What is Dropshipping?

PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP IN CRISIS: FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT TO DONALD TRUMP


welcome to the Commonwealth Club. I’m George
Hammond, chair of the humanities program which organized tonight’s event we have
here tonight my great pleasure to introduce kind of Walsh the White House
correspondent a historian author of many books and he’s here to speak about his
latest book presidential leadership in crisis managing calamity I would like to
you know first of all welcome our audience I can’t say live audience this
time because we have none we’re in San Francisco in the middle of the
coronavirus crisis and so we are not meeting in large groups anymore in San
Francisco so we are gonna do this all online and virtually and we’re going to
test our Commonwealth Club tech knowledge to do this so welcome all
those of you who are watching this directly and for those of you who watch
it later online or as a podcast in audio we welcome all of you to listen to a
really interesting set of insights into how our presidents led us in crisis not
that we have a crisis now to talk about thank you very much for coming in for
cooperating with our unusual nature well thank you George and I don’t want to
thank the common-law for having me and for making a good use of our time in
this difficult situation with the the virus that everyone’s talking about but
I’m confident everything will work out great and when I um
I also want to mention but I’m happy that my daughter is in the room with me
now whose lives in Oakland and so we have some family event here going on as
well I have covered the White House for 31 30 years now and I started covering
the White House under President Reagan in his second term and I have done it
ever since so this is the sixth president I’ve covered now and I’m
always looking for new ways to see the president’s new ways to understand them
to get insights into them as people into their agenda into their policies and in
the books I’ve written on this ruse by ninth book I’ve tried to do that
looking through the presence through presidents as celebrities presidents on
Air Force One and what they’re like in that very special habitat
presidents and their homes and retreats and what I’ve done in this case is look
at the presidents under crisis conditions and really dealing with
crisis has become a really job definition for the presidents in many
ways every modern president has had to deal with at least one major crisis a
defining moment and that’s what I’ve tried to focus on in the book and that’s
what what we’re talking about this evening so many of the presidents have
been have these urgent situations thrust upon them and many times they have very
high stakes not only for the United States but for the world I’ve tried to
broaden my discussion in the book of not only foreign policy and national
security crises which tends to be what historians look at but also personal
crises economic crises and political crises so that’s what we’ll be
discussing so I wanted to start off with when you can’t when you do a an
examination of presidents in crisis you really have to start off with Abraham
Lincoln he was the president who lived up to the standards that I’ve defined
that make the most difference in looking at presidents and how they handle crises
taking action adapting to changing circumstances balancing principle with
what works persevering and having an instinct for
achieving success Lincoln had all of those and in every survey you find of
our greatest presidents partly because of his crisis management skills Lincoln
often turns out to be number one most of the time he’s the number one president
listed in that way now why was that well what Lincoln had was a certain empathy
for people he also had a sense of embodying the values he was trying to
represent and promote during the ultimate crisis we’ve ever had in the
United States and that was the civil war and here we see President Lincoln with
general McClellan who was his Civil War general who he hired and fired and hired
and fired because he wasn’t getting from McClellan the kind of aggressive action
he wanted and but it just showed that notion of adapting to changing
circumstances a persevering that was so important in
dealing with this particular crisis and really all of our crises that we have in
discussing Lincoln also as I said he came to embody a lot of the values that
we have as a country and that we revere today including the idea that he was
suffering from the Civil War along with everyone else and he let the country see
that this is Lincoln just before he took office these before he grew his beard
you can see he looks hale and hearty he looks like he is server has the stature
and strength for the job just before he died just looking at what happened to
Lincoln I mean it’s really startling the toll the Civil War and the times took on
him he looks very spectral and of course he was assassinated shortly after this
but this was part of his his really ability as a crisis managing getting us
through the Civil War and ending slavery coming to symbolize the pain and
suffering the country was going through which people identified with and he
became known but Ricci in the african-american community after he did
so much to end slavery as father Abraham but you saw that participation in the
crisis of the time in Lincoln’s life now we fast-forward to the modern era i
defined president roosevelt as the first modern president when the United States
became a superpower when our media became national and mass media and so on
of course the first thing he had to deal with in 1933 when he took office was the
depression here we see a soup kitchen a lot of people of a certain age will
remember this as a very very horrible time for people a true calamity for the
United States unemployment where you know today we have unemployment rate
less than 4% and we weren’t very troubled when it reaches 8 or 9% during
that year the unemployment rate was in the 30s 35 percent and even more in some
places and so people were really desperate this is another illustration
of the times people would line up to get coffee and doughnuts because they had
nothing else to eat they were just at the end of their their livelihoods and
they really needed somebody to help them and this is where Roosevelt came in
dealing with the crisis of the depression and his big contribution to
this and to presidential leadership ever since was the notion of optimism
Franklin Roosevelt came to embody the idea of a president leaving us to think
that things will get better and that he would lead us that way we would have
setbacks we would have problems but the president President Roosevelt in this
case may convince the country that he would make things better if he was given
the chance and he held fireside chats that’s another important part of his
persevering as president of him representing the country communicating
directly with people on the radio which was the dominant mass medium of his time
and which he mastered and that’s another important thing in presidents and as
crisis managers mastering the media of the time and this is what Roosevelt did
on radio it was said that he achieved what we call today market penetration
where he was able to announce when he was going to give a fireside chat
virtually every family could have access to a radio either their own or borrowing
or sitting around with others in listen and there was anecdotal stories at the
time that people could walk down the street in a town and a hamlet in a big
city and if people had their windows open you could hear everything Roosevelt
said without missing a word because people were so interested in hearing the
president and he was able to convey the sense of optimism and the idea that he
would get us through that was a tremendous contribution he made to the
notion of presidents or crisis management and to the idea of
presidential leadership Harry Truman of course took over from the presidency the
presidency after Franklin Roosevelt died in April of 1945 we had the Korean War
then the Korean War started a few years after that a terrible experience for the
