tv Q A CSPAN October 14, 2013 6:00am-7:01am EDT
>> that is the press secretary's job. usually, under the supervision of the medications director. -- the communications director. karen hughes, and later, ed gillespie. we had a series of press secretaries who did a fantastic job. ari fleischer, scott mcclellan, tony snow, dana perino. it was the press secretary's job to pick out people who the president would do interviews with and under what terms. for the president's comfort, they would try to steer things towards people who are more likely to be friendly to the president.
you cannot always do that. to reach the major markets, you have to invite in people who the white house feels are not favorably inclined to the president. you have to take that on and that is part of the job. >> for those who do not see the first part of this interview, you are deputy chief of staff of the bush administration during which years? >> two years. i was the budget director in between. i was in the white house all eight years. >> here is tony snow talking about how he was selected. >> josh and i work in the bush white house. he would come into my radio show and we talked about getting together. he's a great guy to work with. he's is someone i really enjoyed. we finally made this.
it was on a friday am a i think it was on a friday, i think. he ended up doing a sales pitch that i could not resist. he said, i know the numbers look bad, the fundamentals are good in the economy and things are going a certain way in iraq. i know you have a great job and you are making a lot of money. i understand why a guy like you would not want to take a risk or the challenge. at that point, he had baited the hook and i snapped. >> how did he get selected? >> he got selected by me because i felt that one of the ways that, as a staff, we were letting the president down was in not communicating in an affirmative way about what was going on in the white house.
we have gotten into a mode of being defensive. what better way to change that mode then to bring in a fantastic affirmative character like tony snow. who -- who i miss and everybody who is ever worked with him mrs. very much -- misses very much. >> how long did he live? >> we brought him in in 2006. he stayed in the job for 1.5 years. he was starting to get sick. he had been in remission from a very serious cancer. his health was beginning to flag.
so, he left the white house, my recollection is, the year before the end of the administration. and, sadly, he passed away before the administration ended. >> he was an activist. he was outspoken and his personality came through. looking back at the white house, is the president better off having somebody who is known in his own right or having somebody we do not know? >> i think the key element is the activist elements. somebody who the press will respect, likes to be around, who they feel has integrity to tell the truth and the access to know the truth at the same time. tony had those attributes in spades.
he was fantastic and he changed the tone with the press. i thought his predecessor -- you know -- was, -- you know -- and honorable person -- an honorable person. he was not able to communicate on behalf of the president. >> who was the predecessor? >> scott mcclellan. not really respected. when the president asked me to be chief of staff, that was one of the first jobs i targeted for a change. in your clip, tony mentioned that i set up a lunch with him before i was announced as the chief of staff. i set the lunch as soon as i
knew, from the president, that i was going to be the chief of staff. there was a -- there was a couple weeks lag between when the president made the decision and when we were actually announced. he was the top of my target list to get into the white house. and -- i am very glad that we did and everybody who worked with him is glad that we did. >> scott mcclellan wrote a book that was critical of the bush ministration. -- administration. why did he do that? >> the has been a mystery to me. we always considered his principal attribute to be loyalty. >> was he fired? >> yes. i fired him. he has not made any bones about that and i have not made any bones about that. we try to do that in as gentle
of a way as possible. none of us, at the time, had any bad feelings toward scott. we do not think he was doing the job that was needed. so, we made it as -- as respectful and easy as possible on him. however -- i offered him however he wanted to handle it in whatever time frame. the president went out to the sticks with him and they had a farewell set of comments. it is the kind of thing that is hard, when you're the chief of staff, to do. scott was a friend. he had given many years of his life and loyal service to the president. i do not think he was doing a good job for the president and
we needed a different character. we need a character like tony snow. >> talk about firing, four minutes -- for a minute. i have the book here. it talks about johnson new -- john sununu's firing. >> interesting question. i do not know that story well. i was not around for that episode in 41's administration. he did, according to all accounts, he did ask 43 and his deputy chief of staff, andy
card, to deliver the message to john sununu. the president had decided that he was not right for the moment. why did 41 ask other people to deliver the news? i am not sure. that is not 43's style. one of the amusing bits of follow-up from the earlier administration was that the first chief of staff was andy card and he has served longer than any chief of staff in history. the only person who has served longer was it in eisenhower's administration. in the bush 43 white house, i was the deputy to andy card.
