tv [untitled] CSPAN June 29, 2009 7:00am-7:30am EDT
♪ >> this summer book tv is asking, what are you reading? >> cnn's wolf blitzer, what will you be reading this summer? >> i've got some books that i hope to read this summer beginning with the emperor's new clothes a book by richard ben-veniste. he was very much involved many years ago in watergate and the 9/11 commission. i want to get through this book because i think he's going to have some good stories to tell about what's going on here in washington, certainly, what's happened over these past several decades. another book i want to read is by william co-haan called "house
of cards." it's the book that tells the story of how the collapse on wall street occurred, what was going on. i've had him on my show. he's really smart and i read parts of this book already but i really want to get through it as a result what i've heard directly from william cohan. there's a book cal out called "mists, -- myths illusions and peace by dennis ross and david makovsky who is a fellow for near east policy. david used to work with me so i'm really interested in what these two guys have to say about the arab-israeli policy. so that's another book i'm going to be going through. another book is by david sanger called the inheritance the world obama confronts and the challenges to american power. having read him for years in the
"new york times," i know what a terrific reporter he is. and he's now put together what's really an important book on what the president of the united states has basically inherited. he's been on my show. he's smart. and i think this is going to be an important book. i'll read something reading this book. the one piece of fiction that i want to read this summer, i hope to read some others but i definitely want to read elie wiesel, a mad desire to dance because he's such a terrific writer and what he writes is so important. i was really moved by what he said a few weeks ago when he spoke openly about having lost his foundation so much money in the bernard madoff uproar fiasco. he was so smart and he's lost millions, but this is a book, obviously, that continues but he's been writing so many years about the holocaust so i want to get through this book, if i can, this summer. those are the five summers i plan on reading this summer.
i hope to get through them all and then start on some more. >> you're a busy man. where do you do your reading and how do you find time to do it? >> i try to do a little bit before i go asleep at night. i try to read on weekends. i just gee out on my deck in the backyard and relax especially if the weather is good. you know, whenever you can. i am a busy guy. a lot of a whole lot of time to do fun reading, but you make time, and it's important, and i really appreciate books. >> wolf blitzer, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> to see more summer reading lists and other program information, visit our website at booktv.org. ♪
>> this holiday weekend on book tv, discover an unfamiliar side of our nation's first president as we're live from george washington's mount vernon estate with historian and author john ferling on the assent of george washington. join our three-hour conversation sunday on in depth beginning at noon eastern on c-span's book
tv. >> richard brookhiser wrote his first article for the new republic at the age of 14 and was hired as the magazine's senior editor at 23. he recounts his relationship with the conservative magazine's founder william f. buckley, jr., whom at one time deemed mr. brookhiser his successor only later to change his mind. the manhattan institute sponsored this event and the harvard club in new york city hosted it. it's 50 minutes. >> this is the first time i've given a book talk where half the people in the room are in the index. laugh layoff [laughter] >> you all looked at the index. yeah, you did. you really did. let me begin at the beginning. i met bill buckley by writing
for him. i grew up in new york, a suburb of rochester, a midsize upstate city with my parents and my older brother, bob. in the fall of 1969, i was a freshman in the local public high school. i didn't know anybody who went to private ones. my brother was a junior at yale. every weekend the school year since he had gone away to college i wrote him on a small black metal typewriter that had belonged to mom, a letter rehearsing the events of the week. basketball games, school plays, little triumphs, tiny disasters, bulletins of adolescence dramatized and ironyized. one week the news barged into this home theater. opponents of the vietnam war had called for a nationwide moratorium or a day of protests
on october 15th. the moratorium looked to be a big thing on college campuses where boycotts of classes were planned. some kids in my high school decided to join in. i thought they were wrong. i also thought there was something phony about the exercise, simultaneously preening and copycat. the moratorium at my high school helper considered dissidents but they were tagging along with a national movement, mimicking their elders. i decided to put counter-posters on the school walls. i imagine myself as a latter day martin luther taping rather than hammering up criticisms of orthodoxy for all to see. i generated my posters by typing them out over and over on the black typewriter using carbon paper to produce four copies at
a time. i had only 12 contentious thesis, not luther's 95. after a night's work, i gave my posters to the world on the 15th. all my efforts and the more organized protests i hopeyydñ t deflate went into that weekend's letter of my brother. it made for a longer story than usual and in his next letter home he said he enjoyed it. my father said, why don't you said it to national review. no one in my family knew anything about journalism. we knew william f. buckley from television and we've been subscribing to his magazine for half a year. perhaps that would be entree enough. i took dear bob off the beginning of my letter, added a conclusion and sent it away. [laughter] >> months passed without a word from national review. i assumed they had not liked the submission and thrown it away.
