BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Carl M. Cannon, author of "The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War," what gave you an idea that this would be a book?
CARL CANNON, AUTHOR, "THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS IN TIMES OF WAR": Well, Brian, I didn`t know it was a book right away, but I had been asked by a magazine, "Forbes" magazine, to do a piece about the living presidents. They were doing an end-of-the-year thing on the pursuit of happiness, and they said, “Could you interview some of the ex-presidents or get them to write?” And so I did that.
And it was a funny thing. I`d heard presidents say, you know, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" 100 times, probably. I never really thought much about it, like most Americans. But then 9/11 came, and I had this stuff in the can, these interviews. I e-mailed George H.W. Bush, Bush 41, said, you know, “Do you want to change anything you wrote?” It`s going to look kind of maybe frivolous. And he wrote back and said, “No. No, I don`t.” And he`d written about happiness in his personal life and his wife and his kids and he`d taken pride in them. And I thought -- I thought, there`s something there. I didn`t know what it was.
And then after 9/11, you remember Rudy Giuliani and Bush sort of emerged as these commanding figures, but before 9/11, they`d -- Bush had been as marginal a president as a president can be, absent a scandal. And Giuliani had made himself into something of a joke. Suddenly -- within hours, in Giuliani`s case -- and he`d emerged as hero, and within days in Bush`s case, he`s emerged as this forceful wartime president.
And I thought, All right, what did they do to transform themselves? What were they saying? What they were saying was -- in Giuliani`s case, he was telling Americans to go to the theater and go shopping, and Bush was telling people to go to baseball games and Disney World. He even said that once. And I thought, All right, are they -- what is this? Are they missing the boat?
And so then I began looking into this language of the Preamble, which both those men cited, the pursuit of happiness, Americans` right to pursue their heart`s content, even during war. And I wondered if these two were right or if they were all wet historically, and I decided to look into it.
LAMB: Did "Forbes" publish the article?
CANNON: "Forbes" did publish the article and...
LAMB: What was the date on it?
CANNON: It was, you know, December of 2001. And it was all kinds of leaders, not just presidents, but all kinds of people. And that -- it was -- "Forbes" asked it was mostly, you know, a business -- sort of pursuing happiness, your dreams and entrepreneurship is what -- their thing. But the presidents interested me, at this point, much more than business leaders, and so I began to look at all the wartime presidents, back to really -- well, even back to Jefferson and even George Washington.
LAMB: Had you ever thought about the Declaration of Independence at any great length?
CANNON: No, not really. Like a lot of Americans, I think I -- that language is out there, and I like it, but I had never really even written about it.
LAMB: Where did it come in the Declaration?
CANNON: Well, it`s the -- it`s the Preamble. I carry it around with me since 9/11. You know, it`s right here. It`s the very beginning. Can I read you the first couple of sentences?
CANNON: "When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station which the laws of nature and nature`s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinion of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." And then Jefferson stars the causes. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
And that`s -- so the Preamble is only, you know, the beginning of the Declaration, and I only take the beginning of the Preamble and build my book around what those words mean to Americans and how wartime presidents and other national leaders in times of crisis have used those to galvanize Americans.
LAMB: When did "Forbes" magazine specifically come to you? What was the date, do you remember?
CANNON: It was summer, maybe spring of 2001.
LAMB: So before September the 11th.
LAMB: What got them interested in this?
CANNON: Well, they just said -- I think they do it -- this was an end-of-the-year project that they were doing, and they were looking for a freelancer to help them. I had written some stuff for them. You know, I cover the White House full-time, as you know, and -- for "National Journal." They`re very good about letting me do an occasional project like this. So "Forbes" called. They were just interested -- they were just kicking it around. They had no, of course, inkling that those words would take on greater meaning very soon.
LAMB: When they came to you, did you consider yourself a happy person? And do you consider yourself a happy person now?
CANNON: Yes, I do. I do. Maybe that`s just ignorance on my part, but...
LAMB: The last paragraph in your book -- "A native of San Francisco, Carl attended the University of Colorado, majoring in journalism. He lives in Arlington, Virginia. He and his wife, Sharon (ph), have three children ranging in ages from 8 to 22. Carl pursues -- pursuits include fly-fishing in Montana, thoroughbred racing, opera and playing amateur baseball in an adult hardball league."
Does that say it all?
CANNON: You see how my job gets in the way of my life?
LAMB: Does it?
CANNON: But I love my work. You remember Phil Burton? You remember Phil...
LAMB: The congressman. Yes.
CANNON: ... from San Francisco. Every time I`d call him -- I came to Washington, and he was, like, my godfather, though Phil wasn`t particularly religious or Catholic, but -- and he would -- he -- I called him, and he said, Anytime you need me, you know, call me, because we`re old family friends. I never really did call him, and I feel bad about it because Phil died young. But every time I talked to him, he`d always say, Are you happy in your work? And I realized that that`s really the key thing. Those other things are great fun, but if you`re not happy in your work, you don`t have much of a shot.
This -- I have a chapter on happiness, on what happiness is. At some point in the book, I felt -- probably should have done it earlier in the book, but I did it late in the book -- well, wait a minute. What is happiness? And so I did research into the most current social science. And it`s what you might think. Money does not make people happy. Riches don`t. Wealth did not make people happy.
LAMB: How do you know?
CANNON: Well, there`s -- there`s studies. People -- there are people who -- at these universities, this is what they do. David Myers (ph) is one. There`s others. But what does make people happy -- well, but very destitute people aren`t happy, either. They can`t be happy, really. Eleanor Roosevelt, right, talked about this, and I quote her. But for people in modern America, they have to have a sense that their work means something and that they`re listened to in the workplace and that they`re contributing to society. These are very reassuring things to find out.
LAMB: So the article was published. Was there a reaction to it?
CANNON: Yes. I don`t know. I don`t remember.
LAMB: So how do you get to the book, though? I mean...
