Miller Center

Interview with Bobbie Greene Kilberg

Introduction

Photo of Kilberg, Bobbie Greene; Vogt, Jeffrey; Jeavons, Kathy

Bobbie Greene Kilberg recalls President Bush’s interactions with external groups and institutions, including his openness to a variety of viewpoints.

Transcript

Riley

This is the Bobbie Kilberg interview as part of the George H. W. Bush Oral History Project. I have to designate it that way now because last week we announced the launch of the George W. Bush Oral History Project, which we begin in April of next year. I’m delighted that we’re getting, at long last, to do this with you. And thanks for extending the invitation to some of your former associates to be with us. It always enlivens the experience to have multiple folks at the table.

Kilberg

And just so you all know, I did do this back in 1996, but in a different format.

Riley

More of a lecture, a public presentation at that time.

Kilberg

So they did not ignore Office of Public Liaison.

Riley

No. Absolutely not. There are a couple of housekeeping things I have to do before we get started. One is to reiterate the basic ground rules of the interview. We’re going to talk into the tape recorders here. A transcript will be prepared and that transcript will come back to each of you for your review. The idea is that we’re trying to get you not to edit yourself in the audio recording. You’re not speaking just to those of us here at the table, but we’re trying to create a document that future generations can use to come to understand this Presidency and the way you experienced it. Accordingly, we’d like you to speak candidly into the record, but we understand that there may be certain things we talk about that you’d rather not have come out immediately. You’ll be given the opportunity when the transcript comes back to you to place any stipulations or make any redactions that you want.

That would be the biggest difference between this exercise and what you did at the center, which was for a public audience.

Kilberg

So the rules are that if we say, not until we die, that’s fine?

Riley

If that is your choice, we’re obligated to follow the choice. I would hope that maybe—

Kilberg

No, I don’t think that’ll be the case.

Riley

—the bulk of what we talk about you’d feel free having come out. And I don’t know when this will come out. I’m still negotiating with the people at the foundation about a potential event for this, but we’re hopeful that maybe by the end of next year we’ll have a corpus of cleared materials that we could release at least in a first tranche.

Kilberg

This will be on the entire Bush Presidency?

Riley

This will be on the entire Bush Presidency. Exactly.

Kilberg

And you haven’t done that?

Riley

It hasn’t been released yet.

Kilberg

Okay, so the only real university type of discussion of this Presidency was the Hofstra [University]? Wow.

Riley

As far as I know it was the Hofstra event. We’ve been working on this for ten years now and I think it’s time for this stuff to come out. In fact, particularly with the 20th-anniversary events of the Berlin Wall, it’s a shame that a lot of the foreign-policy stuff we’ve collected is unavailable, but it’s merely a problem of abiding by people’s wishes and getting those necessary clearances after you’ve done the interview.

Kilberg

It would also be nice if you all did this while the old man is still with us.

Riley

Believe me, I’m aware of that and hope that we can do it, so if you have influence in high places, exercise it.

Kilberg

I’ll call [John] Casteen, but I don’t think he has any control, does he?

Riley

I don’t think so. No. That’s completely within the control of the people who speak with us. So you control your interview and nobody else, but we would like for the word to get out within the networks that if you haven’t cleared your interview it would be helpful for it to be cleared so that we could—

Vogt

How many interviews are there?

Riley

We’ve done about 50 or 60 so far. The second housekeeping thing is because this is going to be transcribed we need to go around the room and identify ourselves for the audio record briefly. And then we’ll get started.

I’m Russell Riley, I’m chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at the Miller Center.

Kilberg

I’m Bobbie Kilberg. I was Deputy Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, and I am presently the president and CEO [chief executive officer] for the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Vogt

I’m Jeffrey Vogt. I formerly served as Special Assistant to the President for Public Liaison as one of Bobbie’s lieutenants and now serve as chairman and CEO of Weil Group.

Jeavons

I’m Kathy Jeavons. And I served as Associate Director with Bobbie and Jeff in Public Liaison from the beginning of 1989 to 1992. I currently serve as senior vice president for public affairs at Ketchum public relations in Washington.

McDowell

And I’m Dan McDowell. I’m a research assistant at the Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Riley

And what he’s doing is recording the sequencing of the interventions to aid the transcriber, and we’ll probably ask you some proper names of some that are not—during the breaks. This is supposed to be completely conversational from this point forward. We are expecting one other person to join us. I guess she’ll be here any minute.

Let’s begin at the beginning. How did you first get to know the person who is George H. W. Bush before he became President?

Kilberg

I was at Yale Law School at the same time that George W. Bush was at Yale College, and we are the same age though he was behind me. I was very young when I went to law school. So we were basically the same age and we spent considerable time together.

Riley

Come on in, Katie. We are literally just getting started. So I have posed the first question, which is about your associations and they go back to Yale Law School.

Kilberg

Okay, yes. George W was at Yale College, I was at Yale Law School. Yale was in the process of going coed at that time, and I was asked by the president to be part of a group of women graduate students who advised the university on what coeducation was going to look like and by golly, George W. Bush was on that group as well. So we developed a friendship. Also at Yale, if you were at the law school, you could attend some undergraduate classes if you really pushed, and I loved history so I was in a history class with him.

We became friends and I met his dad. His dad always said that when I came to Washington, he wanted to be sure I spent some time with them and that we got to know each other. So when I came down as a White House Fellow in the fall of 1969, I contacted him and he really became my mentor. And that’s how I first met him.

Riley

And where was he in 1969?

Kilberg

He was in Congress. He was in his House seat and he was about to run for the Senate, I believe, which he didn’t win. And then he became chairman of the RNC [Republican National Committee]. So he was in Congress.

Riley

But you kept up with one another through these various directions.

Kilberg

Yes. We became very close. He literally became a surrogate father and Mrs. [Barbara] Bush was everybody’s surrogate mother in the whole world and, especially when we started having children, which was in 1975, our oldest son is probably one of the brightest people I know and is now president of a wind power company, but he’s also one of the most learning-disabled people I know, and Neil, their middle son, is learning disabled as well. Mrs. Bush just took me under her wing and walked me through all the options and special-education opportunities and other things for LD [learning-disabled] kids. So it’s been a long, very long relationship.

Riley

And you were working in the White House as a Fellow?

Kilberg

Yes, I worked for John Ehrlichman in the [Richard] Nixon White House.

Riley

Do you have any recollections about that that you want to record?

Kilberg

[Laughter] I do but that would take you a long, long time. Just for your information, we have a group—and my husband was a White House Fellow for George Shultz at the Labor Department at that time, so it was an interesting combination—but we have a group called the Nixon Domestic Council Reunion Group, and every year we get together right after the elections and we have a evening with spouses, and then we have a four- or five-hour day by ourselves during the day, and we recollect and talk about a lot of things.

Riley

No kidding?

Kilberg

Yes, it’s a fascinating group. It includes Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Fred Malek, Pat Buchanan—I’m the baby of the group by a number of years, but a broad range of people, most of whom have done extremely well for themselves, some of whom you agree with politically, some of whom you don’t. Bill Safire was part of that group, it’s a very close-knit group, and nothing that is said in that room ever goes out. You need permission if you need to leave early. I’ll never forget Rumsfeld, when he was Secretary of Defense, came to one and he had to explain to the group why he had to leave early. It was some Defense Minister and we had to give him permission to leave before the session was over.

He took it very seriously. And he came to our lunch instead of the—he said, I left the Defense Minister with the Deputy Secretary of Defense, they’re having lunch, told them I had to go to my meeting, but I do need to leave at 1:30 instead of 2:30, is that all right? We had a vote.

Riley

My goodness.

Kilberg

So it’s a very close-knit group.

Riley

Maybe we should try to get them to the Miller Center at some point.

Kilberg

You probably should. There’s a push now that the papers are being released from the archives from the Nixon Library, there’s a real push—Ron Walker has become the new president of the foundation, and he was the one who went to China with [Henry] Kissinger and opened it up for Nixon. Anyway, yes, I think you probably could get a really fascinating group. Especially before people start dying off. Literally.

Riley

The head of the library, [Tim] Naftali, was at the Miller Center for a good while and I know he’s—

Kilberg

He’s done interviews with a number of us.

Riley

Oh, is that right?

Kilberg

He did an interview with me and a whole group of people.

Riley

Good. I’m glad to hear. I knew Tim was thinking about doing that, but I didn’t know it had happened.

Kilberg

Yes, he did do that. About two years ago.

Vogt

What’s the name of the group?

Kilberg

We just call it the Nixon Domestic Policy Reunion Group. And it’s fascinating.

Riley

All right. So track forward. You’re following him during the course of his Vice Presidency.

Kilberg

Kathy [Jeavons] actually worked for him when he was Vice President. During his Vice Presidency he would ask me to do special projects. I did not work for him as a paid employee, but I wandered the halls. And I was thinking actually last night of one assignment, which he actually did give me, and that was the precursor to the Thousand Points of Light. I don’t know if many people know this and I don’t know, Kathy, if you followed it, but he had a strong interest in private philanthropy and the public good long before he became President. And when he was Vice President, probably in his second term of the Vice Presidency, we sat down one day and had a long talk about how you could harness some of the things that were going on in discussions about the future of private philanthropy and what direction it should go and does the government have any business at all trying to direct that or how could they be helpful and what tax policies would be helpful.

There had been a group called the Filer Commission, which was headed by John Filer who had been president of Aetna, and it consisted of a group of very senior corporate people and some foundation people who had talked about the future of the third sector, the third sector being the philanthropy sector rather than necessarily the corporate sector, but corporate philanthropy actually.

That morphed into a project at the Aspen Institute on the future of private philanthropy, which I happened to be the director of as it turned out. Bush and I had talked about that a lot when it started, that project at Aspen, which was in 1978 and went through ’82.

We had some conversations about it in the second term and a guy named Jim Rosebush, who had been Nancy Reagan’s Chief of Staff, was pulled over. Then the Vice President had some discussions with the President or whomever and then Jim Rosebush was pulled over to start an office of—Philanthropy Initiatives I think it was called. It was not called a Thousand Points of Light. And it was not called Faith-based Initiatives.

Jeavons

It definitely wasn’t faith based.

Kilberg

No. But it was an office of philanthropy or nonprofit initiatives. They established a commission or a committee, and I was trying to think of the guy who headed it up, but it was not John Filer, who had died by then, it was another fellow from the insurance industry who was—I called three people last night thinking somebody might remember the name and they can’t remember.

Riley

It will come to you at some point.

Kilberg

It will come to me at some point. [Ed. Note: H. Peter Karoff?]

Riley

And you can put it in the document.

Kilberg

But the Vice President, prior to the creation of that group, which then morphed in his own mind when he became President to the concept of the Thousand Points of Light, and he hired Gregg Petersmeyer to come and do that. But I remember the Vice President meeting with, I believe, John Filer. With Filer at the time was a guy named [Waldemar] Wally Neilsen, who wrote a number of books on private philanthropy, with Walter McNerney, who was head of Blue Cross Blue Shield but was also the head of the project for the Aspen Institute, and with a gal named Elizabeth McCormack, from the Rockefeller Family Foundation, and a guy named Dick Lyman from the Rockefeller Foundation, to discuss the whole concept of private philanthropy and its future in America. So that was one project I did for him.

Tenpas

Was that 1984?

Kilberg

I think John Filer was there so it was before he died, so we’ll have to go Google and find out when that was. But it was somewhere between ’84 and ’86. And he really got quite involved in it, and this group that was headed by the person whose name I cannot remember consisted of a number of CEOs as well as foundation people, and I remember very clearly having a number of sessions, including some at the Vice President’s house. And then we all went into the White House and we had other things to worry about.

Vogt

Where did Petersmeyer come from?

Kilberg

Gregg’s father owned a television station in Texas. Gregg went to Choate and then Harvard, I think, and he met the then Congressman Bush when Gregg was an intern in the White House in the summer of 1969. And he met him because his dad put them together. You know, George Herbert Walker Bush went around adopting people. So he adopted Gregg and Gregg spent a month with him when he was Ambassador to China, in the summer, and they became very close. He also became very close with Neil, so that’s where Gregg came from. And then Gregg was Bush’s Colorado campaign finance chair. He came shortly after we started the administration.

The other thing that the then-Vice President had me do from time to time was he was determined to reach out to the religious right and try to find a modicum of consensus or friendships at least between those of us who considered ourselves, at that point, moderate or mainstream Republicans, together with the religious right. So he introduced me to Cal Thomas, and we spent a considerable amount of time talking. He sent me down once to meet with Jerry Falwell in Lynchburg. It was his desire to find some bridges there. What are things that we agree on? So I did that.

