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Face the Nation Transcript: November 26, 2017

JOHN DICKERSON: Today on FACE THE NATION: On this Thanksgiving weekend broadcast, we'll explore what history teaches us about leadership and times of crisis. With historians including Robert Dallek, his new book is "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life." Ron Chernow's latest work is "Grant," a biography of our eighteenth President Ulysses Grant. Mark Updegrove has written about the forty-first and forty-third Presidents Bush. His new book is called "The Last Republicans." And we'll also be joined by Nancy Koehn, author of "Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times." Do leaders share common traits? What does the past tell us about the present? We'll also talk about genius and creativity with Walter Isaacson, author of "Leonardo Da Vinci." And back in the present, our analysts will catch you up on what you missed this week and look ahead to the end of the year's sprint in Congress.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson. Most of our post-Thanksgiving broadcasts will be devoted to a discussion on leadership in times of crisis. But we begin with the news. President Trump is winding up a five-day trip to his Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, where he played golf with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson and also wished U.S. troops overseas a happy Thanksgiving. Before he left, he spoke with reporters and said that he is supporting Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

WOMAN: Is an accused child molester better than a Democrat? Is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He says it didn't happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him also. You're talking about-- he said forty years ago this did not happen.

JOHN DICKERSON: Minnesota Democrat Al Franken responded to new allegations that he touched women while taking photographs with them. "I feel terribly that I've made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again." We will hear more from Senator Franken later today. His office tells us that he will be doing interviews with WCCO-TV, our CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, as well as Minnesota Public Radio and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Congress returns to Washington this week in addition to dealing with new claims of sexual harassment against House Democrat John Conyers, they face a daunting to-do list with three weeks left before the holiday break. Government funding expires on December 8th, so the government will shut down unless an agreement is made. The Senate must decide by December 14th whether to reinstitute sanctions against Iran, lifted under the Iranian nuclear deal. Funding has expired for the Children's Health Insurance Program and the money to cover nine million children will effectively run out by the end of the year so will the authority for a key surveillance program used to combat terrorism. Then there's that enormous tax cut package that the President wants passed by Christmas. And Congress needs also to pass a hurricane relief bill to help those affected by this year's storms.

And with all of that on the table, we turn to our panel. Susan Page is Washington bureau chief of USA Today. Reihan Salam is executive editor of the National Review. And Jamelle Bouie is the chief political correspondent for Slate and a CBS News contributor. Susan, I'll start with you. Roy Moore, the White House distanced themselves at first but now the President is all in. He tweeted this morning against Roy Moore's opponent. What changed?

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): Well, I think the President sees some parallels perhaps with his own situation. He was accused of sexual misconduct. He won the election anyway. I think he would also very much prefer to have a Republican vote in the Senate rather than a Democratic vote. And this will be a big test for voters in Alabama above-- of the-- of the personal versus the political, the politics of Alabama say any Republican will beat any Democrat but we're at a moment in our country's history where there is an attention to the personal behavior of powerful men and that might turn this election. We just don't know.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jamelle, there is maybe a split, maybe there's not a split but there appears to be a split between the President who would-- who doesn't believe the Roy Moore's excusers and Senate Republicans--

JAMELLE BOUIE (Slate Magazine/@jbouie): Right.

JOHN DICKERSON: --including McConnell and Mike Lee, other senators who've looked at the evidence, looked at responses from Roy Moore and said, we believe the accusers. Do you think that split matters? What do you think happens with that split?

JAMELLE BOUIE: I think that's what matters in terms of what happens if Roy Moore wins. If Moore ends up prevailing in this Senate contest, then Senate Republicans who have-- as you said-- as you said stated that they believe the accusers have in-- in both harsh words, not so harsh words, condemned Moore will have to deal with the fact that they now have an accused child molester in their caucus. And there will-- I think there will be serious pressure to expel him from the Senate as a result. And that-- that is a direct blow to their attempt to get through this busy December to-- to advance their agenda and it's a major political weight for the entire party. And I'm not sure that President Trump is necessarily looking at it-- looking at this a couple steps down the road. I think he's very much focused on, I got to get a win, I got to get a win. But once you just back away a little bit, having Moore win and then come to the Senate presents just a whole host of political problems that will not be easy to deal with.

JOHN DICKERSON: And cultural ones because if this moment is one in which we're trying to figure out whether the culture enables, the question is Reihan, whether-- whether the voters of Alabama are enabling this kind of behavior which is to say somebody gets accused and then their party rallies around them and it kind of covers over the accusation.

REIHAN SALAM (National Review/@reihan): It's very important to keep in mind that in the case of Roy Moore, this was also the case for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There are many reluctant voters. Votes who vote for their candidate on the basis pretty much of negative partisanship. The thought that the opposing candidate would be such a disaster, so if you look at Doug Jones, it's very striking that here you have a candidate who is not a classic conservative southern Democrat. He is a very mainstream Democrat who has all of the mainstream Democratic positions on, for example, abortion rights and much else. So the fact that he is as competitive as he is right now, actually tells you quite a lot about the state of the Republican brand, particularly the state of the Republican brand among middle class, upper middle class, college educated Alabamian voters. The fact that it's quite possible that he will win this election speaks to the general weakness of the party, because you think that the party membership alone would be enough to carry even someone like Roy Moore through given the climate of extreme negative partisanship.

