Guest: Doris Kearns Goodwin
TIM RUSSERT, HOST: Welcome again—the race for the White House. And what a race it is.
These men and women are not only candidates, but they’re also potential presidents. And what are the qualities that we’re looking for in a future leader of this great nation?
No better to put it in focus and perspective than presidential historian, author, Doris Kearns Goodwin.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
RUSSERT: Qualities—and we’ve talked about this before, and I think it’s time for an update. These are the presidential qualities that are most important for a president, according to Doris Kearns Goodwin: withstand adversity, diverse perspectives, loyalty, admit mistakes, manage emotions, define goals, and relax.
Let’s go to the very first one, withstand adversity, and let’s do an update, the race for the White House 2008. John McCain, a Republican, how has he withstood adversity in his life, and how do you see that playing out in this campaign?
GOODWIN: Well, you surely see an arc of his ability to withstand adversity throughout his whole life. I mean, from those days in the POW camp, where he had to rely on his inner resources to just survive, managed to do so without losing his sense of faith in people.
Then he had the Keating Five scandal. He somehow came out of that as an advocate for public financing as a way of making good on something that was bad.
His campaign implodes last summer. They think he’s finished, his staff is undoing itself. And he came back.
So I think he’s got that resilience that his life experience has taught him.
RUSSERT: Also a front page story in “The New York Times” suggesting a relationship with a lobbyist in which he came out the next day, stood before the cameras, and said it’s not true. Really putting it on line, suggesting that if any evidence that emerged that contradicted him, it could be painfully difficult for his future campaign.
And the one thing about that story that was at least a little disturbing, the affair part was ridiculous. And I think that’s what undid the story in a way, because there was evidence for that.
But the other hand, that he had seemed to have an inappropriate public relationship, even with a friend who was a lobbyist, given what he had been through with the Keating Five, given that he had staked his whole reputation on not having those kinds of appearances, that was the interesting part of the story that I think might have been troubling.
RUSSERT: The Keating Five, a situation where early in his career he had interceded on behalf of Keating, a banker. Some suggested his conduct was inappropriate. And he said he learned from that, and he—to take on special interests. And yet now, circling around the McCain campaign is the notion that he has surrounded himself with lobbyists in his campaign and has solicited money from people who have, in fact, done business before his committee.
GOODWIN: And maybe what’s happened in some ways, he has such confidence in his own integrity, and perhaps rightly placed, that he’s getting somewhat careless about the appearance of problems—surrounding himself with lobbyists, whatever happened with that woman lobbyist. So I think he’s got to think through this thing, because this is who he is, and he can’t allow anything to shave away that strength.
RUSSERT: Hillary Clinton—withstanding adversity?
GOODWIN: Well, clearly, anyone who could go through the public humiliation of Monica Lewinsky, the Ken Starr revelations, and be willing to go back into public life after that—indeed, her whole campaign for the Senate began in some ways in the ashes of Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. So I think that showed her that she could come back from something that must have seemed devastating. And then obviously she came back from Iowa, she came back again after—after time after time after the 11 straight losses, in some ways because she’s—I’ve been here before, I can do it again.
RUSSERT: After Iowa, she bounced back in New Hampshire. Then she lost big in South Carolina. She bounced back on Super Tuesday. Then she lost 11 primaries in a row to Barack Obama during the month of February, bounced back in Ohio, and at least the popular vote in Texas.
There is a sense that she is a survivor.
GOODWIN: That’s right. And I think she’s had it in the past. And when you’ve done it before—you know, the more you’ve had these moments of defeat and you come—and whatever—you get victory out of defeat, you get it from the jaws, whatever that thing is, the more you can do it the next time around. So I think that’s the resilience that’s part of her hard-wired makeup right now.
RUSSERT: Talking about the Lewinsky situation, we now, as we speak, have the saga of Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York caught up in a whole scandal with prostitution, has resigned as the governor of New York.
In each of these, Doris, it is the wife who stands next to the man, despite the disgrace that he has brought to the state, the country, his family. Is that the course all through history that we have scene?
GOODWIN: Well, you know, it’s incomprehensible on the one hand that the man should ask the wife to stand there. I think it was a terrible mistake for Eliot Spitzer to do that, because she looked so sad. It only made you feel horrible for her, as well as whatever anger you had toward him. But you could sort of understand why she would do it.
They’ve been married for a long time. They have three children. They grew up together.
He’s devastated. His career may be over. His reputation is forever undone. And she loved him.
And whoever it is that can undo that empathy at that moment would be a bigger person in some ways, because I think I understand why she did it. But terrible mistake on his part.
You know, we saw the same thing obviously with Hillary Clinton standing by Bill Clinton during the Gennifer Flowers thing. That had a different dimension to it, too, because it was his career and hers since they had been such teammates together that was on the line, and protecting him, she was protecting herself as well.
