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tv   Conversations with American Historians Douglas Brinkley - Part 6  CSPAN  April 19, 2022 1:03pm-2:36pm EDT

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but only at c-span do you get it strain from the source. no matter where you're from or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiased, word for word. if it happens here or here or here or anywhere that matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. since c-span was founded in 1979, historian and author douglas brinkley has participated in many of the network's programs, forums, call-ins, and special projects, as well as appearing on book tv and american history tv. c-span sat down with him for nearly six hours to get his insights on american history, popular culture, good books, and more. up next, the last part of that
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conversation which focuses on donald trump, the obamas, and ronald reagan's diaries. >> donald trump. why were you called, before he took office, between the election and the inauguration? who called you? and why did you go spend time with him at mar-a-lago? >> i did cnn -- that gives you an idea, i was trying to be a straight historian with hillary clinton versus donald trump. i wrote the introduction to jake tapper's book that cnn did for that, you know, campaign. and i got a call from a friend who knew that i was going to florida and said, do you want to come meet president trump? this is not unusual, in the sense of that period, i was historian at cnn. trump despised cnn at that
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point. but, you know, i'm a minor person in all of that noise going on out there. and most people, the president-elect, they want to meet people. he was meeting leonardo dicaprio on climate change, robert kennedy jr. on vaccines. he was going all over, trump. they asked if i would be off the record and only talk about past inaugurations. and at that point, trump was getting ready to write his first inaugural. it was just, he's not a history-minded person, in fact he told me, "i don't read history books," that blunt. but he was curious, like why kennedy's speech is so celebrated, you know, about ronald reagan's inaugural, about william henry harrison's long inaugural versus short inaugurals. so that was the tone and tenor of the conversation with the
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president-elect. he did say to me, when i went to see him, tell the head of cnn that he's a -- you know, he used a curse word. he was very angry at cnn. and then he said, you know, you're a historian, i'm not blaming you for what everybody's done to me. he had a chip on his shoulder about the network that i was historian on. but he did not have a chip with me. and i talked to him about sports, a little bit about -- he was telling me he was amazed that the utah jazz, that he had misread that market, he never thought an nba team could function in a small market like salt lake city and he was wrong about that. i had seen a miami heat basketball game the night before with my son johnny, told him about seeing the heat. it was a very congenial kind of
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situation. >> where was the meeting? >> mar-a-lago. we sat by the swimming pool there. and that day he had ceos of mayo clinic there, cleveland clinic, you know, other major hospitals that he was meeting. so he met with -- they're all in kind of a health talk room, then he would come out and he chatted with myself, then he would go see them again, then he would come back again. the impresario of -- it was interacting with me was chris ruddy of newsmax who was sort of the explainer of what was happening there. and so i used my time, and then i had two issues to raise with him. one was about national parks, and that i wanted to alert him to the need for deferred
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payments, that our parks were dying, that they did not have the funds, that even independence hall had leaky roofs and one big thing everybody could agree on is that our shrines of our park system needed love and needed funding. so i threw that all at him. and then i talked to him about my book i was writing, "american moonshot: john f. kennedy and the space race." he seemed to like kennedy quite a bit, thought kennedy had street cred in his game still, thought people cared about him, he told me we're going to go back to the moon, the moon is good for american spirit. he was very bullish on apollo 11 and what that accomplishment for the united states was. so he talked a little bit about spatial. then i got ushered out. >> so how long were you there? >> a couple of hours. but, you know, when i was there,
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we were talking, he would get up and meet the medical group and then come back. so, you know, it was -- >> was there something you saw up close that we can't see through the television lens? >> he said a comment to me of -- you know, he just thought -- he wanted -- i mentioned to him that mar-a-lago used to be in the national parks system and he was given away. he bought it from the park -- it used to be an historic site. he was telling me a lot of detail about that site, about how much it had there. but he kept stressing, it's boring now, it's boring here, it used to be -- it isn't normally like this, it used to be this vibrant place. i got the feeling he was getting used to the secret service, used to the new mar-a-lago that was going to be under a microscope. but it was pretty normal. and i've done that with incoming
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presidents. it got little notice because it was donald trump and me talking to him but i've talked to incoming presidents, it's a natural thing for an historian. >> did he know nothing about inauguration speeches? >> he told me that he was a person of the television age and that his history memory really began with kind of jack kennedy and that he watched so much of that, that's how he got his news. and his thoughts, how people looked on television, all the way up until, you know, kennedy onward, but had no sense of lincoln's inaugurals or george washington or any -- there was no historical memory or he didn't read about any of them. keep in mind, he had been busy. and so he was just getting to think about this. you know, a zillion things going on, he was just thinking about how does one come about doing an
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inaugural, the length, time, you know, and at one point when i told him william henry harrison gave the longest but he died a month later, the famous story of him out in the cold, he asked me, how did an inaugural with a big crowd with no microphones did the word get around? >> how did it? >> i improvised, i said i think they said "he said --" and it would go all the way back, that's probably how they had to do it back then, meaning if you were way back and couldn't hear the words, how did it get -- and i told him some speeches of that era, you can read two different versions of what was said in newspapers, because they weren't perfectly transcribed like they are today. >> did you see anything in his inaugural speech that you gave him? >> oh, no, it wasn't like that,
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i wasn't giving him ideas. >> i don't remember, was there a reference to space? >> no. and it wasn't me, he was already on space. i mean -- >> but did he follow through on space? >> he did, i think that my big concern was how would our country do the 50th anniversary of space. i thought we celebrated it quite admirably with documentaries, books, you know, intense memory of that moment, because armstrong walking on the moon is like the kennedy assassination or 9/11, it's just this moment. and i thought our country did a good job on the 50th. now, going to the moon, it's not about one administration. it has to continue. i saw recently that the big contract nasa signed with spacex to go back to the moon. that's different than bezos' blue origin.
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now nasa is in business with musk. and a lot of that happened in the trump years, where, you know, bezos became the enemy of donald trump, "the washington post," amazon, and trump gravitated towards musk. he had a feud with musk, trump, but by year two in his presidency, he started backing -- you could feel the backing more of giving musk a chance. when trump ran for president in 2020, he was watching the takeoff at cape canaveral of musk's rocket going up. so i think the moon is pretty bipartisan. i know from the head of nasa that nancy pelosi said if it's female astronauts, the democrats would be -- the first women on the moon, then i, nancy pelosi, will bring whatever power i have, lead people in congress to fund women going to the moon.