JOHN DICKERSON: What are the Democrats looking like in Alabama, Susan? I mean, are they going to rally or are they undone by this-- these allegations or is that-- or might they not turn out and Roy Moore will make it?

SUSAN PAGE: It is-- it is not clear that Democrats are going to be energized especially African-Americans in Alabama. And this is, I think, a bit of a dilemma for Doug Jones, because if you brought in Barack Obama to kind of rally African-American voters, do you then repel some of those Republicans voters who don't want to vote for Roy Moore, but have been long opposed to Barack Obama. I think that is one of the complicating factors here.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jamelle, Democrats have their own issues. So, Al Franken is going to speak later today, new accusations against him. The question being whether Democrats lose standing to speak on this issue if they don't deal with their own as harshly as they like to see Republicans deal with Roy Moore. We also have John Conyers, a long-time Democrat in the House who's had an accusation come out. So how do they manage this issue?

JAMELLE BOUIE: In my-- it's clear right now that Democrats are trying hard not to manage this issue, not to putting pressure on either Conyers or Franken. My sense is that you're-- you're right that their credibility on this issue depends on being able to take a strong stance on it, even if the details of, say, Franken's incidents are-- are sort of-- I think in order of magnitude different than what Roy Moore's accused of. But even still it requires I think decisive action to show the public that the party is taking these things seriously. And in the case of-- of Franken, it's not as if-- if there were pressure for him to resign that they would be endangering his Senate seat, right. Like, politically this doesn't-- this doesn't seem-- this doesn't-- isn't a direct threat to their minority or future majority. So my view is that Democrats really should take the lead on this and that it does not reflect well to be so hesitant to put pressure on Senator Franken.

SUSAN PAGE: You know, his-- his offenses aren't as serious as Roy Moore, but they're just so stupid, you know. He's a U.S. Senator and he's groping women at the state fair.


SUSAN PAGE: What was he thinking? He was no longer a comic at-- at that point. And in-- in a way, it's-- as you say, it's easy for Democrats if Roy-- if Al Franken is forced to resign, which I think is not likely but is still possible. Not only would he be-- likely be replaced by a Democrat, he would probably be replaced by a Democratic woman given the very strong ranks of women in Minnesota politics.


REIHAN SALAM: It's also true, however, that Minnesota is a state trending Republican over time. When you see a state like Virginia become more Democratic, that's partly because of domestic migration. It's the same reason why states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and what have you are becoming more winnable for Republicans. So, you know, the next election there-- for his seat is going to be in 2020. That's a fair bit of time. The question is does the party matter more than Al Franken's own survival and success? In Roy Moore's case, it's very clear that he has at-- not the best relationship with the Republican Party and the Republican establishment, right? So there-- it kind of makes sense that he's quite happy to wage war on all the Republicans who are calling for him to step down. Al Franken presumably is someone who cares about the health of a larger progressive movement and the Democratic Party and it's very clear that he is a lot less popular than the next at-bat Democrat in that state.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let's move on now to policy and all the business that Congress has in front of it. Jamelle, when they return tax cuts to the central question, how-- where do you think that conversation stands on the race to get this passed before the end of the year?

JAMELLE BOUIE: Well, at the moment, I think the Republican tax bills coming in for a fair amount of criticism for its-- its expense, its sheer cost, that these tax cuts will end up adding huge amounts to the federal debt, the federal budget deficit. And I think that there are some Republicans who are-- have begun to voice their concern about that fact. Susan Collins has stated that she's not happy with where the bill-- where the Senate bill stands right now. So I think if-- if there's a path to this happening, it's going to revolve around sort of finding ways to-- I mean much frankly like the-- like the health care battles earlier this year. Finding ways to assuage those handful of Senate Republicans who are not entirely comfortable with either the policy consequences or the potential political consequences of the bill at hand.

JOHN DICKERSON: Susan, what do you think is going to-- are these real blockage to getting this passed in the Senate or can they be dealt with these (INDISTINCT) Republicans?

SUSAN PAGE: I think what-- the amazing thing is that this tax bill is still alive in the face of like twenty-five percent public support and no actual coherent tax plan of the two-- of the House and the Senate to agree on. And yet there has not really been a stated opposition by any Republican senator. Ron Johnson expressed some concerns but it was more like a bid to buy him off with something. So think it is possible that they pass the tax bill. And I think that is remarkable.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ideologically, Reihan, how does this bill match between the Trump view of the world and the sort of traditional Republican view of the world?

