tv Q A CSPAN February 3, 2014 6:00am-7:01am EST
he could take away from past presidential performances to make his a more compelling and more successful administration. i wish we had some extraordinary answers to provide him, but of course the nature of history is that it is an imperfect humanistic enterprise. he understood this. but we talked a great variety of things in those interviews, in those dinners. there were roughly 12 historians. i wasn't the only one there. some of his principal aides, including one of his principal speechwriters. so for me it was a fascinating experience to be able to sit right next to the president at dinner and have this kind of exchange with him. in many ways, it felt like an academic seminar.
because after all, he is someone who has been a professor of law. it was like being in a seminar with a bunch of colleagues. that is how i would characterize it. >> did you leave there writing things down after you were there to remind yourself? can you give us an example? >> you know, when done with this -- i think we will have more dinners with him. one of my colleagues and i talked a little bit about writing a piece called "dinners with obama." i think it will be a very positive piece because he listens. he wasn't intent on giving us instruction or lobbying us for anything in particular. except that at the first dinner he wanted to know how presidents achieved the transformative
presidency. how did franklin roosevelt do it? theodore roosevelt, woodrow wilson, ronald reagan with his reagan revolution. at the second dinner, because this was in 2010, he was slipping somewhat in the polls and did not have the continuing hold of the public's imagination. that is not unusual. once presidents are there for a while, their limitations are going to be evidenced. we talked about how to reconnect to the public. i told him the anecdote about how after franklin roosevelt died, his body was being transported from georgia to hyde park where he was buried. some man stood by the well read -- stood by the railway tracks sobbing and someone said do you
, know the president? he said no, but he knew me. i related that to the president. he nodded, he understood that making that kind of connection to ordinary folks was essential for presidential success. at the third dinner, it was in 2011, we talked about the coming election. he was a little more verbal at that point. essentially he said he wasn't concerned about any of the republicans he was facing. in fact he said, this fellow romney has twisted himself into a pretzel. then, he talked about the fact that his opponent in the election was the economy. that is what he saw. the last time we had dinner with him was in january of 2013. almost a year ago, just a year ago now. he was very upbeat.
he had just won reelection. he talked about his state of the union message, his inaugural speech, his addresses. we talked about the issue of the second term curse. given how many difficulties he has struggled with during the course of 2013, one could say there it is again. i don't believe in curses. i don't believe in jinxes or anything like that. i think it is just inevitable when a president is in his second term, he is going to have a more difficult time than at the start of the first term. because presidents come to office initially on a wave of enthusiasm, excitement. even if they only one bank by -- even if they only won by the
narrowest of margins. john kennedy won by a sliver and yet very quickly, he gained a kind of popularity. by the start of his second term, people see the fact that a president doesn't walk on water. he is not a miracle worker as some people like to think. it is more difficult for him especially is he -- if he is dealing with an opposition in congress. >> the subtitle of this book that you just wrote, inside the kennedy white house, you talk about the individuals there. there are still people that we are talking about today -- everybody knows their name, i wonder if there is anybody in this administration who will be talked about 50 years from now. >> that is an interesting question. i think valerie jarrett -- after all she has been there for five
years and there is every reason to believe she is going to be there for another three years. i think some historian is going to want to get her papers, interviews with her if possible, since she among all the insiders at the white house probably has been closer to president obama than any other advisor. i think she is certainly one name that will register on historians. >> here is a fellow you write about in your book. he was here for book notes. let's watch it. >> john kennedy intended to write his own history of his presidency. more than once, he would refer to me. he would say to me, he would refer to that book we are going to write. i would say to him, the book you
are going to write. i didn't have any intention of hanging around in his life forever. when he was suddenly gone and could not write that book, i felt i had some obligation. >> how did he fit in the kennedy white house? >> he was of course the president's wordsmith. he was a brilliant speechwriter. and he and kennedy had a kind of symbiotic relationship. i don't mean they were friends. i don't mean they socialized. sorensen said they didn't have that kind of relationship but there was a kind of intellectual exchange between them and a kind of intuitive understanding of where this president wanted to go in his administration and what he wanted to say. sorensen had the gift of being able to translate that into language that is memorable. after all, some of kennedy's speeches are going to last, are going to be remembered. when i find -- what i find so interesting is that with john
kennedy, a recent poll asked people to assess the last nine presidents from kennedy to george w. bush. kennedy came out on top with 85%. during this recent memory of his assassination, the commemoration, 90% approval rating. the only one close to him was ronald reagan. the question any historian has to ask is, why is this is the -- why is this the case? he was there for only 1000 days. it was the seventh briefest presidency in american history. the answer, i think, is on the one hand people don't much like his successors. johnson was vietnam, nixon was -- nixon with watergate. ford's truncated presidency. jimmy carter's presidency which people see as essentially a failure. the only one is reagan.