and that this was standard procedure in journalism. then after the new year i got a letter from c.h. simons assistant managing editor. dear mr. brookhiser, please forgive our slowness in dealing with your manuscript, it somehow got buried on my desk. this i would learn actually was standard procedure in journalism. [laughter] >> miss buckley,i&÷ priscilla buckley, bill's sister and editing manager and i have read it and are eager to publish it. we do receive manuscripts from people your age but i'm sure this will be the first we've ever published. anyone who submits something for the approval of the world expects in some corner of his mind that he will be approved. but when approval actually came it was startling. the world of public events which included the media that reported on them was out there. now someone from out there had
signaled back. more surprises followed when my article appeared in the issue dated february 24th, 1970, one day after my 15th birthday. it was the cover story. moratorium day head the headline by rick brookhiser, student. the next surprise, a few weeks later was a check for $180. [laughter] >> the question of money had given me some anxiety. it must cost something, i thought, to print magazines and distribute them. perhaps i would be asked to contribute to help to defray expenses. [laughter] >> the idea that i might be paid in addition to being published was icing on the cake. about the time the check arrived, i began getting letters from readers. there were 20 in all, which would be pitling responses in the days of email and texting but in 1969 when each of these communications had to be sealed,
stamped and dropped in a mailbox, it seemed impressive. all the more to someone who had never gotten a letter from anyone he did not know. i know why the assistant managing editor, miss buckley, and mr. buckley published it. i was a dog walking on its hind legs. 15-year-old speaks. i was also dog bites man. there were plenty of young people even in the late '60s who were conservative or simply not liberal but they were not the young people you saw on television or in most magazines or newspapers. preponderance the arch typal young people the major media are idealistic liberals, hairy radicals or druggies. heroes, rebels or freaks. here said the editors of national review was a kid, a high school freshman no less, who speaks for the unseen. there was one more reaction to the piece, the most important of
all. a blue 3x5 card with national review's name and address in bold and an italicized identifier, william f. buckley,, jr., editor. a message, something like, richard, nice going, congratulations. rick, thanks. in time i learned every contributor of every issue from national review got such a card from william f. buckley, jr. did not diminish its value, rather than the reverse. it was a courtesy and profession that often skipped courtesies. over the years i saved many such cards, a fraction of all the ones i was sent. since they are undated, i can't tell now which one came first. no matter, they were a beam of attention from the top.
and then i go on a little bit to give the back-story of big and the back-story of me taking us up to 1970 and the introduction ends at 44, bill's age when he accepted my article, he was conscious of the passage of time. in the early '60s, william rickenbacker a younger colleague sat in on one of his interviews. bill was in fine form like a jet with a switchblade. door, bill smartly knocked it aside. when the door closed, he turned to rickenbacker and grinned i can keep this crap up until i'm 40. [laughter] >> he kept it up much longer. but even there is senses where he is no longer an enfant.