REIHAN SALAM: Well, it's a very awkward marriage of the two. One could argue that Republicans learned one lesson, kind of half of a lesson from the populous moment. That lessons is, well, it's okay if we tax affluent blue state professionals. But with that revenue that you gain from taxing those folks, they've wound up giving it in the form of corporate tax cuts rather than in the form of tax cuts for lower middle class and working class households. That is a very odd lesson to draw from the populous moment. However, there's another side of this. Which is that a lot of people have argued that, hey, you could you've done this in a bipartisan way. I think that is very, very unlikely. Speaker of House and Nancy Pelosi knows that you need complete clarity on this. If you'd had some Democrats cooperating, that would have muddied the issue for Democrats, so this is always going to be something owned by Republicans and that's why they shouldn't have gone so far in my view on the corporate rate cuts, because they're still going to offer a better deal to those constituencies, to put it crudely than the Democrats. And really this was way of winning over Trump and it's not clear that Trump has a good sense of how the politics of this ought to work. It's not clear to me that anyone has a real appetite for a twenty percent corporate tax rate that they're actually going to go to the polls on the basis of a twenty percent corporate tax rate.

JOHN DICKERSON: I'm going to end with a philosophical question. Susan, I'll start with you. Which is-- there's a lot of things that get covered but there stuff that doesn't get covered in these periods. And I wondered if each of you have an idea-- something that-- that you've noticed that's been happening that-- that deserves more attention that's out there, Susan?

SUSAN PAGE: You know, one of the things we've talked about on this roundtable is how the Republicans have been unsuccessful in delivering anything since winning unified control of the Washington capital. If you look at state capitals, that's not the case. Big Republican gains there. If you look at even a hot button issue like abortion, Republican state legislators have managed to pass bans on abortion in some circumstances in-- just in the last six months since the last election in five states bans on abortion in certain circumstances. Eleven states major restrictions on abortion, in three states new restrictions on funding for Planned Parenthood. So the gridlock that has affected Washington has not affected state capitals and the Republicans who have made the gains there. And that shows the importance of the midterms next year not just for Congress, for the state legislators too.

JOHN DICKERSON: State legislators.

JAMELLE BOUIE: So in the-- the conversation about Alabama we talked about black voters in the state and their enthusiasm. Before the Virginia election, there's a lot of talk about black voters and their enthusiasm, but I think lost in these conversations about African-American voters is the very real fact that efforts at voter suppression is ongoing in this state, efforts to sort of restrict access to the ballot. And then on the federal level, it is simply the case of President Trump's cabinet members-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been remarkably successful at turning the Justice Department's mission away from its-- its charge of defending the civil rights of Americans. And I-- I think that's going completely under the radar in our-- in our sort of focus on whatever the President is saying on any given day.


REIHAN SALAM: One of President Trump's unique contributions to the debate has been this idea that the United States ought to take more strategic approach to trade. That's something he's been arguing for, you know, over thirty years. Yet there's a real possibility that his tax reform, the one that he's endorsed will actually widen U.S. trade deficits and will actually put the U.S. tradable sector in more vulnerable position that moving to a territorial tax system is something that will actually facilitate the off-shoring of production and much else. So there are two elements of the Trump message that seem to really be contradicting each other, and the question is whether those elements in the administration who care about trade, who care about a more strategic approach will eventually gain the upper hand because right now, they're not.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Thanks to all of you.

We'll be right back in a moment with our book panel.


JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to conversation with four authors whose new books examine leadership in times of crisis. Robert Dallek is the author of "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life." Ron Chernow is author of "Grant," a new biography as the Civil War Union general and the eighteenth President. Nancy Koehn is the author of "Forged in Crisis," which looks at five historical figures who demonstrated steady leadership in times of-- of upheaval. And Mark Updegrove's new book "The Last Republicans" examines the presidencies of George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush and the relationship between the father and son. Welcome to all of you. I'm so glad you're here. Ron, let me start with you. You are all historians but you are all storytellers, too. So, put General Grant, President Grant on stage for us, give us your favorite story.

RON CHERNOW ("Grant"): My favorite story. Okay, it's Virginia 1864, its Spotsylvania. Grant is standing on the edge of a wood when the lethal shell comes whizzing by him. It passes within three inches of his ears. Grant doesn't blink, he doesn't flinch, his facial expression doesn't change. He turns to his edged and then said, "Hudson, go get that shell. Let's see what the enemy is firing at us." The reason I love this story is that shows Grant's literally coolness under fire. And his metabolism was such that at moments where, you know, the rest of us would be fearful or anxious he gets very cool and focused.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. He was more cool on the battlefield almost maybe than in the barracks. And we'll talk-- talk about that-- that later. Nancy, you have five to choose from.

NANCY KOEHN ("Forged in Crisis"/@nancykoehn): Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: But which one-- which one story do you want to tell?

