MR. GREGORY: But there's--this is a question of leadership. Again, what critics would say, if you look at how this president handled the bonus question with AIG, he knew that in the scheme of things it was not the biggest deal to this administration. And yet when the politics shifted, he stood up and said, "Yeah, those bonuses are table--terrible, and I'm angry." Perhaps the leadership moment there was to say to the country, "Calm down, it's not the most important thing." Here on this memos now he seems to be shifting positions because he's got a left wing of his party that says there must be accountability from the Bush administration. The politics of looking backward are tricky.
MR. MEACHAM: They are hugely complicated, and my sense is we have not seen the end of this story. I think that they are keeping some options open. I'm personally in favor of a 9/12 Commission, where we find someone like Jack Danforth and Sam Nunn and do some something like the 9/11 Commission where you review the entire war on terror. Did rendition work, did the unmanned aerial drones, as well as the, the interrogation techniques? And I, I suspect that what they've shown themselves to be are quite pragmatic, quiet realistic. That was the AIG example you raised. He didn't want to jump on it. There was a huge moment of populist rage. But remember, it was just a moment. I mean, it burn, it burned very quickly. And what's going to happen, for all the stylistic points, all the temperament points, he's going to be judged on whether this stuff works.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. MEACHAM: And whether the, whether the economy comes back and how he confronts still unforeseen national security challenges. (end of tape )
Missing from tape:
MR. GREGORY: Isn't this question about torture, Doris, if you put it in an historical context, we have to ask the large question, which is can you defeat an enemy like al-Qaeda without compromising the nation's character? Can you?
MS. GOODWIN: I...
MR. GREGORY: I mean, is that a debate that should go forward?
MS. GOODWIN: I mean, one has to hope so, that it's possible to do; as everybody was saying before, that the moral values of our nation are what we are known for abroad. I think the interesting question about why he wanted to look forward instead of back, I think he recognizes, as all leaders do, that you only have a certain number of resources in time, focus and imagination. And if the country goes off on a jag, you're going to lose--look at even now, we've been talking about torture this morning rather than maybe what should have been talked about if he had his way, which was this new speech that he just made about the importance of every time you have a tax increase you're going to have to use that to go for the tax cut. Every time you have a increased spending, you're going to have to have some sort of reduction in spending. That's a big thing he was talking about. You lose, you lose command of the airwaves with these things, and I think that was his initial instinct of hoping that somehow we could put this behind us. But once that elephant is in the room with that CIA memo...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. GOODWIN: ...options are lost. They're going to have to do something.
MR. MEACHAM: I, I, I disagree a little bit. I think that the, to go to your phrase of politics of looking back, is the mature thing to do. And if we are right about our first point that the people can handle a lot of things, then finding a smart, moderate, intelligent way to look back, find out what this history of these seven years can teach us about how to fight terrorism, as you say, can we do this and preserve our moral values? Well, Abraham Lincoln didn't. FDR didn't. Great war presidents have always committed great sins, whether it's suspending habeas corpus or detaining Japanese...
MS. GOODWIN: Incarcerating, incarceration.
MR. MEACHAM: ...Japanese-Americans. And so life is messy. Life is complicated. But we have to understand this history, because if we don't then we--I think we're unilaterally disarming, in a way, as we push forward.
MS. GOODWIN: How could I go against looking back at history? I must yield to your greater judgment.
MR. MEACHAM: There you go. There you go. There you go.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah. But, Doris, I--you know what's--talk to people, and they want to know, you know, what's he like? What are president's like? How do they make decisions? And somebody close to the president said he's got a very disciplined mind. What do we know about how he makes decisions?
MS. GOODWIN: Well, it sounds like one thing he does is to bring people into the room and ask them to debate different sides of the issue so that he can get alternative points of view, and that what I've heard him say, or other people say, is that he asks people who have been quiet in the room, "Speak up. I want to hear what you said." That's a very healthy thing. Again, going back to FDR, there was a certain time when he was in a room and he was explaining a pet project and everybody said, "Oh, it's great, Mr. President. It's great." George Marshall didn't say a word. He said, "George, what do you think?" and Marshall said, "I don't agree with you at all, Mr. President." Instead of being mad at him, he lifted him 34 feet up--not 34 feet up, 34 generals up to become his chief. And I think that's the way you want to have a president to make decisions, to have as many points of view there, listen to them and then think, think.
MR. GREGORY: All right, we're going to leave it there. Thanks both of you very much. And congratulations to Jon Meacham...
MS. GOODWIN: Yeah!
MR. GREGORY: ...who won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography on Andrew Jackson, "American Lion." Well deserved. And two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and historians here, thank you very much.
We're going to continue this discussion on line with Jon and Doris, and ask some questions that our viewers have submitted via e-mail and Twitter. Watch our MEET THE PRESS Take Two Web extra. It's up this afternoon on our Web site. Plus, look for updates from me throughout the week. It's all at mtp.msnbc.com. And we'll be right back.
MR. GREGORY: A program note before we go. Tonight as part of Green Week, MSNBC premieres "Future Earth: Journey to the End of the World" reported by Lester Holt. It airs at 10 PM Eastern and Pacific time.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
A very interesting part to leave out, isn't it?
Now I'm sure MSNBC will say it was just an accident (or a ghost was in the machine) and maybe that's all it was, but you just gotta wonder - Did they not want us to see Doris Kerns Goodwin going off the reservation by disagreeing with the beltway narrative? Or did they not want us to see Jon Meacham make a very unconvincing and quite frankly a patently absurd argument about George W. Bush, torture and his place in history?
Can you imagine trying to pretend that George W. Bush is one of the"great war presidents" just because he committed great sins. How's that for turning history on it's head. We consider these "great sins" by other presidents as blots on their otherwise good record but Meacham evidently thinks that Bush is great because of his great sins even though he has a lousy record in every other area too. Gee, I wonder if Meacham will get another Pulitizer for pushing this kind of mushy, dishonest nonsense? Do you think maybe he's auditioning to write W's biography? He did say that his next book was going to be about George H.W. Bush...is he hoping to get W's story too?
That is not to say presidents and vice presidents are always above the law; there could be instances in which such a prosecution is appropriate, but based on what we know, this is not such a case.
In viewing his comments from the Meet the Press video and his comment in the Newsweek piece one gets a better sense of Meacham's views about abuse of power and about how he applies the lessons of history.
While most historians would view examples of previous president's abuses of power as major mistakes on a presidents record, Meacham views these abuses of power as nothing more than precedents to be exploited by future presidents to justify committing similiar abuses of power in the future. This twisted view of history would certainly explain both his stunning statement in the Newsweek column and his equally stunning statements from his Meet the Press appearance where he cites the "great sins" of "great war presidents" as an excuse to defend the illegal torture authorized by George W. Bush.
The "Incomplete" Video