tv Susan Page Madam Speaker CSPAN December 21, 2021 3:02am-4:03am EST
welcome, everybody to the institute of politics and prose at cornell university's book and author series sponsored by bernard schwartz. tonight, madame speaker nancy my pelosi and the lessons of power written by susan page. we've got a nice conversation with susan interviewed by chris and myself and then we will throw it open to your own questions and about 7:35. want to welcome our friends at c-span who are with us this evening and for those of you unfamiliar with the institute of politics and global affairs we have one simple mission and that is too deep in the discourse and raise understanding on complex issues in a bipartisan way. before we begin, a little bit of housekeeping if i may. may 12th at 7:00 we feature a program on education politics, setting the stage for the 2021 elections and the 2022 featuring congresswoman rosa delauro and
anna greenberg. at 7 p.m. navigating international hostage situations, a collaboration with the richard simmons center where governor richardson will join us, so go to www. dot iop ga cornell .edu or google cornell and you will be able to register. joining us this evening if you distinguished guests, former congressman john barrow from georgia, martin frost from texas, the former chair tompkins county legislator martha robinson, cornell is located in the county, the president of the afl-cio richard trumka, fred kaiser the chair of the executive committee of the cornell board of trustees anderson a member of the board of trustees, becky robertson board of trustees. and now to our guests this evening. my co-moderator as always chris
reback is the host of the conversations and the newsletter that i and many of my former colleagues view as absolutely essential in cutting through the clutter and understanding what is going on in the world. you can sign up for that. chris is also the cofounder of the good guys media ventures and host of podcast on politics business technology, science education arts and political wire conversations ranked number three. and our very special guest this evening, susan page, award-winning bureau chief, usa today where she writes about politics in the white house, covered seven white house administrations, 11 elections, interviewed the past ten presidents, reported from six continents i don't know where you went wrong i don't know what happened to that seventh continent and dozens of countries of course in 2020
moderated the presidential debate between mike pence and harris. before we get into the question i am going to take a point of personal privilege about this book. the position is regarded as nancy pelosi's chief political lieutenant, and with that position comes the responsibility of getting to know her and so on a typical day i have one meeting with nancy pelosi and on a typical day three meetings, four or five meetings, very often the last voice i heard at the end of the long day was not my wife that nancy pelosi on the phone and i thought i knew more about her than anyone else and i will be honest with you when i first picked up the book i was a little bit skeptical. i said what can i possibly learn from this book i've learned more
about this book than i knew about her from my interactions serving as the chair for four years. so, i could not recommend this book. if you want to understand the dimensions of what drives her impulses and her strategic view and technical view and personal commitments and relationship she has with family, you must get this book and we will post the link to get it several times during the next hour. thank you so much for joining us this evening. >> it is such a pleasure to be with you i very much appreciate your words about my book. i don't want to out my sources
but the initials were steve israel so i understand some of that credit goes to you you interviewed 150 people and spoke with nancy pelosi ten times including some of the most complex and challenging days she had in the leadership that you actually found a house record in 1963 disclosed they paid $106 a week and spending $49 a week arguably you know more about nancy pelosi than anybody else, maybe even more than nancy pelosi knows about her so with
all of that information, what opinion did you have of nancy pelosi prior to the book that changed after the process? >> i'm not sure that my view ever changed so much, but it deepened. i will tell you one of the big surprise is in researching this book it wasn't the influence of her father who was, and many people don't realize this her father was the legendary larger-than-life mayor of baltimore born into political royalty, the daughter who was a woman way ahead of her time and told me that if her mother was born today, she would be president of the united states. she was smart and ambitious and restless. she was a big risk taker.
