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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  February 13, 2011 4:00am-5:00am EST

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he had a strong record on those things in texas. and those were huge parts of his campaign platform. and i think what you saw was that with 9/11, his entire focus of his presidency had to change. >> i agree with that. the president clearly came in thinking it was a domestic president and the chapter of 9/11 makes a couple of fascinating points when he talks about the book he was reading to school kids, he says i knew exactly what was happening. i knew i was on tv. but i also knew that a leader cannot inspire panic in his people and so he intentionally wasn't trying to cause panic and i thought it was a good defense and it also talks about the best moment of the push presidency when he got up on the wreckage at ground zero and he took the bull horn and he was speaking to the crowd and they said we can't hear you and he shouted you i can hear you and the rest of the world will hear you, too. i thought that was a particularly interesting chapter. >> doctor?
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>> well, i think it did and it didn't. meaning i think in all these ways it clearly shifted the focus of his presidency to issues that he was not, you know, coming into the white house thinking it would consume his time. he was interested in education reform and immigration, very interested in immigration reform and really liberalizing immigration policy and all that, you know, takes a second place when 9/11 happens. and the book does wrestle with this, you know, iraq doesn't clearly fit into the post-9/11 strategy. and there's going to be an ongoing debate. there was while he was president. there will continue to be. why we went into that war at that time, what the relationship was with 9/11. president bush makes some admissions or apologies in the book about iraq including the effect of not finding weapons of mass destruction, the mission accomplished scene.
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he still defends the war. there's a chapter on his freedom agenda as he dawes but i think there's kind of a question, a historical debate that will thawe'll have. it does clarify but it's not clear why that war as central to the strategy and i'm not sure this book with resolve that at all. >> well, how often, dr. zelizer events overtake a presidency? >> that's what they are about. they are responding to crises and responding to the way in which events unhold. rarely does a president campaign 10 issues go in the white house and focus on those ten years and leave. something has got to happen. and i think the best presidents like lyndon johnson, for example, fdr or ronald reagan knew that and ronald reagan and gorbachev wasn't what he could predict and how he approaches the soviet union and the fact how he remembers ronald reagan and then lyndon johnson was
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vietnam. i mean, the way that overtook his presidency was something he didn't expect in '63 and '64. that's what being a president is about. and in some ways that's what we measure. that's one of the things we look for. how do they respond when those events happen? when those shifts take place. >> and tevi troy, you're nodding your head. >> i want to remark both on this question the political savvy and whether there's a checklist. and president bush, i think, showed his political savvy both in being elected twice although the first one was clearly close but also he had an agenda going into that first term. and he really accomplished the things he said he was going to accomplish. he had the no child left behind reform. he had the tax cuts and he had the medicare part d. those were really his three signature things he pushed for and he got that in that first term. in the second term is clearly not as successful from a domestic perspective but he said he was going to go out and do that and he did and i really think that does show a lot of political savvy. >> let me just respond to this one thing about why iraq?
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because it struck me in the context of the wikileaks and many of the sort of most recent articles and then i sat there and i looked again at the map that is in george bush's book and it struck me we went into iraq in large part to isolate iran. as i sat there looking at it and i realized that, you know, afghanistan -- if it were a flourishing democracy and if iraq were a flourishing democracy you would essentially make sure that iran was isolated. and, in fact, later on in the book, as bush is discussing sort of hezbollah and lebanon, he does say that one of the longer term strategic gains was to isolate both iran and syria. and i think what you see is with a much larger strategy of, if you will, afghanistan, iraq, bringing pakistan on as an ally, liberating or making more robust the democracy in lebanon, what
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you end up seeing is actually of a playing out of that precise strategy. >> boston, doug, you are on with our historians round table, please go ahead with your question. >> yeah, i think bush is delusion to the point where he thinks we're all stupid. there's one thing i know for sure has if bush, cheney, rumsfeld -- any of those characters step out of the bands of the united states, they are going to get the pinochet treatment and i think that would be a good thing for everyone. you all have a nice day. thanks a lot. >> lara brown, the pinochet treatment. >> i'm not really sure how to respond to that comment. i mean, certainly i think some people do have those feelings about president bush and his team, you know, i sort of look at president bush and his team and i say he made a series of decisions some of which i agree with and some of which i don't but we'll see actually, i think, how history shapes up.
