tv Presidential Misconduct Discussion at Fordham Law School CSPAN December 26, 2019 12:56am-2:27am EST
the president resigned before the report could be presented to congress. now, one of the historians who wrote the report joined the discussion on presidential misconduct. from fordham university law school, this is an hour and a half. this is an hour and a half. because we never get to talk about history and historians. we always talk about politics and the law and foreign policy. and it is all very interesting. but those of you who know me know that i like the history. and i think it would've been a very good thing if more historians were weighing in more frequently and people who write about politics in a historical vein and people who think about what's come before. we don't have enough of it and
this is our meager attempt to try to do that. before we get started, let me just say that this is being recorded by c-span. you know the routine, which means that when you get the mic, speak into the mic, wait for the mic before you speak. and be aware of the fact that it's being recorded. so before we get started with our discussion, let me introduce the men to my left. jim banner who edited the book "presidential misconduct," which is our kickoff for our discussion tonight, is a visiting scholar in history at george washington university, having spent most of his career teaching at princeton. he's the founding director of the history news service. his most recent book is being a historian and introduction to the professional world of history. again, i think it is about the profession and the worldview. he has edited and written numerous books, including the
one we are featuring tonight. he is one of the creators of the national history center. jackson leers is the board of governors professor of history at rutgers university. he's the editor and chief of rareton, the quarterly review. let me tell you how i know jackson. so i was a graduate student at yale. people would always say, there is this great historian. he is going to be so great. in full disclosure, you are a few years older. he was one of the stars in graduate school, and he proceeded to define a field, which is basically how to think about culture in a way that spoke to many different parts of our political life. that might not be how he describes himself, but that's how i'm describing you. we are very happy to have him. his most recent book is "rebirth of a nation: the remaking of modern america." he writes constantly for the new
york review of books and the london review of books. rick hertzberg to his left is a journalist known for many things. tonight, i would like to introduce him in a number of ways, first as being the speech writer for jimmy carter. and we will talk a little bit about jimmy carter. he's known as one of the preeminent editors in the united states. he has worked twice at "the new republic." he is most identified with "the new yorker" magazine which he was executive editor of and has been given a lot of credit for refashioning it during the tina brown years. he has been a finalist for the national magazine award six times and won that award once for his comments in "the talk of the town" in "the new yorker." his most recent book is about the birth of a new political era. to his left is eric alterman. eric is all of the categories at once. he is a historian, a journalist,
a critic. it depends on what day he wakes up where he is. he is the distinguished professor for english and he's a media columnist for the nation. he has written 10 books. he is going on his 11th, coming out in june, titled "lying in state: why presidents lie and why trump is worse." [laughter] karen: he is a contributor to "the new yorker," "the atlantic," "rolling stone," many other publications. he has written about politicians from bill de blasio to george bush to barack obama and many others. i am hoping that among these panelists tonight, we can get some sense of proportionality about what is happening in the country today, what it means, and where we're headed. so to kick off the discussion, i'm going to turn to jim banner. what i would really like you to tell us briefly is why the reissue of this book that originally came out in 1974.
why are we seeing it again? jim: i am happy to do that. i want to say that i do have some views about the trump presidency. but i will keep my powder dry until we get into a general discussion. history has a way of capturing even historians by surprise. i was caught up in a project 45 years ago to present to the impeachment inquiry of the house judiciary committee at the request of its special counsel, john doar, a contextual survey of presidential misconduct from george washington through the administration of lyndon johnson. ntial misconduct from george washington through the administration of lyndon johnson. along with about 14 other historians under the general editorship and management with the destroying of the south, in eight weeks, we prepared a report, submitted it to john doar.
he accepted it. and was getting ready to present the report to the members of the judiciary committee and the president resigned. i always hoped that would give me some license that i had something to do with nixon's resignation. [laughter] but it did not, because it turned out that the report never got into the members of the impeachment inquiry. but the text was in the public domain. it was grabbed up by dell publishing house, published in cloth and paper editions but after nixon had resigned. and the book fell dead in the marketplace. it is scarcely known among historians. and it was reviewed only once. by me. [laughter] irregular,entirely
but i arranged it with the journal editor to do so. i wanted to report on a footnote of the impeachment inquiry. then i went on about my life as a historian. a year ago this past september i was sitting in my office working on another book on a different subject. the phone rang. the voice said, jim? yes? this is jill lepore. she's a fellow historian. a lot of you know her as a ander for "the new yorker," she asked, what the hell is this book? she stumbled upon it. she went to the stacks and pulled it off and found that in 45 years it was taken out three , times. if jill didn't know about it, it had to be an insignificant book. well, darn it. she brought back the subject of the significance because she wrote about it for "the new yorker" and all hell broke loose
at my desk, i eventually turned it over to my agent. and the result is this updated version of a report that was first written and submitted to the congress 45 years ago. i am still alive to tell the tale. [laughter] jim: this book goes through the presidency of barack obama. the original one did not cover the nixon presidency. this one does not touch upon donald trump for two very strong reasons. one, previously and now, the administrations that occasioned the report like this are not complete. course,nd of all, of most of the documentation of the history of nixon's administration was not available then. certainly trump's administration now. it is only fair that we leave the now-sitting president out of
it. i want to say two things about the nature of the report that is contained in this book. three things. first of all, it is not the kind of history that i and my colleagues would think of producing. it is very much against the grain. it's denatured, factual, uninterpretive. it's really a chronicle. the kind of history that was written through the middle ages and well beyond, episode by episode, reign by reign, papacy by papacy, president by president, and no connective tissue, just what happened about certain aspects of the presidencies going back to george washington. the second-place, a report about presidential misconduct over 230 may, as woodward said, 45
years ago in the introduction to the report, unprecedented. this book is only slightly precedented. because there is no seriously scholarly, academic field of presidential misconduct. in many respects, it's a very narrow way to interpret and to try to evaluate the strengths of presidencies. after all, we are going to look at a presidency, we are going to vision, withn the which it takes office, its success in implementing that vision, the political skills of the administration, the president and his official family bring to the job the , obstacles they face, the crises that beset them and so on. so to evaluate presidencies on the grounds of misconduct doesn't make great and strong sense. take, for example, the presidency of warren harding.
