give him space to find himself after college. he didn't impose great ambitions on himself. he kind of wandered around. he said i didn't have many possessions i didn't want any possessions, i didn't want to be involved with anyone or tie down and i think he really just gave himself time to find himself. >> the remarkable character studies, even outside the remarkable parental relationship so 41's presidency ends in a loss and it's painful and it's painful for the family and the healing seems instructive and then w gets into the game after serving as governor of texas and this is what's interesting. you've got w as governor running for president and jeb is now in politics two and the
father writes a note saying there's going to be a time where you need a beer on man and you really called on to criticize me and it's okay. i know you love me no matter what. >> it's a document unlike anything else i've ever read in terms of the real generosity of spirit and politics. >> you are so right. >> is a mention, george h to be bush gets defeated in 1992 by bill clinton, leaves office after one term in office. he's incredibly dejected, really doesn't know what he's going to do next and george w said it wasn't exactly depression, but it was deflation. his father hadn't finished the race that he was running any kind of has to find himself again but one of the ways he does that, one of the things that really galvanizes him is that his son gets into
politics, both run for the governorships of their state in 1994. it's expected that job will win the governorship in florida and it sort of expected that george w will lose against the very popular and richards here in the state, of course the opposite happens. that's the surprise in this family. it's not that people expect tangible win because he's a political air or he has skills with smarter, it's not bad at all. it's up a look at the races and richard is a formidable candidate. >> barber actually says you're going to lose. >> she says, and richards, you're going to lose, and it didn't matter to george w. bush. it didn't matter. that's the other thing that his father teaches him, that failure is not failure because you can learn from it and that's exactly what had happened to him.
i'll go back just for a second, this is a guy who throws his hat in the ring for the presidency in 1980 and has very little name recognition and he gets defeated by ronald reagan ultimately, but they don't both emerge as the front runners after some tough primary campaigns and reagan outmaneuver some which is almost literally what happens and he goes to the convention wanting to support ronald reagan like his mother would want, you extend a hand, whether you're defeated or lost to the person who you think wished or were defeated by, and he thanks at the end of his life in public service and he gets a call from ronald reagan, against all odds, asking him to be his running mate. so defeat wasn't the feet. it led to something else. george w. bush throws caution to the wind and he knows he's going to win.
ask laura bush about the sprint i said did you think he was going to win. she said yes, i never had any doubt that i don't it was just hyperbole. i really do believe she felt her husband have that will to win. the public lives of jeb bush, ultimately jeb bush loses the race for the for the governorship in 1994 and goes back to win in 1998 so his getting into politics and george w's getting into politics gives george h.w. bush renewed life. >> total renewed life. >> and when the sun is elected president after that for the recount and handles it in a really interesting way, he basically, w delegated to jim baker and just kind of checks out fatalistic way, but the great pride the father feels after the first inauguration, i was struck by his civility in his inaugural, which in the again is not a term we are
hearing very often in our politics today. they're very tight with the president, president bush 41 reputation as being the great statement, the policy leader, nobody expects them to be that. he campaigns as a domestic policy president and then 911 happened and iraq happens and then what's really fascinating to me is the apparent split, not public but private tween 4143 played out through proxies. the two big things are when brent, bush 41's national security advisor writes a memo or an op-ed in the journal that's interpreted as being the criticism of the president and jim baker's, and then their utterly different interpretations about the relative power of dick cheney. without fault line itself is so personal as well as philosophical, massive
implications for our country in the world. dig in a little bit on those fault line. >> this is, as a historian, this is what you want to know. what transpired between these two. not the story that we thought it was. john is referencing an op-ed written on the eve of our going to war in iraq and it appeared in the wall street journal in august 2003. the headline is don't attack saddam. i believe that was the headline. >> is 2002. >> thank you so much. >> don't attack saddam, and there's great speculation that the old man has talked to his pal, his national security adviser asking him to come forward with this op-ed to reflect his own views and to tell his son how he feels.
