tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 26, 2014 11:04pm-1:31am EDT
tonight we look at president of the united states and how presidents make decisions.f nd and presidents very frankly influence all of those air othe areas that we just talked about. the president of the united statest. has today assume d incredible responsibility in that incredible position. we've had 17 presidents of the united states all of whom have various places in history. variu from willston harding, hoover tr roos volt. truman to eisenhower and mixon. kennedy to cart he and reagan. johnson to clinton, bush and obama. what can we learn from all those presidents and how has the ange presidency changed in terms of the responsibilities that have to be confronted?s.
we wooel /* weel we'll look at challenges of the presidency. four top aides, all of usveat sd presidents of the tooits united states and we've seen the ities qualities of what takes for a r president to be able to govern. we've seen qualities both good and bad. and i guess that's what i want to begin with. is looking at presidents that each of these individuals serve. what was their greatest strengtt and what was their greatest weakness? and how do you think history is going to look at them? we are talking about president reagan, president clent kbron, president bush and president le' obama. let's start with president reagan. ken? >> leon, thank you very much. leave it to leon and sylvia to put together an alpha bet panbe.
david axle rod, a. ber skin boels, b.rod, andy card, c. and duber steen, d. m aep p for pa netta.all of it is an absolutely joying to here with leon and ray and all of you. ronald reagan's greasest strengths. he knew why he ran for the presidency. and he knew what he would do once he was president.new he would focus the country and the world on the united states rebuilding its economy and creating respect for america around the world. cutting the rate of spending
increase. cutting taxes.incr rebuilding our national security.ea building up to build down. and finding overburdensome regulations to eliminate. he stayed focused for all eight years on those priorities. he was able to put in practice along with the private sector, obviously, 18 million new jobs. an economy that he inherited that was double-digit inflations double-digit interest rates. and america was, as jimmy carte said, suffering malaise. at the end of the carter administration, most people suggested that the presidency might be too big in this mode y modernmodern
modernernia for any one person and they stopped saying that foa any one person and for all of us and our presidents who served thereafteran.ththey stopped sayy one person and for all of us and our presidents who served thereafter.stopped saying that person and for all of us and our presidents who served thereafter. ronald reagan understood he was elected not just to make statements but in fact to govern and get things done. he knew that in order to forth consensus in washington, he he needed to build consensus throughout america and that would put pressure on washington. he understood the governing well, let me put it this way.ti tip o'neil would say, i don't like compromising with ronald reagan. because every time i compromise with him, reagan gets 80% of what he wants. and ronald reagan would say to g mean and jim baker and mike dev and others, well, i'll take 80%
every time and come back the next year for the additional 20. that's what governing is all about and that was the hallmark> of ronald reagan. okay, so what was his weakness? and his weakness was that he had a tendency to trust everybody. that's why nancy and i were the verifiers. but he trusted everybody until o proven otherwise. so sometimes you today unwind things because they didn't add up. >> erskin? >> he called me up and said, erskin, we are having this panel an i want you to talk about bill clinton. i said, leon, you know he s everything about bill clinton. he said, yeah, you got it.
that's why i want you to talk, you can get the phone calls. so i love leon panetta.n you guys are lucky to have him.y i tell you, everything i know, everything i know, anything i i say that you don't like, you can blame it on him because he taught me it all. greatest strength. for me, president clinton's greatest strength is his intellectual curiosity. and his absolute ability to do o the homework it takes to understand a problem from all angles. t and his willingness to accept advice from people of all walks of life.ng we could walk into the oval office and give limb a piece of advice and say red, yellow and green and he would say orange
and we would say wow. but he can take any problem, n matter of what magnitude, and he could destill it down into a see of facts that he could communicate so that anybody could understand it. and that is a unique skill. we could have nobel scientists coming in two weeks from now ann we couldn't getd him to hit a lick of the snake for the first 13 days, we wouldn't do anything. but on that 14th day, you woulda see books fromy, the white hous library stacked up this high on his desk. and he reads like that old evelyn woods reading course. i don't know how many of you ng remember it. but reading like that and so h quickly you can't believema it d can retain it. andev then he would call people opt periphery of the subjecte.tt
and you would look at his phoneo logs thatne night and he would h have talked to people that you just couldn't believe. when those people would come int for the first 45 minutes he would listen to them but in thee last 15 minutes, he would say some something so profound, you couldn't believe it. it was his willingness do his el homework and listen to people on all sides of the subject beforet he made his decision. >> and the weakness? >> just quick, one more to answer. >> i think that's pretty easy. you can take the 9:15.
president bush? >> george w. bush was a man of conviction. very grounded.ent he was also very deliberate and disciplined. he is also very courageous he's because he has the courage to make a decision. and i would say his flaws were that h allowed there to be a myth that he couldn't read. and i would say his flaws is that he allowed there to or didn't read, when he was very well read and took time to read while he wasve president and it was usually relevant to the bily responsibilities that he had. but he also kind of preferred to be from west texas when he of really was well-educated at be yale. so he allowed there to be a perception that he wasn't as as engaged as in fact he was. real but i think having the great decision, notde a allow politics to drive a decision but to allow conscie e
conscience, and to make the decisions that he had to make >> and they were impossibleably difficultl, decisions.v"ém >> well, as well with leon, i had the opportunity to serve with him. he is the embodiment of public e service, so theca perfect guy i run an institute like this. congressman, budget director, h. cia director, heave of staff, secretary of defense, it makes you wonder, why can't you hold a job? but i'm director of institute of politics at university of chicago. kenneth is chairman at harvard and the goal is very much the same, which is trying to inspiri young plenns and women to go ino careers of public service an you're a great examplar for them. so thank you for that. i also see a lot of young
servicemen and women in the audience tonight. thank you for your service as t well, because you inspire all of .u inspirank you [ applause ]osity listening to erskine, i have the same feelings, i never sat in a meeting where i felt he was mat overmatched or unprepared and h wawass stimulated by the whole array of issues that come before a president as anybody i could imagine. but i would say, i wasi going t say that his strengths were that he is incredibly bright, tlautful and deliberative and makes deliberative decisions. but i really think given the history, the moment in which he served, the quality i most admire about him, was that he was willingdmir and has been wig to make decisions that are in
the best interest of the country.and despite very, very negative politics at a time when we absolutely had to make those the decisions. and i think the american peoplen tend to find leaders of the right time to make those kinds of decisions and he made them. e we lived through terrible crises and i always felt good to be at his side because i felt he would get to the right answer and he regardless of the politics and i was mostly the guy who told hims politics and i was almost always ignored. politics and i admired him for that. i said earlier that what i like about him best is that he list listens to me so little. and in terms of -- but i believe that on everyone's strength is often also their weakness.an and so i think that you know, the criticism of the president is the same, that he's deliberative, that he's
thoughtful, that he's not spontaneous enough in his taneou decision making. i think it's a good trade-off, . but i would say that that's the criticism that i most often all here. >> you mention crises and in many ways the president is tested by crisis. what i would like do is have you reflect on what is the worse d e crisis that you saw president have to handle during the time y that you were there and how did he handle it?ow d and how will history speak to wl that? erskine, let's start with you. >> i think i'll go international. [ laughter ] that's a good place to me. >> you're going to let leon -- >> yeah. >> you know, i don't know how many of you can think back thido
long ago but this is before osama bin laden was well known, in this country at least, and we had a chance to get him in afghanistan once. but to do that, we today launchh missiles and send them over pakistan where we ahad a shaky relationship at best. there w since there was that shaky thats relationship, we wanted to make sure we didn't alert the facts t too early so t that informations were going after him would leake out.ing af so we sent the vice admiral at the air force academy in to have dinner with the president of pakistan. and he told him exactly three oe seconds before the missile crossed pakistan. and when those missiles landed, we missed bin laden by literally minutes. and the reason i always looked
at that is that as a decision that took some real guts is we i knew that the chances were 50/5 we would get him. two, we ran a real chance of ps disrupting the relationship witt a very important country we were having to deal with. and three, this was during the t time of the monica crisis. and we also knew that if we were unsuccessful that republican house and senate would accuse un of trying to divert people's d attention. and if you remember, there was . movie out there called "wag thea dog" there, and that's exactly what happened. the it took guts for him to pull th trigger. and he neverwh hesitated. i he did it because he thought ita was the right thing do. >> i'm glad we were able to finish the job. >> yeah. [ applause ]
>> andy, crisis? >> first of all -- >> okay. >> i know the headline on this one. >> a president comes to office b focused on what they were campaigning to be president. then reality sets in when they take the oath of office.the o and the truth is when they take the oath of office, they t probably think more about their. nicaragua ral address. ad thendr the burdens of the job e start to show up. president bush had significant burdens that showed up. remember the chinese forcing a plane down and how was he going to react?g what was going to happen?? now not a crisis. it could have been.ngcris he manage had it well by being restrained and listening and seeking council and making phong calls and the chinese were very slow to answer them. but then you have other crises
that come, i don't want to say r you don'te anticipate them, the are probably storms. i would say the greatest crisis is hurricane katrina. and the frustration with that crisis is that the president alone does not dictate the response. under our laws, the federal resn emergency management agency must find a request from a governor to off force and that request must follow particular protocol, the staffer act, and we add harn time getting one governor to make the right sponsor the right orsk for the right information. and yet, the public only see he the president's response. they don't really appreciate, i'm going to say the governor'so response, so that was frustrating. but probably the greatest crisit that any president faces, and i pray the presidents don't have to face this crisis but too many do. how do you have to meet your to
constitutional responsibility on a policy that you did not invitt but requires the president to keep an oath that he cannot keee without the fine men and women who take other oaths to call hie into service. and that's going to war.epo and any time a young man is or young woman is put into harm's s way and they are invited to mak sacrifices that the president y, would never invite on anyone, it is aur burden the president tak. and going to war is always a crisis. watche that weighs heavily on the president. i watched it weigh heavily on av president george w. bouush and watched it weigh heavily on his dad as well. so i would say that's the crisis. the one that theis, law doe do allow you to respond the way you would like to, the hurricane. and another one, that tution constitution says you have the y sole responsibility to respond l but youit can't do it yourself,a
you have tove count on other people to make sacrifices and that burden ends up being the burden. >> david? >> well, since bin laden is taken -- no, the truth is, for better or worse, there are a lot of crises to choose from under this presidency. and it is not over yet. but look, on december 16, 2008 will, we got together with the president-elect and vice president elect.ot just a few weeks after we just a celebrated in grand park for the first time with his economic atd team together. and they gave us a briefing on the state the economy.e head and christina roamer spoke first. she was an expert on the great depression. she went through all her chart and at the end, she said, mr. rt president, i think we are in the midst of a recession. it is going to be as deep as ons anything we faced since the depression. larry summers coming in as head
of council talked about what i that would mean for the economye trillion dollar hole in the economy in 2009. trillion dollar hole in 2010. millions of jobs lost. time geithner spoke, treasury secretary incoming, saying the banking system is locked up and could collapse. no loans are given. then to cheer everybody up, youl within this and steps we need to take with it, will add significantly to the debt and deficits. so at this point, the presidenti e entertained, dismissed the notion of asking for a recount. and what began was we basicallyn became a triage unit trying to right the economy in the quartee we took office. economy shrunk by 8.9%., the
worst since 1980. l losing 800,000 jobs a month. stock market was headed to 6500. and we had millions of foreclosures and it was the worst situation any president as had faced since roosevelt in 1933. was and what was thought a recovery act, a time when people were concerned about deficits, buyt necessary to plug the hole in the economy, we had to take steps to stand up the financial industry which was reviled at the time for the role they played or perceived to have at e played in the financial -- in yd the financial crisis and the train wreck of the economy. and the u.s. auto industry was on the brink and chrysler and gm were weeks away from bankruptcyn
and so you had all these things -- so we today step in and save them.tep and none of these steps were positive. they were all difficult. but they wereffic what his responsibility required and he took them and took them with t eyes open knowing that the ey politics were bad. and he never once really asked e about the politics and wouldn't allow us to force the politics on him because this is what he was elected to do. >> president reagan? >> just a few quick vignettes. >> much as reagan became the as love during the campaign of 1980, i think the country fell e in love with him when they saw the grace, dignity and humor after the assassination attempt h is a major first crisis of the administration. who can forget president reagann as he was being wheeled in the
gurney at gw hospital saying, i hope all you doctors are republicans.hore the other part of that story is. the surgeon leaned down and said, today we are all republicans. or nancy saying, honey, i forgo the duck. but that caught on with the american people. and another crisis is when we lost the challenger. and ronald reagan became the ct chaplin to the country in those -- that most eloquent t address, comforting america on f the lossor of those wonderful astronauts. and then it was rako vick where ronald reagan was accused of walking way from a deal of a strategic arms negotiation with gorbachev because he would have today sacrifice his sdi sb
strategic defense initiative, program. which he thought would keep more pressure on the soviet union. he was criticized but ultimately proved right because it got gorbachev back to the table.thee next one i want to mention quickly, everybody knows the signature line of the reagan years, his visit to the berlin wall, but let me suggest to you that it wasn'tá@dq easy. the state department and national security folks all th opposed that onee paragraph in the speech because they thought it would undercut gorbachev's f efforts on strike glasnov..
