Skip to main content

tv   Q A  CSPAN  October 20, 2013 8:00pm-9:01pm EDT

8:00 pm
on pop culture and the presidency. after that, question time with david cameron. i'm not to see the new american oundation -- [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2013] this week, author tevi troy discusses his new book, 200 years of popular culture in the white house. >> tevi troy, where did you get the idea for your book? >> well, i've worked in the white house, i'm also a presidential historian. i'm curious about what shapes presidents. how do ideas get to the white house? so i thought i would look at how intellectuals worked first and i found they didn't have
8:01 pm
that much impact. so i thought i would look at cultural influences. so now there's so many ways to find out so i put it all together and made a book. >> what was your most interesting finding as you dug into this? >> woodrow wilson was our only phd president. i found that appeal. so i was curious. he wasn't that big a reader as president but he loved theater. he saw 250 plays as president and his favorite genre was vaud ville. so he liked a good pie in the face as much as the next guy. >> we found out that he also played 1200 rounds of golf. what about the image? did that create the same kind of image that today would do? >> interesting with wilson and his theater going during world war one that the "washington post" was in favor of him going to the theater in wartime. today you see sometimes
8:02 pm
critical appraisals. but wilson was praised because it helped keep the theatrical industry alive. so times have changed. i think that presidents should enjoy their leisure time. obviously you shouldn't overindulge but you work very hard and you should have time to tune out or read something or think bigger thoughts. >> we have a photograph from 1948. we found it of the theater in the white house, the movie theater, that would have been during the truman administration. it's a black and white. it's changed dramatically since then. what's happened to that theater over the years? >> it started under roosevelt. it's been referbished a couple of times. from 1953 to 1956 there was a white house projectionist who wrote down every movie that the president saw and with one exception who the president saw it with. that was with kennedy. which leads to all kinds of large speculation. but it's a treasure trove of
8:03 pm
all the different movies presidents have seen and gives us a window. so that has been around for a long time and has been very helpful to presidents in sometimes bringing people in, trying to encourage certain people, trying to get them on a vote. for example george w. bush brought in ted kennedy to see 13 days which was a movie about john f. kennedy's experience with the cuban missile crisis. so bush trying to be bipartisan brought in ted kennedy and they ended up working together on the successful no child left behind law. >> go back to who is the gentleman who kept a record? >> paul fisher. there's some great stories about him. one story is that eisenhower would not watch movies with robert mitch m in them because he had been arrested for marijuana possession. and fisher would try to sneak movies with mitchham by eisenhower. he wouldn't tell him he was in it but when he got on the screen eisenhower would walk
8:04 pm
out. when jimmy carter who watched 480 movies the most, he only did it in one term. when jimmy carter became president he said he wanted to watch family friendly fare. and fisher's reaction in the late 70s was you're not going to get to see many movies that way. >> where did you find this information? where did mr. fisher keep it? >> all the nixon movies are on line. you can look at every one that nixon did. some of the other ones aren't fully available but you see different his torns. >> you mean the movie itself? >> the list of all the movies, nixon's. the rest require a lot of digging. there's actually a documentary on presidential movie watching. >> i see in your book president nixon watched 153 movies. with riboso who was his
8:05 pm
cuban friend. was the only kind of person that nixon would relax around. he was always trying to impress everybody. he makes the point that nixon was always trying to be somebody else when he was with that person. so with kissinger he tried to be the great foreign policy strategist. with haledman he tried to be a political strategist. so always with different people, but with riboso he could be himself. >> they have several pictures among a lot of other things. most are white house pictures in the 1948 white house that theater. but the theater has changed a great deal and it's now the very rich red? or at least it was. how often do they use that room for things like -- and i know you played some role in the bush-cheney debate preparation. how often do they use that room for that kind of thing? >> it is often used for that
8:06 pm
kind of stuff. the theaters have red plush these, very comfortable. you don't need a projectionist any more because now you can slip in a dvd. that's a little different. the ford administration used that room for debate prep. and in that room is where they had disagreement about how to answer that question about the domination, soviet domination of eastern europe. the answer that ford gave that was so disastrous was there is no soviet domination, was an answer he was actually prepped with in that room. but it's more often used for entertainment for the president, family, friends and guests. the obama use it to entertain the girls a lot. >> how were you involved in the bush-cheney debate preparation? >> i did the debate prep books, which was the very difficult and arduous job. you had to have these two books that covered every subject. so the person who had done it before me, i said the first day, asking for advice, mr.
