Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs
Transcript:

February 1, 2008

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to THE JOURNAL. Earlier this week on the CBS Evening News Katie Couric asked the presidential candidates what one book (other than the bible) they would take to the white house with them if they win. Here are their answers:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: WEALTH OF NATIONS by Adam Smith because we may be entering some pretty shaky economic times.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Doris Kearns Goodwin's book TEAM OF RIVALS. It was a biography of Lincoln, and he was confident enough to be willing to have these dissenting voices.

MIKE HUCKABEE: There's a great book by Francis Schaeffer that had a real influence on me, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? And it talks about the dignity and worth of each individual.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I would certainly bring a--my copy of the Constitution because there apparently was not a copy in the Bush White House the best I can determine. So I would bring THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.

MITT ROMNEY: JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough. A truly great leader who made a difference for America, and his example is one I'd want to follow.

BILL MOYERS: Now I want to turn that question around and ask you. What's the one book you wish the winning candidate would take to the White House next January. Think it over carefully -- the one book our next president should read in preparation for leading the country. Send your nomination and next week we'll share your suggestions and I'll tell you mine. Post your suggestions on our blog at pbs.org.

In the meantime, here's the one book you will want to read during this campaign: UNSPUN: FINDING FACTS IN A WORLD OF DISINFORMATION by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Brooks Jackson. It's the ammunition you need to be your own truth squad as this political season comes to a boil. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is with us now. She's the Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country's careful readers of the political tea leaves. Welcome.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: So, unspinning the spin, what was the big news of the week?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The big news of the week was that the President of the United States with substantial power at his disposal, and in a presidency that has asserted an unprecedented level of authority for Commander in Chief suggested that there may be eventually a protective over watch mission.

PRESIDENT BUSH: American troops are shifting from leading operations to partnering with Iraqi forces and eventually to a protective over watch mission.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What is a protective over watch mission? And is this President going to commit the nation and try to commit his successors to a more permanent role in Iraq than the Democrats would like? What are the consequences of that? What does it mean? Euphemisms are worrisome. Protective over watch mission doesn't translate well into some clear conception of what we're going to do and what the commitment behind it entails. The second thing that I thought we ought to look at very carefully. "Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles."

PRESIDENT BUSH: Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range and continues to develop its capacity to enrich uranium which could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Important words in the context of the case that was made for intervention in Iraq. Why should we pay attention to these things? Presidential words matter. Presidential power is real. And in times of war, a President's capacity to act is much less constrained than it is in other environments.

BILL MOYERS: What's the relevance of this to the people listening? What should they take away from this?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: We had two major debates, highly informative debates in which that was not a featured element in the debate. And as a result, we didn't clarify what these people would do in relationship to it, except in the Democratic debate with Hillary Clinton saying that she and Senator Obama would be joining in order to try to move through Congress legislation, a proposal that would say that we're not going to let President Bush bind his successor about a permanent presence or a long term presence in Iraq. And we should ask the same question of the Republicans in the debate. Because perhaps, the Republicans believe it would be desirable to do that. And it's in that context that I would hear Senator McCain's statement about a long-lived presence in Iraq. What is the nature of that presence? The Democrats are being fairly specific about what they see as the length of the commitment, whether desirable or not. And the nature then of the other kinds of activities that they would engage in as President. When would they intervene and go back in? When would they not?

BILL MOYERS: This goes to the heart of my concern about elections. I mean, in 1964, you would not have imagined Lyndon Johnson going to war in Vietnam within a year. In the year 2000, election 2000, you would not have imagined. Nothing was said about George W. Bush invading Iraq within two years. I mean, is there much we can take away from the past as it's invoked in the campaign that tells us about the future of how a candidate will act once he or she is in the White House?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: To some extent, one can. Because one is looking at temperament and disposition of candidates. And asking whether or not they're going to be judicious about their-- the exercise of power in the White House. Whether they're going to be decisive. But there are some things that we haven't found a good way to learn from campaigns. I think part of the question that we have in campaigns is, how do we know what you will do in the unanticipated moments, Candidate? And what the candidate says the candidate will do sometimes doesn't forecast what the candidate actually will do. Hence, the concern with honesty and consistency, not irrelevant concerns, both to the press and the public.

