tv [untitled] CSPAN June 28, 2009 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
delivers his state of the union address and he walks down that center aisle. and i know we have congressman alan are also who can tell you, that when you first get there one of the most surprising things about being a member of congress is that the only thing that's missing in the aisle that separates republicans and democrats is a checkpoint charlie. a lot of republicans just never ever go over to the other side and talk to democrats, and democrats don't go over and talk to republicans. and you ask why and they just say because and use a fine. but it was fascinating. i was a bit liberated when i got up to washington since my political party, the republican party tried to kill me lyrically throughout the first campaign. i was able to do whatever i wanted. there were several times that
newt gingrich started to threaten me and say get in line or else. i said or else what? are you going to campaign against me? i got 62%. please, come to my district and campaign against me. so again the opportunity to team up with democrats when i wanted, go after democrats when i wanted. and what i found was that that sort of independence, listen, i'm a very, very conservative guy but that independence from partisanship from having to play as a republican with every single thing i did actually work very well with voters. doing, my gosh, how radical. voting the way i believe, doing what i believe, not calculating on what party leaders would think. i got reelected, 72% got reelected, 80% the next time and nobody ran against me the last time. and so when i got i thought hey,
all these great lessons i learned in congress, i'm going to bring to tv. and then of course i got to msnbc and i was told that i was the token conservative. i still am the token conservative at msnbc. and so i would get calls from the 50 second floor from 30 rock say you need to be more conservative. gibney, i remember the calls. give me more. more. my god, what do you want me to do passout? do you want me to pass out? i can't give more. but they wanted more. they want is a this or balkanization that i saw on tv. and my wife would be on the back door when i would come home for
my primetime show and she would you share at me and she would shake her head and say, you jackass. and then turn around and go to bed. [laughter] >> i would smile because i knew that she had a very good point. i was, in fact, a jackass and i played one on tv. so in 2004 after playing a jackass on tv for a couple of years i wrote a book called rove wasn't burnt in a day. and in this book i decided to tell the truth about the republican party, that the republican party promised less government but was in fact spinning at such reckless rate and forgetting all the promises that we've made to get elected in 1994, that i predicted that the republican party would lose control of congress. and that our economy would be racked by this terrible stewardship.
conservatives hated that message. even though it was a very conservative message. i was once again this political dead zone. i saw that, we started a radio show and we are on lot of stations that have limbaugh and hannity and mark live-in who, my god, i think he sold more books so far been the gutenberg bible. i didn't see that one coming. but we decided we weren't going to choose sides. i was going to be conservative and say what i believed. and collars didn't really get that either. it took them about a month to figure out that you could run a talk radio show without being a hyper partisan. and we apply that to our tv show also, morning show and its working.
i mean, a remarkable thing happens when you let people come on your set and you don't scream at them and call them a marxist or a fascist. they want to come back. [laughter] >> and they tell their friends hey, you ought to go on this show. and so now we are honored to have great columnists and authors like gail collins and a lot of pulitzer prize winners who come on, if we disagree. but it's a civil tone. but i gimbaled through the years. again, i'm a conservative guy. i'm not as conservative as my dad who still thinks nixon got framed, but i'm a conservative guy. [laughter] >> but there's just not the hyper partisanship there. i think that will work, and i think that can work in publishing the type of political book that i have just written. i took the gamble on tv and a worker i took a gamble on paula tics and it worked. i'm going to take the gamble
again because a lot of conservatives who were angered by my book in 2004 now coming up to me and saying hey, you know what, you're right. we screwed up. i think of course there are still some, i would say specifically to ones who are trying to kick colin powell out of the party and keep rush limbaugh, there are some that still don't get it. but the bottom line of the book is, my book, is that the conservative movement needs to re-examine what they have done over the past quarter century. the terrible mistakes they have made, and they need to reconnect with the true meaning of conservatism. not conservatism as defined over the past quarter century. since lee atwater ran george h. w. bush's campaign in 1988. i really think this new brand of republicanism began. by the time of conservatism that
