tv QA Michael Gerhardt CSPAN November 11, 2018 8:00pm-9:03pm EST
announcer: next, q&a with author michael gerhardt on the presidency of jimmy carter. at the veterans day arlington cemetery. ♪ this week on q&a, university of north carolina constitutional law professor michael gerhardt discusses his book "the forgotten presidents" michael, when did you first start thinking about the book you read -- you wrote in 2013 on the forgotten presidents? mr. gerhardt: i've been thinking about it a lot. projects, i kept
running into presidents who had done things that were interesting, and i thought about the forgotten presidents before i began the book. it occurred to me they might have something in problem. that they were forgotten but also significant in some way. so i began thinking about it 2013 but i to assembled different chapters about different presidents. i thought about who was forgotten for the purposes of the book. so i had to do surveys and talk with people to make the determination. once i settled on a group of people to talk about, i thought about what they might have in common and what we could learn from them. brian: what kind of reaction did you get from 70 out there who is a big fan of one of the presidents and they did not think they belonged in the book? mr. gerhardt: the reactions i got were less about who was in
there and more about who should have been in their. some people thought -- in there. some people thought james you buchanan, president jimmy carterhaps and william howard taft were from, maybe they are not as forgotten as you think. so one of the things when i talk about the book is the ways to determine who is forgotten. then we talk about what makes them important or interesting. , john tyler,ren zachary taylor, groveland , jimmy carter, when
did you first get interested in the idea of politicians, presidents, politics? mr. gerhardt: i think it happened very early. i grew up in alabama and i grew up jewish in alabama in the 1960's. i was a time of great turbulence. the civil rights movement was unfolding in front of me. i paid attention to it and those events from the 1960's and 1970's shaped my interest in civil rights and in law. i was watching presidents, courts, congress, local politicians. when i got out of high school, i was pretty sure i wanted to be a lawyer and study constitutional law. brian: when did you decide you wanted to get involved in the
1984 al gore campaign? for senator, not president. mr. gerhardt: correct. the reason i got interested was because i had come to tennessee after graduating at the university of chicago law school and i worked for a district judge in memphis and i was law clerk to a judge in nashville. when i was in nashville as i began to think about what i wanted to do, i was looking around and realized there was a senate campaign beginning. thoughtved somebody i could be a great senator and someone i had a lot of respect for. that was alger. -- that was al gore. so i got involved in the campaign and worked on it for a while. it was a successful campaign. brian: was that the last time
you did political work? i also workedno, on senator gore's presidential othergn and i worked on campaigns locally. i live in north carolina now. and i worked on presidential campaigns. i worked in the clinton-gore transition later. one thing often leads to another and the work i had done in the people i had met along the way have continued to be important. brian: what did you take away from being anti-politics -- inside politics instead of outside? mr. gerhardt: it is very hard work physically. people who are good at it really have to be up at about and on .or seven -- 24/7
it is physically demanding. and it is intellectually demanding. you have to know a lot about a lot of different things. hopefully something more than just superficiality. cynical about people in politics but my view up close is that these people work hard and care a lot and often have to know a great deal to do with they are appointed to do. brian: we have done a series of programs about presidents. is jimmy carter, president 1977 to 1981. if somebody said out of the blue, explain jimmy carter as a person? >> jimmy carter as a person is
to some extent what you still see today. he is an ex-president and someone who clearly leads with his heart. he has a lot of intense feeling and commitment to certain issues. he had a core of integrity which was very important to his election and his life. he could also be very demanding. demanding of himself and those around him. you can see it throughout his life. brian: what did he do before he ran for president? mr. gerhardt: he was governor in and a local politician in georgia before that. as governor of georgia, he developed ambition which surprise a lot of people, which was considering running for the presidency. this was in the wake of richard nixon's resignation and gerald ford's elevation to president.
that was at a time when the nation was in turbulence and there was some instability nationally and a concern, as , whyr later said, about not look for somebody who has integrity and will try to raise our ideals? somebody not from washington, but from the deep south? raisee who might try to country.to be a better i think carter had a couple advantages. he was the outsider, not the incumbent. ford also had tremendous integrity but inherited the nixon administration and that weighed him down.
