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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 26, 2009 3:00pm-4:00pm EST

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>> host: you would repeal the act. >> guest: i would set aside the restrictions set upon by hud and other lenders that forces affirmative action lending in any form. >> host: is that the community reinvestment act? >> guest: separate. >> host: he would get rid of the rules and regulations that mandate failure in the house market. .. through a 2,000-page bill on the backs of small business and seniors. there is a better way. we should be working on commonsense reforms that will actually lower premiums for families, individuals, and small businesses. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: for what purpose does the gentleman from new york rise? >> unanimous consent to address the house for one minute. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for one minute, without objection. >> thank you, mr. speaker, i stand in strong support of house resolution 867 which condemns the united nations human rights council's past resolution and
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the fact-finding mission which led to the goldstone report. the lopsided anti-israel report >> it is dangerous. >> so that would be number four or five as to have people, our breast and bite his comedy working as titans of industry to figure out a better mousetrap. >> exactly. i would end the subsidies. i would say we wish you the best of success, we hope it goes well, in terms of educational talent. you know, we hope the national science foundation's will help that we are not going to subsidize individual businesses. the problem is we have individual businesses, former vice president al gore who has made a very, very nice profit personally -- >> there was just an article on that that i just read about the billions being made by selling the carbon credit. >> is a very lucrative industry. i was great to find out from chris porter, he said actually and ron was the creator of this
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whole idea of carbon credits and carbon offsets. it was one more thing that could be traded on wall street. >> and you have wall street firms like goldman sachs or lobbying congress for cap-and-trade. they are interested totally financial. you have individuals like former vice president al gore who no doubt who it said center but he has created a situation where his advocacy has led to this investment who led to taxpayer dollars now supporting businesses that he is associate with. >> what do you hope people take away from the? we have a very low bit of time left. what do you hope the average american watching this show will take away from our shelves because capitalism did not fail is that it was a failure of leadership in washington. from government. and failure in wall street or wall street is not the fashion of free capital people think that is. it has become an effect a nanny of the government.
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so don't blame capitalists. trust the american system. have confidence in yourself and our system. don't believe that the federal government needs to bail us out. the reality is, we used to look at our president as sort of a father figure. come on, you can do better than that. mike goodes was going to look at our president and national leaders as sort of a overbearing mother. you can't do that on your own. i can't do that for you. i think it's a very dangerous place 4 and. >> we are in a very dangerous right now with the level of debt. people understand especially of china, un, russia, now saying let's remove the dollar as an international reserve currency. that would mean less finance for the dollar, which would be not good things. peter schweizer, i want to thank you again. my name is michele bachmann, a member of congress. i want to thank peter schweizer for his book "architects of
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ruin." you can find more information at peter thank you so much for joining us today. >> did you know you can view booktv programs online? go to type the name of the author, book or subject into the search area in the upper left hand corner of the page. select the watchfully. now you can view the entire program. you might also explore the recently on booktv box or the featured programs box. to find and view recent and featured programs. coming up next booktv presents "after words," an hour-long interview program where we invite a guest host to interview
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the author of a new book. this week, taylor branch recalls his eight years of private meetings with president bill clinton from 1993 to 2001 in "the clinton tapes: wrestling history with the president." mr. branch and a former president would meet monthly and discuss current events with the intent of creating an oral history that would present an insiders view of the american presidency. taylor branch discusses his book with john harris, editor in chief of politico and author of the survivor. bill clinton in the white house. >> hello and welcome to booktv's "after words." my name is john harrison. i am the editor of political. i do with taylor branch, the well-regarded famous martin luther king biographer who has just come out with a new book, a major contribution to the understanding of bill clinton's
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presidency, "the clinton tapes." taylor, welcome. congratulations. i had more than the usual interest in this book, as somebody who covered bill clinton's presidency in my years at the "washington post," and i wrote about it afterwards and my own book, "the survivor." i wish i had tax us to this book when i was writing that book. but i do want to say congratulations for anybody who is interested in bill clinton's presidency. an enormous contribution of those eight years. and of bill clinton. i'm fascinated with the beginning of the story. you of course have no bill clinton when you were both young men in 1972, and yet there have been a separation of 20 years. he regarded himself it seems from reading your book has more intimate with you than you regard yourself with him after that long separation. can you take us back to the