BILL MOYERS: Character, as they say.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Character, as they say. And we don't have a good way to say and here's where you're going to find it and there's where you're going to find it. But I can say one thing. Words do matter. In general, the words of a candidate do forecast governance.

BILL MOYERS: There was a lot of talk this week of endorsements. What do voters take away from endorsements?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Endorsements are important because they sometimes bring supporters along with them. If I say United Farm Workers, what does that mean to you?

BILL MOYERS: It means Cesar Chavez.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And Cesar Chavez is identified with which—

BILL MOYERS: Hispanics.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Hispanics. And with which Democratic tradition? Robert Kennedy. Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of Robert Kennedy's heirs. Barak Obama received the endorsement of Edward Kennedy and Caroline K con-- contest of endorsement with the United Farm Workers endorsing Hillary Clinton. Why did she say on the debate last night, "I'm endorsed by United Farm Workers"? Because it becomes a signal to a particular constituency, that she falls into a tradition of activism on behalf of, in particular, Hispanics. That was tied back to the Robert Kennedy tradition and hence the other endorsements that she featured. Endorsements are a signaling mechanism.

BILL MOYERS: If you were McCain trying to convince the recalcitrant and very unhappy conservatives, the Rush Limbaugh's and the Sean Hannity's and all of the spokesmen for the hard right that you were conservative enough to be the nominee, why would you want the endorsement of Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, two of the most liberal Republicans in national life?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You would want their endorsement to create a sense of inevitability and momentum. That those people across the country regardless of ideology were coming on board to your nomination. And you'd want to be signaling in the general election that you are in fact a candidate who encompasses both the moderates and the conservatives within your party. Because at the same time, when you are Senator McCain, you are featuring, and look at what he does in the debate, the endorsement by Phil Gramm. The endorsement by Jack Kemp. The endorsement by Warren Rudman. What is that signaling? It's signaling I'm a supply-sider, conservatives, relax about those two votes that I cast against the George W. Bush tax cut. Don't worry. I'm a fiscal conservative. And when he says, four former Secretaries of State support me, he's signaling, I'm a foreign policy conservative. Because in that list is George Schultz, revered as a Secretary of State, particularly in conservative circles.

BILL MOYERS: Under?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Ronald Reagan.

BILL MOYERS: Reagan. Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Two ghosts kept floating across the screen this week. John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. How do you explain their reincarnation?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Each side mythologizes its own past. And so, when the Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan, and, you know, Ronald Reagan was the presence in the room and is the presence in the room through much of this Republican debate—

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: But what we're not hearing in the debate is, I'm in the Reagan tradition of immigration reform. It was President Reagan who signed immigration reform, now widely viewed as failed immigration reform. I'm in the tradition of Ronald Reagan spending cuts. It was Ronald Reagan in his autobiography who regretted that he wasn't able to make the spending cuts that he wanted to make. So, what do conservatives not feature? They don't feature those facets of the Reagan legacy that are inconvenient in the current debate. What are we invoking with the legacy of John Kennedy? It was Caroline Kennedy's endorsement ad for Senator Obama, with Edward Kennedy's impassionate speech and impassionate speeches. We're invoking the mythic past the same way that we're invoking the mythic past of Ronald Reagan on the Republican side.

BILL MOYERS: Mythic.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Mythic. It's a construction. It's all the things we'd like to remember it to be if we're a Republican on one side, if we're a Democrat on the other. The inconvenient parts are being factored back. We're forgetting Bay of Pigs. We're forgetting—

BILL MOYERS: Which John F. Kennedy executed within the first few months of his administration.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And which had been planned other-- Republicans.

BILL MOYERS: You could say he wasn't ready on day one.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and that's part of the problem with the analogy back to John Kennedy from Edward Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy. Because the Presidency was tragically cut short before John Kennedy had been able to get enacted most of his legislative agenda. And as a result, you don't have many specific accomplishments that you can turn to. And you have Bay of Pigs, an admitted mistake. And you have a campaign that was predicated in 1960 on a missile gap that didn't exist.