in anlso pardoned nixon attempt to put watergate behind us. that might have connected ford more closely with nixon in a way that was not good for ford. and ford might have made a mistake or two in presidential debates. he was in it -- he was a good might have been a little bit bland in terms of demeanor. television was beginning to capture people's imagination. ford had some things working against him and carter had the idea of freshness and newness and a commitment to ethics, which was a very important element to his campaign. brian: what do you mean by ethics? mr. gerhardt: carter wanted to restore ethics in washington and in the white house.
he could make that part of his agenda. he later put into effect the government ethics act as president which was a corner cornerstone in ethical law. carter could make these promises and perhaps they had some appeal for people. , a lotwake of watergate of the country thought perhaps it was time to turn the page and see if we can do things better. brian: in the world of ethics, what remains today that he did? mr. gerhardt: a number of things still remain in effect that apply to judges and other federal officials. disclosure requirements, things that pertain to people and federal office. -- in federal office.
a lot of that is still around in one form or another. what some people might perceive as an obsession on the government's part, look at congress. the ethics committee. peoplef different forms that work there have to fill out and comply with. the executive branch, a lot of disclosure laws and requirements about what people can do and not do in terms of interaction with others. a lot of that is from the carter days. brian: you say he got off to an unfortunate start with the transition from gerald ford to his own white house. how does that play out? mr. gerhardt: in a way it plays way weit plays out in a can appreciate today. carter had the idea he was going
to be his own chief of staff. the idea behind not was he was not going to have an intermediary between himself and those who interact with the presidency. the idea was he did not want anyone to turning -- determining his agenda. an abstract, that is a good idea. but the presidency at the time was a more complex institution than it had been in the 19 century. when carter came into it, being your own chief of staff and trying to be president was much more than he could handle so there was a sense of chaos that marked his administration in the beginning. in your earlye 20's when he became president. as a historian, had he got the mood of what it was like in the town when he came here in 1977? mr. gerhardt: from a few
different places. one is from personal experience. peopleer was to talk to and interview people who were in and around the administration at that time. another is to look at the documents and materials being produced. the letters and statements he made. which were aeos newer thing that would not have been true in an earlier time. so with carter we can actually see some things. you can actually look at the historical record in a way that was unavailable for earlier presidents. we can see the speeches and see how he delivered them. brian: i remember the washington star was in business at the time and they published a full-page showed broken down
wrecks on the front lawn of the white house, dogs that had not eaten for days, making fun of his georgia roots. what did you find out about that and how did it impact the town? mr. gerhardt: i think it had a great deal of impact on the town and maybe beyond the town too much of the country. the south had a good deal of pride in carter when he came into the white house. but because he was not a washington creature and had not developed as a part -- as a politician in washington at all and had not had his formative years there, he was a genuine outsider coming into washington. place was coming from a that many people in washington did not have respect for, the deep south. that made his job harder. people had expectations of what
a southern governor could be like, particularly one with a southern accent. so he had to come into washington in an effort to change it, that he was coming into washington and facing people even in his own party who were skeptical about him and maybe had disdain for him. that made his job harder. brian: i remember plains, georgia, because there was a gas station and a railroad station and he would sit and meet people in a rocking chair. how much did that have on him getting elected? mr. gerhardt: i have a feeling that it helped because it showed he was an outsider but it showed he was a self-made person to a large extent. it showed he was coming from an unpretentious background.
i think that could have a great deal of appeal for a lot of voters. the idea that this person was not going to be full of himself and could appreciate what it means to have to work for a and working out in the country, which is physically more demanding. i think a lot of that had appealed for a lot of people. it also generated skepticism from others who are less familiar with it or had preconceived -- preconceptions of what it meant to come from the deep south. jimmy carter was educated at the naval academy. one of our most prestigious and demanding institution. so although carter might have come from the deep south, he was a well-educated person and a very smart guy. people sometimes do not expect that combination from someone
from the deep south. brian: what was the economy like when he took over? mr. gerhardt: not strong. it was one of the challenges he was going to have to face. carter had a lot of challenges coming at him very fast that he had to a dress -- had to address. was not strong, the international situation was precarious. there was disorganization in the executive branch. this was all on his desk, not just as chief of staff, adhered to figure out who the president would need to talk to to figure this out, and what would be the initiative the administration would use. brian: how did he deal with the price of oil, gasoline, inflation? mr. gerhardt: someone say not
very well. somealm would say =--- would say not very well. to think about deregulation in ways that were different at the time. carter was thinking about it in a way that marked his party. he was thinking about it from the federal government's perspective. moremight have meant federal intervention, not less. that was his mindset. you point out he did something very few presidents have done. he eliminated an agency. mr. gerhardt: yes. attempt tot was an balance the budget and make the government more efficient.
