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Barnes and... A Conversation with Sander Vanocur

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STEVE BARNES: THIS IS THE LIBRARY OF THE GOVERNOR'S MANSION LITTLE ROCK ARKANSAS. ONE HALF CENTURY AGO. THIS HOUSE PERHAPS IS VERY -- WE'RE AT THE SETTLE OF CONTROVERSY BECAME KNOWN AS THE LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH CRISIS IT WAS A MOMENTUM IN NATIONAL LIFE. SCORES OF JOURNALISTS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND AROUND THE WORLD CONVERGED ON THE STATE CAPITOL TO COVER THIS EVENT. MANY OF THOSE JOURNALISTS HAVE GONE ON. ONE WHO REMAINS WITH US VERY MUCH WITH US WRITING, REPORTING, BROADCASTING IS SANDER VANOCUR OF NBC NEWS. IN A MOMENT A CONVERSATION WITH SANDY VANOCUR ABOUT HIS MEMORIES OF CENTRAL HIGH, AMERICAN JOURNALISM AND AMERICAN POLITICS. IN A MOMENT. [MUSIC]  .

STEVE BARNES: HELLO AGAIN EVERYONE AND THANKS FOR JOINING US. SANDER VANOCUR AFTER A 60 YEAR JOURNALISM CAREER JOURNALED BACK TO LITTLE ROCK WHERE YOUR FIRST BIG STORY WAS THE LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH CRISIS OF 1957 ALTHOUGH YOU CAME BACK IN IN 1958 -- CAME IN IN 1958. RELIEVED A PUP NAMED JOHN CHANCELLOR AS I RECALL.

SANDY VANOCUR: YES, JOHN WAS OUR MIDWEST CORRESPONDENT. AND HE WAS HERE IN '57. DID A REALLY MARVELOUS JOB OF COVERING. AND THEN HE WAS POSTED TO EUROPE. I WAS SENT TO CHICAGO TO BE THE MIDWEST CORRESPONDENT. AND IN MAY OF '58 HE BROUGHT ME DOWN. NOT JUST TO COVER THE GRADUATION OF ERNEST GREEN PART OF LITTLE ROCK 9 BUT ALSO INTRODUCED ME TO HARRY ASHMORE THE EDITOR OF THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE WHO BECAME A DEAR AND CHERISHED FRIENDS.

STEVE BARNES: YOUR CAREER ACTUALLY BEGAN -- JOURNALISM CAREER BEGAN OVERSEAS WITH SOME FREELANCE WORK FOR THE GUARDIAN.

SANDY VANOCUR: I WAS HIRED BY THE GUARDIAN. AND I JUST GOT OUT OF THE ARMY. I HAD BEEN IN LONDON '51, '5 2 AS A GRADUATE STUDENT AT THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS WHERE I HAD A CLASSMATE NAMED DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN. SO WHEN I GOT OUT OF THE ARMY IN THE SPRING OF 1954 I GOT A JOB IN THE LONDON BUREAU OF THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN. I ALSO WORKED FOR NOTHING ON THE WEEKEND FOR UNITED PRESS. BECAUSE I WANTED TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE A HARD LEAD. I WORKED FOR THE NORTH AMERICAN SERVICE OF THE BBC AND HAD A WONDERFUL TIME AND I CAME HOME AND WENT TO WORK AT THE NEW YORK TIMES.

STEVE BARNES: AND FROM THERE TO NBC NEWS AND THERE WAS THE WASHINGTON POST. AND IN BETWEEN THERE I THINK THERE WAS A TIME WITH THINK TANK OR TWO AND SOME TEACHING AND DOM UMENTTARY WORK AND THEN THE WASHINGTON POST AND THEN ABC NEWS.

SANDY VANOCUR: IT'S A VARIED CAREER.

STEVE BARNES: YOU NEVER HAD A GOOD JOB.

SANDY VANOCUR: I COULDN'T KEEP A STEADY JOB.

STEVE BARNES: THIS ONE WAS THE BIG STORY.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, YES, NOTHING HAS EVER COME CLOSE. EVER. NEVER.

STEVE BARNES: SO YOU'RE BACK. IT'S NOT YOUR FIRST TRIP BACK TO LITTLE ROCK. YOU POP BACK IN PERIODICALLY. BUT CHATTING BEFORE THE PROGRAM BEGAN -- THIS PROGRAM BEGAN A LITTLE DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO RECOGNIZE THE TOWN. THINGS HAVE CHANGED A LITTLE.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, NO. I CAME BACK ABOUT TEN YEARS AGO. THERE WAS A GROUP OF WOMEN WHO WERE TRYING TO REOPEN THE SCHOOLS AFTER FAUBUS CLOSED IN 1958. I WAS STUNNED THEN. I'M STUNNED NOW. BUT I ALWAYS FELT THAT HAD THE LITTLE ROCK INCIDENT NOT OCCURRED, LITTLE ROCK WOULD HAVE LED MOST SOUTHERN CITIES INTO A VAST PERIOD OF PROSPERITY. BECAUSE IT'S A LOVELY CITY. WONDERFUL PEOPLE. BUT NOW YOU REALLY FEEL IT WITH THE PHYSICAL PRESENCE OF ALL OF THE BUILDINGS AND THE HIGHWAYS.

STEVE BARNES: WELL WITH, THE TOPOGRAPHY OF THE TOWN MAY HAVE CHANGED.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, YES.

STEVE BARNES: HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO REALLY TAKE THE TEMPERATURE OF THE TOWN? HAVE ATTITUDES CHANGED MUCH?

SANDY VANOCUR: HAVEN'T HAD TIME TO TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT IT. BUT SEE, MY ATTITUDE ABOUT THE ATTITUDE HERE WAS PEOPLE WERE PRETTY SENSIBLE ABOUT THE RACIAL ISSUE. AND WITH -- WITH ALL OF THIS BY GOVERNOR FAUBUS WHO CLOSED THE SCHOOL WITH INTEGRATION. BUT I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT WAS A WONDERFUL PLACE WITH WONDERFUL PEOPLE.

STEVE BARNES: IT'S BEEN ARGUED THAT LITTLE ROCK HAD AS YOU NOTED A PROGRESSION -- A REPUTATION AS A VERY PROGRESSIVE, VERY MODERATE CITY. IN TERMS OF THE RACE QUESTION. BUT SO DID A LOT OF OTHER CITIES. YOU WEREN'T -- YOU WEREN'T ALONE IN THAT REGARD. WAS THIS WAITING TO HAPPEN.

SANDY VANOCUR: I DON'T KNOW.

STEVE BARNES: SOME PLACE IN THE SOUTH.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, SOMEWHERE IN THE SOUTH. BUT NOT IN LITTLE ROCK. NO MORE THAN IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IN ATLANTA. WELL, WHAT'S THE REASON? MY JUDGEMENT ATLANTA HAD A GREAT NEWSPAPER RUN BY A MAN NAMED FALPH MCGILL. LITTLE ROCK HAD THE ARKANSAS GAZETTE. RUN BY HARRY ASHMORE. AND THE PAPERS WERE SO IMPORTANT TO WHAT A CITY OR A TOWN WOULD DO. LIKE THE HODDING CARTERS IN MISSISSIPPI NASHVILLE WITH THE NASHVILLE, TENNESSEEIAN. PAPERS MATTERED. NOT TELEVISION SO MUCH. PAPERS. AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT ALLOWED ATLANTA TO JUST LEAVE EVERYBODY BEHIND. IN THE SOUTH -- IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ECONOMY. AND ITS CULTURE.

STEVE BARNES: WELL, IF YOU HAVEN'T HAD TIME TO TAKE THE TEMPERATURE OF LITTLE ROCK, WHAT ABOUT THE TEMPERATURE OF THE NATION? BECAUSE YOU YOU COVERED THE NATION ACTUALLY IN YOUR LONG CAREER. AND YOU WERE ELSEWHERE IN THE SOUTH DURING MOVEMENT DAYS AS WE REMEMBER THEM. WHERE DID YOU GET -- DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHERE THE COUNTRY IS NOW ON RACE?