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and for nasa that was great, and even for trump that was great. there was this thought that if we go back to the moon it should be women on the moon. and i think that's bipartisan. >> i remember reading that early in 2017, at some point, you said -- this is not an exact quote -- donald trump is a disaster. >> yes. >> when did you decide he was a disaster? >> his inaugural day. and it wasn't the inaugural speech which most people jumped on. i didn't like the way enter to cia and started, like, doing this kind of lucy goosy weird talk presentation there, and then making a public fight that his crowd was bigger than barack obama's, when all the evidence showed that it wasn't. that's somebody that's willing not to deal in reality as president. remember, when trump ran, he
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used to be a democrat, he used to give money -- bill and hillary clinton were at his weddings, he was a billionaire populist, people weren't quite sure. but by the time he was insisting on this inaugural crowd size against empirical data presented to him, i thought, wow, we're in trouble. and then he went right for the muslim ban and used language as president that was derogatory and started race-baiting. we had known that about him from when he claimed obama wasn't born in america, the birther thing. but he did a kind of apology, a half-hearted one about that, trump. there's a feeling that you run campaigns, but once the power of the presidency is upon you, you respond differently. and trump did not. he stayed the same guy.
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there was no, you know -- there was no filter. and he tried to, with kelly and chief of staff and all, people were trying to contain him in some ways. but he was uncontainable. and he would admit that he's uncontainable. >> explain this. for 30 years, the new york city media group promoted him day after day after day. "new york times," nbc, "tonight show," all the networks, constantly. "the larry king show," they wanted to interview him, they wanted to act like this was an important guy, "are you going to run for president," time and time again. then you have the show that jeff zucker produced for nbc. >> "the apprentice." >> they built him up, then spent all these four years tearing him down. wouldn't you be angry? >> you know, at cnn, we covered him early, a lot. >> a lot. >> i remember being on air when he came to alabama and had jeff
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sessions support him. that was about it, trump, from the washington senate crowd. and it was covered like a major event, the trump plane coming to alabama. that's where all these other republican candidates weren't getting the coverage. so yes, because trump is right about -- it's about in the news world, a lot is about ratings, and trump was a ratings generator, he got eyeballs. in the age of -- he pioneered twitter for that era as a communication form. people talked about him nonstop. he made profits for nbc. you know, and that matters in the media world. once there became a fear, and i think the real turning point were in the debates. i think the way trump treated hillary clinton in the debates made a lot of people back off.
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for example, when trump mocked the fact that she had to go to the bathroom. or the fact that he brought in, trump, women who accused bill clinton of things and flew them in there. and then the "access hollywood" tape. at that moment you started seeing a real backing off of him. but even on election night, i think people presumed -- i did not, but people presumed that trump was going to lose and that they would have made money on him, on the running, but then he would have lost and it would have hurt the republican party. a lot of the media world is often -- you know, they're looking for what's the shiny new thing. and trump's had ups and downs. there are moments when he's on covers of magazines, then sinks,
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backs up. when he first ran, he seemed new. and he got a lot of coverage, free media in 2016. >> but -- and i sound like i'm on his side, i don't really care, i just want to know why -- i mean, day after day cnn, msnbc, just pounded him, pounded him about russia constantly. and in the end, what did we get out of it all? >> but you know what, brian, you can't listen to the noise. he did what you can't do. he went nixon, and kept enemies lists and tried to beat the media culture. great presidents, you have to operate above the media. ronald reagan was a conservative and sam donaldson would be screaming at him, and yet reagan humanized donaldson and he humanized the press, giving them coffee and doughnuts, "how are you doing." that style gets you further than
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this bombastic, you know, role where he set the media up as the enemy of the people. once you do that, you're going to turn not just active journalists but former journalists, you're turning the media world into, you know -- the fourth estate into your enemy. that means you're going to get punched a lot. >> why didn't he, though, get pummelled by fox? and by chris ruddy who you know, set this -- >> newsmax and fox are more conservative programming, they have a higher tolerance for trump. many people at fox and newsmax i think were embarrassed by some trump, and they applauded a lot of trump. i mean, the problem is donald trump's mouth. he would say things that are going to be seen forever as racist and xenophobic and
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bigoted, and he's going to live with that. it's hard when you're saying the things that he said over and over again, it makes for incredible play that day, but from a longer lens in history, you know, when we do these rankings of all the presidents, trump on race is not getting a high mark. >> do you think he believes that, do you think he's a racist or do you think it's an act to get the votes of the 74 million who voted for him? >> you know, i think that the weirdness of his family background, the fact that his father got arrested at a klan rally, the fact that the central park, you know, full-page ad he took out -- >> central park five. >> yes, the fact that -- and then the fact that he claimed obama wasn't -- there's clearly a history going on here of deep racial insensitivity, or he's racist. and it's an albatross he's going
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to wear around his neck, because he made too many -- that time with charlottesville, he needed to have made it clear, and he didn't. he kept playing race games. "i don't know who david duke is." because he never wanted to lose those voters. and he saw, correctly, that there were a lot of white resentment and disenchantment, you know, out there. there was a white working class, if you like, a rural white vote, that had not been voting, they didn't think government was working for them. and he wanted those voters. he calculated that. and when you go george wallace or you go strom thurmond, you can go places, get votes. but you're going to be stigmatized because of it. >> what's the difference between sending that kind of a vibe out versus what the biden administration is doing with saying, we're no longer going to call people who come into the country illegally "illegal
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aliens"? >> i don't know. look, the problem with the border is just one of -- immigration is just a flashpoint problem of our day, brian. i mean, nobody is having magic answers to it. each side is going back and forth. biden is getting closer to what trump was doing now, but then they won't, then it will be -- you know, i think the problem that trump did is he made "build the wall" his big thing. we're going to build a wall. well, he built a little bit of a wall. if that's the big -- dwight eisenhower can build an entire interstate highway system in the '50s and you can't get some wall up on the border, then you're leading people down a rabbit hole. and the reason is because people have property along the border, and there are easements you've got to get, and there's environmental laws that you've got to process.