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renewal of your friendship in the early '90s? >> guest: yes. i hadn't seen him for 20 years, as you say, and felt really like rip van winkle when i got word that he wanted to see. he didn't call me himself. there was a tiny item in the baltimore sun saying that he was quoting him as saying he was sick that he didn't see his old friend taylor branch on election night because my wife and i went down there just on a lark, having played no part in his campaign. i was busy writing my martin luther king. went down there, stay there, watching from afar. got on a plane and came home. a few days later in the baltimore sun there was a little thing saying he was sick that he had heard i'd come and he didn't see me. i will call him. my phone started ringing off the hook in baltimore. the president-elect wants to call you. has he called you? he did go a long time, but find i got a call from the office and
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the president-elect would like me to come to a data. i had no idea what that it was a captain graham's own. it was a big to-do. it was probably the zenith of clinton's love affair with the washington press corps and the establishment. >> host: i remember that occasion. it was very self-consciously welcoming the clinton family to washington, and not just to the capital but to establish a washington. >> guest: right. krissy and i were among the few non-officials, supreme court justices, ambassadors were there, robert mcnamara, bill safire was there. and we went in there and found ourselves, much to our surprise, she was at gore's table and i was at clinton's table. when he swept in with people angling and jostling to get close to him, he positioned to secret service agent, took me apart for two minutes, can you believe all this? which instantly connected over 20 years that he was the same guy. and asked the question about the
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historic record, which stunned me. saying do you think that my liver will collect the kind of record that will allow future historians to do what you are doing, meaning me, for the eisenhower and kennedy and johnson. >> host: one, the swirl around him, sort of able to observe himself and say hey, can you believe you come here i am. and yet even at the very early in moment, someday people will sit down and write history of what he is doing. >> guest: and he wanted to prepare for it. and as it happened, that's right over the heart of the plate for me because i've been transcribing presidential recordings and worked on vietnam and the civil rights era. i thought they were vital to actually hear the living, breathing, cussing president of the united states trying to be, try to run a people's government. and i knew that that kind of record have dried up ignobly had recorded their conversations since nixon.
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my impression was that they are not keeping the kind of record data that will enable you to really find out today what george bush was really thinking before he went into iraq. you know, we're going to have to make do with the myth and the filters and images. and i wanted to do better than that. i was done that he wanted to do better than that. he was thinking about those things even before he took office. >> host: describe briefly 1972. how well did you know him? >> guest: we live together. were the two texas coordinator he asked if he could bring his new girlfriend, hillary, to our apartment so the three of us got an apartment together. hillary also worked in other states and even bill and i had the time, we were traveling all over like water bugs in the big state of texas. we didn't spend all that much time together. we were technically responsible for the state. we made lots of decisions and getting shellacked the way we did by richard nixon in 1972, is
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a bonding experience. when you are that bloodied. so we got along very well. we saw each other a lot but i don't have any major fight. when we left texas, it was kind of interesting. hillary and i went back to washington. i saw a lot more fair than him. i never saw him again until he was president-elect until that moment. >> host: and you describe in there that you didn't necessarily feel you have some great psychic bond with him. if i'm reading you correctly, you were supportive but it wasn't like you are over the moon about bill clinton. you recognize him as a politician. >> guest: by no means, that moment when he said can you believe this, was revelatory to me because he seemed like he was still the same guy. there are a certain number of people that you meet in life that you always have a connection with, and other people become strangers. he didn't. i had more of a connection after
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taxes with hillary. were both dissolution by politics. we had gone through all the vietnam and now we're in watergate. the assassination committee, the cia stuff. it was a dissolution every period in history, and many, like many other young people we're trying to to figure out how it all worked. clinton, bill clinton seemed to be on automatic pilot. i'm going to go run for congress. >> host: there was a network of those friends that did stay in touch though. strobe. >> guest: strobe kept in much better contact. >> host: this collaboration, the dinner must've been an early december, late november of 92, but then your actual collaboration, what ultimately became this book, took a while to get jumpstarted. >> guest: that's right that there were a lot of arguments. at times he wanted me to move in -- or he was looking for someone to move into the white house and be like his historians.
