Bob Schieffer
Bob Schieffer
The Acting President
ISBN: 0525485791
The Acting President
Authors Schieffer and Gates assert in their book, "The Acting President," that for eight years American foreign and domestic policy was controlled and shaped as much by the advisers to President Ronald Reagan as by the president himself. Schieffer and Gates discuss their early careers in journalism and how network news coverage has changed over the past twenty years. They analyze how the presidency has also evolved to adapt to changing technology and how Ronald Reagan used that technology to his benefit. Schieffer and Gates look at the progress of the Bush administration, comparing it to the Reagan years. They provide insightful discussion concerning the controversial Dan Rather-George Bush interview during the 1988 campaign, using that event to show the power of the media.
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TRANSCRIPT
The Acting President
Program Air Date: August 13, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent and co-author of "The Acting President." One line jumped out in your book I'd like to repeat it and get you to amplify on it. "But the larger point is that reporters have no right to play jury." What'd you mean by that?
BOB SCHIEFFER (Author, "The Acting President"): What I meant by that was that sometimes the press has been criticized and during the Reagan Administration people will say, "Why didn't you guys tell us about this that or the other?" And my point was that the press does present the evidence but it is the public -- it is the voters -- who are the judge and jury who decide whether or not these things are important. And one issue I always point to is Watergate. George McGovern tried to make Watergate an issue in 1972 and was unable to. It was not until the next year when the people who had been working for Richard Nixon began to tell the details of all that to save their own necks and Woodward and Bernstein continued to lay out the facts in that case that a sense of public outrage arose in the country. And because there was that outrage, it was reflected on and pressure was brought on the Congress, and the impeachment proceeding started. I have always argued that had Richard Nixon simply gotten a bad press over Watergate he might indeed still be President, because he got a bad press most of the time he was in public life. It was not until, however that the public began to react to the stories about Watergate that things began to happen.
LAMB: Gary Gates, you want to amplify on that at all?
GARY PAUL GATES (Author, "The Acting President"): Well, I think that that's really is true. The press has to be very careful, I think, in this country for them not to be in a posture of trying to beat a dead horse, if I may put it that way. One of the reasons Bob and I were attracted to the idea of writing this book is because some of the things in this book were indeed reported as -- it's interesting, Brian, we've been asked to since the book has come out, "Hey, where were you guys then or something?" Well, we were there. The press was there covering the story. But it is something in the hurley burley nature of daily journalism that has a shooting star effect. And it doesn't really stick because you go on to the next story which is what a journalist's job is. You don't just sort of hammer away at a point. And we thought that by putting this book together we would both -- we'd give it some focus and some perspective -- see things with some clarity -- which is very difficult to do on a kind of haphazard day-to-day basis.
LAMB: When did you first think of doing a book?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's odd how this came about. Dan Rather and Gary Gates once wrote a book about Richard Nixon called "The Palace Guard." And Dan and Gary and I are all old friends. We've worked at CBS all of us for 20 years or so, and one day Dan and Gary and I were talking, and Dan said, "You and Gary ought to do a book about Reagan like Gary and I did about Nixon because Gary knows a little something about Nixon and something about Reagan." And it was kind of out of that conversation that we got to talking about it and decided to do it. I mean, that was kind of what gave it the spark.

And I think what convinced us we ought to do a book was that we both felt that Ronald Reagan was really something unique on the American political scene. We went at this not because we were trying to decide whether Ronald Reagan was a good President or a bad President. Everybody had their opinion of that and you opinion is certainly as good as mine. Everyone has his opinion. But we thought he was a different kind of President than we had ever seen before and brought a different kind of management style to the White House, and we just wanted to do a little study of that. And so that's basically why we wrote the book.
LAMB: How did you divvy up who wrote what and when?
GATES: Well, that was fascinating and a number of people have asked about that, and I guess that the creative process, if I may call it, is of interest. One of the things that works in our favor is that Bob had come up to New York every Saturday to anchor the evening news on Saturday and so we would get together every Saturday morning and in effect give each other assignments, discuss especially in the early period the structure of exactly of how we wanted to organize the book, what we wanted to say.
LAMB: When was that? What was that date?
GATES: This was in the early Fall of 1987. Late summer and early Fall -- the conversation with Dan took place sometime that summer and it kind of jelled and we got going in the Fall and then as I'd say we'd give each other assignments -- and then the part that either of us liked too terribly -- then we'd re-write each other and edit each other. But I'm actually joking -- it was a very harmonious collaboration.
SCHIEFFER: It was. It was a lot of fun because we both felt we knew a little something about it to start. But the kind of satisfying thing to us -- I think we both, once we were done with it, felt we had learned something about it. It was also an interesting kind of writing exercise. and I guess by the Christmas of 1987 we pretty well had the book blocked out. We knew what we were going to do and the direction we were going to head and I guess for all practical purposes we had the first chapter. Right? More or less done, and then I spent most of 1988 covering the political campaign. I mean, I started out in -- the way we did it at CBS, you may remember last year, was that Bruce Morton and I sort of flipped a coin and he took the Democrats and I took the Republicans. And so I was on the road all of 1988. But I'd always come back to New York on Friday night to be in New York to anchor the news on Saturday so Gary and I would meet and we'd go over what each of us had one that week. We'd give each other assignments then we'd go our separate ways and write and come back. And it's kind of funny we felt toward the end that our writing style sort of came together. And I guess when you're working that closely with somebody and editing their work and they're editing your work it kind of meshes. And it's very difficult for me now to see where I stop and Gary starts in this book. Others might see differences, but I don't think so.
GATES: I don't think so. And that was what fascinated me as well. Because we -- I think it's fair to say we did sort of start off with different styles -- different, obviously, or we wouldn't have hit it off. And they did kind of almost unconsciously mesh in a way which was very satisfying, I must say.
LAMB: Is there a way to tell one chapter to the other or did you ...?