United States you can get a little sense of the trauma and the difficulty that
our soldiers had to deal with in the Korean War we had a lot of setbacks in
the Korean War we had then finally some successes a led by General MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur had been a hero in World War two in the Pacific a lot of
Americans really respected him and he took over our forces in Korea and was
actually doing pretty well then of course he
were reached and those of us who you’re familiar with the Korean War history
understand how he did overreach he felt that after the Chinese entered the war
what he allowed American and South Korean troops to get too close to the
Chinese border in trying to push the North Koreans back out of South Korea
the Chinese entered the war and it completely changed and became a very
difficult job to push the Chinese back MacArthur served notice that he wanted
to use nuclear weapons he served notice that there was time while we had the
military ready to take on the Communists and was really beating the war drums
Harry Truman who was president at the time uh resisted MacArthur he felt
MacArthur was going too far he met with MacArthur in Wake Island in the Pacific
to try to get a sense of what he was dealing with here with MacArthur as a
person he assessed MacArthur he felt MacArthur was sort of a preening general
who could not be controlled and in the end when because it did not back off his
pushing for a very bellicose policy toward the Communists and toward the
Korean War Truman fired him and that’s the case study that I use in the book to
talk about political courage because it was far more popular than Truman was
Truman was having a lot of trouble in his presidency the economy was going bad
we were having lots of difficulties with unions and with strikes and we’re
dealing with communists abroad and with our budget and so on so he took on a
very powerful and popular figure but he did it because he felt like he could not
give up his prerogative as commander-in-chief and it was civilian
control of the military that took a lot of political courage for Truman to do
this but he did show that he had that and that’s a very important part of
crisis management that Truman did show so that’s one example of the political
courage that is very important in assessing presidents as crisis managers
now we move on to President Eisenhower President Eisenhower was generally
considered by historians as a popular and successful president but he did have
a major setback in dealing with the Soviet Union at the time this is
Eisenhower was the key to Khrushchev who was the leader of the Soviet Union
during happier times Eisenhower was intent on getting as much intelligence
as he could about the Soviet Union and the nuclear capability so he authorized
the u2 spy flights these were high-technology flights that
flew over Soviet territory and took very impressive close-up photos of the Soviet
landscape and their military installations the Soviets tried to shoot
these YouTube American spy planes down number of times what they failed then
they finally did shoot one down and Eisenhower authorized lies to be told
about what it was he said these planes could not survive a major attack the
pilots probably died if they were hit and they also also had these poison
pills or pins that could inject themselves with to kill themselves so
they wouldn’t be captured so Eisenhower authorized the lies to be told saying it
was a weather flight and the Soviets actually shot the plane down and
captured the American pilot Francis Gary Powers and Khrushchev made a big
production of showing the wreckage which you see here and so Eisenhower was
caught in the lie and lots of presidents feel that they want to protect
themselves during a crisis like this but I think over time we’ve come to learn
that something as high-stakes and as this it’s very difficult for presidents
to get away with deception and I thought unfortunately is what Eisenhower learned
this setback the United States in dealing with the Soviet Union during the
Cold War and Eisenhower later said this was the biggest mistake he made as
president as handling the crisis of the u2 flights so that’s an example of a
president not doing well in a crisis even someone as popular and politically
savvy as Eisenhower was during his presidency Kennedy President Kennedy
succeeds Iser now he’s also dealing with Nikita Khrushchev he comes into office
thinking he was going to deal with the Soviet Union as his main priority which
he started out doing he’s meaning here with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna during
a summit meeting they had in this first year in office
nineteen the one Khrushchev sizes Kennedy up and
feels that he’s shallow he’s not a strong person and he can be taken
advantage of and you saw that not only in the in Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba
which was a disaster for the United States a failed invasion of Cuban exile
supported by the United States but you also saw that the following year in 1962
with the Cuban Missile Crisis this is a case where the Russian the Soviets were
building up offensive missile capabilities in Cuba 90 miles off the
Florida coast and it fitted sort of three people in in the antagonism here
for del Castro the leader of Cuba Nikita Khrushchev the leader of the Soviet
Union President Kennedy the leader of the United States initially things did
not go well the Americans were taken by surprise
they weren’t sure what the Soviets we’re doing how far they would go and Kennedy
had learned from his experience in the Bay of Pigs invasion that failed that he
should trust his instincts but also he should listen to the people who had
proven right in the past so what you’re getting here is a president adapting to
changing circumstances listening and learning which he did and this is him
giving the famous speech announcing a quarantine and we’re familiar with that
term today with rotavirus but he announced the quarantine preventing
Soviet ships from reaching Cuba a very dangerous risky thing to do and America
was riveted by it this is a photograph for people watching the president in the
show room at a department store where they sold televisions but you could see
that the people just found every move of this and those people who were aware
this and people of a certain age again who lived through this will always
remember how close we came to the nuclear precipice and but what Kennedy
did is not only take the big gamble of putting it all out there what was
actually happening but having the confrontation with the Soviet Union very
publicly a very risky thing to do the pride of the United States and the
president was on the line the pride of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev are
on the line this is it absolutely
it’s a central issue facing the country and the world at the time and largely
because Kennedy listened had learned because he followed the advice of his
most trusted advisors including his brother Robert who was the guy who did
duties delegated to meet with the Soviets privately to get this thing
resolved and also Kennedy’s being unflappable and being able to handle
this without going to extremes which is also very important in these defining
moments Kennedy was able to extract the United States from this by getting the
Soviets to move their missiles out of Cuba in exchange for agreeing not to
invade Cuba and pulling American missiles out of Turkey
those two were not disclosed at the time because that would have I think made the
president look weak in trading one thing for another but that’s really what he
did so he handled that he’s generally seen as a brilliant example of crisis
management now we went to Lyndon Johnson Lyndon Johnson was president during the
Vietnam War in 1968 there was the terrible setbacks in the war of the Tet
Offensive which was a invasion by communist forces that took the Americans
and the South Vietnamese by surprise throughout the Vietnam Americans and the
South he’s actually won most of these battles but it showed the country the
United States that the Communists were in this for the long haul and they were