every week or so, andy would come into my office and say, how am i doing? does the president want to get rid of me? you just let me know and i am gone. andy came at this with the perspective of somebody who had to deliver the news to his boss. that was not 43's style. he was very warm and connected in a family way with all of his staff. he was pretty tough-minded about the needs of the white house and the presidency. when i came to him and said that i think we need to replace scott mcclellan, he didn't -- he was sad about it -- he considered
scott a good friend -- he did not hesitate. he was warm with scott and wanted to be supportive. he called scott's wife to give her reassurance about his good feelings about scott. on the merits, he did not hesitate at all. it was my job to fire scott. it was not the decision from which 43 would shrink at all. >> did you had to fire anybody else? do you want to tell us? >> not really. you might be able to squeeze it out of me. if we can avoid it, i would. i would say that i found that to be the toughest part of the job. it is -- that is when it gets personal and with people, like scott, who i knew had given a
lot in public service and the reward you give them should not be an abrupt pink slip. the jobs inside the white house, there are not many more important jobs in the planet and you have to fill them with the best possible people at every moment. >> speaking of the media, what is your view of the wrangling over karl rove, valerie plame, how did you see it? >> i had little role in the underlying activity because i was the budget director at the time and kind of removed from those sorts of political
considerations and activities. but -- but, you could have, if you set the senior staff cable, you could not -- if you sat at the senior staff cable, you could not not be affected by it. going through a very difficult investigation that i think -- that, i think, was ill- conceived, at best. there had been -- it is a complicated story -- i'm trying to boil it down.
there was -- i have forgotten the name of valerie plame's husband -- >> joe wilson? >> he had published an article saying that he had been sent to investigate some of the allegations about saddam hussein and he had reported back. aegis was not so -- it just was not so. his op-ed was intended to undermine the credibility of the vice president and the administration. it asserted that there was evidence that there was -- it asserted that there was evidence of this and that he had been asked my the same people to look and he had told them, "no." the response of the white house
was not intended to attack joe wilson personally. it was to undermine the credibility of what he was saying. in part, by saying that they did not send him and he was sent by the agency. at the suggestion of his wife, who worked at the agency. there was a credibility reason to out the wife. it was not intentional. it appeared in a bob novak column. the revelation of the wife having been at the cia. and, the -- as it turns out -- the person who had leaked this information to bob novak was the deputy secretary of state. >> armitage -- dick armitage.
>> he fessed up to it and said that he did not realize that he was revealing any classified information. the prosecutor investigation went on, even though they knew the source of the leak. they decided that they would keep digging at the white house. what they were doing was interviewing people and the hopes of catching them in some sort of perjury trap. that is how they caught scooter libby. >> how involved was the president? >> very limited. especially after a special prosecutor was appointed. he stepped back. the president, as you'll see in his memoir and the vice president's memoir, he was
tangentially involved in any of this. anyway -- in a way, it was a trivial episode that blew up into a big deal. >> do you remember any interview that the president did not like and you heard from him? >> i have vivid memories of him not liking interviews. i have troubles coming up with a specific one, which i would highlight anyways. >> i will give you one. tim russert in the oval office. that was probing. >> yes. the president in mind tough questions. -- did not mind tough questions.
he didn't resent questions being asked repeatedly and effort to suggest that they were insufficient. >> given the control that you have in the white house of who you let in and we don't let in >> i don't recall him saying i will never talk to that person again. you can be sure that the next time the press secretary said, howd and about tim russert, the president said no. it is not a serious interview and he is looking to score points. >> what did you think of the daily briefings? would you keep them televised? >> i thought you might have been talking about the daily intelligence briefings. i would keep the press secretary briefings televised. the have turned into a little
bit of theater. so be it. that is part of the job. in the bush white house, the view that a lot of us shared was that we are all for transparency and for making sure that the public is informed about what the thinking is. it is just that, so often, it becomes -- it becomes theater. that is certainly what george w. bush objected to. he never mind a tough question. he liked a tough question. he did not like theater. why did he push down the archival material for himself and his father? >> i don't remember.
