BRIAN LAMB: John Lewis Gaddis, you grew up in a small town in Texas.
JOHN LEWIS GADDIS: That's right.
LAMB: Is it Cotulla or Cotulla?
GADDIS: It's Cotulla.
LAMB: Some famous people are from there besides you.
LAMB: Jeff Bezos, Lyndon Johnson taught school.
GADDIS: Lyndon Johnson taught school there, right.
LAMB: So what impact did that small town have on you?
GADDIS: Well, it is - was and still is a very small town and I thought it was a great place to grow up, although it never quite seems that way to a kid you know looking back on it, you can say this.
But I think I'm one of the best examples of why it was such a good experience harps back to this the theme of the book "The Hedgehog and the Fox" so my colleague Paul Kennedy, up at Yale the other day, we were having dinner and he announced to the kid that when he was little, he had a pet hedgehog growing up in England I was able to top Paul because I had a pet armadillo growing up in Texas. And so that's part of the fun.
LAMB: Did you know when you're growing up that Lyndon Johnson had taught school there?
GADDIS: Oh yes, we all knew that, but we were warned in the mid-1940s don't ever trust that guy because he's going to be President of the United States. Sometime it was clear to people even then when he was a young schoolteacher that he was a rising star or considered himself to be a rising star, but my dad despised him and said don't ever trust him and don't ever vote for him and yet my grandmother was totally charmed by him.
LAMB: Did you ever meet him?
GADDIS: I never did but I would - I can very well remember he appeared there I think in the 1948 campaign and I have a photo of him with my grandmother and have a photo of my dad who's there but he's disgusted to be there, but I was seven at the time and was kept across the street, we actually lived across the street, and the explanation I was later given was Lyndon talks dirty so the kids were not allowed to come.
LAMB: The other fellow from there, Jeff Bezos, who is the richest man in America…
GADDIS: He is.
LAMB: How did that happen?
GADDIS: I don't know how that happened and I have not intersected with Mr. Bezos but he has a huge range there for sure and so I don't really know the history of that, I'm very curious, I'd like to find out, I have never met him and would love to.
LAMB: When did you leave Cotulla?
GADDIS: I left Cotulla when I went off to school, would've been 19 gosh 58, I guess so I was 18 or so at that point.
LAMB: I - back in 2004 we had a long discussion about a lot of things that we're not going to talk about today but you went to Ohio University and then jumped to Yale and you've done what course since you got to Yale?
GADDIS: Well, since I got to Yale, I have done several different courses including one big one on Cold War history, but the one that I think is most relevant to this book is one that is called "Studies In Grand Strategy" which was a - and is seminar which I did collaboratively with Paul Kennedy and with Charles Hill. And the three of us formed this course back in the late 1990s when we became convinced there was a real absence of grand strategic thinking at high levels in the United States.
But we didn't really have the illusion that we could do much about it immediately so we decided set up a course that would tell our students what they needed to know with the idea that they would keep this inside their heads until maybe 20 years from then or 30 years from then, they rose to positions of responsibility and could actually begin to draw on it.
So that has always been the theme of the course, long-term investment…
LAMB: All three of you there all the time.
GADDIS: We were at the time that we taught it then we continued to be through about the last two or three years, but I have now turned it over to Professor Beverly Gage of the history department who is now running it, but I still go in and sit in on the class. She has brought in other Yale professors which I'm delighted to see happening, younger Yale professors…
LAMB: So if I'm a student at Yale, what year do I do this?
GADDIS: You would normally do it as a junior undergraduate.
LAMB: And how many people would be in there with me?
GADDIS: There would be about 40 people but there would've been maybe 140 who applied for it so there are always more people who want to get into it and are able to do so.
LAMB: And how often does it meet a week?
GADDIS: It meets once a week, normally.
LAMB: For how long?
GADDIS: Normally it - in the old regime it would meet for two hours once a week, actually the new program is so is doing two meetings per week one for lecture one for discussion and this is just a new experiment that's being tried this year for shorter…
LAMB: How did the three of you get together? Because that is a lot of firepower in one room.
GADDIS: The three of us - I have known Paul for years.
LAMB: Paul Kennedy.
GADDIS: Yes, Paul Kennedy. And I got to know Charlie Hill as soon as I got to Yale and I can tell you specifically how we got together we - all three went to a briefing on NATO expansion in 1998 and there were a couple of spokesmen from NATO who came at their request to address the University on the question of how smoothly the expansion of NATO would go.
This was at the time the expansion just included Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and they framed the whole discussion in terms of how easily the Pols and the Czechs and the Hungarians would be accommodated within the committee structures at Brussels and how everyone would get along in these meetings that took place in Brussels that was all that was said, it was the only rationale that was given.
