JOHN SHATTUCK: So good afternoon and welcome to the John F. Kennedy Library. I’m John Shattuck, the CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation. And on behalf of our board, several of whom are here tonight, and our Library Director, Tom Putnam, I want to tell you it’s my privilege to inaugurate an exciting series of fall programs that will go on during a remarkable season that is going on right now in our country. With the presidential campaign in full swing, we are going to take a close look throughout the fall at some of the challenges facing our next president. And tonight we’ve assembled an all-star cast here on our stage to discuss the kind of leadership that will be needed if any of these challenges are to be met. And tonight’s program is part of a special forum series around the theme of our new Kennedy Library Exhibit, “The Making of a President,” which I invite you all to visit at some point in our museum. The exhibit is made possible by generous support from the AIG Private Client Group. I also want to thank the sponsors of our Kennedy Library Forums, starting with the lead sponsor, Bank of America, and our other generous forum supporters: Boston Capital, the Lowell Institute, the Corcoran Jennison Companies, The Boston Foundation; and our media sponsors, The Boston Globe, NECN and WBUR which broadcasts all the Kennedy Library Forums on Sunday evenings at eight.
On January 14, 1960, John F. Kennedy gave a speech about presidential leadership. He gave that speech a few days after declaring his own candidacy for president. And I think two things stand out about that speech. First, it seems truly incredible that an entire campaign took place from the moment he declared until the day he was elected within only 11 months, compared to the years of presidential campaigning and maybe even decades that are going on today.
Even more interesting I think was what JFK, dismissed as we know by many pundits as too young and inexperienced to be elected, what he had to say on the subject of presidential leadership. He began his speech with a quip about the kind of president Dwight Eisenhower had been, who was to be his predecessor, of course. And then he boldly went on to describe the president he intended to be rather explicitly. And here is what he had to say and I quote, “The President’s message,” referring to President Eisenhower, “reminds me of the exhortation from King Lear that goes, ‘I will do such things. What they are I know not. But they shall be the wonders of the world.’ In the times that lie ahead, the American presidency will demand more than ringing manifestos issued from the rear of battle,” he said. “They will demand that the president place himself in the very thick of the fight; that he care passionately about the fate of the people he leads; that he be willing to serve them at the risk of incurring their displeasure. For the presidency must be the center of moral leadership in our country, a bully pulpit as President Theodore Roosevelt described it, for only the president represents the national interest and upon him alone converge all the needs and aspirations on all parts of the country, all nations of the world.” Quite a statement.
Now, let’s fast forward to today and ask ourselves, what would it take to be this kind of president in 2009? And how risky would it be to proclaim during the campaign that is what you intend to be? John Kennedy certainly took that risk in 1960 and it paid off handsomely for him, not only in his election but some would say, perhaps, in the judgment of history.
And I think to answer these timely and urgent questions we have an extraordinary group of experts on our stage this evening. Let me introduce them to you in the order that they are seated to my left. Joe Nye is the University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of a new book, The Powers to Lead, that explores the qualities of leadership needed for the wise exercise of power in a wide variety of situations. His earlier book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics published four years ago, has had a very significant influence on the way we think about the exercise of American power today. And Joe is no ivory tower scholar, having served in key policy positions in both the Carter and the Clinton administrations, most recently as assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and before that as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Deputy Undersecretary of State. When he returned from Washington in 1995, Joe served for eight years with great distinction as the Dean of the Kennedy School. And we welcome you back, Joe, as a frequent speaker here at the Kennedy Library.
Cass Sunstein, seated next, has joined the Harvard Law School Faculty this fall after many years at the University of Chicago. In the words of Harvard Law Dean, Elena Kagan who recruited him, he’s “the pre-eminent scholar of our time, the most wide-ranging, the most prolific, the most cited and the most influential.” He’s the author of 15 books and hundreds of articles and has crossed academic boarders throughout his career to offer insights on law, public policy, economics and psychology. His new book has the intriguing title, and let me make sure I pronounce this correctly, either Nudge or Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. And in it Cass offers a unique perspective, neither left nor right, on many hot button issues today. He’s worked at the Department of Justice, clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and has been an expert adviser on legal reform in many countries including China, South Africa and Russia. And perhaps, important for today’s discussion, Cass Sunstein has been an informal advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Bob Kuttner is co-founder of both The American Prospect and the Economic Policy Institute, two of the most respected centers of progressive political commentary. For years he’s provided thoughtful analysis and criticism of domestic and international economic policy, is a long-time columnist for Business Week and is a writer for the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic and The New Yorker. Earlier in his career, Bob was chief investigator for the Senate Banking Committee and a staff writer for The Washington Post. He’s written a number of widely-praised books and his long-time project -- self-proclaimed and I think well recognized -- has been to revive the politics of harnessing capitalism to serve the broad public interest. His project has led to his new book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, which was published this month.
To moderate this discussion about leadership among presidents, I’m delighted to welcome back to the Kennedy Library my friend Martha Raddatz, who is the Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News. Martha is a three-time Emmy-award winner and one of our nation’s most respected journalists. Before going to the White House she covered national security and foreign policy for ABC News, and before that for National Public Radio at the Pentagon, the State Department and overseas, particularly in the Balkans where I was fortunate to meet her when she was covering the war in Bosnia and I was serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. Martha began her career here in Boston, as all great reporters do, as a reporter for WCVB TV. Last year I can say she truly electrified our audience at a Kennedy Library Forum on Veterans Day, featuring her own, wonderful book of the stories of American soldiers in Iraq and their families back home entitled, A Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. And I’m pleased to say that the books of our three panelists that have just been published are on sale in our book store and they will be signing them after the forum.
So please join me in welcoming to the stage of the Kennedy Library, Joe Nye, Cass Sunstein, Bob Kuttner and Martha Raddatz. [Applause]
MARTHA RADDATZ: Thanks very much, John. It is great to be back here. I feel like I come back here every couple of years now, and I see a lot of familiar faces which makes me feel great. I have to say, being Chief White House correspondent right now means I never get on the air [laughter] because it’s … My mother actually called me and she said, “Tell me the truth. Have you been fired?” [Laughter] So there’s very little difference between being a lame duck president and someone covering a lame duck president. [Laughter] But my perch there at the White House has been fascinating for me. I’ve been there these last three years and watching President Bush and his style of leadership has truly been interesting. [Laughter] Having a national security background as well and watching his leadership in the military, watching leadership at the Pentagon and seeing what’s happening in the White House is really a fascinating look at history.
You probably all saw the Bob Woodward’s book that came out this week called The War Within. I would pretty much describe it that way as well. The backdoor and the behind-the-scenes goings-on at the White House is something to see. And I’ve had a significant amount of time talking with people in the White House over the years and seen that. So I am, myself, fascinated by leadership and what it means and what it has meant throughout history and what it takes to be a good leader.
And certainly, in this campaign season it’s something we are all thinking about. We are going to try not to make this too partisan today and really, truly talk about transformative presidencies. I know we are here in Massachusetts [laughter] and I know the panel seems a little stacked [laughter] but we are going to do our best to look at it in a non-partisan way, which is impossible at some point and they will go off on that.
I want to start with you, Cass, if you will, and talk about historically what we see, who we saw as transformative leaders, transformative presidents.