8:07 pm
must be 4,000 possible questions. how do you do this? >> he said you are right there's 4,000 possible questions but there's only 40 answers. it's your job to write those 40 answers. and you had to write those on economics, domestic policy, homeland security and national security policy and you had to make sure that the president's book and vice president's book was exactly the same. and every time there was a new development you had to keep that up to date and keep it putchy. so it was a task. >> what elections did you work on? >> the 2004 election. i was full time on that. but given advice and written advice subsequently. >> over the years have you studied the history and what can you tell us about some of the more interesting aneck dotes from debate prep? >> i have some of them in a book because the debates are very important on tv. so the most famous story about the debate and tv is the 1960 election. john f. kennedy is going up against richard nixon. nixon was kind of confident
8:08 pm
about his use of tv because of the 1952 checker speech where he salvaged his political career by talking about his dog checkers and he managed to get out of allegations of financial improprietary by giving that checkers speech. so he was confident. eisenhower was a little more skeptical and advised nixon not to do the debate. nixon didn't listen but he didn't do a lot of prep. he didn't wear makeup. he was not tired. he was not shaved and he looked bad on screen. eisenhower watched the debate with the british prime minister and mcmillan said that your guy looks like some kind of ex con where the other guy looks like a spritely undergraduate. so keppedy defeated him even though people on the road thought nixon had done better. >> you say he watched 48 movies. what were his type of movies? >> well, there was a famous thing that he liked james bond so he watched from russia with
8:09 pm
love but he wasn't a big movie watcher. he was kind of impatient. he didn't like to sit still. he liked talking to people. he liked engaging with people. so he is not one of the big presidential movie watchers. >> dfment w. griffith. and woodrow wilson. >> so d.w. griffith was the director of the film birth of a nation which is a racist film which has a terrible depiction of black people and wilson watched it in the white house not because he was such a fan of the film or wanted to promote the film. it was the first film watched in the white house but his wife had died and he didn't think it was appropriate for him to be seen going out to a movie. so he had a college connection and he agreed to see the movie in the white house, which became framed as a white house screening. and then there's this famous line about wilson seeing the movie supposedly that it was like history written by light inning. and i argue that was the most
8:10 pm
famous movie review but the truth is he probably never said it. >> speaking of movies we have some home movies from the lyndon johnson years most on the ranch and we'll roll it and let you see if you recognize anybody in these movies. there is lbj and hubte humphrey. and you see the dog. how often do presidents use dogs? >> very often. presidential pets are a big deal. people love the pets on the website and they weigh in about the pets. you have had, for example, bush had an annual movie with barnie his dog. >> turned out to be a senator and there's mrs. johnson. we're going to see the dog again. >> so mrs. johnson famously had that image where he he would the dog up by the ears and people thought it was cruelty and i think he was just as cruel to the people. so his famous treatment where he would get in your face. >> this was 1955 when this was
8:11 pm
shot. home movies again. what do you think of this kind of thing if the public had seen this before when he ran? >> the shirtless picture kind of reminds me of the shirtless picture of putin of a few years ago. i don't think people want to see shirtless pictures of the president or candidate. you did have that experience where johnson lifted up his shirt and showed his appendicitis scar and there was a big tumult about that. so sometimes you have a president go to the beach like you've seen obama or clinton but for the most part presidents should keep their clothes on. >> what about the idea of releasing them? nixon's became public. there was home movies of kennedy and others. did you look at that? >> a little. the point is similar to the larger point i'm making. pop culture is important for presidents to humanize themselves. to show that you can have an appeal t. even though they're very important and have a lot of
8:12 pm
power. but you can relate to them. you take home movies just like they do. you watch i loverp love lucy just like they do. so it helps the american presidents relate to the common man. >> who did not like movies and who did not watch movies? >> harry truman. no interest in movies. i write that he had a vacation home in florida and he would go to this home in florida and he would show movies to the guests but he wasn't much interested. he was a huge fan of reading. our last president not to be a college graduate but read history all the time. the only thing new in the world is the history you haven't read yet. he often brought up history that he was reading in his meetings in national security and other placeses and to the extent that there's been a truman resurgents in the last couple of years, a lot of the biographers focus on truman's reading to show how up to date he was. >> when did you start your history interest? >> well, my dad was a history
8:13 pm
teacher in the new york city public schools. my brother is a presidential historian. and so i was always reading history as a kid and loved history from a very young age. but i also had a political bug. so i got a phd but i was doing it not initially to teach but to get involved in politics. so i've had these two interests in both politics and history. >> where did you get your phd? >> from the university of texas. i took a lot of classes at the lbj school. and the expert on the presidency, i took a bunch of classes and did my oral exams and readings and she was one of my dissertation advisers. obviously she is the wife of national security adviser under lyndon johnson. >> when you started studying did you have a political view and if so what was it? >> i grew up in new york city in the 1970s. i grew up in a liberal jewish
8:14 pm
neighborhood and a liberal jewish household. but i also saw in the 1970s that things weren't really working and i saw there was graph ithi and blackouts and trouble in the streets of new york city and i thoughtd there to be a better way. i was very admiring of ronald reagan. i was ath also admiring of july ni. i think my reading help me become more on the conservative side. >> ronald reagan came from the movies but what was his habit in the white house for those two terms? >> i mentioned paul fisher before. ronald reagan told fisher that the golden oldies are the ones for me. he didn't like current movies so much. sometimes he referred to ram bo once after a hostage crisis and said i have seen ram bo and now i know what to do. it was a joking thing but still a movie reference. but he liked to sit at home in the white house ress dense with nancy. they would put on their pajamas
8:15 pm
