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"Face the Nation" transcripts, May 27: Gibbs, Gillespie and Senator Lugar

(CBS News) Below is a rush transcript of "Face the Nation" on May 27, 2012, hosted by CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. Guests include President Obama senior campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, Mitt Romney senior campaign adviser Ed Gillespie, and Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). A roundtable on presidents include Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs, authors of "The President's Club," Robert Merry, author of "Where They Stand" and Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite."

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, on this Memorial Day, talking politics and Presidents, past, present, and future.

As summer kicked in it was already getting hot on the campaign trail and the mud flew--or was that mud?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know his speech was more or like a cowpie of distortion.

I don't know whose record he twisted the most, mine or his.

MITT ROMNEY (TIME): I mean look at him right now he just doesn't have a-- a clue what to do to get this economy going. I do.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Bottom line, the polls are closer than ever, and the campaign nastier. Romney's people love painting the President as a European socialist. And the President's people actually compared Romney's old company to a bloodsucking bat.

JACK COBB (Steelworker, 31 Years): It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.

ANDY CRUZ (Steelworker, 29 Years): It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We will check in first with top advisors from both campaigns, former GOP Party chair Ed Gillespie and the President's one-time press secretary Robert Gibbs. We will talk with Indiana's long time senator Richard Lugar, who lost his primary earlier this month to a candidate who wants less, not more compromise to break the Washington gridlock.

Then on Page 2, our summer Sunday book break, as we talk with the authors of three new books. Robert Merry, author of the upcoming Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians; TIME magazine's Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, authors of The Presidents Club; and CBS News contributor and presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley whose new biography, Cronkite, comes out this week.

It's summertime in Washington and this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. And welcome to FACE THE NATION and what better time to talk a little politics. Top advisors to both candidates are with us here this morning. We're going to start with Robert Gibbs who's the senior advisor to the Obama campaign. Then, we'll hear from Ed Gillespie, senior advisor to the Romney campaign.

Mister Gibbs, last week, several Democrats weighed in, and expressed really some dismay with a tone that the Obama campaign's attack ads have taken, particularly the ones attacking Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, we played a little of it in the beginning of the broadcast, but the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday the campaign would actually become more aggressive with these attacks. They seem to be buying more time to run these ads. Have you done some polling? What-- why-- why-- why do- why so aggressive so soon?

ROBERT GIBBS (Obama Campaign Senior Advisor): Well, Bob, I don't think you need polling to understand why people have a visceral reaction to Mitt Romney's time as head of Bain Capital and let's be clear, this is the central and only point that Mitt Romney brings up that in the words of his campaign would make him an economic savior for this country. You saw that tape with some steel workers whose plant in Kansas City was loaded up with debt, jammed into bankruptcy, Mitt Romney and his investors walked away with tens of millions of dollars and, look, they were very good at that, making money for themselves and for the investors, but what Bain Capital never did was focus on job creation. That's not what Bain Capital does. It loads up companies with debt. It takes money out of those companies and pays those investors. It's not about job creation, and that's what Mitt run-- Mitt Romney is running on. And look, we-- we've-- we've seen this experiment in Massachusetts. He did the same thing when he ran in 2002 in Massachusetts and took that state's job creation numbers to forty-seventh in the country. So we have seen this experiment, we have seen it in Massachusetts quite frankly, we saw it in 2007 and 2008 where we turned our economy over to speculators and it crashed on the middle class.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Why-- why, then, are some Republicans seem to be so concerned about it? Like Cory Booker, the, you know, the mayor of Newark? They say it's painting the President as being anti-business, I mean, Chuck Schumer and-- and Senator Gillibrand, the two senators from New York--

ROBERT GIBBS (voice overlapping): Yeah.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --have declined to even comment on these ads.

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, this-- this is nothing to do with being anti-business. This is a-- a criticism and a good criticism, quite honestly of Mitt Romney's only thesis for being President of the United States, that he is some kind of economic savior. He is very good at making money for his partners. He is not so good at creating jobs. We have seen that time and time again and I think the American people and voters deserve to understand what Mitt Romney means when he says he has the keys to being--

BOB SCHIEFFER (voice overlapping): Well--

ROBERT GIBBS: --an economic savior.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know one of the refreshing changes when-- when the President was elected, he talked about hope and change. Whatever happened to hope and change? Now, it seems he is just coming right out of the box with these old-fashioned negative ads. That all campaigns seem to think are the basis of all campaigns now.

