BRIAN LAMB, HOST: James C. Humes, author of "Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter," I understand from your book that you started off in life as a lisper and a stutterer?
MR. JAMES C. HUMES, AUTHOR, "CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE HOUSE GHOSTWRITER" Yeah, like Churchill, both. And, you know, I always would n--say that Churchill was--didn't go to university, couldn't get in; he was a lisp--lisper, stutterer. He fainted one of the first times he spoke in the House of Commons. And yet, he--his words would save a nation.
And his grandson gave me some notes that his grandfather had and I wrote a book about that. It was never published, but it was called "The Language of Leadership: Churchill's Five Principles of Giving a Speech," which I say most people disregard, and actually C-SPAN covered my talk when I gave a talk on that--his five principles. And so, yes, I'm a--Churchill is a great hero for me; met him when I was 18, which was a--I was in this s--school in England and--in between Hill School and Williams. And I went to this parliamentary association dinner--by the way, this account is mentioned in Sir Martin Gilbert's biography of Churchill--and so I kind of really pushed my way into the receiving line.
But h--he was in--1953, May 29th, and he's short, 5'6", and he had a very tiny, pink, soft hand. And I was introduced to him and he said, `Young man, study history. Study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.' And I went back to my room that night and tore down the picture of Ted Williams and put up Winston Churchill. It was kind of metamorphosis of youth into manhood.
LAMB: How did you overcome the lisp and the stutter?
MR. HUMES: Well, I did somewhat like what Churchill did. I tried to avoid, for a long time, words with T-H, and the stutter I tried to do the same thing. I tried to deliberately pause, and, therefore, I was not as embarrassed when I was pausing involuntarily, if that makes sense. In other words--so I did that. And I did w--I won the Middle Atlantic Debate, and really--on MacArthur, that MacArthur should be dismissed, and this was kind of--and I took the other side of the debate and praised MacArthur, but I said the--you know, the--I revered the Constitution more than MacArthur and I took that. That was my first real debating championship.
LAMB: What year did you find yourself with no more lisp and no more stutter?
MR. HUMES: About that--a--about '52, when I graduated. In '51 I had to really work on it in my debate and I got over it. And I like speaking very much. When I was a boy--I mean, I remember writing my first inaugural address; I was 12. I don't--I think this is kind of neurotic and shows--but I was into history. And when most boys my age were playing, oh, Doris Day or Jo Stafford, I had these records of statesmen and also, you know, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost and Sandburg. But I had the voice of William Jennings Bryan, you know--`Do not press down upon the brow of labor'; or Teddy Roosevelt--I had his voice, you know--`The difference between me and Mr. Wilson is fundamental. He says he's a progressive, but he's not'--I mean, any clip voice, and I had these voices, Roosevelt, Churchill, and I was into that.
And so I wrote my own inaugural address and I had these kind of sempre Sousa marches I would play to rev myself up, and then I'd--would go off and I would give this talk. And it was crazy, but--you remember the old New Yorker cartoons where they have dreams of glory and this little boy would be up there and--I was just a little boy. But I loved--and history and the English language. And this is what--that's why Churchill was a great influence for me. You know, I got decorated by the queen some three years ago, and the citation read, `The only man on either side of the Atlantic who's written biographies--only person--on the two greatest Englishmen, Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare.' So I was--I loved language and history.
LAMB: What kind of decoration did you get?
MR. HUMES: Oh, it was just an OBE, it was--you know, but...
LAMB: What's that mean?
MR. HUMES: Order of the British Empire. And I said--these are cuff links I got at the same time, but it was--that year was an important year for me. I was--I met Churchill and danced with the queen and because of that I came down with an incurable disease called Anglophilia, and I confessed to that.
LAMB: What year was that, that you danced with the queen?
MR. HUMES: It was Boxing Day--December 26th, 1952, I remember it very well. And I remember the song that was playing.
LAMB: Was she queen already, or...
MR. HUMES: Oh, yes. She was queen--she'd become in January in--excuse me, in February '52; the coronation wasn't out till June '53. And this was a private kind of party. It was a birthday party--16th birthday party of Princess Alexandra, who's probably the prettiest of the royals. And the queen was still in her radian--she was only 26; I was 18, and I was very scared.
I was not s--you know, I said I was at that age what you call suave (pronounced swaive). I mean, I would say `I want half a demitasse (pronounced de-mi-tass-ee),' or, you know, `What's the soup du jour (pronounced soup doodge-er)?' I mean, I was not suave and sophisticated. When the secretary says--said, `It's appropriate for you to dance with Her Majesty,' I mean, I was--and I don't know whether I can tell this now, but the queen--things you noticed about the queen was she's short, like 5'1 1/2", and I was 6'2"; and second, she has that wonderful English complexion which is the upside of their downside wet climate. And--and the third thing is--you have to understand, I was talking from the vantage of a teen-ager--she would make Dolly Parton run to the tape measure. And she had this kind of low-cut gown. Well, I mean, I was looking like this; I didn't want to look down, I'm afraid, you know--I mean, it was looking at cleavage in the Virgin Mary or something. And I just stared.
She said, `How do you find an English Christmas?' `Fine.' `Do you miss your family?' `Yes.' I mean--and I was just afraid if I looked down I'd go to the tower, and that's all I remember. But it was a great--you know, it was a s--singular experience. And I went back to the country. But I've always had a love of history and the English language.
LAMB: You talk in your book about speechmaking, speechwriting, and something called negative name-dropping.
MR. HUMES: Oh, yeah, I--that was a fun thing. In the--in the--in the White House people always try to demonstrate their power. I mean, Robert Redford could walk against some purple-headed guy who was, you know, special assistant of national security for Clinton, or--a--and Robert Redford would be ignored for this one with power. This is the aphrodisiac of power.