she had a regular spot and there were times when her husband the mayor would go to the restaurant to pay off the bookies. she was the keeper of the file, which was exactly what it sounds like which was her husband's political operation that he gave to constituents which was repaid on election day. she was so partisan that this is it sounds like a long story but i will make it short, 1984, reagan is going to come to italy to build a statute. you would think they would say yes. after all the things ronald reagan said, don't let him come
near us. the white house is so concerned they call her son who was himself a former mayor to ask if his mother posed an actual physical threat to ronald reagan. that tells you something about the partisan route of nancy pelosi. >> you talk about how when nancy and her husband paul moved to san francisco with their children, they cannot find an apartment. tremendous pressure trying to find where they live and they finally find the perfect apartment until they find out that the landlord is going to washington. talk about that. >> so, they had four little children. they tried to find the perfect house. it's got a swing set, it's in the right place. they are about to sign the lease when they say why is this house
available to rent and she says my husband got an appointment by richard nixon and that's why we are moving to washington and nancy pelosi said i can't rent a house that became available because richard nixon was elected and she wouldn't rent the house. it needed some work and that is how strong her politics are. when she was a little girl her father took him to the polling places fc often did and a worker tried to get this little girl a stuffed elephant as a toy and she wouldn't take it because even then she knew what elephants stood for. >> i noted that you mentioned how some will look at the back
to see if and one of the names of the former representatives that are listening is a gentleman that is named in susan's book i like to start these conversations at the beginning and you've mentioned a remarkable once upon a time there was an incredible young girl named nancy and it's a great tail but you've also written about power and everyone i talked to who wants to know about nancy pelosi remarks on her power, her use of power and what we want to know is where does it come from, what is the essence of her power and also may be could you talk about the
different facets of it and that struck me in the way that you describe the way that she engaged with three different presidents, george bush, obama and then trump and the way she employee the different types of power with each of them so talk to me please about nancy pelosi and power. >> i kept changing the title of the book. it had the different titles and finally ended up with the lessons of power. every title i had had the word power because one of the distinguishing things about nancy pelosi is how comfortable she is with power. she has no qualms about power. it is just a trait that is rare among the politicians and even more among women who get into politics so at ease with amassing power and a long time
friend of ours, congressional correspondent about a decade ago he wrote a profile and described her as an iron fist and i think that is just about the perfect description of nancy pelosi's use of power because she does have a -- she can be very persuasive [inaudible] she has an iron fist and i thought this actually myself in the ninth interview i did with her i did ten in all and in the ninth interview i was asking her about something she didn't want me to put in the book. she said you shouldn't do this in the book and i said actually it should be for this reason and she started to display the iron
fist. she didn't raise her voice and she didn't threaten me but she did somehow get bigger like she started out five for five and by the end of the conversation about 6-foot two and she asked such questions that forced me to articulate the position and we got to the end of the interview and i hadn't relented either and i told her i thought it should be in the book and it is. it was about 3:00 in the afternoon i drove home, poured a glass of wine, crawled into bed and watched reruns for a couple hours until i felt a little better. i can only imagine being a member of congress and having an
exchange of much greater importance than this one with nancy pelosi's iron fist. >> steve how many glasses of wine did you have two drink as a result of nancy pelosi's power? >> she will wear you down. that is one of her talents she will stay in the rain for you for as long as she needs to. there's a wonderful photograph of her father with eleanor roosevelt and you talk about the relationship with her father and her father just as an extraordinary powerbroker, streetfighter, mayor of baltimore, former congressman, but then there is a quote in the book i would like to share to get your perspective. after she became the most powerful woman in the history of the country, she said her children have been more influential in shaping the leader that she became that her
parents, quote, i was forced by my children having five children in six years and understanding the difference in personalities from one to the next is a real lesson. >> i know parents that have school age kids now during covid understand the skills obtained by running a household. she says it requires the same skills as being speaker of the house in washington in that you try to impose order in chaos. you are dealing with grievances both real and imagined and try to convince sometimes unreasonable people to stop doing what they are doing and do whatever it is you want to do. you have these shifting alliances and with five kids you could imagine sometimes it is for-to and sometimes even.
