BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Robert Shogan, author of the new book "The Riddle of Power: Presidential Leadership from Truman to Bush," in the opening pages you write the following: "I have chosen in this book to break the first commandment of journalism, 'Keep yourself out of the story.' Instead I have inserted myself here and there." Why?
ROBERT SHOGAN, AUTHOR, "THE RIDDLE OF POWER: PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP FROM TRUMAN TO BUSH": Well, I thought it would give more meaning to the reader to understand the basis of these judgments or opinions that I've formed. They were formed, in large part, out of personal experience, or I should say personal experience interacting with the things that I'd learned in school and the things that I continue to learn from reading what other people write and listening to other wise people.
LAMB: In a minute or less, what's this book all about?
SHOGAN: Well, it's called "The Riddle of Power" because it's about the essential riddle of American politics, which is how the President can find the leadership strengths to use the tremendous potential power of that office.
LAMB: That's a lot less than a minute. Which Presidents do you focus on?
SHOGAN: There's nine of them, from Truman to Bush, and the book starts where FDR left off. Franklin Roosevelt was -- I think most people agree -- the founder of the modern Presidency in so many ways. He set the mold. The idea of the book was to try and see how others have followed in his footsteps or have not, that have tried to use the sort of broader definition of the Presidency and how well they've understood that.
LAMB: Of the nine presidents, which one did you like the most?
SHOGAN: Oh, personally? Oh, I think the one that I found most appealing and engaging -- I'm not sure that I'd say he was necessarily the most successful -- I think it's hard to avoid Harry Truman as that. What comes across is so much of the real man. As I say in the book, the key to Truman was understanding his own values as an underdog and his expression of that in his character and ideology. I have a natural sympathy for that -- I think many people do -- and I just think he was very plain-spoken and lacking in pretense. He had many of the qualities that appeal to me personally.
Now, there are other kinds of personalities that can be successful at leadership in other kinds of ideology, but that's kind of a personal taste. And, of course, he was an easy President to write about because so many momentous and remarkable things happened to him. One thing about Truman, if I could add, I think one of the things that was terribly important to me about Truman, and I think it is something that other Presidents would do well to follow and that we should all expect from other Presidents, is he was accountable.
Truman said, "The buck stops here." That's become a cliche that's repeated. But when he said that, he meant it. He wasn't just talking inter-office. He was talking about himself and the American people. He said, "You know, if I make a mistake, it's a beaut." He was willing to make clear what he was deciding. He wasn't always right -- he made some bad errors, but he was willing to accept responsibility for them, and he gave an accounting of his stewardship to the people. To me that's what I expect from people because I want my children to grow up in the kind of country and world where they can expect that.
LAMB: Which President did you personally spend the most time around?
SHOGAN: Oh, I think the Presidents I've gotten to know better -- I spent some time around Carter. It's hard to say. I spent a fair amount of time around Carter because I did an earlier book on his first hundred days as President, so I spent a fair amount of time inside the White House on the Carter Presidency, more than with the other Presidents. Of course, it's a lot easier to see them before they get to be Presidents when they're politicians, which is how I mostly know Reagan and Bush and Ford, to an extent, and also Lyndon Johnson.
LAMB: How long have you been with the Los Angeles Times?
SHOGAN: Twenty years or, well, it will be. I sort of filled out the quadrennial. It will be 20 years at the end of Bush's first term.
LAMB: Before that?
SHOGAN: Before that I worked for Newsweek here in Washington and the Wall Street Journal and then the Detroit Free Press and Miami News. I was an evaluator for the Peace Corps. So, I've roamed the country and the world.
LAMB: Evaluator for the Peace Corps. What year?
SHOGAN: From '65 to '66. I drew on part of that experience in the book. We talk about the Johnson Presidency and the reaction of Peace Corps volunteers overseas, the terrible disillusionment they felt. They had been drawn to the Peace Corps in large extent by the charisma and the promise of Kennedy and how betrayed they felt by Vietnam and by Johnson's policies. It was hard to avoid that. That came across very directly at times.
LAMB: Where is home?
SHOGAN: Well, home right now is in Chevy Chase, Maryland, right outside of Washington, but my roots are in New York City. I'm a graduate of its public schools, a supporter of its American League baseball team. I still have family and relatives there. As somebody once said about religion, if you want to be anti-New York, well, okay, I'll be a New Yorker. It's a tough town to like and I find it difficult to get along, but there are many things I admire about it.
LAMB: Where did you go to college?
SHOGAN: I went to Syracuse University, what is now the Newhouse School of Communications. It was just the plain old School of Journalism when I went there because Mr. Newhouse hadn't yet endowed it with his millions. It was a fine school, good experience. Worked on the school paper, the Syracuse Daily Orange. Spent about as much time on that as I did in class and learned about as much from it. It was a lot of fun. I just always liked to be a newspaper reporter. You know, the old cliche is you meet a lot of interesting people. I suppose that's true. I think the other thing is you get to be more interesting, hopefully.
LAMB: Dedicated "for my mother." Is she alive?
