tv Conversations with American Historians Richard Norton Smith - Part 6 CSPAN April 12, 2022 12:44pm-1:42pm EDT
at your fingertips. you can also stay current with the latest episodes of "washington journal" and find scheduling information for c-span television and radio and compelling podcasts. c-span now is available at the apple store and google play. download it for free today. c-spa now. your front row seat to washington any time, anywhere. since c-span was founded in 1979, historian and author richard norton smith has taken part in many of the network's programs, forums and call-ins and special projects. c-span sat down with him for nearly eight hours to get his insights on popular culture, good books and more. up next part six of that conversation which focuses on president ford, the media and talk show host jack hart.
>> the importance in our country. the supreme court. >> well, you know, like many americans i revere the court it is a fascinating political development and significant impact on our politics and presidential politics and in the last generation or so a discernible difference has emerged. on the right the court is seen as absolutely essential. and, indeed, any number of more traditional republicans, for example, are willing to go along with the trump presidency. specifically because of the court and because, first of all, because of the justice he put on
the court and the expectation if he serves a full term, yet alone two, that he'll have additional opportunities to shape the court along conservative ends. for some reason conservatives have a strategy, a long-term strategy and a passion about the court. which traditionally and it's relative is less innovating on the left. and i don't fully understand it because the court at its rulings are every bit as important on the left and wars have migrated from the political arena because congress can't or won't address intrackable issues, they wind up in the courts. >> how powerful in relationship to the -- i want to ask you
about four different areas. the media, the court, the congress and the white house. and over time how that's changed and how do you perceive those institutions? >> the media have evolved and i use the example the oval office speech, you know, used to be a staple. it was one of the great tools in the presidential tool chest. a weapon in his arsenal. it was in many ways the the chief weapon in the battle to persuade americans. and the media were willing or not, an ally. to revert to the days when three
men in towers in new york controlled 95% of the audience. richard nixon on a monday afternoon could call, make three phone calls and the president would have an audience of 70 million people that night. it was unfiltered except would offer his instant analysis. and nixon could move and i'm not saying nixon, ronald reagan had great success likewise. it's no accident that that was just on the cusp of cable tv and then the internet. we have destroyed that element of the bully pulpit, i would argue. today there are very few office addresses. first of all, the networks might not cover them. and more important, fine, you
can watch it through other media, but the odds are, you know, there are millions of people that i say are self appointed before the speech is over. >> what is wrong with that? >> it makes it a lot harder for a president to be heard. state of the union address is a classic example. it's not the media that killed the state of the union address. lyndon johnson decided in the '60s to move it from noon to evening. brilliant idea. hugely increase the audience. here's the problem. the television camera distorts everything it comes in contact with.
eventually, it destroys any semblance of spontaneity or naturalness. the state of the address is now kabuki theater. it belongs to cable tv, who spend a week building up nonexistent suspense and speculating about what it might contain and how it might influence the electoral calendar that follows. and then it happens. ronald reagan took it up another notch by introducing the heroes in the balcony, remember? those selfless people that jumped into the potomac river when planes crashed or rescued little girls and wells or, you know, whatever.