SCHIEFFER: No we started out -- I mean, kind of we said in the beginning, well, I'll write one chapter and you'll write the next. We'll go every other chapter. As it wound up, we sort of did sections. Like Gary did most of the work on Iran-Contra which involved just endless hours of going through transcripts and other books that had been written. I sort of concentrated on contemporary politics. Gary did most of the early California stuff. So we wound up doing sections, but for example, I wrote the last half of the first chapter -- you pretty much wrote the first half.
GATES: Right.
SCHIEFFER: I wrote chapter 2 -- you wrote chapter 3 and 4, it seems to me.
GATES: Right.
SCHIEFFER: And I wrote chapter 5. So it just sort of worked out that way.
LAMB: Alright, this is a really small thing. It probably isn't small to the person that did it, but here's a picture on the back page of this book and I notice right up here in the corner -- I think it's Susan Schieffer ...
SCHIEFFER: Sharon Schieffer.
LAMB: Sharon, I'm sorry. I can't read it.
SCHIEFFER: There is a Susan, but this is Sharon.
LAMB: Who is Sharon Schieffer?
SCHIEFFER: She's my daughter. And as a matter of fact, my other daughter -- I have two daughters, Susan and Sharon. And Sharon is a photographer who is about to enter the University of Pennsylvania this fall and so she took that picture for us and she enjoyed it. I don't know if she enjoyed it as much as her father -- and Gary was a good sport about it.
GATES: Well, I was a good sport because a lot of people have told me that they thought I came off better in the picture than Bob did.
LAMB: Here is who you dedicated this book to: "The book is for our first ladies, Pat and Phyllis."
SCHIEFFER: Pat's mine.
GATES: And Phyllis is mine. And in fact, I just got married this Spring so I was under a particular obligation to do that kind of thing. Bob was telling me in fact that he showed it to one of his friends here in Washington, and they looked at the dedication and said to him, "Smart, very smart."
SCHIEFFER: Because one of the things we talk about in the book are smart Washington operators. And someone said they now considered me a smart Washington operator.
LAMB: Back to the substance of the book. On page 170 you quote from a book -- "Where Is the Rest of Me" in which Ronald Reagan writes in 1965 a pre-political autobiography -- and you quote him as saying, "Very few of us ever see ourselves except as we look directly at ourselves in a mirror. Thus we don't know how we look from behind, from the side, walking, standing, moving normally through a room. It's quite a jolt." He did, though, and how?
SCHIEFFER: Well, that is the central theme of our book -- how Ronald Reagan used performance, used his ability as a trained actor to package himself and present himself. I mean, many people could learn from Ronald Reagan on that score. But that was the part of Ronald Reagan that other people sometimes put down. I mean, from his very first political race people would talk about, well, he's a second-rate actor. Ronald Reagan understood and was quite proud of the part that acting and being able to present yourself played in politics. I mean, what was kind of different about Reagan was that in the past we generally had political figures who learned the theatrical side of politics. In Reagan's case it was just the reverse. But that had a great deal to do, I think, with how Ronald Reagan was perceived by the American people. You may want to pick on this ...
LAMB: But it goes on here and I want to bring it up where somebody's quoted -- a photographer saying they couldn't believe that there was never a slouch, an awkward gesture, a unflattering scowl. Did he really have that much conscious knowledge of what he looked like?
GATES: Well, I think by that time, Brian, it had almost become intuitive. By the time Reagan reached Washington, he had been, if you will, a performer both in terms of films and television and then later a performer in the political arena so long that I think these little gestures of knowing he was on were second nature. In fact, I don't think he had to that conscious. It just became ingrained into his personality. I remember one time years ago -- and this does not entirely pertain to the book -- but it may be apropos -- somebody once interviewed Bob Hope and asked him if there was a Bob Hope beneath the persona. And Hope said, "Yes, I'm sure there is, but I've lost touch with him years ago." And there was something of that that I think that happens in the kind of public persona in a way, and I think it happened with Reagan.
SCHIEFFER: Ronald Reagan never took a bad picture. I mean, you just never saw a bad picture of Ronald Reagan. He knew what the camera could do. And when that really came home to me -- and one of the reasons that we put that particular thing into the book -- is I remember one time Leslie Stall was going off on assignment and they had asked me to run over to the White House on a Friday afternoon and see Reagan off. He was going to Camp David and it was that scene that we all know so well. He comes out of the back onto the south lawn of the White House. Sam Donaldson shouts the question the helicopter is whirring in the background. Reagan goes like this -- "I can't hear ya fellows -- see ya later."

But he got to the helicopter and when he got to the steps of the helicopter, he turned and he waved to the people on the right, and I suddenly realized he was holding that pose until all the photographers to his right got that picture and then he turned and he held that pose for the photographers on the left. Now you didn't see that on television. But to see him there in person you suddenly realized that Ronald Reagan understood everything that was going on and was playing that scene as anyone who knew something about photography and camera and acting would do.
LAMB: In that regard, on your last page of your book you're talking about the Sam Donaldson routine after they made their way to the helicopter -- "This is the last moment before they leave town. It's huge rotors already whirring. A reporter tried to ask a question above the roar as so many reporters had tried to do over the past eight years" -- this is on inauguration day -- Mr. Reagan and Mrs. Reagan going back to California. "'Isn't that cute?' said Mrs. Bush as she waved goodbye. They're giving him his last official shout.'"
SCHIEFFER: I was there.
LAMB: You were. You heard her say it.
SCHIEFFER: I was there, yes.
LAMB: Did she say it I kind of sarcastically?
SCHIEFFER: No, she said it in a very friendly way. She said it was almost like, "Isn't that ironic?" Or I mean, "Isn't that kind of fitting, his last official shouted question?" because let's face it -- the shouted question was very much a part of the Reagan Presidency. I mean, from the very beginning Ronald Reagan had a way of deflecting reporters questions, taking them in stride. I think Ronald Reagan got away with things on that front that other politicians just couldn't do. And again, it goes to one of the central themes of our book -- I think much of Ronald Reagan's success has to do with the nature of television. Television allows us to make these instant judgements about people. We see them on television. We decide if we like them. We decide if we don't like them. After that we're sometimes willing to forgive them of things that we might not otherwise.

