"Face the Nation" transcripts November 25, 2012: Presidential and fiction authors
BOB SCHIEFFER: Evan, what came back to me, as I was reading your book, is that-- that Eisenhower in his own way was a very good politician, and I don't think he's gotten a credit for that and I first came to think about this earlier this year, I moderated a seminar on LBJ up at Hunter College and I asked Ervin Duggan, who was one of Lyndon Johnson's young aides at the time, I asked him, who did LBJ admire as a politician? And he surprised everyone there by saying he thought the best politician he ever knew was of all people Dwight Eisenhower. And not just because of what he was able to do to get the people together as supreme allied commander during World War II, but even afterward and-- and he said something and I saw it time and again in your book. He said that Eisenhower had a way of getting his way without you knowing that's what he wanted to do.
EVAN THOMAS (Ike's Bluff): Well, he had a great kind of confidence, the confidence to be humble. I mean, he was once how to do-- he was asked once how to do with Churchill who is so demanding and so difficult and Ike said, "Well, it was a problem, but in the end I knew I was in charge." This is in World War II. And he had that kind of confidence. He didn't have to show anything. He-- he knew at the end he would decide, but he let people have their egos, let them bounce off of each other, and he was patient, a quality I wish I had more of. But-- well, I wish we all had more of. He was patient. He didn't decide until he absolutely had to. And he could tolerate enormous dissidence and clashing egos, knowing at the end of the day he was the one who would decide.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, he was so confident--and I take this from your book--he was not afraid and I can't imagine any politician today who would have this much confidence. He was not afraid to leave the impression that he didn't know about something.
EVAN THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, amazingly--
BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): When, in fact, he probably did and often did.
EVAN THOMAS: He was famous for his bad syntax in press conferences. And so the press, which was lazy and maybe even lazier than today, thought that he was dumb. He was not. He was intention-- one time before a press conference, they were saying, "Well, Mister President, you have to be careful what you say here." And he said, "Oh, don't worry. I'll just confuse them." and he did. And he was-- he-- he had the confidence to be able to deal with that. Sometimes you have to be a little opaque. Sometimes you have to be very clear. He also knew when to be clear.
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Jon, the thing I find interesting, and it just reminds us you know, we have this great debate today about big government versus small government.
JON MEACHAM (Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power): Right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Thomas Jefferson was a small government guy, and, yet, he had these big ideas. When it came time to purchase, you know, you know, the half of the continent here with the Louisiana Purchase, he went right out and did it because he saw this as a continental nation.
JON MEACHAM: He was a small government guy unless he was in charge of big government. I think one thing all are-- all these subjects have in common is as long as they were in charge, they could pretty much justify damn near anything. Jefferson believed that the ground of liberty was gained by inches. And even though he lived through these amazingly tumultuous times and born the subject of king and dies as the President of-- of a new country, he understood that compromise was the essence of politics and I think we sometimes think of Jefferson as, you know, we think of Eisenhower as kind of bumbling. Jefferson we think of as the Renaissance man, you know, it's-- it's Monticello. It-- it's wine. It's farming. It's gardening, it's all beautiful. But, fundamentally, he spent forty years as a working politician. And I think the fact that he got things done and took that great interest in it should give us all hope.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Why is it that we seem to have lost this whole idea of-- of compromise now? Politicians don't know how to do it anymore. Doris turns-- talks about how LBJ would have brought them all into the White House and wouldn't have let them out.
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