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so just because you're president doesn't mean instantly you can move into people's private property and do things. so the wall was going to be complicated. and he made it seem like it's easy and mexico was going to pay for it. and he found himself in a conundrum. but he had his ardent immigration policy. biden's voters are, you know -- one thing that's complicated on immigration, cesar chavez, the great latino, they have caesar chavez day in california. mexican american, born in yuma, arizona, deeply catholic, did all of the united farm workers in the '60s and '70s and boycotts of pesticides, wanted sanitary conditions, better education for people. he was opposed to illegal immigration because he was building a union for mexican american workers to get higher
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wages, not cheap labor coming over the border. that's chavez. so it's complicated when you're getting into those issues because sometimes a lot of republicans in texas where i live, they want people coming over from mexico to do landscaping and take these jobs and all of that. in many ways trump was angering a lot of gop business leaders with his immigration policy. it wasn't just a right/left game going on here. many republicans count on the migration flow to take on jobs in phoenix and houston and the like. so trump was walking right into it with a big brag of building a wall with mexico paying for it and in the end, i don't think republicans are satisfied with the situation on the border, and i don't think democrats are satisfied with it. it's still -- we haven't come up
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with a sane policy. it might be technology will come in with new kinds of drones, new types of, you know, activity along the border that isn't as primitive as it is right now. >> how much time have you spent around barack obama? >> quite a bit. i mean, for a random historian like myself. i wrote for obama's inaugural book, when he got inaugurated, john lewis, tom brokaw and i did the official inaugural book. the three of us did the essays for it. so there's a book, the official -- other people were doing books on obama but the official inaugural book, you know, we did. >> why did you do it? >> oh, an honor. it's the inauguration day of a new president. the first african american president in history. to write an essay along with john lewis and brokaw. >> would you have done a trump
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inaugural? >> i wouldn't have been asked. you know, so it's -- because i think trump has different people -- you know, he wasn't interested in a book. he's a different media kind of person. but after that, i would see president obama at the white house, because he did, as you know, i've talked to you about it before, we would have historians' meetings. what i did at those historians' meetings was talk, again, like i did with trump, about national parks and the issue of the public lands and preservation of places, because i don't know enough about afghanistan. i don't want to walk into a meeting, "your afghanistan policy" -- i'm too humble for that. i do know what's going on at national monuments, parks, historic sites, preservation.
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i feel i've developed a nice relationship with obama because i didn't go all over the place. i just said -- in that way i could talk to ken salazar, sally jewel at interior and say, look, right now, as i'm talking to you, brian, i have some presidential homes i would like to save, one should become a national monument. rachel carson's home in maine should be a national monument. i'm interested in these things, how to save different places in american history. >> but tell us how the historians' meeting with barack obama was set up and how many were there and how often did it happen. >> changing table. i was at all of them. it was a rotating cast, by and large. doris kearns goodwin was, i would call her the energizer of it. she has a very good relationship
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with barack obama, doris kearns goodwin, much stronger bond than mine. but, you know, so it's a cast -- the problem is, i name a few but then you leave out some. robert caro was at one, gary wills was at one, then he wasn't. >> david mccullough. >> david mccullough was at one, then he wasn't. michael beschloss. h.b. brands. kenneth mack, excellent harvard law, civil rights historian and scholar. i'm obviously probably forgetting somebody. i was consistently at them and doris was consistently at them. >> what would happen? >> it was great. >> where would you meet? >> dining room, we would all sit and go around and he would ask us what we're writing, what we're working on. the ground rules were, nothing with contemporary politics.
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obviously it would get to it, but we would talk more about history in the sense that if i'm working on a book on theodore roosevelt and the conservation, i would talk about my book. or i doris kearns was getting ready to write about leadership and presidents, she would talk about her book. robert caro would talk about lyndon johnson and vietnam. it went like that. not just barack obama but michelle would come, and valerie jarrett would be at them. she wasn't at all of them, michelle. we would talk history. it would be like a historians' book club, presidential history book club. >> did the president take notes? >> he did. valerie jarrett definitely took notes. he then would sign things. i got him to sign the menu for my daughter. i have two daughters, but i gave it to one daughter. i had him autograph it. he would sign a few menus.
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very genial, very relaxed. and obama, as we all know, is a big golfer. i honestly, brian, felt that this presidential history thinking was, for him, recreation. it wasn't him on the job. this was just fun for him to -- here you are president, now i'm hearing stories about james k. polk or where somebody's telling me about what herbert hoover did. and all of the historians there, we collect colorful anecdotes over a period of time on presidents. little funny stories and things that, you know, he obviously relished in hearing. keep in mind, barack obama, like theodore roosevelt, like thomas jefferson and a few others, really was a writer. i mean, he made a lot of money and his income on his books
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before he became -- and he takes great care on them. so his recent memoir that came out on -- you know, his presidential memoir, fine book, he took a lot of great time and detail on it. he's going to do a second volume. >> why did michelle obama's book far outsell his? >> i loved michelle's book. i reviewed that for "the boston globe." what i loved is her early chapters about chicago and growing up in an african american community there and the cultural pulse the city with ernie banks and the chicago cubs, or her listening to stevie wonder albums, things her father told her and how she could work her way to princeton. it's really a good -- and the whole book is, but the early chapters were just magnificent. >> but what do you think that
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means, that she sold, what, close to 20 million copies, and he didn't? >> his is a lot more of a wonkish history book. i mean, his is detailed policy, whereas hers had more about what it's like to be a mother, you have your worry about your children. i think she hit a large market. but they both did great. they both earned out their advances. it happened, there was a bet between jimmy carter and rosslyn carter, people don't know this really, but "first lady from plains" outsold jimmy carter's memoir. eleanor roosevelt wrote big autobiographies that were really popular in their day. so people liked to hear the first ladies' stories because you feel they're going to give you more of an interior look at what's going on in the white house. she's not a politician, michelle obama, so she's talking more as
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a mother, as a citizen, as somebody being thrown into this weird environment of white house culture. well, the presidents are trying to put forward policy events and all that. in obama's book, there are some great set pieces. his writing about india, i particularly liked. and i had never realized how profound gandhi was to the thinking of barack obama. i had always thought nelson mandela, martin luther king jr. and his explanation of gandhi was really, i found, very interesting. then the killing of osama bin laden, operation neptune spear, you know, that barack obama and william -- you know, mcraven and the s.e.a.l.s and all of that, in a tick-tock way, in obama's book, is really good. it could have been a book on its own are really killing and
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tracking of osama bin laden. so obama's going to be writing. and then i've been involved with the oral history project of barack obama at columbia university. i'm part of their storytelling there, where we're doing oral history. so i've been able to interview for that oral history project. some people, you know -- and that's been interesting. so i've stayed in the mix a little bit in that way. >> how often are oral histories used by historians from your experience? >> i love them. and the obama one at columbia university is where the idea of an oral history project emanated. and the way they're doing the obama one is just spectacularly thorough, meaning they're also interviewing young people that campaigned for him and how their life has changed, or, you know, a child he met who then has a
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story. they're doing all sorts of innovative things, and it's global. i find the provincialism of most presidents' oral histories is they would only interview americans, not world leaders. it would have been nice to have a history of all the world leaders and how they viewed nixon. you know, interviewing mao tse-tung on his experience with nixon would have been fantastic. he may have done it, mao, but nobody thought to do that global. obama, because he won the nobel peace prize, he's seen as a global president, very loved around the world. for his eight years, getting the stories of heads of state and ambassadors and other human rights organizers i think will be a big part of that oral history project. >> how many of those historian evenings do you think you had? >> i didn't remember off hand,
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but, you know, because i interacted with -- i also would see obama, i wrote a cover story for him for "rolling stone" and made some -- quite a bit of news. it doesn't show up on my social media as much as you would think but at the time it was big news when he was running against romney. so i would interview him and talk to him about issues, i went with him, while he was president, a steakhouse here in washington for a little group. he came walking in, he was always punctual, but a little bit late, and said to me, 1.7 million acres kind of baby sort of thing which they had just did a nevada wilderness protection of 1.7 million acres, something that was back page news but he knew i was interested in. so my experiences with him during the years have been very
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real. i mean, i've had a number of encounters. i spoke to him for quite a long time right when his memoir came out, meaning a few months back. >> for an interview or just -- no. >> -- chatting with him? >> talking. >> did he call you or you call him? >> he reached out to me, he was curious if i would read the book and see what i thought, how it compared to other presidential memoirs. >> so do you think -- >> so i read -- how many people have actually read these presidential memoirs? and so i could tell him what his book reminded me of, which was more like george kennan's memoirs, the great acheson.
