tv After Words Fmr. Sen. Ben Nelson D-NE Death of the Senate CSPAN November 11, 2021 11:55am-12:55pm EST
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program with guesthouse top nonfiction authors about the latest work. >> hello and welcome, to book tv and is my pleasure today to be able to interview fmr. sen. ben nelson from the i great state of known nebraska, he has a husband it to diana, the father of four, and served 12 years in the u.s. senate from 2001 - 2013 and were obviously going to center our discussion on that today and then was also governor of nebraska for eight years in the 1990s, any period during which nebraska won the national championship in football 30 percent of all years that he was governor so van, given our partisan differences i don't know if, that in times of us campaign for your to come backs governor but if you can win the national championships for football team, creates of all of the years i think it would unite our stand against the wall.
>> i just want people to remember that it happened onh y watch. >> very nice is good to talk to youhe today to talk with you abt your new book andle congratulations on your book "death of the senate" and let's begin with two moments when the senate hasen been divided 50/50, we currently have a 50/50 senate where that tie-breaking vote as cast by vice president kamala harris when you arrived in the senate, 20 years ago, it was a 50/50 senate 5 as well. how about you set the stage by contrasting those two moments and what is different about a 50/50 senate today versus a 50/50 and it 20 years ago. >> i'm not sure there's a real difference in terms of how it would work, having 50/50 means that at least in terms of the numbers, yet to get somebody to squish over across the aisle from the other party to vote for
something that you want or the vice president is theid tiebreaker. and i think the senate back in 20 years ago was less divided than it is today. a hyper partisanship began somewhere between 20 years ago and today and roughly maybe ten years ago. that was in earnest so it is a hyper partisanship but i think difference today and iti was back then. and the other thing that occurred, is 911, it united the country which may have counted for more or less partisanship but morep bipartisanship in the thinking of finding solutions. the same thing could be the case of today with the outside influence on the united states
right now by foreign interests and being discussed from time to time. so it seems to me that there is no reason why the senate could not perform today like you did before if there is trust, and understandingg and mutual interest. and we move away from the divisive issues and spend more time talking about unity and what we find that we agree with. >> when you talk about the death of the senate as he went from your election to the senate was in 2000, into your inauguration and swearingen in 2001, can you identify the marker about ten years ago when you kept forward to today, what is the key inflection point and what is different in that decline in trust. t and even in "death of the
senate". >> i thinkk the politics and getting elected today has changed from unity and agreeing to and bringing people together to find commonality moving north towards what appears to be tribal at least two on-base and support the base than to divide the country. ... even though i had to scrape by to get elected, earlier, four years earlier in 90. then i won by overwhelmingly, a large margin, based on the fact
i promised, and to think it did, worked to bring people together because they get more republican votes than my republican opponent. it's a question of whether you seek to be, to be a uniter o whether you want to be a divider. >> host: let's stay on that point you made about howu campaigns today can often be run from the edges, but then you can't necessarily govern from the middle. in the mid-1990s there are some data that shows about 26% of americans consider themselves centrist and they were slow slightly higher propensity voters done to the right and left of them. today only 7% of americans depending on which point you look at but it looks like high single digits percentages of americans consider themselves centrist and sometime to look like lower propensity voters.ex what's your major explanation? what are the key variables that drive one of the american people have become more polarized? then let's turn to the elected
officials respond to that polarization. >> guest: scsi emphasis on division and divisive politics with wedge issues possibly being thrown out in front, just red meat to strengthen the base. in other words, it's the equivalent of two prizefighter in a ring coming out at the sound of the bell to engage and the bell rings they go back to the corners. there's no time in between where they're working on things together. i think that is what is the problem. politics, winning elections today is both sides, running to your right or to your left as opposed to looking for ways you're going to work together somewhere inth the center where they country ultimately is most comfortable. >> host: you spend a chapter in the book talking natural and
some of the gains. some of that is about specific legislation or about specific logjams that were there about specific nominees who might be confirmed or filibustered. licy divides. who do you think the most influential senator was interpersonally during your 12 years in the senate not just a position of authority but he could persuade people. >> who was in that capacity? >> setting yourself aside who did you find the most persuasive people interpersonally in the senate ? >> ben rowe from louisiana was the person i think had most to do with finding caucuses running together or taking caucus, bringing somebody else together. joe lieberman joining, john wrote reaching across to get