And finally, one of our colleagues grew a little impatient with us and raised his hands and said but hadn't you considered that expanding NATO to the East could arouse suspicions in the eyes of the Russians, this is in the pre-Putin period, and possibly impair the effort to turn Russia into a democracy, possibly even drive the Russians into the arms of the Chinese thereby reversing one of the great accomplishments of the Cold War which was the Sino-Soviet split.
One of the briefers actually held his hand to his head like this and said, gosh, we never thought of that. The whole audience. So the three of us walked out and we told each other we have to do something and that is where the idea got started, that was the basis of …
LAMB: Let me show you some video of Charles Hill so people can see what he looks like and we can talk about what his impact is on the class.
(START VIDEO PRESENTATION)
CHARLES HILL: We were neighbors over the back fence (ph) in the early mid 1990s , we began to realize that we were independently, all three of us, getting the same messages quietly from students who were migrating, voting with their feet coming from certain other majors heading toward history with the plea, why can't we think big?
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
LAMB: Think big, that's Charlie Hill. What does that mean think big?
GADDIS: It means think long-term, it means think interconnectedly, it means think across disciplines, it means raise big questions just like this one, you know, if you are thinking little, you are thinking about the committee structures in Brussels, if you are thinking big you're thinking about the impact of this on Russia and China and Sino-Soviet relations….
LAMB: Where did Charlie Hill come from?
GADDIS: Charlie Hill comes from years of service in the -as an American diplomat in the foreign service and that was his first career and he was on Kissinger's policy planning staff, he was the chief assistant to George Schultz during the Reagan administration, he is still one of the greatest resources for the Reagan Administration because of the, some, 22,000 pages of handwritten notes that he kept on conversations that took place in the Reagan administration.
But on his retirement, he came to Yale before idea and started teaching outside any known department, so Charlie was always a kind of free floater and still is but his interests which came from the foreign service as a profession very nicely meshed with my interests as an American diplomatic historian and with Paul Kennedy's interests in his studies of the rise and fall of great powers and so on.
LAMB: Here's the third member of your team when you taught it all together is Paul Kennedy.
(START OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
PAUL KENNEDY: He has such rich materials around, it was - they were lying there, Thucydides, Bismarck, origins of the Second World War, Churchill, Kennan, Cold War, we could teach an awful lot of stuff about big topics, large trends in history, large lessons to be pulled out of getting the students to read Thucydides, the Romans, Clausewitz.
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
LAMB: You know, when they write about this course, they, meaning any journalism that writes about, they want to put Charlie Hill on the right and Paul Kennedy on the left and you in the center, do you…
GADDIS: Well, it's true, it's all true.
LAMB: Is it true?
GADDIS: More or less.
LAMB: So do you mix it up?
GADDIS: Sure we do, and we have a lot of fun and doing it, we've always done this.
LAMB: What do you disagree about?
GADDIS: Everything where possible, I will admit we exaggerate the disagreements sometimes, just to arouse the students, but we will quite often debate issues in front of them and we've done that for years and we're still neighbors and were still close friends, but the students really enjoy this kind of dialogue and debate among their professors.
I think they take some reassurance in knowing that there are several ways of looking at a problem instead of some party line as well, I think they respect the possibility for arguing vigorously within a framework of mutual respect and civility and that they know that we are good friends, they know that we go out to dinner together, and all this, they come over our houses were close enough and so that that's possible for the students.
So, the culmination of the vigorous intellectual debate among close personal friends who are at the same time dedicated teachers I think has been a really wonderful combo, and is a very rare thing, very few places because it didn't depend so much on personality, very few other places would be able to replicate this and I'm not sure we can keep it going after the three of us are no longer teaching in the program.
LAMB: I read in the Weekly Standard that the suggestions made that when you became somewhat knows the words close, but you became a briefer to George W. Bush that some of the people came off of your - of supporting you in the academia.
GADDIS: Well I would I would not say that I became a close advisor to George W. Bush, what I found out somewhat to my surprise was that he's a very close reader of history and so when I did just a short book on the significance of 9/11 called "Surprise, Security, and the American Experience" this was 2004, I was actually called down by Condoleezza Rice who I had known for a long time, she was national security advisor at the time.
And she said, could you come and brief me and my team for over lunch at (INAUDIBLE) finish the lunch, Condi says oh by the way could you spare a few moments for the president?
I said, yes, Condi, I think I could probably, so we go immediately into the oval and there is President Bush and Vice President Cheney and Bush has got his copy of this book out and it's heavily annotated and he says, sit down, I kind of expected a photo op and nothing - he said sit down, tell me about Bismarck and this is not what I was expecting for sure and so I had to improvise kind of a lecture on Bismarck for George W. Bush just on the spur of the moment.
