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tv   Peter Baker and Susan Glasser The Man Who Ran Washington  CSPAN  April 21, 2022 10:26pm-11:28pm EDT

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mean what you say and do the consequences. >> there and biographer welcome. [applause] >> good evening.
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i will be the interrogator at the session peter baker the chief white house correspondent author of six books including obama bush and cheney and white house and thed staff writer at the new yorker during the 2016 election cycle and founding editor of politico magazine and the author with her husband peter baker of vladimir putin's russia and presently writing a book so we all waiting in great anticipation for that so
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let's welcome peter baker and mabel sit down to a conversation. [applause] >> welcome. i want to begin with a quote from george orwell writing a book is a horrible and exhausting struggle like a painful illness. one would never undertake such a thing if they were not driven on by a demon you can either resist nor understand. i w want to understand what demon drove you to spend seven years on jim baker?
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>> there is no relationship? >> there is no relationship. >> so thank you to everyone for coming out today it's wonderful to be with you especially someone who really knows that the biography is meant to be i would say there are two different answers to that question and i could interpret that as what spent seven years on the book or what demon writes any book i have a slightly different answer. actually we never intended to spend soo long on this project and that was a consequence of unpleasant recent events in the capital that left us otherwise engaged. but speaking for myself, if you're going to do something
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with the book project like this one with washington itself from the end of watergate so my rationale is a better view this together so i'm lucky to have a partner in all things. >> so we found baker fascinating because not just his own story and reagan chief of staff and five presidential campaigns that would be extraordinary but the historyt was the story of washington so it wasn't just the jim baker
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story and the era that contrast today with chris matthew and tip o'neill so radically different that to capture that and that was a long time before donald trump w came along it was already broken my time got there. but we start 2013 when obama was president and to be so dysfunctional. >> i love this book it taught me things i did not know about the reagan presidency and how power works in washington and it is a classic story of the man behind the scenes and the fixer and the guy who makes
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things work and pays attention to detail and a story about the establishment so there is a notion that looks at the washington establishment my first book was a biography of the predecessor of james baker who was known of the chairman of the form policy. but this is another generation so this is a very conservative lawyer who is associated with a lot of controversial issues but i can sense from your
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narrative from the old establishment from when things work. is that true? >> there's a lot to unpack but the interesting thing is that almost everybody comes to washington as an outsider. and who do you think of in the establishment now? think ofns the clintons. go back and read how many stories in 1993 about the crude outsiders come to town who don't know their way around. and it is the nature where you say what do you do? why did you come here? nobody is assumed to be from
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washington so we are attracted to this book because we have the opportunity in the very unique nature of baker's career to write about washington from different vantage points running different campaigns but the secretary of state at the end of the cold war we were in moscow together so we wouldto have been interested to write a book about that. but what we discover is he did not even get to washingtonhe until his forties so actually the world's most successful cmidcareer change he was a conservative lawyer from the family not just of lawyers but k his son and grandson and great-grandson that were
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pillars to help build the institution of that city. with a very constrained world with an act of rebellion and the chairman at the establishment jim baker incredibly unlikely treasury secretary, asking a question with the theory of offshore balancing and a sense of what he brought to it so one of our early interviews like the russia hand to ask about the soviet union and i said when you were at princeton he looked at me quizzically and he said is i had a tennis
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coach and actually it's an interesting story what they call the white russian and his family had fled the russian revolution and this guy becomes almost like a second father so that brought me back to earth so and establishment figure by inclination he did go to princeton and not an academic and elite to boomer. >> and nearly chapters of the book he painted a picture of a young man and then just to
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float through life and is what his father wants him to do and yet he emerges midcareer and then five years later he's running the white house. it is ann amazing transformation and it's a hard line w and so look at the sources and the methods. and then you have biographer a different task for someone who's not there to defend themselves. w
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and then amazing in his prime. and this is not an authorized book. he did decide to cooperate with us. it's akin to your jimmy carter book we will talk about tomorrow. and papers that have never been seen before opened to the public them interviewed his nanny. she is passed away 107. we interviewed both bushes and president carter and then to control lesser the book.
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and a maybe we didn't understand it. >> and then handled. >> we were worried about that. >> because contemporary us. and then as a biographer. >>nk and then to understand very well you don't get to write the book yourself and then to do a big doorstop of the book. >> and the other memoir is
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more livelier. and then with a million speeches and the like and then you need an independent work of history. and then to hold that array of jobs. and then absolutely and then say what the secret of his success and then to practice prior preparation.