RUSSERT: And when Bill Clinton first ran in 1992, she was centrally involved in going through all the allegations that would be made against him potentially, and worked with the staff in terms of, how are we going to resist this and blunt it?
GOODWIN: Absolutely, and which, again, how can you imagine being willing to do that? I think I’d just hit the guy. I don’t think I’d be able to do that.
RUSSERT: Spoken like a true historian and a true wife.
RUSSERT: Barack Obama—withstanding adversity?
GOODWIN: That’s the real question that I don’t think we’ve seen. Surely, as he talked about in his memoir, he had the crippling fear of how to relate to a world in which he was neither fully black nor fully white, but he hasn’t really had his public reputation—he did lose a seat in Congress, but it wasn’t really expected he’d win.
He’s had a charmed life since then. Everywhere he went—editor of the “Harvard Law Review,” brilliant at every step along the way. So we haven’t seen that real ability to withstand adversity.
Now will be the question. You know, if this thing gets even rougher in these weeks ahead, how is he going to react to that? Will he show resilience? Will he look at what he did wrong? Or will he just simply get angry?
And it’s going to be interesting to see.
RUSSERT: In his first book he writes about his dad leaving when he was just a young boy, 2 years old. But when learning of his dad’s death, a lot of it came roaring back, and he had a tough patch in his life where he was acting out. And he said looking down on people who weren’t black, or experimenting with drugs. So certainly at an early age he had some difficulties that he overcame.
GOODWIN: Yes. I think there’s no question that in his psychological life he’s had to withstand adversity. And it made him the stronger person that he eventually became.
It’s still different from having to withstand the public loss of reputation. That’s more relevant in some ways in politics.
It’s not just John McCain’s POW experience, it’s the Keating Five and presumably coming back from that. With Hillary Clinton, she had some difficulties as a child. But it’s more than that. It’s coming back from Monica Lewinsky.
That’s what we haven’t seen from Obama. And hopefully that life experience which was difficult, as you say, will (INAUDIBLE) him for that. I have no reason to believe he won’t be able to do it, but we haven’t seen it.
RUSSERT: When he won Iowa, then went into New Hampshire expecting to win—everyone did—and he lost, I had a chance to talk to his staff, and then interview him later. And they used one word to describe him—serene. And it was interesting, because normally candidates get agitated, start blaming people. But in that particular situation, he was relatively calm, which I thought was quite striking.
GOODWIN: And he gave a great speech that night, too. I think there—and it showed that serenity, somehow that he has some deep-seated confidence—there’s no question that this young man does—that I think he’s brought with him through his mature life. And I think that’s where the serenity comes from.
RUSSERT: We’re going to take a quick break and come back and talk about the need for diverse perspectives. How do candidates and presidents hear from different people—a team of rivals, perhaps?
We’ll be right back.
RUSSERT: And we’re back talking to Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential historian and author, talking about the qualities we look for in presidents.
We now have three finalists for the White House: John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Diverse perspectives, the ability of these men and women to reach out to people of different views, perhaps even reach out to people who have said unkind things about them.
John McCain—John Kerry talked to John McCain about running for president on the ticket in 2004, a Democratic ticket. Tom Daschle, the former majority leader, said he had conversations with John McCain about leaving the Republican caucus and becoming an Independent and aligning himself with the Democrats in the Senate.
Clearly, McCain has relationships with people across the aisle in a way that many Republicans don’t.
GOODWIN: And it’s a great thing in today’s world to have that. I mean, what we’ve seen with this red/blue state dichotomy, with the negative partisanship in Washington, is it’s harder and harder to do that, because your party considers you a traitor if you try to do these kinds of relationships. But what we’ve seen from internal staffs that are all one-sided in many ways—the Bush administration has been that way—you get one voice. It’s almost as if there’s an echo of the president’s voice.
You need to talk to these other people. And it’s crazy not to. The only thing you have to do is, if you have diverse perspectives in front of you, then you have to be able if it’s internal, or your staff, and they’re all arguing with one another, you have to make sure they don’t take those arguments outside, because then the public sees, oh, my god, this group is not together, and they’re dysfunctional, and they start making fun of it all.
RUSSERT: John McCain, in a recent town hall meeting, was asked by a young man, “Would you consider having John Kerry run on your ticket in 2008 for vice president?” And he said, “No, no. I’m a Republican conservative. He’s a Democratic liberal.”
So there may have been an evolution in McCain’s thinking about how bipartisan he wants to be.
GOODWIN: Yes. I wish that weren’t so. I mean, he’s already got this nomination sowed up. But you have the feeling that he still feels the need to somehow appeal to those conservatives.
And the very part of him that can go toward the Independents, that can make this bridge, is the part that he needs to preserve. That’s more him than this other side. But he has bent. We saw him bending for that nomination earlier by saying nice things about some of the people he had said were intolerant before on the Republican right.
So he’s got to be careful, because when you make your reputation as somebody who likes to have people on all sides talking to you, and then you turn the other way, then people are not as forgiving.