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>> host: tell me about that though because that is a job that some people would kill for, and you instantly suspicious of it and ultimately decided that it wasn't something you could do. gives me your -- do you ever think about that path, the one not traveled? >> guest: all the time of. >> host: it must've taken a certain amount of discipline to say no. even if you felt that it wasn't the right thing for you to do. >> guest: remember, i was so impressed, i had my own situation that made me not want to do it, but my first consideration believe it or not was i was impressed that a president, friend or not, was asking my advice on the matter of this magnitude. and my first thought was what's best for him and what's best for history. i didn't think it was wise for him to have this arthus licensure, me or not. and i told him. >> host: even arthurs legend or i think he meant and insisting
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that was not his role, that he had sort of a policy, ambassador without portfolio. >> guest: and he became the record has joined into a certain degree he never wrote much history after that. he was a pundit. because he was recorded. and i said even more as a self-consciously media days like these come if you try to appoint a historian, it will be objective. i couldn't be objective as i sat around with you for several years. and i wouldn't want to pretend to be. what i recommend that you do is make the best history you can and keep the most vivid record, but not try to control it because you're not going to build to control it anyway but it will make itself. just make the best record. and so i thought that's what i thought he ought to do, and whatever you decide to do, i did want to do that well because for one thing, i did want to interrupt my work under martin luther teamwork. >> host: it must've been, you are having, will get to a bbq having regular conversations,
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spontaneous conversation often i'm sure that must've been a huge presence in your life. >> guest: but remember, it is about once a month, it really wiped out the next day because it is psychologically exhausting to go in there and to shift gears and get your mind out of the early 1960s and go down there and into the white house that you will never know what you'll find up in the residence. so yeah, it was a psychic psychological thing, but it really wasn't that much time. of course, the other hard part was not to talk about it because the first mission, paradoxically, to have this record open so that it would open up a direct channel of record to the president thinking of wrestling with things required secrecy. we figured if it got out, there will be no way it would survive without people saying we have to have this answer, resolve. >> host: talk about what that's like, that's the nature of is that you're having these amazing
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conversations with the president of the united states, and yet outside a very, very small circle, no one knows. you can't talk about a. i'm sure you can't pick up the newspaper without saying i actually know more about this than the reporter does, or this part is right. i know this part is wrong. you're among the best informed people in the whole country, and yet you can't talk about it. what's that like? >> guest: it was very frustrated that it was frustrating for me because i thought even in some areas where i disagree with clinton, and i record here where we had argument of this, that and the other. i thought my primary record of this, this is making a judgment, this is not really a book of judgment by making a judgment now. he was so much more consumed by the marriage of the argument and not by the tabloid nature of the competition, in the press, at that time that i really felt
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that the clinton i was saying was totally different creature from the clinton that was bounding through from whitewater and all these other things about his motivation. the longer i was there, the more i felt -- the problem was not his motivation and not his intention to it was if anything, it was execution, and that may be more of a problem with this. he said we were living in a cynical age and he was trying to address that and to restore some sort of sense of nobility about politics, and even politicians. he loved the politicians unabashedly. in an age where everybody kind of smears in washington and politics and politicians. >> host: how did that apperception take root, the idea that bill clinton was hyper political, motivated by polls, you know at the far end of the character, slick willie, and you have a much, much different view
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having seen him up close. kelly, how do the other view take such deep root? >> guest: you spend a lot of time and book trying to figure that out that he would vent all the time and funds like many presidents. early on, i'm trying to get him not to do so much about the president because i got to treat it as a political problem, and charm the presidency. and he's coming up with all these theories. as a voice that i'm not much of a john wood i don't do with my delivered and processed enough. >> host: incidentally, someone has thought about this a lot, i would tend to agree with that. clinton, the way he thought, was very exposed in that he has -- he's not someone with a great servitude on one side or the other. he truly is delivered his. and some time to process downplays kind of in public. >> guest: he opened it up. he said sometimes the people who
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did best with the press are the ones who intimidate the president. but to do that you have to have a certain kind of leadership style and kind of against the enemy. he had all of these. >> host: is constantly a political creatures who he is interested in both. he is interested in procession. you know, there have been many occasions to point to where bill clinton made decisions difficult decisions, in bosnia, on the mexican currency crisis in 95. other instances where he was there predictably follow, he would've made different choices than what he did. >> guest: and that frustrated him to know in. most people today think barack obama has got in the white house and the notion of slick obama is not there. but he says right up front the gun lobby is too dangerous to take on. here is clinton doing the brady
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bill, the assault weapon ban and right through his taking on gun lobby, tobacco industry. and get the mantra that he doesn't believe in anything and he only seeks out the positive through polls. somehow that got established i don't know. >> host: clinton wanted to do this for history's sake, but a lot of people had misgivings. the lawyers didn't think it was a good idea. the staff didn't think it was a good idea. why did the first lady think it was not a good idea? >> guest: she didn't trust it would come out. i don't know whether that meant she didn't trust me i was afraid some point i would just have to be busing to kill somebody or something. but i tried -- i gave her a little dictaphone machine for christmas what. i told her that this was the most unusual first leadership and she should try to keep a record of it because most people wouldn't believe the level of council that she has had in the role that she was actually playing, not only in the family but in the white house. she never did it.