department -- several departments had to be theganized, including health education and welfare department which transformed into health and human services. they were a number of innovations. brian: what about the airline deregulation? mr. gerhardt: carter wanted to reduce the amount of federal management over the airlines and that became a very big hallmark of his administration, to d regulate the airline -- to deregulate the airline industry. to try to turn over management to the private sector.
that was one of the ways the federal government was going to be less intrusive. is there any way to compare his deregulation action -- deregulate bashan to reagan's ? mr. gerhardt: carter had a well-developed political philosophy. less government was not necessarily part of it. make government smaller was something central to ronald reagan's approach. at the time were to make government better, maybe a little bit more efficient. more ethical. the effort toward deregulation -- deregulation was controversial. it turned out to be more controversial than he expected as often turned to be the case with carter.
things he did not expect there to be trouble with and then there was trouble. brian: what impact did he have on what the vice president -- how the vice president should be used? mr. gerhardt: before carter came into office, there was some difference in opinion about the importance of the vice president. for many presidents up until carter, the vice president's were something to be ignored. something to be cast aside. in the case of nixon, his vice president was pushed aside. presidents do not often think of their vice presidents as partners or people they could turn over some responsibilities to. a myr thought instead i'm vice president, walter mondale, .ould be important he could be important to my administration. mondale was in charge of the
national security matters early on. he took on a more significant role than vice presidents had generally taken on before and that set the modern president. dent.ece did mondale like the way he was being treated? mr. gerhardt: he was to some extent an outsider within the carter click -- clique. he had not grown up with carter. he was probably viewed as an outsider by people closest to carter. mondale was trying to help carter realize his initiative. they would not necessarily agree. wastimes i think mondale part of a smaller network that was interacting with carter on issues.
as you know because you this,d this -- studied some presidents have four or five appointments to the supreme court. he had none. what was his impact on the selection of judges beyond the supreme court? mr. gerhardt: carter is the only president to have served a full term without a supreme court judge. -- appointment. became important to carter in a way they had not for theortant before purpose of increasing the federal branch. carter tried to find ways to implement the objectives, one of
which was to develop judicial commissions and use them to advise him and maybe diminish the role of the senate in the course of trying to figure out began to's approach tear apart his relationship with the senate and it became a controversial matter. thats one of the things was a difference between carter and ted kennedy which would later be a bigger problem. carter's approach set the democratic party on a path that is still tries to follow. in trying to pick judges, we are not going to just pick white males. we will think about what other qualified people are out there
and people we can put on the bench and they can become judges and important officials and government. carter was a trail blazer in that regard. brian: what impact do you have hehis presidency that granted amnesty to draft dodgers from vietnam? mr. gerhardt: that hurt his presidency. carter was trying to think how to heal the country. had we bring people together that have been divided? the people who had left the country and dodged and avoid the draft because they did not like or believe in the vietnam war, they were viewed by some americans as unpatriotic and bad. carter look at it differently. he wanted to find a way to bring the people back, to heal the divisions. the pardon from his perspective
made sense. but it also signaled to people on the other side, the republican party, that carter was going to be sympathetic to people who did not follow the rule of law and people who were viewed as hippies and far left liberals, jeff dodgers. carter pardoning those people might have aligned him with a group that was not popular with people who were carter's critics. brian: the secretary of state resigned in the middle of the controversy. gordon liddy was pardoned. give us some background. mr. gerhardt: a lot was happening, not just the mystically. domestically. you had a situation arising in iran that would become a big
problem for carter. he also developed interpersonal friction between him and other key officials like the secretary of state. was a well-respected civil servant and a secretary of state of great prominence. he did not feel fully appreciated. so it came to a head. carter had already tried to remove other officials and was happy to get rid of the arts. -- rid of vance. that created a rift in the cabinet and in the party. with regard to other positions like ted sorensen in the cia, what we see is something that will be important to carter and other presidents throughout
history. as presidents try to fill certain positions, it turns out the senate, who has the power to confirm the officials, will care about suppositions more than others. some will happen in areas that are more heated. so the secretary of state, head of cia, attorney general, those officials get more attention and the nominees get more attention. sorensen was one of them and the rejection of him became a signal from the senate to carter that they were not just going to accept his people because they were his people. so we saw a rift with it vance and with the senate. becamehings expanded and problems for carter. brian: you have a footnote i want to ask you about.
