DOUGLAS BRINKLEY (Cronkite/CBS News Consultant): I-- I think he may have been the last one. You know his first President he got to interview in 1951 was Harry Truman, and Cronkite was from Missouri and so, you know, Truman was the-- the boy from Independence, and he got to do a guided tour, Truman gave Cronkite of the White House, but Walter was so nervous he could barely talk, he was a cub reporter basically and he would ask Truman things like did the clocks work and, you know, in the White House and he was very sad about his performance. But by the time, he clicked into, you know, the Eisenhower years, he got very close to Eisenhower because Bill Paley, the head of CBS, used to work for Eisenhower in World War II. But Walter ended up having great success with Ike. He even went later to Normandy with him famously. But it was John F. Kennedy that really triggered--
JOHN F. KENNEDY (recording, voice overlapping): Unbelievable--
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: --Kennedy as David Halberstam. It was the first television President, and Walter got on the mix, he got a huge interview on CBS, just months before Kennedy died and then he did as you mentioned all the Presidents through up to Ronald Reagan who gave him a-- a great good-bye interview when he stepped down as anchor.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But, you know, knowing Walter, it does not surprise me that he asked Harry Truman, how the clocks worked? Walter was the most curious person I have ever met. He wanted to know how everything worked. If there was a car wreck outside this bureau right now, Walter would want to run out and see what happened. It would be like it's the first car wreck he ever saw. So that does not surprise me, but, you know, Walter could get Presidents on the telephone. It's not that way anymore. Michael, you and Nancy, you deal with this every day. We'll talk about your book in a minute.
MICHAEL DUFFY (The Presidents Club/TIME Washington Bureau Chief): It has been a long time since I got-- ever got a President or ever imagined to get a President on the phone. It is much more staged now than it was in those days; much more controlled their relationships between the White House, any President, any party, and the reporters, even the anchor men who cover them.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah, and-- and-- and Robert, do-- do you find that surprising, the-- the kind of relationships that the press once enjoyed with our Presidents since-- it does-- it's not that way anymore. For one thing, there are so many more reporters. There are-- there are no deadlines anymore. It's-- the-- the-- it seems to me that the-- the wall between the press and elected officials is-- is much higher than it ever was?
ROBERT MERRY (Where They Stand/The National Interest Editor): Absolutely. In-- in one sense, the process has been more democratized because there's more reporters, there are more people with reporting power, there's more outlets, there's more access to the audience, but in other way, it's less democratic in the sense that these people don't have the access to the newsmakers that they used to have. I wrote a book some years ago on Joe and Stewart Alsop who were giants of their time in the print realm and they had immense access and a lot of people said at the time when the book came out, well, right, but the-- the American people weren't really invited into those salons, into those interviews. But they gave good fare for the money now everybody is a newsman and they don't have the access but they have opinions and so they are throwing out a lot of that stuff.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Nancy, your book that you and Michael have written and I understand it was five years in the making, it has an entirely new take on the presidency, because it makes you realize that, especially in modern times, people who were President have become very close to the people who happened to be President, and this has happened several times. One of the things that I remember is when-- when Lyndon Johnson became President, one of the first things he did was call the President who had come before he and Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and said I really need your help. Eisenhower came down, but there were-- when was the first time that-- that former Presidents and-- and whoever happened to be in office decided to work together (INDISTINCT)?
NANCY GIBBS (The Presidents Club/TIME Deputy Managing Editor): That actually goes back to, you know, John Adams calling up George Washington to ask him for help.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.
NANCY GIBBS: But-- but it's different in the modern age, because you can pick up the phone and the things that former Presidents can do for a sitting President are much greater, both privately and publicly, but what we found that surprised us most is how often the more different Presidents are, different generations, different parties, different personalities, the more likely they seem to be able to work together, and we see this going back to Harry Truman, reaching out to Herbert Hoover, who was a pariah still and-- and secretly mailing him a letter asking him to come into the White House and help him out.