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>> host: the states, how come kids started getting his mitts on these? >> guest: because -- i can only guess. because they became as a great lawyer. one really smart lawyer. he had to respond to subpoenas, but the subpoenas were for information. in the president's possession. and somehow i can only guess that david kendall concealed information, because he listened to a couple of days early on and told us to keep these whitewater material that might be segregated and keep it off. >> host: and he is one of the small handful of people, dave kendall -- >> guest: he -- goes back a handful in the white house new. >> guest: nancy knew. >> host: and a broader circle. i would say during the clinton years, taylor branch is working on history? and yet it was always elusive. >> guest: what i would say to people was we had renewed our
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acquaintance from time to time talking because we're interested. and that was good enough and david kendall is responses to the subpoenas was that this was part of the record conversations about it. >> host: by the time, september 93, the presidency eight, nine months into it more or less. >> guest: where we are with obama so we have to catch up. >> host: a couple of banana peel stepped on in a time or rough start. you start having the sessions. i think we have a tape and maybe we can play that tape of you after you've left the white house. you yourself make your own set of tapes dictating her observations while they are fresh on the drive from washington back to your home in baltimore. let's see if we can listen to that. >> this is 1:00 in the morning. on the night of october 14,
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already now the morning of the 15th. driving home to baltimore after the first night of all history with president clinton. is a very odd feeling sexpot relationship with him is interrupted, when we were 25, even though we just had a two-hour conversation trying to begin review his presidency. sitting in his parlor room at his card table next to his bedroom. in the white house. you know, i really had a feeling that my reality was off, that i felt we could leave and go get a hamburger or something. because it was like we are doing a history project, which i am. but he's the president and he is doing presidential things, and i think he is doing it very well.
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but there's no pomp and circumstance. it's kind of like a college bull session. quality atmosphere. noble formality to it. no salute. and very little postern, which of course is part of it. i mean, he does seem like an old friend who was being president, are then like a president who is trying to accommodate a stick to an old friend. anyway, it was an odd evening for that, and i think i'm going to have to get used to it. and it's probably good to because it's unguarded. i think in many respects. >> host: so you would do those every time? >> guest: every time. i haven't heard that for a long time but i think what you can hit is it's 1:00 in the morning. i probably start at 5:00 the previous morning writing. i'm petite. i'm tired but i am driven
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because i've just had that first that we talked about gays in the military and a whole bunch of other things from the very beginning of the presidency. and i recorded those. i used the same machine that used to record him that i took them only just popped a new tape in asset i got in the track. cupidity gears shifting. that is a key or shift pickup truck driving home to baltimore with me having this dictaphone right next to myself. >> host: what would you do the tapes when you got home? you would routinely review those? >> guest: no-no. i did know how long i was going -- when we first are off on that i was only going to do it until he trained someone to do it in the white house, but he never did. i just get them and after a time when you started building up to me look like it was going to keep going i started putting them in a safe deposit box at the bank. >> host: into these conversations echoing once a month. what was your role when you are having conversations with bill clinton, usually in the residence, okada in the office, but he is there as a friend and
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soundboard? are you there as journalist, historian? is enjoyable to just listen or do you feel you need to press, probe and say wait a minute, you are not adjectives or you need to be sharper on that quest what's the relationship like? >> guest: and love that is what's in the book because i was never sure what the role was. we knew the primary one that i defined it was, my role is to get as much raw candid information on these tapes for future people to look at as possible. it doesn't matter what i think of it now. i want to get as much as possible. but it's never that simple because he's trying to conversation with me. he said he couldn't talk just into a tape recorder by himself. and my rapport with them i felt probably affected how candid he was going to be, or even how long he was going to continue. you was bored stiff because i'm guessing they're like a board. he's not going to do it, or if i am cross-examining an always on one topic, he may get sick of
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it. so what do i do when he asked me out of the blue, should i fire the director of the cia? >> host: write. >> guest: then am i someone who is being asked for advice, a president of the united states, mis citizens? and i was causally trying to figure out exactly what to do to preserve the role and to preserve the core that would get him to keep speaking as candidly as possible. so i guess what i'm saying is, my primary role was together the historical materials, but it's not that simple. >> host: and you would give it vice when asked. >> guest: if i didn't give advice, you know, then it would work. and sometimes i thought he was baiting me to give advice when he knew that i disagreed with him and he wanted me to see if i would do that. which articulate after he lost the congress in 1994, he was opposed to this middle class bill of rights pic i made a couple of comments about that he almost drag it out of me what i
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really thought of it, what was i thought that was pandering and it was not really worthy of him. and then he exploded at me and so on and so forth. >> host: what are you thinking their? >> guest: gosh, i had loaded. i can only pray that parthian things that i am right, and that it will help this blow over. more quickly. and i was relieved when he did make more of the middle class bill of rights than he did. he didn't live very long. >> host: several people and it is my express also that in order to get bill clinton, you have to be to challenge and that he doesn't want someone who will not their head in agreement. >> guest: right. i think that is to. that limit my rapport. but i didn't enjoy the sharp disagreements that we had. even where we were not disagreeing, like a night before the invasion, very uncomfortable because i was more sympathetic
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to he and those people. the civil rights writer to do something about it, and there was an undercurrent that he was blaming me, he was trapped. he was doing something anyway but it was kind of like well, you got me into this. >> host: this better work. you're talking about the invasion of haiti on september of 94. >> guest: we had a session the night before he made the speech saying we were going in. >> host: and you knew the deposed president? >> guest: i met him there was a film director, a film version that was never made. he had a terrible reputation and it didn't fit. he and clinton started getting along with the start talking to him like a politician. mr. president, i can ask you to invade my country. but you're my only hope and i will cooperate behind the scenes. and clinton said, you know, that i knew we could do business.