it turned george washington's annual address to congress, which was in effect a ceo's report to the stockholders, into a highly stylized, theatrical performance. so now we have stopwatch in hand to measure how long the speech goes. we know how many times it's interrupted by applause, who applauds, who doesn't applaud. does someone shout out inappropriately? i would argue -- i mean, it didn't begin with barack obama. when gerald ford in april of 1975 went before congress in a last, hopeless attempt to secure funding to, he thought, forestall the collapse of the
south vietnamese government, at least two members of the house stood up and walked out in protest. so, i mean, you know, fine, that's, you know, par for the course in a democracy. and somehow that's more -- but it's part of the theater. this is my problem. the theater of politics. heavily scripted, visual, and usually lacking in nuance or subtlety. you know, it's a school of public relations has corrupted american politics generally. and events like the state of the union in particular. so, you know, they come along on the calendar, and they happen, and the next day, we move on to
the next made for tv sensation. >> talk a little bit about the court, a little bit about the media, and now congress. >> well, the court, i mean, i understand why the right is as passionate about the court, because in many ways the court has become not only the third branch of government, but the only branch of government that is actually passing judgment on large social and economic issues. to the degree that congress is reluctant or unwilling to address such issues, it cedes the legislative function to the judiciary. and inevitably, one result of that will be people who believe that the courts are exceeding their mandate. and that's part of the argument
between left and right, depending, i suppose, on what you want -- how you want the court to rule. but the court, arguably, is doing that because, you know, the hot potatoes are being tossed in its lap by elected officials who for whatever reason have decided to abandon their legislative responsibilities. the court -- so, you know, how many times have we heard the whine, we want judges who will interpret the law, not make the law. fine, then guess what, then you start making the law, you know? >> why are they having trouble, from your perspective, making the law? >> well, a lot of it is cowardice. a lot of it is taking the short term about, you know, what it takes to get reelected, playing to perceived folks back home.
>> hasn't that always been there, though? >> yeah, but i would argue the stakes are higher. and the media profile is more intense. you know, i mean, the other thing that we have mentioned, it sounds profoundly un-american to mention it, the single biggest worry that i have about the future, and in some ways i'm glad i won't be around to see it either confirmed or denied, are what we call low information voters. the great paradox is in a nation where in theory we have access to more information than ever before, we're a low information nation. the number of people, of 300 million americans, the number of
people who follow, closely follow government is nowhere near the number of people who turn out to vote, even in an off-year election. >> what would that have been 100 years ago? women couldn't vote. >> no, and i'm not suggesting for a moment that the expansion of the electorate has in any way produced that effect. the difference is a hundred years ago, interestingly enough, look at the voter turnouts, okay? the much maligned gilded age saw 80% turnouts. >> men. >> understandably. >> no african americans. >> it's the only thing we have to measure, all right? what i'm saying is, of the
political audience, 80% cared enough, were emotionally engaged enough to vote. >> but do we know -- >> and, and i'll go a little further, the fact that even then, large and growing numbers of women who were denied the vote, were passionate about demanding the vote to literally, you know, throw themselves before the law and worse. in other words, in the gilded age, people defined themselves by the party they belonged to as much as the church they belonged to. and in most cases both were for life.
stop to think, think of the multiple functions that politics played. you didn't have television. you didn't have the internet. you didn't have forms of diversion or entertainment that we take for granted today. politics supplied much of that. in addition, think, think of what it must be to have lived through the civil war, in the run-up to the civil war. think of the effect of all of that concentrated, accelerated history that every single american carried around like the ball and chain, you know, attending jacob marley. but, i mean, think of the, in a sense, obligation that being part of that generation imposed. and think of the issues. think of the enormity of the things that were being debated.
