tv John Dickerson The Hardest Job in the World CSPAN September 5, 2020 10:15am-11:21am EDT
the contributions are striking. and there statutes and monuments need to remain on display. perhaps indicating that in addition to all of that making the point the that jefferson held slaves. is a valid historical point. it's not the level of terror and down the memorial. that is a presidential home outside of charlottesville. i think there is room for meaningful conversation here. i do not believe ever to watch the rest of this program visit our website. click on the in-depth tab.
>> hi everyone. i'm heather moran and i in the ceo of six and i. thank you so much for being here tonight. by joining us you are supporting us at a time where we are deeply impacted by the loss of income with times. we are very grateful to you. john dickerson has been a longtime friend we hosted the first live taping. during 2009 on the weekend of president obama's first inauguration. since then john has returned to our states many time tonight we are so excited to celebrate him and his fantastic new book which came out today. the office of the president looks a lot different now than it did back in 2009.
not only a party a power change. but the tone of position shifted. it has become an almost impossible job between trying to fulfill campaign promises and solving every surprising and urgent crisis that arises. as we prepare for the 2020 election could not be more timely to reevaluate how we view with the president. and how we choose our president and what we should expect from them once they are in office. john dickerson's impressive reporting. with the chief legal correspondent and anchor of the face the nation. co- coanchor of cbs this morning. he may have been born with the journalism gene. with the first female john will be joined in conversation tonight by another esteemed authority on the subject. susan page the washington
bureau chief of usa today we are so excited to have her here. in addition to covering six lighthouse administration susan has won multiple journalism awards. and is the new york times best-selling author of the matriarch barbara bush and the making of an american dynasty. i don't think we can be in more capable he -- capable hands. you can send them in through out the program. using the q&a program at the bottom of the zoom screen. also returning a link. you positively should buy them. think you again for joining us. and please help me welcome john dickerson and susan page into your home. >> we did it. it worked.
were out to an excellent start here. to those of you that had just joined. such as pleasure. thank you to all the people that are joining us. we are inviting you into our home. i'm here at my home in washington dc. john is at his home in new york. such an honor to do this on the publication date of john's wonderful new book. such a wonderful author and such a great thinker. and a great friend. john it's great to join you here today. i'm thrilled with you. we have talked so many years about the presidency and i'm using -- usually the one asking you questions. i will see if i can settle down and handle it here.
we will look at all the books on your bookshelf here. and also i want to think you wiese started this and we had been back a lot of times. it's a wonderful place to start this book to her. i'm thrilled. to. >> it is such a beautiful and historic venue also. we will look for to the day that we can physically be together. >> you won't get questions just for me over the next hour. also from other people who have joined us in the audience. you're welcome to submit our question. first, let's start. i cannot stop looking at the photo on the cover of your wonderful new book. it is remarkable picture tell us what you chose. in the summer of 1968. and it's one of those that on
the table there at the white house and what he is listening to is a report from chuck roth. he then went on to be governor of virginia. who is giving him a report. he's giving a report to his father-in-law about what is happening in the fighting. one of his son-in-law's. we don't know whether johnson once particularly overwhelmed by the reports although they were good. you can imagine he was. robert kennedy is this. it was a time of woe in america. they wrote a book about it. they have that picture had that picture also on the cover. we chose it because first of
all we want to be able to note right away. we have a present at the moment who is fascinating and interesting. obviously i write about him. it's about the burdens of the office. and that pretty quickly gets you write to the burdens. and also johnson my favorite quote about the presidency. it was nice to head him tea up there as well. >> what is your favorite quote about the presidency. you could basically just keep writing books about johnson and he was so colorful. both good and bad. sometimes it's like being a jackass and hailstorm. sometimes you just head to sit there and take it. that is a colorful way to do it. but also, it's one of the central questions about the author. what are the basic loop and
prints of the office. sometimes eaters have to you just head to sit there and take it. your job is to sit there and take it. i think as a i wrote in the book. donald trump hosted some of those obligations and instead of saying okay i will sit here and take it. he punches those obligations in the nose and says no i don't. i don't have to take it. it represents represents a change in our confederacy. let's go back to the founders. you describe it as the hardest job in the world overburdened and misunderstood. is it the job that they thought they were's surviving. they have always complained about the job. in fact john hanson who was the first president before washington. the president of the congress assembled.