CASS SUNSTEIN: I think the obvious ones in the 20th century are Johnson, Reagan and Roosevelt, with Johnson being maybe the least obvious of the three. And maybe the way to make some purchase on this is to distinguish between transformative presidents who are driven by ideological commitments as Johnson and Reagan were. The country was on notice, certainly with Reagan’s campaign and shortly after Johnson’s succession to the White House that we had someone with a set of commitments that would leave the country fundamentally altered if he succeeded.
There are others who are not ideology driven but who are crisis driven. And here the leading example really is Roosevelt who ran, not as a transformative president but as a kind of upbeat guy who knew the country was in trouble. But we didn’t have a large set of ideological commitments that FDR was speaking for in the campaign. So I see those as three exemplars, the 20th century exemplars and see the distinction between crisis driven and leadership driven.
We’d also, I think, with respect to transformative presidents want to make another kind of distinction between the visionaries -- people who run with a large scale vision -- and the incrementalists, who run even if they speak at times about large-scale change, who really are by nature, incremental types. We think of obvious examples, Bush, one, I think Carter, two, were just by nature incrementalists. And for all their occasionally large talk, it was clear that they didn’t have anything significant in mind.
One final distinction, if you will permit -- this is what lawyers like to do, make distinctions -- is we can think of transformative presidents who have kind of substantive vision of the direction in which the country should go. More reliance on markets, less use of regulation as a tool, more protection of poor people, a different relationship between the US and the world, that would all be substantive stuff.
And others who have either by virtue of their substantive commitments or kind of independently a set of institutional changes they want to bring out, such as a greatly strengthened presidency. Bush after 9/11 really wanted that. Or a weaker national government in favor of a stronger set of state authorities, as Reagan did. Or a Supreme Court that was more deferential to political processes as Roosevelt wanted.
So it is probably important to keep in mind through the discussion the difference between changing our institutions and changing our substantive commitment.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Okay, Bob, which bring us to where we are now, today. And when you look at McCain and when you look at Obama, what challenges do they face and what are the possibilities of having a transformative president?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, if I may, let me pick up on …
MARTHA RADDATZ: Do. Go ahead, please.
ROBERT KUTTNER: … a little bit on some of the things Cass was saying. I think a transformative president typically occurs against a background of crisis. And I think Cass is right. Sometimes the president has a very deliberate agenda, as Lyndon Johnson most clearly did. Other times it takes a president a little time to find an agenda, although I think Roosevelt found it within a matter of weeks and became a transformational progressive, even though on the campaign trail he was for a balanced budget. He was against public works. He was even against deposit insurance. I mean he was. In fact, a Republican, Arthur Vandenburg(?) had to conspire with Roosevelt’s own vice president and sneak the deposit insurance into what became the Class-Degal Act, which Roosevelt almost vetoed. So a lot of things we think of as quintessentially Rooseveltian he had to come to because of the forces around him, because of the crises that he inherited. And I think the relationship between reformist groups in the country and the presidency is a big part of the story.
Of course, the other great transformational president I think is Lincoln. And in each case, you have a social movement. The abolitionist movement in the case of Lincoln, the industrial labor movement in the case of Roosevelt, and a lot of progressives in Congress and, of course, the civil rights movement in the case of Johnson—pushing the president to be more radical than he intended to be. And, in some cases, Johnson being the quintessential one, the president himself sends a signal, as Johnson did to King, that he wants to be pushed by the movement. After all, the Congress that passed the ’64 Civil Rights Act was the same Congress, the same 88th Congress with the conservative southern Democrats, that had refused to pass the same bill that Kennedy introduced. And it was Johnson’s ability to work in tandem with, sometimes against, but playing off of the energy of the civil rights movement and coupled with his legislative genius that allowed him to transform how the public thought of the civil rights agenda.
Now, this is a long-winded way of backing into the question that Martha posed. The book that I recently wrote, Obama’s Challenge, was stimulated by an article that I failed to get Doris Goodwin to write on 2008 as a potentially transformative moment. And she, instead, agreed to sit still for an interview, which we did. And we both felt in that interview, which was the germ of this book -- which is dedicated to Doris -- that Obama faced both the kind of crisis that could be a transformative moment, and had things in his character that might allow him to be a transformative president, if he could first get elected.
And I think it’s interesting that a lot of people, a lot of progressives like me, looked at Edwards, looked at Hillary Clinton, and looked at Obama. And if you just parse it out in terms of their stands on issues, Edwards was the most progressive; Hillary was a little more progressive on a lot of issues; Obama was the most centrist. But I think a lot of liberals gave him a pass on the issues because they saw in him the seeds of a potentially great leader. And I think whether he would be a great president if elected and whether he manages to get elected, are increasingly becoming the same question. Does he have the nerve to stand for transformative change, in this case economic change? I mean what you have today is you have a very serious financial crisis on top of a slow-burning 30-year, not a crisis but a weakening of the economic security and economic prospects of ordinary Americans. If he can make that the theme of the election, he wins. And if he can make that the theme of a presidency, he could be a transformative presidency. If he fails, as so often is the case, cultural issues -- most recently symbolized by Governor Palin -- will once again trump economic issues. And I think that key question, whether he rises to the occasion both as a candidate and a president, will determine whether he gets to the White House and whether he is a great president or whether the economic crisis that he inherits will swamp him.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Joe, do you want to just pick up on that?
JOSEPH NYE: Yeah, I would pick up on Cass’ good list. I would just add Woodrow Wilson in the 20th century. And on the question of whether a transformational president is somebody you can judge during the election campaign, you’ve got to distinguish style from substance. You can have an inspirational style but not somebody who is really trying to change things in a deep, substantive way. I think Bill Clinton fits that, very inspirational in style but wasn’t really going for major transformation.
So we as voters then have to face the question of, how can you tell? We have a history in this country of presidents who run on one thing and do another. Remember Woodrow Wilson said, in 1916, “I kept you out of war.” Within four months we were in war. Lyndon Johnson, also; Franklin Roosevelt as well in 1940, Lyndon Johnson in ’64 -- we have a long history of having campaigns in which we hear one thing from a president and wind up with quite the opposite, often quite soon after the event.
I think the interesting question for us as voters, as we try to judge whether a president is going to be transformational or not, is to try to get hints from either their biographies or the way they’ve run their campaigns as to what their emotional IQ is going to look like. Now, emotional IQ sounds like a fancy term. You all know what IQ is. It’s the ability to do well in the French school system of 1890. [Laughter] You know, math and spatial relations. And psychologists show it can account for 20% of success in life. Of the missing 80%, part of it is emotional IQ, which psychologists who study this argue is the ability to master your emotions and use them to attract others to get things done.
And that’s a very important dimension because no matter what the candidate says about change or the change that he is going to make, the question is is he going to have the emotional IQ to be able to pull this off. And in that sense, I think it is worth remembering -- to pick up on a point that Cass made -- which is Franklin Roosevelt did not have a plan for solving the Depression. He did not have a plan for anything. He experimented badly, going from one thing to another, often in contradictory ways. But he had a sense of who he was, what he wanted to do, a sense of direction. And there is the famous story that when Chief Justice Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes was introduced to the new president he was asked, “What do you think of him?” And he said, “Second class intellect but first class temperament,” which in modern terms would be great emotional IQ. And I think the important thing then for us to try to judge is, not are one of these people saying exactly how they are going to change but are they going to be able to pull it off and carry it out.
My own feeling is, if you look at the current campaign, if you look at Obama and McCain, both of them -- now that McCain has adopted the change slogan and is back to being the maverick candidate -- they are both saying that they are going to bring about change. But then you have to go back and look at a combination of biography, how they used their campaigns, how they have mastered the crises they have seen, and will they have the emotional intelligence to actually pull this off.