pretty early and he would read. he read policy memos and a lot of books but he liked to watch tv. he liked murder she wrote. jay leno once said that after he had to be woken up for a national security event now he can only be woken up for national emergency and murder she wrote. and he liked watching the sunday shows. meet the press, face the nation. >> how do you find this stuff? >> well, the internet is a great tool. i did a lot of searching. google. searched through indexes. i looked at a lot of the presidential archives now on line. the library of congress. i have a collection in my home of biographies of every president, at least one. so you start from there and just branch out. >> when did you last work in politics and what are you doing now? >> i was the deputy secretary of health and human services until early 2009. so the end of the bush
8:16 pm
administration. i left there to go to the hudson institute. and i have been there studying politics, pop culture, the presidency and health care since 2009. i write, do tv, and also wrote this book. >> i want to show you some video of richard nixon when he was here for an interview back in the 90s. it was 92 right before he passed on fairly soon after that. but here he is talking about books and his life. >> you would have to say take the bible for that. i mean, the bible, apart from religion is great literature. the new testament particularly and even parts of the old testament. i've always felt that the book of ecleezeyasties for example was some of the most eloquent writing that i've ever seen and it always lifted you. so i would pick that as a book. now, among others, hard to
8:17 pm
tell. among current authors that i read who write historicically i would say the books by paul johnson appeal to me a great deal. he is a mearvellluss writer. a geopolitical thinker. and many people of course remember his later books. but the one that is my favorite is his one opt british, the offshore islanders. just a marvelous book. not only great prose. it's great poetry as well. >> what did you find out about bible reading on the part of presidents? >> i have a lot in there. the bible has been very important to many of our founders and presidents. james madison studied hebrew so he could understand it better and the context of what was going on with the israelite leaders. lincoln had very few books as a kid but he read them all and over and over again and one he read was the bible and he internalized it and you could see in his speeches. the most famous example is four score and seven years ago. he used the bible to appeal to
8:18 pm
americans and to use a language that they understood. and people were much more bible literate in those days but. of but a great story is gerald ford going on air force one and asking for a bible. and he was told there was no bible on air force one. so he said there should be. and there was subsequently after his request. but since then there's always been a bible on air force one because of gerald ford's request. >> you say also that gerald forlede said that he had read the twilight of the presidency by george reedy. what was the significance of that? >> reedy talked about i guess the weakness of the presidency at that time and how some of the previous overextensions and ford took from that book not that presidential power should be expanded which other previous presidents had tried to do, and he thought maybe he should have a more modest approach to the presidency. so novak was really struck by ford who at that point was not yet president but it was pretty
8:19 pm
clear with nixon close to resigning that he was going to be president he was struck by ford's more modest approach and his willingness to slink it rather than expand it. >> nixon mentioned paul johnson who wrote a book called the history of the united states. then there's a book called people's history of the united states. if you were to read one and not the other, what would you get? >> absolutely paul johnson. paul johnson -- >> i'm not so sure -- i want to start with what's the difference? what was a student if they were given one side, what would they get from either paul johnson or howard? >> they both have ideological predispositions. one is a marxist and johnson is more conservative. but johnson is a very careful foot noter. his way of doing research. he writes with a typewriter but he has two going at all times. one is the typewriter of the text, the other is the footnote. in the days before computers it
8:20 pm
wasn't so easy to link the two. i'm not sure i could have done all mine without a computer. but so he's a very careful user of sources and making sure that he has everything right. i think he sometimes let his ideology get the better of his scholarship. >> we've got video of jimmy carter who was here in about 1995 and he is talking about his book of poetry. >> beginning about five years ago i studied textbooks about poetry and the different kinds of poetry, the different kinds rimed or not, open verse. and also poetry books that analyzed what famous potatoes were saying and how they -- poe elts were saying and how they said it. the words they chose. my favorite of all times is dillon thomas. but i don't have any ability or
8:21 pm
inclination to try to emulate his poetry. >> what do you think? jimmy carter has written a lot of books. >> jimmy carter has written 23 books which is more than any other ex president or president in their lifetimes. theeder roosevelt wrote a lot but most before he became president. jimmy carter's book library has developed since he became president. he mentions his growing up in georgia and has been very successful with his book sales. and it's part of his kind of shaping himself as people always call him the best ex president. i'm not sure i agree with the conceptualization. but it is part of his resurgence in his post presidential years that he has become this contemplative author. >> what kind of author do you think he is? >> it's very autbige graphical. home spun stuff. i've heard he has a lot of church-going ladies in the
8:22 pm
south seem to like it and they buy a lot of his books. so he has this built-in audience that worked well for him. >> what do you think of the story that has run for years that teddy roosevelt read a book a day or more? and is that really possible? >> yes. sometimes two or three. i know it's possible because when i was in graduate school i had to read multiple books a day. >> but teddy roosevelt was also president. so he was a very fast reader. i would have to suspect -- i'm not sure on this -- that books when printing was more expensive books were a little short bir still impressive. he only had one good eye but he could scan very quickly. and books shape ideas, he would reach out to authors and develop relationships with them. and there's the famous example of sin claire's the jungle which talks about the horrible conditions in the u.s. meat packing plants that led to the creation of the f.d.a. under
8:23 pm
roosevelt. >> what are some of the books that were important in the early years with founding group in this country? >> the founding fathers rad a lot of classics. they liked reading greek and roman works. they read history, philosophy. but it was really -- i talk about this -- that the classics really appealed to them. they liked to read cisero and cato. george washington showed addsen the play cato to the troops at valley forge to encourage them during 1777-1778. when things weren't going well in the warfront. adams loved cisero and would reread one of his books annually. jefferson was a wide ranging reader who read all kinds of law history, philosophy. in fact, james madison when he was preparing to come up with a constitutional convention and write the constitution he asked jefferson for recommendations of books he should read.
