BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Gretchen Rubin, where did you get the idea to write about Winston Churchill?
GRETCHEN RUBIN, AUTHOR, "FORTY WAYS TO LOOK AT WINSTON CHURCHILL": I was reading a memoir of World War II, and it had an anecdote about Churchill and about how he refused to be awakened before 8:00 o`clock AM unless Britain itself was invaded. And I just thought that was such a wonderful detail about him, and I immediately wanted to learn more. So I went off to the library and tried to get a book about Churchill, but I was intimidated by these enormous volumes, multi-volumes about him, and also his own multi-volume works of World War I and World War II and "The History of the English-Speaking People." But then I read "My Early Life," which is one of his most charming books, about his youth, and I just became enthralled and decided that I just had to learn more and more about Winston Churchill.
LAMB: What year did all this start?
RUBIN: About four years ago.
LAMB: Do you remember where you were when this...
RUBIN: I was on a plane going from New York City to Alaska, reading a World War II memoir. And I dog-eared the page to remind myself to go out and get another biography, and from there, I just -- an obsession exploded.
LAMB: So how much have you read about Winston Churchill?
RUBIN: I`ve read a lot. I`ve read the eight-volume biography by Martin Gilbert, which is considered, I think -- it was -- Guinness book named it the longest biography in the English language -- and then innumerable other biographies. And there are also all these wonderful memoirs and letters and diaries and personal histories. So I really steeped myself in Winston Churchill, which is so wonderful because the sources are fantastic in this area.
LAMB: So what are the big points about Winston Churchill that you want to make?
RUBIN: Well, that he was a success, and he was also a failure. He was a great defender of liberty, and he was also a reactionary imperialist. He was a wonderful family man, and he was also a self-important, self-preoccupied boor. He was a great leader, and he was also terribly isolated and out of touch with what the people wanted. So he`s a very multi-faceted person. And I think to understand his greatness, you really have to appreciate the good and the bad, the bright and the dark, and then you can really see his grandeur. And so that`s what I tried to capture in my biography.
LAMB: How often did you find a book written about Winston Churchill by a woman?
RUBIN: Almost never. Violet Bonham Carter, who was a childhood friend of Churchill`s, wrote a wonderful memoir about him, his early life. But it`s very rare for women to write about Churchill, I think because he`s military and -- I think I`m the only one who`s written a biography of him.
LAMB: And it`s already a best-seller on "The Washington Post" best-seller list.
RUBIN: Yes. Very exciting.
LAMB: Now, what book is this for you?
RUBIN: No. 2.
LAMB: What was the first?
RUBIN: It was called "Power, Money, Fame, Sex: A User`s Guide." And it was a sort of social criticism in the form of a user`s guide, and it was actually -- when I was researching charisma for that book, that`s what led me to start trying to think about Churchill and reading about World War II because I knew he was tremendously charismatic. It was a very different kind of book, but it`s also about character, which is really the thing that I`m most interested in. And so power, money, fame and sex are enormous shapers of character, and then that led me to Churchill as just an extraordinary individual character.
LAMB: So what do you bring to this, in this way of a past, to this issue of writing? Where did you come from?
RUBIN: Well, I went to Yale undergraduate and Yale Law School, and I was editor-in-chief of the "Yale Law Journal" there, so I did a lot of researching and writing and editing and paying meticulous attention to sources. And then I clerked for Pierre Leval in the 2nd Circuit, and then for Justice Sandra Day O`Connor on the Supreme Court. And in fact, that, in a way, led me to the form of my book because "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill" is literally divided into 40 chapters which look at Churchill in different ways. Some are positive, some are negative. Each answers a fundamental question in his biography. What was his greatest moment? What was his most formative role? How did he die?
But parts of it are written to directly conflict with other parts of it. And I got the idea from that from clerking because when you clerk, you see two briefs, excellently argued, and leading in exactly opposite directions. And you see how people can quote facts and precedent and end up in very different places. And I was always fascinated by that. And looking at Churchill`s life, as I began to explore it, I was similarly fascinated by how different biographers would take the material of his life and completely factually accurately have it lead in very opposite directions.
And so instead of hiding that, the way biographies usually do because they want to lead you to a certain conclusion, I decided to highlight it and so -- to make a reader aware of what`s going on in biography and also to allow them to make their own decision about how they come out on Churchill because he did have many controversial decisions and actions. And in the end, I describe my Churchill, and I am a huge Churchill fan, an ardent devotee. But there are other opinions people can have of Churchill, and I provide the facts for that opinion, as well.
LAMB: What years did you clerk for Sandra Day O`Connor?
RUBIN: In the October term 1995, which is `95-`96.
LAMB: And then what`d you do?
RUBIN: And then I went to work at the Federal Communications Commission, doing broadcast and cable work. And then I was writing a book on the weekends, and I realized some people do this as their job. And so my husband and I moved to New York, and I got an agent and a book contract and became a writer full-time. I still teach at Yale Law School and School of Management in telecommunications, but I`m basically a full-time writer now.
LAMB: Now, the 40 different ways to look at Winston Churchill -- the first on your list is "Churchill as Liberty`s Champion: A Heroic View," and the second one is, "Churchill as Failed Statesman: A Critical View."
RUBIN: Well, this was tremendous fun for me to write because these are both short accounts of Churchill. If you want to get a -- make a good, brief, 10-page overview of his life, these set it out. And one is the heroic view. It`s the "Churchill`s the greatest man who ever lived" version of Churchill`s life. And all those facts are accurate. And then -- and there`s a picture of Churchill in -- giving the V sign, his great sign.