But from that I did go down for a series of other seminars he regularly ran small seminars with historians often on biographies, he'd say let's do Woodrow Wilson or let's do Lincoln so I was so one of several people who would go down periodically for that, but that was the extent, it was not really what I would call real consulting or advising.
LAMB: Is it true that you suggested to him that he play Winston Churchill and begin painting?
GADDIS: It is true. That happened after he left the White House, that happened about four years into his retirement, and my wife and I just happen to be in Dallas, I think we were promoting the Kennan book at that point and so I had a student - several students actually who had worked for him, so I just said we like to drop by and say hello and we did and he had us come by at some ungodly hour like 730 in the morning or so.
And so I asked him how are you? He said I'm bored and don't have enough to do I said you should take a painting and I told him about the Churchill essay, Painting is a Pastime, which we use in the (INAUDIBLE) class.
LAMB: It's a small book?
GADDIS: Small book, yes. And the rest is art as they, you know, and he has turned out to be very good at it.
LAMB: Has he sent you a painting?
GADDIS: No, he has not done that but he acknowledges me in his book of paintings that he published, the portraits of veterans that he did.
LAMB: I don't want to take up the whole show with this but I do want to go back to tell us about Bismarck.
LAMB: Give us a short course.
GADDIS: Well, my point about Bismarck was fairly simple. Bismarck's great skill as a grand strategist was that he knew the advantages of shock and awe and this is how he unified Germany in the 1860s.
He instigated wars with the Denmark Austria-Hungary and eventually France itself just started himself but then having done that and having achieved his objective which was the unification of Germany, he stopped and he became a consolidator rather than an instigator and his next 20 years in power as German Chancellor were devoted to trying to build reassuring alliances to build the kind of a web of alliances with all of Germany's neighbors so that they would get used to the idea of a unified German.
So it was that distinction between shock and awe and then knowing when to stop and do something else reassurance that I was mentioning in the 9/11 book and this is what Bush was interested in as well.
LAMB: Your position on Iraq?
GADDIS: My position on Iraq was like a lot of other people sympathetic to the idea originally of going in because I took the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and tended to take it literally, tend to believe it like a love a lot of other people do, there is a huge intelligence failure obviously in that regard and I think had we known that had we known that those weapons were not there, I certainly would not have favored going under those circumstances.
So it's one of these things were I made a mistake because other people and is assessing the intelligence. And I think there was a lot to be learned from that. Paul Kennedy mentioned Thucydides. Why Thucydides? I hear this often from college professors they want you to read the Peloponnesian Wars. What's there?
It is timeless, and he intended to be, he tells us in his great history of the Peloponnesian war that he intends this to be a work for all time not because history repeats itself (but couldn't but) because it resembles itself and because human nature never changes, and that was his own vision of the significance of his work and that has been borne out, it seems to me by time.
I first read him under very strange circumstances, I was hired by the late Admiral Stansfield Turner to teach at the Naval War College, this is in the 1970s just at the end of the Vietnam war and I had no military experience and I was quite appalled to get there and find that I was expected to teach this book which I never read, Thucydides to these guys coming back from Vietnam and none of us understood why what the connection was.
But we dutifully did what the admiral said and we worked our way through it and we got to the end of it and we began reading about the doomed Athenian expedition to Sicily which was another of these situations in which the distinction between vital and peripheral interest had gotten lost somewhere, credibility became the big issue, domino theory thinking was there, a very similar situation, and it opened up the floodgates with the students in their being willing for the first time, some of them actually to talk about their experiences in Vietnam.
And so for me what that did was to show the instructional value, the extraordinary instructional value of the classics in dealing with much more recent issues and Newport from that time and still today has built its course, its strategy and policy course on Thucydides and other classical texts and that in many ways became a model for the course that we developed some two decades later at Yale.
LAMB: There is a footnote that got my attention because you talk a lot about Machiavelli in your book and reading the prints and all that but I have to read his back to you and ask you why.
The only book that rivals the prints in unsettling my students is the second volume of Robert Caro's Lyndon B. Johnson biography which argues that LBJ could never been given the 1965 - he would never could've given that that "We shall overcome" speech had he not stolen the 1948 Texas Democratic Senatorial primary, why does that freak out your students?
GADDIS: Because if they read Machiavelli what they read about is the need to make unpleasant compromises, if you're going to be in politics there are some things that you have to do in order to achieve later objectives and the idea that you can maintain moral purity and still be in politics is for Machiavelli simply impossible.