CANNON: Oh, well -- I -- by this time, I had more I wanted to say, a lot more. And Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, another person you know, called me up and said, I`m doing this serious of books on American political challenges. What he`s really doing is trying to line up writers for this publisher, Rowman and Littlefield. And do you have anything you think you could write about American political challenges? I said, Well, Larry, it just so happens I do have something. And I told him the outline of this book over the phone and then in an e-mail. And he forwarded it to Rowman and Littlefield, and they loved it.
And of course, it goes against -- I mean, my father`s written many books, and all my friends say that`s totally not the way to do it. You have to get an agent. You have to do this. You have to do that. And this was an academic publisher who gave out a pretty small advance. But by then, I just wanted -- I had something I wanted to do. I had something I wanted to say, and I just threw myself into it.
LAMB: Your father is?
CANNON: Lou Cannon.
LAMB: Who is?
CANNON: Well,, he -- long-time reporter for "The Washington Post" and biographer of Ronald Reagan. He also wrote -- he`s written other books, including "Official Negligence," the book on the riots in Los Angeles. And he`s a -- he`s a -- I mean, I don`t -- he`s is a great man and a great writer. And you know him.
LAMB: And he`s one of the few that have had a two-hour BOOKNOTES sitting...
CANNON: Is that right?
LAMB: ... Ronald Reagan, years ago. Go back to Phil Burton.
LAMB: Congressman Phil Burton.
LAMB: Democrat from San Francisco. Brother John still out there.
CANNON: Still in politics in Sacramento.
LAMB: How did you -- how were you family friends?
CANNON: My parents, my mother and father, worked precincts for Phil in the mid-`50s. And literally, I was campaigning for Phil in a pram. I was months old. I wasn`t doing much work, but my mother was.
CANNON: She was handing out things, strolling me up the streets of San Francisco. And so my family has a long connection with the Burtons. My mother`s a native of San Francisco. My dad moved there when he was a young man. He`s from Nevada. And they met there.
LAMB: How did you get into journalism? I mean, it`s obvious, because your dad was in it, but how did -- you don`t necessarily always go your dad`s route.
CANNON: Well, my -- yes, my parents didn`t go into politics, as it happens, though. They fooled around in politics when they were young, but by the time my father got out of the Army and got a job driving a truck, and turns out what he`d always wanted to do all his life was be a reporter, and he became one. And I grew up in that family and never really thought of politics. And I didn`t think I was thinking of journalism until one day I, you know, decided to go to journalism school. It just sort of happened to me. And I`ve grown up in that business.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
CANNON: University of Colorado.
LAMB: And along the way, how many different jobs in journalism?
CANNON: Oh, a bunch. I worked at newspapers in Petersburg, Virginia, and Columbus, Georgia, and then "The San Diego Union" hired me, and then "San Jose Mercury News." And they sent me here. I was in Knight-Ridder bureau for 10 years. And then "The Baltimore Sun," covered the first five years of the Clinton administration. And then "National Journal" offered me a job in 1998, and I -- I was wanting to do magazine work. It was a fortuitous thing. "National Journal" is just a great place for me.
LAMB: I want you to take us to a night you`re at the correspondents dinner, the White House correspondents dinner. And you`re now the president of the White House correspondents.
LAMB: You`re seated next to the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
LAMB: And you`re in pursuit of information for this book. Set up the whole...
CANNON: Oh, well, it`s funny. I was talking -- you know, you`re there at the dinner, and you know, you talk about everything. The rules of it -- the ground rules are sort of unstated, you know. This is a great secret. I don`t know if it`s on the record or off the record. And you know, but you know not to ask because, of course, the president will say, Well, of course it`s off the record. And we were -- and he`ll talk. He`s a -- he`s like Clinton in that regard. He`s a pretty good conversationalist. He`ll talk. But two hours is a long time. And we talked about baseball. We talked about this. We talked about that.
At some point, I talked to him about this book. And he had the funniest reaction, Brian. I`ve never printed this what I’m about to tell you. He said it’s about wartime presidents. And he had been asking me about Roosevelt. He`s very interested in FDR. And he said, Well, I`d read that. I said, Well, Mr. President, you`re in it. And he kind of laughed for a minute, like, Oh, yes. You know, I guess I am. But it was a funny...
LAMB: In what way? I mean, did he know how he was in it and...
LAMB: What had you gotten from him up until that point?
CANNON: Well, I had -- you know, we were talking about -- really, I was in the sort of the final throes, and I wasn`t really interviewing for the book. I had gotten some quotes from him earlier in the process, and I had read all his speeches. And I was sort of doing what you do. I was running by him these thesis about the pursuit of happiness and how -- and how human rights -- if you -- if you follow -- my book follows the point that -- the thesis of my book is that -- is that if this country has something, a special mission, if American exceptionalism is alive and well, that mission is extending Jefferson`s unalienable rights to people who do not yet have them.
And this book chronicles have presidents have wrestled with that, all the presidents before Lincoln, who knew that slavery was wrong, even the slaveholders, but knew that it would take a war to end it. And finally, Lincoln -- war was foisted on Lincoln, but he didn`t shrink from it. And beginning with African slaves and ending with -- in my book, with the Kurds in northern Iraq, when this country`s doing what it should be doing and doing it well, it`s extending these rights to others.
I talked to Bush about that, and he didn`t say a lot, but he clearly was intrigued by that idea and had already spoken about it. You know, Bush himself has spoken about this pretty clearly, that if those rights are unalienable, Jefferson`s rights are unalienable, well, then it -- the philosophical corollary is that the desire for them is universal. Bush clearly believes that. He`s said so many times.
LAMB: By the way, when you`re sitting -- and very few people ever sit next to a president for two hours in conversation. What do you get from sitting next -- what did you take away from that that we may not get just watching him on television?
LAMB: I mean, is he a happy man?