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bill clinton's was pretty good, nixon's memoir i talked about, henry kissinger. i didn't think you had to just look at it as presidential memoir but look at it as an important memoir of a public figure. >> the question i was going to ask you, as a historian and being an insider, do you dare be critical of somebody like that? and then the access is cut off. >> i'm not worried about access in that way. i'm not writing a book on obama. having that, though, i could use it some day. you asked early, do i have notes. so if i have notes of a conversation, i don't need to monetize it. i don't need to be -- i just spoke to -- i don't tell people about it. i just keep my notes. i have an archive. some day, some of my tapes or notes of things might be of interest to future scholars. >> is there any doubt that both journalists and historians and people who have access to presidents pull their punches
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because they want future access? >> yes, i would guess so. >> i mean, interviewers. if you go in there and you're slamming the person -- >> no, of course, and that's different, because if you're an nbc news reporter and you're filming and it's going to air that next day, you can't look like you're being nice. you've got to be balanced. you want to come across -- you're being filmed too, and you want to come across as a hard-hitting journalist with hardball questions. but you also want to be seen as genial. i mean, so you're doing that. when you're a historian like this, i'm just trying to maybe get an anecdote about something. for example, when i talked to obama once about a trip to alaska that he did, things that weren't in the newspapers, a story about funny stories, interesting, when he held a fish off the waters. little bits that aren't in a memoir, aren't in "the washington post," that are fresh
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for history, that i'll use in perhaps my own book about a memoir some day or i might write about obama in some context and some of the things that i have, i'll bring out then. it's about not being newsy. the historian has the luxury of not being newsy. i don't need to make news. i'm more interested in a long term, you know, relationship and a long term ability to realize that if i have a real history question, for example with president 41. i was writing on jimmy carter and i wanted to know, carter denounced the iraq war. carter denounced bush as going blindly into that war. and i think bush did the right thing, we went in in '91 and he gave us a timeline in the sand. anyway, carter trying to get people around the world to denounce bush going in. so i never -- bush never would
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comment, because he was so -- a gentleman, he never wanted to criticize a former president. so there's no real record of it until i then asked bush 41, because he knew me, because i went to kennebunkport for barbara bush, i had a book event, he knew my by line, did an event with steve ambrose. when i had to ask him about that, he wrote me a long letter about it. and he called carter every name in the book. and i have the letter. >> will you ever publish that? >> only a little piece of it in a little piece on carter. i have it framed now, because it was a long and detailed response to how upset he was about that. i was able to get that response from him because of my previous encounters weren't confrontational. if i ever wrote a book on
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operation neptune spear, osama bin laden, i'll know what he said in previous interviews but i'll also start noticing, you never answered these questions, if i'm doing that book. then i can go back at him and say, here are things i've never seen on the public record, can you -- or here's what leon panetta told me, and you said this in your book, explain, there are two different versions going on here. you know, and that way, yes, you are trying to relationship-build. >> name your favorite biographies besides those that you've written yourself. >> well, they wouldn't be mine. there are so, so, so many. but obviously -- there are just a lot. i right now admire a lot of a book by linda larry that wrote "witness to nature" about rachel carson because i'm writing about it, she did an incredible book.
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i've enjoyed recently a new biography of andy warhol and a new one of malcolm x. but in my field of presidential history, david mccullough remains my gold standard. >> why. >> i justified loved "truman." and truman is not my favorite president, but i thought the way he dealt with truman was great. i thought the way edmund morris dealt with theodore roosevelt was great. also the way mccullough dealt with truman." doris kearns goodwin's "no ordinary time" about the relationship between fdr and eleanor, which was just incredible. i read so many of them, they're all very good. the differences, some biographies have more literary style to them. >> what about early presidents and biographies?
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>> i love ron chernow. i reviewed it, i still think his george washington biography is just tremendous. the washington one-volume, up to that point i liked flexner's biography of washington as a single volume. but he nailed it, ron chernow, in that washington book. >> did you see "hamilton"? >> "hamilton" is extraordinary, a cultural moment. it still resonates in the sense that all of the music was just phenomenal, just from a musical point of view. but it had a deep impact on connecting hip-hop culture to history, finding an innovative new way to talk about hamilton to a new generation of americans. and he -- i think the play more than the chernow book, created a national dialogue about hamilton. >> your three kids, did they see
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"hamilton"? >> yes. >> what was their reaction? >> all of them loved it. >> what did they like about it? >> the music, they're very catchy, the songs, the soundtrack, if you like. but just the fact of, it got a conversation that -- my family, that hamilton wasn't born in the united states, and he could never have been a president. and, you know, the duel, you know, talking about hamilton and what dueling used to be. it's a great vehicle. i mean, i personally hadn't known as much about hamilton until the play, and the play made me read chernow's "hamilton." i had not read the book first. so it woke me up that, gosh, i've been underplaying hamilton in my lectures, because i personally have gravitated to thomas jefferson. >> but are you sure you've been underplaying hamilton? just because it became a success and -- >> yeah, we underplay everybody.