And then the next chapter is if you wanted to give absolutely the worst spin to everything that Churchill ever did. And that chapter is also factually accurate, but it highlights his missteps, his mistakes, the negatives of his personality and achievements. And so any fact that I picked would basically fit into one chapter or the other. It was very interesting to play out both versions of his life and to see how they both could be very factually accurate.
LAMB: How long did he live?
RUBIN: Ninety years.
LAMB: What were those years?
RUBIN: From 1875 to -- 1874 to 1965. So he was born less than 10 years after the American Civil War ended, which gives you an idea of what a long life he lived. His life spanned so many things. He was in the British cavalry and actually charged on a horse, using a lance as a weapon. He was already in the cabinet when he urged that they contact America because he`d heard about the invention of the airplane. He was in his 40s before women could vote. So this is a man who truly lived, you know, a tremendous amount of history. Tremendous changes happened during his lifetime, which I think has to be taken into account in evaluating his legacy.
LAMB: Who`s this?
RUBIN: Lord Randolph Churchill is Winston Churchill`s father and was a tremendous influence on him, though he died when Churchill was only 21. Churchill was a tremendous disappointment to his father. And one way of reading Churchill`s achievements was that he was always trying to prove himself to his father, who was also a brilliant politician. And that was one of the motivating factors in his tremendous ambition and drive and his ability to always overcome failure and fight his way back, was because he was so desperate to prove himself to his absent father.
LAMB: His mother.
RUBIN: Jennie Churchill was an American, born in Brooklyn. She was beautiful, the child of a millionaire, very colorful person, very devoted to Churchill when he was a young man, did everything she could to promote his career. But when he was a child, I think, to us today, she seems very cold. There are these pitiful letters from Churchill when he was 9 years old in boarding school already, saying, Oh, it`s very unkind. No one`s written to me all term. And they didn`t visit. But to her peers, English mothers, she was considered very indulgent, as an American. So she, too, can be described in many ways because to us today, she seems very cold and unfeeling, but at the time, she was within the norm of her society.
LAMB: How many times did she get married?
RUBIN: Three. And each time to a younger man. Her third husband was much younger than Winston himself.
LAMB: How did that go down?
RUBIN: He took it pretty well. Yes. It was considered a scandal in society, but her son stood by her.
LAMB: Now, how many different jobs did Winston Churchill have in his life?
RUBIN: Well, he had -- between 1908 and 1940, he held seven cabinet positions, all cabinet positions except for foreign secretary, which is sort of astonishing, giving his tremendous influence in foreign affairs. He was prime minister twice. He was also a working journalist and was a biographer, a historian, even wrote a novel, wrote military histories. So he was always very involved in politics. He entered the house of -- he was a member of Parliament in 1900, when he was only 25 years old, and he was there for -- until one year before he died, was when he retired.
LAMB: What was...
RUBIN: There were a few years when he was out of office, but just a few.
LAMB: What were the personal things about him, like the V sign and all that? When did he start that?
RUBIN: He started that in 1940 -- no, he started that in 1941, when he returned from visiting with Roosevelt at the Atlantic meeting. And it was a wonderful symbol. It was a great response to Hitler`s Nazi salute, and it was a great patriotic gesture because he would do it and people would do it back to him, and it was a sign of their confidence in victory.
And Churchill was very adept at finding symbols and quirks about himself or things that he would do that helped the public to identify with him -- the V sign, the cigar that he always had in his mouth, that people identified with him. Earlier in his career, he used hats as sort of the thing that people joked about and made fun of and was -- in political cartoons, he was identified with.
He also had a very funny thing called a "siren suit." It was a -- it looks exactly like a snowsuit for a toddler. It was a zip-up coverall that was meant to be used during air raids. But Churchill loved them and decided that they were sort of his personal uniform and had them made in all sorts of fabrics and wore them all the time.
LAMB: Here`s one picture where he has one on. You can`t really see it because there`s not any color to it, but that`s near the end of his life.
RUBIN: Yes, and that one, in fact, is made of green velvet. So that shows you he really did -- they weren`t sort of like gas station uniforms. He had them made in all sorts of very nice fabrics. And he would wear them to dinner -- he got in trouble, in fact, because he wore one to the Kremlin, and the Soviets were very insulted because they thought that wasn`t -- didn`t show proper dignity.
LAMB: You have a map, and it`s actually two pages, in here. And it`s not that easy for the audience to tell where all this is, but this is the British empire. What year?
RUBIN: In 1930.
LAMB: What are the big countries there that they used to control?
RUBIN: Well, there`s Canada, India, Australia -- India`s the biggest one -- and then the four little British Isles, you see, are tiny up at the top. And the reason that I included this map -- it`s actually a whole chapter unto itself -- is that it`s easy now to forget how massive the British empire was at its height. And the number of people and the number of square miles that it controlled was enormous. And this happened during Churchill`s lifetime, that it expanded dramatically during his lifetime, and it shrank dramatically during his lifetime.
And in each chapter, I try to focus on a specific question or a way to look at Churchill that`s illuminating, and I have the map in there to stand alone, to draw people`s attention to really thinking about the significance of the British empire and what it must have meant to Churchill, who identified so closely with the British empire. It gave him this tremendous vision of himself and Britain`s place in history. And it was devastating for him to see it shrink as it did within his lifetime.
LAMB: What were his personal daily habits?
RUBIN: Well, he was a big drinker. To us today, just a massive drinker. He had a drink in his hand practically from the time that he woke up in the morning. He loved to take baths. He would take one or two baths a day. He didn`t even tie his own shoelaces or dry himself. He had a valet who did everything for him. You know, he was quite an aristocrat in that way.