8:24 pm
and jefferson at a time when books were very expensive sent him two cratefuls of books and he use that had memo to form his thoughts about the constitution. >> when did the presidents stop reading the classics? or is there such a thing? >> well, i think first there are so many more books available today. some, if you were reading the wealth of nations in 1776 it wasn't a classic it was a new book and cutting edge. so some become classics over time. but i think now there's sort of a presumption that the classics you read as a kid and when you're an adult you want to read some of the latest. george w. bush was a huge reader but he read mostly current and new histories and biographies. he read 14 lincoln biographies when he was president. so there's so many new books out it's hard to keep up. >> did you ever talk to him when you worked for the administration about books?
8:25 pm
>> sure. i was privileged to sit in with him with historians where he talked about books. donald kennedy from stanford was at one of the meetings and not the biggest fan of the president but he was impressed with how many books he read. >> was there a president who didn't read at all? >> lyndon johnson didn't seem to read very much. i haven't found any president who read no books but johnson didn't seem to read too much. wilson said, as president he didn't read that much although e liked to read mysteries. george h.w. bush, when he's at ken bunkport and asked by report erd what he is doing on summer vacation. he said i'm going to do some tennis, golf, motor boating, shoes. ning, some horse and i'll do a little reading. i throw that out for the
8:26 pm
intellectuals. so reading wasn't his priority. >> over the years when you look back at the books that had an impact on a president, what did you find? >> well, -- >> and subsequently an impact on us as people. >> that was one of my inspirations for writing this book. i was curious. one of the famous stories of this is michael harrington wrote a book called the other america about poverty, especially in west virginia. kennedy is supposed to have read that book and led to the war on poverty. not quite that simple. didn't happen quite that way. what he read was a book review in the new yorker which is one of the most famous new yorker articles ever in part because of kennedy's reading of it and that inspired him to tell walter heller to look into policies that could be used to alleviateport and kennedy tragically died in november 63 but johnson then heard about this program and said that's my
8:27 pm
kind of program and pursued it as president. >> were there other books back years ago that you found that had an impact on the discussion on the country? >> i mentioned the jungle with teddy roosevelt. i also found thomas payne's common sense was well read by the founders. this was before anyone was a president and we were still trying to rebel against england but that was very important -- more pamphlet. but very important in helping buck up morale against the british in the tough time in the revolutionary period and it was a huge best seller. i say adjusted for population the sales were equivalent to the sales of peyton place which was a big best seller in the 1950s. >> what the comb pact did democracy in america have? >> it helped shape historians and sociologists view on america. i didn't see any impact it has on the president's.
8:28 pm
i'm sure you have listeners who follow this. i'm curious to hear if somebody finds something. >> what about the federalist papers? how much impact? i know they had an impact when they passed the constitution. beyond that how much gcomb pact to you see them having? they clearly informed the debate. people often refer back to them. again, i remember -- i don't remember any instances where a president said well i've been reading the federalist papers. once the classics become classics you don't refer to reading them as frequently. but it obviously helped shape the debate over the constitution and james madison, our future presidents at the time, was heavily involved in that. >> you say you're a presidential historian and we know because we had our correspondent at your book party here in town. we have a picture of something
8:29 pm
-- someone that was there at this party. we'll show it on the screen. a former president. and people may not recognize him right away but thomas jefferson. and thomas jefferson, is one of the mascots for the washington nationals baseball team. question to you. how expensive is it to have this guy come to your party? >> to be honest i don't know. because very kind people paid for the party and so i'm grateful to them. but i do know that thomas jefferson is cheaper than teddy roosevelt who is the guy who always loses the races. the other reason is because he is obviously in the title what jefferson read. >> you talk about culture though. the washington nationals had this race at every game. here home games here with teddy roosevelt, abraham lincoln, george washington, thomas jefferson. and they hadded taft to it. what imtact do you think that has on people's interest if any on history? >> i think it is a huge amount.