RUSSERT: Barack Obama was asked if he could bring two books with him to the Oval Office, he said the bible and “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Give a synopsis of “Team of Rivals” for the benefit of people who have been unfortunately not been able to read it yet. But...
GOODWIN: That (ph) book?
RUSSERT: ... that still would find it at the bookstore.
GOODWIN: Well, I think what Lincoln was able to do when he got into the presidency was to realize that he didn’t have the experience, he didn’t have the education, he didn’t have the celebrity of his three much more known rivals. So he put them all into his cabinet.
I mean, people said, how can you do this? You’re going to look like a figurehead. He said, look, these are the strongest and most able men in the country. The country’s in peril. I need them by my side.
And as a result, he had former Democrats, former Whigs, former—he said, if I can just get somehow these people to agree inside, then everything will be all right on the outside. But when they started yelling at one another too much on the outside, he put his foot down and he said, I want no more of this. I don’t want to hear you arguing against each other outside. We keep it inside the official family.
That’s the trick that one has to play if you’re going to have all these people inside. But it meant he had options. He had choices to make. And it meant that he was a much better president than he would have been.
RUSSERT: One of his rivals actually called him a monkey.
GOODWIN: A monkey, an ape, a traitor. I mean, the words they used—today, you can’t imagine what it would be like if it was on television today.
I mean, we know about two diaries and letters after the fact. But, I mean, they called him, you know, ugly, impossible, a bad grammarian, a monkey, indeed.
RUSSERT: One of the campaign claims that Barack Obama makes is that he would bring a new attitude, a new hope, a new inspiration to Washington. He would turn the page. And that, despite a lot of good things from the Clintons, Obama says one of the things that they would—Hillary Clinton would bring is an inability to reach out to people, to unify Washington, to unify the country.
Is there evidence of that?
GOODWIN: Well, one does have the sense that Obama has attracted Independents and Republicans. I mean, the funny lines that he’s used on the campaign trail, where he says, “Republicans come up to me and whisper, ‘I’m for you,’” and then he says, “I whisper back, ‘That’s good.’” And then he says, “Why are we whispering?”
You know, and I think that is a hope that maybe, if he were to win the nomination, that he would be able to get people on both sides of the aisle together. There’s some evidence that he did that when he was in the state legislature in Illinois.
To be fair to Hillary Clinton, when she first came into the Senate she was able to make friends with people who had been angry at her husband over impeachment. She was able to walk across the party line, to a certain extent. Though her campaign, because of the way it’s been focused, has brought out the traditional Democratic base, and has not reached the Independents the same way that Obama has, because they’ve both sort of gotten fixed in these camps.
RUSSERT: And they’re rough and tumble in terms of the way they function against Obama.
GOODWIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s so interesting. The rough and tumble part of Hillary may be what appeals to some of the blue collar workers and the people who make less than $100,000, because she appears to be having to fight for everything she gets, whereas he sometime seems so classy and dignified, that it seems even though he’s had a really tougher life than she did, without a question, yet he seems above it now and he seems so—so—you know, so sure of himself.
RUSSERT: How about the dysfunctional staff in the Clinton campaign, openly arguing with each other on the front page of the newspapers?
GOODWIN: I mean, there, on the one hand, it’s good that you have people giving her different kind of advice. You’ve got to be tough, on the one hand. No, I want you to be more vulnerable on the other. But then when the advisers start yelling at one another in public and saying it’s his fault or her fault, that’s not a good thing, because it makes it seem like the manager is not in control of a dysfunctional staff.
So, that’s the fine line you have to—you have to draw. That’s why it’s difficult. It’s easier in some ways if they all agree with you. Then you’re not going to have them screaming at each other in public, but I think it’s still worth the price to have that happen, to have people arguing and giving you different points of view.
RUSSERT: Diverse perspectives.
GOODWIN: Diverse perspectives.
RUSSERT: We’re going to come back and talk about loyalty, and also the ability of a candidate, of a president, to admit a mistake.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, our presidential historian, right after this.
RUSSERT: We’re all caught up in the campaign, but we are electing a president of the United States who needs qualities in order to govern our country successfully.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential historian, has put them into focus and perspective.
Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, three great presidents. They all made mistakes.
GOODWIN: Absolutely. And were able to learn from those mistakes.
No president is going to get through terms without making even serious mistakes. The question is, can you grow from it and learn?
And when JFK made that mistake at the Bay of Pigs, he restructured his white House, which made the Cuban Missile Crisis decision-making so much better. And that’s the way that we’ve got to look—I think it’s one of the most important of all these qualities.
RUSSERT: FDR was able to admit mistakes?
GOODWIN: Sure. I mean, he would put out various programs and they didn’t work. And so he’d so, OK, forget them. Let’s try for the next one . When he made the mistake of packing the Supreme Court, he pulled back once he realized it wasn’t going to work and moved on ahead. Yes, absolutely.