SHOGAN: Yes. She's 85, and I just sent her a copy of the book. I talked to her. She's slowed down a lot, my mother. She told me she wanted this book to be successful. She wanted it to come out while she was still alive, so I feel very gratified that it did. I'll be going up to New York in a couple of weeks to talk to her. There have been some early reviews and I'll share that with her, so that's a big satisfaction. I think, like anyone who writes or does anything in society, you draw on your background and on your life. I mean, a large part of this is based on 30 years in journalism. But what that is, is really what you are as a human being and that comes from my mother and my dad, who died about 20 years ago, and the people who care for you and take the time to help you.
There were a lot of people at school and all along the way a whole lot of colleagues in this business. When I started out I was as green as any cub reporter could be -- or whatever the color is -- and I used to fib about my age. I remember my first job in a big-time newspaper was the Detroit Free Press. I got there in about 1959. It seemed everybody had been there forever. I thought they all acted like they had covered the Loeb-Leopold case and the Chicago fire, and I really had only been working for two years. They said, "Well, kid, how long have you been in the business?" I said, "All my life," because I thought it was the safest answer to make.
But I learned a lot from those people and I learned a lot from politicians, too. I know there's a lot of cynicism about people who get into politics because they are clearly out to advantage themselves and they're ambitious. But I've found -- and I sometimes have shared that -- an awful lot of people who care a lot about what they're doing, who really believe in things. You know what happens, as with other walks of life, people make compromises. They really start out thinking they want to go from here to there, and they see this really bright goal. I think a lot of people really have a lot of idealism and feel that. Then they say, "Well, gee, I don't know how I can quite swing that, and I'm going to have to go this little side road and cut corners." After a while they cut so many corners they forget where they were going in the first place.
LAMB: Where did you get the idea for this cover and what does it mean?
SHOGAN: Well, as I tried to explain, the riddle of power is kind of the essential dilemma or contradiction of the Presidency. Every President worries about two things. When he's a candidate, one, he worries about getting elected. The other, I think, if he has any sense, he worries about creating too high expectations because we just expect everything from the President. You know, he's the leader of the free world and since there is, apparently, no longer a slave world then I suppose he's the leader of the world, right? And so why shouldn't he be able to do anything of everything he wants? On paper he has all this power. The riddle is, how does he get to use that power? Why does it so often wind up that Presidents are discredited or disgraced, or disappoint themselves and other people?
There are nine stories in there. The Bush story is incomplete, of course. Of the other eight, four of them I try and deal in terms of Presidents who were successful in terms that they were able to accomplish specific goals, and the others who failed to accomplish challenges or goals. But the fact is, it's very difficult to go from one success to another. For instance, in Truman's case, the success or the challenge he carried off was winning the 1948 election. People old enough will remember or will have read that he was considered a total underdog and had no chance of defeating Thomas E. Dewey. And he did. Biggest upset in political history. People still remember him holding up the Chicago Tribune with the headline that said "Dewey Wins."
Well, he won that victory and, gee, he got a whole bunch of Democrats elected to Congress with him, and then he got in office and he had trouble getting things through. Got into the Korean War. When he got out of office, he was so far down he was lower than a whale's belly, his poll standing. But he's still regarded as a terrific President. They've all gone through moments like that. Look at Ronald Reagan. He had tremendous success with his economic program, big landslide re-election in 1984. Then came Iran-Contra and people were talking about impeaching him. The riddle is how you use the power and how you manage things to come out well for you in the country and how you can find a way to sustain that success.
LAMB: On the back of the book you have "advance praise" for "The Riddle of Power" and you have David Broder, Tom Oliphant, Roland Evans, Stephen Ambrose, Haynes Johnson and Charles Peters. How much did you have to do with getting those folks to tell you what they think of the book?
SHOGAN: You mean besides paying them off?
SHOGAN: Well, they all got a copy of the book, and that's about it. They were very generous to take the time and to say those things.
LAMB: But let me read one that Roland Evans said. He referred to your book as "a chilling analysis of President George Bush as a man without ideology or ideas, whose Persian Gulf War policy exploits the weapons of national honor and security to duck the challenging questions about where he is taking his country." Pretty strong.
SHOGAN: Yes, it was strong. Rollie, of course, should speak to his own evaluation. I think that the book does make clear that ideology is not one of Bush's strong points. It also talks of his inability to define himself as a President when this book was written. I finished writing it in October, I guess. We revised it in November of last year, and so the Gulf crisis had yet to be resolved. I anticipated that he would succeed. I mean, once the President of the United States committed to getting Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, then he was going to leave. The only question was how.
LAMB: Let me read from the book. You say this was written in November?
LAMB: You say here, "If the Middle East crisis is brought to a swift and successful conclusion, Bush's leadership will be tested by his ability to exploit that success." Here we are.
SHOGAN: Yes, well, that's the question. He deserves credit. If people say it was a gamble, then he deserves credit for carrying it off. I think everyone is just grateful that the losses were as small as they were and that we were able to accomplish it. But while he gets that credit, I think it's his responsibility to carry on the U.S. foreign policy. I know what the Republican convention is going to be like in 1992 and so do you. It's just going to be one speaker after another who is going to get up and talk about how, when all the wiseacres said he should back down, this man persisted. He said, "This will not stand. Saddam has got to go." And he'll deserve all that credit.