>> i want to show you some clips and get your reactions. i will show you were the last interviews that he did. >> you will see me going to talk to the people of the community through the media. you'll also see us talking to our people in the trenches. you win politics by attracting good people who are willing to work for you. the messages, we need you and we love you and will fight with you together. >> any reaction? >> he looks like a kid. >> in his book, there's a quote from him in 1992. he said, i unleashed and i told the reporters that i thought their tone was biased. it was not my only angry blurt
of the campaign. i had a reputation as a hothead and i deserved it. outbursts were driven by love and not politics. >> that sentiment got reflected many times. he would often recall his time of having been a president's son and say that when the press was tough, it is much harder to take that when you are a son or a spouse then it is when you are the president. that is him in the mode of calming people down a little bit about an unfair assault in the press. he would say, look, i'm ok. it is tougher on you and it was tough on his wife. he would say, i have been there and it is tougher on you than it is on me.
>> the president is in the dining room. >> i was at work at 6:45. i believe that is important for someone running a complex organization to be disciplined in behavior. at the meeting started at 8:00, that meant eight. i remember karl rove running into a meeting late and i said, do not be late again. people were like, this guy means it. it is discipline. that is how you get good advice. >> how did he deal with that with you and the way you ran the day-to-day operation?
>> by the time i was the chief of staff, 54 years into the administration, if you were working with george w. bush, you are going to be on time. i got my first lesson during the campaign when we were in boston for a presidential debate. we were all leaving in a motorcade for the debates. governor bush decided that he did not want to be risky on time. he was going to leave 10 minutes early and he got into the motorcade and left. i remember seeing the motorcade out of my hotel room. it was taking off and it had left me behind. i was a policy director and it would have been a good idea to have me at the debate. i got there for the spin room afterwards.
that story -- everybody has a story like that. if it involves george w. bush, if you show up tenant early for a meeting, you are about right. if you show up five minutes early, you are on time. if you show up on time, the meeting is all restarted. -- has already started. >> every president says they will stay in touch. they find a comfort in talking to people who have held the office. the reality is, they cannot help much. if you're not present in you do not really have the information, there is not much that somebody who is not involved can do to be helpful.
apart from his dad, with whom he spoke often but rarely about business, i don't think resident bush talked with his predecessors -- president bush talked with his predecessors. he enjoyed talking with president clinton. president bush was sidelined in 2008. we had the democratic and republican candidates running against the incumbent and bush understood that without bitterness and complaint. it was frustrating, having been actively involved in campaigns most of his adult life, to be on the sidelines. he is a political pro.
during the campaign, he would call up president clinton and talk politics with him. they, they both seem to enjoy it. they have sustained a good personal relationship into the post-presidency. >> did he offer you anything? >> he is not a mean guy. i do not know what the opposite of mean is. he is the opposite of it. when he choose you out -- chews you out, it is for a purpose. he is a good boss. what would get you chewed out, and it is a reflection of
punctuality that the president emphasized, the one sure way to get chewed out was to put him in a position where he was necessarily late. he consider that the greatest discourtesy in error against two other people. if you put him -- he considered that the greatest discourtesy and arrogance against other people. that almost never happened. the only circumstance where ira the only circumstance where i remember president bush regularly running late was when he would have members of the fallen.
we would schedule ample time for him to visit. if they wanted to talk or share remembrances of the soldier that was lost, he would stay there with them for as long as she thought they needed -- as he thought they needed. those segments, which we did at the end of a visit to a city in the united states, the way it worked was, and the president went to chicago or des moines, we we get the pentagon to send us the names of the fallen in a certain radius and extend time for the president.
we learned that you cannot do it at the front of the schedule because the time factor and it was emotional. it was hard for him to switch gears. >> did you ever have a moment when he was visiting with a fallen that the person got hostile with him? >> yes. it did not happen often. it happened regularly with the families of the fallen. the president handled it well. that was one reason he was doing those meetings. he felt like it was his responsibility to hear from people who -- from the folks who had made the ultimate sacrifice, sacrificing a family member. he thought he should hear from them. overwhelmingly, people were very supportive.
