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tv   Book Discussion on First Women  CSPAN  September 17, 2016 8:00am-9:01am EDT

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thank you for joining us, really fascinating discussion, thank you. [applause] >> i do want to say -- >> take it outside.
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>> we interviewed the newly sworn-in librarian of congress, carla hayden, about her life and career. you'll hear from ruth bader ginsburg reflecting on her time on the supreme court. pulitzer prize-winning historian alan taylor examines the american revolution, and booktv visits grand rapids, michigan, to visit the city's lit air sites -- literary sites. those are just a few of the programs you'll see on booktv. for a complete schedule, is our web site. 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend, booktv is television for serious readers. and now we'll kick off the weekend with kate andersen brower. she talks about the first ladies from 1960 to the present day. [inaudible conversations]
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>> good evening, everyone. thank you all so much for coming out on this friday night. i'm a bookseller and supervisor here at politics & prose bookstore, and on behalf of the owners and the staff, i'd like to welcome you all to tonight's event. just a couple of housekeeping items. first of all, if you could turn off or silence your cell phones, it'd be greatly appreciated. for the q&a, please remember to step up to the microphone we have set up here on your right. [laughter] before asking your questions, as we are being filmed. hi, folks at home. and so we can all -- it's being recorded, and we can all hear and partake in the conversation. copies of tonight's book are all behind the registers at the front of the store if you'd like to purchase one, and i highly recommend that you do. lastly, after the event it'd be a great help if you'd fold up
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your chairs and lean them up against the neuroest wall or book shelf -- nearest wall or book shelf. kate brower covered the obama white house for bloomberg news. she's the author of "the new york times"' bestseller, "the residence: inside the private world of the white house." i can honestly say "the residence" is one of my favorite books. anytime a customer asks me for a nonfiction be selection in paper back, you can usually find me walking to it before they finish their sentence. kate shines a light on one of the most misunderstood and challenging of roles, that of the first lady of the united states. she shares an astonishing amount of stories from various first ladies as well as their closest associates. these stories range from shocking to tragic to heartfelt. first or women is a new york times best seller and has gotten great reare views.
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"usa today" wrote it's a surprisingly deep look at the women who sometimes overshadow their husbands. without further ado, help me welcome in kate andersen brower. [applause] >> thank you very much, that was the nicest intro i've ever gotten -- [laughter] so you made my day. so, yeah, i wrote a book called "the residence" about the maids and butlers at the white house that came out last year, and that inspired me to write this book about the first ladies because the white house staff would often say when a decision comes from the second floor, that means it's coming from the east wing, the first lady herself. and i always thought that was really interesting. their relationship with the first lady led me to delve into the role of first ladies and what is it like.
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it's one of the hardest jobs, you know, because there's no job description for it. they don't have any idea what they're supposed to do, and you're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. i interviewed three first ladies for the residence, and i was amazed at how candid rosalynn carter was about how difficult it is to watch your husband and campaign for your husband and then have him lose an election. and these women work incredibly hard behind the scenes. and especially with this election that we are going through as we speak, it's going to be fascinating to see who the presidential spouse be had been and will it be the first man to ever occupy the role. we don't even know what we'd call him, the first gentleman, i guess, who was a former president, of course, which will change the mold forever and maybe make it easier for first
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ladies in the future to continue their careers and to perhaps have, you know, a bigger seat at the table. women like hillary clinton and rosalynn carter, you know, sat in on cabinet meetings. hillary clinton famously had an office in the west wing. and i think most people -- many people in this country were not happy with the extent of involvement that both of those women had in the white house. and so we'll see if bill clinton changes any of that. and melania trump, of course, would be the first immigrant first lady. i mean, luis adams -- louisa adams was born in london, but her father was american, so it would be really interesting to see melania having both of her parents being slovenian. but i covered the white house for bloomberg news, and when i was there, i had a lunch with michelle obama and about a a dozen other reporters, mostly women, who covered the east wing. and at this lunch that was to
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promote the let's move campaign, she made an offhand remark about president obama finally kicking his smoking habit. and that became the huge headline from this lunch. and that also made me think, you know, the whole lunch was very staged, and she was really not very -- you know, it was something that was meant to promote this signature issue, and the one offhand, kind of honest comment she made totally overtook the whole point of the lunch. so that also made me think about the limitations placed on these women, the pressure put on them. they are constitutionally required to be perfect. [laughter] it's really an incredible job. when i interviewed steve ford, betty ford's son, he said my mother wasn't perfect. she said she was an ordinary woman in an extraordinary time. and i think it's their imperfection and humanity that makes them so compelling and interesting. and without these women, their husbands wouldn't have been elected, and that's almost to a person, and i start the book
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with jackie kennedy mostly because i wanted to interview people who were still alive and talk to people who were there. i interviewed a wonderful woman who was lady bird johnson's social secretary, so i wanted to start with jackie also because she's probably, next to eleanor roosevelt, the most famous first lady we've ever had. i did more than 200 interviews with white house aides, first ladies' friends, and i was also for this book happy because i got to speak with a few resident staffers who wouldn't talk to he for my first book including the head butler, george haney, who -- he was very tough to get. for the first book he would not answer my phone call, but then finally i was able to get an interview with him, and he had some great stories that were really illuminating about what it's like for the obamas in the white house because he's one of the butlers who worked on the second floor. and one thing i thought that he said that was really interesting was that just the security