It's kind of like -- I call it the favorite relative syndrome. Old Uncle Charlie, I love Uncle Charlie. Maybe Uncle Charlie did something that was not quite right yesterday, but I've known him for years and I know deep down he's a good fellow and he means well. I think there was a lot of that in Ronald Reagan's success. People decided they liked Reagan and so they allowed him leeway they wouldn't have allowed other politicians. He could get away with this. "I can't hear you" when the helicopter was running in the background. And people never said he ought to be answering questions reporters are asking. They were willing to forgive him that, I think.
LAMB: Gary, you must know people who are not at all pleased that this kind of a President was successful.
GATES: Yes, I think there are some people who feel that that's true. Before I get into that I just want to say I think your point about Barbara is it was basically good-natured but there might have been slight edge in it. She has a rather droll sense of humor, and she was probably having a little fun with it as well. Yes, I think there are people who were frustrated by the fact that this kind of approach to politics seems to work as well as it does. There are other people, quite obviously, who are perfectly content with it because they elected him President twice. And I just think one of the reasons that we did the book was to sort of lay out that there was a difference -- not in many ways a great difference, but in some other areas a rather dramatic difference -- between a kind of illusional performance of the Reagan Presidency and realities. Ronald Reagan looked much different to the people who saw him up close and worked with him on a day-to-day basis than he did from afar. And because there is a real discrepancy there, we sort of wanted to draw that contrast.
LAMB: Did any of the people you talked to behind the scenes say to you, "You just wouldn't have believed how bad it was up close"? Did they ever let their guard down and say ...
SCHIEFFER: Well, not in exactly those words, but I had any number of people who said you just wouldn't have expected that Ronald Reagan would sometimes show the disinterest and the detachment to his own programs that he sometimes did. This was the great mystery to the people for Ronald Reagan. One of his top aides, a senior advisor in the White House who now holds a Cabinet-level position in the Bush administration -- I tried to get him to say it on the record -- he wouldn't -- it's just too early for that -- he will some day. But he said to me what I consider one of the key quotes in this book -- he said, "Ronald Reagan was not a stupid person, but he was the least curious person I ever met." And it was his view that that went to the fact that Ronald Reagan was a very contented man for most of his life. As long as things ran smoothly, he did not seem particularly interested in why they were running smoothly. And so he often did not ask questions. He often did not express much interest even in his own programs.
LAMB: Tell the story of -- and anybody has either heard it on television or they've read it in the newspaper or they heard it around this town -- similar stories -- and this is on page 181 about a group from the Big Three auto makers who came to see the President.
GATES: Well, okay, I should preface it by saying it was a common experience for people who had meetings with Reagan -- this goes back to the years in Sacramento -- to see that he would come equipped with sort of 3 X 5 cards on which he would have notes, and it was always a sort of interest in that that he wanted to make sure that he got his points across. On this particular occasion he was getting ready to go to Japan for a meeting with the officials in the Japanese government and -- trade of course was a major consideration and trade barriers and the whole -- and obviously never more -- especially in Detroit with the situation with the auto makers. So the big three auto makers met with Reagan in the White House and we were frankly stunned that he began reading things from 3 X 5 cards that clearly had nothing to do with trade, the automotive industry, or Japan or anything else and they realized that about 20 or 30 seconds that clearly he had brought in the wrong set of cards. And so they just waited for a few more minutes and it wasn't that long before he himself realized that, and he went back and ...
LAMB: Did that ever happen to any other President you've ever covered?
SCHIEFFER: No I've never known -- I mean, people in this town use talking points. They will have on a 3 x 5 card of points they wish to make at a meeting. I'm sure some have come to your broadcast with talking points. I mean, that's not out of the ordinary. But I think what stunned people who dealt with Reagan was that he seemed so dependent on them even in small groups. I mean, I must have talked to a dozen people who met with Ronald Reagan when there would only be another aide, one of his other people there, the three of them, and he would he would seem to depend on 3 x 5 cards to make his point.

We tell one story in the book about how Senator Benson, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, came to the Oval Office once to talk about some compromises that he had worked out on the trade bill, and as it was described to me, he and Senator Benson were sitting close enough that their knees could have touched. They were almost side by side and the rest of the White House staff were sort of fanned out in front of them in sort of horseshoe fashion. Benson made his presentation where upon the President reached into his pocket and took out not cards but full-size typing pieces of typing paper and began to read to Senator Benson -- there are some objections I have to this bill: 1) -- and he read that and ran through a list of about 20 things. I mean, it was kind of an odd thing to be just sitting next to someone and you almost would have said you would think a person would have said, "Senator, here are some of the things that I'm just kind of upset about and let me just give you this piece of paper." But he read them as one would read a speech.

Now the odd thing about that meeting is that the President, I was told, did not say anything else in the discussion that went on after that until the conclusion when he said sort of out of the blue I don't know how many of you read the want ads in the Sunday Washington Post like I do, but when I read them, I don't understand how there can be a trade bill. And I was told Senator Benson at that point said, "Well, that's an interesting observation," put his papers in his briefcase and excused himself. But over and over you'd hear these reports of these kind of odd meeting that the President would have with people in the Oval Office.
LAMB: Having said all that -- and there isn't anybody watching this network that hasn't read about this and you've reported about it on the evening news. In the end, Gary, does it just not matter?
GATES: Oh, but I think it does matter. Or at least, I suppose, one way of answering that is it's not for us to say if it matters. But we kind of felt that even though a lot of these stories came out during the Presidency, there was sort of a shooting star effect where they didn't really -- and by putting it in perspective we at least wanted to raise the question that there was a difference between the image of Ronald Reagan's Presidency and the reality in many respects. And then maybe have people mull that over. Often times there is a delayed reaction to a political phenomenon, and again, if the verdict of history is that it doesn't, fine. But we thought the questions were interesting to raise and let others judge.