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i think history has been interesting in terms of relooking at different presidents. down the load >> julian zelizer do presidency legacies outside of the border matter? >> to a certain extent. it's how the american public thinks of a president will change over time. you know, when people say will the presidency be revitalized? will we think better of them and worse of them. the reality is we'll go through cycles where the interpretation changes. how historians write about them will be important. i mean, it's important how the international community thinks of a president in the current moment because that does shape, i think, international relations. but i'm not sure in terms of the legacy how we remember the presidency. that's where, you know, the outcome will emerge. but certainly what people think of a president overseas does matter in the kind of relationships we build with other countries.
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>> st. petersburg, florida, go ahead, vera. >> hello, first i'd like to thank you very much for taking my call. i'm not really asking a question of anyone. it's merely a comment. regarding these weapons of mass destruction, i don't believe i have ever heard from day one anyone including the president mention the fact that before we went in actually to look for the weapons of mass destruction we announced it so many times that we were going in, doesn't anyone realize that by the time we went in, had they been there, they are certainly removed, these people were not stupid. if there had been anything there, they were long gone but i have never heard including the president lest i missed it mentioning that fact. by the time we went in we announced it so many times as i say, they certainly got rid of them. and i'd love to hear anybody's comment about that. i've never heard anyone say it.
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>> well, he certainly doesn't say that in the book and i haven't really heard that -- an argument made by the national security establishment. one thing that he does say if hussein really didn't have these weapons of mass destruction, it was a stupid and short-sighted decision by hussein not to make that fact known because he obviously knew the u.s. troops were building up and maybe he was bluffing. maybe he thought the u.s. troops wouldn't invade and he thought he would be able to hold onto his presidency but it seemed like in retrospect a bad decision on hussein's part. >> what do you think as somebody who used to work of president bush as his point by point argument about the strategy, the reasoning for going into iraq? >> well -- >> and i know that wasn't your department. >> it wasn't my department, but you were clearly there. sort of living and breathing it. but he makes his case that if he had perfect information, he might have thought about things differently. he didn't have perfect information. he had to go through the information he did have and he doesn't regret what he did and he makes the case based on this
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notion the world is better off without a dictator like saddam hussein in power there. so i think he makes the case based on that. he doesn't really regret his decisions although he regrets the problems on the intelligence and i think he is pretty honest about owning up to some of the mistakes -- i counted at least seven mistakes in the book where he said here's something i did wrong or something we did wrong and that's in stark contrast in 2004 where he asked the question can you name any mistakes and he famously dodged the question. >> there was a sense that the intelligence was shaky, the whole scandal that unfolded with scooter libby and some of the writing that's taken place on vice president cheney that's notably absent from the book. i mean, bush does apologize or admit kind of the crisis of confidence that resulted both in him and in the country from the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.
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but the questions that have been raised how much did national security experts actually know is not in the book and that's not surprising. but i do think it's a piece of the story that will have to be addressed, will have to be researched. in terms of the caller's question, you know, after we entered iraq and we learned that the weapons weren't there, there were some making that argument. remember -- and i can't remember but the suggestion they had been hidden. they had been moved. but it is notable that president bush doesn't say that in this book he doesn't fall back on that defense. so that's really speculation to say that. and i think they would need to be a lot more evidence to support that claim at this point. >> well, i think it is true that especially as you looked at what was going on in the summer of 2003 as the libby scandal was sort of unfolding, as there were, you know, meetings in england. i mean, there were parliamentary sessions where they were grilling different individuals and, you know, discussion business reports being sexed up
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as i recall is the phrase in that wonderful british way they say things. you know, were important. and this issue of -- as the intelligence manipulated, was it all as good as we would hope it would be? and despite the fact that bush does admit that intelligence is never 100%, i think that bush again sort of reveals his -- for lack of a better word of naivete in the sense that he seems to decide very early on if i trust you, i trust everything that you say. if i don't trust you, i don't trust anything that you say. and i think this is where again saddam hussein may have been saying things that maybe push could have actually listened to a little differently if he were a bit more savvy. >> tevi you were nodding your head >> there were some people president bush stuck too long or
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promoted to positions they might not have been worthy of getting or shouldn't have gotten. and there is a sense that he was very loyal to his people and i personally felt he was very loyal to his people but on the other hand some people didn't serve him as well as they could have. >> we have this tweet here from joshua nielsen is the presidential deificatio in recent u.s. culture. >> i don't think it's great. i think it's hard to be president. i think the public culture actually leans towards destroying you. and that is the bipartisan thing. i mean, i think the romance and honeymoon with presidents is actually very short and i think because of the way the media works and because of a certain amount of cynicism we have toward government institutions, certainly since watergate, that that is eventually people are going to turn on presidents. and you have blips like when a
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book comes out or when presidents go through great moments that, you know, people look again and have better feelings or opinions, but in general i think cynicism is the name of our age. and it's the name of the game in public opinion. we don't hold up presidents very high. it's just the opposite. public opinion, who controls it? i'm not sure. i don't think in this day of age there's any center of control. i think with the internet and the way information flows all over the place, i don't think historians certainly shape how the public will see a president. and i think, you know, what it will be is an ongoing debate with multiple opinions, multiple sources and we'll never have a final opinion. i think it's an ongoing debate that we're about to enter into. and this is president bush's, you know, first effort to shape that debate. >> i just got to say in response to the tweet that working in the bush white house i never for a minute felt that president bush
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was being deified and he mentioned that and he mentions how hysterical the culture was against him. >> i'm starting to think this tweeter meant post-presidency. i mean, jimmy carter's approval ratings have gone up and bill clinton's are pretty high and george bush has gone up since he's been out of the presidency. >> i mean, that in some ways we expect. carter also had tremendous controversy but look the basic fact when the president is gone they are out of the political realm and they have a lot more control about how the public sees them and what they're doing. and they're freed from the ugliness and difficulties of washington. so it's natural that when a jimmy carter, president bush, any president is gone, they are going to have a kind of a sweeter relationship with the public 'cause what we don't like is the political process. and what we don't like is often seeing the president right in the middle of these very bitter and tough democratic debates. so that's the question.