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concerns that the obamas -- and every first family faces, but especially the obamas -- and he talked about how on truman balcony, that he would want to have dinner outside, sometimes the butlers would suggest they not eat outside because there were too many people crowded around the south lawn dates. and when they do can seat them, they have to make sure they're positioned behind columns. it's a really incredibly stressful race place to live. and be i thought that really shed light on the prison-like elements of the white house that michelle obama has talked about recently and how to she can't wait to leave. [laughter] which, again, i think is interesting because she and hillary clinton are so very different. hillary clinton can't wait to come back into the white house, and michelle can't wait to get out. [laughter] another thing i really wanted to get into with this book was this profound sense of empathy that these women have for each other, so there are these great letters that you can find in the presidential libraries that
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show, you know, lady bird johnson writing to jackie kennedy and these relationships that go on well past their years in the white house. and some of these letters were really touching and, you know, lady bird writing to caroline kennedy, for instance, after john kennedy jr.'s death in the plane crash and to just think about the incredible history that the johnsons and the kennedys have had together. lady bird was, you know, in the motorcade when jfk was killed, and i thought it was a really interesting window into this personal dynamic that these women have. i also thought it was very sweet that letters that lady bird johnson would write to other first ladies, she would write do not answer in all caps in the margins because she didn't want them to feel compelled to write anything. if they were, you know, sometimes these women would learn about an illness or, you know, for instance when president reagan was diagnosed with alzheimer's, there are some
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wonderful letters between betty in order and barbara bush writing to nancy reagan where they really feel for her, and there's an incredible kind of personal element with these letters back before everyone used e-mail all the time. so it's very nice to see that kind of personal dynamic. one thing i also thought was really interesting, i started this book out wondering if there was a letter that first ladies leave for each other in the same way that there's a letter that presidents leave for each other. i found out that there isn't. they don't have a formal letter, but they do do this white house tour, and that's really the substitute where, you know, between the election in november and the inauguration in january, the outgoing first lady gives the incoming first lady -- or first gentleman, potentially in this case -- a tour of the second and third floors of the white house. and during this tour, they offer each other advice. after the 2000 election hillary
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clinton told laura bush not to let the responsibilities of her new role cloud her decision making. hillary had always regretted turning down an invitation from jackie kennedy can. jackie had invited her and chelsea to go to the ballet in new york, but hillary said she was too busy and couldn't make it, and jackie passed away a few months later. so hillary always regretted that, and she wanted to pass on this piece of advice to laura. and she also told laura she regretted having an office in the west wing. and i spoke with one clinton aide who talked about, you know, they wished that that they -- when they saw the public reaction to it, they wished they could have turned back time and not had that west wing office and perhaps she was too ambitious thinking she could recreate the role of first lady when the public wasn't ready for it. another thing that's very interesting is there's this one spot where they can stand where the outgoing first lady and the incoming first lady stand, and
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they can point to the oval office from the second floor from a dressing room and see into the oval office, and every first lady will take the incoming first lady to the spot and say if you stand right here, you can see your husband working. [laughter] so it's a way for them to feel connected, i think, in some ways to their lives. they do feel very confined. a lot of them, i was surprised to learn, worked out of the residence. nancy reagan rarely went to the east wing. and she had one secretary, well, close aide who would deliver news to her in the residence. i think that would be incredibly klaus phobic, you know? -- claustrophobic, you know? betty ford called it a one-bedroom apartment, you know, feeling like you're upstairs all the time. and when laura bush gave michelle obama her first tour of the white house, she was eager to assure michelle that a life could be made there for her daughters, and she wanted the
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tour to be special and private even though michelle had brought along a staffer, and so laura told michelle's aide, this is really for michelle and i, you can meet with my staff, this is a private visit for us. andi thought it was interesting that michelle brought an aide because she came from the corporate world x she thought this was what you do, but it was really not keeping with protocol. and there are a lot of things you don't know about until you do them, and that's one of those smaller things that michelle -- she also brought a gift which apparently you don't do either, so there are all these little things that you don't know that are faux pass that your not supposed -- you're not supposed to do. another thing i thought was interesting about how michelle obama approached being first lady that i think speaks volumes about her is that the residence staff always leaves a folder of information for the president and the first lady to review on
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a console table outside their bedroom on the second floor. and michelle obama didn't like having to walk by this table and and see this work all the time. she wanted the second floor living space to be strictly for her daughters and to feel like home to them as a family. and so she asked for her folder to be put in an office area and for the president's folder of work to be put in the treaty room which is, essentially, an office on the second floor of the white house. and i think that's a really interesting, small change, but i think it speaks volumes about how the obamas have approached life in the white house with two young daughters. also a white house usher told me they're the first first family to turn off the lights themselves on the second floor, that before them an usher would turn off the lights at the end of the night. i think that also speaks to their kind of middle class, you know, roots whereas the bushs, for instance, especially barbara bush and george h.w. bush, they grew up with a lot of wealth, and i think they were much more
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used to some of this, and that's getting back to my first book. but the resident saf said they were really -- staff said they were really great to work for, because they were used to being catered to in a lot of ways. and i think michelle obama and president obama found it a little bit more difficult to feel like someone was always listening in to their conversations. now, the relationships, i have a chapter in the book about the sisterhood among these women, and there's one chapter about bad blood between them that comes out, you know, during campaign season especially and another chapter about the sisterhood. i do think that the sisterhood is very powerful, and i think it's really interesting that it doesn't have to do with party lines, you know? a lot of these friendships are between republicans and democrats. for instance, michelle obama and laura bush are much more similar, you know, temperament wise than michelle obama and hillary clinton.