footnote 48. carter's acknowledgment of his role in negotiating the camp david accords unwittingly reflects his pension to assume all the responsibility for doing something, a recurrent problem with his administration. then you have a quote of his from a cookie roberts interview. i knew anything i said at camp david would be upheld by the congress and the president had that authority to negotiate. 's right toident conduct foreign affairs and recognize a government in the world that he chooses and to withdraw people from office on the spur of the moment. as a read this, i was thinking
about the current president. ?s there any similarity mr. gerhardt: i do not think there is much similarity. carter, i to appreciate you reading the footnotes. not many people do. carter became his own worst enemy to some extent. this is part of the legacy that will haunt him. footnote,ed from the in taking the responsibility and trying to give himself credit partnerrter -- credit, appeared arrogant.
, which hearrogance may have in common with woodrow wilson, became a liability for him as a politician. carter was trying to shape his own legacy. was amp david accord historic moment in foreign affairs. but he also signaled it was his moment. not a team of people. him. that arrogance came back to haunt him. with trump, i think you see almost the opposite of what you see with jimmy carter. you see someone who is more than happy to give himself credit and the corporate that supports him seems to relish the president doing that. fromve come along way
jimmy carter, who did not make it one of his characteristics, that is to say he was not conscious of trying to be arrogant and boastful. that might've been part of the problem. he was not aware of how it would go against him. trump is aware of it but he does not care. what impacted he have on five for -- what impact did he have on fifa? we do not think about these things when we look because we are usually thinking in big terms. war orc stuff like nixon's resignation. with carter, he was putting into that actuallyions
continue to this day. with fifa, he was trying to respond to a problem that occurred in nixon's administration, the boundary between the cia and fbi and who could look at what. respect toy with spies. carter tried to put together institutions to address it. brian: this book is available in paperback. "the forgotten presidents" and you have a new book. this original book was by oxford. "just book is called impeachment." mr. gerhardt: i wrote that recently.
havechment is a subject i read a lot about in the last few years because i have had a in howanding interest constitutional law happens outside the courts. importantress is most -- one of congress's most important abilities is impeachment authority. i wrote this book over my christmas break. the point of it is to try to explain the laws impeachment for everybody. it is not an academic book, it's thisfort to try to explain to people who are not lawyers. brian: how involved were you with the ill clinton impeachment? mr. gerhardt: i was brought in
as a joint witness in hearings before the house judiciary committee in the clinton impeachment process. i was there in part because i had written about impeachment before 1998, which is when the clinton episode became heated. because i had been involved with impeachment prior, people in congress new it was an area i had consultant on desk consulted on. so i was brought in as a witness and helped advise some senators later in the process. chance to think about impeachment as an academic subject and also think about it in the real world. how does this stuff happen on the ground? the presidential impeachment is rare.
so i had a chance to write about also testify and interact with members of congress. brian: should bill clinton have been impeached? mr. gerhardt: great question. lotink bill clinton did a to merit his own impeachment. i think he knew members of congress were looking for him to make mistakes and then when he made those and later testified under oath in a way that was false and for which he was later held in contempt by a judge for perjury, it made his impeachment inevitable. brian: should andrew jackson have been impeached? mr. gerhardt: i would need to think about that. jackson did a lot of controversial things. he liked to take people off --
people off. he undermined the national bank. he was later censured by the senate and then later had that expunged. i do not know if he merited impeachment but history hold him accountable for a lot of things. not everything is impeachable. might define impeachment. sut presidents may do thing that are justifiably impeachable
and have congress not a beach them. a lot of people think johnson was justifiably subject to impeachment because he was hostile to the reconstruction policy congress was putting together at the time. so a lot of people think johnson was flaunting and disregarding the law. not just of reconstruction, but how the law that restricted you should go about dismissing habit officials. -- cabinet officials. he fired his were secretary without getting the senate approval. that was technically illegal at the time. and johnson also fought reconstruction.