i showed the speech to the president. he said, what do you think? i said, i think it's a hell he i after line. but you're president, you get to decide.oafter line. but you're president, you get to decide.fafter line. but you're president, you get to decide.of after line. but you're president, you get to decide.after line. but you're president, you get to decide.fter line. but you're president, you get to decide.ter line. but you're president, you get to decide.er line. but you're president, you get to decide.r line. but you're president, you get to decide.a line. but you're president, you get to decide. he called me back an hour later to come back to the oval office, and he said, i think we'll leaf leave it in. i explained the objections from national security people andand state department.aid, andw ronald reagan said, no, ths will help find gorbachev and help put him more strongly toward bargaining and negotiation. we went to berlin. the night before there were massive riots against the united states because we put two ut persian missiles in germany and elsewhere. george schultz called me on the
phone and said, will you tell y the president that i share my se department's objections of the speech to that paragraph under the speech and i hope you will convey my viewes to the president and as everybody on this panel knows, when a cabinet secretary doesn't ask for 10 minutes on the president's calendar, but asks you to convey the information, it means, i eas covered myself with the bureaucracy. and if the line fails and there is a major world crisis, it's on your should percent. if rsma we've all had that experience. as president reagan and i were drive together band enburg gate in the presidential motorcade, he was reviewing his speech one more time.
and he got that paragraph, and d he turned to me and said, it's going to drive the state department boys krizy but i'm going to leave it in. mr. gorbachev, tear down this wallen.ta ronald reagan fundamentally war ended the cold war and brought bosch chaf to the bargaining ta table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.gbosch chaf to table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.obosch chaf to table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.rbosch chaf to table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.abosch chaf to bargaining table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.chbosch chaf to bargaining table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.ebosch chaf to bargaining table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.vbosch chaf to bargaining table, so we got a h chaf to the bargaining table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great. chaf to the bag table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great.chaf to the bar table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great. to the bargain table, so we got a strategic arms negotiation. >> that's great. >> since i was chief of staff, i will give you a small little element. i just got appointed chief of staff and i was at home, you know, in business about 2:00, 2:30 in the morning and i got a call from secret service and secret service said, mr. pa netta -- because you know, when you get a call at that time of the the evening, it's not good news. mr. panetta, we're sorry to telw
you but a plane just went into the wlous. what the hell was it? a 747 or what kind of plane went into the wlous? no, a white plane. it went up again the white house. we think it may have damaged jackson magnolia tree but didn't do much damage. well, wait a minute, this could pr a terrorist attack on the president. did you look if the plane?ve is is there explosives in the well, plane? and the answer was, well, according to krn news -- and i said, no, i would appreciate it if you would get off your butt,a check the plane and make sure ke that there it is not happening -- if >> if it makes you feel good, 'a there's a great story that colin powell tells, being in aed withing a the a church, national security adviser.s an aide comes during the service, the ceremony, and says, there's an urgent phone call for you.
and everybody's eyes followed eb the nationaodl security councilh director as he leaves the church.it and he comes back 10 minutes later.d and alma powell leans over and said, what's going on. colin says, there's been a powell in x country. she said, oh, i heard this on cnn before we left. >> we should also underscore , that while we can pick iconic us sort of crises and challenges, what makes the presidency what c it is, is that every single day is filled with, you know, like i can guarantee you when we are et running for president, we didn't talk a lot about pirates. that was something that came up later.re you know. and all of a sudden, you know, the president has 10 minutes ton
decide whether or not he should order to try and take out captain phillips' captors. t and he had snipers on bobbing on a boat who were pretty sure then could get the bad guys, but y se might get captain phillips, and he he's got 10de minutes to decide. or when you are dealing with a final crisis in a war and tells you that we may have a h1n1 pandemic. that is the nature of the presidency. and that's why it is such an -- an incredibly challenging job. >> andy, let me ask you about that. the whole question, beof, what, the president that a president s uses to come to a decision? and you know, we've heard a ow, little bit of it discussed here but presidents have to face countless designificants on d administrative issues on legislative issues.is as commander-in-chief. on foreign policy.on for political decisions et cetera, e et cetera. what was the -- what's the
process that president uses in order to come to a decision. the perceptions of these, reagan had this core set of beliefs that ken talked about. clinton kind of reached out for review. you talked about that.about bush kind of, we thought, operated by his gut. obama, the law professor's approach. what was the process that you saw a president use under order to come to a decision? >> first, i want to say that it is up to the cleef of staff to know the president.depers the personality, what the thinking process is, and you want to make sure that presidend and make sure that president was never making a decision when heo was hungry, angry, lonely or tired.ys and since that 24 hours a day, c it's a burden. i also want him to make a bu decision in the best possible me mood he could be in.sion i i didn't want a pessimistic president making a decision. a i wanted it to be an o ision,
optimistic decision, even though it was brutally tough.c so i focused on the president's lifestyle. and. 24-hour, seven-day-a-week for the staff. so you want them to be in the u' best possible mood. i did focus on every minute of everyday, seven days a week, 24n hours a day.d. and tried to make sure the president could be as prepared as possible when we didn't know what he had to be prepared to do. but ultimately, the president e would try not to allow emotionsi to drive the response. he would seek council that was o not monolithic. so i would make sure that he ou wasn't getting monolithic council. he was getting information to be able to make a decision rather than be presented a decision. and i wanted to make sure that understood when the decision was necessary. whether it was 10 minutes, two s hours, six days or three months.