8:30 pm
i like the way the nationals have kind of embraced the history of washington and made it part of their story. i think eck you can do to get young people interested in studying the presidency is a fascinating field. that's one of the reasons i use so much pop culture in this book as an ave yeah -- avenue to the minds of young people. >> how long did it take you to do this book? >> the actual writing was about a full year and then about eight months in terms of editing and footnotes and adjustments. >> who is your audience? >> anyone who is interested in the presidency. anyone interested in pop culture. so the diagram on there has some significant overlap. but americans who are interested in how policy gets made and how ideas are shaped in america. i think it's a broad audience. >> here's another example of a modern president talking about books and his favorite author, bill clinton. >> in my adult life i think the
8:31 pm
finest novel i've read is gabriel's garcia, 100 years of solitude. i read it when i was in law school and i've gone back to it two or three times since then. it's a raps oddic, mystical, marvelous work. and i enjoyed that very, very much. so as i said, a lot of the fiction i read now is more for release. i read a lot of mysteries. and thrillers. gerald ead a mystery by seem or about bosnia and croatia. i just read an interesting book by thomas gifford who is a great mystery writer called saints rest. and fun of a read called jack and jill by patterson. >> and your book on page 206 you have a whole list of the full list of bill clinton's
8:32 pm
favorite books. where did you find that? >> on the internet. clinton printed it out and published it at one point. his memroir is filled with references to books he read at different times. there's one time when he went into russia and the he said the soviet border guards went through rifling through his bag thinking they might find pornography but they found russian novels in there. so he was constantly reading and talking about it. >> as you know in muck culla's book on truman he talks about his last 20 years he went home and sat in his den or -- i've seen it and sat there and read all the time. i went to see that home. and they asked me if i would like to see a list of all the books and gave me a list of the 2,000 books that are still in that house. where did harry truman get his? he was the last guy to be president who did not have a college degree. >> he loved reading as a child.
8:33 pm
his mother encouraged the habit. it became very engrossed as a reader. his daughter said they could be having an argument and harry wouldn't look up until he got to the bottom of the page. he spent something like $5 on a set of mark twain books at the time when that was a lot of money and he read them and loved them a great deal. but i wonder if that point about him not going to college made him feel like he had to read in order to keep up with all the brainy harvard-yale types who were in washington. >> did you come across any president who started reading on his own rather than having a family that read? >> lincoln clearly. lincoln did not have huge family influences in reading. in fact his father criticized him for his reading. so lincoln really came to it himself and it shaped him and helped him come up from his poor hard scrabble upbringings and really is the one story of a president who really came from obscurity to become the
8:34 pm
president by virtue of his reading. >> we also know that he read a lot of shakespere or at least started reading it. would you find that among presidents today? >> not as much. i found it much more in the 19th century i talked about john tyler and how he loved shake spear. at the time people were much more attuned to that sort of thing. now i think you might have a president who might go to the plays but i don't know any who read it on a regular basis. >> near the end of george w. bush's presidency karl rove wanted to prove that he was a reader and i remember seeing one article in the "wall street journal" where he read how many books? didn't they have a contest snr they would read 80 to 90 books a year. they were very serious. they were both competitive and track the number of pages they read. so it's not just i read a book but i read one book that was 500 pages and he read a book
8:35 pm
that was 200 pages. so they tracked the number of books and pages. this is an important point because there was a sense of bush as a nonreader in 2000 and it is just not born out factually. i quote a journalist who said that bush is a graduate of harvard and yale who does not read books. and that's inaccurate. i think it's malpractice. you can't say things that are not true. that was verifiable. then once bush became president and it became clear and obvious to everyone that he did read a lot of books there were some people kind of sniffed and said he has a narrow reading list or he uses reading to advance certain preconceptions. but i found bush was much more likely to read a book by a liberal autsdzer than clinton or obama is about a conservative author. >> i spent a lot of time reading.