it was really there wasn't much to do unless congress told him to do something. and he said the job was tremendously hard. they had been complaining about the job since it existed. it got harder because the founders wanted a limited job where they have the president who could act in moments of crisis and keep secrets because that was necessary for national security to basically where they have a mammoth role in creation of legislation into the handling of public business. a lot of those duties moved over into the presidency and everything from the second world war to the cold war. has put all kinds of power inside the white house because we are in a constant state of emergency where they thought you would have other emergencies where you would need an executive.
we could get into whether the president should have all the power that he does through the agencies. that would have terrified them. >> they thought you described them as thinking of the presidency as a risky bet. in one of my favorite things. your book is full of historical tidbits and one of my favorites is the book that george washington bought as he was leaving the constitutional commission to go back what did he buy for his reading pleasure. four volumes of don quixote. it was the hottest thing going. we spent four months in philadelphia where they nailed the women -- the windows shut. it was a hot summer can you imagine all of these men in their heavy clothing in a room with no air.
four months in there at the end of it. they sign the documents. they stop by a tavern. they buy the books and he's on his way back. it was quite an extraordinary thing that they were doing. they were so fearful of the monarchy and they were creating essentially something where you have an executive who is can have all this power and it was such a gamble. it was basically washington believes in the stream it could've turned out a little bit different and not possible to be fulfilled. fortunately for washington he picked the right dream and we still have presidency molded on what they built in that summer. >> let's talk about the origin story for this book. when did you first get the idea of this topic?
because you know part of what we do a lot of reporting and a lot of writing. has a can turn into the story. you pick a lead that really sets the stage. and sometimes you wonder after you start writing in my leaning too much on that story. is that more than really is the case. i remember very clearly in the driveway of the vacation home. in 2004 nancy gibbs and i were working for time magazine at the time. we got to interview president bush. when we have done interview that day and were standing in the driveway waiting for the car something and he said if you want to ask somebody if they be a good president are not asked them how they make
decisions. and what crystallized for me in the moment. it was was thinking about the job as it is in the difference between the job as it is and what you do all day. investigating what that means. relative to what we talk about a lot in campaigns. which tends to be all over the map. we talk about them in the abstract. when the president has to make decisions. back in 2004 i wrote a series of articles about the presidency kind of on the theme how would you do a job interview for the presidency. i touched on some of these themes. i remember the last two years i had been basically writing this and i can't believe it's done. you also kept up your day job. what that story tells us is
that you had been thinking about this for a long time for will before the time donald trump was elected. but it is impossible to talk about the presidency without thinking about donald trump. did his presidency change any of the conclusions or assumptions that went into your thinking about looking at the american presidency. in the challenge you put your finger on was the central one. part of the argument is. one of the things i discovered we have become a presidency and that's always stuck in my head. because of political science history. it is one of the problems. the founders would be terrified that we have turned our presidency into the celebrities.
if you look at the celebrities of their day. they are the cowering figures of humility. they were not always humble for sure. there was a public virtue in being humble. that would all seem very foreign in the way that we treat our president today. that has been the way i had been thinking about the presidency. he then became president it's very hard to measure the office without thinking about donald trump. he is a president to be analyzed and then he basically touches every part of the presidency. and helps us decide what we think about telling the truth and responsibility. the conflict of the he
basically touches on everything the notion of staff i would have to think of it in the abstract. and whether he was worth telling his story to help illuminate that. are worth telling his story in a way that would just illuminate his presidency and not the office itself. >> here is a question i have really struggled with myself. donald trump has challenged just about every norm we have. at some point he will no longer be president. does the presidency then snap back into the pre- donald trump era or is it fundamentally changed. see act that's a great question and with the things
they knew that they had voters in the district really liked ronald like reagan. the structure of the congress that has intended to work with the president of the opposite party leaders of both parties working together. on the other hand he was elected because we came to the partisan time where you can when without even sounding with some of the normal unifying things. and i just want to make sure to include you. i wouldn't doubt just popped up and on my screen. the nsa has control of my computer. i think what you can imagine is the democratic president
comes in. you can expect all of this kind of behavior. and trampling on the prerogatives of congress. that is can ascend the founders into a tailspin. in the terms of overstepping the powers of the office. that would be not snapping back. you saw that in the presidential campaign as some of the candidates were saying i will do all the things i want using the tools that they have so elegantly shown. it really depends on congress becoming a different kind of body if the presidency is going to turn into something else. congress needs to reassert itself. >> we have some great questions from people who are joining us on zoom.
