Also in this playlist...
This transcript is automatically generated
Welcome back to the foxhole we have been extended hiatus of sorts while -- worked out some renovations or studio space.
Check out this new studio for the possible.
Fact is we're borrowing it from the folks.
On the record with Greta Van Susteren -- -- profoundly grateful to them and the space feels good.
And it feels good to have you back visiting us here -- -- possible throughout this debate over the government shutdown and the potential.
Prospect of exceeding our borrowing authority -- local debt ceiling.
It's probably encourage you that politicians -- an awful lot of talking.
And that's -- the reason why politics very different from sports in sports.
You can't sit and eat it up to the home plate to hit a home run for you you've got to do it yourself.
In politics as you probably know most politicians probably all of them rely -- speechwriters these are the people who -- the germs that you hear coming out.
Of politician's mouth at least -- scripted moments.
And so here to talk about this with us is one of the best of them -- shuffle is a former speechwriter to President Bill Clinton.
He is much more than that though he is also a partner at west wing writers which is a private.
Group that does a lot of speech writing for a -- for political figures commercial figures but -- is also -- He's the author of two -- his first book.
Was mutual contempt Lyndon Johnson Robert Kennedy and the few that defined a decade his most recent book is supreme power Franklin Roosevelt.
Vs the supreme court judge Cecil welcome to the possible thanks -- really here.
So as you have watched this debate unfold over spending.
What's appropriate links to what that's really what this debate has been about.
Have you been struck by the rhetoric that either side either of the Republicans the Democrats in congress.
The house Republicans.
In the senate Republicans the house Republicans who.
And vs the house Republicans disagree and there's lots of sides of this thing not to mention President Obama what are you struck by in terms of the rhetoric that's being tossed around.
There are a lot of people listen to aren't there are a lot of people not to listen to one another that's probably.
More accurate way of putting it.
-- one of the things that struck me that we we always think we're in brave new world that nothing like this is ever happened before things have never been this the rhetoric has never been in this heated.
But I think if you look back back to the 1990s and rhetoric around that shutdown which we've.
All -- a little bit in the past few weeks.
We're back farther back.
In the 1960s.
In the heated arguments that were happening within the Republican Party in that period heated arguments happening within the Democratic Party during the 1960s.
Or you can look back to the 1930s are probably back from the nineteenth century certainly.
There or -- antecedents presidents of plenty.
Rhetoric reaching this kind of overheated apocalyptic.
Level where it -- that he couldn't possibly get any worse and once they actually start rolling on floor of the house which you know my house.
So this sounds to me as -- it is a it's a phenomenon that you -- to all the different players including President Obama.
Well I would not suggest the President Obama has engaged -- that kind of rhetorical escalation hasn't hasn't he spoken about the Republicans holding the country hostage.
Doesn't look strong terms but I think bit when you hear there is actually a metaphor to be applied here in -- hostage taking.
Is simply put.
The matter of tissue something of value in this case the economy of the country.
And holding it in your possession and not letting it go until demands are met that is very much the sort of situation room it's metaphor.
It's a slightly heated -- but it is nothing like suggesting that this piece of legislation that we know all apparently call Obama here is the worst thing since the fugitive slave that we so sure I've been excesses are close of this.
Probably the most excessive characters are the ones released well -- to public.
Unbelievable what you observed broadly speaking about president Obama's use of language and rhetoric throughout this crisis.
I think do what President Obama has tried to do this crisis is -- what he's trying to view in previous crises because of course we've you.
And that is as it used to -- -- And he's trying to be the only adult in the room.
-- trying to speak only he's trying to speak clearly he's trying not to engage in this kind of heated back and -- with those -- Are up in arms in the house or or -- also as we've known in the senate.
-- just be -- levels possible this generally is what we want our presence we do want to show some emotion.
We want them to show some fire from time -- time I think he has shown that.
Tactically at various points long way.
But the position here is to be home to be cool to use the markets -- home price.
Some would say that in fact the president far from trying to ease the markets has been trying to.
-- the perils or -- even exaggerate the perils associated with the first the government shutdown and then.
The approach of the debt ceiling expiration for example.