and give the president opportunity then to adjust the s process that he today got throuh to make a decision in time.decin because if you make the decisioa too late, it is irrelevant. if you make it too early, it may not be mature at the time the decision was put into motion. i try to pay attention to the yo goldy locks andu three bears. and like looking for the perfec porage to feed him. but i think ultimately the president had to be comforted that he had the information. the best information available at the time from people he could trust but not just feeding him a response. and he had to understand the despare there.tran what are the consequences made i too early or too late even whatr of are the con kwens to the decision if it is wrong? but probably wlis perring to the
president's ear at 9/11 is /11 whispering what the president didn't expect to hear. when i told him that the second plane hit the tower and we were under attack, it wasn't what he expected to hear. sitting with second grade fo students withlk an audience of press pool watching our every move. i couldn't ask to have a discussion or enter into a dialogue.formdick i had to give a message, then back off and let him accept the message and wrestle with what an his constitutional responses would be and how hed had to iedo respond while i tried give him all of the other tools in the o other room where the staff was getting ready to help the president do his job.bu >> erskine? use >> people used to ask all the time, this tv show "the west wing", was it accurate? ? i said, it does a pretty good job of capturing the velocity of
a place. like faster than the dotcom world.tt and the breadth of issues you ay have to deal with in a day, you know, in an average day for leon and for me, you know, we deal u with bosnia, northern ireland, l taxation, the budget, some kindt of environmental issue, then wee would have lunch. and you know, we always said thank god it's friday, only two more workdays until monday. only and if you were doing one of these sunday shows, god, you know, all the stuff you would have done on saturday, you had to do on sunday. so it really was a seven-day a d week job. but i think what this guy next o to me did when he came into thet white house was remarkable.ame leon came in and brought brough lickey and myself in as his two deputies, and when we arrived, we saw a white house where everw
15 minutes of every day was scheduled. s and you can imagine in a world e that's changing and evolving ass much as the one these guys ribe, described, clearly if you have every a minutes scheduled, it s gives you no time to think, reflect, react to a changing t e world and it also means that u d you're going to be or appear to be late to meeting after meeting when it's really just poor staff work. s the second thing that leon and i saw, was we had some members of the staff, i know this will come to a great surprise to you guysa who were leaking what was going on in various meetings, meetings they weren't even in.where th and one of the purposes of that was to lock the president into i where they wanted him to go as . opposed to where he might want to go.ore and therefore if he actually ac made the opposite decision, it looked like he flip-flopped. and finally, we found a white h house where people would wantero
into the oval office, the president would get a little information here, a little information there. and it would take him longer to make worse decisions. and so leon changed that, he made sure that the president got all his event information in or context, we freed up three to four hours every single day for him to think, reflect and react to a changing world. and we made sure that in theory that less is often better than more, that instead of doing two or three events a day and or t therefore stepping on his ther message that he was trying to get out, that he would do maybe two a week. and that if he was saying something in new york that was quite important, that instead of having bob rice and bob ruben tt saying the exact opposite thing in new orleans and new mexico, that they all said the same thing. and that way we were able to get control. able we were able to establish some discipline, some organization structure and focus.shanizatio
and the president went on to have a successful second year. >> ken? >> erskine reminds me about west wing. and i had the privilege of being a consultant for the story line for three years. the first time i went out to hollywood, i met with seven writers, none of whom was more than 35 years of age and only two of the seven had ever been in washington. age seven and i spent several hours, as we started to chart out the year. and at the end, i said i had to go back to washington and this wonderful, very pretty young writer, woman, got up and gave me a hug. and one of the male writers said mr. duberstein, who immediately
made me feel old, said, do you know how lucky you are? no, she's never kissed a republican before in her life. everybody walks into the oval office almost everybody and get cotton in their mouth.up. they tell the president what they think he wants to hear instead of what he needs to know. they say, it doesn't add up. everybody walks into the oval office, almost everybody, and says, you know, mr. president, it's in your best interest to do this. heir and our job was to figure out why it was in their best interest first, and the president second. ronald reagan was a voracious reader.nald rea he read all the memos. all the decision memos we all talked about. but the key to reagan was
listening to the arguments in person. because an actor, he looked at , people's eyes, he heard their tone and he #d 7@ start sortingo out what really added up and what didn't. he never liked the argument, mr. president this is the best politics for you. he would end the conversation. the answer was make sure at our level that he had the right options, and then let them argue it out for those people, argue it out in front of them in the oval office. and then later he would make a decision. some of >> well, i think -- and we haveh all -- some of it has to do with the input, right? there's so much information, ant part of the staff's job is to ee filter the information, but ly filter it fairly so he gets a
feel for the sweep of arguments. and, you know, obama, i mean on, of the things that has been very good for him in the presidency e is that he had been a legislatod for 11 years before he became president and so he was either in springfield or washington much of the time.s beprestim this was the first time in his life that he was actually living with his family on a regular basis.th reg so he would go home every nightl at 6:30 to have dinner with hiso family, and then he would dive into this thick folder and well into the night, reviewing all of the stuff for the next day. reve and he was always well briefed on what was in that package. but as ken suggests, i think the conversations were very important to him. abut as k and leon, you're asking a question that you know the and answer to because you were involved in many of these conversations.et you you said he has a law professore in the sense that he drills dows into these issues, that's true,t but there's a sort of t's dispassionate implication to
that that wasn't true, he was very well aware of the tru implications of his decisions e and he wanted to hear people argue them out. and whoever was in the room, heo presumed they were there for a reason, and he wanted to know what everybody thought. ju he didn't just want one dominant voice to speak, but he wanted tt hear the discussions and when he thought he had enough whe information, he would make a decision. >> no, it was, i mean again, just from my own insights, when we were looking at the bin laden decision, the reality is we did not have 100% intelligence that bin laden was there and it was considered a pretty risky operation.ed a v when we went to the national security council, many in the national security council said it was too risky and that we shouldn't do it.ito and so he continued to go remem around.be and i remember when he asked mei
i said mr. president, i have ana old formula that i used when i n was in congress, which was, if w i'm facing a tough decision, as the average citizen in my district what would you do if you knew what i did?ct what and i thought, if i told the thh average citizen that we had the best intelligence and a location of bin laden since tora bora, i think the average citizen would say you have to do it, you can't, you know, make the ke mistake of not taking this on. and i told the president that and i said in addition to that, i have tremendous confidence in the ability of the s.e.a.l.s to conduct this operation. and the president didn't make a decision at that point.ion. but the next day, he called and said, it's a go. let me just ask, you were all aa members of presidents who were elected to a second term. who w and second term, you know, term. frankly, turns out to be pretty rough.m, it's a bumpy ride. things catch up to you, you
know, in the last four years, u, that you didn't have to worry il about the first four years.o you know, for reagan, iran contra.you clinton obviously lewinsky, bush, iraq, katrina, we talked about that, obama health care, veteran's care. obama >> you're bumming everybody out, leon. >> how does a president stay relevant in the second term?relt and not -- and not seem like, you know, basically things are e going to happen without the to president directing policy in the country. h pol i mean how does the president stay relevant? let me ask you, david. yo >> well, first of all, let me say that presidents today have an even more difficult task because of the pace at which the media churns. it is so easy to be overexposed because of the way the media poe
churns and people get tired, you know, we live in a society where people are always looking for new and they get tired and by dy six years, you know, you have to deal with that element and then we have got the kind of deep te polarization that we have todayi so it's difficult for any president, certainly been difficult for this president. but on the question of relevance, i think this isser i endip us to day to talk about thisus. because the president today at r talked about emissions from coa fired plants that is pretty ovel profound in its implications ano i'm sure will be very i controversial as well. mean but no one can argue that it wasn't a meaningful act or gesture, it was a very importank one, and i think it will go down in the sort of annals of discussion on climate change as a big step forward.
so i think that you have to useo the tools that are available to you to advance the things that you feel are important.on the other element, by the way, n on this, and this is a failing . of our political system, we now have a permanent election a campaign. we have elections, we have a few weeks of governing as an interlude and then more elections. so part of what happens is so people get bored because this president isn't going to be p running anymore so. they're already thinking about,s and you may ask us about it, what about the next presidential election?l this guy's like yesterday's news.?ws. so that's something else, you know, in this environment in , which we're constantly churningh about elections and politics, is makes it hard for a second term president. >> andy?cs >> a second term is always a challenge, george w. bush had
the challenge of trying to get some of his favorite programs e passed, he called for social se security reform and wasn't able to build momentum, he called for immigration reform, wasn't able to build momentum.e obviously he was dealing with d two wars and he was trying to manage a transition, we had actually kind of won the hot wat and we couldn't win the peace. so those were challenges. but then he had the crisis in e. our economy that hit after the republican and the democratic t conventions, after the two c nominees of the major parties t had already been selected and we had an economic crisis and he had to deal with that. so he did not have a lot of t hv positive momentum going to get anything done with congress or to mobilize interest, never mind support from the american people. he was trying to clean up two ge wars, help secure peace in two places that didn't want to embrace peace and then he had an economic crisis that very few people anticipated would come.
i think that what he did do was manage with a calm deliberance, president george w. bush and barack obama very different philosophies, very different prd parties, but president bush tried to make sure that president obama wasn't given, i'm going to say an empty bask et to play witet to play withet. he actually told him what was in the basket.said, so focused on the transition. and he actually started to do to that quite early. i will and it was probably to the most. orderly transition in the history of the country. on >> well, i've said, you know thw this andy because i said this ts you, i will always be profoundly
transition was handled. not only was the president generous to president obama butt all of our counterparts were generous to us in terms of he briefing us on their jobs and bringing us up to date on things that were relevant for us moving forward. so i was proud of the -- i was . grateful to him and proud of our country because of the way that transition was handled.klbe frankly we had beaten the his bejesus out of him in our campaign. we were very critical of his policies. and it said something about our country that despite all that we did work together on something d very important at the end of that administration. you mentioned the financial crisis. tellig >> but also the intelligence en side. >> right.e treasu but on the -- after leeman collapsed.ryched the treasure secretary reached f out beforehand to brief obama. and obama was as supportive as u he could be in terms of trying n to rally democrats and hold democrats together for that solution. and so, you know, i'm going to make -- i'm going to break all this comedy with a t and make an
one partisan point, which is, democrats in large numbers came to the support of president busf on the tarp, which was a very tough vote. it was a time of crisis for the country and i think that was a e good example that's worth following. >> so my transition was that thp second term is about getting ready to pass the baton. th and a good president will make t sure the president is not dropped the day that it's passe and i think that that's a very important thing to do when you are a lame-duck president getting ready to support a new se not like but you will respect.co how do you stay relevant that second term? >> you governor as if it was in your first day in office, not your last day in office. t yes we had to bump the major m
hurdle of iran contra. but before that, we also had ta. reform with marty russo. and one of the most fundamentals tax bills in american history, at least modern, and it took lln place in the second term. so did immigration reform. so did welfare reform. social security. social security reform all were the first two, two and a half f years of the second term. all with iran contra.ec and when the president fired dae reagan, he did it because he realized that the white house, he needed new blood and appreciate ideas. and the credibility of frank and colin powell and howard baker d and myself, not just as managers, but somebody who couls figure out a strategy to make those last two years important.
when i came back to the white house, what people were writing about was that ronald reagan wasn't a lame duck, he was a dead duck. why?sn'tad duc because he just lost the unitede states senate to the democrats for the last two years of his term. reagan went out of his way to rebuild a presidency so that wel did the canada/u.s. free trade agreement. in hindsight it looks easy. except jim baker, my wonderful i predecessor and secretary of the treasure couldn't push it over the line. jim it took the president to do it.t the president had built up a . trusting relationship with the congress on both sides of the aisle. he was able to recreate a coalition. he did the strategic arms.