And Lincoln was great. Lincoln would admit it openly. He would take responsibility, even for the mistakes of the people around him, which created a reservoir of great feeling for him when times got rough.
RUSSERT: It’s interesting—in the Democratic primary race, Senator Dodd, Senator Biden, former Senator Edwards all came forward and said the vote for the war in Iraq was a mistake. Hillary Clinton is still resisting to say it in those words. She’d say, well, I wouldn’t do it again knowing what I know today, but refuses to say that vote was a mistake.
GOODWIN: Yes, it seems like they must have made a decision in that campaign early on that in order to be tough and pass the threshold of commander in chief, that she couldn’t admit a mistake on something as important as that. If she had admitted it way back then, she’d be so much better off than she has been now. But once you don’t admit it back then, she couldn’t turn on a dime, you know, six months later and do it. So I think she’s stuck in that pattern now of saying what she said.
The worrisome thing to me is not so much the Iraq one. I can understand where she got into that. But on the health care thing, one hopes if she were to become president she really analyzes what went wrong, because it wasn’t simply the ads that other side put together. It wasn’t even simply the substance of it. It was whether or not she had an open process, because it was a closed process, whether she got Congress on board early enough. And hopefully she has learned from that so that she can she bring that to bear if she were to be president—on health care in particular.
RUSSERT: Several Democrats have come forward saying that they could have gotten a bipartisan plan, incremental plan, not the complete national health care that she wanted, back in 1993, and the alternative has been, 15 years later, still nothing.
GOODWIN: And that’s an even deeper question. That is, when do you have to compromise on what you might want as your principle, because it’s the best you can get?
She didn’t think it was all that she wanted, so she wasn’t willing to compromise, from what I understand. But you’re going to have those kinds of decisions again and again when you’re in the White House.
RUSSERT: Barack Obama running a campaign that has been extraordinary successful for president. The freshman senator from Illinois. And yet his coalition now is upscale, urban liberals, young people, African-Americans. He’s losing, some places overwhelmingly, blue collar ethnic Democrats.
Does he have to at this point reflect upon his own campaign, his own message, and acknowledge that he has to retool his campaign and start reaching out to an important part of the base?
GOODWIN: I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, I think right now the short-term instinct will be to say, the reason I’ve lost these recent campaigns in Ohio and Texas is because of the negative ads, the 3:00 a.m. in the morning. But instead, if he’s willing to take the longer and the deeper view of it, that I’m still not able to reach into that constituency, which is a core Democratic constituency I’m going to need if I’m president.
What is it about the way I’ve talked to them? Have I not talked empathetically? He seems an empathetic person, but have I not connected to their problems in the same way that Hillary’s been able to? What do I need to do?
And I think what he needs to is, the “hope and change” message has to somehow get connected to the policies. You know, he’s able to argue an aroused citizenry in the past historically has made huge changes for people. Food and drug legislation when the aroused citizenry was there with the muckrakers. When the labor movement was there, it produced maximum hours, minimum wages, workman’s compensation. You know, in the 1960s, that aroused citizenry produced, with the civil rights movement, great civil rights laws, Medicare, aid to education.
He’s got to prove somehow that he’s not just talking generally about hope, that he’s hoping that this country, citizenry, will push the Congress to get done the various policies. But he’s got to be able to make that connection, which I don’t think he’s made.
RUSSERT: And he keeps now referring to himself as—started off his professional life as a community organizer...
GOODWIN: Right. Right.
RUSSERT: ... dealing with people who had lost their jobs from steel plants that had left Chicago. So it seems to be a tacit acknowledgment of the need to find ways to reach out to people, because if you don’t, you are making a mistake in not being able to connect with all parts of the Democratic Party.
GOODWIN: The key to a great political leader is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And they can feel it.
I mean, after FDR had his polio, he was able to connect to people who had lost their homes and lost their livelihood in a way he may not have ever been able to do before from that aristocratic background. And he’s got to recall, I think in this case, Obama’s, what that community organizing years were like, because obviously he connected with people then. But maybe it means less rallies and more going to diners, more going out to the people and going to the plants and showing that connection, and feeling it, and let that come into his voice.
RUSSERT: We’re going to take another quick break.
We’re talking to Doris Kearns Goodwin, the presidential historian and author, about the qualities we’re looking for in the next president of the United States, be it John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama.
We’ll be right back.
RUSSERT: And we’re back.
Such an intense race for president. We’re trying to find out the qualities necessary for the president of the United States once they walk into that Oval Office. We’ve been talking about presidents’ ability to admit mistakes.
I want to go back to Roosevelt for a second, Doris, because you said he found the words which allowed him to connect with people, even though he came from a wealthy background. How did he do that? What was his training for that? Who helped him?
GOODWIN: Well, I think partly what happened is, once he got polio and was never able to walk on his own power again, he understood what it was like for other people to whom fate had also dealt an unkind hand. He could connect to them in a way that he might not have been able to before.