As Republicans never tire of pointing out.
Just because let's say we would reach October 17 when -- didn't -- or aren't you the United -- borrowing authority expires doesn't mean we -- default on the debt.
We take -- -- 200 billion a month in revenue they're -- it takes twenty to thirty billion to service the debt.
Servicing the debt.
Is by definition not default.
And yet you know for example the but barricading of certain national park areas where there really is no need for government expenditure because there throughout the open anyway.
Certain other things that someone pointed to on the part of the Obama administration.
Had the effect of exaggerating some people's lives.
The consequences of shut down or the approach of this expiration date.
Precisely Detroit at its best as political leverage.
Rather than standing tall and saying the United States will -- -- -- even if the state comes in groups.
We're not going to default.
Even if we can't come to the -- created those would be statements that would assure the markets would exit -- Think those of his statement soon be intellectually dishonest I think that.
To suggest as many increasingly on the right fit simply by engaging in some kind of show you around the margins that you can actually avoid.
This crisis which the world recognizes.
This is not simply somebody standing in the White House briefing room and asserting -- we're hearing from.
The -- -- -- I have now we're hearing from mother has multilateral or -- ratings agencies' ratings agencies and they are not simply saying this because the White House stopped talking points told -- to say so.
They are engaging their own independent analysis what consequences are.
And the likelihood of avoiding them and so I think this matter of whether they could have found some money -- the national parks open.
Or as I heard the -- -- kept the web sites running instead of putting.
You know messages -- -- of the messages that that -- please wait.
Series -- use the fundamental.
Report which is that we are exceeding we are and I think -- house Republicans -- in this particular news cycle recognized in this file.
That we are in addition exceedingly dangerous game -- dangerous game of chicken.
And that the consequences will be will be severe and for the president -- sort of shrug your shoulders and say it will find a way around us I think is just not right it would be recognized by the rest of the world does not right.
And would probably be attacked them on the right or shrugging his shoulders about I think -- we're gonna engage in a reasonable discussion about this them.
The federal government in the form of the president the Treasury Secretary Jack -- and others have an obligation to spell out exactly what is at stake here.
And I think they have refrained from hyperbole sometimes the facts -- extreme and speak for themselves.
To return to.
The president's -- of rhetoric and language in this episode.
I've watched his last news conference which like most news conferences went -- for about an hour.
But I was struck by and I haven't undertaken any kind of strict mathematical and quantitative analysis of this but I I think somebody should.
The analysis would would look at.
How many words.
Per answer -- delivery.
And and how Long -- -- taking its -- working hypothesis president benefit enormously from the fact that the news channels included.
Boil down his remarks to a fifteen or 22 sound like we're -- freeze watch these events in either party which most Americans don't.
They might be struck by it the kind of rambling expect two presidents it is my sense is he goes on too long.
And he kind of loses his capacity to meet 168.
Point the American people understand that capacities restored to him.
By the compression the news channels engaging news organizations and your thoughts about his speaking style and but what perhaps you think you might be doing better in terms of rhetoric and and language innocence.
Well I think that the news channels always buy a sound biting speech any difference -- have always engaged in this practice which does tend to benefit.
Whoever is speaking on whatever side of an issue.
It imposes kind of collisions that may not actually this statement.
At the same time what we have now that we did not used some time ago is that you can run down the list of channels I'm sure but it's.
Frozen right here but if you were to run -- the -- of the other news channel.
You find the president's statements in -- and his news conference in poultry is it for event in itself under the at my office the TV goes on and people start gather around and watch.
The whole thing when they could just wait and how to boil down for them so I think is probably his although I haven't done an analysis myself.
That more people are watching these her daytime press conferences -- people than ever watch them for so.
I think you know it may -- -- wash.
With respect -- to population growth to.
I was a percentage of it's right right but I I think ultimately look when any of us and maybe I'm guilty this right now wanted to -- -- go on too long.
We lose a little bit of coaches if you have a simple message.
And you try to stretch it out.
From thirty seconds two minutes or five minutes.
You know and starts to separate itself a little bit and maybe his press conferences should be shorter -- should -- be doing anything differently.