ROBERT GIBBS: No, no, Bob, look, there's going to be a choice in this election. Mitt Romney has been running for President for, well, many years of his life, and has been very critical of-- of this President's tenure of this President's policies, and we're certainly happy to talk a little bit about Mitt Romney and his record of not creating jobs in virtually every step of his life. That's what this campaign is going to be about. Are you going to be better-- who are you going to be better off with in the next four years? And I don't think there's any doubt that when this election is said and done, it will be close. But people of this country will reject the sort of speculation-type economic gains that Mitt Romney is quite good at for himself and for his investors and instead look for an economy that is growing, that is built to last, that continues the job creation we have seen and not quite frankly return to the failed policies of the past.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me read you something that Tom Friedman wrote in The New York Times this morning. He said, and I, quote, "Barack Obama is a orator, but he is the worst President I've ever seen when it comes to explaining his achievements, putting them in context, connecting with people on a gut level through repetition and thereby defining how the public views an issue." Is he right about that?

ROBERT GIBBS: No. I-- I appreciate Mister Friedman's free advice, but, look, if you look at the ad that we have got running in-- in battleground states right now it talks about exactly what this President inherited and-- and what he's achieved in saving an auto industry that Mitt Romney wanted to go bankrupt and have a million jobs leave with it, in creating twenty-five consecutive months of private sector job growth, making sure that financial reform is instituted so we don't go back to the time in which Wall Street was writing its own rules. All of those things, that's what Mitt Romney wants to do. Mitt Romney wants to go back to fail-- the failed economic policies of 2007 and 2008, explode our debt with these huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that didn't work the first time. That-- that theory failed, it-- it crashed right on the middle class. It was the worst economic crisis that I think most people in this country will ever live through and Mitt Romney wants to use his speculation background at-- at offshoring and outsourcing and-- and go back to those times. And the American people don't want that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this: Want do you think will be the impact, if the Supreme Court throws out the health care law?

ROBERT GIBBS: You know, Bob, I-- I don't know what the impact would be on-- on either side of that. I think that if one listens to the full argument that was made in front of the Supreme Court that they are likely to uphold the health care law and I-- I think it's important for million-- millions of Americans who have things like preexisting conditions, who now can get health insurance and can't be told by an insurance company, that, for instance, they are no longer-- they can't be covered because they have some sort of preexisting condition.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Mister Gibbs, thank you.

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, here is the other side of the story. Here is Ed Gillespie. So what's your side of it, Mister Gillespie?

ED GILLESPIE (Romney Campaign Senior Advisor): So lot of different things to-- to talk about there, Bob. But, number one, let's start with the attack on Governor Romney as, you know, in terms of his experience in the private sector. The-- the fact is that Bain Capital--there were a number of investments that didn't perform well. In-- in the case of Bain, it was less than five percent of the investments that ended up in bankruptcy, the fact is eighty percent of the companies he invested in grew. And that means that jobs were created if you look, for example, at Sports Authority, fifteen thousand jobs; if you look at Brighter Horizons, nineteen thousand jobs; if you look at STAPLES, nearly ninety thousand jobs created.

This is a reflection of the fact and I think what you alluded to there with Mayor Booker, Governor Rendell and others, a legitimate concern that the President's hostile rhetoric to private investment and job creators is highlighting the fact that his policies are hostile to private investment and job creators. That's why we have been at eight percent unemployment or higher for the past thirty-nine months. That's why there are twenty-three million Americans today who are either unemployed or underemployed or have left the workforce entirely. That's why millions of people have lost their homes and have ended up on food stamps and in poverty because this President is hostile to job creators. We see it in his policies not just his rhetoric. If you look at the Obamacare Bill that he passed--the Congressional Budget Office says that cost our economy over eight hundred thousand jobs. If you look at the punitive taxes he wants to impose on small business owners who generate two out of every three new jobs in our economy historically. And if you look at his decision on the Keystone Pipeline to stop that from going forward, thousands of jobs almost immediately. That's the problem that I think Mayor Booker and Governor Rendell were trying to warn them about.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But-- you know, isn't it a fair thing to say that-- that Governor Romney is the one who started this? I mean he is the one who came and-- and started talking about all these jobs he had created. When, in fact, I mean, venture capitalists don't sit down at a table and say let's think about some plan to see how we can create a bunch of jobs. They sit down and say, let's figure out how we can make some money here. I am not saying that's a bad thing but I mean that's--

ED GILLESPIE: Yeah, but there--

BOB SCHIEFFER: --that's just reality.