very much like in congress. this is an argument that as you know from when you were recruiting candidates to run for congress when you were head of the d triple c she would consider running and they would say didn't have the right experience, their experience was mostly in the home, and i believe, tell me if this is right, she would tell them the same story that the skills you gain by being a mother or not dissimilar from what you need to bring to washington. did you hear her make that argument? >> many times, and it usually worked. before i send it over there was a famous quote that speaker pelosi used in a white house meeting with president trump when he began yelling at her one of them please don't
characterize the strength of the meeting but another was more directed at the experiences. >> where she said i recognize a temper tantrum when i see one. she came back with a meeting and shrugged off the fact that he had -- i recognize a temper tantrum when i see one. i can tell you i don't know what he said when he heard her say that but i am sure it was because she did have an ability to get under his skin. there is another famous exchange the two of them had a conversation in october, 2019 meeting in the cabinet room that was about syria but became a about impeachment and it's where she is standing up and jabbing her finger at him in a table
something i never heard of before he says you are a third rate politician and steny hoyer tells me if he heard trump say that apparently the remark was chasing to the politician. i am a fifth rate politician and you are not a politician at all. >> what i also liked about the planned that steve just made about nancy pelosi having learned from her children is the circle from the parents and relationship and the fact her parents had i would have to expect a possible subtitle of
the book to the apples don't fall far. can you take us back to 1950s baltimore because you paint a picture you bring this period the baltimore orioles and i think that is where she learned the benefits of being operational. i would love to hear about baltimore 1950s and as well the way that they used politics to operate to get things done, to create benefits for constituents. take us back to that part. >> definitely a larger than life
figure. when he was 13-years-old never went back and after he was a member of congress invited them back to the courtyard as an honorary diploma graduating from elementary school. he was so enamored that he named his first son thomas after himself and second son franklin and eleanor roosevelt so these were new deal politicians, people who believed in an extensive government and in some ways a corrupt government as we might look at it today a city government that was known for
patronage for one political boss who wanted to play and aid in a city job and the mayor said what can he do and the political boss said you can't really do much of anything and he said basically we have a blank slate but nancy pelosi continues to believe in a big and expensive government that especially in a time that like we have today in the wake of this terrible pandemic should be filling a big role in terms of providing a safety net for people.
>> you get in on your own terms, not anybody else's. she decides she's going to run for leader. no woman has ever been in a leadership position and decides she's going to kick the door open. can you talk about what that was like and her approach to that race in terms of timing and how she worked the caucus? >> there was somebody waiting in line and that the democratic establishment for the job of the democratic with whenever it became open and that was steny hoyer who had been known since
the days they were both working for senator brewster. she disputed the need to defer to the people who were waiting. this campaign announced before there was an opening and this involved millions of dollars in money raised. it was a brutal fight that left some scars that remained for a long time afterwards but the fact that it's a secret ballot made it more complicated because somebody could tell you they were going to vote and then not do so. nancy pelosi demonstrated in that way her ability to count votes that has been one of her
skills ever since when the vote was when the job finally came over and it was finally housed just after 9/11 in fact she is the one who won. >> there has been so much made of the supposed rivalry between pelosi and how detrimental it is. those are two heavy hitters. chris? >> susan just mentioned and you brought us to that period you mentioned 9/11 and you wrote a lot about nancy pelosi's reaction and then even more about the iraq war and about pelosi's relationship with george w. bush as we got into the war and as things progress.
we live now in a pretty toxic time of politics but that wasn't a great relationship and my reading of what you had to say is that maybe it isn't all george bush's fault. you may be fault nancy pelosi somewhat. was i reading that correctly? >> enormously skilled in negotiating this time in the politics but i think critics would say she didn't do very much to make the change to the politics to make it less toxic. it's not that she created the situation that we find ourselves in the government often being dysfunctional but it's that she worked in the world in which she was given and didn't try to transform it to some other. they had a very different relationship and nancy pelosi was the highest ranking member of congress to oppose the war
from the start. liz cheney is taking the position now that is politically perilous with hirono party. that was also true with the democratic party and the iraq war, democrats that wanted to run for president that had presidential ambition almost supported in its early days that turned out to be something that was damaging that in any case nancy pelosi, the highest ranking and when she was first elected in large part because of the war the republicans had setbacks because of the vote or unhappiness she was convinced she was going to be able to persuade to change course in iraq and she was unable to do
that despite all of the efforts that she could think of and by the time of the 2008 financial meltdown it had been months since they had talked and sends the speaker had a conversation. they started talking again only because the financial crisis really forest bipartisan action to try to address it. >> could i ask, we had the opportunity you and i to talk about your vote in the run up against the iraq war and as i was reading the telling of that and she got nearly two thirds of the democratic caucus voting no, 126 to one, one is 126 with israel and did nancy pelosi's argument hold any influence let me ask this differently, how much influence did nancy
pelosi's argument in your decision to vote against the war and what did you think of susan's telling of that part of the story? >> i thought it was as if she was with us on the floor of the house. i would say this about susan's book and we will open up to questions one of the skills and talents wasn't knowing her caucus but her district. she knew that i represented a 9/11 district that my district had lost over 200. she also knew that i was one of the most endangered incumbents considered it to be one term. going through many of the arguments and her saying we need
to keep you here, she's brilliant because she knows how to count votes so she threads a needle this obsession with what she's wearing and how she dresses i've never heard directed at any male politician and a somebody commenting on my shoes or suit. can you talk about her own attitude towards those perceptions?