edmund burke wrote about 200 years ago. a conservatism that was reaffirmed by russell kirk, by bill buckley. i love bill buckley. he was asked in 2005, i loved what he said about george w. bush. and what he said about the iraq war and the president's plan and the second inaugural address, due in journey across the globe. there's a conservative restraint concept. two in journey across the globe. buckley said sadly we conservatives are supposed to be restrained by reality and we haven't been conservatives are supposed to conserve. whether it's a taxpayer dollars whether it's military power. my god, the military fincher is a. the belief that you can export
democracy to four corners of the globe. that you can send our troops everywhere. and again, president bush's words, and journey across the globe. that is not a conservative concept. that is a radical concept the type of spending that occurred over the past eight years. nonconservative. radical. entitlement spending. medicare and medicaid are going to go bankrupt. they are going to collapse. they are going to destroy its economy if we don't do something about it. george w. bush's solution, but at a $7 trillion medicare drug benefit plan to this already crippled system. not a conservative idea. a radical idea. and finally, the type of hyper partisanship that republicans have engaged in for too long. as i write the book, that i was guilty of from time to time myself. we conservatives need to look in
the mirror. and understand that if we believe like edmund burke and russell kirk, that conservatives are supposed to maintain social order. that we can't run around preaching radical prescriptions to every single problem that's out there. and in this aspect, i do use the example of ronald reagan. conservatives always talk about reagan. we need to be more, let's go back. ronald reagan, the world was radically different, speaking of radical in 1980 than it is right now. and what i tell conservatives and americans in my book is that all conservatives love talking about reagan's legacy. but they only talk about the ideological legacy of ronald reagan or they don't talk about reagan's temperament. that's the real lesson of
reagan. not cutting taxes or beating the commies or doing whatever. it is the temperament that reagan had that would allow he and tip o'neill to bash each other's brains in during the day on political matters, and then at night sit around at the oval office, to old irishman drinking whiskey, telling stories, serving exaggerating those stories and line, and never taking it personal. colin powell also told me a couple of months ago a story about reagan's temperament that i think republicans and conservatives need to take to heart that i talked about here. he said general powell said when he was chairman of the joint chiefs he was sitting in on a cabinet meeting, and cap weinberger, then the secretary of defense, and george shultz were tearing each other to
shreds. started low and pretty soon they were screaming and yelling at each other and general powell had never seen anything like this before. he jumped up. he ran straight into the oval office and he sat down and he said mr. president, mr. president, something terrible is going on in the cabinet. reagan was sitting there smiling. he said cat weinberger is accusing george shultz and they are screaming and yelling. reagan was sitting there smiling, looking over powell's shoulder wipeout was talking. so the general said he had to lean in more and he said mr. president, we cannot have the leaders, on and on. reagan finally stopped him and went like this, colin powell told me he stopped immediately because the president does this you stop talking. he said, hey colin. i put some acorns out in the garden last weekend looks like the squirrels are starting to pick them up. [laughter] >> and general powell said there
and he turned to me and he said i immediately ran out of the room, picked up the phone, called my wife and said what have i gotten myself into? [laughter] >> what he figured out and what so many other people figured out about reagan was that, you know what, the screaming and yelling and the accusation, that was just a sidebar. in the end for reagan, he believed it was about giving his policies enacted in that respect he was not going to get engaged in sort of the nasty back and forth. i think that's one of the reasons the president obama right now is doing as well as he is because he has not found the center of american politics ideologically. he has found the center of american politics temperamentally. and that, if you want to win
elections, if you want to win elections, that's a hell of a lot more important than getting every single issue right. so anyway, the book is the last best hope. it will not only change your life, it will change the future of american conservatism and politics. so anyway, dick cheney and i were out flyfishing. [laughter] >> and he kind of taken aback by this and i said you were so great, mr. vice president. we run for president one day? let's bring up right now richard russo. he has written a wonderful book that old cape magic. and i would just turn it over to him. he has some great dick cheney stores as well. [laughter] [applause] >> thank you.
not having a morning show of my own i had to write mine down. i hope you don't mind. that old cape magic, my new novel, was supposed to be a short story. otherwise, i wouldn't have even begun it. my previous novel, bridge of sighs, had left me drained. the needle on my creative gas tank bouncing off the empty. somehow i had to know you could write a book about despair without feeling just a little bit of that particular emotion yourself. i had imagined that lucy lynch, my protagonist was a haunted one. he, not i., would have to make his solitary journey halfway across his own personal bridge.