ED GILLESPIE: --there is a-- there is a correlation, Bob, between making money and growing a company and job creation. That's what President Obama doesn't understand because he has never been in the private sector, he doesn't really understand how it works. I think that's why his policies are so hostile to job creation, in his view we'd be better off if we had political appointees making decisions on where our money was spent. Like in Solyndra which just two years ago yesterday he touted as a success story from his stimulus bill, his failed stimulus package, it's gone bankrupt. Over a thousand employees have lost their jobs and taxpayers lost five hundred and thirty-five million dollars over half a billion dollars, because that's their view of the world. We'd be better off with political appointees deciding to put our taxpayer money at risk and reward campaign donors as was the case in Solyndra--

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well--

ED GILLESPIE: --than to put private capital at risk. I don't think most Americans agree with that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just get your take from something the President said last week, watch this:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, he doesn't really talk about what he did in Massachusetts. But-- but he does talk about being a-- a business, a business guy, right? He says this gives him a special understanding of what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy, even if he is unable to offer a single new idea about how to do that, no matter how many times he is asked about it he says he knows how to do it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, I mean, what is your reaction? Doesn't he have to start talking about something that he's going to do and not just what the President has done wrong?

ED GILLESPIE: Well, Bob, maybe you haven't seen the first two ads of the Romney campaign which talked about what Governor Romney would do if he were President on day one. Repeal the job killing Obamacare bill, make sure that we do start deficit reduction by slowing, you know, by cutting government spending as opposed to mounting up piles of debt, you know, nearly doubling our debt already in just three and a half years of President Obama's term, ensuring fair trade with China, make sure that they're not manipulating their currency, approve the Keystone Pipeline and start these jobs immediately.


ED GILLESPIE: So if you look at his-- his first two ads actually are-- are substantive and about policy and about going forward in a-- in an agenda for the future in contrast to what we have seen from--


ED GILLESPIE: --from President Obama.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --doesn't talk very much about passing that health care law in Massachusetts. He doesn't talk very much about big governor.

ED GILLESPIE: Well, he does actually if-- if you look at the qualifications that we cite for Governor Romney to be the next President it is the private sector experience which is important, but it's also his time as governor, the fact is, during his time as governor, the unemployment rate dropped from nearly six percent to 4.7 percent. There was net job creation of about forty thousand jobs, that is more in one state in his one term as governor than President Obama has been able to generate in the country during his time in office, so that's a pretty good contrast. He balanced the budget in Massachusetts without raising taxes and did that with a Democratic legislature. The fact is his record in Massachusetts as well as his business experience and as well as the leadership he displayed in saving the Olympics for the United States and leading it in the Salt Lake City Olympics when the International Olympic Committee was threatening to pull the Olympics from the United States, which would have been a huge embarrassment to our country. He went in and turned it around. That's one of his successes as well and I think that's why most Americans see him as a strong leader with a positive record and a positive agenda going forward.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think, we ever going to see him on one of these Sunday morning interview shows? I know he does Fox, but we would love to have him sometime.

ED GILLESPIE: Well, I'm sure he would.

BOB SCHIEFFER: As with Meet the Press and with the ABC full cast.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Bob, the fact is that we're going to take our message to the American people, you see him-- you saw him, you know, talking to schoolchildren last week, given a speech on education reform and had great respect for the shows, I'm proud to be with you today and-- but the fact is how we get our message to the American people and convey that to the voters, you know, we will have to consider a number of options in that regard and I'm sure the Sunday shows are one of them.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well I know that the schoolchildren were always happy to see him, but I want to make sure he knows we would be happy to see him, too.

ED GILLESPIE: Make sure, I'll-- I'll carry that back to Boston.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Thanks to both of you for being here today. I think we saw the outlines of what this campaign is going to be back and we'll be back in one minute with Senator Richard Lugar.


BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar. Senator Lugar, thanks for being--

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-Indiana/Foreign Relations Committee): Thank you, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --with us this morning. You, I must say compiled a remarkable record in the years that you spent in the Senate, the legislation that just you and Democrat Sam Nunn authored to help the Soviet Union destroy nuclear weapons that could easily have fallen in the hands of terrorists, may well have changed the course of history. And, yet, here you were beaten in a primary by an opponent who said what the country needs is not more compromise, but fewer compromises. On reflection, do you think you could have done something to turn this around? How did this happen, Senator?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Well, it happened in large part because we had a Republican primary, large portion of the Republican Party of Indiana believed apparently in the idea of individualism as opposed to community. A sense of compromise or a sense of talking across the aisle in the past most Hoosiers and I think that's still true of a majority of them has supported me in our efforts both in foreign policy, farm policy, their situations to forge things that worked, and so I intend to continue to do that. We have opportunities in the weeks and months ahead while I am still in the Senate to try to make a difference as our country really heads toward the rocks and the economy, and we have foreign policy problems and even while the campaign's going on with the President, we have got potential for war, for conflict, for real difficulty.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think that perhaps it was something other than ideolo-- ideology? I mean, some said that you-- you were kind of out of touch with your state and--

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Yeah. Some said I was eighty years of age which is correct.


SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: That I had served far too long for thirty-five or thirty-six years, far more than you want to. And furthermore, some county chairman said, "We haven't seen you Dick at our Lincoln Day dinners for a while. You've been so busy touring over in Russia or Ukraine or Belarus or in Asia or what have you, during your recesses we wanted to see mo more of you" and I understand that and they make a point. I am just saying that in terms of service to the country as I saw it I think our priorities were right--

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: We have been very much involved in Indiana throughout this period of time with all sorts of programs, but this was just not a year in which that--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, it does say something about the Republican Party, do you think, or is this something unique?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Well, I think Indiana was unique in the sense that the outside groups, whether it was FreedomWorks or Club for Growth or Grover Norquist Group or the NRA or what have you had no other playground, Indiana was it because this was a place where there was an incumbent Republican senator, not many of us running this time as a matter of fact and so they were able to come in early on with hundreds of thousands and finally millions of dollars with negative ads which turned around what usually was an approval that I had from sixty to seventy percent for all these years, and it went down real fast in the last two or three weeks under that barrage.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So do you see that as the reason you got beat, these outside groups that came in, these Super PACs? I guess what I am driving at, and because we are seeing what appears to be a very negative campaign shaping up for the presidency right now, do you think it is possible to be re-elected running or to be elected running a positive campaign anymore?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: I think it is very difficult as my example is any solace to anybody. Obviously, I think it is still possible and still lot to be done. In other words, the country really is looking for answers, whether it'd be the taxation problem, the budget problem, our problems with allies, our enemies abroad, there-- there really have to be people who are putting it together, who bring about a sense of community in addition to individualism. Now this was the beauty I thought of the Ronald Reagan administration. And I compliment Dana Milbank in the Washington Post today for sort of outlining all the ways in which Reagan, not only was able to compromise, but bring about extraordinary results by bringing people together.

Now that's clearly true of the time when Sam Nunn and I came together and we were sent by Ro-- Reagan to Geneva and began our talks with the Russians. That has been a twenty-year period and still goes on.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The situation in Syria right now, what are your thoughts on that?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Essentially that the United Nations situation is not working out very well. It appears that our country is attempting to suggest to the Russians that they ought to get with us and try to work out something, such as happened in Yemen or other countries in which the Assad regime would decide to resign but at the same time would not be murdered in the process that there would be some potential evolution.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Has the President done enough? Has he shown enough leadership on this situation?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: I think that he has been very cautious. And I think he is cautious because he is in the process of withdrawing our troops along with NATO from Afghanistan, pivoting our policy toward the China and-- and the East, toward-- toward a ti-- situation of using robots and the-- and the-- the ability not to have to send in troops. It's-- it's a difficult situation. So when you talk about Syria and talk about troops or intervention, President has been very cautious. I think properly so.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Are you going to campaign for the man that beat you in the primary, Richard Mourdock? Are you even going to vote for him?

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Well, I indicated that I hope that Republicans in Indiana will support him because I support my leader Mitch McConnell in getting Republican majority. I would say that I have offered advice to my former opponent and now the candidate as to the kind of way he might be a constructive senator, how he can make any difference whatsoever. I hope that he will in fact begin to adopt some of those ideas but for the time being I don't plan an active campaign.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator, thank you so much. And we want to wish you the very best.

SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: Thank you very much, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in a moment with some thoughts about Memorial Day.


BOB SCHIEFFER: On this day, when we remember those who gave their lives for their country, let us also remember the families they left behind. In 1972, Vice President Biden lost his wife and infant daughter in a horrible car wreck. Friday, he talked to a group of military families about the kind of loss that only those who have experienced it can ever really comprehend.

JOE BIDEN: Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them and in one instant, killed two of them. Well, when I'd-- I have to tell you, I used to resent, I knew people meant well. They would come up to you and say, Joe, I know how you feel, right?

(Crowd laughter and applauses)

JOE BIDEN: I knew they meant well. I knew they were genuine but you knew they didn't have any damn idea, right? Isn't that true?

(Crowd laughter)

JOE BIDEN: I mean, that, that black hole you feel in your chest like you're being sucked back into it. For the first time in my life I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide, not because they were deranged, not because they were not nuts, but because they had been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again, that there was never going to get-- never going to be that way ever again. There will come a day, I promise you, and you parents as well, when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner or later.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And may that be the wish, the prayer from each of us on this Memorial Day.

Back in a minute.


BOB SCHIEFFER: And some of our stations will be leaving us now.

For most of you, we will be back with a panel on President's past, present and future. Stay with us.


BOB SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to Page 2 of FACE THE NATION. And now that FACE THE NATION has expanded to an hour, we have the time to do what I've always wanted to do and that is to bring our viewers up to date from time to time on books we think that you will find of interest.

Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, both TIME magazine editors, have collaborated on a new book called The Presidents Club, with a new take on the relationship of past and current Presidents. It is chockfull of surprises. On my far right Robert Merry, editor of the National Interest magazine, author of the upcoming book, Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians. It examines how we rate our Presidents. And rounding out the panel, CBS News contributor and presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, who has a new book out, and it is about Walter Cronkite. It is called Cronkite. And he is the man, of course, who covered all the Presidents from Truman to Kennedy and Johnson to Nixon and finally Ronald Reagan.

And I will start with you, Doug, because my biases are clearly showing, Walter Cronkite was my mentor. He was my role model. He was who I wanted to be when I was a young reporter. He is who I still want to be, and so let's talk a little bit about your book. It-- it's got some stuff in it, I thought I knew a lot about Walter Cronkite, I found some things I didn't know, but since we're talking about Presidents and so forth this morning. Walter had access and really enjoyed a very good relationship with all the Presidents of his time. I wonder, did you as you were writing this book, how do you think has the relationship between Presidents and-- and the press changed since Walter's time? Was he the last one to enjoy those kind of relationships?

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.


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.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Tell us about that, because this was something I didn't know about.

NANCY GIBBS: It was-- it was remarkable. There is Truman who suddenly finds himself in office in the spring of 1945 and he is facing this catastrophe in Europe as the war is ending, and he secretly writes to Hoover saying can you come help me figure out how we are going to-- to get food to the countries that need it? These two-- they are very suspicious of each other, again they have nothing at all in common, and yet they end up forming this partnership that you could say probably saved more lives than any two men in the twentieth century and worked very closely together throughout Truman's presidency. So that's really-- that is how the modern Presidents club at least really started.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And, Robert, now your book is a different kind of book, because you write about how do we rate Presidents? How do we decide who was the successful President and who wasn't? And I think most list makers would always say Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt in some order were probably the three Presidents that are most admired in history in some order, Jefferson probably gets in there, shortly after that.

ROBERT MERRY: Jackson and TR.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Yeah, but how is it that we decide these were the Presidents that mattered?

ROBERT MERRY: Well, we have a body of literature which comes out of the polls that historians do who are the great presidents? You are a historian; you know this, rate the Presidents. And so we have a body of literature. This has been going on since 1948 when Arthur Schlesinger Senior began this little exercise and it has generated a lot of interest over the years. What my book tries to posit is that that's plate, that's fine, it's a good index. But what were the voters thinking at the time? Because the voters were either re-electing the guy or they were rejecting the guy, they might re-elect him but then his party falls down at the next election. So I try to look at what the voters were saying at the time and compare those two indices to determine whether they overlap or whether there are some disparities.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So-- so what would you consider successful President? What-- what-- what constitutes greatness?