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barbara bush and nancy reagan really didn't get along at all. in fact, someone asked nancy reagan after they left the white house about barbara bush, and nancy said i really didn't get to know her that well. but they had been there for eight years together. and i interviewed one of nancy reagan's very close aides who said that, you know, it's essentially like if your husband is a law partner and my husband is a law partner, it doesn't mean that we have to get along x. i thought that was an interesting sort of illuminating thing to say about the dynamic between these women. and that really came out very clearly because jackie kennedy would not go back to the white house when lady bird johnson asked her to come back. it was too painful for her after her husband's assassination, and lady bird really wanted her to come back for the dedication of the garden in her name. and jackie wouldn't go until pat nixon asked her to come back. now, more time had passed, but
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it's interesting to see this meeting between a republican fist lady and a democrat, i mean, two women who could not be more different, you know, standard bearers for their party. and it's a really dramatic scene where on february 3, 1971, jackie visited the white house for the first time since her husband's assassination. and it's a private -- there was a private visit. she would only go if no one knew about it. she didn't want any press there, and she went for the unveiling of the official portraits, hers and her husband's portrait. and she brought along 13-year-old caroline and 10-year-old john kennedy jr., and they had a very awkward dinner with the nixons where john kennedy jr. apparently spilled his milk and lightened the mood considerably. it was very difficult for her to go back. i mean, there were a lot of happy memories, but it was also very sad for her. and there were wonderful letters at the kennedy library that are just incredible that john
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kennedy jr. wrote to pat nixon and president nixon saying i can never thank you more for showing us the white house, and he talks about sitting on the lincoln bedroom bed where his father had slept and making a wish he would do well in school which i think is very sweet. it's kind of a touching thing, that they went for this visit and that she went back, that jackie went back when pat nixon invited her to. these women were rivals in 1960, during the 1960 campaign. pat nixon even wanted a recount, she was so upset at the result. so this was not an easy relationship. the most poignant letter, though, came from jackie herself written in her signature spidery stationery. can you imagine the gift you gave us to return to the white house privately with my little ones, she wrote. the day i always dread canned
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turned out to be one of the most precious ones i have spent with my children. may god bless you all. and i just think that shows the humanity among these women, that they do go through so much, and they understand intimately what it's like to live in the white house and to go through, you know, the sort of security concerns and the painful loss that jackie went through is something that pat nixon could understand and kind of sympathize with. during the 1976 presidential campaign, rosalynn carter was on her way to pay her respects to lady bird johnson whose husband had been the most recent democratic president. the day before their meeting, jimmy carter's embarrassing playboy interview was published where he talked about committing adultery in his heart many times and and something else he talked about was how nixon and johnson both lied and cheated and distorted the truth and merely mentioning johnson and nixon in
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the same breath at that time so close to watergate was anathema to democrats. so here's rosalynn carter in this awkward position very shortly after this article ran. rosalynn turned to an aide who was close with the johnsons and said what does mrs. johnson think about the interview, what should i say about it? the aides say you don't say anything, mrs. carter. you a southern lady -- you're a southern lady, it won't be brought up. and it wasn't. [laughter] so, i mean, these women, there's a code. lady bird johnson knew better than anyone what it was like to deal with a husband who offended and upset people at times. president johnson was not an easy man to live with at all, and so i think that that, again, shows their very close bond and their understanding. another thing that's interesting, and i mentioned this, is the prison-like element, and you do hear
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michelle obama talk very candidly about just wanting to roll down the windows of a car and have the freedom to do that, this very simple thing. when i interviewed the chief usher who ran the white house, essentially, he told me that michelle really wanted him to call her michelle, and she said, you know, i really want someone to call me michelle and not mrs. obama or first lady, and he said he couldn't do it. from then on, very few people would ever call her michelle even though she desperately wanted them to. and when i interviewed aides to the obamas, they said, you know -- and this was two years ago or a year and a half ago, and they said they're ready, they're done, she cannot wait to leave the white house. and so i'm sure that that has only ramped up in the recent months. she misses being able to pend time with her daughters without being swarmed by photographers and reporters, close obama aide has a child around the same age as one of obamas' daughters, and
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i talked to him, and he told me during soccer season the first lady would tease him that he'd probably be tied up all weekend doing carpools. and he said, yeah, probably with a shrug, and he said i'm sure you don't miss it, and she replied, oh, you'd be surprised. is so those little things like carpools they really do seem to miss. and michelle's mother is lonely too. she is in a suite on the third floor. i've been told it's not that, you know, it sounds much more luxurious than it is. it's just a bedroom with a small sitting room attached to it, and the head butler who i interviewed for this book, george haney, he felt so bad for marian robinson one morning when he was serving her breakfast, he said, you know, do you want to get out a little bit, my wife would love to take you to the mall and go out for lunch. so his wife shirley took marian out to an up disclosed location, because apparently they go there a lot.