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i think it's just removing yourself from the difficulties and ugliness of washington. >> well, i think that's right. i also think that there are really interesting phases. there's a book by thomas langston called this reverence and contempt, how americans think about their president. and i think it is a fantastic title because it really does get at what we do. in a campaign we usually push them to the highest heights and there is a belief that person is going to be able to sort of solve all the problems, fix anything and everything that we hope. and then they get there and the realities strike. and, quite frankly, one of the things that is amazing about american politics is that we are a lot less comfortable with partisanship and with debate then one would think we should be given we are one of the most long-standing greatest democracies on earth. >> leonard in goodyear, arizona.
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good afternoon to you. >> good afternoon. i have a comment and a question. my comment about the book is compared to say bill clinton's my life autobiography, i found the bush book to at least take a lot more responsibility. when i read clinton's book it seemed to me there was a lot of blaming other people where bush's book even if it didn't convince me that he made everything being the right decision that at least he took responsibility. my question is, in evaluating a president how long -- i mean, when i think about when i was in high school, i was taught that eisenhower liked to play golf. he really didn't get involved. when i read stuff about the cold war today, there was a lot more to his relationship with khrushchev. when i was in school, we read reagan read a script and he was a dumb actor but now how involved he was in his presidency and a role he played
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in the cold war. even truman when he fired macarthur and now he's a top president. how long will we know president bush was and what he really did? >> dr. brown? >> well, i will say this, most historians dislike political scientists like me. most of the historians i know think that 50 years is really a good time frame to start where you end up with more sense of an objective analysis. i think one of my favorite comments from a history professor that i had when i was at ucla and he said i want you in this course because we were talking about the 1970s. he said i want you to call me on when my memory intrudes with
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history and i think there is this problem for all historians who are writing, all political scientists, all ewaitevaluators your memory is still there. >> i write about contemporary history from the '60s onward and i believe historians can do a good job with the first take. some of the best books on the '60s were written soon after the c section. -- '60s. some of the best books were written 5 to 10 years after that happened. . ..