NANCY KOEHN: Well, it's October 1915, Ernest Shackleton is marooned with twenty-seven crew members on an iceberg off the coast of Antarctica. His ship is being crushed by the ice and the men are intense. You know, it's on the berg and he's pacing at night. He can't sleep. He doesn't know how he's going to get them all home alive. And-- and he records later in his diary, "I had no idea but I-- I had to get them home alive. May I be made into what I need to be in order to do that." The next morning, he awakes each of the men by coming to their tent with a cup of hot tea and says, "Ship and stores now gone, lads, we'll go home." And again, the coolness under pressure, the commitment, right, in the-- you know, in the perfect storm to do something very worthy and his own uncertainty, right, which was very important but not evident to his men.


NANCY KOEHN: Forged in crisis.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. That's great. Robert Dallek, how about you? What's FDR-- what moments from--

ROBERT DALLEK ("Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life"): Well, he had a great sense of humor. And Ben Cohen came in the Oval Office one morning and Roosevelt was chuckling. And Cohen said to him, "Would you mind sharing the joke with me, Mister President?" And Roosevelt said "All right, Ben. Eleanor was just in here. She had been to her doctor this morning for her annual physical." And I said to her, "So, Eleanor, what did the doctor have to say about that big ass of yours?" And she said, "Oh, Franklin, he had nothing at all to say about you."

JOHN DICKERSON: Mark, you tell the story of a father and a son. What moment from-- from that do you want to tee up for us?

MARK UPDEGROVE ("The Last Republicans"/@MarkKUpdegrove): There are two moments, John. One is in 1990. The-- the Christmas holidays, the extended Bush family convenes at Camp David. And it's on the eve of Desert Storm and George H.W. Bush has a decision to make as to whether to send ground troops into Kuwait to drive out the Iraqi invaders. It's a big decision. And he has a dream that night that his father is alive again. His father who died in the 1970s is alive. And-- and he finds out he's at a hotel room near a golf course and he goes to that hotel room and there's his dad and he recalls him big, strong, highly respected. And he hugs him and says "I miss you very much."


MARK UPDEGROVE: Flash forward a dozen years and improbably the Bush family is once again at Camp David-- David, celebrating the Christmas holiday with George W. Bush as President, confronted with the same enemy and-- and trying to figure out whether he should wage war against Saddam Hussein. But his father is there, big, strong, highly respected. And he can draw on him for his counsel, which he does. The one and only time he talks to his father about Iraq, asks him what she do. Saddam Hussein at that point is flaunting U.N. sanctions and rattling sabers and his father says, "If he's not complying, you have to go to war." And-- and you have to-- for-- for the sake of history you've got to understand this dynamic between father and son whose presidencies were just eight years apart.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. I want to get back to that. Robert, let me ask you-- let's step back now and-- and look at each of your books. You write about your-- in-- in your book, you write, "It seems well to remind Americans that the system has been capable of generating candidates for high office whose commitment to the national interests exceeds their flaws and ambitions." Is that that goal of your book?

ROBERT DALLEK: Yes. And, you know, Roosevelt had an extraordinary hold on the public's imagination. For twelve years, his approval rating never went below fifty percent, even in 1937-38 when he was struggling over court-packing and purging the party of conservative Democrats from the South. He still had a fifty, fifty-five, even sixty percent approval rating. And I love those two stories about the man who stopped Eleanor on the street after Franklin died and said, "I miss the way your husband used to speak to me about my government or the man who stood by the railway track as the train from Warm Springs carrying the body went back to Hyde Park." A man was sobbing and somebody said to him, "Did you know the President?" He said, "No. But he knew me." Can anyone imagine that? Somebody saying that about the current incumbent?

JOHN DICKERSON: Nancy, you chose five people, why these five?

NANCY KOEHN: A combination of reasons, John. One, they-- I was very, very interested for personal and professional reason. I've been teaching leadership for a long time at Harvard Business School in how-- and the emotional experience of leadership. What's it like for the leader, him or herself to be in the center, right, of the-- the waves and the winds. And I wanted-- I wanted a selection of people that-- that would-- that could-- that could-- that were made. Leaders that were made not born, each of these people was made, Rachel Carson, the environmentalist, Frederick Douglass and the others, Lincoln, Shackleton and Bonhoeffer. And I also want-- so that's why I needed to be able to reconstruct the making. And then last but not least, each of these people like the people in all of your books stumbled into a worthy mission. Either they, you know, like Douglas-- Frederick Douglass, they founded early on and slavery or they-- they bumped into it. And so I wanted to reconstruct again to-- to your point with your book, Bob, how-- what-- what is it like to-- to move the boulder of goodness forth on something big and good?

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me interrupt you there.


JOHN DICKERSON: We're going to take a quick break. We'll have a lot more from our book panel when we come back. Stay with us.


JOHN DICKERSON: You can keep up with the news of the week by subscribing to the FACE THE NATION Diary podcast available every Friday evening.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. More from our authors' panel. Plus, Walter Isaacson on "Leonardo Da Vinci". Stay with us.