During the war, he was very careful to take a nap every day. He usually took a nap anyway, but during the war, it was a sacred ritual. He would take a nap every day after lunch. And he said, you know, No halfway measures. You have to take off your clothes and put on your pajamas and get into bed. He took a solid nap. And then after dinner, he would work again until the late, late hours, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, which, of course, for him, he said he could fit two days of work into one because he could work such a long day. But it was very hard on the people on his staff, who weren`t able to take a nap every day after lunch, the way he did. So it really exhausted people.
But he smoked innumerable cigars. And he only painted one painting during the war, but generally, he was always looking for an opportunity to paint. You know, after his 40s, when he began painting.
LAMB: Is that the Marrakesh?
RUBIN: Yes. He said Marrakesh was the most beautiful spot in the world, and that was the one picture he painted during World War II. And he later gave it to President Roosevelt as a, you know, token of respect.
LAMB: Now, the other personal habits -- like, he would -- you say he would not wake up until 8:00 and -- but wouldn`t get out of bed until noon.
RUBIN: Right. He did -- there`s another very interesting habit is he would work in bed in his dragon-colored, gaudy robe. And people would come to him. He would take meetings. He had a wooden desk that he used, and his appointment books, and he would have his secretaries in there with him. And he would work in bed, and that`s where he read the newspapers. He read many, many newspapers each day, government dispatches, letters. He would answer letters, go through memos, things of that -- and he would get a tremendous amount done just before he got out of bed in the morning. But it was certainly quirky. Churchill was not someone who hid his idiosyncrasies.
LAMB: Now, what about things like -- you refer to the times that he wouldn`t -- you know, if even his secretary was around, he wouldn`t be covered.
RUBIN: Oh, yes. Well, this is something that was interesting, in contrast with Hitler, say. Hitler was extremely concerned with his personal dignity. He wouldn`t allow his picture to be taken wearing glasses and was always very careful to be seen as dignified and solid. And Churchill -- he wore the siren suit. He would walk around his country house naked. There -- he would take meetings from the bathtub. And there`s little notes from his secretary saying, you know, he got out of bed and didn`t realize that you know, they could see his behind. And he was very careless of personal dignity, was another one of his idiosyncrasies.
LAMB: So as you`re reading all this stuff -- you begin to like him.
LAMB: What are the things that you really like about him?
RUBIN: Well, his tremendous ability as a writer was one of the things that I loved. You just can`t -- in even a book like mine, where I have excerpted part -- you have to go back and read it yourself because when you read page after page, there`s just -- there`s no way to capture it except to read it for yourself at great length because his choice of words is so brilliant and his ability to capture tremendous situations is so acute. It`s such a pleasure. So that was something that made it tremendously satisfying to research Churchill.
And then he had so many lovable parts of his personality. But then, of course, he had many very dreadful parts of his personality, too. And I have a whole chapter that just focuses on the parts that people like to skip over because they`re hard to work into the...
LAMB: Like what?
RUBIN: He was a terrible racist, which he admitted. And he said, When you come of a time when the races don`t seem equal, it`s very hard to get over that. And he never did. He was always -- he used opprobrious terms and...
LAMB: You quote him saying...
RUBIN: Very racist.
LAMB: ... "We are superior," meaning...
RUBIN: "We are" -- yes...
LAMB: ... Anglo...
RUBIN: Anglo-Saxon. He said, Why should we apologize for being superior? We are superior. And he didn`t think much of women. I wouldn`t say that he was a misogynist, because he certainly was very affectionate and had strong relationships with women, but he didn`t think much of women. He thought that they were there to support men but that they didn`t have much of a role to play. Though later in his life, he did acknowledge the contribution that women had made in World War II, so he seemed to have outgrown that a little bit.
He also could be vulgar. He could be vicious. He used his wit, you know, to devastating effect. And he was very much against Indian independence and was very -- said a lot of ugly things about Gandhi and India`s desire for independence which read very harshly today. And I note in the book that Churchill is very fortunate in that his pair in history is Hitler. If he had been paired with Gandhi, he wouldn`t have looked very good, but history put him up against Hitler, and that`s where he made his great contribution.
LAMB: Mary, Randolph, Sarah, Diana and Marigold.
RUBIN: Those were his children. Marigold died before she was 3 years old. And Churchill`s children didn`t, for the most part, do very well in life, particularly his son, Randolph. Winston lavished the love that he had not had from his own father on his son, but it made Randolph spoiled. And even Winston Churchill said that Randolph has great guns but no ammunition. And he was -- Randolph turned into an overbearing snob. He very much wanted to succeed and make a big contribution, the way his father had. And he was unsuccessful and he became very bitter. He had -- the whole family has -- and descendants and antecedents of Churchill had trouble with alcohol. There was a lot of alcohol problems.
And his two daughters also -- Diana and Sarah -- didn`t fare well in the world. They had a lot of unhappy marriages, trouble with drinking. But his daughter, Mary, led the most settled life, and she has actually made a major contribution to Churchill scholarship. She wrote a wonderful biography of her mother and has done several books about the Churchill family which are excellent and tremendous -- great resources.
LAMB: His relationship with Roosevelt and Stalin.
RUBIN: Well, as I was saying before, several of my chapters, I pose a question and then answer it yes and no, to show the inconclusive nature of history. You can`t always tell. And one of the questions is, Was he a friend of Roosevelt`s, as well as an ally? And there`s a good case to be said yes and no.
He definitely felt affection for Roosevelt and trusted him and desperately needed the support of the United States, but over time, it`s not as clear that his warm feelings remained. And he didn`t leave England to attend Roosevelt`s funeral, and he came to feel that the United States had undermined the British empire by decisions that were made in World War II. So there`s a good case to be made that Roosevelt and Churchill were warm friends, as well as allies, but there`s also a good case to be made that they were really allies and never really could put their personal feelings first. And there was always the -- their national interests brought them into conflict in some way.
LAMB: How about his relationship with Joseph Stalin?