Riley

Was that a natural fit for you?

Kilberg

No. [Laughter] No, but I like people and I like discussions. I think he just thought that I was the epitome of his Ivy League moderate Republican woman.

Vogt

And the ability to find common ground where there is some.

Kilberg

Yes, and the ability to find common ground where there is some.

Riley

Did you succeed in finding common ground?

Kilberg

With Cal Thomas I sure did. With Jerry Falwell, it was—he also sent me to see [Marion Gordon] Pat Robertson. With Jerry Falwell—

Riley

I would like to hear a little bit more about those meetings because that’s a historically important strain of—

Kilberg

Yes, and I wish somebody had asked me about it 16 years ago. Because the extent of—I remember clearly walking through Jerry Falwell’s offices. Did Liberty University even exist then? I think it had just gotten started. But he had TV studios down there as well because the Moral Majority had started, and Cal Thomas was with the Moral Majority. I remember the TV studios. I remember the walls and all the photos on the walls of Jerry Falwell with different Presidential candidates and different Presidents and Senators and Congressmen. Actually the wall was interesting. It was a broad array of people. It wasn’t just people from the religious right.

What I remember of our discussion, we were in agreement that we would not have a conversation about guns or abortion or gays, and instead we would talk about school and education. We had some long discussions about school and education and even back then the failings of the public school system, and I don’t think we called it charter schools at that time, but the whole concept of utilizing public money to give parents choice. I remember those conversations. I remember conversations about Israel, and Falwell and Robertson both were very strongly pro-Israel for interesting reasons.

Riley

And you were on solid ground there?

Kilberg

Yes. And what else do I remember we talked about?

Riley

Abortion you said you decided not to talk about.

Kilberg

I went down there not to argue about pro-choice, pro-life, although we did talk about it, but let me get back to the second—

Riley

I’m sorry.

Kilberg

I remember also talking about education. I remember talking about Israel. I remember talking in general about deregulation and letting business flow and also, which was of importance to them at the time, the tax status of nonprofits. And one of the other things they were all interested in was where that tax status—there are operations that are clearly charitable, like a university, but then there are your activist policy groups and where that line is. And in 1989, 1990, the President started talking about campaign finance reform. There may have been some cursory conversations about it, but their grave concern that you didn’t want to lose tax-exempt status and where that line was and what you could do. Could you campaign in churches? What was the limit of that?

What was your question about?

Riley

My question was about abortion because President Bush’s position on abortion is—

Vogt

Shifted somewhat.

Kilberg

Shifted. I did not have those conversations with those guys or with Cal, but we did talk about adoption. My oldest two children of my five are adopted. So I had common ground to talk to them about that, and the need to encourage people to make that kind of choice. What that had meant to me as a parent and to the natural mothers of Jonathan [Kilberg] and Sarah [Kilberg], that they had made that choice. Just the whole emotional concept of that.

But we didn’t talk specifically about gays, abortion, or guns because those were not places where we were going to find a lot of common ground. But they were useful conversations and I enjoyed them. And I remained in closer touch interestingly with Pat Robertson, because he had gone to Yale Law School, than I did with the other two, but they were interesting conversations and I’d come back and report to the Vice President.

He also had a very interesting open-door policy. I’m rambling a little and I apologize.

Riley

No, this is perfect.

Kilberg

Mary Louise Smith was the first woman chairman of the Republican National Committee. Did she directly succeed him? No. Bob Dole succeeded him and then she succeeded Bob Dole. She was chairman of the Republican Party in ’75 and ’76, I believe, and then Bill Brock came in when we lost. She was a very close friend of his, and she had been the national committeewoman from Iowa before that. She was just this wonderful, typical moderate Republican grandmother. Her husband’s name was Elmer [Smith]. They lived their entire life in Iowa in, it wasn’t Des Moines, it was some other city.

And at the beginning of the Vice Presidency, the Vice President said to me, I want to make a very open-door office. I want to have an open-door policy for you and Mary Louise, and I want you to come in whenever you want to. So whenever she came into town we’d come in and we’d just talk for an hour. We’d have a piece of paper with whatever our agenda was but it didn’t matter, we’d just talk. We could talk kids, we could talk policy, we could talk whatever, and then she started not coming back as frequently, but I would come in probably every other month and just sit and talk. And it didn’t have to be an agenda. We would just have time to talk. He just was wonderful about that. He obviously had more time as Vice President than he did as President. But back to right to choose or right to life.

George Bush started off pro-choice and that’s just a fact. And he was very uncomfortable, I think, about evolving that position, and Mrs. Bush’s position never evolved. And her daughters—well, I never talked to Doro [Bush Koch] about it actually, but I had talked to Laura [Bush] about it way before she was the First Lady, and I don’t think her position ever evolved. She decided to pretty much keep it to herself. But Mrs. Bush’s position never evolved.

Riley

And it was?

Kilberg

It was pro-choice, absolutely and clearly. He announced that he was going to run for President in the National Press Club in 1987?

Jeavons

Actually it was very early, I believe, in ’87.

Kilberg

Okay. But most people don’t announce these days anymore at the National Press Club. They announce somewhere out in the field.

Jeavons

Somewhere big and fancy.

Kilberg

I can’t remember if this was the announcement or this was the announcement that he was going to announce. But it was at the National Press Club and somebody asked—they did a Q and A afterward, or in his speech—but in one case he all of a sudden became a states’ rights person. The Jerry Ford kind of model, and he said he believed abortion should be a matter for the states to decide. I remember talking to him about it later that day and saying, Where did that come from? And it was Boyden [Gray] actually.

Jeavons

Probably.

Kilberg

And I now also remember—this is all coming back to me, maybe I have these documents somewhere. Boyden had asked a few of us to come up with what his position should be, and my response was, I know what his position is, why don’t you just ask him? Why doesn’t he say what he believes?

And then there was some discussion and an evolving into this concept of states’ rights, which I was not, obviously, part of the process at the end of that because I stood there and went, Whoa, so yes, his position did evolve. And it was something that he was never very comfortable with.

I will always remember this also. We were in the office three days and it came to be January 23, 1989. It was the Right to Life March on the Capitol. They came every year.

Jeavons

Oh, gosh. That’s right.

Kilberg

And he said he didn’t want to go out. [Ronald] Reagan had also stopped going out. Reagan had, I think, one or two years actually gone out to this big rally, which would take place on the Ellipse. The Ellipse was very different than it is now. You could have rallies there. They weren’t worried about terrorists. And then Reagan, in the last two years, only sent a message because people—

Jeavons

I think he broadcast it.

Kilberg

Yes, because I guess the rhetoric had gotten a little shrill for Reagan, and he didn’t want to be out there.

At any rate, the President calls me into the Oval Office and [John] Sununu is there, and the President says—because they asked us for a memo or something about what they should do. Do you remember that?

Jeavons

I remember.

Kilberg

And the President said, No, I’m not going to go out. And Sununu said, But you are. I said, You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m going to go out? Why in the world would you want me to go out there? Because I’m pro-choice.

They said, Well, people like you, you like people and don’t worry, Jesse Helms will be there. It’s fine. [Laughter] So this was out on a platform, it was somewhere on the Ellipse but I literally just went out the back, because I didn’t even know if I went out the back of the White House if I could get back in.

Jeavons

We had no permanent passes.

Kilberg

We didn’t have permanent passes or anything. Kathy had worked for him as Vice President, but I didn’t even know whether they would let me back in. So I went out and I remember going up on the podium and being introduced, and Jesse Helms was very nice to me. He said wonderful things about George Bush and how George Bush was literally on their side emotionally and all these things. And then I’m trying to think if the President—I don’t think I read a message. I think he—

Vogt

Was it a live broadcast?

Kilberg

It was a live broadcast. Phone call. That’s right it was a phone call. And the WHCA [White House Communication Agency] guy that I had with me, who went out there before me, was new and this is old technology, and we couldn’t get the phone call to work. Eventually it did, but there were a whole bunch of delays and all that. Eventually he did make the phone call to the March for Life on the Ellipse. Oval Office, January 23, 1989.

And on February 1 he went to address the National Association of Religious Broadcasters, and I frankly don’t remember what he said at that gathering. Do you?

So, yes. His position evolved. And please include them in this, too.

Riley

Was there any piece of the Vice Presidency that is relevant that you—I’m sure we could spend a day with you talking about the Vice Presidency—but either in terms of Vice President Bush sending similar emissaries to other groups or trying to stay in touch with him or things of that nature?

Jeavons

I’m trying to think from my experience, and granted I was just a lowly staffer in the Counsel’s Office at the time.

Kilberg

She was right out of Dartmouth.

Riley

And the counsel was?

Jeavons

Boyden Gray. And his deputy John Schmitz hired me out of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, the law firm where they had been.

Riley

I see.

Jeavons

I was a paralegal my first year out of college. So I was basically their staffer, their legal assistant if you would. And I started there in November of 1986, three days before the Iran-Contra scandal broke. I basically spent the first whole year, we all did, in that office, it was four of us doing nothing but research to—and this is obviously the time that the Vice President was—and everyone knew he was going to run for President. There was a lot of heightened interest in his role in that. I spent the first year doing nothing but researching facts to make sure we knew exactly where he had been and what he had done, and I remember actually having to go get a security briefing in the Situation Room because we all had to get our security clearances upgraded to the SCI [Sensitive Compartmented Information] version so that we could look at all these documents. It was really mind boggling and fascinating. I remember walking out of the OEOB [Old Executive Office Building] after that session, being scared that some Russian was going to come kidnap me. [Laughter] Ask me about what I learned, I don’t know nothing.

Riley

They did later, right?

Jeavons

Well, right now, they have me. Twenty years later they’ve now—

Kilberg

The capitalist system in Russia has captured her.

Jeavons

Exactly. My focus, because it was Boyden’s focus, was on that and also significantly on regulatory reform, which was his big deal. So it didn’t relate so much to what I did and what we did with Bobbie afterward.

Riley

What about the campaign period? Are you involved at all in the 1988 campaign?

Kilberg

I’ll let you answer, then I’ll answer.

Jeavons

I wasn’t. I stayed on Bush’s official staff.

Kilberg

There was a Chinese wall—

Jeavons

It was pretty much a Chinese wall—because I was with the Counsel’s Office I often had to go to meetings to help decide which were political events and which were official events, but other than that not so much.

Vogt

I just joined around October of ’86, which was then the Fund for America’s Future with Ede [Edith] Holiday and everybody, which was the seeds of the George Bush for President campaign. And I was there up until we won, in one iteration or another, from the primary to the general to the victory at the RNC, and going state by state and raising money on behalf of federal candidates. I was in the finance department. But it went from this seedling of 10 or 15 people to this monstrosity of a campaign organization.

Kilberg

And Jeff had graduated from Colby. When?

Vogt

I had graduated from Colby College in Maine. G. Cal McKenzie was one of my professors up there. He’s a well-known Presidential historian and was interested in politics from the get-go. He came down and worked on Reagan-Bush ’84 in the January interim and got to know the Vice President then. One thing led to another and I got on his campaign. Then it was a field of eight people. People forget about that, but you had [Pierre] Pete DuPont, you had Jack Kemp, you had Bob Dole, you had a whole slew of candidates.

Jeavons

I will say one interesting thing being in the White House and on the Vice President’s staff during that period, we all learned very quickly who our friends and who our foes were within the Reagan staff. Because, obviously, not everybody was supporting our guy.

Riley

When you say obviously, it was obvious to you?

Jeavons

It was pretty obvious.

Tenpas

I think everybody expected George Bush to run as the heir apparent after Reagan’s term ended, but when did he communicate—because he obviously had to communicate to Ede Holiday and these other people to get at least some semblance of an organization together because everything starts so early.

Vogt

I think it’s really quarter one of ’87 that things started to take shape. We were all having interviews and everything getting the campaign team together in the last quarter of ’86, but it was really the seed coming from the political—the government apparatus now shifting into a political phase. I’d say that was the timeframe.

Kilberg

I’m trying to remember. I was on the national steering committee of the group in 1979 when he ran the first time. We called it the Fund for America’s Future as well. Did they just continue that name on all those years?

Vogt

They were using that as a PAC [political action committee] to contribute to candidates.