So I took this from the starlets who would go onto the show, maybe Johnny Carson or Leno, and they would say, `You know, I had Julia Childs over for dinner and I burnt the roast.' Well, the real thing is you had Julia Child for dinner. So what you do for these people is you--you say, `Wow, Henry Kissinger really bawled me out for my memorandum.' Well, fact is, you're getting a memorandum to Kissinger. So it's what I call--and I made this as kind of a funny kind of thing. I had a book called "How to Get Invited to the White House" some years ago. But I remember what Alice Roosevelt Longworth told me. And this was--and she said, `James, in Washington is power, and then the illusion of power, and finally, the access to the illusion of power.' And she was pretty right. And so a lot of people operate on that illusion of access to power, Brian.
LAMB: What do you do now for a living?
MR. HUMES: Boy, I do a lot of different things. I teach at--at University of Pennsylvania, the School of Government; and then I also get law students and people from Wharton there. I also am a guest professor in Colorado; a chair was set up in my honor out there. I write speeches sometimes for corporate people; I deliver a lot of speeches for a fee. And I write books. I've had--this is my 24th book, and I have a book coming out in November. So I do all of those things. If I had stayed in law, I'd have made more money, but I've had more fun this way.
And I say this is "Confessions of a White House Ghost"--the first confession is, Brian, that speechwriters are not as important as they would have people believe. I mean, I think the man on the street thinks he's some guru, puts ideas into the mind of the great man. And, indeed, Roosevelt called his speechwriters--he was the first to have a real team of them--the brain trusters. But I really think they're more like beauticians than brain trusters. Presidents n--do not necessarily like new ideas, because they can rattle the cages or rock the boats; but they like old cliches reminted to sound like brilliant insights.
Franklin Roosevelt could have said, `Don't push the panic button,' but Sam Roseman, his speechwriter, wrote, you know, `Well, let me again assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' John Kennedy could have said, `Be patriotic,' but Sorensen wrote for him, you know `Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' So, again, you are the co--beautician to make someone not--sound well. If the beautician makes your wife look well, the--the speechwriter often makes the president sound well--sound...
LAMB: On the `Ask not' quote...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...there's a footnote in your book on Page 2, where--where you say that Warren Harding said in--in 1923...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...quote, "We need to be thinking not so much of what the country can do for us...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...or what we can do for our country."
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: And then you say, `Or more likely, the quote came from Philip St. John, headmaster at Choate in 1930s...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm, yes.
LAMB: ...who used to say frequently, "It's not what Choate does for you, but what you can do for Choate."'
MR. HUMES: Yes. I--when I asked Ted Sorensen, he said he was not, of course, aware of the Harding quote, though he did read other presidents. And Sorensen told me the only line that Kennedy really changed in that inaugural was `enemy' to `adversary.' But who knows? It--it's a great line and it employs one of Sorensen's brilliant techniques of the parallelism. And there's only about five ways to make a very quotable zinger quote, and you can put them into an acronym, CREAM: contrast, rhyme, echo--which is this--alliteration and metaphor. And this was the echo where you--or Lincoln had the echo in `government of the people, by the people, for the people.' Kennedy used it in, you know, in the s--another time in the speech, that--`Let us not--let us not fear to negotiate, but let us not negotiate out of fear.' Again, the echo technique which is often used by speechwriters.
LAMB: When you go to speak to a group--let's say you want a standing ovation--you...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...James Humes...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...wants--want a standing ovation.
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Can you get it?
MR. HUMES: Usually. And one thing I do is end with what I call soul shakers. And I've collected a lot of these soul shakers. Churchill said begin strongly, and one theme, simple language, picture language--metaphors and images--and always end with the heart. And he said pride, hope, love of family, love of God. And so I always try to end with one of those things. You mentioned that you may saw--have seen my Lincoln speech, and I end with this line that Lincoln had etched into his heart, this one line which was--he had borrowed a book again and again, and then, of course, the book was destroyed by water, he read it--but the only one page left when he went back to pay the farmer was this one line which was it was a page with a woodcut of General Washington praying at Valley Forge, and underneath was the line, `That these men shall not have died in vain.' And 40 years later, he would put that into the Gettysburg Address. Well, this is kind of what I call a moving thing with which to end your speech. And so I often do that, yes.
LAMB: You write in the book, `I have written speeches for more presidents than anyone.'
MR. HUMES: Yes, but that's misleading. I mean, I wrote a speech, you know, for Eisenhower--it was so--I mean, it was in the end of 1960. And let me say, Eisenhower was not what people think he is. He--when you worked for him, you were a private and he was a five-star general; he and you knew the difference. I was scared of him.
But I was brought in by a person I taught Sunday School for in Williams College, a Congregational Church minister by--Fred Fox was his name. And it was at the end of '60 and Nixon had been defeated, and so I did one of these what we call `Rose Garden rubbish' for him, and then I wrote another speech in '67 when he was contemplating endorsing Nixon. Yes, I was probably closest to Nixon. I wrote for Ford and helped him with his autobiography.
I did some contract speeches for Reagan--one which made kind of Guinness Book of Records. It was a real blooper and I might say I have great respect for Reagan, who's probably one of the greatest communicators since Roosevelt. But in this speech, I was a translator. That is, one of your jobs as a speechwriters is to translate the bureaucratic into the poetic, the legalese into the eloquent, the complex into the simple, the corporatese into the conversational. And someone--Georgetown Foreign Service School--one of those schools had written a speech, and Reagan had not yet announced for governor--for president--he had finished being governor. So he wanted to refurbish his foreign policy credentials. And so in the speech was `Third World' at least seven times. And Reagan--each time he'd get it--`Well, we must address the problems of third World War,' or `W--we--we--we need now to be concerned with third World W'--and each time, instead of `Third World,' `third World War' came out.
