tv Bret Baier To Rescue the Republic CSPAN November 24, 2021 2:28pm-3:29pm EST
>> the family can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. >> comcast, along with these television companies, supports c-span2 as a public service. >> and some of you may know, in just a couple of months, i will be leaving my position as the executive director of the reagan foundation and institute. so i hope you will forgive me if i take this opportunity to lash a little nostalgic over the previous visits. our guest tonight has paid to the reagan library in the years i've been here. just imagine the nervousness quotient involved when i have the job of interviewing a
professional interviewer. for those of you who routinely watch brett conducting interviews each evening on fox news as i do, you know exactly what i mean. he is among the very best in the business. the top labeled cable news program in his time slot and that has been the case for many years. but that has a second career going as a best selling author. and we are not talking about the -- biography.
for how you, too, can be a network anchor. rather this publication of this, his fifth nonfiction work, that there is a talented presidential historian and writer with a knack for shining a light on pivotal readers at pivotal moments in american history and always seemed to be worth another look. it i gave us a very important claims into the life of three u.s. presidents, dwight eisenhower, ronald reagan and fdr, all who changed the course of history and the fate of the nation. his newest book on our 18th president, ulysses s. grant entitled to rest the republic is
as educational as it is timely. and i say educational in that grant was far more important in u.s. history than some historians have given him credit for. a read at that book shows thaw we have been here before. there is always a pleasure and an honor to have him with us. so, ladies and gentlemen, if you would, please join me in welcoming to the reagan library mr. brett bear. >> thank you very much. it is great to be back here. thank you for making the effort to come out, mask and all.
and we had our show out here today, which we loved to do ahead of these events and started it with reagan sound bites, you know, looking at the big issues that reagan dealt with that are big issues that we're dealing with today. so it kind of all works out. i want to say hi to dale, john and lisa. and i know i have other friends in the audience. but let's talk grant. >> you got it. >> eight, nine years ago, was about your first book. and a t real challenges that you had with your son, paul, a remarkable book. please tell us he's okay. >> oh, yeah. he's doing great, thank you. that first book was called special heart, journey -- love, hope, courage -- oh, my gosh,
katie, what is it? faith, hope, courage and love. i'm thinking grant. i'm thinking -- anyway, bottom line, paul is doing fantastic. he's had four open heart surgeries, ten angioplasties. his last one was in december, his open heart surgery. and paul is now an inch taller than me. he's six feet tall with a size 13 shoe. and he's a golfer, a basketball player and he's doing fantastic. so thank you. >> your choices of presidents to study, you look oftentimes for an inflexion point of a moment in time when that particular president uniquely changed the course of history. is that how you go after your subjects?
>> you interviewed me all along. and the first was was eisenhower. it took a long time. but i did not know about president eisenhower. i knew about general eisenhower. so it was a discovery for me. i talk about that process having his team and a researcher who goes into the national archives that are literally treasure troves of historic nuggets and that book focussing on the three days in between eisenhower and kennedy's inauguration kind of opened my eyes to moments in history that are either overlooked or not focused on enough. so then the second book is about reagan and the final summits with gorbachev and the speech he gives at moscow state university. which in the big span of history is an amazing speech if you think about it and just wasn't focused on a lot of the time. and then a few days at the brink
is fdr, churchill and stalin planning d-day at the tehran conference which gets over-shadowed. so it's kind of like another spotlight that i wanted to give to something that i didn't think was focused on. so once that three day series was done, and the beginning, middle and end to the cold war, i wanted to find something that was also overlooked. and i looked at grant and i thought, i know nothing about his presidency. other than he was a drunk and it was scandal filled and he basically handed the baton off. i didn't really know. and i'm a student of history. so we started digging in. and grant aem's people will focus on his time as general, which was spectacular. there's amazing stories in the book that kind to have go through his time.
but spends a lot of time on his presidency, which was consequential. i takes over for andrew johnson, who was i think one of our worst presidents, if not the worst. racist, i won't sugar coat it. not a lot in my description of johnson. but he -- you know, lincoln is assassinated. grant can see that happening before him. and he eventually is drafted to run for president, wins on a landslide. and what he gets done is he pushes through the 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution. he fights the kkk.