Kilberg

I’ll answer what I was doing in the campaign. I remember a party at Henry Catto’s house in McLean, after the then-candidate dropped out running for President in 1980. And the President—then just the person George Bush—was very philosophical that evening and I remember some of us sitting around, including Henry Catto, and one of the things I said to him, Please don’t ever forget who you are. We will win or lose. The reason I love you is because you are who you are and I think you are not only honorable, you’re not only extraordinarily bright, you not only have good policy instincts but you are at the center, you’re in the middle of the road, and I think that’s where the American people are. And please don’t wander just to get the nomination because it’s not worth it if you do that.

And Henry, who was one of his best friends, agreed very strongly, and the President said yes. And I said, Don’t forget who you are, where you came from. Don’t be embarrassed about who you are or where you came from. Because I think part of it by the time we finished getting beaten up in 1980, everybody was dumping on him for being elite, for going to good schools, for being noblesse oblige, is that the correct term?

Riley

Yes.

Kilberg

And I personally thought those were all wonderful characteristics, and I didn’t think because you had been brought up privileged it meant you were disqualified for governing. That you had advantages and you should give back, but that if you were highly educated and came from a good family, why was that a bad thing? If you remember, all the other candidates spent a lot of time making that a bad thing. That he was out of touch, and it came back to haunt us at the end of the Bush Presidency as well with the economy. But they made this concept that he couldn’t possibly understand. It’s kind of equivalent to what Ann Richards tried to do to George W, and it didn’t work when she ran for Governor against him.

But in specific response to your question about where I was, in 1987 I was running for the Virginia state Senate, not U.S. Senate, the state Senate, and as you will notice from recent elections, we do everything in off years. So this was 1987 and I also was pregnant with our fifth child. The then-Vice President came out to do—Ron Kaufman said no one would ever do it, so I called Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Bush talked to the Vice President and she called me back and said, George will be there. When do you want him? [Laughter]

So he came. He did a rally for me. Ron Kaufman’s rule was never do rallies down for the state Senate, it’s impossible, we’ll have to do it for everybody. But he came to Evans Farm, which now is a whole bunch of housing, but it was this beautiful farm in the middle of McLean and under a tent did a rally for me, while I was there eight months pregnant.

So I was busy with my state Senate campaign, which I lost by one point to, actually, a friend of his, a guy named Clive DuVal, who had gone to Yale Law School, came from Greenwich, was a very nice guy. We just disagreed on issues and he was 70 years old at the time of the race. It was the last civil race in Virginia, and I’m sorry for digressing, but it was funny in that he was, at 70, he’d been in 35 years and at 70 he had night vision problems, so I would go pick him up and take him to our debates. [Laughter]

But they were just—it was a community debate. We’d go to the Chesterbrook Citizens Association, the McLean Citizens Association, whatever, and we’d disagree on stuff and then we’d get back in the car and argue the whole way back to his house, which was Solana, where Dolley Madison had fled when the White House was burned, I believe, and that’s how we ran the race.

And the press refused to pay any attention to us basically because we were so civil to each other and we weren’t arguing or anything else. And when we lost—nobody had come within 15 points of him and we came within one—when we lost, my staff, we all looked at each other and said, Well, should we go to the Republican party? which was at the Hilton or something. And we said, Oh, no, let’s go to Clive’s house, so we all got in our cars and we went to his house to concede, where we knew he was having his party. He opens the door and he just looks at us, and all his staff and all his friends applaud and we all come in and we had a party. They don’t do things like that anymore.

Tenpas

If only politics could be like that today.

Kilberg

Well, it was really not a very big district. It was population-wise but not geographically. It was some of north Arlington, it was all of McLean and Great Falls, everybody was friends. All your kids went to school together.

At any rate, after that was over in November of 1987, the Vice President called me and asked me if I would be part of his convention team. The conventions are run by the RNC, but the presumptive nominee gets to have a large say. Fred Malek headed that up and there were four or five of us who were his deputies: myself; a gal named Barbara Franklin, who later became Secretary of Commerce; a fellow named Al Hubbard, who was a friend of George W’s from business school, who later became George W’s Director of Domestic Policy; and then a wonderful young man named [George Prescott] Scott Bush, who was the President’s nephew. We were the group that formed the convention group. And over time we took control of most of what was going to happen on the platform and program and tickets and all that.

I did that and then I went and did scheduling as part of the scheduling team during the fall campaign. My job was to worry about those events that had to do with people he was close friends with. So I spent a lot of time with his friends and family during that period.

The one event I do remember, which to me was very key, was there was a fellow, a Cuban-American refugee whom he met with, who had written a book—do you remember his name was Villa? I can’t remember this guy’s name [Ed. note: Armando Valladares?], but he had been let out by Cuba and become quite a cause célèbre. A lot of people didn’t want the Vice President to meet with him, but the Vice President very much wanted to and asked me to go get him at the airport and bring him over to the residence on Observatory Circle. I did and I walked in there and this was October and the Vice President was having the conversation with this very famous writer. I looked at George Bush, and even when he was Vice President I always called him George and I always called Mrs. Bush Bar, and I looked at him and all of a sudden I said, Mr. Vice President, and he said, You never called me that before. And I said, No, but that’s because you’re going to be President.

I walked out of there fully realizing—I don’t know what it was like, hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, Oh, shit, he’s going to be President. He’s going to be President of the United States. And I don’t know if the polls backed that up at the time or what but I just—I don’t know if it was after [Michael] Dukakis with the tank or not.

Tenpas

That was the summer.

Vogt

Summer of ’87?

Kilberg

The summer? Okay. Well, this was October and I just walked out of there with this feeling that he was really going to do this, he was really going to be President. And I came home and told my husband, I’m never going to be able to call him by his first name again.

Riley

Let me ask one general question before we get to the Presidency. I wonder if you could comment a little bit about George Bush’s relationship with Ronald Reagan and more generally about the Bush network’s relationship with the Reagan network. You had already indicated, Kathy, that not everybody in the Reagan network was supporting Bush. That’s understandable in some ways because there was a multitude of people running that year.

But one of the interesting historical questions that people will deal with forever is this question about the two men and the extent to which there was continuity or discontinuity once you move from President Reagan to President Bush. I’d just like to hear you on this subject.

Jeavons

Hmm. Continuity or discontinuity, that’s an interesting question. I can speak on a specific issue, and this just gets into the beginning of the Bush Presidency. One of the things I was hired to do was the environmental scene, where there was, I would say, pretty much no continuity. I remember the first few days coming in. It was part of my portfolio to build a network of connections and relationships with people in the environmental community, the big NGOs [nongovernmental organizations]. And I’d start making calls and say, It’s Kathy Jeavons, I’m calling from the Bush White House Office of Public Liaison, and a couple of people laughed and hung up the phone. They thought it was a joke. And I said, No, no, I’m serious, the President is interested in what you have to say. After they got over that shock, they said, Wow, that’s really refreshing, because we didn’t hear from anybody for eight years and we tried.

So on that particular issue I would say there was a lot of discontinuity. I’m trying to think back when, again from’86 through ’88. People much higher ranking than I would have a better sense of this, but I do know that there were times when there was a real struggle to make sure the Vice President was included in some meetings. And I don’t think this was necessarily directed by Reagan, but more by some of his staff, who were perhaps more predisposed to support a Pierre DuPont or someone of that nature. It wasn’t outright sabotage or anything like that, but it became clear that there were times when certain people were trying to protect information they thought perhaps could have been helpful to the Vice President in the campaign effort.

Vogt

I just remember one incident where Reagan folks invited Bob Dole in at the podium for a press conference. Remember that?

Jeavons

I do.

Vogt

And everyone was just aghast that they were giving him that floor—I don’t know what the issue was.

Jeavons

One really interesting sign, I remember this when we were at the Christmas party at the Vice President’s residence in ’87. It was during [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s visit to the States, or he had visited with Reagan, and the Vice President got a call while we were at the party—really nice, lovely intimate party. It was nice being on the Vice Presidential staff because there were only 75 or 80 people at the house.

Kilberg

The house only held 70 to 90 people.

Jeavons

And the Vice President got the call saying, The President wants you to ride out to Andrews [Air Force Base] with Gorbachev, and you could tell for him, that was unexpected and a really big deal. It seemed like not just a vote of confidence but also like a good sign, if you will. And the fact that no other candidate was getting this sort of special treatment. I remember him being obviously very surprised and pleased that that was going to happen. I’m trying to think of some other specific examples.

Kilberg

I wasn’t there in that context, but the only thing I can remember is, I was very close to Susan Porter Rose, who was Mrs. Bush’s Chief of Staff both as Vice President and as President. I just remember that the relationship between Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Reagan was very proper and very cordial, but it wasn’t very close. That was about it.

Jeavons

That was it. Yes.

Kilberg

And one of the things Mrs. Bush was very sensitive to during the transition—because I remember having a conversation with Mrs. Bush and Susan—was that she wanted to be sure Mrs. Reagan was treated with the utmost respect and warmth and dignity as they left, because she knew it was going to be very hard for Mrs. Reagan to leave. And Mrs. Bush wanted to be very low key and really almost held back so that she wouldn’t do or say anything that would imply she was taking over early. And that was very important to her.

It was also very important to her that Marilyn Quayle feel welcome and part of what she called the extended Bush family. Because my guess is that she never really felt that with Nancy Reagan. I don’t know, but my guess is, because she was very concerned, Now Marilyn has to be part of this and she has to be part of that, and She’s part of our family now and we’ve got to not just extend that courtesy but that warmth to her. And the Bushes made—it’s just natural to them, they just have this huge, huge extended family, much beyond their blood family. It goes to so many people, all of whom believe in, have a tie, have an extraordinary loyalty to them because they were always so loyal to everyone. They always took time to know what you were worried about, what your personal life was about, what your concerns were. I can’t comment beyond that.

Riley

Katie, you’ve done work on the travel question but I didn’t know—because they each had a component of that—whether you had any questions about the campaign travel or the Presidential travel?

Tenpas

I may get to that more in ’92 because I’m really interested in the phenomenon of how Presidents simultaneously campaign for reelection and govern and the management of those. One question that came earlier was to ask you, was there this exodus of staff in 1987, ’88, people leaving the Vice President’s office in order to help run the election campaign? But the other thing I was interested in is because there was some tension between the Reagan staff and the Bush—not tension, I don’t know how you describe it, but people maybe favoring other candidates and such, so it created a little bit of tension during the transition phase personnel-wise, if there were Reagan people who wanted to work for Bush—

Kilberg

Who were floored that they weren’t asked to stay. And she can talk about that more. We kept two people in Public Liaison, which we will talk about later, but you talk about that because—

Jeavons

It was really interesting and again watching when it became clear, as I was saying, that there was—oh, you could sense it, even if it wasn’t totally overt, this weird tension in some people. The Reagan people, I think, in some respects always thought they were better than the Bush people. That’s probably a gross generalization, but when it did start to look like the Vice President was going to win the election, all of a sudden we were the most popular people. I’m serious. You could ask for anything—for the moon and they’d try to get it for you.

And it was a real shock to a lot of people who just assumed that they would get a job. For me personally, I can’t thank Bobbie enough. I knew I could have stayed on with Boyden and John, but I’m not a lawyer and I didn’t want to become one, so there was no possibility of upward mobility. I’d been a staff assistant as he transitioned and I really wanted to work in Public Liaison, and Boyden put in a good word for me. I was able to make that transition and Scott Sutherland too.

Kilberg

Scott Sutherland had been in Public Liaison.

Vogt

Under Reagan.

Jeavons

Scott had been in Public Liaison and that was a good—so he was a Reagan person. I was still always a Bush person but hadn’t been part of the campaign.

Kilberg

Boyden called me, the other one—

Vogt

Scott?

Kilberg

It was somebody else. I’ll get to it in a second.

Jeavons

He was there a little while. That’s right. I remember that guy.

Vogt

Yes. Dark hair.

Jeavons

Todd [Matthew Todd Foley]?

Kilberg

Todd. I ran into him the other day and he was still thanking me for that. But Boyden called me about Kathy and said, I want you to meet her, and I said sure. And I immediately liked her and I must say—and this will probably drive the Reagan movement conservatives nuts—it didn’t take me five minutes to say, She’s one of us.

And if you can say, There is one of us, then there’s also one of them, but there was a certain amount of that tension and particularly in the role we were coming into, Public Liaison, and we can get to this in a bit, but maybe you want to get to it now.

Riley

Okay.

Kilberg

The President-elect had made it very clear to me that he viewed Public Liaison very differently than they viewed Public Liaison, at least at the end of the Reagan era. He thought the White House needed a breath of fresh air, and he wanted to open up the White House and be receptive and listen to people of all views, not just people who agreed with him. And that gets very complex in what he viewed as our role versus the Reagan role, but the Reagan role of OPL [Office of Public Liaison], at least in the latter years and probably in the former years, too, was to find your base, reward that base, include that base, and use the Office of Public Liaison as a way to marshal support for your policies.