with gorbachev, the two summit a meetings, and the treaty. we got a supreme court nominee, anthony kennedy from here and california and northern california approved overwhelmingly by a democratic senate.lierwhel and i know this is going to ming sound weird, but we had all 13 appropriation bills passed on time. not bad for a b-movie actor in the last two years of his term. [ applause ]. >> erskine, you were there. >> well, we balanced the budget. >> that's true. [ laughter ]. [ applause ]. >> yeah.months and to get that done, i had to d spend months and months and up
months locked up in conference d rooms locked up with newt gingrich.owe me you all owe me a lot for that. i'm telling you. president clinton loved being president. he loved it. he delighted in it. he wanted to use everyday to ee make this country a better placr to live and work and raise your family.ac i mean, i'll give you an example of something that shows his humanity.ly you know, every -- literally almost every day he would come y over from the east wing to the west wing and he would have nd articles of various newspapers from around the country. little teeny papers that he had. ripped out and it had been e somebody who had gotten some kind of bad deal. he would give me the articles and say, go fix this. nobody would know the president. of this country cared enough about their problems to try to make it bettergh.r proble and that's what he did.
and i think he had a successful second term in spite of the face that people say it's so partisan nowa felt a little partisan then. they were impeaching him. but we were able to work with the republican house and senate. because the president knew what he wanted to accomplish in that term.nate. the proudest i ever saw him, leon, was not the day we balanced the budget, but how we balanced the budget. i'll never forget coming in and telling him, mr. president, we've got a deal, and in that deal we got health insurance for 4 million kids. that the happiest i ever saw him during my tenure >> we're going to ask questions from the audience. before i get there, let me just we all know that the presidency is a very isolating job.ey
presidents get elected. they suddenly go to the white is house, secret service is all around them.themthey they can't go any place. c they can't walk like truman used to walk around the place. t they're basically in some ways r trapped in the office itself. and as a result, you know,give and as a result, you know, it is hard to stay in touch and protect your humanity. p ct the e of that individual in a situation where there is all this isolation and this -- these pressures of the job? >> ronald regan loved to call congressmen and senators but not in washington. the white house switchboard --
oh the white house is on the phone. you call in a district. you guys know, marty, it's a big deal. regan would insist upon talking to the receptionist first. what's going on in your town? what's happening? i know it's president regan but tell me. you get the congressman on the phone. what did you hear in your town hall meeting? what did you hear when you're walking the streets or going to a rally? what do i need to know? all of a sudden there was chatter all over. the president of the united states called congressman panetta. congressman russo. you know, what did you tell them? you told them you're going to support him, didn't you?
that's how you start getting the consensus in america to impact the congressman in the hometown. that's also how we kept regan grounded. not from his california kitchen cabinet but much more from the rank and file. where is ted? i used to go home to brooklyn, new york, near ted's house. and i used to sit on a luncheon counter. people knew me when i was 18 years old. what are you hearing? what's going on? what do i need to know back in washington? and i'm sitting there in a pair of jeans and a baseball cap. people will open up to you. and then i would share it with the president. >> erskine? >> i think i just gave one good
example. we did everything we possibly could to keep the president in touch with everyday folks. we never had a problem with him wanting to hear people from different walks of life. he wanted your opinion. he wanted to bark on, bark off. he wanted to know what you really felt. but as i think ken said a few minutes ago, you know, when any of you all walk into the oval office, you know, you might have spent 20 minutes with leon and me first and we might say, now, look when grow in there, you tell him exactly what you told us first. okay? then you walk in the oval office and the president says, how am i doing? so it's hard. >> you got that right. >> we tried everything. we tried pulling people off the rope line, who were going through the white house to come meet the president. >> that worked out well for you, didn't it? >> yeah, really good.
[ laughter ]. >> that was one of my best ideas. >> let's move on. [ laughter ]. >> i tried to make sure the president always had time with his wife and time to pay attention to his daughters. no scheduler scheduled time for the president to spend quality time with his daughters or his wife. they didn't schedule time for him to talk to a friend. or to see a movie or even to read a book. so i tried to make sure the president had time to see friends that were not part of the political community. yes, he had friends in congress and, yes, that was a little bit like work. but i really wanted him to have time to talk to people that weren't carrying the burdens of the office but were carrying the concerns of the nation. and we tried to do that. he enjoyed going away to camp g
crawford, to his ranch. but he really liked being with friends that were not there using him so that he could befriend him. that is a hard thing to schedule because time is short, the decisions are important and the policy concerns are great. but i really tried to focus on allowing the president to interact with people that had concerns that were not nationally-driven concerns, instead they were personally-driven interests in a great country. >> well, first of all, i mentioned the family, very, very important to him. kept him very much grounded. in the same vain, his old friends were his friends and he got together some friends he grew up with would come periodically. he was very close. but in terms of keeping in touch with the country the president said i want ten letters a night that are representative of the
letters that we're getting. and he would -- sometimes he would write handwritten notes back, other times he would call. he would respond to all these letters. more importantly, he would circulate these letters around the white house. and if we were in a discussion on the economic crisis and he was told that small business lending was moving forward a pace. and he had had four letters from people who couldn't get any credit, you know, and he would have those checked out. and he would come back with these stories. so these letters became very important to him and also very difficult for him because they were heart breaking about people struggling out there. and he would cite them often in private conversations he would talk to me. finally, you know, i think traveling and actually interacting with people is really, really important. i went in the summer of 2009 with a poll to say we're taking
on some water on this health care thing. and this was not news to him, by the way. he said, i know you're right but i just got back from green bay, wisconsin. i met a woman 36 years old, married, two jobs, also has stage 4 breast cancer and now hit her life time cap and is worried about dying and leaving her family bankrupt. by now i feel him -- he had his hand in the small of my back easing me out of his office. but on the way out the door, he said, so let's keep fighting. this is a country we believe in. so i think that human interaction is very important. >> no, it is. absolutely. let me take a quick break here to recognize our question review team who are the people that are responsible for selecting questions that will present to our speakers. and i would ask you to hold your applause until i introduce the entire group. they are julie copeland who is
the city editor. mary duwan. doug mcknight. don miller, executive editor. jeff mitchell. if you would all thank them, please. [ applause ]. there was some comment about some of the students in the audience. they are from -- they are military and we have -- we were able to host them in terms of talking about some of the issues that we talked about. let me introduce -- first of all, let me have them all stand, if i could. [ applause ].
>> let me -- let me personally thank you for your service to this country. we deeply appreciate it. they are students from the defense language institute and the navy post graduate school. thank you. you may be seated. [ applause ]. and lastly, if i could mention, that throughout our lecture series, obviously the student participation in these events is possible only because of the generous support of our lecture series sponsors. so sylvia and i are very grateful for the sponsorship we get students from high schools, colleges, universities, military institutions throughout northern california to be able to participate and to be able to learn about the political issues facing this country. so i would appreciate it if you give our sponsors a hand as well. [ applause ].
let me turn to some questions from our audience, if i could. let's talk about one of the more ust seen in washington with secretary sin secky and the veteran's administration. obviously there was a scandal at the veteran's administration. it seemed to take weeks for the president and the secretary to act. shouldn't he have been fired earlier? david? >> why me? [ laughter ]. >> i didn't know. you see, i didn't applaud for the panel that screened the questions because i want to hear the questions first. you know, the god's honest truth is if you're talking about pure politics, probably would have
made sense because there's nothing that washington loves or demands more than a body to be thrown out when ever there's a problem. now, the fact is that general shinseki had done many things well. he had administered the post 9/11 g.i. bill in taking 2 million more veterans new policies related to agent orange and ptsd. and, you know so he had done a lot of things well. and, you know, it is the is th president's habit and practice not to throw bodies out just because if there's blood lost in washington. so, as a matter of pure politics, yeah. the play would have been to fire someone quickly. but the decent and honorable thing was to really look at the facts and see what was known, what wasn't known, what was done and what wasn't done and that's what he did. >> let me ask you -- go ahead, ken. >> i think the tipping point
came, though -- and i agree with what david said. but the tipping point came not when so many republicans came out for the resignation of shinseki, but when the democrats in very contested senate seats and vulnerable house democrats started lining up to impose shinseki, that is the tipping scale that wound up with -- >> i didn't say blood lost was a partisan pursuit. all of washington engages in it. >> ken, let me ask you this. did regan like to fire people? >> hated it because it showed loyalty to his cabinet, loyalty to some white house staff, but when confronted with it, eventually it was the job of the chief of staff to say -- time to go. [ laughter ]. >> and whether that was i'll ignore it or john point dexter,
regan, he did have to fire as well as occasional cabinet officer. but he held out in a sense of loyalty and importance of making sure that they could make right before he let them go. >> erskine, bill clinton? >> i learned something about politics from al simpson. he described politics to me. he said it came from the greek word poly meaning many and ticks meaning insects. my experience is that most poll tixs got to where they are by saying yes. and not by saying no. and so i always felt it was my
responsibility that if something like this had to be done that i would take care of it. but i would be the guy that said no or i would be the guy to let somebody go. and that's the way we did it. but that also means that you also have the responsibility when you're dealing with the president himself and it's just the two of you in the room you can't be afraid of losing your job. you have to stand up and say, mr. president, i don't think this is the right way for us to go. >> andy? >> presidents really don't like to fire anybody. sometimes they have to. and they come to recognize it. i think general shinseki, first of all he is a patriot and did great job in service to our country. he did an awful lot of veteran's administration, did an outstanding job for much of what he did. however, he ended up personifying the problem. once you start personifying the problem, congress doesn't see the solution. and so i think that it was the right thing for secretary
shinseki to tender his resignation. i don't know whether president obama asked for it or not, but i'm going to say that he tendered his resignation. since all of us who have served served at the pleasure of the president for the time being. that's what our little document says that hangs on our wall and it's redundant in its insecurity. and i think secretary shinseki's time being arrived. and i don't know if the pleasure was gone but the time being arrived. i think it was appropriate for him to leave. but no president likes to say good-bye to a staffer. and i've watched presidents hold on to people they shouldn't have held on to very long but they did and others who agonized over the good-bye longer than they should have. >> yep. >> i would only add that even though erskine is an abor ration at his height, every chief of
staff started out to be erskine's height and we're now 5'9". we talked about two terms for the president. here is a question. should the president's term be changed to a single six-year term? andy? >> i don't think it should be. because then it would make the president a lame duck on year one of a six-year term. and congress would not pay as much attention as they should. we watch the president's authority wane as his political support wanes. and people already start to be looking at who the next president would be, which we'll talk about before we end up leaving. but, no, i do not support a six-year term. i think it's important for the president to be conscious of the pulse of america the same way members of congress have to be conscious of it. they just have to be paranoid about it.