john mccain who was largely bipartisan in much of what he did with mccain-feingold. bill after bill he was involved. he worked with ted kennedy on a health care issue as well. so overall i don't know that ted kennedy was necessarily one that wanted to reach across the aisle a great deal but when somebody reached across the aisle they accepted that support. so you have to have passers and receivers in football and you have to have the same thing in politics. a person has to be receptive and the other person has to be willing to take the risk of seeing if somebody will join with you. >> you tell a number of stories in the book about the congressional delegation that went abroad to support our troops, to learn, to do
oversight, to thank our troops, let them know they're not forgotten. tell us about your first couple of trips and what was the bipartisan experience like those congressional delegations? >> one of the first was not too in a war zone of the middle east but it was down in columbia where the drug war was underway in full swing. and so a group of us went down to columbia and we spent time with the president of columbia as well as with the military who over the area where poppyseed was grown and was being eradicated by that process. but i got to know for example i got to know bill nelson from florida. then i got to go to the others that were on the trail , on the trip as well.
it's fair because of the time we spent together and it was a enlightening experience about what was going on in south america particularly in columbia. then of course following the 9/11, i went to afghanistan as well as to other places in the middle east. but particularly in afghanistan, i went with tim hutchinson and with olympia snowe. and others and we got to better acquainted with and we were able to work together. a deal was one i always reached across to whether ever she reached across to me to see if we can find commonality on particular issues and we work together a great deal. so getting to know people, pulling tricks tricks on people. always figuring out whether i would overstep but being a bit of a agitator was with a
few tricks along the way. on one trip i ran into a couple of my colleagues but we went into the war zone and i had for them to t-shirts with bull's-eyes. on the t-shirts and mine was playing blank. there were just two things where you begin to have personal relationships no matter whether it's through humor or if it's through beingtogether . finding out about families and more about what concerns them. outside of politics. it's amazing how it brings the silence because you begin to talk to one another. even on some as well. >> fortunately nobody ever set me up with a t-shirt with a bull's-eye on it.
for deer season this november i'm guessing i tried this friday. >> absolutely, it works. >> by the way what is intron denmark. >> that's what i was governor. and in defense of my pranks all the time, apparently the old shelter of hidden camera, yes. they decided to come to lincoln and in the capital set up an operation that i was on candid camera, set up ahead of my office and then we set it up in the conference room. so that they could bring somebody in. this was out in the rotunda so they got to talk to you about something he would like to get your opinion about but he would be comfortable in
whatever he asked themabout and i would tell him look , the name for the state of nebraska served us well but if you want to break out of the crowd here names right now what we should be doing is looking at things like they have in the oil industry. sl, let's do something different and sent a regular traditional name. what do you think about when tron or zenmar and one woman said have you lost your mind? and i said not yet but that still happen, there's plenty of time. when i tell them smile, you're on candid camera. it was one of the most fun deals i like to do. i've given diane a great
article on practical jokes because otherwise she would have left me by now i'll tell you . i'm lethal. >> at some point later in the program we may come backto what you did to diane and rush limbaugh . when you put the name of our state to quintron i was away in college and i had friends reach out saying we're not going to get new teacherswith quintron . so let's stay just for another minute at national security. and to try to unify the country you came into the office and became a senator in january 2001 and obviously itwas a contentious time and equally divided senate . then in september of that year is the tragedy of 9/11 as 3000 of our fellow countrymen were killed by
jihadists. talk us through what the senate was like in the three months before 9/11 and what happened in the months after . >> in eight months the issue of importance that had everybody's attention was the first bush tax cuts. and i went back after promising that these supporters of tax cuts that i wanted to balance budget at the same time and we have a balanced budget at that time. we were paying down the national debt. and so there was surplus is projected as far as the eye could see. so the bush administration decided they would pursue something $1.6 trillion of tax cuts. that would be payable over several years and a group of us said well, i think we'd be more comfortable with a number but we should be on the upside on it, we got to find some safe issue size of
the tax cut. also, what if we stopped paying down the debt, what if we have an incident or we stop paying it down because we are spending more for our revenues fall off. we have some sort of a stopgap or a if you will a trigger where i have a district circuit breaker. red alerts, if we stop paying down the debt on whatever the debt was, and whatever the budget was, he stopped things and we would go back and look at spending and go back and look at the tax cuts to make adjustments and keep the budget balanced paying down the debt. i got that but the question was its 1.6 two much? a group of us including senator rowe and a few others decided that maybe something more like one.25. that would be 1.2, 2.5 million.
