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tv   Former President Obama at Rice University  CSPAN  November 27, 2018 9:05pm-9:34pm EST

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god had blessed him to put in front of him the example of eric liddell and he said it showed more importantly than winning a gold medal for setting a worldld record was fidelity to faith -- >> we are going to break away from the last minute or two and get you down to houston, texas where the former president barack obama will sit down with the former secretary james baker and presidential historian jon meacham and discuss experiences in office, bipartisanship and u.s. leadership abroad. we are going to take you now to houston, texas on c-span2. [applause] thank you, thank you.
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mr. president, welcome to texas. >> is good to be in houston. [cheering] congratulations on the victory yesterday. >> they beat the titans, so we don't want that, no thank you. we like to point out if it weren't for us you will still be part of spain so you can thank us later. [laughter] i made that jump to george w. bush when he was governor and he said haha, that's pretty funny, asshole. [laughter] >> if he wasn't that impressed you wouldn't be saying y'all, either. >> i am honored to be here. president ronal ronald reagan wm secretary baker's firm served so wonderfully and so well used to say when he was in hollywood he would get a call to come to dinner to speak and perform and reagan would say i don't sing or dance and the organizer would say we know, that you can introduce somebody who can, so my job is to introduce to people
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who can. i wanted to start with secretary baker and thank them for the thr remarkable institute, but even more importantly -- [applause] the half-century of service to america and to the world. [applause] as someone who spends most of his time thinking about the past and talking to dead people and it's when they talk back that you are in trouble, i must say it's hard to imagine and it's a great tribute to the country that two such different people come to the pinnacle of power and are able to lead the nation and the world in such a remarkable way. we have a man from texas and in princeton a marine who served in the administrations and from
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hawaii to the ivy league. ordinarily the president would go first. i would like to talk about how the world works on your watches, how washington works on your watches and how they didn't work and what can we learn from both of those positive and negative experiences. for narrative purposes, when you went to washington in 1981 as ththe chief of staff, what was e ambient reality of washington
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for you? there were a tough fight, but what was it like, how hard was it to get things done? >> before i try to answer that question let me say you honor us being here tonight and we are clear -- [applause] we are very appreciative and grateful for your being here. we were having dinner and when you ad edwards announcing those numbers i looked at the president and said 10% of that is yours and he said the hell il it is i'm not letting you off that cheap. i want the rolodex. [laughter]
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i think it is fair to say considerably different it wasn't as you pointed out not a big come by on moment everybody would agree to everything. the president is considered to be quite an ideologue was considered to be such a hard line conservatives and used to tell people our administrations are so conservative that the right-wing never does a what the far right wing is ever doing, but he was able to reach across the aisle.
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tip o'neill was the speaker of the house and didn't see anything hardly eye to eye on policy, but they both arrived in washington wanting to get something done for the country. and they would fight like hell during the day and at night retire at 5:00 and starts telling irish jokes and they found ways to cooperate and ways to get the nation's business done. in foreign-policy, i think it was a much easier time perhaps. although, in saying that, i want to make it clear nobody should have anything of nostalgia for the cold war. i'm old enough to remember those days when we had drills as schoolkids hiding under our desks because nuclear annihilation was a distinct threat.
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so in foreign-policy, perhaps we had a little bit easier formulating the policy because we knew what we were for. we were for whatever the soviets were against and we were against whatever the soviets were for. but it was extremely difficult even in those days just as it is today. on the domestic policy and how president reagan's 1986 tax reform act passed with democratic votes. it didn't jack up the budget
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deficit or the unsustainable debt of the united states. it was rather neutral and how also key and tip o'neill were able to come together to protect for 30 years the financial solvency of social security and get a little bit morning contribution to texas and democrats giving a little bit more in jacking up the retirement age, and it worked for 30 years. so from the standpoint of bipartisanship, which i know is an issue that's thei near to president obama is heart, there were more opportunities to see that happen. it didn't happen totally in foreign-policy when we decided they were going to reverse the aggression in kuwait.