the two bushes don't register. >> what about clinton? >> yes, but he had the monica affair. the only president in the country's history to have been impeached is sort of a black mark against his record. kennedy, of course dying so young at the age of 46, having only been there for 1000 days, it is a blank slate on which you can write anything. and he was so young. the country identifies with that. they have a sense of loss, to this day i think, over his assassination. he gives people hope. what they remember are his words. ask not what your country can do for you. ask what you can do for your country. his famous peace speech at american university in june of 1963 in which he said, we need to think anew about the soviet
union. he and kruschev had come out of the cuban missile crisis terrified by that experience. as a consequence, kennedy wanted to move toward some kind of detente with the soviet union. kruschev was receptive to that. that is how you got signed in signed in the nuclear test ban treaty the summer of 1963. it happened very quickly. they had been hassling over that for years. suddenly it occurred. it was a spinoff i think from that cuban missile crisis, the terror they faced over that. i think if kennedy had lived, we would have seen a detente with the soviet union then it came about with richard nixon. >> you spend a lot of time talking about the individuals around him, people like mr. sorensen. here was the view of jackie kennedy in march to june when
they did these interviews with arthur schlesinger. in 1964, here is what she said. >> i know one thing about the legislative branch that larry o'brien told me. larry couldn't stand him. sorensen one night he was . -- sorensen. one night he was telling me they were jealous of the sorenson's and he said larry would prepare an agenda for the breakfast. just before they were about to start, ted would ask to see it. he would change one or two sentences. they would pass it all around that way. you will see that heavy hand of ted sorensen in more places. he wanted his imprint on so many
things. i told you about the profiles. larry o'brien, everyone. >> he is a little better in the white house, isn't he? it was such a petty thing to do. >> someone said he loved himself and finally he loved one other person which was jack. he i can remember when he first also had such a crush on jack. targeted -- started to try to speak like him or dared to call him jack. he would sort of blush. i think he wanted the civilized side of jack. he knew he wasn't quite that way in the beginning. it was almost a resentment. he was mixed up in his own inferiority complex. you can see that going back and forth. i never saw him very much in the white house.
>> quite critical. said he was in love with himself. talked about profiles in courage, only interested in himself. is that fair? >> i think it is an exaggeration. there is no question that ted sorensen was a keeper of the flame. after my personal experience with him, after i revealed the kennedy medical records, he was the one who signed off. there was a three-man committee that controlled those medical records. two of the members signed off. sorensen -- i went to see him in new york. i met with him in his residence. i persuaded him to let me have access to the records. he didn't know what was in there. when the records came out, the new york times ran a front-page story about my findings. the atlantic magazine published an article out of my book on
kennedy's medical history. sorensen was angry. when he would see me -- he would say, there was no cover-up. of course there was. they were hiding from the public the extent of kennedy's medical history and the difficulties. if people knew how many medical health problems kennedy had, i don't think he would have been elected in 1960. however unfair that may be. he acquitted himself brilliantly during his president -- presidency. i sent his medical records down alongside the cuban medical -- cuban missile crisis. alongside the cuban missile crisis. there were no concessions to his medical difficulties during that
crisis. there were medications that i think how can get through it without stumbles. to get back to your point about sorensen, he was a somewhat prickly character. very defensive about kennedy as if he were the keeper of the flame. i don't know why jacqueline kennedy was so critical of him. i think she was overly critical in the sense that sorensen was a total loyalist and he served kennedy's needs and desires and wishes to the nth degree and it wasn't as if he stole funding from kennedy. -- as if he stole thunder from kennedy. he didn't make claims to having published "profiles in courage." >> did he or did he not write
"profiles in courage"? >> that is a complicated story. he did write part of it. there were others who contributed. my research told me because kennedy would listen to the tapes, the transcripts of the chapters, he would edit them. it would be unfair to say that kennedy was the author, sole author of profiles of courage. on the other hand, it would be unfair to say that he didn't have anything to do with it or had a ghostwriter. he was vitally involved. it was a combined effort, so to speak. i think mrs. kennedy was a bit jealous of sorensen, maybe trying to take too much thunder or too much credit. these are complex relationships that spring up in these white houses. >> you write on page two, health problems including addison's disease, a possible fatal malfunctioning of the adrenal glands, chronic back pain that had led to major unsuccessful surgeries, spastic colitis urethritis and allergies had added greatly to the normal
strains of the nationwide campaign. you say in this book that ted kennedy found out about his brother's health problems in your book. >> not all of them. i think he knew that his brother had a medical history and had health problems but i don't think he knew the full extent. he was very admiring of my biography and told me so. arthur schlesinger was as well. he says he thinks it was the best biography that has been done of kennedy. what both of them concluded was that my description of kennedy's health problems and enhanced -- enhanced rather than undermined his public standing his reputation in history. how he managed to rise above his health difficulties and be an effective president was a very impressive achievement.