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and then to be very well prepared. and extreme competitiveness and then that self-confidence is part of what made him to engage in fully competent on the tennis court and that's what he formed his relationship with george h.w. bush. and that is the beginning of his political odyssey. >> and in the late fifties and early sixties and what makes it so extraordinary what
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president are secretary of state have ever been close before? they are than practical. choices or may be a viable like hillary clinton or barack obama. these two guys were friends so much so his first wife dies of cancer. the one person he confides in i haven't told this to anybody not even my mother children or to my wife. 1969. she knew by the way but to say my wife is dying of cancer want to spend the next few months making her as
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comfortable as possible. this is big and strong and powerful. that doesn't mean they love each other all the time. and then maybe you should not have had to affect. and then you and then bush was baker to come back and then only very reluctantly and then ndpush the sign was very that are at baker to not do more. a
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and to know where it moves in the day that george w. bush dies and was standing there and then rubbing his feet. and that has different than the modern times. and not the political animal in texas. and then he has been brought toan washington. and then brought into the white house.
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and to call it the sh it detector. is that a good description? and his cousin said and that became the cover of time magazine. and the smooth fixer and then incredibly hard-nosed. and the very partisan things that he a did.
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and then to be ultracompetitive. that almost a compulsive thing. and then proclaiming himself and that's part of his wiring. and then there was a route to success that goes through making deals. and that george w. bush was president democrats controlled at least one house of congress. and baker understood that dealmaking and then dealing
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with soviets that margaret thatcher was as big of an obstacle and then is at the moment? and then they say we need jim baker they are just fundamentally different than they were at that time. and then to be smart about politics that then he could not overcome the structural shift with the situation we are in now. >>co let's discuss the
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controversy. the debate gate and the stealing of jimmy carter's. that may not have happened if appointed and part of caspar weinberger and others involved in the iran-contra cover-up and then empowers leanne atwater and with that hardline politics. in the 1991 goal for the
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election in florida. it is an amazing list. [laughter] >> i cover that in 30 seconds? >> and then religiously determined so the first to have arr james madison baker and then not to embarrass the family and what he may or may not have had a hand in it was particularly good to keep a distance. and with his own friends and the bush family. but it mattered to him to be anything suggested untoward
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and then with a a biographer jimmy carter and no reason you should it turns out the carter campaign prepared for the debate against reagan it turns out the person who worked for a ted kennedy went to the reagan camp i read the debate book. and then dirty tricks. and then baker gets brought into it. but then he is lying in a matter so much. and when we are interviewing him and susan baker his been married to p him today.
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and then the death of a grandchild. and then to think of it one way or the other. and it tells you so much of politics and it was a little bit of an act of rebellion and then raise the 88 campaign to think as a' partisan actor and his place in washington today added time when he was working anymore but was partisan both he and george h.w. bush did have a few politics and that you were meant to fight very hard. and bush himself radiated
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that. and then he seemed more comfortable with a thousand points of light and that he authorize. and the governor of massachusetts. and then the un-american figure and the barrage. and a very close advisor said ththat baker doesn't do regrets. he could not say anything basically my record is my t
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record and this is the only thing that he ever said to us. and then take it back and then to say this is great but his strategy and so here is my record. and then toet say well i have w been authorized and that was the independent expenditure and then the record shows who first court and in the primaries then it was the bush campaign that lee atwater to be associated with michael dukakis.
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and then why is a promoter and advisor and then to say how much politics has changed. this is the only way decided they could when a campaign for sureun defense. and only at the convention. the only real way for bush to ntwin that was a pragmaticer decision but what happens after the election talk about a different moment.
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andd then in the democratic speaker of the house how they will and the support to take this incredibly divisive issue that has been one of the most polarizing for policies with the entire reagan presidency off the table that's the deal that he had to do to help in this regard and that's that is the nominee. and not extremists on policy.
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and then he enjoy the dinners andsh frequently even though the paper was critical of his administration. and that social scene and how he operated? >> and then to say pragmatic or practical he doesn't unless there is a reason to and recognizes take a hit today but come back tomorrow with a better story. and then to publish things they did not like. >> he was a social by spending a lot of time at the office but did not like social stuff. and a canny operator in washington.
