tv Presidential Leadership - Lessons from History CSPAN December 16, 2018 10:55pm-12:01am EST
learn more about lawrence at other stops at c-span.org/ citiestour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. next on american history tv, qualities discuss the of character they believe are essential for presidential leadership in challenging times. much of the discussion with journalists david gregory focus on president lincoln and president roosevelt and world war ii. the council of foreign relations posted this event as part of their ongoing lessons from history series. david: i'm david gregory. i am so happy to be able to join you tonight. what a great opportunity for me to be part of this conversation with these two wonderful historians. what i have the opportunity, i
love the have the chance to talk to them about presidential leadership lessons from history. ,that is what we are here today tonight. we will have some discussion among the three of us and all of this will join in the discussion to celebrate and lift up dora's timely book about presidential leadership and to reflect on presidential leadership in the broader lessons in history. i do want to point out that this is an on the record meeting for those of you who care about that. as i said, and about half an hour we will open up to q&a from all the members. there are two folks that need very little introduction. "leadershipook is in turbulent times," which i have a copy of. i think you can get a copy in the lobby as well.
jay, april in 1865, the month saved america, and "1934." the former historian and president here at the council on foreign relations. thank you both for teaching us and enlightening us and making history so much fun to keep learning. we can all drink to that. i wanted to frame this by asking you both, is presidential leadership a distinct thing? is it something we should think of as different from leadership. >> clearly there are things about political leadership. you have to go to the electorate. you have to deal with congress, the supreme court and the checks and balances. if you think about leadership is mobilizing people in your team
and within your organization within your country to a set of purposes, i think it is human nature. it is whether you have the humility to acknowledge errors and learn from your mistakes. that is relevant in business, whether you grow in office. whether a not you have the resilience to get through losses. whether or not you have self reflection. whether you can laugh at yourself at times there whether you have a sense of knowing how communicate to the people you need to. it could be a business person. shareholders, employees. whether or not you can control your emotions. all of those things, i think, whether you can find time to relax and replenish your energy. the things i think about for political leaders, i think leadersvant to aspiring , it is what is leadership but
dealing with people? the framework is different. you don't have quarterly reports if you're in the government. you don't have shareholders in the same way. matters if- it still you have the emotional intelligence to deal with the team. >> in presidential leadership, you had -- lincoln was probably the earliest to think about whether this whole idea of popular leadership was going to work. jay: one of the things lincoln really saw early on was the stakes of presidential leadership or political leadership are different from all other walks of life. you are talking about war and peace, the fate of the people. whether people live or whether they die. if you think about lincoln for a second at the start of the civil war, consider this. nobody could have been less prepared to be president, to preside over this great civil war than lincoln.
he was a one-term congressman, a failed senatorial candidate. he had virtually no military experience. he had no executive experience. he had moved to a depression so great as he once put it he said that i fear carrying a penknife. when fort sumter was about to happen he had to make a decision. do we negotiate or do something tougher? do we end up going to war? this is a unique province of presidents. lincoln in a sense was the first one to have to do that. david: the stakes are so much higher. it is the sense of presidents have a greater sense and calling to sort of define the destiny of our country in a way that others don't? doris: i think something happens sometimes when a person becomes president and they are aware of the other presidents before them.
they are aware some things they may do maybe he remembered over a long period of time. i think they start thinking that way. the best presidents are those for whom ambition herself starts when they start running for office and becomes something larger. an ambition for a couple she something that will stand the test of time. that is when you get a good leader i think becomes a great leader. when i think about the difference between lyndon johnson for example, he had developed -- gotten there from the beginning. he sought power and had a massive heart attack while he was majority leader. just having been done six months before. he asked himself the question, what if i died now, what would i be remembered for? then he went in a different direction. then he went for civil rights in the senate and then obviously for civil rights when he got to the presidency. had the war not cut his legacy in two, he would be remembered as one of the great domestic
presidents. when you think about what he did, it's extraordinary. ranch was down at the working with him on his memoirs, he talked about that. once you get there, there is something different. the first thing you get done, if it really makes a difference, you think i can do this. maybe i will do the next one. we do not know what that feeling must be like to have made a decision. the other side is you have people in a war and people are dying. you have to bear that legacy. i think you are right. the stakes are really different. david: they come to realize after a while after having these massive egos which is what enables them to run for president but eventually they realize they are part of something much bigger. much grander, much larger. they are just one link in a chain that stretches back to history. if we go back to lincoln for a one of the things that lincoln second, thought about, why would he go to this terrible war that would consume so much time,
bloodshed, and effort? he thought this was a great instrument started by the founders anyone its rivers -- and he wanted to preserve that experiment. david: imagine you are lincoln and you are sitting in the oval office. he is president, he is looking out at the washington monument in its construction. which is such a great metaphor. this thing is still coming together. the country is still coming together. we are seeing if it will all work. we had to think about all of the leaders, all the presidents that you profile here. these were touch and go moments. this whole enterprise was going to sink or swim. doris: we think we are living in the worst of times now. just imagine what it was like for abraham lincoln coming in as jay knows, there is a question of will they be able to hold together? 600,000 people are going to die or even more than that. he said he was not sure if you knew what he would have to go