SCHIEFFER: Well, actually, I mean, you're right. Does it really matter? It doesn't. What really matters is results. I mean, it's not how you get from point A to point B, but whether you get to point B -- and I think there's much to learn about Ronald Reagan's sort of big picture approach to things. I think it is possible to become too immersed in detail. I think Jimmy Carter became too immersed in detail. But I think that in many ways Reagan took it a step beyond where it ought to be.

I mean, there's a difference in a pilot sitting in the cockpit and putting the airplane on automatic pilot and monitoring the gauges and so forth and a pilot putting it on automatic pilot and deciding to get up and go back to the passenger cabin and chat with the passengers. Ronald Reagan depended on aides to carry out his programs and strategies. That's what set him apart from other Presidents. He stood for certain things. But he left it to the staff to interpret. When those doing the interpreting were smart people, smart operators like Jim Baker, he did very well. At other times when people who were sort of operating above their pay grade in my view -- like Oliver North and John Poindexter -- were calling the shots, he did not do well. It's not the idea that it is somehow wrong to delegate authority. But like anything else you can carry that too far. And I suppose if I were going to make a criticism of Ronald Reagan, that would be it.
LAMB: You two have just completed a nationwide whirlwind tour promoting this book -- where have you been, Gary?
GATES: Oh, boy. We sort of have a blitzed the country. I guess it's for ...
LAMB: And what's the pattern? In other words what kind of shows have you done and what have you been trying to do in your tour?
GATES: Well, first of all, in some cities we've been together as we have here. But in most of the cities we sort of took separate routes, as it were, and went to other places. And it would be various forms -- in some cases radio, in some cases a newspaper interview, and some cases a television such as this.
SCHIEFFER: Most of the time all three.
GATES: And most of the time all three. Right. It would be -- in each city. I would say if there's one thing that struck us -- and there were many things that you learn from something like this -- but one thing that struck us -- and we were commenting on it earlier today -- is that a lot of the reaction -- particularly where there were listeners who would call in or that kind of thing -- was kind of taking reporters to task for sort of not being a little harder on us when it was going on. And our answer was simply was well, these things were reported to some extent. And this was not a whatever -- but one of the reasons we wrote the book is to sort of put it in perspective. I think that struck us as much as anything.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. What struck me was that often on the call-in shows -- and of course, these are very unscientific samples on who or why people are calling. We expected that many just bedrock supporters of Ronald Reagan would attack us for being unfair to the President. And certainly some did -- when you write a book that has a point of view, you have to expect that. What surprised us, I think, is that we got more calls from people who said you guys in the press were too easy on Ronald Reagan during his Presidency. And I mean, we got more calls -- I would say by 2 to 1 -- wouldn't you Gary?
GATES: Oh yes. On that particular question.
SCHIEFFER: And I must say I was a bit surprised by that.
LAMB: What about your colleagues in this business? As you've gone about you've no doubt have passed judgement on others in the television business and radio business -- grade our profession. Were people as tough on you as they should have been? Where you as tough on you as you would have been on them if they had walked in your studio?
GATES: I would say that the thing that struck us -- and it is not a question of being tough but the fact that they were as informed and interested and had prepared. I mean, because I've done this a couple of times before -- and I must say that I noticed the difference -- say, 10 or 15 years ago, when I've gone out with other books -- is that there seems to be a lot more professionalism and a lot more preparedness for these ...
SCHIEFFER: Yeah, I would totally agree with that. I mean, this was a new thing for me -- a new adventure -- and you'd hear all kinds of horror stories. People would say to me, "You'd better take a list of questions because most of the time the people will not have read the book -- they won't know what you're talking about -- it'll be just in and out and you better have a little prepared speech." The fact is that I would say, Gary, 80 percent of the people who interviewed us -- and I think I did something like -- we'll hit probably hit close to 70 interviews. Probably I've done 70 some of those with Gary. There were the one's you've done when I haven't been there -- we're well over 100 interviews, I would say. Seventy to 80 percent of the people -- it was clear that they had read the book or as one said, had done some very serious skimming.

Obviously people who do nothing but interview authors everyday can't read every single book, but they had delved into the book and tried to find out what it was about. I was very very impressed with the people I found on radio. Some of these talk radio shows around the country -- the level of the discussion is quite high. The people who host these shows are quite intelligent. They are serious people who really do their homework, and I must say, it was just a pleasure to talk to them. You run across a few clunkers along the way -- but that's kind of to be expected. But it's been a very interesting experience to me, and I must say, I have a feeling that I've learned something about the country and the feeling in the country after having done this.
LAMB: Alright. What works? What sells books? Have you found anything that you can put your finger on that sells books. That particular newspaper helps sell books?
GATES: No. I'll tell you what I think all -- that what media has done is only to enhance what I've always believed does sell books -- and it's word of mouth. And I think that is still the biggest quality of the selling of a book -- that somebody reads it and likes it and recommends it. I've never felt that reviews sold books -- good or bad -- or that advertising sells book that much. If somebody reads a book and likes it and talks about it to his or her friends, that helps the process. And I think the use of media in all its forms helps to sort of accelerate that.
SCHIEFFER: I don't know. I'm anxious to see -- this being the first time I've done this. I'm anxious to see whether this does have an impact. They tell us it does.
GATES: Right.
SCHIEFFER: I mean, obviously publishers feel that it does, but to me, I don't know how you write a book to sell books. I mean, we wrote this book -- I mean, I hope we sell a lot of them -- but basically we wrote the book because we wanted to write the book and we thought we had something to say and we felt we had an interesting subject to examine. So this kind of marketing part of it I don't pretend to know anything at all about that. But I'm interested in knowing how it works.