This President came in with the very strong feeling that he wanted to listen to what everybody had to say, that if you cared enough to organize yourself as an interest group you probably had something intelligent to say about a topic. And that if he only listened to people he agreed with, he was never going to grow. He was a voracious reader of public policy. We’ll talk about the Clean Air Act later, but that was a perfect example when he took down Roger Smith from General Motors and knew more about CO2 emissions and SOx [sulfur oxides] and NOx [nitrogen oxides] than Roger Smith did. I said, Where the hell did that come from? because it wasn’t in our briefing papers, but he just said, I have been Vice President for eight years, thank you very much. I do read.

But he really viewed it as opening it up to people he didn’t always agree with. So on Clean Air, you didn’t only talk to the auto companies, he talked to the environmentalist groups, he talked to the union groups, he talked to the consumer groups, but the Reagan people really didn’t view it that way. So when we came in we were looking for people who shared that feeling and that view, and it was very clear that Kathy did. And we were all very comfortable with her.

On the question of who stayed over, we did keep a fellow named Scott Sutherland, who’s been for 15 years now president of Ducks Unlimited. I don’t know what his portfolio had been exactly under the Reagan OPL, but we kept him and another fellow named Todd, who was in the environmental/energy area. We kept him for a while and then he decided he wanted to move out and move on. But we really felt you needed some continuity.

Jeavons

Yes.

Tenpas

Was there a lot of demand though? Were a lot of people wanting to stay?

Kilberg

Yes.

Jeavons

Oh, yes.

Kilberg

But the only people we kept were Todd and Scott.

Tenpas

You did have eight years, you would think you might want to go into the private sector.

Vogt

Yes, but it’s funny. You get into that position and it’s like they just need it.

Tenpas

They need the fix.

Vogt

It’s amazing.

Jeavons

Katie, back to your question about whether people went to the campaign from the official staff.

Tenpas

Yes, during ’87?

Jeavons

Not that many really.

Vogt

From the campaign?

Jeavons

No, I’m sorry, from the official staff to the campaign.

Vogt

Oh. No. There was sort of a firewall that he had erected.

Tenpas

Yes. Because there is a phenomenon, definitely, of White House staff leaving in ’91, ’92, more so in other campaigns, ’83, ’84 for Reagan, where there is kind of an exodus and new people coming in to fill positions. That’s why I just was curious if that happened in—

Jeavons

Maybe it happened more in ’90—

Tenpas

Ninety-one, ’92.

Jeavons

Ninety-two.

Kilberg

Not that many people left in ’91, ’92 either.

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

Probably if more people had left and gone to the campaign it would have worked better, but—

Vogt

It was rough sledding in ’92.

Jeavons

It was a late start.

Kilberg

We can talk about that, too. That was the President’s own political body clock. His internal political clock told him when to do things, and if that clock hadn’t started ticking in his own gut there was not a thing in the world you could do to make him move. And everybody was on him from 1990—beginning of 1991, in the early spring on, saying, You’ve got to get this going, and he just flat out refused.

Riley

We’ll want to deal with that in greater depth later, but let me ask you, since you’ve introduced the subject, can you recall any other instances in the time that you knew him when his clock was equally off?

Kilberg

No.

Riley

Or at odds with what you felt perhaps he should have been doing?

Kilberg

I always felt his clock was very good except the campaign, it was just horrendous. Can you think of other examples?

Vogt

When you look at this I don’t think he himself believed that he would lose in ’92. Just because there was the Gulf War and the victory of that, and yet he didn’t use that political capital in a timely manner to go ahead and really push it through. Because it was too late, it was August of ’92 when he announced. It was impossible.

Kilberg

But you’re right. The concept of not building on the capital of the war was that really his political body clock or just—

Jeavons

I think that was more principle.

Kilberg

Principle. If you take a look at the economy then, you could certainly argue, and looking back in retrospect I think he was right, that the economy was going through some fundamental changes. The economy was fundamentally sound, but it was going through changes. And those changes were causing obvious pain for the American public, but they were changes that were almost necessary and they related to the information age and a lot of other things and jobs that were going away and weren’t going to be coming back. You had the really strong uptick of technology and being able to increase productivity and needing fewer workers, who needed to be retrained. He felt—and Dave Demarest addressed this in some article in one of these books—that if you went too far to one side or to the other, people either were going to think he was pandering to them or that he wasn’t sensitive enough.

So he walked down the middle, which is where he actually thought he ought to be policy-wise, and said, I understand things are rough, but the economy is essentially sound and we need to do X, Y, and Z. And everybody thought he didn’t care. Maybe that was his political body clock not taking him to the right place, but he really felt that he did not want to pander one way or the other. The net result was that he looked like he didn’t care. You were in the middle of that.

Vogt

Well, there were all these intervening events, the tax pledge that was broken and, there again it was his—I think it was mostly principle but also timing because we were in the midst of the Gulf War and the debate and the need for Congress to authorize force, so it’s one of his wonderful attributes. He would always put his political fate last and the country’s fate first. And in that case he did, I think, to his defeat. Because I was dealing more with the traditional constituencies, economic trade, labor, business folks, and when that policy position was taken at that time, clearly with the Gulf War and what we were faced with, he said, Let’s resolve this and move on.

Riley

Let me come at this from a slightly different angle if I may. Again, I don’t want to get off on ’92 just yet because that’s on down the road, but one way to interpret this is as a political figure who doesn’t particularly like to campaign, that he prefers to govern and deal with policy issues and that campaigning is a different mind set. So in ’92 you wait, you wait, you wait because it’s not something you particularly enjoy doing. Is that an accurate description of the George H. W. Bush that you know? And is there any evidence of this out of the campaign in 1988? Did he enjoy campaigning in ’88?

Vogt

I thought he did. I thought he was more looking to respect the Presidency, and to your point, how do you make that transition from President to campaigner? He wanted to delay that to the last. I never saw him in an environment where he just didn’t like campaigning. I think he got really fired up in the heat of the battle.

Jeavons

Again this is more just as American observer, not necessarily as somebody speaking from having been in the administration, but I think if you compare him to a lot of politicians, I would say he’d rather govern than campaign. Bill Clinton is one end of the spectrum, George Bush is the other. I’m serious.

I remember when I first started there, someone made an interesting comment to me about one of the differences between Ronald Reagan and George Bush. If you were in a room and there were 50 people and one camera, Ronald Reagan would find the camera, and if it was the reverse and it was George Bush and there were 50 cameras and a person, he would find the person to talk to.

Kilberg

Yes, and that relates to his campaign style. Because we were in the White House, we didn’t campaign with him in ’92, but I thought in ’88, when I went to some of the events, preconvention, certainly at the convention, and then at some of the events that I was the scheduler for in the fall, the way he enjoyed campaigning the most was not at big rallies but the thing we continued at the White House, which was relatively small discussion policy groups, because his strength and his love was dealing and interacting with people. He could sit down and spend, during the campaign, an hour, when he should have spent ten minutes, talking with small-business leaders in Peoria.

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

And he felt he got a lot out of that and they really loved him. There was a good interaction and you’d say, Yes, but there were only 20 people in that room, hello?

Jeavons

Don’t you think he would definitely pick that over being in a room of 50,000 and having them cheering for him, where you see someone like Bill Clinton just feed off of that. For George Bush, I just don’t think that was—

Kilberg

No. His mother Dorothy [Bush] had always told him, Don’t brag, son. Don’t brag. And there he was, 50 people screaming for him is bragging. And he didn’t really like that. He also had, in speech style, this gets further into the Presidency, but we realized very early on, and you all probably knew it from the Vice Presidency, but those of us in the Presidency, it took us a while to realize that if you have him make a major address in front of a major organization with a teleprompter or a script, he was terrible. He needed to interact with the people. So we started after a while being sure that the lights were such—which drove the TV cameras nuts—that he could see the front row, because if he could see the front row of individuals and look at you, he believed he was speaking directly to you and having an interchange, and he could get very charged up about that. But if he couldn’t see anything and it was just speaking to a huge crowd, that was not his strength.

Also, written speeches were not his strength. He did so much better when you gave him note cards that simply had bullet points on them. He knew the stuff so well and knew what he wanted to say that he would just go on and be very interactive and very electrifying. At the same time, those note cards didn’t produce a lot of sound bites. He hated sound bites. He thought sound bites were awful, were wrong, were simplistic and that the world is not simplistic, it is a complex place.

Ronald Reagan was a master at sound bites. I remember when the President was Vice President, him looking at me one day and saying, How does he do that? How does he reduce the most complex arguments to sound bites and have everybody understand the core of what is going on here? He just couldn’t do that, nor did he really want to do it. So it’s a very different type of approach.

Probably your environmental people said this, but one of the first things we got back as feedback from our Roosevelt Room roundtables with him in the first two or three months, people would walk out of there and say, Oh, my gosh, we had a conversation.

Vogt

They were in shock.

Kilberg

They were in shock, especially the business leaders, because with President Reagan, you’d have the same kind of business leaders sitting around the table in the Roosevelt Room. He’d come in and you’d go one person by one person. Everybody would say something and it was also pretty scripted. The OPL people and Reagan would tell each person, You talk about this, you talk about that. President Reagan would sit there and listen very intently. Then he would say, Thank you, and leave. And Bush, the first person who was speaking among the outside group would get through maybe three sentences and the President would say, But wait a minute, what about this and what about that? And they would have this interchange, sometimes even getting into arguments, because he would get so excited and they would get so excited in a good way, that there were spirited discussions.

We never had a time that there was not a spirited discussion, and his personal aide at that time was Tim McBride. The routine was that Tim would come in at about the two-minute mark, stand at the door across from the Oval Office, and just look at you and you knew. And he’d look at the President and the routine was that the President was supposed to stop talking and half the time he wouldn’t.

Vogt

Never happen.

Kilberg

Never happen. So then the routine was Jeff or Kathy or I, whoever was there, we would get up and stand next to Tim and stare at the President. And sometimes he would just look at us and say, Sit down. He would just go over it constantly about 20 minutes or a half hour in all these meetings, to the point where we started not telling him but his scheduler, Kathy Super, would just factor that in. It would never be in the briefing paper, but she’d factor that in because she knew he would never get out of there.

Riley

So that he enjoyed.

All

He loved it.

Vogt

At least in his first meeting that we had with the business leaders, I remember coming out and I think it was Dirk Van Dongen or somebody said, Wow. Because he knew each of these people, he’d been there as Vice President and he was conversant on the issues and he just loved to give and take, and he took that into consideration with the policies he was formulating.

Kilberg

He did, and on Clean Air he made a number of changes to the SOx and NOx and other things based on what he heard from talking to the people around the room.

Vogt

Hundreds of groups in on Clean Air.

Jeavons

Oh, yes.

Kilberg

Yes. And he would listen, he would go back and reread things based on what they had told him.

Vogt

And our metric for success was, if we anger everybody equally, we will have succeeded. [Laughter]

Jeavons

Everybody was ticked off to an equal degree with that bill, but that’s why it worked.

Kilberg

Yes.

Vogt

And we had a whole group of labor leaders in who had not set foot in the White House—

Kilberg

In eight years.

Vogt

In eight years.

Jeavons

Right.

Vogt

At the Roosevelt Room and—

Jeavons

And the environmental groups.

Vogt

And later with Lech Walesa and 200 people in the East Room.

Kilberg

Oh, is that where the table broke?

Riley

You broke a table?

Kilberg

This is a funny story. We didn’t break a table. A very big labor leader broke the big East Room buffet table—

Vogt

State Dining Room table.

Tenpas

Oh, my.

Kilberg

We’ll tell you about that one but before we tell you about that, it carried over also into his press conferences. I have somewhere how many press conferences he would hold. In the first three or four months of his Presidency, I think it said he held three major evening press conferences. I remember standing there and his telling our Press Secretary—

Vogt and Jeavons

Marlin [Fitzwater].

Kilberg

Marlin, I’m not going to do this anymore. And Marlin said, Why? And the President said, Because this is not a press conference, this is a show. You’re doing it for nighttime audiences as a show. I don’t like this. And I think maybe he did one or two a year when he had to but instead he reverted to going into the Press Room twice a week. People forget this now, Presidents don’t do—Barack Obama goes into the Press Room, everybody goes, My God, he’s in the White House Press Room. George Bush used to do that sometimes twice a week and he’d make a short opening statement and say, Okay, let’s have a discussion. And he was very comfortable with that. He could answer not just primary questions but the secondary and tertiary questions that followed. Ronald Reagan never could have done that. They never would have put Ronald Reagan in that kind of position.