president shouldn't be paranoid. >> yeah. i mean, there was actually a column about this recently and i thought about it because there is some -- i mean, you know, basically you spend the last year of your first-term running for re-election and then you run into the problems that we talked to in your second term. but i actually thought that it was an important exercise for the president to go back to the country and run for re-election. i don't think we want to divorce the president from the electric after that first election. >> i am strongly opposed to a six-year term for all the reasons that andy gave and david gave. i just want to take the opportunity, though, to also talk that the challenge, whether it's president obama or when president reagan had it, was to try to make sure that he is succeeded by somebody of his own party. reagan was able to do that with
george herbert walker bush, but you have to go back about 50 years before that is true before -- >> two terms. >> two-term to be succeeded by somebody of his own party. that is one of the measures also of the importance of a second term that you've mentioned before about staying relevant. >> erskine you feel any different? >> yeah. i do. i have the complete opposite opinion on that. if i felt the president just spent the last year of a four-year term running for re-election i might feel the same way that david does. but i don't. i feel like the campaign almost started the day they're re-elected or day they're elected. and therefore i -- i also think too many presidents make decisions based on, you know, what kind of effect it will have on their re-election as opposed to what they might think is the best for the country. i would really like to see one six-year term. i think it would really be very
positive. >> i'm influenced by the fact that we made a bunch of disastrous political decisions. >> this is a good question. how does social media, instant reporting, 24-hour news affect the presidential decision process? does it affect just the public affairs piece or the decision overall? we are living at a time when, you know, as i mentioned to you earlier, we've moved beyond fire side chats. we've got blogs. we've got twitter. we've got facebook. we've got everything that immediately reports things. how does all of that affect the presidential decision-making process? erskine, we'll start with you. >> when we talked about this earlier, i thought andy had the absolute best answer to that about the lid. can andy tell that story first and then we'll go on to it?
>> sure. >> i went to the white house for a forgettable campaign for the governor of massachusetts in 1928 and i showed up in august of 1983 very excited to be working at the white house for president reagan. at around 4:30 in the afternoon of r over a loud speaker system that went through the west wing of the white house and old executive office building where the white house staffers are, there would be an announcement from the press secretary's conference that would say the lid is on. the lid is on. that meant news for the day had ended. reporters were putting stuff into their editorial teams and editors and the evening news was getting ready to be broadcast, so there was no more news. and it was like everybody in the white house -- whew. there was also a discipline that you could tell reporters practiced strong ethics because they wouldn't run a story unless you had two sources and you could find out they had one
source and they were trolling hard for that second-confirming source, but they wouldn't run it if they didn't have two confirming sources. then all of a sudden cable nudes came along and they couldn't run the loop enough over the course of the day and maintain eyeballs and ears, so they had to put alert. that meant they had to have something new to say every once in a while. >> breaking news. >> breaking news. >> so they made a conscious -- >> i'm going to move my chair over. [ laughter ]. >> they made a decision to go with one source, not two. and then other cable news outlets came along and radio talk show and they said, heck, we're just going to go with a good rumor if anybody responds to it. [ laughter ]. >> and so all of a sudden the momentum changed and it was a 24-hour cycle and the lid was never put on. now we have opportunities to communicate instantaneously. we can offer a bert and it
showed up in a tweet and somebody is offered to respond to it. we respond without thinking and all of a sudden the response comes out in 140 characters. i said 40 characters before. 140 characters and the person who puts them out owns the response and they refuse to move off of it even if they know it was wrong and so they don't allow good judgment to be used. so we are communicating instantaneously with our emotions and congress is the most paranoid so they communicate the most with your emotions and they echo them. and judgment, which is what our republic was founded on, we were founded as a democracy that had representatives represent us offering some judgment before they made a decision and then senators took a longer time to consider judgment and the president could exercise judgment after watching what happened in congress. now we're reacting to emotions very quickly and people get stuck on stupid with the
responses that they make and we don't taste words before we spit them out and our thumbs are not restrained as we punch and our hashtag is used before we rehash. [ applause ]. but like -- >> how do you feel about it? >> we can't put that jeannie back in the bottle. so our democracy looks less like a judgment-informed republic and emotionally driven and people do get stuck on stupid and government doesn't work. >> i think the worst -- there are many bad manifestations of this. i started off as a newspaper reporters covering politics back in the early '80s, late '70s, early '80s. when we had 24 hours to report our our story or generally as much time as we needed and there
wasn't this deadline pressure every ten minutes, every ten seconds with every tweet, every rumor. but the other thing that's happened is because of cable competition and so on, everything gets blown into a humongous story. so everyday is election day in washington. every story is going to define the presidency. and the thing i always remember -- the example i always use -- now, this wasn't a small thing by any stretch. but when the oil leak happened in the gulf, this was -- i don't mean to touch on -- it was called obama's katrina, this was going to be the end of his presidency. do you know that it came. it was dealt with. and i don't think it came up once in the 2012 campaign. and one of the things that -- one of the disciplines you have to learn when you are in the white house is to evaluate these
rabbits and not chase them down the hole. there really aren't that many defining stories that come along the course of the presidency and shouldn't get ain a panic along with the rest of the community and the journalists and pseudo journalists. >> every year i lived there i came to believe that human ert humphry was really right 26 square miles, surrounded by reality is how he described it. >> ken, any thoughts? >> my problem is because of modern media, when you have the arab spring and cairo and tahrir square and you have a protester arguing against the united states and you have a split screen and the white house podium in the press room is responding to a protester in
instant time, if you're in the white house, you don't have to think about winning the second or the minute but you need to win the month, the six months, the years. you need a consistent strategy. and you don't know who this protester is. you don't know who he or she stands for. and to equate that person with the podium of the president of the united states and having the press secretary responding, seems to me to be dangerous for governing especially in america. >> social media has affected the presidency in another way and you touched on it which is the arab springs started -- >> social media. >> a fruit peddler in tunisia who lit himself on fire. this went viral. and the whole region went up. and this is another thing that makes the presidency, i think, much more difficult today than
its ever been before. >> talking about the press, obviously presidents rely a great deal when they're running in a campaign on the press. and when they suddenly go into the white house. in part the press turns fickle against that particular president and the president starts to get a little paranoid about the press. and presidents begin to then -- you know, they don't go out. they don't do as many press conferences. they don't go out and deal with the press as much. tell me the relationship, you know, between a president you served and the press. how did he regard the press, what was the relationship like, ken? >> ronald reagan really respected the press. it wasn't adversarial relationship, but he loved a whole bunch of the press people. first and foremost, believe it or not, was sam donaldson. who always gave him the shouted
question. and you remember reagan with his ear cup, i can't hear you, sam. the reality, which i said to sam in a panel like this, was when we didn't want reagan to answer the question as he was leaving for camp david on the helicopter, before we walked outside the dip room, i ordered the pilot of the helicopter to start his engines. >> it's true. >> because you never want to make the president of the united states a liar. i can't hear you. well, he couldn't hear him. the president encouraged all of us to spend time with the press because even on an off-the-record, if we couldn't answer their questions, we better go back and do more homework. the last thing i'll say, one of my fondest vignettes of the press and reagan was sam
donaldson, lou cannon of the washington post, andrea mitchell of nbc news were all fighting about who was going to do the last pool report on air force one or 26,000 as we headed back to california at the end of the reagan presidency. and my lasting memory on a portable typewriter was sam donaldson on the floor of air force one typing the final pool report and reagan came back to say thank you. that's the kind of relationship, even though it gets tough, iran contra, my job in the aftermath of iran contra was to remind reagan before he went within shouting distance of sam or andrea or anybody else, remember if you answer the question on iran contra, you might as well not give the speech you're giving today because nobody is
going to cover it. so you're wasting your time if you answer it. and i used to do this on a daily basis and he would be good for about five, six weeks and then sam would hit something and, bam. >> that would take care of it. >> and that night upstairs from the residence after talking with nancy, i would get a phone call, yeah, i really messed up today. i won't do it again. and i knew we were good for another four or five weeks. >> erskine, clinton and the press? >> you can answer this one. you know, when i was about 12 years old and you were chief of staff, ken --. [ laughter ]. >> and reagan was president, you know, i always felt the press, you know, because they were so liberal that they didn't like reagan because he was conservative. and i found out when i became chief of staff that was not
true. look, i think it's very tough. you want to make sure that you always tell the truth. that you keep the press informed. you've got to feed a hungry beast. but they are insatiable. and it's -- i found it to be a real challenge. i can tell you that no sin or deed goes unpunished or unpublished in the white house. and you just got to work at it and you got to always wake up everyday and decide you're going to do the right thing and you're always going to tell the truth. and if you do that, you're going to be all right. but it ain't always pleasant. >> we used to brief -- when the president did a press conference, we used to have a group around the table and president would sit there and we would fire questions that were going to come from the press. fire questions at the president. and, of course, they could be very uncomfortable questions. and the president would just, you know, lift up off the floor. and he would circle around.
and i remember, al gore used to say, oh, that's a fine answer, mr. president. that will make the news. [ laughter ]. >> and then president would settle down and come back and he would get the right answer in his head. and, you know, he would be good. but it was really almost a therapy session. >> yeah, it was. >> to try to deal with what the press was going to ask. andy? >> i found the president liked the reporters but didn't like the way they did their job all the time. [ laughter ]. >> if you were on the good side of president bush, you had a nickname and almost every reporter had a nickname, so he really liked them. but he also viewed their relationship with him as cynical because he knew they were very cynical of him. and so he was cautious and friendly. but it was not something that he was always comfortable at doing,
but he did not shy away from talking to the press. he had more press conferences than a lot of people realized. he was actually more accessible to the press than president obama by quite a factor actually. but it wasn't anything that he relished doing. their relationship -- they're institutionally not allowed to see themselves as friendly to any administration. so i think they're always going to be hostile. it's the nature of the medium. it's part of our democracy. i always thought it was a mistake to invite them into the white house rather than have them just cover the white house because their offices are in the white house and that means that they have access to people who can't help themselves from leaking and that's always a problem for a chief of staff. >> david? >> well, i have the perspective of having been a reporter and so i spent a lot of my career before and in the white house explaining to clients what the job of reporters is.