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK THE COUNTRY IS DEALING WITH RACE BETTER THAN ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. NOW, I KNOW YOU CAN'T BRING THE RACIAL EQUATION IN TO THE NUMBER OF MUSLIMS WHO MOVED INTO ENGLAND. A LOT OF PEOPLE I READ ARE FLEEING ENGLAND BECAUSE IT'S DISRUPTING WHAT SEEMED TO BE A HOMOGENOUS CULTURE. BUT NOW -- THERE ARE LOTS OF PROBLEMS IN CIVIL RIGHTS. BUT I THINK THAT AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE MAKING PROGRESS NOW. AND THEREFORE, AMERICA IS MAKING PROGRESS. YOU CAN'T -- AS I'VE BEEN FOR THE LAST TWO DAYS HERE SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK PEOPLE HERE WITHOUT FEELING VERY, VERY ENCOURAGED ABOUT WHERE THIS COUNTRY IS GOING. I'M NOT SAYING THERE AREN'T LOTS OF PROBLEMS. THERE ARE PROBLEMS. BUT I THINK WE ARE MAKING STRIDES. COULD WE DO IT FASTER? I SUPPOSE THE ANSWER IS -- THAT'S A DIFFICULT QUESTION.

SANDY VANOCUR: I DON'T THINK WE SHOULD DO IT FASTER. THAT PHRASE IT HAUNTS PEOPLE WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED. I THINK THAT'S THE WAY WE OUGHT TO DO IT.

STEVE BARNES: HAS THAT -- I THINK SOMETIMES IF I WERE A YOUNG AFRICAN AMERICAN MAN INSTEAD OF A RAPIDLY AGING WHITE GUY, I MIGHT STILL BE BE ANGRY TODAY.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE BLACK TO BE ANGRY. A LOT OF WHITE PEOPLE YOUNG ARE ANGRY. WHAT ARE THEY ANGRY ABOUT? POSSIBLY THEMSELVES. BUT THEY USE SOMETHING ELSE AS A COVER.

STEVE BARNES: ARE WE AT THAT POINT NOW?

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, I THINK SO. LOOK AT THE PROBLEMS WE HAVE NOW IN OUR SCHOOLS THAT ARE INTEGRATED. WHO IS TO BLAME? THE WHITES? THE BLACKS? I DON'T KNOW. BUT WE HAVE PROBLEMS. AND THERE'S NO SENSE KIDDING OURSELVES THAT WE'RE NOT GOING TO HAVE PROBLEMS ABOUT IT. AND BILL COSBY HAS TAKEN A TERRIFIC BEATING IN SUGGESTING TO MANY BLACKS THAT THEY'VE GOT SOME ACCOUNTING TO DO FOR THE WAY THAT CHILDREN ARE RAISED, FOR THEIR SOCIAL BEHAVIOR. BUT, LOOK, IN MY EXPERIENCE, YOU DON'T GET ANY MEDALS IN THIS COUNTRY FOR TELLING THE TRUTH. YOU GET HURT BY IT. I REMEMBER I WAS AGAINST THE WAR IN VIETNAM VERY EARLY. I SUFFERED A LOT IN MY CAREER ABOUT BEING RIGHT ABOUT IT. IT GOES WITH THE TERRITORY. LOOK, HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO THEY USED TO BURN PEOPLE LIKE THAT AT THE STAKE.

STEVE BARNES: AND YOU'RE WITH US. YOU MENTIONED MR. COSBY. THERE HAVE BEEN EDITORIAL VOICES, AFRICAN AMERICAN EDITORIAL VOICES TO STANLEY CROUCH, JUAN WILLIAMS IN WASHINGTON. THEY DO TEND TO IN A SENSE BE A BACK WASH IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN BLACK COMMUNITY WHEN THE VOICES DO SATE: WAIT A MINUTE. WE HAVE TO REEXAMINE OUR APPROACH.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH. AND I THINK THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SAYING THESE THINGS HAVE TAKEN A LITTLE BIT OF A POUNDING. FOR BEING TRUTHFUL. AND SAYING WHAT A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO HEAR. BUT LOOK, MY DEAR DEPARTED FRIEND, PAT MONDAY HAN WORKED IN THE LABOR DEPARTMENT IN 1965 WROTE THE MONAHAN REPORT. OR AS LYNDON JOHNSON SAID THE SECRET REPORT HE'S DONE AT THE CORNER OF 14TH AND PENNSYLVANIA OFFERING FREE COPIES TO EVANS AND NOVAK. WHAT WAS PAT'S THESIS? THE WAY THE WELFARE LAW WAS CONSTRUCTED, IT PLACED A PREMIUM ON THE MALE WHETHER MARRIED OR LOVER, NOT BEING THERE BECAUSE THEN THE WOMAN WOULD GET MORE MONEY. PAT TOOK A TERRIBLE POUNDING. I LIVED THROUGH THAT PERIOD WITH HIM. HE WAS RIGHT. AND HE WAS POUNDED.

STEVE BARNES: BENIGN NEGLECT WAS THE OPERATIVE --

SANDY VANOCUR: THAT WAS THE PHRASE, BENIGN NEGLECT.

STEVE BARNES: OVER THE YEARS YOU'VE POINTED OUT YOU'VE HAD REALLY GOOD LUCK OVER THE YEARS NEWTON MINOW.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, KNEW KNEW HE WAS MY ROOMMATE AT NORTHWESTERN THEN HE BECAME A LAW PARTNER AND KENNEDY NAMED HIM TO BE CHAIRMAN OF THE FCC. HE WAS DOWN AT PALM BEACH AFTER HIS -- AT HIS FATHER'S HOUSE AFTER THE ELECTION AND HE SAID WHAT'S YOUR COLLEGE ROOMMATE WANT BECAUSE NEWT AND A MAN NAMED BILL BLARE THAT WORKED WITH STEPHENSON WANTED STEPHENSON TO DECLARE FOR KENNEDY. BUT STEPHENSON DIDN'T WANT TO UPSET MRS. ROOSEVELT WHO DIDN'T LIKE JOHN F KENNEDY AND DIDN'T LIKE JOSEPH KENNEDY BECAUSE HE WAS THE AMBASSADOR TO CARTER ST. JAMES DURING THE APPEASEMENT PERIOD. SO I SAID WELL, SENATOR HE WANTS TO BE CHAIRMAN OF THE FCC. AND KENNEDY TURNED TO HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW. SARJ FRIBERG WHO LIVED IN CHICAGO MANAGERING THE MERCHANDISE MART FOR JOSEPH KENNEDY HE SAID CALLED NEWT AND OFFER THE JOB. HE CAME TO WASHINGTON. ABOUT FOUR MONTHS INTO 1961 I WAS OVER AT HIS HOUSE FOR DINNER. HE GIVES ME A SPEECH HE WAS MAKING TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS THE NEXT DAY. I READ IT AND CALLED HIM UP AND SAID PRETTY GOOD NEWT BUT THAT PHRASE THE VAST WASTELAND IT'S CATCHY BUT WON'T HAVE ANY SHELF LIFE.

STEVE BARNES: AND THAT WAS IN THE '60S.

SANDY VANOCUR: IT WAS 1961. AND NEWT HAS GONE ONTO FAME AND FORTUNE AS A VERY EXPENSIVE AND VERY GOOD LAWYER IN CHICAGO.

STEVE BARNES: VAST WASTELAND. WAS IT RIGHT THEN? MR. MURO WAS SAYING ABOUT THE SAME THING.

SANDY VANOCUR: SURE, IT WAS. BUT COMPARED TO WHAT WE GOT NOW, TELEVISION NOW AS AGAINST THEN SEEMS LIKE ARCADIA. SOMEBODY IS COULD GO A HISTORY OF TELEVISION. REMEMBER THE KIND OF DRAMA SHOWS WE HAD? REMEMBER UNCLE MILTY? MILT ON BUROUGH AND THE HONEY MOONERS. WHAT DO YOU GOT ON TELEVISION NOW?

STEVE BARNES: WELL, THERE IS AN -- SOME WOULD ARGUE THAT YOU CAN FIND THE PLAYHOUSE 90. AND THE OTHER SERLING DRAMAS. THEY ARE THERE. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK FOR THEM. SIMPLY BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH TELEVISION.