Riley

That is interesting.

Jeavons

Of course, it was an advantage, too, that they weren’t all broadcast on television at that time.

Kilberg

No, that’s right.

Vogt

But he wasn’t for the pomp and circumstance as he was for relating informally.

Kilberg

That’s right. And the story—I was looking for that here, saying when did that happen because the first time—

Vogt

That was a great event.

Kilberg

Because the first time the President met with the labor groups was—well, we had them in on Clean Air, but the first time he met with them as a labor group, for instance a group coming in to discuss a topic we wanted to discuss, was with the building construction trades. A fellow named Bob Georgine, and he went and addressed the building and construction trades early in that first year and then he invited them to the residence. Not the East Room, the residence upstairs, the personal residence. They had never been—here it is, it’s April 18, he addressed the building construction trades at the Washington Hilton and then a reception for leaders of the building construction trades at the residence. That was unheard of, nobody ever went up to the residence. And they did and the point of that was to try to break them further away from the AFL-CIO [American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations] group. And they were already being very independent. I think eventually they may have broken away. I don’t know. But Bob Georgine just didn’t have any love for them. So that was the purpose of that and it was very interesting.

But when Lech Walesa came, we had all these labor leaders in the East Room of the State Dining Room, and it has this very long buffet table. There was a—and I don’t mean to generalize about labor union leaders—but this was a very—

Vogt

Perfect stereotype.

Kilberg

Don’t stereotype. He was a very big, very strong labor leader and he—

Vogt

With particles of food on his tie.

Kilberg

Yes. And he decided to lean against the table and the table was full of food and he leaned just at a—I guess a point where—

Vogt

It wasn’t really a lean. It was like a cheek sit. [Laughter]

Kilberg

At any rate, the cheek sit.

Riley

That’s perfect word poetry.

Kilberg

Right at the point where the table, there’s a weakness of the table, where is it?

Jeavons

Where the leaf is?

Vogt

Right at the center leaf.

Kilberg

Well, wherever it is. And the table started to creak and it started to go—and I, Jeff, and the White House butlers all raced under the table.

Vogt

It was unbelievable.

Kilberg

It was unbelievable. And Mrs. Bush was there at the moment and her mouth just fell open and she said, Hold it, hold it, hold it! And all this food started flying—

Vogt

Spilled all over the place.

Tenpas

Did it start sliding down the table?

Kilberg

Yes. It was funny. And the table took something like 12 weeks to repair.

Riley

Oh, my. But it did completely snap? Or you were able to get it stabilized?

Kilberg

It stabilized.

Vogt

Well, it snapped enough that all the food just came tumbling down everywhere.

Riley

You’re covered with food under the—

Vogt

I remember leaving that night after everyone had left and we were with the President and Mrs. Bush, and Mrs. Bush said, Can you believe that fat SOB sat on my table?

Kilberg

It was really funny.

Vogt

But that was an extraordinary event because Lech Walesa was visiting. From Solidarnosc. And the President made a surprise award, the Medal of Freedom, to Lane Kirkland, who was then the head of the AFL-CIO. So not only were these guys awestruck by being back in the White House after eight years, but this is a very major event and then Bobbie and I had the honor of going back to Lech Walesa’s hotel to deliver the photo book that the President—

Kilberg

President had forgotten to give him.

Vogt

Had forgotten to give him of his visit when he was in Poland the year before.

Kilberg

The reason it doesn’t appear here is that that event was not our event because it was a National Security Council event or State because it was a visiting head of state.

Vogt

Oh, okay.

Kilberg

So I think that’s why it’s not in here that we controlled who came from the labor groups. But the President was trying to go upstairs and Tim McBride came racing in and said, We forgot to give him the book. And we all looked at each other and the President said, Would you mind going? and I said, Well, if Jeff comes with me, sure. So we got a White House car and we went and it was amazing. Because we hadn’t gotten a chance to spend a lot of time with Lech Walesa, and they just ushered us in to Lech Walesa and we presented this book and I just almost burst into tears.

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

That was also the first time—I’d been in a number of motorcades going back from Andrews to the White House and you’d drop off and you’d go get your car and go home, but it was the first time I’d been in a foreign dignitary motorcade and I went out—did you go also? We went out to the airport to get Lech Walesa?

Vogt

No, I didn’t go.

Kilberg

I went because he was not—actually he was not a head of state.

Jeavons

Not yet?

Vogt

No, he was the head of Solidarnosc.

Kilberg

He was head of Solidarnosc, so actually, I don’t think it was a state—I don’t know why it wasn’t our event, but it wasn’t our event. At any rate, he wasn’t a head of state and so for whatever reason I was designated to go, not to be his greeter but to be there and be part of the process and meet him. And then got in one of the limousines and came over to the White House from Andrews. And when we came in that southeast gate in the limousine, I tried to put myself in the mindset of what Lech Walesa would be thinking and I thought, Oh, my God, this is amazing. This is majestic. You sometimes forget when you work there every day, and I said, Whoa, this is really something. And the President greeted him in the South Portico.

But that was the other thing. The President would say to us, virtually every day, The day you are not awestruck by going into that Oval Office is the day you should leave. And you must remember every day where you are and the majesty of this office.

It was one of the reasons he was so annoyed when Bill Clinton would go in there without a jacket and tie. And he must be furious with what Barack Obama does. He’s also obviously furious about how Bill Clinton inappropriately used that office, given what he felt about it. But one time I had something I needed to know and Tim said to me, Well, just go down, the President’s at the tennis court. So I went down and he said, Oh, yes, that paper’s on my desk. I said, Well, okay, I’ll tell Tim and we’ll get it. And he said, No, no, you guys won’t know where it is, I’ll go get it. Come on, the game is over. So we started to walk back up—the tennis courts are on the South Lawn. We started walking up I thought toward the Oval Office, which you’d go this way. And he said, Where are you going? and I said, I’m going to your office. No, no, he said, I’m in tennis shorts. I said, So? He said, No, just wait, I’ll be back. So he went into the residence, got dressed, put on a coat and tie, walked into the Oval Office, handed me the paper, and left.

But he would not go into that office in tennis togs. He didn’t believe that was appropriate. Just a sense of respect for the physical room.

Riley

Let me get you to go back to the beginning again, when you’re setting up shop, because there were a lot of changes that were made. Tell us about how you did this. Some of what you reported earlier indicated that the Reagan operation was immense.

Kilberg

Huge.

Vogt

We did it very frantically.

Riley

Is that right?

Jeavons

On a wing and a prayer.

Riley

But you’re paring—

Vogt

Bobbie was very shorthanded.

Riley

You’re paring this down and at the same time—

Kilberg

No, we’re not paring it down. The President and Sununu are paring it down. We never would have pared it down to the level at which it was pared down.

Tenpas

There was no concern about cutting it by more than 50 percent? That strikes me—

Kilberg

I’ve said this in a number of places but—

Jeavons

His philosophy—

Kilberg

President Bush had a very different philosophy. And his philosophy was that the Office of Public Liaison had gotten very bloated and had gotten too powerful for what its role ought to be, and that when it was so bloated it had eight or ten special assistants to the President under Ronald Reagan, each representing different constituencies. You had a Special Assistant to the President for Veterans, you had a Special Assistant to the President for Hispanics, you had a Special Assistant to the President for Jews.

A special assistant to the President is a commissioned officer. That’s a senior member of the White House staff, and he felt you had so many of them that—he told me one day, When I see one of them coming, this was when he was Vice President, I run in the other direction. I said, Why? He said, Because they’re going to come to me to plead for some case for one of the interest groups. That ought to not be the role. The Office of Public Liaison ought to be an honest broker that brings people with valid views, of which all these interest groups are, into the White House, gives them the ability to present their views and concerns about whatever we are considering or mulling over. And then he said his theory is if you listen to them on the way in, they are more likely to support you on the way out. And support your policies, or if they don’t support your policies, they’re more likely to be civil about it in their opposition and willing to work and seek compromise.

Jeavons

It’s Coalition Building 101.

Kilberg

That’s right.

Jeavons

It’s all about relationship building.

Kilberg

That’s right. But he didn’t want all these people, each in their own little stove pipe, having a specific interest group that they felt they had to advocate for instead of being the honest broker and bringing them in and being sure they were exposed to the policy process.

For that reason alone, he said, I want to cut out virtually all the commissioned officers. We only started out with two deputy assistants to the President, me for domestic and Sichan Siv for foreign, and one special assistant to the President, basically for the religious conservatives because he felt he had to do that given the increasing base in the party. And everybody else was a noncommissioned officer. We also talked about the fact that we wanted to create job responsibilities not based on a special interest group but rather on categories.

Jeavons

On issues. Yes.

Kilberg

On issue categories. We did this. We had them on issue categories. Over time, I’m not sure that really worked. Because over time, no matter how you cut it Jeff was—Jeff had your labor, job training, business and economics, tort medical liability reform. Basically, over time he was viewed as the business liaison.

Jeavons

It works for a while, it doesn’t work forever.

Kilberg

It works for a while, it doesn’t work forever. People find you and tag you, and you, almost of necessity, become to some extent not their advocate but at least their access point and therefore their spokesman. But that still doesn’t explain—even if you put it under the White House Director of Communications, Dave Demarest, who was an Assistant to the President, because he also felt that rather than being a single entity standing out there, which everybody was trying to avoid, if you made it part of the Communications operation, that’s where it should be because, again, you were trying to communicate, solicit input and communicate output, to groups. And that’s communication. So he put us and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Affairs all under Dave. Some people said, Well, we probably should have been part of the Office of Domestic Policy, but I’m not sure. I don’t think that’s correct.

Tenpas

What if you had been part of Congressional because then you would have been tied in, you would have had a better sense of what was in that budget bill that you really didn’t know about?

Kilberg

We wouldn’t have because nobody in Congressional Affairs had any idea what was in that budget bill.

Jeavons

That’s true. That’s an interesting idea, but I think that would have created a behemoth. There would just be no way to manage that because it’s just such a— But I will tell you, my life since has been all on public affairs PR [public relations], I will tell you that the best campaigns are when it’s completely integrated, you’ve got the media, you’ve got the third-party influencers, and it’s all about affecting legislation and influencing Congress. So, in a perfect world, they all work well together, but I don’t know how that would have worked functionally in the White House.

Kilberg

At Congressional Affairs you would have, among other things, run the risk of violating the law. Because the law is very clear.

Riley

The law’s very clear.

Jeavons

But it worked really well, people got Clean Air, which we can get into later but we were able, thanks to you—you had the right people at the table when you were sitting talking about how the legislation was going to get formed and how we were going to try to build consensus and support for it. Because in these working group meetings, it was people from Domestic Policy, from Congressional Affairs. I sat in on these meetings and that was with Secretary [James] Watkins from Energy, Bill Riley from EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], Boyden Gray, Roger Porter, David Sloan from Legislative Affairs. We’d meet once a week and sit and talk about this. How it was all going to play out, so on particular big legislative policy agenda items, it worked.

Tenpas

I would think on Presidential initiatives, where it was his—

Jeavons

Exactly.

Tenpas

Where he really wanted to see this act was passed, it would make a ton of sense to have you guys at the ground floor because you need to—

Vogt

But part of this is push me, pull you, but the OPL is legally restricted from lobbying or encouraging lobbying.

Kilberg

There’s a law that prohibits you from directly—I don’t know how it applies to Congressional Relations, but we clearly could not—and Boyden would have strung us all up—we could not directly tell interest groups, Here’s our list of targets. Go after those people in the Congress because that was illegal. What we could say to them was that this was an issue of very great importance to the President and—what’s the word? I think we were allowed to say and we encourage you—

Vogt

To communicate with your membership—

Kilberg

To communicate to make your views known. But we could not give anybody a list. As soon as we gave them a list we were engaged in lobbying. We were allowed to educate, we were not allowed to lobby. And the law still exists, I think.

Jeavons

Yes, there is a law.

Tenpas

But isn’t the point not really so much to lobby these groups but to bring them in at the point you’re conceiving the legislation so that they’re on your team?

Kilberg

Yes. We did do that. We did that very successfully until the budget bill. So we did it successfully for two years. We did it on the Clean Air Act, we did it on civil rights, we did it on energy—

Jeavons

Natural gas deregulation.

Kilberg

Natural gas dereg—we did it on a slew of issues, most of which none of us—

Jeavons

Disabilities.