it would be a better number. it was closer. then we got to adding when what we finally negotiated with the bush white house and during those discussions, met with vice president and in a room, small room with a small group and we talked about he talked about dropping it from 1.6 down to 1.45 and we were still at 1.25. i think we had actually compromised at one point 3.5. we were compromising even though it was a divided senate and they had the votes, the tiebreaker with the vice president. so we were aging even during those times starting off following the bush versus gore case in the supreme court that some people think elected the president as opposed to the people.
you always have contention about something like that but we broke right through that. right through that and we were able to negotiate and work together to find a bipartisan deal. >> what has happened to interest in a balanced budget in either or both parties in the last decade. how do youexplain ? >> it's gone. there may be some interest in it but there's how much discussion is it, it's always how much is itgoing to be over . by over the balanced budget, how much are we going to borrow. and it's once youstart using your credit cards, it's very very difficult to stop . i think we we have been okay if 9/11 had occurred at least for some time. what might have been okay for a longer time but there would've been something else. another excuse, another reason to spend more than we were taking in.
>> will bounce back and forth between policy and politics and personality. we're trying to some of the personalities that were here during your 12 years in the senate. is barry reed. >> harry reid is a former capital policeman . went to law school. got elected, i think first lieutenant governor in nevada and then came to the united states senate and harry reid is i think somebody that if you don't know him, if you're not going to understand him. the more youknow him the more you understand him . he boxed and also he's a fighter and in a very real sense as well as on a less real sense, in other words he will work with people but he will stand his ground and he will insist on certain things. i can tell you that i had a relationship with harry reid that i never got pushed or ever pushed me to anything.
we work together when we could. by supporting when i could and when i didn't i took that support and in spite of that, maybe in lieu of that we had a personal relationship that continues today. because out of the blue i'll get a call from him just talking, what's going on and chat back and forth and he say nice things about me to my friends and i think to my ears as i suspect. >> explain the role of the senate majority leader. historically, 100, 150 years ago the position would almost not even be recognized in a consensus body and the position of years to be coming something more i can to the speaker of the house of representatives. explain what the majority leader'srole is when you arrived and how it evolved during your time there . >> when i arrived, trent lott would always joke in his job was to keep the trains moving
on time. in other words if the legislation were to move we would quit dinnertime and go home. there were families, that was the way he saw the leadership and i took an active role and work within in the caucus but i think he was less likely to push like the republican leader is today and maybe the democratic leader is today. i think it's overblown. the relation in power, it shouldn't be the power. that's it seems to possess today the leadership role. shouldn't have power. i look at this way that mitch mcconnell back to votes from kentuckians. his own i suspect and i assume that the other from kentucky rand paul voted for him first for a reader and the same thing with chuck
schumer. people from back home don't send somebody to washington to be a leader of the caucus. and that leadership should be one of coordinating and making sure that things happen but it shouldn't be where you have and i'm saying this to be straightforward where we have mitch mcconnell saying the beginning of obama's term is it's his goal was to prevent and make sure he didn't get a second term. was he speaking on behalf of the caucus because he's the caucus leader? i don't think he spoke for every republican member of that caucus anymore than i would want the democrats to say that about a republican . i would have objected if tom daschle had said that his role as leader of the democrats at the time was to make sure that george w. bush didn't get a second term.