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i mean, there's always ways to expand lectures. and there's ways to -- you know, i've always liked george washington so much, and jefferson, out of the founders. and i love paul revere. david fisher -- >> hackett fisher? >> david hackett fisher's book on paul revere i loved a lot, i liked the dual biography of adams, i really liked a lot, one of the important history books because it reminds us of these adversaries becoming friends and dying obviously on the same day, fourth of july. but their correspondence, i think there's an argument to be made that the adams/jefferson letters are also foundational documents in the sense that we're going to go at each other every four years, party system, we have to bury the hatchet. and you see jimmy carter and
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gerald ford becoming very close. you see george w. bush and bill clinton becoming close. they're consciously becoming close. they're making a larger statement to the public. but jefferson, with expansion, and books on the louisiana purchase, and jefferson as a writer and botanist, jefferson's being a slave owner, and washington, now reading about that, realizing that there needs to be more emphasis to look at slave-owning presidents, and what does that mean. you know, it's a very fertile field, presidential history. but i write on the 20th century. i've never written a book on a president. in fact, brian, in our talk, sometimes people will say to me, boy, you do a lot of different topics, doug, you jump around. it's like, really? i mean, yes, hunter thompson lived with jimmy carter's house.
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i'm writing the same era of things. i'm not writing about founding fathers. i've been really writing about america in the 20th century, but more specifically america since world war ii. but something like david mccullough will do truman or john addams or jon meacham will write on jefferson and then do bush 41. they're jumping around. i'm looking at america from world war ii to the present. >> what did you mean by hunter thompson lived with jimmy carter's house? >> oh, he lived in plains, georgia, carter was close to hunter thompson, hunter's cover story on "rolling stone" gave the youth vote to jimmy carter. i mean, he was a born again christian and hunter abandoned ted kennedy and built jimmy carter up. there's an argument to be made, without hunter's endorsement and "rolling stone"'s endorsement of carter, he may not have made it
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to the presidency. he turned the youth vote and rock and roll vote, hunter, as did the allman brothers, macon, georgia. >> where did he physically live? >> he stayed there at the pond house and early, hunter, and that's when nobody thought carter could get democratic nomination and, because he went to a law address at joshlg allah school naming it after dean rusk and hunter was doing the profile of ted kenly and encountered carter who was doing that day a magnificent speech about equal rights and the like and -- >> two things i remember from our conversation in plains, georgia, i'll never forget, one you pointed out the fence around the house came from robozo's
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house and second thing you told us in that interview, carter would be buried in atlanta and as a result of that, the townspeople got up set. >> now in plains, that's correct, and he's down there now still going, an amazing, president carter would bring -- i was proud to see him do his inoculation photos of him getting inoculated. i think president carter wants to make sure he's around for his wife, i mean he fights for her. i mean their marriage is really an intense story that doesn't get the play but they were there, his sweet heart from ever and i mean he has the will to want to live to take care of her. >> how often had he been around him? >> oh, quite a bit. i mean i went down and would stay in plains, also i would stay at house of john and betty
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pope who had a house on a pond there, that was jimmy carter's closest friend, john pope. like this. >> still alive? >> he died. betty pope was great but john pope was, worked in the cemetery world of a mortuary world, and was carter's closest, truest, deepest friend in the deepest way possible and and i was close to john and betty pope and got to know jimmy carter, got to know his family quite well. >> meals in his house? >> well he eats nextdoor, transformation a bed and breakfast next to his home, it's connected and he goes over and eats there and i had a meal, you know, he pops in over there frequently. if you come in, you know, i went just a while back went to church with him, sat by him at his church service, and brought my kid and see my kids all photographed with him and all of
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that. so i stand, in fact, you guys here once at c-span let me interview president carter on his diaries when they came out and i was thrilled to do that because i got to ask questions that i normally wouldn't, but i just love the man as a person, you know, he's just, he's interesting heart and the way he built his presidency into this remarkable post-presidency, winning nobel prize but fighting river worm disease, his mother miss lilian joined the peace corp in the 70s, and all that. carter walks the walk, a man who doesn't need a lot of frills. >> does you physically write those books? does he have help
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writing the books? >> he writes them himself. his lawyer, terry adamson, used to be big with national geographic but retired to florida now he runs things by him, but jimmy carter does it all himself. he used to write his speeches himself. he wrote a novel about there, writes poetry carter can do about anything, does wood carvings, paintings, like an older ren saungs figure but what it is he's a farm and in older america people used to do multiple things, i mean you're running a farm you learn how to fix things, do things. he's of another time in america because, you know, electrification came late to georgia, that's why now when people talk about biden's new deal and all this, it's not understanding what that era was
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like in the '20s and '30s, fdr is trying to electrify rural america, it's a new deal, but carter lived through that from gas lamp to mars now where we have, you know, helicopter on mars, his life span is extraordinary story. >> other presidents, how much time have you spent around george w bush? >> less than others. very -- i don't consider myself to know him intimately well. i know carl rove super well, he lives in austin near me and i see him a lot, george p. bush, land missioner of texas on my street, son of jeb bush and
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george w. bush i would like to write about, i believe he has two stories that could be told that haven't been properly, if he's interested in making his legacy look better. and that is the bullhorn moment the story of how he was in florida, told about 9/11 and the air force one had to fly to different military bases and came to washington and we were under siege and how he pulled the country together and then stood on the rubble of the trade center with that bullhorn moment and then through a strike at yankee stadium. i would do one week of look at george w. bush's immediate response to 9/11 which was really quite inspiring story. >> what do you think of his post-presidency. >> well the second i would do is his work with aids in africa. he saved a lot of lives working with all sorts of people, you
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know, bono, and it's real lives saved, getting the money there to fight the campaign, against aids in africa. he didn't have to do that. it wasn't constituent politics, that i think came out of his christianity. library in dallas, he's involved as well i spoke there not long ago to a group, it's well integrated with the university and that's a hot school now, kids want to go to southern methodist university and george and laura are adored in dallas. you can't put words of how much love there is towards them as a couple. they do a lot of local focus on local groups. he does his wounded warriors. he just painted his book on
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immigration. he's, you know, goes to the rangers games and at baseball and is in the stands. he's built his post presidency like truman one of, bush's favorite president, the way truman went back to independence and you see george w. doing that, from that platform, plus a charasmatic daughter on nbc news all the time, in comparison to trump, george w. bush's stock's rising and i never thought i would see it rise because the war in iraq divided the country greatly, seen by most scholars as a mistake because of the slow response to hurricane katrina, because of the economy tanking
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on his last year allowing obama's, you know, fairly easy win in 2008. i thought bush couldn't rehabilitate himself but he's run a model ex-presidency in his own way. >> sean willis, you know, historian, wrote a piece for rolling stone after presidency saying he was the worst president in history by far. >> well then came trump and he probably wrote one that trump's worse. i think the iraq war is fading from memory, a lot quicker, you know, our attention span in this country is like, one wouldn't have thought, you know, what sort of happened with george w. bush is by the left, or progressives, or establishment, they started saying look, w. had issues but compared to trump, he's a sweetheart. that they thought trump is racist and george w. bush not,
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and bush had been able to, the iraq war, i mean we don't talk about it much. i think rumsfeld and cheney are the ones demonized in history and george w. bush is being able to emerge fairly well. jean smith, the biographer. >> jean edward smith. >> he wrote a very critical book, first whack at the bush presidency, very well-researched antibush take, i think he was trying to be objective and writes, i don't think a democrat thinks eisenhower is this big person and so yet there hasn't been a biographer of bush, george w. that's maybe filled in all the blanks of this period. >> how much time have you spent
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around bill clinton? >> quite a bit. >> how, where? >> hoffsteader university had me run the conference, you know, still does these big presidential conferences where all the players from the administration come so i ran the, you know, working with their cultural center there and friends of mine at hoffster but i ran the bill clinton one. >> when? >> i can't remember the year now but right after he left the presidency and it was a big deal. that was when he left and, you know, hilary had me come senator from new york, talk of her run frgt presidency and the first look at bill clinton's presidency. he did not like that we had in the program a panel on his impeachment and he -- >> what did he expect? >> i don't know.