through in those first months in office, he could not have lived through it. he thought the anxiety would be so great. or even teddy roosevelt when the terrors of the industrial revolution were much greater than the technology shakeups today, a working-class was in real rebellion. they cap between the rich and the poor. they were nationwide strikes violence in the streets. , it was unclear whether or not democracy would survive. of course when fdr comes in if , you are living in that period of time and your savings have been taken away from you and you don't have a job, there is a guy who wrote to fdr saying once he got there he made them feel better. my roof fell off, my dog ran away, i lost my job, but you are there so i will be ok. somehow he was willing to take that responsibility when it was unclear whether capitalism would survive. even lbj coming in when racial tensions were escalating, there was no thought that there would be a bill to desegregate the
south. the assassination had taken place. people thought it might be a conspiracy. we are living in a complicated time but i think that is what history can tell people is there is a perspective and reassurance that we went through these times but we had the right leader. david: that is one of the questions. does history make the man or does man make a history? the kind ofdership, leadership that will leave historians like both of you to write about these figures hundreds of years later, is it the opportunity that is born of crisis? jay: i think it is the opportunity born of crisis. but more than anything else i would say man does make history. the leaders do make history. it is impossible to think about the civil war without thinking about abraham lincoln. it is impossible to think about the civil war or the emancipation proclamation, the first inaugural, second inaugural without thinking about
abraham lincoln. it is impossible to think about the birth of this nation without thinking about george washington. we were talking about this earlier. when washington was facing this potential uprising among some of his officers because he thought they were not being paid enough, i thought about instituting a coup. they went to washington and he said let me address your grievances. he pulled a sheet out of his pocket and he was about to read it and all of a sudden he said excuse me gentlemen, he reaches in and does something they had never seen before. he puts on glasses and says 'pardon me. it seems that in the service of my country i have not only gone gray but i have gone blind.' on the spot, these potential plotters began to cry. they were so overtaken by the emotion of the moment. and you see washington talking about preserving the moment of this nation. david: a symbol of sacrifice?
of leadership? doris: i think the opportunity makes a potentially great leader because the crisis and challenge has to be overcome. it can also be produced by -- they can also produce great failure to think about buchanan before lincoln, he was considered until a few weeks ago president in the presidential legacy. that is not me speaking. that is presidential historians. in the last poll, president trump was below buchanan. the great story and his paper was the beginning family was celebrating. they were no longer the bottom. [laughter] think about herbert hoover before roosevelt when the depression had started. he had a more fixed temperament. he did not have that optimism or willingness to experiment that fdr had. mckinley probably could not have done what teddy roosevelt did had he not been assassinated, we might have had a less
progressive and more conservative movement to deal with all the turmoil to deal with. i don't think jfk could have gotten the civil rights bill through. this was a southern president who understood the congress and was calling up the congressman midnight.:00 a.m., he says i hope i didn't wake you up, the senator says no, just looking at the ceiling hoping my president would call. [laughter] if the congress was not there he would talk to the wife, or the kids. tell your dad he's got to go along with me on this bill. i don't see who else besides him could have together the majority with the republicans helping him to break the filibuster. david: can you both address the broader idea of emotional intelligence. you use that phrase in the book. the ability to master narrative for the country, to be a great storyteller. this was interesting because you write about lincoln this way, but we think about in the more modern history with lbj. having a sense of what people need. not the country.
what lawmakers need and what the country needs. and why that contributes to great leadership. doris: the first part of your question, i think it is true, what the leaders provide is a story for the country. people need a narrative. lincoln was asked why do you tell so many stories? he would tell funny stories but he would also tell stories in all of his great speeches. this is where we have come from on slavery, here is where we are now and here was what we have to go. he said people remember stories better than they do facts and figures. i think it is hardwired in our brains, they would tell stories from one generation to another. to provide a narrative to the country but then to be able to figure out how to get the people around you to go along with it. it will take a lot of deals, pragmatic stuff, being flexible, as it was for lincoln to get that cabinet to go together with him on emancipation. they did not want to at the beginning.
david: in the modern context we talk about president trump, hardly a man of the people. yet, has a common touch in ways that can confound people. reading about fdr you think about the same thing. this parturition background but he was able to cultivate a sense of what the working men and women wanted. jay: he would give these fireside chats for example. people out there who were destitute hungry, poor, who in , many ways had nothing left to live for, he would speak to them in such a way that it would touch their heart, head, soul. they felt that when they heard him, they had a friend who was looking after them. doris: what he imagined in his mind was he would picture was a shopgirl behind the counter or a mason, construction worker, he was talking directly to them. they talk about walking down the street on a hot chicago night when one of the fireside chats was on the air. you could look in the windows and people were sitting looking at the radio.