it lasted for 2.5 years and one of the most corrupt in american history. but it turns out that president harding was as white and unblemished as the driven snow. he, himself, wasn't corrupt. it was all the people around him that took advantage of him. he was naive, didn't set down the laws. >> he was a sex maniac. jim? -- jim: hmm? >> sex maniac. jim: you and i will have to talk about that later. ok. [laughter] jim: by the way, my colleagues and i for these two reports have not gotten into private life or life before or after the presidency. but take harry truman's presidency, for example. it was really quite corrupt in
many ways. the president wasn't. but those around him did a lot of illegal and corrupt things. but who would judge the truman presidency on the grounds of his conduct? look what it did. he ended the second world war. it integrated the armed forces. the marshall plan came into being. the truman doctrine. things like that. i mean, it was an administration of extraordinary achievement. the second point i'd like to make before falling silent is the following. that is that -- i think -- when i think of what we have wrought, i think of that old vaudeville joke, how's your wife? compared to whom? it's hard to know what to make of the record that we have created. at least, it's hard for me to do so, because we do not have any comparative sign posts. it seems to me that we need to know more about our kindrid representative democracies. britain, france, germany, scandinavian countries, japan,
south korea. and compare the record that we have amassed with the record of misconduct or good behavior on the part of governments elsewhere. but i am not even certain that that should be the comparison that we should run. maybe we should compare the record we have amassed against the records of states and cities. and then, it seems to me if you , compare this record against , say, rhode island, louisiana, chicago, it may look pretty good. so i come away from our own account not certain as to if i should feel depressed or if i should feel rather confident that somehow, we have muddled through with the defective institutions that we have but institutions such as congressional investigations, courts, a robust press, non-profit organizations, aroused citizens such as the women's march and so on, that
keep the system more or less in check and with only occasional breakthroughs and eruptions such as we're experiencing today. now, i do have -- i do feel confident in making some comparisons later on. but i want to hear what my fellow panelists say before i do so. karen: rick, i want to turn to you next because i want to hear your reflections on what presidential misconduct is. then we can get eric to talk about lying. but just the range of things -- you know, that are touched on in this book, but even beyond this book, what is actually this word "misconduct" mean and what doesn't it mean? and how should we think about it, both in the long perspective and in the short perspective of what's in front of our eyes? only onehink i am the
up here who has done time in the white house. >> true. rick: so naturally when i got my copy of "presidential misconduct," i eagerly turned to the jimmy carter section. i have to say that it could have been replaced with a one-liner. karen: with what? rick: with a one-liner. that said, nothing to see here, move on. his scandals, such as they were, derived partly from the fact that he had never served. the only time he had ever served in the federal government was when he was in the navy. he didn't know anybody to speak of outside of georgia. so the scandals, such as they were, like the bert lance scandal, derived partly or maybe mostly from the fact that he
brought with him the people that he trusted in georgia. and not all of them were, by washington standards, trustworthy. so i think the real problem with president carter was that he was inexperienced. and i would say that the mistakes he made, particularly at the beginning, could be largely explained in that way. he put a cousin of his in charge of the sort of white house housekeeping operations. and as a result, the sort of penny pinching -- the penny pinching kind of ethic that he
had brought with him from georgia resulted in some mistakes that were more damaging, really, than any of the so-called scandals. for example, the newspaper subscriptions were all canceled. that was to save a few bucks. -- perhaps the worst one, i think, was that he sold the sequoia. do you remember? that was the presidential yacht. and that turned out to be a mistake of the first order. because he was trying to de-royal the white house, so he gave up "hail to the chief" and he thought, well, geez, the president should not have a yacht. that is -- he doesn't need a yacht. so he sold it. it was a very costly mistake. the yacht was a real money
saver. with the yacht, he could take half a dozen senators out for a nice trip up and down the potomac, serve them some bourbon and water. and, of course, he had also banned alcohol from the premises, from the white house. >> hard alcohol. hendrik: hard alcohol? there was beer. hard liquor works better when you're trying to make a deal. instead of -- so when he compromised, he had to give up something of real value. and a lot of those concessions could have been replaced more cheaply by trips on the potomac.
so that was a scandal of sorts, a scandal derived from being too good, too moral. now, maybe someone will be able to point out to me things that i overlooked about the carter administration. and the way we -- i think -- the book, which is full of revelations, defined scandal perhaps rather narrowly. it doesn't really include policy scandals. it does not include the lyndon johnson section. if i remember correctly, doesn't include the vietnam war, which i suppose you could call a scandal. it was certainly a horrible mistake. perhaps even worse was the
invasion of the dominican republic under johnson, where the dominican republic had come into the hands of a social democratic regime. jim: those limitations were set for us by john doar. preventing us from getting into that. k: so misconduct, i cannot recall any of that from the carter administration. correct me if i'm wrong. bert lance had his problems, and jimmy carter's trusted bert lance, brought bert lance. there was sort of -- the lack of washington insiders was a handicap for carter. so i guess i will leave it at that. karen: i want to ask one follow-up question. we can come back to it later. at one point at all, or did it or did it not, become evident
inside the white house group that the lack of insiders was a problem? well, in the speechwriting office, james fallows was my boss at the beginning. later, i became the chief speechwriter. it became evident before we'd even come to the office. that was -- that seemed pretty clear, at least to our little cabal. jackson, give us some reflection before we get into individual presidents, on how you think about this word "misconduct" and what it means in terms of how we should think about ideology, policy, sexual scandals, whatever it is. just -- jackson: well, i am in favor of a much broader definition of misconduct than much of what we have been talking about so far. when you start to get into policy, then you're beginning to
speak my language, because i feel like the most serious presidential misconduct and the sort that has been most destructive to human lives and liberties, both at home and abroad has occurred at specific moments, what we historians call "a moment," is really the last 70 years, since the 1940's, since the emergence of the imperial presidency and the national security state and particularly the intelligence agencies, which, as you know, can operate without control or even oversight, remain largely invisible to the american population at large. i think it is interesting that in jim's reissue of the book, the two presidents whose administrations do warrant broader coverage of misconduct are richard nixon and george w. bush. and both of these presidents engaged in, i think, serious abuse of power through
the institution of domestic spying by the cia, which is clearly against the cia charter. and which was begun under l.b.j., directed at protestors against the vietnam war and other dissidents. and nixon expanded that program considerably. and "operation chaos" was finally exposed by the journalist seymour hearst in the early 1970's when he had a brief gig and hisnew york times," exposures provoked the hearings that were conducted by senator frank church into the misdeeds of the cia. and the committee discovered all sorts of evidence of disturbing misdeeds, not only the spying on u.s. citizens who happened to oppose nixon's policies but also the successful and presidentially authorized c.i.a.