here's one from rebecca. how do you think that presidents like theodore roosevelt were successful in his time would fare in the modern presidency. this is can a sound slit. you be the judge. his voice was very high. it's kind of an excited fella. i wonder how that would play on the other hand this could immediately happen. by the standards of the presidency quite before him. and have it all. the way roosevelt behaved in a presidency that is now dictated so much by how you
appear on tv is one thing. he took on his party in a way that was much different than anybody would do today. but he still operated in the system. he was probably in the donald trump mode. the problem is he took on his own party. he would of lost support within his own party. and ultimately happen to him as well. when he ran against taft. they try to make it appeal and the primaries and try to make it appeal to the republican. they might not had it today. one thing that strikes me and i know this much about theodore roosevelt. i think if he was a figure in his time. doing adventures doing shot
and then carrying on the speech that he was delivering. great question. jeff says you had expressed skepticism about whether the campaign in the position are reflected with the demands of the author when you moderate a debate later this year and does not match the job for the presidency. what could journalists with the maximum number could they they turn in that much. make the whole system work better.
is putting together an organization. how do you get it. if you had questions about management and teambuilding. a lot of people are going to go why is he asking about that. we have secreted a predicate for the question first. and then the actual candidate has to answer the question. there are different from actual answers. you can ask the question if you're trying to get the series for leadership in the theory for management. they might answer any question they want. so than the question is which
ones can ut you tf that would eliminate something. i think what you want to do. the things you want them to do is think out loud. in their answer there can be stripped away. and they will go back to the bed rock views on things. it is so hard. you don't have all day. you can just waste the clock trying to waste them around the mulberry bush. it's very hard you talk to him
in the office. don't get me wrong. i guess i'm trying to do in the book. we know that telling the truth is important. what is important about this. it is at the shading that they have to do. to get programs to sell. it's the governing. it's one thing. consistent and the democracy in the world. on these things these there is a continuum. we set at two or three. it's not an excuse for someone who operates at the number ten. if her thinking on the scale of one to ten. i just think in some of my own coverage the hypocrisy is easily understood and gets
people riled up. but it may not be about the most important thing that a president will face. or that we should be thinking about in a public debate. when i saw the opportunity cost. every minute that i spend on the story is a minute i'm not spending on something else. try to think of the trade-off. about how it's not really that important. were just spending the timeline when there are other kind of stories you should be thinking about. why did i see this more. why did i do this better. covering campaigns is a humbling experience to say the least. in your book you list 17 key
presidential attributes and i appreciate the fact that you listed them in alphabetical order from adaptability to vision. and i wanted to ask you what president do you think has the attribute that made him best suited to the job. that is a tricky thing. that list 17 attributes i didn't even know that there are 17 attributes. what i was trying to do is take a look. it's been a challenge the way they talk about presidents. we look at something like a political instinct and we say he only cares about politics. and we use that to dismiss the president or canada.
it is very important for presidential candidates to think clearly about politics. and that's what they used to get stuff done. if someone shows a political instinct it should not be immediately disqualified. we should look at it are the only political did they only they only care about their political self-interest. if they show some political skill that may be a reason to vote for them. we were trying to figure out where we set the gauge on each one of them. you won't want to say fdr. because he have a lot of those skills. what i don't think i have seen. as i'm trying to give people a sense of how to make their own determinations about these things. at some times i was very happy about that. i don't think i could come down with the final voice of wisdom. the idea with the first-class
temperament. it went a long way. and it really helped them in dealing with the uncertainty of the job. in dealing with the crazy presidency that he inherited. if you had 17 attributes that one has a lot more weight than the others. and i think that president bush with the restraint in office. i wrote it right about. i found it so fascinating that he showed such skillful restraint in office. with the select successful attack. his restraint i thought was notable for him. i think of it more as there are certain areas that have a bundle of these. nobody that has all 17.
