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Greenspan’s Book Explores U.S. Economy, His Time as Fed Chairman

In the second of a two-part conversation, Jim Lehrer talks with former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan about the impact of the Federal Reserve and his recently published book, "The Age of Turbulence."

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally, the conclusion of Jim Lehrer's conversation with Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. His new book, "The Age of Turbulence," covers his tenure at the Fed, his own personal history, and some of the presidents he worked with, which is also the starting point for tonight's discussion. The conversation was recorded last week.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You wrote in your book very clearly that the two smartest presidents you ever dealt with were Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Explain the smartness of Richard Nixon.

  • ALAN GREENSPAN, Former Federal Reserve Chairman:

    He had an incredible ability to think on his feet very quickly. I would, for example, prior to a press conference when I was working for him during the 1968 campaign, brief him on an important economic event which had just occurred…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, you were just a campaign aide at that point?

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    I was a voluntary…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Voluntary adviser, right, right.

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    … adviser. And I would give him five minutes, a quick review of a number of technical issues about which he knew nothing. He'd get out in front of the press corps and, for 20 minutes, hold forth as though he was the world's greatest expert on it.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Based on what you just told him?

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    Because he was an extraordinarily good Wall Street lawyer. I mean, the man was — I was really impressed. But he had another side to him.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Yes, I was going to add, you say he had a dark side. He had a scary side.

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    It was very frightening to spend a few months watching this staid Wall Street lawyer, former vice president, all of a sudden turn into a different person. And when they let me in on the inside, so to speak, my first exposure to that, I came away shaken. And…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Was he attacking people and profanities?

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    Yes, it's what you heard on the tapes, because when they originally didn't want to let the tapes out, I said, "I know exactly why they don't want to let the tapes out."

  • JIM LEHRER:

    You knew what everybody was going to hear?

  • ALAN GREENSPAN:

    It was, I mean — I mean, I was in the music business. I shouldn't be shocked by profanity, but you know something? I was.

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