together at a pivotal time. gives him another look. it's over-shadowed his presidency. time in eloquent terms, at the end of his life, he leaves the presidency. we're kinds of going chronologically in a different spot. but after he leaves the presidency, he trusted a lot of people in his time in office. and they turned him a couple of times. that's where some of the corruption comes from. and after he leaves the presidency, he trusts somebody else, part of his family, who he invest with, make some money and then invest more and loses everything. he is poor after the presidency. and has to start writing articles for a magazine about
his time in the civil war. and mark twain is his friend. he says how much are you getting paid for these articles? and he says $500. twain is upset by this. he says you are much better than that. you're president. you're the biggest general we've ever had. you need to start writing your memoir and i will publish it. and it was so well written, a lot of people thought twain wrote it. but he said he didn't. he only edited a few pages. he start writing his memoir and he gets throat cancer to the point where he can barely swallow and they're spraying cocaine mist in the back of his throat so he can swallow and live. he's huddled in blankets and writing long hand because he wants to finish so he can provide money for his wife, julia. and he finishes his memoir and a few days later he dies.
twain sells it. it's the best selling book of the time. he makes roughly $300,000, which equates to about $14 million in today's terms. and thereby takes care of his family. >> amazing. >> he was 5'7", 5'8", 130 pounds wet. why do they add the wet part? i don't know. you know, i was on gutsfield show and i said he was 5'7", 5'8", no offense. and he didn't like that too much. but, anyway, he was really small. so he, as a soldier, he was -- he never really wanted to be a
soldier. his dad forced him to go to west point. and he was not that great at much. he went to west point, kicking and screaming. and when he went there, he got the appointment. and they said, well, you have the appointment. ulysses s. grant. and he said, no, my name is hiram ulysses grant. and they said you can only get this appointment if your name is ulysses s. grant. so his name became ulysses s. grant. s. stands for nothing. but his name was really hiram. and then he changed his name. he kind of stunk in school. he was 20 out of 39. he got a lot of demerits. but he's a really good horseman. and it turned out that he was an excellent soldier and he showed that in the mexican-american war. he had some tough times. he went out to the northwest
territory. he was really lonely and started drinking, will some lonely soldiers might do. and he was slight again and could not hold his liquor that well. and he got busted by a commander drunk. and he said either you resign your post or we're going to court marshall you. and so he resigned. he went back to galena, illinois, and went into this spiral where he was bad at farming and bad in the leather business. and he's finally selling firewood out of the back of a cart to make money. and three years after that, he is the head of union forces as the biggest general america has ever seen and a few years after that, he's president of the united states. >> amazing. amazing. now, he graduates from west point and i thought this is really interesting bit of trivia. in the mexican-american war, he fought alongside who? >> he fought alongside a bunch
of guys. zachary taylor. >> robert e. lee. >> robert e. lee, a number of the generals that he ended up fighting against. that's where the interesting intersections between all of these guys and these battles because they have fought with each other before. and so he had these established relationships. at grant's funeral, to show you how well respected he was across the land, a million people show up and line the streets and they bring out their old uniforms. and they line the streets of new york city. and his pallbearers are two union generals and two confederate generals at the ends of his life. and that's the relationships they had that went back all the way to the mexican-american war. >> lincoln wasn't envious, but
he looked over his shoulder at some point and saw grant and thought, oh, my gosh, this guy might run for president against me, right? >> yeah, he did. grant, he thought that he was that popular and he was that popular. with the american people. but grant never had that aspiration. he really didn't want to run for political office. he was asked all the time to run for president. he said the only office i ever thought about running for was mayor of galena so i could build a sidewalk from my house to the depot. so he finishes and he goes back to galena, illinois, and they held a parade for him. and there's a big sign that says, general, the sidewalk is done. that was his only political aspiration. but he does get recruited to run and, obviously, he has admiration for lincoln. a relationship that lincoln
truly believes he's an internal kind of soft spoken guy. he sees this leadership in grant. another is that clinic, mrs. lincoln and abraham lincoln, the president, invites the grants to ford theater the night of the assassination. and the grants almost go. but mary todd lincoln, julia grant was not a big fan of mary todd lincoln. and mrs. grant says they've got to go see their children in new jersey, which they did. and president lincoln is assassinated that night. grant is bereft with guilty and he thinks if i had been there, i would have been able to save president lincoln. he was also a target, grant was, of john wilks booth. >> and after lincoln is assassinated, grant stands at the time as the most popular
figure, right? by far. and johnson despised that. he despised that grant has that power and grew to really, really hate him, johnson did, to the point where he was trying to figure out how to get him out of the way. he wanted to send him to mexico, he wanted to do these other things and grant stood up to him and said no. and, you know, he said if it's a military order, i will go. but i'm not going if this is just you sending me. >> yeah. grant, of course, known as the brilliant northern union general. but you writing a book that because of the approach that he took to southern soldiers to the confederates, i don't want to say the people in the south admired in as much in the north.