coup in chile, the overthrow of the democratic elected salvador allende. interesting to me about this was how there is this fusion most of the time between the presidency, the executive branch, and the rest of the national security state, in particular, the intelligence agencies. but, sometimes, there is tension. there was tension under the kennedys for a variety of complicated reasons. there was very little tension under nixon. and that is when the government in the presidency committed, my view, the most egregious misdeeds and, i think, were guilty of the most extraordinary misconduct. i would say the same thing is true of the george w. bush
administration, which provided a new lease on life for the national security state after the brief, very brief, moment of public skepticism spawned by the church committee and the failures of the vietnam war. but the global war on terror really brought it back, and it brought back the possibilities for, i would argue, the most serious kinds of misconduct. warrantless electronic surveillance, which is a clear violation of the fourth amendment. torture, and the tortuous legal memos devised to justify them, which is a clear violation of the eighth amendment and the geneva convention. this is -- these are the conventions that dick cheney labeled as quaint. so we are in the presence of various levels of misconduct, it
seems to me, ranging from warren harding's encounter with a chamber maid at the palace hotel in san francisco to other more serious matters that involve public policy and larger public impact, and i want to broaden the scope of our discussion to include those larger issues. karen: yes, so let me just talk that jacksonoint," said about the geneva conventions, and one of the things i would like here, and think will turn to eric, about is, are we living in a different paradigm? i know this book lays out presidential misconduct. almost like we normalize it, whether it's about policy or personal life, whatever it is, just by saying, yeah, there's misconduct in all these different administrations. eric will tell us how trump's lying is worse than any other president. but before that, i want to ask you, one of the things about the
war on terror -- i agree with you, that the war on terror change the presidency and the executive in ways we don't see -- it is quite now. do you agree with that? are we really any different paradigm or are we just going to, in 10 years, issue another book, "presidential misconduct: updated once again"? or are we living in a different place? because of the growth of the national security state? jackson: i fear that we are living in a different place. i am also deeply suspicious of pronouncements of new paradigms. because it reminds me of bill gates and other futurologists predicting the utopian future that awaits us after the bumpy transition.
well, transition is where people live. this is not something we can escape that easily. this is everyday life. our everyday lives, and this is partly due to technology, as you know, and the capacity of the nsa and other government agencies, but let's focus on the n.s.a. since they're devoted to this activity, and the kinds of revelations that edward snowden made with respect to the gathering -- a dragnet, really -- that encompassed all americans that enlisted and still enlist google and facebook and the rest to monitor our conversations, our internet visits. there's a long list. we all know about this. people have -- what makes me worry that there is a new, if not a new paradigm, there's a new public mentality, is the number of people i know, and especially -- not only younger people but often younger people,
who say, "well, why should i care of all of my data is out there? first of all, i have done nothing wrong, and secondly, i cannot do anything about it anyway. if the phone company already knows these things about me, why should i care about the government knows these things about me? " the problem with, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear approach is that nobody ever says that about the snowden revelations, who lived under a dictatorship. no one from germany says that. no one from russia or the former soviet union says it. no one from chile says it. you could continue that list. it's people in the u.s. who have -- yes, we have a government that has abused its powers grievously, but we have not yet reached the condition that the germans were in under naziism or communism. and i think that there's a certain naivete as well as a
belief that technology has brought us into this new era. and we have to adjust to it. there is a kind of technological determinism, the train has left station, and we had better be on it, and my feeling is we should be able to hail that train and stop it and back it up if we want to. that's called public policy. that's called politics. we don't have to just accede to technological determininance here. karen: eric, i want to turn to you. before we get to trump, talk about how you see the role of lying in terms of the presidency, the contract between the president and the citizenry, and where you think it fits into this discussion about misconduct overall? eric: well, it's a big topic, obviously. this is my second -- i just
finished copy editing but just turned in my second book about presidential lying. my first book came out in 2004, i think. and in the first book i , concluded that presidents should live, and now, i don't feel that way anymore. i really don't. i think lying is a part of life. i think everybody lies, just about everybody lies and politicians -- but all politicians lie. and if you look at how presidents are judged, the ones who lied are not any less successful than the ones who didn't lie. jimmy carter hardly ever lied. barack obama didn't lie. john kennedy lied all the time. franklin roosevelt lied a tremendous amount, and he saved western civilization by lying, i would argue. to be the president of the
united states, to be the president of the united states, you almost have to lie, because people can't handle the truth. for the first century and a half of american history, i would say presidents lied for two reasons. one was -- well, they lied about slavery. they lied about the nature of human beings, but they lied because america was committed to endless expansion. every president was sort of responsible for expanding the country, and yet, people didn't want mexicans or central americans or american indians or free blacks to have the same rights that they had. so they had to -- in order for these two things to happen, they had to continually lie about what was actually happening and how these people were being
treated, and that went on and on as the country expanded. the most consequential liar of the first american century is james polk, who increased the size of the country by 25% with the war that he lied to get into. interestingly, the hero of the truth of that story was abraham lincoln who tried to hold him to a count as a first term congressman and lost his seat over it. and as we became an empire, empires demand lies, because they're very ugly business and people don't want to hear the truth about that so presidents by and large lied about it. woodrow wilson didn't lie personally. teddy roosevelt did lie. hoover, interestingly, i couldn't find a single lie that hoover told. but once you -- warren harding only lied about his sex life. he didn't lie about the scandals. he wasn't personally involved. but once you get into the modern post-war period beginning with
world war ii and after, we become an empire, and we define our national security in such a way that anyone who does anything we might not like has two be stopped, and yet, we cannot admit to that, and so, lying becomes a part of being president. statesy, the united didn't overthrow chile. we didn't do that coup but under eisenhower we overthrew guatemala and iran directly and also indonesia and the congo. all four of those things happened under eisenhower. and yet, he is considered a wonderful guy. everybody wants him to be their grandfather. all those presidents lied a lot. kennedy lied -- kennedy lied about the cuban missile crisis , and again, it was a terrific lie. i'm glad he did it. you can't really generalize
about lies. nixon was a terrible person and his lies were incredibly damaging. i don't think for the same reasons that jackson says. i think they were damaging because they killed millions and millions of people. he could have ended the vietnam war repeatedly, but he did not want to, because he thought it would be bad politics. we have these actual discussions , where kissinger and he say these things. george w. bush, of course, did -- also is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the creation of millions of refugees on the basis of lies. so when you get to trump, interestingly, trump is not in their league in terms of the number of people killed and the chaos caused in the world and yet he's told approximately 14,000 falsehoods. not all of them are lies but most of them are. and trump is a different -- we're in a new era with trump , because these other
presidents, as horrible as what they did was, what nixon did was and george w. bush did and ronald reagan -- we haven't mentioned, but he was a terrible liar although he gave the impression of believing his lies -- as horrible as they were, they were lying for a purpose that we understood that they were lying for and we kind of knew that they were lying and they ran basically competent governments that had individual obsessions of the president themselves that went too far and they were reined in over time. johnson, too. whereas trump has destroyed any distinction between truth and lies, and he just doesn't care. all he's done his whole life is lie. and he lied when he ran for president. he lied in the debates. it was amazing to me what he was getting away with. and he didn't stop as president. the very first day of his presidency, he went to the c.i.a. and started lying before
the cameras, and so, he's attacking our way of life. he's attacking our government. he is preparing -- it is quite consistent, interestingly, in what hannah aaron wrote in 1951, that if you want to destroy people's ability to resist, you have to destroy their distinction between truth and lies, because if they can't believe anything, they can't act. and that's -- i don't want to compare the united states to nazi germany or stalinist russia. i reject those comparisons in every way, but there's an awful lot of similarity to the way those dictators treated the truth and the way trump's supporters go along with it, as happened in both of those places , and i think there are elements of totalarianism in trump's presidency and the movement that
derives specifically from his lying, and if he were to be reelected, i don't know if our government can survive it. i do not like to make projections. i am a historian. think about fox news. there's never been anything like fox news. we know what state tv is and we know what independent tv is but we don't really know what fox is. it's something brand new and it reinforces a lie so if you want to tell the truth, you would have to contend with them defining the truth as lies and they're very powerful. so my book started out, my new book started out as a history of presidential lying and i had to fight with my editors about this but it became about a culture of lying and how the president is part of that culture, and he is the most important symbol of it,
but it's a much bigger problem than just trump. karen: you wanted to weigh in? >> accepting what you said, can i shift the categories for a minute regarding president trump? i think that the crisis that we face is graver than most politicians, most of us, most journalists understand. if i read the record correctly, and i'd like to know whether all five of us read it the same way, the most egregious departure from normal corruption, using public office for private gain, telling lies, covering up, occurred under richard nixon and you read an account of richard nixon's presidency whether in this book or other books on that presidency, and the account is really dizzying in what was going on. nixon's departure from previous
embodiments of corruption and miscreants and wrongdoing was the fact that nixon and his advisers were orchestrating misconduct, illegality, corruption from the white house. it had never been done in that fashion before. nixon was a party to the misconduct, for which he eventually had to resign because he probably would have been voted out of office by the senate. after nixon, it seems to me that the next most serious moment of presidential misconduct came during the iran contra affair of ronald reagan, who went to his death saying that he knew nothing about it and i think that he probably did know something about it, but the
evidence as i read it is not entirely clear. but here was a case in which there was -- that policy was being made out of the white house in contravention to congressional act. money was being taken from one pocket for which it was authorized and appropriated and used for other purposes. this was a shadow cabinet or a shadow group of officers working against the law. what the trump presidency has done is to combine both. trump and the people in the white house are orchestrating illegal behavior, and they're doing it now with a shadow government, shadow cabal, that operates outside the white house and we've never had that before ,, and this is a step up or a step down in the nature of presidential and administrative
misbehavior, and i think we've got to understand it structurally that way. i mean it's certainly true that , the president lies all the time, but i have always thought that was gestational, that that is the way he came out of the womb, the same way he came out of the womb probably a.d.d., borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and so on. there are certain things that i believe now are not intentional. he cannot help himself. he's a man of low character, and he lies, and he's incompetent, and he's ignorant. we sort of know those things, but how do we make sense of this presidency in the long sense of presidential behavior from george washington to today and i think you see unfortunately an accretion in misconduct and in this case it's structurally different and more grave than any we've ever had. karen: rick, you talked about
bringing in the people that are inexperienced, which is a comparison also made with the trump administration, bringing people in who are not experts in what they're doing, who have not worked in whatever field they're in, and you see it throughout various different departments. do you take what jim's saying, which is that this kind of shadow government is a new -- combining this with what's going on, coming out of the white house, is sort of a new marriage? or do you really see this as we've seen corruption before, we're going to see it again, we've seen a grab for power before, we've seen interference in foreign affairs done behind the scenes before? how do you assess the difference in this administration or not? well, i'm not sure how to do that. but there is something -- there is something new and different about the trump experience.
he doesn't have any -- he doesn't have politics. he doesn't have any policy preferences. -- he -- we've never had a president -- i think your diagnosis of several well-recognized mental disorders is on the money. he is -- it could be worse. it could be worse. he hasn't gotten us into any wars. he doesn't want to have a war. to the extent that he has any thoughts about that at all. it is astounding that he uses the office to enrich himself in such an obvious and unmistakable way. that -- and i think what eric said about
fox news and the growth of a of -- the growth of a state television, the kind of thing which you see in a lot of much less morally developed countries than you see here, i'm not sure that trump would've been possible without that. i think everybody in this room probably watches cnn or msnbc. is there anybody in this room who gets their news from fox news? -- no hands are raised. >> all pariahs.
rick: with so many of the things, i'm not sure that i'm on topic with your question. but you have now an enormous part of the interested public, the people who watch fox are also interested in the news, who simply don't know and cannot know what's going on. they are living in a completely different reality than the rest of us. we like to think, and i think accurately, that what we know, the news that we get, is pretty much true, and we are astounded day after day that he has not just been hustled out of there, because the things that outrage us day after day are unknown to a large part of the public, and that is certainly a new development. like youckson, i would to kind of way in here on how, i guess, the national security state park >> there is a whole cultural -- you even say it. not caring about your privacy
and this new point in time. what is the cultural ramifications, do you think? i don't mean you have to predict. if you were going to write the history of the next 10 years, what would you be looking at culturally to understand how this presidency, whether it is the result of war on terror presidencies or now, have fundamentally changed? what would you look at other than fox news? >> i am glad you did not ask me to predict anything. jimmy carter was going to save american capitalism. i don't know whether he did it or not. capitalism modeled through and always does. it was a hopeful time. a valley of a shadow.
i am depressed about our prospects for the next 10 years. i have to tell you that it is not just because of trump. is a dangerous man, a genuine menace. i agree with all of that. with respect to the culture of lying, i still feel like we have to get beyond personal characteristics and even personal pathologies. one can find pathologies almost anywhere. trump's are just more flagrant at most. it seems to me in terms of a political culture of lying, i have to go back. i don't want to sound like a broken record. to the creation of the national security state in particular, the creation of an agency, the
cia, that was explicitly designed to produce this information. the original fake news. there are a lot of -- i am not -- i think fox news is equally dangerous. certainly as dangerous in its own way as trump in terms of twisting our discourse. but i do not believe cnn and i do not believe msnbc either, and i think they are about as close to state media as you can get. they are just a different part of the state. the new york times, the washington post, they will conjure up, they will produce unnamed officials, unnamed official sources, without dragging them down. journalism is in such a bad condition here and it is not just because of the internet and the concentration of power and a handful of media companies. those are both crucial. i think the practice of terriblym has suffered
, really, since the early to thousands, maybe longer. is, in a critical moment 1978, when richard helms, head of the cia, has been convicted of lying to congress about his coup.n the cia cops a plealea -- and pays a $2000 fine and the times runs an editorial praising this plea and saying, yes, this the need to enforce the laws against lying with the continuing need to keep secrets. so from that day forward, any cia official who took the oath of secrecy that is required in that organization to get up
before congress en-lai his head off, and they have done it since then, repeatedly. including a good many of the ass who are now serving commentators for cnn and msnbc. professional wisemen. jacksony angry that keeps putting me in the position to keep defending them. cia wanted to overthrow and did not do it. it was overthrown by his own generals. nixonhe queue came, turned to kissinger and said did we do this? he wanted to take credit for it because he was so impressed with the way eisenhower had overthrown these governments. kissinger said no, we did not. maybe we created conditions for it. he was overthrown by his own generals.
it never worked out. but in terms of the culture we are living in now -- >> the point about helms -- >> absolutely right. >> there was cia involvement. it may have been ineffectual. >> people were killed with weaponry and so forth. >> i don't think we need to quibble about it. >> you are making me quibble. [laughter] >> i think the important point is the cia got position to lie at that point to congress in 1978. >> you mean from the new york times editorial page. >> in a sense -- >> that is an example of the media, the state media role played by the times. just as it played in the run-up to the iraq war. >> i am going to differ with you in a big way here.
"whate a book called liberal media?" and i still get checks for it. on the first page of that book, partially because i am a professor of english, i always make the point that the word "media" is a plural noun so that it is grammatically incorrect to say "the media is." you have to say "the media are." it does not make any sense to talk about the media. whatever you say about "the media" will be true about one part of the media and false about one other part of the media and it is even true when you get down to the new york times, which right now has over 1300 employees. and some of them are great and some of them are terrible. and it is not -- i find it indefensible to say that it is a state media.
the same is true of the washington post. there are a lot of people there who are working very hard to tell very uncomfortable truths about our government and our country and there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with those truth being told and it is a constant battle. sometimes, the truth winds, and sometimes, it does not. and that is true in a lot of instances. the new york times is a special institution because it is the most important, the most influential, and i write about it more than i write about anything else, 90% of the time, but it is actually i would say the most important private institution we have in terms of maintaining a democracy. without the new york times, i be as-- we would not democratic a country as we are. and we could do this all day. they did this and then they did this. we go back and forth. the fact is that the media are a very complicated institution, a
hydra-headed beast. and the part of the media that requires -- that tells us the truth requires our support, yet people talk about it as if it is a monolith and i think that is dangerous. because you could say anything you want about it as a monolith. >> would you make the same comment about government grid large in the executive, that there is as much good as there is bad and you just have to, you know, be tolerant that it is an institution in progress, or would you distinguish between the political institution and the cultural institution? >> this is one of the things that is so dangerous about trump. is rotting from the head down, and that he is setting an example of contempt for all the functions of government. >> and culture. >> lyndon johnson lied about
vietnam every time he spoke. under this government, every single policy in vietnam, no matter where you look, it is a failure. they don't care about the truth because the president does not care about the truth. i think there are a lot of good people in government. i think there are a lot of good people in the nixon administration and the reagan administration trying to do a good job. this is the first time we have had a president who had contempt for the job that government does. reagan talked that way but he did not acting that way, so again, this is something new. he has contempt the truth, for the job he does, no politics at andexcept for his own ego, we are in uncharted territory in this respect. >> we are going to turn to questions because believe it or not, we are sort of out of our time, but i want you each to just reflect on this for a moment. when we are done with this presidency, however it ends, do you think that there will be
sort of energy towards rethinking the presidency or the executive, or do you think we will just go on like we hope that does not happen again? do you really think that there are lessons to be learned here that need to be addressed legislatively, policy-wise? >> personally, i don't think you can go back in time very easily. i expected -- barack obama is wonderful in a lot of ways, and one way in which i was disappointed in him is he is a constitutional law professor and yet he did not rain in -- reign in the imperial presence. once he got the power, he liked having it. -- thecurrent situation other thing that worries me -- we are attacking fox news and the presidency. the american people have a role here, too. barack obama literally, according to the account of the people who keep count of these fewer falsehoods
in eight years then trump tells in 10 minutes. frequently. i am not exaggerating. he told a grand total of 12 falsehoods in eight years, whereas there was one conversation where trump was talking to kennedy on the phone and told 45 falsehoods in 45 minutes. yet our most honest president was replaced by our most dishonest president for the second time in a row. jimmy carter was our other most honest president. the american people do not care about this. they care if their lives are consistent with their resentment. people are not demanding the truth. they are demanding comfort. they are demanding reinforcement. that is what politicians respond to. the republican party is terrible because the people who vote for it are terrible. they would be better if the people who voted for them were better. now, it is complicated. i do not see us going back.
i see us living with this in a way that i cannot really imagine in the future. >> give us some hope. what can be done to make it better? cannot be just, it will be bad forever. i have devoted most of my mental energy to what i think is the big problem, and that is -- you should excuse the expression -- the constitution. [laughter] >> usually, it is right out-of-the-box. the religion of the constitution is not a good thing. the constant invocation of the framers, the idea that the ,ederalist papers is holy writ when even the authors of the federalist papers did not agree with them.
they had reached a compromise and they were out to sell it and they were right that it was a better deal. rethinknk we need to way --stitution, and the the easiest fix that we can make is to elect a president by popular vote. that can be done without touching the constitution, as you may have all heard of the national popular vote interstate compact, so i will not go into the details of that. but it is wrong to believe the american -- blame the american people for trump and it was wrong to blame the american people for bush junior . the american people did not choose. the american people chose otherwise. and in the case of bush, that could be a that
planetary catastrophe if the winner of a popular so-called popular vote, if the winner of the election the way we understand the elections had taken office, we would be in a very different place now with respect to climate -- so-called climate change, global heating. goes --same of course is the case for trump, and trump seems aware of this. says thehy he crazily 3 million more votes were stolen in california, and that is why hillary won the vote of the american people. the american people are doing their best, but the machine is rusty and faulty and broken. it can be fixed. it can be fixed. be easy. going to
the odds are against it. but at least we have may be a 25% chance of national survival. [laughter] >> thanks a lot. well, i appreciate that eric and i both resort, from time to time, to the historians trope, which is complexity. that the newagree york times is a huge and complex organization, as is the u.s., as is the freaking cia. there are good cia agents. this is how hirsch did his best work, was that he found military thecers and people in intelligence community, for that matter, who believed they had taken an oath to the constitution, rather than to their bosses. superiorsir immediate .
they became the whistleblowers of their day who supplied him with the material that he used to uncover misdeeds by government. ithoroughly agree that -- agree that media are plural and that they are plural -- there plural kinds of possibilities from within each media institution. things at this particular moment is discouraging to me. i am perfectly willing to do away with the electoral college. i agree. that would be a good thing. toss the willing to baby of the constitution out with the bathwater of the electoral college because it seems to me -- i am more devoted to the bill of rights than to the constitution. full of atution is lot of ingenious 18th-century mechanisms for balancing and reducing the concentration of power, which have more or less
work for a long time. so i am not sure we necessarily want to dismantle those mechanisms. what is really precious to me in the constitution is the bill of wasts, and by the way, it precious to edward snowden, two, and that is what got him involved in his career of revelations. -- ithink we are going to think it is going to take a lot ingenuity, more ingenuity than the current democratic party has done -- is demonstrating to redirect public discourse in a way that needs to be redirected. the dnc andamong democratic establishment as well as among most of the major media is a longing for the status quo anti-trump.
i don't think that is enough. i think the reason trump was elected is that there were c.t.s. -- serious shortcomings in that status, and in the way neoliberal,ly pro-market forces had taken over the democratic party to a large extent, almost as much as they had already taken over the republican party, was not quite the same fundamentalist tinge, with more of a technocratic tinge, but they were not satisfying popular needs. and i think that we need a reorientation of the democratic party in a way that would satisfy -- toward what i would call a social democratic direction. and that would involve -- a couple of years ago, i and a number of historians and political scientists who had written about the reform tradition, the progressive
tradition, had been invited to the rockefeller estate in tarrytown, and there was a lot of talk -- there was a lot of talk about philanthropy and good intentions. at one point, one of my colleagues said, you know, there really is going to have to be -- some people are going to have to lose, and some people are going to have to get more. there's going to be a certain amount of readers tradition. we cannot keep growing and growing and growing. i think that is the really hard challenge that i think the democrats or anyone who claims to be an egalitarian faces. some people are going to have to pay more. more than they do now. to create a decent society. i think it can happen. i think there is enough goodwill out there. i think there is enough intelligent spirit i think there is a native brightness and a lot of american people, even if they are not highly educated. i believe in the vernacular
intelligence and decency of a lot of people. were misled by trump. maybe they really do have a mean streak that he tapped into, but thaty case, i do not think we are stuck with expecting that same group of voters to keep voting for the likes of trump, and the likes of trump are not hopes, come along again anytime soon, so -- but i am far from being optimistic, i am sorry to say. i am cautiously hopeful, cautiously hopeful. >> we will leave the optimism to you, jim. >> more optimistic venue sounded earlier in this discussion. aboutomeone talks rethinking the constitution, my heart turns to ice. have passedes resolutions calling for an article five convention to rewrite the constitution. now, if any of you can convince
me they will find a george washington, ben franklin, james madison, alexander hamilton, james wilson, so on, in this day and age, will be elected to a constitutional convention, whether it is in philadelphia or kansas city. i do not much care. you are more optimistic than i am. but instrumental changes in the instrument, such as the interstate compact, that tries to circumvent the impossibility of changing the electoral college by amending the constitution, is a very promising approach. but i also think that instrumentally and practically and institutionally, which is the way i usually end up thinking about these things, our first order of business, and one that it seems to me incumbent on all of us to enforce upon democratic candidates in the plural and certainly upon the one who gets the nod at the end of the primaries is to force them to tell us what we are going to do specifically to
clear out the wreckage of this administration. now, and i am not thinking here about campaign finance reform and things that have been on the well thinkingral smart people for decades for well over 50 years. i am not talking about that. i am being very specific. what is going to be done on day what sequence, to redraw the boundaries of political action, political behavior, to get us back in the paris accords, and so on? i want to hear that from our candidates. these are not constitutional issues necessarily. they are political issues paired they are administrative issues. i have yet to hear any of the democratic candidates speaking in those terms, and i think it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens sitting in this room and elsewhere to get hold of our candidates somehow through other people, through people we know,
three members of congress whom we know, and try to bring that to bear upon them. they have to tell us what they are planning to do. we have to know what they are going to do or what they mean to do as soon as one of them takes office, if we are lucky enough. >> it is time for your questions. wait for the microphone. remember that this is being recorded. questions? over here. >> to what extent would you say that a lot of the problem has to do with, shall we say, the triumph of emotionality over rationality in the society on the whole? has to do with this and this kind of corporate consumer thing that is going on about what
somebody wants is more important needs?at somebody else and just as an example, i just had a discussion with somebody. we were talking about obamacare. and we all agreed that our health care went up, but then millions of children who were not insured were then insured, and this is more an attitude that is more the exception than the rule these days, whereas with the generation that went through world war ii and the depression, there was at least an agreement that to make some you,fices on what yourself, wanted for what somebody else needed, so to what extent is that a factor, and also, the triumph of emotionality a factor? at?i take th >> two points about that.
whogreatest generation, made those sacrifices, they made them for white people. in peopleou brought of color, people who were different, things got a lot more complicated, and people were much less willing to make sacrifices to people who did not look like them and share what they understood to be their values and religion, etc., so are countries that monocultural are much easier to govern than countries that are not. secondly, up until recently, we had a pretty narrowly defined elite to which people largely deferred. we had gatekeepers. we had a group of people, the protestant ethic, who felt a
.ense of larger commitment they did all right for themselves, but they were serious about serving the larger public and the ideals that they were raised to serve, and you know, in places like these private schools and instilled these values in them in harvard, yale, princeton, etc.. and that clashed for a lot of reasons. part of it was their own greed and all the money that became available in the 1980's. but part of it was that it just was not sustainable anymore. and the most important element is the internet, which democratized information and -- it used to be that people would argue in very broad terms, but now, they know every little thing about every little issue, if they want to,
aroundy can create boxes politicians that politicians cannot get out of because they will face some sort of reaction. it is why fewer than 10% of people support our actual gun control laws, and yet we have these gun control -- these lack of gun control laws because the 10% of people are going to make your life he'll if you try to oppose them. could have, you passed laws about it. they would never have known. we haveact that democratized information and that the elite has basically stepped away from its role as a gatekeeper has increased the emotionality of these issues and decreased the ability for people to settle things. and that is what has made congress much less fun for everybody and much less effective, because they do not have the freedom. the president does not have the freedom to make the kinds of deals they wanted to have made
because there's too many people involved, and they are not the same kinds of people, and they hate each other. >> more questions? [laughter] >> thank you for that. actually, i am a psycho historian. center an international of multigenerational legacies. ,nd the question i have presidents are the ultimate decision in terms of future traumas. invokingys start by the presidency or the time of running by invoking future generations. right? in the hope for future generations. in fact, many of their decisions are exactly -- are very
immediate for the next four or eight years, and they don't give a dam about the impact of those decisions on next generations. i would like your views on that, manyse it is decision-makers, and that is because of the political system. i would like your views on that. don't you remember, when vehicular manslaughter he was also considered an idiot by some and not to be taken seriously, and his country went totally behind him, and we know the multigenerational effect of that. jackson? [laughter] >> that is a tricky one. i mean, that is a serious and difficult question. and i agree with you that presidents do always talk about future generations. i think that reagan is a good
example of a kind of genial who is talking the kind of game that gets everybody feeling -- or lots of people feeling good, you know, about america is back, and what he meant by america, of course, was let 'er rip turbo capitalism. i guess what i think you are getting at is the whole problem of leadership, and this also has to do with the balance between emotion and rationality, because leaders have to be able to inspire emotions as well as make convincing logical arguments. fear -- i am not trying to shift the ground away from the because ial issue
think it's critical. i think generational conflict is asen worked up as an excuse a way to distract people from other fundamental kinds of conflict. i was suspicious in the don't trust anybody over 30 days, the hoffman era, and i am suspicious of the same kind of crossgenerational suspicion now. i think we have a problem of leadership in this country. and what it means to be a leader is a very tricky business and i agree entirely with eric about how much easier it was for white americans to care about other white americans, when the face of poverty was white, and when affirmative action was white as nelson says in his book about the new deal. and so, one of the things we are looking at here that makes it difficult to govern is in fact we are more genuinely multicultural.
democracy then we used to be. and more so all the time as more immigrants arrived, and you know, i teach at rutgers, which is one of the most diverse schools in the u.s., probably. i have been there for 30 years, and it has changed dramatically. 30 years ago, it was mostly the white sons and daughters of american -- the american, new jersey, middle class. it is much more complicated than that, but it is harder to be a leader who will address a multicultural audience. i think obama did it briefly during his campaign. nominated, hewas turned around and accepted, what seems to him, i am sure, inevitable, which is the existing order of the national security state, the political establishment, whatever label
you want to put on it. difficult,it is very even obama -- there was a moment there in hyde park, the night of his election, just a small d democratic triumph, the end of a coup, as far as i was concerned, the end of the bush administration. at least, i was hopefully expecting it to be the end of the neoconservative to. coup. neoconservative but i think that was the great disappointment. know -- and i don't know whether he could have stepped up or not. fearedly, i am sure he threats to his family. anyone who really tries to change things in this country is going to be violently threatened.
so i think it is a real challenge to press politicians. we have the opportunity to press them and say, well, what about -- let's really talk about what your policies mean for the next generation, and the generation after that. then we have the obvious example with climate heating. i like that phrase. it's a little more straightforward. i mean, we believe in plain speech here, right? so i think rhetoric is important. there is no such thing as mere rhetoric. rhetoric shapes how people feel and think about their own possibilities and the countries possibilities. >> i will just note that trump never talks about future generations. trump never talks about future generations, never. people ind several his administration have talked about how they don't care about their legacy because they will be dead anyway, so that is one of the things that comes out of it. >> that is the wall street mentality p i will be gone.
you will be gone. back from 2008. -- mentality. i will be gone. you will be gone. back in 2008. >> i think you are a little hard on obama who had to deal with this constitutional structure. excuse me. we are running up against this in the current campaign, arguing over medicare for all verses sort of building on obamacare. there ain't going to be medicare for all. that is a nonstarter. setting ourselves up for disappointment and cynicism by pretending that electing a democratic president who believes in turning us into norway, which i would love to see, that would be wonderful, we are setting ourselves up for recognizing that we have to do these things through a very rusty machine,
and that machine is not going to thatus the kind of change bernie,for example, -- for example, is talking about. >> quick question and quick answer. the want to mention extraconstitutional impulse or meta-constitutional or -- and this very quick example. bush v gore is an extra constitutional travesty. this might not be popular, but that said, i think the decapitation of the liberal leadership in the 1960's covered over by the "lone gunman" phenomenon, embraced by the media in comforting the public is the second thing. that the historical consensus rejected out of hand. and the third thing under your
by, truman, i am very taken what bernstein revealed about clark clifford telling him, in an interview, that truman and i, we were not afraid of the red scare or the red menace. so to me, these are very anti-constitutional and extraconstitutional points that one could then maybe try to digest but not explained away by saying that the constitution, you know, has no real water, when i think we ought to start living up to the constitution and then go from there and get a lot better. but to sort of dismiss it when you see these kinds of extraconstitutional monstrosities is more than this it i just picked three to pepper our stew here. >> ok, so we are out of time.
that was more of a comment than a question, so it's good, and thank you for it. a couple things before i make any concluding remarks. truth.st is vital on thursdays, the center has a new online publication meant to inform the public about foreign policy just in case your leaders do not want you. and it runs the gamut from tariffs from china to change,tan and climate and it is the wackiest, intentionally most deep dive into things you should know and you might want to know about, and it comes out on thursdays or you can link to it in the morning brief any day, but you should read it. it is fantastic. and so, i just wanted to mention that. so that is the first thing. the second thing is we have two more events this semester. have two in december. one is on november 12. i mean, december 12. and it is about high-power
cyber. cyber and geopolitics. cyber offensives. cyber attacks. and it is an eye opener, by andy greenberg. he is just phenomenal. and then peter bergen has a new book on trump and his generals about national security and the national security state, and how it morphed via the generals who were so powerful in the first years of the trump administration, and that is on december 17. so i invite you back for both of those. so my concluding remarks are a couple things that were not mentioned tonight, sort of concluding remarks, but one is the issue of the constitution. i think that it is going to become a really important point of debate, not a point of have the religion of the constitution, but the point of debate.
i think something that was not mentioned, balance of power. this was all seen as a discussion within the executive, and i think we did not have enough time, but i do think thinking about the balance of power is the next thing we have to talk about. we have to talk about that and what that means. -- this is my plea. forward, and ing think -- i think you all touched on sort of these cultural discomforts, whether it is that we accept lying, that we accept -- that the culture accepts privacy, that there's change since our childhood, whatever that is, a long time ago. and i think that what we need to do is have the same panel with 30-year-olds and -- seriously -- and see how they think about these issues, and whether they think about these issues, and if they do not think about these
issues, then what are they thinking about? believe me, they are not like this administration. they are thinking about the future and the fact that they want to be here for the future and are going to be here for the future. so i think i had a lot of other things to say, but i think i will just leave it at that. we will reconvene with some younger folks at some point. thank you very much. [applause] >> yes, and one more thing. there is a book signing out in the hall and jim will be signing the presidential misconduct book, which you should all read. ok. [applause] >> ok. go ahead. thank you for reminding me. oh my god. [laughter] [chatter] journal" live every day with news and policy
issues that impact you. dorganay morning, byron will join us to talk about challenges facing native americans today. john gizzi will be in to talk about impeachment in campaign 2020. watch live at 7:00 eastern thursday morning. weekre to watch authors starting at 8:00 a.m. theongress returns for work first week of january. the house needs to decide on impeachment managers. eventually, the senate will sit on a jury. the senate will also take up the usmca, which the house approved before leaving for the holiday. congress will hear president trump delivered the state of the union address on february 4.
watch the house live on c-span and the senate live on c-span 2. deliverselizabeth ii her annual christmas message from windsor castle. located about 25 miles outside london. the traditional of the royal christmas message dates back to 1932 with a radio address by king george v. queen elizabeth made the first televised address in 1957. this is just under 10 minutes. ♪