the thing about empowering presidents is like what are you hiring them to do. you make the point that you're hiring them to do something that neither of you know what you have to do. when you talk about recommendations. what does that mean. it comes from a conversation i have with the city of condoleezza rice. i start almost every interview. if we thought it was a job interview. what would you want to know. i want to know what that black swan the black swan event was to be. in a course of doing a number of interviews around this time.
this book was finished before covid-19 was on our radar screen. and frankly i thought that's the next big surprise that we would take it was likely to be from a cyber attack. the idea was behind that question. it is a question i would ask in a debate. i have asked versions of that. they know it's too dangerous. once they get the back. have a good answer for how they handle it. and then they had hurt themselves. they are willing to give a soft answer that doesn't hurt anybody and they move on. the job is going to surprise every president george w. bush in three debates in 2000 the word terrorism only came up once.
that has defined his presidency. when it be funny if i have to concern myself with foreign affairs during my presidency. it happens. everybody gets a big surprise. that's what it test you. that's why you hire for presidential traits. here is a question from ira. these questions have been great. just click on q&a. in the bottom of the zoom screen. do you think it's possible for congress to reinsert itself.
interests and their voters cared and they raised money based on the very different interests. it makes a candidate a lot more alike. they are tied to the presidency. congress needs the president to do well. they are tied to him. they are unlikely to push back within the president. that is going to bounce right back. it hurt them in the races. because races are dominated by primaries they have strong ties. you hurt the president and you got a primary challenge or if to worry about a primary challenge which means you have to raise $12 million just to fend off the challenge. you have to be very careful and you can also see senators
get braver once their primary date has expired. here is a question from peter. nice to have you join us. please reflect on how they have harnessed the media of the era and i'd be interested particularly in how how it has harnessed the media during his era. in ways i think his relationship especially during the 2016 campaign would surprise a lot of americans and that it was actually he have pretty good at press relations. i think although his reporters have a pretty tough go of it. >> i mean it this way. he talked to them.
he was accessible in a way that hillary clinton was not. for someone who bashes the press doesn't tell the full story with the news media. people say the press always talks about it. put donald trump on tv. that's because the other candidate was not anxious to be interviewed. both candidates would be accessible all the time explaining themselves. and one thing that is true of donald trump in the campaign i interviewed him 19 times. not to give you the total number for any reason other than this. we have with some very contentious interviews.
i'm forgetting what happened. that's what happened. not only when he was president but when he was candidate. they were quite contentious. he would get very angry but then he would come back. you're quite right about that. we all know the fdr in the fireside chat. the way in which the mastery of a radio change the way there is a study of acceptance speeches. at political conventions. it became a lot shorter and less substance them. the fireside chats have been a fundamental part of understanding what was central
which is something that has escaped the presidency. he felt like his job was to explain thoroughly everything that was going on. people in a fearful state like to head things explained. the explanation is that things are gonna be bad for a little bit. john ten of the one of the things i found. with the article in tv guide. he was basically trying to spin everybody before his campaign on the special talent television would have for telling you the inside truth about a candidate. you are learning something special about his ability to be present.
it turns out that worked really well for him. clinton takes the talk shows. and kennedy has gone on jack parr. obama uses the internet very well for the fundraising piece as well as the out reach peace. they have not been able to use the persuasive power of twitter at all. with the dismantled team of obama care. those are more unpopular after he pushed for them than before. twitter has the persuasive tool of the country. it is successful. it does not have the power that fdr fireside chat did.
the communication device that does not show the reporter. here is a question who writes one thing that happens when they write speeches as you have to figure out what they think. often they start out writing a speech not knowing what they think. writing a book in a way is like that. you start out maybe you think you know what the book is about. the talk about surprises your process.
the fantastic writer has a quote. if you write something. you don't discover something along the way. i kind of turns her had and makes you go in a different direction. that's the whole reason you get into this. it would make you feel so strange. as you know you can do say door is closed. i'm sure you are still having thoughts. the filter in the way that you see the world. so presidents. i think it really interested me and surprised me. i know susan and i were talking earlier.