and it's not really to befriend the person they're covering. it's to -- you know, so -- you know, i'm a believer in interaction between the principal and the press. the thing that's complicated today is the thing we talked about before because it's different than when ronald reagan was president. the deadline pressures, the competitive pressures, the lack of editorial judgment on some of these organizations that can drive a news cycle even though nobody quite knows what it is or who is running it or whether it's credible or not makes it difficult. and i will say this, every -- and we -- and i think for obama perhaps it's been a little stinging at times because he got such a good ride for such a long time. you know, we got incredible treatment when he ran for president. you know, i think -- when they started behaving the way
reporters do, he was taken aback i think a little bit. but i think everyone here would say every president says i don't read that stuff. and then they'll quote some -- like, the third para graph in some blog. one great advance in press/presidential relations would be to remove the presidential ipad. >> i agree with that. interesting question, what one piece of advice that you gave the president that he rejected that you almost resigned over? you might have to think about that for a while. [ laughter ]. >> well, you know, i think probably the way to ask it is did you ever feel you were close to walking out of the place? >> i didn't agree with every decision the president made.
i respected how he made the decisions and i respected that they were his decisions to make. in terms of a tough decision that he made that i voiced my objection was around stem cell research. and this was not an emergency crisis-type issue. this was an issue that was presented in the context of the federal budget. no money had ever been spent on stem cell research by the federal government. nih and other institutions were looking to see if they could spend money on research and it was presented as a budget question. the president said he would take under consideration. he asked me when the decision had to be made. i said it has to be made before we send the budget to congress, so we had plenty of time. we planned the process. he brought in lots of expertise, people from the clergy, people from the medical profession, parents of children with diabetes, members of congress,
ethics, researchers, spent a lot of time doing home work, he read lots of material, there were lots of debates, he had staff working on the issue. number one, he was struggling in the oval office because he was pro-life and didn't want to allow the collection of stem cells from embryos and aborted fetuses and so he was very concerned. so he wrestled with the decision. he finally brought -- i think there were 20 people in the oval office, which was unusual, and for one last debate and everybody offered their views. he then announced that he wanted everybody's opinion. so he went person by person around the room and asked, what would you do? what would you do? and the opinions were all over the place. and he came to me. i was literally the last person. mr. president, we go in the back room and i basically tell him this person was afraid to speak up because somebody was bullying
them or i was being the honest broker. and he said, well, i want everybody to hear what you have to say. so i told them that i would support funding stem cell research. and he said, thank you very much. and then he said, okay. i'll have an answer for you tomorrow. and he walked out of the oval office. the next morning he came in and i would always greet him really optimistically because i wanted him to be in a good mood. good morning, mr. president. top of the morning, mr. president. >> sure he's glad to see you. [ laughter ]. >> and he said you're going to be mad at me today. you won't like what i'm doing. i said, excuse me, mr. president? >> he said, i made my decision and i won't like it. and i said, yes, mr. president. he said, i'm not going to fund stem cell research except for the seven lines that have
already been collected. i'll allow for funding of that but i'm not going to allow for any more stem cells to be collected unless they come from adult stem cells. and he said, i'm sorry to disappoint you. i said, you didn't disappoint me. it was your decision to make. it wasn't my decision. and i respect how you made the decision. i'm comfortable with it. i tell you that as an example. i never close to resigning over that decision, but it was one where we disagreed. there were many other times when we disagreed and would have conflict, but i can honestly not say there was one time where i felt that i was either ethically or philosophically challenged to the point where i couldn't respect the president's decisions were his decisions and that i should be able to implement them or have other implement them to live up to his expectation. >> erskine? >> you know, i've always believed that every president
deserves somebody he can have a confidential conversation with. and so the president and i had many of those. and i've never written any books or not going to because i really do think it's important for a president to have some people that he feels comfortable really working out his feelings on. and i think everybody who works for a president, you know, ought to feel they can express their opinion. so, you know, i had many issues that the president and i didn't see quite eye to eye on, but i never came to the point on any of those where i felt i should leave because my job at the end of the day was to express my opinion. if he decided it was his administration, that's what he wanted to do then my job was to support it. and so i did. >> ken, same thing? >> absolutely the same thing as
erskine and andy. i would only point out, even though i never came close to resigning, remember when howard and i -- when howard came to the white house, howard baker and i came back. we did not know the truth about iran contra. and so we questioned the president every which way of sunday up and down, trying to see whether or not he was telling the truth that he did not know. i told this to an audience not long ago and somebody shouted -- yeah, but he was an actor. and i said, yeah, but he was a b-movie actor. you know? [ laughter ]. we became convinced over a
period of weeks that, in fact, he was telling the truth. if we had found out otherwise, it was our integrity and our duty to the country to leave. but fortunately that never happened. and we were able to convince reagan -- all of us had had this experience. when a president makes a mistake, convincing them to do mia koe pa to the american people is like ten root canals. i told you we all used to be 5'9" except for erskine. and we got reagan to do that and the american people gave him the benefit of the doubt. >> i used to be 6'7". >> any moment? >> as i said earlier, my job was to provide political counsel.
i was deeply, deeply frightened about entering into the health care issue in part because of the president that president clinton had had and six other presidents dating back 65 years. and because of of what i knew from the data and so on. i just felt it was a really, really risky political proposition and it was a painful thing for me to give them that advice because i have a child with a chronic condition and i've been through some of the hell that we were trying to deal with. so you know, i gave them what the politics were and i was really proud that he rejected that and said there were things more important than that. and that's why i worked for him in the first place because i wanted to work for a president who was willing to look at the politics and say, this is more important for the country. so, you know, i never, ever
there was never a point where i said i can't abide that decision. and almost always he made decisions that i appreciated. so, no. >> we've been talking about obviously the presidents that we all served. 2016, presidential campaign. who do you think will be the nominees for both parties? and who would you like to be the nominees of both parties, probably a better way to say it? >> i'm for panetta. [ cheers and applause ]. >> look, i believe that if hillary clinton runs for president on the democratic side, she is as overwhelming a favorite as that i've seen, you
know, in my life time for an open seat like this, which is probably dooms her to say that. but i really believe that she is well positioned to win the nomination. i don't see anybody emerging who would challenge her in a serious way for the nomination. and i don't know you want to talk about the republicans. that's a very hard process to handicap because, you know, if jeb bush runs, i think it's one kind of race. if he doesn't run, i think it's another kind of race that's not as obvious. here is what i believe, though, i believe that it is unlikely that the next president will come out of the congress. i really believe in a kind of opposites theory, which is that elections are defined by the outgoing incumbent and never do people choose the replica of what they have. they always choose the remedy. and so this is not judge mental but after bush, people wanted
someone who was more nuanced, who saw the complexities, who was different than what they perceived they had. i think it's likely this time people are going to look for someone with more of an executive mentality, a govern, and i think in that sense hilary's experience as secretary of the state is useful because it took her out of that legislative realm. >> andy? >> well, first of all, i want to say america has been a great country that we have a constitution that is an invitation. most powerful word in the constitution is the first word, we. it's our government and the we is all inclusive and it's a noble call to serve the american people. there's no one who personifies noble service better than leon panetta and i think george hue bert walker bush did that, i think the presidents that we served have done that. but we're in the process of
picking the next noble servant. and it will end upcoming down to a bindery choice. i think the most qualified person to be president is john ellis. and most of you say, you don't know him. the truth is, he's got a great resume. and he's a great leader. but his name is john ellis bush, jeb. and if you were john ellis, i think he would be your first choice. because he is john ellis bush, i hope he would be a bindery option for you to choose between. i'm encouraging him to run. that doesn't mean he will. but he is the person i think has the best resume, temperament, policy commitment, grounded in values and would be a good president and i'm trying not to be a bush sinker fan in doing that. there are others i would look to on the republican side. i like going to the pool of governors we have more than i do
the congressmen, congress ladies or people who are serving on capitol hill. but i think the process is relatively wide open on the republican side. it's not unlike what happened in 1979 and '80. i can still remember most of these people. you will forget they ran for president. phil crane. larry pressler. >> john conley. howard baker. bob dole. we had ronald reagan. george bush. there was a lot of people were running. and ronald reagan was not the favorite but he was the front runner. and so this process will probably churn for quite a while and a front-runner will emerge that will be the nominee and then it will be a bindery choice. on the democrat side, i remember being with leon in i think we were in tennessee some place and about this time in the calendar year --
>> that's about right. >> and the question came up, who do you think will be the next president of the united states? and leon proudly said, hillary clinton. >> eight years ago. >> that's right. and i said way too early to make that prediction. oh, no. it's going to happen. and i can remember howard dean was going to be president. as i gave speeches around. it's very early. we'll get there. jeb bush would be my choice and i hope he runs. >> we have a few minutes here. what do you think, erskine, quickly. >> just to comment on jeb bush. i've done several of these events on him particularly on education and he's a very impressive person and i think has the kind of experience that you would want to see candidate for president. i'm all in for hillary clinton. i think she's extraordinary. what most of you all haven't seen that you and i have, is her
genuine warmth. i can remember one some of the kids in the white house were just in the toilet and all be damn, she would know and show up and get their spirits up and they would be ready to go. at the same time, when we were facing a tough decision, her judgment was terrific. so i'm for hillary. >> ken? >> jeb. i hope he runs and i think he would be a hell of a president. hillary, i think has the democratic nomination. if not, it's a free fall. >> can i just say one thing about jeb bush. >> go ahead. >> i share erskine's view. the great challenge for him can he -- nothing tells me he couldn't, can he resist what the other candidates on the other republican sides have yielded to in the last few cycles, can he maintain his positions rather than trying to indicator to the right wing of the party. if he does that, i think he
would be a very formidable candidate. [ applause ]. >> ladies and gentlemen, we've had, i think, a fascinating discussion this evening. you know, we've all served different presidents who will have a different place in history. but i can tell you one thing, i think it was an honor for all of us to be able to serve the president of the united states. thank you very much. see you next year. [ applause ]. on the next "washington journal" the on-going air strikes against isis. then a discussion about the upcoming mid-term elections with steve horsford on issues related to the campaigns. we'll also take your phone calls, look for your comments on facebook and twitter. starting live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. this weekend on the c-span networks, saturday night at 8:00
p.m. eastern, a national town hall on the critical and historic impact of voting. sunday evening at 8:00 p.m., on q and a, washington post columnist, sally quinn. and saturday night at 10:00 p.m. on book tv's afterwards, matt richtel. and sunday at 1:00 p.m. eastern, the ninth annual brooklyn book festival. saturday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern, on american history tv on c-span3, author jonathan white on the role of the union army in abraham lincoln's after eastern, author annette dunlop looksality first lady's fashion. let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us. e-mail us. or send us a tweet at.