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We continue our conversation with authors whose new books explore leadership amid crisis. Robert Dallek is the author of "Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life," Ron Chernow is author of "Grant," Nancy Koehn is the author of "Forged in Crisis," and Mark Updegrove is the author of "The Last Republicans." Mark, I'll start with you on this question of what is your-- you-- you call your book "The Last Republicans," not the Bush family or something, why that title?

MARK UPDEGROVE: Well, because it was clear that the Bush represents-- Bushes, rather, represent a last-- the establishment Republican Party. Right now we see a party at war with itself. You still have establishment members of that party, but there are insurgents who have taken over. And the party really doesn't stand for anything specific. There is no binding platform or principles. It's really what-- it's standard-bearer, the very capricious and unpredictable Donald Trump decides it wants to be. So in some manner, the-- the Bushes, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, represent the end to a type of Republicanism.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ron, why "Grant" and was it the Grant when you went into the book is the same one as when you were finally done?

RON CHERNOW: Oh, yeah. You know, I have a contrarian streak. And it's just so whenever I feel that the stereotype of a particular historical figure is hardened into a caricature I'm attacked to it. You know, so with Grant I was interested really in retiring three chief myths about him. One that he was a crude and brutal, but truth is he's a general, in fact, he was a dazzling strategist. I wanted to retire the idea that he had somehow stumbled through the entire Civil War in an alcoholic haze, he did have a drinking problem but he never drank during much less before a-- a battle. And I also most importantly wanted to change the image of his presidency from one that was completely dominated by corruption and cronyism to one that, in fact, had many elements of courage in terms of his effort to protect the four million former slaves, now full-fledged American citizens. And Grant, I was crusading attorney general named Amos Akerman uses the newly created Justice Department and really crashes the Ku Klux Klan which had taken over the South.

JOHN DICKERSON: Robert, I want to-- as we talk about presidential characteristics, one that strikes me about FDR was that sense of guile and his lack of transparency. We talk about must be constantly truthful, he was pretty good at not always being truthful with everybody. Was that a key skill of his?

ROBERT DALLEK: It was, indeed. And, in fact, you know, he would never say in public the kinds of things that he would say in private. For example, after he won in 1944, he disliked Tom Dewey, the opponent, and privately called him "a son of a bitch." But he would never say that in public because he was someone who was very mindful of-- he would be half a step ahead of public opinion. And it gave him a sense of-- of the country, a sense of-- of leadership. And, you know, he was an extraordinary character. After all, he was a man who couldn't walk. He-- and he only made one reference to his disability once in his entire presidency of twelve years. When he came back to Yalta, he said, "I know you will excuse me for sitting down for I carry ten pounds of steel around each of my lower limbs." So the only time he ever made reference to the fact that he was-- but what a story. Here's a man who is immobilized, couldn't walk, and he wrote a letter to another-- to a congressman, saying "When you get frustrated, you can get up and walk around." He said, "I'm stuck in this chair."


ROBERT DALLEK: And-- but privately he was always, you know, much more candid than he was publicly.

JOHN DICKERSON: I'm struck by the picture in your book, the last one of him, where he looks like a man who has had to carry around a lot of--


JOHN DICKERSON: --weight in his entire life. Mark, let me ask you about the Bush code. We were just talking about a letter that FDR wrote, "I was struck by a letter that George Herbert Walker Bush wrote to his sons during Watergate." Tell us about that letter, and also the father was always kind of taking whatever moment was happening and using it as a lesson for his sons it felt like about this Bush code.

MARK UPDEGROVE: It was a primer of sorts. So George H. W. Bush while he is the chairman of the Republican Party in the-- in the-- at the height of Watergate, two weeks before Richard Nixon resigns, writes a letter to his boys, he calls him his lads, talking about that moment of why it's important, how you stick by a friend in need, you don't-- you don't go with the crowd, you don't join the mob, if you don't have to. You-- you stick by your principles and you-- you reserve your judgment. One of the things he says in that is, "Understand that power accompanied by arrogance is very dangerous. It is particularly dangerous when men with no experience have it for they can abuse our great institutions." That's amazing because the first part of that is clearly about Richard Nixon, the-- the arrogance and power. The last part of that is a hypothetical.


MARK UPDEGROVE: Somebody with no experience. Nixon clearly had experience since he had been a congressman, he had been a senator, he had been vice president. And so this is a hypothetical and so it wasn't hard to infer what the Bush family felt about Donald Trump as he emerged as the-- the clear man to beat in 2016.


JOHN DICKERSON: Nancy, in-- in your book you talk about something called "the gathering," which I want you to explain. But you also have-- when you talk about leadership, people are grabbing it. In other words, they are not-- there's this question always of greatness, is it thrust upon you or do you seize it? What's your take on that? And explain what you mean by gathering.

NANCY KOEHN: So I-- I-- I think that-- that-- that the man or the leader makes the moment as well as the moment making a leader. So Grant is transformed as a general over the course of the Civil War. FDR, right, is changed and developed through the course of his four terms.