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>> so it's impossible to escape that. there's differences. some historians are quite comfortable studying the contemporary period, others are not. i think it's healthy to have historians try to put the things in context and capture and put the narrative together early on while it's still kind of fresh in our head. fully think i agree with dr. zelizer in general. sometimes in contemporary history, it's excellent. and sometimes you have it bias and awful. same way with long term retrospective analyses, sometimes they are good. sometimes not so good. president bush had a good point on this. he said 200 years later, they will still assessing the first
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george w. george washington in that current year. he said they are going to be assessing me for a long time. i can't worry about it. another point the caller made with contrasting him with bill clinton. there's a story that mark mckennon tells with john kerry. john kerry meeting the strategist for president bush. kerry says to mckennon you can a great job with the campaign. my team messed it up. although he used a saltier word. it's amazing that he said that, frightening that he heard it, and in a public way. i think he's also willing to take the blame in new hampshire. he didn't fire people in 2000 when they lost the primary to john mccain. he said this is on me. let's fix it for the next time. >> yeah, so i just wanted to
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sort of say a little something about that point of president clinton. i think what you are getting at is what was brought up earlier. these books do reflect the very different men. i think that president clinton, who he is is someone who is very interested in understanding. he's interested in other people understanding him, he's interested in understanding others. that's where all of that discussion about i feel your pain, i think comes from. i think when you look at george w. bush, he is somebody who like i said, from my perspective, he makes very quick judgments about people. and they are often what i would consider to be fairly emotive impressions. he's very interested in important people well up. one the things he talked about a lot in the book is how many different individuals he saw get tears in their eyes. that's an important
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characteristic for him. >> julian zellier -- zelizer is author of many books. most recent edited by him. the subtitle here is "first historical assessment." dr. zelizer, when we will start seeing books that have subtitles that say reassessment? >> that will happen. i think the caller mentioned two presidencies, eisenhower and reagan that had pretty big reassessments. both were seen as presidents who were light hearted, not serious, presidents driven and controlled by their advisors, rather than very dominant figures. we learned that was wrong. and i think what happened in both cases, and in those cases, archives really mattered. as we discovered, for example, that ronald reagan during the 1970s, you know, worked on every single radio address that
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he gave and really worked through the ideas. and they covered the handwriting and how, you know, he really refined and honed everything. we started to see, you know, he was pretty serious about developing the arguments that he would put together in his presidency. the national security documents showed that ronald reagan was taking charge in those meetings. so that takes about five to ten years to really start seeing the archiveal data. some of it is literally processing. we need people to go through it in folders. my guess is five to ten years from now, when we start to see what's in, what happened behind the scenes, we're going to see some serious reassessments. i don't know what they will be. which direction. but will thereby reassessments. >> lara brown? >> i think the one thing that i would to that, i just spent a
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lot of time writing about the individuals before they came president and who the individuals turn out to be as president is not all that surprising when you spend time understanding who they were before they got into the office. i think we have made sort of a tragic error consistently in believing that these individuals are sort of born in office. we go from inaugural to inaugural. we forget they had whole political histories and lives before they reached that oval office. >> yeah, i think julian makes a fantastic point about the reassessment of presidents such as reagan and eisenhower, and it may happen to book. the rope that republican presidents are dunderheads. they said it about ford and bush. it can't be the case that every republican president is less than average i.q. it's not the case. we see from the assessments,
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they aren't. some of them have been very smart and behind the scene. >> iowa falls, iowa. good afternoon, michael. >> caller: good afternoon. how are you guys? >> good. >> caller: dr. brown, i've read your book. it's a fantastic read. anybody that wants to buy your book should buy it. also my first question is kind of answered earlier. so i'm going to george bush said earlier in the event that he's not really trying to shape a legacy. how much of his committed silence to the policies that the obama has enacted as well as, you know, his -- just his over all demeanor since he left office, isn't that shaping a legacy? how much will that impact our public opinion of him? how much of that will impact the 2012 presidential race? >> okay. around the horn and start with tevi troy. >> you can't blame the president
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by shaping the legacy by not commenting. i think it's wise and smart. not comment on the current president. because it's not fair. you are the only one who has access to the information that they had. i think the president should stay out of the current politics. i think he's right to do so. >> julian zelizer? >> i think president bush has notably and remarkably silent since he left office. not simply about president bush, but even about the republican party. a lot of the tea party movement, for example, has not been an rebellion against president obama, it's been president bush's policies like t.a.r.p. or the debate over immigration, which matters very much to president bush. an issue that he held dear to his heart. he has been totally silent as it has been unfolded. so i think, you know, he has decided to stay out of the realm. i don't think in the end this will have that big of an impact
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on how the historians and the public remember him. i do think in general it's a smart thing for presidents to stay out of the fray for a while so their successor, whatever party could have a little political space to fight their own battles. >> yeah, well, i actually did write a chapter on george w. bush in another book that assessed his presidency called judging bush. one the things that i do think came out of that, and out of the work that i looked at, is that i think bush made a lot of idealogues uneasy, and i think he also made a lot of partisans uncertain. so i think what you saw was that in the -- especially the 2008 election; right. you know, john mccain and george w. bush talks about this, he distances himself from the presidency. that's no surprise given where his approval rating was. i agree with julian, the tea
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party 15 response to many of the big government initiatives that did come out. whether it was no child left behind or it was the medicare prescription drug benefit. but i think that's being said. you are right. president bush has been more quiet. which leads me to believe that he sort of feels as though what he should be judged on is what he did, not necessarily what he's planning on doing. >> julian zelizer will you give us his writing of katrina and your assessment? >> he admits mistakes and not being aggressive enough and acknowledging the government failure to respond to that. he admits the photo op was a bad choice. there are limits though, you know, i think a lot of the critics said this really revealed how little policy
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concern there was for urban america. and it wasn't just katrina, it was the state of the cities that was just a kind of huge disaster in national travesty that was not dealt with. and president bush obviously does not go that far. it's like iraq in some ways. there is some admission of doing wrong. this is some admission of mistakes. but in general, i do think he pushes back on his critics that this was not somehow just his failure. he talks about other levels of government failing, including louisiana, and various levels of politics not responding as well. so he's trying to find the middle point with katrina. which is what i'd expect in a memoir. a little more admission of making mistakes, i thought. >> i found that very difficult for me to read personally. i was actively involved in the response.