join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook. follow us on twitter. each week reel america brings you archival films to tell the story of the 20th century. ♪ >> governor stevenson takes time out from his strenuous campaign to attend the graduate of his son from quantity coe, virginia. he presents his son with a sheath of awards. it is a proud father and son on an occasion important to both. later in new york, he receives a an enthusiastic welcome from officers and delegates to the american federation of labor convention. the democratic candidate receives an ovation when he calls for the outright repeal of the taft-hartley act.
his opponent conducts a speaking tour in the midwest and greeted with enthusiasm during his grassroots itinerary and it is here that a warrior learns the real hazards of campaigning. fortunately for the general, he has an able bodyguard in the person of mrs. eisenhower. during one of his stops, con fronting with a campaign dilemma, he tells an audience of his confidence in his running-mate. >> i have worked with and have confidence in senator nixon. ♪ >> off korea, a new era dawns in warfare. the carrier "usa boxer" launches guided missiles first time in combat bringing the push button war in reality. the first mission of the robot
bombers, weapon that is may eliminate the human element of air war. the robot missile is catapulted along. it's a hell cat carrying a 1-ton bomb load and a camera instead of a pie rot. already in the air is the mother plane with an observer flying the drone by remote control. side by side missile and mother plane head for the target. the pilot safely out of aim guides the robot directly into the target with accuracy. a devastating surprise debut for a deadly new weapon. ♪ vast inaccessible regions of the north land assume new importance as news comes of an air base only
be discussing some of them, these were directed, conceptualized orchestrated endorsed by presidents of the united states. now, when we get into the controversy of the cia itself, i think it's important to understand that when presidents come to washington, they fall in love with two institutions. they fall in love with camp david and they fall in love with the cia. and when they fall in love with the cia, unfortunately, it's with the clandestine aspect of the cia. its clandestine operations and its covert action that they fall in love with. harry truman was an exception to this and i'll discuss that in a minute. when presidents have had trouble with the cia, it's been over intelligence analysis where i spent 24 years as a soviet analyst. and the remarks of a couple presidents will i think demonstrate what i mean.
one of my favorites is richard nixon. when richard nixon sent jim sles singer to the cia to be director he made it clear that he was going out there to clean up the place. i happened to be at the other end of that because he was playing a role in politicized intelligence. nixon clearly said to him that the cia is nothing but a sanctuary of a bunch of ivy league intellectuals who don't like me very much. the typical nixon observation and referred to them as a bunch of clowns and so what he wanted to know was, what in the world do all those clowns do out there anywhere and it was schlessinger's job to settle this problem and one of the first things he did was to bring together all the of the soviet analysts. i was a soviet analyst at the cia. and he said i want this agency to stop screwing richard nixon.
we knew this was going to be a difficult period. he didn't stay around so he didn't have a big impact. the other president who i think made fascinating remarks about everything but also the cia was, of course, lyndon johnson and what lyndon johnson liked to do is explain to people who came to the white house, particularly close friends who came from texas, what it is that intelligence analysts do at the cia and he had his own interpretation of that. and one of the ways he expressed what cia analysts do was to compare it to when he was on the farm and he had a favorite cow named bessie. and he would get bessie in her stan chon and pull up a stool and he would get a pail of milk from bessie but if he wasn't paying attention, it often happened that bessie would take her shit smear tail and run it right through the pail of milk. he said, this's what intelligence analysts do. i'll have a great program, a great policy an they come along
with the analysis and i think what nixon and johnson were talking about was the cia criticism in its intelligence estimates of what we were doing in vietnam. vietnam is an unwinnable war. harry truman did not fall in love with the cia. he may have created the cia but he did not fall in love with it and by 1963 he wrote a very important op-ed describing the probables of the cia which is relevant to today's situation. it was clear after world war ii that we were going to have a central intelligence agency for two very good reasons. one was pearl harbor. in the case of pearl harbor we had broken the japanese military code so we knew that the japanese were going to war against the united states. we knew they were going to break relations with the united states. indicator of war. we knew that the embassy had been directed to destroy all of
their sensitive information in washington. another indicator of war. this information did not get to the right people. if it had on any short list of possible targets, you would have to include pearl harbor and the philippines so this is a tragedy that did not have to happen in the way that it did. so six months after the war ended was when he sat down with intelligence types, most of them from the office of strategic services and began to talk about the need for an intelligence agency. never discussing the possible of covert action or even clandestine operations but putting the emphasis on intelligence analysis and clandestine collection of intelligence which he thought were two legitimate functions for an intelligence agency. so, 1947, when you get the national security act which really is the act that still governs the national security architecture of the united states, in fact, you can argue it's time to go back and reexamine the national security
act, but remember, it created the national security counsel as we know it today. it created the department of defense. it created the united states air force as a separate service. and it created the central intelligence agency. and the director of cia was also the director of central intelligence and here was one of the flaws in the piece, this piece of legislation. because even though the director of cia was supposed to be the director of all of the intelligence agencies he had no authorization for personnel, for budget, for tasking. even to be the central intelligence figure for the president of the united states, the way, say, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is the central military figure for the president of the united states. and that is a problem that still has not been corrected even with the intelligence reform of 2004. 16 years later, when truman was living out here in retirement,
he wrote an op-ed piece for "the washington post" highly critical of what the cia was and what it had become. so, what i want to deal with is not only that 16-year period, because you're talking about the presidencies of president eisenhower and president kennedy but to look at the presidents that followed these two presidents. truman's concerns which i think are highly topical today and highly relevant today were with what the cia had become which was not part of his original concept. in other words, when he was thinking of the cia, he referred to this as the quiet intelligence arm of the president of the united states. he wanted a place where he could go outside of the policy arena, that is outside of the state department, outside of the pentagon, outside of the joint chiefs of staff, where he could get intelligence analysis that
wasn't grinding some policy ax, that was supposed to be objective or balanced. what he saw that the cia had become over the 16 intervening years was a very subversive organization that he said had become much too noisy in terms of all of the new that is the cia was creating, unfortunately. and was putting too much attention into covert action. and he said something that is very topical for today which is, the he didn't want the cia to become another pentagon. and one of the arguments i've been making over the years and certainly in the book i did on the cia, the failure of intelligence, was the cia has become essentially a paramilitary organization which i think is not what truman had in mind. and the one thing that trueman understood that presidents after truman did not concern themselves, if you have an
organization ta conducts covert action, covert action is part of policy so already you have tainted the intelligence, you have tainted intelligence collection because covert action is in support of policy and comes directly from the white house in support of a very specific policy. so what happened in the 16-year period? eisenhower's an interesting study in this regard because when we think of eisenhower we think of all the warnings he gave about overuse of the military which are all -- were valid warnings and remain valid warnings to this day. you're all familiar with the military industrial complex observation in the farewell address of 1961. he gave a very important warning in a speech early in his first time in the speech he wrote himself warning about bloating defense budgets that would not allow the united states to do what it needed to do in terms of
infrastructure, domestic economy, educating our children. and there was a great line in it that he wrote about when we're spending on defense and particularly when we're overspending on defense, we're spending the brains and our scientists, the sweat of our laborers and the hopes of our children and he warned against this and he also warned that any era or period of global war or permanent war such as the one we're in now would lead to definite limitations in personal liberty and you can argue that's what's exactly what's happened over the past ten years but nevertheless eisenhower is the president who started the cia down this trail of covert activity. and when you run down the list of covert actions that he endorsed, that came out of the white house, in every case, they left the united states in a weaker strategic position than existed before these covert
actions were conducted. 1953, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of iran. substituting the shah of iran. an issue that remains in our bilateral relationship with iran to this day. the following year, guatemala and the work that the cia did working with the guatemalan military and creating the k-unit which was responsible for all sorts of horrors and nightmares in guatemala against the indigenous population. the decision to assassinate lamambo in the congo even though it wasn't carried out by the cia because another group got to him before the cia could get there. think of the succession so, probably the worst tyrant in the modern history of africa. cuba, even though eisenhower didn't endorse the bay of pigs and brought to him by nixon in a very emphatic way and supported,
of course, by dulles the brothers that ran state and cia, eisenhower considered the bay of pigs to be madness but the attempts to overthrow castro began in the last year of the eisenhower administration. and finally, indonesia. and the great crimes against the indonesian civilian population because of the feeling that sacarno was too far to the left for american interests, economic interests. tease were not only covert actions that were strategic nightmares, but they were supported by a committee that eisenhower appointed in 1954 under general doolittle. the doolittle commission which endorsed this kind of repugnant activity and that's exactly what doolittle called it saying that now they were um against the soviet union that was seeking world domination, tremendous exaggeration of the soviet union, even in the 1950s.
doolittle wrote a report that basically said that ends justify the means and the americans would have to learn to understand this kind of repugnant behavior. frankly, if you fast forward to more current time period, when you think of dick cheney's remarks about the dark side, they come from the same kind of thinking and conceptualization that we saw from the doolittle committee. when kennedy came in to office, he had none of the experience, of course, that eisenhower had. he was somewhat uncertain about the plans that were given to him for cuba that included the bay of pigs. but he did call eisenhower at the farm and instead of eisenhower saying or giving a sense of all of the qualms and hesitations he had about the bay of pigs, unfortunately, he advised kennedy that when you have an exile force you're
training if you don't put them to use they're eventually going to go home and talk about an operation that never took place and the united states could be embarrassed ultimately by this. kennedy went ahead with the bay of pigs even though he had been misled by some of the briefings he got from cia that there were people around him including former secretary of state atchinson and schlessinger and others and as we all know this ñ called in the ig report, inspector general sport, the perfect failure. bay of pigs was just a nightmare. it is kind of interesting that here it is more than 50 years later and there's a federal court of appeals, this was just last month in may, upheld the cia in their efforts to hold on to documentation from the bay of pig that is we still don't know about, that still hasn't been declassified. so we're still living with this
great fear of cuba and great fear of castro and still unwilling to declassify documents. so kennedy was responsible for that nightmare which could have undercut the kennedy administration from the very start. and if it hadn't been for the cuban missile crisis, kennedy's image would have been much different but kennedy was also responsible for the overthrow of the government in vietnam. which strategically was totally flawed because one of the reasons why we wanted to move him out of the way were the clandestine reports the cia was collecting legitimately that he was looking for a way to open up negotiations with the north vietnamese and we were not in favor of but in moving him aside and he was killed in the process, you really ended any possibility of having a legitimate government in vietnam that we could work with. so, when you look at vietnam as an unwinnable war which it was like iraq, like afghanistan, this is something that we knew
from the outset. now, when you march through the president's after eisenhower and kennedy, the dye was cast in a sense. the model of covert action, clandestine actions, model for political assz nationings, for regime change, all this had been set so when you get to richard nixon and the operation against chile, again, like the guatemalan operation which was encouraged by united fruit, the largest landowner in guatemala, in chile, you get economic interests, again, like i.t.t. and mining interests that were in favor of overthrowing the leftist government, the democratically elected government of yaenda and you get a dictatorship bringing more horrors to chile. in fact, when richard helms, the cia director, left the white
house with the mission that he had been given by henry kissinger, he was stunned by the authority that he had to conduct covert operations in chile. he ended up lying before a congressional exit tee and was fined for that. but he was somewhat shocked by the authority that he had. nixon was followed by gerald ford. ford's contribution to the cia was extremely unfortunate because ford introduced a concept for politicizing the intelligence of the cia. he introduced the concept of team-a, team-b. team-a was the cia and political analysis of the cia. team-b was a team that the ford administration wanted to introduce and i have no trouble with that as a discipline for challenging the analysis of the cia, but this was a group of
neo- conservatives, hand picked by the white house, led by a harvard professor, richard pipes who was very anti-soviet. general danny graham, paul wolfowitz when's anti-soviet and tries to push analysis of the cia to the right. ironically, at the very time when the soviets were realizing that the missile race was getting them nowhere and it was time to seek another approach toward arms control. so the team-a, team-b concept fostered to a great exat the present time by two name that is are very familiar to you -- dick cheney when's the chief of staff for jerry ford, and donny rumsfeld, the youngest secretary of defense, since the creation of the national security act and the department of defense. ironically, he became the oldest secretary of defense in our history when he served for
george w. bush. ford, of course, was followed by carter. carter was extremely suspicious of the cia. his vice president mondale was, too. in fact, this was a period that carter used, four-year period, where we did not send soldiers in to combat. and until the last year of his administration, there was really a walking away or at least a great reduction in covert action. that all changed in 1979 when, of course, the soviets invaded afghanistan. when i think we reacted very vigorously and probably unwisely. i think it was thnapoleon who sd when your adversary is doing something stupid, leave them alone. the soviets were doing something stupid. unfortunately, we replicated all of that and are now finding our way out of afghanistan.
but we started covert action in afghanistan before the soviets invaded and i've always been convinced that briz ski, the national security adviser for carter in this period hoping to introduce covert action as a way of bringing the soviets into afghanistan. and i often felt that the soviets convinced with the united states being forced out of iran in 1979, that we as a country would not accept that strategic setback and would find a way to get back. and the soviets felt it might be a good idea to be positioned in afghanistan for at least a period of time. but in any event, that ten-year period was a nightmare for the soviet union. building up to 100,000 troops. and we repeated everything they did. again, over a decade. 100,000 troops. trying to create a central government in a country that's never had a centralized form of government.
carter was, of course, followed by reagan and you probably had as much harm done and misuse of the cia by president reagan than any other president with the possible exception of george w. bush and i ththen i'll come to in a minute. when you look at iran-contra and it has always been a subject of conjecture about how much reagan really knew and understood about iran-contra, but the fact of the matter were these were reagan's people. bill casey, the director of central intelligence who was the first director ever put on a president's cabinet which is something truman never would have approved of because that's a policy organization and the cia was not supposed to be part of policy. it was led by people in the national security counsel, including john poindexter, the national security adviser to the president. key officials of both the
national security counsel and the cia, all of whom were pardoned later by george h.w. bush in the last month or two of his in office but clearly this was reagan ignoring the laws of the land. in the first case, selling arms first out of israeli inventories and then our inventories to iran. a state that was involved with acts of terrorism. which was violation of law. and then using the profits from those sales to provide money to the contras which was a violation of the bolin amendment. so when you think about impeachment, particularly based on not following the law of the land, there were clear grounds for impeachment and i think if the country hadn't gone through the nightmare of the nixon process, there may have been some people who would have considered impeachment but reagan was much too popular for that and the country didn't want
to live through that kind of experience so soon again. reagan was also responsible for appointing the most ideological cia director in the history of the cia. and that was william casey. casey was a campaign director for ronald reagan. he did a wonderful job as a campaign director but he certainly was not suited to be a cia director. in fact, in the 1970s, when i worked at the state department and kissinger came over to state to become not only the national security adviser, but also, the secretary of state he was being taken around the building and saw a plaque on one of the doors, william casey, undersecretary for economic affairs and he said to this poor foreign service officer taking him away, how in the hell did he get in this building? he's senile. can you do something about that in what's a foreign service officer going to do about william casey as an
undersecretary of state for foreign affairs but casey was gone within a period of months after that. with george h.w. bush, you get not only the appointment of robert gates as the cia director, even though gates was the deputy to bill casey, so when you look at all of the to litization of intelligence which led to the failure to anticipate the decline of the soviet union, you have to point to casey and gates who were the filters for intelligence during this period. this is why i left the cia in ñhis is why i left the cia in college. reagan tried to make gates a cia director in 1987 when bill casey died. but the chairman of the senate intelligence committee, david born, senator from oklahoma, called gates at his home that night after the first day of testimony and said, the committee doesn't believe you in
terms of your exprexs of knowing nothing about iran-contra and of course gates was lying and had to pull his name out of the process but in 1991 he laundered the credentials and convinced born he would be a good director and born guaranteed to the white house that's a democratic chairman, guaranteeing to a republican-led house, the system is not supposed to work that way, he would get him through and that's exactly what he did. when you get to bill clinton and george w. bush and barack obama, i think you get three presidents whose appointments to the cia and directors of cia were extremely questionable. i have a lot of questions with regard to bill clinton's stewardship of national security in general. bill clinton was responsible for abolishing acta, the arms
control and transportation agency and i don't think it's closely understood how closely they worked in terms of providing verification and monitoring of arms control agreements so with abolishing acta which the right wing wanted in the 1990s led by jesse helms and newt gingrich, and clinton caved in to that pressure we lost a very important tool on an international level. and when you look at clinton's appointments, jim woolsey, george tenet, the same george tenet who told george w. bush it would be a slam dunk to produce the intelligence to support the decision to invade iraq, and remember, george bush did not want that intelligence to convince himself. he wanted that intelligence to convince us. bush was dedicated to the idea of using military force in iraq.
and i don't think it really mattered what the intelligence said. but if you go to the memoirs of bush and rumsfeld and cheney and rice, all of them argue it was intelligence that convinced them that we needed to take action. that is just total nonsense. the intelligence was totally flawed but people who knew, knew that there was also intelligence that made it clear there were no weapons of mass destruction. in iraq. so whether you get to george w. bush, and you get really to some of the worst aspects of cia conduct in the field of clandestine operations, of course, i'm talking about the secret prisons, the renditions policy which was really a kidnapping policy, detentions, torture and abuse, all of these things were part of what dick cheney called the dark side. in u.s. clandestine operations.
barack obama comes in to office with very little background in national security affairs. that was always the weakness of the obama candidacy. it's not that he had not been in washington that much to be a political participant in how washington operates on a political level, but he had never really demonstrated an intense concern with national security policy. i always sthaugt from the start he was somewhat intimidated by the military and the central intelligence agency. his appointments when you look at his first national security team were extremely weak. leaving robert gates at the defense department made no real sense. and i think was caving in to not only the right wing but conservatives within the democratic party. appointing hillary clinton to the state department with no
real experience as an international steward of american national security policy. appointing three-star retired marine general jones to be the national security adviser which only lasted about 18 months because he was totally unsuited for that role and putting in leon panetta who's a wonderful civiler is vapt over the years but was a rather tired civil servant by this time. it was not an effective director of the central intelligence agency. i think he was captured from the outset by the operational side of the house and he also carried out the white house mission which started by george w. bush to weaken the process of oversight within the cia. and remember, this -- the role of the statutory inspector general of the cia was an extremely important position. it was created by one of the reforms after iran-contra when the cia for the first time got a
stach 2k3wi opposed to a regular inspector general. in other words, this was an inspector general appointed by the president of the united states. which gave that individual tremendous amount of clout and when you think of the work that was done by the statutory igs over the years, particularly the reports on 9/11, a lot of the reports that we haven't seen yet, the reports that dealt with detentions policy and renditions policy, work that fed into the senate process which produced a 6,000-page report that, unfortunately, the cia is dragging its heels on in terms of sanitizing for the american public, i think we're entitled the see that report. and i think senator feinstein should fight harder to get it released and i think obama should allow whatever redaxs are needed but get that paper out. we need to see what happens in our name during the global war on terror. the problem in presenting this
talk the way i have it's been highly negative. and i'm not saying that there weren't successes. but i think the point i wanted to make is the one of presidents -- presidential misuse of the central intelligence agency. there have been good directors. general smith for president truman was a very good director. john mccone was a very honest director and when he thought he didn't have the ear of the president he resigned. he went back to california. bill colby tried to expose a lot of the excesses of cia behavior and admiral stansfield turner was a very good director of cia but someone who was very new to the washington community and i think never felt really comfortable as a cia director. and there were presidents who used cia intelligence very effectively. and actually richard nixon who was so critical of cia analysis
used that analysis on two very important occasions. one to start the arms control process in terms of the salt agreement in 1972 and the abm, anti-ballistic missile treatly also in 1972 and without the cia guaranteeing the verification and monitoring of those treaties, which the cia did guarantee, something that made helms very nervous, i was working on salt at that time and he called us in and said, remember, only politicians can verify an agreement. he didn't like the idea that we were referred to as the verification panel. but basically, we were taking on the pentagon which was against arms control and arguing that these agreements could not be verified so in terms of abm and the salt agreement and very important weapons systems, it was the intelligence of the cia and the intelligence community in general that was essential to get arms control under way. and of course, wh