Machiavelli talks at one point about a rebellious province that had to be pacified and as Cesare Borgia pacifies it by taking the governor of the province having him cut into and displayed in the public square, the two pieces, and that was enough to pacify the entire province, one life lost and the province pacified.
The students then say to me and to each other, are we going to have to do things like that to achieve our objectives and I say to them nothing is simple, nothing is easy in life, I do another course on biography in which I regularly use the Robert Caro's volume 2 because it talks about the famous Democratic primary in Texas in 1948.
There was no Republican Party there at the time and how Johnson stole the election which he won by 87 votes but it's very clear that it was a stolen election and however, Caro very craftily begins that volume by with his account of the "We shall overcome" speech in 1965, classic speech by LBJ in which by the way LBJ talks about teaching school in Cotulla in my hometown.
But Caro makes the point Johnson would never have been able to make that speech had he not gotten into the Senate, had he not stolen that election, so I posed to the students okay what would you have done in this? What is moral and what is not in this case? It's actually competing moralities which is an Isaiah Berlin idea that's at work here both in Machiavelli and in Johnson and in Caro.
And there is no good solution to this, but I think it's very important for students to understand that they willed themselves in some way, and maybe less dramatically confront difficult choices like this.
LAMB: Why are so many professors in love with Isaiah Berlin?
And he was quite a character, I got to know him slightly when I was at Oxford in the early 90s. He is best known for his distinction between foxes and hedgehogs which goes back to the ancient Greeks, but it was Berlin who popularized that distinction in the early 1950s, the idea being that the fox knows many things and the hedgehog knows one big thing, and so that became iconic and Berlin is associated with that.
But his other ideas which I think are even more relevant one is this idea that politics is a matter not so much of good and evil normally but of competing good things. And one good thing may well have to be sacrificed to achieve some other good thing, maybe you give it up altogether, maybe you postpone it whatever, but these kinds - these this is the more natural and frequent political choice that has to be made.
Any idea that you can go into politics and remain morally consistent or morally pure, Berlin says, is perfectly unrealistic, this is the nature of politics.
Here he is in 1997, when did he die?
GADDIS: In 1997.
LAMB: Well, this is an interview from Swedish television, you had to listen, had to tell the audience you got to listen very carefully, he is not the easiest person to understand.
GADDIS: He was not.
(START OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
ISAIAH BERLIN: There are two sentences with the world free, one is - am I being tied to a tree, then I'm not free, because I can't move. If I'm in jail, I can't get out.
And freedom means not being in jail, not being tied to a tree. And the second of the freedom, positive freedom, his question, the answer to the question who is the master, am I the master or is there somebody who order me about?
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
GADDIS: I am the master, and that is the third big idea for which he is remembered which is the two kinds of liberty, the two kinds of freedom which the freedom that reconciles all contradictions is actually no freedom at all, its authoritarianism ,that's what some overbearing totalitarian government does for you and you're told that all the contradictions have been reconciled and you have nothing left to, so that was Stalin for example, this was Hitler, it was other it was Mao in China.
The negative liberty that he is talking about is the freedom to work out these ideas, these choices for yourself, and that can be a painful process but nonetheless you are in charge, you have no master as you're doing this.
So I have found all of these ideas immensely fruitful and because I knew them and respected him and since his death, have actually read him more carefully than I did when he was alive. I let him be a kind of commentator on this new book, actually, I had the feeling, Brian, when I was writing this book that Isaiah was perched on my shoulder or was looking over my shoulder, a spooky kind of feeling just commenting on various things.
And if you read the book, you know that he comes in and out at the different points in the book, so he appears in chapter 1, he then comes back in when I discussed Machiavelli in chapter 4, I guess it is, even comes back in yet again when I'm talking in the finale where I talk about Franklin Roosevelt, who is a great hero to Berlin.
And when Roosevelt is making this most supreme of moral compromises in World War II which was relying on Stalin's Soviet Union to achieve that victory in Europe with the Russians doing 90 percent of the fighting for us at the price of enslaving half of Europe for the next four decades or so, a huge difficult issue and compromise.
Isaiah was as a young reporter for the foreign office working in Washington sending them reports to the British foreign office about Washington in that period. And so the combination of his own observations and his later ruminations which came out of his philosophical writings are just for perfect as so you can think of him as a kind of philosophical commentator on each part of this book as you proceed through it, it was just fun to let him weave in and out.
LAMB: Michael Ignatieff, you know, wrote a book about him and he also - then he was here years ago and he went to Canada to run a political party.
GADDIS: And has been in Hungary more recently heading up the Central European University which is under great pressure now.