Kilberg

Disabilities, yes. A lot of which we probably fast tracked.

Vogt

Were you going to say—so that none of us can remember?

Kilberg

Or we’re getting so old. Fast track—

Vogt

NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], Clean Air—

Kilberg

We did it on all those. We did it very effectively and Clean Air was a perfect case study. All those groups came in on the ground floor. We were totally integrated with Domestic Policy, with Congressional Relations, with Intergovernmental Affairs—Clean Air clearly affects all of them—and with the President. And it was a process that worked. It was a picture-perfect, textbook process.

In the budget act the only people who knew what was going on were Dick Darman and John Sununu. Nick Calio didn’t know what was going on—he was our guy for the House. Fred McClure, who was the overall Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, had no idea what was going on. And when you totally exclude everyone from the process, the business groups told Jeff and me to go jump in a lake. So we are not going to help you with this—

Vogt

A couple more expletives.

Kilberg

Yes. We have been totally excluded from the process and you’ve lied to us. We didn’t intentionally lie to them, but the stuff we were being told to tell them was not true. And we were put in an impossible situation. And that Sunday, when the President called the Congressional leadership, bipartisan leadership to the White House, because they’d reached a deal, I got a call from Sununu and I called Jeff and I said, You guys had better come over, we’re going to be doing this. And I was in the Cabinet Room, where they met with the President and then everybody went out to the Rose Garden with one exception: Newt Gingrich. I still remember him leaving that Cabinet Room and turning around and going back out to the West Lobby. And leaving. He ditched it. He did not go to that press conference.

Tenpas

As a sign of protest?

Kilberg

Yes. Even though it was his deal, he finally decided, Oh, this isn’t going to work too well.

Vogt

We actually all wanted to go with him but—

Kilberg

And we came out—after that was over you could go back in from the Rose Garden back past the Press Office and around the corridor down to the Oval Office. And I remember standing outside the Cabinet Room, and I think you may have been there, too. Were you there?

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

And Sununu and Darman looked at us and said, Okay, go sell it. And I said, Sell what? They said, What we just agreed to. I said, How the hell are we going to sell that? We have nobody to sell it to. Nobody’s been included in this process and nobody’s going to support you. And they said, We don’t care. Just sell it. Go figure out how to sell it.

I looked at Dick and I said, Okay, then I’m going to need you for the next week. I’m going to give you a list of every organization that you are going to have to sit down and talk to and explain this and explain why they weren’t included and explain why this is good for the country. And he looked at me and said, I will talk to whom I want to talk to, when I want to talk to them. And you are not going to tell me who to talk to. And just left. Just stormed down the corridor.

Vogt

God rest his soul.

Kilberg

And we actually were friends. Our oldest kids were best friends. I just couldn’t work with him. But that was the attitude. The next thing that happened, which was just disastrous, was the President made a speech to the nation on television to tell them—and I talk about that in here—I mean, goodness gracious, they made a speech to the nation on the bill. We had sent excerpts from it beforehand to our business liaison and other groups, but at the end of the speech all of a sudden it was, Call your Congressman.

And nobody had told us that would be in the speech. Dave Demarest, who wrote the darn speech, didn’t have it in the speech. Bob Teeter, who was the President’s pollster, thought it would be a really good idea because everybody would call and be supportive, and they put it in ten minutes before the President got on the air.

So by the time he finished, and he told everybody to call their Congressman and tell us what you think, the calls were running six to eight to one against. And we then got on the phone at 11 o’clock at night and we’re waking people up—in those times you didn’t have people on your cell phone so you had to call them on the hard dial phone lines, waking them up, have a White House operator wake people and ask them to—

Vogt

Call the NAM [National Association of Manufacturers], the Chamber—

Kilberg

Chamber, asking them to please get their coalitions going and support the President on this and call their members. If they didn’t hang up on us, the words they used, in addition to being angry at being woken up, were not pleasant. So when interest groups were not included in the policy process, you paid a real price for that.

Riley

We may want to delve into that a little more, but let me ask you about some of the success stories, to get all of you to reflect on, either you choose or if you want me to throw some out I can, but when it worked well, how did it work? What was the process?

Kilberg

I think Clean Air was the—

Vogt

Really most comprehensive—

Kilberg

Was the most comprehensive—

Vogt

That and NAFTA.

Riley

Okay.

Kilberg

NAFTA. I’ll let him talk about those two.

Riley

Okay, great.

Jeavons

Clean Air, I’m just trying to think where to start.

Riley

You said that when you came in you started contacting environmental groups for the first time.

Jeavons

Or for the first time for them in an awfully long time, perhaps ever. I remember putting together and staffing an event for the President-elect in it must have been December of ’88, in the Roosevelt Room. It was a breakfast with what at the time was called the Group of 10, which was the heads of the ten largest, most influential environmental groups. Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, just to talk. It was more like a meet-and-greet, if you will. Obviously I’d already talked with Bobbie and Dave Demarest and they were okay with me. I remember organizing that. It was the first big deal where the President was basically setting out some of the things he hoped to accomplish and trying to establish working relationships with these groups and gave them a chance to talk about what issues were going to be important to them.

I can’t remember actually now if he’d already had in his head that Clean Air was going to be a big deal, although it was coming up for reauthorization, but that really set the groundwork, I think. And then, throughout pretty much all of 1990, wasn’t it? Eighty-nine through ’90? Look back and see when it was signed. I didn’t think it was signed until ’91. But it was a year-long process, and as I mentioned earlier, I think from the very beginning when they set out to figure out, the President was going to introduce the new piece of legislation and what it would look like, which again came from basically the administration, not from Congress—

Riley

Clean Air, October of ’90.

Kilberg

The legislation was transmitted in the Rose Garden on July 21, 1989. And all the meetings happened in the spring before that.

Jeavons

So all the meetings would have happened in the spring of ’89.

Riley

Okay.

Jeavons

So from the beginning pretty much. There was an internal working group that Public Liaison was part of with the major agencies, Domestic Policy Council, the legal counsel, et cetera, to develop the legislation. But throughout that whole process, Bobbie, Jeff, and I, I think there were other people in Public Liaison, we were in constant contact with. All of the groups that had any say in the process at all, and it was a matter of us helping, doing what we should do, transmit that information back and forth. To be able to say, Okay, if we’re going down this road, we know that the Clean Air Working Group, which was John Shlaes and all those guys, Edison Electric Institute, they were going to be happy about this and really ticked off about this and vice versa, and it became a really successful iterative process to come up with a piece of legislation that had something in there for everybody.

Vogt

Well balanced.

Jeavons

The biggest deal, at the time, which I think was really ground breaking, particularly for a Republican, was the whole concept of emissions trading. It was worked out with EDF [Environmental Defense Fund] and Fred Krupp, who is still the head of the Environmental Defense Fund, and the White House. And that’s what the climate-change legislation is based on now. This concept of emissions credits trading, so to me that was probably the most exciting thing about it from the administration’s point of view.

Clearly, the business community looking back on it could probably say the Bush administration caved a little too far on the environmental side, but at the end of the day it was a successful piece of legislation. And I think he got credit on both sides of the aisle for it.

Vogt

He did, and the reality was, during the whole term, we had a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

Jeavons

Oh, that’s true.

Vogt

So if we were going to get anything done, he had to reach out, and events like, as Bobbie mentioned, the labor event and trying to at least drive some wedges in what are traditional opponents of Republican initiatives, like the building trades, the Lane Kirkland event, the Teamsters, and others—I think that made a difference on policy initiatives like the Clean Air Act and we’re extending the hand, we’re serious, we listen, we incorporate some of your views.

And it was the same thing with NAFTA. We brought in everybody who was affected by it, particularly because the environmental lobbies and the labor and labor rights lobbies had very strong messages, and if we were not going to stop their opposition we were going to mute it a little.

Jeavons

I think that was an instance where they knew they’d had a seat at the table, and at the end of the day the environmental groups were not going to get everything they wanted and the comments that came out afterward—the public comments about the bill from, clearly it was a big deal for EDF—

Kilberg

We had them in. You had them in. Yes.

Jeavons

Oh, they were pretty much the ringleader on the environmental side. But even groups like NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council], which is historically pretty out there, and the Sierra Club, their public comments after the bill was signed, even if they weren’t 100 percent glowing, were markedly different from anything you would have heard from those groups under a Republican President earlier.

Riley

And are you taking incoming from the conservatives in your party? Are they beating you up over this? Do you feel it or does that only get to Fred and the people in the Congressional leadership?

Vogt

There were certainly issues where we took some serious missiles from them.

Jeavons

Yes, I think on Clean Air, if I remember, it wasn’t as bad. I think on ADA—

Kilberg

ADA was terrible.

Jeavons

A huge deal. Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tenpas

Wasn’t the auto industry or groups like that, weren’t they on the other side of these environmental—

Jeavons

On Clean Air, sure, but in a weird way I think that they were kind of emasculated throughout that process. They had their position but it was so consistent with where they’d always been that we were able to—how do I say this? They were coming at it from less of a position of strength than they would have been before because they were only one piece of this large coalition of interest groups on both sides who really wanted to see legislation get passed. And I think, if anything, the auto industry looked like—

Vogt

Dinosaurs.

Kilberg

Dinosaurs. And eventually, I think they came to the conclusion that this bill was much better than other things they could have gotten from a House and a Senate that were Democrats and that uncertainty would be the worst thing, and they needed to get on with their lives and on with the production of their cars. Just tell them what they had to do and if it was reasonable they could do it.

But here on June 8, this is the President’s schedule: Clean Air meeting with industry CEOs, Roosevelt Room, followed by Clean Air meeting with the environmentalists, Roosevelt Room. Then the President went off and addressed Ducks Unlimited the same day and then he came back and dropped by Citizens for a Sound Economy in the Roosevelt Room and they talked about Clean Air. And then on June 12, there was the announcement of Clean Air reauthorization legislation in the East Room and then there was another one in September. I’m a little confused now. Then in September there was something else in the Rose Garden, which also related—oh, and then here is Drop by Clean Air legislation meeting with environmentalists on acid rain. So they came in twice and that was on August 2, and that was particularly on acid rain, which became very contentious. And then there was another thing in the Rose Garden.

Jeavons

Rose Garden in July, yes. That’s when they actually officially passed it. We made a big deal out of that when they took it and were sending the bill up to Congress.

Kilberg

Okay, so in June you went to the East Room and you had the Clean Air reauthorization, the announcement of it and then you sent it to Congress.

But that’s the meeting I referenced with Roger Smith, head of General Motors. I think they were also, not browbeaten by the President, but they were outsmarted. He knew as much or more about the legislation than they did. Roger Smith was just this nice little short guy who smiled a lot and had talking points and obviously was knowledgeable but came in with his talking points. And the President without any talking points just demolished him. On CO2 emissions and again on NOx and SOx and all that. I remember their leaving that meeting, all three of the Big Three or the Big Four or whatever they were then, as well as other industries that would be affected by this because it wasn’t only the automakers, and they went to the press stakeout outside the West Wing lobby and they were pretty calm.

Tenpas

By the time the President meets with these groups, have you met with them two or three times? Or been on the phone with them many times?

Kilberg

Yes.

Tenpas

So there are many antecedents before this final meeting.

Kilberg

Yes. And we also didn’t, in contrast to other White Houses, we did not try to micromanage in that we did not—we would never have said to the auto industry or—

Vogt

Say this or say that.

Kilberg

—whatever other industries, you cannot go to see the Domestic Policy Council people or you cannot go and talk to the Congressional Affairs people. We felt that as long as we knew they had been there, that was fine with us. So they sat and talked to Roger Porter for a long time as well, and the Roger Porter office had people who had more expertise in the subject matter than we did. We were facilitators and listeners, and we passed information on and back in a two-way street. But we were not the experts.

Jeavons

No.

Kilberg

They went over and talked to Bill Riley at EPA or to Secretary Watkins at Energy, and we knew they were doing that and that was just fine. So, yes, by the time the President sat down with them, everybody was fully aware of everything. And the briefing memos the President got, if it was our event, if it was an interest group, it was our briefing memo but he would also get briefing papers in the sense—

Jeavons

Policy papers.

Kilberg

Policy papers from, obviously, the policy people. But that was one that really worked very well. I noticed in my own talk from 1996, it said, Clean Air Act illustrated the coordination exhibited by OPL in both making policy decisions and selling them to the public and Congress. After initial meetings, OPL met with interest groups and arranged meetings between them and senior policy makers in the Cabinet, EPA, and the White House. This was before the President and this is separate from the President and then we had all the Presidential meetings. Then, on the day of the announcement, I don’t know which announcement this would have been, OPL had five meetings simultaneously in the White House.