in my opinion it's just wrong that leadership has so much power today that it can dictate as opposed to lead and explain and making some of your colleagues and maybe you may have a different opinion. i'm looking at it from the outside seeing this developto the point where it is today . >> what does the filibuster mean for a state likenebraska ? >> the filibuster is designed to protect minority interests that would not otherwise be available. we can say that in the house of representatives obviously there's a difference between the states because it's apportioned on the basis of population. in the senate that's different. in the senate you have each state whether it's maine or nebraska or california or new
york each has to but within the senate when you have caucuses and a partisan majority of one or the other, with the filibuster you have the opportunity to make things deliberate. it doesn't always work that way but it's there and when it doesn't work that way it's what the senate was all about. the world's greatest deliberative body. deliberating is a word on the shelf and politics right now but as we think about it that's one of the things that can drive it is if you have to have a 60 vote threshold for a cloture vote not talking inside baseball for everybody else that i think you and i both understand its purpose of the cloture vote is not to be overused but to be there available for those rare times when it's necessary in order to bring together the senate to do
things on a 60 vote level. now you've got an escape valve with the so-called budget reconciliation approach resolution. that gets you out of the filibuster for some things but then the unfortunate thing was that both parties have not down the filibuster when it comes to traditional nominations. it's a big mistake in my mind . >> let's focus on that fora minute because that's in the gap , the period between our service here. you represented nebraska from 2001 to 2013 and i got here in 2015 and in the summer of 2013 is when harry reid executive calendars so for viewers who happily don't have to be on the inside baseball the senate schedule every day distinguishes between an executive calendar which isin the confirmation objectives for presidential nominees .
to jobs in the government. the legislative calendar which is about having regular loss both of them used to require 60 votes . >> regular order and harry reid change that rule to redefine the ratio 3/5 as the quantity of 51 in the summer of 2013. how significant is that moment in the depth of the deliberation you talk about in your book? >> it's significant. it's the first time the nuclearoption was used in effect . and i think that's a mistake. i understand how a leader of the caucus gets upset when there's a group of legislation. and the other side needs to be more than exercising an objective about it. there blocking. there if you will expecting by going to 60 votes on
everything. and when we have a cycling 60 votes on everything, it's to stop and obstruct the orderly regular order of legislation and nomination and approvals of nominations, confirmations . then i can see why a leader is disturbed about it. >> it can be different nominees of the president. >> one of your recommendations in this book and i want to check through a few of them or have you walk us through them, one of your concrete proposals is the senate should result resources for majority requirements for the filibuster opportunities to executive nominations and tradition traditional nominations, people who serve for a lifetime on the federal bench. how to restore the super majority requirements once you already lost your virginity? >> what you have to do is put some limitations in place.
in other words like the old days. mister smith goes to washington, you'd have to stay on the floor. you've kind of maybe you're going down. you want it to be used but i think you put it back on nominations around legislation for sure so that any kind of limitation on it is not, is demise. in other words if judicial nominees have to meet 60 votes, then i think you get a different category of jurists on the bench. you get people coming in for more in the mainstream. it's what's happened. it'swhat both sides are doing this , fighting the person on the left or the right as far out there as they want to get
the majority on the bench. you don't turn the supreme court into a smaller version of nine-member smaller version of the legislative body. it's notabout that. it's not about changing laws. and that's why they're there, it's about imposing justice . it's about enforcing the will of all. and stepping into this dispute and finding justice in the process where all parties have looked or in the law before we start and they know what the law is. when i appointed in the breast as governor the entire nebraska supreme court over the years had the court of appeals. >> ..