RUBIN: Well, it`s very interesting because he -- of course, he hated communism, and he had for years, and that`s one of the reasons that it was so startling when he was so quick to ally with the Soviet Union. But he had personal respect for Stalin and was intrigued by his personality in a way that`s quite -- kind of shocking to us today, when we know the brutal things that Stalin did. But Churchill was fascinated by him, though after the war, of course, then he realized the tremendous threat that the Soviet Union posed. But during the war, he was very eager to reach out to Stalin.
LAMB: You quote him as saying, "There I sat with the great Russian bear on one side of me, with paws outstretched, and on the other side the great American buffalo, and between the two sat the poor little English donkey who was the only one of the three, who knew the right way home."
RUBIN: Yes. That`s a great example of his ability to use simile and metaphor. But as the war progressed, Churchill realized that he was being shut out and the two stronger allies were directing the war. But he tried as hard as he could to maintain his place by keeping his voice in the direction of the war, even though they weren`t able -- England wasn`t able to contribute the same amount of materiel and men and...
LAMB: Did he know anything about war?
RUBIN: Well, this is one of the great questions about Churchill. Was he a military genius or was he a meddling amateur? He certainly made tremendous contributions. He was one of the -- he didn`t invent the tank, but he was very instrumental in the introduction of the tank. And he was very instrumental in the invention of the Mulberry Harbours, which were key to the Normandy invasion. He introduced an air arm into the navy when he was first lord of the admiralty, and he was very interested in directing the progress of the war.
Some of his military advisers believed that Churchill was not a good strategist, that he would focus too much on sort of a pet issue and wasn`t able to stand back and think dispassionately or analytically about the problems of war. So this is one of the great questions among Churchill biographers is, Was he a great war leader or not? And so I present both views. I`m not sure in my own mind which way I come out.
LAMB: When did he first see war himself?
RUBIN: Well, he first heard bullets hit flesh, as he put it, when he was -- on his 21st birthday, very appropriately. He had gone to Cuba. But right after he left Sandhurst, which is the English equivalent of West Point, he went to India. And that`s where he began to get involved in what were called the "little wars." And so he was involved in northwest frontier and -- so as a very young man, he was involved in war.
LAMB: What`s the story of him and the Boer War?
RUBIN: Well, it`s very interesting. He went over there as a war correspondent, but he was also in the army himself. And he was almost immediately captured. He was trying to fight off -- they were trying to take over an armored train car...
LAMB: Where was this?
RUBIN: In South Africa. And he was taken prisoner of war, and he soon escaped. And it`s interesting. Later on, as home secretary, Churchill had a lot of sympathy for the prisoners, and he said it was because he hated being a prisoner himself so much during that time. But he quickly escaped.
And it`s one of the many times in Churchill`s life where it seems that the hand of destiny really did intervene to save him because he was in enemy countryside, he had no idea where he was. He didn`t speak the language. He didn`t have any food with him. And he just knocked on the one door for miles around where it was a British-born mine manager, who said, I know who you are. I`ll take you in. We`ll get you out of here. But if he had gone to any other house, if fate had led him anyplace else, he certainly would have been in a great deal of trouble.
But as it was, he escaped, and it was his first entrance onto the national scene, as this war hero. The press loved the story of the duke`s grandson outfoxing the enemy. And it was in a very bad time of the war for the British, so it was a very big story, which he played up to the hilt because he loved the spotlight. And it was part of the reason that he was able to win the election in 1900 because he was very well known at that time.
LAMB: Here`s an 1895 shot of him. Do you know where this is?
RUBIN: Oh, that`s him in his dress uniform -- very, very fancy at the time. And I`m not sure -- I`m sure that`s in London, before he took off for India.
LAMB: You say he was...
RUBIN: He was very handsome...
LAMB: ... in all three services?
LAMB: Army, navy, air force.
RUBIN: Yes. And he served in the war cabinet in World War I and World War II. So you see, he had tremendous -- tremendous military experience, as well as experience in, you know, civil government.
LAMB: Now, what was the story of the Dardanelles and the impact on his life and his future, and the country, too?
RUBIN: Yes. Well, Dardanelles was a tremendous -- was a devastating loss for the British, a slaughter. Churchill had directed the Dardanelles campaign, or he had been one of the prime movers, encouraging it to go forward, as first lord of the admiralty in 1915.
LAMB: And Dardanelles is located where?
RUBIN: It`s a peninsula that`s in the Black Sea. And they wanted to take over the Dardanelles and control them, the British did. And he -- Churchill -- this is good example of when Churchill`s persuasiveness somehow -- sometimes allowed him to win battles that perhaps he shouldn`t have. He had the support of -- he thought, of the military commanders. But as it played out, he believed that they weren`t properly supportive. And it ended in disaster, and Churchill was ousted as first lord, and he left in disgrace. And it was the first of many devastating failures for him.
Clementine, his wife, wrote later that she feared -- he was in such a dark depression that she feared that he might take his life because he felt so impotent, having lost any control, any ability to contribute to the war effort. And you know, it had been -- so many men had died, and it was such a terrible disaster. And they had also lost the military goal that they had set out, which he felt could have shortened the war dramatically. So he felt terrible, pushed to the sidelines that way.
And that, in fact, is when he turned to painting. He was just searching for something to distract himself, and he picked up a box of children`s paints and began to paint. And it was a great solace to him at that time. And then in other down moments of his life, like the ouster in 1945, he immediately turned to painting as a way to try to solace himself for having been shut out of power.
LAMB: You say he painted between ages 40 and 85.
LAMB: Did he sell them?
RUBIN: He didn`t. He rarely gave -- allowed them out of his possession, or he gave very few of them away. He allowed some to be sold to raise money for charity. But he painted almost 500 canvases and was actually exhibited at the Royal Academy, but he kept most of them for himself.
