tv [untitled] June 24, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
because there are several along those lines. here's another one related to reagan, but a different question. discuss the tension in the white house during the attempted assassination of ronald reagan. >> well, there was quite a bit of tension. we had only been there at that time -- i was, of course, white house chief of staff when president reagan was shot. we had only been there for two months, i think. maybe two and a half months. i believe it was the first week in march. we came in january 20th. it was a very traumatic time. nobody really knew at first what had happened. at first, we got conflicting reports as to whether he had actually been hit. what most people don't know is that president reagan came very close to dying -- not from the wound, quite frankly, but from an infection that set in after they had performed surgery on him.
and that's probably well-known out there now. but at the time, it wasn't particularly well-known. but it was quite a shock to those of us in the white house. we were new -- a lot of us were now the job. and then to have the president shot in an assassination attempt, you don't know whether you're going to live or not, it's very traumatic. very difficult. it was a very difficult period. one of the things that we did, or i should say didn't do, which has received a lot of attention, is we did not invoke the 25th amendment, which says that when the president becomes incapacitated, the cabinet is to meet and turn power over to the vice president. well, the vice president was in texas when president reagan was shot. of course, he got on air force 2 and was headed back to washington. he was over at the hospital with other senior white house advisors, and we talked about
whether to -- president reagan was about to go into surgery. and we talked about whether to invoke the 25th amendment. we concluded it would not be the right thing to do, because the doctors told us he would only be under the anesthetic for a very period of time. this was back in the cold war when the threat of nuclear conflict was still quite alive. but we didn't think it would be the right thing to do, and i will say this. the vice president of the united states, george h. w. bush was not anxious to see the 25th amendment invoked because he had been the last competitor standing against ronald reagan in the nomination fight in 1980, and he the didn't want people to think somehow he was trying to take over some power. i had been his campaign manager. i was the white house chief of staff. if i had said we're going to invoke the 25th amendment and give power to george bush, it might have been more than a
little muttering in the white house so we decided not to do that. but i will say this. i had the concurrence of president reagan's longtime advisors in taking that course. edwin meese and some others. as it turned out, everything was fine. vice president bush was so conscious of the fact that he had been the last standing competitor that when he came back to washington, they were going to take the helicopter to land on the south lawn, he said no you're not, that's where the president lands. i'm not going to land there. we're going to go to the naval observatory, which was the vice president's residence. >> what was the relationship between president ford and president reagan like, especially after the 1976 primary challenge? >> well, you want me to -- oh, that's a comparison question. i don't think i'm giving away any secrets to say not all that
good at that time. it later became better. that was a very tough primary. it's quite natural that with competition like that, there's going to be some tension, and there was some. there was some on both sides. i had written two books about my political and public service. the last one was more about my political service, and there's a chapter in there where i'm sitting in the oval office with president reagan, even though i ran two campaigns against him. get this -- [ laughter ] get this. i was president ford's delegate in the contest for the nomination against governor reagan and we won. then i was george h. w. bush's campaign manager against ronald reagan in the fight for the nomination in 1980, and yet ronald reagan asked me to be his
white house chief of staff. somebody explain that to me. [ laughter ] and we were sitting in the white house just reflecting on a lot of these events. i said, you know, mr. president, if president ford had asked you to come on the ticket with him in 1976, it's my opinion he would have been elected. we would have won that election, 10,000 votes would not have been a problem. and you might never have been president. and he said that's probably right. he said but i will tell you this, jim. if the president had asked me to take that position, i would have felt duty-bound to do it. now, that's not totally consistent with what the reagan campaign told the ford campaign in 1976 when we said let's have a unity meeting, and the reagan campaign said we'll have a unity
meeting provided you won't ask governor reagan to be on the ticket. and we said okay, because president ford didn't want to ask him to be on the ticket. and reagan didn't want to be on the ticket. [ laughter ] you ask about the tension, there it was. >> what was your biggest challenge as secretary of state in the bush 41 administration? >> i've said to people that i was an extraordinarily fortunate individual to be secretary of state when i was. we used to live in a bipolar world where we had the soviet union and the united states, it was the cold war. and then the soviet union collapsed, communism imploded, communism collapsed, the wall came down, and we were in a unipolar world. the united states was the only super power out there and everybody wanted to get close to uncle whiskers. i mean, i was secretary of state at the time. my job was a held of a lot