so they were taken with that. ted did not know the full extent of his brother's health problems. it is the measure of how much they hated him, how much joe kennedy, bobby kennedy, the president himself, jackie, they were the ones who knew. it was largely hidden from the world. >> here is another person who who -- another person that gets lots of mention in your book george ball. >> i suppose i was tired. i had been there too long. it was a very exhausting job. as dean rusk destroyed himself -- destroyed his health by staying there for the balance of the johnson term -- i wanted to get out. it was not just vietnam. vietnam contributed. although it wasn't that i wasn't getting anywhere in my focus
-- in my protests, which is true but i couldn't get the president , and the people around him interested in any other part of the world. >> outspoken critic of vietnam although you say in your book that in the early times, he was backing what they wanted to do in vietnam. can you explain that? >> he was a loyalist. >> what did he do? >> he was undersecretary of state and he replaced chester bowles, who kennedy didn't like having around at all. he was trying very hard to get rid of him. finally, had to sort of send him on a mission around the world, make him a kind of international diplomat: all around the world. -- diplomat going all around the world. he replaced him with george ball. george ball was much more of a
team player. behind the scenes, ball was candid with kennedy about vietnam in particular. he told him at one point, mr. president if you put 200,000 300,000 ground troops in those jungles, you will never hear from them again. kennedy said to george, you're crazy. meaning, i believe, -- we will never know exactly what kennedy would have done about vietnam. on the other hand, when ball was sort of told to defend the administration, that was his job. sort of like a vice president. you don't go out and give speeches that are in contradiction with what a president is saying. so he pretty much defended. behind the scenes, he was candid butbehind the scenes, he was candid with kennedy and was one of those who was a very early critic, along with george -- john kenneth galt birth --
galbraith, they want -- i don't think kennedy ever would have done what lyndon johnson did in vietnam. i don't think he would have put 545,000 troops. >> here is an audio recording of john kennedy right before he was assassinated talking about the coup, the president of south vietnam. listen to this and interpret this. >> monday, november 4, 1963. over the weekend, the coup of saigon took place. -- opposed to it who was general taylor, general mcnamara.
>> what did the united states do in relationship to this? >> there is no question that they facilitated the coup. kennedy's recollections here what is omitted is a discussion of the fact that he was assassinated. the generals in vietnam said, he committed suicide. kennedy didn't believe that for a moment. he was a good catholic and kennedy said he never would have done that. i think kennedy felt a certain amount of guilt over the fact that he was assassinated. he said privately, whatever his failings, he had led his country for quite a few years and done constructive things and was a bulwark against a communist takeover. he was reflecting on his own so recriminations about having allowed such a coup to take place. also, the concern now that the
united states was going to have to take greater responsibility for vietnam than it had taken in the past. kennedy was keen to get out of there. he had a conversation with my -- with mike farstol before he went to dallas texas. when he returned, he wanted a full-scale review of vietnam including the possibility of getting out. i don't know what he would have done. i don't think he himself knew what he would have done. i learned the anecdote that when he first became elected, arthur schlesinger, bobby kennedy asked arthur if he would like to be an ambassador. arthur said no, i would like to be at the white house. a few days later, he saw the president-elect. schlesinger said, what will i be doing that?