I think of things Republicans told me while this was going on, before the crisis was resolved, when we tried to talk about the political impact. They said, "Well, when it's first over Bush will get a tremendous burst of popularity" -- of course he will -- "and it will sustain for a while as the troops come marching home." And, of course that's happening now. But then they said, "You know, people are going to expect or have a right to expect, is the world any better off for all this having happened?" Well, he's out of Kuwait. I know that, but that's not the beginning and the end of the world.
The point is that before Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait we had a whole lot of problems in the world and at home and that was sort of an add-on. Now, the President chose to make that the major problem, to devote the major part of his resources of the Presidency for a period of six or seven months to dealing with that. That was his choice. Fortunately for us all, he brought that off, but I don't think that absolves him of responsibility for dealing with a whole lot of other, I think more complicated questions.
LAMB: Let me read another sentence: "Given his ideology, values and character" -- and those are the three things you focus on for all the Presidents -- "as reflected by his previous record in politics, however, his prospects for success are dubious."
SHOGAN: Well, I think that's true, yes. I still think that it's true. I'm not talking about his prospects for being re-elected. They're probably pretty good, and they depend on things that he can't control. It's fair enough to ask, "Well, how would you measure success, Mr. Shogan?" After all, my God, this guy has just won a war and lost with double-digit casualties. I mean, that's pretty good. Of course, it is.
I think there are two basic challenges facing Bush. One is to find a way to redefine the U.S.'s role in a changing world order. What defined the world and our role in it up until a year or two ago was our relationship to the Soviet Union in the Cold War and mutual-assured destruction and deterrents. That's all gone now. One first symptom of that was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, which never would have happened in the old balance of power because they wouldn't have been allowed to. The Russians wouldn't have let them move and none of that would have happened. So, he's been slow to deal with that or resolved to do that. He's talked about a new world order and it's a catchy slogan, which it's good to have a good slogan, but we don't know what the outline is on it.
LAMB: You refer to a "reactive leadership pattern."
SHOGAN: That's right. Other people have pointed it out -- I think David Broder pointed that out -- is that he responds to something that happens. This is a classic example. There was no policy in the Mideast. We had that on the back burner or the side table or some other place while Bush concentrated on the more obvious things -- the Soviet Union, the arms talks, and this and that. But his attitude towards Saddam Hussein seemed to be just treat him okay and maybe he'll go away or calm down. He didn't start out by saying, "One of the big things I'm going to do as President is redefine our policy in the Mideast and that's going to be the cornerstone of our whole new foreign policy." I doubt that that would make much sense. But he could have argued that and said, "This is going to be a model for our relationships with other critical regions." He didn't say any of that.
He didn't say a thing until all of a sudden the guy invaded Kuwait, and then he said, "This gives us an opportunity to define my Presidency and our foreign policy." Well, that opportunity was always there. Let me tell you what would have been a bigger victory -- and this is important -- is that if Saddam Hussein had never invaded Kuwait because he understood that the United States wouldn't have stood for it because we would have dealt with him and made clear what our intentions were. He would have backed off. He invaded Kuwait. He didn't invade Kuwait because he expected to get kicked the hell out of there. He invaded Kuwait because he had been led to believe he could get away it. Now, obviously we couldn't tolerate it. We had to take one step, too. You could argue about economic sanctions or military sanctions -- the point is, it shouldn't have come to that.
Now, Presidents have made that kind of mistake before. We let the North Koreans think that they could get away with invading South Korea, and that caused a great deal of grief for Harry Truman. The reason for bringing that up is not to rehash old things; it's that you were raising questions about the judgment I made about Bush's prospects being dubious. We're now looking to see what the new world order is. Well, I hope we have one, but I think intellectually speaking you have to raise questions about his foundations if you look at its groundings in the past, because this was a President who didn't fully comprehend the complexities in the Middle East beforehand, which is what led to the crisis or allowed the crisis to develop, so the question now is whether he has the understanding and the attention span to deal with it in the future.
LAMB: When did you first meet George Bush?
SHOGAN: I met George Bush when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee, I guess in 1973, when I had just come to the Times. Watergate was just beginning to emerge. Bob Dole had been chairman and people remember Dole. Dole had been chairman during the '72 campaign, and Dole is kind of an acerbic guy and he wasn't terribly happy. Remember, they were saying about Nixon then what they say about Bush now, that with Nixon they saw this big landslide shaping. If you remember, Nixon was running against McGovern. People in the Republican party said, "It would be wonderful if he could get some House and Senate candidates." Well, Nixon got elected and the Republicans got almost no gains at all in the House and Senate. Dole, who was the national chairman, was kind of bitter about that. Dole, as you know, can be kind of sharp-tongued, so they got rid of him.
Dole got his own back a little later, deep in Watergate and Bush was chairman now and they said, "How would you feel, Senator, if President flew in to campaign for you?" He said, "Well, he could overfly the state if he wanted to." So anyhow, Bush took over the job and it quickly became a miserable task. But what struck me about was that while there were other Republican party leaders at the time who were willing to acknowledge the reality of Watergate, at least in terms of the way the public perceived it, and to come forward and to ask that the President give an accounting of what happened, Bush never said anything. Bush acted toward Watergate like it was something that he just hoped would go away.