LAMB: Here is a clip of Isaiah Berlin coming to America in 1941 talking about the British information just not as brief, see some more.
(START OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
MALE: You arrive in New York in 1941, early 41, and your job is essentially to engage in propaganda that will get the Americans into the war.
BERLIN: It wasn't all that, we were never told to do it.
MALE: But that is what you were doing.
BERLIN: That is (INAUDIBLE). That is called "British Information Services, BIS". (INAUDIBLE) if anyone wanted to know anything with Britain at war, we could supply information. The information we supplied was supplied to us by the military division, and was therefore, not the whole truth.
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
LAMB: Typical Berlin.
One of the things in the book you talked, I have the page marked but you talk about Winston Churchill being, I don't know if this is fair, you tell me, excited about when Pearl Harbor got bombed because.
GADDIS: Well for Churchill this solved so many problems, I say in the book that Churchill's grand strategy once he had decided not to surrender which was one of his first decisions as Prime Minister in the summer of 1940 beyond that the only thing he could do was wait for the Americans, wait for Roosevelt because Britain with the fall of France, is fighting alone.
Britain can never hope to win the war on its own, the best it can hope for is to hold off on its aisle and hold up on its aisle and preserve its fleet. But in the end, the Americans would have to come into the war and how that would happen and how it could be done was Franklin Roosevelt's issue that he had to deal with.
An Roosevelt's strategy really was one of waiting also but waiting I think for several different things waiting for American rearmament to take place so that the resources of this great continent could be harnessed and applied and he so fully rearming the country in a very rapid way long before Pearl Harbor and then he is waiting for American public opinion to change because American public opinion was very isolationist in as late as 1939 or early 1940.
But is beginning to shift as Americans see what is happening in Europe, the isolationism begins to thin out. And then Roosevelt is also waiting for his own Fort Sumter just like Lincoln was waiting for the attack on Fort Sumter, attack by the Confederacy which then provided the justification for war, and Roosevelt did not know where it was going to come but he did know that the Japanese were under great pressure and in part because of an American oil embargo. And so the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor solved a great number of problems for Roosevelt.
There was only one problem left which is it was the Japanese who had attacked and not the Germans, so how does Roosevelt bring us into the war against Germany, and he didn't have to think about that for more than two days because Hitler for reasons that are still not well understood declared war on the United States on 11th December and that solved Roosevelt's strategic problem and Churchill's as well.
LAMB: How do you learn?
GADDIS: How do you learn?
LAMB: How do you learn in earlier years, what has been your system?
GADDIS: I like to think it is both by reading and teaching and then reading more and teaching more if that makes sense to you because I don't think you really know what you've read well until you try to teach it to a group of young people and then I think as you teach to a group of young people, you realize there are things you still don't know enough about how to teach credibly, to teach fully, and so on.
That drives you back to additional reading and so the intersection of reading and teaching and then after you get to a certain point, writing also because for me the act of writing something down like this book is a working out of ideas in my own which is another approach to thinking. I really didn't know what I thought about some of these issues that are discussed in this book until I wrote the book and now I can go back and see what I think.
And so I think it's a creative interconnection of all three of these things - reading teaching and writing ultimately.
LAMB: You imagine that Professor Berlin modernized the hedgehog and foxes, I don't know whether this will work or not, I'm sure you can do this, Lyndon Johnson, was he a hedgehog or was he a fox?
GADDIS: Oh I think he was mostly a fox for sure because he was a manipulator, he was a skillful operator, he was - could pull all the buttons and do all the maneuvers and what not, but I think that in another sense this is another issue that is raised by Caro in his book.
Johnson was deeply inside, a hedgehog and a hedgehog idea Caro, would argue, I think, and Johnson said this as well actually came from teaching in my hometown back in 1928, he was teaching in a segregated Mexican school and was very much moved by these kids who didn't get very many resources there.
He was there only one year but the experience stuck with him and I really think what he was saying is that I want to get to a point in life where I can do something for kids like that, but then the question is how do you get to that point?
Well you get to it by stealing elections, you get to it by manipulating legislators, all this kind of thing, the wheeling and dealing and what not, but I think it's all that comes full circle with the we shall overcome speech where he actually goes back and talks about my hometown, Cotulla and what that meant and does that before the Congress of the United States.
LAMB: Define once again a hedgehog and a fox as they are used in this…
GADDIS: A hedgehog knows one big thing so has one big objective and may well have a single framework for looking at the world, a single lens for looking at the world.
A fox will know many things will be aware of many competing priorities, they may have many different strategies for achieving things, but a fox can lose a sense of direction because there is no one big central idea and so an unfocused fox is just spinning wheels and operating off in a bunch of different areas. The obvious solution is to find ways to be both.