NANCY KOEHN: I'm sure this is true of both forty-one and forty-three. So-- so greatness is not thrust upon us in some kind of divine strike of lightning. Like, greatness is something that I think proceeds very significantly from one person's willingness to say, "I want to get better." And-- and to FDR, I'm going to show up in service to my mission with dignity, right, and humanity and compassion and a sense of the larger national interest. But that-- that development, the ability of FDR to do that, the ability of Grant, right, to-- to do such important things toward ensuring that the transformation of American the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment actually happened. That wasn't something they-- they-- that they downloaded an app for, John, right?

MARK UPDEGROVE: Yeah, but they had--

NANCY KOEHN: They-- they had to-- they had to work at it.


NANCY KOEHN: They had to-- and they all had mile-- all these people had mileage with failure, right, which I maintain is important part--


NANCY KOEHN: --of the making of resilient, courageous leaders.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, Ron, tell-- pick-- pick up exactly on that feeling with-- with Grant and failure, I mean, I can think of so many instances where there was a failure and not only does he say, like I'm again at (INDISTINCT). But also if he hadn't had his failure out West, he maybe never would have come back East and be in a position to be hero.

RON CHERNOW: Absolutely. And I think what happens, you know, he feels that one business after another before the Civil War. By the time the Civil War breaks out, he's almost forty. He's been reduced to working as a clerk in his father's leather goods store in Galena where he's a clerk junior to his two younger brothers, and the war breaks out two months later. He's a colonel four months later. He's a brigadier general ten months later. He's a major general. And then four years later, he has a million soldiers under his command. But I think that that pre-war experience of failure was extremely important because he learned how to wider adversity. It gave him a kind of toughness and perseverance that would be extremely important in a war that was very long, bloody, and protect-- protracted.


RON CHERNOW: And also gave him an audacity, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. You see that it's Shiloh again and again. He takes colossal risks that no other union general would have dared to take.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. Robert, we-- we, obviously, with FDR there was the-- the polio. And I was struck when you point out about him becoming an actor as a result of that.


JOHN DICKERSON: A key skill for a President.

ROBERT DALLEK: Yes. He said to Orson Welles once, "Orson, you and I are the two greatest actors in America." But, you know, he had a kind of self-confidence and I think developed as you suggested, Nancy--

NANCY KOEHN: Absolutely.

ROBERT DALLEK: --as they go through the presidency and struggle with these crises, but Roosevelt's idea of the presidency was said-- was FDR in the White House. See, that he was the man to do the job. And, of course, he had the example of his distant cousin Theodore--

NANCY KOEHN: Absolutely.

ROBERT DALLEK: --who had been a--

NANCY KOEHN: Talk about confidence, right?

ROBERT DALLEK: That's right.



ROBERT DALLEK: Right. And he came from a distinguished family. They were patricians and it served him brilliantly.

MARK UPDEGROVE: But it's very clear that great leadership grows from deeply-held values.



MARK UPDEGROVE: That's-- that's so obvious in the case of both Grant and-- and-- and FDR.

RON CHERNOW: And also I think one of the important to emphasize at the moment is, you know, honesty. Grant is President with such a stickler for honesty that one day a visitor came to his office who could just walk into the White House at that point. And Grant in his office hears the White House, usher telling someone that the President is out of the office. Well, when the stranger leaves, Grant pops out of the office and says to the-- the ushers that, "You should have said that I was otherwise engaged." He said, "I don't lie for myself and I don't like people lying for me."

NANCY KOEHN: You know, and Lincoln had the same sense of, you know, this kind of very high bar, right, on-- on the stair. There's a wonderful line that he-- he-- he says to one of the quarter masters, you can't-- when-- when-- when they're victualling the White House providing beef to the White House, he said, "You can't give me and my family the best choice cuts of meat when my soldiers, right, don't have socks and enough muskets." So the sense that the leader sets a standard, right, of honesty, of comportment, of dignity and that people, the understanding on FDR's part on Grant's, part on both the Bush President's part, that people take their cues from leaders, right, not just kids, all kinds of people. Look to leaders for examples, of courage under pressure, for a sense of direction. So I think another element of leading in turbulent times, John, is the element of how leaders show up and in response to what values, Mark.


NANCY KOEHN: It's really important.

ROBERT DALLEK: And-- and expression of that, Nancy, was in the fact that Franklin Roosevelt never stepped forward to support African-Americans. He never worked to support an anti-lynching law. But the irony is that at the end of his administration after twelve years, black voters had moved from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and have remained there ever since. And Roosevelt because of the new deal programs, those alphabet agencies, they went down to the lowest levels so to speak of the economy and black voters felt that he was on their side. And, you know, that wonderful anecdote about the industrial work who said, "Franklin Roosevelt was the only man in the White House who ever would have understood that my boss is a son of a bitch."