That was the last time, by the way, I ever told anyone or implied that I'd help write the speech, because I was there with Dick Streicher and Walter Annenberg, and--`Did you have something to do with the speech?' And I was doing one of those things--`Well,' one of these shrugs `no' that mean `yes.' And after that, I made it a rule never to go to a speech where my speech is being delivered, because I don't want anyone to say t--that Humes wrote the speech. I don't want anyone to come back to the speaker and say that, so I s--I tell them beforehand, `I'm not in the audience, I won't be there.' And I deliberately do that.
LAMB: Where were you born?
MR. HUMES: Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Halloween, 1934. And it was a--I was not due for about a month and my mother and father went to a masquerade party. She was dressed as Aunt Jemima which not--would not be politically correct today, and he was dressed as Indian chief. And the host was a doctor who's dressed as a Cheshire cat, and he was the--going to be the obstetrician. And Mother said, `Doctor, there's a hurry call here.' And so Dr. Cat drove my mother to the hospital, still as Aunt Jemima, and my father pursuing as an Indian chief, and I was born on the elevator at quarter of 12, Halloween, 1934, and that may explain some of my eccentricities.
LAMB: Your father died at age 43.
MR. HUMES: Forty-two. He w--he died--yes. He died--that is right, and it was a--it was a shock for me. My father was a loved man. I remember going on the L--Larry King show on radio and someone called me and said, `Are you any relation to Sam Humes?' And I said, `Yes, I'm his son.' He said, `Well, I still have his picture.' And this was from Arizona--`Finest man I ever met.' And I constantly had people saying that, and my mother was very shrewd about this, because she said, `Look, I wouldn't have married Jesus Christ; your father was a fun man.' And--and she would even tell me kind off-color stories my father told me, because she didn't want me to try to live up to an impossibility. And so she was wise on that.
But no question my father s--was a politician, and it impelled me in that direction. One of the first experiences I remember--we went down to Washington, and my father had been for Willkie. But he had a mutual friend and if you can believe, Brian, you could stop right in front of the White House in those days, walk in without a pass, without an appointment, and wait. And I must have waited two and a half hours, where my mother had three boys in the car--it was a Lincoln Zephyr--and she was furious that my father was fraternizing with, she s--thought, the en--enemy. And my father finally came out. She p--he said, `Eleanor, I knew I shouldn't have talked to him. I knew I shouldn't have talked to him. The son of a bitch charmed me,' which I think was--and--but I remember then getting a little book of all the presidents from the White House.
And my father did nurture me in history. I tell one story there. When I was--and I gave this talk at the--representing Reagan, Fourth of July in 1988. And I said--my first Fourth of July memory. My father took me to call on a woman who had had a 100th birthday a week ago, and her name was Mrs. Knight, and--Anna Gregory Knight. And she was there in this rocking chair, living at the home of her daughter. And she--he said--Anna--`James, Mrs. Knight's father fought in the Revolution, and I want you to shake hands with her.' And I did, and then she repeated this litany she must have repeated, `Yes, you know, Grandpappy went down the lane, and Pappy wanted to go, too, and so you can be a drummer boy.' And, of course, her father, at 67, conceived her, and so she was the last person who was a child of a Revolutionary fighter.
But I told the people there, `We say that we have such a--the oldest continuing democracy; but think of this--I shook hands with someone who fought to forge that democracy.' And I think we really have a short history, and yet I enjoy reading it, and I think of that experience. So my father deliberately must have thought that some day I could use that.
LAMB: You say that your mother committed suicide?
MR. HUMES: Yes.
MR. HUMES: 1955.
LAMB: And what were the circumstances?
MR. HUMES: I think a bad marriage--very bad marriage. She had a good first marriage, and I--and her husband and my stepfather was maybe more weak. He always--I said the two greatest influences on my life were my father and my stepfather. And my stepfather was the kind who always would promise a--and never deliver. He was always writing this great book, but he never did it.
And I haven't written any, you know, great best-sellers or any important books--important to me, but I wanted to finish them, because I wanted to say I didn't want to be like my stepfather, who always promised. He was always, you know, writing this play, and he'd meet people at a cocktail party and he would snow them by, `And this play I'm writing,' or `This--'and--and that stuck to me that he was a--went through, you know, four wives--wife after my mother, so within--he married within two months after my mother's death.
So I--really, I was without a home to go home to, and it made me far more interested in family than I would have been, because I was--I had no grandparents or fam--or--parents, and much more interested in history.
LAMB: Where do you live?
MR. HUMES: Philadelphia.
LAMB: How many children do you have?
MR. HUMES: Two.
LAMB: You tell the story about how your daughter became the editor of the Harvard Crimson...
MR. HUMES: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
LAMB: How did she do it?
MR. HUMES: Well, she called me up and said, `Daddy, they're having the turkey shoot there, and the turkey shoot--they ask you about your, you know, your politics and it's kind of a rough--roughhouse, good-natured thing, but the questions are serious. And they're going to ask my politics, and if I say Republican or conservative, I'm dead in this group, Daddy. What should I...'
LAMB: What year was this, by the way?
MR. HUMES: I--like 1983 or something, '83 or something like that. And--`Well,' I said, you know, `tell the truth, but do what you think--in those limits, do what you think you have to do.' And she said, `Well, Daddy, I got to--what should I say?' Well, she said the first guy got up and he said, `I'm--I'm from Brookline,' and so-and-so, so-and-so, `and I'm a Leninist,' and she goes (claps). Next person gets up and says, `I'm a--Ridgewood, New Jersey, and I'm a Castroite'--cheers. And my daughter gets up, who's self-effacing like her mother, and very quietly said, `My name is Mary Stuart Humes and I'm a monarchist.'