not going to be deterred so all the talk that Johnson had made about how we’re at
the light of the end of the tunnel we were about to win the war the bottom
fell out of all that and people felt that they were lied to and then one
thing after another was happening going wrong Johnson was accused of being a war
criminal we had massive protests he couldn’t speak around the country unless
he spoke to a on a military base or a conservative college campus because of
these very very very unpro tests against him and so what he ended up doing is he
announced in a very dramatic move and I was a young fellow at the time and I
remember this very vividly my college roommates and I were or just called
immediately after Johnson went on TV and announced he was not going to run
again for election so this took a political courage on his fart now you
could argue he didn’t he was gonna win but he was still a very powerful person
and he had always treasured the idea of being present so it did take a measure
of I think political daring for him to do this and to decide not to run again
so this is an example of a political crisis that a president I think handled
well by agreeing not to run avoiding the divisions that they would have caused
and recognizing the reality of the situation which is very important for
presidents to do during crisis conditions that the country was so
divided that he could not deliver effective leadership at the time and
that was the Lyndon Johnson defining moment in many ways Richard Nixon of
course we all know about the Watergate scandal Richard Nixon loved the idea of
being the tough guy which you can see in this photograph he loved the idea that
he would not be deterred in getting his agenda through he would not back off in
a fight and so on and that’s what he did but watergate’s
a failure of presidential leadership a failure of crisis manager strolling the
Congress failing to disclose what had happened if he had disclosed immediately
the burglary that was at the heart of Watergate and the the part that his
advisors and his staff played in that without him at the time although the
some evidence that he might have known about it but if he had owned up to it at
the beginning I don’t think he would have had nearly the political problems
he ended up having one thing led to another one lie one deception after
another fueled by the distrust Americans had of him because of the Vietnam War
and the feeling he was not explaining properly how badly Vietnam was going and
what we were doing that was not working he resigned just as he was about to be
impeached by the House of Representatives what’s not impeached
where he was either than face that and this is the famous photo of him at the
the helicopter door when he left the White House in August of 1974 this is an
example that I talk about in the book about a friend
failing in crisis managers failing in this political crisis for a number of
reasons not adapting to changing circumstances not embodying the best
values that we have as a nation failing to understand that people needed a
realistic information about things in many cases just the opposite really of
President Lincoln and what he did so long ago in his own political and
military crisis moving ahead now a briefly President Ford who succeeded
Nixon was not elected he was named by Nixon as his vice president after the
previous vice president resigned in in a corruption scandal Ford had to decide in
his own political scandal a non political crisis what to do about Nixon
and he decided to pardon Richard Nixon this was considered a tremendous error
on his part at the time because the feeling was that Nixon needed to be had
to pay more of a price that he had paid but Ford felt that we couldn’t get past
this Nixon scandal unless he pardoned Nixon
and moved on to other things at the time he really loved Ford really suffered
over this but he did demonstrate a good deal of political courage because even
though he probably lost his bid for election in 1976 because he pardoned
Nixon historians and even members of prominent liberal American families such
as the Kennedy family Ted Kennedy and for one said that they were wrong about
Ford and pardoning Nixon that he did the right thing and he did show he was a
Profile in Courage in the Kennedy terms in pardoning Nixon probably cost him hit
the presidency but for I think it’s pretty much acknowledges having done the
right thing at that point they are any in hostage crisis another real calamity
for the country a political and military crisis Jimmy Carter was president the
Iranians reacting after radical Islam and Muslims took over the country they
decided to take over the United States Embassy in Tehran which they did they
took about 60 Americans hostage which you see here they
them for about a year try as he might Carter was unable to get them released
and he this is him at a prayer service he was calling for prayers for the
hostages embargoes although he opposed embargoes against iran much too late he
was considered a failure of leadership during the Iranian hostage crisis oh the
the low point was when he decided to send a mission to rescue them to send
American forces to get the hostages out of Tehran a mission that was probably
doomed to failure from the beginning a almost impossible mission from the
beginning and of course our helicopters failed in the desert American troops
were killed there in the a rescue mission it was aborted and it was an
utter calamity for the Carter presidency now we move on to President Reagan this
is an example of a personal crisis as personal as it can be because it almost
involves a death of the president President Reagan in some weeks after he
took office in 1981 was shot outside a hotel in Washington after he had given a
speech Reagan this is the moment when he was shot the bullet was shot from the
side you could see The Secret Service agents looking off to the side to see
the shooter John Hinckley jr. firing rounds at the president here the Secret
Service man a policeman the White House press secretary a bullet bounced off the
side of the armor-plated limousine and a fragment from that bullet is what you
see Reagan reacting to here it pierced his chest he was wasn’t sure what
exactly if he had been hit the secrets one of the secret surgeon Service agents
named Jerry Parr pushed him into the vehicle so roughly to get him out of
there that Reagan thought that tour The Secret Service man had broken one of his
ribs and so he said you know he cursed at the guy and he said you’ve you know
you’ve broken one of my ribs you know why don’t you watch what you’re doing
and turned out that Reagan had been shot and so far notice he was bleeding from
the mouth so rather than take him to the White
House took him to the emergency room of a local hospital that saved his life
because he had gone to the White House he certainly
died from what the surgeons and physicians say now he went and this is a
case where not only was he personally able to show the country that he was
able to deal with this calamity but he did it was a certain Grace and pressure
and the sense of humor which people did appreciate I went to the hospital and
and he’s felt he was he had been an actor so he felt there was a role he was
playing as president so rather than get out of the limousine and be helped into
the hospital he got out got to his feet rather awkwardly buttoned up the suit of
his jacket and walked in whereupon he collapsed in the lobby but he felt that
the president always had to show his strength and dignity and that’s what a
lot of Americans respected about him and it made a big difference in his
presidency I think there was a tremendous boost of support for Reagan
it helped him with his tax cuts with his regulation anti-regulation proposals
with his dealings with the Soviet Union because people felt like he had survived
the assassination attempt with such dignity and grace and the White House
was very clever about this they released very carefully photos of
Reagan to show that he was having a miraculous recovery this is him at the
hospital walking just a couple of days after he was almost killed to show that
he was making this amazing recovery they arranged to him to have photographs