i told him very simply, not care about what you think about something because when about what you think about something because when i come before you and i'm practicing login i want to know what the law is. i want to be able to read the law. i don't want to have to reach your mine. now we have people second-guessing decisions in the court, of the court on, second-guessing the mind of those members of the bench. it's o wrong. it's not supposed to be that way. i'm not naïve about this. i think it's what wee all want s we want a judiciary that you can read the law and know what the law is, well settled law, stare decisis is there. not for somebody to get on the
bench so they can change the law. it's not about that. it w shouldn't be and i'm worrid maybe we got there on both sides. filibuster does is force a building of consensus for legislation. you and i obviously disagree about obamacare but just setting aside the substance of obamacare, if you could go back in time to i guess it was what christmas season of 2009, if you could go back then do you think part of the reason the law became so controversial was because it was done as a simple one party bill using the reconciliation process as opposed to having build consensus of the way -- >> guest: absolutely. regular order is bipartisan vote on that was absolutely i think essential. i was holding out for that as long as i could. as a matter of fact joe lieberman in an interview when
we were on with one of the sunday shows said the same thing. as a matter fact, he in the forward of the book he and trent lott who are the authors of the forward in my book said they felt the legislation they felt best about had been bipartisan. and i really felt that way as well. when we got to the prescription drug benefit as part of medicare that was very bipartisan and it felt very good and nobody is trying to repeal it these days. where it's not partisan and its bipartisan i think it is better staying part of because both sides have invested in it. maybe to one degree come maybe it is 60-40, 40-6 or something like that but both sides invested in it and want to see it work for the people.
that's why they didn't stand up and vote against it. in other words, i really, really believe that bipartisanship is the answer for the long term for this country because i think when you have a situation where you have run to the left or run to the right pick a 100 miles north one year, 100 miles south the next year and you say you've made some progress. you kept the company divided and i think in a holy situation where people then refused to try to get together and they keep being tribal about it with their base as opposed to moving toward what this country is about. it's about compromise on tough issues so that we can all live together in a democracy. >> host: you make a really good point from 1952 until 1994, the house of representatives had
never changed majority party. and now basically every presidential administration, the congress flips two years into any new presidential administration and flips to the opposite party. and if it takes only 51-49 verses 49-51 to change legislation country has to go through a lot of upheaval. if go through a lot of upheaval. if it takes 60-40 two past it's unlikely after the next november you will have gone 60-40 at all the way to 40-60. you will you will have a whole bunch in the middle to maintain continuity and the american people can focus on the neighborhood and raising the kids as opposed to thinking the washington, d.c. is a center of the consciousness and their tribe. >> guest: diane was expecting when we were back there we would be entertaining a lot all leaks. well, we tried. there really wasn't that much entertaining as she had hoped that there would be.
we didn't give up on interacting we just realized that entertaining wasn't the way. it was spouses luncheons. i'm sure you've had some where the senate gets together, those to the botanical garden whatever that is or some other place and said that and have a sitdown dinner. logically you don't do everything in a partisan way. you are mixed and mingled with others. yeah, there's not enough of that today. part of it is people are anxious to get on the plane and start thinking about it thursday or out of ten adult think about getting back. one of the suggestions that i think was john who said may be brought to go back to a five-day work week in the senate, that being there on monday and being there on friday, friday, maybe
over the weekend but be there for five days. something has to happen to where people would in the senate are willing to talk to one another, and don't have to appear if they don't follow the instructions of a leader in their caucus that they are very likely going to lose i committee assignment or when it's next time they need something, they are denied. we have got to move away from that. that's probably true and house as well but we're really focused on the senate because the house is going to be for some period of time partisan. that's the way it breaks out. we don't have to have senate that is just partisan. >> host: do you think the committee hearing rooms are not good or net bad?