I’ll express my biases here. I think Obama probably wins on that score. I think that McCain is admirable. I know him. There are many things I like about him. But if I look at his temperament and I look at Obama’s temperament, I have a suspicion that Obama probably has more of that emotional intelligence. McCain has a reputation for having a ferocious temper. He often shoots from the hip. He pulls Hail Mary passes in his campaign.
If you compare that with the way Obama dealt with the Jeremiah Wright issue, of turning lemons into lemonade with one of the best speeches we’ve had about race in America since Martin Luther King—I think that tells you something about whether this is a person who will be able to master the emotions to bring about or implement the change that he talks about. As I say, I’m speaking as somebody who has a preference, but I’m trying also to …
MARTHA RADDATZ: Like I said, the panel is a little stacked.
JOSEPH NYE: I’m trying to put this in historical context so that we realize that the things that are said in campaigns really don’t tell us voters what is going to happen. And we are looking at these other signals to try and get the answer.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Can I also bring up—when we talk about history and we talk about Franklin Roosevelt, they didn’t have bloggers. They didn’t have 24-hour news cycles. I know we talk a lot about the 24-hour news cycle, but this campaign has seemed just extraordinary to me about how quickly issues are in the news and they are out of the news, that the depth is very different in covering this campaign, that I don't know that voters really understand the issues and where the candidates are in this.
So when you say, if he manages to take the economy and put that in the lead he will win, how can he do that? How do you transform, how do you lead, how do you run a campaign in this environment?
JOSEPH NYE: I think, to some extent, you have to go negative in the best sense of the word. The past eight years have not been very good for ordinary people. And I think Obama has the skills to be what I call ‘president as teacher.’ There are lots of teachable moments. In the past week we just had two of them. And even in the era of sound-bite television and very short statements—for example, you could have taken the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac bailout and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the fruit of 30 years of conservative ideology, which is not only wrecking the mortgage market, but the spill over from the wreckage of the mortgage market is wrecking the economy, is wrecking financial markets. And this was a public institution, invented by Roosevelt, doing its job very well until it was privatized and the wise guys got hold of it, and used it as a way to enrich insiders and destabilize the whole mortgage market. And if you want more of the same you should vote for John McCain.” There are teachable moments in what’s going on throughout the economy that, as a Democrat and as someone who really admires the potential of Barack Obama, I would be happier if I saw him seizing more such teachable moments.
And I want to turn to Cass if I may because Cass has described, as quoted in a recent New York Times Sunday piece, Obama as something of an incrementalist, something of a hybrid, partly Chicago economist who respects markets. And I would submit, given what is going on in the economy, if he is going to be elected and if he is going to be a president who is not swamped by the economic travails that are still to come, he is going to need to be more than an incrementalist. So I wonder how you combine his incrementalist temperament and his … Excuse me for stealing your role.
MARTHA RADDATZ: No, that’s fine, fine, fine. I’m just here to facilitate.
JOSEPH NYE: … his desire to bridge differences, his desire to not have too sharp a partisan edge with the enormous economic task that he is going to have to confront if he is going to be elected.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And, actually, I’m just going to steal it back for a second. And add to that, too—one of the things I have noticed about Barack Obama in the last few weeks, is the candidates, because of what’s happening, get tentative—and how they battle that. They have to calibrate what they say. And do they lose who they really are and how do you deal with that? So if you can answer both questions.
CASS SUNSTEIN: I’m thinking that this mild-mannered law professor, I found my picture on Keith Olbermann is like the worst person ever. [Laughter] So I’m acutely … You didn’t see that episode? Is it called an episode of Keith Olbermann? You didn’t see that episode of Keith Olbermann, I hope? Okay.
MARTHA RADDATZ: We will be sure to find it on the Internet.
CASS SUNSTEIN: All right. There are a couple of points here. One is about Obama’s incrementalism and the other is about the 24-hour cycle. And they might be thought to be related, yes? I don’t believe I used the word “incrementalist” to describe Obama. And I wouldn’t use that term either for him or for Senator McCain. So one thing interesting about the current race -- neither is, by nature, and incrementalist. I don’t think that is the right word.
What I would describe Obama as, and I don't know that this term applies to McCain but it might, is a minimalist in the following sense -- in the sense of Justice Felix Frankfurter, of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. That is, minimalists in Obama sense don’t like to tell people that their deepest commitments are crap. [Laughter] Minimalists like to proceed in a way that takes on board rather than repudiating the deepest commitment of their fellow citizens.
Now, this approach to governance isn’t typically associated with our transformative presidents. So if you think of Reaganism, it is captured I think by an idea, a term, which is the Constitution in exile, a term for the Constitution of the 1930s, 1930, before Roosevelt got there. So much of Reagan’s program was really thinking the Constitution went off the rails in the New Deal and we needed to return to a pre-existing system.
For Roosevelt, it was the second Bill of Rights, which is, I think, his greatest speech, which suggests a right to education, a right to a decent job, a right to a home, and believe it or not, a right to healthcare. Roosevelt urged in 1944, which he understood basically retrospective on what his presidency was about. So there it the Constitution in exile. There is the second Bill of Rights. And for Johnson it was the great “We Shall Overcome” speech. And none of these three were minimalist in the sense of attempting to take on board the commitments of citizens who repudiated the values for which the official in question was thought to speak. But Obama, I believe, is a minimalist. And this is what probably irritates Bob a bit and frightens him, in the sense that he doesn’t want to say to people of any kind, “What you think is wrong and we are going to go in another direction.” He would prefer to say, “What you think most deeply is compatible with the direction we can share.” Yes?
Now, that needn’t be incrementalist, because Obama is something new in American politics. I don’t think we’ve seen a presidential candidate like this. He is a minimalist as Clinton occasionally was, too, but he is also a visionary as Clinton never was. And visionary in the sense that he believes in many domains, large-scale change is necessary, indispensable, possible. So in the domain of energy independence and climate change, Obama really wants to reorient practice in a way that is not like Clinton, not like Bush I, not even like Bush II, except in some ways after 9/11, in its size. But what he wants to do is to rely on markets and to tell the skeptics, “We are going to use market incentives. The Republicans were right all along to reject command and control regulation, and Paul Krugman hated that, said the Republicans were right on that. We’re going to take on the market enthusiasm in the interest of our goal, which is less reliance on forms of energy that simultaneously endanger national security, hurt the economy, and threaten to change the world’s climate.”
So what I would say about Obama is he is a visionary minimalist, really. He is, it happens, someone who has spent a lot of time at the University of Chicago and someone who very much appreciates the power and the values associated with free markets. He wants to use them rather than to reject them.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Will the gentleman yield for a question?
CASS SUNSTEIN: Yeah. Yeah.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And then Joe is going to jump in here.
ROBERT KUTTNER: I think command and control is one of the most successful straw men inserted into debate by the right wing. And I think it has been so successful because it has even captured the vocabulary of people as brilliant as Cass Sunstein. I mean it seems to me, if I may, that if you are … take the acid rain amendments of 1990. If you are saying that over the next 30 years sulfur dioxide is not going to exceed X, and we are going to use market mechanisms to get there, that is not the free market. And it was Sir Nicholas Stern who said that global climate change is history’s greatest change of market failure. And it is. And I think it is terribly important for people who believe in the mixed economy, as Cass does and as I do, and who believe that markets often fail, not to be so cowed by Chicago-speak, that we try to argue down Chicago economics in the idiom of Chicago economics and in the course of so doing, validate 95% of their premises.