ROBERT MERRY: I have three tests in my book, number one, from the voters' perspective a two-term President succeeded by his own party indicating that he had two successful terms in the voters' judgment and historians--

BOB SCHIEFFER: And that's fairly rare, isn't it?

ROBERT MERRY: It's very difficult. In the twentieth century there are only two presidents that really pulled it off, Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan. If you add partial terms, TR would have been in that category as well. So only three in the twentieth century fit that test. From the standpoint of the historians, are they consistently in the upper reaches of the historian lists? And then I have a third test which I insert, the great Presidents, the one I call leaders of destiny are the ones who changed the political landscape and redirected the country.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And who would you list as those who did?

ROBERT MERRY: In that category I have Washington, who set it on motion, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, and then I have a little asterisk because I say that Reagan met the voters' test, he met my test of redirecting the country, but he hasn't yet risen up to those upper levels consistently in the historian polls.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Doug Brinkley, in your book about Cronkite, and I have no problem with talking about Walter Cronkite while we are talking about Presidents, Walter Cronkite had considerable influence, did he not, on events? He had influence on Presidents, and I thought it was always interesting that, you know, while Ed Murrow, we-- we thought of him as a-- as a great journalist because he expressed opinions. Walter's great power was that he so seldom expressed opinions.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Absolutely. He was steady Eddie and Presidents could count on doing an interview with him and getting a fair shake. Lyndon Johnson, you're talking about changing culture not getting a telephone answered LBJ would call Cronkite directly after broadcast to complain about something. But it was really that World War II generation of reporters were all in this together, we fought together and we are trying to make America good. Vietnam War corroded that. When you started seeing Vietnam and-- and finally, you know, famously, February 27, 1968, when the Tet offensive occurred and he came back, Walter Cronkite, and called Vietnam a stalemate, many people connected Johnson's collapse with this objective Mister Center now turning on the war and then, of course, Watergate and Nixon's hatred of the press and the unleashing of Spiro Agnew and it became a war against the fourth estate and who won? The media, Woodward, Bernstein and Walter Cronkite, and so Presidents have gotten skeptical of the press, they don't-- it's now a very antagonistic relationship, much more so than it was when they wouldn't show Franklin Roosevelt in a wheelchair in a photo or they wouldn't-- they everybody knew about Jack Kennedy's affairs but wouldn't do them. Today in a YouTube, internet world, every miss-smile a President does is going to be all over.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And that story, when-- when Walter Cronkite came back from Vietnam and George Christian, his-- President Johnson's press secretary told Lyndon Johnson about what Walter had said, Lyndon Johnson said if I've lost Walter, I've lost the American people. He understood at that point.

DOUGLAS BRIKLEY: And we didn't have diversified media and TV was the new boom and some cities only got CBS. I mean, and-- and so Cronkite was the guy that he turned to every night he was in your living room, they called Vietnam the living room war and the-- the politicians didn't adjust quickly to what television actually meant, and so, you know, whether it was fighting for civil rights or-- or Vietnam or space, which became our national pageant. Cronkite seemed to be the maestro of it all.


When we come back, we'll talk some more about this cooperation between Presidents and former Presidents in one minute.


BOB SCHIEFFER: And we are back now.

Michael Duffy, you talk about this exclusive club, people who have been Presidents, and I guess one reason they have some empathy for each other is that it is a very lonely job, and-- and really only someone who has done it could possibly know how difficult it is.

MICHAEL DUFFY: It's an almost automatic sympathy between the current President and the men, so far only men who preceded him, they all study each others--just they have their own rating system--they compare themselves to each other; they read each other's biographies and memoirs careful. They're looking for lessons, they're looking for sympathy, they're looking for understanding. Nancy once asked George W. Bush not too long after he'd been in office, do you think differently about Bill Clinton now? And he said, oh I think differently about all of them. And-- and so they extend to each other especially after they've done the job for a while. A certain understanding that they don't come into office with about how-- just how hard it is to do this job.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to play a little something for you. I think one of the lessons that probably all of us recognize is that if you-- I've wrote a book once about Ronald Reagan it came out the month that he was-- that George Bush was inaugurated. The book, I-- I think, everything in the book is accurate, but it is not entirely true, because we didn't know at that time that the Soviet Union was going to fall in. I don't give credit-- Reagan credit, total credit for that but certainly his policies had a part in it. I think you really run a risk when you start trying to judge a presidency--


BOB SCHIEFFER: --too soon. I want to run this. This is what Barack Obama last December told Steve Kroft of 60 MINUTES. I want to get your reaction to it.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any President, with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln, but, you know, just in terms of what we've got and done in modern history.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So the-- as incumbent Presidents often do they give themselves good reviews. Can anyone say even in the middle of a presidency this is going to be a successful or an unsuccessful presidency?