you could hear his voice coming out to the street. you could keep walking and not miss a word of what he was saying. there is the story of a construction worker coming home early one night and his partner said where you going, he said my president is coming to speak to me to my living room tonight. i think the bond fdr established with the people through the fireside chat, they felt he was their friend. when he died the "new york times" reported strangers were hugging each other. they said my friend is gone. one person wrote it was amazing that one person dies and 130 million people feel lonely. that was the key to his leadership. he understood he had to create a bond to take them through the depression and then through world war ii, but he used it to educate them. fireside chats are pretty needy. they really talk to about the banking crisis. i had forgotten it was the first fireside chat until i did in
that put it in this book the banking crisis was where people were taking deposits out of the bank. banks had closed. he called the bank holiday -- euphemistically named the bank holiday. he got a week until they were going to open again to figure out a banking bill to shore up the weaker banks and keep the stronger ones going. he describes why the banks did not have enough money. he tells them the reason they do not have the money is because when you give your money it does not go into a vault. it goes into mortgages to keep the economy going. some of these banks invested in the stock market and their money is gone. but they would get the currency. he ends up saying it is safer for you to bring your money back to the bank, i promise you, then to keep it under your mattress. the banks open next monday and everyone is terrified. well they come and take the money out again? long lines. they are bringing satchels to bring it back to the bank. it is amazing that you wouldn't -- would trust a leader that
way. jay: we sometimes forget how difficult the trials are that they are going through. when we look back at history, some of these things seem inevitable. if we look at lincoln for one second, as late as 1864, this was almost a year after the gettysburg victory, there was a battle of the wilderness. in this battle -- the first battle of cold harbor, within 10 minutes they would lose. the union would lose 10,000 men. over a six-week span, the union would lose some 56,000 people. that would be as many as we would lose in the entirety of the vietnam war. while this was happening lincoln was pacing the halls of the white house. his hands were behind his back. his eyes were baggy. he kept repeating to himself, almost like a mantra, i must have some release from this anxiety or it will kill me. it almost a kill him. but when the country began
crying for his head and saying grant was a butcher, they were calling for peace. general mcclellan, the former 1864, general ran against him on a peace plank. somebody said you have to get rid of grant, he is a butcher. lincoln said, i can't spare that man, he fights. they can peer over the horizon and see things that we cannot see. david: are these leaders and doris, you are writing about lincoln, roosevelt, fdr, teddy roosevelt, and lbj. are they visionary leaders? i use the example of steve jobs in the context of business and technology. he was able to see things that we wanted and needed that we could not see. do you think these are men who had that? doris: lincoln was later asked at one point did you ever think we might lose the war?
he said i did not think that. he envisioned somehow -- i don't think he knew how it was going to happen. i think about lbj, the first night he comes into the presidency, he is lying on a big bed. three aides are watching the assassination coverage afterwards. that night he says i know what i'm going to do what i get out tomorrow. first i'm going to get a tax cut passed. i will get kennedy's tax-cut that has been going to the congress. then we will get the economy expanding. then i will get the civil rights bill to desegregate the south. then i am going to get voting rights. everyone should have the right to vote. people recorded this, he said that i will get education. every kid should have the education they want. finally i will get harriet truman's medicare through. by god in the first 18 months he , figured out the timing of each one of those. the selma demonstrations affected the voting rights, but he had a vision of what the country might be like with a social foundation that expanded
with the new deal was. i don't know that they all have that. i would like to go back to what you are talking about. i think we forget the anxiety of these people and how they sleep at night. the way lincoln could sleep in the midst of that terrible worry about the war, he would read a funny shakespeare comedy and would go to his aid and read it aloud so he could laugh when he went to sleep. thinking about something funny rather than the anxiety of the war. when teddy was worried about winning an election and whether he might lose or not, he would write dozens of letters to his friends and family saying don't worry, if i lose, it is fine. i have had the best run of anybody. he would not have to feel pity from the people if he lost. fdr, when he couldn't sleep at night, he had this amazing ritual where he would imagine himself a young boy once more and his sled would go down the hill. here is this paralyzed man
imagining sleds. lbj could not sleep. that was his problem. he would go to the situation room and worry about whether he made the right decision. he said he envied truman who want to make a decision on the information i had and i don't second-guess it. he was constantly second-guessing. david: we talk about these men of destiny and purpose and unity, but what about this raw ambition and insecurity? i think of lbj and he was trying to finally measure up to these brahmans who had been in the ivy leagues. he carried that insecurity. teddy roosevelt overcoming physical frailty in a different kind of point with the dawn of the american century. what talk about the lofty ideals. what about the base insecurities and the ambition and ego involved? who they were and what they did?