CANNON: Oh, yes. Yes, he is. And he`s also -- he`s funny. And he`s just -- he`s very human. He`s very down to earth. John F. Kennedy once observed that the presidency is not a normal ambition, but -- and you think of them with some remove, and -- and if Kennedy said that, I mean, it means that it`s not the ambition of normal people. So these people -- they all have big egos and they all -- but the other thing is when you talk to them, it`s always a surprise how human they are. I mean, Bush at some point -- we had entertainment. He asked me kind of, How long is this going to go on? And he said, You know, I`ve got the dish set. I was hoping to get home to watch a little of the Ranger game tonight. I mean, he has -- he has sort of concerns like you and I have, and that, to me, is reassuring. I don`t know if everyone would find it reassuring.
LAMB: I took away from you and your -- and tell me if I`m right -- that you are personally philosophically for what happened in Iraq.
CANNON: Well, I was very leery of it, and I -- because I was covering it, I didn`t express any opinions, but I think I had misgivings. I think -- I thought it was perilous and very difficult. But once that`s undertaken, I think it`s probably good for the world if the -- if a democracy emerges in Iraq. I -- I`m -- I was agnostic before, but I`m not now. I`m really pulling for this thing to work.
And I -- you know, you talk to -- I have dear friends who are Democrats, some who are working on these campaigns against Bush. And at some point, after the day is over and we`re having a beer, I said, Look, it`s help -- more helpful to you if this thing turns south in Iraq, but you must realize it`s better for the country and better for the world if it doesn`t. And they privately say, yes. I mean, if the price -- if Iraq turns out great and the price is we lose the presidential election, that`s probably worth it. So I don`t think most thoughtful people really disagree with that.
LAMB: One question on President Bush. Do you get any sense that he knows anything about history? He`s always criticized in some quarters for not being curious.
CANNON: You know what? That`s funny. Those are two slightly different questions.
LAMB: They are.
CANNON: He`s very curious. How much he knows is an open question. He...
LAMB: ... found him to ask you questions?
CANNON: Yes. And you know, he gave an interview to Brit Hume in which he sort of boasted about not reading the newspapers. He said something along those lines to me that night, but differently. He said he doesn`t read editorials and op-eds. He doesn`t read the columnists who attack him. And I mean, he`s in good company. George Washington didn`t, either. And the one time Henry Knox brought him a cartoon, Washington had a tantrum at a Cabinet meeting, a tirade. So Bush doesn`t want to have tirades, and he wants to stay positive. But when he said he doesn`t read the news at all, that`s not reassuring.
LAMB: Do you think it`s true?
CANNON: I don`t know. I don`t know. He -- but he`s curious and he`s open-minded in a way that -- in person, that he doesn`t come across in these speeches. I mean, he -- the people he asked me about, for instance, were all Democrats. Humphrey. He`s very interested in Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey`s a closet hero of my book.
LAMB: Politics of joy.
CANNON: Yes. Exactly.
LAMB: Did you know him, by the way?
CANNON: I didn`t and -- my father did. I didn`t know him. But Humphrey used to give these speeches in which he would say, you know, America`s the only country where the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed. And he would open his speeches -- like -- I mean, it was a big thing to him, and he wasn`t -- it wasn`t phony. He really was the happy warrior, a phrase that was, of course, applied to Al Smith and FDR, but it never fit anybody better than Hubert.
LAMB: By the way, when you had conversation with President Bush, and it`s not established what the ground rules are, did you go back home and write it all down?
CANNON: No, and I`ve been urged to do that by friends. I`ve been too busy. I should have done that. I didn`t do that.
LAMB: All right, let`s jump to Plains, Georgia.
LAMB: What`s that...
CANNON: Jimmy Carter.
LAMB: Yes. What`s that story?
CANNON: Carter said some of the most evocative things about the pursuit of happiness. What -- in fact, he, in his farewell speech to the nation, used this language -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- and sort of put it in modern context, what it would mean. Environmentalism is one of the things it would mean, and helping the nation`s -- the world`s poor. And Carter had a very -- Carter had some thoughtful things to say. But this was old. This was 1981. And so I`m writing 20 years later, and I think, Well, I wonder if he still feels that way? So I tried to get...
LAMB: But by the way, `81, he`s out of the presidency already.
CANNON: Yes, well, he`s leaving.
CANNON: He was -- well, he was -- it was -- no, it was January of `81. It was when he was leaving. So it was his farewell speech. I think it was a few days into January. May have been late December, but that`s the time period.
And then again at the `84 Democratic convention, he gives this speech, and he says these things, modernizing Jefferson`s language, and in a way that`s compelling. But I thought, Well, does he still hold with this? And now after the attacks, what -- would he have something extra to say?
And Carter`s always been hard to deal with, his operation. You know, you call, and can you get an interview? Well, maybe. It went on for some months. And finally, I just -- I`m going down there. And he speaks in his church semi-regularly. And I went down there just on the happenstance he would be there, and he was.
LAMB: The Baptist church in Plains, Georgia.
CANNON: Maranatha (ph) Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. And Carter gives what they call Sunday school, but what -- what -- in my -- what I -- my tradition we would call Bible study, really. But Carter comes out on the days there with his wife, and he explains to the people what he`s been doing in the previous week or month. And it`s always a lot. He goes around the world monitoring elections. He`s with Habitat for Humanity. And he`s -- his whole life is public service and mission. And then -- and then he has a Bible lesson of the day. And he really knows his Bible as much as -- I mean, it`s very impressive. So I was sitting in the front row and...
LAMB: You by yourself?
CANNON: I was by myself, yes. I was actually sitting by a person I met, who`s a high school teacher from Florida, who`d come up for the event, a man I didn`t know. I should send him this book.
LAMB: What`s the timeframe of that, by the way? What year?
CANNON: This was October of 2001, two years ago, roughly, November -- October or November.
LAMB: And you`re there because you can`t get to him.
CANNON: Right. Right. And I think, Well, I -- but I -- I don`t -- I`ll be content to ask him this one question: Do you still stand by these words you wrote?
LAMB: That`s the only mission you are after.
CANNON: And at some point, he looked at me. And I had met Carter once or twice. I wouldn`t think he`d remember me, but I must look like a reporter because he kind of looked at me, and he didn`t smile. This was during his lecture. And after it`s over, he and his wife meet every person that comes under these shade trees out in back, and they -- if you want your picture made, they stand there for the picture. It`s very gracious.
And I waited until the line -- I was the last person in the line. I said, Listen -- and he sort of cut me off. He said …I said, I`m a reporter. I`ve come -- he said something like, you know, I don`t do that at church. I said, Well, Mr. President, church is over. And anyway, I`ve come a very long way to ask you one question. And it`s a question -- he said, Well, what is it? Kind of snappish. I said, Well, it`s this thing -- and I pull out these papers. And I was a little flustered, I guess, you know, drop them on the ground and -- said, Well, it`s about the pursuit of happiness. And you said some things, and I want to ask you if you still -- and he softened and he said, Well, it`s about something I wrote. What`s the harm of it? He said, Just would you mind waiting over there? And he sort of directed me.
And I waited until he finished up with the last few people. And then he came over, and he sort of dropped the armor and he was very nice. And he said, yes, that he did -- what he said then was as relevant in 2001 as it was in 1981 and that these attacks had not changed that. And he said, You know, there are always new challenges, aren`t there? And then he spoke about his faith for a while.
And it was no earth-shattering revelation, but it allowed me to make this connection that I was trying to make with these presidents, to make sure that I was on the right wavelength, you know, that this book idea of mine was right. And my exchange with Carter assured me that it was.
LAMB: Now, you flew from Washington to Atlanta and drove a car down there?
LAMB: How long did that whole process take just to get this?
CANNON: Oh, you know, took a couple of days. You had to go down the night before and...
LAMB: Was it worth it?
CANNON: It was absolutely worth it.
LAMB: Again -- correct me if I`m wrong -- I don`t think you wrote a negative word in here about a president.
CANNON: Well, I didn`t mention Nixon.
LAMB: Well, but I mean that...
CANNON: I`m just...
LAMB: The point I`m making is that everything is positive.
CANNON: Maybe -- maybe not.
LAMB: And I just want to know if that`s conscious.
CANNON: Yes, I`m trying to think, is that right? That may be right. I -- there...
LAMB: It`s close if it isn`t right.
CANNON: It`s close. There`s some things in Wilson`s first term that I don`t think he quite got this, but in the second term, he does. And yes, that is -- that is conscious.
You know, I -- we -- you and I live in a time now where the discourse in this city is -- seems angry and extreme. And it`s not the first time it`s happened. It happens in cycles. But I find, in looking at this, that the partisan issues that seem so big at the time don`t seem big now. And they don`t even seem big to the people, to the players, years later.
You know, Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, doing TV shows together and lectures together. Adams and Jefferson -- their campaign against each other 200 years ago, you know, was maybe the meanest ever. We may never have surpassed it -- maybe `72. I don`t know. But they became very close friends. And so these issues -- and what I`m writing about -- I`m looking for something different, a different tone. I`m looking for how these Democrats and Republican presidents sort of rally their countrymen. And they all have much more in common to me, for my purposes, than they have differences. And so, yes, I`m stressing -- yes, that is deliberate. I always -- I hope that it`s a tone that -- that more people would adopt. It seems we get a little breathless.
LAMB: How did you relate to Gerald Ford?
CANNON: Well, Ford, there were two of them I knew, actually had some relationship with before I started this, and Ford was one of them. And Bill Clinton was the other. I covered Clinton for eight years, and he knows me. We`re not friends, but we`re not adversaries. He always treated me with respect. And I covered his -- you know, at some point, we all had to cover impeachment, but I mostly wrote about issues, and Clinton likes that. And even if you write a critical story on an issue, he`ll -- he can -- he handles that well. He likes the give-and-take.
And Ford -- I had won the Gerald R. Ford prize for distinguished reporting of the presidency, and Ford had come and given the award, and so I knew him. And so I called him first. And Ford was just wonderful. He said, Well, I don`t want to write essay for you, but I`ll do an interview. So he calls me up one day in August. Hey, the weather`s great. Come on out here. I said, Well...
LAMB: Where is he?
CANNON: He`s in Vail, Colorado. He was kidding around. We did an interview on the phone, and he was just very down to earth. Now, you know -- and John F. Kennedy`s caution about presidents certainly doesn`t apply to Ford. Ford`s a very normal guy. Ford didn`t really ever want to be president. So he never had that ambition.
And Carter, who`s the opposite, who had that ambition since he was 16 -- or excuse me, Bill Clinton, was also -- his staff sent word that he would write something for me, but could it just be on Jefferson instead of on pursuit of happiness, which was a nice change of pace, really. You don`t usually do interviews exact -- the exact same question of people. And he wrote something, and it was nice. And he surprised his staff by actually making his deadline. He`s a notorious procrastinator, but he didn`t procrastinate. He sent the thing right on time and...
LAMB: Did he write it himself?
CANNON: Oh, yes. I`m pretty sure he did. He -- yes, it reads like him.
LAMB: So what`s your take on all those presidents? Are they all happy?
CANNON: I don`t know that. That`s getting a little -- that`s getting a little beyond my purview. But I`ll say this, if you stand, as I do -- I guess this book shows it -- that American exceptionalism is alive and well, there is something special about this country and that we have something -- and duties that are special. You stand -- if you take that stand, you stand -- you`re in pretty good company -- all 43 presidents, even Wilson, and immigrants. And that`s the group -- those are the groups through time -- and I`d be happy to -- I thin it`s pretty good company to keep. And all those presidents have in common, whatever their differences, and you know, all -- they all ran against each other in succession. They all believed that this country had something special about it.
LAMB: Where did those words come from? Did Thomas Jefferson actually write them himself?
CANNON: Well, I spent -- the longest chapter in there is trying to figure that out. The short answer is, he had a lot of help. These ideas had been out there. I mean, in fact, I end up going back -- I -- gosh, I think, you know, before Aristotle. I mean, you -- you can go back as far as you want, but the idea that governments are instituted among men to serve the people, not the other way around, predates monarchies. So it`s an old idea.
And the specific idea of happiness and pursuit of happiness -- this language was around. George Mason wrote it. James Wilson, another Virginian, wrote about it. Franklin wrote about it. So these words were around. These phrases were around. And so what Jefferson did was borrow this language, synthesize, in an era where that was the expected practice. We now today are very big on original language, and if you borrow language, you`re a plagiarist and -- but in those days, the emphasis was different. If you tried to be totally original, you were a show-off. And why would you do that when there was all this stuff you needed to borrow? And what Jefferson did was build and put it together.
Now, having said all that, I`m a writer. Jefferson was the writer, and that`s a solitary thing and...
LAMB: How old was he?
CANNON: Well, he was 33. And he went to Philadelphia with -- he had the biggest library, I think, in the New World. He didn`t take a single book that anybody knows of. He goes up there with these saddlebags and pulls out a piece of paper. Now, the Virginia Declaration of Rights that Mason had written with help from Jefferson was republished in the Philadelphia newspapers, so Jefferson had this convenient document. And some of the language about pursuit of happiness is in there.
LAMB: And where was he -- where did he write it?
CANNON: He was in a house called the Jacob Graff (ph) house. He rented the middle floors of the house, that was -- if people read the great Dumont Malone (ph) series, they`ll say, Well, the house was destroyed. But in fact, since that series ran, the house has been sort of -- the city fathers in Philadelphia found out the address and have built a replica house. So you can go there and see.
LAMB: Have you been there?
CANNON: Yes. Yes. I went to...
LAMB: Did you go to the...
CANNON: I went to these places. It was helpful, in a funny way. I saw -- the desk that he wrote on is in -- here, in Washington, at the National Archives. And I went and looked at that desk, and somehow that helps.
LAMB: You mean the Smithsonian.
CANNON: Yes. Excuse me.
LAMB: You can go see the desk where he wrote these words…
CANNON: And that is the desk. And Jefferson seems to have known that people would want to do that because he kept that desk. He didn’t keep everything. He kept that desk for posterity… There was a sort of self deprecating comment about it …that no one would care but he knew that they would. And that helps to do. I don`t know why exactly.
LAMB: And now there are a person you mentioned is Alexis de Tocqueville, did you know who he was before you got into this project?
CANNON: Oh, sure.
LAMB: Did you read much about him?
CANNON: You know, they make you do that in high school, in college, but I didn`t -- but what I write about de Tocqueville is how -- how he gets -- he writes about this tension between materialism and altruism. And it is still something that Tocqueville -- most his countrymen don`t get. The French still are disparaging of us, all these years later, but Tocqueville got it. They go together, and this was -- this was what -- this was what Bush and Giuliani were doing, you know. America`s power is not its wealth. But it`s -- it`s the power of these ideas. But America`s wealth allows us to defend those ideas. The technology that we have that we develop these frightful weapons, they allow us to defend ourselves, and, in fact, go to Iraq and impose our will, if that`s what we are doing.
And so, Tocqueville writes about -- writes about that. And I stumbled across, actually, there was a piece in "The New Yorker" by Adam Gopnik, and -- and I found this, and it was sort of like, you know, something you dream of, where somebody finds a quote for you, and here`s the dream quote, and Gopnik found it. I give him credit. I try to cite everywhere I got everything. I think I did that.
LAMB: You wrote long footnotes.
CANNON: Yeah. Well, those were originally going to be on the page, but my publisher thought that would be unwieldy, but the footnotes are -- if anybody buys this book and reads it, I would urge them to read these footnotes, because they help -- they help explain where -- where I am getting this stuff.
LAMB: I`ve got to ask you about one footnote, because it`s just popped out, and it`s totally out of context. Page 299, I don`t even know what chapter it is, I have to check. It`s chapter five. It`s footnote 11. "The pummeled constituent was a minor league baseball player named Alexander Bannwart, age 36, who was promptly arrested by the Capitol police. Senator Lodge claimed to be to busy to press charges, perhaps the fact was that he was the aggressor", -- that he was the aggressor, meaning Lodge, "played a role in his thinking and Bennwart in a fit of patriotism subsequently unlisted in the United States Army. Such were the emotions of the time. This story has been preserved for posterity by the Office of the Senate Historian. What`s the whole story about?"
CANNON: Oh, the story is the debate during World War I, whether to enter it, and -- and then as now, you know, people were questioning each other`s patriotism, where really people thought their patriotism was being questioned, maybe it wasn`t. In Lodge`s case it was. And he is, you know, whatever he is, 65, and this other guy is an athlete and a young man -- Lodge knocks him out, you know, beats him up in his office.
LAMB: Really? Just really does?
CANNON: Attacks him. You know that we are a little more sophisticated today about constituent service, but -- and there`s -- and the guy -- and of course, the cops come and they arrest the guy who gets -- who has been beaten up. It`s ...
LAMB: And how did you find that little tidbit?
CANNON: Gosh, I don`t remember, Brian. I did all this research.
LAMB: I mean, because -- and that makes the point. This book goes -- it`s a lot of territory, a lot of history.
CANNON: Right. But you know what`s interesting is how it`s easier to do research now than it was. There`s still no substitute on the great historians, like James McPherson (ph), you have to just go to all these places and read the letters in their own hand, but for instance, the papers of George Washington have been digitized. And you can -- you can call them up at your desk. And when you are done, you can go and call up letters he wrote, they are indexed, and if you know how to search, you search. So I -- as I got into this, I would -- I never heard of this case, of course, but something -- somehow I came across it, and then I went to the Senate archives, and there they are online.
LAMB: You took a shot in this book, if I got it correctly, at some historians.
LAMB: And some who have been public and political?
CANNON: Well, Sean Wilentz and Arthur Schlesinger Jr, after, during impeachment, had this -- had this petition, and, you know, the petition was that this thing would eviscerate the power of the presidency, this would -- they sounded like if impeachment happened, the whole power of the presidency would be gone. And Clinton was impeached, in a very close party line vote, virtually party line in the Senate, he defeated the articles of impeachment, and he was not convicted. He served out his term.