ROBERT MERRY: No. You really can't. You can't say even-- even some years afterwards there has to be a given time for history to make a judgment, but a good President I think has to have a strong sense of who he is and what he is accomplishing and that indicates that this President certainly does have that.

BOB SCHIEFFER: He does have a good sense of what he-- what he was striving to do.

MICHAEL DUFFY: But, you know, in six weeks it could look different if the Supreme Court acts in a certain way on health care. Some of those accomplishments that the President was talking about last fall might not be as-- as lengthy, and so time helps. And as there's someone who told me that it is best to wait five or ten years at least before really judging a President in historical terms.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: And I think he would drop Lyndon Johnson now. I think when that was said he thought he had the Obamacare, the huge, you know, health care initiative that put him in that LBJ range but this will be a very-- will very badly this President's relationships with Congress. I don't think he's LBJ like he's becoming more Theodore Roosevelt like as we saw in his Kansas speech in December meaning executive orders, myself and versus Congress six percent. So I think he's now in Harry Truman mode, the know-nothing Congress-- the Congress versus me. So he's in-- Presidents are shifting somewhat since that was the bite.

NANCY GIBBS: You know, I was reminded when you looked at how historians do the measuring. John F. Kennedy was asked by Arthur Schlesinger in the middle of his term to-- to rank the Presidents. And-- and he wouldn't do it, he sort of threw it down and he said I don't think anyone has any business judging Presidents unless they've seen what went across their desks. And they saw that the-- what they were basing their decisions on. A lot of which is not declassified until many years later. And so these judgments in real time are very tricky because, you know, we see through that glass darkly. And so what historians are saying, and this is why I think what you do is such a smart idea of what voters can see in real time and the critics can see in real time versus what becomes clear from a certain distance.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Robert, what makes a successful presidency? Is there-- is there any formula? Do people going into it looking to establish some kind of legacy doing-- do any better than those that just deal with the problems that confront them?

ROBERT MERRY: The first thing a President has to do to be successful he has to understand his time. He has to understand what the voters are hungry for, what the-- what the electorate wants? What the American people are looking for? And then he's got to try to do that. Now sometimes that means heroic effort along the lines of what Barack Obama says he accomplished, sometimes in-- the American people are not looking for that, if they're in a satisfied mood. So that's-- that's number one. Secondly, I think you've got to pull the levers; you got to figure out how to get your hands on the levers of power and move the country in the direction that's indicated. And that's not very easy to do.

MICHAEL DUFFY: When we interviewed Bill Clinton for this book, we were in his office in Harlem he's surrounded by biographies of other Presidents. You-- it's almost like a temple of the presidency. And one of the things he started talking about was a President to be successful his temperament has to match the times and I think what he meant by that was he had to be able to read the public, he had to able to work with his opposition which as Clinton always said was always trying to kill you. And you had to know yourself, you had to know what you could-- where your limits were and-- and he said it was a-- much less about what you accomplished than sort of whether your outlook on life matched that era in which you were governing, which I thought was interesting.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Reelection matters a lot. If Barack Obama gets re-elected, he's going to be seen as this incredibly large historic figure. If he loses, it's sort of a referendum that he didn't do well enough. And so it's harder to build yourself up in the polls. The standard of voting Presidents-- William Harry Harrison was the only President for a month and he died of pneumonia. You don't want to be rated below William Harry Harrison and there are a number of Presidents that are, and just staying scandal-free which the Obama administration's largely done saves you from Warren Harding's fate, where it's you are in a black hole and you'll never really get out of it. George W. Bush is struggling, he's very, very low because people still don't see that the Iraq war was a good venture and the economy a-- a collapsed in 2008 on them.