Well, she said, `Daddy, maybe some people thought it said Maoist or Marxist or anarchist--but any rate, I got off the boats.' And they think it's a big joke--little squib in the Crimson the next day--first monarchist elected to Crimson. Joking, she said, `Well, Daddy, I'm your daughter, and I'm as much of an Anglophile as you.' So that's how she got it.
LAMB: Where is she today?
MR. HUMES: She is with McKenzie and Company, and she's actually in--just flying to Budapest today to open up a--a--a branch there. She went to Harvard and then she went to Oxford, got her first in classics greats, and then to Yale Law School. And then she went with Davis Polk for a while, and now she's with McKenzie as House counsel.
LAMB: What about your other daughter?
MR. HUMES: Other daughter is, I think, much like me. She left Wellesley, which her mother went to, and went to Teach America, and she taught in the ghetto in Los Angeles for two years, and then--is now teaching in a private school in Los Angeles--the Bishop School in La Jolla. But she's leaving that and she's going to write for children's television. So they were my two daughters. My daughters, I think when they were little, were as--not so much impressed with, you know, working for a president. I remember working for Ford and I was missing some kind of anniversary or birthday, so I had Ford call them. But they were interested in little--when they were little that I'd hugged the ri--original Winnie the Pooh, and they were very impressed by that.
LAMB: Now let's pretend that--little speech lesson here--you're going to give a speech, and you've got lots of little things that you do in a speech...
MR. HUMES: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: ...that you recommend.
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: For instance, the first thing I notice is you say you got a--you write an introduction and give it to the people to read about you, rather than let--letting them read the bio. Why?
MR. HUMES: Because so many introductions are so bad--they're reading the resume and it's just boring. `He has two children; he's on--served on this committee, won this award.' And so years ago, what I did was I wrote an introduction for someone and didn't say it, and he used it. So after that I would kind of--I would photostat his introduction. This is the way John Jones introduced me there if it's helpful. And I usually find because I ro--write it in such a way that makes them look clever and it's short, and I--yes, I like to have an introduction that is short and that the audience thinks I'm--they're interested in me as a personality.
LAMB: Let me read the first paragraph: `As you can see'--you wrote this?
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: `As you can see, James Humes is a large man.'
MR. HUMES: Right.
LAMB: `And the scope of achievements and accomplishments is just as large. He is or has been a lawyer, legislator, diplomat, r--author, historian, actor, professor and White House speechwriter.'
MR. HUMES: Right.
LAMB: `But whether he was arguing in court, debating in the Pennsylvania Assembly, lecturing in the University of Pennsylvania classroom, authoring 20 books, acting on stage and television, serving as Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the Center for International Scholars at the Smithsonian, or drafting a presidential inaugural address, two passions dominated: a love of history and a love for the English language.' Then there's a little bit more here. But...
MR. HUMES: Yeah.
LAMB: Then, as you are introduced, what do you do at the very beginning that you don't like, other people--that other people do?
MR. HUMES: Other people begin with opening amenities. You know, `It's a great pleasure to be here,' `It's an honor to be here.' And the typical speech, you know, he--it starts, `It's a great pleasure and honor to be here--and--and then that reminds me of a story.' And they tell some stupid joke that they got from the 19th hole. And then they read--pull out a trade association article and read it. If you heard, you know, my Lincoln speech, I started out with a long pause before I speak, so the audience may think that I have a speech problem. And then I said, `Gettysburg stinks.'
Now it is a strong beginning. Churchill began his speech, and I delivered it for Bush--50th anniversary in the White House of f--of Bush's--of Churchill's speech in May 8th, 1940: `And I speak to you for the first time since I became prime minister. And I will say to you what I told the new Cabinet last night. The only thing I have to offer you is blood, toil, tears and sweat.' Now that is not an opening amenity. Churchill believed you could do what he called parenthetical praise; that later on, you could say, `And, by the way, I've spoken to many audiences. This one is the most responsive'--or--and it's believed more. Because when you say something in the beginning where they expect it, people discount it.
So begin strongly--and this is Churchill's point--don't start with these opening amenities because your prime time is the moment you speak. Everyone is listening; that's the greatest listenership. And you can dissipate that edge with `Great to be here,' and `I've always respected the--the National Funerals Directors Association for the work they do.' Well, one thing is they expect you to say that, so you don't get any points. So begin strongly and capture their attention right in the beginning.
LAMB: You say that Ronald Reagan used to drink warm water and eat a cookie?
MR. HUMES: Yes.
MR. HUMES: It was s--well, he said, `Well, an old preacher and singer told me that.' It was Billy Graham and Frank Sinatra. And he said that as you grow older, of course, your chords grow drier, but--and he needed hot water instead of cold water. And then he used the--used the chocolate-chip cookie for energy. And...
LAMB: Did he eat a lunch or a dinner or anything?
MR. HUMES: No. No lunch. And he would have that and then you would see him just before going--putting on two eyes. I mean, he'd put two contacts, one nearsighted to the see the notes, and one farsighted to see the audience.
LAMB: Now what do you do? Do you eat?
MR. HUMES: Very little. And, of course, you don't drink milk or bread or teas. I--no. I drink--and I certainly never drink. And I enjoy a good martini afterwards because I'm up like this, but beforehand--because I compare it to a pitching performance. I never use notes in front of me--in fact, I don't like a lectern--and it's the concentration required of a pitcher because I write the speech out and then totally commit it to memory.
Now every time I give a speech--I gave a commencement speech at the University of Southern Colorado the other week, and when I finished, I knew two things that I forgot to say. However, I felt I made up for that by the rapport with the audience, with no lectern, with no notes, so I'm looking at them all the time.