SANDY VANOCUR: THERE IS. LOOK, I THINK YOU HAVE NOW A 24-HOUR-A-DAY NEWS CYCLING TELEVISION. WHEREAS WE USED TO HAVE THE MORNING NEWS CYCLE AND THE EVENING NEWS CYCLE. I CALL IT THE ELECTRONIC TAPE WORM. IT HAS TO BE FED ALL THE TIME. BUT WHAT WE'RE GOING THROUGH NOW, DO YOU NOT THINK CABLE TV IS NOT HAPPY THAT OJ IS NOT BACK IN THE NEWS? DO YOU THINK THAT TELEVISION, CABLE, IS NOT HAPPY THAT BRITNEY SPEARS DOES WHAT SHE DOES? YOU'VE GOT TO FILL AIRTIME. IN 1939 TELEVISION WAS UNVEILED AT THE WORLD FAIR. AND E. B. WHITE, THE GREAT ESSAYIST OF THE NEW YORKER, TALKED ABOUT TELEVISION AS HAVING THE CAPACITY TO BE THE CHAUTAUQUA OF THE AIR. CHAUTAUQUA BEING THE UPSTATE NEW YORK TOWN WHERE ALL OF THE GREAT LECTURES WERE MADE. NO, I DON'T THINK SO, HAS IT?

STEVE BARNES: THERE'S -- IF THERE'S NOT ONE NEWS CHANNEL THERE MUST BE A HALF A DOZEN.

SANDY VANOCUR: THERE ARE. I KNOW, IS THERE THAT MUCH NEWS AROUND? I DON'T THINK SO. SO IF YOU'RE NOT ON TELEVISION SAY I IF YOU'RE A POLITICIAN THEN PEOPLE THINK YOU'RE HIDING SOMETHING. WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW ANY OF THESE PEOPLE ON THE TALK SHOWS SAY: I DON'T KNOW?

STEVE BARNES: I THINK MR. MANSFIELD WAS THE LAST.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, MIKE MANSFIELD. BUT MIKE IS A POLITICIAN. BUT ANYBODY WHO IS A SO-CALLED COMMENTATOR SAYING: I DON'T KNOW. NOT DONE. NOW, WHETHER THEY GET PAID BY THE WORD OR NOT, I DON'T KNOW. BUT A LOT OF THEM JUST DON'T SAY: I DON'T KNOW.

STEVE BARNES: LET ME ASK YOU: YOU'VE BEEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PRESS CANOE, THE ELECTRONIC AND THE PRINT SIDE, BOTH ENDS.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH.

STEVE BARNES: IF A YOUNG PERSON CAME TO YOU TODAY AND ASKED: SHOULD I BE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN JOURNALISM, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM.

SANDY VANOCUR: I WOULD TELL THEM ABOUT A REMARK MADE BY A FRIEND OF MINE, MARTIN F NOL LAN EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR AT THE BOSTON GLOBE. NOW RETIRED IN SAN FRANCISCO. AND I USED TO TAKE JOURNALISTS DOWN TO DUKE IN THE EARLY '70S FOUR TIMES A YEAR. AND ONE DAY A YOUNG LADY CAME UP TO MR. NOL LAN AND SAID: WHY DID YOU GO IN JOURNALISM? AND HE SAID IF YOU CAME TO WHERE I CAME FROM IN BOSTON IT WAS INSIDE WORK AND NOT HEAVY LIFTING. THAT WAS A GOOD DESCRIPTION OF WHY YOU WENT INTO JOURNALISM. IT USED TO BE FUN. WE DIDN'T TAKE OURSELVES SERIOUSLY. WE TOOK OUR WORK SERIOUSLY. WE DIDN'T TAKE OURSELVES SERIOUSLY. I THINK IT'S ALL CHANGED NOW. IS IT CHANGED BECAUSE OF WATER GATE? I DON'T KNOW. BUT I DON'T THINK THAT THE LORD NECESSARILY SENT POTENTIAL JOURNALISTS DOWN TO THIS EARTH TO DO HIS WORK AS AVENGING ANGELS. WE'RE NOT. WE'RE NOT AVENGING ANGELS. WE JUST TRY TO BE PEOPLE WHO OBSERVE AND STRIVE WITH THE CONSTRAINTS OF TIME AND WHAT WE KNOW. LOOK, TO DO THE RIGHT THING. I GO BACK AND LOOK AT SOME OF THE THINGS I WROTE. IT MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN FICTION. AND I WAS A HARD WORKING REPORTER. YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING WHEN YOU PUT IT OUT. THERE ARE A LOT OF LITTLE THREADS THAT AREN'T TIED TOGETHER.

STEVE BARNES: YEAH, IT'S A FIRST DRAFT.

SANDY VANOCUR: FIRST DRAFT OF HISTORY. NOT TOLD BY PHILLIP GRAHAM. IT WAS THE WORDS OF A MAN NAMED CHALMIS ROBERTS WHO WORKED FOR PHIL GRAHAM WASHINGTON POST THE FIRST LINE OF HISTORY.

STEVE BARNES: WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN VIGOROUS AND THOROUGH REPORTING? AND THE AVENGING ANGEL?

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, I THINK IT LIES WITHIN THE REPORTER. BUT IT ALSO LIES WITHIN THE EDITOR. OR EDITORS. WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT? WHAT TO LEAVE IN. WHAT TO TAKE OUT. WHAT'S FAIR. WHAT STANDS SCRUTINY. THAT'S THE EDITING PROCESS. AND I THINK THAT COMING ALONG MY GENERATION, WE SEEM TO LEARN THAT. I LEARNED A LOT FROM USUALLY TIRED OLD EDITORS DISAPPOINTED IN LIFE AND IN LOVE AND USUALLY DRUNK. BUT YOU LEARN SOMETHING FROM THEM. YOU LEARN FROM THEM. I USED TO WEAR GREEN EYE SHADES AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. IT'S A TOUCH AND GO PROCESS. I DON'T THINK THERE ARE ANY HARD AND FAST RULES. YOU KNOW, THE PHRASE WHO, WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE. OR GET IT ALL IN THE LEAD. BECAUSE THE LEAD IS WHAT WILL MAKE SOMEBODY READ MORE INTO THE SECOND PARAGRAPH. AND I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS WORKING AT THE UP, I HAD TWO JOBS. ONE WAS TO MAKE SURE THE SOCCER SCORES GOT TO LATIN AMERICA AHEAD OF THE AP. AND OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED ON THE WEEKEND. AND ONE TIME THERE WAS A STORY ABOUT A TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN. AND I SAID WESTERN AS TROM MERES WILL GET A BETTER TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN THAN THEIR COUNTER PARTS BEYOND THE IRON CURTAIN. AND THE MAN THAT WENT ONTO BECOME MANAGING EDITOR OF THE WASHINGTON POST HE DIDN'T LIKE THE WAY I TYPED BECAUSE IT WAS ONE OF THESE. HE SAID I WAS ALL WRONG ABOUT YOU YOU GOT THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN AND THE ANTI-COMMUNIST ANGLE ALL IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH.

STEVE BARNES: LET'S GO BACK TO SPECIFICS AND '58. YOU CAME IN HERE. AND YOU ARRIVE IN HERE. AND THIS TOWN IS STILL PRETTY -- I CAN IMAGINE IT'S STILL PRETTY CHANNELLED. THE AIR IS STILL IONIZED. WHAT DID YOU FIND.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, IT WAS. AND THEN FAUBUS WENT TO THE LEGISLATURE. AND THE SCHOOL SHUT DOWN. TO USE A METAPHOR, YOU COULD ALMOST FEEL THE AIR SUCKED OUT OF LITTLE ROCK. THIS WAS A COLOSSAL ACT. AND IT HURT. AND PEOPLE REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. IMAGINE, YOUR HIGH SCHOOL SHUT DOWN. NOW, THAT WAS A REAL BLOW. AND YOU WOULD SENSE IT WHEN YOU WERE HERE. THE TOWN CAME --

STEVE BARNES: THE TOWN CAME BACK FAIRLY QUICKLY.

SANDY VANOCUR: YES, IT DID. AND THEN OF COURSE THE FOLLOWING YEAR, FAUBUS WAS OVERRULED AND THE SCHOOL -- BUT IT SHOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED. THIS WAS NOT THE CITY I EXPECTED IT TO HAPPEN IN. AND I THINK IT HURT. MAYBE HELD LITTLE ROCK BACK. AND WHY FAUBUS DID IT? I THINK HE DID IT BECAUSE HE WANTED TO GET REELECTED FOR ANOTHER TERM. HE THOUGHT THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT.

STEVE BARNES: HE MADE SOME FRIENDSHIPS HERE THAT LASTED.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH.

STEVE BARNES: ASHMORE.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, SAM AND HENRIETTA PECK. SAM PECK HOTEL. AND THEY WERE GOOD FRIENDS. AND THEY LASTED THROUGH THE YEARS. AND I HAVE A VERY NOSTALGIC PART OF MY HEART THAT RESIDES HERE.