LAMB: What would you ...
GATES: He's more pure than I am. I wrote it to sell it.
LAMB: What would you do differently if either one of you -- if you had to write another book? And I assume Gary you've done more of this -- how many books have you written?
GATES: This is my fourth.
LAMB: And you did one with Mike Wallace?
GATES: And one with Rather and then I was brazen enough to do one on my own. But that's because it was about CBS News and I couldn't induce any of my CBS colleagues to come into that perilous water with me. What would I do different? That's a hard question to answer, Brian, because every book presents a different kind of challenge it seems to me.
LAMB: Let's start with the publisher? The publisher of this book is Dutton. How did you decide to do -- why did they buy this?
SCHIEFFER: Well, we did what you call a treatment in the industry. And that is you write up kind of a presentation of what you're book's going to be about and sort of what approach you're going to take and good folks at Dutton -- smart people -- they decided this was a great idea and told us they'd publish this book. So that's why. But we've been very pleased. We had a wonderful editor. A man named Richard Merrick who, among many other accomplishments in publishing, he is the President of E.P. Dutton but he also edits some books himself.
GATES: He's the publisher, rather.
SCHIEFFER: He was the Robert Ludlum's first editor. And I must say turning in this book to me was like back in college when you turn in an English paper. He did not change the structure of the book very much -- not at all, really -- but you knew you were in the hands of a professional. He was very good about -- sometimes he'd mark out one word and put in another and you'd look at that and say, well, that's exactly the word I was looking for. But he would put it there. He was very good about eliminating repetition which was very good -- which is, as I've come to understand, the main thing you have to guard against when you're writing a book. You asked me what I would do differently. I'll tell you what I'd do -- one thing I would do differently. I would send registered letters to those that I tried to interview that turned me down for interviews.
LAMB: Like Don Regan when you appeared on the CNN Show and you sat right next to him and he said you didn't try to call him.
SCHIEFFER: And as a matter of fact I made an honest effort to get a hold of Regan. I want to leave Regan alone. You know I said what I said about him in the book and that's kind of my view, and one of the reasons I wanted to be on Crossfire was -- when you write a book and someone is a major player in it, I think they have a right to say what they want to say about it. And so I was happy to be there and have him get in his licks. But I think the next time what I will do is if I'm unable to get in contact with someone, I will make sure I have a record that I can show later and say that I made an honest effort to get in contact.
LAMB: Anyone else upset about -- we just talked about Don Regan -- a lot of people watch this Crossfire. Was anybody else upset about the fact that they find themselves talked about in here, and they said you didn't try to contact them?
GATES: Another person on that program, if you recall, Pat Buchanan.
LAMB: Pat Buchanan, yeah.
GATES: But he sort of gets upset by definition. That's his job, I think, isn't it, to ...
SCHIEFFER: Oh, Pat's a friend of mine and I like Pat. And Pat wrote a column about this book that did not picture it in flattering terms, but I considered it very responsible comment. I mean, Pat represents a certain segment of political thought in this country and I thought -- Pat has a different view of these things than I do. And I think I was happy to see him state his point of view. I enjoyed being on the program.
GATES: One caveat I have about that. The reason I feel that Pat Buchanan didn't read the book very thoroughly is he didn't even read the cover. Because all his comments both in print and on the air indicate there was only one author. Since I was the one he always omitted I would suggest he go back and read the book and start with the cover so he gets it right this time. It might help him with his understanding of the text.
LAMB: The audience is looking at the cover -- Gary Paul Gates. You know one reason why that might be true -- I was surprised when I learned you were going to be here with Bob only because in the past -- like when Dan Rather wrote his book -- I don't think you did this -- did you? Did you two go out together?
GATES: Well, we did, but we also took separate cities. We were only in one place together.
LAMB: And I think that when you first see this, you see Bob Schieffer and Gary Paul Gates, and you may think that is often when you seen a book co-written, there is a writer -- that name is on there too. Maybe that's the problem.
GATES: Well, yeah, but you see you bring up a very interesting point because this has been a partnership, and I think it's important to stress that, because I think when you have -- and this was not in any way a ghost type or "as told to." I was not the writer of the enterprise and Bob the marquee figure if you want to put it that way. These were two reporters sharing the work load, sharing the whole thing and writing it together about a third subject which is -- and I have nothing against, by the way, the kind of ghost writing things -- Lee Iacocca hiring to write a story. I think that's a perfectly honorable, legitimate way to go about putting a book together. But that is not how this book was done together. So the whole reason for this is to make that clear. Bob didn't go out and hire a writer. I mean, because that was not how this was done. We were two reporters who share the ...
SCHIEFFER: It's kind of funny, though, isn't it, that that question only sort of comes up when someone from television is involved. I mean, there was a very fine book written about Iran-Contra called "A Landslide" written by two reporters Doyle McMannis and Jane Myer -- one of whom worked for the Los Angeles Times and the other who worked for the Wall Street Journal, and I don't suppose anyone ever -- you kind of brought that up between them, but because somehow or another sometimes -- when you're doing the Saturday News, I remember someone saying, "Well, what time do you go to New York to do that?" And I say, "I put in a full day doing that." And they sometimes say, "But what do you do all day? Aren't you just waiting for them to type up the script?" Well, as a matter of fact on CBS the person who does the news has a little more to do than that.
GATES: That's right, makeup can't take that long.
LAMB: Gary, where did you start in this business?
GATES: I started with UPI some years ago out in the Midwest -- Minneapolis -- and came to New York rather soon. And then I was there for another few years and left and did some magazine free-lancing. In the meantime friends of mine from UPI had gone to something very strange and bizarre known as television and kept saying you must try this. It's wonderful. They paid grown-up salaries, and so I wound up at CBS in 1969, the same year, in fact, that Bob went to work at CBS.
SCHIEFFER: Yes.
LAMB: 20 years, both of you.
SCHIEFFER: Yes.