LAMB: How long do you speak?
MR. HUMES: Well, is--it depends. I usually can keep the audience entertained because I'm a storyteller. When I go out as a paid speaker, they don't want me to speak less than an hour, believe it or not. And one time I spoke less and they complained. But, of course, what I do is go into a lot of characters, whether it's a Churchill or Roosevelt, and use their voices. So it makes time go more quickly when you do that. It's the same voice all the time.
And people would--often would say to me about Reagan that Reagan was a great speaker because he was an actor. I wrote speeches for George Murphy and Shirley Temple Black. They weren't great speakers. The only actors I know to be great speakers are Shakespeareans because they're used to the long passages of Mark Antony or Corealanis or Henry V. Reagan became a great speaker by being a speaker. He must have given the time-for-choosing talk hundreds of times in front of the general electorate audiences where he was maybe speaking four times a day, four times a week.
Martin Luther King gave his address at least, maybe, 400 times, 500 times, to N--NAACP groups, church groups, and you hone it. You hone the speech. And you learn the two great techniques of a speaker. And you--and that is change of modulation and pause. And you know that in your own life when you tell a story of how you met your wife or some stupid thing you did in college, you've told it so many times, it's on automatic pilot. And you know just when to say, `And you'll never believe,' or the pause. And you learn that by giving one speech many, many times.
And so when I teach my class, I always have them te--give--I said, `I want you to give a speech you'll give the rest of your life,' because that's how you become a great speaker. Because when you give the speech over and over again, you learn the techniques of speaking.
LAMB: May I--and some of this you may not want to answer, is--but if you wanted to, how many days a year could you speak in this country for money?
MR. HUMES: Oh, I don't know. I've spoken as much as 52 times.
LAMB: A year?
MR. HUMES: Yeah. You--you're--you're time goes off in the summer, as you probably know, and that's a weak time. But during--I can speak--I make more money out of speaking than anything else.
LAMB: And what kind money is out there? I--you may not want to give your own fee, but if you do, fine...
MR. HUMES: Oh, I'm not big money because I'm not a celebrity. Most people will pay a huge amount as a conduit to a famous person. And I'm not a household word. I'm lucky to have this book because I'm not a household word. And usually it's not the agents who bring them--the speeches to me, it's word of mouth, because I've tried to sell it to corporations and they will say, `Well, who is James Humes?' and `Send a speech' and `Send a tape.' And I--and I'm never really picked, but someone who's heard me picks me, because they've heard me, maybe heard me on C-SPAN a couple of times or they've heard me and they said I--they--they find out and they want me to speak.
But it's--the problem in speaking is if this vice president in charge of public relations gets Humes to speak and Humes does badly, it's his fault. If he gets some, you know, Brian Lamb, to speak, and everyone knows of Brian Lamb, and you, for some reason, do badly, that's Brian Lamb's fault, not his fault, in a sense.
LAMB: How much money is out there?
MR. HUMES: Well, the money...
LAMB: Well, ho...
MR. HUMES: ...for speaking is for celebrities and I'm not one. I mean...
LAMB: But I mean that second level in--and what is the level that the--you know, the--the non...
MR. HUMES: I'm at the very low--you know, I get, you know, $4,000 or $5,000. I, actually, am going out to--to Scotland this summer and the other two speakers are Margaret Thatcher and Bob Dole. I'm speaking to the American Society of Travel Agents and I'm getting $10,000.
LAMB: Is there a lot of it out there, though? I mean, you--we see -we read all those stories about former presidents and...
MR. HUMES: Well, yes. Because, look, all these programs, doing that and--but I never deceive myself that they are coming to hear James Humes. They are coming because of Rotarians or Republicans or a member of this association. And because they come together to meet, there has to be a program; because there's a program, there has to be a speaker. And so they get--and so I always start that I have to make them interested in me, because really that's not the point that they're coming there to that dinner. And a lot of speakers really think that they're coming to hear them. I never believe that.
There is a lot of money out there, and I have to say a lot of very bad speakers, very bad--where they take an article out and read the article. An article read aloud is not a speech. A speech has to be something that's--it's an oral presentation that comes from your ideas and hopes and it is not a article. A speech cannot be an article read aloud and too many people are doing just that.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
MR. HUMES: Philadelphia. And I've, you know, said that. I'm a Pennsylvanian by background and I go--my wife has a job job, fortunately, and it's been a tremendous s--source of stability for me because I haven't had a job job. And if I'd stayed in law, I'd have made more money. But I go in to a club every day, put on a suit and tie, go in there in a bare room because writing is the most difficult discipline. If I stay in my house, I won't get up. I'll have a cup of coffee and I'll do other things. And so I make myself put in so much writing a day.
LAMB: Do you write in that vest and...
MR. HUMES: No, no. But I'm--I do not. I--but I read--you--but since I go in, I'm in coa and tie--coat and tie--and I write on a legal page--I don't use a word processor. I write on--the way Nixon did, on a yellow legal pad. I was out there in California this other week giving a Lincoln talk and my daughter was with me, and beforehand we were told that there was a new exhibit of Nixon's there and it was--they reproduced the study from Saddle River. Now most of these museums had a replica of the Oval Office.
LAMB: The study in New Jersey?
MR. HUMES: Yes.
MR. HUMES: And they reproduced the study. And so we go in there, there's his legal tablet, and there's his pencil and there's his engagement book. And there are a few books behind the desk and my daughter says, `Daddy, that's your book right there.' And it was. It was my Churchill--biography of Churchill. And I wasn't supposed to walk, but I walked over and there was my inscription to Nixon in 1980. But it was a--and that was a very moving thing that he had that with him and--you know, on the day he died.
