tv QA Michael Gerhardt CSPAN November 12, 2018 5:58am-6:59am EST
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announcer: this week on q&a, author michael gerhardt on the presidency of jimmy carter. brian: michael, when did you first start thinking about the book you wrote in 2013 on the forgotten presidents? mr. gerhardt: i've been thinking about it a lot. for other 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. best comment. -- common. that they were forgotten but also significant in some way. so i began thinking about it years prior to 2013 but i 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 somebody 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 there. some people thought james polk, president in the 19th century. perhaps jimmy carter and william howard taft were people i heard 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. brian: van buren, john tyler, william henry harrison, zachary taylor, groveland cleveland, jimmy carter, grover cleveland , calvin coolidge. when did you first get interested in the idea of politicians, presidents, politics? mr. gerhardt: i think it happened very early. probably so early i can't even remember. i grew up in alabama and i grew up jewish in alabama in the 1960's. that 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. it involved somebody i thought could be a great senator and someone i had a lot of respect for. that was al gore junior. 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? mr. gerhardt: no, i also worked on senator gore's presidential campaign and i worked on other 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 have done and the people i had met along the way have continued to be important. brian: what did you take away from being inside politics instead of outside? mr. gerhardt: it is very hard work physically. people who are good at it really have to be up and about and on pretty much 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. we oftentimes it can be cynical about people who go into politics, but my view up close and i someone who studied history 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.
one of those in this book is one that my age can remember very well, and that is jimmy carter, president 1977 to 1981. if somebody said out of the blue, explain jimmy carter as a person? gerhardt: 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 georgia and had been a local politician in georgia before that. as governor of georgia, he developed an ambition, which surprised 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 carter later encapsulated, about, why not the best? why not look for somebody who has integrity and will try to raise our ideals? somebody not from washington, but from the deep south? first president and a long time to be elected from a deep south who might try to raise us all up to some extent to be a better
country. 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. ford also pardoned nixon in an attempt to put watergate behind us. the pardoning of nixon 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 a tremendously good man, but also perhaps 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 cornerstone in modern, ethical law. carter could make these promises and perhaps they had some appeal for people. in the wake of watergate, a lot 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 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. a lot of different forms people 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.
all of that gets its genesis 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: it plays out in a way we can appreciate today. carter had the idea he was going to be his own chief of staff. the idea behind that 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 determining his agenda. in the abstract, those are good ideas. but the presidency at the time was a more complex institution
than it had been in the 19th 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. brian: you were in your early 20's when he became president. as a historian, how do you get 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. the other was to talk to people 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. there are videos which were a 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. with his speeches, 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 cartoon that 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 -- town, perhaps throughout 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 politician in washington at all and had not had his formative years there, he was a genuine outsider coming into washington. and he was coming from a place 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. he came from a place in georgia that people couldn't pick out on a map. 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 his mother would sit andhe railroad station
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 living and working out in the country, which is physically more demanding. i think a lot of that had appeal for a lot of people. it also generated skepticism
from other people who were less familiar with him or had preconceptions of what it meant to come from the deep south. jimmy carter was educated at the naval academy. obviously, one of our most prestigious and demanding institutions. 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 address. the economy 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 -- he had 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: some would say not very well. he brought in a number of advisors is to try and help them figure out how to deal with that. he was also beginning 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. what should the federal
government be doing here to try and fix the economy? that might have meant more federal intervention, not less. that was his mindset. brian: you point out he did something very few presidents have done. he eliminated an agency. mr. gerhardt: yes. carter was thinking about reorganization at the time. a part of it was an attempt to balance the budget and make the government more efficient. several departments had to be reorganized, including the health education and welfare department which transformed into health and human services. there 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 deregulate the airline industry. he eliminated the civil error .on-export -- ergonomics board he tried to turn over management to the private sector. that was one of the ways the federal government was going to be less intrusive. brian: is there any way to compare his deregulation 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. carter's ideas at the time were to make government better, maybe a little bit more efficient. more ethical. the effort toward 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 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 s were, the vice president something to be ignored or thrust 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. carter thought instead i'm a my -- instead, my vice president, walter mondale, could 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 precedent. brian: did mondale like the way he was being treated? mr. gerhardt: he was to some extent an outsider within the carter clique.