that's not exactly true. that is too much of a shakespearean imagination to be actually true. what happened was he called the elder bush and told him he was thinking of writing the op-ed. it speaks volumes about george each to be bush that he doesn't stand in his way. he feels that as a loyal public service and a great american has earned the right to express his opinion even though it might oppose the current policy stance of his son. so, he sends a copy to george h.w. bush "after words" as a courtesy. now, george w. bush is hopping mad about this. he calls his dad and he says essentially, what the hell. what happened here. his father says, he is a friend and george w said some
friend, but again it says something about his dad that he wasn't willing to stand in his way but he's hurting in some ways because he knows it hurts his son. he is trying to do the right thing on all sides. i'm abundantly confident that george h to be bush did not see that op-ed before it was written. >> what about the retrospective fight over cheney, because this gets really personal. obviously he is 41's defense secretary. he comes out and says in one of your interviews, just criticizes cheney in very personal terms about the power and then w comes back and says that god doesn't make one decision. it's really fascinating to see the split in the family over whether he grabbed too much power. >> yes, i think that george w. bush goes to the white house,
as you said, with a clear understanding of domestic policy, and he wants to be the education president. that all changes on september 11, 2001. he knows he's going to be a war president. he knows that's what is going to define his administration. he doesn't know a great deal about foreign-policy but he feels he has good people around him and i think he has enticed by the notion that dick cheney articulates that you can democratize or you take out saddam hussein who's been a thorn in the side of the united states including his father, george h.w. bush and democratize iraq and have this transformational effect on middle east. in some ways george w. bush emulates not his father as president, but ronald reagan. he admires the grand vision that reagan had to defeat very unambiguously, soviet tyranny. i think he's intoxicated by that notion. as we know now it was a
botched experiment and it becomes american adventurism, but cheney has this great influence in the administration, what barbara bush told me is that george had great faith in the cheney and in george w to make the right decisions given the intelligence that he was getting and george h.w. did not intervene in his son's presidency in any direct way, but one of the reasons that he doesn't intervene, that he doesn't say junior you're doing it all wrong is because he understands the office of the presidency. he also understands he doesn't want to be another burden. there are so many burdens inherent in that office. he is not going to be contributing to an additional burden for his son. but, i do think he has
hesitations about the direction that dick cheney is taking his son. >> and that he move really far right and then w really bristles at the narrative, but even shared by his family that cheney was too powerful. >> but is true, if you look, george w bush is the self proclaimed decider, but those who know george w. bush no that he has this almost natural confidence in his ability to make decisions and he can hear in a very quick study, he can hear things and coalesced them in his mind and spit out of decision and it's usually a pretty informed one. so this very notion that his mother believes that he's not making his own good decisions that cheney is this puppetmaster pulling the strings of his presidency, he finds that utterly preposterous and he says to me , to borrow the phrase that john just used, cheney and
rumsfeld never made one decision. one of my friends in the audience and i love the fact that you got to say the f word on cnn, but that shows how strongly he felt about that misconception that we had that somebody else was making the decision as president. >> and that it runs to the family, fighting that narrative even in his family. so fast-forward, it's 2016, george w. bush is the world's least likely folks painter. donald trump is running for president against jeb. around the time it looks like he's going to scare the nomination, w uses, i wanted him to be the last republican president. was that the inspiration for the title and your interviews with both 41 and 43 about trump are withering. i believe you broke the news of the book that 41 confirmed
he voted for hillary clinton which is like no one so, talk about their comments to you about the rise of trump. >> the disparagement of their brother jeb and then what that means for the republican party. what was the republican party. >> the title came in the spring of 2016 before george w. bush had purportedly said to aids off the record, i may be the last are public and present. it was very clear to me that regardless of who won the presidency in 2016, there was a kind of republicanism that was dead. when he said that, i remember talking to my wife, i sort of hit my head and i thought now i can call it that.
but we had all the more reason to call it that. he said the same thing to me. i may be the last are public and president. if you think about donald trump, he is absolutely anathema to the bushes. george h to be bush campaigned under trying to create a kinder gentler nation. george w. bush campaigned under compassionate conservatism. when we were attacked, even after 911, george w. bush resist taking the path of least resistance and sending this message of xenophobia and nativism and instead visit the mosque to emerge and say that islam is peace. it's quite remarkable by today's standards to take this further, if i may, if you look at ronald reagan, ronald reagan is the republican icon. he is the emblem of republican and he's called the great communicator. what is his most famous rhetoric, is standing at the
brandenburg gate and saying to his soviet counterpart, mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. america at its best stands for both literally and figuratively tearing walls down, not building them. and then you have donald trump. [applause] , if i could take it just a little further, just look at ronald reagan's policy towards the soviet union which was trust but verify. when he was talking to gorbachev during those famous summits during the course of reagan's administration, he would say repeatedly, trust but verify. so much that he got sick of it. in fact he stood on the stage and talked about how sick he was of ronald reagan saying trust but verify with donald trump, his policy toward russia is trust.