the eisenhower's were considered kind of like caretaker president. and they wrote a book on the hand of eisenhower which i love in the republican national committee headquarters. there is a picture in his hand was inside his jacket. i won there if they have done that in that portrait. it was much more engaged in the presidency than people thought. but he thought he gained power by not been seen all the time and that his power came from that restraint. so as i have said i really became fascinated with the way he thought about things. and since the book as an explanation of why presidents do and don't do things. i found it compelling in that way.
they have a lot of good theories about how to build an organization. and how to do things in the presidency and they didn't work out. he had built a team for governing. they went all the way through the campaign so they could be ready on day one to really hit the ground running. the problem is there was a huge problem. when they had conflicts with the campaign team. the way in which they thought about the job. we should think more about the job while we are campaigning for it. that was all you need obviously because it didn't work out for him. in the office. there are moments that the restraint i really became much more familiar with it. but then also a lot of the
ways he behaved in the office. i think his sense of restraint as a part of this too. that was his vision. those are some of the ones that surprised me. there a lot that i can pop up. the president who turned out to be the right person for the moment. we were lucky with it. we were a fortunate nation and some new ways. you describe it as you found. in writing the book. we are actually in the room
where they wrote the book behind you. some of the many books that you have. tell us about the process that you followed. did you get up at 3:00 in the morning and ride. how did you manage to do this book. as i was sane. it saying. it was in my have all this time. i remember talking to you over breakfast at this point. about these ideas and the challenges to the office and what was good to be in the conversation you were talking about the responses to it. you might have mentioned in the number of women candidates who had decided to run. it was one of the times i kept trying to open the aperture at this point. i kept trying to think bigger and bigger in looking at anything in the point that you
private sector if you have the merger. although mergers are much more orderly. if you have a 4 trillion-dollar merger you dollars merger you would spend years with teams of lawyers to take over the new company. you understand the organizational charts. you would've have a similar company that you would be up to speed a little bit. the presidency we give them two months between victory and stepping into the job. deaf to make it up as they go along. the institutional memory is very hard to come up with. congress has gotten them up earlier. you need a president that is committed to the idea that you can't just add water to a presidency. continue the gardening metaphor from there.
careful preparation for the job. and i don't want to hear about the transition. and as you mentioned he ran what was the state of the art version where they had hundreds of staffers working through. part of the questioning to try to get them to talk about their transition and remove the old idea as you know so will a measuring those. if you talk about the presidency you are measuring the drapes. they would change the core of the white house. and the idea that if they think too early about the presidency you are being excessively prideful. they came at this with the business background. was accustomed to try to work with these big systems and
have them take over. it was not well-suited for actually getting elected president. this is how i ask. is it too early to judge barack obama against the standards you had outlined. how does he measure that. one of the ways i think about that. and this is preliminary. give me some space here. george w. bush and i'll be fascinated to see. it was the worst in the state. i think they should be impeached for it. probably well never recover from the iraq war. he came to the white house
after reading the book on the spanish flu. with the online security advisor. i want to plan for dealing with the pandemic and i want it soon comprehensive and then he gave a speech about it. let's imagine the pandemic had hit. he would not had been prepared he gave that plant to the administration. my only point is sometimes presidents do smart things thinking about the future. not a short-term oriented for which they get no credit because the disaster never happened. how do we weigh that. it's not at the same category as going to war in iraq. when we think about presidencies. presidents in their times. and they evaluate a presidency. with helping to diminish it.
with an extraordinary humanitarian gesture. i'm still coming to a theory on how you look at the whole presidency and weigh the various elements when you have such a big element. how do you think through the other things. you rescue. bring in the economy back from where it was when they took over. was a big achievement. how big, i would have to spend some time thinking about it. not relative to economic numbers. with a series of choices they face. he made a some some of the same mistakes. with respect to in the learning on the job. his respect on how to handle the work.
more rigorous. in the libya has to be wrestled with. in his intent to unify. i don't have a preliminary view. i don't think you can start for another 20 years or so. and he doesn't worry. about the legacy. he has not dealt with some of these questions. through the iraq war. because it takes a long time to come through. and were not there yet.