8:36 pm
if the question is do you find ways to kind of escape from your job? can you possibly leave the presidency living in the white house? and the answer is the only way i found to do that is either through vigorous exercise or reading. and books allow you to escape. books can put your mind in another location. so i've been reading a lot since i've been the president and this is a great place to read. it's quiet. there's not a lot of action here. and there's nice comfortable chairs with good lighting. >> what's your sense of where presidents read and when they read? >> they read in the evenings. they read in the residents. it's pretty quiet. bush was interviewed post presidentially about his reading and the interviewer peter robinson asked him what books are on your nightstand and bush mocked him and said nightstand. i have an ipad, please. so now presidents might be more
8:37 pm
apt to read electronically. but historically it's been in the residents and in a nice quiet place. >> you do a lot of boxing in your book with interesting facts. you have a whole page boxed in about the jewish people that give presidents jewish books. explain that one. >> i thought that was a little bizarre that you had netanyahu gave obama the book ofester and then you had jeffery goldberg give a passover book to obama. >> he's a journalist. >> and then you had peter give his book two copies to the president one to the national security adviser. and there's nothing wrong with it. there's a lot of jewish authors. i am one myself. but it seemed funny that you had all these authors in the first few cases giving jewish religious books to a nonjewish president. and i would wonder what would happen if there had been a jewish president and he were
8:38 pm
given a bunch of christian books would people think that was weird. so i just highlighted that. a couple people have criticized me on that. they don't think that it's an apt comparison. i'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. >> you grew up in new york city. what were your parents like? are they still alive? >> they are, thank god. my parents are both retired now. my dad was a new york city public school history teacher and my mom was a guidance counselor. and reading was always big in the family. my dad would sit in hi chair or in his bed and read and my mom liked to read a lot of mystery novels. my brothers were much older and left the house once i reached serious reading age. so i was on my own a lot and liked to read. >> can you remember the earliest books that you read? when you started getting serious about history? >> i think probably want to go to my early 20s. there was a couple books that
8:39 pm
had an impact on me. one was the closing of the american mind and talked about the impact of culture. i think that informed a lot of my thinking. another book is wonderful called common ground by jay anthony lucas. it talks about busing in boston. i remember reading one blurb to say that this book is about busing is saying mobey dick is about whaling. it's about so much more and the impact of policy and unintended consequences. so those books had a pretty significant impact on me. >> how fast do you read? >> i can read pretty fast. i keep h new year track of how many books i read by the jewish new year. within the first three days of the year i read three books. so 360 book a year pace. i'm not going to keep that up. >> how often do you not finish a book? >> it's rare. when i start a book i like to finish it. there's some books like the
8:40 pm
careo books on johnson that i don't read in one sitting because they're just too long but i read them a little bit tat and i'm almost up to book three of the four books. >> they're unbelieveably fascinating. he has a different writing style and i'm not sure that most historians take that approach. he's unique but he really gets into the heart and soul of lyndon johnson the way i think johnson would be pretty uncomfortable with. he is kind of defines johnson from the inside-out. it's a little harrowing to read. >> what other current historians do you like? >> david mccullo's books have been wonderful. they read like novels. i like victor david hanson on his books. he has written about the western ideas and how they have helped the west in battles against nonwestern nations. and you might think it's just about the technology but it's not. he's talking about the banking
8:41 pm
system or ideas of kind of free communication of ideas and how that has helped win certain battles. so i really like those. >> you have a chapter, obama full fledged product of american pop culture. first question though on that, what impact did his book dreams of our father have on his run for the presidency? >> i think a tremendous impact. i read it and was very impressed with how well written it was. what a compelling story it was. and even now when you've heard some of the stuff about how there's certain facts that he shaded over, it's still really you a window into the guy's soul and tells you why he's successful politician. in he does have a section there that i cite in the book where he talks about how much tv he watched as a kid and it really kind of blew me away that he was going to this elite school in hawaii and he said
8:42 pm
that after school he went to the store and watched cartoons and watched sit come reruns and prime time tv and he listened to top 40 music on the fm radio until he went to sleep. hat struck me. i write that he shook off couch potato dumb and read books when he got older but there's that impact on in the book where he talks about how much tv he watched as a kid and it really kind of blew me away that he was going to this elite school in hawaii and him. >> we know about at least two meetings that he had with a group of historians. did you find anything else out about the number of times that he has met with people that books that he may have read? >> well, there's a fair bit about his reading. he used to have this habit of going to the store bunch of grapes and he would pick a book and it got leaked out and everybody would dissect what it means. read k in particular he the book before it was available. and that started off the wave
8:43 pm
of interest. became a big best seller not just because of obama's interest but because his interest helped spur it on. but the last two summers he stopped doing that and hasn't made his book selections quite as public. >> you have another chapter obama's preferred shows are darge and edgy decidedly not family affair so he usually watches them alone. the first lady >> we know about seems to have interest in his gritty favorites. her taste and daughter's run to modern family. at a fund raiser in 2011 the president assured everyone that michelle and the girls loved them. >> modern family. they love that show. i guess what did you learn about his current habits besides what you just wrote here? >> he really does like tv. he watches a lot of espn. there was a political piece that suggested that certain actors in washington were buying advertising on espn with
8:44 pm