LAMB: Where are they today?
RUBIN: Some are at Blenheim, some are in Chartwell. I`m not actually sure where most of them have gone. They`re in various places. It`s a connection to me, as a Kansas City native, because Hallmark, which is located in Kansas City, sponsored the first North American tour of Churchill`s paintings, and they went on tour in Canada and the United States.
LAMB: You mentioned Blenheim. What is it?
RUBIN: Blenheim is the ancestral home of Churchill. He was born there. It is the largest non-Episcopal palace in England. It is gorgeous. It`s truly a palace, with an obelisk and ornamental gardens and wings and beautiful silver and tapestries and stag heads and portraits. And Churchill was born there, and it belongs to the Duke of Marlborough, so...
LAMB: Where is it?
RUBIN: ... who was his cousin. It`s about an hour-and-a-half outside of London.
LAMB: Have you gone?
RUBIN: I have gone. It`s beautiful. And it really shows you the majesty of English history. And you think if Churchill was growing up here, you see how he would have this sense of English history shaping him from his very earliest childhood.
And near it is Bladon Court Churchyard, which is where he is buried, which is very surprising. I went and visited it. He had wanted to be buried for most of his life at Chartwell, which was his summer home that he loved. But near the end of his life he changed his mind and he said he wanted to be buried near his father, so you go to this little tiny churchyard in a little tiny English village, which looks like it must have looked 100 years ago, and there is just a very simple gravestone with Winston S. Churchill on it, and...
LAMB: Why did he want to be buried next to his father given the way his father treated him?
RUBIN: Well, he idolized his father. His father was cold and rejecting but Churchill idolized him, and as soon as his father died he dedicated himself to vindicating his legacy. He wrote a biography of his father. He memorized his father`s speeches. When he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said to the prime minister, this fulfills my ambitions, I have my father`s robes as chancellor. So he very much models himself after his father.
And I think the desire to be buried near his father was part of his life-long desire to be close to his father. And there are -- it`s a very poignant thread through Churchill`s life. His children once asked him just around the dinner table, oh, if you could put anyone in that chair to have dinner with you, whom would you pick? And he said, oh, my father, of course. And they thought he would pick Julius Caesar or Napoleon, but he really held this vision with his father.
In his 50s, he was speaking to an aide and he was shaving -- very typical Churchill -- he was in the bathroom shaving and speaking to one of his aides and friends, and he said, "today is the 24th of January. It is the day my father died. And it is the day I will die, too." And then, you know, over a decade later, he was unconscious for days and then he did die on January 24, just as he had predicted.
So there are these elements in Churchill`s life that are almost -- that are flike fiction, that are so fantastic it is hard to believe they actually happened, but they did.
LAMB: Something you mentioned, reminded me to ask you about, his speaking ability and its lack of spontaneity.
RUBIN: Which is very surprising. We think of him as being such a great speaker. You would assume he would be wonderful speaking on his feet. But in fact, Churchill memorized almost everything that he delivered, especially early on in his career. And he wasn`t good at adapting his speeches to the moment. And so some of even his greatest speeches, which read very well to us today, weren`t successful at the time, because he wasn`t good at rolling with the flow and adapting to whatever was happening right around him.
So he prepared and he needed to think through what he was going to say. And even at the height, you know, during the darkest hours of the war he spent a tremendous amount of time preparing those speeches, which he wrote completely himself, preparing them in advance and memorizing them so that he could deliver them.
LAMB: Did he write them or did he dictate them?
RUBIN: He did a combination of writing and dictating. Early on in his life, he wrote his books himself and then he would dictate them. The speeches he would dictate and then mark up. But he -- and it was a great trouble for his secretaries, because he would be chomping on his cigar and he has this kind of a lisp so that his voice is a little slurred, and he would be walking back and forth and sort of propounding and they`d be typing away as fast as they could, and he got very irritated if they had to ask him to wait while they caught up.
So he would practice going back and forth and people would say they`d hear him in the bathtub, you know, rehearsing these lines and getting the words exactly the way he wanted to say them.
LAMB: Now, did you worry at all as you prepared to publish a book about Winston Churchill, that all of the historians that have gone before you, that they`re going to nail you if you make a mistake?
RUBIN: Oh, I did, oh, yes, absolutely. Yes, I was very careful to pay close attention to the details.
LAMB: How did you do that?
RUBIN: I just checked them over and over again.
LAMB: Did you have any outsiders check it?
RUBIN: I didn`t, actually. I didn`t. I did it myself. Perhaps -- I had one friend who is one of these people who knows everything about everybody. He is not an official historian, but he read it and he caught me on a couple of things, very minor. So...
LAMB: How much of all of this, you know, Yale law school, did you go to undergrad at Yale too?
RUBIN: Yes, too.
LAMB: Yale law school, "Law Review," you were the editor.
RUBIN: Editor in chief, yes.
LAMB: And then clerk, two clerks, two different clerkships with Sandra Day O`Connor. What is that? What did all those kinds of experiences teach you about writing and editing and information and accuracy?
RUBIN: Well, they taught me a lot about accuracy, because, you know, you have to get every detail exactly right, every page number, every, you know, check every source, make sure it says what other people have said it said. And I think law school is wonderful in teaching you to think logically. And I`m often astonished by what I read in the newspapers where people will just assume something that`s key to their argument and launch on from there.
So legal writing teaches you to really to go point by point. I think my experience also had a negative that it taught me, which is I spent a lot of time reading very longwinded, boring things that took a long time to make their point in a very obscure way, and I have dedicated myself as a writer to always be trying to find the way to say -- communicate what I want to communicate in the shortest, most lucid possible way, and to search for formats that will try to help the reader understand the point as quickly and easily as possible, because I feel that a lot of times in writing you can get lost in the words and then you miss the point. And so as a -- you know, reading, say, "Law Review" articles sometimes I felt that was true, so...