I remember talking to him in May of 1974 just after we'd seen almost all the tapes -- after everything had been found but that smoking gun. I said, "George" -- he was the national chairman and you could call him that or Mr. Chairman. I said, "Mr. Chairman, don't you think that as party spokesman that just for the sake of the party you need to say something to show that the party disapproves of the charges?" He said, "Oh, I think it's all nonsense. I believe totally in the President's innocence." Well, that's loyalty. See, there are two ways of looking at that. One is to say that he should have been more perceptive, and another is to say that he was very loyal. Bush is a very loyal man. It's ingrained in his character and his values, and it's led to these personal relationships which are the network of his political career, which he relied on heavily in the Gulf crisis.
LAMB: What about his relationship to you? Now, over the last 20 years, how many times would you say you've been around him?
SHOGAN: Well, more in the past than in the future. I tell you, Stuart Alsop told me something once that he said his brother Joe Alsop, who was older, had told him once when Stuart was just breaking into journalism. Stuart, whom I knew a lot better than Joe, was one of the finest people and the finest journalist any of us had ever known who passed away. Stuart said Joe told him, "Stu, you'll have to learn one thing -- that there's only one way for a reporter to look at a politician and that's down." Well, I've never felt quite that superior to anybody, but I have felt there's only one way for a reporter to look at or think of a politician and that's from a distance. Any reporter who thinks that a politician is his friend is kind of foolish.
I hadn't seen him much for a while. In fact I did get a chance to go out during the last congressional campaign to cover him along with the press corps, and I was happy to be in the press pool at an event where he gave a speech. This was in the height of the Gulf crisis and he was trying to get support here. He saw me sitting there and he waved and me and I waved at him a little bit. He looked kind of startled. I think he maybe thought I had passed on to my reward, whatever it was. Anyway, he went to the trouble of holding up a sign which said, "It takes me back a few years." So I told Marlin Fitzwater afterwards, the press secretary, "Well, that was nice of him to say that, but to tell you the truth, I appreciate being recognized but I'd rather have the years back." Anyhow, someone took a photo of that sign and I asked him to autograph it. Of course, I did it before he read the book.
LAMB: Go back to the defining moments in your life of being close to this man, seeing him up close. If you were going to tell two or three stories about an interaction with him, what are the things you would say about him personally?
SHOGAN: Well, I think that his reaction during Watergate, his willingness to make himself kind of an instrument of an attempt by the Nixon White House to counterattack the people who were raising questions about Nixon -- I was disappointed in that. He was and is, as everyone is well knowing, an extremely amiable and genial and gracious person personally. He would go very obliging. He is always civil. The President is a man of good breeding, and so he treats people with great courtesy.
LAMB: Let me interrupt to say that you start this chapter by saying, "Bush: The Way I Was Brought Up." What do you mean by that?
SHOGAN: Well, he talked so much about his upbringing. He was part of an elitist family in Connecticut. His father Prescott Bush was a senator, the first U.S. senator that I'd ever met, actually, when I was working up in Connecticut. He looked even more distinguished than you do, Brian.
LAMB: That's not hard to do.
SHOGAN: Even more. He was a senator from central casting -- a tall and impressive figure. On the whole it was a very powerful family, it was a very well- connected family and there was a sense of noblesse oblige, that there are things that you do because it's expected of you, because you have this social and economic standing. At one point he was trying to explain some act of loyalty on his part, and he said, "That's the way I was brought up." The breeding was a big part of it, and he still goes back to it. I remember during the beginnings of the budget crisis last summer, he was asked something about why he had changed his position on one thing -- I think it had something to do with the shift on taxes -- and he went into some convoluted answer that had to do with snorkeling. Some advice his mother had given him that if you go in snorkeling once or twice it's all right. It almost sounded like gibberish, but to Bush it made a lot of sense because it was part of his early life.
LAMB: You even go the point here in the book that Uncle Herbie -- Herbert Walker?
SHOGAN: Yes, that's the way Bush referred to him.
LAMB: Uncle Herbie gave him $300,000 to start the Zapata Oil Company that he formed down in Texas. In other words, do you get the impression that people think he started that from scratch?
SHOGAN: Well, I don't think he's resisted that idea. He's made a great deal out of the that, that he went into his line of work and made a success of himself. Well, it was his line of work. His father hadn't been in the oil business, and Bush did make sort of a success. But as I think people in Texas have said who knew it, it sure helped to have almost an unlimited line of credit and to have the contacts his family had. His father had been a big shot in a big investment banking house, Brown Brothers, Harriman. That makes for a lot of contact. As somebody once said about freedom of the press, it's a great country where freedom of the press means that anybody can start a newspaper who has a printing press. Well, anybody can get ahead in this country economically. A lot of people have done it from when they started in rags, but it helps to have partners in investment banking firms in your background.
LAMB: Let me take the role of one of his greatest supporters who would sit here and say to you, "Bob Shogan, this man was elected to Congress, he started his own company in Texas that succeeded, went on to be Republican National Committee chairman, ambassador to China, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Republican National Committee, vice President of the United States, President of the United States, and then very successful in winning a war in the Middle East in 100 days, or whatever. What more do you want?"
SHOGAN: Well, I guess it's not what I want. It's really the way Bush needs to see his Presidency. What I try to do in the book is not to be arbitrary, not to impose things. I suppose from that point it's infinite what you could ask. But let's remember, this is a guy who called himself the education President, said he was going to be. Well, to me, I think, and to most people that heard it, that meant that he was going to do something to improve our educational system. Scandalously, it lags behind that of many other developed countries.
This was a President who said he was going to be the environmental President. That meant that he was going to do something to make the air and the water easier to breathe and to drink, not only for ourselves but for our children. You saw the comments and the criticisms about his energy program and what a narrow view that takes of the environment. The President has no real interest in conservation. Now, the President didn't say he was the infrastructure President, but that's probably only because he didn't think of it. He would have, and he certainly wouldn't deny that the country's roads and sewers and bridges are falling apart around all of us. So, I'd like to see something done about that.
We lag behind other countries economically in the world. This is the first war that we've won in which we did it on the tab. I mean, we had other people pay for it or subsidize it. This time we were able to get it -- I hope we're going to get that money. I think it's a little bothersome. It should bother even the most ardent patriot -- particularly the most ardent patriot -- if you want to be in a country where if you want to fight a war you have to get some other countries to pay for it. I don't expect all those problems to be solved, but I'd like for him to give some sense of energy and imagination in dealing with them. It's not only that I don't think that, but many people in his own party don't feel that way about it. The most ideological people in the party are conservatives, and they're disappointed.
LAMB: Let me read from one of your earliest pages: "Americans paid little heed to most politicians or to the political process."
SHOGAN: Well, that's true.
LAMB: What proof do you have?
SHOGAN: Well, I think that the biggest proof is only about half of them vote.
LAMB: Why do you think that's the case?
SHOGAN: I don't that there's a lot of point going around and scolding the citizens. There's the old joke about the guy who made the dog food. They brought in this big high-powered marketer and he had all these slogans and fancy stuff and they spent a fortune and they did all intriguing commercials. They had different kinds of dogs in the commercials -- a wonderful thing. The whole thing was a bust. Sales only went up l percent. They said, "Well, what happened? Explain this, you're such a genius." He said, "The damn dogs won't eat that stuff." You know, most people I know are not fools. V. O. Key, who is the greatest political scientist that I know of in this country, and many people revere him today, said voters are not fools. I think you have to start that way. When there's nothing going on that affects their lives, they're not going to pay attention.
Now, they pay attention to school board elections and they pay attention to city hall elections and they pay attention to congressional elections, at times, when it affects them. A good many people feel that what's happening is not relevant, that politicians either lie to them or are powerless to carry out the promises that they do make. Given that, what happens then is you get kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because voters feel that way, politics tends to become that way more than it already is. And I do argue in the book -- and it's a little bit of a cheerleader burst, but a slight sermonette I indulge myself in at the end. I try to argue that Presidential politics is not a spectator sport. I think the politicians owe the people a great deal. In order to cash in on that debt, people have got to at least vote and have got to follow the thing closely so that they can't be fooled.
I think that most people realize that. But it has to start somewhere, and one of the reasons for writing this book was hopefully -- and I don't mean to be immodest about it -- but in a small way to get people to understand a little bit of what's happening to their lives. It happens to be a book, but it's not just some academic, remote subject. What these guys do when they get in office is they affect your lives. They affect what happens to your children. They affect what you're going to eat, what kind of food you're going to put on your table. They can affect whether you'll really be able to engage in the pursuit of happiness in your own life. That's tremendous power. They can't do everything, but they do a whole lot. So I think it's important to try to understand what they're up to.
LAMB: Tucked away in the acknowledgement is this: "Amelia Ford Shogan performed exceptionally meritorious service researching the original proposal for this book." Who is that person?
SHOGAN: Well, that person is my youngest daughter. My wife Ellen and I have two daughters of whom we're both proud, but Amelia happened to be home summers when I was working on this. She's in college now. She's a political scientist, or hopes to be. She worked very hard in helping me write the original proposal and read the chapters in draft with, I must say, a very critical eye. I thought, well, she's probably not going to say anything because it's her father, but she said, "Daddy, this just doesn't make a lot of sense. You can't say this on one page and say this on another," and felt very strongly about it. I think anyone who writes a book is very conscious that it's an imposition on anybody around them. It was on my wife Ellen and on our oldest daughter Cindy and to an extent on Amy. But Amy was in a position to make a particular contribution. A large part of the feelings I have for the book is because of that relationship. It was a wonderful experience for me.
LAMB: One of the other things that you mentioned up front is the archivists at the different Presidential libraries.
LAMB: And we see a lot of that recently, by the way. You see people who have written books about the Presidency or politics keep going back and thanking these libraries. Can you tell us more about the Presidential libraries? Are they working in the way you would hope them to work?
SHOGAN: Oh, gee, I think so, and they're really exemplary people. I visited three of the libraries -- the Truman, Johnson and Ford -- and also I got material from what was called the Nixon archives before his library had been created. I also got some help from the Dwight Eisenhower library. I got some guidance and contact with them. When you're working on nine Presidents, you need all the help you can get. But these people really go to a great deal of trouble. I just had an experience on pursuing a new idea that has to do with Franklin Roosevelt, and I called the library there and talked to them about it. They told me where material was located and offered to photocopy some of it and send it to me. I mean, they can't do that all the time, but this was a very specific thing. They're very obliging. They're very dedicated people and they help you. The one thing they like to have is they like to get a copy of the book afterward, and they all do in this case. But it's a rich source of material.