you know, race relations in america. how were we to deal with 4 million former slaves? how were we to integrate them into our culture? the rise of labor, organized labor. and the contrast with the great plutocratic fortunes. the surge in immigration, and the impact of tammany hall and other machines and the relationship that they established with immigrants. i mean, this was a country in flux, in huge, profound ways. i would argue, arguably more than today. and politics and party identification, you know, afforded people a way to participate in, and they still
believed, influence. i mean, it's no accident that election after election after election, you know, with uninspiring candidates, i think the biggest turnout in american history was when benjamin harrison ran against grover cleveland. i mean, neither of them charismatic in the modern sense. can anyone remember what either of them said? so there was something larger than the candidates that drove this intense political activity. and i fear that's gone. >> what about the possibility that everybody reveres the declaration of independence and the constitution. >> they revere it without reading it. >> but those documents were written to bring about a society that we're closer to now than we were then. >> that's why i would argue that american history, i often say,
the more you know of our past, the more optimistic you'll be about our future. i might question that right now. but, i mean -- >> isn't it that right now you just don't like what's going on? >> what i would argue -- you're right, as i understand the thrust of the country. american history as a success. america has come -- and particularly -- the problem is, we so often, understandably, look upon this in isolation. you've got to compare. what other country, for example, has gone through the wrenching redefining, unfinished business of race relations? now, you can argue they didn't have to because -- i mean, the incredible diversity of this country, which, you know, i would argue is one of our great, great strengths, nevertheless
poses real challenges. and there are periods, i wouldn't posit a theory of this, i wouldn't suggest that you can time your watch on it, but there are clearly periods in american history when we are uncomfortable with that diversity, when a nativist strain takes center stage. it's insecurity. it's national insecurities. and stop and think, what we're living through. the insecurities of economic performance, the fact that, yeah, let's face it, globalization has bred a level of insecurity that is arguably unprecedented. the insecurities of education. fears, legitimate fears that many people hold about their place in a culture, a culture that many people feel is
slipping away from them. they don't understand, they don't see the country that they grew up in. i mean, all of those things i think breed a collective kind of insecurity. and it's at times like that when we become more vulnerable to demagoguery, to xenophobia, to use a fancy word, when we become intrinsically more suspicious of the outside world, or suspicious of people who aren't like us. and that's a recurring conflict within american history. but if you step back far enough, and you put it in broad enough perspective, you accept the fact
that although we've got off-track several times in our past, there's a reason, if you go out on the mall, there are monuments to lincoln and washington and jefferson and fdr and not to buchanan and pierce and fill in the blank. it's because -- we build monuments to the presidents who, however imperfectly, in their own way, contributed to the realization of that potential, the real miracle at philadelphia, who left a more representative society as their
legacy. that's what makes the optimists, people like me, look at american history and see a broad theme, a theme haltingly, imperfectly, but nevertheless a theme pursued, of more inclusive, more democratic, fairer, more just, notwithstanding the 1% and the 99%. that, it could be argued, is part of our strength, the fact that we're having that argument, and that sometimes inevitably it gets noisy, and it gets crude, and we lose our way. >> you've been in the classroom,
and you've taught college kids. >> something i wasn't very good at, by the way. >> how do you know? >> yeah, i think -- you know. you know when you've written a good paragraph. you know when you've delivered a good speech. and you know when you've done something that you're not -- it's not that we're not qualified. it's just, you know, there are other things -- now, i will say, the nicest thing, and it happens from time to time, you know, is when people come up to you and say, i was in your class and so forth and so on, that's wonderful. when i say i wasn't very good at it, i think i was out of sympathy with the evolving maybe nature of the classroom.
i don't expect to have 30 people who are as passionately interested in the subject as i am or i was, you know. but i wasn't very good at adapting to a culture in which maybe a handful of those 30 people were there because they really wanted to be there. >> all right. let's take somebody that really wanted to be there, and they want to do history. they want to become a historian. they want to become maybe a presidential historian. >> see, i'm the worst person to ask for advice. >> what i'm asking you, though, how would you tell them to go about educating themselves about
the subject matter and how did you do it? what kind of techniques did you use over the years to fill your head? >> i was never conscious -- certainly "technique" is not -- >> excuse the expression. >> no, but i understand what you're saying. but it suggests a conscious pursuit. >> but what did you do, how did you absorb all this information? >> the thing is, to me it was just an interest that was always there. and indeed, didn't even -- i didn't even think of as, for example, a career in embryo. i never -- i literally gave no thought to what i would be doing in ten years or 20 years or 30 years. i gave no thought to, you know, first i'll write speeches and
then i'll run presidential libraries and then i'll write books. i mean, i don't -- so i'm in some ways the worst person to ask sort of career advice for. >> i'm not even really asking about career advice as much as, are there series of books, for instance, that, you know, that you've read, that you say, you know, this stuff, this is valuable stuff? >> i mean, generally, yeah, look, it's a cliche, but for universal reasons. if there's something, a subject that you're really interested in, i don't care what it is, say, with me, presidents, as a subset of a larger -- but, i mean, it was through them i think, probably, that i broadened my interests.