Should -- -- doing anything differently I think the strategy has been pretty well worn out over the last couple weeks he has come out frequently but not constantly.
He's not handicapping every new.
Twist in the negotiations on Capitol Hill but he is responding.
To the major initiatives and more importantly he is emphasizing this message.
Again and again but doing it is slightly -- -- so that we don't know start.
Q and you notice that in that news conference didn't hole any of his TV reporters.
I didn't notice we'll -- look we would.
-- to turn to some of your historical work lets first talk about your book about.
Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy why did you do that book along and take.
Well also kudos to a couple other things of the same time so you're probably the better part of five years to research for the book and write that book back in the 1990s and I was drawn to -- because like a lot of Americans -- and then and probably still today I grew up learning a lot about -- but what I didn't understand was that there was this.
Vicious feud between.
Robert Kennedy in particular and Lyndon Johnson -- well they're all on the same team what conditions possibly have been good.
Anybody who lived through that area we would tell you actually.
This was in many ways.
The predominant political rivalry of the 1960s.
It was within the Democratic Party between its two leading lights and both of -- in their own way.
We're really heirs to they can you throw.
And increasingly over the course of the sixties after the death of kids -- begin to take that legacy different correct.
In the origins of this feud between Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy what were -- That the question of who would be -- running mate in 1960 what was it goes even -- back released in the 1950s in many ways it was just terrible these were two personalities that were just destined not to get along they were extremely different and different way anybody -- -- in the passing familiarity.
What the -- -- quiet here or Robert Kennedy the ironic forever Kennedy.
In the expansive.
Lyndon Johnson wouldn't recognize these two we're not going to be best friends.
But the result political rivalry there as well it really focused on 1960.
And on who would be the nominee for president.
The two leading candidates when Johnson and the man who of course -- of getting the nomination John Kennedy.
And Robert Kennedy as his brother's principal political advisor fixer who wanted Lyndon Johnson out of the picture.
And so that rivalry took shape in that moment and when they joined teams.
At the convention in LA in 1960.
They never really.
Join in a meaningful way.
And so that rivalry continued to play out during the Kennedy administration and the breach opened wide once Johnson -- present and her.
Culminates in Kennedy challenging jobs for the presidency.
The democratic nomination in 1960 how many interviews -- did you do that.
Gosh I did probably a couple dozen interviews.
Read hundreds of oral histories because unfortunately.
Good number of participants it.
House are ready by that time.
In the 1990s -- talked a lot were there are certain.
Large areas of research or specific delegates.
Documentary evidence that were due to the record when he published which are particularly well.
What's big one of them.
That surprised me when I learned it and done and I was sure -- Featured in the book came -- our conversation -- -- with Ted Sorenson who.
So all of us the speed traders and even many who -- speechwriters this is really.
-- Our profession president Kennedy's chief advisor and its future course.
And I talked to -- -- -- Sorensen about.
Do dynamics behind the scenes outside the cabinet room during the Cuban missile crisis.
And why I asked him why later in life Robert Kennedy would always refer back to the Cuban missile crisis is the moment when he really understood.
And his view of Lyndon Johnson was a dangerous man it's -- -- on.
And he came down through a number of things that Johnson -- -- around the table that we were recorded surreptitiously.
-- -- But also some things that were said outside the room and Johnson -- form according -- Robert Kennedy and then according to Sorenson.
Just lost it.
And just look.
When I was a boy in Texas the rattlesnake reared its head up by the side of the road.
-- -- death sentences here.
And so that's success Sorenson Robert Kennedy were there at the time is that Johnson was ready to attack you -- was friends -- -- And Lawson was pretty decent return on restoration facility and risk nuclear war.
-- you're visiting the fox hole and we're talking -- Cecil whose former speechwriter President Bill Clinton.
-- partner at west wing writers here in Washington.
Company that -- -- speech writing and and other kinds of content preparation I guess you'd say -- run for political and we're figures he's also the author of two books mutual contempt.
Lyndon Johnson Robert Kennedy and the -- that the -- of the decade and supreme power Franklin Roosevelt -- -- Supreme Court I will say that after Chris Matthews book.