JOHN DICKERSON: Mark-- Mark, you mentioned earlier that the Iraq war was the one instance in which the son talked to the father. Incredibly close and yet he didn't turn to him that much. Talk a little bit about that, the-- the tightness of their bond, what that was founded on but then also the fact that they kind of -- he wasn't calling his father all the time for advice.

MARK UPDEGROVE: Nor was his father imposing his point of view on his son. And that goes back to the inherent humility of George H. W. Bush. He didn't want to be an added burden to his son. He didn't want to say, hey, junior, here's how you can do things. He would also concede as-- as would George W. Bush say that the world had changed since his father was President. I think he harbored some reservations about his son's policy in Iraq, but he didn't want to do anything to jeopardize the presidency. If I could make one point, though, John, Nancy talked about comportment. You can't underemphasize the importance of civility in times of great division. And one of the things that-- that George W. Bush says in his inaugural address in 2001 when we were very divided after that election of 2000 was--


MARK UPDEGROVE: --was contested. He said, "Civility is not a tactic, it is a determined choice of trust over cynicism, community over chaos."


MARK UPDEGROVE: We could live by that-- that adage today.

ROBERT DALLEK: You said it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ron, let me ask you about-- these were solitary figures that we're all talking about, but that also had deep connections with other people. In the case of Grant, was it Sherman, I was basically struck by their relationship, but then he also had-- was it Rawlins, talk about that interplay with other people. These weren't just totally solitary figures.

RON CHERNOW: There always has to be kind of a fearless truth teller on the-- the staff. And what happens when Grant becomes brigadier general, he invites a young lawyer from Galena named John Rawlins on to his staff. And Rawlins takes his position, his adjutant, really chief of staff on one condition that Grant not touch a drop of liquor for the rest of the-- the war, he, Rawlins would call him on it. Well, at last Grant fell off the wagon, you know, many times, and Rawlins privately called him on it but not publicly, because he felt that the fate of the Union rested on the shoulders of Ulysses S. Grant. So I think we owe tremendous debt to John Rawlins who let it became secretary of-- of war for always having the courage to tell Grant what he needed to know.

JOHN DICKERSON: Robert, of course, there's Eleanor Roosevelt.

ROBERT DALLEK: That's right. Yeah. But he-- he owed a great debt to Eleanor and to Harold Ickes who was also a voice for liberal side of his administration. He was a very careful politician, you know, when it came to the Holocaust, for example. He saw the anti-Semitism in the country, the anti-immigrant sentiments, but Eleanor was so angry when Brajkovic along with the secretary of state would let eighty Jewish refugees from Portugal into the country and she went to Franklin and she said, "This guy is a fascist." And Franklin said, "You must not say that, Eleanor." And she said, "But Franklin, it's true." And she was tough and direct.

JOHN DICKERSON: Nancy, finally to you, Rachel Carson is different than all these others.

NANCY KOEHN: She sure is.

JOHN DICKERSON: And-- and explain why she had-- she had to do kind of two jobs.

NANCY KOEHN: Right. So Rachel Carson is the only woman in my book, the environmentalist who's environmental, really, builder, right, who did more than any one person to found the modern environmental movement by publishing "Silent Spring" in 1962. So the fascinating thing about her story in the context of these other five-- other four very interesting driven men is that she is-- she is the primary caretaker for her birth family all her life. For her parents, for her sisters and brother-- her sister and brother then for her sister's kids then for her sister's kid's kids. She's doing all that, she has a government job, she's trying to write a book. And in the late 1950s, she's battling breast cancer while she's adopted her grand nephew at the age of fifty. And not sure she can beat the clock to finish a book that she knows is both dangerous and potentially really will rock the world. And so her story, particularly female story, is a story of a very, very powerful kind of courage and grace in pursuit of something really important and decent.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. Well, these are all wonderful books. Unfortunately we'll have to end our conversation there. We'll be right back with another author and another book, Walter Isaacson.


JOHN DICKERSON: We're joined now by Walter Isaacson, the author of new book "Leonardo Da Vinci" which explores the life and work of the original renaissance man. All right. Walter, you were my boss, you always said that stories are at the heart of these things. So what story for you starts it with Leonardo?

WALTER ISAACSON ("Leonardo Da Vinci"/@Walterisaacson): I think when he turns that unnerving milestone of becoming thirty years old and he's been, yeah you and I remember that a bit. And he's been a painter-- moderately successful in Florence but he has trouble finishing his painting. And it's kind of worse because his father is a notary and has notarized some of the contracts of those paintings. So Leonardo decides it's time to seek new horizons, and so he's part of a delegation this goes from Florence to Milan, a cultural delegation because that's how Florence had its influence. You know it was-- it didn't have a great military, kept losing to Pisa, but, you know, they would send its architects and artists to other cities, and so Florence became, you know, what I would call soft power. And so he goes there and he goes as a musician because he's invented a lot of musical instruments. But when he gets to Milan, he doesn't want to go home. So he writes the coolest job application letter in history. The eleven paragraphs, and the first ten are all about what he can do in engineering, in anatomy, in art and science and controlling the flows of waters and building castles. Only in the eleventh paragraph in the end that he says, I can also paint as well as anyone. And so you see Leonardo loving everything in nature and just wanting to be, you know, jack of all trades.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is that his key quality that he had this rapacious-- just the hunger for everything?