jay: i think it is clear, to be president you have to have all of those things. i really believe the presidency is a transformative experience. maybe not the first day, first week, maybe not the first year. at some point most major president get hit by some event of such cataclysmic proportions that if they realize they have to be stewards of this nation. they become stewards of the american dream. you see that whether you are looking at presidents 150 years ago or to this day. i wrote in the "wall street journal" that donald trump, and i don't know how right this turned out to be. i wrote that when he gets into office, he will feel there is something much larger and grander than him. as a result, it will be humbling. but it will kind of stitched him into the fabric of this thing called the united states. doris: where ambition comes from is still a mystery. think about it yourself. if you could ask yourself where
did your ambition to become what you became start? sometimes i think it does come from insecurity and the desire to get back at something. when i did an interview with president obama, i asked him about his ambition. lincoln amazingly at the age of 23 said every man has peculiar ambition. mine is to be esteemed by the fellow man. did you think that way about your ambition? he said maybe mine was to something to my absent father or maybe because of my race i wanted to prove something. i think for lbj it was for the desire to prove something. sometimes it is you were so confident and you love being the center of attention, you want to replicate that. they said about teddy he wanted to be the baby at the baptism, bride at the wedding, and corpse at the funeral. you are so used to that, being at the center, then where better to be at the center?
jay: fdr was overturning something started by george washington himself. it is interesting when you think about that. with george washington, after his second term he decided he would step down and it was going to be something quite unique in the annals of history. transferring power peacefully from one person to another person. when he did that, king george said if you do that you will be the greatest man in the world. that is exactly what he did. of course with fdr, he thought he would be the greatest man but a fou- term president. such it is with egos. doris: no. 1940's, western europe had been -- he thought they did but they probably did. if there had not been the war that had already begun in europe, there is no way he could have won a third term or even run. remember when he decides for the
fourth term, he was ill and it was a real question in history. d-day had not happened yet when he had to decide. the war in europe was not over. there still was going to be terrible battles. he still wanted to figure out what the peace would be. i think it was that he loves to be there and did not want to leave it. which was true for teddy too. 1912, he can't bear not being there. you would rather them a love it. my husband once was clerking for justice frankfurter. he was not so happy about a young john kennedy because of the father. old joe kennedy he said to my it he said to my husband you tell that man of yours -- he was going to leave and work for jfk , my husband that the only , presidents that are any good are those who love the job and take joy in the job. jfk said to my husband you tell justice frankfurter i will love the hell out of it. [laughter] there is something to that. he have the attention
to be able to get fulfillment from it and feel joy in the exercise of people and being with people during the day. or else i think it will be impossible. david: we want to hear from our members here in the moment. we talked about the qualities of leadership. doris, you write about perseverance, overcoming adversity. start there and also view identify the other essential quality that makes a leader. doris: think about lincoln, that first time he ran he said in the same statement to people i don't know whether you will vote for me essentially. i have no popular relations to recommend me. he had to scour the countryside for books to get any education he had. only 11 or 12 months of full schooling. he said if i do not win this election, i will not be too much disappointed as i am familiar with disappointment. his life had been so hard. but then he said i will tell you something. , i will try five
or six times until it gets really humiliating. then i promise i will not try again. [laughter] he overcame so well before, he loses two senate seats and becomes a dark horse candidate for the presidency. teddy roosevelt, he had asthma so he had to make his body. he learned to come from a timid , almost invalid child to become that strenuous person he became. also, when he loses his wife and mother on the same day, his wife gave birth to a child and died in childbirth. the mother had come take care of the mother and child and she died of typhoid fever. in his depression he leaves the state legislature and becomes a man of the west. he said he never would have won the presidency if he had not moved from the elite person he was to a man of the west. we know about fdr, he emerged much more warmhearted, able to deal with other people because
of polio. ernest hemingway said everyone is broken by life and afterwards some people are stronger in the broken places. all of these guys were. jay: there really was something to them that i think is indefinable. we can talk about perseverance, we can talk about tenacity, we can talk about intelligence, emotional as well as practical. why is it for example that some residents can win lose of a able wars whiles others lose winnable wars? why is it that they can take people to do things they never thought they could do? why is it that they can take an international setting and change it around? if we bring it closer to date with ronald reagan and the foreign-policy establishment our , relations with the soviet union should be characterized by peaceful coexistence. or detente. it was a 40 year conflict most
people thought would go on and on and reagan comes in and everyone thinks he is a nuclear cowboy. instead, he says if we push the soviets, they will fall. they felt without a shot. to get back to this idea about ambition, it is so interesting. i am thinking about lincoln for a second. carl sandburg once said there are 33 rooms in the white house and abraham lincoln did not feel comfortable in any of them. he had ambition in one hand and humility in the other. i'm not sure that is something we see in many presidents. david: humility grows doesn't it over time? just as you are awed by the office, your humble by the responsibility and setting the nation on a course. doris: somebody was talking about the pressures fdr must have faced during the depression and war. he said if you spent two years trying to move your big toe, you can get through all this. if you have gone through some
personal problem and you have overcome it and come out stronger, somehow you bring that knowledge with you to this much huger domain. jay: in fdr's case we know that during the phony war of world war ii, fdr had a small heart attack. it was hushed up in the press. his life was already in peril, and we know that when he went to the summit and met with joseph stalin for the first time, all of a sudden sweat was coming down his head. he was unable to speak. he was almost paralyzed. his eyes became glossy and he basically almost fainted. they brought him into a back room and they told everyone it was indigestion. we now know it was the beginning of congestive heart failure. when he got back to the united states, his health was so bad. he would sit at his desk. his eyes were glazed over, he fell out of his chair several times.