taken looking like he was doing work wasn’t doing a lot of work but they made
it seem like he was so this was public relations really 101 and they also like
to show the support that this big card that the White House staff had taken him
a big photograph of the staff on the steps of the executive office building
it was actually a terrific public relations terrific communication skills
and show that Reagan did really have an instinct of being rather courageous and
having a remarkable amount of stamina particularly for men of his age in
dealing with this personal calamity of almost being killed in an assassination
attempt and this is again a case of Reagan’s did that image building to show
this man in his 70s pumping I earn uh not too long after he was shot
again he couldn’t do this very long but they managed to get pictures of it what
he did do it and again the image of the Reagan that Reagan love the the engaged
and and aggressive westerner Hale and Hardy taking on the problems of the
country President Bush who succeeds Reagan and the Persian Gulf War
President Bush felt like he had been almost almost raised to be in charge of
a war like this he had been the head of the Central Intelligence he had been
vice president under Reagan he had been envoy to China he had written envoy to
the United Nations he always felt he was a foreign policy expert in many ways and
so when Iran yeah I excuse me when Iraq invaded Kuwait early in mid term about
midway in his presidency this became the defining mission of George Bush all his
skills look he to develop all his life in foreign policy and so on
understanding the need not only for perseverance and all the standards that
I discussed earlier but the idea that the country wanted the President to
stand up for the United States and a stabilized situation the oil shocks and
so on over there and he was very effective in demonizing Saddam Hussein
the leader of Iraq who had invaded Kuwait this is a trip that Bush made to
the war zone before the war started I was on with this trip with him and he
was actually so moved which he let people see by the soldiers he was about
to launch into harm’s way he of course had been a war hero in World War two and
so he knew what it was like but this was really really a situation that he was
really made for he developed a powerful international coalition wasn’t going it
alone that the United States had a lot of countries working on this whole
situation with us including countries from the Middle East which took a lot of
doing and he was able to roll Kuwait out rolled the Iraqis out of Kuwait did not
invade Kuwait because he felt that that would involve
too much of a long-term commitment and create too much animosity and the
American people would not stand for that I’ll come back to this in a minute
because his son had exactly the opposite feeling and it was a war that the
Americans won very quickly and was enormous airpower with technology and
this is an example of an Iraqi tank they were supposed to have this true Indus
tank force there was no match for the Americans so it was a big success as the
war that Americans that Bush felt America needed to wage to get rid of the
Vietnam syndrome as he called it which is a reluctance that Americans had for
many many years not to get involved in a foreign war in a big way he felt that
the war in the in Kuwait had sort of gotten us past that now again not as not
a foreign policy issue this is the famous Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky
scandal this is a political scandal that Clinton did survive he had an affair
with a White House intern during his second term as president and initially
he lied about it this is the famous case where he denied this he’s saying here
with his wife Hillary Clinton behind him I did not have sexual relations with
that woman miss Lewinsky well he had and he lied about it he later admitted he
had lied about it under oath and this was a tremendous burden he had to bear
and he was impeached over it by the House of Representatives and acquitted
in the Senate now I don’t think Clinton given what we have now with the me2
movement and with women being much more believed when they make accusations of
sexual harassment and sexual abuse and and so on I’m not sure a Clinton
couldn’t survive this today because times have changed so much but he was
acquitted he was able to separate his personal conduct from his public
policies he managed to persuade the country that he was a good president
even though he was a scoundrel personally and this was a big
distinction so he showed tremendous survival skills politically even if it
took a tremendous toll on his reputation historically which he still has to deal
with today now we’re coming up closer to the present time this is of course the
famous moment in 911 when the terrorists took over airplanes crashed him into the
World Trade Towers in New York which you see here and crest went into the
Pentagon and then a fourth plane which was hijacked went down in the
Pennsylvania countryside when the passengers tried to take control of the
plane and it crashed this was President Bush’s moment of course the son of
President George Herbert Walker Bush his presidency was sort of floundering he
was drifting and this gave him a mission for his presidency this is the moment
when he was told that the second plane has hit the second tower he was at an
elementary school in Sarasota Florida giving a talk about education policy his
chief of staff he had been told before he went out that the first plane hit the
first Tower he didn’t no one knew what it was they see he thought presently he
told me later he thought it was a pile having a heart attack
then his chief of staff Andy card tells him a second plane has hit the second
tower America is under attack those are the words he used
and you can see Bush looks rather dazed here and he was he didn’t quite know
what was going on and what he should do about it
but as that day progressed and as the next couple of days progressed he did
find his stability and he did get much more steadfast and he realized that this
was a terrorist act and we had to show strong leadership this is the moment
when he had the bullhorn in 911 at two days three days later in New York at
Ground Zero I was actually here I’m just off the frame of this photograph I was
at this much actual event we all knew when we saw this that this would be one
of the most memorable moments of his presidency he stood on top of a
burned-out fire truck at Ground Zero that’s where the one of the Trade Towers
was and he started to talk and this fireman
he pulled up from the crowd turned out to be a volunteer who had retired he was
there to help out and he pulled them up and he started to talk and the first
responders kept shouting I can’t hear you we can’t hear you so he grabbed a
bullhorn and he said now can you hear me and they started to chant USA USA and he
said well the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us
very soon that’s exactly what the country wanted to hear from President
Bush so I think he handled that initial crisis of 9/11 quite well the problem
was the long-term dealing with it invading the Afghanistan invading Iraq
which of course his father had not occupied Iraq and the son did and we’re
still living with the consequences very negative of that invasion of Iraq and
churning that whole region into turmoil so I this is where my definition here of
this defining moment from Bush’s initially he did very well as time went
on he overreached and made some very fundamental mistakes in handling that
crisis President Obama were moving now much closer to the current times he
inherited a terrible economic crisis remember the Great Recession this is a
Time magazine did a clever cover a picture of him showing him looking like
Franklin Roosevelt with the jaunty this is the way Franklin Roosevelt used to
travel in the car with cigarette holder in the hat and a lot of comparisons were
made to President Obama dealing as Roosevelt had dealt with the depression
Obama’s dealing with the recent Great Recession the economy was close to
collapse it wasn’t a depression but we had we had banks failing we had major