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but it was just a suburban shopping mall, and she said it was very fun. it's a sweet thing that she can't wait to get out a little bit herself too. and i talked a little bit about where they physically work from. michelle obama works from her east wing office and really does keep more of a distinction between the private and work life. i think with a lot of the other first ladies, especially nancy reagan, there was a little bit of bleeding over. i mean, nancy reagan was one of the most involved first ladies in, you know, of all time. she was someone who had, you know, chief of staff don regan famously fired, although other people wanted him fired as well. i mean, she was someone who was influencing who her husband's chief of staff was and who was surrounding him in his cabinet which is incredibly powerful. that's the most powerful position you could be in, is deciding who's surrounding the president. one aide called her the human resources department, essentially.
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[laughter] and i think nancy reagan is really interesting, too, because when i interviewed resident staffers about her, they said she was very particular and that that could be really upsetting. a lot of times she wasn't happy, there were stories about her being so angry if, you know, the dessert wasn't exactly what she wanted, if she asked for asparagus and she got green beans, there'd be hell to pay. but the flip side of that was she was also very meticulous, and so when the gorbachevs came for this historic visit to washington, the first time since khrushchev had been here, the white house had never looked more beautiful. and she had the flowers changed three times in one day. and because she understood -- in every room. i mean, it was just, she understood the power of the white house. and the flip side of that is, of course, she was criticized for being queen nancy and spending too much money. so, and it's also sad, i talked
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to a friend of hers who described watching nancy reagan after her husband was diagnosed with alzheimer's. nancy went to the republican convention, it was the first time she had gone without him, and she started tearing up at the podium when she was talking. and this friend called mrs. reagan up afterwards and said, you know, i was so happy to see you be be express i and be so honest -- expressive and be so honest and emotional, and nancy reagan said, you know, i felt i had to build a wall up around myself in the white house, and i could never really let people see that side of me. so i think there's something to that, that she felt that she had to be kind of the strong one. and when i interviewed ron reagan, their son, he said that his mother was, you know, very brave, and she would take a lot of criticism that president reagan didn't want to take. he wanted everyone to love him. and she didn't really care if people liked her or not, she just wanted to get things done. so you could look at her legacy
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as first lady as one of incredible bravery in some ways. i mean, she got -- she did get things done. and i talked a little bit about, well, i mean, the nancy -- nancy did not have a great relationship with a lot of other first ladies, she didn't get along with barbara bush. there were even rumors floating that nancy reagan wanted the carters to move to blair house so that she could start redecorating before the inauguration. [laughter] which is, i mean, that would be unprecedented, to the make a family do that. and she certainly did not offer to leave the white house early when it was her turn to move out. she and barbara bush had such a bad relationship that when barbara had a little idea of what the residence looked like, and she had been married to the vice president for eight years. she'd been rarely invited to parties in the residence. and in his private diary, president george h.w. bush wrote
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very bluntly in 1988, he said nancy does not like barbara. nancy, he said, was jealous of his wife. she feels barbara has the things that she, nancy, doesn't have, and she'll never be in barbara's class. so i think it's a very complicated relationship between these women, and there was no official tour of the residence until january 11th for the bushs. it was very brief and unsatisfying. [laughter] and be when a negative biography of nancy reagan was published, barbara snapped it up but slapped another cover on the book jacket so no one would know what she was reading -- [laughter] which is, i mean, she's really very witty and funny, and when i interviewed her, i really enjoyed talking to her. but i did absolutely see her doing something like that. so that's a little bit about bad blood. there's also, you know, some bad blood between barbara bush and hillary clinton. it's very interesting, in 1992 there was this "vanity fair" argue during the campaign. hillary -- article during the campaign.
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hillary is quoted talking about george h.w. bush's alleged affair, and she says in the article apparently it's all well known in washington. be and barbara bush, who is incredibly defensive and loyal to her husband, was so upset by this. she had this reporter come up to the west sitting hall, and i interviewed him, and he described how she was sitting there dressed in a very prettily lack suit, but her intentions were very clear, you know? it was the focus of her day was making sure that nobody believed these sick and ugly rumors, she called them. but it really was sinking low, and in her mind -- in barbara bush's mind -- it was really going against the code of what you can do as first lady. hillary clinton, of course, was not a typical, you know, candidate's wife. and she was much more involved in some of that harsher, you know, campaigning, and she was much more involved than a lot of these women are in policy, obviously. and it's very interesting what public statements have been made, you know?