WALTER ISAACSON: Yeah, his key quality-- what makes him a creative genius, I think, is that he was curious about everything. Sometimes it was a curiosity that could be useful like he would dissect the neck and figure how do I do Saint Jerome in the wilderness. But then he'd keep dissecting and he would dissect the heart and the liver and he would do layered anatomical drawings. It was a curiosity that was passionate, that was playful and ends up being curiosity for its own sake which is what makes him feel the patterns of nature.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. This is what something Nancy-- Nancy calls the gathering. You just gather everything up and then it expresses itself in various different times in your life.

WALTER ISAACSON: Right. Some-- some people who have written about Leonardo in the past century, they approach him as an art critic. And they say it's such a shame that he squandered so much time doing anatomy and the flight of birds and squaring the circle and mathematics. Otherwise he could've finished one of those paintings. That's true. But he wouldn't have been Leonardo and you wouldn't have the Mona Lisa. It was that gathering of-- and that's what we have to understand today is that being curious about everything not only makes you more creative, it enriches your life.

JOHN DICKERSON: And-- and makes you better dinner table conversationalists.

WALTER ISAACSON: He would've been a great-- you know, he would've been great at this table. Sorry.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned Saint Jerome. Is that the one-- he went back to it later, right?


JOHN DICKERSON: Was that the one-- he keeps working and working--

WALTER ISAACSON: People say he abandoned his paintings. But one of the things I discovered is like with Saint Jerome, young painter in Florence, Saint Jerome in the wilderness, very skeletal because Saint Jerome's in the wilderness. And he gets the neck muscles wrong early on and puts the painting aside, gives it to (INDISTINCT) family, the guy who's about to go discover America. But he comes back twenty-five years later, after he's done more anatomy drawings and he redoes the neck muscles. So I've discovered it wasn't so much that he abandoned paintings, he thought sometimes a perfect has to be the enemy of the good, there's always a brush stroke I can make it better. And it reminded me of Steve Jobs who holds up shipping the original Macintosh, I wrote a book about him earlier, and there's a lot of similarities. Because Steve wanted the circuit board inside the Mac to look beautiful. And so they hold up shipping it. So that notion of sometimes you hold on to something until you can make it perfect. It's not a good recipe for business. But it is a good recipe to do every now and then in life.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Mona Lisa. So I-- explain why, because I think this-- why is this such a great painting?

WALTER ISAACSON: Yeah, you know, I think people come to it and you see huge crowds and you wonder, okay. You know, when you look at the Mona Lisa, it's the culmination of somebody who spent a life looking at science, anatomy, geology, but also philosophy and spirituality. And so like even his early paintings but culminating with Mona Lisa you have the river, that curves from the ancient mountains and curves into the roads and then curves into the human body as our veins do. He always made an analogy between the earth and between us. So that's his fundamental philosophy.


WALTER ISAACSON: And just to give you one example of the science doing it. He had dissected the human eye and knew that the center of the retina is where you see black and white detail but the edges of the retina you see shadows and color. And so over sixteen years he keeps painting the lip, he had dissected the human face and done every muscle and every nerve that touches the lip, but sixteen years he's painting it but he does the tiniest black and white details at the edge of the lips drawing straight or turning down but the shadows and colors turning up. So it becomes an interactive painting. Every time you see her, she seems to have a different emotion. And you have a different emotion in your eyes change a bit and the smile flickers back on. This is magical. It's showing inner emotion reflected on a face.

JOHN DICKERSON: Last question. We have thirty seconds. You mention what he'd be like at a dinner party. What-- what kind of a person was he?

WALTER ISAACSON: He was very collegial, very friendly. He had everybody at the time, Luca Pacioli the-- the mathematician, Donato Bramante the-- I'll refer to him as his best friend. And what he kind of does is, he makes everybody feel that the way to be more creative is not to specialize, not to silo yourself as we sometimes do to our kids but to be curious about everything for curiosity's sake.

JOHN DICKERSON: Walter Isaacson, thank you so much.

WALTER ISAACSON: Thank you, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: And the CBS EVENING NEWS begins a new chapter next Monday December 4th, when Jeff Glor takes over as the ninth anchor of the broadcast. Jeff, we wish you luck as you take on your new responsibilities. We'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Be sure to tune into CBS THIS MORNING tomorrow with Norah O'Donnell and Gayle King. They will have some of our CBS affiliate WCCO-TV reporter and anchor Esme Murphy's interview with Al Franken. Esme has interviewed the senator more than a hundred times. This one will certainly be one we don't want to miss. Until next week for FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.

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