>> i think she didn't worry about them much. she was the subject of clearly sexist attacks and the only way she ever lost which is when she ran for democratic chair after the 1984 debacle with walter mondale that we lost. and airhead as she is not about she lost that race anyway and she complained about it to the reporters and about the attacks and never made those complaints
again so in the wake of that loss that she would use to this day and that is don't agonize, organize. so people would come to her and say i can't believe they are saying these things about you. it's taken thousands and thousands of dollars and millions in attacks waged. she doesn't usually respond. >> let's have instructions for folks that want to ask questions and i want to remind everybody we are with madame speaker and nancy pelosi and lessons of power including don't agonize, organize. also, no one ever gives you power, another one of her
actions sponsored by the institute of politics. why don't we give questions on how to pose. >> you can go ahead and write to them at the q and a on the bottom and we will take written questions if you prefer to go on the program and ask your question live and you can also use the force function at the bottom of the screen. >> while it is queuing up, why don't you pose a question. >> you were just talking about attacks on nancy pelosi. the name has escaped me right now but i think that he spent four years attacking nancy pelosi recently and there was a striking line from the book so at this point with donald trump in office, pelosi has been the highest ranking american woman in politics twice. she's got the affordable care act, she did the bailout and so many things have been
accomplished yet you right it's her ability to stand up to donald trump was donald trump good for nancy pelosi? >> donald trump had a big impact because not many people i think were aware of this but she had been planning to retire after the 2016 election and like so many of us assumed she could count on hillary clinton to protect the act which was the achievement she was most proud of. she was 76-years-old and that would be retiring age but on that night when she realized a little earlier than the rest of us that the trump was going to win, she described it as feeling like she was being kicked by a
mule and she said that wasn't a metaphor, but physically kicked by a mule and decided at the end of the night to stay on and in power and felt donald trump posed a threat and also a threat to democracy itself. there was a concern that grew greater and greater over time and reached its apex in the january 6 attack on the capital. i think that the ascension made the democrats and everyone else aware through her career. she gives -- one of the ways she keeps power is she's careful to give credit to others and she gave credit to barack obama for the affordable care act and that's true, wouldn't have an
affordable care act without barack obama in the white house, but we wouldn't have had an affordable care act without nancy pelosi in congress, and i think that her primacy, her skills and ability to hold democrats to gather and to place smart, long-term strategic politics against the disruptive presence has been the capstone of her career. >> let's take some questions. >> please go ahead and ask your question. former democratic congressman from pennsylvania. it's good to have you on. >> it's good to be here. susan, thank you for writing this book. my question is more historical in that i happened to be
[inaudible] when nancy pelosi gave her presentation in the county in southwestern pennsylvania and you've referenced that in your book and i am just curious to hear more. my time was so quick and i was so busy i never got the chance to sit down with the speaker and talk about her relationship and i would be curious to hear what she shared. thank you. >> thank you so much and thank you for joining us tonight. she loved jack murtha and particularly was not an emotional person, pretty guarded. to convince her to be more candid i would bring her stuff that i discovered in doing research for her biography and one of the things i found in the
university of pittsburgh was jack murtha's papers including some handwritten notes about his thoughts on nancy pelosi and these were notes that he made when he was going to write a memoir which he never did. >> for those who don't know who jack murtha is, maybe you can give a bit of an explanation nancy pelosi is a liberal and jack murtha is a guy from cold cut a tree, a marine and member of the old guard in congress and not exactly a national ally of nancy pelosi. but the two of them became friends and allies and one of the big assets she had when she saw the leadership position was that jack murtha agreed to run
her leadership campaign. this was a huge shock to steny hoyer who thought he had jack murtha and so i'm looking at these papers for why he was willing to do this and a lot of the old guys were reluctant to have a woman as the leader i think that he would probably fit in that category as an old guy but that she was as effective as he had ever met. i made a copy like a tablet it wasn't something that was written on a big tablet. i made a copy of them and took it to speaker pelosi the next time i was interviewing her and it was about as emotional as i saw her get to thinking about a jack murtha who is now passed away, and his thoughts about
her. >> thank you. natalie, next question. >> we have a question from tracy that ran for congress. she writes looking so closely at the experience of the woman of politics, do you think that it will be any easier to operate in congress because we crave the obstacles that tend to hold women back? >> that is a great question and again and honor to have someone who runs for congress listening to this conversation but in my view she's made a big difference. there's been a woman that has served in this position of great authority and done it more effectively than any other speaker in times.