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in a 2000 interview, four months before her eldest son was elected president, barbara bush went on the record and said laura would not get into foreign affairs or controversial subjects. i think she would rather make a positive impact on the country. and then she said i'm not criticizing mrs. clinton, but it's like oil and and water. we're talking about two different people. i think laura thinks of others, which is very kind of catty and, you know, clearly -- [laughter] what she's saying there. and then i did talk to a few people who told me that when george h.w. bush visits -- when bill clinton visits george h.w. bush at their kennebunkport come come -- compound, there's a reason why hillary clinton isn't in tow, you know? they're just not close. and i think it's hard for some of these people to bury the hatchet. these campaigns, as we see now, are very passionate and very personal. and i talked a little bit about the security issue. i did talk to some staffers for
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this book who really wanted to drill home the idea that they're more concerned than ever about security in the white house, that more part-time staff is being hired and that they think that the first family is definitely more vulnerable now than they've ever been. in an effort to cut down on costs, the white house isn't having as many permanent staffers work during state dippers, and this was something that three of -- dinners, and this was something that three of these resident staffers were passionate about telling me, and i felt that, you know, they really are so loyal to the white house and to just -- no matter who is president. and so they really wanted to make sure that that point was out there. they feel that this is not something that you should be trying to skimp, you know, or save money on security issues. so anyway, obviously, as we go forward with this election, i'm actually, i was saying i have to do an afterword for the paperback version of this book,
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and it's supposed to come out in january, so i have to do one for melania and one on bill which is really interesting and challenging to do one for each. so we'll see. but it's going to be -- it's a fascinating time to be talking about the presidential spouse, because i think it's changing completely. and no matter who wins, it will be transforming the role probably forever. i would love to take questions if you have any. >> okay. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you. >> this is a question you've actually already answered sort of half of at least. but i think there's some other parts. the question is, has it gotten harder just in general for the first lady or the first spouse to live in the white house?
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and the security aspects of that have almost certainly gotten worse than they ever were. but i'm wondering whether -- the journalism has changed too. the news cycle's gotten shorter, and maybe just the increasing involvement of first ladies in policy and so so forth, say starting with nancy reagan and then moving to hillary clinton. whether the job is tougher, i was struck by the comment that it's like a prison and just wondering whether that's something that they feel now and that they didn't feel in the past? beyond even the security aspects of it. >> that's a good question, thank you. i think that they feel it more now. i mean, the obamas have had -- it's been kind of debated, but
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they initially at at least had, you know, more threats. so that does up the security. and the feeling of it being like a prison. but i think for a long time, i mean, betty ford describing her one-bedroom apartment in the white house, you know, the feeling of living and not being fully in control of your life and having to give up i your career, i think that's something that will probably change if bill clinton becomes first gentleman, that maybe we will see a first lady allowed to continue a career as long as there are not conflicts of interest. i just think she's a little bit -- i think michelle obama might be more month about the feel -- more honest about the feeling, although barbara bush really loved living in the white house, and she told me she would move back there in a heartbeat if she didn't have to do anything, you know? [laughter] so it just really fends on the personality. i think laura bush also really enjoyed it. i think it's entirely dependent on who's in that position, but i
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do think the security is only going to get, to be a bigger and bigger issue, which is why it is, i think, a bit concerning that they're cutting down on the full-time staff who know what's going on and recognize people and things like that. >> how about the journalism part? is it getting tougher to deal with journalists on the part of first ladies or the family in general or not? >> i don't know the answer to that. i think that they control the message at the white house pretty well. i mean p i think they were -- i mean be, i think they were able to kind of avoid, you know, she doesn't do many interviews. she does a lot of late night television, ellen and jimmy fallon and things like that, but it's very controlled. i actually think this white house is one of the -- i only was, i was a white house reporter during the first term of the obama administration, so my experiences with this white house, but when i spoke with people that covered the bush white house, they said it was slightly easier. i think with each administration
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as technology evolves, they can tweet and facebook and instagram and just kind of control the message and not have to answer reporters' questions as much. so i guess i don't -- >> just an impression i had that journalists feel more comfortable asking uncomfortable questions. there used to be respect in the past that kind of protected -- >> yeah. i don't know, yeah. when i was researching nixon, i was really interested in julie nixon during watergate doing, actually, standing in for her father at a press conference. and one of the reporters said, you know, this is absurd that you're taking questions. your father should be here answering these questions. and i felt that was very blunt of a reporter. >> right. >> so i don't know. i think that access is not necessarily -- i mean, there was a time when kennedy and johnson were friends with reporters and had, like, real relationships with them. so i mean from a -- i tend to take the reporter's perspective on that. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> kind of an unfair question,
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but by the way, "the residence" was an excellent book. >> thank you. >> who was your favorite of the modern first ladies? [laughter] you don't have to answer the opposite, but i would like to hear that one. >> i really think, to me, that's an easy question because i think that betty ford, who was there for the shortest amount of time, two and a half years, you know, is the first lady who's had the biggest impact long term because of the betty ford center and also because she had breast cancer in the white house, had a mastectomy and openly talked about it and was very, very honest in interviews, the famous "60 minutes" interview where she talked about how when she was a teenager, she would smoke pot. i mean, she was just incredibly honest to a fault in a lot of faces. and i think she's the one. but, i mean, the betty ford center, to actually admit that you have an a addiction problem and then to help other people, i think that's pretty powerful. and eleanor roosevelt, of course, but i don't talk about her that much. >> how about the ones that
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you've met that you talked to for this book. >> oh, i think rosalynn carter is the most honest and blunt of the first ladies, and she talks about still being upset that her husband lost in 1980, and it's the biggest regret of her life. i think that's incredible, that this many many years later she's so passionate about it. and i like the honesty of rosalynn carter. >> i was surprised to learn that barbara bush and marilyn quayle didn't get along. >> oh, yeah. i mean, they really didn't get along at all. i think that some of marilyn's friend told me that it was sort of barbara bush had been, you know, her model of first lady was nancy reagan who didn't treat her terribly well, and so she kind of repeated that and doesn't treat marilyn quayle that well. apparently, she was very cold, and it was very hard for the quayles to get invitations to state dinners and very hard for them to get into the residence and things like that.