CASS SUNSTEIN: If I …
MARTHA RADDATZ: I want Joe to jump in here, too.
JOSEPH NYE: Just to get in on this. I think this quest of market-non-market may be a little bit overblown. The question is, how do you combine the two. It is like hard and soft powers, how do you put these together? One or the other is not enough. To be smart power you have to be able to combine. And that often means the intuitive sense that a leader needs, that call contextual intelligence as to how to take moments and use them.
A good example is I just reviewed Tom Friedman’s new book on the front page of The Washington Post Book Review yesterday. He calls it The World is Hot, Flat and Crowded. And the argument basically is that we have to do something really serious about the issue of renewable energy. And he makes the point, which I think is correct, that if George W. Bush had declared a USA Patriot tax of $1 or $2 dollars a gallon on gasoline, we would be paying the same price for gasoline today. But instead of OPEC collecting those taxes and using it for our enemies, we would collect those taxes and invest it in renewable energy.
That’s a question of leadership, of knowing when to use market, non-market, when government can intervene. And that contextual intelligence is I think absolutely crucial. So I think there are things that can be done. And the interesting question early ’09 is whether McCain or Obama, whoever is elected, is going to have the guts to use that moment to say, “We have a major problem, a major crisis on energy and environment and we have got to do something.” I mean the market-non-market to me doesn’t capture that. It is a question of how does a political leader mobilize people to see that there is a major crisis.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And, Joe, if you will go on a little bit more about that between soft power and hard power and you write about this, I know, and that combination in finding the middle of that leadership, if we can sort of get back to that leadership idea.
JOSEPH NYE: Well, I think the interesting question for a leader is to know how to both be decisive but also attract people to a vision. I mean George W. Bush had a vision and his father was criticized for not having a vision. Yet if you look back at it, George H.W. Bush, Bush 41 had one of the better foreign policies we’ve seen in the last 50 years. And George W. Bush I think has had one of the worst. And you could say, “What’s the difference?” And I think the difference is how they conceived of leadership. Bush 41 conceived of the leader’s role as making sure that he got all sorts of advice from all sources and acted accordingly. And he presided over the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany and the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait extraordinarily well, very deft. And this was a man without, in quotes, “a vision.”
George W. Bush said the role of the leader is to have a vision, to appoint a team, to delegate to them and to be the decider, the ultimate decider. But if your vision is grandiose -- transforming the Middle East by coercive democratization -- and your team is deeply divided, as his team was, and you don’t police the delegations, and you don’t know what information is coming to you, you wind up with a foreign policy we wound up with.
So here are two presidents who are genetically as close to each other as any we are ever likely to see [laughter] and yet had totally opposite foreign policies. A lot had to do with their leadership styles.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Coming at it …
JOSEPH NYE: Forty-one had it.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Joe, and anyone, coming out of the Bush presidency, then, what are challenges—is it easier to be a transformative president now? I mean because of how America looks at George Bush and how bad his ratings are, what does that set up for the next president?
JOSEPH NYE: Well, George W. Bush saw himself as transformative. George H. W. Bush didn’t. And yet, ironically, George H. W. Bush provided over a huge transformation in American foreign policy for the good. And George W. Bush, to the extent there was a transformation, it was for the worst. I think you have to be awfully carefully about the way we throw these terms around. It has a lot to do with the style of the president and the style of leadership. Does he know how to combine hard and soft power? Does he reach out for all sorts of information? Is he open to ideas? And that’s the kind of thing, I think, we should look at as we judge who we think will be most successful.
MARTHA RADDATZ: But, Bob, when you look at the American public and where the American public is now after the Bush presidency, and factor that in to what a leader has to do and how that changes.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, I think the American public is looking for definition. I think the average citizen is very frustrated about his or her daily life economically, everything from the insecurity of healthcare to someone having to choose between a sick child and the security of a job. And things that ought to be politicized have been de-politicized both by Bush’s ideology and by his performance. You have a kind of … You remember revolution of rising expectations? We have a passivity of diminished expectations. Things that were once the province of politics have been de-politicized.
And so, I think a leader, whether it is McCain or Obama who can give definition, political definition to what people are experiencing in their private lives, could mobilize public sentiment and turn public sentiment into a powerful ally as the great presidents did. Certainly Roosevelt, certainly Johnson on civil rights, certainly Lincoln. And that to me is the key question. Otherwise, pocketbook frustrations are going to continue to be privatized and people are going to blame themselves for failing to make the right decision, getting into the wrong occupation at the wrong time, making the wrong bet on the wrong employer as far as healthcare is concerned and not seeing this as something that is a province of public policy.
I wanted to give Cass a minute to argue back because I hit him with some fairly fierce charges.
CASS SUNSTEIN: Well …
MARTHA RADDATZ: He seemed pretty unruffled.
CASS SUNSTEIN: Well, I’m pausing over actually a good point Bob made, [laughter] which was the relationship between energized social movements and transformative presidencies. And so a hypothesis we might provisionally adopt is that a pre-condition for a genuinely transformative presidency, as opposed to a successful presidency, is an energized social movement that has particular goals in mind. And then that relates to the present moment, doesn’t it?
We would want to ask whether in history all of our transformative presidents haven’t been vehicles in one or another sense of social movements that reach their peak at the time when the person occupied the office. On command and control, evil, bad and markets being enlisted for public good, desirable—on that dichotomy, which Bob doesn’t love, I guess all I want to say for present purposes is that I use that not to celebrate University of Chicago economics or to batter command and control, but to get some understanding of Obama’s approach in its early stages, admittedly. And where the approach seems to be one that attempts to take on board people with multiple, different commitments. And to say to people who are alarmed at the prospect of an Obama presidency, “What you care most about, I’m interested in, too.” Yes? That’s the minimalist dimension.
And what I wanted to have at twist for that, which does fit, I think, Obama’s own style, is that this is not associated with incrementalism. On the contrary, that I think his bet, which is very different from the standard left and I think the standard right -- though you could imagine a conservative version -- his bet is that the best way to get large scale transformation is in a way that takes on board others. That otherwise the legislature is too badly split; citizens are too badly split. For energy, for foreign policy we need to have a sense that people with their divergent commitments can go along.
Now, that doesn’t take a normative stand. I’m not saying that Bob is wrong in what … I happen to think he is. But it doesn’t matter whether he is or not for this to be an adequate description of what Obama is up to.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Can I just have …
MARTHA RADDATZ: Yes, you may. I will yield the time to you.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, I think what is interesting is that, although Roosevelt and Johnson built very broad coalitions by being respectful of people’s yearnings, there were also bad guys. There were economic royalists in Johnson’s cosmology, just as there were southern racists. And Johnson was willing to say there were people who were outside of the vision that the Good Society stood for. But he was willing to mobilize everybody else. And I think if Obama is for transformative change in, say, energy use, and he relates that to people’s desire for affordable, secure energy and can do it in a way that co-ops or brings in people who think his values are different, more power to him.
At the same time, there are some people who are enamored of gas-guzzling SUVs who may, de facto, be somewhat outside that consensus. And the question is do you try and make the consensus so broad that it turns out to be meaningless. That is a tightrope act that I think that the best politicians have done very well. You split the opposition but you don’t split the difference. You define an embracing vision that includes the vision of most people. And to me, that’s the stuff of transformative leadership.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Joe, I want you to talk about the fact that either one of these men, if they are president, and you too, Cass, because I know you have written about this—that there is room to disappoint in how you deal with the public. And probably in particular, and people have told me Obama, I mean people covering the campaign, some of them said, “You know, these crowds, they are enormous. They are so excited. If he gets in, there is enormous room to disappoint.” So talk about a little bit, both of them as objectively as you can over there.