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>> host: in what areas do you think your most influential? >> guest: probably 80. that faded out very quickly that it was intense in 1994. after that, you know, he would ask me things and more often than not and say that's what you write history and i'm in politics. >> host: you are interested in baseball. >> guest: e. doesn't know as much about baseball. he kind of skate by on that. is an expert on basque ball. everything on basketball, but he's kind of a on the sidelines on baseball. >> host: many of the people have been close to bill clinton have written about -- it's an emotion is exhausting experience. with highs and lows of being close to bill clinton over a long period of time. george stephanopoulos wrote about that in his book. dick morris wrote about that. web hubbell, his old friend from arkansas wrote about that.
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did you expense that? is it hard to be close to bill clinton? with wild unde up and downs? . .
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but he is dealing with the middle class bill of rights at the same time he's dealing with the whitewater investigation at the same time he's dealing with his mother being sick and he's dealing with what is happening. you've got a pretty good vantage point of just the amount of incoming in the modern president. >> guest: i had always thought and maybe this is from reading history books that the presidency was so isolated and that only the things that he checked off that he wanted to hear orderly deal with issues as you wanted to do with them and otherwise they would stay beneath your level. that's not the impression i had with him at any rate and i don't think it's because he was reaching out and pulling the man. i think that he was just thinking about them these things and events he cared about were
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coming at him from all sides. >> host: right. i was struck at times by just the detail of decisions he decided to immerse himself in and one involves yu, who is going to read the article about him in esquire prior to the 1996 election. >> guest: i was stunned by that and also astounded that he said he was having a hard time finding anybody to stick up for him. >> host: but he knew the writers who had turned the opportunity down. >> guest: yes at a magazine, esquire magazine had gone richard kramer to defend bob dole. kraemer is good, i've got to get somebody good. >> host: we're going to take a quick break and come back to talk more about "the clinton tapes: wrestling history with the president" with taylor branch. >> after words and several other c-span programs are available for download as podcasts. more with taylor branch and john
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harrison a moment after words with taylor branch ended john harris continues. >> host: we're back with booktv after words with taylor branch, the author of a "the clinton tapes", the story of his eight years of conversations with bill clinton. tell me about the timing of this book. it's 10 years after some of the
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first memoir started coming out while the presidency was still under way, five years after bill clinton's book. why this book now? >> guest: well, of course i finished my talking trilogy which took 24 years and was my major life's work in 2006 and pretty soon after that i started thinking what the next book and i thought that the timing was not ideal and in no way a would have wished a little more time had gone by but i thought it was enough. after all when i started picking a project in 198214 years after he died in 2006 party 13 years since the beginning of the clinton administration so i wanted to be fresh and have a little bit of perspective and then also said it, look, this is not for the same reason i didn't want to be arthur schlesinger and pretend to be objective passing judgment on him, this is a book of judgment so much
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although i try not to conceal my opinions because i think that's part of interacting. it's the primary record, it's a hint of what it's like to be sitting with the president is wrestling with the history as it happens. that it was okay window in history to do that and i started transcribing my own dictation tapes toward the end of 2006. >> host: did you talk with him about it? >> guest: i talked with him out when i was starting the book but i talked to him about that when we were doing the tapes. he actually suggested this in the second term about the time that he trusted me enough to show me where he was hiding away the tapes because he wanted me to do it in the second term. >> host: where were a bank? >> guest: in the sock drawer in the big walk-in closet right off the parlor next to the bedroom. >> host: those tapes, where do they exist? >> guest: chapel,, the last time i know of. they're headed for the clinton
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library, they were using him for his memoir. the transcripts all along a long shelf, thousands of pages of transcripts. eventually they will be in the library. if i had to guess not until hillary retires in her career, until she's out of politics. >> host: was a frustrating not having access to the tapes? >> guest: i have so much material already and i wasn't writing a memoir of judgment. i had too much on the primary experience of being mayor and had a pretty good record and use of the gist of the conversations and how they would intersect and that's when i have. i think regular historians can go to the details and to the actual language and as for things are so i didn't start writing until 2007 which is roughly one starting politico. and that's been a pretty intense couple of years to get this written. >> host: critique bill clinton's memoir. >> guest: well, we have one of
