tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN April 1, 2015 7:52am-9:01am EDT
was not overly concerned about whether we got a civil rights bill. when you think about it that's not very much of an accomplishment. what i mean by that is that the 14th and 15th amendment stated much more clearly than the civil rights act of '64 and voteing rights act of 1965. if we wanted a clear statement of the fright vote, we had it. it was passed 150 years ago. why did we need a voteing rights act? because we didn't obey the clear language of the constitution. so i think that when we look at ourselves honestly i think the one quality americans have more than anything else is self-confidence. it's misplaced.
we think of ourselves, we're the richest nation, the freest nation and never put those statements to a test. so we have a very inflated notion of our capabilities as a democratic society. i think if king or lincoln were around today, lincoln for a different reason, i think he was a skeptic about -- it was all in god's hands anyway. >> you can hope, he's big on hope. >> i was going to say the questioner wanted a practical suggestion. i'll just say this. take advantage of the fact that certainly for the generations that are here now, the lincoln memorial is not just about lin lincoln but also martin luther king. we should encourage that and the
whole idea of monuments is to cherish and keep alive and promote what they represent because it's human nature to become complacent. >> maybe i'm more optimistic than you. i admit to that. you sound a little dismal here about where we're going. >> to think of it as an experiment. >> i can tell you that the general rule of us all is that we are more liberal and better on race than every one of our parents and our kids are better than us. it's just a fact. my kids -- kids don't come home and say i have a black teacher at school. you don't know the guy is black until you go to the pta meeting until they bring it up. my kids don't think it's true.
i insist on ethnicity because race is a stupid word we're all in the same race. i think it's gotten much different. we will have more intermarriage. i don't know if the walls of geographic segregation are going to drop. they haven't dropped yet. there's a lot that hasn't changed. >> chris, i would agree with everything you're saying except that one thing that is true is that johnson and you're a political expert johnson in 1964, won by a landslide. that is the last election in which the majority of white americans and the majority of black americans have voted for the same candidate. it hasn't happened since. it's not likely to happen in the lifetime of any of us up here. >> i guess i'd say i'm hopeful and where i agree with lincoln is i think slavery is still deeply embedded -- the legacy of
slavery is still deeply part of our national problem. we keep on telling ourselves -- we keep on these moments we say, like when you go through therapy and think you're well and you discover 10 years later you have to go back into therapy. slavery feels like that to me in america, it's an other problem -- at best we'll be in recovery from slavery, i don't think we'll ever be held as a nation from slavery. >> let me go to another question. this is just looking for trouble here. who made a larger impact on modern society? lincoln or king. i don't know what the purpose of this is. somebody wants a little fight here. what do you think? who wants to pick up this calibration? >> i look upon jefferson lincoln and king in this perpetual dialogue about democracy. one without the other doesn't really make a lot of sense to
me. if you look at lincoln's draft you know the declaration of independence in the way in which later on, rincon has his commentary on that king has his commentary on lincoln having a commentary on that that's the american dialogue. you can't take one of them out of it. king's speeches don't make any sense without lincoln or jefferson. >> it might be the bad american habit of always having to know who is the biggest or what is the longest. >> have a contest. >> yeah. >> let me ask you about what seems to be behind this being experts about these two gentlemen, what was it that they didn't say? let's start with the more recent dr. king. no start with lincoln.