out of the blue here comes a kid pulling the same stunts he had pulled in college. but he was in college. but bill thought, maybe i found another me. now, the rest of the book and the rest 40 years of my life have three movements, which are already there in that opening that i read you. and the first of these movements is a portrait. it's a portrait of a remarkable and a consequential man. one of the reasons for doing this book is that we are losing bill a bit. his tv show went off the air in 1999, and young people who started becoming media conscious after that moment no longer know who he is. my wife and i go out to dinner a
lot so we're hobnobbing with all waiters and waitresses who are kids who hadn't known in 1980, 1979 they would not know bill buckley even if they saw national review or firing line. people were imitating him, et cetera, et cetera. so as happens to every figure of the media, part of him has now passed. now, he will endure and he will remain, but there needs to be an act -- an ax of recovery and that was one of the motives that impelled me to write this book. among the many thin1j i tried to recover was his affect as a public figure. now, he was stylish and he was funny, and those who remember him both conservatives and
liberals now universally acknowledge that. the conservatives because it was so important to us that there be a conservative who was stylish and funny, the liberals because it pleased them. they were entertained by the spectacle and not threatened so much by the style or the humor. but we also have to remember that bill was very aggressive, especially, the further back you look. and if you look on some of those youtube segments, bill could be a killer if he thought you were arguing from unearned authority, authority conferred only by fashion or that if you were threatening the country or its well-being or its peace, he would cut you a new one. and he did it over and over again. and my favorite instance of combining both -- i tell the story in the book, and it's also
in one of his past books was a run-in he had with arthur schlesinger, jr. they were arguing by mail and in one of his letters he said -- referred to national review or the "national enquirer" or whatever you call your magazine. and he replied how would you like if i called you dear arthur or dear barfer. if you ever need to slap down a pulitzer prize historian that's how you do it. you're 5. this is what it's like and cut it out. i mean, it's just a brilliant little arabesque in one sentence. another things to recover about bill was his passion for talent, and he looked for everywhere,
literally everywhere. he would go to the big names. he offered even $5,000 a year to be a columnist for "national review" when it started out. and wall wrote back unless i get -- unless you get much richer or i get much poorer which i'm afraid will happen sooner, i can't take you up on this offer. but he also grabbed it when he saw it in unknowns. he hired gary wells out of a jesuit seminary. gary wells had left the seminary, never written anything for anyone. sent four articles; bill was the first one to write him back and that was the beginning of gary's career. he hired john leonard as a harvard dropout and then he sent him to cuba to do a story on one of castro's early prisoners.
john was 19 years old. and he also grabbed me at the age of 14. a second movement in right time right place is the time and the place. 40 years is a long time. it goes from the vietnam war to the surge in iraq. we missed obama's election. that's not in there. but all of that -- all of that history, 9/11, fall of communism -- it's all there. and one of the lessons i think for conservatives at this moment were pretty glum because things are pretty grim and they really are grim, but you have to remember it has been worse. the mid to late '70s were awful. they were just awful. there was watergate. there was the fall of vietnam. there was stagflation.
there was an energy crisis. there was gerald ford's good but bumbling intentions. there was jimmy carter's puniness. cubans were patrolling africa. africa? soviets were occupying afghanistan. it was an awful, awful time. and it ended with ronald reagan. i'm not saying every disaster ends with ronald reagan. [laughter] sometimes they just keep getting worse and worse. [laughter] >> but it's important for conservatives to remember that that we have been through very bad patches before and i hope that's one another thing that this book can remind people of. and the third movement of the book is a portrait of a relationship. a relationship between an older man and a younger man. i was a boy when it started.