the message, at least in the sessions i saw, was that my husband or my son loved their job and loved serving their country. they were committed to the cause on which you sent them. please do not let them die in vain. >> what would be done if somebody was hostile? did anyone have to get in the middle? >> i never saw that episode. the president is never more than a few feet away from a secret service agent. you never put the president in a situation of physical danger. even when people were angry, you know, you can understand, when somebody has lost a loved one and they -- you know -- they are
in grief and do not understand why it happened. they have somebody to blame. the guy sent their loved one into harms way and he is sitting right in front of them. you can see where they -- it is not a surprise that folks would get hostile. it is not a situation where he was in physical danger. the surprise, to me, was how rarely that happened and the messages were usually those of warmth and support. >> i have always wanted ask, and i never have, how often, from your experience, when george w. bush met with a foreign leader, did the foreign leader speak english? >> this was surprising to me.
i would think it is hard to develop a rapport through an interpreter. in many cases, president bush managed. putin and bush were at a head. he was always respectful but would come to the point and that created difficult conversations between them. they had a good personal rapport, even through an interpreter. there were a number of leaders who spoke good english. >> do you remember one? >> merkel. she is terrific in private and public.
very thoughtful and smart. genuine type of person in the same way that president bush is. they developed a rapport. her english is good but not perfect. when they would talk or do video conversations, which they did, she would have an interpreter with her. the interpreter never had much to do except when merkel would get caught on the word. >> where did they do the conversations? >> in the situation room. he did them with tony blair and gordon brown and merkel. and, with the prime mr. barak -- the prime minister of iraq. >> did the prime minister
speak english? >> no. it was hard to establish a personal rapport. they made a good effort at it. the distance, both in language and culture, was pretty hard to bridge. >> we get into an international situation and you sure the president has talked to foreign leaders. what is the process? >> the process i described is president bush having it as part of the time scheduled. especially during the darkest days of the war, he wanted talk to tony blair. that is real talking. there are a couple of agenda items that were stripped out -- scripted out.
for the most part, they are sharing fears and anxieties and giving each other hope. those were real conversations that would last 30-45 minutes. the more typical conversation, when you hear the news say that president x spoke with prime minister x, it is a scripted event and set up in advance. someone briefs the president, if it is u.s. initiated, here is what we want to say to this person and we want to get out of them. and, the prime minister of whatever, is getting a similar briefing. it is a scripted call that has
the purpose of underscoring a message. it can be delivered to subordinates, and probably has been, but, when the president delivers it, it has extra force and has the benefit of being done leader-to-leader. >> things need to move fast and he needs to talk to the president of russia, how does that get put together? >> there are interpreters on call at all times. the president had his favorites. he had his favorite in russian and spanish. he might even ask for that particular interpreter, who
sometimes plays a substantive role that i will come back to, they live in the washington dc area -- washington, d.c. area usually. you can, you know, an hour or less is the timeframe. >> as we sit here, there is somebody on call? >> at the state department? sure. i hope they make sure that, in times of international tension, they have an expert in every language who is, if not in the office, by their phone and ready to jump in when needed. these things happen quickly and you have to be able to make that
call quickly. talking about the substantive role of interpreter, i did see occasions where a particularly good interpreter will not just be interpreting the words of the other leader, he will, at a break or before or after, say something to the president about , "he was really mad" -- it can be hard to tell in another language. often, very good intelligence for the president and president bush has good emotional intelligence. keen perceptions about what someone else is thinking and feeling at a moment.
there are some interpreters who did a lot of arab language interpretation who told him more than the exact words that the leader was saying. >> how much preparation and how much work goes into meeting with a foreign leader at dinner or somebody he has never met before? how long does that process take and who does it? >> it is a pretty elaborate process that escorted by the national security council staff and there is a director for every region and every country. they will be drawing briefing papers and background information from the state department and the defense department -- from all the relevant agencies of government to put into briefing materials
for the president. when the president goes off the g20, and it is jammed with world leaders, the real guts of a meeting like that is often not in what happens around the table but in the one-on-one's that happened around that meeting. the president will take off with a briefing book that is this fat with reading materials. he was studious about it and i rarely went to a meeting where he had not read the briefing material. the staff knew not to overload him because they knew it was going to be big. even though you think whatever country you are writing about is important, you have to be respectful of the president's time.