he said, all we wanted to do was prevent the expansion off slavery. that's all he politically knew he could do because they went get to the point -- they would get to the point about slavery, used the constitution. >> what was lindon's goal? inequal inequality? social integration? did he ever intimate what his dream was or for a good country? >> i think he was most of the time, mat he once described as behaveing like a river pilot in the mississippi river, it's such a treacherous river, but the pilot can only steer from point to point because the river will have changed since the last time he was there. lincoln said i take my cue from them. in other words i take one step at a time. when i get to that point i'll see what it looks like down the
river. i'm thinking so much that way, it's hard to say. one of the things, there's a pint gare point gary makes or hints at he doesn't describe, doesn't say anything about reconstruction because he hasn't gotten any farther with charity for all and mallace towards mallace. that's how we're going into it. he doesn't have a program and getting a lot of flak from his first feelers, the soldiers who fought, we have to let them vote and ones educated now reason to not have them vote. why can't we start there? >> he's put out something in the way of race relations and improvement. he doesn't have a program. hasn't drawn ufp a bureaucratic
arrangement how it will work. he steers from point to point. he is a big vision man if malice toward men and charity at all is a big vision which i think it is especially if you can say it in a way people can't forget it, then it can stay with you. other people can use it. this is what he said was the reason writing was the greatest invention, said if somebody writes it down then it doesn't matter if it's forgotten for a thousand years it's written down, and the person who can use it 1,000 years later finds it where it's written and goes on. i think that's the kind of think thinker he was. >> but he knew -- african-americans knew, he knew people who came from slave
backgrounds capable of high intellectual ability. frederick douglass he coiled converse and very sof fistcated terms with people. sounds like he didn't have any sealing on black potential in terms of white potential? any sense of development? >> he didn't really talk about this. you have to kind of intuit it from his attitudes. he's professionally closed mouth mouthed. all his friends talk about this. not even his friends know his deepest thoughts. i don't have to tell chris matthews that when a politician opens his mouth nothing but the truth from his heart comes out. >> i know. [ laughter ] >> abraham lincoln was a politician. >> he knew how far he could go. >> yeah. >> dr. king do we know if he was a socialist or have any
ideology at all? >> he was not a politician he wasn't very good at that because he was a visionary. the goals that he had in mind one of the things i vininvite you to do, there is -- in the latest book, "martin's dream" i have a chapter about the love letters he wrote to coretta when they were dateing back in 1952 and you get into the question was he a socialist? yes. he was a socialist a christian socialist, an anti-communist socialist. definitely a socialist, that's what they wrote love letters about, discussing bill ging bill lammy and looking backwards. one of the things he says is let u.s. work together to have a warless world better distribution of wale.
these are obviously the things all of you wrote in your love letters, right? [ laughter ] it's very clear -- and by the way, it gets to the question of whether he's a politician, coretta kept those letters under her bed until 1997. that's why you probably don't know about the letters. can you imagine what would have happened to king's career if a letter was published, i look forward to the day when there's a nationalization of industry he says in one of the letters. all of these things in the context of the cold war in the '50s that would have destroyed him as a leader. all the suspicion. i don't think j edgar hoover made a distinction between socialism and communism.
that would not have been one of the distinctions he would ever make. king was someone in favor of the kinds of changes we are still probably 100 years. that's why i like bellamy, basically a science fiction writer about america under 2,000, right? he missed -- he was not a very accurate science fiction writer neither was space odyssey. >> well, we lost mr. spock this week. >> yes. >> dean, i want to ask you about something because i don't think you're right about something which is we should have a national discussion about race. in my experience every time you bring it up the room goes cold african-americans and whites, mostly african-americans are very uncomfortable about this discussion and what it is about in day-to-day terms is bigotry,
not liking the looks of the other person. people don't like talking about it because it's embarrassing to everybody. you can't get a it on tv. let's talk about the intellect intellectual aspect. people pull back. >> maybe we're really finding that -- >> help me here. >> obviously i'm sure it makes bad television. my experience though, i have been in conversations about race with -- you know, with a diverse group of people that have been carefully moderated and they've been very transformative live-giving conversations. they are hard conversations. but i don't know how we -- and maybe the national conversation about race is the wrong phrase. that's the president's phrase. i do think, though, we've got to find a way as a society to engage these questions, the difference in bigotry and everything because otherwise it just keeps on coming back up
to -- i mean, i think i was surprised about the amount of rage in the shooting this summer, in the police-involved shootings, both in ferguson and i agree with you it's kind of a buzz kill kind of suggestion but we've got to -- i think in this society we can't go very much farther forward just not talking about it or dealing with it. or limping from crisis to crisis. >> i want to run all these questions by everybody. can you please comment on the writing process between lincoln and king, how did they go about themes of structure especially in relation to theological thoughts. does that grab anybody? >> well, lincoln has the reputation, you know of being a guy who writes his speeches on
envelopes. that came -- that story came forward in a fictional thing at the turn of the 20th century and it took such a hold on the public, it just won't let go. but on the contrary, he was very very deliberative. he was what i call a prewriter. if he had an idea he would put it down. if he thought of a phrase, he would write it down. you also always cooking the next message, the next thing he wanted to say, working on the idea. then he waited for the occasion. so if you think he wrote his letter to greelly after he got attacked by greeley no way. he was ready with that answer. compact and made to order as it seems, he made it that way. he did this with all of his writings that i've been able to track.
he also liked to -- he didn't think it was done until he had read it to somebody opinion you would think he could get that by reading it to himself, but he said no, that doesn't work. one time he got senior statesmen, old man blair or somebody like that, tell me what you think of this. but one time he had to send it off. it was a letter, it was summertime. he sat down with the clerk in his office and the clerk said, do you want me to comment on it mr. lincoln? he said no, just listen to it. i have to have somebody just listen to it. so what i'm trying to say is he was a very, very deliberate writer, far more deliberate than people think. thinking ahead not buying taken by surprise. ready with a phrase ready with one of his wonderful antithesis.