LAMB: Did you do on-air work?
GATES: No. Only in recent years. In sort of my secret life I also work for CBS Sports as a writer and editor in the NFL Today, and in the last two or three years I've been doing on-air feature pieces. Eight or ten a year.
LAMB: Bob, it seems like I remember you being on Channel 5 here years ago.
SCHIEFFER: Well for a very brief time, and it was an odd thing how I came to Washington. My whole career has been kind of a fluke. I mean, I had never planned to get into television. I used to be a newspaper reporter. And I worked for the Ft. Worth Star Telegram and in 1965 the paper sent me to Vietnam to write a column about Texans who were in Vietnam. And so I did and when I came back the local television station invited me to come out and be on the talk show and talk about the war and so forth. And I did and afterward they offered me a job. And it paid $20 a week more than I made at the newspaper so I took it.

I've always freely admitted I was one of the first people to get into television for the money. $20 a week was a lot in those days. That lead to my eventually being hired to come to Metro Media. We thought at that time that Metro Media was going to form a fourth network, and there was a merger. The merger didn't come about and I found myself working at Channel 5 which at that time was the local Metro Media station here in Washington. I had been there about two months. I had tried for five years to get a job working at CBS. I'd always wanted to work at a national news organization. Really, I guess, where I wanted to work was the New York Times, but even in the days when I was working at the Star Telegram, I would apply at CBS and NBC.

I was never able to get an appointment, but one day when I was over at Channel 5, I told my wife -- "I think I'm going to go over and see if CBS -- and put an application in." I went in without an appointment. Sort of walked in off the street and a couple weeks later Bill Small who was the Bureau Chief in those days called me and offered me a job. I was so naive that I went in and quit the job that I had before I went over to see what it was he actually was offering. That wouldn't happen again, but that's how I got to CBS.
GATES: Tell them that story if you would about when he was showing you around the office. And this is a terrific meeting.
SCHIEFFER: CBS in those days was a very structured place. And I must say it was it was the best Washington Bureau in town, and we thought so and everybody else in town thought so. I mean, Dan Rather was the White House Correspondent, Roger Mudd was the Congressional Correspondent, Marvin Kalb was the State Department Correspondent, Dan Shore did the general assignments, Erik Severaid did the commentary. I mean, what a line up. I mean, I walked into that office and I was like a little leaguer -- stepping out onto the field at Yankee Stadium to play for the first time. And so Mr. Small was showing me the office -- and we all called him Mr. Small in those days -- and he said this is where Roger sits and this is where Dan sits and I said now where would I sit. And he said, well, you won't. And so I sort of laughed nervously, and I realized he was as serious as he could be. I mean, that's the way it was in those days at the CBS Bureau in Washington. But it was a wonderful wonderful place, and I'll never forget it. I mean, in many ways being a part of that bureau in the 1970s I felt that I was part of maybe the best there was and maybe the best there will ever be.
LAMB: Gary, a lot of books have been written in the last couple years about CBS. A lot of changes have come about. Bill Small's not there anymore. He's not even in television news anymore. Went on to NBC and then I believe he's attached to Fordham, among other things. What do you think about CBS News at this point? You're still working there. Are the old days the old days?
GATES: Well, first of all, I work at CBS Sports, but fair enough to say I work at CBS. I'm going to give a very candid answer. I'm glad that when I wrote my book on CBS News -- "Air Time" -- that it came out in 1978, because I was dealing with the rise of television journalism -- particularly within the context of CBS -- to its kind of maturity and high level of achievement. And I really think that happened during the '60s and '70s. And I didn't realize then, of course -- I could not have. But in retrospect I now see that was a kind of high watermark for network journalism, and the networks in general they've come on hard times -- not hard times only by network standards but the change in technology and the cables and all these developments we talk about. I don't think CBS News or any of the network news organizations will be at that incredible height they were during the '60s and '70s. I think they still do marvelous first-rate work. But the kind of murder's row in Washington that Bob was talking about doesn't exist anymore.
LAMB: In some respect, Bob, aren't you in those seats that used to be occupied by those people you just named? I mean, it's your time.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I guess, I'm one of the older people there now that's for sure.
GATES: Yes, that's fair. And it's true.
SCHIEFFER: It is a much different climate. So many things have changed. I mean, in those days you still had CBS and NBC. If you wanted to find out what was going on you basically had two choices. CBS, on the one hand, NBC on the other. ABC was not competitive -- even in those days they just didn't spend as money as the other two networks did. Now we find very powerful local stations. We find excellent television stations. I was thinking the other day about when I was covering the Jim Wright story up on Capitol Hill. The ABC station in Dallas had a correspondent up here in Washington covering that all the time. Our affiliate had a correspondent up here in Washington covering all that all the time. The reason they're able to do that is not because that the whole level of journalism at the local stations has improved. There are some very good local television stations around this country. There are also some bad ones. But one reason that they've been able to do that is that they can get their news back to the local station each night because of the satellites. The technology has changed everything. The local stations can now get in many cases the same pictures that the networks routinely.

If we're going to have a role and prove to be relevant, I think it will be -- we'll have to sell our expertise. David Martin's at the Pentagon everyday for CBS news so he can bring more to a story about the B-1 or the B-2 than perhaps someone who comes into town for a week or so. But it's a whole different climate that the networks operate in now. We're still looking for ways that we can still serve the local station and provide them something they're not able to get on their own. But it's a different deal.
LAMB: Let's show our audience what we're talking about -- among other things -- this book called "The Acting President" -- and it's co authored by Bob Schieffer and Gary Paul Gates who have been with us for the last 45 minutes and we've got about 15 minutes to go and one of the things that triggered my memory when you mentioned Bob Martin is a woman by the name of Mary Martin -- not the Mary Martin, the actress, but Mary Martin, your CBS Mary Martin. Tell us a little bit about -- I'm sure you've talked about this till you're blue in the face. The George Bush-Dan Rather confrontation and what role she plays.