trust felt. not trust his own intelligence apparatus. that is remarkable. that is absolutely astounding that a republican would say this whole business about russian meddling with our election is over because my counterpart denied it. think about it. that sound you hear is ronald reagan rolling in his grave in simi valley california. >> john was just on steven colbert. you articulated this so well. talk a little bit about your views. >> actually, we might've' to switch chairs. this is very deflected for me. but, honestly, you had spoke very eloquently about your views on the republican party. i would love you to share that with the audience if you would. >> sure. look.
if you look at the party of lincoln, that is a nice notion , the party that george h to be bush announced that he would be the inheritor of trying to lead in 1980, lincoln, teddy roosevelt, eisenhower, that party does not exist. if you are a member of it you are politically homeless at best in the ultimate irony is the base of the party of lincoln is in the state of the confederacy, but it's more than that. it's about conservative populism as a constant force right american history that the republican tradition, the bushes represent were a check on. it's a about civility as a virtue and about service and humility and being part of something larger than yourself. it's not about, it's not our worst instincts. it's about appealing to better
tomorrow's. the politics we've seen from donald trump are the opposite of that tradition of the lincolns, teddy roosevelt, eisenhower and bush. it is all about me, not about we. it is about attacking the people you disagree with, not trying to unite the nation. civility and freedom are literally words you rarely, if ever hear from this president, let alone embody. and the freedom part in particular. this is not a freedom administration. this is not a virtue. for w who constantly tries to make that word the cornerstone of his second and our rural and his foreign policy, the word freedom is absent from the rhetoric of the said ministration as a virtue and about you. >> as our human rights, by the way. >> absolutely, so, what were watching is a major role reversal that has left a great american tradition and the people who follow it fundamentally, politically
homeless including the two presidents who led this party within living memory, and i think the question becomes, is it a weak style moment where party sells out the principles to achieve power and ultimately receives neither. is there a broader realignment that will occur? are we really a three party system in our heart. radicals reactionaries and reformers, not simply liberals and conservatives, but the animal spirits are out and i think the virtues, and i mean that word both personally and politically that the bushes exemplify at their best, and you can criticize them on policy and were all in perfect human beings as they would probably admit. those virtues seem to have been lost for the moment in our discourse to our great detriment as a country, as well as republican party. >> when i talked to the bushes about this, you mentioned many
headlines couple weeks ago the bushes coming out for the first time publicly on their views and i got those interviews before donald trump became president and i think it's important to mention because the bushes would never talk about any president, republican or democrat and disparage them while they were in office. they have too much respect for the office and the presidency. again, they both know the burden that that office covers. >> all the march trainer that of you cannot give a speech run two or three months ago without naming trump. >> true, but he did talk about trump is him, the trump era, more or less, and i think were seeing around the country, which he finds deeply disturbing, protectionism and nativism and some of the things you have talked about. >> because of the 1924 immigration act in one of your interviews which i was stunned
to see him drop that because that was unexpected. >> america first i kind of expected the 1924 immigration act which restricted non- western european immigration, that was and would deep cut. i was impressed. >> as i mentioned, george w. bush is far more, i think he's far more intellectual than people give him credit for. one of the things he does very successfully throughout the course of his public career is he keeps expectations low. [laughter] >> no, i'm serious. and, in fact, when he is flying to iowa to announce his candidacy for the presidency in 2000, he said welcome to low expectation airline, please keep your expectations stowed. mrs. wonderful thing that he said, but go back to the bushes and their feelings about trump, george w, one of the things he said was that
when he is asked about what makes a great leader, he says humility. that's a hallmark of great leadership. so when donald trump said i am my own advisor, he thought wow, this guy doesn't know what it means to be president. george h.w. bush was a little bit more blunt. i saw him in may of 2016 on the day that john kasich pulled out of the race so we just had donald trump who was pretty clearly going to win the nomination battling against ted cruz, anti- moderates, to say the very least, antiestablishment politicians and, actually, i was the one who told him that kasich had just dropped out and i asked him about trump and he said you know, i don't know him, but i don't like him
and i'm not excited about him being a leader and then he said he's a blowhar blowhard, but the most resounding statement both of those men made was not a statement at all. well, it was a statement but it wasn't verbal. it was by casting their first ballot, in george h.w.'s case, casting his first ballot for democratic candidate. he had never registered to vote for a democrat in his life. george w. bush voted republican down ballot, but abstained from voting for the president. >> which is remarkable. especially while i think they've all kind of adopted bill clinto clinton. >> they call him a brother from another mother. i think 41 almost feels like he's become a father figure to bill clinton in a funny way,