he wasn't somebody who had known carter before then. he had not grown up with carter. he was probably viewed as an outsider by people closest to carter. on the other hand, mondale was trying to help carter realize his initiatives. they would not necessarily agree on some issues. sometimes i think mondale was part of a smaller network that was interacting with carter on issues. brian: as you know because you studied this, some presidents have four or five appointments to the supreme court. he had none. what impact did he have 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. which is remarkable. that was a tremendous disappointment in his administration and probably to him, personally.
nonetheless, judgeships became important to carter in a way they had not been important before for the purpose of increasing the federal branch. bringing minorities and women on to the federal branch in a way that was inclusive. 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, who will i nominate to these judgeships? began to tearach apart his relationship with the senate and it became a controversial matter. it was one of the things that created 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 it 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 -- in government. carter was very much a trailblazer in that regard. brian: what impact do you have -- did it have on his presidency that he granted amnesty to draft dodgers from vietnam? mr. gerhardt: that hurt his presidency. carter was trying to think how to heal the country. how do we bring people together that have been divided?
the people who had left the country and dodged and avoided 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, draft 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 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. vance was a well-respected civil servant and a secretary of state of great prominence. he did not feel fully appreciated. he didn't have carter listening to him all the time. so it came to a head. carter had already tried to remove other officials and was happy to get 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 american history. as presidents try to fill certain positions, it turns out the senate, who has the power to confirm the officials, will care about more positions 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. what we are seeing is a rift with vance and with the senate. these things expanded and became 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. he says, there is no doubt i david veryat camp well aware that anything i've said it be upheld by the
congress and the president did have that authority to negotiate. so the president's right to conduct foreign affairs and recognize any 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 today and this president. is there any similarity? mr. gerhardt: i do not think there is much similarity. to go back to carter, i 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. as you noted from the footnote, in taking the responsibility and trying to give himself credit, carter appeared arrogant. carter was stumbling to some extent because he did not leave credit to others. his moral arrogance, which he may have in common with woodrow wilson, became a liability for him as a politician. carter was trying to shape his own legacy. the camp david accord was a historic moment in foreign affairs. carter also signaled it was his moment. not a team of people. he did it. 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 his constituents, that core group that seems to support him, seems to relish the president doing that. we have come along way from 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 may be part of the problem with carter. he was not aware of how it would go against him. trump is aware of it but he does not care. brian: what impact did he have on fifa? -- fisa?
mr. gerhardt: we do not think about these things when we look back in history because we are thinking in big terms. dramatic stuff like war or nixon's resignation. with carter, he was putting into place institutions that actually continue to this day. , he waszer, -- fisa 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. particularly with respect to spies. carter tried to put together institutions to address it. brian: this book is available in paperback.
"the forgotten presidents" there's a lot more in here. and you have a new book. this original book was by oxford. a new book is called "just impeachment." why did you write this and when did you finish it? mr. gerhardt: i wrote that recently. impeachment is a subject i have a lot about over the years because i have had a long-standing interest in how constitutional law is done outside of the court. one of congress's most important abilities is impeachment authority. last christmas, i had a chance to put together the manuscript for this book.
that is when i wrote it. the point of it is to try to explain the laws impeachment for everybody. it is not an academic book, it's an effort to try to explain this to people who are not lawyers. brian: how involved were you with the bill 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 as early as the 1980's, people in congress knew it was an area i had consulted
on. so i was brought in as a witness and helped advise some senators later in the process. i had a 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 it and also testify and interact with members of congress. brian: should bill clinton have been impeached? mr. gerhardt: great question. i think bill clinton did a lot 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 tick people off. he took actions that were controversial at the time to undermine the national bank. those actions were thought by some to be illegal and inappropriate. later, the senate censured him for that and had that later expunged. i do not know if he merited
impeachment, but history holds him accountable for a lot of things. not everything is impeachable. high crimes might define impeachment. but presidents may do things that are justifiably impeachable and congress does not pursue impeachment against them. a growing number 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 even the law that restricted how you should go about dismissing cabinet officials.
he fired his war secretary without getting the senate approval. that was technically illegal at the time. and johnson also fought reconstruction. he kept trying to impede it in different ways. those acts could be viewed as a basis of his impeachment, though it fell short of one vote in the senate. an author who wrote a book about it said what johnson may have been standing up for was 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 on the law then congress. congress. so the lesson supports the president taking a different position in congress on what policy can be. brian: 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. nixon was told shortly by barry goldwater before he resigned. goldwater was such a loyal republican and when he told nixon he did not think you would
get 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 be the first president both impeached and removed from office. 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. what i tried to do in the 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. we are only at the beginning, trying to figure out what all
the subjects are. 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? what will it take? mr. gerhardt: it is likely there will be an attempt to impeach him but success is doubtful because impeachment is a numbers game. it depends on who controls the house and senate. so if his party controls the house, it reduces the odds that he will be impeached, regardless of what he has done. if his party has enough seats in the senate, he can block a conviction of removal. so the numbers are in his favor.