Kennedy vs -- and I think it was called -- rivalry that shaped America came out.
There was a kind of a spate of books that had similar subtitles and the few that define the decade the rivalry that shaped America.
The film look like that is something larger -- of -- I'd be curious to know get the same agent is as Chris Matthews we do all right so and I know -- that individual is leave it there.
Let's talk about your more recent book supreme power Franklin Roosevelt.
Vs the Supreme Court when -- this book appeared this book you know 2000.
And how long that is until.
It's been about 45 years and mountains well okay and and when you do these things -- part time right here they are part got to earn a living a slot in the first bush I was -- while I was trying to daily political comic strip.
Hope that syndicated comic strip that was my day job 1990.
My day job in the past decade.
Actually testing it has been very different partner western writers -- an option probably much more demanding the comic strip just not that we slightly different way all extremes you know any different.
We're gonna come back to the comic strip.
What was your what was new about the subject matter.
In you or your coverage this -- sort of battle between Franklin Roosevelt the Supreme Court when he tried to.
In large number of justices that would be appointed to the Supreme Court otherwise known as packing the court scheme that failed in 1930s.
The reason I wrote the book.
Is because there seems to me to be something missing from the standard -- and the standard account was.
After yard pass -- -- -- through congress huge democratic majorities moment of economic urgency.
And then hits this ball in the Supreme Court which was dominated by conservatives in which began in 1935 start knocking down.
The principal new deal programs one after another -- AAA and others.
-- standard narrative is that Roosevelt became her fusion this waited until he got reelected and then in a moment of brash arrogance struck it's pretty important to this crazy thing which we all -- -- situations.
As you said -- expand the -- from front 950.
Which is actually within the power congress of congress weren't so busy serious from.
The debt ceiling right now they can change sides of the Supreme Court overnight and a record of 1150.
If they so chose not actually -- in the constitution.
What was missing from that account was a more convincing explanation to me this hubris.
That's the explanation that most of -- historically well he was overcome Mayer yeah he's.
-- -- He was angry and he also won a landslide reelection in 1936 and he was just plain and and he struck out its record.
Is that a sufficient explanation certainly there was hubris involved -- possess sufficient explanation for why this masterful.
Politician -- -- me because -- -- it was one of the most masterful politicians Rupert office.
How does it make a mistake play this as he misjudged the congress so wildly I was in the shoes of public well.
What I found I thought it was more interest than standard explanation and more convincing to me -- that is that Roosevelt.
Confronted over the course of his entire first term just about every conceivable method of dealing with the obstructions Supreme Court.
He considered count was constitutional amendments many of -- many of which were very popular notions in the congress and the country considered all sorts of other remedies.
And ultimately by the time his reelection he came down.
So the solution that we really really the only thing that could be done.
Was to exercise this power that the congress.
To change the substance before.
I'm not suggesting it was a great idea but he would -- -- -- after -- very careful examination.
Over a period of years that it was the it was.
There were to try to avail themselves of other remedies and collided on this after those proved -- feasible for one reason.
Was there a single.
Veteran of the Franklin Roosevelt administration was still alive -- he wrote this there were you actually and I talked to a wonderful guy -- portion.
It's no longer with us and David Ginsburg who.
Was protege Felix Frankfurter Harvard Law School was sent down -- Washington history here for -- just spent a year in Washington working.
What's -- courtroom.
Ben Howland who were too young architects -- deal and Ginsburg came down in the early 1930s and never went back and in his ninety's we sudden talking Holmes stories going -- -- in the Oval Office Franklin Roosevelt and taking notes scraps of paper from a -- which -- -- woman.
Ginsburg have been turning to speeches so we're so.
There were there were few individuals and where -- again sort of evidence Jerry discoveries -- particularly proud.
I think -- boom boom -- one that is most significant to the broader telling of the story is the one I described it was -- thematic conclusion which is but it's also grounded and didn't.
Evidence that I and that others to have found which is.
An incredibly thorough examination done in secret within the Justice Department which.
Every opportunity to reckon with -- -- is examined sequentially over a period of years.
And when that is all the way down I think it tells under a different story one that we don't understand prior to.