the hopes that they could get him. but he does seem to like the shows, they're kind of gritty and edgy. there's this new wave third golden age of tmp v where you've got some very impressive shows on the air like the wire, like homeland, bike board walk empire and he seems to gravitate towards those shows. i joke he seems to like the shows of the 1% rather than those of the 99%. >> what about his theater habits? we have a photograph with 3 d glasses on. >> he likes movies. like many middle aged males which i include myself tv seems to have a lot more appeal but he talks about them and sometimes jokes about them. so he's kind of aware of what's going on but doesn't seem quite as obsessed as say jimmy carter. >> when you go to his opponents
8:45 pm
and relate to the culture thing, how did he trump them? >> well, mitt romney when i was a supporter would refer to pop culture but the pop cult ter he referred to, seinfeld, he talked about ferris bueller's day off. those are perfectly acceptable references but they're two to three decade old. obama was much more up to date in his references, much more aware, and much more able to reach out to youth. how he slow jammed the news with jimmy fallon which many americans, and certainly mitt romney never heard of slow jamming the news. but obama was very good and very talented at using pop culture to appeal to the voters that he wanted to come out to vote for him. >> what do you think he has dobe in running for the presidency that has changed the way people might do it in the future? >> i think he understands the segmentation of the audience. the way that tv executives now
8:46 pm
understand it. when i was growing up, you watched happy days and seemingly everybody watched it and the numbers of people watched happy days were staggeringly high. today even the shows that people are talking about aren't watched that by that people. the vast majority of americans haven't seen the most popular shows. so obama understood the need to appeal in their areas of interest. so i think other presidentless have to be more savvy about doing that. i also think that there's the sense that republicans have been old white guys not really up to date with the culture. and there's been a lot of talk including in the famous republican national committee autopsy about the 2012 election that they have to be a little more up to date. and some of the republicans are thinking running in 2016 are these kind of younger 40ish males who express interest in other tv or movies or rap music or hard rock music. >> so far talking about your book what have you found people
8:47 pm
the most interested in? >> people are just amazed that the stuff has been going on for a long time. they asked me like you did how long it took to write and how i found this information. that's the most frequent question. and especially in recent presidents i have to give a shout out to politico which really covers very carefully what the presidents are reading and watching. and some of the stuff i couldn't have written without that source. >> you have an interesting quote near the end of the book. the pervasiveness of american popular culture says michael hogan. >> an author and historian studied cultural issues. >> the pervasiveness of american popular culture of blue jeans and basketball of jazz music and rock and roll, of hollywood movies and television represented one of the most important cultural developments of the 20th century. >> that quote really jumped out at me something i happen to believe in always good to have that validation.
8:48 pm
but what he is saying is that american cumenttur really captured the world in a way that the world hadn't been captured ever. so you hear stories about people, you saw the story he would go to africa and he was bald and people would say to him, hey cogeack. so american cultural ideas and symbols have reached everywhere around the world and one of the few common touch stones throughout the world. so whether it's blue jeans or rock music or american movies, that is how people across the world in many areas almost all areas can communicate to some degree in the way they weren't able to in the past. >> we have talked about radio, television, movies. over the years, and you have a sentence here you wrote washington would hardly recognize the role of the presidency plays in american life today. what has had the biggest impact on change? the way people get elected president. >> i talk about two things.
8:49 pm
the founders had this vision of enlightnd leaders ruling over an educated populous. i don't think they recognize how raucous democracy could be and how open and wouldn't necessarily have those educated population following them. the second thing is just technology, whether it is broadcast or the ability to capture people on film and moving images. or the ability for presidents to convey their image to the american people. i think all of those have really changed the way that presidents communicate with the people. you have to appeal to the common man. that was the 19th century. but in the 20th century you have to master these various technologies in order to find ways to appeal to the common man. >> out of nowhere arsen yo hall comes back with a a program. here's a clip back from 1992 in june when bill clinton was running for the presidency. what impact did this moment ave?
8:50 pm
>> well, that was inteed your loudest clip and it was really a ground breaking moment when clinton goes on the arsen yo hall show and not only plays the saxophone but wears sun glasses and trying to be -- playing elvis.
8:51 pm
some critics said not very well. but then he goes and sits down and talks to him for a good 20 minutes to half hour about some very personal topics. and if you think back in 1968, nixon went on laugh-in and said the phrase, the signature phrase of that show which was sock it to me. he didn't say it that well but that was it. and that supposedly humanized nixon. here about 20 plus years later you've got a presidential candidate who is putting himself out there trying to show he is hip, he is cool, combining both music and television in a way trying to appeal to the american people. and elvis had been kind of controversial when elvis started on the ed sullivan show they had to sensor the gyration of his hips. and now, it was more of a universal way to appeal to the american people by using an elvis song in 1992. so it was really a
8:52 pm
groundbreaking moment. in many ways obama has followed in clinton's footsteps. >> can you think of a moment in presidential campaign history that didn't work for a candidate? >> duke cack kiss. certainly there have been a lot of examples of that. george h.w. bush with the scanner incident in houston. where he appeared not to know what a scanor was. i think that story was a little overplayed but nevertheless that cultural mean got out there. and i think that presidents have to be careful you put yourself out there in a cultural environment it doesn't always work. so obama so many shows in the fall, over two dozen where he appeared kind of entertainment shows not hard news shows. you can make a gaff or two and get over when you do that many. there was one time when david letterman asked him the size of the debt but he didn't want to say it in that venue. but for the most part he did well with it. but it doesn't always work.