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and then who would win the forth.n and so and thenhi the campaign could be rough-and-tumble but then it would be over. but the purpose at least for bush baker was to get the power so theywa could do something. it was in the the all and end all. and then to do something of interest. and then to hear governance and then to set up issues to bash the other guy. and those that in six of the
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12 years indn the senate. so why would he said there? >> and then to talk to democrats. and as secretary of state he actually barred netanyahu from entering the state department. >> that's actually one of the k best stories that netanyahu clearly failed to understand baker in this story was told to us by tom broker one —- tom brokaw who later covered baker and then became friends with him at the ranch out west and told the story then a young deputy foreign minister netanyahu came to washington he askedw, brokaw to go out to breakfast and explained the
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secretary of state to him. and tom brokaw took them out to breakfast and said what you have to understand about jim baker is he likes to huntni turkeys so you wake up at 4:00 a.m. and you smear your face with makeup it is freezing cold. and you sit there for hours and h hours and hours waiting. and then when is the right moment and then they blow the head off. [laughter] that's very scary. >> he infuriated baker there is no other secretary of state i can think of over the last two decades and netanyahu gave an interview in which he said and then accusing the united states of free chanting and
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baker called ambassador and the long as i'm the secretary of state, he's not allowed to meet with me, with anyone in my department. he is band. know, you don't understand like he's the, you know, deputy foreign minister of israel. can we please and you know, only baker and now the politics of israel were different at that time and both baker and bush, you know, actually were not at all hesitant to publicly criticize the israelis for building settlements and for taking actually this is all really about the settlements and the us pressure. absolutely the relationship to republican party israel back then was so different like bush is the last republican president who took israel on on things that would be unthinkable today for republican presidents and that was done with jim baker
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that was done and baker was accused of an anti-semite. he did say some things that were quoted about what he said that made it sound anti-semitic so he took aue lot of heat for that ad we explore that in the book but inh any case he says he is a friend of his royal. it is a tough sell. so, let's move on to a little bit more contemporary history. i understand jim baker tried to advise donald trump during the 2016 campaign to sort of move to the center. >> that wasn't one of those better deals. >> it was no deal.
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he was at nancy reagan's funeral. nancy asked him to do the eulogy and in the back room he's talking with newt gingrich and the former prime minister of canada and george schultz i think it is and they are talking aboutt this new guy storming the republican primaries, donald trump. baker says something he's not come to regret but a lot of people would say is not the best analysis. i kind of think of him as a little like reagan and the sense that he was entertainer and is seen as an outsider. they are not the same person by
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any stretch. that communicated back to trump they housed it together not too fare' away and jim baker gives some advice at that point they had paul manafort working for baker at the 76 convention and one reason or another he goes to meet trump but he is smarter than a lot of i characters becae he recognizes a lot of people go to meet with trump and then they spin t out they got an endorsemt that he didn't want to endorse thisis guy. they didn't like him, didn't want to endorse him so they brought in a memo saying here are the things now that you have this nomination to win the general election and they include things like reach out to thee middle, stop saying these crazy things and so forth. stop talking about an arms race. all these things politics would have been obvious but trump rejects all of it of course.
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that is the last time baker tried to advise him i think they may have had some communications. he did recommend rex tiller's and for secretary of state but that didn't work out so well either. >> the bottom line is he votes again in 2020 so a lot of the leaders ask about that and say i don't understand that. he's not an ideologue and not republican until his 40s, so why is he so stuck that he would vote for donald trump, he told us in our interviews and the funny thing about this a lot of our interviews took place with trump on the scene and the interviews would get past germany or the middle east and they would be about trump. we watched him over five years of struggling with us because he's a given his life to the republican party and here he is tearing it apart.