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our biggest arguments about it to. he wrote the presidential years and about six weeks which is a stupendous feet of stamina, but in my view it was a misjudgment and certainly it meant that he couldn't bring the quality of thought just literally and physically impossible to bring the quality of thought. >> that t -- and that i see in the tapes. where he is relating china in the middle east and pakistan and turkey and everything about domestic politics and one to another. this was fascinating because he spent most of the allotted for years that have to write his memoir writing about his pre presidential years and asked me to come up and read as recounted here read the manuscript and it ended the manuscript i read 700 pages ended before he entered the white house and i said where's the rest of the said address starting. i was stunned and said this is the end of february, you can publish a book you haven't
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written yet about your presidency in june. >> host: was there something characteristic about that because you certainly see it in once a year of decision making that gets made in a pretty improvisational last minute often kind of harum-scarum quality. >> guest: i think for something this significant yes. but it seemed to me that there was something else going on and there was a reason that he did that or that he didn't do what i wanted him to do which was either to put it down into volumes and maybe have the first book with the first year of the white house and then have a second volume for the seven years that would include lewinsky. we're just postpone it. i think my theory is in some of he didn't want to go through back this again. he had another why he wanted to live, hillary in the senate and he's looking for not looking back. it's surprising in a disappointed me because i thought he could have written a
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really good memoirs the way he thinks about the issues but did not do it. >> host: we think of the public bill clinton usually upbeat buoyant personality but in this book episode after episode of bill clinton being angry, in despair, sometimes self pitying, off one accusatory. what is that about? where is the anchor come from? in bill clinton? much of it is aimed at the press? what is that about? >> guest: well, i don't think it's unusual for presidents to fuss about the press. >> host: but this isn't fussy. he often done is our conversations, right? >> guest: at time. is certainly at the beginning in the first couple years when i was trying to get him off that. somewhere in the middle he started doing it less and less. it's not doing any good and not getting anything out of it, i've got to ignore it and come to work in the morning so toward
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the end of the book he doesn't do that much and he has more of his theories about why he's not more effective with the press. >> host: and you try and -- and there are some episodes of trying to say why don't you reach out to these people or try this. >> guest: i was a big body of ben bradley. >> host: my former boss at the post, the washington characters, he and his wife -- why not reach out to them? what did they say? >> guest: there are not our kind of people. they don't like a. we are not going to get along with them. it won't do any good so they didn't want to do that. >> host: and when you reflect on this do you think that's right? because there was an antagonism i think between certain elements of what some people call permanent washington, the people that live and make their living here and the clintons, they felt
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they were impressed by washington and were treated in hostile fashion. it was this an avoidable conflict? >> guest: i don't know. he supports more about the times -- some of it was disillusionment because remember we are both white southerners who grew up in the civil rights movement which to us was a great glory time of the national press. those people who cover the civil rights movement and risked their lives. in and then this and i agreed with clinton or identified with him, we idolized "the new york times" and the washington post. and for him particularly he had a real rivalry or obsession almost without -- his fellow senator . >> host: the editor of the editorial page. >> guest: of the new york times. he often would say that how old felt that he had to prove himself higher graded or more
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sophisticated kind of a southerner and clinton and that it fed into looking down on the hillbilly clint -- clinton. so there was a chip on the shoulder, there was an element of feeling that the decks were stacked against them, but then other times he would come along and theorize, look, their markets are disintegrated because of cable and maybe they can afford to try to get into the old james reston complicated reporting of state because this whitewater stuff and all that is simpler and goes down easier. sullivan knows what it was? but when he kept saying in the end is the the stakes of our national politics are too high to reduce politics to scandal and kind of high school politics, who is cool and who is not and he was frustrated he could never changed the climate. >> host: and, of course, any chance he had for changing the climate in the second term was
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pretty much blown up by you already mentioned in the lewinsky scandal in january 1998. what was your reaction when you first heard this? >> guest: well, of course when we first heard it and he was still denying its nobody really knew so i didn't know but when he confessed that not only was it true but that his denials of it or not true, i was dismayed terribly. i just thought that was awful because it ended any chance that he would ever dispel the kind of clouds of cynicism, what he called the cynicism that our country was in danger that we had all the serious issues we have to deal with that instead we were whistling around with the scandal. and it indicated the scandal and ended any chance that he was ever able to set a new standard. >> host: how much did it hurt its second term since a lovely?