>> guest: net is the operative word. net i think they are bad but as a democracy they are good. but but i think they result id outcomes because of bad behavior. i remember, i'm not going to name him, in my book, but shortly after i got on the senate appropriations committee i was seated right next to frank lautenberg from new jersey and, of course, the democrat sat on the one side and republicans on the other side of the room and it was a freshman just got elected, the election before just then in the, just elected and on the committee. and he sat there when there were issues about spending. you could see his face got contorted and he would raise his thumb like this and it would go down like that and look across the aisle at us like what do you think about that? i thought it was sophomoric at
best. but it said something about what was happening, that somebody came now for a reason to block as opposed to care. i better not have five words with that person at a time when we were in the senate together. it just wasn't possible. >> what are two or three of your preferred concrete fix is to restore some institutional conversation here? >> guest: well, trust. you have to trust one another. have to trust that if you're going to talk to somebody that they are going to listen to what you have to say and share their thoughts back with you. that's important. then you have to trust that when you get together that somebody doesn't walk away from you, leave you high and dry. it's an age-old thing,
friendships and partnerships in business as well as for personal relationships. you have to have more of that. if you don't have that then you're not going to cross the aisle to be rebuffed like get out of here. something like that. so there if you feel like you can go talk to somebody, i never had any question in my mind about when i went across the aisle to talk to any one of several republicans that they're going to listen to what i had to say. they might have come a long, they might not. john mccain and i were able to do a number of things together. he didn't agree with me on everything and they didn't agree with him on his positions on other things, but we could find time. the other thing is you can't be that like a hunting dog, the owner wants to shoot it. get to pick and choose things you're going to raise so you
don't become -- if you get something, people will not listen to anything that you have to say. you have to know the person on the other side of the aisle, feel comfortable talking to them. if you don't feel comfortable talking to them, then i don't think you are ever going to be able to put something -- you know, you've got people on the other side of the aisle you feel comfortable talking to. that's the beginning. you have to have that. then you have to have some good ideas about why you want to do something together. i remember having one of my colleagues approach me on the floor and say i really want you to support my bill. i looked at her and is it i can't, it's not good for nebraska. i'm not sure it's good for the country but i don't mean to be snippy about this but i just don't think i can. you're asked me to do something i just don't think i'm comfortable doing. well then she said okay let me look at this again. she came up there and once again
try to persuade me to support the bill as opposed to looking for a commonality, was it something i i could suggest to make it different? finally that didn't get anywhere and i said look i think i finally understood, understand why you came appear to compromise. it's your definition of a compromise is different than mine. we were looking for solution to bring the onboard. you were just trying to persuade me here you are right. i already told you you may be right but you are not right for what i'm thinking about, about nebraska in the country. she looked at me and she started grinning and said yeah, i guess maybe you're right. we still couldn't get together on it that compromises we try to find something, if you can't go 80% of the, maybe 60% to 50% 50% or something, something that's worthwhile and you would explore that.
that's why you get some legislation being a a little centerleft, sometimes a little center-right because you were able to find that spot, the following the sweet spot if you will but that spot work both sides are comfortable enough that they could get something done. that's what we did with the first bush tax cut and the second bush tax cut that i worked with senator susan collins. i don't want to get her in trouble but worked with her very closely and we worked on the second bush tax cut and we found a solution, a compromise that worked for giving money to come back to the states. we went to the president and she went to vice president dick we said look this doesn't make any sense to be cutting taxes in d.c. and ignoring the fact they are having trouble budgetwise with all the underfunded federal mandates and the like where they are looking to raise taxes in
des moines or any other state capital and we were able to carve out $20 billion for the fmap come for medicare, from medicaid eligible and people who needed the expenses, health expenses covered but states are having trouble making their budgets balance. we were able to get money to come back to the states, and are right about that in the book. susan and i went, and we got it through. >> host: let's stay with the states for a minute because what does federalism have to do with the senate declined? would resolve some of the problems by empowering covers more? >> guest: yes. i think that would be helpful. i think there's no question that the governors need to be included. one of the things that i i ran when i ran in 2000 was to be, bring nebraska's values to d.c.,
but bringing them from the standpoint of having been a governor, that i understood what the state needed, that i would work against, edited that even as governor with senator bob dole and the governors association on getting legislation through and i think it was senate bill one back during that timeframe, that any kind of legislation that is going to spend state money, in other words, unfunded or underfunded federal mandates, that those had to have a congressional budget office score on it to see what they're doing to the states intentionally or unintentionally. but to try to have a better relationship of what the states are and that's what susan collins, senator collins and i sought to do with the fmap
$20 billion. >> host: you say in your book in the last quarter may be, you turn to contemporary politics i good bit and you said that republicans are scared of donald trump. what are democrats scared of? because both parties according to pew data are led by people or elected officials that a moving farther and farther from the center of american life. what are democrats scared of? >> guest: i don't think democrats are scared of republicans. i think they are worried about what certain republicans have adopted. i guess the republican party, as the republican party changed so some republicans, members of that party, are more in line with let's say with former president trump's positions, or there are some who are not.