LAMB: If they get a sense that you're not going to be favorable, do they change their attitude?
SHOGAN: No one there has ever questioned that. They're among the most intellectually honest people. They're not there to promote the President. They're there to allow as much exploration as they can. They just help you find the information. All they ask is that you are thorough and honest.
LAMB: From your experience, which of the libraries is the most complete?
SHOGAN: Oh, I don't know. I couldn't make that judgment. I haven't used it that much. I just don't know. My feeling is that the older ones are stronger. I wasn't able to use the Carter library. I had a feeling that they're still accumulating materials. I think that's less complete. On the other hand, the Ford library, which doesn't go back that far, is in pretty good shape. I haven't been at the Nixon library, but it sounds to me that because of all the litigation surrounding his departure from the Presidency that they're still accumulating material. One couldn't help but be impressed with the Johnson library and the Truman library and also the Ford library, which are the three I was in.
LAMB: Let me read something else you wrote: "The collapse of social standards and the fragmentation of traditional institutions have created previously imagined opportunities for Presidents to thrust their morals and personalities to the forefront. Moreover, all this has occurred just as the stunning expansion of the power of mass media, mainly through television, provided the means for exploiting these opportunities." What did you mean?
SHOGAN: Well, I think in days gone by, politics was much more of a static business. People voted one way or another because they were a Democrat or a Republican, and they were a Democrat or a Republican or a Whig, to go back. You don't quite recall the Whig Party. That's a little before your time.
LAMB: Do you?
SHOGAN: No, that's a little early. They voted mostly because of the party and they voted out of a fixed set of -- the people lived in the same neighborhood or town and their father had lived there and their grandparents had lived there and they all did pretty much the same thing all the time, so you could kind of figure how they were going to look at politics, what kind of judgments they would make. People did pursue pretty much the same livelihood. They lived on a farm or they lived in the city or a certain part of the city. This country's always had change -- it started with the Revolution -- but we've had a tremendous acceleration of it, particularly in the area of politics. The parties used to be the channels of communication. If you wanted to get political information, the political parties pretty much controlled that or shaped it.
But the parties have gotten weak and one of the reasons they've gotten weak is because of the growth of the mass media. So if you want to know about politics somebody can watch C-SPAN. They don't have to watch an author, they can watch a politician on it speak for himself, or all the other television programs or through all the magazines or VCRs. There's a tremendous multiplication of materials. So this makes it harder to control and because we've moved from textual material and towards visual, people tend to react toward personalities. People talk about John Kennedy. Many people were impressed with the Kennedy Presidency, but a lot of it had to do with the way Kennedy conducted himself on television. He was able to project these qualities on television because they could see him. Well, that's personality.
Roosevelt was a master of radio. He was the first political leader to use mass media in that sense. He did that on radio. Now, it's interesting to think what effect it would have been on Roosevelt's leadership -- I'm reading a biography of him now and it points out and others have how most Americans were barely conscious of the fact that Roosevelt was crippled, that he was paralyzed from the waist down. He couldn't walk unassisted. Now, how would he have handled that today in an age where television is relentless in prying into your life? I think it's legitimate for people to know. That's part of the judgment, but it's all these things that have been opened up. So the way a guy talks and acts and behaves -- I mean, Bush's mannerism is one way, Reagan's was another, Carter's was another. All of that has to do with leadership. That's why personality is so much more important than it used to be -- because people are judging a President on personality.
LAMB: Let me interrupt because I'm not sure the audience knows what we're talking about. In this book you chose to write about the character, values and ideology of each of the Presidents.
SHOGAN: Well, that's right because I think we think of Presidents mostly in political terms because they're political leaders, and we think of what their political beliefs are. I think that those are still important -- probably most important -- but to understand them is what the book is really about. This is how I try and explain or unlock the riddle of power, which is to understand how a President succeeds, how he uses the potential of the power. It's the interaction of his political beliefs, his ideology, with his character or personality with his values. Those are the three things that matter. What made Ronald Reagan such a strong leader was that his ideology and his character and his values all melded together to make one powerful, compelling message of one strong leadership profile. Now, when Presidents are weak in one quality or another, then you run into trouble.
LAMB: You wrap this book up by helping us understand exactly where you're coming from, and check me if I'm wrong here. You say that the four Presidents that have achieved some measure of success are Truman, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, and then the four Presidents who you say were "failed Presidents, were unable to establish meaningful objectives the public could understand," Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford and Carter.
SHOGAN: That's right.
LAMB: I can just hear people listening saying, "General Eisenhower was a failed President?"
SHOGAN: In terms of the challenges that this book presents, the ideas within terms of the civil rights challenge, he was.
LAMB: Is civil rights number one in your case, the most important thing?
SHOGAN: Well, those were the challenges. You short-handed that a little. That's fair enough.
LAMB: Just very little.