-- what will i be doing their? kennedy said, i don't know. i don't even know what i will be doing there. we will both be busy more than eight hours a day. he understood that being president was not a set piece of -- a set piece affair. it evolved. he grew in that office. that was his greatest strength. >> i want to read back to you what you wrote in chapter eight. after 18 months of interactions with his counselors, kennedy --
>> rostow was under bundy. rostow became national security advisor. >> that is a strong indictment, it seems to me. >> he was someone who grew in the office. he was badly burned by the cuban bay of pigs experience. he had listened to the experts. the cia, joint chiefs of staff. he said, when he went to see de gaulle in france, de gaulle said to him, you should surround yourself with the smartest possible people.
listen to them, hear what they have to say but at the end of the day, you have to make up your own mind. kennedy remembered what harry truman had said. the buck stops here. after that bay of pigs, he was determined to make up his own mind. hear what these experts had to say but at the end of the day, he was going to make the judgment. he was the responsible party. you see that, that was abundantly clear when you listen and read the transcripts of all those tapes during the cuban missile crisis. he was his own man. he was the one taking his own -- he was the one who was making his own mind. the joint chiefs, they wanted to bomb, invade. he didn't want to do it. >> did you think he really like -- really liked maxwell taylor or didn't? i know you say he didn't like the chiefs at all. >> he was very critical of the
chiefs. >> they all seemed to hate the military. >> taylor began with a kind of cachet because he was kennedy's guy. kennedy made him chairman of the joint chiefs. i think over time, the fact that taylor so much reflected what the joint chiefs were saying during the cuban missile crisis and subsequently about cuba as well, kennedy i think became skeptical of him. i don't know that he would have lasted that much longer. the anecdote, after the missile crisis was ending, kennedy held the joint chiefs at arms length. he brings them in and they say so to him, you have been had. kruschev is hiding the missiles in caves. the white house leaks this. kruschev wrote kennedy a mosaic, -- wrote kennedy a note, saying i don't live in the caveman age.
, the joint chiefs, they talk about the need for planned bombing and invasion. kennedy says, go ahead, make plans. you never know what is going to happen. part of their plan was to drop a nuclear weapon on cuba. he thought this was crazy. they said, the collateral damage could be contained. what it would have done to the south coast of florida, let alone cuba, it would have turned it into a pile of rubble. so you thought they were kind of mad. giving them their due, one has to recall that the joint chiefs, they came out of world war ii. they remembered fighting hitler, mussolini, the japanese military who fought to the bitter end. their attitude was, bomb them back to the stone age which is what they did in germany and japan, tokyo, hero shema -- hiroshima, nagasaki.
this was their attitude. they said listen, what is all this concern about nuclear weapons? if at the end of the war with the soviet union there are three americans left and to soviets, -- and 2 soviets we have won. . we have won. >> what do you make then of bobby kennedy had 11 children. one of his children is named matthew, maxwell, taylor kennedy -- matthew maxwell taylor kennedy. >> he had a great regard for maxwell taylor. he was a revered military figure and someone who they admired. he had resigned from his military position during the eisenhower presidency because he disagreed with the eisenhower idea of massive retaliation. he was the one who spoke for the
idea of building up ground forces to combat or counter any soviet threat in europe. that is why they brought him in to the white house. he had this opposing view to the idea of massive retaliation. they appreciated that. over time, i think the fact that he was reflecting -- he was in a difficult position. was he going to come to the white house and say, the gene choice -- joint chiefs, i think -- the joint chiefs are all wet. i do not think that kennedy found that appealing at all. >> another man who likes a lot of attention is robert mcnamara. this was recorded in 1996 on both notes. i know he went on to serve lyndon johnson. let's listen to this and put him in perspective.