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>> guest: it's certainly ruled out a major bank things. what it did for the second term was that he was nickel-and-diming. he said he could do a lot more nickel and diming then he thought and certainly he focused more perhaps on overseas where he had more inherent power they did. his peacemaking efforts. in the middle east and northern ireland, kosovo, his work in china and that sort of thing. >> host: the phrase the white house use during that time of the lewinsky scandal was compartmentalize, bill clinton can compartmentalize his mind and get the scandal over here and work here, but you as an historian and student of character you can't compartmentalize. there's only one person the sexual excess as backup to bill clinton and heard his presidency. a place that in the larger character. what does that come from? for his supporters, the disdain,
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for his enemies, is obviously prove to be a wonderful rallying point because it was an area of old ability where they got him. >> guest: well, i don't . >> host: what did you make of it? help us understand what that was about what then bill clinton with the extent you can. >> guest: well, first of all, let's say what it was. it was one short tortured an affair with one woman. by the standards of affairs even in the white house quantitatively it wasn't a whole lot, but politically speaking given the stakes it was plenty. so i don't want to make too much of it. people have sex all over the place, but he knew that they were after him and that they were looking for something to vindicate their crusade that he was an illegitimate president
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and that government was essentially an inherently dangerous and corrupt enterprise , and therefore to do it magnified with the weakness far before the quantity. we were about to have a new memoir of yet another intern who said she had an affair with president kennedy and everybody is eager for a talking about what can we learn from and. >> host: what do you think of this as an historian? you wrestled with public morality with a dr. king, have you come to conclusions as to whether this is a feeling of personality or character or is it just one of those things that feeds people's appetites but doesn't really eliminate the important work that public men or women do? how relevant? >> guest: i never take the
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position and that is irrelevant. i think that anything that is that personal is your character and i never say it's irrelevant to your public posture. but i don't think there's a simple formula to how it is related. in king's case is public/private failings pushed him to risk more almost in tenants and he did all kinds of things that he did almost to punish itself. for us as citizens we have to worry about though it is our own prurience because we are in a situation, i drove down here today to the state of maryland, the city of baltimore is furloughed, everybody is staying home unemployment high. we could be -- we have a trillion dollar deficit and yet we're still concerned about the entertainment aspects of politics. we have to worry about whether we let the prurience take our eye off the ball just as much as we worry about whether the president did the same thing.
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>> host: did you feel that he was honest with about the episode and what happened? >> guest: we didn't talk about a very much about when we did i think he was. he said that his central character flaw in his own view with self pity and that he was feeling sorry for himself because he thought the effort and the skill that he had poured in to try to do things that actually matter to the american people was getting overlooked and not appreciated in favor of the obsession with all these things like whitewater and vince foster and finally china date and that was more of a new york times camel but it upset him in the second term as much as vince foster and the first term. the allegations that he sold nuclear secrets and all that, he felt he was very upset. >> host: another fascinating part about this book was realizing clinton says that he
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doesn't fully controlled his own government. he wasn't enthusiastic about janet reno as attorney general, very candid with you about what he perceived her shortcomings but wasn't in a position to just fire her. >> guest: no. >> host: he felt that the fbi was acting as a rogue agency and, of course, he's the president and you think he'd be able to do something but he couldn't. talk about that. >> guest: he couldn't because of the whitewater special counsel office and if we tried to do anything like that it would be seen as interfering in his own investigation. this is something where hillary was all over him in private saying that he made a constitutional error to injure the bounds of government and injure the presidency by accepting this special prosecutor because she said once you do that you do not control the executive branch of government and you have set it up on a faulty basis. you won't be able to control the justice department, the fbi
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certainly, the justice department on that but once you're other executive departments you can control the attorney-general it starts becoming throw seven. he said hillary was right. >> host: she got the better of him in that argument. >> guest: but that was a constitutional argument and i came to her from her work on the nixon impeachment. >> host: how close are you with the clintons now, how often do you see them? >> guest: not very often. i mean, i saw hillary a few times during the campaign. i saw him to deliver this book to him to give it to them and talk to him on the phone every now and then, but i like to think we will always be friends because of that time even after 20 years, there are a certain number of people you never become strangers with. but this is a collaboration at where we're both to something that we both have worked our whole lives to do, him to be president and me to write about
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him. so this association brought us closer together and we probably never will again because most of this time now he's on the clinton global initiative and only interested in me if i have a billion dollars to give him. >> host: why did he like having you around? what is the nature of his repoire with you do you think? >> guest: well, i think a lot of it is white southerners who came from non political families who were politicized by the civil rights movement in our formative years and you thought because of that that there was a certain ability about politics that transformative ability to pass and a that is out of step with the rest of the world in politics. we see that the civil rights era took the south, the poorest country stigmatized part of the country and terrorist part of the country, and turned it into what it is today. you never heard of the sun belt before the political culture changed it.