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i felt that personally he was like kind of said, i'm going to praise you but why are you getting -- what we did is a call for papers and some of these big legal scholars came and did an impeachment panel and i sponsored them and there were also great panels that made clinton look good on nato expansion or, you know, a whole variety but i kind of honed in on these are anti-clinton impeachment. >> how did you know he was upset. >> he mentioned it to me when i was there at the reception for it, like what's this about? the program, he had seen in advance and was a little concerned about it. >> what did you say to him? >> i just said these were the best papers we got and it's part of your presidential legacy and it's got to be covered to be a real conference. took it well, good speech, but
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subsequently met at fdr's library, sat by, an event on haiti in california, introduced him in front of a large audience, also visited at his home, talked to him, and on and on. so i've gotten to know him i've met him at his office in harlem before. i'm interested in the oklahoma city bombing with bill clinton when he gave, you know, they have an amazing memorial there in oklahoma city of all the dead and it's an extraordinary public national parks site. the empty chairs of all the dead, and that, that moment in time of oklahoma city of a domestic terror attack like that, i always thought if i wrote on bill clinton i'd like to write a book about that particular event. >> why? >> it was so heinous. and it, also, it's a who-done-it i mean the tracking down they did of capturing the
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perpetrator, timothy mcvey and his collaborators but it was moved pretty quickly through the courts, apprehension, busting, getting, and i thought clinton's speech was his best, like reagan during the challenger disaster, clinton during oklahoma city, very healing speech he gave, well written, well delivered and he was having problems with the linsky, you know, circus and all that was going on and that speech reminded people that he was a president, reminded people why they voted for him, what they liked about him. he came -- he rose to the occasion of that tragedy in a way that george w. bush, as i said did during 9/11 with the bullhorn moment and all those. those are big moments in american history. also, clinton has a better story i mean for eight years,
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president, and you end up with a not just balancing the budget but a surplus and look at the trillions that we're in debt now to china and elsewhere, he has a story to tell of the power of negotiating. i mean the deal-making he made with republicans and that is quite a presidential legacy. some will say he moved the democratic party center towards the right, but you might just want to look at it as bill clinton was able to do what a president is supposed to do and that's deal-make and get thinking done, move the ball forward. i've always been baffled by the right in america's disdain for bill clinton. he would seem to me to be the more centerist than obama or biden or the other democrats, i
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mean i would think he's like john kennedy would be somebody the right wouldn't have such hatred for him. but, immediately, hillary clinton started becoming the new leader of the party and it was seen as the clintons controlling the party and they'll do okay in history, bill clinton will come out all right but the impeachment is a big part of that legacy that's never going to be scrubbed away. >> would bill clinton have been president if ross perot hasn't been in the mix and did you ever do anything with ross perot? >> oh i knew ross perot. so that, it's a, you know, we never know for sure. >> reminding, ross perot got 19% of the vote -- >> stunning, yeah, 19%. i'm not convinced clinton would have -- again, i've not data on it, it's just a hunch.
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but, you know, if ross would have stayed out of that, on bush 41 may have been able to win. they -- he disdained bush, ross perot. it was a feud between perot of dallas and the bushes of houston in texas back then and perot was like a two issue candidate, mainly the sucking sound you hear is your jobs, he was deeply opposed to nafta and i think donald trump inherited that 19% when he ran in 2016 against nafta. there's a loose vote there, that's antinafta vote. as a person, i liked, i mean i gave a speech in dallas to the daughters of the second world war. these were woman who had a father who fought in world war ii and a big giant speech i gave at a huge convention hall filled
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by women whose dads either died or served in world war ii and was if you needed by ross perot and asked if i wanted a private dinner to him so went to his club and the two of us had a very interesting time, i talked to him more subsequently in this regard, he wasn't in the press at the time and i think, still i think it is somewhere out there now but he, brian, had bought, or not bought, when we kill osama bin laden our seals, the famous walking stick to ross perot because he in pro-industries gave jobs to all seals once they left the seals, gave military, ex-military people, particularly navy, because he was an anapolis guy,
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gave them jobs a long time, still does, pro industries, so as a thank you to ross they gave him that walking stick and he had been very proud of it and i didn't think quick enough, of that day, in this day i did try, i said can't we get a photo of you holding the stick and i'll, i want to write a piece for vanity fair with your photo and tell the story, it would just be simple, not a deep thing, just a little story of how they, you know, and he said no, no, no, they'll take the stick away from me. it will get tagged and they'll say it should be in a court and that it doesn't belong and he said i'm donating it to the seal museum in florida and it just needs to cool off a little. >> have you ever been to that seal museum? >> i did, took my kids to it. everybody listening to this, go see it.