SCHIEFFER: Well, Mary Martin, who is a lovely and wonderful person and kind of a den mother to all of us at CBS here in Washington. She's the Deputy Bureau Chief. And Mary Martin was in charge of the logistical arrangements the day that Dan Rather had his famous interview with George Bush during the 1988 campaign. And so she was one of the people who was in the room -- if you'll recall, the Vice-President was being interviewed from his office at the Capitol, Dan was in New York. And one of the interesting things that came about out of that interview was that the Bush people really saw that as much more than just an interview, a place to give out some information. They saw that as a place where George Bush might really be able to shed this wimp image that had sort of plagued him throughout the campaign.
LAMB: Can I stop you Bob and just ask either one of you to tell us when George Bush knew in the mix of things how much time did he have between the time he was invited to appear and the time that he actually went on the Evening News?
SCHIEFFER: When he knew?
LAMB: How much time did he have to prepare for that day?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, if memory serves we'd invited him a month or so before and there was a lot of toing and froing in the Bush campaign headquarters about whether to accept. Bush wanted to. I mean, he had known Dan Rather since the days when Rather was the news director at the CBS station in Houston when he was there running his business and his kids were growing up. But they saw this as an opportunity for George Bush to show he was a tough guy. And the fact that Dan Rather has a reputation for being a tough questioner -- they thought if Bush could show himself as able to stand up to Dan on this then in many ways it would help him to shed this kind of milk toast image that many people thought he had.

You know, Newsweek had run the article and put the word wimp on the cover and all of that. So the staff set about with a kind of a little plan to at every opportunity they would kind of get Bush riled up -- tell him Rather was out to get him and so on and so forth. And once there the interesting thing about this and Mary Martin who was the Bureau Chief who was there -- the Deputy Bureau Chief -- and saw this happen. When they got into the interview, some of Bush's answers were not quite as spontaneous as they had appeared to those on television because what we found out was that his aide would sometimes hold up little cue cards under the camera when he seemed to be groping for words.

And one of the things on the cue cards that they held up was "your career," and it was when Bush saw that cue card that he said to Dan, don't judge my career on one incident involving Iran Contra -- how would you like to be judged about that time that you weren't on the set for seven minutes which had been a very embarrassing time for Dan Rather? He had been as surprised as everybody else when the Sports had suddenly gone off the air. He was mad that Sports was going to preempt what he thought was part of the newscast. He was a mad as the rest of us were. But he was truly surprised when Sports signed off and had gotten up. So Bush was referring to that. I don't see that as some great event -- effecting the outcome of Western Civilization and where we go from here. But I thought it was kind of an interesting anecdote to tell. Mary Martin caught the full brunt of George Bush at his maddest when he concluded that interview.
LAMB: Well, Gary, at the end of the interview, saying some things in there -- some of it I won't read on the air because it has some strong language it. But you quote the President as saying, "That was the worst thing that in all my years of public life but that so and so didn't lay a hand on me," referring to Dan Rather, "You can tell your so and so network that if they want to talk to me in the future they can raise their hands at a press conference." This is not the George Bush that we see in public. Was this an unusual thing, do you think?
GATES: Yeah, I think it was unusual. And I think again a little background here. There was the real serious concern in the Bush camp about this wimp business. It wasn't too long before that that Newsweek had a cover which they used the word wimp on the cover to talk about George Bush. He is in the early stages of his Presidential campaign. And what went on before this interview took place is that one of his aides, Roger Isles, was trying to rile him up, stew him up like you would get a fighter to go into a ring. There was that kind of egging him on. They're out to get you. They're out to do this. To make him look as unwimpish as possible. And I think one of the reasons for all those polls he still had his game face in. He was still ...
SCHIEFFER: He was truly steamed up.
GATES: He was. Oh yeah.
SCHIEFFER: I mean he really was. He was truly steamed after this interview. The interesting thing was that members of his staff were not. I mean, Lee Atwater could not have been more delighted because he felt at long last that Bush had shed this wimp image. He saw it as a turning point in the campaign. I think that's conjecture on his part. I mean, it seemed to have no impact at all in Iowa. He wound up finishing third behind Pat Robertson. But Atwater would tell you that this had a great impact on voters in the South and in many ways helped George Bush considerably on his road to ...
LAMB: Go back to that because you have looked at that tape. If you'd been sitting in Dan Rather's seat given your personality, your chemistry, do you think you'd have had the same kind of confrontation?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's hard to know. I mean, it's hard to know. I mean, it was kind of ...
LAMB: Is that your style?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's not anybody's style. It's just kind of a human kind of thing. I mean, I don't know what I would have done. I mean, it's fair to say that the whole thing went beyond where Dan Rather or George Bush, the two of them really wanted it to go. But ...
LAMB: How much of a difference do both of you think it made in that election at that point? Did it make any difference at all in the body politic?
SCHIEFFER: My own feeling is that it didn't make any difference one way or the other.
GATES: No, I don't think so either.
LAMB: So we get all excited about these things for naught.
SCHIEFFER: But Atwater claims that it did.
GATES: Well, I don't agree with that.
SCHIEFFER: Who's to say.
GATES: I think the far more factor was the way Bush's opponent ran his campaign or didn't run his campaign, if you will. I think George Bush was imminently beatable in 1988 both before and after the interview with Rather. I think there are a number of other factors that turned it around, and I wouldn't overestimate the inept performance of Michael Dukakis as the Democratic candidate. I was saying not too long ago that the Democrats -- there's a sort of snake-bitten curse on them and they somehow manage for a Presidential candidate to come up with the only dull Greek in America. You know, almost every other Greek American I know is an animated -- you the impact kind of personality. And Dukakis ran as Zorba the Clerk, and I think that was the secret, if there was a secret weapon, that George Bush had in his campaign -- it's the way Michael Dukakis ran his.