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i know president bush was taking it seriously. he told everyone that we've canceled the weekend, there's no weekend. we need to work full time. i know we had imperfect information, and imperfect cooperation with the local officials. president bush was frustrated. and a few months later, he was remarking on this. we've had something like 26 national disasters in the course of my presidency at the time. there were subsequently more. and 20 of them went off without a hitch. we're always remembered for the 26. he wanted us to be mindful of how important it was to get a good, strong, fast reaction, and be on the ground that show that we knew what we were doing and getting stuff done. we had imperfect information and cooperation. and it was frustrating. >> joseph fulton. missouri. you are on the air. >> hi, i teach history. the pivotal point during the iraq planning was the keying to the military advisors had a
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difference of opinion of what size the forces would take. how could bush have better navigated this part in the system making process or just a matter of not enough experience? >> in princeton, dr. zelizer. >> i do think we talked a little bit about how the book doesn't talk so much about the debates over in intelligence and what was known. it also doesn't talk about another aspect which has been a focus of critics of president state department was warning early on, not with troops, but in terms of civilian reconstruction, that the nation would need to commit a lot more to rebuilding iraq once saddam hussein fell. there was also the debate about troop levels, saying you need a much bigger commitment to make sure that, you know, this did not fall apart. similar with afghanistan. he talks a little bit about that. but i don't -- i do think he tends to avoid some of the
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tougher parts of the debate, including that issue. was it just experience? i'm not so sure about that. you know, there's the book by thomas ricks which suggests that the pentagon was very strong and didn't want, you know, the state department arguments to win. and in the end, the administration went with the pentagon. they went with the idea that you could do this to some extent on the cheap. some would say they were wrong. so i'm not sure inexperience is the right prescription here. so much as a choice early on about what it meant to try to change the regime, what it meant to try to rebuild a society, and how much this would cost the u.s. >> this is book tv's look at president george w. bush's presidential memoir "decisions points." we have a historian roundtable of authors joining us, joining us from princeton, julian zelizer. here in washington tevi troy and
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lara brown. seattle, tom, you are on the air. >> caller: good afternoon, everyone. when george bush took office, americans were enjoying peace and prosperity. surpluses were predicted for years to come. remember that's in part what the rational behind the slashing of tax rates in the first place. when george bush left office, we were knee deep in two wars and nearly bankrupt, teetering on financial ruins. i remember the interview that bush gave during his presidency, i forget the name of the interviewer, he talked about looking forward to the time when he can fill up the book. you probably remember that. his error was really marked by greed and assess. i just wonder if he's just doing a victory lap now and presenting
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himself before the favorable interviewers like michael barone. will he be subjected to real criticism and inquiry by likes like you and others that might ask him real questions about how many people he thinks died in iraq through his choice to go to war there? >> all right. tom, we have a lot of information there. we are going to go all the way around the horn. >> thanks for the call. i'm not sure really where to start in on that. i do think that one the things that was fascinating for me because i have spent some time understanding both our fiscal and monetary policy, it was actually his last chapter. that dealt with the financial crisis that was sort of in the waning years of the presidency. i think the one thing that isn't discussed in this chapter is actually how much the sort of recession and september 11th
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shocks that landed into the economy with the coupling of the tech boom busting. there was something of an implicit, whether it was fed policy, whether it was also part of kind of the economic calculus in the white house to essentially replace the tech boom with the housing boom. i think you see an active desire to essentially create situations where individuals could take advantage of these new financial tools and over extent not just the banks, but also many taxpayers. >> professor zelizer? >> well, i mean, i think, you know, he cut taxes twice early in his presidency. a very significant tax cut in 2001. and in the end, he doesn't shrink government. in the end, government will grow. not just with the war on terrorism in the military operation, but with many domestic initiatives including the medicare prescription drug
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program. so when you do that, you will have deficits and that's going to be an inevitable outcome of your administration. i would say that last chapter is absolutely fascinating. and the tension with him and senator mccain other how to handle the financial crisis is a very gripping story. at the same time, bush defends government and using government. he does it in a bush-like fashion. there was a problem. we needed government. i called for an expansion of government. i think there are many conservatives that are still uneasy with his presidencies both because of the deficits but also because of the continued growth of government that was a defining characteristic of his presidency. >> julian makes a really good point. president bush says it in a historian friendly way. we are facing the financial crisis. he says there was a financial crisis, possible depression, and
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i sure as heck was going to franklin roosevelt rather than hoover. the recession that bush inherited was his fault, and 9/11, and tech boom, and financial crisis, i think obviously did lead to it. but they weren't necessarily bush pushing those policies. the democrats strongly pushed more home ownership. there was a sense of pushing home ownership that was a good thing. it's giving them -- they are giving subsidies to poor people and some of the republicans there was the notion that we want to build up an ownership society. there was a bipartisan push for home ownership. obviously, it fizzled. >> historically, how much presidents leave office popular? >> we only really have data back to truman. because the gallop surveys go back that far.