investment houses failing him unemployment was soaring through the
roof people were wondering if we were going to survive and Obama it took
really dramatic action to deal with this now a lot of people feel particularly
liberal politicians feel that he didn’t go far enough he could have used the
occasion to use the crisis to have some absolutely fundamental reforms taking on
Wall Street taking on the big banks maybe
posing certain guarantees of income and so on for people but he didn’t he just
wanted to stabilize the initial crisis which he did and he did it quite
successfully the other part of this is he saved the auto industry people tend
to forget today that the order of industry was on it seemed to be honest
last legs that is a fundamental part of our economy not only people who work for
the auto companies but distributors and suppliers and people who who are in the
supply chain and the employment chain and he took took a gamble by using
federal funds to rescue the auto industry but he went ahead and did it
and I think it took a certain amount of political courage to do that and to
stand up not only to the Conservatives with the people in his own party who
felt that the order of companies deserve what they got they weren’t running
fuel-efficient cars and so on but he saved the auto industry I think that he
deserves credit for that and and the economy was rebounding quite well as his
presidency proceeded and I think that’s largely in due to Obama’s willingness to
persevere to understand to listen to learn to understand he was getting
advice from some of the best economic minds in the country and he listened to
them we can’t really say that today we’re now up to the present time
president Trump is a whole different kind of leader his handling of crises is
much different than what we’ve seen in the modern era President Trump likes to
create crises so he can solve them and come out of them as a winner everything
with him is is he a personally the winner he came to office that he was the
outsider the deal maker he was going to correct the problems that Washington had
and so he started off with one thing after another he pledged in his campaign
to build a wall between United States and Mexico and get the Mexican
government to pay for it the Mexican government refused to pay for it but he
kept pushing for the wall pushing for the wall and it caused a government
shutdown the longest we’ve ever had 35 days so my argument is that this is a
self-created crisis that President Trump came up with
and did hurt a lot of people who are dependent on the government work and
government contracts when the government shut down President Trump then declared
a national emergency that we needed a wall because of the crisis at the border
I think you could argue that that was way overdone but he didn’t say that and
we still trying to get the wall built now and it’s sort of reinventing the
promise he made saying that he’ll get the money done through means such as
using military funds to pay for the wall rather than get Mexico to pay for it
then you had the other major crisis that we have to deal with the impeachment
movement against President Trump this started off as a conflict between
President Trump and robert muller who was the special counsel investigating
the alleged collusion between the Russians and the American a campaign of
Donald Trump in 2016 designed to defeat Hillary Clinton the
Democratic nominee Trump investigated it was investigated by MOA for almost two
years then the report came out and through some rather clever initial
public relations a lot of the findings in the report was submerged in the
initial coverage and it was never quite clear that MOA had not really exonerated
Trump fully but was deferring prosecution or accusations to Congress
because he didn’t feel he was authorized he was a special counsel not an
Independent Counsel he wasn’t authorized to pursue those things but nevertheless
this kept building and building and then the Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the
House from California from San Francisco was reluctant to actually pursue the
impeachment proceedings against President Trump but then came the famous
phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine
zalinsky in which President Trump said and admits saying that if you
investigate Joe Biden we anticipated being the
number one or one of the number one Democratic presidential candidates he
would take action to release money to help the Ukrainians stand up against
Russia which is threatening Ukraine so this became the centerpiece of the
impeachment proceedings and what Trump tried to do is to turn it against Biden
by saying that what he was trying to do was to get investigations in the Ukraine
of Joe Biden now emerging as the leading Democratic candidate as was expected
initially and his son hunter who is being investigated by the Ukrainians
that Joe Biden was trying to get his son off the hook in the investigation it
gets complicated but Biden suggested that he was trying to get the prosecutor
to do more investigating not less but nevertheless we’re going to see a lot
about this in the campaign this went on and on Trump collided with Adam Schiff
of the congressman who was in charge of much in the investigation and he was
acquitted in the Senate of course the house is controlled by Democrats the
Senate by Republicans so it was pretty much expected but he will always have
that stain on his record as having been impeached the preachment of course is a
charge a charge the Senate then decides what to do about it but he was impeached
and he will always have that stain so in that sense I don’t think he handled the
impeachment crisis well because he would not cooperate he would not admit any
wrongdoing at all and I think was pretty clear that there were was were wrongs
that were committed and this hardened the opposition to him and caused many
more Americans to distrust him now we’re coming up to the current moment the
corona virus this is some treatment that’s being given and this is could be
the defining moment of the Trump administration in how he’s dealing with
this president Trump is using a lot of the techniques he’s used throughout his
presidency stonewalling not admitting any mistakes even if it’s at the very
beginning of the crisis and he could correct the mistakes and then look much
better he is very slow off the mark and dealing
with this and I think there’s not a lot of praise I would give him right now I
think that maybe he’ll give him the benefit of doubt maybe he’ll correct the
mistakes lack of testing I don’t think he’s understood how nervous and
concerned people would be people can’t get tested for this adequately a lot of
the public health professionals are saying that the administration would
slow off the mark now forgetting the situation where more and more Americans
are coming down with his virus and more Americans are going to die of it he’s
going to have trumple have a huge problem justifying his initial initial
slow response and I think that’s what we’re all looking at now as this as a
possible defining moment as president Trump handles this crisis and this is
him when he’s trying out some of the initial measures that a lot of people
felt were too little and too late now just in conclusion and then I think
George will have some questions that some of our listeners and viewers have
brought up I think what we’re left with here is a sense that in many ways MO and
my review of the modern presidents we’ve had almost a providential luck that our
presidents have dealt with major crisis generally well I think now I’ve shown
you some examples of where has not happened but and we might have a case
now we have a basic crisis where things are not going go well but I think that
our leadership has really stood up pretty successfully in these defining
moments and in these crises over time and I think that is is difficult to
explain except that we’ve been fortunate we’ve had the right people at the right
time and the question is now whether that continues with the current
administration great thank you very very much thank you
very much thank you I’d like to remind our audience both online and through the