that has to send a message to women who want to seek positions of leadership to young women who are maybe thinking about career politics to little girls thinking about what can i do in my life and they look up and see ruth bader ginsburg and nancy pelosi as the speaker of the house, so, yes, i think it does make a difference. >> questions coming in is there any insight on the speakers future looking to the senate or can you give any insight there? >> there was a contested leadership among the house democrats to move to a new generation of leadership and at that point, nancy pelosi made an
offer that she would serve two more terms which would be her last congress as a member of the leadership. now, interestingly when i went back and looked, this was never put into the democratic rule. it isn't a law. you can't make her do it and she hasn't made this kind of statement about what her plans are. but earlier this year she did indicate she acknowledged members were making this offering 2018 and she indicated that she planned to live up to that so this would make her the last term again. my expectation is that these are her last two years as a leader and as a member of congress. i have a personal theory based not so much on reporting so take it for what it's worth, but i could see resident biden
appointing her as ambassador to italy where her grandparents immigrated from as a kind of closing element and one reason i think of that is her mentor was the congresswoman from louisiana who after she left congress was appointed by president clinton and ambassador to the vatican. her daughter was one of, one of her daughters was cokie roberts, someone i interviewed for the book before she passed away. she said she could see that her mother was really like that if nancy pelosi followed in her footsteps in that way. >> a question asking if you could speak on the fund raising ability that's been talked about quite a bit recently. >> she is unparalleled.
her office and announced a couple weeks ago that she has now raised $1 billion since elected to the leadership running for various democratic campaigns. fundraising has long been one of her strengths and its one that she has used to reward and cultivate support and get people elected. it is a phenomenal amount of money i hope i'm pronouncing your name correctly. if you can unmute you can ask your question. >> we will give howard a try if you could unmute you can go
ahead and ask your question. >> are you with us? i didn't put forth a question so i will yield my time to the next person. >> thank you. piggybacking off of a question that we had earlier the audience is asking if you might be able to make a prediction of who is likely to succeed. >> you don't have to be a member of congress to be in the leadership you can still be a speaker but if you are thinking about the people that are often mentioned as the successors i think one would be the congressman of new york now. he would be a groundbreaker the first person of color to lead
either house or party and both houses of congress. there are some others, the congresswoman from california is a former speaker of the california house and adam schiff has been interested in the leadership as well. there are several people that i think would like this in fact i think there are 200 people that would like this job and i think that when pelosi leaves, there will be a battle, a progressive candidate so that will be a battle to watch. nancy pelosi will have a role in that i'm sure. i don't know if she will make an endorsement that she will have a voice that matters. nancy pelosi understands just as when she got into the leadership, the leadership did not determine her victory that she will not be in the position to determine the victory of who
succeeds her because it will be up to the democratic members of the house and it is a secret ballot. >> can i chime in on this. you talked about the succession talks and how that played out with a number of my colleagues. in those conversations she always said she viewed the future and her successor as someone with three qualities. someone that reflects the core democratic values. number two someone who can keep the caucus together which is no small fee and number three someone who can negotiate with a president and senate leadership of either party so to the extent when and if she begins speaking about who replaces her and to the extent she weighs in on that issue, those criteria are going to be quite operative with her. a. >> think how difficult it is to do those things, to keep the
democratic caucus together it is crucial since the margin is so narrow but it is no easy task. her ability to keep the centers from revolting when they have to go back to districts like yours and members of the squad from the defecting, that's a considerable skill and negotiating with presidents, she, it's hard to negotiate. people melt when they walk into the oval office, but she has dealt with a series of them. in part in a way it goes back to her a picture i have of her in the book when she's 16-years-old talking to jfk. this is a person that has had a lot of dealings with the president and hasn't been fazed by them. >> we have about ten minutes left. let's see how many questions we can get. if you have a question i would