GADDIS: Nixon, I think a hugely complicated figure but elements of both as well. I would say mostly a fox, but very clever at seeing opportunities and exploiting them. So I think particularly about foreign policy, about the opportunities that were opening up for opening China, the extent which he moved rapidly to exploit those opportunities and made the most of that.
Not all presidents would have done that, it would've been very difficult to for example for Lyndon Johnson to have done that or for Hubert Humphrey to have done that if had one in 1968 because the Democrats were under so much pressure for allegedly having lost China back in the 1940s.
Nixon was very good at seizing opportunities and running with them but he was also too much of a fox on domestic issues, he cut too many corners as we know, he let himself get caught, I suspect FDR cut a lot of corners along the way, I know Lincoln cut a lot of corners along the way but I think in both of those cases they would have had, if they had got caught, good explanations for doing so.
It's hard to see what the explanation would've been for the Watergate break-in except just short-term political interest which made no sense anyway because he was going to win that election by a landslide in 1972.
So for Nixon, you descend into it seems to me the psychology of grudges and maybe that's a kind of a deeply hedgehog idea that sometimes can override more sound foxy.
LAMB: In your book, you mentioned Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.
GADDIS: I did.
LAMB: Here's an excerpt from it, listen closely to what the actor, Daniel Day Lewis says.
(START OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
DANIEL DAY LEWIS: A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it'll, it'll point you true north from where you're standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps, the deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what's the use of knowing true north?
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
LAMB: Hedgehog, fox?
GADDIS: Gosh, both.
That moment was iconic, Brian, for me in writing this book when I saw the movie 2012 and the very syncness of the screenplay and the brilliance with which that is played by Day Lewis, he seems to encompass it, it is just about a minute and a half what brand strategy is all about because he talks about the importance of having a goal, having a compass heading, having a sense of direction, but realizing that sense of direction for Lincoln was of course winning the war and then abolishing slavery which is what the movie deals with.
The 13th amendment abolishing slavery, but Lincoln is a consummate politician as well, and so he understood that to get there, he's got to maneuver, he cannot just go straight to that objective because he will run into a swamp or head over a cliff so he's got to circumvent, he's got to navigate he's got to maneuver and before long, maybe he got to bribe a few people and maybe's got to sell a few post offices and what not and various places.
And so he says manipulative a politician as Nixon or LBJ ever were and the beauty of that movie is the extent which it shows this in Lincoln, but the great difference with Lincoln is that he was so fixated on this larger goal and could so eloquently express it and I think that's the genius of Lincoln.
LBJ is interesting because he had a larger goal, I think, and I think it was ending poverty and racism in this in this country, but he allowed himself to be distracted by the Vietnam War and lost the ability to persuade credibly, his credibility really began to go down the tubes just shortly after the election in 1965.
And because he was caught being less than truthful about various things from a small foreign policy issues, intervention in the Dominican Republic, and then a whole series of things that led to the credibility gap, maybe the difference is because the press is tougher on Johnson then it was on Lincoln.
It was pretty tough on Lincoln as well in that day and age and that's what I think you have to do in leadership is to maintain the compass heading, circumvent the swamps, but be able to explain what compromises you have made if you have to make some and get caught making them, be able to explain why you did that, and that is so that's a tough trip - a tough triangle to maintain.
LAMB: So a poll recently showed that the Yale students are about 80 percent Democrats.
GADDIS: Actually, I would have thought more than that.
LAMB: So your - this course on grand strategy you teach is to prepare them to come to this time and run the world.
GADDIS: In part.
LAMB: Do you ever take a poll of whether they are hedgehogs or foxes after you've taught this?
GADDIS: Not really because we don't want to give too much importance to that dichotomy. Berlin Minute, I think, is a teaching device really started out as a party game but I think he saw the value of it as a teaching device, because it forces you to ask a consistent set of questions about a variety of people.
So it is useful up to a point but I think the points can be drawn too finely so trying to make fine distinctions between hedgehog-ism and fox-ism and so on, it can become a little bit complicated and it can become a little bit artificial.
What I have always preferred to do is to simply say the more interesting question is how you can combine the attributes of the hedgehog and the fox but that means knowing when to be which and this gets around to one of Charlie Hill's favorite observations which is from Scott Fitzgerald the sign of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and retain the ability to function.
The problem is a Charlie always announces this to the class but he never tells the class what it means so it drives them crazy so in part my book is an attempt to take that idea and see if we can combine it with foxes and hedgehogs and say the foxes and the hedgehogs are the opposing ideas and how are they held simultaneously in the mind.