i think they are more worried about tribalism and a base, the republican base that is farther to the right than it's ever been before. and i worry about a democratic base and/or policy that's farther to the left than ever before. so i think democrats and republicans, enlightened republicans, enlightened democrats worry about extremism in terms of hyper partisanship. >> host: so the queue data would suggest that since the mid-1990s both parties have moved away from the american center, that the electorate actually want something quite different than they are offered. let's talk about it from the vantage point of your experience in particular when you were elected, and so you mentioned
earlier you elected governor of 1990, reelected in 1994 overwhelmingly, elected to the set in 2000 and reelected in 2006 but you were the last democrat to be elected statewide in our state i believe. in our state i believe. we have been 15 years since ben nelson got elected senator of the brusque and nobody elected to any position as a democrat in nebraska. what advice, statewide office. what advice do you have to offer to democrats running in red states or to republicans running in blue states? >> guest: i think you should be ashamed or shy of reaching across the aisle and having members of the other party support you. and not whisper about it. in other words, when i ran, always we had republicans for nelson, a group of them, they had their own sign in parades. i started off my speeches, my
fellow democrats, independents and enlightened republicans. because you're going to be a senator for all the brass can send you going to be a governor of all nebraskans, and that's what you should be doing. when george bush came to d.c. as president he said i'm a uniter not a divider. he brought some dividers along with him, the neocons and so forth, and he has yet to face that. but we need people today who promise to be uniter is and convince both sides that they are uniter spirit i'm not suggesting that's all we need, an easy task to make. it's going to be difficult but that's what you have to do because if you promise to be on going to be a republican for republicans, at some point what goes around will come around. i think it was justice kavanaugh said that in his admission to
the democrats in the hearing. you know, it's true though, and sooner or later the tide will change, the flow on the left, and circumstances will be different. >> host: a lot of the elected officials that you have attained tend to be from either more purple states or there were blue dog democrats. so you mention john breaux and you jamaicans and other southern democrats. you were budget balancing governor of, fiscal conservative perhaps as a democratic governor of a red state. our ben nelson style the democrats out of favor with the dnc today? >> guest: i don't think so. i'm not picked that up. i do think that there's no question that there's a left
majority within let's say the dnc. at least i perceived . i hope i'm wrong but i kind of feel that is the case, that there's an inclination towards that. you know, biden got the nomination against, if you will, against the odds because he had so many people who were to his left compared to his center like he was. i believe that's what isolated him in a way in the bit. i am concerned that's why think the democrats come unconcerned about taking a strong turn to the left just like the republicans being concerned about long to the right and polling away from the center so we just end up with up-and-down, yes and no type of government and that's not going to unite
us. we don't need another 9/11 to unite us i hope. i would hope that's not what is required. >> host: our term limits part of the solution? >> guest: no. no, i don't think so. i don't think those have been a very successful in the legislature in lincoln and i supported them. you can learn from your mistakes and i think it was a mistake. so i don't think we ought to duplicate that in the state with the united states either. >> host: could you contrast president biden with senator wyden you start with, similarities and differences? >> guest: he's in the same guy. having served with him, i know him. we sat at the table together. it was a a table, friend table caucus luncheon, kennedy, ted kennedy and barbara boxer. i was, they were, i was -- i was
most at a place with my politics. but that didn't matter because we could get together. we could talk about things and from time to time we would be actually together on issues. i never felt really out of place or uncomfortable sitting there. one day joe biden got up and he said i'll be brief. well, the whole caucus broke up in laughter. i do know how long it took tom daschle to get us to settle back down intercedes. but biden has always been somebody that is full of emotion. full of empathy for people and concern and it's always been there. it's nothing new. i don't see a different joe biden, it's like my hair. my hair is still my hair.