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it's a great museum. i, from vero beach, drove in my family to it, right in the central florida coast, i forget the exact town which is unlike me, but it's right there. you know, near the space coast. and in mid florida and it's a great museum and a great history of the seals and all told there. it's first rate. and so it made sense to me that someday that stick will be there. >> when ross perot ran in '92 he would, not tout, but complain about the fact the deficit was $3 trillion. today it's over $28 trillion. what happened? and does it matter? >> i'm not smart enough to know whether it matters. i would think it does. i've spent, as you v our whole life trying to not get in debt and yet here we are and keep getting more and more in debt
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and passing on, i guess it's kinsian economics run amuk where we've lost the grip but point it out, 2000, say what you will about bill clinton but we had a surplus, he worked with newt gingrich and all that and they had the economy under control in 2000 and in the 21st century that's become less and less an important issue. donald trump was not a fiscal conservative, obama was not a fiscal conservative, everyone talks about the balance budget now but no one seems to do it. either they know more than i do, it doesn't matter, it's not real money, or we have a crisis on our hands with this massive debt and how are we going to pay for programs like social security and the like down in the future, if we don't start finding a way to get
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the debt under control? >> heard you talk about this before, but explain how you got to know nancy reagan and why she picked you to do the reagan diaries? >> i had been recommended to her -- well i wrote an article for the new yorker on ronald reagan's pen pal, a woman named lorrain wagner who ended up writing -- reagan wrote her hundreds of letters. >> did she keep them? did you meet her. >> i did, i got a random call from lorrain saying she got these letters from reagan, i immediately thought they were xeroxed letters, she lived in philadelphia, told me she worked for the irs all these years and more i interrogated her on the phone, i say, can you just fax me one of your letters so i can pick a winner and let me see the
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tone and tenor of it and she says no i won't fax it, i don't have a fax machine. i say is there a motel near you? she says i'm by a marriott i say one -- she wouldn't, she says you have to come and see them. >> what year was this? >> 2004, let's say -- >> and you went to see her? >> and yeah, so i went on a plane to philadelphia, wondering why am i doing this because it's probably going to be a dead end, and i went and she pulled out her box and oh my god, all of these original letters, long from -- i went to her home. very small home, she wasn't -- her husband was not there, i think he may have been deceased, but she, we sat and i went through them and i could not believe it, because she started his fan club in philadelphia when he was a movie actor in his
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first film. so when reagan had no fan base, she became like gaga with ronny. >> this had been in the '40s? >> yeah. and they just became friends. she then went out to ronald reagan day in illinois, dixon illinois, to celebrate the actor, be like a young actor now going to his hometown and he just started corresponding with her, weren't involved with each other in any romantic way, nancy loved her but he would write regularly after visiting bitburg or, really, frank stuff to her and i thought this was an unknown friendship. this is something really remarkable and i asked her if i could write an article for the new yorker for it and i thought it would be a good forum and
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david remnick the editor agreed and it got a lot of notice and mrs. reagan thought it was a really good article and then my name surfaced and pete wilson, former governor of california said oh yeah, i would be perfect. i knew pete wilson from the world war ii museum? new orleans. he was actively engaged and gave me a thumbs up and he was working with the reagan foundation at that point and so i flew to -- wilson was my middle man and said the thing is when you meet mrs. reagan do not mention edmond morris the biographer. she felt very burned by dutch, because she trusted edmund morris. >> stop a second, why did she feel so burned about that book?
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>> because he fictionalized, turned it into a novel. >> the fictional gimic he used ticked her off? >> very much, i can't tell you how much, because she felt she was a good judge of character. that was her main calling card. she felt that she could read people and that's how she was a protector of ronny who was not good at reading people. >> so she felt edmond morris was good? >> she did and felt betray.. just met him on a tour, he had written the rise of theodore roosevelt, both ronald and nancy reagan read the book and liked it. he didn't read a lot of heavy history, well reagan read a lot, but he liked the westerns like billy the kid and, you know, the western genre a little like eisenhower but he read quite a
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few books and would invite writers, he did read the rise of theodore roosevelt and they picked him and he had alzheimers and nancy felt burned and to get it fictionalized infuriated her so when she was looking to get the diary to see me wanted to make sure i'm not another, you know, this was like her everything, ronald reagan's diaries of the white house and if i had -- she was he's didn't to release the diaries because she didn't want to get stung. >> where did you meet her first? >> so i -- and the other thing i was told by people say if you get in a weird, you know, gets conversation goes sideways you're not working well, just talk about movies and i said do you mean like her movies? and he said no, any movie, what's going on now. she's just very interested in
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who is up for academy award or whatever and that was great, that was it, those two bits of advice and met her at the beverly hills hotels. and she had gone there forever and we sat in a booth that was designated the nancy reagan booth and they had a salad the nancy reagan cob salad and we sat there and ate and we talked and i told her i'd like to do the book of the diaries and they cleared me i wouldn't be able to xerox them or wasn't going to be able to do one week shopping. i would have to be invested in it because i would have to work with transcription of it and be there and long story short, i ended up getting the gig and we, my wife ann and i moved to california with our two
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children, johnny and benton and third child cassidy was born there while i was he'ding the reagan diaries. >> how much interaction with nancy while you were there? >> quite a bit, we became friends. >> what does that mean? >> quite a bit -- >> i mean friends -- >> it was shorthand, talked to her, no issues arose between us. i was just going to the library doing my work. her people that were running her life at least from my point of view, were running her life was duke blackwood who is still a friend of mine and runs the reagan foundation and jill ann drake who was his salt of the earth who i just love and adore and my wife was pregnant and coming to visit me and, you know, nancy reagan would pop in and it was, you know, they adopted me a little bit and it was a good experience and i got it all done and what really made
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us get a little closer was that for some reason, even though he owned these personally and kept them hand-written that they needed a security clearance of some kind and i never got involved with it because they were taking care of it, but she wasn't very happy that some of the things were being reattracted. >> like what? >> on saudi arabia, and on weapon systems. >> were you told you could never talk about that? >> yeah, i couldn't include them in the book. nobody looked over what i was doing but i said, you know, when i turned in what was the version, there was so much of it, you know, i had to reduce it and get it but i had picked a couple bits that got nicks and she did not like that and she got on the phone with whoever and got some reinstated, i believe in the end, just one hunk that was not allowed to be published about saudi arabia and
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beyond that -- in other words, brian, she fought, as any historian, any would want inclusion, she stood with me saying i'm on your side. ronny wrote it, i want it out there. ronny signed it, release it. >> he survived at the time? >> no, he had just passed and she thought the time was right to bring a scholar bring them out. i, at one moment when i got these, i had told her at the lunch, only the only awkward moment i said mrs. reagan if you give me these, may get some conservatives wondering why you gave them to me because there's some really loyal people and i'm, you know, seen as left-center so i'm -- you might just -- she glared at me, just angry and said my son is more liberal than you'll ever be.