easier because everybody wanted to get close to the only remaining super power. and so we got a lot of things done. what did we do? we were able to preside over a peaceful end to the cold war. the cold war didn't have to end peacefully. it would have ended with a bang instead of a whimper. we had the first gulf war where we kicked iraq out of kuwait with really minimal cashualties and by the way, we got other countries to pay for it. we had the madrid peace conference where israel and all of her arab neighbors sat down face to face to talk peace for the first time. we had the unification of germany. so a lot of things happened. you asked me what the toughest challenge was? trying to figure out -- i really believe this. trying to figure out where to concentrate because we were in such a position -- we were in the position to get so many things done, and trying to
figure out exactly what to concentrate on. i'm not sure we handled the breakup of the former yugoslavia very well. that was perhaps the greatest challenge. >> as secretary of state, what were your experiences with the fall of the berlin wall? >> well, we were fortunate to be in power when it happened. and i credit every american president, democrat and republic, going all the way back to the beginning of the cold war, for the fact that america was triumphant in the cold war, because every president, democrat or republican, in every administration, was steadfast in fighting the cold war on behalf of the american people, and that's why we ultimately prevailed. i happen to be hosting a lunch in the dining room state department for the president of the philippines when i got a
message from the undersecretary of state for political affairs, saying that the east germans were going to let people go through the wall. and i could tell that was going to be big, big stuff. and it was. by night fall, it was huge. and so i picked up the phone and called president bush, and excused myself from dinner. went over to the whousms spent the rest of the day talking about how we were going to deal with that matter. but we were -- i think we did it right. as i said, we continued to work president bush number 41, he was smart enough not to dance on the wall. everybody -- the press were all over him saying why aren't you showing more emotion? you've won a 40-year conflict here and you're just taking it as a matter of fact. he didn't want to stick it in the eye of the continuing leadership of the soviet union because he knew we had to continue to work with them to
make sure everything ended totally peacefully. and we did that. and one of the most important things we did, i think, was to unify germany in peace and freedom as a member of the north atlantic treaty organization. we didn't have long to get that done. we have the window of opportunity and now it's still just one german and it's important that that get done in that short timeframe. >> we're going to go back to a foreign administration question that we talked about earlier today. what do you think was the impact of the helsinke accords? >> i think that was one of the most significant accomplishments of president ford and that has really been underreported and underappreciated. it gave everyone who wanted
freedom for captive people or elsewhere in arab countries, to give them -- to argue for freedom and human rights and individual freedoms for people. because that's some of the things that were contained there. one of the things that was in the accords, though, that has been observed by its breach is a provision saying that borders will only be changed through peaceful means. that was one of the problems we had in the breakup of the former yugoslavia. they wanted to -- i went to belgrade and said if you do this, you're going to kick off one heck of a civil war. yugoslavia was only kept
together by the authoritarianism and totalitarianism of tito. once they started agitating for separation, we told them we thought it was going to end up in a big civil war >> help us understand why bush 41 was not successful in being re-elected. >> well, i would say three reasons. first of all, he had a sorry campaign manager, me. [ laughter ] but secondly -- there were three reasons. we had been there 12 years, okay? i mean, two reagan terms. bush was reagan's vice president. we had been there two reagan terms. that's eight years. and one bush term. the press, particularly, were tired of us. they really were tired of us.
and we were climbing a tough mountain. there was another major problem. that's reason number one. i think a lot of people were tired of us. we had been there 12 years. it's very hard to keep the white house for more than eight years for any party, if you go back and look at history. there are not many times when it's happened. we had kept it for 12. secondly, we had a little jug-eared fellow from texas named ross perot that you may or may not have heard of -- [ laughter ] and he took -- ross perot took 19% of the vote. clinton got 43%, bush got 38%, and perrault got 19%. and our pollings showed us that p perot was taking two out of the three votes from us.
you add that and we have 51. when people tell me oh, he didn't cost you the election, i say i'm sorry, i think he did. i'll say it again. i thought he did for 20 years and i still think he did. but the third thing was our fault. absolutely. and that is instead of going up to capitol hill in january of 1992 when president bush 41 was at 90% approval rating and saying okay, desert storm was a great success. now we're going to do domestic storm. and i'm going to focus on the domestic problems facing this country. and here's an economic program that's going to get that done. if we had done that i think we might have won that election notwithstanding ross perot, but we didn't do that and that was a mistake. >> let's talk about another election, the one in 2000 with the vote recount. we have two questions about what
are the common misperceptions about the events surrounding the recount, and just another on that same. could you discuss that? >> i can discuss the recount. i don't know what people's misconceptions are about it. i can tell you a few factual things. number one, we were never behind in any count whatsoever, ever, of all the counts that were taken. the press went in all the hanging chads and ballots were all saved, "the new york times," a miami paper, i can't remember which one. these are not exactly fans of republican candidates often. they went in and did their own survey of these ballots and they said under no scenario could gore have won after they looked at those ballots. so there's a fairly independent look at it.