Nixon was--he was a person who was sometimes awkward in social situations, but he was the warmest in a intellectual situation. He was the warmest of all of them. He was an introvert or an intellectual in an extrovert's profession. So while you knew you'd see him at a cocktail party, `Well, you know, the Redskins, they're really going to kick butts.' I mean--but he was being one of the boys and he wasn't quite.
But in a working situation like this, he was very--the most attentive to your needs, `Well, would Diane and the girls like to go to Camp David? I know you're working on Saturday.' He--and yet he was intellectually exhausting. But he would say things like, `You know the difference between Mao and de Gaulle? They were both ministers, one Catholic, one Communist.' Then he would explain that, or he would say, `Now let's look at China in the year 2020.' This is after he left office. But he was always he would challenge anything when you wrote for him.
And I remember one speech I wrote, it was eight drafts, and what came out was 90 percent Nixon. But Nixon was a brilliant--the most brilliant person probably I've ever met. And he was intellectually exhausting. The difference between Ford and ni--Nixon and Reagan, Nixon edited your speeches heavily for substance, Ford didn't touch them, an--and Reagan edited them for style. Interesting.
LAMB: You te--tell a story about when Bob Haldeman accused you of being on an ego trip.
MR. HUMES: Yeah, well, this was--you know, a funny sort of thing. The--we did this thing for the--we landed on the moon and there was a plaque on the moon and--and that's what's taken here, `Men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July '69 AD.' But we had a couple of--a couple martinis and I wrote this other thing. I did it as a joke. `Just as man explores space, hope unites mankind exalting science.' Well, this was an acronym for James Humes, and someone pointed out--and, of course, Bob--you know, he said, `Well, you've taken ego trip.' I said, `Mea culpa. If you're trying to go to the moon, that's an ego trip, Bob.'
But, you know, Bob was a--didn't have much of a sense of humor and I'm--I--and I'm not saying that to knock a person who's--who's now dead. He was a Christian scientist, he--and Nixon really wasn't that close to him. Nixon would use him as a--because Nixon didn't like really interchange with people, except people that he knew and--on an intellectual thing, but he hated the kind of social meetings where people come in and talk about civil rights--there's a need for it--because you already knew--he already knew what a person from the N--NAACP would say, in a sense. He already knew what they were going to ask for and he already knew--so he didn't really like those kind of things because he already knew and he didn't like to waste his time.
But Haldeman acted as his traffic control. He really had no--he was not politically that conservative. He was a total pragmatist. But he was a--like a huge computer, that--you know, this bill's up there that so-and-so's talking about--and he could repeat this to Nixon.
LAMB: You have an acknowledgement section.
MR. HUMES: Yeah.
LAMB: I've never seen anything like this.
MR. HUMES: Well, I know. When I got the--my OBE and I used--all my friends were there and I used--all my friends were there and I used lines from Shakespeare to describe each one of them. And so I did the same thing for this. I'm a Shakespeare nut and I do a one-man sho--Shakespeare show. And I just--it gave me a chance, I suppose, to show off my love of Shakespeare.
LAMB: And here you see the na--the underlined names there are the ones that you're acknowledging. For instance, David Eisenhower; Tom Evans, who used to be a lawyer for Richard Nixon.
MR. HUMES: Yeah.
LAMB: I see other names on there. And--you quoted from Shakespeare to d--to describe each one of them.
MR. HUMES: Yeah. And I do it in front of each chapter.
LAMB: And in--in David Eisenhower's case: `Who is thy grandfather? He made those clothes which it seems make thee.'
MR. HUMES: Yeah. Right.
LAMB: How did you fi--I mean, did you just pick all that out from memory or...
MR. HUMES: Yeah. Yeah. Really, it was--I just knew something of Shakespeare; I read all of Shakespeare, written a biography of him, and I just kind of picked this out. Picked things that--I had a--something--I had to look it up to make sure, but I remembered some of these things.
LAMB: And some of those people on this list that you--Ambassador Faith Whittlesley. I'm looking for names we might recognize. James Reichley (pronounced ritch-lee).
MR. HUMES: James Reichley (pronounced ryke-lee), yeah. Tremendous...
LAMB: Reichley (pronounced ryke-lee). Who was he?
MR. HUMES: ...scholar. James Reichley has written books. He's the--was Brookings kind of conservative over there for years and now he teaches at Georgetown. He was a writer. He wrote a book called "Two Conservatives" of Nixon and Ford. He also is, I think, the--the primier--premier historian of the religious right. And he's written books about that.
LAMB: Here's one, John LaBoutier. We haven't heard that name for a long time--former congressman.
MR. HUMES: Yeah. He's a real close friend. Yeah.
LAMB: He's a close friend?
MR. HUMES: Yeah. He's a close friend.
LAMB: `As a--as true a dog as ever fought at head.'
MR. HUMES: Well, he and I love dogs, so that's sort of a thing. He and I both love dogs and he would enjoy that.
LAMB: Jean Humes. Who's that?
MR. HUMES: Well, it was a--the widow of John Humes, who was my cousin who was ambassador to Austria. And so I talked about her and her devotion to her husband in that quotation.
LAMB: And then someone else--it seems to--he also wrote a--a forward, Jonathan Aitken.
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: `The courtiers, soldiers...
MR. HUMES: From "Hamlet," yeah.
LAMB: the expectancy in--in the...
MR. HUMES: Right.
LAMB: ...rows of the fair states.'