but those feelings haven't necessarily translated to hillary, but still she got 41 spoke. she got his vote. >> he thought she actually did a good job of secretary of state managing that relationship between bill clinton and the clintons. as john said, he went up to kennebunkport, and marvin bush who is the least known of the bush offspring, but probably the funniest said hey, my brother from another mother. that's what he called him. >> slab became the nickname for him. but bill clinton has had a lot of sponsors in his life, a lot of mentors, but the really hasn't been a father figure so it's touching in a way that the man he defeated for president would become almost a paternal figure in his life. >> and on and on this but i feel like i got to ask it. because 41 is such a father figure too so many, and he is so revered and so respected, some of the allegations coming
out now about inappropriate grabbing, we do ourselves a disservice when we combine it with some of the other scandals we are seeing in our society but how do you reconcile reconcile those things, a man of a different era and time? >> you know, if you look at the character of george h bush, it doesn't square at all. he's an older man, we had heard that he did things like that, frankly it was a bad joke. i think if he believed he was really offending someone he would not, he probably would not have done it, but there might be other revelations that come out, the man we know now is not the man of yesteryear. he sits in a wheelchair and
poses for a lot of pictures. these are all people who have posed with him in quick meet and greets and he sits here and often, it's kind of awkward where his hands are. i think we probably have to give him the benefit of the doubdoubt there's no revelation that came out about george h to be bush doing something in 1992, i don't know whether there's any. >> to cnn. >> again, it's so out of character for george herbert walker bush. >> i think the word character is the key word as we sum up, one of the lines that keeps resonating to me in our particular lyrical era is a movie from paul jim pulp fiction and it's just because you are character does and you have character. >> but i think, in the case of w, he had both. i think it is about character and values and a love story,
unlike any other in american political history. do you despair of it being a museum piece or do you see a possible resurgence of this great american political tradition? >> you know, i hope that the tradition of civility and humility and decency and putting something above yourself thrives in america. frankly we don't see much of it in washington today but we shouldn't despair completely. we are seeing so much of that throughout the rest of america. there are plenty of examples of that. i hope it is restored to the oval office. this is an office that i revere. i was a steward and had the great honor of being the steward of this institution for eight years, and lbj, i say this respectfully with my
dear friend lucy johnson is in the front row, lbj is a flawed character, but, as president, he subordinated his own concerns for those of the nations, and he did so admirably. he promulgated a great society which i think is a foundation for modern america. that kind of service above self, that kind of thinking about the greater good, that east coast is what makes america exceptional. i don't think we've lost that, but i would like to see it returned to the highest office in our land. >> thank you. thank you so much. [applause]
[applause] [inaudible conversations] this weekend cspan city tour takes you too springfield missouri. we are working with media come to explore the media seen in the history of the birthplace of route 66 in southwestern missouri. saturday at noon eastern, on booktv, author jeremy neely talks about the conflict occurring along the kansas missouri border and the struggle over slavery in his book the border between them. >> 1850 john brown, having left kansas comes back to the territory and he begins a series of raids into western missouri during which his men will liberate people from
missouri and help them escape to freedom and in the course of this they will kill a number of slaveholders and so, the legend with an notoriety really grows as part of the struggle that people locally understand is really the beginning of the civil war. >> then sunday at 2:00 p.m. on american history tv, we visit the nra national arms museum. >> peter roosevelt was probably our shooting as president. he was an avid hunter, first thing he did when he left office was organize and go on a very large hunting safari to africa. this particular rifle was prepared specifically for roosevelt. it has the presidential seal engraved on the breach and of course roosevelt was famous for the bull news party and there is one in grade on the
side late this done. >> watch the city's tour of springfield missouri, saturday at noon eastern on c-span2 put tv. and sunday at 2:00 p.m., on american history tv on c-span three. working with our cable affiliates as we explore americ america. >> author julie is next on book tv. she talks about her expenses growing up biracial in america. this program contains language some may find offensive. >> hello everyone. welcome. we are so glad you are here tonight. we just have a couple of reminders, first of all, all the books are downstairs and julie will be doing a signing at the very end so if you could buy your book downstairs and then come up and she can do the signing for you. al