nothing but darkness and loss awaiting him on the other side. before finally turning back on the advice of a dead man, he and i were not exactly psychic twins, after all. but as it turned out we were not so different as i thought there can buy the time i finished writing that book, and then touring with that, not only was my gas tank empty, my suspension was shocked, my wheels were out of alignment, my satellite navigation system and operable. even the radio had crapped out. and that was just on the creative side. my mother had just died after a long illness, and both of my daughters were to be married within that year. only a fool would be in a novel under such conditions. on the other hand, since writing is a discipline, taking time off didn't seem like that great an idea either. riders are a lot like athletes. in that rhythm is paramount to
our success or we are always trying to find our rhythm or try not to lose it. you can't think about hitting a baseball. you have to hit it. by the time you have thought about it it's already in the catchers glove. novel is to have time to think, of course, but thinking, the particular kind of thinking that novelists engage and does have a rhythm to it. and at the heart of rhythm, all rhythm, is repetition. the paradox is that writing is hard work, but not writing makes it harder. and what sane person wants that? anyway, what i had in mind after bridge of sighs was a short story. or maybe a screenplay. that kind of work that would allow me to get my reps in, to keep moving, keep the creative blood circulating, a leader of the strolled out literatures bikepath while i dealt with my
mother's passing and the fact that my daughters were not little girls anymore. and that my wife, the life that my wife and i were now looking at was a lot different from the one we have been living. literature bikepath is not, i realized, the way short story writers or screenwriters for that matter characterized their journeys. but there is no point in arguing. i was tired, give me that much. so i began a short story about a man named jack griffin who is on his way to cape cod where he will, first, attend a wedding and second, scatter his father's ashes. nice symmetry. maybe a little close to home, but never mind. 20 pages in about, nobody gets hurt. the batteries to continue my automotive metaphor will get recharged. for a while it seemed as if all my actually go according to
plan. which just shows you how spectacularly wrong you can be. at age 17 i remember thinking that another four or five pages should do it. better yet, i knew what was in those pages. but then as siegal unexpectedly crapped on poor jack griffin and he unexpectedly blamed his mother with whom he had just been speaking on his cell phone and both jack griffin and i had were visited by a simultaneous sinking feeling. a week and 15 pages later i was pretty sure i wasn't writing a short story anymore. at least not a publishable one. a novella than i thought. giving that thinking feeling and name. novella, that most un- punk bushel of literary art forms. [laughter] >> without meaning to, i had somehow wandered off the
bikepath. still, i consoled myself. i wasn't exactly on the interstate either. if i stayed well over to the right and didn't mind other sportier vehicles with deep throated engines blowing by me, chances are i would still be okay. another 50 pages, 75 topps, should do this new trick. had a couple of pretty funny scenes in mind courtesy of a recent wedding that my wife and i had attended where we had been assigned to the leftover table. you know the one i mean, right? every wedding has such a table where the people who don't fit are put. excuse me, were the people who don't fit are put. ex-husband, the old middle school math teacher, the mother of the groom's half-sister. [laughter] >> table 17, i called it.
aware that it might be a compelling metaphor for what? i wasn't sure, but no matter because, and this was the strange date truly strange part for some reason i wasn't feeling quite so exhausted anymore. fast forward now for five months. 150 pages, one of the two weddings, use any measurement you wish. griffins mother has now died, surprised? and he is now back heading back towards the cape with two earned in his car instead of one. is once rocksolid marriage crumbling before his eyes, his beloved daughter is ready to disown him despite the fact that he has cleaned out his entire retirement account to pay for the wedding. and his wife's younger brothers both marines are both threatening bodily harm. whereas i am now feeling pretty
good. why? because it has occurred to me if i can somehow coax another 75 pages out of this material, that i will have something that could be blocked off on another unwitting publicists as a novel even if it wasn't. really, you have no idea how this idea thrilled me. even better, whatever i was working on now had found a rhythm of its own, and so by god had i. maybe you don't know this, but when a writer locate his lost mojo, the very next age in the process is full-blown strutting tuberous. what the hell, i thought, turning on my blinker and merging left with the other traffic. why not put the pedal down and see what this baby can do. and just act quickly, i'm weaving in and out of lanes like jake and elwood blues on a mission from god.