those acts could be viewed as a basis for a patient although it fell short of one vote in the senate. an author about -- an author who wrote a book about it said the johnson might have been standing up for the president's entitlement to take a different position on policy in congress. so if he is acting in good faith , which one might argue johnson was trying to do, maybe he is entitled to have a difference of opinion. supports the president taking a different position in congress on what policy can be. if nixon had not resigned, would he have been impeached and convicted?
mr. gerhardt: yes. he would have certainly been impeached. the house of representatives was moving in that direction and had approved articles of impeachment . and the matter would've gone to the senate. most senators would have voted to convict. by barry told shortly goldwater before he resigned. goldwater was such a loyal republican and when he told nixon he did not think you would ,et more than 10 or 12 votes nixon knew the game was up. more than two thirds would vote to convict. so he knew he would have to resign or and at being impeached. brian: how much did chapter eight in your book on impeachment drive you to write the book?
the title of the chapter is " will donald trump be impeached?" mr. gerhardt: it is a topic a lot of people talk about. in thetried to do chapter is clean up misconceptions about legal issues and constitutional issues . i try to work through the different subjects that can come up with trump. it is a subject that interests me as someone who studies impeachment and as an american. that was an important chapter. brian: do you have a gut instinct as to whether or not there will be an attempt to impeach him at any point? mr. gerhardt: it is likely there
will be an attempt to impeach am but success is doubtful because -- impeach him but success is doubtful because impeachment is a numbers game. a content -- it depends on who controls the house and senate. so if his party controls the house, it reduces the odds of if he will be impeached, regardless of what he has done. if his party has enough seats in ae senate, he can block conviction of removal. so the numbers are in his favor. hisn: why is it that if their leadership position next time around, why is it automatic that they will not ap chem, and how many votes do you need in the house to a beach the president? mr. gerhardt: you need the majority of the house.
buddy.ally pizza -- to formally in impeach somebody. it would not necessarily be automatic not to impeach the president for members of his a party. but they begin the process if they are thinking about hesitant.t already that is what has to be overcome. with the president who may be popular within the party that is controlling the house, that makes the members of the same party more hesitant to think about cutting themselves off from this popular figure. that is what has to be overcome. it is very difficult to
overcome. in the senate it has to be two thirds. two thirds of the members present. it is more complicated if people are absent. but we assume it must be at least two thirds of the people who are there representing the s in the senate. paragraph have a attributed to a professor from harvard law school. congressional approval -- let me go back. a president who has suspended habeas corpus and waged war without congressional approval may be impeached.
what is the but? mr. gerhardt: hattaway analyze -- how do we analyze the impeachment process. we have to analyze whether certain conduct is impeachable. some conduct might fall short. other misconduct might qualify as an impeachable offense. even if we agree some conduct may be impeachable, the question becomes whether there is the political will to impeach.