Xoom that we’re doing right now that they’re listening to Ken Walsh speaking
about his book on presidential leadership and the crises that they’ve
faced and I’d like to remind all the people that are doing this live with us
that there’s a little place to hit chat and you can put your questions right
into there and and then we can ask them of Ken directly so basically what you’re
saying is that honesty is almost always the best policy for the presidents so
one of the questions that came in and said there been any successful
presidential cover-ups you know what what what kind of crises where it works
for it to be kept under the under the radar yeah well I think you know there’s
a number of cases during the Cold War where we had you know spying cases cases
of American intervention in other countries that was kept under the rug in
Latin America in in Europe and so on I don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom
of those yet now those weren’t like the huge
calamities that for instance that Eisenhower had to feel in the YouTube
faith in the u2 which did set that made the Cold War worse there was a there was
a international conference that the Americans and the Soviets and the
British and the French and the Germans were supposed to participate in and that
was cancelled because of the u2 and very openly because of that and so it really
did set the the Cold War back you know in a number of ways but I think that you
know many we always is covering the White House talk about you know this is
the president have a right to lie in any situation they always say they used to
say they don’t but now you get less certainty of that there were cover-ups
for instance when we invaded the nation of Grenada to save the American students
and so on there under President Reagan they did tell lies about that to
indicate that nothing was going to happen because they
wanted to be a surprise so the question is was that justified by national
security or could they have just denied it and not lied about it and saying it’s
not going to happen so I think that you know we’ve become aware of a number of
cases where lies have been told and presence have gotten away with it but
nothing I think in terms of so it’s on a fundamental issue that that they’ve had
to deny that they turned out to be lying about so that’s the way I look at it
okay another question is about the media in
the media reaction your power you’re part of the White House Correspondents a
group and so on and so forth and somebody the somebody gave us a great
question about and what crisis did the news media do the best and or do the
worst in other words you know how do they contribute to it to helping it or
against it or just covering it all right it’s not really clear whether it’s about
making it worse or better right yeah well I think the way I look at this is
that the media have been tempted historically to go along with American
military operations at a patriotism when we and I always thought myself as part
of the media and still do when we shouldn’t be I remember when we had the
the Bay of Pigs invasion it was unsuccessful under President Kennedy
later the story went that the one columnist from the New York Times said
you know we were coming upon this story but we held it back because in deference
to the operation and President Kennedy said I wish you had won the story
because he might have saved us this terrible devastating defeat and so we
didn’t I think in the media we tend to give the president the benefit of doubt
too many cases that happened again when President Bush the son invaded
Afghanistan and and Iraq and we gave him an abandoned for the doubt remember
weapons of mass destruction mm-hm which the media basically took at
face value and which we never found and that was a fundamental reason for that
war so I think that in many cases we in the media tend to go along with the mood
of the moment now on the other side of this in Vietnam
the opposite happened mmm and part of what’s happened since
then is the reaction against Vietnam because a lot of journalists felt that
perhaps we were not as supportive of the troops as we should have been we allowed
emanation demonization of American troops in Vietnam and I could remember
seeing that myself in those days mm-hmm and so there was reaction against that
but so I think it’s on these military conflicts I think by and large in recent
years and decades I think the media have probably gone too far in accepting what
administration’s say at face value and we shouldn’t just got a new question a
very good one but all the presidents you talked about
today who is your favorite and why and we know that it’s Lincoln because he
covered everything so let’s let’s go to the model one pick up somebody from the
modern ones make it a little bit harder well as a friend I get this question
quite a bit actually in many talks like if I’ve covered six presidents now and
in my experience the most the president I liked the best was Bush the father
because he was a very decent man he didn’t take things personally he was
trying to do the right thing I believe and he was never here practice attack
politics that we see so much of today he did some of that but nothing like the
level of demeaning and derision and nastiness we see today he was very good
to people around him also and that’s really in my mind a very important way
of evaluating prison says people how they treat their subordinates how they
treat people around them the most historically important president was I
think Reagan because he did change the course of the country making it more
culturally conservative and foreign policy conservative the president who
was the most interesting was Bill Clinton for a lot of obvious reasons all
right there’s a question about Bill Clinton so in in 96 Bill Clinton I mean
China some Rockets over Taiwan and at the same
time they were they’d already made a deal for Hong Kong to come back and that
had been done many years earlier and they made a deal for Mikado to come back
so the idea was that they were trying to tell Taiwan that they had to come in and
there was a delay in in the usual US response which was send the 7th fleet
through there right there’s a whole bunch of scuttlebutt about what caused
that delay and why Bill Clinton delayed it for three or four weeks before he
said the seventh Fleet through do you know anything about that crisis you know
I that yeah I I heard some scuttlebutt that that they were you know these
private deals were being made and that present was trying to sort of cozy up
more to the Chinese but none of that has been proven so I really don’t have much
really much to add to that okay but there’s something that the way to get
the Chinese to not do it was to give him the 2008 Olympics that was that’s I
think I mean I I don’t think that would work on their mind you know so I think I
remember hearing that rumor but thinking you need something much more profound to
get them to change something as as fundamental to them as you know whether
Taiwan is part of China I just don’t think that was ever going to work yeah
great here’s a provocative question do presidents hope for a crisis of some
kind during their term in order to prove their mettle you know Bill Clinton
talked about that he said you know he said this is before the impeachment
crisis he said um looks like I’m not going to have a big foreign policy
crisis where I could show I was historically important president and I
could handle it so brilliantly now when President Obama first took office during
the financial crisis rahm emanuel what was his chief of staff who had been Bill
Clinton’s political adviser said this is a case where we don’t want to let a good
crisis go to waste now a lot of people who were suffering from that crisis
didn’t like that the sound of that so there was a sense among some of Obama’s
people that this would show Obama as this historically
a consequential president but it became such a real devastating problem for the
economy that I think they realized that they were playing with fire here they
needed to get this done as soon as possible and so as I say the alienated a