he got a full workup at bethesda naval. they all told him, if you don't do something, you will die within a year. those words were prophetic. but it never stopped him. not only do they become humbled by the office, in a sense they become -- they will give their life to the office. at least we see that in the great president. david: let's widen the conversation to our members. before i take questions i want to point out this wonderful series on presidential leadership is made possible by david rubenstein. we want to thank him for that. now to questions. shall i call on them? >> this is great, thank you. my question is this, how important is empathy to a successful president? what is the relationship between sanity and quality of presidential leadership? [laughter] doris: i will start with the
empathy. i will leave the sanity to jay. i think that could be one of the most important qualities that a leader has. it is interesting when you think about teddy roosevelt, he acknowledged later that when he went into politics he was simply going in for an adventure, not because he thought he could make other people's lives different. but then politics took him to a place where the person of his privileged background would not normally go. he went into tenements. he disguised himself at night and walk around the slums. as a soldier he saw his fellow soldiers. those experiences broadened his fellow feelings. he said at first you may feel a little self-conscious but after a while it becomes conscious -- it becomes unconscious rather. he argued that the rock of democracy for flounder that if people in different regions and
parties and religions and races begin to feel about each other as if they are the other rather than as common citizens. that is the divide we are facing right now. he understood that. on a smaller basis, you have to see what other people are feeling and thinking in order to bring them around to a common purpose. i think fdr's empathy grew exponentially because of his polio and bringing the patients warren springs. he taught them how to have joy in life again. they would have wheelchair dances. they would have cocktail parties at night, and richer theatrics to they said he made them feel -- even though they were disabled, that they could live a life again. he understood that. i would say that as a leader, that ability to imagine what other people are feeling and thinking and bring them together was perhaps one of the most important traits. jay: one can't put it better than doris just did.
the one thing i would add about empathy is empathy is terribly important because it is a way of a leader connecting with the american people. sometimes policies work and they -- and sometimes they don't work. if you give them a sense of hope, strength, it still works. i love this one instance i'm thinking up from the end of the civil war with abraham lincoln. the scene is 1865, it is april 4. the war is about to come to a close. at that point, lincoln decides he wants to see richmond with his own eyes. he steps off of a small little boat onto richmond soil and sees ars all of these shouts. he is surrounded by a sea of voices. these are slaves that have been freed. they say glory, glory glory to , god. one of the former slaves throws himself at lincoln's feet and hugs his foot. lincoln waves a finger and says
from now on you don't kneel to me. you kneel only to god, your creator. that is empathy. david: keep in mind the question related to temperament as well. i want to keep moving. in the back? >> in the current occupant of the white house, one sees no evidence of some of the attributes you have been talking about. particularly humility. certainly on the contrary we have seen only a greater sense of certainty that he is the best ever. he has said a number of times that these are two years unlike any other in the history of the country. i would ask you, and certainly no capacity whatsoever for reflection of any kind, i
suppose the sanity question comes into play but i would ask you as historians of the presidency, is there any precedent for what we are seeing today at all? david: thanks michael. jay, would you like to begin? sanity, temperament and does president trump have these qualities? the one thing that is true to add on to what michael is saying, at this point yet you don't see in president trump someone who is looking towards his predecessors as mentors and -- in a way we might have seen with some of his predecessors. that may change. but we don't see that yet. jay: the one thing i can say is his time will come. that is what i believe. i believe the weight of events, the rush of events the , suddenness that things happen often on the international stage, at some point he will find that he wants to know what previous presidents have done. he will find sustenance in what they have done. i think he will find lessons in how to conduct himself.