JOSEPH NYE: Well, I think if you look at the risks for a McCain presidency, it will be whether the change that he has now picked up as a slogan or theme for the last two months of his campaign is something he is able to build or do with the constituency he has. I don’t think he has a constituency for change that would achieve what Cass or Bob said. So his big danger of disappointment is he will come in and find that, you know, if he is serious what he said about energy, that drilling isn’t going to be sufficient. If you look at the question of what you are going to do with nuclear, it is a good idea but it takes a long time.
And that we are going to find we are as much a prisoner of imported oil as we were before he came in. That leads to disappointment. I think it’s going to take something of a major rallying of people to the idea that we are selling the rope to hang ourselves as a people. That as we transfer more and more resources to oil regimes in the Middle East, where it leaks out to terrorist groups, we are endangering ourselves. So not only are we endangering ourselves in the long run through what we are doing to the climate, we are endangering ourselves in the short run by taking these resources, tax resources, and transferring them to OPEC countries instead of using them at home to provide adequate subsidies that you can move more quickly on renewables and move down the learning curves so that they do become market sustainable.
Obama I think would have the disappointment factor, too. But if he addresses it more clearly in the campaign as something that is going to be a major issue, that he takes this seriously, that this is going to be something that he will work on, he may have something of a mandate. I’m not sure McCain has got as much of a mandate on that issue.
So just taking that one, particular issue, which certainly was a major issue at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, I think the question is whether the underlying constituency is going to be there for McCain on that as opposed to Obama. Thought both will run into resistance of special interests.
CASS SUNSTEIN: It’s a fabulous question. And it has interesting asymmetries between McCain and Obama. So the question is if McCain is elected, what kind of disappointments would there be. There is one that is maybe important to underline, which is the social conservatives who are now so energized by the prospect of a McCain-Palin presidency will be very disappointed if in four years Roe against Wade is still the law of the land and the Supreme Court hasn’t been even more dramatically shifted in their preferred direction than it has been since 1980. So there is a lot of rage out there on the part of some of the most enthusiastic, current supporters of the McCain presidency. At the betrayal, as they understand it, of the Bush-Bush presidencies. They supported him. They worked hard for him. They didn’t get what they wanted. Gay marriage is lawful in Massachusetts and California. There’s no constitutional amendment going the other way. McCain himself apparently doesn’t want one.
And on an issue where McCain does have very strong convictions, that is he wants Roe against Wade to get overruled and his campaign site says he wants to start there and then to stop abortion at the state level, too. If he can’t deliver that, that’s going to be a terrible disappointment. The other one, which is less tractable I think, is if the economy continues to be difficult. Then economic interest, the thing McCain is more hopeful for economic recovery than Obama because in their view, McCain is more market friendly and growth oriented. If that just doesn’t happen because of what appears very possible, the sub-prime crisis will create economic trouble for a number of years. They are not going to have a place to go.
But they are going to be very upset and have a number of proposals as, incidentally, President Bush has too, face a number of proposals from, e.g., the American Enterprise Institute, Cato, and so forth. And they are going to be struck if the president and dismayed if the president says, “No. I don’t like that idea. So there’s a real risk for a McCain presidency both on the social issues and on the domestic ones, too.
On Obama we have a little more data points, I think. And you maybe heard a little of one from Bob. There is a sense, at least on … We can think of two different kinds, maybe, of Obama supporters: people who think that the country has been in a terrible era of polarization and relevant inaction, not total inaction but relevant inaction; and the fights of the sixties, when were they, and the nineties, we can kind of remember them, are dominating a world, which is just so radically different from the world that gave birth to those struggles. So the idea is go beyond them. That is one kind of Obama supporter.
There is another kind. Let’s call it the left with a capital “L” which says that, “It’s our turn now. And Obama is our guy because maybe he privately believes these things or we see enough in his progressivism, see healthcare, his concern for the earned income tax credit, a market friendly approach to poverty, a concern for their earned income tax credit—that he’s going to be compatible.” We see a little bit in the last months of a feeling of betrayal already on the part of the left with a capital “L” that Obama voted in the end for the telecomm immunity bill. It really wasn’t that, but that was a component of it. It was a president limiting bill that also had telecomm immunity. Obama was for it.
He is for the death penalty. He said so after the Supreme Court decision this term. It wasn’t the first time. He’s said so before. And he said the second amendment, in his view, confers to the individual the right to have guns. That is not the first time he said it, by the way. But the left, some aspects, some numbers of the left say, “Betrayal.” They say, “tacking to the center.” It’s actually on those issues not so. These are long-standing beliefs of his. But there is a risk that Obama will disappoint the left in those domains in which he doesn’t agree with them. And also, of course, there is a risk that his form of visionary minimalism will be blocked by special interests. We might not get healthcare. We might not get a reform of the sort he wants. People will say we voted for you and we didn’t get what we wanted.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Joe, I just wanted to ask you one quick question and then we will go to questions out here—and that is war and leadership. When either one of these men takes office, if the war goes badly in Afghanistan -- aren’t I so in the middle there -- if the war goes badly in Afghanistan or another war starts up somewhere, how should a leader handle that? I watched George Bush and certainly from my vantage point, I didn’t appreciate not being told what I thought was actually happening on the ground and being blamed for the war as a member of the media. But how do you handle that? How do you get a nation motivated, behind the troops, tell the truth if it’s going badly?
JOSEPH NYE: Well, I think we have an object lesson of how not to do it over the last seven years. But the great danger we are going to face, I think, is how we are going to handle Iran. And I think there has to be a pretty open discussion which the American people feel that they are given full facts. And that every effort is made before we wind up getting into something which could unite our enemies and create a major fiasco. So I think there is a little bit of this in the campaign, at which the two candidates are talking about Iran, with Obama saying much more about discussion and being more open. But I think that is likely the case.
MARTHA RADDATZ: I think that is the likely case, too. But I would sort of address that issue, or maybe someone else wants to do that, address that issue of leadership when things are going poorly.
JOSEPH NYE: Oh, when things are going poorly, I think the answer is you tell the truth. We’ve learned what happens when you don’t. It comes out anyway. But could I put a footnote, Martha? Cass’ thoughts stimulated for me on this question of disappointment. America needs to get its good reputation back. Our soft power depends upon our being seen as a land of freedom, not in the rhetoric of the second inaugural address but in the way we behave. And so long as we have Guantanamo and torture on the books, we’re not going to recover our soft power.
What worries me is that if this becomes a partisan issue that an Obama presidency will be tied by the Congress and not be able to handle it. And a McCain presidency, even though McCain has been admirable about this when he was a Senator, is going to find that he can’t do anything about that. I would love to see a situation where the two of them were to say, “You know, why don’t we agree to a bipartisan commission of jurists or constitutional scholars to bring whoever is the victor on January 21st a proposal for what we do with Guantanamo?” And just saying “close it,” isn’t enough because that’s easy. What do you do with people who are there. There are some of those people who we do not really want to let go, Kalid Sheik Mohammed and others. What is the principle on which we are going to deal with these people and how are we going to set this up? And if we could find some way to get this out of the partisan rat race and I think that would avoid a major disappointment, which would undercut either one of them after January 20th.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Cass are you dying to speak? Because I read George Bush’s body language and when he does that, I know he wants to speak. [Laughter]
CASS SUNSTEIN: Thank you so much. I’m pleased to say I wasn’t dying to speak. So in that respect …
MARTHA RADDATZ: See, there you go.