on and, really, he was not a self-promoter. and he was this guy that so self-effacing that when he was run forth president, it comes from his mom, hannah. who the circumstance and formality to the point where he was seen sweeping her front porch when he was being inaugurated. she hated the pomp of all of that. and she actually, crossing books here, she reminds me a lot of eisenhower's mom, who is the exact same way and didn't really care that he was the winning general.
there's so many moments during his presidency, not the least of which is the end, which is the 1876 election. the country is divided. three states put up two set of electors. those states are saying we are not deciding. we're going to say both of them won. the violence starts to bubble up. the grant starts to work behind the scenes for the grand bargain which keeps the country
together. >> i really admire that. you worked the anti-politician. it's not interesting and that's what led to so many of the scandals that took place during this presidency. >> there's some decent size scandals in his administration but nothing that ties to him other than any inability to choose the right person or rather choose the wrong person
to trust. >> talk about the 14th amendment and essentially and that grant needed to and wanted to enforce it. this was not something easy to do. there's a palpable sense if you can't enforce it, what good is it? that's the argument. the supreme court is undercutting the 14th and 15th amendment as well. to bring the country together on race and get past the civil war.
>> the lack of respect for blacks. that had to be the most difficult issue to deal with. >> 100%. this is it. this is the time. when grant takes over, he's got to unwind what johnson has done and remind people of the vision of lincoln before him. it's a fascinating time. i think you think of presidents in tough positions. that's a big tough one. when he's making this grand
bargain with election in doubt and really where country on the brink of falling back into a civil war. there are, we say it's the kkk but in reality it's a white malita that is former confederate soldiers that believe this is the time to rise up again. it's an insurgency happening. he's trying to make this deal in a way that they will buy in. >> get a sense of how difficult this must have been and i must have missed this day in history class because i didn't realize it until i read the book. talk about the dominican republic and the role that grant and others thought this might play in this whole mess. >> they thought of everything
and throwing everything against the wall about possibilities to soothe the south and make it so this wasn't an issue. sglo the great expansion of the united states with creates a whole other set of issues for grant to have to deal with because of -- >> native americans and the battles that native americans have to have.
>> again, i welcome him. it is really just -- i remember when president george w. bush, 43, was elected and they had the issue with the vote counts in florida. that looks like baby food compared to scandals and the cheating and the -- all the rest of that. >> there's all kinds of allegations on both sides that blacks were prevented from get ing to the polls. there was an effort to squash the vote. republicans had stacked the deck. there's all kinds of stuff.
>> i do notice that election and this whole mess you were talking about once the genesis of the term smoke filled room. it really was a smoke filled room decision. >> it was. he's working for nickels who is challenger to the current louisiana governor. he's a democrat, this guy. he gets in touch with grant and says i think we can make a deal. it's always a louisianans. they figure out a way to make a deal here.