i can't imagine it being otherwise. david: does he have any of the qualities being discussed? doris: the one thing he was able to do during the campaign was to make a large group of people in the country feel he was on a their side. that is something roosevelt did during his presidency. it may be a factional group of people. we would hope that when you get into the presidency after the moment of triumph that you expand your base, rather than continue to talk to the base. if i were to give him advice -- teddy roosevelt went around the country on a train tour so he could go to all the states, even ones he lost and ones that he won to make them feel a common sense of identity. i think getting out of washington and doing that, not just going where you are. the question of humility is really important. it is not humble this. -- humbleness. it is being able to a knowledge or limitations and learn from them. that is how you grow in office. it looks like it is part of our political dialogue today that it is a weakness to acknowledge mistakes. it is the only way you learn. president trump said something
funny when he was a candidate. he was talking about humility. he said the reason that he loved pope francis so much was that pope francis was very humble, just like him. [laughter] david: like fdr, the idea of the forgotten man was coined by fdr. doris: he understood that. when you were talking before about political diagnosis, he diagnosed a group of people in the country who were feeling they had not been listened to, there were a lot of rural people feeling that people in the cities were different than them. they were feeling anxiety. they were worried about immigration. he spoke to them and was able to win enough votes in the electoral college. that has to be understood. jay: he says i am your voice. i think in a sense for that segment of the population that he really represents, if you think about it, he comes alive when he speaks to them.
one of the things i will say is this is a very early. we are not even two years into the presidency. it is hard to diagnose and assess what the trump administration is and what will come to be seen as in history. we were talking about andrew jackson briefly the other day on our call. if you look at the jackson administration, it is funny that the great statesman of the day like john quincy adams, their heads almost exploded at the thought of andrew jackson becoming president. they said at the time democracy as we know is going to come to an end. as it turned out, andrew jackson turned out to be a pretty good president. a little arrestable a little , contentious, but none the less a good president. he did among other things -- he founded the democratic party. david: i covered george w. bush and i remember i went to see him after he was out of office. we were talking about a book that a colleague of mine wrote which was a great book about the bush-cheney years. i said, mr. president, this is
good. it is fair. you should read it. he said let me tell you, you could not write a memoir of my time in office because you were there. [laughter] so we need more time. doris: that is great. >> my question is for doris. why didn't you include harry truman among your presidents? after all, the korean war, which is similar to other wars, and he was a president of change and certainly he was a president of humility. it seems to me he was ideal for inclusion in this book to david: doris can only spend time with so many of these presidents. doris: when i was deciding what to do next after i finished the bully pulpit with teddy and taft. i had a choice i could have found a new president like harry
truman, i think the world of harry truman. or i could decide to keep my guys. i could not let them go. each time i left one as i went from lincoln to fdr to teddy and taft, i would have to move the books out of the room. i felt like i was leaving an old boyfriend behind. [laughter] i figured take the guys i know the best. who i have spent so much time with. i spent 10 years with abraham lincoln and another five years on the movie with abraham lincoln. i spent seven years on teddy roosevelt and i took longer than it took world war ii to be fought with fdr. i knew lbj. i decided i wanted to look at them through the lens of leadership asking a question , that i have not fully asked myself. where does ambition come from? does the man make the times or the times make the man? are leadership qualities born or -- inborn or not? i spent so much time with them that i felt it was weird to spend days and nights with them
and think about them so much. my only fear was in the afterlife there will be a panel of the presidents i ever studied and everyone will tell me everything i missed. the first person to screen would be lbj. the books on the roosevelts were twice as long as mine. [laughter] they were my guys. david: second row. >> thank you. if you look at history, other countries had leaders too. some have been very destructive leaders. you might say it is easier to destroy a legacy than build one. your definition of leadership seems to be on the premise of creating. how do you take account of leaders who want to turn the clock back, destroy legacies, put people against each other? if you were going to write about destructive u.s. presidents, who would you write about? doris: i will take the definition. it is interesting. it is very complicated thing what leadership is defined as.
james r gregor burns, the great political scientist wrote a book about leadership. he would argue that destructive leaders were power holders. they held power but he would argue there was an ethical bias to the word 'leadership.' they would not qualify as leaders. which is an interesting way of thinking about it. david: they did not earn power, they took it. doris: even if they earned it and used in a way that was going to be destructive, they were simply holding the power rather than a leader. jay: do you have anyone in mind? [laughter] >> i know other countries better than america. [laughter] >> i think they are leaders and i wonder if you don't have a bias that leadership has to be a positive following? doris: that may be true, i am not sure if i agree but that is an interesting thing. >> he doesn't want to do the
things you are describing. how do you fit trump in? doris: i don't want to live with him so i will not write about him. [laughter] you are right. there is a bias. i would never write about mussolini or stalin or someone i did not want to spend days or nights with. it is a bias. david: there is a bias in that question. there is another view, about trump and wanting to position america differently in a way that a lot of people would not agree with. in terms of where america is -- america fits in the rest of the world. jay: i want to get back to your question but historically a little bit. in my book "1944," which was about fdr and d-day, also the holocaust, i spent a lot of time writing about the nazis, and hitler. i thought it was very important to delve into hitler's's
psychology and his world. the things he brought on the world because he was such a significant figure. not a good way, in a terribly bad way. but he was certainly a profound figure. he was the reason all of this was happening in world war ii. and understand the number of aggression imperialism, genocide, you had to understand hitler. when i wrote my book "the great upheaval" i felt myself being captivated by robespierre, the mastermind of the guillotine. in many ways they were negative leaders. they were antiheroes. i tried to write it in such a way that if they were to read it, they would say he did justice to me. but inevitably, i would say my bias would creep in because these were not people i would ever want to see in this country. >> thank you.