8:53 pm
you have to know what you're talking about. ronald reagan in 1984 talked about bruce springsteen and born in the u.s.a. and that kind of became an anthem for his campaign. two problems. one is reagan didn't know that much of springstein. in fact the press aide was asked and he didn't know what other socks he liked. there probably weren't any. and second he objected to the use of the song. obviously reagan was successful and won that campaign. but that was a bit of a misstep. >> in the the back you have rules for presidents engaging pop culture. and you started off with the number one is the law our national politics has become a competition for images or between images. presidents must therefore understand popular culture even if they don't endorse it. he gets a lot of quotes in the book. who was he and how did you invent his law? >> i loved daniel borston.
8:54 pm
you asked about books. i read him later in graduate school but his thinking was very influential. he really covered the gament of american history and how we developed over time both technologically and politically. unfortunately he has passed away but he talks in the book about the impact of television and he talks about how you can be here meaning you're watching at home while you're also there being projected to the american audience. and how tv brings people into your living room in a way that no technology had ever done not even radio which brought the voice in but not your image. so he understand that the images the ppts project were very important to the understanding of how americans would perceive them. >> two is mark noler of cbs radio. what's that. >> mark noler, he tallies everything about the presidency and he archives how many
8:55 pm
vacations they took and how many golf games and how many press conferences. so whenever there is a event reporters go to him and ask what's the number on this particular thing? but what i found is that presidents take vacations and i don't begrudge them. but what you find is that when a democratic president takes vacation they get criticized. by republicans and when a republican takes vacations they get criticized by democrats. so there's a bit of hypocracy. i think presidents should be allowed to take their vacations. it's part of life and you need to get away. and even if you are getting away these days with modern technology you're always in contact. >> number five, the law of hbo and shote. -- showtime. >> i mentioned the shows of the 1%. these shows get a lot of buzz, shows like the wire and homeland. a lot of the cultural elites talk about them. but if you refer to yourself watching them it's not going to
8:56 pm
be a successful tactic because while they get a lot of buzz they're not watched by that american americans. talking the 60s about the vast wasteland. here being direct not ham fisted if you don't like the message praise cat woman but then what's mino's law? >> talked about the vast wasteland. he was the f.c.c. commissioner and when gilligan's island, was the uss mino which was a bit of a shot. and he criticized tv as kind of being a dump of low brow shows and very unimpressive fair. and you can never go wrong by trying to be -- appear more high brow. you can't be seen to be embracing some of the lowest brow and try and be an effective governing leader. >> genuine praise will not be
8:57 pm
graciously received and you only have one in that group the left coast is not america law. >> the point there is that's more if you're a republican. so for republican praises let's say a modern family as mitt romney and mrs. romney did they can get criticized for their lack of support for gay marriage which is what happened. when obama says, they not only are praised by the modern family creators but they're also feeted at a fund raiser. so i think republicans have a little bit disadvantage in dealing with the culture and what i'm trying to get at is that they need to be cog zant of that disadvantage and make sure if you're going to praise some show you're not going to get slapped back. >> who wrote the title of your book, what jefferson read, ike watched, and obama tweeted? >> well, i actually mentioned an acnonlment that i had a whole bunch of friends. my original conception for a title was from cisero to
8:58 pm
snookey how our culture shaped our presidency and the publisher said there were two problems with that. one, is that the then diagram of people who know snookey and people who know cisero doesn't intersect and i think they're right about that. the second is this was about in 2011, that people might not know who snookey is in a few years and that's pretty much true. i think her star has faded. so we had to come up with an alternative title. and we wanted to convey the notion one is that we're covering the gamut of presidents i start with washington but i mention jefferson all the way through obama. so that was one thing. the second thing is the way that culture has changed things. so they were initially reading then they were watching now they're tweeting. so it's both a technological shift but also a shift in how they are portrayed. reading is a somewhat passive act. you are reading and you don't change the text. tv is something you're watching but you can also impact it by
8:59 pm
appearing on tv. and tweeting you're provide clg tent. and obama has 30 million twitter followers and when he sends tweets from his account that he directly writes he puts a b.o. at the end. >> the title of the book again is what jefferson read, ike watched, and obama tweeted. 200 years of popular culture in the white house. our guest. thank you very much. >> thanks for having me.
9:00 pm
tonight on c-span, british prime minister david cameron followed by a discussion on press freedom. later, another look at duende with author tevi troy. >> on the next washington journal, the week ahead in washington. the 2014 midterm elections and the budget. our guest are steve mcmahon and republican strategist brian walsh. followed by a look at the new health insurance exchanges. later, a discussion on how the fbi plans to deal with the budget cuts under sequestration. a wall street journal reporter joins us. washington drug him alive at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> david cameron taking questions from members on cost- of-living

463 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on