he would read these briefing papers and often ignored them. he would know better than to raise 10 issues with a given minister. he exercised a fair amount of independent judgment about what issues to raise and how to raise them. he got detailed briefing materials about every meeting. he would release a delicate a world leader without having, -- he would rarely sit down with a world leader without having in mind what he wanted to focus on. >> who had direct access to him and could going to the oval office? who managed who had access by phone and the door? >> we were never formal about that.
as a procedural matter, with the exception of a select few, if you want to see the president, you need the approval of the chief of staff. if a random person calls up and says that they want to see the president, the call comes down to me and i would have to determine whether it was something to even raise with the president were sent off to somebody else. >> what if it is a cabinet officer? >> they would come to me and said that they'd like to visit to the president. >> what if he doesn't want to visit? >> i didn't have a circumstance like that. there were circumstances where i would say that it is not a good time or they would tell me what they are coming in about and i would say, can we have a meeting before we visit with the president?
so, that is the chief of staff's job. i don't know if it is the most important function of the chief of staff, you have to husband the most precious resource that the white house has, the president's time. >> who got in while you're there? >> wandering in, past the oval office? >> like call row and condoleezza rice -- karl rove and condoleezza rice. >> very rarely would anyone wonder in without alerting the chief of staff. that is one of the functions of the chief of staff.
karl might wander into gossip about politics. they were close and that is not something that they would say to get the chief down here for. most other conversations, including the press secretary and the assistant, they would call me and say that so and so was about to go when. -- go in. if i was not near the oval office, i would walk down to the oval office to be there for that conversation. >> i wanted to ask you about the omb clearance process. >> you are the one of the century -- wonk of the century. >> i don't think anybody
understands it. it is a powerful place to be, if you're the director. if somebody wants to start a piece of legislation and they come to the omb clearance process, was that they case when you were there? what kind of power does the omb chairperson have an legislation? >> it is more powerful than you described. victim it officer wants to comment -- if a cabinet officer wants to comment on legislation, that has to go through clearance process that omb. it is less daunting than the way you made it sound. it makes perfect sense. the government -- the executive branch of government is vast and
has employees and dozens of departments and agencies. through -- through know -- though no malice on the part of a camera officer, -- cabinet officer, they may not have the same view as the government. that process exists to make sure that there is a constituency -- a consistency in policy. most people would be surprised at how small -- how small the policy apparatus is at the white house. there is only a few dozen for domestic and economic policy. somewhat larger for the nsc staff. those people do not have the
resources to monitor everything that every part of government is doing at one time. the omb is a big and professional agency within the white house. it is 500 really high-quality and experienced employees. 475 of them are career employees to are used the process and know the issues. they do not come and go with the administrations. it makes great sense and most cabinet officers would say that it is not a big impediment and, in some cases, was a help in getting views expressed.
>> this is a spot that could influence the flow of a lot of serious legislation. you are the chief of staff and you are in a position where people get into the oval office or do not a cousin of you -- because of you. did you feel all that responsibility in those different jobs? when you walked out of there, was it, thank goodness this is over? >> no. i was well aware of the responsibilities i had as chief of staff. i was congress and of that -- cognizant of that.
the burden did not seem heavy. one of the reasons was that we were blessed in the bush white house. we had a supportive team environment. there was very little fragging inside of the bush white house. that was a town set from the top. if you are going -- that was a tone set from the top. the burden from the outside weighed a lot less. >> as you look at the job from the outside and somebody comes to you and asks, what do you recommend as chief of staff, what do you say?
what would your advice be to the next chief of staff? >> to the generic chief of staff? i would say, make sure you are in charge. president bush gave me that authority at the outset and that is critical. there are a lot of competing forces and a lot of competing interests. a lot of differing views and big personalities with a lot of responsibilities. >> would you say that there are a lot of egos? >> sure. that goes with the high-quality people that should be in cabinet jobs. those folks are the best of their kind and that comes with a commensurate ego.
for the benefit of the president, the chief of staff needs to be fully empowered and in charge. the big decisions belong to the president. but, to run the process that makes it possible for the president to make good decisions based on the advice of all these other people. in particular, preserving the president's ability to make decisions. that is number one. making sure that the president is the one making the decisions. the advice that i have given to several of my successors is, try to keep the non-presidential issues away from him. try to promote consensus and be a catalyst for making the advisers in the cabinet agree on
a path on issues that are not presidential. and, on issues that are presidential, do the reverse. trigger and draw out the disagreement. when people come into the oval office, they shape the edges off of their arguments and do not want to bring a tough decision to the president. they do not want to appear to be argumentative or a bad colleagues for their counterpart on the other side of the counter cabinet table. the president would get shaved advice with rounded edges. that disserve the president -- disserves the president. only the chief of staff can say, this person has a stronger disagreement in your hearing -- than you are hearing. if you do not do that, you are
denying the president. >> why have you not written a book and have you thought about doing that? >> i do not write easily. i don't -- i find that many books written by people like me tend to be justifications or score-settling. that is not true with many books out of the bush administration. i have always felt that -- you know, i don't have much to contribute in a book. especially when i have an opportunity to talk with brian lamb. >> did you keep a diary?
>> no. you have to be cautious about that when you are in a government role. it is a murky area. anything you commit to writing, that you share with anyone else, becomes an official record of the executive office of the president. it -- you lose it as your own property and it becomes the property of the federal government. it may be discoverable in litigation and certainly request a bold by a congressional committee. there's probably stuff -- requestable by a congressional committee. there is probably stuff that you would not want to be disclosed in a congressional hearing.
>> does president obama talk with president bush? >> not very often. that is my sense. they have a cordial and respectful relationship. for reasons that i described earlier, it is hard for a former president to be much use because they are not in the flow of the information. president obama has called president bush at important moments. when they were about to take down osama bin laden and that sort of thing. it has not been a wide flow of communication. i do not think that reflects a lack of -- a lack of cordiality. if anything, president bush has
said that his reticence in speaking out is in part due to the appreciation for the difficulty of the job. >> you into the same school that al gore went to -- you went to the same school that al gore went to. you are the omb director. the chief of staff from 2006- 2009. what are you doing now? >> i have a consulting firm. i went off and talked for two years at princeton. that was a fantastic experience. a fantastic way of coming out of government service is to teach about it. it helps both the students and
the teacher consolidate what they now. now, i have the luxury of getting paid to think about and talk about some of the same issues that i thought were so interesting during a very privileged government career. >> we are out of time, we've ever serve in government again will you ever serve in government again? >> i don't think so. who knows. >> thank you. >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at our website.
next, your comments on "washington journal." >> we are at the lou henry hoover house on stanford university. this was the primary residence of the hoover's. it is significant as it relates to lou hoover. she has a strong ground of design. architect, but we still have some of the original drawings related to the design and construction. form -- from came
her travels in the southwest. she also traveled with herbert hoover to africa. she designed the house and created it. it was inspired by her ideas. she had very close involvement in all aspects of the houses creation. me lou hoover tonight, live at 9:00 eastern. this >> this morning steve bell at the bipartisan policy senator reviews the option the treasury has for the default on the debt limit thursday. julie appleby will look at the number of people who have signed up on the health exchanges since they opened on october 1. also the differences between state exchanges and those that are federally run. president and ceo talks about ridership and the
impact of the shutdown and sequestration. "washington journal" is next. >> good morning, it is monday, october 14, 2013. today marks the columbus day federal holiday. with the country now 14 days into the ongoing government shutdown, the focus this week has turned to thursday's that ceiling deadline. the treasury department has warned that the federal government may not have enough money to cover its bills after thursday. this morning, overseas markets are already showing signs of unease. all eyes are on congress to see whether a deal can be made or whether a further impasse would leave the country on the edge of default. yesterday, some members of congress to to sunday shows to express optimism that a
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