I mean, think about it. You’re a young man, you’re 39 years old, and suddenly in a swift moment you can never walk again.
And as a result, I think he got pleasure in knowing that he could help other people get through their lives. And they felt he was their guy.
You know, there’s these wonderful letters that were written in to the White House—you know, my dog just died, my roof fell off, my wife is mad at me. But it’s OK because you’re in the White House, Mr. Roosevelt. You’ll take care of me.
I mean, that’s a connection that anybody would want in a million years.
RUSSERT: It’s so interesting reading about your works on Roosevelt, how the press, obviously very much aware of his polio, and yet had a pact amongst themselves where if they knew a photographer or cameraman would try to take a picture of him, they’d be elbowed out of the way, or the camera would suddenly fall on the ground. And that there was only one picture at a convention, when he actually fell, that finally emerged. But the press really did try to protect the president from that kind of coverage.
GOODWIN: Oh, and sometimes don’t you wish that that desire to protect the dignity of the office were more respected nowadays? I mean, think about the contrast between George Bush throwing up in Japan, and everybody couldn’t wait to have pictures of it. Or Jerry Ford, a great athletic president, falling down the plane steps, and yet we saw that over and over again.
There’s been a sea change, I think, in the relationship of reporters to the press.
RUSSERT: Good or bad?
GOODWIN: Both good and bad. I mean, bad in that sense that I just described. Good in the sense that when Roosevelt had his heart condition in 1944, and his doctor put out statements saying, he’s perfectly fine, nobody was able to get underneath it the way we absolutely would and should today. So there’s both sides to this changed relation.
RUSSERT: And one last question on Obama in terms of admitting mistakes and reaching out to white ethnic voters. The issue of race, how difficult is that for Obama to navigate? Getting extraordinary support from the African-American community, and yet trying to also connect with white ethnics who sometimes feel threatened by their own economic insecurity.
GOODWIN: Well, this is the historic journey that this race is on. I mean—and I think one of the reasons why people feel it’s such a positive thing that has happened so far, is that so far he has been able to make inroads in some of those states. And it’s what America has been looking for, for a long time, to not have that jealousy and that envy and that anger between people who are not doing well among whites and blacks. You know, those two groups trying to raise themselves up, sometimes they come against clashes.
But in the end, if he can make that connection, America will be a better place.
RUSSERT: We had Geraldine Ferraro, former congresswoman, the first woman serious candidate for vice president in 1984, said that if Barack Obama was white, he wouldn’t be in this current situation. That if he was a woman of either color, he wouldn’t be in this situation. And Senator Obama took great offense to those comments.
GOODWIN: Well, there’s obviously great, in a certain sense, anxiety on both sides of these camps to not let racism get in the way, or to make it seem like it’s in the way, and they use it to their own advantages. I mean, it may have been an overreaction to what Geraldine Ferraro said, because he himself has talked about the fact that he understood that some part of his life he was aided by being black, although in this campaign I think it’s so important for him to be able to say, I’m transcending that. And that’s why I think they got angry.
RUSSERT: But race has been a factor in our presidential campaigns...
GOODWIN: Of course.
RUSSERT: ... throughout history.
GOODWIN: Of course. Of course. And that’s why this is such an important moment. And so far, we’ve handled it pretty well, the country has, and I think the reporters have. And we’ve come a long distance from where we would have been even 20, 30 years ago, to have this black candidate doing so incredibly well.
RUSSERT: Another quality, and that is emotions. How does a candidate manage his or her emotions in that Oval Office with all that pressure?
You shared with me a wonderful quote from Aristotle about being angry with the right person.
GOODWIN: Yes. He said it’s one thing to be angry. You know, but the key is you’ve got to be angry at the right person, at the right time, in the right way.
So, of course there are times when a politician needs to get angry at—not even somebody, but some group or something. But when you allow those emotions to be out of control, that’s when people don’t like to see that.
I mean, I think this is the question that has always been asked about McCain, because he acknowledges himself that he sometimes lets these emotions get out of control. And it seemed like he was in control more, certainly when he dealt with this “New York Times” thing. He was so cool when he was in front of them, the thing that could have made him furious about the lobbyist and the woman and the presumed affair.
And yet, we just saw not long ago on the campaign trail where he yelled at this woman reporter on the plane for bringing up the fact that he had had a conversation with John Kerry about being vice president. And you can’t let that happen. And you can’t ever embarrass somebody in public.
I think that’s the worst thing you do. It’s one thing to yell at your staff in private. But when you yell at somebody in public so their colleagues see it, whether it’s a reporter—but on the other hand, he makes friends with reporters and their back at the barbecue at his ranch. So who knows?
RUSSERT: There is—it is legend that senators who work with John McCain say he has a hot fuse. Is that something that’s acceptable for someone who could be president?