STEVE BARNES: THE LESSONS OF LITTLE ROCK WERE SOMEHOW LOST DOWN THE ROAD. ON THE OTHER BATTLEGROUNDS. AND TO A SENSE IT WAS LUCKY IN THE SENSE THAT THERE WASN'T A LOT OF -- REALLY THERE WAS NO BLOOD LOSS.

SANDY VANOCUR: THERE COULD HAVE BEEN.

STEVE BARNES: SURE.

SANDY VANOCUR: YOUR POLICE CHIEF LATER COMMITTED SUICIDE, ROY REED AND I WERE DISCUSSING IT. GENE SMITH. AND ROY FELT THAT HE PROBABLY SAVED THE LIVES OF THOSE NINE STUDENTS IN '57. HE WASN'T AN INTEGRATIONIST. BUT I THINK HE BELIEVED IN THE LAW.

STEVE BARNES: HE WAS LIKE MR. --

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, MR. HIGH SCHOOL. AND PAID A PRICE. I THINK EVENTUALLY THAT CAUSED HIM TO HAVE TO SELL TO THE GANNETT CHAIN. BUT LOOK, IF HARRY HADN'T WRITTEN THE ARTICLE HE HAD WRITTEN, THE COLUMNS AND THE EDITORIALS, WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED? I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T THINK IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FOR THE GOOD. SO IT WAS A LONELY VOICE. BUT I THINK IT HELPED SAVE LITTLE ROCK.

STEVE BARNES: TELL US ABOUT HARRY ASHMORE. YOU GUYS GOT TO BE REAL PALS. AND LATER YOU WOULD WORK TOGETHER.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, HARRY HAD COME OUT OF SOUTH CAROLINA. AND WORKED ON PAIRMS IN THE EAST. AND THEN CAME HERE. AND WAS A PERFECT MARRIAGE. THE GAZETTE AND MR. HIGH SCHOOL. AND MR. HIGH SCHOOL'S SON-IN-LAW HUE PATTER AND HARRY. HE WAS JUST ONE OF THE GREAT STORY TELLERS OF ALL TIME. AS ONLY SOUTHERNISTS CAN BE. AND TO REPORT AS A MODERATE TOWN, HE WAS A GREAT SOURCE OF INFORMATION AS FAR AS GUIDANCE. AND HE WAS ALWAYS VERY FAIR. SO IT'S LIKE BEING IN A CLASS JOURNALISM 101 TO BE AROUND HARRY.

STEVE BARNES: DID YOU -- DID YOU LIKE ORVAL FAUBUS?

SANDY VANOCUR: NO, I DIDN'T LIKE ORVAL FAUBUS.

STEVE BARNES: WAS THERE A LIKEABLE SIDE TO HIM.

SANDY VANOCUR: I DON'T THINK SO. BUT PEOPLE WELL KNOW ORVAL FAUBUS WAS NOT A SEGREGATIONIST. AS A MATTER OF FACT THE MAYOR -- NO, THE GOVERNOR SID MCMATH SAID THE SORRYIST THING HE EVER DID WAS BUILT A PAVED ROAD INTO MADISON COUNTY. THAT'S WHERE ORVAL CAME FROM. AND HE WENT TO A SCHOOL CALLED COMMONWEALTH WHICH WAS CONSIDERED TO BE VERY SOCIALIST AND SO FORTH. NO, I DON'T THINK HE WAS VERY LIKEABLE. I DON'T THINK HE HAD MUCH OF A SENSE OF HUMOR. I DON'T THINK SO. BUT HE WAS A GOVERNOR.

STEVE BARNES: A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE -- OF LATE OUR MUTUAL FRIEND ROY REED HAS WRITTEN HIS SECOND BOOK MR. JACOWAY'S BOOK NOTED THERE WAS ENORMOUS POLITICAL PRESSURE ON FAUBUS FROM HIS RIGHT. DOES THAT MAKE IT IN ANY WAY -- DOES THAT ALTER THE PERCEPTION OF FAUBUS IN ANY WAY.

SANDY VANOCUR: I WASN'T HERE WHEN THE PRESSURE WAS BUILDING UP. BUT I DON'T THINK THERE WAS ANY PRESSURE. FRANCIS CHERRY WHO HE WAS RUNNING AGAINST BROUGHT UP THE SOCIALIST BUSINESS AND SO FORTH. HARRY ASHMORE WROTE A SPEECH THAT FAUBUS GAVE ON THE RADIO ON THE EVE OF THE ELECTION. AND THEY FELT VERY SYMPATHETIC TOWARD ORVAL.

STEVE BARNES: UNTIL THIS THING CAME ABOUT.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, BUT I DON'T KNOW HE GOT PARANOID ABOUT IT. I DON'T THINK HE WAS A RACIST.

STEVE BARNES: WE STILL HAD TO GO. WE HAD SELMA, WE HAD BIRMINGHAM, WE HAD THE PETTUS BRIDGE. WE HAD -- SO MANY OF THESE. WE HAD PHILADELPHIA MISSISSIPPI WAS STILL TO COME.

SANDY VANOCUR: BUT YOU SEE, I WOULD BE CAREFUL. IN MISSISSIPPI I WANT TO TELL YOU, I FELT SAFER REPORTING FROM VIETNAM THAN I FELT WHEN I GOT DOWN TO MISSISSIPPI. THAT'S PRETTY TOUGH COUNTRY DOWN THERE. AND PRETTY MEAN FOLKS.

STEVE BARNES: DID YOU FEEL LIKE A TARGET, YOU AND SOME OF YOUR COLLEAGUES.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, WE FELT THAT. PHYSICAL TARGET? POSSIBLY. WE WERE NOT MADE TO FEEL WELCOME. BUT LOOK --

STEVE BARNES: YOUR OLD FRIEND, YOUR OLD COLLEAGUE GOT HIS SKULL CRACKED.

SANDY VANOCUR: THAT'S RIGHT AND WHEN JOHN SEGAN TOOK A LEAVE FROM TENNESSEE AND TOOK A LEAVE FOR ROBERT KENNEDY ON THE FREEDOM RIDE HE GOT BEAT UP IN MONTGOMERY. SO YOU BOOKED DANGER. YOU HAD TO BE VERY CAREFUL. SO I THINK I WOULD BE FALSIFYING MATTERS IF I SAID I WASN'T SCARED FRICHLT. ESPECIALLY AFTER DARK. ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE COME OUT OF THE CHICAGO BUREAU. AND YOUR CAMERAMAN HAS A CAR WITH A LICENSE PLATE, ILLINOIS. AND UNDERNEATH IT SAYS LAND OF LINCOLN. YOU GET A LITTLE SCARED.

STEVE BARNES: WHAT WAS TELEVISION'S ROLE? WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO SORT THE THAT OUT IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS.

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK THE STORY HAD BEEN TAKEN -- I THINK IT HELPED BECAUSE THE PICTURES AND THERE WERE STILL PICTURES, TOO. CREATED WHAT WALTER LIPPMANN USED TO TALK ABOUT IN 1922 WHEN HE WROTE A BOOK: PUBLIC OPINION. BUT THE PICTURES IN OUR HEADS EXCERPTS BEING FOLLOWED BY THE PEOPLE BEING TURNED BACK BY THE NATIONAL GUARDS MEN. THE DAN MATIL MURDER. AND THEN OTHER THINGS -- THE EMMETT TILL MURDER AND OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN MISSISSIPPI. THE PETTUS BRIDGE MONTGOMERY I THINK IN ALABAMA. AND THESE PEOPLE HOLLERING AND SHOUTING WITH SUCH HATRED IN THEIR FACE. NOW, LOOK, DID THIS EXCUSE THE NORTH? WELL, GOD NO. WHEN DR. KING HEADED NORTH, HE FOUND SOME VERY, VERY EGGLY PEOPLE UP THERE. SO IT WASN'T JUST CONFINED TO THE SOUTH. BUT THE SOUTH WAS THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION OF THIS.

STEVE BARNES: IT WENT NORTH. I CAN STILL REMEMBER THE PICTURES FROM SOUTHY IN BOSTON.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, GARY, INDIANA.

STEVE BARNES: YEAH.