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in -- so in that sense we have a lot in common where we had come from. >> host: you mentioned earlier that you were uncomfortable with some of the things he was doing to navigate the conservative rise to power in the middle of his presidency, newt gingrich took over in 1994, republicans have a congress for the rest of his presidency, the middle class bill of rights he did not like, you made clear dick morris the political consultant you're not happy about the presence of something like that. did you come to terms with what the necessary compromises that bill clinton made or were you disappointed he was and more progressive? >> guest: no, i thought he did a good job. my problems with him or not on that focus and even on dick morris, he hardly ever talked about dick morris to me. that's another area where i
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think dick morris influence over him was largely an illusion that dick morris created. so i didn't really see that. capital punishment, i disagree with him on that. there were substantive disagreements but there weren't a whole lot. most of those things he would say that if you can't win election you can't bring any of your beliefs to bear and you've got to work through him the nature and there were times when i only decided maybe he was wiser than i had thought when i dismissed him as a cookie cutter politician. >> host: tell me a little about your life. you live in baltimore, not washington, even though you been writing about public lives much of the central stage washington. why do live in baltimore? >> guest: my wife and i left washington in 1986 before the the resolution before our older
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child started grade school because we have been in washington all our lives and figured if our kids started school we would stay here the rest of our lives and really all we knew, the only people we knew were in politics and that it wasn't a representative sample, real enough place to raise children. we looked all over the country and also decided we weren't going to romantically -- we weren't as role romanticists as we thought to live in the berkshires or the hudson valley that we couldn't be as far away from washington as we like and we like the architecture baltimore because we were orioles fans in driving up there so we move to baltimore. we know friends and relatives and jobs. we enjoy living there. >> host: as you began -- you were already well under way in the kean trilogy of the time and. >> guest: as i was. started in washington and finished in baltimore. >> host: was the next book project? >> guest: right now i'm trying to make a film at hbo out of the
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three civil rights books out of the king books and so i'm working in a different medium. i have a couple of books on the drawing boards but they will be on the other side. i hope we can finally bring the civil rights story to the screen. the ones on the drawing board have more to do with the founding fathers, i've been collecting material for a long time and some of those kind haven't been shipped but that's what i'm working on. >> host: who are some of the big influences on you as a writer? >> guest: i dedicated this book aside from my mama to five people who had a lot of influence. >> host: gary wills. >> guest: hannah arendt's, i took a class from hana the philosopher back when i was in graduate school. shelby hero the narrative history of the civil war which convinced me that narrative history pin be a dramatic form. john hope franklin, i worked
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with m black history but also on his advisory committee building them all, the museum here on the mall. i idolized john hope franklin and ride him. and emmet right to as a high-school history teacher. >> host: what is the history of the detailed narrative history some of the kind you have done in an era where people are living off their blackberries and getting their information off the web and on the fly from a thousand different sources? >> guest: it is a threat to all kind of serious historical work but i don't think it's any more of a threat to narrative history than it is too analytical history which tries to analyze issues. narrative history is a story and i say basically we learned particularly difficult matters through story. so i think that a narrative history will live, it may mean that have to be shorter and may have to be recast but history as a store that engrosses people
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will always have a future. that's what i tried to do here is to take people inside the white house and whenever they think court judge ultimately about what clinton did or didn't accomplish, i hope people can feel it firsthand here. >> host: there is some amazing stories, one of the ones that got publicity when i first came out was boris yeltsin tried out of his mind. walking out in front of blair house in his skivvies. try to order a pizza. >> guest: typical for clinton, he drops that in the context of it or he is saying boris yeltsin is trying to do one of the most difficult things in a politician ever undertaken in the ruins of the soviet empire, he's trying to build a free institutions. they don't pop up automatically, to build markets and banks were they didn't exist and all that stuff. it's very difficult and, in fact, he said what boris yeltsin really wanted most was the fbi
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because they were so terrified of the mafia taking over all the institutions. and in the course of telling all of this he said was made it's so amazing is that in tackling this i am trying to help them tackle this, he is more than just a jolly drunk russian, he is in the throes of alcoholism and he told the story about the skivvies to illustrate that. so the reality is something you are dealing with behind-the-scenes, to help somebody do something in error in the throes of severe alcoholism at the same time. >> host: memory is so perishable, recollections might be a few weeks or months old. would you try to, in fact, check clinton's recollections and play them off other sources or was that too big a project for the conference of something like this? >> guest: that's a very good question. in what i'm working from is my


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