LAMB: Well, you did it, several times in your book. For instance, here are just statistics about Winston Churchill and you just list them.
RUBIN: Yes. Well, another one of the things that I am very interested in is how format changes the way that we perceive information. And so, by pulling out facts from a narrative I think that it gives them different emphasis.
So here`s the part that has statistics. And I think that forces a person to take account of factual information in a different way. I have a chapter that`s a true/false quiz because I think if you read things in a narrative, often their surprising quality doesn`t hit you the same way as if you are forced to say true or false, and it also shows you the way a writer can manipulate the reader by phrasing the facts in a way that is meant to trick the reader.
I have some quotes from him and you have to decide if Churchill said them or not, and some facts from his life. I also have...
LAMB: Let me just read a couple. One, true or false, Churchill was a polo champion. Two, true or false, Churchill was a fencing champion. Three, Churchill owned a champion racehorse. All of these were true.
LAMB: Very few falses. Did you do that...
RUBIN: Yes, but they`re meant to be tricky. Did you score yourself? Did you score well? I think for most people who think of Churchill as being sort of a roly-poly, cigar-smoking, nap-taking drinker, the idea that he was a polo champion was sort of surprising. I was surprised.
LAMB: As a youth, Churchill hounded his mother for money.
LAMB: As a youth, Churchill paid for his former nanny`s funeral and the upkeep of her grave. Now, why did that get your attention?
RUBIN: Well, partly because he was very short of money. His whole family was always short of money. They were always trying to borrow money from each other. But Churchill, his nanny played a tremendously important role in his life, Mrs. Everest. And he and his brother paid for the upkeep of her grave, and at a time when they didn`t have a lot of money. And I think that it shows Churchill`s magnanimous and loving side.
LAMB: Churchill`s mother married a man 16 days older than her son. Churchill`s mother married a man three years younger than her son. Churchill never attended the university. Did that surprise you?
RUBIN: Yes, all three of those surprised me.
LAMB: Was that the youngest man that she married, someone who was three years younger than her son?
RUBIN: Yes, yes. That was her third husband.
LAMB: Churchill didn`t see "Hamlet" until he was in his late 70s. Why did that surprise you?
RUBIN: Because I thought of Churchill as being a very cultured -- in the English language, and loving poetry, and I was surprised that he hadn`t gone to the theater until he was -- he hadn`t seen "Hamlet" until he was in his 70s. Especially since he quotes Shakespeare quite a lot. The more I knew about Churchill the more that made sense to me. He isn`t the really the theater-going type.
LAMB: Churchill had a daughter who died as a child. Churchill had a daughter who became a chorus girl. Churchill had a daughter who committed suicide. What impact did that have on him, the suicide?
RUBIN: He was very old and infirm at that time. He was almost -- he didn`t react very much because he was very old. So they told him, but he was very near death himself, so...
LAMB: Churchill`s nickname was Pig.
RUBIN: That was his family nickname. And there are all these very sweet letters, letters that you can see where he would decorate his letters to his family with little pictures of pigs, and his, the nickname for his wife was Cat or Pussycat, and they would put pictures -- they would draw pictures of cats and pigs on their letters.
LAMB: Now, a couple of those false ones you threw in here. When Churchill was captured by the Boers in 1899, it was General Louis Botha, leader of the Commandos and later South Africa`s first prime minister who took him prisoner.
RUBIN: Yes. That`s not true.
LAMB: Another one is not true, when Churchill entered or returned in 1939 as first lord of the Admiralty, a message flashed out to all ships: "Winston is back." Did you just make that up?
RUBIN: No, no. That`s a very famous story that most people believe to be true. And in fact I got an e-mail from one of my readers and we had a long exchange about that fact. Because Martin Gilbert in his eight-volume biography, and that`s very authoritative, said that that happened. But then in a later book he said that he had finally gone -- when he had looked and looked for the actual telegram, he didn`t have any record that it had actually been sent, and so apparently it is an apocryphal story.
And I think on its face it doesn`t ring true, because first of all he wasn`t all that popular as first lord of the Admiralty, and why would a telegram refer to him by his first name? And it`s just an odd thing to have happened. I found it incredible when I believed it to be true, and when Martin Gilbert said that there was no actual factual evidence, I think that it is false. But most people believe that it is true.
LAMB: Churchill preferred white wine to red wine.
RUBIN: Yes, that`s true.
LAMB: And Churchill refused the offer of a dukedom.
RUBIN: He wanted -- he didn`t think it was appropriate for him, but he wavered. The queen offered it to him, confident -- she believed that he would turn it down. And then he did waiver and think that perhaps he should take it, and everyone was very relieved when in fact he turned it down.
LAMB: Churchill once traveled on a holiday with 800 pounds of luggage.
RUBIN: Unbelievable but true.
LAMB: Where did he go?
RUBIN: I don`t even know. Probably the south of France. That was his favorite place to go.
LAMB: You make a point at least once in here that he was not a philanderer.
RUBIN: No. Which is such an apart from many great leaders, because it seems that charismatic, dominating personalities tend to be somewhat, you know, promiscuous. Those seem to be qualities that go hand in hand. But Churchill was not.
He apparently was a very devoted husband and -- all throughout his life. And in fact, A. J. P. Taylor, a British historian, and William Manchester argued that Churchill was sexless, or undersexed -- I guess because he didn`t have a lot of affairs. I don`t think there is any sign that he is under sexed, because he was married, I mean, he had children, and, you know, seemed to lead a happy family life, but they argued it was Jennie Churchill`s promiscuity made him under sexed, but I don`t buy that myself. But I included it in there as an argument.