BILL MOYERS: But it-- but what they were doing it seems to me is invoking the buoyancy, the ebullience, the sense of optimism that, you know, Obama is said to represent without having the experience to back it up. Isn't that what they were invoking?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And that's why—

BILL MOYERS: The charisma.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That's why I say mythic. It is because on both sides, they move back and they select the pieces that they want you to remember. And they feature those pieces. And to some extent, people who haven't lived through those times, and a large part of the electorate hasn't lived through those times, are now being invited to see a part of the past without seeing in its full historical context. At a certain point, we're substantially misrepresenting the historical whole.

BILL MOYERS: But that's always the case in our-- in American politics, isn't it?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That's always the case.

BILL MOYERS: You bring the past forward to tell-- to give it your meaning.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And the question is, do we in the process lose some meanings that would help inform our understanding of the present

BILL MOYERS: I was struck that both Obama and Clinton were canonizing the man who had just dropped out of the race. And I'm speaking of course of John Edwards. I mean, you would have thought he was the giant on whose shoulders they stood as you listened to that debate.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: One of the interesting questions about endorsements is, when someone drops out of the race, can that person's endorsement carry any of that person's supporters to another candidate? Is that capacity to signal actually there? I suspect that largely, it is not. Largely, the people who come to vote in primaries are the more partisan and more informed. And as a result, already have a pretty clear second choice. But why are they appealing to the legacy of John Edwards? In part because if there are some of John Edwards' supporters out there who are trying to decide between the two, they'd like a signal sent that they're-- those supporters are welcome.

BILL MOYERS: What's your explanation of why Edward's message about poverty didn't get traction in this campaign? Has the fight for social and economic equality become a rogue mission within the Democratic Party?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I don't think the argument about income inequality has found its concrete tangible expression that lets the country understand the nature of the problem. Income inequality is a-- is an academic abstraction. And it's a very important concept. But the Edwards campaign is predicated on that underlying notion. And if you had to listen across the rhetoric, and I think John Edwards was a very persuasive, very moving candidate. He delivered a very effective stump speech.

BILL MOYERS: And his last speech was a very powerful speech.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: But there are moments in which you grasp a problem in the particular and the problem won't let you go after that. There is one of those moments in the 1960 campaign interestingly enough, when John Kennedy, a wealthy candidate, says that he learned of children who took part of their school lunch home so that there would be food at home for the children. Occasionally, there are little vignettes that just simply cut through and they grab the moment. And suddenly, you understand something.

As John Edwards argued about the veterans who are sleeping under bridges and are sleeping on our streets, I was surprised that that didn't become that kind of moment. Not because it was carrying to the broader theme of poverty, but because it carried in the context of our military engagement a particularly poignant message. So, my direct answer to your question is, I think there has to be a moment in which we're shocked by something. I thought the moment about veterans sleeping under bridges should have and could have become that. And didn't because the horse race coverage of the campaign is so strong, that by then, this candidate had been marginalized into third place, also ran, message can't be important. Well, sometimes, those candidates are carrying messages we need to hear and we need to act on.

BILL MOYERS: What do we expect for super Tuesday?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What super Tuesday tells us because of the importance of delegates in a state is how silly this early process by which we're ready to declare winners and losers, nominees and also ran's after very, very early caucuses and primaries. You know, they-- some candidates dropped out of these races before they ever had a chance to appeal to a mass electorate. Some candidates were marginalized out by the press and their messages as a result weren't heard, before they ever had a chance to appeal to a mass electorate. But here's the tragedy. It's awfully difficult to appeal to that mass electorate if you haven't raised or don't already have large amounts of money. If one has a message coming into super Tuesday, it is the fact that Governor Romney outspent Senator McCain. And Senator McCain won in two different primaries, having been outspent. Message can triumph over money under some circumstances. That's hopeful. It's not across super Tuesday. The side message of super Tuesday. Open question. Is money decisive?

BILL MOYERS: Kathleen, we'll be back next week to talk about the aftermath of super Tuesday. Thanks for coming.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: You're welcome.



Moyers Podcasts -- Sign Up for podcasts and feeds.
TALK BACK: THE MOYERS BLOG
Our posts and your comments
OUR POSTS
YOUR COMMENTS
For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