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as i remember, two have something about 50% where they are popular on the way out the door. reagan and clinton. you can spent some time looking at those surveys. you see the motion is downward. >> obviously, kennedy was dfied on the departure. nobody wants to leave that way. it is tough for presidents. the fact if you are success and two terms, the american people are kind of tired of you at the end. >> julian zelizer? >> two things happened beyond the american people. your opponents dislike you more because you've done a lot more. usually members of your own party won't like you. once you are in a power, the challenges are different than campaigning. you have to cut deals, make compromises, you have to do that everything that washington is about. many people of your party won't like you by the end of that process. it's not that surprising that
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most presidents end at a lower place, you know, than certainly when they started. >> julian zelizer, your presidency of george w. bush first historical assessment, what should people take away from this quick of a book? >> the book that i edited? >> yes. >> oh, well, i think there's kind of two takeaways that i thought were interesting. one was to try to understand some of president bush's problems not just because of him or who he was. but if some of the challenges that conservatism was facing by the early part of the 21st century. after conservatives had been in power, really for two decades, and started to wrestle with some of the problems that came with power. some of the difficulties of cutting government. some of the reliance that republicans had developed with government. and a series of issues that i think in the end explain a lot of the crisis that the
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republicans went through by the end of his presidency. and on the other hand, there's interesting history of bush. there's one terrific chapter that someone wrote, gary, the historian, on bush in texas. and really looks at bush growing up and being an adult in texas, and his interaction with the hispanic community there. and really tries to show where the idea of broadening the republican party came from and why he was so passionate about liberalizing immigration. in the end, it didn't work. it was one of his failures. you start to see a different picture of president bush. the third thing, -- sorry -- would be the cost of katrina and iraq to president bush. the sequence to those two events and crises i think really undermined what was politically
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a very successful presidency in that first term. >> not to be clasp, but could president bush sat on 9/11 for eight years? >> obviously, i don't think he could. he had 90% approval rate in the months after. as 2004 got closer and even the 2002 election which bush did well and ledded republicans to a retake over the senate, partisanship was increasing. 9/11 wasn't going to hold you. >> next call for the roundtable. houston, go ahead, debra. >> caller: hi. i'd just like to start by saying that president george bush to me was a man of terrorism. and full of courage. and i thank him for that. let's see.
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i'm just wondering if anyone realized that during the time that he was running for president, he was -- our country was being threatened for war, that we were going to do war, if he became president by other countries. so to me, what that said is that -- people within our own country were sabotaging the president. >> all right. we got your point. lara brown? >> certainly the 2000 election was contentious and uncertain and there were a whole bunch of legal decisions and recounts. you know, i have recently read a book on the 1876 election. let me tell you, 2000 has nothing on that. our theory of his impression in
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our history that our elections and that our politics have been sort of more pure in times past. and really that's a false impression. when you go back in time, what you see is the parties not only used to count the ballots, but they printed them and knew where everyone lived and maneuvered around voters. our pom -- politics is actually much cleaner than it's ever been. that being said, let me just take a step back to something that was brought up around hurricane katrina. because i think one the things that's fascinating to me as someone who trying to understand both political parties, both leaders from both parties is that you see ideology actually impingeing upon decision making. what you see in the hurricane katrina situation is a place where republican ideology does say that the state and local
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government should lead. and there is a problem because within democratic ideology, there's a belief that the federal government should lead. when you have a democratic governor and republican president win think what you are actually having is a situation where both sides are expecting the other one to grab hold of the reigns and go forward. and so i do think bush talks in his book about the tension that he felt with regard to louisiana. he doesn't have those kinds of issues when he's talking about his associations with either his brother as a republican in florida the year before, or with haley haley barber. >> it's not conservative politics, it's the fema handbook.