brian: why is it that if his party maintains their leadership position next time around, why is a automatic that they will not impeach him, and how many votes do you need in the house to impeach the president? mr. gerhardt: you need the majority of the house to formally impeach somebody. it would not necessarily be automatic not to impeach the president for members of his a -- own party. but they begin the process if they are thinking about impeachment already hesitant.
that is what has to be overcome. with a president who may be popular within a 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 states in the senate. brian: you have a paragraph attributed to a professor from
harvard law school. he has asked whether we think a war without congressional approval -- let me go back. a president who has suspended habeas corpus and waged war without congressional approval and supported prosecution of his political enemies may be impeached. most people might be tempted to but?es, but, what is the itself like another current time in our existence. mr. gerhardt: how do we analyze issues that relate to 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. brian: 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 in those conditions? that is what i am trying to address in the book. i think several things are significant. it may remind us about the political will that might be needed for impeachment. you can have bad misconduct, but then 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. there are things the culture may think are so bad we have to get rid of somebody, but maybe the culture is disposed to discount things or not treat them as terribly awful. i think that helps explain bill clinton.
and why he is not tossed out of office. the lie happened under oath but 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 justifies removal and when it is not necessarily appropriate for impeachment. but history will come down hard on that person. brian: would you have impeached any of those presidents? mr. gerhardt: no. abraham lincoln suspended habeas corpus.
he did this at 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. if not, our greatest president. brian: who waged war without getting approval? mr. gerhardt: a number of presidents have done that, including lincoln. work can be authorized by other means other than a declaration of war. there could be support from congress given in a different form, rather than a formal declaration. we might find the president had legal basis to use military force even though it was not formally declared by congress. brian: who engaged 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've suggested before, maybe it has to do with culture as well at the time. it was not something that was publicly talked about. later with bill clinton, it was publicly talked about but people tend to discount how important it is to have the president in office. racist statements can be made by presidents. woodrow wilson was certainly one of those presidents, and it would not be in effect he would make racist comments. an unfortunate aspect of all -- our 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? if the answer is yes but
impeachment is not necessarily the right mechanism to use to get at that kind of misconduct. brian: what about franklin roosevelt? mr. gerhardt: he might have lied to congress and may be did not disclose certain things on how he was trying to help some of our allies who were under siege from nazi germany at the time. 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 a bad thing. but in terms of the benefits, he was trying to protect the world against a force that was trying to come after other countries. brian: 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 chance to advise on a number of supreme court nominations. sometimes in a formal capacity. it has been as many as six. brian: can you tell us who they are? mr. gerhardt: justice breyer, justice sotomayor, justice kagan. brian: what was your relationship with justice alito? mr. gerhardt: i have never met justice alito.
he certainly came 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 democrats, to defend a different proposition. that was a proposition that the senate was entitled to take people's ideology into account and exercise an independent voice on supreme court nominations. i came in and defended that because some of the push at the time 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 a number of people. i've been fortunate to advise more than one.
brian: do they pay you or du do -- do you just 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 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 committee. brian: when you go into the classroom, how do you separate 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 constitution center either, which is a wonderful institution dedicated to constitutional education. you are educating the constitution. brian: have you ever considered the opportunity to be on the bench somewhere? district, circuit or supreme court? mr. gerhardt: i have not 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 four years. just getting a handle on what we can glean from that time and what might have been his legacy.
another one is william harry harrison and zachary taylor. they are typically dismissed as being not important, but i the book that they may have been more important than we think. if we look at harrison from election day to 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 power. those that supported slavery and those that didn't. one of the themes of the book is 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. brian: you teach at a law school. mr. gerhardt: yes. i worked with 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. brian: michael j. gerhardt has been our guest. he has got two books you might
next week on q&a, jackie spear of california talks about her memoir. that is q&a next sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. : next, where live with your calls and questions on "washington journal." announcer: c-span launched book tv 20 years ago. since then, we have covered more than 15,000 authors. in 2009, temple grandin was a guest of our local monthly call-in program. >> there are people that are visual thinkers and are not necessarily artistic.