>> november, 65, i said it would be a long war. what should i say to the enemy we are losing? by the way, my report to the president -- i said in the summer of '65 to him, there is only a one in three chance that we can win. that was my report. should i have said that publicly? what do you think? what does your audience think? this is a terrible dilemma. particularly so -- i want to tell you that i was in a very -- i am not saying that i was right . other people felt then and still felt today that we were winning then and as i suggested, some people think we were winning. that was baloney. >> your book is full of american
leaders and generals going to vietnam and coming back and saying we are winning. no one came back ever and said we are not winning. what do you think of that? >> i knew mcnamara a little bit. i interviewed him a couple times. the first time i began by asking about vietnam. he said, i am not going to talk about that. this was in 1998. within 15 minutes, all he could talk about was the amount. -- was about vietnam. he was profoundly conflicted about vietnam. during the kennedy presidency, he was the biggest advocate of exercising muscle in vietnam. asserting authority the and our power. journalists like david halberstam raised questions with him. he was dismissive of them. even contemptuous. sure, he eventually came to the proposition that this was a
military no-win situation in vietnam that he had been so adamant about leaving us into that war. -- leading us into that war. that is what agitated him so much. where he says, you think i could say in public that we only had a one in three chance of winning? the point is, he eventually got out of the johnson administration. johnson saw him sort of having a nervous collapse over his struggle over vietnam. they sent him off to be president of the world bank. here was a man profoundly conflicted. over time, he was one of the but only architects of expansion. rostow became johnson's national security advisor. during the kennedy presidency,
he was talking about bombing and putting ground troops in. he never gave up on that war. i knew rostow as well. i talked to him and interviewed him. his attitude was, we saved the other southeast asian countries. we gave them time to develop. that was his rationale. same thing from william west moreland. we gave them time. >> page 329, there is a juxtaposition in one long paragraph. it gets back to the image of the president and whether or not if we had known he was that sick, would he have been elected? this is another one of these that if we had done this, what would we have thought? jackie kennedy reflected --
mimi beardsley was who? >> she was a 19, 20-year-old intern who kennedy began having an affair with in the summer of 1962. he had a sustained affair with her to the end of his life. she saw him the week before he went off to texas. she claims in her book that he said, i wish i could take you with me to dallas. of course he couldn't because
jackie kennedy was going on the trip with him. he had this relationship with her in which they were vitally tied to one another. in a way, it was a really curious business. there was something bizarre almost about this. after all, he was a 45-year-old man. president of the united states. he had relationships with women galore. why did he have to seduce this 19, 20-year-old kid? she doesn't complain in the book about this. her book. she wrote me a note saying she thanked me for having brought this information forward in my first book in 2003. she had carried this as a secret. her book is called "once upon a
secret." she said also that was how she met her second husband. because of this story coming out. we corresponded. it seems like a very nice, intelligent woman. >> how did you find the story in 2003? >> i had read in the kennedy library an oral history by a woman named barbara who was the deputy press secretary at the kennedy white house. i happened to meet her at a cocktail party in washington. i said, barbara, i have just read your oral history and there are 17 blacked out pages. she agreed to let me in. when i read them, this is what
she revealed. kennedy had this affair with this 20-year-old. then, all i had was 38 words two lines in my biography in 2003 about this issue. i wasn't intent on making a big deal out of this. it interested me because i had interviewed a number of journalists for that biography and i asked them, did you know about kennedy's womanizing? they said, yes. why didn't you write about it? you didn't do it in the 1960's. you didn't intrude on a president's private life in that way. it was hidden from the public. when i brought this forward, the press got all into this. the new york daily news held me up and said, who is this woman? i didn't know who she was. barbara didn't wanted to tell -- didn't want to tell me.
i trusted what barbara was telling me and i didn't want to know. i said, this one must be in her 60's. leave her alone. they found out who she was, good anyway, investigative journalists i guess. she then was sort of all over the place. the new york daily news for three days in a row ran front-page stories about kennedy's monica. the first day they have the story on page three, they had a picture of monica lewinsky and of me. i said to my wife, i never even met the woman. [laughter] >> here is the nbc interview with mimi beardsley a couple of years ago. >> the last room that we went into was the bedroom, jackie kennedy's bedroom. i learned later that it was mrs. kennedy's bedroom. it was blue, pale blue i
remember. i felt the president getting closer and closer to me. looked me right in the eyes. he then put his hands on my shoulders and guided me down to the edge of the bed. i think he may have even said to me, does this feel right? is this ok? i don't really think i knew what he was talking about. is what ok? i didn't know what was about to happen. what did happen was, i lost my virginity. then i think i went a little bit into shock. >> why did she write the book, do you think? all the details about their why did she include relationship over an 18 month period, she flew out of the country, available to him at the end of the day -- >> it is so interesting. when i first published my book and the story came out about her, the new york daily news
revealed her name and who she was, i heard on the grapevine that a publisher offered her $1 million to write her book, a memoir. it wasn't until eight years later that she finally did it. i never asked her. maybe she needed the money. i suspect they were still willing to pay her because it was very much a tell all book. some of the details she reveals are somewhat shocking. >> go back to -- when i read the two paragraphs, jackie kennedy has great fears about her husband. she wants to keep the children and herself around him in case they die. the next page, on october 27 during the cuba missile crisis he is going upstairs to her bedroom, jackie kennedy's bed and bedding down this 19-year-old.