without it, i cannot fail kind of thing. when you start tracking it, he spent a lot of time just writing. no visitors this week. i'm working on my message. i -- i just can't emphasize too much how much time he spent as president writing and how much good he did with these things. but the way in which they add up, not only for getting things done in the 1860s, but for the service it's done for prosperity. >> king found it very difficult to write. every one of his books was a struggle. i have all these letters between him and his publisher and it was clear that he was struggling to get it done and he asked for
help oftentimes to get it from his friends who will take on a chapter pep rarely wrote out his speeches. what his great quality was his memory. if he ever heard a speech or read something and there was some nothing of insight in it he would pull it in. and it would go into his brain and it would stay there until he needed it. probably in the middle of some sermon, but he hasn't -- one of the sermons that i felt he gave at a visiting to a church, he had the program. he's on the program. on the program he's writing out his outline. when he's sitting up here on the stage, he's writing some ideas out on the program and give us up and gives a great sermon. that is something that he picked
up by listening to some of the great orders in african-american history. benjamin phase, gardner taylor, all these people who were his models or oratory. so that is what made -- >> it's like the letter from birmingham jail which he wrote without any access to books and it's full of quote -- direct quotations and indirect quotations from an astonishing array of sources which had to mean -- >> actually maybe if he hadn't been in the jail, he wouldn't have had the time to actually concentrate. because he didn't like doing it but i guess when you're in jail you have nothing better to do right? >> someone has written a question in the following way. comparing to trask, the approach
of lincoln and king to today's political leaders on issues of one, economic justice, two social justice, three, war as means to settle problems. >> what economic social and war -- >> war, peace and war. and compare their approach to today's leaders and their approach. >> i readily read the speech which got him into a lot of hot water with people because he said the three great challenge challenges to american life were racism materialism and militaryism. i think it's clear on war and peace issues, king and lincoln -- lincoln lamented the cost and bloodshed of the war, but lincoln was obviously the
commander in chief. whereas i would think king was much more of a peace person. so that would be clear to me. i'm not sure about the other ones. lincoln not an ideal -- >> well certainly obama and kennedy and you have to say reagan. they could give speeches with profound importance. they could say things philosophically and we remember it and we could argue about it. i personally think obama was the best in my adulthood. he's unbelievable. but he's lost his ability to connect. i guess it wears out these days. it's hard to keep connecting with people for a long time.
people stop listening after a while. is there a duration? that people are willing to give you these days? >> to me the most interesting speech obama gave was when he accepted the nobel peace prize. he has that picture in his office of king and gandhi and i'm not sure who else was in the picture, but it's some -- obviously something that's very close to him. he writes about this in his books, about how influenced he was by king and gandhi. when he gets the prize what does he have to say? well, i'm president now. and i remember for myself being very critical of him because he said well, they didn't have to deal with terrorism. which i thought was laughable. king died because of terrorism
and gandhi what is colonialism other than terrorism? so what he was basically saying is that if king had been elected president in some miracle, he would have had to make the same kinds of compromises. and that may be true. it may well be that one of the things about being the president of a modern nation state that has a monopoly on violence at least it's supposed to that's one of the things we're discussing is now terrorism you have to do what you have to do. and your basic job is to protect -- protect the nation. and, you know, i think that's one of the things that perhaps all of us face when we look at king and we say we admire him.
but do we really believe in nonviolence as a principal? well, i think most of is would say yeah, i do as long as they're police that have gun toes protect me and the military who have guns to protect me. so maybe we're all hypocritical in that sense. >> i think, you know, in terms of the connecting issue, as a preacher i would say that with rhetoric the ability to speak involves an ability to connect with your audience. and to empathize with your audience. and i wonder if modern presidents lose that because of the isolation of their office. i mean king you know was connected with the movement, people he was with. lincoln, lincoln was much more connected to the average person that is than any modern president would be.
and i just don't know that a modern president remembers his audience very much after six years in the office. >> so true. especially when your audience is being coninfected everywhere you go of loyalists. so they're going to give you the response you have to get, whereas you campaign, you have to sell people, you have to get with them on their terms. you have to go find them. >> that's right. >> and that's the challenge. >> anyway, this has been a great nice. i am sure we could go on. and i think these questions are great, especially to compare and contrast. especially an academic person who is here. but thank you. it's been an honor with you dean. thank you, dr. carson, dr. wellson. i've learned a lot tonight and i hope you all have, too. thank you very much. screeria -- nigeria.