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.talked about -- president bush talked about that. i'll agree with lara that politics have always been ugly in the u.s. and partisan. i thought president bush was partisan when he said how unprepared he was. he had the great relationship of bob bullock, who was an old lying crusty democrat, who was salty and profane in his language, but he said let's work together. bush thought he could come to d.c. and get it done. >> julian zelizer, too early to reassess the 2000 election? >> no. there's good work written by jeff toobin on the court battles over the election. i'm not sure in terms of what actually happened. i think there's been a lot of very good assessment. and in terms of the impact on the presidency, i think that's
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already been an important part of the story and will continue to be both in terms of how bush thought of himself and the kinds of tensions it created within the country over his presidency. i think they were quite significant. but again, polarization doesn't start with george bush, it doesn't start in 2000. politics is always rough in american history. it's always rough during times of war. partisanship never stops at the water's edge. we've had increasing polarization over the last two decades for many reasons, to the way the media works and parties are organized. it's interesting to me that president bush was so surprised if that's true just because of his dad. his father lived through washington as well. both, i think, you know, had a good sense of what the system is like. but i don't think, again, 2000 is the starting point. i think what we saw in president bush's presidency was the unfolding of trends and issues
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and political dynamics that had been brewing in some ways for many decades. >> well, i want to ask the panel, all three of you, if any of you had read the white house diary by jimmy carter and how it compared to "decision points." julian zelizer? >> i did. i happen to have a book that just came out on jimmy carter as well. i had some taming. -- some timing. i read it right away. you know, it's drier reading. it's not structured, and it's not as punchy as "decision points." but that said to be able to read through the presidency and see how president carter was thinking and reacting, some of his nastier comments about the members of congress that he was dealing with to his opinions on foreign leaders to how he perceived the 1980 election as he was unfolding, very different
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than how we remember it as the kind of inevitable landslide for ronald reagan. i find that much more helpful. i would love to have a diary like that. so i'm a fan of that kind of diary. i think we really learn a lot from it. >> i unfortunately, haven't read it, but i will say probably one of my favorite diaries is john quincy adams. he has 11 volumes. to get through all of his works are something. :
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>> caller: i just want to make a few comments. one of them is that i have found both the bush book and and presidency is uneventful and that they were, if anything the peter principle took sway. however, i would say that the latter bush, the younger bush will be well known and well revered for the financial crisis at the end of his presidency while he was heavily criticized for katrina et cetera. the truth is like quite frankly think he saved our system economics is done at the end of his presidency.
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one other point that is the product is this -- the unpopularity of president or the presidency, you know, the honeymoons were shorter and shorter. i personally think that mr. clinton was one had to the presidency several notches -- right there with warren g harding. the guy was impeached. he pled guilty to perjury himself. get a $25,000 fine and he can practice law in any court in the united states. >> host: hey, jim, who is your favorite contemporary president? >> caller: while by far, ronald reagan. ronald reagan, as far as i am concerned is first of all -- i think a fee, if you analyze his
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initial economic -- he faced an economic crisis, not unlike the latter bush and current president. >> host: all right, we got the point. tevi troy. >> guest: i've got to disagree with the collar. there's bipartisan disagreement. the bush presidency was an eventful president me. a lot of things happen with a the financial meltdown and 9/11. so is quite eventful and kept us quite busy at the white house. i do take what the caller said fiercely. he made some interesting points about that in this boat. one point he makes is that he didn't want to dump this on obama. he wanted to get this sorted out before hand. and i thought that was an important point. and the spending money has damaged his legacy with conservatives, but he thought it was important to pass on a somewhat able citizen to his successor and i thought that was important. >> host: julian zelizer
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>> guest: yeah, i think this is very inventive and transform presidency. one of the things we look for and how do we evaluate the president is how much did we make public policy? homage to their decisions can last over time? nle is what we're starting to see, while president obama is in the white house, is in terms of tax policy, counterterrorism, t.a.r.p. and financial policy. worst of regime change. a lot of the agenda set by president bush is very much in place, even when democrats controlled both branches of government. congress and the presidency. so, i think we have to look at this is far more transformative than, you know, your regular presidency. and finally, there is an irony than in the final years of president roche's time in the white house, when he was at his lowest in terms of approval rating, he made some of the decisions which might as in the most significant other than