CASS SUNSTEIN: My body language and George Bush’s are not the same.
MARTHA RADDATZ: [Laughter] Do you have something quickly to say?
CASS SUNSTEIN: I think the most obvious risk of disappointment is if the economic slide continues and the president, whether it is McCain or Obama, doesn’t find a way out of that. My own view is that it is going to require transformative policies. And if the economy is still not doing well in 2010, whoever is fortunate enough to be president is probably going to lose seats in the mid-term anyway, lose even more seats if the economy is in a severe recession. And I think that’s more important, ultimately, than whether the base is disappointed because the president hasn’t gone quite as far as the base would like him to go.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Okay. Now, let’s open it up for questions out there. Maybe somebody will be asking about the transformative vice presidency. [Laughter]
CASS SUNSTEIN: Well, we had that with Cheney. Well, we answered all the questions.
MARTHA RADDATZ: No. I have a feeling you are going to get a few here. This is a crowd that likes questions.
AUDIENCE: Hi, there. My name is Jackie Lead(?). I live in the town of Natick. One of my great frustrations is that Washington doesn’t listen. They don’t listen to us any more. Those anthrax murders were the end all of anyone in Washington listening. Your mail doesn’t go there. Who can find an address or a telephone number for someone in Congress? You can call the White House common line. My friend Marsha Kaufman and I do it pretty frequently but we have no assurance that anyone listens. So I want to ask the panel, what’s the responsibility of whoever the democratically elected leader of our country, what is their responsibility to listen to us and how do we do that? I’m open for ideas. Thank you
MARTHA RADDATZ: Joe, why don’t we go to you on that one?
JOSEPH NYE: Well, I think a successful leader is able to realize that leadership is an interactive dance with followers and that requires listening. That when the leader just uses focus groups or polls or whatever as a substitute for listening, it doesn’t really get there. An effective leader has to have a feeling of what’s going on, how different people are reacting. And I think in that sense, if you look at somebody like Franklin Roosevelt, what was fascinating about him was the way he kept many strands of information coming in to him from all sources at the same time, often contradictory.
I mean he often found ways of … as he said, he always had many balls in the air and he wasn’t quite sure as a juggler how many of them were up there himself. But he had different strands of information coming in to him from all directions. And it wasn’t just his cabinet or by a hierarchy. And I’d like to see in the style of the next president that capacity to reach out, to hear people from different reactions and not just have it homogenized by polls that come through the political director’s office.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And, you know, if you put a check in your mail, you will hear back from them [laughter]. Time and time again. It works all the time. Sir.
AUDIENCE: Yes. You know, we’re stretched so thin militarily that when a crisis comes up that involves Russia, we are in no position really to act. A Russian intellectual once observed a number of years ago that Russia and the United States have much more in common with each other than they have adversarial situations. And he suggested that the United States should become an ally of Russia. They should become an alliance and they could use that alliance to fight off terrorism, for instance, and they could use that alliance to perhaps curtail the Iranian nuclear position. So I was just wondering if one of the presidential candidates were to say, were to advocate that. That instead of confronting Russia with missiles in Poland and trying to get Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, that we make an alliance with Russia and try to use them to curtail the threats to world peace, which is represented possibly by Iran and by the Middle East, Middle East nations.
MARTHA RADDATZ: It seems a bit more of a foreign policy question than leadership, but I’m going to let Joe take a crack at that.
JOSEPH NYE: Russia is going through a difficult spell right now. They are going through an extreme nationalist reaction against what they see as the indignities of the 1990s. And they are blaming a lot of it on us and on the west. If we play this for the short run and we kick them out of the Group of 8 and find other ways to ostracize them, we will feel better but it’s not clear that we are going to be better off in five to ten years.
We ought to be asking, what are the things we can do to show our displeasure to Russia for its invasion of Georgia, which is unacceptable, while also showing there is a way in which they can be partners in the long run if they improve their behavior. I think aid to Georgia makes sense to show that Russians can’t destroy Georgia. But also finding ways to deal with the Russians in a more constructive sense that you described makes sense. And I think that’s going to be a difficult and important balancing act for the next president.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Okay. Let’s go over here.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I am wondering about our common understanding, or is there a common understanding of transformation? Is it transformation of character or direction? Is it personal or cultural? And is it top down or bottom up?
MARTHA RADDATZ: Great question. Do you want to …
CASS SUNSTEIN: Yeah, I think that historically, for me, the test of a transformational president is whether the president has succeeded in achieving change that was thought impossible at the beginning of that president’s terms. I mean Lincoln set out to save the Union and ended up freeing the slaves. No one would have thought in 1860 that Lincoln would be able to do that. No one in 1963, after President Kennedy was assassinated, thought that Johnson would be able to achieve 100 years after the fact the redemption of what Lincoln attempted to do.
And I think in 1932, not even Roosevelt thought that he would cure the Great Depression by transforming the relationship of government to the private sector. And I think in the course of achieving these transformations, all three of which I happen to approve of, there was the interplay that all three of us have referred to between the people and the leader, and the transformation in the leader’s own goals, and the use of social movements, and the invigoration of democracy.
And although Reagan achieved a transformation that I don’t happen to approve of, it involved the same dynamic of rallying a mass movement and changing the public’s view of what the appropriate role of government is in the life of society and the life of the economy. So it involves energizing citizens. It involves moving beyond where the president thought we needed to go. And in many cases it’s change for the better. In some cases it isn’t.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Within the context of transformation, I’d like to just point out that 85% of the people in the United States are very unhappy with their government. About 90% of our representatives and senators are almost always automatically re-elected. I think there is a bit of a dichotomy there. And the other point is this: if we try to pass a constitutional amendment, that’s almost impossible because the small states have such a dominance in the Senate that they would automatically block one.
So I believe an opportunity for a president to transform the country would be to figure out how to solve that problem. I’m not sure what the solution is. But within the context of that, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you think the opportunities are for a president to transform the country.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Cass?
CASS SUNSTEIN: Okay. Thank you. That’s a great question and it’s a great piece of data that the people don’t like the government but they vote for their representative. Maybe the best explanation is they know their guy. And they think, “This is my representative and unless there is something badly wrong, I know the person’s name. So I like to vote for people whose names I know. And the person probably isn’t a disaster, so maybe delivering some benefits to the area. But I don’t like the collection of people up there.
So it is not really as incongruous as it seems to think that the local person is fine but the collection isn’t good. On the constitutional side, you’re right. It’s very hard to get constitutional change because you need either through the national legislature or through the states a strong majority. But we might overstate the indispensability of constitutional change to transformative government.
What Reagan did was as significant as many constitutional amendments on substantive counts and on terms or our institutions. Things were radically different after Reagan than before. And the same was true of Roosevelt and Johnson. There is some effort among the law professors to describe each of the three just mentioned of having engineered a constitutional moment. And while that is probably more metaphor than reality, it’s the right metaphor. So they did do the equivalent of what in other nations would be a constitutional change. It had a foundational quality to it.