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and so, and you'll notice the quayles really don't do interviews. there's not much -- they've been really very quiet. and she wouldn't talk to me for this book. but there's a lot of just bad feelings there. they're also different generations. marilyn will was a lot younger and had a young family too. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> i think something of great interest to me and michelle obama's a prime example is the first lady usually has some major national initiative. in the case of michelle obama, it was getting schools to have gardens, vegetable gardens, and i actually got to plant such a garden with michelle obama in 2009. >> oh, wow. >> just was in the right place at the right time, and it all came together for our organization. natural partners. but it would be interesting for you if you could comment a little on, you know, say michelle obama's national
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initiative and how that compares with others and how that tradition got started. >> i think that -- i mean, i think of her let's move and her military family campaign as the signature issues, but that also an important one, and that ties in with the healthy eating because of the planting and the vegetables and the organic and all of that that she's done. i think it's a much more ambitious campaign than people think. >> it is. very senate. >> it is. and -- very significant. >> it is, and she's going up against this huge industry, the food industry. i mean, walmart, mcdonald's, these companies that have lowered their sodium in their foods that are offered because of the let's move campaign and that kind of pressure that she's brought to bear. so i think that it is an ambitious idea. it's interesting because when i interviewed some clinton aides, they thought michelle obama hadn't done enough in the white
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house, they felt she gave up a lot of gains that hillary clinton had made. so there is a seasons as one who went to princeton and harvard, maybe she should have done more. that goes to the point you're kind of damned if you do and damned if you don't. she's done a lot of very good work. but i -- they are all expected to pick some apolitical issue, and i think hers is surprisingly not controversial, but am establish. ambitious. >> i thought it such, yeah. >> yeah, absolutely. >> what would be a runner-up? >> for like the signature campaigns that they're doing? >> i actually think, i mean, laura bush came into it with literacy and following in barbara bush's footsteps, but then after 9/11 she became the first first lady to do the presidential radio address, she became very outspoke been on supporting women -- outspoke been on supporting women in afghanistan. so i think she ended up being
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really consequential in that way, just being an advocate for women in the middle east. and i guess the just say no campaign, but i think of to those campaigns as kind of stilted, like you're expected to do it. i wasn't as interested in the campaigns as in, like, the personalities of these women. >> right. >> but it's actually, i think michelle obama deserves a lot of credit for let's move and the military family campaign, i -- >> i agree. >> thank you. >> okay, this is a little high. >> you can just say it loudly. >> okay. so if hillary clinton wins, this will be the first time since george h.w. bush that there won't be young children in the white house. and i was kind of wondering if you could speak to how culture, the culture of the white house or particularly in, like, the residence is different when there is younger children. >> that's a great question because they all love it when
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there's younger children. i mean, the butlers especially, and they would -- and the chefs. i mean, when i talked to the head pastry chef, he talked about how fun it was, you know, to help chelsea and her friends cook, and they gave them cooking lessons. but especially when there's really young kids, they love that. i mean, they describe watching caroline and john kennedy jr. with pitter patter of feet in the hallway, and you read these great oral histories from tish bald ridge and other kennedy aides talking about the dynamic there. it's much lighter. i think hillary clinton, she'll probably bring her two grandchildren there to visit, so there will be that dynamic to it. when i talked to some social secretaries, they said they think hillary will probably be on the white house tour, you know, that it would want to make sense for her to see where could she put the cribs for the grandchildren. i just don't know if there would
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be time for her to think about things like that, but it's interesting that the expectation is that she would be both president and first lady at the same time, you know, because there's no one to be first lady which is kind of -- i think they'll hire a really experienced social secretary to do a lot of that stuff -- >> yeah. >> because bill -- >> i read your article about, actually, about -- >> oh, you did? >> bill clinton. >> yeah. >> i've been saying for years if hillary clinton becomes the president, i really want the inaugural ball tux that bill wears to be in the smithsonian with all of the first ladies' dresses. [laughter] >> yes, absolutely. and we should be be critiquing what he's wearing every day and his hair. [laughter] it's only fair. absolutely. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> the wives of governors who go on to become president, they've had experience being the wife of a chief executive. i know in the state where i lived before i moved down here,
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the wife of the incumbent governor was in the public eye always at events, ribbon cuttings, picture in the newspaper every other day, the spouses of the two senators, i couldn't even tell you their names. is there any difference in the way that wives of governors -- laura bush, nancy reagan, hillary clinton -- is there any difference in the way they approached the role having somewhat an equivalent experience? >> when i talked to barbara bush about hillary clinton, and i said the clintons, you know, i heard they weren't as comfortable in the white house, and maybe it's because they weren't used to being, you know, surrounded by help and everything, and barbara bush said, are you kidding me? she's the wife of a governor. she was not, you know, she was used to being, you know, in the public eye. so like you are saying, she was used to a degree of help. and rosalynn carter talked about how amy was 3 years old running around in the governor's mansion, and tourists were
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taking photos, so for amy, it wasn't a big deal. the press went crazy when amy went to public school, and they took photos of her. and rosalynn said, you know, to us, it wasn't -- amy had always grown up in the public eye, and people forget about what it's like being in the state, you know, the press in the state is very consumed with the golf and his eye -- the governor and his wife. and you're right, not the senator and spouses at all, which is interesting. i think they're definitely better prepared, and i think that's why the obamas -- as we all know -- had such an incredibly quick rise to the top. they didn't have any of that sort of experience, and so it's, i think it's much more difficult for people who haven't gone through real campaigns -- and the fords too. i mean, they described the kids putting their feet up on the coffee table, betty ford saying, you know, that's jefferson's coffee table, get your feet off that. [laughter] so he had only run in one campaign in michigan, and then suddenly he's president, you know? his rise was very swift.