SHOGAN: What you left out was a phrase which I think is in there, or ought to be, that when I speak of success or failure in terms of the basic challenges, which I use in the chapters. Each chapter is built around a specific challenge for the President. I judged Eisenhower a failure in terms of his dealing with civil rights just as I judged Reagan a success -- at least a limited success -- in terms of his dealing with economic policy. Now, there are other ways. If you were judging Reagan on civil rights, depending on who you were, you might judge him a failure, too. There are other things Eisenhower did that people might judge as successes. But in civil rights, which I though was one of the most important aspects of his Presidency, I think he failed because of his ideological weakness. He misunderstood the situation. He only wanted to avoid controversy, and I think it had tragic consequences because he was the one President of these times who was really well suited to get both blacks and whites behind a single goal on civil rights.
LAMB: Well, let's quickly go through the others to make sure we know why you're judging them the way you were. Failed Presidents -- Lyndon Johnson.
SHOGAN: Yes, because he wouldn't deal with the fundamental contradiction between Vietnam and the Great Society. He couldn't accept the idea that in order to prosecute the war in Vietnam he had to get massive support for it. He had to treat it as a war, if he wanted to, or he had to give up on it altogether. He thought either course would jeopardize the Great Society, so he conducted the war by stealth. He was devious and dissembled about it. He lost the confidence of the American people, and so he failed.
LAMB: Gerald Ford.
SHOGAN: Well, with Gerald Ford the basic challenge of his Presidency was the first one he faced, which was what to do about Richard Nixon. He chose to pardon him, and he lost whatever chance he had of being a success. He retreated then into a totally negative Presidency. He developed a veto strategy, and his whole policy strategy was to veto legislation that the Democrats were passing.
LAMB: Jimmy Carter.
SHOGAN: I call that chapter "The Road to Malaise." Carter had tremendous opportunity and tremendous potential. He was a white Southerner who got black support. They gave him a chance to heal the racial division that had been eating at the Democratic Party for over a century. Carter was a very high-minded and very intelligent man, but he was self-absorbed and didn't, it seemed to me, accept the responsibility of explaining himself to other people. Didn't trust other politicians. Set himself above other politicians in the political process, so he, too, lost the confidence of the people. Talked about malaise and people saw him as self-pitying and they lost patience with him.
LAMB: Back to the four Presidents who achieved some measure of success in meeting their challenges. Harry Truman again.
SHOGAN: Well, Truman because he was able to use his values and character as an underdog with the liberal ideology of the Democratic Party, winning the 1948 election at a time when he was not expected to by demonstrating to those constituencies how they were all underdogs together.
LAMB: John Kennedy.
SHOGAN: John Kennedy by being able to grow in the Presidency, by learning from his mistakes. He learned from his blunder at the Bay of Pigs. He was able to use that intelligence to win a great diplomatic victory in the Cuban missile crisis and then to build on that victory to get the nuclear test ban treaty through.
LAMB: Richard Nixon.
SHOGAN: Richard Nixon was successful in understanding the country and using the tactics of polarization and dividing. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, he was not afraid to face differences. He argued to the middle class of the country that their interests were with his in carrying on the Vietnam War to a point so he could end it on his own terms and pointing out to them that the protest against the war was against the middle-class interests. He won for himself the time to end the Vietnam War in a way that he wanted to, but then he became so carried away by his seige mentality that he ultimately lost the opportunity. We know how the Nixon Presidency ended.
LAMB: And once again Ronald Reagan.
SHOGAN: Ronald Reagan used his ideology, his values and his character to get the great victory of getting his economic program through. One of the strengths of his ideology was that it was self-taught. That made him very credible and persuasive. Unfortunately, he could have stood some help on the ideology. He didn't complete the revolution and he didn't carry out the economic program to its full extent.
LAMB: The three things again -- ideology, values and character. What do you mean by ideology?
SHOGAN: By ideology I mean a President's political beliefs and philosophy, the frame of reference through he looks at the world and at the problems of the country.
LAMB: In going over these names again, Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan had ideology?
SHOGAN: That's right. They had strong ideological positions that could be understood, that people could identify and that were consistent and reinforced by their character and values. In Reagan's case, it worked kind of well because actually his character, because of his temperament, which was so smooth and easy to go down, made his ideology, which people might have found threatening or intimidating, easier to accept because they felt comfortable that he was not going to be a tyrant or he wasn't going to be a dictator.
LAMB: Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Ford and Carter had no ideology?
SHOGAN: Well, they had ideology, but they were weak in ideological aspects. Eisenhower's ideology was shaped by his military experience. There was little room in it for open debate. He just saw things as small-group politics. So although he had great strengths in values and in character, these strengths could not overcome the weakness of his ideology.
LAMB: So you're not saying that if they were failed Presidents or successful Presidents that they necessarily had good values and strong character? In other words, you could be a Gen. Eisenhower and still have good character, good values?
SHOGAN: That's right. But what happens is the way that things work together so that Eisenhower's value, say, of teamwork, which is a very positive value, instead of working to strengthen his ideological belief -- his ideology was weak because he was afraid of controversy -- his value of teamwork just helped to aggravate that weakness and made him avoid public discussion and debate. Many people admired Eisenhower. It was hard not to because he was a beloved figure, but he should be remembered more than anything else, probably, for his farewell address in which he attacked the military-industrial complex.