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he is trashing nato into the concepts baker and bush stood for. he thinks this guy is nuts, crazy but he voted for him and we think that in the end that's important because it tells something about how is the party and raising a guy that they don't like, that the establishment found and anathema and yet they stoodd with him. >> he was ultimately voting for a man that was also trashing the bushry family so that is a mystery. >> i think that actually is something wherero i think theres hard feelings among some members of the bush family. if there was ever a public figure whono had an out not to vote for donald trump it would
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have t been jim baker associate. he had this easy way out and we struggle again and again a few days before the 2016 election. he said i think i'm going to vote for trump. everybody doesn't want me to. i kind of flooded to go and then i couldn't let it go and i came after it in our back and forth i
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said. he looked agonized i have to say it was interesting he said haven't done it yet and we kept circling back to this issue for the subsequent four years. and i think ultimately i said if the subject of your book is tellinge you something over and over again giving you the same answer you have h to listen to him. i and when baker decided after telling us he was interested in joe biden and he would consider supporting joe biden, the revision to the partisan sort of median, the partisan norm in the comfort zone i think it told us not only about where the republican party is and ultimately if you look at the results it is as much about the partisan identification as it is about donald trump and for jim
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baker and the key voting bloc in the country it wasn't about who adonald trump is about who they are and about their identity and his view of power, which i think is a view that you have to exercise from the inside that in his mind if you're on the outside you are just a voice howling at the wind and the only way to exert influence is to be on the inside. now, a lot of people even a lot of people i would say who aren't sure that that was the right decision, but it's one he doesn't do regrets. >> both the responsible center in american politics have disappeared i was thunderstruck by that.
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this is a terrible admission and it explains sort of where we are today. it's a terrific book. everyone should read it to be able to understand how power works in washington and our politics and i want to thank also the leon leavy center for biography, which i interact. at this point it is a quarter to and we should return to the q-and-a. i'm sure we have plenty of questions. i will try to get to them all. >> i read the book. it was absolutely fantastic.
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i read about things i've totally forgotten, so it was terrific. i wanted to ask you about you are talking about the decision to back trump. folks like baker and the bush family has been pretty silent since january 6th and they were silent except for his one comment when trump said i needed to james baker but he didn't condemn the big lie. he said why is that. >> i did do an interview for him. and h in unsparing terms. look, he's a 91-year-old guy that is living in texas. i think part of the explanation
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is he doesn't feel his vote is one thing that he doesn't feel responsible just to be clear he was absolutely unequivocal in terms of condemning the big why not only on january 6th but also the falsehoods about the election that led to january 6th and it's interesting to watch someone wrestling with absolutely keeping the same set of principles and convictions that drove him in public life or even in private life and yet being unwilling to disavow his votes for someone who would portray and convey this level of falsehood.
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maybe he's provided not a predictable ending to the storye and which he can be a sort of resistance he wrote in a way. >> four years itrs takes 40 yes before it gets into politics that suddenly you join the political game. what is it that was so fundamental about him that he makes this decision a part of me thinks that it's not enough to explain the friendship or rebellion.
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there's something fundamental. what is that. >> it's a great question. thank you. you're right. the family history at that point was anti-politics. they had a saying in the family work hard, study and stay out of politics. that was the slogan and for generations they more or less t did that so baker followed that course and wasn't particularly inin the course that was fascinating looking through the archives. in the great depression and world war ii and the kennedy assassination and mccarthy and ntanti-vietnam and the civil rights movement and there's no reference in the letters tos the afamily. we ask them aboutrt it and they couldn't remember a particular moment about what happened. he was very apolitical. he was getting bored and other
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big dollar clients. by the time 1970 comes around he wasn't excited about anything and was watching his friend run for office. he had run for the senate and the house twice and one and i think that he was beginning even before his wife passed away to toy with the idea of running for the house seemed george bush was going to give up to run against the senate. he explains why he isn't going to round for the house but after, w he is lost. she told us that she would find him just staring out the windoww and he told us if there's ever going to be a moment i was an alcoholic that was the moment. he was devastated by his wife's
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death. george bush says to him come work on my campaign. it will help you with your greasy and he found he loved it. youus find that one thing you he a passion for and you grab onto it. the wife's passing was a way of starting a new. >> confession time, i haven't read the book either but i want to. hearing you talk about jim baker's career and trajectory and until he actually gets to power, hearing all of that in 2021 is a no-brainer.
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my question is is there anything that can be applicable to the career or is it just look how things used to work and now there is now. >> individual agency matters. that is part of the take away of the story and the structure of the politics matters. we can talk about it and chris can tell you better than i can in the 1980s when jim baker was at his height, half of the states had delegations that were split. there were democratic senators that voted republican or vice versa. this was a country where there
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were competitive elections within states and parties and he was apolitical but he also came from the south from texas at the moment of transition so he understood because he was surrounded by people that switched their party identity. he himselfif was an indifferent southern democrat who became a republican when george bush came to houston. the family was republican and that was a transition baker made in his own lifetime so politics wasn't a fixed identity or as tribal on the national stage because it was in the middle of changing and second of all, you know, it's also a story about the world were changing. peter and i come to this in part because we are interested in the
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end of the cold war which turned out to be an exceptional period we didn't know it at the time that someone said to me when we were working on the book 1989, november 9th 1989 i'm sure in this room you remember that not everybody does that was the day of the fall of the berlin wall and it changed the world. we made a s lot of assumptions about that day and what it turned out to be and they were wrong by the way. including the idea that we moved past the superpower rivalry to think about the assumptions about russiaom and china at that moment in time versus where we are talking about the new era. so, why read the book i would say it offers the chance to consider what part of the politics is because of bigger factors and where can individuals make a difference.