obviously presidents exist in a context, and that context is called history. so -- and then as you connect the dots, you find yourself throwing out a wider net. so your intellectual interests and hopefully fields of expertise evolve and grow. but equally important, become more nuanced and sophisticated. but that literally can grow out of a childhood, for lack of a better word, preoccupation. i mean, i read books about presidents at an obscenely early age and enjoyed it. it was as simple as that. i mean, you know, watching "omnibus." there was something that i've never traced it to its origins.
i don't know where the seed was planted. all i know is that pretty much from the first sort of conscious, you know, memories, i was interested in the larger world, in news, for lack of a better word, which i came to understand pretty quickly was history in the making. >> do you have a favorite news source today? >> well, i'm a pbs fan. and i'm an msnbc viewer, which will give away my political bias. >> people think you're a republican conservative historian. >> i know, but see, that goes to the whole -- in some ways that actually is a very good, very
fundamental explanation of why you should be wary of what people think. i mean, you know, why you should be willing to rethink what you think you know. historians are taught that as a rule, which is why we have revisionist history. and on balance i would say it's a good thing we do. >> people don't remember, eisenhower, reagan, lincoln, dole -- >> oh, sure. >> hoover. >> they look at the institutions. i would argue, i understand, but that's also partly a reflection of the media culture, which sort
of short circuits thought. i mean, and assumes. it takes for granted. if you're involved with these institutions, then ipso facto, you're a republican, or a particular kind of republican, or whatever. and then it's people loading onto you, people projecting onto you their assumptions, which of course is the absolute inverse of what historians and buying on are a first and indeed, i would imagine, any kind of scholar, does. it's certainly, in a nutshell, the kind of approach i guess i've taken to the books i've written. for example, which is all about undoing, peeling away what we think we know about an historical figure. the little man on the wedding cake turns out to be a much more
complex and interesting and i would argue admirable figure, and argue maybe the best president we never had. >> when you finish your book on gerald ford, and when will that be out, by the way? >> we're hoping 2020. >> when you finish that book, what do you think we will conclude about gerald ford's politics, where he fits on the spectrum? >> i hesitate to predict, only because people are unpredictable. i do believe -- i think people will be surprised that for much of his career in the house, ford actually was something of an insurgent. he was not a kind of amiable party wheel horse, you know, that he was seen as once he became minority leader. he was elected as an insurgent, who took on an isolationist
incumbent republican, beat him in the primary, with the support of organized labor. in his first term, he signed a petition for world government, world federalism. not the sort of thing you associate with good old jerry, you know? and of course that's what -- that's the best part, for me. it isn't that i'm trying to prove an agenda. it is that i am pleasantly surprised and, you know -- to find that the real gerald ford turns out to be, frankly, much more interesting, much less predictable figure than i think is generally believed, and even than i believed. and i thought i knew him pretty well. it's interesting, a friend, good
friend, who is reading the manuscript, says his experience is, every chapter he reads, he said, i thought i knew him well, and i didn't know him nearly as well as i thought. and that's been for me, in many ways, the overwhelming -- i'm halfway through the manuscript, i've written 400 pages, and every chapter contains something. it's not like i'm specifically, you know, going after this or trying to manufacture. this is not a theme that i set out for, you know, and who knows what happens the second half. but certainly the notion of ford as a surprising figure who, i would argue, in his early days, was in many ways that insurgent.
and then as a post-president, with no more, in effect, political obligations, in some ways he reverted to that. he said once, he said, i keep reading that i'm a plodder, that i in effect was just a party man. that i think -- the whole business about physical clumsiness, i think he laughed that off. he said, having been a quarterback -- i mean, having been in athletics and then a coach at yale was very good preparation of dealing with the monday morning quarterbacks of politics. that didn't bother him. i think what bothered him was he was concerned that he would be remembered at just a party hack, a guy who just -- whose interest was no larger than -- or
sympathies were no broader than. and the fact is, he was starting, in his later years -- and i think mrs. ford was a factor, you know, but you remember, before they died, they were sort of marooned in the modern republican party. they were pro-choice. you know, they were both more liberal than they had been. and i think some of that was in reaction to where they saw the party going. you know, i mean, any biographer, i don't care what the subject, i'm sure every biographer is in some ways delighted when he discovers that he was right. it turns out in his choice of subject, because this is really more interesting, you know, more unpredictable, more whatever, than he thought in the abstract. >> we have learned that you don't drive, never have driven.