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what's your point? i'll remember it forever. and i was like well -- i don't really have a point, just trying to let you know. i mean she was direct about everything but yes, so when we got the book done, we did some events together, we signed some stuff for certain places, particularly eureka. she didn't want to forget eureka. wonderful college there that he loved and it gets forgotten a lot in reagan lower but they run programs and all was a little under-loved, maybe, and wanted to make sure some of that love went to eureka of the diaries and i went out there and spoke on them and things. >> in the end though, you're, here you are center-left, you help rehabilitate, not rehabilitate but helped create
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an image for ronald reagan with the letters and diaries. >> because they're primary sources. >> and the andersons, the radio shows, all that kind of stuff, proving he actually wrote his own stuff. >> oh there was a lot more depth to him than anybody knew but for me, i was bringing out a primary source i mean these are important primary sources, hammering letters of the president, daily diary kept in the white house. i wasn't editorializing on them in the sense of, you know, this entry is good, this not, it's just here it is, people. here's what he thought. and the big take away from the diaries for me was how much he liked franklin d. roosevelt and voted for him four times but did not like the great society of lyndon johnson and he didn't like that the people on the left mixed themd like new deal is
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great society, it's big government, he liked fdr's programs, workers programs, building bridges, tunnels, all of that a lot. what he didn't like was johnson what he felt was the overreach of the 1960s and that came out and then also the kind of spiritual side of reagan particularly, brian, after he was shot and writes about -- that's the only time he didn't record in the diary was when he was shot. of course, he was incapacitated then he said i looked at the ceiling realized i'm alive and going to work my life for god and started talking about getting rid of nuclear weapons and it's a constant theme in there his fear of nuclear weapons and the need to find ways to follow the cold war with glorbichov but also start doing real arms reduction.
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if it got down to zero nuclear weapons he would be happy. that startled me, but it helped me by talking about george shulz because shulz spent his whole time after the reagan era working to rid the world of nuclear weapons. they were very concerned about it, both shulz and reagan. >> did you ever meet ronald reagan? >> i never met reagan. i never met him as president, never met his as governor. i interviewed gerald ford about him once and he did not like reagan much because he thought reagan was a bigger obstacle to his political career than anybody else -- >> did he tell you that? >> yep. yeah. they did a peace pipe in kansas city, reagan and ford, but ford felt that reagan in '76 was criticizing him so much and damaged ford's ability to beat jimmy carter.
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>> richard nixon, watched you at politics and prose talking about the nixon tapes, how did you put that book together. >> there are two volumes of the nixon tapes, they're massive. what we realized and luke realized is that a lot of these tapes, you're dealing with thousands of hours. you would think the press would have had at them, but no. nobody did any there. you have to listen so carefully and so long in a lot of the tapes are just, you know, they were voice-activated so a lot of it is just weird noises and coughs and shuffling so you got to be very patient and then you have to have the best equipment to listen to it and then you've got to be able to decipher the voice and see who it is. >> let me ask you this, though, back in april of '74, the
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government published tapes, the transcripts of tapes. what's the difference between what the government published and what you all did? >> the government was publishing what was working in the watergate case, on nixon, had everything taped from '71 onwards. >> so in order for you to be the editor of this, where did you physically have to go? >> well, they're available at the national archives in washington -- in maryland. and also, you know, some had were making it online. luke nictor created a nixon tape site and he started going after all the tapes and he would time the national archives started releasing batches of them. not all at once, but meaning, you know, just recently, being last decade, they started dribbling them out. >> no transcripts? >> no transcripts so have you to
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go and do that kind of stuff. >> did luke do this himself? >> luke was the pioneer in listening and getting the transcripts right, making sure they're fact-checked, double checked, but we had people, friends of mine we did ways to double check things. luke and i developed what we call the vanity fair rule of, we did an excerpt for vanity fair, the nixon tapes and a guy there named david friend said what's new in the tape is what, you can't google. because some of the stuff, some reporters got batches and just picked out two sensational lines and left. you know, next story so we were able to say wow, all this stuff has never been heard, never been known. so our whole vanity fair essay luke and i did had, all of it was new, none of it had ever been out before, but most of these two volumes were new to
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the public and again, you know, that case, we tried to say, luke and i, our main objective, what's historically important. what is he talking about that matters in history, secondly, on this idea of nixon's cursing, antisemitism, how much of it can you take? i mean samplings of it are enough. not going to have a book of it, somebody could do that, but really going to say what did he really spend his time on, what did he think, so the books are really seminal in, you know, they're sold at the nixon library as the definitive books of the tapes. >> did the secret service know they were being taped as they you can with aed around the oval office or different places he had microphones? >> you know, he wired up
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everywhere, nixon, so, you know, camp david was being taped. i mean he, he taped all over so nobody knew. >> when did you ever say, eh -- >> well like sander butterfield, the one who broke the course famously there was a taping system and a few people knew about it. >> but when did you say when you were listening or reading the transcripts, oh my goodness, i can't believe he just said this? >> a lot, but you the thing is about nixon is this is where biography matters and maybe even psychological biographies, he never was like one of the boys, nixon, he was never like part of the football team crowd, never one of the in kids but he had learned to talk with a lot of bluster in front of men to seem tough. so, you know, get those son of a pitches out of here, tell those
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bastards to go and a lot of it is his just rhetorical way of seeming tough so he would tell henry kissinger like what is going on at wounded knee, well i don't care, get tanks to run -- he would say this stuff and would be no policy happening. it was just nixon blowing off steam. so the question becomes trickier is what on the tapes affected policy and what is just showing nixon's personality? and they're both available, i mean they're really fascinating, endlessly interesting. >> yeah, rather inexpensive to buy. who published them. >> we got them published by harp court press, probably made, you know, honest to god, these books are each so thick but we wrote
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introductary to each section, prose, set it up, here's the writing, transcript, writing, transcript, writing, a lot of work and the at end gives you a pretty good view. we were pleased with them and they're out there on book stores and stuff, i see them a lot but you want to have to invest in nixon a lot. it's not -- however you can dip into those nixon tapes, you can look at a particular section, i still, you know, there's joe biden's wife and kid killed in the car accident, there's nixon calling biden i mean it's, you know, it's everything going on in there. we happen to include that but we could have done that on 20 other people who died that nixon was doing a call like that and in person with people he was very much the boy scout. the dichotomy of nixon one minute because sometimes you can listen to him on the tape and
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then a group comes into the white house and it's like two different people dr. jekal and mr. hyde story, not too surprising but the bastard, son of a -- then hello, how are you, so unbelievably formal you would think this is the last human being that would ever curse in his public presentation to people. >> and that was the sixth and last part of our six hour conversation with historian and author douglas brinkley, watch this and any other part of the interview online at at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. hear many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964
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presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, march on selma and the war in vietnam, not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing many of the conversations in fact they were the ones that made sure the conversations were taped, as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy, on the day he died, and the number of assigned to me now and if mine are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't get go to the bathroom i won't go, i'll just stay right behind these black gates . >> presidential recordings. find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts.
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>> c-span is c-span's online store, browse through the latest collection of products, apparel, books, home decor and accessories. something for every c-span fan and every purchase helps support our nonprofit operations. shop now or anytime at c-span >> since c-span was founded in 1979, historian and author douglas brinkley has participated in many of our network's programs, forum and special projects as well as book tv and american history tv. c-span sat down with him for nearly six hours to get his insights on american history, popular culture, good books and more. up next, part one of that conversation, focusing on his college education and working at used book


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