GOODWIN: It’s a troubling thing. I mean, you know, in the old days, if you said the things that he has said to some of his fellow senators, you’d be censured or expelled from the Senate. You know, in the old days, you’re not allowed to say anything mean about the people in the 19th century. You could shoot them on the floor, but you couldn’t say anything mean about them.
I think he’s got to be careful. I mean, obviously there are times—look, Harry Truman was so angry with that critic who was yelling at his daughter’s piano recital, you know, that he said, I wanted to hit him in the face. And people like that kind of anger. There’s a certain sense in which people are going to get angry, but you want to try and control it. You need dignity in that office.
RUSSERT: Hillary Clinton and her campaign have not been shy in blaming the press, blaming the media, saying that they have been unfair to her and overly supportive of Barack Obama.
Is that appropriate?
GOODWIN: I think it’s never helpful to blame the media. I really—maybe for a few moments when people are mad at the media, you can blame them and it might give you a short-term advantage. But in the long run, the presidents who have done the best have been accessible to the media.
I mean, Franklin Roosevelt, two press conferences a week, for goodness sakes. And he loved them. He used to write their stories if they got late somehow. He made them his friends.
McCain has obviously made friends out of the reporters. Teddy Roosevelt would write endless letters to every reporter who wrote whatever story, saying, I like this story, or this story is a little wrong.
Taft, on the contrary, got so angry with the press, he called them murderers and thieves. And he refused to read adverse criticism. I mean, he didn’t even want to see the reporters.
You can’t. The reporters are your lifeline to the public. So to the extent you can swallow your anger and get back and be accessible to them, you’re much better off.
RUSSERT: What about this rash of people being forced to resign for comments they make—staff advisers, aides saying something inappropriate and the other campaign saying, resign, quit.
GOODWIN: I think it’s a much too quick judgment on people. We—look, everything everybody says nowadays is picked up in a way that it never would have been 20, 40, 50 years ago.
People are going to make stupid comments, or they’re going to be tired and they’re going to say something that wasn’t meant in the right way. I don’t think they should all be forced immediately to resign. I think it’s just a way of proving, I’m holier than thou. But than the next campaign does it the other day.
So, in the end, you’re going to have nobody left.
RUSSERT: Sometimes an honest apology and acceptance can deal with the issue.
GOODWIN: Absolutely. And it shows that the guy is stronger or the woman is stronger if she can say, I don’t agree with this, but I value this person. I’m keeping them.
RUSSERT: Another quick break.
More of Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential qualities, right after this.
RUSSERT: And we’re back.
Presidential qualities. Doris Kearns Goodwin is our guest.
Defining goals. Sometimes leading the country to do things that the country doesn’t find particularly or willing to do, and you talk about—let’s take John McCain.
When he’s talking about honor, country, duty, he’s very strong. By his own admission, when he’s talking about the economy—and we’re in hard times now—he’s not as good as a communicator, not as facile with the language.
Is that a problem?
GOODWIN: I think it is a problem. I mean, the ability to create a sense of shared purpose, to your ability to speak, is one of the traits that we need in a president. That’s he’s going to lead, he’s going to educate, and shape public opinion.
And it is true, when McCain speaks and he’s giving some of those victory speeches at night, and he’ll talk about, I stand for the honor of the country, what America means to the world, you do feel it’s coming from inside of him. But unless he’s able to internalize the problems that people are feeling in their daily lives right now, and connect to them, and connect to what the country and the government can do for them, I think in this economic potential recession world he’s going to have difficulty.
RUSSERT: Senator Hillary Clinton, there’s been lots discussed, written about toughness versus warmth. When it was suggested a woman run for president of the United States, the threshold question would be, is she tough enough to be commander in chief?
No one raises that about Hillary Clinton.
GOODWIN: Yes. That test is met.
RUSSERT: But her ability to really, truly resonate and suggest to people, I understand who you are, I am tolerant and willing to listen to you, even people who may disagree with her.
GOODWIN: And I think the interesting thing for Hillary is she is so articulate on her feet. There’s no question of debates. Hardly anyone can match her. But she doesn’t seem to have developed yet the internal confidence to give a speech where she’s actually having to go from the teleprompter and talk in larger terms than simply the policy proposals that she’s made.
Somehow she needs to connect them to giving people a fair chance in life, making people able to feel a sense that they’re lifting artificial weights from their soldiers, as Lincoln used to talk about. She needs to somehow raise the level of her speechmaking so that people feel that she’s talking to them on that next higher level, not just on the policy ground.
I don’t see why she can’t do that. Maybe somehow Bill Clinton’s been a shadow on her. Just like LBJ never wanted to give a speech like that because, there was JFK before him. But she’s going to have to learn to do that, and she’s got to start trying that more and more.
She gave a great speech in Beijing. Maybe when she’s outside of Bill Clinton’s hands—well, not hands, but she’s outside of his control, she can do better.
RUSSERT: It is interesting. She talks about the scars that she wears from all her struggles from being attacked, the vast right wing conspiracy.