following that, you wrote, we are not trump. mr. gerhardt: what i am trying to get at has to do with the recognition that there may be things presidents do that are bad. some of these things might be an impeachable offense. but we have to deal with the question, what is the significance of the failure to impeach? .n those conditions that is what i am trying to address in the book. i think several things are significant. us about the political will that might be needed for impeachment. you can have is conduct that the question becomes do the numbers
work in a way that would work against it? a second thing to think about is that impeachment is linked to culture. maye are things the culture think are so bad we have to get rid of somebody, the maybe the is disposed to discount things are not treat them as terribly awful. i help -- i think that helps explain bill clinton. oath butappened under enough people in the senate thought it was not so bad for the president at this particular time that it justifies using the biggest gun we have, conviction and removal. so culture can help us figure out what is so bad that it ittifies a removal and when
is not necessarily improve great -- necessarily appropriate for impeachment. impeachedld you have any of those presidents? mr. gerhardt: no. suspended habeas corpus. he did this it the time for the sake of expediency. congress is not in session. we can criticize him for different things but most americans except him as one of our two greatest presidents. brian: who waged war without getting approval? mr. gerhardt: a number of president cap, including lincoln. authorized by other
means besides a declaration of war. there could be support from congress given in a different form. might find the president had legal basis to use military force even though it was not formally declared by congress. who engage in sexual escapades? mr. gerhardt: jfk. we did not know it at the time. but it is reported now the reporters knew it and did not disclose it. it has to do with the moral character of the president. as i suggest, maybe it also has to do with culture. at the time it was not something publicly talked about. clinton, it was publicly talked about but people tend to discount how important it is to have the president in
office. statements can be made by presidents. woodrow wilson was one of the house and it was not unique that he would make racist comments. an unfortunate aspect of all culture at the time. here is one of the critical things. what if people vote for the president in part because of that, or vote in spite of that? buthe answer is yes impeachment is not necessarily the right mechanism to use brian:. brian:what about franklin roosevelt? mr. gerhardt: he might have lied and may be did not disclose certain things on how he was trying to help some of our allies who were under siege
at the time.many in taking those liberties, he might've been using his judgment to do what he felt was best but not necessarily communicating with the congress. we could look back on that and say that was not a great thing and say it was bad. but in terms of the benefits, he was trying to protect the world against a force that was trying to come after other countries. in your background there is a lot of advice to the senate about supreme court nominees. how many of those have you been involved in and what is your criteria for doing it? mr. gerhardt: i have had the ofnce to advise on a number supreme court nominations. sometimes in a formal capacity. it has been as many as six.
can you tell us who they are? justice breyer, justice kagan. brian: what was your relationship with justice alito? mr. gerhardt: i have never met justice alito. he became highly recommended at the time. bush nominated him and the senate confirmed him. he is sitting on the supreme court today. i was called in by the senate at that point, by the senate to defend a different proposition. that was a proposition that the
senate was entitled to take people's ideology into account an exercise an independent voice on supreme court nominations. i came in and defended that because some of the push at the was that they should defer to what the president has done. i felt the senate was entitled to have an independent voice. brian: who is your primary contact in the senate that you advised? mr. gerhardt: there have been several. to advisefortunate more than one. brian: do they pay you or du do it out of the goodness of your heart? mr. gerhardt: i have sometimes been brought in technically on the staff where i get paid and try to honor that role arrangement -- honor that
arrangement. it just depends. brian: how involved were you in the brett kavanaugh nomination? mr. gerhardt: i have been brought in as a special counsel to work with the senate democrats and judiciary to midi. -- judiciary committee. brian: when you go into the separate, how do you your personal views from your professional presentations? mr. gerhardt: i try to always be aware of what the relationship may be between what i am doing at any moment and what my responsibilities are. in the classroom my function is to be an educator, not somebody who is trying to shape other people's views. i am trying to educate people on different things. my personal views have no
relevance. i do not think they have much relevance at the national institution either. that is also about educating. have you ever considered the opportunity to be on the bench somewhere? i have nott: necessarily considered it, but one thing that has always been important is public service. hopefully what i have been able to do over 30 years of teaching is to better understand the constitution. that is public service and it is an honor in my life to try to engage in that. brian: going back to your original book, which of those 12 men was the hardest to grasp?
mr. gerhardt: good question. carter was a little hard because he is more recent and it was such an active for years -- four years. just getting a handle on what we can glean from that time and what might have been his legacy. one is william harry harrison and zachary taylor. they are typically dismissed as being an important but i suggest in the book that they may have been more important than we think. from look at harrison election day to when he came to
august, you are looking at months. -- when he came to office, you are looking at months. he was not there long. with taylor, he was trying to reshape the presidency to be a more forceful figure in trying to determine the balance of powder -- power. book ishe themes of the that people coming to the office and the office shapes them but the people themselves also shape the office. william henry harrison did that in 30 days. teach at a law school. mr. gerhardt: yes. rosenworked with co jeff -- ceo jeff rosen and i oversee
content that is produced for the public. sometimes the programs are all over the country and we try to arrange those and find people to come in and talk. hasn: michael j. gerhardt been our guest. his two books are impeachment and "the forgotten presidents" thank you very much. mr. gerhardt: thank you. it has been a great honor. ♪
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