LAMB: I want to ask you about academia for a second.
LAMB: One of the funders of some of the things you've done is a man named Nicholas Brady.
LAMB: Here is for those who have forgotten that he was a United States senator and a secretary of the treasury.
(START OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
NICHOLAS BRADY: I, Nicholas Brady, do solemnly swear.
MALE: That I will support and defend and constitution of the United States.
BRADY: That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States.
I come from 30 years in the banking business and although in today's fast-moving world, you don't hear the term anymore, I was always taught that the best loan you could make was a character loan, one that looked beyond the hard numbers and took a leap of faith and counted on the character and strength of the individual involved.
(END OF VIDEO PRESENTATION)
LAMB: Do students pay any attention to the fact that this man comes from the Republican Party, gave money for this course and as they sit there does that matter and he has he tried at any point to steer you in a certain direction?
GADDIS: No. We have one piece of advice from Nick when the money came through and the endowment was set up back in 2006, and I asked him, Mr. Brady, thank you for your generosity what should we do with your money?
He said teach common sense. That's all he's ever said and it was wonderful advice so that allowed us a huge leeway in setting up the course or in continuing what we were doing he's never tried to tell us to do this do that, hire this person, hire that person and what not.
He maintains a lively interest, he is in his upper-80s now but I hear from him frequently and he comes to our events all the time and when he does give advice, it's pretty good advice, so about five years ago he called me up and he said you know he said, you and Kennedy and Hill are not getting any younger, Nick was in his early 80s at that point, older than any of the three of us.
He said you better start thinking about a successor and so he had us begin to put into place a very gradual succession process that now has Beverly Gage as the director of the program and she in turn has brought in a good number of younger Yale faculty members as well and that has led to an expansion in the range of what we do with much more of a focus not much more but more of a focus on domestic issues, social protest, economic inequality, than we had in the past.
But this is Nick's sense of how an institution remains healthy, its leadership cannot be permanent, it's got to bring in new blood, it's got to be open to moving into new areas and if it doesn't do those things, it stagnates.
So I'd say he's the perfect - making things possible and monitoring things very carefully but never actually instructing just good ,wise, sound, commonsense advice.
LAMB: Let me go back to the hedgehog and the fox, let's bring it up closer to our time now, George W. Bush.
LAMB: What would he be?
GADDIS: I think he was - I think there are elements of the hedgehog in the first term, and a lot of people say this was the influence of his advisers, not so much Bush, but Cheney, Rumsfeld, the others, you've read the criticism of neoliberalism or neoconservatism whatever term you want to apply to it.
But that as he gained confidence in the presidency and particularly in the second term became more his own leader and it seems to me that was beginning to make his own decisions to a greater extent. We don't have documents yet so this is just an impressionistic judgment, but it is shared by a lot of people who've written about the administration.
I think it helps to explain why he was interested in Bismarck when I first met him in 2004 because he was very much struck with this idea, shock and awe may be good up to a point but it's not a permanent strategy, you have to then build reassurance later. And so what impact that had, I have no idea.
LAMB: What was the date again and when you first met him.
GADDIS: It would've been the summer of 2004.
LAMB: And the war started in 2003.
LAMB: All right, Barack Obama.
GADDIS: Barack Obama, I would say more hedgehog than fox and by that what I mean is someone who is heavily a process person, someone who considers processes to be extremely important to the extent the processes can take on lives of their own and sometimes lose sight of what they are for in the first place.
So, I take for example the Syria, the management of the Syria situation where I've never seen and have yet see a clear explanation of what the United States is trying to do in Syria or who the enemy really is in this situation, and that all started it seems to me with the Obama.
I think Obama did very little to notice or take note of the domestic crisis that was brewing, the growing disillusionment of the middle classes in this - in this country with what government was doing for them and this huge change in American consciousness where Americans now have little confidence that their children will be better than they did.
But historically Americans have always had the confidence that their kids would do better than they did, so with this change has taken place and I think it has, that's an astounding change in the social morale of the country, much of that happened, it seems to me, on Obama's watch, I don't think he was aware of it and just didn't see it coming.
Trump saw it and has exploited it and may well have done it irresponsibly, but it certainly was not responded to, it seems to me, in the in the Obama administration.
LAMB: Final president, Donald Trump.
GADDIS: Too hard to say at this point, I think there may be some interesting grand strategies that are implicit in what he's doing, he is a destroyer, or he believes in the destruction in a positive sense, he thinks for sure that you have to break things up before you can fix them.
How much of this is a sense of the capacity to build anything new and how much of it is just destructive it seems to me remains to be seen, but anyone who could come in as he did in 2015 and 16 and run circles around everybody else in those primaries and campaigns has some kind of political genius going.