Is she able to give an overarching thematic speech which embraces the whole country that is welcoming to Independents and Republicans to join in governing the country, or is it something that she is so used to, being involved in partisan politics, that becomes very difficult for her?
GOODWIN: It’s almost the opposite to what Obama has to do, as we were talking before about his need to somehow connect to that traditional Democratic base, she has to. If she were to win this nomination, the most important thing would be that speech she makes on that night, which would have to do as you suggest. It’s going to have to take away that tough partisan edge and be able to start moving toward looking at the country, where she wants America to move to, what she wants us to represent in the world at large, what she hopes government can do for the people here at home.
And I think she can do that. But somebody’s got to persuade her that that’s the next challenge.
RUSSERT: It’s interesting in the analysis of Barack Obama, his ability to inspire, to offer hope. And now the question is, is he tough enough?
How does Obama, defining his goals, reaching out to the country, demonstrating to the country that he could be a very tough-minded commander in chief and president, and still hold on to that inspirational, aspirational sense that he has put forward?
GOODWIN: It is a difficult time for him, because on the one hand, part of the reason people like him so much is that he did seem to run a campaign on a somewhat higher level, not descending to some of those negative attacks. And yet, if you don’t respond to the negative attacks against you, then you look somewhat wimpy and not tough enough.
So, in these next weeks, he’s going to have to both get to those blue collar workers. He’s going to have to respond to the Clinton campaign’s attacks without showing anger, but showing strength. And he’s going to have to somehow keep that inspiration going at the same time.
But presidents have to be many things at one time, so it will be a good test.
RUSSERT: The concern he has, and he’s expressed it, is that if he gets down and dirty and starts mixing it up—as he said, a quote, “knife fight”...
RUSSERT: Then how does he go back and say, I represent a different kind of politics where I’m trying to get rid of all this kind of harsh partisanship and come together for the common good?
GOODWIN: Yes, it’s very hard for him. And he’s going to have to pick his challenges. I mean, I think that’s why it’s important for him to go against the things that she said that are important.
He can’t be just yelling back at her day after day, or he’ll lose that sense of being somehow above this and trying to do something different. But if something comes up that really questions his integrity or questions his ability to be commander in chief, he’s got to push back on that, because, otherwise, it seems that’s what lost him somewhat in Texas and Ohio.
RUSSERT: Roosevelt was able to speak beyond his base?
GOODWIN: Finally, in World War II. But he had a big base during the 1930s.
Yes. I mean, he was a partisan leader. There’s no question about that. But then he learned when World War II came that he couldn’t be that partisan leader anymore.
So he reached out to the business community. He reached out to the Republicans and became a much broader leader after that.
RUSSERT: And Lincoln?
GOODWIN: Lincoln obviously didn’t reach the South too well until the end, but within the North he had all these different factions he had to deal with—people who were more conservative, who were radical, who wanted emancipation, who didn’t want emancipation. And his words always were there at the right moment, at the right time.
He had a sense of timing. And that’s the other thing that these characters have to have when they’re communicating to the country, is when to make their speeches.
You know, in the old days, Roosevelt was only on the radio 12 times -- 30 times during his 12 years. He knew that less is more. Our president is now on the radio every week. Does anybody really listen to them the same way—when Roosevelt was on that Fireside Chat, you could walk down a street on a hot Chicago night, Saul Bellow said, and not miss a word of what he was saying because everybody was listening.
He knew to hold himself back and do it when it mattered.
RUSSERT: How to balance all of these different constituencies and different issues.
GOODWIN: It’s the greatest job in the world, and it’s the hardest job in the world.
RUSSERT: But who would want it?
RUSSERT: Another quick break.
How do they relax? How should they relax?
Doris Kearns Goodwin takes us through history with some very instructive lessons.
We’ll be right back.
RUSSERT: And we’re back talking about presidential qualities with Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Decompressing, trying to get away from it a little bit, a very important part of our history.
Abe Lincoln, he liked to.
GOODWIN: He went to the theater more than 100 times. He said when a Shakespeare play came down, somehow the lights went off and he could imagine himself for a few hours back in Prince Hal’s time. And he told endless stories and had a great sense of humor. Once he started telling the story, he could almost forget about the Civil War.
You’ve got to do that to renew your energies and to replenish them.
RUSSERT: FDR, he liked to...
GOODWIN: FDR was great. OK. He had a cocktail hour every night, where the rule was...
RUSSERT: This is water, by the way.
GOODWIN: But think of it, he gets his friends and associates together. They cannot talk about the war. They can talk about movies, books they’ve read, who’s involved with who, what affairs are going on, just so he can relax.
He also had marathon poker games with his cabinet officers. And he played with his stamps.
Churchill once said it was so amazing to watch him play with his stamps as if nothing was happening in the world. And Churchill envied that quality.
RUSSERT: Teddy Roosevelt liked to hunt. Dwight Eisenhower liked to play golf. John McCain likes to barbecue.