MR. HUMES: Well, he's a very handsome, brilliant--he was the first at Cambridge. He has money, he has looks. He has--and it's too bad that's all he has. He's--so he's very--and I think he just lost his seat and--as three of my friends did, Cabinet ministers, all lost their seats in this overwhelming landslide. But he was--he wrote the biography of Nixon and Nixon asked that he talk to me. And that's the first time I met him, was at the a--at the opening of the Nixon museum. And I took him to a guest--and there was Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Bob Finch and Herb Klein, and I said, in introducing him, I said, `Jonathan Aitken here, who's working on a biography of President Nixon.' His uncle was Lord Beaverbrook. And Lord Beaverbrook once described--was described by Churchill, `He's my foul-weather friend.' And so I said, `Everyone in this room is really a foul-weather friend of Richard Nixon.' I used that because using it from the--Churchill's line which I thought was good, to call people a foul-weather friend.
LAMB: And then there's another story about a relative of Lord Beaverbrook that you tell in here.
MR. HUMES: Yes. Well, she was Lady Jean Campbell who was kind of a--she was the granddaughter of Beaverbrook and I was going out in--1964 convention...
LAMB: San Francisco?
MR. HUMES: Wa--yeah. And I was for Scranton. And I was a legislator in the leg--in the legislature and Scranton was the governor and really had no chance. We knew it. And on the--I see Jacob Javits, and next to it an English voice--and my wife always tells me, you know, it's not legs that I look at, but I hear an English accent and I'm there. And so I start talking, we establish friends, and she said, `Oh, my'--she had this--her grandfather had given her this job, she's no journalist, and--and what should she do?
Well, in Los Angeles, the plane was stopped for a bomb scare and then before it we--and I said, `Here is your opening line. "My knickers riffled for bomb."' Knickers is what they used for panties. So I wrote the headline for her. And she loved that. And then we went--and we went there and I said, `Well, Scranton'--I mean, Lodge was giving an interview on endorsing Scranton and--and, well, Lodge was immediately taken by her and so we get to tal--after that, I take her to lunch at Ernie's.
Now I know--do not know that she's married...
LAMB: In San Francisco, Ernie's?
MR. HUMES: Yeah. And I just--we just go for lunch. And--and we'd just ordered our first course of shrimp we had there and suddenly she says, `It's my husband! He'll kill you! He'll kill you!' And it was Norman Mailer. And I--oh, I didn't know that she was Norman Mailer's--husband. `And he'll kill you!' So we went out through the kitchen, out the back door, and I never paid the check for the shrimp. I mean, it was Norman Mailer and I think he did actually stab someone in jealously a couple years earlier. But that was Lady Jean Campbell. And she's--was quite a character--is quite a character. I guess--I mean, I think she's now in an Anglican convent.
LAMB: You te...
MR. HUMES: But there are rumors of her--strong rumors that she's the only person in the world who knew, biblically, in one year, Khrushchev, Kennedy and Castro.
LAMB: Yo--you tell a story on Page 35 about Harry Truman and you learned it from David Suskind.
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: Has this ever been printed before?
MR. HUMES: No. And my only source for it is David Suskind. I was doing my Churchill show where I played Churchill for him and he told about going to Kansas City--Truman had just left the presidency--and he really invented the kind of 30-minute or hour biography in which you do 10 hours and then cut it down to make it one. I mean, that was--he really invented that genre of television.
So he would go out every day and he'd get to the--and it was pretty cold in March 1953 in Independence. And each day Mrs. Truman would meet him and said, `Just wait out'--he was waiting on the porch. So on the fourth day, it's Thursday, he comes down and he says, `Well, Mr. President, why am I not ever invited in?' And he says, `Well, Davey, you're Jewish.' And he says, `I can't believe that. I mean, after all--I mean, you who supported the recognition of Israel, you who are known for being for civil rights, I can't believe you just said that.'
He said, `No, no. You don't understand. This is the Wallace house. And--and, you know, my partner, Dave Jacobs, was never allowed in here o--on the haberdashery store. In fact, I think my mother-in-law even voted for Dewey against me.' And so this is what David Suskind told me. This was the Wallace house, not the Truman house. And he was living in the Wallace house.
LAMB: And this story is in the Eisenhower chapter, Ike Idolater, that you wrote.
MR. HUMES: Yeah.
LAMB: And the reason I mention it is because--some of the other in there is that you s--you--you've got the five--in 1966, you've got the five men that General Eisenhower thought were the five greatest...
MR. HUMES: Very strict. Yes.
LAMB: ...men in the world.
MR. HUMES: He--he said--which you could understand, George Marshall, number one, Churchill, de Gaulle, and then he added Dulles and then there's first--Air Marshall Peter Portal. I'd never heard of him.
LAMB: Air Marshall...
MR. HUMES: Was Charles Portal...
LAMB: Charles Peter...
MR. HUMES: ...but called Pete. Peter Portal. He was called Pete, but his name was Charles.
MR. HUMES: Yeah. And he was an r--you know, a RAF general marshall, and the reason he said this was that again and again when arguments came up involving Britain and the United States, and Eisenhower chose something that could be interpreted as pro-United States, Portal always would take a position that he talked Eisenhower into it, and he sacrificed his own reputation for the greater cause. And that's why he put him in there.
LAMB: Where's this quote come from? "I got where I did by knowing how to hide my ego and hide my intelligence. I knew the actual quote, but why should I embarrass him?"
MR. HUMES: Well, this was in 1967 and the man came up--I think was General Howard Johnson, I could have been wrong, from Freedom's Foundation or--or val--and--or--maybe it was Valley Forge Military Academy that he was head of, retired general, and he was talking about Vietnam. And he said, `You know, General'--because he always called Eisenhower general, not president, even after he left office, he said, `Herodotus said about the Peloponnesian War...'
LAMB: General Johnson's saying this?