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so i think it says -- the women who have been married to a governor have kind of a leg up in that way, yeah. >> thanks. >> hi. >> i came in late, so i apologize if you covered this already, but i'm curious about the staff of the first lady. what's the size of the staff like? does it change depending on who it is? is it 5 or 20? is the chief of staff for the first lady a powerful job in the way it is for the president? >> well, you know this better than i do. >> i do not. [laughter] >> he's a reporter. [laughter] i think that, i mean, tina chen, michelle obama's chief of staff, is very powerful, and everything gets routed through her. the east wing right now with the obamas is very controlled. because michelle obama doesn't go into the west wing very often, tina chen is the conduit for her. the staff size has changed a lot. rosalynn carter was the first lady to work out of the east
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wing, and i really don't remember the numbers off the top of my head, but i think it was in the 20s, i mean, expanding the staff. i mean, back when it was jackie kennedy, the social secretary, the chief of staff, the press secretary -- that's a relatively new thing too, and there's also a deputy press secretary. so it's, you know, it's certainly more than 20, i think, and then you also have calligraphers wrote work out of the east wing office. but as the role of the first lady has become bigger and bigger, the staff has gotten bigger. hillary clinton's staff works in the west wing, also the old executive office building. i mean, the staff has kind of -- it really depends on who the first lady is how they want to structure it. this white house is more traditional in that, you know, it's very much east wing. michelle obama rarely goes into the west wing, i'm told. and so i think the if bill clinton -- if the clintons move
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in, you know, there's going to be a whole revamping of the east wing staff, and probably it will be even more sidelined, you know? because the east wing is always kind of looked down upon by west wing. i think there's a little bit of a battle of the sexes going on still, you know, mostly male, mostly female. so i think if bill clinton is in this position be, he will not really be involved in flowers and guest lists which will make the east wing even less of a force, you know? but i don't know if that really -- >> since we are in a bookstore and we are on c-span and even though i'm a democrat, i would like to give a shout out to laura bush for her promotion of the national book festival here in washington, d.c. which i think has been tremendous and has really carried on after her. >> no, absolutely. yeah, she's done a lot of good. i was surprised to learn that she's very, she's tougher than a lot of people might think. i mean, she's been through a lot.
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and another thing that i think bill clinton would be particularly good at and people don't think about is how the first lady is really the consoler in chief, you know? these are the women who after 9/11, for instance, go to memorial services is and really have to be kind of emotional supports for the country sort of the rock for their husbands too. and you just think of all the horrific things that they have to do, and i think people don't necessarily give someone like laura bush enough credit for that, for what she went through as first lady. that was a really traumatic time to be first lady. >> i think this'll be the last question. >> oh, the pressure's on. [laughter] i wanted to ask a question about washington, d.c. and the first lady's relationship or the first family's relationship to washington d.c. i mean, we've seen various, you know, news stories about outings that some of the presidents have had and other haven't really related to d.c. at all. so i'd like to have your take on that. >> yeah.
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i mean, if you talk to the clinton supporters, they'll say, you know, if the clintons come back, it'll be great because bill clinton used to on quiet weekends go to the smithsonian, you know, gallery of art and relax, you know, that he's very much a fan of washington and the culture and the restaurants and all of that. and they know it very well. and that donald trump would be much less kind of wanting to stay -- i mean, people even talk about him not living in the white house which i can't imagine -- [laughter] i don't think that would go over very well, most people won't like that. but i think there is, yeah, it's a very complicated relationship. there are great stories about pat nixon and hillary clinton both putting on baseball caps at different decades, obviously, but walking through the streets, you know, around the white house or in georgetown just trying to go out for a walk and escape the sort of klaus phobic life -- claustrophobic life in the white house. the obamas do go out to dinner.