grant, i think, hoped they would keep the promise and two the president that followed would then take that torch from him, the lincoln legacy and move it down the presidential road. the book is, at the end of the book is perspective. after george floyd, the killing and the protest that resulted from that, around the country. i was writing and i saw the coverage in san francisco and there's a grant statue being pulled down and a reporter is
there live. she turns around and says, why are you pulling the statue down and the people doing it says because he's part of the civil war and he had a slave. we got to move on from that. it really struck me in that moment because here is a guy that did have a slave. his father-in-law, gives him a slave but he freed that man soon thereafter. spends the rest of his life fighting slavery, fighting for equality for black, fighting for the right to vote and doing everything he can to help the african-american communities get on his feet. there are black congressmen flp are black smarts. there are blacks who owned farms and making money in the south. they are succeeding in those early years and it just struck me in that moment as that statue
is toppling down how little we remember about history and how sad that is and how much we could do to make sure younger people remember history so they can affect the future in a different way. >> how grant is a drunk and all that. i get the sense at the end of the day, we would define grant as an american hero. >> 100%. everything we found in the
national archives suggest not only was he a military strategist and almost a savant when it came to strategy in the civil war but he was, just a leader. a leader of men who was humble, patient but had this cold resolve to get things done. that hamilton song, who writes your history, i think for years because of the vestages of reconstruction and all that happened after that, all of the negativity got dumped on grant. >> there's a number of questions from people in the audience.
who does research for the book? >> the first researcher was a woman named sydney soderberg who was a former mayor of salina, kansas which is the town next to abilene. i first met her when i was exploring eisenhower and trying to figure out what i was going to write and the library said this is your best person. we met and she talked and she said, i want you to know something. i watch your show. i said that's great. she said i like your show. i said that's better. she said i'm a true blue kansas democrat. i said, that's great. i'm a news anchor who likes
history. we are going to get along and we did. with sydney and whitney, we formed this team where we kind of just bounced these nuggets around until we get a blue print. then we are stitching pieces of the quilt together until we get the book that we get. it takes a while. i write at night. usually with a glass of wine. i'm a night owl. fortunately, my wife holds down the fort and allows me to do that. >> let's see. talk about grant's relationship with robert e. lee. how well they knew each other and the mutual respect. >> they fought together in the mexican american war. there was a mutual respect. they communicated during the war by telegram.
lee met the thoughts of the perfect general. he was dressed to the nines. the sword. he was well shaven. he just looked the part. grant did not at all. when he was winning the battles, photographers cut off his head and put it on the body of other generals sitting up and looking better. it was the first photoshop. it continued after the war and he invited lee to the white house. that would be a good thing to cover. >> they only spent like 15 minutes together. they kept in touch. there was a mutual respect.
there's a lot of debate about who is the better general strategically. >> how do you do your words or pages per day? >> i usually put in two hours. i put myself in a room for two hours. we bounce back and forth. kathryn is just amazing at being able to stitch things together. we ping-pong and it's a great team.
i think that grant's time as he is at the end of his life trying to write that memoir and getting through that moment is an interesting nugget. his relationships come forward in this book a lot more than other places where i've read about grant. i think we get a little bit more context, a little bit more personality to his character. that's in part from other writers of other people who described him. >> you talk about how they by chance kim together. maybe you can touch on it. it's either a rumor or a fact. john wilkes booth appears in front of grant's carriage.
>> it's that night as they are going to new jersey, john wilkes booth is seen riding horse back and grant remembers and writes about this strange man staring him through the carriage in an ominous way that night. it's believed that is john wilkes booth chasing down the carriage. turns around and goes to ford theater. >> that was part of the whole reasoning. >> yeah. grant is convinced it was him. who knows. it was an ominous figure staring at his carriage as he's leaving washington. >> are you planning another
book? >> three days is three days. it's three books. i think that's a good -- makes a great christmas set. fantastic for under the tree. it's in the process. it's in the works. sydney has been deployed. the nuggets are being mined. >> i'm going to compress two questions into one. they seem to fit. how do you restore civic
what's your opinion of your competition at the other cable networks? >> wow. this is being recorded? >> no, not at all. it's off the record. >> i have a lot of respect for competition at other networks. i will say, i think that some people who were regular news people were affected by donald trump and his administration to the point where emotion factored in more than it should have in some of the reporting to where they lost some people in the trust factor. it hurt all of us as journalists to do that. when i took over in january 2009, he said two things to me.
one, the show is not about you and two, it's about the news. let the news drive the show. somebody feel like they know what's happening in the u.s. and around the world. they have some sense from big moments of people who covered washington for decades. i'm try to take the emotion out of it from me. the whole thing, we report, you decide is not just a slogan. i'm trying to do that every night from 6:00 to 7:00.