does this truly not matter? >> two ways you can look at this. on the one hand does it have an , impact on his conduct in the presidency? as far as i can tell, no. was he going to be found out impeached? was he going to be in 1962, as i said, the press did not write about a president's private life in that way. it says something about the man's character, about his personality, about the fact that there was some kind of deep neediness that this man had. he had to seduce his 20-year-old -- seduce this 20-year-old young woman. it is not just that, but her description of some of the things that went on. oral sex, that he encouraged her
to give oral sex. to dave powers and his brother. she resisted. he suggested that she perform oral sex on ted kennedy. but with dave powers, she did it. she said kennedy watched. he later apologized to them. what word can you apply to it? perverse? >> here is arthur schlesinger who wrote the book "1000 days." right after the presidency, he was a historian. -- he was his historian. here is what he said he knew about this. >> the recurring their recent -- the recurring theory seems to be that everyone in washington knew about the parade of bimbos in the white house and they covered it up because they like -- they liked kennedy or the rules affected the kind of inquiry. ben bradley was jack kennedy's closest friend in the press,
head of the newsweek bureau. been bradley writes that he did not know about these things. i certainly was not aware of any kind of waywardness which would interfere with the conduct. >> do you believe that? >> the journalists i talked to including bob novak said they suspected, they had clues, they thought there were lots of women coming and going from the white house. in fact, in my first biography a journalist told me the story that when kennedy was on the campaign trail in 1960, he was in northern california, a bunch of girls from the local college, kennedy pointed to one of them and his aide went up to this
young woman and said, the senator would like to see you in his hotel room. she went up there and the story the journalist told me, how he knows this i don't know, maybe this young woman told him. the journalist told me that kennedy said to this young woman, we have 15 minutes. what happened after that? the journalist didn't say. the point is, sure, they knew, they suspected. >> is the important point that whether it is this president or any president, whether or not it had an impact on the presidency? is that the only thing we have to worry about? >> i think that certainly is a central proposition. this is between him and his wife as to what their relationship is like and whether the president is a philanderer or not.
in this day and age, it seems to me that it would be madness for a president to try and do this. it is a different world from what it was in the 1960's. they would be -- it would be brought forward, all over the press, all over the television. it would probably destroy the presidency. it was a different time in the 1960's. i am not justifying it. i think that it was terribly excessive. what he did with this young woman. on the other hand, i am also someone -- i am not a puritan and i am not saying he should have just been loyal to jackie. that was between them. she knew about this. she knew he was a philanderer. there was the anecdote that they were in canada, in a receiving line, and there was a military aide standing next to them.
she said to him in french, it is not enough i come to canada and stand in line and one of these bimbos was in hand to shake earl -- in line to shake her hand. she was furious about the situation. who can blame her? >> dean rusk, secretary of state, you have this quote. he had been a cautious man. he described his function as trying to keep the group from moving too far or too fast. bobby kennedy described him as "playing the role of the dumb dodo for this reason." did he think he was a dumb dodo? >> he didn't really think he was a dumb dodo but he saw -- his personality was such that he was very deferential to the president on making foreign policy. i think there is a mixed
assessment in the sense that this is what kennedy wanted. he didn't want a secretary of state who was going to compete with him on the making of foreign policy. the kennedy administration was a foreign policy administration. kennedy was not that interested initially in the mastech -- in domestic affairs. he was dragged kicking and screaming into dealing with civil rights. it was courageous of him to put that civil rights bill before congress in 1963 because it the congress in 1963 because it could have jeopardized his reelection. since he knew he was going to be alienating southern states. they had put him across in he 1960. didn't know he was going to run against goldwater. it was courageous of him to do that.
he grew, he had evolved in that office. he was very much a foreign policy president. i don't think he wanted a secretary of state who was going to be aggressive about challenging what he wanted to do. what kennedy complained about was that rusk didn't have ideas. he was not someone who came forward with suggestions that kennedy might have used. he had little imagination in dealing with foreign policy. that was i think a legitimate complaint. >> your first trip here was in 1991 when you wrote a book on lyndon johnson. here you are in 1991. >> some of the things i have already found about his presidency is that he was trying to use the fbi to get certain journalists to work against paul newman, the movie actor who was advocating johnson's impeachment in 1967 over vietnam. johnson was trying to get the fbi to go after paul newman to see what they could find. he was, could be ruthless.