that is certainly a point to make. the place that we are at this moment in this country is an example of what you write about. in the book. the hottest hardest job in the world. they are now dealing with a pandemic for which you did not discuss in the campaign. and the incredible protest. in the racial injustice. it just erupted. maybe it has some more in the fact that they are there. we expect our president to deal with. and particularly the question he has a common economy. they head through three big
challenges. there are different ways of dealing with the race question. obviously these are contractible. they maintained the impact of the president. he has obligations to a variety of different constituencies. but he also has an obligation to cure the agony of people who are not in his political base. james wilson had a character that the character that i really found compelling as i found what does it mean to have presidential character. we do find it quite differently in different campaigns. self-control and empathy. and they are taking seriously the views and rights of people who are not in your camp let's start the clock two weeks ago. a president has an obligation to respond with a empathetic
response in the agony of the portion of the electorate. and relax in america who were are part of the original sin. and that is part of a job that despite all of the complicated politics and policy questions of policing in america responding to the agony is very much a part of the president's job and that's not where he has decided to suspend his capital. on the law and order message. not something they could do today. and obviously i was saying he could do it today. he could speak to the agony. justice for the family. he has not really come up with an answer yet. it's extraordinary to remember
the criticism. nor does the government had any capacity to manage it. in managing a pandemic is what the federal government is supposed to do. they don't see it as severely as people saw the obligations. one final question. we are heading into another presidential election. do you feel optimistic like a look at what america has done.
do you feel more pessimistic. and what greater sense of concern. fundamentally off-track. >> it depends on on twitter or not if you spend time in that social media places where public ideas are discussed you can get depressed instantaneously. but fortunately twitter is not america. and politics is not there. you know all of those polls in discussions that have happened as the broader part of america show a country that is full of people who are not as quick to judge as the political obsessives who tend to these head been a great experience. when you put people together in a room and present them with issues they become less fixated on their original position. and when you look at the
response to george floyd's death in a huge portion of america at the injustice. the feeling that something has really changed in a fundamental way. in the feeling that as a source of english but anguish but also a feeling that people are moved and in that they have a better vision of america. then if you look at what people have done to the tree into response the majority of america basically did what they were told for a long time because it was worth doing for their fellow americans. there are places of hope. you are put in the mood to
see. when you spend a lot of time in the political field. it has has become so much more contentious point scoring so much more a part of the political debate. when you covered your first campaign there would be actual long political debates. now it's just theatrical. this is a wonderful new book. it's been such a pleasure to talk about it. the hardest job in the world everyone should read it. by then read it. thank you so much for writing it. thank you so much for your wonderful questions in the friendship. in the example it has been great to talk to you tonight. >> thank you so much. it was such a pleasure to have you. i encourage you. buy a copy of the book if you have not already.
the link to purchase is in the chat box. we have more virtual events with others coming up. including two brown light. you can check out our calendar. and when the time comes we really look forward to welcoming you back into our historic sanctuary. here is a look at some books being published this week. michael cohen recounts his years working with the president in this oil. and what can i do. they reflect on the work of the activist. it explains how others can get involved in the movement. speaking for myself the former white house press secretary sanders remembers her time in the trump administration. also being published this week compromised by a former fbi agent and molar investigation team in the book he offers his thoughts on the russian
investigation. jenna bush hager looks back at the life of her late grandparents. bill o'reilly and author martin to guard describe the conflicts between the tribes and the united states government. at john hopkins university. martha jones it explores the efforts by black women to win their right to vote in being -- vanguard. wherever books are sold and watch for many of the authors in the near future on book tv. when you read the things that were said about thomas jefferson that he was an infidel and egypt of the french government. it sounds a little romantic doesn't it the thing is the things that were said about abraham lincoln. that he wanted to be a dictator does kind of come
with the territory but i think in trump's case at least in the modern political era post-world war ii i have never seen anything like it. >> sunday at noon eastern on in depth. our live it to our conversation with the author and faith and freedom coalition. his most recent for god and country join in the conversation with your phone calls. watch book tv in depth. sunday at noon eastern. >> good evening everyone and welcome. i direct the events here. before we go into the discussion. on the book "wandering in strange lands" i would like to share a little bit of history about this. it was founded in 1927 by bender benjamin draft.