So even after impeachment, there was enough energy in the executive branch that Clinton was able to -- you know -- do all the things he was doing, see through legislation, appoint judges, start a war in Kosovo, and -- a war of liberation, in which he protected people, Muslim people, as it happens, from ethnic cleansing, ugly little euphemism. And in fact, Clinton had enough energy in executive, he even had another scandal before he left office, the pardons. He left office with high approval ratings, and helped install his wife in the Senate, and it is believed by many, many Democratic activists that if Gore -- Al Gore had used him more, Gore would have won. I don`t know if that`s true or not. We`ll never know that.
But -- and so, so it seemed that these historians had been hysterical and over-reactive. They never apologized, to my knowledge, said, oh, we were wrong. And in fact, then when the war comes in Iraq, the same people have a petition, oh, no, no, no. We don`t want the president to do this. Congress has to vote on this. Only Congress has this power.
Now it certainly says that in the Constitution, but Congress hasn`t exercised that power since 1941. I mean, this is -- and they know this. And so, they sort of seem to switch sides in this debate, this philosophical point over how much power the president -- when it was a Democratic president, they wanted him to have all this power, and they feared taking away, and it`s a Republican president, then, suddenly, they are all about Congress.
And it struck me as sort of obviously and overtly partisan. And I don`t think historians ought to be doing that. I think they ought to be doing what journalists are trying to do, which is attempt to be fair and objective. You can`t always do that, but you try. And so -- but I give them the oh the mildest of shots. I mean, the book`s, as you point out, pretty positive.
But then even after saying that, I go on to say that some of these historians helped me, very people I criticized. And in fact, as I got into the writings, because you have to read, you know, William Lee Miller (ph) and James McPherson (ph), McCullough, Wilentz, just you have to read these people to do a book like this. And their scholarship and their writing is so impressive, and their commitment to these kids, because they are all -- all these people are still teaching classes, you know, most of them at the undergraduate level. And so I came away actually with this great respect for them, even though I was irritated going in. So ...
LAMB: How often did you call a historian?
CANNON: Oh, constantly. I mean ...
LAMB: Who was the most helpful?
CANNON: Oh, they were all so helpful. And everybody I asked was helpful. Frank Risard (ph) of the papers of George Washington was just wonderful. But I hate to single one person out. Every single person I called was helpful. It was -- there`s a fellow, I forget his name right now. He wrote a book about Robert Gould Shaw, the Massachusetts 54th integrated regiment, or the black regiment, and he disappeared. He was -- I didn`t know -- I couldn`t find him. I sent out sort of an all call, you know, an e-mail, and he writes back from Copenhagen, he is in Denmark.
And I wanted to know one -- this is the kind of thing, you get fixed on. Did Shaw really sing the John Brown hymn as they marched into Harper`s Ferry? He implies that in his book, he never quite says it. So, yeah, he left that letter out, but, yes, he did. And that`s the kind of help I got. It was just wonderful.
LAMB: You dedicate this book to two men.
LAMB: And I`ll read it. The book is dedicated to the memories of Michael Kelly, a journalist and a friend, and to a gallant young man from Massachusetts, First Lieutenant Brian M. McPhillips, U.S. -- United States Marine Corps. Why those two men?
CANNON: Well, they were friends of mine, Brian -- Brian was a family friend, a young -- I am really friends with his parents. And he went to Providence College, enlisted in the Marine Corps and went to Iraq. And Michael Kelly, of course, was a well-known Washington journalist. And he went to Iraq.
And I was worried about both of them. And I actually said some prayers for them. And they both died there, killed within 24 hours of each other. And it was a very sad time at our magazine, "National Journal," and very sad time for the McPhillips family at the Massachusetts. And I just -- I thought that this would -- I felt like doing it, because there was nothing else I could do for them. I wish there was something I could do for the families.
And -- but they both got this idea. They were happy warriors, and for the right reason. Brian -- my wife sent Brian`s mother a clipping that was in "The Washington Post." You may have seen about this, a woman in Iraq who had been raped and brutalized by Saddam`s secret police and her husband had been killed, for no reason that -- she married a man from India. In Saddam`s Iraq, that was a capital offense. And I have sent this clipping to Brian McPhillips` mother. And she said -- and she said, well, that made her feel better. She said, Brian -- Brian loved women, and Brian would -- this is what Brian would have been trying to stop there. So ...
LAMB: One of the -- in "Pursuit of Happiness in War", you go through a lot of background on how many people in this country have been killed.
LAMB: And you went into some detail. On the World War II, for instance, you broke it down. Well, actually in front of it, Civil War.
LAMB: You broke that down, those who were actually killed in combat and killed by other causes, coming up to a grand total, about 659,052 deaths, both North and South during the Civil War. You did the same thing when it came to World War II. Why?
CANNON: Well, the slavery had to be ended. And Lincoln knew it. And it was ended, but it wasn`t -- the cost was so frightful to people, that after that war was over, most Americans, I don`t think, questioned that the cause was just. But what they questioned was war itself. And the Civil War, I believe started or helped form a deep strain of pacifism in America -- within America. And so, you know, we are a war-like country in some ways, but we also have this experience now that all of the European powers have had. Now we understand really how -- how costly war is after the Civil War. It`s the first modern war, really.
And ever since then, in a run-up to a war, there`s been a very fierce debate. And I have a chapter on this -- this strain of pacifism really is what it`s about. But -- and I don`t mean that in any pejorative way. I mean, the people, you know, who really think that war is so -- so horrible, the cost of it, that we should always try and find some other way.
And I -- you know, the book sort of advocates extension of these rights even by arms if necessary. But it`s been -- it`s been extended by other ways. There -- I finally had to write about some other leaders other than wartime presidents. Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Martin Luther King, who pursued the extension of rights through peaceful means, too. And they also employ, these people, the language of the preamble of the Declaration. And they have as good a claim to it as a wartime president, I think.
LAMB: How often did you find these words "Pursuit of Happiness" ...
CANNON: Oh, no.
LAMB: ... in the Jefferson words, I mean actually from the Declaration?