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i do think to the answer here the issue of why baker, why did he stay in politics, why was he so good at it versus other people. he was a dealmaker and i think that required bigger stages. we sell the ability to make deals. he was good at politics but that isn't what he loved. he wasn't looking at redistricting ten years from now, the building blocks. he wasn't considering who can i get to run in the fifth district, two election cycles. he was good at politics. what he wanted to do and loved doing is making deals. in retirement when you are the essence of the person we loved when he would tell us these stories for example, the leader of the episcopal church in texas came to him and said we have a hugel problem.
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all of the southern episcopal churches want to break away from the national episcopal church because of same-sex marriage and the leader of the texas church didn't want to break away and guess what, jim baker brokered the deal and texas is the only state that didn't to break away and he did exactly what he did with of the soviets. essentially gave them longer time to get used to the new reality and that is the deal that he brokered. >> good evening. i have to confess i haven't read the book yeter but it's on my bucket list.
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i was curious i remember reagan once quoting that he is smart enough to know so i'm curious given the fact jim baker was from george hw's camp and was less than ten years from that somebody that as you indicated wasn't a scholarly student, codidn't know about geopolitics and took on these high posts and chief of staff for both bush and reagan's administration, secretary of treasury and was secretary of state. youro think reagan would have selected somebody from his camp for decades before that from his ownty camp to take on those poss as opposed to george hw's camp
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so i was curious how he managed to rise over people that would have been more qualified. >> that is an excellent observation to campaigns the 1976 and george w. bush primary. so baker had been on the other sideid of the divide twice. reagan inse many ways because people like michael dever and spencer did not want ed meese to be the chief of staff and thought he was a good guy, they liked him a lot but would be a
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disaster because he was a man who was known as a piece of paper went into his briefcase it never came out again. he didn't want to be a disaster to the chiefee of staff so they convinced reagan and he said i will take him. whennt is the last time you can remember a president taking someone who ran to campaigns against him as his number one aid so he's more pragmatic than people remember and baker quoted not once but a thousand times reagan always said to him -- he was an audio log obviously but i would rather get 80% of what i want them go over the cliff flying myo flag and get nothing so while baker took a lot of heatgh from the crowd, the conservatives thought he was kind of a moshi sellout but the truth was baker was operating as reagan wanted him to do and led to the. other job because he was shown he could do it.
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>> thank you for the insight. >> thank you for the great questions. you have been so kind with your praises of the book and believe me he is a master class so for us it is a great honor to be with you. >> a great conversation. thank you very much. appreciate it. [applause]
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at least six presidents recorded conversations in office. here many of them on the new podcast presidential recordings. a season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you will hear about the civil rights act, the presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries new because they were tasked with transcribing the conversations in fact they were the ones who made sure the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and there's. >> you will also hear some blunt talk. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on the day he died into the number assigned to me now. if mine are not less i want them less quick. if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i won't go anywhere i will stay
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right behind these black gates. presidential recordings, find it on the c-span now mobile app for wherever you get your podcasts. >> the world has changed. today fast reliable internet connection is something no one can live without so ketanji wow! isthere for our community e than ever it all starts with great internet. wow! wow! along with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service.
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house and senate members continue their district and state work periods. the senate will be back monday . lawmakers are expected to debate federal reserve nominees to serve as vice chair and also lisa cook who if confirmed would become the first black woman to serve on the federal board. when congress returns we will have live coverage of the house of course on c-span watch the senate on c-span2 and online on or with the free video app, c-span now. >> welcome to an evening of interesting things in brooklyn and jersey city. thank you so much for being here. it's beyond important for everyone to support local businesses especially coming out of the times we have been coming out of the last year and a half, everybodyeciate coming especially virtually if you couldn't have been here real life.


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