when i hit a bump, the busted radio started working again, and now i'm singing. at the top of my lungs. ♪ (singing) [applause] >> around page 300 now, i catch my first glimpse of the true destination shimmering magically on the far horizon like pilgrim monument in provincetown, still a good distance off but a straight shot. a dead sprint to what i am now guessing correctly as it turns out will be page 375. okay, not a typical richard russo tone, but so what? i had lost control of the short story and instead of crashing and burning, i have embraced by shifting state and come out of this whole thing with a book.
how lucky was that? well, a little over a year later with galleys in hand, it feels less like luck now than it did then. now it feels more like skill. but not of the literary variety. the particular skill i refer to is self-deception, the rider's best friend. because truth and honesty will let you down every time. by counseling caution, wisdom. when what the novel industry requires is if not sheer barking lunacy, then gentle guile, purposeful deception, duplicity. novelists are not hard counters. they don't need to be reminded about the odds. but are professional liars, after all, so it shouldn't come
as any surprise that they themselves often need to be lied to, and who better to lie to a novelist than himself? to 1 degree or another, self-deception is a necessary part of the novelists game. every morning when you wake up, you tell yourself that you know what you are doing and whatever book you are working on, when the truth is that it's bigger and more complex and often more demoralizing than you imagined that when you begin or you wouldn't have begun. writing a novel, i suspect, is rather like what women say about having babies. if you could remember the pain, the first would be your last. and so you don't remember. the novelist kid himself at every turn. histologic laughable. after all, he says to himself, he has written other novels, hasn't he? he was up to those task, why shouldn't he he be up this
point? that's known as a rhetorical question. he is not interested in the obvious answer. injured, each book presents its own set of unreasonable challenges and riddles. attack that he has solved the last set of riddles doesn't mean that he will be able to solve this one. this might be a genuine rubik's cube. he could work on it forever. it could defeat him. in fact, when he thinks about it, he is overdue. and rather than admit this, he tells himself that everything he needs is at his disposal. he has all the time, he requires. and he has experience and maybe even some talent. nevermind that the shoulders of the literary highway are strewn with rocks. eloquent testimony to the fact that time and experience and talent are not always enough. you also need luck, and what is luck thing is for? running out.
and yet, here it is. that old kate magic, and a schedule, a new novel. to make it, i had to delude myself. and i hope you won't think less of me for sharing with you my conviction that self-deception is not the enemy of art that you might imagine. i even suspect that provided it's not complete, self-deception isn't even the enemy of living. how many times in our daily lives do we find the courage to begin an odious gas by telling ourselves that we would do just a little. twist off the cap. see what bubbles up over the rim. they say you can't kid a kidder, but you can. over and over, and what a good thing also. getting myself i wrote a book that i didn't think i had any. the novel helped me to come to terms with my mother's loss,
with the fact that our children were children any more. which seem to imply that my wife and i worked either. jack griffins comic misadventures also confirmed to ugly truths that i have long suspected. first, that you cannot escape your inheritance. genetic and other. and second, even more terrifying, you probably can't even escape your in-laws. not a short story, in other words. and definitely off the bike path. thank you. [applause] >> thank you so much, rick. i'm glad to see gold target was dead on. and also i just have to say that's a hell of a wedding where a pulitzer prize winning author is put at the leftover table.
[laughter] >> i don't get invited to those type of weddings. next author we're going to introduce is gail collins. gail has been on the show quite a bit. and i was just telling her backstage that my favorite line of the 2008 presidential campaign of all the lines that were written, and so many people wrote so many lines. this was at the point after barack obama had been beaten by hillary clinton in pennsylvania and ohio, west virginia, all of the political commentators were talking about how it was that angry white male that was not ready to vote for president obama. and gale noted what a surprise.
and this most transformative of campaigns were an african-american is running to make history against a woman who is making history that in the end, it still comes down to the white male. i guess it sort of did. but she has written a book, a remarkable book called when everything changed, the american amazing journey of american woman from 1960 to present. and just reading about it, it's stunning, some of the things that i had no idea about. that it you're a woman a generation ago, and she was divorced, would have to get her father, even if she was successful, the cosine on a credit card. for a credit card. and so many