i was a youth. i guess that word doesn't exist anymore. but i would have been called a youth, then became a younger man. and in a lot of ways i think it was love at first sight on both our parts. but as often happens with love at first sight, mistakes are made. and as i realized, as i was writing this book, that bill was looking for an heir and i was looking for an idol. and neither of those quests can ever really work. and it will inevitably produce frustration and misunderstanding. and in our case, some -- you know, some bumps along the road of romance. a year after i went to work for "national review," this is in 1978, bill took me to lunch, and
he said you will succeed me when i step down at age 65, 1990. and you will own the magazine. you will be the second editor and here's the plan -- here's the timetable how we're going to bring this about. i was flabbergasted. i mean, i was thrilled. but i was -- i was also stunned. so the plan seemed to be going according to plan. and then nine years later, 1987, i come back to my desk and there's a letter addressed to me. bill was out of his town, part of his m.o. in certain situations and i open the letter and it said, you will not succeed me. [laughter] >> you have -- you have -- and i quote it in the book, but it said you have no executive ability. i have not documented this but
it is the case. and time to make new plans and that was that. so at age 32 i went from being very precocious to being retarded in the sense that i now had to get another career. at the age of 32. and there were many other bumps and twists and turns along the way. and it took time. and it took effort on both our parts to re-establish a relationship. robert frost said, we love the things we love for what they are. but to do that you have to know what they are. and that can take a lot of work to figure it out. when you work with someone periodically, when you see them regularly, there's a lot you tend not to say because, you know, you're just part of that
person's life. they're part of yours. and a routine is established. but i did get to say once to bill something like a final judgment of what he meant to me. and this was after he stepped down as editor and henry kissinger offered to give him a big dinner party at kissinger's apartment. and bill picked the guest list and he said invite all my younger colleagues and friends. terry was there. i was like the second oldest person on the guest list. so this was a young crowd. and after kissinger spoke and after bill said a few words, then there was a time for toasts. and i gave a toast. and this was something i actually had to modify a little
bit in the book because i quoted a lot from a poem by w.b. yates and my editor said, look, if you're quoting so much to pay for this poem you're going to have to pay permissions so i'm going to have to do a lot of paraphrasing. and it's one of yates' last poems and it's called "beautiful lofty things" and the things are people who were important to him in his life. one of them is a drunk. stan o'grady supporting himself between the tables speaking to a drunken audience, high nonsensical words. one of them is his lover. maude gunn that house station waiting a train, palace athena in that straight back and arrogant head. and one of them was yates'
father. and yates' father got involved in the controversy over the playboy of the western world. when that play was premiered, irish nationalists were outraged because they thought it was disrespectful who were the peasantry of the area and there was an uproar and yates' father thought it was bad behavior and he just hated it so he took the nationalists on. and yates remembers that. my father on the abbey stage before him a raging crowd. this land of saints and as the applause dies out, of plaster saints his beautiful head thrown back and i said to bill, it's not my place to comment on your head, but no one i know has been more respectful of real saints
and more bad to the plastered ones. so that's it. thank you very much. [applause] >> now, again half the people in this room can dispute every detail that i said 'cause they were also there. do we have a mic for the questioners? is that how it's going to work. so i guess i'll recognize you and mics will come to you. yes, ma'am. >> hi. my question -- [inaudible] >> my question is a bit disrespectful but i'm going to ask anyway. i read about your book in the "wall street journal" review of your book and christopher buckley's book and one of the things i didn't know from reading the review was that william f. buckley had a heavy,
heavy dependency on ritalin and used it frequently to help him focus. that's raises the issue of whether you want to disclose this. i had a teacher who used to say we live in the age where we like to see the feet of clay of idols and what concerns me about that aspect of your book which is not to say the rest of it isn't fantastic, which i'm sure it is, that those types of revelations at this point, you know, in some way i worry create an undermining of what it is that bill buckley was trying to advance. and god knows he certainly had enough people who did not believe as he did and would take any opportunity to attack him. so i'm just curious, you know, what your take on this is and certainly i think it was probably a minor item in the book, but i'm still kind of curious. >> well, you know, please do read the book and read the discussion of that.
it wasn't to run him down. i mean, one of the points i was making was his reason for doing this. and the only reason i learned about it -- it's not that i was spying on him in his office or anything. i was coming down with the flu or i had a bad cold or something like that and i mentioned this to bill and bill said, oh, would you like some ritalin, you know, and i told my wife, who's an anesthesiologist's daughter and she has a merck manual and she said what? no, you don't want to do that. there is no hypocrisy here. i mean, bill was very bold in urging that our drug laws, which i think have many manifold, perverse aspects be changed and reformed, whether it be laws against