We have two opportunities in the domestic domain right out front that this election presents that maybe one or the other of the candidates will engineer it. One is healthcare reform in a way that would vindicate Roosevelt’s claim in ’44 that healthcare was a right. So most Americans now believe that healthcare is a right. And that would be like a constitutional change with a small “c.” That’s one. And the other is transformation of the energy sector in a way that takes account of economic, national security and environmental needs.
Interestingly, both the Republicans and the Democrats have that as one of their top issues. And there is a possibility there.
ROBERT KUTTNER (?): I would just add that one other explanation for your paradox is that until fairly recently, both parties at the state level colluded in the creation of safe seats. So that if a state is split 50-50 among Democrats and Republicans, instead of everybody going after each other hammer and tongs every two years, you say, “Okay. You take those three safe seats. I’ll take these three safe seats. We will draw the district so that our three guys always get elected and your three guys always get elected.” And I think that bears some of the responsibility, too.
CASS SUNSTEIN: If I might just add one more comment.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Just quickly. I just want to get as many people as we can.
CASS SUNSTEIN: I just wanted to say this. You posed two concepts before, economic needs for the country and the other one was energy needs. And I believe that combining those two ideas is perhaps one of the best opportunities we have for transformation.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I wonder if you could speak to how either candidate is going to be able to work with Congress. I mean I can assume Obama can work with the Democrats. And he’s stated he can work across the aisle. I don't know if he has a track record. But McCain says he is going to go and clean out the swamps and get rid of the alligators and he’s a maverick and he doesn’t agree with what the Republicans have been doing. Who is he going to work with? [Laughter]
MARTHA RADDATZ: Which could bring us to the campaign, the same as governing, too. Yes. Bob, Cass? Who wants to go with that one?
CASS SUNSTEIN: I think Obama—I mean, independent of who wins the White House, the prediction is that the Democrats are going to pick up seats in both houses. And if you have Obama’s history of working across the party aisle, which he really did rather well in the state legislature in Illinois, you really only need about 57 or 56 even in the Senate and you can do it. House, the Democrats have been much more disciplined lately than they had been previously. McCain, barring a complete upset and a Republican takeover of Congress, would have a much tougher time, unless he is deceiving his own base and reverts to being the independent that some people thought he was.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Okay, over here.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Can you define the difference between professional, truthful reporting and propaganda?
PANELIST: Martha? [Laughter]
MARTHA RADDATZ: Go ahead, you guys, Bob?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Yeah. I wear both hats. I do a little bit of each. [Laughter] I think objective …
MARTHA RADDATZ: That’s not a loaded question or anything, is it?
ROBERT KUTTNER: Objective is an over-used term. I think any reporter draws conclusions. And if you’re afraid to draw conclusions from the facts that you find in the course of your reporting, you’re not a very good journalist. There is the classic parody of Hitler murdered six million Jews, but he built the Autobahn. And you can be so objective that you miss the point utterly.
I think propaganda is a willful disregard for the truth to prove a point. And I think most professional journalists try to get the story right, try to be evidence-based, even though getting the story right means sometimes drawing conclusions that produce discomfort for one of the other players. But I would really like to hear what Martha has to say.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Oh, really. I mean I agree with him to a point. Journalism is changing so much. I mean what worries me more than anything is that the public, in their minds, doesn’t distinguish between different news organizations, bloggers. I mean I go crazy sometimes watching cable news and hear people talk about Iraq, who have no idea what they are talking about. And that is not to say cable news. But there are people on the sort of 24-hour cycle who you just throw on and it is part of that cycle. And it all becomes blurred.
I mean my job becomes blurred, too. I did George Stephanopoulos’ show yesterday, and David Brooks was on and George Will was on. And I said to them, “I feel kind of like the idiot in the middle sometime because I have to remain somewhat objective here. And, you know, David Brooks can say what he wants and George Will can say what he wants, and I either sound really just dull or stupid. But it is a very hard line to walk across because certainly I believe that I am capable of analysis. I don’t like to analyze things I don't know anything about.
But if I want to talk about foreign policy or I want to talk about national security or I want to talk about the Bush presidency, I feel that I can analyze that. Can I go as far as giving my opinion, no. And, certainly—I mean I agree with him completely about propaganda. I don’t want the spotlight on me today. Come on. This is like my day off. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: I have a follow up question to that because it seems with the transformative presidents that you identified, they needed a social movement and they also needed a vigorous, independent press. And you identified that news has completely changed now. The news cycle is very balkanized and specialized. And also, one of the parties has really seemed to be running against the press. And there is really an assault on journalism. And I wondered …
MARTHA RADDATZ: We’ve been through it before. Can I just answer this? I mean you really do—I mean I think it is true. I think it is sort of a brilliant tactic to go after the press because then you sort of reset yourself and, oh, are we being too hard? I’ll admit that. You do. You sort of say, “Am I doing this? Am I doing that?” But to me the best example was the Iraq War. I mean day after day after day they blamed us. Day after day they said, “You are not showing the good news. You are not showing how great it’s going.” I mean you read this Woodward book now and, I mean, a lot of us knew this anyway, what was really going on.
And the President actually admitted to me in an interview a few months ago that during 2006 he knew it was failing and he would still come out every day and say, “We’re going to”—I mean obviously he would say a few things are going badly and there are challenges. But the overall impression is, “It’s going pretty well.” When, in fact, he knew it wasn’t. And to me that’s the American people saying, “You know what? I can see. I can see what’s going on. I don’t mistrust the press on this one.” So I think the public resets itself as well. Anybody else? Go ahead.
CASS SUNSTEIN: Here is a little idea signaled by what you said that Montesquieu describing the system of separation of power, said it produces a natural state of repose or inaction. And, actually, in the 20th century that’s been overcome really by certain pressing crises and also the capacity for transformative presidency just because the executive branch can do so much.
The little, inchoate idea is that in an era in which the media is so diverse and distinctions between the respectable and the bloggers is so thin, it’s—in the public eye, at least -- it’s like the separation of powers in a way, squared, or on steroids. [Laughter] In a way that makes transformative presidency face at least an obstacle that Reagan and Johnson and Roosevelt never did. This is an inchoate idea. But I wonder if it isn’t so, that McCain or Obama try to do something very large, they will face a barrage of attacks, both substantive and personal, many of them false and baseless but it will take a lot of work to show that.
And that may … Montesquieu’s 21st century victory, something like that
JOSEPH NYE (?): I mean I don’t disagree with that but it’s worth going back and reading a little bit about Washington, Adams and Jefferson in terms of backbiting, bipartisan press. It makes today look almost tame and that is hard to do. [Laughter] But I think the basic point is deeper. And it goes back to the question we heard earlier about American Constitution. You know, the quip is that the founding fathers deliberately set up a government which made it difficult to change anything, difficult to be transformational.
And the quip was that they created a government so that King George couldn’t rule over us again and neither could anybody else. [Laughter] And what we find is that when you do get major changes in American policies, I mean really big changes, it comes from the followers. It comes from a broad consensus in the public.
And I guess the question that Cass raises is the presence of the Internet and blogging and niche markets. Is it making it impossible to have that kind of a broad movement? I don’t think so. I think, actually, if you take a question like this issue of energy and the environment, I can see a situation where you actually could get a broad based movement. One of the encouraging things I found in listening to the Republican convention, which otherwise wasn’t for me encouraging, was the emphasis that they had on renewable energy in their litany of things that needed to be done on energy. If we could get a broad based consensus on this and get a leader who knows how to work across party lines, it might be possible to get something done.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Okay. Over here, please.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I look around and I bet you there are a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters in this room. So my question is sort of for them and for me also. [Applause] When I had to make a choice it was very difficult for me because I sort of sensed that Barack Obama was not as progressive, quote-unquote, as Hillary Clinton. But at the same time, I thought that Barack Obama could, in fact, build or have a social movement behind him. And I think it is very important in terms of making real changes. But I sense, though, that Hillary Clinton had more core principles than either her husband or Barack Obama. So since there is a possibility that in four years we might be having to look at Hillary Clinton again, I was wondering whether or not anyone there could tell us what they think her transformative sort of powers would be.