Well, let me ask you this, Brian, why did he have to wait until he was leaving the White House to bring that up? He had eight years to mention that. In fact, Eisenhower was very vigilant in arguing against the Democrats who wanted to increase defense spending. Eisenhower was a shrewd man. He knew we didn't need it. It would be wasted money. He didn't want to do that. But why didn't he say that four years earlier? Can you imagine all the money we would have saved and all the $100 toilet seats we wouldn't have bought if Eisenhower had said, "We don't need all of this." But he waited eight years because it was not in his ideological belief to create controversy. It would make a big fuss. He didn't like to do it that way.
LAMB: Now, what values are and what character is, is determined by you for this book.
SHOGAN: Well, that's right. You've got it. Obviously there's a certain amount of overlap. Character I wrote in terms of personality -- make that as close to a person's upbringing and to something that comes from inside out. Values are things that are outside-in, and values are standards and goals that are like ideology except they don't have political content.
LAMB: "My experience with the modern Presidency," Mr. Shogan says in his book, "began in childhood in the midst of the Great Depression." But then the next sentence seemed to me to be interesting. It says, "I did not suffer from this bleak decade." Why did you need to say that?
SHOGAN: Well, because I didn't want to set myself up because I know people who did -- and I didn't.
LAMB: Why didn't you?
SHOGAN: Well, I didn't because my needs were kind of limited. My parents saw that I had enough food to eat and clothes to wear. They were very concerned about that. My father had no real job. He opened a cleaning store -- all these people who talk about free enterprise. He opened the business in 1934. He was making about five bucks a week. We lived in the back of the store, and my mother helped him. He was doing badly. Nobody had any money to spend. People were lucky they had clothes let alone cleaning them.
LAMB: He had a cleaning store?
LAMB: In New York City.
SHOGAN: Yes, well, it was New York City. It was out in a place called Rockaway Beach, out in Long Island. It's a remote section. It's a summer resort. I don't think my parents fully realized it. They rented the place in July, and there were all these people around. In September, everybody went into the city. We lived two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. There was hardly anybody around but a few kids. It was a very quiet area. There was hardly any business.
LAMB: So how did you survive?
SHOGAN: Well, I don't know. My parents did. My father went out and hustled and got clothes from people. There weren't a lot of other cleaners around to compete. So we did. It wasn't a very rich life, but I wasn't conscious of any privation. We had food to eat and we managed. My mother and father worked pretty hard.
LAMB: So when you went to Syracuse, how did you afford to go there?
SHOGAN: Oh, by that time things had gotten a little better. New York State at that time was very generous. If you passed a test, you could get a state scholarship in Syracuse and I went along with that. The only way I was able to go to Syracuse is because I got all my tuition paid.
LAMB: What was your first job ever?
SHOGAN: Well, I worked for my dad. Drove the truck and delivered clothes and did things like that for a few years and really got a dislike of the cleaning business from that.
LAMB: Who got you interested in journalism?
SHOGAN: I don't know. When I was in about fifth grade somebody started a little paper at school. In fact, he's the guy who works for the Washington Post now -- a guy named Stanley Hinden. I got a chance to write an article--I don't know why -- and I got a by-line in it. I thought, you know, that's for me.
LAMB: So you take this back to the fifth grade.
SHOGAN: I'm not good looking enough -- I figured that out -- to get into movies, I thought, but I'd like to make my way in the world. Then, of course -- I've thought about it -- I liked the idea of being able to get attention. I liked the idea of being able to make a difference. I think that's what people want in life -- to be able to do something and make a contribution, to feel that because they've been here that when they go there's something to remember them by. And so, that seemed to me to be a way to do it and it gave you a chance to learn about things because you're supposed to be objective and honest in journalism. You're not an advocate. You have a chance to criticize and to question both sides. So, I liked that approach, and there's not a lot of baloney to it -- or there shouldn't be.
LAMB: You say, though, in this book that you stepped a little bit over the normal line.
SHOGAN: Well, I did because I'm more subjective because I put things like that into it because I'm making a lot of judgments here. As you point out, I decide what values are, what character is. I thought that it would help the reader understand and appreciate and accept or not what I have to say if they knew a little bit more about me, and then if they knew the basis on which I make the judgments. So I think people pretty much know. My opinions and judgments in there I think are pretty clear. I didn't make up any facts or distort them, so I think people could disagree or agree with them.
LAMB: After watching politicians all these years, do you have a personal political philosophy and a party that you belong to?
SHOGAN: Well, that's a private matter so far as the party that I belong to. My philosophy, such as it is, changes a lot. I guess what I do believe is that I think this is a wonderful country, that a lot of it is based on people being able to get ahead, to make their way in the world. That's the stream of individualism. I think along with that that we have a responsibility as a society toward people who don't always make their way. Although I didn't suffer, I know that it was pretty tough for a whole lot of people in the Depression and some of them couldn't help it. So I think what you have, and what my philosophy is about to the extent there is one, is this tension between individual right and freedom and opportunity, on one hand, and social responsibility and collective security, if you will, on the other. There's the two poles, and I think what you have to do is to figure out where you should steer a course somewhere in between them, depending on circumstance.
LAMB: Robert Shogan is his name and this is the book -- "The Riddle of Power: Presidential Leadership from Truman to Bush." Thank you for joining us.
SHOGAN: Thank you for having me.
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