GOODWIN: Which is great in a way, because just recently he actually had all the reporters to his place to watch him do the barbecue. And he’s talking the whole time about his special secret recipe for the ribs and how to cook them. But it shows...
RUSSERT: Keeping them moist.
GOODWIN: Keeping them moist, exactly, with some secret sauce that he puts on them. But to be able to just go to another place like that and relax—and he seems to get relaxation from talking to you guys. He likes reporters. That gives him a sense of replenishing his energies.
RUSSERT: Hillary Clinton said that she likes crossword puzzles. She likes to clean her closet.
GOODWIN: I know. I read somewhere that when she has anxiety, she gets rid of the stress by organizing her closets, which is a rather odd comment.
But she also I think likes movies. I remember in the Clinton White House they used to have movies a lot. But I’d like to know more about her ability to relax, because you don’t see it much—on many of these people’s parts during this marathon run of the presidency.
RUSSERT: Barack Obama loves basketball, plays the Secret Service with basketball. And I read the other day that it was a two-on-two game, and he had a big guy on his team. He said, your job is to go under the boards and rough up these guys a little bit, open up some space so I can shoot.
RUSSERT: What does that tell you about his presidency?
GOODWIN: I think that’s a pretty good indicator that, you know, here I’m going to come through. You make the space for me, and whatever it’s going to be. But, I mean, obviously that has a touch of John Kennedy’s touch football.
I mean, men are going to like the idea of pickup (ph) basketball games. It’s harder for a woman in the sense of how do you relax? I mean, obviously, as people had said, if Condoleezza Rice had been president, probably they would have made a big deal of how she loved football.
And I think Hillary has in the past liked baseball, although she got in trouble because of the Yankees business. But you hope that there’s something that they can go to so that for a few precious hours they don’t think about everything else that’s happening. They don’t have to be bad at the press. They don’t have to be mad at their husbands or their wives.
RUSSERT: Do you think they can ever really get away? To totally remove their minds from their jobs and focus on a relaxing task?
GOODWIN: I think the best ones can, absolutely. In fact, people used to wonder when FDR would be in the Oval Office telling one of his funny stories when some terrible thing was happening outside, and they’d say, how can you do that? He could do it.
I mean, I think so. He had this incredible way of relaxing when he went to bed at night. When all the tension was on with the war, he would imagine himself a young boy one more, back with the days when he could walk, on his sledding hill behind Hyde Park. He’d have the sled go down the hill, and then he’d pick it up and go up again, over and over again, like counting sheep, until he could finally fall asleep.
They have to figure out rituals that help them relax. And I think the best ones can.
RUSSERT: But it’s so hard. Even in my little world, before “Meet the Press,” the day before, I’ll keep thinking and replaying the questions. And then after the show I keep replaying the questions.
GOODWIN: Oh, of course.
RUSSERT: But if you go to a baseball game, you can really get away from it.
GOODWIN: I absolutely do.
RUSSERT: Unless someone sits down and says, “Hey, can I talk to you about the election?” It’s a 3 and 2 count.
GOODWIN: No, it’s really true. When I walk down that ramp and I see that green expanse of land, I really don’t think about anything else other than whether the Reds actually are going to win that night. And it’s just great to get away from all the rest of it.
And then when I come home, maybe I’m listening to the radio and politics is going on, or Teddy Roosevelt awaits me in the morning. But at least for those few moments, yes.
RUSSERT: This has been an amazing campaign, hasn’t it?
GOODWIN: Oh, you know, my husband said the other day, the greatest show on earth politics. I mean, it’s been the most riveting campaign that I can remember in my lifetime.
RUSSERT: The first time in 80 years we have not had an incumbent president or vice president as serious candidates for either nomination. We started out with 16-some candidates, we’re now down to three. On the Democratic side, a lot of concern of the party not being able to reunite after this primary.
GOODWIN: Well, I think what the Democratic Party has to do is, right after Puerto Rico and those last June elections, they’ve got to get a mini caucus of the superdelegates. They cannot let it go until August. It’s crazy. I don’t know why they would.
Why not decide it right in the middle of June? At least we’ll have a couple of months, the Democrats would, to have their candidate roaming around as a candidate instead of as a contestant.
RUSSERT: And trying to get them over what are going to be some very bruised feelings. There’s no doubt about it.
GOODWIN: And there’s no question about that. I mean, the price that’s being paid is going to be large, but there’s also been great benefit. Both candidates, I think, have been made better as a result of this debate that has been going on in this contest. And we’ve ended up with three really good candidates.
You know, in the end, my optimism that I always used to think the Red Sox would win until they finally did still holds. I think this race is going to be pretty...
RUSSERT: And if any of these candidates can adopt the presidential qualities as outlined by Doris Kearns Goodwin, we will have a great president.
RUSSERT: And a great program.
Thank you for joining us.
GOODWIN: You’re very welcome.
RUSSERT: And we’ll see you next week.
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