i used to say that after the 197 election where we lost by only 10,000 votes out of 81 million, i remember thinking to myself that night at 3:30 in the morning, boy, is this something. the closest -- this is going to be the closest presidential election of your lifetime. well, it wasn't the closest presidential election of my lifetime. 537 votes. but a couple of other things i'll say about that. in addition to the fact that we never lost a recount, we were never behind in the count, we won any number of court cases, and yes, we won the supreme court -- the final case. and a lot of people say oh well, you were just given the presidency on a 5-4 decision of the united states supreme court. that's simply not true. the vote on constitutionality in that case in the supreme court of the united states was 7-2.
justice briar, a democrat, voted with the republicans. and justice souter voted with a decenting democrat. so you in effect had a bipartisan vote on constitutionality. then they took up the question of remedy, after they said that the scheme that the florida legislature has put in place for recount is illegal, unconstitutional. then they said the time has expired for further recount, because by gore's own admission, the critical date was december 12, and this was december 11. they said there's no longer any time to count. the gore campaign made a big mistake. when they asked for recounts in only four townties and they were pro-democratic counties, all of them, very heavy democratic counties, and they asked for recount instead of a statewide
recount, they should have come in, so when they did that, that gave us the high ground. and their mantra was count every vote. we counted them five times, six times, seven times. every time we count them, we win. and so finally, the supreme court said yep, that's right. the supreme court also said that the florida legislature could not change the rules of the game after the game had started. under the constitution, the legislatures of the various states have the ability to determine how presidential electors are selected and florida had a lauw, but once al these multiplicity of lawsuits -- and by the way, we had a whole lot of lawsuits. maybe hundreds that the supreme court said no, you can't change the rules of the game after it's started. >> you'll be pleased to know that we're going to move from
the presidents with whom you've worked to some current affairs questions. following the post-cold war euphoria, how and when did things go wrong leading to the difficult situation the u.s. finds itself in today. >> i don't buy the assumption that the united states is in decline. i mean, you go out, you read the papers today, everybody -- oh, it's terrible, we're in such bad shape. if we're in such bad shape, why is it everybody wants to come here. nobody wants to go anywhere else. we're not in good shape today. we have some humongous problems. our big debt bomb out there. we have debt to gdp of over 100% programmed for the next five years. that's unsustainable. we continue to spend beyond our means. we've got to find a way to do something about that. but i don't buy the argument that we're on the downhill slide. when i was treasury secretary for president reagan in 1986,
the japanese were coming in to the united states buying up everything. remember they were buying up radio city and everybody was saying well, america's down the the japanese were buying up everything. remember they were buying up radio city and everybody was saying america's down the tubes. japan inc. will own the world. guess what? it didn't happen. they just had 15 years of terrible economic times. we have a lot of things going for us that others don't. you know, people compare us to china. china's growth is really a very amazing thing. it's important. we need to acknowledge it. it's significant, but we've got some strengths that they don't have and one of them is our political system, our principles, and our ideals. does anybody out there doubt that our political system will be any different years from now than it is today and would anybody hazard the same guess about china? i don't think so. so i don't buy all this stuff about how the united states is
in terminal or permanent decline. we do have some serious problems. we've got to figure out how to stop the spending and we have to live within our means and that means we've got to deal with everything. defense, sbiet the -- entitlements, revenue, the whole deal. but i'll tell you one other thing that i learned from eight years of service to president reagan. you don't resolve a deficit problem just by raising taxes. you do need revenue, but if you don't have spending restraint, i mean legal spending restraint, you can raise taxes until the cows come home and you'll never deal with the deficit because congress will spend the money you raise in taxes and then they'll spend more and the only time we've ever gotten a handle on it to any extent was really during the george h. w. bush administration when we had legal
spending restraint and enforceable spending restraint with the hollings restraints. so we've got a lot of problems, but i don't buy the argument that something terrible has happened to us. that's simply not true. we ought not to worry about the fact that brazil and india and china are moving up in the world and i think it's more a case of they're moving up than the united states going down. why are they moving up? they're moving up because these countries have embraced our paradigm of free market economics and we ought to welcome that. yes, they're competitors now. they didn't used to be, some of them and we'll have to compete with them and i think we're positioned to compete with them very effectively. >> how do you review the iraq group, with the foreign policy during the arab spring? >> i don't know that i've