Maybe it's a malevolent genius, maybe it isn't, but this is someone who is picking up on something in the American character that was out there that nobody else was picking up on, and so I think that if it doesn't deserve respect, it certainly deserves analysis, serious analysis as to where we are going and is to what is being done.
I do think there is a tendency for Trump to ask what is it for questions like why do we have to have a continued division of the Korean Peninsula, what is it for? What does it accomplishes, it could be into (INAUDIBLE), he is probably asking the same thing today on the Iran issue.
The - and there's usefulness in asking why are we doing this? What's it for? But it's got to be accompanied with building something that either is a continuation of the existing arrangement or something you do and that's what I'm worried is I don't see the evidence that he's capable of building something in the place of what he destroys.
LAMB: What's it like inside of Yale talking about Donald Trump?
GADDIS: It can really be done on a rational basis most of the time because within a University like Yale, the feelings are so visceral, and I mean among the faculty, that it's hard to have any kind of conversation doesn't just say predictable things and anybody who tries to say something less than predictable is to be disregarded, so people don't try all that much.
It's almost that way with the students but not quite as much for sure. And, so, on I think were off in a kind bubble as many places on the East Coast and West Coast are.
One of the things that I have tried to do, we have tried to in the summer with our grand strategy students, we have always built in what we call a summer Odyssey somewhere which generally has met some kind of the trip alone to some exotic part of the world where you're out on your own and you have to cope and you're learning something.
The kind of thing you would never be able to do later when you're growing up, that kind of thing, but the exotic climbs that we have been now pushing with our students are simply America, how many of you have taken a road trip across America?
Surprisingly few Yalies have done that. And so we're financing road trips across America for Yale students with the encouragement to stop in small towns and just stay there for a little - a couple have been to Cotulla, believe it or not, and have stayed for as long as two weeks just talking to the locals and they write this up as their projects and what - and it's very simple, we just ask them write about what you saw, write about what you heard and they then can draw their own conclusions from this.
But I think it's an extremely useful thing to do and it's just our small effort to try to break down some of the isolation that somehow the elite universities have locked themselves into the bubbles and to which they place themselves.
LAMB: When you're here 2004, when you're a young man, I say that because we were born the same year, you are - George Kennan was still alive and he died the next year just and then you did your book. What do you think because you said at the time that George Kennan - didn't want to read it and in what would you say what you think he would've thought of the book once it came out?
GADDIS: Of the biography?
LAMB: Of your biography.
GADDIS: I like to think that he would've approved of it but it's a big book and I know that there would be some things that he would be shocked to see appear there even though they were in his the papers I know that there are some places where he would dispute my judgments about certain things but he was so adamant that this be my own book that I am not sure if he were alive that he would ever say much to me about this because he so respected that the need for the author's independence in doing biography.
So that's pretty much where it would come down, I think, but we both agreed that he should not have that dilemma so it was always assumed that it would be a posthumous biography, that was always the deal.
LAMB: You teach biography and I want - I know you are part of the - who are two or three biographers in history and politics and government that you think have done the best job?
GADDIS: Well of the best job means it can mean several different things and I try to teach several different kinds of biography. So, Caro as you have already mentioned has always been on the list for the dilemmas that it raises even though the idea of a five volume biography is probably economically no longer possible these days.
But I've been very impressed with Michael Ignatieff's biography of Isaiah Berlin which has periodically been on the list, I like to experiment with biographical genres so for example of JD Vance, Hillbilly Elegy was on the list and has been for a couple of years as a biography of a family, Lincoln in the Bardo - in the Bardo was on the list this year as a truly experimental work of fiction that has biographical implications and students are very favorably impressed in it.
One of my favorite characters is the Emperor Augustus was Octavian he gets a chapter in my new book, but there is also a wonderful epistolary biography of him by John Williams the American author written some 30 years ago which is all done as letters - and they re fake letters that Williams has invented but they are from the real people who would have known the young Octavian and the rising Augustus and he's described in their words, he never appears himself until the very end of the book, students are very fascinated with that mode of biography.
LAMB: I'm going to ask you a last question.
GADDIS: Of course.
LAMB: I read that you've been reading a biography of Bob Dylan.
GADDIS: I have.
LAMB: Is it worth reading?
GADDIS: Sure it is, Richard Thomas, Bob Dylan.
LAMB: Are you a follower of Bob Dylan.
GADDIS: No, I was just curious.
LAMB: Our guest has been John Lewis Gaddis, Yale professor and his new book is called "On Grand Strategy". Thank you very much for joining us.
GADDIS: Thank you, Brian.