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michelle obama, every time she goes to some hot spot be, i think there has been some sense that they've, you know, done some good for the food scene in the city, especially her outings. but it's a really complicated relationship that they have with the town, and i think that the clintons probably because they are so experienced and know washington so well, i think they would probably be going out a fair amount, but i don't know. i don't know. thank you so much. i really appreciate it. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv brings you 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend.
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here are some of our programs this weekend. tonight at 8 p.m. eastern, booktv talks with the new librarian of congress, carla a hayden -- carla hayden. she's the first woman and african-american to hold the position. then at ten, "after words." new york times president and ceo mark thompson looks at what he calls the erosion of public language in his booker "enough said: what's gone wrong with the language of politics," which examines the change in language from fdr and churchill to donald trump. he's interviewed by arianna huffington, founder of the huffington post. >> politics, firstly, has changed in very substantial ways. and the kind of natural shape of politics based on class and very clear ideology has become more disrupted. and all over the western world you can feel the big, traditional political parties, the mainstream parties under pressure. >> sunday at 10 a.m. eastern,
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booktv is live from the brooklyn book festival. the festival is the largest free literary event in new york city featuring national and international literary stars and emerging authors. featured authors and topics include a discussion on economics with marc lamont hill, politics with sarah jaffe, fred kaplan on digital privacy, ralph nader looks at political parties and elections, military and war with molly crabapple, and ed young takes a look at viruses. go to for the complete weekend schedule. >> on february 3rd, 1971, jackie visited the white house for the first time since her husband's assassination. and there was a private visit. she would only go if no one knew about it. she didn't want any press there. and she went for the unveiling of the official portraits, her
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portrait and her husband's portrait, and she brought a along 13-year-old caroline and 10-year-old john kennedy jr. and they had a very awkward dinner with the nixons where john kennedy jr. spilled his milk and, apparently, lightened the mood considerably because it was very difficult for her to go back. i mean, there were a lot of happy memories, but it was also very sad for her. and there are wonderful letters at the kennedy library that are just incredible that john kennedy jr. wrote to pat nixon and president nixon saying i can never thank you more for showing us the white house, i really liked everything about it. and he talks about sitting on his -- the lincoln bedroom bed where his father had slept and making a wish that he would do well in school, which i think is very sweet. and so it's kind of a touching thing that they went for this visit and that she went back, that jackie went back when pat nixon invited her to. these women were rivals in 1960,
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during the 1960 campaign, and pat nixon even wanted a recount, she was so upset at the results. so this was not an easy relationship. the most poignant letter though came from jackie herself, written in her signature spidery handwriting on her sky blue stationery: can you imagine the gift you gave us to return to the white house privately with my little ones while they are still young enough to rediscover their childhood, he wrote. the day i always dreaded turned out to be one of the most precious be ones i have spent with my children, may god bless you all. i think that shows the humanity among these women, that they do go through so much and they do understand intimately what it's like to live in the white house and to go through, you know, the sort of security concerns and painful loss that jackie went through. it's something that pat nixon could understand and kind of sympathize with. during the 1976 presidential
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campaign, roz run carter was on -- the rosalynn carter was on her way to pay her respects to lady bird johnson. the day before their meeting, jimmy carter's embarrassing "playboy" interview was published where he talked about committing adultery in his heart many times and something else he said many that very embarrassing interview was where he talks about how nixon and johnson both lied and cheated and distorted the truth. and merely mentioning johnson and nixon in the same breath at that time so close to watergate was agnat ma to democrats -- anathema to democrats. so here's rosalynn carter in this awkward position of paying her respects to lady bird johnson, you know, very shortly after this article ran. and rosalynn turned to an aide who was very close with the johnsons and said what does mrs. johnson think about the interview, what should i say about it? and the aide said, you don't say anything, mrs. carter. you're a southern lady just like
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mrs. johnson, it won't be brought up. just be yourself. and it wasn't. so, i mean, these women, there's a code that, you know, lady bird johnson knew better than anyone what it was like to deal with a husband who fended and upset people at times. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> here's a look at the finalists for this year's national book award for nonfiction. retired army colonel andy bacevich identifies the events he believes led to america's increased presence in the middle east in "america's war for the greater middle east." in the firebrand and first lady, patricia bell scott recalls the friendshipbetween pauli scott and eleanor roosevelt. and time magazine's southeastern writer adam -- senior writer
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adam cohen in imbeciles. other final its for this year's national book award in nonfiction include arli russell for her report on the alienation felt in "strangers in their own land." in nothing ever dies, the vietnam war. or and kathy o'neill's weapons of math destruction argues that big data and computer models can be used to criminate against people. our -- to discriminate against people. our look at this year's finalists continues with a look at the enslavement of native americans in "the other slavery." american history professor -- [inaudible] documents the influence of the haitian revolution on abolition in "the slave's cause." and finally, heather ann thompson reports on the 1971 uprising at new york's attica correctional facility in "blood
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in the water." watch the announcement of the national book awards lye on c-span2 -- live on c-span2 on november 16th. many of these authors have appeared or will be appearing on booktv. you can watch them on our web site, [inaudible conversations] ..


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