lot of liberal liberals in their party and cited in a lot of ways with the big
banks but nevertheless I think that some presidents do want to have a big crisis
I think Teddy Roosevelt was another one he never had a big war and he always
liked the idea of war showing the middle of America and of course he was in the
spanish-american war and he didn’t have the World War One on his watch but it
was always very critical of delete’ Woodrow Wilson’s leadership during World
War one so he was another president who felt that you know as appalling is that
my sound to us today that a good war is something that the country probably want
to have periodically I don’t think many Americans feel that way anymore
no no it’s interesting mentioned Rahm Emanuel because he was just here last
week or so speaking to the Connells club so what
are your thoughts on the upcoming elections any predictions you know and
where will the country be in 8 to 12 years red or blue two big questions but
but I part of this is the the very interesting factor especially in the
face of the corona virus but we have three presidential candidates all of
whom are in their late 7 yes no I mean no three that are left right exactly we
do and of course the other part was the corona virus is that President Trump by
his own admission is a germaphobe mm-hmm he doesn’t like to shake hands with
people he’s always using the Purell but even his own advisors if someone sneezes
in the room with him he throws that advisor out now how is he going to deal
with this under those circumstances and maybe this I don’t want to be into
psychobabble but maybe he just doesn’t want to admit how bad it might be
because he just he’s not that familiar with this sort of thing because he has
just been a guy who has been so on the other end of treatment of medical issues
because he didn’t want to deal with him himself but I think that as far as where
we’ll be I’ve learned after 2016 you can’t really
predict these days people so much of this what’s going to happen I think this
November is going to be based on the turnout of the basis of the parties
that’s you hear all this talk about intensity and will the Republicans
remain retain their intensity for Trump will Biden who if he’s the nominee as it
looks like you will be get any comparable intensity from the Democrats
so you may end up with 40 percent of the country versus 40 percent of the country
or more in other words we’re in our separate camps and there’s no compromise
and people are in the main camps are trying to get that little sliver in the
middle or will they just focus on ginning up their own supporters and I
think that’s probably what they’re going to do it’s going to be very nasty and
polarizing campaign the other quick point I wanted to make is that as time
goes on I do believe that the country is changing in fundamental ways mainly that
we’re going to be a majority minority country in the 2040s that’s being masked
now because this is sort of the last gasp in many ways of the people feel
aggrieved in the white majority working class white people working-class people
who feel that they’ve been left behind and I’m not demeaning this I think they
do feel that people don’t pay attention to them in public life and that we left
behind ours aren’t listened to and that’s part of what some people in the
Democratic Party say that they need to do and then they could beat Trump pretty
comfortably if they could get some of these aggrieved people to think that
they will do something for them but I think as time goes on this question was
about an eight to ten your time frame but it probably wouldn’t happen in that
that time frame but a little a few more years than that I think the country is
going to be much different politically we’re gonna have a majority who are
African American Latino Asian and I think that’s going to look much
different now and it’s going to be much difficult more difficult the Republicans
to appeal to that country that we become because of the policies are taking now
and another media question and the media do you think has played a role in kind
of making the party parties red and blue and and and sort of 50/50 across the
country because it makes for a good horse race it does so this is true I
happen to teach a course in this sort of thing and I hear about this and we talk
about this all the time and this is this discussion in newsrooms all over the
country it’s not the media aren’t aware of this sort of thing yeah we are drawn
to conflict and to polarization in the sense that it makes for worse
sensational stories and the feeling is that more and more people are drawn to
those stories readers viewers and listeners maybe that’s a short-sighted
view but our media into marketing surveys now and the positive stories
tend not to get the readership or the viewership it’s the negative stories
that people remember and they get the viewers and so on and and the other part
of this that’s very fundamental in discussing it is that them the economics
of the media have changed so much that now every news organization is not paid
for by the overall enterprise in other words you get money from classified ads
or it’s in the sports section or whatever the news division has to pay
for itself so that means there’s much more desire to draw advertisers who want
to get the viewership and the readership and the listenership and that goes back
to the idea of covering the conflicts and so on and I’ve always been brought
up in journalism to think that we’re we’re there we have two functions
education and entertainment it’s the entertainment side that’s taking over
much too much in my mind not the educational side but that unfortunately
is the world we’re in that’s the world we’re in and then and do you think
that’s influenced by the internet and clickbait and absolutely the whole
approach and then we have a whole new very well-educated I think a generation
but they’re very very used to that approach to they aren’t so they don’t
see they are they absolutely other options right and also there’s not a lot
of interest in the history I must say right
my I know in the classes that I teach these young people were they were
basically born during Obama they have almost no understanding of what happened
before that and so I hope to maybe give him some interest in it but and a lot of
information does come for me in it but that’s not just for young people you
know people are getting information you can get whatever view you have
reinforced through the internet or through websites or whatever and people
don’t want to have their views challenged so it’s it’s a confirmation
bias it’s the idea that you want to get your views reinforced and you can do
that down more than you ever could and more easily than you ever could and
that’s that’s what’s happening it’s it’s interesting confirmation bias and just
just to back it up a little bit because of history it used to be
from when we were childhood teenage years that that what put people in silos
were their religious beliefs and so that people were in their religious groups
and this is what they identified with their identity was but people don’t
identify like that they identify with all kinds of different issues yes
personal identity separate cetera and that has made a big difference in the
way that it’s done so I like to look at it because I don’t think that the
younger generation is any different than ours they they have a slightly different
training and those that can be educated out to the large viewpoint right that
that just is taken care of all right yeah a little echo there for a second
okay all right so we have time for just
couple more questions what role and we were just talking about this what role
will the Millennials play in the upcoming election I mean obviously the
one story about that is their interest in Bernie another big irony for people
our age that you know we used to not trust anyone over thirty and now the the
person who trusts the 78 year old or whatever is our everybody that’s under
30 so I don’t trust anyone over 80 but no I think that um
you know I’ve heard this every election cycle ever since I’ve done this for many
many years now that this is sleeping Giants in our politics were Latinos and
young people it almost never turns out that way the turnout is never what the
most optimistic people in those groups think it will now maybe it’ll be
different this time Bernie did not get the turnout of young
people that he expected so far in this campaign and he admits that now you know
what who’s going to turn out well it might be these aggrieved people that
I’ve been talking about or people who just feel if they can’t stand Trump but
it’s a very negative atmosphere mm-hmm and I don’t think that’s going to change
so you know I think if some of the people in these cohorts we talked about
Latinos and young people turned out it probably would change the dynamic it
might be a more positive feel to the race because they might want to know
more about agendas and positive concepts and proposals and so on but if we end up
with the the election demographics that seem to be developing as we’ve had in
2016 it’s going to be the premium is gonna
replace non attack and derision ridicule and and negativity and I think that’s
where we’re headed do you think that influenced Elizabeth Warren’s rise and
fall because she was so much policy or incident talking about ideas and it was
just a personality contest she didn’t really realize that yeah I think she’s
very smart and she had to understand that but I think what she didn’t
understand fully is that in order for her to expand her her support in a
natural way she had to eat into this huge Bernie Sanders faction out there
that was where she had to go you know if you added together Warren and Sanders
and their turnout they that person who if they had both of those could have won
a lot of these primaries especially when the moderates were more
divided now that Biden is getting all the moderate votes it’s he’s still not
getting 50% by the way but really far from it but I think what
Warren didn’t understand fully is that the warrant the the Sanders people are
so committed to him it was very hard to shake them out of that and she was
unable to yeah and they were they were gonna stay with Sanders and you know
that’s another interesting thing you you look at clips from standards a lot of us
in the media do these stories about these candidates running against their
younger selves cuz throwing around so long how have they changed what
positions they used to take they don’t take anymore how hypocritical they are
Sanders hasn’t changed you look at the clips of him when he first was elected
mayor of Burlington Vermont he’s saying exactly the same thing today and that’s
what history I think his supporters really respect that about him and I
think that’s part of why they were I should have unshakable at least so far
one other little detail like that since you’re in the in the middle of all that
what’s the kind of background idea of Biden going down and all of a sudden
resurrected put in front and winning all in it within a couple of weeks what’s
what’s the it was him who decided that it was interesting well now we’re not
gonna be contested here well I think what what happened a number of the stars
aligned for him almost perfectly you know he was given up almost for dead
right you’re losing you know Iowa New Hampshire and Nevada and then he wins
South Carolina he got a tremendous boost from congressman Clyburn of South
Carolina tamerica who endorsed him his tremendous respect in the
african-american community that pushed the african-americans to him in a big
way and most of the people in that primary or african-american that’s
helped him in a lot of states since then then you had the his his competitors for
the moderate votes Budaj and Bloomberg was out of it and globish R was out of
it so all those stars align so and now it
looks like you know it was maybe it looked like he was going to have this
happen all the time I don’t think he was I think he lucked out in some ways he
played his cards right and he got support when he needed it and then it’s
appeared that the establishment was behind him almost fully which which
which they are naturally helping him now all right one
one final question since we’ve covered the presidents we’re gonna go back to
the media what’s been the worst crisis for the news media in modern times which
which crisis I don’t know maybe I think the ideas made the news media look worst
not not what they what they did what the crisis was but what made the news media
like not play their role correctly or later well I think I mentioned this
movement before I think that going for the weapons of mass destruction during
the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake the media made and with that we have yet
to recover from that it just we just went too much along with the
government’s what the government was saying we could have found out other
things about it I think also the idea that we it’s not just a single crisis
it’s a development that the emedia the mainstream media and and I understand
that term although some journalists think it’s it’s a derisive term but
that’s fine I can use that term but we have we don’t really understand the
country the way we should especially the national media we’re in our own bubble
we complain about politicians being in a bubble we’re in a bubble too and I think
that’s really hurt us with the country we don’t live like the rest of the
country does in Washington and New York and Los Angeles media centers I don’t
think we understand the country as well as we used to and I know I first got
into journalism I felt like I was living like the people I was covering mmm
property taxes were the same I was living in a middle-class houses and all
the restaurants raising family and now it’s much different education secular
rather than religious in the media valuing different things from government
and so on and a lot of people do and so I think we’ve lost our way in not
understanding the rest of the country well let’s keep trying to understand
each other a little bit better that’s what we’re here for so thank you very
very much Ken this was just great and thanks for everybody who’s watching and
we’re listening online now and so ends another event of the Commonwealth Club
and it’s 100 and 18th year of enlightened discussion you

Reader Comments

  1. An interesting discussion, but I wish the people asking questions would have focused more on the topic at hand — presidential leadership — instead of focusing on current politics.  That said, good talk.

  2. This author, like all authors, has a bias. He is merely regurgitating what the press was told to report with only one exception probably because it was an obvious fraud where Reagan acted like he wasn’t physically weak after he took a bullet. Why not Iran Cobtra? Why not the treason of negotiating with Iranians for hostages before he took office.

    Superficial stories that whitewash the sordid history of US presidents.

  3. I read a book by Joe Wilson: The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity. He gave all kinds of evidence Powell was lying about the WMDs. Everyone knew this, but nobody reported it.

  4. The speaker here is so good he's almost Presidential. (This will make a lot of sense to current readers, perhaps less to those who may see these comments in the distant future.) 3 14 2020.

  5. This guy's nose screams "drinker". My father had one like it. His "glossing over" the 16,000+++ lies that have currently been told is a pretty biased recitation. The bottom line people is presidents and politicians lying is an ongoing act. After all, we only pay their salaries who are we to know the truth. The current administration is a pure disaster. If anyone says "but the stock market"… really? how many people do you truly think own stocks & have portfolios? Here is some food for thought " Only when the last tree has been cut & the last fish has been caught & the last river has been polluted will we realize we can't eat money"". Cree

  6. Had the corrupt Biden’s been republicans and Trump had not asked for them to be investigated the liberals would have condemned Trump for “protecting” them being prosecuted for taking bribes and earning enormous benefits from political advantage.

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