MARTHA RADDATZ: We will let you off the hook on this one.
CASS SUNSTEIN: I think Hillary Clinton is fabulous, I should say. As someone who worked with Obama for many years, I think the world of Senator Clinton and I’ve worked with her; I’ve been privileged to work with her. So I agree with the thrust of the question. I guess I’d say, in terms of transformation, we want to look at three features of her. One is what does she care most deeply about? And the answer, off hand, would have to include healthcare and children. She’s worked on both of those issues her whole career. So large scale changes with respect to each of those. And on healthcare her plan had an interesting difference from Senator Obama’s, though they both are transformative compared to what we now have. That is the substance. The second is her intimate knowledge of the operation of the White House and the relation with the legislative branches. So that she has in a way that is promising of the potential for cross cutting action that would include the necessary numbers. The third point on your question is that at least now it’s to be hoped that this won’t be so four, eight, 12, with the way longevity is going, many years from now, if she runs again. It won’t be the case that she is the kind of polarizing figure that she, I think, still remains that would cause difficulties for her.
She is such a terrifically winning person and so knowledgeable that who is to say she wouldn’t be able to overcome the polarizing facts associated with her last name and the fact she’s been a rallying cry for people who, actually, privately admire her. So these are the three points.
AUDIENCE: Similar question and Martha, you raised it earlier. And that is the question of the vice presidency. We’ve had, I think, four vice presidents become presidents in the 20th century. And I’m just wondering if any role about leadership at all in the selection of the vice president or Harry Truman, was there any thought of him as a leader when he was selected? [Laughter] I mean what happened there?
MARTHA RADDATZ: I think of the feeling that his audience has kind of made up its mind on that one.
AUDIENCE: I think so, too. But I’m just wondering if leadership in the vice presidency is any factor in the [simultaneous conversation]
MARTHA RADDATZ: As you said, Dick Cheney certainly changed all of that.
JOSEPH NYE: Could I put in a word for Sarah Palin, which is probably not a popular view? But if you look at Harry Truman, he was a Senator who was known for his loyalty to the Boss Prendergast machine in Kansas City. He held some hearings in the Senate on war issues. He was not a great, distinguished figure. And Roosevelt kept him in the dark. Truman did not know what was going on. And when Truman became president, it took him a while but he did rise to the occasion. And the reason is because he was a man with a strong sense of self who listened to others and surrounded himself with very good people.
I don't know much about Sarah Palin. I don’t think many people do. But if you noticed the way she handled herself in the convention speech, which was a skillful performance, and you notice that this is a woman who is able to combine hard and soft power. She uses her motherhood for appeal but she also is tough, it’s conceivable that after some time, if she learned on the job, she might be able to do a Truman.
I’m just saying. That is not how I’m going to vote. [Laughter] But I just think we ought to keep our minds open. I mean it’s not inconceivable that she might be able, right now, given her experience she has zero, particularly in foreign policy. And I think if she were to suddenly become president now it would be a disaster. But, you know, Truman had a little bit of time. He learned somewhat on the job and I think the answer is, on many of these things we don’t have the answers. You know, you try to guess as best you can about their emotional intelligence, their combination of hard and soft power skills, and their ability to learn and their ability to listen.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And one more question and let’s get that quickly.
AUDIENCE: And thank you. Mine was also a Sarah Palin question, which is what does it say about John McCain’s leadership that he chose Sarah Palin?
MARTHA RADDATZ: Bob? I’m not going to … Go ahead.
ROBERT KUTTNER: You know, the stories one hears, and I think the reporting on this is pretty solid, is that McCain did not want to choose Sarah Palin, that he wanted to choose Joe Lieberman or maybe Tom Ridge. And this is the McCain who really is somewhat independent. And there was a revolt by the Republican base. And his campaign staff came up with the idea of Sarah Palin, whom he barely knew.
Now it may turn out to be a very shrewd stroke. The initial reaction of the press was this was panic. This was crazy. It turned out that she is a pretty shrewd politician, and she has energized the Republican base and we are going to have to see over the course of the next few weeks whether it was a master stroke or whether she is going to fall apart under pressure.
But it suggests that, to me anyway, that this is a guy who takes his political advice often from the professionals. And that served George W. Bush well [laughter] at least in getting re-elected. And I think it remains to be seen whether this pans out. So I think the original thought that the Democrats were going to have a field day with this because it showed that he was panicky and it showed that he chose someone wildly unqualified, it’s going to be a more complicated story than that.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Cass?
CASS SUNSTEIN: I think it is really interesting and it is actually a subtle question: what does it say about his leadership style. And it fits nicely, doesn’t it, with the general theme of the day. I think it says two things. One is Governor Palin was widely unknown within the United States. The Weekly Standard has been promoting her as impressive, terrific, a good choice, an up and comer. Fred Barnes did a piece about her. He was bowled over by her. Rush Limbaugh has been promoting her, [laughter] and he’s been a big McCain skeptic. I don’t mean to make fun of Rush Limbaugh at all, really, just to say that this is someone who had a very strong constituency of people for whom she wasn’t a “Who’s she?” person by any stretch of the imagination. She was a: “Thank goodness she did it.” That was their reaction, not who.
So that says something about Senator McCain about his, what’s the right word?, appreciation of interest in, cultivation of, sympathy with a certain part of his base, which had felt neglected by much of his campaign. That is important to know. Yes, that would say something about his governing style.
I think the other thing to say is that everyone who knows him and has observed him has said the word “maverick” captures part of it. But he’s a bit of a gambler by nature. He is someone who takes risks. The downside of this for his critics is a tendency towards impulsiveness, they say. But this has, for all the familiarity of Governor Palin to some parts of the base, it does have a gambling quality. That’s why I think the question is a subtle one. It signals to things about Senator McCain we might not quite have known before, or not known so well, maybe.
MARTHA RADDATZ: Whether that gambling quality is something that a good leader can have sometimes?
CASS SUNSTEIN (?): No question that sometimes—I mean Roosevelt, you know, the lend lease program where he gave arms, illegally by the way, secretly also by the way, to England—that was a gamble and it worked.
JOSEPH NYE (?): But a very cautious one. He knew where the public was before he did it.
MARTHA RADDATZ: On that gambling note we will wrap up our session here. Thank you all for coming.
MARTHA RADDATZ: And you will tell them about the books.
JOHN SHATTUCK: Well, we’ve learned what kind of leader we want. Now we will see what kind of leader we will get. But thank you all. It’s been a wonderful evening. I want to make sure that everyone here knows we have three new and frequent authors. Our three panelists have new books, which they will be signing out front. And anyone who wants the sequel, which is how does the Internet and blogging, YouTube and all the other communication phenomena affect presidential campaigns, come here on Thursday. That is the next topic for “Making of a President, 2008.”
Thank you all very much for coming. Thank you, Joe Nye. Thank you, Cass Sunstein. Thank you, Bob Kuttner. And thank you, Martha Raddatz.
END OF FORUM