MICHAEL DUFFY: But Harrison was beloved when he left the presidency.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Yes, after a month.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Doug, I want to just get off Presidents just for a minute and talk to you a little bit about your book because it is the trove of information, not just about Walter Cronkite and his dealings with the leaders, world leaders and the influence that-- that he had, but it is also kind of a mini history of broadcast journalism. And one of the things that I found of interest, I-- I-- I-- I knew that Edward R. Murrow, this great figure in broadcast journalism who basically invented how we-- we covered the news. And Walter never really got along. Murrow always looked down a bit on Walter as just being this kind of grubby wire service guy. And Walter kind of understood that's how Murrow felt about him. But what I didn't know is it all went-- maybe all started way back there, when Walter-- when-- when Ed Murrow was putting together his team and he offered Walter a job.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, that's right. It was wartime London and Walter Cronkite was doing logging stories for the United Press. And he did a little hit on radio and it caught Murrow's attention. And suddenly Walter Cronkite, a dropout from University of Texas, only two years, no college degree; Murrow, college degree and sybarite and all the great reporters were college people, some even Rhode Scholars. And Murrow invited to him a gentleman's club in London--


DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: And Walter was nervous. And at lunch, Murrow offered him a job to go to Stalingrad and be the CBS News reporter from Russia during World War II, and Walter said, yes. And then he went home--

BOB SCHIEFFER: And they shook on.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: They shook on, a handshake agreement. Cronkite went back to his-- the la-- you know, hotel in London and suddenly the UP, he had to tell the bosses there in New York. And they said you're not quitting, we'll get you more money. The head of-- the head of U-- the United Press called Cronkite so he changed his mind and he reneged on Murrow and Edward R. Murrow never really forgave him for it. And then also Edward R. Murrow got very weak, think of him going after Joe McCarthy on TV in the fifties. But Murrow didn't believe in live coverage. He demurred on the 52 convention, for example, thinking it would be more of an infomercial where Walter seized the day. So Cronkite became tel-- the voice of TV in the fifties while Edward R. Murrow started floundering. And by 1960, Demo-- Los Angeles Democratic Convention, Cronkite locked the door, they-- they blocked Murrow out of the anchor booth, so he wouldn't co-broadcast with him. So they-- they had a great feud, Murrow and Cronkite, that only partially healed. They-- they were two very different men.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I want to thank all of you for being with us this morning. It's really fun to talk to all of you and congratulations on--


NANCY GIBBS: Thank you having us.

ROBERT MERRY: Thank you.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --what you've done here. We'll be back in a minute with our FACE THE NATION Flashback.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Forty years ago this weekend, Democrats Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern appeared together on FACE THE NATION.

MAN #1: For the CBS Television City in Hollywood, FACE THE NATION.

BOB SCHIEFFER: They were campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination to oppose Richard Nixon. And that is our FACE THE NATION Flashback.

MAN #2: We see Mao greeting the President.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Richard Nixon had just opened the door to China, forged a new arms agreement with the Soviets, and the war in Vietnam was winding down.

GEORGE HERMAN (CBS News): --in their drive towards the presidential nomination.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So it is no wonder that moderator George Herman began--

GEORGE HERMAN: Can either of you gentlemen under those circumstances beat President Nixon? Senator Humphrey, first.

SENATOR HUBERT HUMPHREY: Of course, he's beatable. The economy is in disarray. The American people have great doubts about many of the policies of this administration, his record, his experience, his ability, his credibility. And I'm confident that under those terms I can win the nomination and I can win the presidency.

SENATOR GEORGE MCGOVERN: Well, I have no doubt that President Nixon can be defeated. I think the people are sick and tired of a war that never ends, President Nixon that has not ended. I think they are tired of a tax system that favors the powerful and penalizes the rest of us. I think they are tired of a leadership that tells us one thing in public while following a different course in private. And I believe the people of this country will respond to the kind of leadership that appeals to what is best in it, in Lincoln's phrase to the better angels of our nature.

BOB SCHIEFFER: McGovern went on to win the nomination, of course, the party threw out all its long time leaders and Nixon won reelection in a landslide.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: Well, I'm not a crook.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But only to resign in disgrace less than two years later because of the Watergate scandal.

Our FACE THE NATION Flashback.


BOB SCHIEFFER: And that's it for us. But before we go, we want to take note of a big birthday out in California. It turns out the Golden Gate Bridge is seventy-five years old today. That's it for us. See you next week.

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