LAMB: Now if you look at your own background, we are talking about being with Sandra Day O`Connor, then you went to work for Reed Hundt at some point, who was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
RUBIN: Exactly. Yes.
LAMB: You`ve married the son of Bob
LAMB: the Secretary of the Treasury.
LAMB: Where is the political link here? Do you have a political profile of yourself?
RUBIN: I think I was-- well, I know, I was a very liberal Republican and now I`m a conservative Democrat, and I think it has been my personal trajectory, which made me fit very well with Churchill, who himself changed parties several times.
LAMB: How did you find or meet your husband?
RUBIN: At the law school library. Our carrels were back to back, and so, I had very good...
LAMB: At Yale?
RUBIN: At Yale law school. So I had very good library attendance. He was sitting ahead of me.
LAMB: And what was your experience working for Reed Hundt like in Bill Clinton`s FCC?
RUBIN: It was tremendously exciting. It was --telecommunications was, you know, the center of the economy at that time and he is a brilliant man and tremendously interesting to work for, so it was a terrific experience.
LAMB: So why not do what so many do when they come out of the FCC, going into telecommunications law practice? You went back to Yale, you write now.
RUBIN: Yes. I had a great experience with law, but when that job ended I thought, well, what do I really want to do? I thought about all the jobs that would be logical for me to get, and then I realized I was writing a book in my free time, but other people did that as their job, and I realized that that`s what I wanted to do. And that I should make a go of that before I tried any other job, because that was really, really what I wanted to do.
And so I am very happy that I`ve been able to make a successful career out of it. But I am very happy that I did all the other things that I did, because I think they were very worthwhile as stand-alone experiences and they actually outfitted me very well for what I like to do now.
LAMB: This is your second book. Do you have a third one you`re working on?
RUBIN: Well, I have two projects that I am working on. And they are both so great I can`t decide which one to do first. One is about Richard Nixon and Watergate. I am very -- so interested in Watergate and how that happened. And it`s very relevant now because of all the corporate scandals, you`d think how is it that so many people can go so wrong? How does that happen in an organization? And what was the character of Richard Nixon? What was going on there?
So I`m very interested in that. And then, slightly different, but also related to human character, which is my big interest, is something called "The Happiness Project," which is about a year of trying to be happier, which is really a year of trying to be a better person and more virtuous, and so it would draw on everyone from Aristotle to Thoreau, to my next door neighbor, about what to do to be happier and a better person. That would be a memoir.
LAMB: Well, there is a Gretchen
RUBIN:.com Web site. Can they go there...
LAMB: ... and leave a message?
RUBIN: Oh, yes. You can e-mail me and I`ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people. It`s great.
LAMB: Just Gretchen
RUBIN:.com. Will they get to you?
RUBIN: Yes. Gretchen
LAMB: And so, if they want to suggest that you either go the Richard Nixon route or the happiness route...
RUBIN: Yes. Please, I would love that one, take a straw poll. Yes.
LAMB: Back to Winston Churchill, we have mentioned many times Clementine, his wife, when did he meet her, and how long did the marriage last?
RUBIN: They met, I believe, in 1906 or 1907; they married in 1908 and they were married for more than 50 years. Churchill`s memoir "My Early Life" ends with this lovely sentence. And he says, "and then I married in 1908 and lived happily ever after."
LAMB: You do point out that they lived apart a lot.
RUBIN: They did. They had -- one of the chapters where I answer both yes and no was the question of did Churchill have a happy marriage? Because on the one hand, they seemed to have -- they seemed to be very devoted to each other, very loving. But they spent a lot of time apart and they really got on each other`s nerves quite a bit.
They were very different in temperament. And they liked to do different kinds of things, they liked different kinds of people. Churchill was -- loved luxury and loved to spend money and loved rascals, and Clementine was very austere, very rigid. She liked to go to bed early, Churchill liked to go to bed late. They had breakfast, you know, breakfast by themselves. They had separate bedrooms.
So in some respects they had a happy marriage, and in other respects you could describe it as not very happy. Roy Jenkins points out in his biography, points out that Clementine was almost never with Churchill at any of the important moments of his life, and it is quite true. It`s extraordinary. She was often -- they were often apart.
LAMB: So what is your reaction to, or your conclusion about the fact that once he got us into World War II, he eventually lost his whole empire, even though...
LAMB: ...we won the war.
RUBIN: Yes. And he said at the end of his life, everything I fought for is gone. The empire I fought for is lost. And he felt terrible. He felt that everything was gone, the British Empire, piece by piece, fell away. And he did blame the United States, because in fact our policies were designed to break down the British Empire. And so he felt a tremendous loss and depression at the end of his life because of that.
And of course, he was very instrumental during that time, so he was part of the fact that it came apart the way that it did. But I make the point in the book that in the end, I would say that his vision did win out, and he had this vision for the unity of the English speaking people that would be fighting together for the goals that the English set out, which is property rights, sovereignty of other countries, individual liberties, you know, speaking English, and that in a way that vision, you know, and Britain and the United States standing together, which he always said was -- stressed was the most important thing for Britain, and that really has come to pass.
So I think perhaps he felt that he lost his battle, but looking back we would say that he in fact did win and he played a huge part in winning that battle.
LAMB: So in the end who won the war?
RUBIN: We did. We did.
LAMB: The Americans or the British, or the British and Americans together? Whose strategy won the war?
RUBIN: It was -- I think the Americans in the end. And we won -- and we won, I mean, our standard of living went up. I mean, we directed the war. Our commanders led it.
LAMB: Why did we get in it? Was Churchill responsible for getting us in it?