CANNON: They`re constant. But what I was looking for was more not just people sort of using it as a throwaway line but people using it to make their case, and -- which Martin Luther King did when he came to the United States, and he said, those words were a promissory note. And I`m -- I`m -- we`re here to collect on that note. And it was used in that direct fashion.
And, in fact -- well, Frederick -- Frederick Douglass and Lincoln used those words constantly. And in a time when within the abolition movement there were sort of two -- there were two schools. One was led by William Lloyd Garrison, who thought that the document -- the Declaration and the Constitution, these two documents in my little booklet were tainted because they`ve been written by slaveholders. And they -- and they seemed to -- the Constitution sort of incorporated slavery into the governing structures of the Senate.
And he burned the Constitution and the Declaration at a famous speech and said they`re pacts with the devil. He was a secessionist from the other side. But Douglas argued and Lincoln argued that the words themselves were so powerful and their meaning so obvious that the sins of the people who wrote them were secondary. And that we didn`t need a new government, we just needed to live up to the creed of the Declaration, and that debate was -- within abolition -- was won by Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. And -- and so they have used those words.
And so that`s the kind of thing I explore in there. I`m not so interested in people, you know,just using the phrase. I`m interested in how the words came to be understood by Americans as -- as obliging them to grant freedom to other people.
LAMB: What was your reaction when you found Ho Chi Minh using them?
CANNON: I was delighted.
LAMB: Where did you find the -- how he used?
CANNON: I wish I could remember, Brian. That was just one -- one of those things you come across and you can hardly believe it is even true. I don`t speak Vietnamese, and his speech -- Ho Chi Minh used in this speech in 1954, used our language, and in fact, set it up like Jefferson. You know, when in the course of human events kind of speech.
But I called a scholar who had written about -- Ho Chi Minh biographer, and he said, yeah, that Ho Chi Minh had done this, and he had done it deliberately, to try and show the Americans that they didn`t -- that this -- they didn`t want to pick up the mantle of French colonialism, that that wasn`t true to our -- our traditions, that our true tradition would be to support the desire of the Vietnamese people to be free of colonialism. Now, I guess it worked for a while. But, obviously, it didn`t really work because we went over there anyway.
LAMB: Did -- what was -- what happened to you -- excuse me. What happened to you during this period of research? How long did you research?
CANNON: About a year.
LAMB: What happened to your whole perception of the Declaration of Independence and this preamble over that time and the attitude that you found people had about it?
CANNON: It didn`t change me in a way, but it reinforced something that -- and that is -- they are all -- I have a very big tent view of patriotism now. And I did before. But the Ho Chi Minh -- I end one chapter with Ho Chi Minh and begin the next one with John McCain. Now ...
LAMB: Did you talk to him?
CANNON: Yeah. Yeah. And McCain -- McCain is one of the few non-presidents that I -- that I talk about there, because he`s an important figure to me, and, I mean, I think in this world. And he writes about how being in prison -- in the North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp helped him really understand America`s values and really helped him become the fully patriotic American. And he`s a guy who -- sort of both sides in Washington, even in this polarized town he`s a person that commands respect across the spectrum. And one of the reasons why is his -- he has a good sense of country and people respect that. And he`s paid the price.
But he also helped lead the opening to Vietnam. He`s not vindictive. He`s not -- he`s very old school, but he is also very modern in his thinking.
But what -- but the answer your question is, I realized how -- I realized that people arguing now, the petty little scholars, I have little patience for that -- I don`t think much of it matters. I think what matters are the big things. And I think that these -- and like I said, these presidents and these immigrants who think that America is still special and we have special obligations, I came to believe that`s right.
LAMB: Who is the happiest person you know?
CANNON: That`s a good question. I don`t know. I don`t know. My book is full of happy people, but some of them are dead.
LAMB: And are you happier knowing all that you know from now that you have studied this history intensely? Or will you be better off if you`re just ignorant?
CANNON: No, no, I think if you read this book, people come away and think, well, all right, America is going to be OK. We make a lot of mistakes, but we`re going to be OK. We`re heading in the right direction.
LAMB: Why? Why are way headed in the right direction? And are we different than others?
CANNON: Well, I don`t know if Americans are different than other people, but this country has a different -- has a history. It`s -- you realize -- you realize why it`s so difficult for the Palestinian state to take shape. Because -- because the organizing -- what are the organizing principles of it? They want land. They want to be -- they want to -- they want their own country where they don`t have to, you know, go through Israeli checkpoints. And that`s not a small thing, I`m sure. But what are the principles? What are the great principles? And this country was founded on some great principles. And if we`re true to them, if we`re true to them, the whole world is better off. That`s to me an optimistic message.
LAMB: Did you find people misusing this concept?
CANNON: You know, I ...
LAMB: Did you get into the John Calhoun (ph) and his son, and ....
CANNON: Well, Calhoun (ph) was a, you know, racist and opportunist. But he didn`t really misuse it. Sure, some of these -- the Southern secessionists, you know, even they didn`t misuse it. They just said Jefferson was wrong. Well, I don`t think he was wrong. Lincoln didn`t think he was wrong. But, no, I don`t -- it`s hard to misuse them. People have a right to use them any way they want. They have as much right to those words as I do.
LAMB: So, what do you want people to learn from this book? I mean, how much of it is the history of it? Because you do, you go into some -- you go into a lot of corners in this book.
CANNON: Yeah. I -- well ...
LAMB: And you -- and you make a point. You quote a lot of people extensively.
CANNON: Well, that`s ...
LAMB: Why did you do that?
CANNON: Well, because you know -- we -- well, I`ve been to -- I`ve been to like presidential conferences even, academics even, let alone nightly news, where people are talking about presidential communications, how a president communicates. And then they won`t really quote the president, you know, give a little snip at a word here, a word there. You know, it`s commonly said by some of Bush`s political adversaries today that Bush never talked about human rights in Iraq. He only talked about weapons of mass destruction, for instance.