>> all right. any predictions for the 2022 election? >> again, the cameras are rolling. if you talk to republicans on the hill, they feel like they are in a good position. they feel subject wise, topic wise, they have a number of things they can talk about that they feel good about. it should be for the house side, according to kevin mccarthy, paint by numbers. they should pick up and he's looking at 20, 30, 40 big pick ups in the house. the senate is more difficult in that. the battlegrounds are a little tougher for republicans. that will come down to the candidates chosen.
whether the former president decides to run will decide how a lot of parties deal with that. if he does run, he will get a ton of attention and every other candidate will be asked what ever the former president is saying or doing. i assume he'll be back on twitter which will pick up our knowledge of what's happening inside president trump's head. it's very cyclical. >> fair and balanced. >> i haven't totally decided yet. i know you're going to ask. i haven't decided.
it's a huge decision. >> what processes are in place to make real fair and balance? do you have control or influence over content in the balance? >> yes. i'm the executive editor of the show. i am the -- yeah. the buck stops with me. i have a great team. i have executive producers, writers. we have a great team that's formed a really good system about trying to be an ice hockey goalie of news to prevent the bad pucks from getting through. there's many bad pucks out there.
>> serious yes. how did you like being on gutfeld? >> let's see. a steak in the lion's den. i don't know. it was fun but i didn't know it was happening. once he started talking about hunter biden and whatever else he had some skit about pelosi. i said, i should probably exit stage left. i said i have an interview with speaker pelosi. i hope she's not watching. he turns and says, she's not up this late. >> two questions. i think you played ball. what's your favorite golf course? >> favorite golf course just because of the memories is augusta national. i love playing out here at
pebble beach and the at&t, there's nothing like that. i talk to three, four million people a night through the camera. when i'm standing in front of 200 people and i have to make a turn, it's a different ball game. i played in college. it's still a different ball game. >> i have a question. this is from me. i know brett earlier in your career you had the pentagon. >> i did. >> you were really well informed on the security front. what's your view on the exit in afghanistan. was it a military foul up. how do you see what occurs there? >> everything i've heard is every one was recommending the troops remain until americans were out. that the president was very
determined to have it the other way around so zero, the end state quickly. everything we can tell is pretty much down the road. i think the state department was weighing in on that front. i don't know if we know 100% but i think this is the presidential decision. i think it's sad, you know, having been there just a few weeks after 9/11 i landed at the air base with defense secretary rumsfeld and to see all that time, i embedded along the afghan, pakistan boarder. i was in the small afghan villages where 20-year-old captains were essentially mayors of these little villages trying to get girls to go to school and set up the water system and they
did. amazing things were happening. i think they bit off a lot more of the original mission. how we got out, now would we get out but how was sad. i think former defense secretary gates on 60 minutes. it was just sad. i'd be remiss if i didn't say, our condolences to the powell family and the loss of colin powell this week. he was a great, great man and he was larger than life when it came to washington. the stories that i have from researching reagan as his national security adviser, during moscow in the final summit and finally coming to the end where they will make the final deal and gorbachev keeps
saying it will be a peaceful existence, reagan says it like four times. he's suspicious of it. powell puts it down and slides it to reagan. reagan looks at it and says the answer is no. we're not adding that paragraph. gorbachev explode and gets in reagan's face. the whole deal is about ready to fall apart. everybody files out of the room. the deal is done. he picks it up and it says, if
you agree, you can never criticize them again. meaning you can never criticize the soviet union again if you put that paragraph in the deal. reagan saw that and trusted powell so much that he risked the whole nuclear deal and koe lynn powell influence not only with reagan but the bush's and a lot of people in washington was exponential. he's a good man. it's been a very quick hour spent with you. just wonderful. thank you for coming. thank you. i'm so happy to have read the book. >> thank you. i really appreciate it. thank you.
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