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president bush was wise enough to go out and get the rest of the world on board for us and then to bring the congress a long. he wanted the congress not that he thought he needed it because he thought he could do it under his commander-in-chief powers, that he wanted the congress to be able to say they were supporting the american people. >> in the ear of pretty clearly something happened in the 1990s to 94 period and the
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revolt against 41 how much of the secretary's description of washington was true for you when you came to power and how much of the sound bite that we are describing? >> not much. let me compliment you for not only the extraordinary work that is being done at the institute and the ambassador and those that support what you're doing and those that are interning here and the excitement they are serving in various ways and got
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me excited but let me compliment jim for the extraordinary service that he rendered to the country. i had the pleasure of visiting my buddy 41 briefly this afternoon and i said this to you in the book that you wrote and i continue to believe it when it comes to foreign-policy, the work president george w. bush did with jim at his side was as important and deft and effective of the foreign-policy initiatives as we saw in recent years and deserve enormous credit for navigating the end of
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the cold war in a way that could have gone sideways, all kinds of ways. whether you are president or working for a president you don't always get credit when nothing happens. [laughter] and nothing happening is good. [applause] so now what i would say isn't particularly original that it is accurate by the time i took office there were a number of trends that had started to advance what some commentators are calling the great sorting and what they mean by that is when jim arrives in washington,
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1981, you still have a bunch of conservative democrats many of them from the south. you have republicans, many from the north who were extraordinarily liberal and environmental issues or civil rights issues on a whole range of topics. political scientists us used tot angry about the fact american parties don't make any sense. there is a hodgepodge of interest groups that are all stuck together and there isn't any rhyme or reason that the advantage of that is you have overlapping ideological spectrum
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so there were going to be some democrats could have a conversation with who in turn were going to put pressure on tip o'neill because they said if i'm going to try to keep my seat in tennessee you will have to give a little bit because reagan is popular down there and conversely, democrats would have to deal with the fact that there would be some republicans they could reach across the aisle because they have the same view on certain issues. there are a range of issues why that changed. some of it had to do with the shift in the media because in 1981, your new cycle was still governed by the stories that were going to be filed by aep
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"washington post," "new york times" and the broadcast station. whether it was cronkite or brinkley would have you, a common set of facts, a baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to. by the time i take office you have an entirely different reality than if you were a "new york times" reader i that means the basis of each respective party have become more ideological and it means members
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of congress now are entirely secure they will win their seat if they get the nomination. they have to worry. somebody further to my left were made right who's going to run against me in the primary and they then are not willing to stray from whatever the party line has become. you've got folks like rush limbaugh and others who are enforcing what they consider to the ideological in some sort. and when you combine that with the perpetual campaign that is fueled by highly ideological donors, what you have by the time i arrived as a congress that has difficulty getting out of the campaign mode and into government mode. we saw that even when we were in
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the midst of the worst financial crisis of the great depression. i still feel bad for charlie crist down in florida, a governor that is usually popular but haven't got the memo he wasn't supposed to cooperate with me. [laughter] and supported the recovery act at a time it was contracting faster than after the crash and 29. he's looking at it and said this is good for florida, the housing market has tanked i need to make sure that the shore things up, the budget is included. i think the fact that i gave him a bro hug --
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[laughter] i felt bad for the guy because he became a sublet inside of the republican media or the rush limbaugh fox medianews world which is how marco rubio got elected saying you are not a true believe her and it's gotten better not worse one of the things you discover as president is that supposed world war ii order that was constructed by fdr and truman and eisenhower and george marshall, the basic
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notion of liberal partisan terms but a pluralistic market based rules of law democracy and of those universal principles democratic and republican leaders believed in those things and the running thread from 1945 all the way through ronald reagan. there were certain ideas regardless whether it was far right or right you assumed you had to follow because the part
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of leadership in the world and what he has a great country. those are now being contested because we don't have a common base of information and i think the biggest challenge we are going to have the next ten, 15 years is to return to a civic conversation in which i say if this is a chair we agree it is. we can disagree on whether it is a nice chair or whether we should replace it or whether you want to move it over there, but we can't say that it's an elephant. [laughter] >> we were against obama chair. [applause] [laughter] that was a good chair by the way. [laughter]
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they tried to move it and didn't have a good time. [laughter] [applause] one thing i realized when i got to congress which is part of the reason i did a very long -- [laughter] and i am making a great generalization but the fact is members of congress are primarily motivated around keeping their seat. i can't tell you how many times during my presidency i would
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have those that are good people and sensitive people and say i would love to help you but i would get killed doing this. and i think that kind of pressure wasn't as -- that did in texas. every once in a while you would get a vote the leader would come in and say you've got to that wasn'putthat wasn't on every sim in the way it is today. >> another way to say it perhaps is that the responsible center in american politics has disappeared. we are a pretty evenly divided
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country, red state blue state. we have the constitutional requirements if you live in a state dominated by republicans they will draw more and more safe districts. represented in the congress to no longer take their families up there. there's no longer any social interaction in washington between the two parties. the last thing is you have the advantage of the internet, and that makes it easy to be divisive. divisiveness sells and comedy doesn't. if you can get somebody to say something outrageous, that person can get on tv.
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and lastly, i've got to tell you i think part of this problem is the responsibility of the media. our media today are no longer objective reporters of the facts the way they wear when i was there. they are as you pointed out, they are players. you tune into fox news and you'd think you were listening to the republican party. >> those kind of moves are what made baker so effective.
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in part by the way for a healthy reason which is a law that spouses have careers and so michelle was like you i got a job. [applause] but there is also the perpetual campaign that takes place which puts enormous pressure on every member of congress. they know they are being watched every minute. they are being scorecard by whatever group is out there every single minute. they don't feel like they can afford to be a way, if they move
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their family somebody's going to say he's gone washington, he doesn't believe that we are important anymore. so you create this atmosphere in which. folks are running scared all the time and to reflect and compromise and reduce. there are larger forces at work that are creating this. we have an economy that has the
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rural areas. those trends because of technology, globalization and forces are not going to reverse themselves anytime soon. california shifted to the nonpartisan independent commission that kerry is that gerrymandering. i am a strong proponent and have been supportive of eric holder's efforts to try to get more states to adopt a nonpartisan. it's absolutely true democrats do the same thing republicans do. if they are in control table two to maximize the number of seats they have, and vice versa.
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we are in texas by the way, which is a chance he can of some gerrymandering. [laughter] it is a fundamentally nondemocratic approach because what it does is the elected official chooses the voter rather than the other way around. this is an area you can have an impact and the states you are seeing the referendum in which the average voter gets it. >> i agree with you and i think that if we could get to the point that independent commissions were drawn in the district lines it would be


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