Given that you still have this.
Pressing their job are you working on -- book now -- not working I think about what.
We're always thinking about everything goes well I -- I actually don't have anything to so offered here today except bits and pieces and I've been doing mr.
Extracurricular reading a book reviews and -- -- -- -- that every tackle next we'll also be historical in nature.
I think so I think that for those of us who spend a lot of our time focus.
Happily in the present tense and our president political struggles and on all sorts of other issues from the the political perspective or from core personal profit perspective.
It's it's a relief at times to step back and and and -- into.
History and -- really immerse yourself in the way.
Project report to you I'm sure -- the the one thing I find.
Gratifying about working on historical subjects is that you -- have access to to the records.
Whereas the records for the modern president whoever that is generally available to -- And -- oral -- -- happen until after administrations over so so at least your plane.
With something closer to -- full day when you're -- -- history -- contemporaneous doesn't stop Bob -- apparently -- -- he enjoys he has security -- none of us.
No no no no no one else does.
You mentioned you were gonna comics columns that -- the wrist of warriors and news meteorologist Bhutto's syndicated -- lifestyle.
I stuff because I got -- -- -- President Clinton those probably.
An opera and -- are incompatible pursuits.
Who -- you're -- you're comic strip.
Heroes in terms of creators it's really my great heroes purchase was for breath of and you -- which was -- -- legally and brilliantly political -- nineties but unfortunately.
Numbers I do and I felt that as a as a Garry Trudeau partisan.
That -- reason was in essence -- pretender.
He was to Mohammed he was to Derek you don't Sugar Ray Leonard was Mohammed Ali.
And he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning is only the second time that that ever happened the first being -- in the seventies and I thought.
He just doesn't deserve -- a very different view and put employ any cutesy and didn't have sort of social imported Doonesbury which among other things for example was the first comic -- To show husband and wife or couple actually in that together for waking up together -- -- obviously a night.
You know a lot about these very what was sort of cutting edge and I just -- of Berkeley that was kind of not.
In the same league your loyalty I think look at -- never say who gets geared trio I mean I should have mentioned to them in the same breath I never felt that I had to choose between -- You partisan I appreciated both of them.
And if anything Muster probably looked a little more like Duisburg probably more than it should.
Felt that I should probably be pushing a little further -- my own direction but it's very hard to escape the gravitational pull those strips.
There was different sensibility to the -- strips I think you can particularly over time I think.
In the in the first days the first years bloom county did it felt more riveted.
Do spirit but then became very much it's something.
As much pogo degrees through the nineteen -- -- in the 1960s.
And which was very political.
But the politics were reflected by a cast of almost absurd -- creatures these animals will be its long you know it's -- And so I think this.
You -- -- a strip Clayton County it's really a hybrid and do experience pogo and then it becomes over time.
Its own is all that's collected somewhere.
Part of that is collected somewhere the part that I would probably not choose to have collected and -- my collection of college comic strips was published as a book -- my senior year.
Do you have a sort of comprehensive collection of -- I have my own collection have my own website which will soon within a matter of weeks future.
What I choose to put up that that's our they're -- especially deep and that are rarely demand that they will be up there.
On the web for people say did you try your hand at other kinds of artwork.
You know I tried my candid photography and -- my hands of pain trip and my hand and paying all sorts of things but really for me.
It was -- was the perfect union for me between.
Writing commentary on the one hand and -- are the other hand.
And that to -- as well it is exciting still felt the need.
My my favorite artists just real quick -- Charles Schulz whose granddaddy of couldn't.
Twentieth century comic strips Garry Trudeau.
David Levine who didn't characters here you both very different kind of -- -- the geniuses.
Neal Adams -- that is.
He was -- comic -- -- congressman Loretta who's allowed to use his own name.
When drawing for marvel or DC simultaneously because he was such -- unbelievable all -- orders of his generation and they let him do you want to pretty much.
-- -- you have been a terrific welcome -- to possible.
Receive accurate picture they'll lose -- we'll see you shortly here in the foxhole and James Rosen.
Coming to you from our Fox News Washington bureau --
Filter by section