LAMB: When you sit down to interview somebody and it's eluded to in here do you think about how much training that person had to deal with you? You know, all these agents and the different consultants that are out there -- do you sense that the politician is so trained now that they're working against you?
SCHIEFFER: Well, they all have been. It's pretty much a given now that nobody gets into politics anymore until you have a consultant to tell you how to do this that and the other. Everything from advising you on what suit looks nicest on television and what tie to how to phrase your answers and so forth. I mean, learning to package yourself is a big part of modern American politics. And one of the reasons in this book that the concluding chapters are about the Bush campaign is because we saw that as kind of an extension and a refinement of the kind of marketing techniques that first came into being in Ronald Reagan's first race for Governor.

I mean, Stu Spencer who was the man who advised Ronald Reagan throughout his career more or less invented this job of political consultant and kind of the techniques that he developed in those campaigns out in California are what we kind of consider the norm now in American politics. And I thought that was one reason that perhaps it was time to write a book about that. People ought to be aware of that and we ought to take into consideration a politician's ability to package himself. It's very important. All successful politicians know how to package themselves. But we ought to be aware of what we're seeing when we consider candidates.
LAMB: Gary, do you watch the Evening News differently than people that aren't in the business?
GATES: Oh I think that's possibly true because once you've been on the inside of it that's where you do see it differently. You know I used to write for the Evening News and so it's also fair to say that some friends of mine are involved in the Evening News. So you can't help but see it somewhat differently. I don't think I see it with anymore expertise or any kind of arcane knowledge that the viewer doesn't. I probably watch it with a little intensely perhaps because I'm also conscious that if something goes wrong I'll wonder how that happened, and having been there, who's going to get yelled at.
LAMB: What would you tell someone watching who's not in this business and never thought about it how should they watch the Evening News? What should they look for in order for them to get the truest picture of what's going on?
GATES: Well, to put that thought out of their head, frankly. I mean, I think they should be watching it with idea of absorbing and getting the news and understanding it and to not get terribly concerned about trying to look behind the thing to see if there's any kind of -- I mean how all this works -- because I don't think that's really very interesting except in special cases. Sometimes it is fascinating and I think Bob would agree with me that one of the elements in terms of television news that was just about as compelling as I can remember in recent years was the job that CBS News did in China and particularly on the evening when they were cutting off the cameras and everything and you kind of then got a very wonderful sense of how it behind the scenes in putting this together. Now if you had tried to stage that -- if anything, it would have been terrible. The fact that it was just happening had been unexpected -- I thought just made very compelling television. Didn't you Bob?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, what I would say to people on that is to understand that no one who works at CBS or the New York Times or the Washington Post or C-SPAN or anyplace that you get your news depends on only one source for their news. I think to be an informed citizen you have to have multiple sources of information and I think you get part of that from watching the Evening News and part of it from reading the newspaper and part of it from watching C-SPAN. What I advise people is to watch a lot of newscasts. I mean, I hope they watch CBS most of the time because that helps to keep my kids in school but nobody is going to be informed who watches only one source for their news.
LAMB: You've been on CBS for 20 years and as you've traveled about the country do you feel it? Do people come up to you in airports? Do they know who you are? Are they interested in your business more so than you would have ever expected?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, yes. What's happened to me -- I never dreamed I would have the kind of life that I've had. When I got into journalism 30 years ago what the college counselor always said to you was, "It's a wonderful way to spend your time, but always remember you're not going to get rich doing this kind of work -- this is like being a school teacher." Well, as we all know, the economics of this thing have all changed, and when I got into television and when I was the anchorman in Ft. Worth, it was a much different kind of deal. They could hire someone who had worked at a newspaper who had never been on television before. It was all kind of a much more informal kind of thing. It's a funny thing in that people often see you in airports and things and we're kind of like the old character actors -- the guys that were in the cowboy movies -- not Roy Rogers or Dale Evans -- but some of the other ones you always saw ...
GATES: Smiley Burnett.
SCHIEFFER: Smiley Burnett. They were always in the posse or something or the guy said, "They went thata way." You knew their faces but sometimes you really didn't know their names and the other day I was on an airplane and a lady said, "Well, how are you?" And I said, "I'm just fine. How are you?" And she looked at me for a minute and she said, "Now, who's delivering the mail?" She thought I was the postman. I mean, she knew I brought something to her house but she wasn't quite sure what. So you get a lot of that, but I get a lot of fun out of that.
LAMB: We just have 90 seconds left and Gary Gates as a wrap up to this I should have asked this question a lot earlier. George Bush does not appear to be doing anything that Ronald Reagan did when he was President in his relationship with the media. What is the message then after we read all this? This being a successful President at least in terms of popularity.
GATES: Well, very quickly, I'd say a couple of things. First of all, I think George Bush is a smart enough character to know that he could not get away with a kind of above-the-battle, performance-only approach to the Presidency. He just doesn't have Ronald Reagan's enormous gifts in that area. And secondly, I don't think it plays to his own persona and style. It came out very early when he became President how he was going to be hands on and awakened in the middle of the night. And certainly in terms of style he wants to put some distance between himself and the Reagan -- to his own advantage, I think.
LAMB: Thirty seconds. Same question.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think, in many ways I always thought George Bush was a better man than the campaign that he ran in 1988. I thought there was more to George Bush than he showed. He didn't have to show very much because the campaign in many ways was never joined. But in some ways his Presidency so far seems to be kind of the flip side of the campaign where he's tightly controlled and packaged. Now he seems to be making a deliberate effort not to package himself and not to appear at the mercy at his handlers, and I must say, although his Presidency is off to a bit of a slow start, I give him points. I think he's off to a pretty good start.
LAMB: Our two special guests for this "Booknotes" are the two gentlemen you've been listening to for the last hour. Bob Schieffer and Gary Paul Gates. And their book is called "The Acting President." Thank you for both gentlemen for joining us.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you.
GATES: Thank you, Brian.


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