SANDY VANOCUR: AND IT WAS TOUGH. ARE WE THROUGH IT NOW? I DON'T THINK SO. BUT IT'S TAKEN A DIFFERENT FORM. LIKE THE BEATING OF THAT WHITE BOY AND IN JENA.

STEVE BARNES: LOUISIANA.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH. IT'S STILL WITH US AND I DON'T THINK IT WILL EVER GO AWAY. BUT IT'S NOT AS IT WAS.

STEVE BARNES: HOW ABOUT POLITICS CHANGED. YOU'VE WATCHED IT CHANGED. POLITICS WAS A SPECIALTY OF YOURS.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, I THINK POLITICS HAS CHANGED BECAUSE IT'S THE SOUND BITE THAT MATTERS NOW. SEE, I HAPPEN TO BELIEVE IN THE SMOKE FILLED ROOM. POLITICIANS PICKING OUT THEIR PEERS. LOOK, IN 1948 A MAN WHO RAN FOR POLITICS IN CHICAGO JAKE HARVEY HE PICKED HIM AS GOVERNOR AND GOES TO THE SENATE. NOW YOU GO ON TALK SHOWS AND I THINK THAT -- I BELIEVE IN PEERS, PEERS, PICKING OTHERS AND SO FORTH. AND I DID A PROJECT WITH THE FREEDOM FORUM ON THE POST WORK CONGRESS IN THE MEDIA. AND THE LAST HALF HOUR PAT MOORING WAS IN THE SENATE. HE SAID WE USED TO TALK TO EACH OTHER ON THE SENATE FLOOR IN THE CLOAK ROOM OR IN CONFERENCE. AND USUALLY THOSE ARE CLOSED. NOW PAT SAID NOW WE TALK TO EACH OTHER ON THE WEEKEND TALK SHOWS. SO POLITICIANS NOW FEEL THAT THEY'VE GOT TO GO ON AND SAY SOMETHING. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD A POLITICIAN SAY: I DON'T KNOW, ANYMORE? NO, THEY SAY SOMETHING. PLUS, THERE'S A WOMAN AT HARVARD. HER NAME WAS KIKI, SHE WROTE A BOOK CALLED THE SOUND BITE. AND THOSE DAYS YOU SHOW SOME OF THE PEOPLE I USED IN 50, 51 SECONDS. BUT SHE WROTE THE BOOK. THEY WERE 9 SECONDS. AND THAT OF COURSE IS A CHANGE -- HAS CHANGED A GREAT DEAL OF THIS. AND YOU DON'T EVER SAY: I DON'T KNOW. WELL, A LOT OF TIMES -- LOOK, MY FAVORITE LINE AS I GET OLDER IS A LINE OF OLIVER CROMWELL TO THE ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND. I BESEECH YOU IN THE BOWELS OF CHRIST TO THINK YOU MIGHT BE MISTAKEN. DO YOU EVER GET ANY LOOK OF CONTRITION OR DOUBT FROM ANYBODY IN POLITICS ON TELEVISION NOW, I DON'T THINK SO.

STEVE BARNES: IT WAS INEVITABLE THAT WE HAD -- THAT THE DOORS, THE SHUTTERS WOULD BE BLOWN OFF, THOUGH, THE SMOKE FILLED ROOM.

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, I KNOW THAT. I KNOW THAT. BUT AGAIN, MR. HARVEY IN '52, THE REPUBLICANS WERE HAVING THEIR CONVENTION THERE. JACK HARVEY WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERYTHING WOULD FINE FOR THE OPPOSITION PARTY. AND HE WENT TO WHEREVER IT WAS BEING HELD. AND HE LOOKED UP AT THIS CAMERA. AND A MAN NAMED BOBBY DOYLE WAS A PRODUCER. AND HE WAS BRINKLEY'S PRODUCER. AND JACK HARVEY INTRODUCED HIMSELF. AND HE SAID: MR. DOYLE, HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL WATCH THIS? WELL, DOYLE DIDN'T KNOW. HE SAID WELL, COLONEL I THINK MAYBE 20 TO 30 MILLION. HARVEY SAID WE CAN NEVER ALLOW THAT. [LAUGHTER.]

SANDY VANOCUR: LOOK IT, REMEMBER ALL DAY COVERAGE OF TELEVISION?

STEVE BARNES: THE CONVENTIONS.

SANDY VANOCUR: DO WE HAVE THAT ANY LONGER? NO; NO.

STEVE BARNES: WHAT CAME FIRST THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG. BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE ARGUE THEY DON'T DESERVE GAVEL TO GAVEL ANYMORE.

SANDY VANOCUR: IS THAT UP TO US TO SAY? LOOK, THEY WANT TO HOLD A CONVENTION. COVER IT. DON'T COVER IT. BUT DON'T SAY OR WALK OUT AS KOPPEL DID AT ONE CONVENTION BECAUSE THERE WAS NO NEWS THAT THERE'S NO NEWS, IF HE THEY WANT TO HAVE THEIR CONVENTION THE WAY THEY WANT TO HAVE IT, HAVE IT. IF TELEVISION DOESN'T WANT TO COVER IT, DON'T COVER IT, PERIOD. BUT NOT ALL OF THIS CAUGHTER WALLING AROUND IT COULD BE SHORTER THEY ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING IT'S NOT UP TO US TO SAY.

STEVE BARNES: WHEN WE DID AWAY WITH SMOKE FILLED ROOMS WE DID AWAY WITH THE NOMINATING SENSES TO A FACT. THERE'S NO PURPOSE TO THAT ORDER.

SANDY VANOCUR: I DON'T KNOW THAT. BUT HASN'T POLITICS SHAIBINGD ITSELF NOW TO SUIT THE TIME CONSTRAINTS OF TELEVISION? IT HAS.

STEVE BARNES: WHAT CAME FIRST?

SANDY VANOCUR: OH, I THINK THAT -- REMEMBER THE CHICAGO CONVENTION IN 1968? UGLY THING. BUT WE HAD TO COVER IT BECAUSE IT WAS A GREAT CONFLICT THERE. LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE: IN FEBRUARY WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A GREAT MANY PRIMARIES FINISHED WITH. THE FIRST ELECTION I COVERED, PRESIDENTIAL, WAS IN '60. THERE WERE SEVEN, ENDING WITH CALIFORNIA. NOW YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE HALF THE RETURNS IN IN FEBRUARY. WHO IS GOING TO SORT IT OUT? THE GAS BAG IS ON TELEVISION. TELLING PEOPLE WHAT IT MEANS. HOW DO THEY KNOW? THEY DON'T KNOW. BUT THEY WILL BE CALLED UPON TO MAKE A JUDGEMENT. AND POLITICS WILL BE CHANGED BY THIS. IN CALIFORNIA WHERE I LIVE NOW, THE REPUBLICANS ARE TRYING TO REMOVE THE WINNER TAKE ALL. AFTERALL, CALIFORNIA GIVES YOU 55 ELECTORAL VOTES, MORE THAN 10% OF THE TOTAL. BUT NOW IF THE REPUBLICANS GET THEIR WAY, THEY'LL PROBABLY PICK UP MORE THAN TEN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS. SO THAT 55 WILL BE REDUCED. WINNER TAKE ALL. GO ON. MAYBE GO ON. SO LET'S JUST STEP BACK AND LET OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM HAVE SOME BREATHING ROOM. AND LET THE MEDIA SHUT UP. ABOUT HOW POLITICS AND POLITICIANS ARE CONDUCTING THEIR BUSINESS.

STEVE BARNES: IN '68 WHEN WE HAD THE MISSISSIPPI DELEGATION, THE MISSISSIPPI REGULARS --

SANDY VANOCUR: THAT WAS '64.

STEVE BARNES: WOULD THAT HAVE HAPPENED ABSENT TELEVISION? WOULD THAT HAVE HAPPENED?

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, I DON'T KNOW.

STEVE BARNES: WITHOUT THE CAMERA WATCHING.