building on where we have been going, including toby's question, is the notion of empathy and the example of franklin roosevelt was my friend and we all lost a friend, this ability to have this empathy. it seems to me that donald trump also channels this notion that are empathetic with those who are feeling left out, resentful, and very much a forgotten person if you will. , it is not the empathy -- i'm just wondering if you can move from that characteristic which seems to be important for a
leader into this more normative and value-layton question of do question of do you empathize with resentment of the little man? or can you empathize with the little man in some sort of a positive way? david: it is related to something we were talking about before. stoking resentment and decision -- division as a means of leadership. to create factions and build on those factions rather than -- maybe toby is getting this as well. if you are not necessarily pursuing national unity, you could try to lead in another direction and secure power. jay: yes. [laughter] doris: it is great that you guys are building on each other. >> i would like your historical perspective not on the persons but on the times.
i would like you to compare the kind of challenges we are facing today with some of the previous ones that we have discussed. not only the political division, the economic inequality, things like the specter of climate change, even artificial intelligence. on our scale of crises calling for effective leadership, where do we stand today? jay: what i would say about that is whatever it may feel like today, and we are buffeted by the media, cable networks, the social networks. we have been in much worse times. we are not involved in a civil war. we are not involved in world war ii. we are not involved of building a new country out of scratch. in each of those cases, those presidents and leaders and the people of the day faced great and profound challenges.
mid-america might never have gotten off the ground. in the case of the civil war we could have devolved into two countries here in the case of world war ii, had we not had the stewardship of fdr, we might have a wound up with europe being under the permanent thumb of nazism. all of those things i think are much more profound than what we face today. today, the issues are real. they are serious. i think they feel worse in some ways than they are that it's hard to tell. i think we need history to give us perspective. doris: the climate about climate change is very important. the scale of the entire planet could be in danger. which is something that is larger than any of these. actions are taken by people. fdr used to say problems created by man can be solved by man. if we assume we created some of
these problems, there are answers to slowing get down if we do it. david: that issue goes to the issue of urgency versus importance. that government does not do well with issues that are important. they deal well with urgent issues. we did not get into world war ii when it was important, we get when it was urgent. that seems to be the issue with climate change. in the back. >> hi, i am a historian and a former white house fellow. drawing on your expertise of presidential leadership, i'm wondering if you would be willing to assess the leadership style of the last soviet president, macabre gorbachev, -- mikhail gorbachev, or vladimir putin? doris: i wish i knew about that. i said it russian for two years in college and i cannot speak a word of it.
jay: i think gorbachev is a fascinating figure in history. we talk about ronald reagan winning the cold war to the extent that reagan did that, he certainly did it because he had a willing and thoughtful partner in mikael gorbachev. gorbachev -- he is not adept at handling media, he does not keep himself in the spotlight. all of the things that are part of the celebrity age that we live in he is not very good at. he in many ways lost the support of his own people. but he is a tragic, -- they must be somewhere in american literature that would define him. in the end, i think he will come out as a very significant leader. i will give you an analogy. i don't want this to be mistaken. abraham lincoln did what he did in the civil war and u.s. grants
to bring the war to an end. but at the end of the war, we could have evolved into guerrilla warfare and had a divided country for many years to come. thanks to robert e. lee we had a willing partner. once he resigned and surrendered he tried as best as he could to be a good citizen. even though he never became a citizen of the united states. i see gorbachev being in the mold of somebody like robert e. lee. tragic, a little understated, doesn't get the credit he deserves it is deeply historic. the other person you asked about was putin. i don't know enough about him but he was a strong leader. one person i do know was catherine the great. he is catherine the great without the charm and the culture. she was a great imperialist and i think what he is tried to do is enhance and enrich and strengthen the russian empire.