thought about it in comparison to the arab spring. what we said was that at the time we took a look at it we went over there. we were given full access to all of the policymakers and cia and all of the others and what we said was the situation, this was in december 2006. we said the situation in iraq is grave and deteriorating and it was and the administration -- by the way, we had a provision in the iraq study group report supporting a surge provided it was short term and provided that the commanders on the ground recommend it. that's what the president ended up doing and it turned out to be to some extent and degree successful, but i've got to tell you, i think the jury is still out a bit on what the final result will be in iraq. it's certainly a lot better than it was when we were over there
in 2006, but i don't think we've seen the end of it yet and i hope that things don't degenerate after we are fully out of there at the end of this year. but we are coming out. it's over. and certainly the world is better off to be rid of saddam hussein, but we don't know yet what the final situation's going to be. we don't know the extent to which iran may be emboldened and strengthened by what's happened there. so i think the one thing the iraq study group report did was to focus the attention of policymakers and the country, to some extent, on the fact that we needed to change what we were doing in there. and we needed to find a way to do a better job of training iraqi forces so we could ultimately leave. we can't stand these countries
forever. same is true with afghanistan. >> in your role as former secretary of state, could you give us a thumbnail state of the union, particularly as it is related to national security risks for our country? >> well, we still have significant national security risk. of course, the terrorism risk still very much out there. we've got to remain very vigilant about that. we are targets and we need to understand it. cyber warfare is a vulnerability in my view of the united states. i don't know. i'm not an expert in that. i don't know to what extent we are in a position to defend against cyber warfare. i think -- i think it is important for us to remember that throughout recent history our alliances have helped the united states, and you look at the united states and china, we have a web of alliances out
there around the world whether it's in asia ore europe or where it might be of people that will help share the burden with the freedom-loving countries. that's the strength of ours. we need to make sure that we keep those strong. how we relate to the arab spring is important. that is a really big thing that's happening out there. again, we don't know what the final result is that's going to be. i'll tell you this, if the israeli-egyptian peace treaty blows up, you can forget about an israeli-palestinian deal. it won't happen if that peace treaty -- and we don't know who's going to run egypt. it's still very much up in the air. we don't know what's going to end up happening in libya, whether that's going to be a civil war or something else. syria is a terrible problem now. and yemen. but as far as the threat of terrorism, it didn't just come
from afghanistan. somalia, yemen, other place like that. >> last question, and i thank whoever submitted this, why didn't you ever run for president? we think you would have been a great one. [ applause ] >> i thought about it. my time would have been 1996 and in the years just before that i had done two stints as chief of staff of the white house for two different presidents. i'd been secretary of the treasury for four years, secretary of state for four years, and i had worked on or led at a fairly high level five campaigns for president by three republican presidents and i was dead tired. pete knows how tired i was. i was dead tired. my wife and i talked about it. i think we could have raised the money, but i was 66 years old,
too, at that time and we didn't have it in us, and it was -- i've never looked back on that decision. it was the right decision, and i'm very happy with it, but i'm particularly happy to be back here in grand rapids to stand up for somebody that i will always admire and honor, jerry ford. thank you all very much. [ applause ] how do you approach book interviews differently than news reporting interviews? >> i think of the book interviews as gathering history. i think of interviewing when i'm working for the news side as gathering contemporary information. >> how difficult is it to remain impartial in your reporting and not get caught up in the hype of one campaign or another? >> i'm going to try to, as best
as i can, give people as full an understanding of what is happening in this campaign. it's not that difficult to put your biases to the side. >> how has social media changed your line of work in terms of reporting and getting your news information? >> twitter, in particular, is now a primary news source for anybody who covers politics and anybody who pays attention to politics. twitter didn't exist four years ago for all practical purposes. >> tonight, purdue university students interview "the washington post's" dan balz on covering the presidential election. tonight at 8:00 on c-span. all this month on american history tv, we're featuring programs on the 40th anniversary of the watergate break-in, including panel discussions and oral history interviewing recently released by