SANDY VANOCUR: I DON'T KNOW. I COVERED THAT VERY CAREFULLY. LYNDON JOHNSON WENT BERSERK ABOUT THAT WHOLE THING. HE THOUGHT IT WAS AN ATTEMPT BY BOBBY KENNEDY AND OTHERS TO TAKE THE NOMINATION AWAY FROM HIM. PEOPLE LIKE WALTER REUTHER OF THE UAW CONSIDERED TO BE A LIBERAL. HE TRIED TO STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING. BECAUSE HE THOUGHT THAT JOHNSON HAD A MEASURE OF CORRECTNESS ABOUT THE WHOLE THING. JOE RAUH, WHO WAS THE LAWYER OF THE UAW SAID: NO. AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT LYNDON JOHNSON DID? HE HAD THE FBI SPY ON THE MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM DEMOCRATIC PARTY. IT ALL CAME OUT IN THE CHURCH INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARINGS IN '75. THAT'S A PARANOID -- THAT'S HOW PARANOID LYNDON JOHNSON WAS. BUT WE COVERED IT. I COVERED THE HEARINGS. COVERED THE ACTION ON THE FLOOR. IT WAS A STORY MUCH. DID I KNOW THE FBI WAS -- NO, I DIDN'T. BUT JOHNSON WAS PARANOID ABOUT THOSE MATTERS.

STEVE BARNES: THAT OPENNESS, THOUGH. THAT CAME TO AMERICAN POLITICS, THAT'S SOMETHING -- CERTAINLY THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY PROCESS, ALL TOGETHER NEGATIVE?

SANDY VANOCUR: NOT ALL TOGETHER. NOT ALL TOGETHER.

STEVE BARNES: SOME SAVING GRACE.

SANDY VANOCUR: THERE'S ALWAYS SOME SAVING GRACE. LOOK, I LIKE POLITICIANS. I LIKE POLITICS. AND I JUST WANT OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM TO HAVE SOME BREATHING ROOM WITHOUT THE MASS MEDIA SAYING: THAT'S WRONG. DO IT OUR WAY. SO TO SATISFY THEIR NEEDS OR THEIR IMAGINED NEEDS. GEORGE WILL, AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE, HE TALKS ABOUT THE POLITICAL CLASS IN WASHINGTON. GEORGE WILL IS A MEMBER OF THE POLITICAL CLASS. I GREW UP WITH GUYS LIKE BARRY GOLDWATER. BARRY WAS A POLITICIAN AND A VERY GOOD ONE. AND HIS NOMINATION IN 1964 WAS A MAJOR TURNING POINT IN AMERICAN POLITICS. NOT BECAUSE HE WAS RIGHT OR LEFT. HE TOOK THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ACROSS TO MISSISSIPPI. AND IT AIN'T EVER GOING TO GO BACK AGAIN. THAT'S WHY I THINK AS TIME GOES ON GIULIANI WILL DISCOVER WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY BECAUSE OF GEOGRAPHY. THOSE THINGS, LET THEM PLAY OUT. AND DON'T LET THE PUN DANCE SAY IT'S EITHER -- PUNDITS SAY IT'S EITHER THIS OR THAT. DESCRIBE WHAT'S GOING ON. BUT DON'T GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND START CRYING ABOUT IT. IT'S EVOLUTIONARY.

STEVE BARNES: THE CRITICISM FROM WITHIN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT WE OVER -- OR THAT IT OVERREFORMED IN '72 OR POST '72, THE HARRIS COMMISSION AND ALL OF THAT, THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF SENTIMENT BACK TOWARD MAYBE SOME SMOKE FILLED ROOMS. BUT IT SEEMS TO GO NOWHERE.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, YOU SEE, BECAUSE OF THE --

STEVE BARNES: AND IS THAT MEDIA? IS THAT PRESS DOING THAT.

SANDY VANOCUR: MEDIA.

STEVE BARNES: OR JUST A LOT OF STATES --

SANDY VANOCUR: MEDIA AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WANT ATTENTION. LOOK, AS A RESULT OF '68, THE DEMOCRATS QUOTE-UNQOUTE REFORMED. I THINK JIM O'HARE OF MICHIGAN WAS INVOLVED IN THIS. AND NOW IT'S SPREAD ALL OVER THE POLITICAL SYSTEM. AND IT'S '72 I REMEMBER I COVERED THE IOWA CAUCUSES. AND ONE POLITICIAN WAS QUOTING THE DES MOINES REGISTER AS SAYING I THOUGHT REFORM MEANT I HAD TO TELL PEOPLE WHERE THE CAUCUSES WERE GOING TO BE HELD. SO WE HAVE IT. LATER ON. FRITZ MONDALE WINS 49% OF THE VOTE. GARY HART GETS 16. AND GARY HART SAYS DUE TO MY STRONG SECOND PLACE FINISH IN THE IOWA CAUCUS, BLAH, BLAH. AND HE WINS. OR ALMOST TAKES IT AWAY FROM MONDALE. YOU KNOW, LOOK, I'M NOT TRYING TO MAKE THE MEDIA PURE. WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO IS JUST HAVE THE MEDIA REALIZE THERE'S SOME THINGS FOR WHICH THERE ARE NO ANSWERS. SO JUST REPORT WHAT YOU KNOW. NOT MAYBE WHAT YOU WISH. BUT WHAT YOU KNOW. AND WHAT YOU CAN VERIFY.

STEVE BARNES: WASHINGTON WAS YOUR BASE FORCE FOR QUITE A WHILE.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH.

STEVE BARNES: AND YOU WENT WEST.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH.

STEVE BARNES: AND YOU'RE NOT THE FIRST TO OBSERVE THAT THAT'S A PRETTY TOUGH TOWN. NOW, I MEAN THE CHEMISTRY IS ALL TOGETHER DIFFERENT.

SANDY VANOCUR: YEAH, NO SOFT EDGES. THE ONLY THING I MISS ABOUT WASHINGTON ARE THE MUSEUMS. BUT I THINK TELEVISION HAS A GREAT DEAL TO DEAL WITH POLITICS BECOMING SO BLACK AND WHITE. SO CERTAIN OF ITSELF AND SO ON. AND I THINK THAT TO A VERY GREAT EXTENT, THE EXTENSION IN THE CONGRESS OF TELEVISION PROBABLY HELPS IT. HELPED IT GET THIS WAY.

STEVE BARNES: BUT IT IS SO -- OUR POLITICIAN NOW ARE SO CAUSE PARTICULAR.

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK SO.

STEVE BARNES: YEAH.

SANDY VANOCUR: AND I HOLD NEWT GINGRICH VERY MUCH RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS. FOR WHAT -- MY FAVORITE STORY ABOUT WASHINGTON INSTABILITY, THE DEMOCRATS WERE GETTING THE HOUSE IN 1948. WHICH THEY LOST IN '46. JOE MARTIN, SPEAKER, REPUBLICAN FROM MASSACHUSETTS WALKING DOWN THE HALL AFTER IT SEES SAM RABERT HE SAYS SAM NOW THAT THE ELECTION RESULTS ARE IN MAYBE OUR STAFFS OUGHT TO WORK AGAIN SO YOU CAN GO BACK IN THE SPEAKER'S OFFICE AND MR. SAM IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE SAID: JOE, IF YOU'RE CONFIDENTIAL WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE, LET'S JUST LEAVE THEM THAT WAY. WHAT --

STEVE BARNES: WHAT HAPPENED? JUST MEDIA HAPPENED?

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK SO. SWITCH FROM CONGRESS TO THE WHITE HOUSE. I WENT IN FOR PAT HONAHAN'S FUNERAL. MY WIFE AND I AND MY SON WHO IS A POLITICAL REPORTER FROM SALT LAKE CITY. WE WERE HAVING DINNER. AND MY SON SAYS: -- I CAN'T REMEMBER THE MAN'S NAME WHO WAS THE PRESS SECRETARY TO PRESIDENT BUSH. AND HE SAYS -- HE COMES OVER AND SAYS: WHY DON'T YOU COME OVER TO THE WHITE HOUSE SOME TIME. I SAID NEXT TRIP. AND I WALKED DOWN THE WALKWAY. AND THERE ARE ABOUT 16 TELEVISION CAMERAS THERE. AND I HAD A FRIEND NAMED -- MY MEMORY IS GONE. HE USED TO BE A COUNSEL TO THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE AND ALSO TO CARTER. AND HE SAID HE NEVER KNEW THAT THE POLICE -- THE CHIEF FUNCTION OF THE COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT WAS TO GET THE WHITE HOUSE READY FOR THE EVENING NEWS. I THINK IN THE YEARS I WAS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, ALMOST THREE, I DID FIVE LIVE SPOTS. FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. NOW YOU'RE ALWAYS OUT THERE. WHAT IF YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO SAY?

STEVE BARNES: THERE ARE SIX 24-HOUR CHANNELS AGAIN.