Well, that`s flatly incorrect. He talked about human rights in Iraq as a reason for war probably 100 times. He wasn`t quoted very much. We don`t really quote presidents the way we used to and the way we should. And so, in my book I thought that`s unsatisfactory. If I`m writing about how -- how presidents and words move a nation, I have a chunk of a quote. Maybe I went a little too far with that, I don`t know. But these quotes are powerful. Presidents tend to be pretty articulate when they are talking about freedom.
LAMB: After you finished this book, who would you put on the top of your list of people you respect the most?
CANNON: Of the presidents?
LAMB: No, just everybody. I mean, the whole ....
CANNON: Well, some of the things, you know -- I mean ...
LAMB: Who would be your favorites?
CANNON: Look, you know, Babe Ruth really could hit, you know. The conventional wisdom is not always wrong. . Lincoln was great. George Washington was great.
LAMB: But you mentioned Babe Ruth, and that`s an important part of your whole concept here. Baseball.
LAMB: Why baseball?
CANNON: Baseball is something that makes me happy. And I use it because it`s a frame of reference. I don`t even know if it`s still the national pastime, for all I know that`s basketball today or pro football. But Bush used it. And Giuliani used it, and there are these pictures of the 9/11 of Giuliani as Yankees uniforms at the game stuck in people’s mind. So it`s a frame of reference ...
LAMB: Helped George Washington, you point out.
CANNON: George Washington played catch it, Valley Forge for hours.
LAMB: What do they call it, fives?
CANNON: Fives. There were different names. It`s just sort of derived from rounders, but it`s -- it`s evolved steadily here. Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball. I guess we can say that on this show. He didn`t.
LAMB: So, again, you look back, the people in here that you want to read more about? Did you ...
CANNON: Well, well, there are so many. I mean -- all right. The obvious ones, you know, Roosevelt, Lincoln, George Washington, Jefferson. I mean, Jefferson and Adams, you know, I don`t -- there`s a great fight going on, to this day, the New England people love Adams and thinks he gets short shrift. They think Jefferson was a slaveholding racist, and Virginians think Jefferson was the brightest man that ever walked the planet. You know, I don`t have to choose between them. I like them both. I`m from California.
But -- but there are some other great people that we don`t remember. Calvin Coolidge never really said the business of America is business, not really. What he was talking about was to newspaper editors, and he was telling them that he -- that I knew -- he knew they needed to make money, but he trusted newspapermen to always put the public good ahead of business. That`s what he really said.
Hoover, who, you know, to this day, you go to Jackson Jefferson, that dinner some -- some Democrat who wants to be president will rag on Hoover. But Hoover was a great man who gave his whole life to public service and saved millions of people from starvation, one guy. One man. But I think -- I think Carter is an underrated president. You know, people laugh at me in this city when I say that. But for my lights, he got it. You know, I -- I think -- I think Reagan really was -- Reagan sort of unembarrassed promotion of freedom around the world I think will be remembered long, you know, not in the sneering way that today`s intellectuals look at him, but as a great thing.
LAMB: What -- what`s a young person to think when they pick up your book and read this, quote -- quote. "While I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you more assurance, FDR told the cheering crowd. I have said this before, but I`ll say it again and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
CANNON: Well, and that`s 1940 campaign, right?
CANNON: That`s October of 1940. Wendell Wilkie is listening on the radio and says, he`s cost me election, right?
Well, what`s the young person to think? I hope -- they got to read the whole chapter. Because I`m -- I`m using that as -- I`m not trying to make Roosevelt into a disingenuous guy. What I`m trying to do in that chapter is show that there is this natural tension. Candidates for president are very leery of war, even a candidate who is already president.
But presidents are also commanders in chief. And then they begin to see the reason that they may have to go to war, and that`s a very natural tension. And I offer it -- I hope that young people will be reassured and that this debate we`re having about Bush in Iraq, which at times is very vitriolic, too vitriolic for my taste, but it`s a healthy debate and it`s the debate to have. And for a candidate to say, oh, yeah, I wouldn`t get involved in that foreign war. That`s he`s responding to this pacifist strain in America, because it`s a country that understands how awful war can be and the cost. And these people who die like young Brian. But the commander in chief gets in and understands that if the Kurds are to be free or the Germans or the Japanese or the Filipinos or Chinese, there is nobody else to do it. And so it weighs heavily on him. And so presidents tend to be more martial and candidates more peace loving. But that`s a very healthy dichotomy.
LAMB: In the middle of all this, you did this book also.
CANNON: Yeah, I did one-third of that book. I`ve been very busy.
LAMB: But one of the authors of this book, "Boy Genius," about Karl Rove, is a man named Lou Dubose. He has got another best seller out right now, which is not exactly positive on George Bush. Did that worry you?
CANNON: You know, there are all these -- you know, there are these books out, you know, we live in these times. I mean, you know, the -- what are some of the titles? You know? So and so is a big fat liar. George Bush never told the truth in his life. You know, lies, lies, lies, lies, lies. And then on the other side, you know, that`s the left wing and the right wing. All Democrats are traitors, you know. They`ve always been traitors. Traitor, treason.
This book -- my book is not like. I don`t write like that. That`s not how I see things.
LAMB: "Boy Genius" is about?
CANNON: "Boy Genius" is about Karl Rove. But you know, I got no quarrel with Lou, he`s a good guy, but I think my third of the book reads a little different. I think that`s fair to say, the tone is a little different.
LAMB: What did you think of writing this book?
CANNON: Well, it was -- it was sort of a labor of love. I just really had something I wanted to say. I don`t know if I said it well or not. But I think -- I think I`m on to something. I hope people will read it.
LAMB: Have your kids read it?
CANNON: My son is reading it now. It`s just out, you know.
LAMB: How old is he?
CANNON: He is 23. He just turned 23. He wants to go to law school. Now he`s interested in constitutional law.
LAMB: He said anything about the book that you want to repeat?
CANNON: No. I think he was a little surprised the old man thought deep thoughts.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. It`s called "The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War," and our guest is Carl Cannon, White House correspondent for "The National Journal." Thank you very much.
CANNON: Thank you.
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