MR. HUMES: Yeah, you--Herodotus said--yeah--`You cannot be an armchair general 28 miles from the front.' And Eisenhower said, `Well, that's interesting. Herodotus. The Peloponnesian War.' So afterwards, I asked--I said--you know, because I really got into this whole thing by my collection of quotations. Nixon once called me the `Quotes Master General,' not because I wrote great quotes, but because I had this arsenal of quotations. And so I said, `Where did that come from?' And Eisenhower said, `First of all, it wasn't Herodotus. It was Aemilius Paullus. Secondly, it wasn't the Peloponnesian War. It was the Punic Wars with Carthage,' and third he misquoted.
LAMB: General Eisenhower's saying this?
MR. HUMES: Yes. So I said, `Why--why didn't you say that?' `Well, I didn't want to--you don't understand. I got where I did by knowing when to hide my ego and hide my intelligence.' And Eisenhower was a pretty shrewd, bright person. When you were with him, he--he was this very--in a working situation, he was--he was tough. But you--then you would see him go out with the public and it was if he pressed this button here and out would come Huck Finn as painted by Norman Rockwell. I mean, he had this--he had a face that was so glowing; that would light up a dark room. And he had that ability to then relate personally to the audience. And he--they always talk about his not--you know, not getting along with Nixon. Actually, he greatly respected Nixon for his foreign policy and he said that the worst day he ever had, except when his father--when his son died, Dwight Doud, was when Nixon was defeated. But he always--he felt that Nixon had the stuff to be president, but he questioned whether he had the stuff to get elected.
LAMB: Speaking of quotes, and we find this so often it's--has--has us going around the country following his footsteps 166 years later, you also quote Tocqueville...
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...as almost every book we have here does.
MR. HUMES: Well, he's...
LAMB: Tocqueville once wrote, you say, that `Every political issue in America is a constitutional issue.'
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: Why is he so often quoted?
MR. HUMES: He was the first to have an insight into the uniqueness of the American democracy. He saw things that we--the rest of the world didn't see: the importance of the voluntary action which was just celebrated in Philadelphia; the importance of women in America, that they were stronger and had more influence; the importance of law that lawyers were the politicians, and this, what he said, `Every political issue is a constitutional issue,' which it is right. And you can say that for a lot of--whether it was the Civil War or even whether we're talking about the Nixon resignation. Every political issue is a constitutional issue.
LAMB: How many quotes do you have?
MR. HUMES: Over the years, thousands that I've collected.
LAMB: How do you keep them?
MR. HUMES: Under a file such as action, apathy, democracy, youth. Under that way. And I don't pick things--I pick things that I say, `Boy, that is really what I believe and I wish I had said that.' I don't pick things because I think I should have them. I pick something that strikes a chord in me.
LAMB: You tell a story about Mr. Agnew?
MR. HUMES: Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, this was a commencement speech and I--this is one of the things I tell people not to do because you--you cannot get too precious with your quotations. You can't have quotations that really don't fit the man. I mean, with Ford--I put in, maybe, Churchill and Lincoln, and Nixon was far better read in history, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt. But I wrote the speech and Albert Camus (pronounced ca-moo) upon receiving the Nobel Prize...
LAMB: Spell that so...
MR. HUMES: C-A-M-U-S. And he said, `What makes a job a vocation is the service to truth and the service to freedom.' And I thought that was a wonderful thing to use for a commencement. And Agnew gave it, but he said, `As Camus (pronounced kay-mus) said'--and afterwards, a reporter came up to me--`Who's Camus (pronounced kay-mus)?' And I looked up and said, `Early Greek philosopher.'
LAMB: Did--did the reporter buy that?
MR. HUMES: Printed it--yeah, he printed it K-A-M-O-S. He didn't print it C-A-M-U-S. Yeah. I was taking liberties with the truth there, but there we are.
LAMB: What's your next book about?
MR. HUMES: I have book coming out in November called "Richard Nixon's Ten Commandments of Statecraft." I received from Trish and Eddie Cox a card found in his shallow drawer at Saddle River after he died, which are 10 principles which he said every president should have engraved on their wall. And one principle, for example, is: `Do not destroy, by advanced publicity, the negotiating goal you are trying to achieve.' There are: `Never give less to an ally than your adversary's giving to an opponent of that ally.'
And what I've done is how Nixon applied this, let's say with doing to the friend to Israel in--in 1972, and then how someone in history did it. In this instance, Pericles. So each thing has how Nixon did this with Russia or Nixon did this with China; and afterwards, I show how the same principle was done by Benjamin Franklin or Disraeli or other people in history.
LAMB: Williams College...
MR. HUMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...the Marine Corps...
MR. HUMES: Well, I didn't--I was turned down. I applied to the Marine Corps and turned down. And finally I had high blood pressure, which I still do.
LAMB: Where'd you go to law school?
MR. HUMES: George Washington University, which is how I first--I got working first for Ken Keating, and then I got part-time in the Nixon White House and then--you know, working ba--going to the law school part-time, and that's when I did my speech for--one speech for Eisenhower.
LAMB: Main reason you didn't get that ambassadorship to Malta?
MR. HUMES: Oh, I don't--well, for one thing, they lost re--you know, this was in '92--this--I don't know. I--well, you--James Baker told a friend of mine, and we had gone to prep school together, he was four years ahead of me, and he said something which was very funny and maybe partially true. He said, `Jamie's a legend in his own mind.' So he said that to his friend. I don't know. I was told to pick a country which had an English background like New Zealand or Australia. And I wasn't important enough to get Australia or New Zealand, but I was hoping Malta. And I did go around and get the endorsement of various senators, including Jesse Helms, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and--who knows?
LAMB: Here's the book, "Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter: Five Presidents and Other Political Adventures," by James C. Humes. We thank you very much...
MR. HUMES: Thank you, Brian.
LAMB: ...for joining us.
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