RUBIN: He was very involved in trying to get Roosevelt to go step by step, closer and closer to declaring war, but Roosevelt himself said that had Hitler not declared war on the United States, after Japan hit Pearl Harbor that he doesn`t think -- he didn`t think that he could get the United States involved in the war in Europe, which is an amazing thought.
So, and in fact, when Japan, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Parliament declared war on Japan even before Congress did because of the way the time zones worked. They were at war before we were against Japan.
But Churchill cultivated Roosevelt as much as he could, and if you -- he bit his tongue, which was very unlike him. He really did everything -- he said no lover ever studied the whims of his mistress the way I`ve studied Roosevelt. He did everything he could to get Roosevelt to inch by inch to come into the war, but of course Roosevelt faced a country of people who didn`t want to get involved in a war against Europe, so...
LAMB: You say that Winston Churchill talked all the time and that FDR didn`t like that.
RUBIN: Yes. You know, there was a meeting where Roosevelt passed a note, Churchill began to speak and Roosevelt passed a note. Now we are in for one-half hour of it. Churchill was terrible about monologuing on and on, and he made meetings endless with his speeches that he would give. And Roosevelt did find that tiresome.
LAMB: How many times was Winston Churchill prime minister and in what years?
RUBIN: Twice, from 1940 to 1945, which was during the war. Then he was elected -- came again to office in 1951 to 1955. And he would have stayed had his health permitted, but he was just in too, too ill health to remain.
LAMB: How many parties was he in?
RUBIN: He started out as a Conservative and then he switched to the Liberal Party, which no longer exists in England, and then he switched back to the Conservatives. And these were very controversial. I mean, imagine that Senator Jeffords were now to switch back. So this is part of the reason that Churchill was so controversial in his time was that switching parties made him enemies each time, and people believed that it was because he was very opportunistic. He was awarded with a big, you know, position every time that he did it. And so many people thought it was part of his careerism and his ambition and self-seekingness, and...
LAMB: Why was he thrown out of office after the war was over?
RUBIN: Churchill represented, I think, for the British people the fighting Britain. And when it was time to come home, he was no longer the man for the hour. He didn`t appreciate the British people`s desire for peaceful prosperity, for more egalitarian society.
He had gone from being a great national leader to really being a very, very vitriolic party campaigner during the campaign. He said things like the British socialists would have to rely on some sort of Gestapo, which people found very shocking.
So I think he misread the public, and in fact the night before the election returns were announced, he later recalled that he woke up in the middle of the night and he knew he had lost. He hadn`t realized that, but then all of a sudden he woke up and he knew that he had lost. He wasn`t surprised.
But there`s also some evidence that many people who voted Labor didn`t realize that that meant that Churchill wouldn`t be prime minister anymore. So maybe they didn`t realize that he could be moved out of office.
But it was one of the hardest periods of his life, because he went -- he loved to be in the center of the action and directing situations, and the bustle. And all of a sudden there was nothing. He had to move out of his house. There was all this rationing in England for food and gas and all sorts of things, and he didn`t suffer any of that as prime minister, but then as a private citizen his life became much more austere. And it was very difficult for him to deal with just that loss of power.
So, you know, and Japan hadn`t even surrendered yet, so the war wasn`t over. So it was a very difficult time for him.
LAMB: So, what were his late years like?
RUBIN: He remained in office until -- as a member of Parliament until he was 89 years old. But after he left office in 1955, when he wasn`t prime minister anymore, he had once said that the wielding of power keeps men young. And when he was finally out of the prime minister`s seat, he became slower and more deaf, and he slowed down, and he became weaker, but he hung on for a long time. And at the end, he very much wanted to die. He said, blessings become curses to the doctor. You kept me alive and then he wanted to die. And his last words were, "I`m so bored of it all." So he had a difficult period in his later years. He would listen to his speeches for hours, and...
LAMB: Listen to his own speeches?
RUBIN: Yes, listen to his own speeches.
LAMB: You say he always looked at himself as a hero.
RUBIN: He did. He thought of himself as a hero and he wrote his books to support his idea that he was a hero.
LAMB: Did they sell?
RUBIN: Yes. His World War II memoirs were best-sellers. And for the first time got him out of the financial difficulties that he had really been in his whole life. But he, yes, his books were very popular. He was always very well paid journalist. He wrote all through his life for magazines and newspapers, and then eventually won the Nobel Prize in literature for his books and also for his speeches.
LAMB: Did you get any sense of how much money he had when he died?
RUBIN: I don`t know that, actually. I don`t know how much money. But there were complicated trusts that were set up for his children, his house was put in trust to the English -- for the British people, but I think he was very well off by the time that he died.
LAMB: And how about his wife at the end?
RUBIN: She lived many years after he did and was very involved with her family and with sort of the Churchill legacy. She went around to different countries, and, you know, wrote, wrote and was sort of a retired first lady, I think was the role that she played.
LAMB: So right now in history, what`s going on? Who`s writing? I mean, you refer to the Charmley book in here...
LAMB: ...and others.
LAMB: What`s happening to his image in history right now?
RUBIN: I think now - there was the heroic view, then there were the revisionists like Ponting and Charmley. And now I think there`s sort of a synthesis. And Geoffrey Best wrote a book, "Churchill: Study in Greatness," Roy Jenkins` book "Churchill" came out.
I think right now historians and biographers are looking to balance both sides. They see the faults, but they also want to recognize the virtues, and so the complexity of his character is coming out.
But each biography brings something so different to it. The Roy Jenkins biography is a very parliamentary history. That`s his take. So each one is very different. John Keegan wrote a short one, which is the very -- short but comprehensive if somebody wants that kind of biography.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. Our guest has been Gretchen
RUBIN:, and her book is "Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill." Thank you very much.
RUBIN: Thank you.
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