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post-9/11, both with the surge in iraq and with t.a.r.p. and the decision over how to rescue wall street. and i think we might be talking about those last-minute decisions, so to speak, for years to come, even though they came in to tighten his presidency when they were just a lame duck. >> i just wanted to weigh in on the comments about the financial crisis. i do actually agree that president bush did, with hank paulson, essentially save our system. we ran the place where t.a.r.p. absolutely had to be enacted. in fact, i thought it was a great diligent duty on both republicans and the democrats part to let that bill failed in the house. i think if you look back at the tape, there were more democrats that voted in a post it in more republicans who opposed it and voted for it. but as speaker pelosi has the power of any speaker come which means if she wanted to twist
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some arms she could have done it. both sides proclaim politics to their advantage and i think it was to the detriment of the country. i think it's also why you see later that secretary paulson basically has to use t.a.r.p. in a different way than it was originally intended because the financial crisis had advanced to the point where they couldn't use it the way they had hoped. >> host: next call, kansas city, missouri, sherry, go ahead. >> caller: hi, thank you for c-span. i was watching the chilcott inquiry in the u.k. and the u.n. investigator, who was on the ground in iraq, advised under testimony that indicated and stated that he had advised the u.s. and the u.k. there were no weapons of mass distraction and the bush regime had planned on overthrowing saddam from the
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beginning and that was from another which this. thank you. >> host: tevi troy, what did you read about in the book? >> guest: there was no evidence in the book this is a plan from the start. resident bush talks about not nationbuilding this first campaign against al gore. and it really seems that the whole notion was after 9/11 they were more focused on weapons of mass destruction in the hands of people who are dangerous. and in terms of president bush admit that, but also says there is bipartisan agreement within the u.s. about that intelligence and everyone within the u.s. system -- the senior people in the house and senate and the administration had read in an intelligence and seem to agree this was not a problem. >> host: julian zelizer, retailer predictions created diaries? tesco now, i did not read it. >> host: from me historical perspective, is it a that they no longer take themselves quite
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>> guest: yeah, i'm currently working on linda johnson and am listening to all the tapes. and frankly, to be able to hear that is extraordinarily hopeful. there is a level kind of intimacy that you can gain of a white house from hearing the interaction between presidents and overseas theaters are members of congress that we don't have since richard nixon, when the tapes went away, as far as we know. and i do think it's a shame. you know, we've lost the tapes, the recordings. from that essay was another kind of communication because the president and executive branch is so frightened about investigation. where this under president clinton and a little bit with president bush that they don't want is written down. don't want it on e-mail. this is a record. you know, presidents can write his memoirs, but in the end i don't think those will shape how we remember the presidency. and not to be self-serving, but it's what historians and
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journalists who down the rhine. if we don't have a record, it weakens our ability to understand. and to understand the story. i think we lost the tape, it was kind of a tragedy or her ability to understand the history and similar with other forms of record-keeping. >> host: julian zelizer, lara brown mentioned john quincy adams. what is your favorite presidential memoir? >> guest: i mean -- i have to admit i read all of them and i don't have a favorite. i think carter's is okay. treatment is okay. you learn a little. i mean, what carter did in this original memoir was he put some of the diary in it. and i find that a little bit -- a little bit hopeful. clinton was okay, but with a little bit overwhelming. there was so much he couldn't tease out, you know, what with him. so i don't have an answer in terms of a favorite, but again if i had to pick one, it would
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be the card or diaries. again, that's what they think the benefit most from a real-life on the spot assessment of how presidents are thinking about what they were doing. >> host: tevi troy >> guest: i agree strongly with julian on this one. it's not the best from the historical or literal active. and when i'm much more interested in at the age memoirs and other staff members. i'll give you two of my favorite, on the republican and democratic side. george stephanopoulos, all too human really puts it all out there. there's reasons why the clinton white house was not happy after that. second favorite of mine is marty andersen, who wrote a book called revolution. marty not only talks about what it was like inside the reagan and the station, but he goes and proctor and talk the ruling ideas and economic difficulties going on at the time and gives a good sense of the perspective of what was going on in the u.s. in the late 70s that led to the reagan presidency.
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>> host: anything else you want to add? >> guest: that pretty much said it. your arm at the historian roundtable looking at "decision points." >> caller: hello. let me give you a layman's point of view. i belong to the local vfw. we discussed this were prior to the war. it was hard to imagine that a country given five smokestacks were going to be a threat to the united states. actually, saddam without, oddly enough, opposed a ban. now we wind up al qaeda. i can remember there were 19 of them in manhattan and 50 in afghanistan. now they're all over the world and this is what we accomplished in 10 years? what we have now is a jobs program in the middle east. and we've amount demanded


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