SANDY VANOCUR: RIGHT, YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING. BUT SOMETIMES THERE'S NOTHING TO SAY. BUT IF THE CAMERAS ARE THERE, THEN PRETTY SOON THE PEOPLE WORKING THE CAMERAS ARE GOING TO START TO SAY: WELL, THEY ARE HIDING SOMETHING. WELL, THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.

STEVE BARNES: DO YOU SEE ANY STEPPING BACK? I MEAN, WE'RE NOT GOING TO DISINVENT TELEVISION.

SANDY VANOCUR: NO.

STEVE BARNES: THE CABLE CHANNELS AREN'T GOING TO GO AWAY.

SANDY VANOCUR: NOR ARE THE BLOCKERS GOING TO GO AWAY.

STEVE BARNES: IS THERE ANYWAY TO WITHDRAWAL, TO NEUTRALIZE SOME OF THAT LYE, LYE, IN AMERICAN POLITICS IT SEEMS.

SANDY VANOCUR: NOT RIGHT NOW I DON'T SEE IT. I DON'T SEE IT. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE NEWSPAPERS ARE IN SORRY SHAPE. AND THE BLOGGERS ARE COMING UP. AND TELEVISION IS JUST EVER EXPANDING. THE GUYS NAME WAS LLOYD CUTLER WHO I'M TRYING TO THINK OF. VERY GOOD LAWYER. AND NO. THAT'S WHY I'M BLEAK.

STEVE BARNES: WHERE FROM HERE THEN? ARE WE JUST GOING TO CONTINUE TO SEE CLOSELY ELECTIONS THAT ARE JUST --

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK DRINKING LAW. HONEST -- DRINKING A LOT OF. HONEST TO GOD I DON'T READ THE NEWSPAPERS UNTIL I'VE HAD A DRINK AT NIGHT. I DON'T WATCH TELEVISION BECAUSE IT'S ALL SO TERRIBLE. LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. WHERE WAS THE PRESS, WHERE WAS THE CONGRESS AND BUILDUP TO INVADING IRAQ? THEY ARE OUT TO LUNCH. BECAUSE THIS WHITE HOUSE HAD THEM TATAED. HOW MANY PEOPLE VOTED AGAINST GOING IN? JUST A FEW IN THE SENATE, IN CONGRESS. AND THE CONGRESS JUST LET IT GO. OH, NOW A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE SAID: WELL, MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS. BUT THEY DIDN'T. AND NOW YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF PEOPLE SAYING ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE LIKE JOHN WARNER, HAGEL, WHO IS SAYING WE DON'T BELONG THERE. BUT IT'S A REPEAT OF VIETNAM. IN 1964 WHEN THE GULF OFTONTON WAS PASSED AND IT -- TONKIN RESOLUTION WAS PASSED AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE A PHONY. ONLY TWO SENATORS VOTED FOR IT AND WAYNE MORSE FROM OREGON AND GURENING FROM ALASKA. GAYLORD NELSON FROM WISCONSIN WENT TO VOTE AGAINST IT. AND HE WENT TO SEE BILL FULBRIGHT AND HE SAID: NO, YOU CAN GO ALONG WITH IT. THEN IT TURNED OUT WE WERE HAD. THE SAME THING IS TRUE. AND I THINK THE PRESS HAS DONE A SHOTTY JOB. NOW, THOUGH, I THINK THIS COUNTRY IS IN A STATE -- I'M GOING TO BE CAREFUL. OF ANGER. ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON. NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON IN IRAQ. BUT TO ME THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HAPPENED POLITICALICALLY IN THIS COUNTRY IS WHEN THE BRIDGE IN MINNEAPOLIS COLLAPSED. BECAUSE I THINK IT SENT A SIGNAL TO AMERICA, OUR INFRASTRUCTURE. WE CAN'T EVEN KEEP UP OUR BRIDGES. AND WE'RE FIGHTING A WAR IN A PART OF THE WORLD THAT'S NEVER KNOWN PEACE. THOSE THINGS MATTER. AND I THINK THERE'S ANGER ON THE PART OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. IT USED TO BE THAT --

STEVE BARNES: IT USED TO BE IT STOPPED AT THE WATER'S EDGE AND IT DOESN'T ANYMORE.

SANDY VANOCUR: NO.

STEVE BARNES: THERE SEEMS TO BE NOT OF LATE MAYBE A TRACE. PRIOR TO THAT AND PRIOR TO IRAQ, IT'S JUST THE ABSENCE OF BIPARTISANSHIP ON ANYTHING DOMESTIC OR FOREIGN.

SANDY VANOCUR: YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. THERE ARE NO ARTHUR VANDENBERGS AROUND ANYMORE. WHO HELPED ROOSEVELT AND THEN TRUMAN. IT'S ALL GONE NOW. BECAUSE UNTIL THE BREAKDOWN OF IRAQ, IT WAS EITHER AUTO/OR. AND THAT'S THE NATURE OF TELEVISION IN THE MASS MEDIA. AND MAYBE THE NATURE OF THE BLOG, TOO. I DON'T KNOW. THANK GOD I'M NOT GOING TO BE AROUND TO SEE WHEN THE ENDING IS.

STEVE BARNES: PERHAPS YOU WILL. I MEAN, DO YOU SEE AN ENDING IN OUR PRESENT ENGAGEMENT OVERSEAS.

SANDY VANOCUR: HEY, A MAN IN SOMERSET MAUGHAN ONCE SAID EVERY STORY HAS TO HAVE A BEGINNING, A MIDDLE.

ANN CLEMMER: END. AND THIS WAS PUT -- A BEGINNING, A MIDELED AND AN END. THIS WAS PUT TO A MAN NAMED KHAMU, AND THE QUESTION IS: WHAT COMES FIRST? I DON'T KNOW. THAT'S ALL I CAN SAY: I DON'T KNOW. WHICH COMES FIRST? THE BEGINNING, THE END, THE MIDDLE. AND YOU KNOW SOMETHING? I DON'T THINK ANYBODY ELSE DOES.

STEVE BARNES: IT WOULD SEEM THAT THE QUESTION OF A US WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ IS ONLY A QUESTION OF HOW FAST AND BY HOW MUCH.

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK YOU'RE RIGHT.

STEVE BARNES: SO WHAT -- ANY IDEA OF WHAT WE WILL HAVE? HOW THAT'S GOING TO HAVE CHANGED OUR POLITICS ANY AT ALL? I MEAN, YOU SEE SOME ANGER BUILDING IN THE COUNTRY. DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS.

SANDY VANOCUR: WELL, IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE NEWS IS. IF, FOR EXAMPLE, THIS BLACK WATER BUSINESS. OUR CONTRACTORS THERE. THAT WILL GET A LOT OF PLAY AND PEOPLE WILL SAY: WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT? THEY ARE HIRING OUR CONTRACTORS. OUR SOLDIERS ARE GETTING KILLED. AND A LOT OF IT DEPENDS ON WHAT GETS ON THE EVENING NEWS. SO SITTING HERE NOW, AS I SAY, WE'RE ALREADY IN THE MIDDLE OF A CAMPAIGN. KENNEDY I THINK DECLARED IN JANUARY 12TH, 1960 WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF A CAMPAIGN ALREADY. AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT. AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN TO HOW THIS GOES. I DON'T KNOW IF GEORGE BUSH CAN RETAIN SOLID SUPPORT IN HIS PARTY. I DON'T THINK THAT IT'S SHOWING THAT HE IS RIGHT NOW. WHAT EFFECT DOES THIS HAVE ON PEOPLE? WHAT EFFECT WILL IT HAVE ON THE VOTERS? IT'S JUST TOO EARLY TO TELL. ALL I KNOW IS IT'S UNPRECEDENTED. AND WE'VE NEVER HAD ANYTHING THAT'S GOING TO END PRETTY MUCH IN FEBRUARY. AND WHAT THE RESULTS ARE GOING TO BE AND HOW THE PRESS IS GOING TO HANDLE IT.

STEVE BARNES: AN OLD ACQUAINTENS OF YOURS FROM ARKANSAS NAMED FULL BRIGHT USED TO COMPLAIN THAT HIS COUNTRY WAS IMMATURE. THAT IT DID NOT HAVE A -- AN APPRECIATION OF ITS LIMITS IN THE WORLD. AND WAS TOO PRONE -- I THINK I'M QUOTING CORRECTLY -- TO BELIEVING THAT THE SURVIVAL OF THE UNITED STATES WAS PREDESTINED AS IF ON HIGH. ASSUMING ANY OF THAT IS TRUE, DO YOU THINK YOU SEE ANY MATURATION NOW ON THE PART OF THE OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE?