david: i wonder a little bit, are we living in an age at the biggest level that feels a little bit more like the 19th century. kind of great game atmosphere. i think about the saudi arabia story. the awful murder of jamal khashoggi, we are looking at this as an instance of maybe whether we have leverage over the saudi's to use against iran and our other priorities. that would be a departure. we have always been pragmatists in prior administrations but to , step away from asserting u.s. values. jay: i think that would be a tragedy. it is u.s. values that have separated us from the rest of the world. what made us so different was the rest of the world was trying to resolve conflicts and they did it through bloodshed and violence. we have always senator pees will discussion and through respect and caring for human rights and
human dignity. and for bringing democracy to all of the american people. it is a dream we have had in our country and it is a dream with -- worthy of the rest of the world you david: we will take two more questions. >> thank you, sam. one question as you look past your guys in history, it has been fascinating, thank you. at some point the american people chose somebody else right after them. they either liked or didn't like the qualities you have been talking about in leadership today. putting that in the context of two years from now, not to ask you to forecast who the american people will choose but what qualities do you think that person will have after this presidency? thank you. doris: i think you are right that there are certain cycles. they used to write that there
were 30-year cycles where you have a movement of the citizens, whether it was the anti-slavery, progressive, new deal, civil rights movement where the citizens wanted to have an active government and want to be dealing with the problems of the times. other times -- post world war i, they just wanted to go back to private lives and not think about public issues. same thing in the 1950's, you could argue. a leader might be chosen to reflect those larger changes in society. but i think there is sometimes a reaction against the person that was there before. even in the presidency i think that can happen. it is something that is not conscious i suppose on people's parts. they just reacted against an imperial president in nixon and get a jimmy carter. he wears the sweater and says i'm jimmy carter. then they feel like jimmy carter has been too much of a
non-imperial and then they get a ronald reagan. if there is something that will come out of this divisive time, which was partly there before president trump and is still there now, if it continues divisive late i think we will look for somebody who can heal those divisions. i keep thinking -- i think why the military is in such respect right now. the one institution. congress is at 11%, the military is at 70% or 80%. it is because they understand that they have a common mission that crosses all the lines and are working together. my hope for this country sometimes is that there will be a national service program. teddy roosevelt wanted it, eleanor roosevelt wanted it. there are several generals arguing for it right now. when kiska metaphysical they can work on it mission with a host family in another part so they could see each other as other people working together. we need to restore that sense of not just stability but -- stability but understanding
-- civility but understanding of different people. feeling we are americans again without a military crisis to do it. we have to create a situation that will make it possible. david: final question, yes. >> i want to first pay my respects. i knew richard goodwin, your husband. doris: he was the best. >> a great man. what i wonder, if i could read richard goodwin's prose, i have always wanted to write a play about the pope and galileo in which the pope emerges as the hero. what difference does it make that we know the earth moves around the sun if it destroys our faith? i guess this question from this lovely soliloquy was whether there is a kind of cynicism now from donald trump seeming so irrational in certain
circumstances? or whether it is deeper cultural self-doubt that pushing hard other than making money is not worth the price? doris: i would love to have david talk about that because he has written about faith. when my husband died last spring, he had been working for several years on a book that talked about what his public service meant from the time he was young and how honorable a -- it was to give one's life essentially to public service. he really believed -- he really was in love of the ideals of america. we would tease him that he should call the book my love affair with america. he saw what was happening and he was so troubled by it. he had written a series of "los angeles times" editorials about the gap between the rich and the poor that was squeezing the middle class. he thought something was
happening in the country that it was not living up to ideals of mobility and education. at the end, he had lived through the depression, world war ii, he worked for john kennedy, he had gotten assassinated, he had been him when he left was in love with the domestic stuff so much and was considered a traitor for having done that. he said america is not as fragile as you think. we are going to survive. jay: on one hand what we are talking about is great presidential leaders and the qualities and what it does and looks like. one final thought that i think is worth leaving you all with is what america is and the strength and really the genius of the institution of america. we have survived a great civil war, two world wars, a depression, an attack on new york city on 9/11, bad
presidents, found great presidents when we needed them. there is something about the genius of this american experiment and the institutions. not only do we have the best people when we most have needed them, but we have had institutions that have strengthened us and guided us when we needed them. that is worth thinking about it doris: it is not just the leaders. what my husband was arguing and what i believe in too, most change for social justice has taken place in this country when citizens band together. lincoln was called a liberator. he said don't call me the liberator, it was the anti-slavery movement that did it all. without the progressive movement, without the southern gospel religious movements teddy roosevelt would not have been able to do what he did. without the civil rights movement, lbj would have never been able to do what he did. without the women's movement, environmental movement, the gay rights movement. whatever we are feeling about the country, it is the citizens ourselves that have to band together and figure out who we want as her leaders, what we are going to do about it. as fdr said, man creates problems, we can solve problems.
but it is always a connection. leadership is a two way street between the leaders and the citizens. it is up to us as citizens to reform the political system. riodas been broken for a peio of time. there are things we can do and we have to do. david: maybe the fitting way to end is that notion of what lincoln understood as the fragility of this thing we call america. it is strong and robust, but still fragile and always growing. it is our responsibility to keep growing it and moving it forward. thank you both so much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [crowd talking]
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