love for you to chime in as well. >> i was going into this question for susan that i wanted to pick up on and ask the question. you mentioned the squad, and the question is how has the relationship evolved and to lead into that, you wrote on page 281 nancy pelosi saw something of herself in aoc even when she was causing trouble, maybe especially then. can you talk about the relationship with aoc? >> nancy pelosi has been a disruptor and because she has a lot of passion for her political views she says when she was thinking about aoc she said i used to march in protest and
settle but her perspective now is a little different because she's disruptive and passionate and also operational. being operational means you can have a strong view, you should have a strong view but you are willing to do the things required to make it happen. one of the best interviews i had came on a few hours after she had a big blowup in the caucus it is set off this cascading effect between the squad and the person that was the chief of staff and between other democrats in congress. some people didn't understand the difference between making a
fine pate and making sausage and while it's nice to make, most of the time you are making sausage in washington and she also quoted the former chair of the appropriations committee of wisconsin nancy pelosi would put herself in the corner with those in this spot i think is that they do not seem to always understand the process that is involved in doing that. >> natalie, before we go to the next question i want to remind people to purchase this book go to 12 books.com and follow the
links. let's go to the next question. >> can you hear me okay? when democrats were trying to win the shirts back and in the middle of a heated battle my wife died and nancy called to express and this was in september of 2006 when the issue was in doubt as to whether it was in the house, went to the gravesite and attended the reception afterwards. after that [inaudible] >> that occurs throughout your book, sending or because two
people -- sending orchids to people and that a group of everybody important to her and there's been a lot of that. "the new york times" wrote an editorial saying she shouldn't continue as the democratic leader. she asked me to respond to the times which i did and they printed my response why she should remain as leader and i was happy to do that and it was a unusual relationship that we had. >> it's so great to hear from you and that story and what prompted that experience. i did hear several stories from
people. it's a very meaningful to people to have an experience like that. i interviewed bob dole for the book. he was excited because his birthday was coming up and it meant a lot to him and i checked back with her office to make sure she sent him an orchid, and in fact they had we had a couple of questions asking if you could speak to the bipartisanship.
and another thing she thinks is untrue and by the time it is at the end of the speech, there are little tears all the way up and down the speech text. after, some photographer went back to look at the pictures and there was some speculation she had been planning to tear up the speech all along. she told me that wasn't true she hadn't decided what to do and then the president awarded the presidential medal to rush limbaugh seated up in the first lady's box and that strikes her as an inappropriate thing to do during a state of the union address and especially rush limbaugh who is such a toxic figure for the democrats. so the speech and and she said i decided if he was going to shred the truth, i was going to shred his speech. it was too thick to tear in half so she divided it into four sets
of pages for each of them, tossed them on the desk and meanwhile my favorite part of the picture is he's pretending mike pence cannot see. >> if you believe the strength as a unifier of the party polarizes the republicans even more. >> she's comfortable living in a polarized world as was newt gingrich. newt gingrich of course followed strategies. nancy pelosi is critical and newt gingrich is critical of nancy pelosi but i have to tell
you when i interviewed newt gingrich for the book he was criticizing her on policy as a hard liberal but then he started to talk about how much respect he had for her as a politician as someone who knew how to get and use power for the purposes she had and he said when he looked at nancy pelosi he saw a fellow pirate and i think that that is intended as high praise indeed. >> over the next weeks and months congress is going to be dealing with an infrastructure bill with continued responses to covid and campaign-finance reform with many significant challenges. if you want to understand how nancy pelosi developed a strategy and tactics you should read madame speaker.
it will give you the best inside of you. it was a delight to have you ladies and gentlemen may 12th with congresswoman rosa delauro the chair one of the committee and may 19th governor bill richardson talking about how to navigate international hostage situations you can receive more information by going to cornell institute of politics and i do recommend that you go to 12 books.com and follow the links. susan programs anytime