he could have been impeached. >> how many books on lyndon johnson? >> two volumes. then i did a compressed one volume. two big volumes, lone star rising and 1998 was the second volume. >> i am not sure you're allowed to ask these kind of questions. what is the difference between your take on lyndon johnson and robert's? >> my attempt at my johnson work was to stress balance. -- was to i feel that way still strike some kind of balance. i feel that way still about johnson. johnson has only a 49% approval rating. he is third from the bottom.
coming up now to the anniversary of the war on poverty, the great society, johnson did some extraordinarily constructive things for this country. sure we didn't abolish poverty as he wanted to, but he certainly eased the plight of people and took another step forward from where the new deal was in humanizing the american industrial system. i think that is to be admired. he was ruined by vietnam. that is the shadow that continues to hang over his reputation. i don't know what they are going to say about the johnson presidency. he is just reaching that point in writing about the johnson presidency. i think caro has evolved in time over his picture of johnson. in the beginning, there was some very critical writing about johnson, particularly when he ran against stevenson in that
1948 senate campaign. i think he has become -- i don't know what word to use, receptive or gentle in his criticism? his volumes are beautifully written. they are a model of how engaged -- of how to engage a general audience. i will be curious to see what his presidential volumes turn out to be. >> born in brooklyn, went to the university of illinois to get your undergraduate degree in history, phd and masters from columbia. i wrote down the places you have taught in your life. boston university, columbia, oxford, ucla, how many years? >> 30 years. >> caltech, university of texas, dartmouth, now teaching at stanford? >> i teach for stanford university in washington, a
course on the presidency seminar. i looked at that picture. who is that handsome young fellow you had on camera? >> 23 years ago. what is your son do? -- what does your son do? >> he has earned a bachelors degree from berkeley, phd in modern american political history from columbia. he became a speechwriter for two and a half years. currently he is a full-time faculty member for the university of california and -- in washington. they have a big washington center on rhode island avenue. he teaches full-time for them. he published an excellent book on ronald reagan and he is finishing a book on franklin roosevelt's civil defense.
>> where did you meet jerry? >> how long have you been in california. >> how long have you been married to her? >> it will be 49 years. >> what did she do when you met her? >> she became a health policy analyst. she headed a nonprofit in los angeles in which medicare and medicaid -- when we moved to washington, she had a job offer. she worked for something called families usa. she went to an institute at georgetown where they did health policy analysis. she had a long career in health policy. >> you have written 14 major works including the one we have been talking about. of all those, one on harry truman, nixon, kissinger, lbj, john f. kennedy, franklin roosevelt and then the book on william dodd.
which one of these did you have the most fun writing? >> maybe the most fun was kennedy because i did get into such interesting and startling new information. franklin roosevelt, i found that fascinating. he is a fascinating character. i am now going to go back to fdr. i have been invited by the viking penguin press to write a big volume on fdr. i am 79 years old. my health is good. i have told my doctor, keep me going for another four or five years so i can get this book done. >> when do you intend on having it finished? >> i hope it will take no more than four or five years. >> which of these books was the hardest to write?
>> the early ones, the first book on dodd was my doctoral thesis. i didn't know if i could write a book. i was a novice. doing the big fdr book, if i were going back to that original fdr book which i did on his foreign policy, i would have done it in somewhat different ways. >> are all these books still in print? >> yes. >> if you read -- would you learn something in addition if you read your dissertation on william dodd? >> absolutely. his book only takes the because ambassadorship through the first year and a half. mine goes through the whole ambassadorship. he has a great deal about the daughter who was more interesting than the father and i didn't focus on the daughter. >> we have been talking about a book called “camelot's court:
inside the kennedy white house." our guest has been robert dallek. we thank you very much for joining us. >> my pleasure to be with you again. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q-and-a.org. q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. >> c-span, we bring public affairs offends from washington directly to you putting you in the room at congressional hearings, white house events, briefings and conferences, and offering complete gavel-to-gavel coverage of the u.s. house.
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weapons and materials are secured. we will be joined by william toby. >> good morning. we have a three-hour washington journal for you. we will be talking about immigration reform and a new plan to repeal and replace the affordable care act. we will look at the national security administration. before we get to that, we talk about the role of the role of the first lady. we want to know if you think if the first lady should have