it's wider now and joe biden has wider here now but he is still joe biden. i hope i'm still ben nelson. >> host: we are nearly at time. if we had another hour i would want to talk about some of the cooks greats, george sores and jeff kittinger rush i think 180 yards in in a game of the century in 71 that you are one of four governors from the tiny little town of mccook nebraska pixel needs to do and ethnographic study and figure out what's going on in the water in that place. but let's close with the story of you and the prank on your wife and russia. >> guest: well, when diane heard from some friends who spend a lot of time in russia that your rooms are bogged and you know, they're listening to everything, and she was quite concerned about that. then there was some suggestion may be they had cameras in the
rooms and stuff like that. i feel sort of a -- dressing and undressing in the bathroom with the lights off. i told her well, they have night vision cameras. just sort of get her going. she would say that's not funny. we walked into the room and i said something derogatory about the russians and she -- pointed to the camera. she's convinced that camera and the bug is in the television. so she was telling others about it. well, at dinner with husbands and wives, spouses and senators there, i was seated next to jim bine, the hall of famer, the late jim from kentucky. he and i became quite good friends. we talked a lot about baseball and a bunch of other things. well, i said, and i think trent lott was there, too. i said i'm going to pull a trick on diane tonight. let's get a waiter to sign
something on sheet of paper saying that mrs. nelson, please tell your husband we are not bad people, and sign it yuri. i'm sure jim gave him a ruble or two to sign it. i looked it and said said that's good. so he said put it under the door with the room number on a slide after the door after everybody is in bed. so about, about two or three in the morning i heard something coming under the door. of course diane sleeps so silently. she doesn't sleep sound at all. she heard it. she got up, grabbed it, rent to the bathroom can turn on the light in there and come back and jump in the bed with a flashlight chewing become she said read this. this wasn't funny. this wasn't funny. look at it. so the next morning we were telling everybody about it. next morning we all said gotcha. she was a trooper.
a lot of spouses would've been very upset about it but nobody laughed harder than jim bunning. he had a fastball as as a pie but nobody had a better sense of humor when you what a good relationship with him. >> host: . schiffer gave me but she said please don't do that again. >> host: the next time i see a bride on a flight and we are boarding, i'm going to pass a note from yuri. and thank you. potomac books of university of nebraska, that "death of the senate." thanks for sharing this book with us and thank you for spending this hour with us >> guest: thank you very much. i really appreciate it. it's a good experience. if you want to do it again let me know. >> host: have a great day. >> guest: thank you. >> "after words" is available as a podcast. to listen visit c-span.org/podcasts or search
c-span afterwards on your podcast app and watch this and all previous "after words" interviews at booktv.org. just click the "after words" button to the top of the page. >> with the senate at its session join us all this week for booktv. today to look at some of our recent "after words" programs. we start with the conversation with congressman adam schiff about his new release titled "midnight in washington." then author vivek ramaswamy talks about his book "woke, inc.." later it is lizzie johnson and her latest "paradise." that starts tonight at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span2. also watch all programs online it took tv.org or follow on c-span now, our new video app. >> on this episode of booknotes booknotes+. >> a historian, tour guide and author. his latest book is called the
lost history of the capital. it's an account of many as are tragic and violent episodes around the u.s. capitol building from the founding of the federal city in 1790 up to contemporary times. among many accomplishments in his career he was a speechwriter for george herbert walker bush and a writer for the tonight show with jay leno. >> booknotes+ is available on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> next on booktv is "after words" program, clare boothe luce center for conservative women president michelle easton offers her thoughts on how to pass down conservative values to young women. she is interviewed independent women's forum president carrie lukas. "after words" is a weekly interview program with relevant guest hosts interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. >> host: