tv [untitled] April 7, 2012 4:30pm-5:00pm EDT
a slightly more pro sake claim, wilson gallon the familiar practice that is increasingly debasing republican government, namely, the in person state of the union address to a joint session of congress. and he did that in large part to try and assert the mastery of the presidency over congress, to supplant congress as the leading institution or center of gravity in american politics. prior to wilson almost all presidents fulfilled their constitutional requirement to instill their knowledge by sending letters to congress and publishing them in the newspaper. wilson created the spectacle which we know today which all presidents have followed with one or two minor exceptions. and i -- as much as i hate to say it, even ri nald dismagnus, as rush limbaugh calls him, contributed to the degredation of the state of the union speech which should not surprise us as the only president with a showbiz background. there is this to be said to reagan's credit, his state of
the union speeches tended to be much shorter than his successors. reagan's state of the union statements were 4800 words long and he delivered them crisply often getting out in 45 to 50 minutes. by contrast, clinton's barack obama, many have been as long as 7200 words clocking in at a delivery time that is probably starting to annoy even fidel castro. when we contemplate not nearly will the the spectacle of the modern presidency, but we also have to take out the outside expectations promised by candidates and demanded by the people, it is then jarring to reflect on something that harvey was bringing out. the founders considered for a while giving the -- what title the chief executive should have. they considered for a while calling the chief executive the governor of the united states. they rejected that title in preference to president instead because the memory of colonial
governors who had abused their power was fresh in their mind. president deriving from the latin, to preside, was thought to be a more restrained office than governor norkts. today you wouldn't think of that if you think of presidents compared to governors, right? today our president is expected to be a miracle worker. we owe to gene heelly over at the cato institute for dredging up the sentiment from herman finer, from the university of chicago, who wrote the following, the presidency is the incarnation of the american people in a sacrament resembling that in which the wafer and the wine are seen to be the body and blood of kroois. good grief. now by contrast, behold this sen imt from an eminent person, quote, it is a great advantage to a president in a major source of safety to the country for him to know that he is not a great
man. when a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead this republic, he is guilt bring of treason to the spirit of our institutions, closed quote. who said this idea? calvin coolidge. the ostensibly silent call, who was not silent, added the following. it is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. they're always surrounded by worshippers. they are constantly and for the most part sincerely assured of their greatness. they live in an artificial atmosphere of add doe lags and exal tags which sooner or later impairs their judgment. they are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant. timely, one more offering from not so silent cal, a sound and wise statesmanship which recognizes and attempts to abide by its limitations will
undoubtedly find itself displaced by that type of public official who promises much, talks much, legislates much but accomplishes little. now it's worth recalling the contrast between wilson and coolidge because of the one modern episode that illustrates the forgetfulness of our appreciation of washington's generation and his republicanism. it came when ronald regan replaced thomas jefferson's portrait in the room with calvin coolidge's. people were outragerd at this. they couldn't believe that reagan would do such an obviously silly thing. mark shields wrote in the post, don't try to tell me that calvin coolidge could ever substitute for thomas jefferson. that's almost a national sacrilege. the irony was coolidge was the most 125u7b much supporter. when you compare him to wilson
and wilson's successors, it turns out it would have been liberal presidents who would have wanted to remove jefferson's photo. that's an interesting trend lost in everyone today. one might have thought he was going to eliminate silent cal. modern presidents simply talk too much. they would benefit from a certain rhetorical min mimp. it's nearly forgotten one of the bills of impeachment against andrew johnson, when you strip it down it was that he was talking too much and in too partisan of a way. here's the language itself. that said, andrew johnson, president of the united states, unmindful of the high duties of his office and the dignity and propriety thereof, did make and deliver with a loud voice certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandal louse who are rangs.
he did that in bit ter men nations against congress as the laws of the united states. which said utterances, declarations and harangues highly spends several in any are peculiarly indecent and unbecoming of the chief magistrate of the president of the united states. he's brought that office into contempt, ridicule and disgrags to the great scandal of all good citizens. well, there's only one modern president who thought he might be better served by being like coolidge. dwight eisenhower. a lot of his political analysts thought he should take advantage of this new medium, tv. it's notable that his public approval rating never dropped below 50%. people have chalked it up to his being a war hero. i wonder if his reticence about not over exposing himself to the public is not part of his story.
often when his advisors would try to persuade him to go on tv or make a high profile speech, eisenhower would say, quote, i keep telling you fellows i don't like to do this sort of thing. i can think of nothing more boring for the american public to sit in their living rooms looking at my face on their television screens. i don't think the people want to listen to a roosevelt or the partisan yipping of a trueman. another occasion he pushed back by saying, what is it that needs to be said? i'm not going to go out there just to listen to my tongue clatter. then finally on one occasion when he did yield he did say, all right, but i'm not going to talk more than 20 minutes. the author also notes eisenhower's legendary for his performances in press conferences. derek lee bart notes that eisenhower was, quote, one of the few leaders in the electronic age who takes delight
in his passion for incoherence, which we learned later which was quite calculated and deliberate on his part. however, eisenhower does reflect one problem and that is the noticeable atrophy of constitutional literacy of our chief executives. i think that fled to the judicial branch. in a ler to his brother, milton, eisenhower wrote the following clon quote, you keep harping on the constitution. i should like to point out that the meaning of the constitution is what the supreme court says it is. consequently, no powers are exercised by the federal government except where such exercise is approved by the supreme court, closed quote. well, that wasn't the view of calvin coolidge or the american founders or abraham lincoln or even franklin roosevelt for that matter. indeed, whatever else might be said about his court packing he is ka pay the, it says the ch
this contrasts sharply with george w. bush who when he was presented with the mccain fine gold campaign finance bill, he said i think this is a violation of free speech and the first amendment. i'll sign it anyway. that's a matter for the supreme court to decide seemingly overlooking over that thing, the preserve, protecting, defending the constitution. earlier president's would have taken it as part of their duty to compel them to veto the bill. it closed with one current example out of today's news and one example of how this ought to be gotten right. either today or yesterday morning the department of transportation issued new guidelines. they said people had to disable gpss in cars. they're worried about auto of safety of people being distracted by gps devices.
now it's not yet -- right now it's a guideline but right now today's guidelines are tomorrow's mandates. now any counter intuitive economist will tell you this will probably result in a net auto reduction in safety because of the simple reason that if most people can't use their built in gps devices will use their smart phones and juggle them by their steering while driving down the road. cool lish would have known what to do with this idea. there's one example that i like is when he vetoed a bill to expand insul -- a crop subsidy. he said this is a bad idea. if we start doing crop subsidies, farmers will grow more crops instead of fewer. the problem that required subsidies is the crop prices. that will incompetent crease in the demand in washington to increase subsidies further. you see the economic literacy of coolidge. he ended by saying, quote, the
most decisive reason to veto this bill is that it is not constitutional. imagine that. so i'll end with this. if we could wish for a reform of the modern presidency and some kind of restoration or even partial approximation of washington's republican sensibilities, it would start with presidents from the office who might revive eisenhower's rhetorical self-restraint and coolidge's constitutional reformism. thank you. [ applause ] . thank you all very much. before we open the event to questions from the floor, i wondered if any of the four of you would like to make some additional comment in light of what you've heard? >> yes. this hinge here? >> yes.
>> you know, i have to speak up for journalism a little bit. you can't put the genie back in the bottle, you can't. you know, eisenhower, yes, he was a very reticent man. he knew how to project an image and how to imitate it. same with washington. not an elephant man. he used his appearance. he played to his strength which was his figure, his form. the fact that he looked good on horseback. he made sure to visit every state during his presidency. so he was getting himself out there using the means that he had available. so we don't want to make, i think, a cult or make it a requirement for reticence. sometimes it's good, but the media is out there and a good
president, a cunning president has to understand that and has to figure out how he can use it, what his strengths are and put them to work. >> steve, would you like a word back? >> not really. i agree with the analysis. what i didn't say or maybe implied is i think a president would be well served to try to gain a greater degree of self-restraint. it's the point of diminishing returns. you're quite right, could that be done? almost impossible. the man side of the equation from the media would make it extraordinarily difficult to do that. i will say, add this sort of thought, looking out at the world right now. people always ask about the colonel and the election campaign. you can do a thought experiment about no republican seemed to be very enthusiastic about mitt romney. he might contrive to win and he might oddly enough and the rest of us might benefit from low
expectations. and so, you know, conservatives might actually pull the more of their energy on demanding and prompting leadership from congress rather than thinking whenever a problem comes along let's go have a meeting with the white house. >> diana harvey, anything that you'd like to add? the floor is open for questions. walter burns, is there something you'd like to add? could we get a microphone here please? >> the answer's no. i was thinking of one thing though. to some extent the question arises and has arisen from the panel is to the differences today and then in wondering whether time and circumstances have changed the office as they've changed everything. i can think of nothing that
illustrates the distance between washington and today than the budget of the united states. the first budget of the united states was $8 million. >> questions? please. would you wait for the mic. wait for the microphone. thank you. >> suzanne field, syndicated columnist. ron turno who was writing about george washington. he wrote in the "wall street journal", that in the 19 debate as a republican candidate, that washington is only quoted once. there are many more quotes from lincoln, from reagan, etc. i'd like to hear why you think that's the case, that washington is so discounted by the men who are running for the nomination of the presidency from the republican party. >> go ahead. >> well, he wasn't very pithy.
he wasn't a wordsmith. >> not even referring to him or paraphrasing him or talking about his positions behind the constitution. >> you're right. washington was not a great writer. if they're quoting, they're going to quote great writers. i think washington was a good writer, but he's definitely not a great one. and so to get him to understand what he did, you have to look at his career. you have to understand his deeds and his actions and that just requires a little more work than grabbing bartlett's, wicky quote, whatever. it requires an investment, an investment of attention. i hope occasions like this, meetings like this, a bill before congress will encourage people to spend some of that attention because washington truly repays it. there's like a little initial
investment effort that people have to make before they figure out what this guy's life was about. >> are you suggesting they don't know that much about washington? >> people are busy. you know, look, these guys -- and i'm not -- i'm not saying that in a cynical spirit. i'm not saying that to run these people down. campaigning is madness. it's just madness. once you get to be president, that's it. once you lower your right hand after taking the oath, you know, you won't have a moment to think again. you're strapped to a toboggan for four years, or god help you eight years, it makes them old, it makes them sick. it gives them ill health. it's a crazy system we've constructed. better than all the others. but, you know, so, yes. so people like ron, people like myself, we try to get this out there so that people might absorb it in the time before
they get into the mainstream. it's a struggle. >> in the back. >> ann neil, american council, trustees and alumni. thank you all. you have mentioned on several occasions george washington was very much in support of institutions for the diffusion of learning and yet the research of the american council of trustees alumni shows that those very institutions do not today require a survey of american history or government. i know that professor mansfield's school, by way of example, is one of the leading institutions that has no such requirement. what would george washington say today if he were to learn that, in fact, the very institutions on which he wished to rely were failing to impart the education that citizens and leaders need?
>> pah, he would say, i think. and he would say it with justice against my school, as you call it. no, we very much need to return to a different and -- a different curriculum. we need to demand more of our students, i think from top to bottom in american education today. and i say it especially at the highest or is it really only the most prestigious of the schools like mine. >> please. >> i wonder -- jeff mosaica. i wonder if each of the panelists could think of -- of course to capture a person's life in a single word, but what
word comes to mind for each of you as you think of george washington as president? >> president? >> do we just get one word each? well, i'm going to get gra gravi taus before somebody else grabs it. >> i was going to give you virtue. >> i'm going to give you four. he really meant it. >> i'm sorry? >> he really meant it. >> gentleman. >> in the back, can the micro phone be delivered there? >> brenden vote, the new atlantis. i actually have a comment instead of a question, if that's all right. i recently had the privilege -- is the mike off?
>> it's all right if it's not too long. >> it's quite brief i just had the privilege of coming to this country from canada. it's something of a comment of admiration for this particular event celebrating george washington's life and his legacy. and just generally for the nobel tradition that america has of celebrating their founder. from the perspective of a canadian, america's privileged to have this. not all nations have a founding or a founding father. canada, we would never have a celebration of johnny mcdonald like this in canada. he would be wondering what there would be to celebrate about him. so i just kind of wanted to make a comment to that he equity, in admiration of the spirit of the
celebration. >> well, there is in fact, we were reading and thinking the book, a chapter on calvin coolage -- i will garble it. you should read it. yeah. that one. >> microphone. yeah, great men are the ambassador of providence. when the glory of the nation dies with it. interesting from the same man that was quoting earlier saying it's a good thing for the president to know that he's not a great man. >> it raises a certain kind of difficulty since washington's teaching partly, it seems to me, disassembling pashtly his spear
majority, and the union of the people perhaps would have been embarrassed to think that what we are doing here is celebrating the great man rather than the republic that he helped found so well and yet it seems to me necessary. have we not lost something in not obama only eliminating washington's birthday, we celebrate the veterans who have given their lives with veterans day, memorial day. we're in danger of losing the celebration of these to those of us@certain age heroic examplars of american leadership. is it wrong to be an american
and celebrate our great men and is that in danger of leading to this self-congratulation that steve warns us off in the office? >> well, let me be a half full guy. i've been giving a lot of talks on the founders since i've started writing about them and i am struck -- i am struck by the sort of basic goodwill that i find out there. and it's often unobstructed. i remember when we were filming a washington documentary for cbs. he really had to bring them back
to their victory and the house is in a center of a park in downtown newberg which is awful. it is grim. it's just a grim, grim downtown. we were interviewing passersby and people who live in the neighborhood. yes, yes, that is where george washington signed the declaration of independence. he never signed the declaration of independence and if he had, he wouldn't have done it in that house. so this guy knew there was a washington. this is a serious point. i hate these conservatives, oh, we're going down the toilet, isn't it awful. i hate that. i'll work with that because he's got something there. so we can supply details. but i do think, i do think there is a reservoir of goodwill out there and we have to work with
that. >> perfect. >> yes. i think essential to the study of great individuals or even kind of a hero worship. that's essential even for a scholarship. our political science today is occupied with institutions but you can't really know what an institution can do until you see or made a study and seen what the best representative or the best individual in that institution, in that office did and was and what he was like. so political science should begin from the study of american history. i'm going to say this to ann. and i would say that also to my colleagues in political science, biography should be much more important than it is in our studies, in our college jat studies, in our scientific studies, because it's about the best. it isn't only about the average
or the universal or the boring or the int immediate intermediate. it's about fine things, that's great men and that's washington and that's lincoln. >> it's also harry truman, perhaps. a man who sits behind this desk ought at least know his american history. mike, hold up, his example -- i can't help it, as opposed to the current occupant who thinks that the intercontinental railroad might have gone through the historically republican state of texas. >> i think you can see heroism in what people have done with president's day. even though we went away from calling it washington's birthday and have renamed it president's
day, the only two faces that appear on the mattress day ads are washington and lincoln. you know, it may be that they have these birthdays but the assertion there on the part of americans that we have all of these presidents but we're going to make some discriminations among them and there's no doubt that it's washington and lincoln or maybe lincoln and washington. but they share those top two spots somehow. >> they are just not selling. >> and you can work with that, too, can you? thank you very much. i want to thank our panel for a very interesting, lively discussion can. i should mention that steve hayward's book is being sold in the lobby. thank you for coming. happy george washington's
birthday. [ applause ] next is the united states senates annual reading of president george washington's farewell address. this dates back to 1862. each year, the senate chooses two people to read it. this year senator jeanne shaheen read the address. this is 40 minutes. >> washington's farewell address to the people of the united states. friends and fellow citizens, the period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the united states being not far distant and the time arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper especially as i