>> no. oh, god, no. >> what's the reason? >> i would be petrified, i suppose is the ultimate reason. i would be dead within a week. and i no doubt would take innocent bystanders with me. >> how do you get around then? >> god gave me two legs. and i've managed to, you know -- or dragoon friends. there's something called mass transit which works remarkably well most of the time. i've attended, not always by any means, i'm more of a city person. but, you know, i've lived in 28 places. i've moved 28 times since college. and i lived in west branch, iowa, 1,800 people. and abilene, kansas, which is not a whole lot bigger.
and thrived. >> where else? >> well, simi valley, california, with the reagan. springfield, illinois, with the lincoln library. grand rapids, which is home now. but boston for many years. i still sort of sentimentally have an attachment to boston. the dc area. i've experienced -- and i think in some ways, i've never really thought about it, but i think it has to be helpful, if you're writing about politics and leadership over, you know, a long period of time. and i really covered the gamut in terms of the range of american history.
it helps to have lived in different regions to appreciate different cultures. and if only to understand a little bit better some of the factors that may influence -- i mean, gerald ford was a quintessential midwesterner. and in some ways he took a -- he paid a price. there are people who look on midwesterners, they talk slow so it's assumed they think slow, or they're square or somehow culturally deprived. "main street" is a brilliant satire, but it is a complete exaggeration of the small, airless, mindless midwestern burg. >> tell us you're an introvert instead of an extrovert. how much of your time do you
spend alone? >> most. there's a wonderful line from thoreau, i might put it on my tombstone. it said, i never found a companion so companionable as solitude. i hesitate, i don't want to sound egotistical. it isn't that i think my company is better than anyone else's, far from it. hoover said that in the end, accomplishment is all that counts. and my experience is, at least the accomplishment that i'm capable of, which is basically putting words to paper, is something accomplished in solitude. >> tell us what you watch on television. what are your other outside interests? >> i have so many. as you know, i'm a hurricane freak. i've tracked every storm since i
was 6. in 1985, i got to fly into hurricane kate on an air force reconnaissance plane, which was a memorable experience. that gives me something from june to november. life takes on an extra meaning. and i say that without in any way sanctioning the horror of these storms. it's interesting, there are lots of -- have you noticed, there are lots of storm watchers and storm chasers, plus tv -- see, tv ruins -- like so many other things i've said, it distorts everything. have you noticed how tv, particularly cable, has discovered hurricanes in recent years? you could write the script, you know, it's the famed concern on the looks of anchors as the
cataclysmic disaster approaches. and then the barely concealed disappointment when the storm veers out to sea and we're denied the pictures of mass catastrophe. i mean, at least i'm up front in telling you, storms have an almost mystical, quasi-religious appeal to me. it's seeing the face of god. a category 5 hurricane, which is a terrible thing. but it's also, you know, a reminder to mankind that we are not masters of our universe, and that there are a lot of forces out there that we don't understand, and that we would do very well to recognize as such. so anyway, hurricanes.
oscar night, you know? oscar night party. although those are rare. hollywood doesn't make my kind of movies anymore. great big costume dramas with english kings. i used to drag my mother -- "a man for all seasons," that was my birthday present for my 13th birthday. are we going to see another old english movie? i said, you'll like it, you'll like it. she suffered through it. it didn't do her any harm. she liked "gandhi." and "nicholas and alexandra." when is the last time? you tell me. hollywood doesn't make those movies anymore. so i am a great fan of turner classic movies. i probably spend more time in front of tcm than any other outlet on the tube. >> broadway. >> broadway, yes.
i'm afraid i'm that cliche, the, you know, broadway obsessive. >> a lot of these shows travel now, but what impact does that have on our culture? >> it has vastly less than it used to. in the '40s and '50s, the glory days of rodgers and hammerstein, it was the hit parade. the latest hit songs were on broadway. "the tonight show," the origin carnation of "the tonight show," "america after dark," grew out of "broadway after dark." television was so new york-centric. the days of winchell and dorothy killgalen ed sullivan.
>> who are those people? >> once, everyone knew who they were. liz smith died not long ago at 94. and she wasn't really a broadway -- >> what did dorothy killgallen do? >> remember, there was a time when new york, in our memory, had eight or nine daily newspapers. each with a distinct profile and each with a constituency, each covering broadway, which, you know, again, in the '30s and the '40s -- we talk about the golden age of hollywood. much of the golden age of hollywood was made possible because broadway talent migrated to the west coast. i mean, the gershwins and cole porter, on and on. so part of me, i must admit,
lives in the past, musically. i think music died -- well, and of course thank god the bridge from cole porter, who left us in 1964, to the present, is stephen sondheim. i am among the more passionate, as you know, because i don't think we share a similar passion, but i'm among the more uncritical observers of sondheim's work. you know, i mean, i can sing the lyrics to every -- i mean, it's not something to boast about. it's not particularly something i necessarily want, you know, in my obit. but you asked what my passions were. and sondheim ranks near the top.
because he's intelligent, and honest, and much more lyrical than he's given credit for, and witty. you know, a long gone passion, when i was a kid, i would -- i prevailed on my long-suffering parents to let me stay up late and watch jack paar. and i thought jack paar was the acme of sophistication. because unlike more recent talk shows, which aren't talk shows, they're basically plug-ola for the latest movie or crappy video, you know, i mean, when is the last time you heard a conversation? and paar said, i don't know why i'm doing this show, i have no particular talents.
he didn't sing, he didn't dance. what he did was converse. and he brought out -- and he had this wonderful repertoire company of people, you know? who became old friends. oscar levant, no one knows who oscar levant was, but look at the old kinescopes of oscar levant. jonathan winters. hilarious people. before there was robin williams, there was jonathan winters. and they had no other outlet. jack paar discovered bill cosby, a black comic, in the late 1950s. godfrey cambridge, who was hilarious but very much out of the sort of conventional mode. the other thing paar did was, he interviewed fidel castro. he took his show on the road. paar had a real interest in
public affairs. that spilled over. so richard nixon would go on the show and play the piano. you saw a side of richard nixon that you wouldn't see anywhere else. bobby kennedy's first public appearance on tv after the death of his brother was on the paar show. and the paar show was the place to be. in some ways it was inseparable from this interest we talked about in kind of the larger world and events going on and the news. but i watched paar. and later on, he left, he left in 1962. and television has never been the same. and he came back briefly, in 1973. and i wrote to him. and we struck up a -- his daughter went to harvard, and that was what we had in common.
he would write back, handwritten cards and so on and so on. and, you know, when you're young, you do crazy things. so when it was announced, i saw every show that year. i never missed -- you know, five nights a week. and he let it be known in october, the ratings were not great, and you know what, it's very difficult for people in television to come back. i mean, it's very difficult. people, they move on. people have very short memories. and you can be a sensation, you know, and a few years later, you know, who's that? anyway, it's just -- and you don't take it personally. it's just, that just the way it is. okay. and paar experienced that, because he hadn't changed. and i was glad he hadn't changed, but everything else had changed.
so anyway, so he announces in october that he's leaving. i said, i've got to be there. i got tickets to the last show. now, remember, i'm a college kid, i have no money at all, getting to new york is a big deal. i got to new york, got to the studio. in the meantime, it was very odd, i wrote to him, the latest of these exchanges and, you know, i was a collector even then, i collected autographs, i thought you know what, i've got to have a chair from jack paar's set, you know? what a wonderful memento it will be of this man who means so much to me. and of course i didn't stop to think how that would look, you know? so i wrote him this very earnest, you know -- the latest in a succession of fan letters. and he mentioned me on the show, the next time he was on, this
kid, he was talking to the reaction to the news that he was going off the air. and he used me as the example. he said, yeah, and he writes me a letter saying, can i have your furniture. and it was not even 15 seconds of fame. but anyway, i want for the last show, and it was a very emotional experience. and i'm afraid that's the last time we had any contact. because paar -- paar was an unusual figure. he was very ambivalent about fame and all the -- everything that television and notoriety brought with it. he was someone who i think was very happy -- he bought a radio station in maine, and he went off and -- he had a great interest in africa, he traveled the world, but he didn't miss television in the least. he was someone who was utterly
capable of sustaining himself for the rest of his life through a range of interests. and that's not a bad way to live. >> did you get your piece of furniture? >> i didn't. i just got the story. and a series of cards written in jack paar's hand. >> so we talked about your introverted life but all your outside interests. if you had 24 hours to do anything, go anywhere, do anything, see anything, what would you do, what would be your first choice? >> oh, i know. well, it would presuppose several impossibilities. if you're saying you can in fact do anything you want -- >> anything. >> yeah, it would be to have
dinner with the queen at buckingham palace. or i'm not picky, i'll go to windsor. that would be my -- at the top of my wish list. >> what would you ask her? >> see, the problem with me is, i would take the historical approach. i would ask her about her -- i would ask about her grandmother, queen mary, whom she increasingly resembles. i mean, i would ask her about -- yeah, i would ask her about past members of the royal family. i went to london for the golden jubilee, the 50th anniversary.
and had about a million people pressing me up against the fence at the palace. but it was what was required. i was willing to stand there for several hours pressed against a fence, to see an up-close view of her majesty, following a concert that evening, they came out into the courtyard, in front of the palace. she was probably -- she was a hundred feet away. they got in a car and drove off to windsor. so, you know, i at least -- well, a million people were singing "god save the queen." it was better than going to times square to see some ball drop, you know, on the old times tower. that was a memorable experience. i would like to have a visit with the pope. you see this recurring theme of
authority figures, inaccessible authority figures. but at least, you know, not malevolent authority figures. >> and that was the sixth part of our eight-hour conversation with historian and author richard norton smith. the rest of this conversation airs the same time each week. watch this and coming segments once they've aired online at c-span.org/history. c-span offers a variety of podcasts that have something for every listener. weekdays, "washington today" gives you the latest from the nation's capital. every week, "book notes plus" has in-depth interviews with writers about their latest works while "the weekly" uses audio from our immense archive to look at how issues of the day developed over years. and our occasional series "talking with" features extensive conversations with historians about their lives and work. many of our television programs are also available as podcasts. you can find them all on the
c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. hear many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, "presidential recordings." >> season 1 focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964 presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma, and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries knew, because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on
me the day he died and the number assigned to me now and if mine are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go, i'll just stay right behind these black gates. >> "presidential recordings." find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. c-spanshop.org is c-span's online store. browse through our latest collection of c-span products, apparel, books, home decor, and accessories. there's something for every c-span fan, and every purchase helps support our nonprofit operations. shop now or any time at c-spanshop.org. since c-span was founded in 1979, historian and author richard norton smith has participated in many of the network's programs, forums,
call-ins, and special projects, as well as on book tv and american history tv. c-span sat down with him for nearly eight hours to get his insights on american history, popular culture, good books, and more. up next, part 7 of that conversation which focuses on harvard university, alice roosevelt longworth and willa cather. >> who are your favorite entertainers that you have come to like in your lifetime? >> oh, god. well, first of all, they're all dead. that's one thing, it tells you something about my tenuous attachment to contemporary culture. one thing i totally miss, i literally lived through rock and roll and rock, utterly oblivious to its existence. i've never been to a nc