SANDY VANOCUR: I HAVE GREAT FAITH IN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE COMING AROUND TO WHAT IS A CLEAR DEFINITION OF WHAT IS IN THEIR INTEREST AND WHAT ISN'T. I THINK THE COUNTRY HAS CONCLUDED WE HAVE NO INTEREST OR THEY HAVE NO INTEREST IN IRAQ. DIFFERENCES ABOUT WHAT WE SHOULD DO, YES. BUT I THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE PRETTY WELL DECIDED: WE'VE GOT NO BUSINESS BEING THERE. NOW, MAYBE THEY DON'T WANT TO GO LOOK BACK IF THEY WERE SUPPORTIVE OF THE PRESIDENT. BUT I THINK RIGHT NOW THERE'S TOO MUCH GOING ON AT HOME. THE DEFICIT. THIS HOME MORTGAGE BUSINESS. THE GUY NAMED BILL GALSTON HE USED TO BE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND HE WORKED FOR BILL CLINTON HE WROTE A BOOK CALLED MIDDLE CLASS MARGINALITY. A HUSBAND AND WIFE BOTH WORKING. AND YET JUST GETTING ALONG ON THE MARGIN. AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT'S -- IF I WERE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES I WOULD SAY I RUN FOR THE PRESIDENCY BECAUSE I WISH TO SAVE THE PREENTERPRISE SYSTEM FOR THE WORKING PEOPLE OF AMERICA AND THEN SHOW WHAT THE AVERAGE MEDIAN INCOME NOW ABOUT 44,000 A YEAR IS WHAT THESE CEOS GET. HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH FOR THESE PEOPLE? IT'S LIKE TOO LITTLE BOYS PLAYING I'LL SHOW YOU MINE IF YOU SHOW ME YOURS. ONE GUY IS MAKING 400 MILLION. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH 200 MILLION? NOW IF SOMEBODY COMES ALONG WITH SORT OF A LATTER DAY CONSERVATIVE POPISM WHICH IS THE LONGEST TRADITIONAL CUSTOM WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY HE WOULD GET THINGS GOING IN THIS COUNTRY. DON'T ATTACK THE PREENTERPRISE SYSTEM. DON'T DO THAT. JUST ASK WHY IT ISN'T MORE FAIR. ASK WHY IN A COUNTRY AS RICH AS OURS, WE CAN'T KEEP OUR ROADS GOOD. ASK WHY CAN A TREEN FLORIDA DID WHAT IT -- KATRINA DID WHAT IT DID MUCH AND THEN SHOW GEORGE BUSH FLYING OVER K ATRINA THE FIRST TIME. DIDN'T STOP AND SIMPLY A LITTLE SLIDE UNDERNEATH SAID WHAT DID HE MISS. IF WE HAD A DRAFT --

STEVE BARNES: IF WE HAD A DRAFT NOW AS WE DID 30 YEARS AGO, WOULD THE TEMPERATURE OF THIS COUNTRY BE MARKEDLY DIFFERENT THAN IT IS NOW?

SANDY VANOCUR: IT MIGHT BE. IT MIGHT BE. BUT YOU KNOW, OPPOSITION OF THE DRAFT OF THE VIETNAM WAR BEGAN TO RISE WHEN THE SONS OF THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASS WERE BEING DRAFTED. AND I NOTICED IN THE PROTEST MARCHES HOW THE CHANGE OF THE CLOTHING CHANGED. TO PEOPLE IN CAMP MOHARA COATS. THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASS WAS AFFECTED. SO IF YOU HAVE A DRAFT NOW, YEAH, I THINK THE OPPOSITION WOULD BE HIGHER THAN IT IS RIGHT NOW.

STEVE BARNES: YOU SEE HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF IN A WAY EVEN THOUGH WE'RE DEALING WITH AN ALL VOLUNTEER FORCE AND YOU HAD TWO PRESIDENTS THAT STARTED OUT WITH ENORMOUS POPULAR SUPPORT FOR THEIR MILITARY ENGAGEMENT OVERSEAS AND THEN IN ABOUT THE SAME TIMELINE GROWING DISENCHANTMENT WITH THAT POLICY.

SANDY VANOCUR: I THINK IT'S STILL OBVIOUS THAT THE COUNTRY HAS HAD IT WITH IRAQ. HOW IT WILL PLAY ITSELF OUT, I DON'T KNOW. THAT DEPENDS A LOT ON GEORGE BUSH. HE'S BEING DESERTED BY HIS PARTY. BUT REMEMBER, HE'S A LAME DUCK. MAYBE HE'S LOOKING TO HIS PLACE IN HISTORY MORE THAN HIS PLACE AS A CANDIDATE WHO CAN'T RUN AGAIN. I DON'T KNOW WHAT GOES THROUGH HIS MIND. I DON'T KNOW WHO HE LISTENS TO.

STEVE BARNES: HE DOESN'T HAVE A NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY IN FRONT OF HIM.

SANDY VANOCUR: NO. BUT HIS PARTY IS SAYING: NO NOT ALL OF IT. BUT NOT. AND HOW IT'S GOING TO PLAY ITSELF OUT, I JUST DON'T KNOW. WHAT I'M WORRIED ABOUT IS THE POSSIBILITY OF TAKING ON IRAN. WHO SAID -- WE SHOULD BE SPREADING DEMOCRACY ACROSS THE WORLD? I STUDIED A WORK OF A MAN NAMED HANS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO. I WASN'T THERE. BUT HE WROTE. AND HE TALKED ABOUT THE NATIONAL INTEREST. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE A DEBATE IN THIS COUNTRY ABOUT WHAT IS IN OUR NATIONAL INTEREST. LIKE I THINK RIGHT NOW OUR NATIONAL INTEREST SHOULD BE IN ASIA. NOT JUST CHINA. NOT JUST INDIA. SOUTHEAST ASIA. I THINK THAT'S AN INTERESTING PART OF THE WORLD. AND I THINK OUR INTEREST SHOULD BE IN LATIN AMERICA. I WAS DOWN THERE TWO YEARS AGO. THE CHINESE ARE RUNNING ALL OVER. IT COULD BE NATURAL GAS. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THIS GUY SHA CHAVEZ IN VENEZUELA. YOU DON'T WANT TO DO WHAT YOU DID WITH CASTRO. HE'S A DREADFUL PERSON. BUT YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. THIS IS IN OUR INTEREST. THE MIDDLE EAST YOU'RE TAKING ON A PWANLD OF DISCONTENT WITH A PART OF THE WORLD THAT'S NEVER KNOWN PEACE AND TRANQUILITY AND THE GUY SAID IRAQ WILL BE A SLAM DUNK. WHERE DID PEOPLE GET THIS KIND OF HUMAN BEING ROUSE TO SAY THINGS -- HUBERUS TO SAY THINGS LIKE THAT. BUT AGAIN THE ROLE OF THE PRESS IS VITAL AND WASN'T GOOD THIS TIME OUT.

STEVE BARNES: ON AN OPTIMUM SCALE, 10 BEING BLEAK, 1 BEING POLY ANNA, YOU HAVE CASSANDRA ON ONE END AND POLY ANNA ON THE OTHER END.

SANDY VANOCUR: I'M ABOUT A 4. I HAVE NOT BEEN THIS BLEAK IN A LONG, LONG TIME. AND I DON'T SEE THINGS GETTING ANY BETTER. SO THAT'S WHY I'M KIND OF BLEAK NOW. AND WHAT I HOPE THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WOULD BE IS A DISCUSSION OF PRIORITIES. BUT THE WAY IT'S CONSTRUCTED THIS TIME AROUND, I THINK IT WILL BE A LOT OF CATCHY SLOGANS. AND ALL OF THESE DEBATES WE'RE HAVING, HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING FROM THE DEBATES?

STEVE BARNES: NOT TERRIBLY MUCH.

SANDY VANOCUR: NO. HE SAID. SHE SAID. THAT'S IT. OTHERWISE I'M VERY OPTIMISTIC.

STEVE BARNES: GOOD. WE'LL END IT ON THAT NOTE.

SANDY VANOCUR: THANKS.

STEVE BARNES: SANDY VANOCUR THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME. [MUSIC]

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Sander Vanocur