I remember that. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were racing back and forth between the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building.

On the day of the announcement, OPL had five meetings simultaneously in the White House. One with Governors and mayors. One with Congressional leaders and the President and— for some reason that was our event—one with business groups. One with environmental groups and one with consumer groups. And the only one of those five that was directly with the President was the Congressional leaders and the President. But the Governors and mayors, we had Cabinet members there, I don’t know who was meeting—maybe Roger Porter met with the business groups and someone else with the environmental groups and someone else with the consumer groups.

And then we ushered all those people to the East Room for an announcement. That was June 12. That’s President Bush’s birthday and my husband’s birthday. [reading] The OPL staff stood by the President. The OPL staff was ready and knew who they were sending to the press to discuss the legislation. We knew who was going to go out to the microphones.

Fact sheets were immediately sent out as well as follow-ups with other pieces and so forth. Process worked very smoothly and continued that way in three or four other domestic issues until the confusion of the 1990 budget debate.

There was something else that I wanted to say about this process. I can’t remember.

Riley

It will come back to you.

Kilberg

I’m sure it will come back.

Riley

Let me ask who’s responsible for orchestrating all—somebody surely has to be the main White House point person for the entire exercise—

Kilberg

They had a working group. Everybody sat on that group, and this schedule of five meetings was not done by just us, it was—

Vogt

OPL, Cabinet Affairs, Legislative Affairs—

Jeavons

In concert, yes.

Kilberg

And they all decided who the five were. As to where the President would be, that ultimately was the scheduler, but in this case she was involved in only two of these meetings, the one with Congressional and the President and then going to the East Room.

Riley

Gotcha. But more generally, whether it’s Clean Air or it’s ADA or whatever, is somebody designated who’s responsible for being the principal White House staffer for running with this and making sure that OPL is doing what it needs to do and CA [Congressional Affairs] is doing what it needs to do?

Kilberg

Yes, often that was Andy Card, as Deputy Chief of Staff; sometimes it was Dave Demarest, who was Director of Communications. Rarely was it Roger Porter and Domestic Policy Council because nobody thought he could organize anything. [Laughter] No, I’m serious. Rarely was it Ede Holiday.

Vogt

Usually it was Bobbie telling Dave and Andy that this is what needs to be done.

Jeavons

That’s true.

Riley

Yes?

Vogt

In order to communicate this.

Jeavons

That’s the truth. Yes.

Vogt

In an interdisciplinary way. She’ll never toot her own horn like that, but she was really a driver and if they saw Bobbie coming to their office, they knew something was amiss, so—

Kilberg

But no, it would never have been us because our office was the deputy assistant to the President level, so we would have sent it through Dave. And that’s a role Andy Card played.

Riley

Right. But Andy would do it rather than—Sununu himself would not have been responsible operationally for giving everybody marching orders and then following it up.

Jeavons

Not really.

Kilberg

Not really. He would come into a meeting, sit down, and check it all out, but then he would—

Vogt

He would just say, Sell it.

Kilberg

That’s right.

Vogt

And then all the mechanics—

Riley

But you’ve got different markets. You’ve got a Capitol Hill market. You’ve got a business community market, you’ve got a—

Kilberg

Well, take as an example, the Clarence Thomas nomination.

Riley

Good.

Kilberg

In that case, we all met almost every day in Fred McClure’s office because that was essentially selling Clarence Thomas to the Hill. So in that case, Fred was the leader. In the case of Clean Air, it was really much more David. Wasn’t it?

Jeavons

I think it was David, although on the policy coordination side, the working group side, even if he didn’t actually do it, it was actually Roger Porter because we would meet in his office.

Vogt

How about Boyden?

Jeavons

Well, Boyden, yes.

Kilberg

Boyden. Actually it was Boyden.

Jeavons

That one is probably more Boyden.

Kilberg

Was Boyden’s.

Riley

The Clean Air?

Jeavons

Boyden. Correct. Boyden Gray. Because that had been his baby.

Vogt

That was his baby.

Riley

Exactly.

Kilberg

You might say, well, the Counsel’s Office, why? It was because it was Boyden. And that was his interest. You could have also said that should be Fred McClure too, because you eventually have to sell it to Congress. But no, you were developing a whole policy that you were then transmitting, versus Clarence Thomas—it was there. And there was only one job—

Tenpas

Was that done through the Counsel’s Office? The vetting for Supreme Court nominees?

Kilberg

The vetting, yes, but once he was the nominee, once the President stood up there and said, It is Clarence Thomas, the leader of the pack became Fred McClure. Now John Schmitz more than—John Schmitz and Liberman?

Jeavons

Oh, Lee Liberman?

Kilberg

Lee Liberman was part of that working group. Lee in particular because she had been responsible for his vetting.

Tenpas

Did they prepare him for his testimony, too?

Kilberg

Yes. The main motivator was you had to get him through the Hill and that was Fred. But we sat there, it must have been two times, three times a week, maybe four times and everybody got assignments. And we took our assignments back from Fred on that.

Riley

From Fred.

Tenpas

So can I backtrack because I would miss—

Riley

Sure.

Tenpas

In your profile, you went to Yale Law School, during the Ford Administration you worked in the White House Counsel’s Office. Why did President Bush think it was suitable for you to become the Deputy Director of OPL? Just in terms of a skill set, it seems like you were—

Kilberg

But I had not practiced law in a long time. In the Ford White House, I was an associate counsel, and I dealt with legal issues. By the way, our entire Ford White House Counsel staff was six people. Talk about expansion of government. By the time of Clinton they had 58 or something. It was huge.

Tenpas

They probably needed it.

Kilberg

Yes, they were all dealing with Bill Clinton’s own personal issues but we had—

Tenpas

What about Boyden Gray, how many did Boyden Gray have?

Kilberg

How many did Boyden have?

Jeavons

Not that many. It was Boyden, John, and I think—

Vogt

Eight.

Jeavons

Eight? That many. Total?

Vogt

Well, total probably—but in the office over there, there were only four.

Kilberg

In the White House Counsel’s Office?

Tenpas

In the Old Executive Office Building.

Kilberg

He had probably four in the West Wing and he probably had ten or 12.

Jeavons

Yes, maybe around ten.

Kilberg

But we only had six and then there was, if you remember the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], there was a whole big—Frank Church, who died later, but they did this whole investigation and looking at the CIA and a commission. So there was this whole other group that came over as detail from other places to work on that. But they did nothing but the CIA, so the regular work of the Counsel’s Office was six people.

At any rate, I had basically done a variety of public policy things. I had been at the Aspen Institute, I had been at the Roosevelt Center, but more than that I think the President just thought my people skills were suited for it.

Tenpas

Oh, okay.

Kilberg

I like people. I knew everybody. But that’s an interesting side story. I’ll tell you very quickly and then lunch is out there. The President-elect called me in to talk about the Office of Public Liaison. He said, Do you want to do the Office of Public Liaison? and I had not focused on that, maybe for some of the same reasons. And he went through all his reasoning about how he wanted to restructure it and how he thought my skills and everybody that I knew, not only on both sides of the aisle, but in all the different groups in the country and also the fact that I knew his family and I knew all his personal friends very well for a long time, he felt that all fit.

But then I said, You know, I have five kids. Andrew was born on Thanksgiving Day 1987, and I said, How am I going to do this? He said—remember, he was in his 60s, right? And this is a long time ago, so men were not quite as sensitive as they are now. He was in his 60s and he said to me, We’re going to make this work. I said, How are we going to make this work? He said, Okay, let’s go down. Number one, you’re not going to work on weekends. I said, I’m not? Remember there are no cell phones then. We had these big clunky things. We didn’t have—

Jeavons

Remember the bricks—

Kilberg

The bricks. And we had—

Jeavons

We had the phones in our offices with the red hold button.

Kilberg

Yes, and we had the basics of fax machines but really just the basics. So he said, You’re not going to work on weekends. And I said okay. And literally over four years, I maybe had to come in three weekends. One of them being the budget act.

And he said, You won’t have to travel with me, which made my staff love me because they got to go to all these great places and I’d go to Peoria. I said, Well, I’ll travel but only if I can come back the same day. He said, Okay, you don’t have to do any overnight traveling. You don’t have to go to Europe, you don’t have to do any of that. And that’s what half the people who become head of Public Liaison want to do. They want to travel and be on Air Force One all the time. Again, I maybe had to go on three overnight trips in four years.

He said, The way I’m structuring this, the senior staff is limited to assistants to the President, so Demarest will be doing that, you won’t have to do that. Then he said, Everybody will know that you’re close to me so nobody’s going to question you are part of the team. They’re going to know you’re part of the team. But you’re not going to be part of the inner circle. And I said, You’re right. And he said, You’re not going to be part of the inner circle because you are going to go home at seven o’clock at night, and the guys are all going to sit around and be drinking beer and watching the news ’til nine, ten o’clock at night and bullshitting. And you’re going to be home with your family.

And he said, So that’s the trade-off. You’re not going to be part of the inner circle. I know that. You know that. But we can make this work, and you can do the job perfectly well and OPL can function perfectly well. Because we are close, everybody will know that you have my ear. So it’ll work.

That is very sensitive for somebody of that age.

Tenpas

How did you manage with five children?

Kilberg

I don’t know.

Tenpas

You must have had a nanny or something.

Kilberg

I had a full-time nanny. I had two teenagers who came over after school and I had somebody who came and cleaned my house. But I could afford that. I had a husband who was doing extraordinarily well. I don’t know how people do it who don’t have that kind of help. Because it’s a burnout. But it was, interestingly enough, less of a burnout than a lot of the other White Houses. You had other OPL people, from Clinton and Bush 43, who tell you it was just brutal. Somehow George Bush, maybe it was an earlier time or whatever and a less contentious world in the sense of people in the United States just being angry and wanting to get your attention all the time, but we did make it work.

Tenpas

So the comment about the inner circle didn’t bother you?

Kilberg

No, I knew that myself. It was interesting that he said it because I was worried about not being to be part of the inner circle, and I wasn’t part of it. There is no doubt about it. I was not part of the inner circle. Dave was. Well, Dave was somewhat. A lot of people didn’t want to include Dave for other reasons. I don’t know if he was not a good ol’ boy or whatever but he [President Bush] was absolutely right. He said, There is no way. You have to make a choice. You can’t do everything. So you can do your job, you can do it well. I can make it so that this can work for you. I want you to do it. I want you here with me. But you’re not going to be part of the inner circle. And he was absolutely right.

Riley

Were there any women in the inner circle?

Vogt

I suppose Marianne [McGettigan]—

Kilberg

Well, not really.

Jeavons

Ede Holiday.

Kilberg

Ede Holiday was—

Jeavons

Kind of, not really.

Kilberg

Kind of, a little bit. Maybe Ede was more—

Vogt

She was at State.

Kilberg

She was at State.

Tenpas

Oh, that’s right.

Kilberg

She didn’t come over until the end with—

Jeavons

[James] Baker.

Kilberg

With Baker in August. She was at State.

Riley

Really?

Jeavons

I don’t think there were any women.

Kilberg

There really weren’t. Well, Ede Holiday, but her power came more from her relationship with Nick Brady. There really—were there?

Vogt

Not really.

Jeavons

I don’t think so.

Kilberg

No. Kathy Super wasn’t—

Jeavons

I’m trying to think of other Assistants to the President who were women.

Tenpas

What about the Intergovernmental Affairs woman? Wasn’t there a woman who ran—

Kilberg

Deb [Debra Rae Anderson]. She was the same level as I was. No, she was not part of the inner circle. And she eventually—

Tenpas

What about Sherrie Rollins when she came in at the end? As Assistant to the President?

Kilberg

She only lasted a month and a half.

Tenpas

Oh, did she? Because her name is published in the White House staff manual as Assistant to the President.

Vogt

That was when Ed Rollins joined [Ross] Perot’s campaign.

Kilberg

She came in when the President fired Sununu. [Samuel] Skinner came in. Skinner fired Deb in Intergovernmental. I went over to head Intergovernmental, he then demoted Demarest and made Sherrie Director of Communications, Assistant to the President and made Dave head of speechwriters, essentially forcing out Tony Snow, who had nothing to do—

Tenpas

Who took Public Liaison?

Kilberg

CeCe [Cecile B.] Kremer, who was a friend of Sherrie’s and worked for Dan Quayle. Because there was an Office of Public Liaison for the Vice President as well. And Sherrie lasted maybe not even a month, when Ed announced he was going to run Ross Perot’s campaign and that was the end of that. Sherrie called me up and said, I have to leave. This is ridiculous. What the hell is my husband doing? I said, Don’t ask me.

Tenpas

They eventually got divorced. I remember seeing that in the paper.

Kilberg

Yes. They got divorced and she married David Westin.

Jeavons

Who was also in the Bush White House?

Kilberg

No, he was head of ABC [American Broadcasting Corporation] when she married him. I don’t know where she met him. But at any rate, she didn’t last very long and so David then—

Tenpas

Because I thought that was strange how all of a sudden in the fourth year they promote this to the assistant to the President level and bring in this woman—

Kilberg

No, no. They didn’t promote this assistant to the President. She was Assistant to the President for Communications.

Tenpas

I’ll send it to you, because in the White House, it’s called the U.S. Government Staff Manual, published and it says, Public Liaison too. Director of Public Liaison.

Kilberg

No, she wasn’t—

Tenpas

And the other woman was Deputy. The woman CeCe was Deputy. I’ll show it to you.

Vogt

CeCe Kremer was Deputy.

Kilberg

Yes, and was Director of the Office of Public Liaison.

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

Yes. That’s just wrong. She was over everything because she had CeCe for Public Liaison, she had me for Intergovernmental Affairs, she had whoever was doing Public Affairs, and Dave Demarest was taken out—they didn’t give David the ultimate indignity of making him work for Sherrie, they took speechwriting out of—

Tenpas

Oh, so he could—his portfolio was just minimized so much.

Kilberg

They made him head of speechwriting and then I think they did the strange thing of taking speechwriting out of the Office of Communications because it would just be too insulting to him.

But that meant Tony Snow, who had been the head of speechwriting, had nothing to do. He literally sat there in his office and I don’t know what—he said he did a lot of crossword puzzles. But it was very important he stayed because his wife was pregnant. And she was pregnant with their first child and for health insurance they needed an income because—it was awful. Sam Skinner—

Jeavons

Yes, he brought in that business consultant to—

Kilberg

Oh, that crazy guy who spent a month going around—his named started with a C and he just spent the month going around and he didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Jeavons

What a waste.

Kilberg

He had absolutely no idea that a White House doesn’t operate like a corporation. And it was idiotic.

Tenpas

So this was the fallout of it, right? Bringing in Sherrie, changing everything around?

Kilberg

Changing everything around and then they did things in Domestic Policy, too, that I don’t even remember and then you couldn’t get a decision.

Vogt

What was that, March ’92? When was that?

Kilberg

Yes, it was. They moved me March 1, 1992, I went over to Intergovernmental Affairs. But he came in November. He came right after Thanksgiving and they did this two-month review and you’d spend meetings with—the whole place fell apart at that point because you could never get a decision. I remember there was some major—what would have been the major initiative in January or so? Was it health care? Some major initiative, and we’d spend hours in the Roosevelt Room in these meetings about how we were going to roll things out and we’d leave the meeting and all look at each other and say, We’re not doing anything.

Because sure enough, two hours later Sam would call everyone back and say, No, I don’t think we’re going to do that. We’re going to do this.

Jeavons

It could have been health care.

Kilberg

I think it was.

Jeavons

Not that this matters, but about when you went over to Intergovernmental, I left to take a private sector job that didn’t work out, so then I went to Energy but we did health care—

Kilberg

It was health care.

Vogt

You’re right.

Jeavons

And the whole pooling of insurance.

Kilberg

Yes.

Jeavons

There were some really bright ideas coming out of that—

Kilberg

But he could not make a decision on anything. From who was going to be on the White House mess staff to what decision to make on health care to how you would roll it out to what you would do. I went over once with I think it was Ede Holiday. I went over to the State Department at one point in the early spring with somebody and met with Jim Baker, and we said, You have to come over to the White House.

And he said to me, I told the President not to put Sam Skinner in there. He put Sam Skinner in there. Sam Skinner can’t organize his way out of a paper bag, and I’m not coming over to bail you all out. I have important things to do as Secretary of State. And I’m going to stay here and that’s where I can be the most help to the President.

We went back to him in June. By that point, the President was getting really upset, too. And he finally agreed to come in July, but he didn’t come ’til August. He didn’t appear at the convention in Houston. I remember standing in the Houstonian and it was already Sunday afternoon, the convention starts Monday morning, and Pat Buchanan was running amok and Jim walks in with his entourage and I said, I’m glad you could make it.

It was just awful. And that was nothing compared to what Margaret Tutwiler did. She just reamed him out upside down and downside up. But by that point it was a lost cause.

Riley

You mean Margaret was—

Kilberg

Furious.

Riley

Because he wouldn’t move?

Kilberg

Because he didn’t appear at the convention. Jim didn’t come ’til August. His first official day as Chief of Staff was, I think, when he appeared at the convention.

She’d already come over to the White House and she was livid.

Tenpas

Who on the White House staff encouraged him to pick Sam Skinner? I understand why Sununu had to leave but you would—

Jeavons

Yes, where did that come from?

Kilberg

Well, my theory is that—

Jeavons

Because he came from Chicago?

Kilberg

Yes. And he was a lawyer.

Tenpas

He’d been Transportation Secretary, right?

Kilberg

He’d been Transportation Secretary. And he knew a lot. He’d been very involved in Chicago in mass transit and all these things as a citizen and he had headed up all these groups.

Vogt

I’m sorry, was it George W’s relationship?

Kilberg

Maybe, I don’t know. But it may have been George W, I don’t know. George W was the one who carried the word to Sununu that Sununu had to go. I have no idea if George W wanted Skinner or not. But I would notice that two or three times a week from the start of the White House, Skinner would be over at the White House Mess having lunch. No other Cabinet member did that.

You had White House Mess privileges if you were in the Cabinet, but most people were kind of busy. But he’d come over.

Riley

You have to eat.

Kilberg

Okay, I’m exaggerating. You have to eat. I’m exaggerating, maybe once a week. Maybe twice a week sometimes. Maybe none another week. He’d come over and he’d eat and then he’d wander around the West Wing and talk to people and stop by the President, the President had an open-door policy, sit down and talk with him.

He very consciously and assiduously courted himself to be Chief of Staff. And I think that’s what he always wanted. I have no idea what he did when it was clear Sununu was leaving, but I think he just did a full-court campaign himself with the President. And the President would invite him up to the residence a lot and spend a lot of time with him. The President liked him.

That was a terrible decision.

Riley

He did the Exxon Valdez thing that was a big success so there was—he had a favorable buzz as the master of disaster.

Kilberg

Yes. He did.

Riley

But that’s a public perception—

Vogt

Right out of the box.

Riley

That doesn’t track at all with what’s going on inside.

Kilberg

No. Personally—

Riley

Do you want to break now or—

Kilberg

I’m fine. We want to break? I think lunch is out there.

Riley

Are you guys—

Kilberg

You’re okay? Cam [Cameron] Findlay was Skinner’s chief of staff and you might want to ask him because he was also with him in Transportation, but I think Cam was, by the end of Skinner’s tenure, very apologetic to everybody. It was awful.

Riley

Well, maybe I can get this one more thing out and then we can break for lunch. How was your working relationship with Sununu?

Kilberg

Great.

Riley

Yes?

Vogt

All of us had—

Kilberg

We always had an open door. He was always supportive of us.

Vogt

Very smart.

Kilberg

Very smart. Very analytical. Now he did some amazing things. There were things where we had to clean up messes, but he knew he did them. One example was the AMA [American Medical Association]. They came in to talk about health care in his office. We sat there with the head of AMA and the senior Washington person but also the big chairman and all that, and Sununu proceeded to scream at them. Dick Darman was in there and even Dick was flushed. Sununu just proceeded to yell at them because they had disagreed with us in one of our proposals and then had the temerity to go and tell the media that they disagreed with us. He called them all sorts of names and mother this and that, and it was just like that.

Darman did the best he could to calm everybody down, not that Darman was normally a shy wallflower but he—and they just stormed out and went to the microphones outside the West Lobby and said, We’ve just been insulted by the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States. And that took a lot of time to redo but he called me after and said, I really stepped in it, didn’t I? I said, Oh, I think so.

I remember what I wanted to tell you about. That was the other thing we did. We continued through the entire Bush Presidency with an open-mike policy at the White House. Anybody who met with the President could walk out the West Wing front lobby, go to the microphones, which were set up right there on the little driveway, and say whatever the hell they wanted.

And I once asked the President, Why are we doing this? Because groups are going out there and they’re trashing us. They’re disagreeing with us. They never said the President was not nice because he always was but, We disagree with him on this, we disagree with him on that. We had a whole group of civil-rights leaders come out and disagree on the extension of the Civil Rights Act. And he looked at me and, honest to Pete, he said to me, That is not my microphone and this is not my house. That is the people’s microphone and the people’s house and the people have a right to freedom of expression.

Ahh! But he really believed that, so the AMA went out there and just trashed away. And I remember now, the other thing I wanted to say, which is again off point but is important, and that is, when he restructured the Office of Public Liaison, one of the things he did not want us to do, and he made it clear as a bell to me, was he did not want us to put pressure on his friends in the Congress.

He came from the Congress, he was a creature of the Congress, and he did not feel it was appropriate—this was initially—to put pressure on them from their constituents, because that was not nice. And he did not appreciate it when he was in Congress.

And one day, and it’s in some—

Tenpas

Yes, it’s in here. Your speech.

Kilberg

The Sonny [Gillespie V.] Montgomery thing. I don’t know if you guys remember this.

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

Do you remember this?

Jeavons

Kind of.

Kilberg

I was walking down the corridor by the Oval Office and the President stopped me. He was surrounded by his agents. He stopped me and said, Come here, and it was not a friendly come here. And he said, Did you have people in Sonny Montgomery’s district call him? I don’t know what it was. I don’t know if it was on John—I don’t know what it was. Could it have been John Tower?

Tenpas

That would have been very early on? Before he got—

Kilberg

No, that wouldn’t be Sonny Montgomery, that was the House. The House didn’t vote on that.

Tenpas

That’s right.

Kilberg

I don’t remember what the topic was. And I said, Yes, I did. But within the law. We just encouraged them to make their views known. He said, Don’t you ever do that again. I said, But, sir, we need his vote on this bill. He said, He is my friend. He is my colleague. I don’t want him calling up and telling me that I’m trying to put pressure on him from groups. That is not right. You will never do that again. Do you understand?

So I then went to the U.S. Chamber, they wanted me to make a speech to their interest groups, and I said, The President’s policy is that we will not— Everybody, all the trade association heads, starting with Wayne Valis, just went ape.

Riley

What are you talking about?

Kilberg

They said, What are you talking about? How can you possibly run an administration?

By the end of the first year, I think the President began to understand that you had to strongly encourage groups to make their views known. But his initial reaction was, Don’t you dare do that. That is not right. Don’t you get grassroots galvanized against my friends. They will understand what’s right and I can go up there and talk to them. And they’re my colleagues and my peers and don’t you do that.

And Wayne Valis, who at that point was head of what? Well, he’d been head of Business Liaison for President Reagan.

Vogt

His own company.

Kilberg

And then he had his own company. And we had a meeting in the Vice President’s office in 180. In the Old Executive Office Building, when the President was still Vice President, it was during the transition. We invited in the business groups. Did you bring those groups in?

Vogt

I can’t remember.

Kilberg

And the President said the same thing. Wayne Valis went into this long discussion about how you galvanize grassroots to support your propositions and to make sure that people in Congress go along with you. And the President said, No, Wayne. We’re not doing that anymore. He went, What? We are not behaving that way and we are not going up to the Hill and attacking my friends. That’s not the way. That’s not civil—that’s not the civility I am going to have.

Tenpas

I think that’s astonishing in light of the fact that his whole life was politics. He grew up in a political family. He was in the House. He was the Vice President. But he’s not recognizing the political reality of what you need to do to get your stuff done.

Kilberg

He did eventually. After about the first year and a half, but the first year he was really adamant about it.

Riley

To my untrained ear hearing this, one way of interpreting it is that there is a set of people on Capitol Hill, my friends, and maybe that’s more generic in the way he’s using it, but that there’s a group of his inner circle, as it were, that he doesn’t want you working. That he’ll do it himself. Is that possibly what he was saying? That Sonny Montgomery is one of eight or 20 people—

Kilberg

No, it was more than that. He said, I can talk to Sonny. What he was saying, I think, and this is not what he said in quotes, what I think he was saying is that Sonny Montgomery is my friend, I can talk with Sonny Montgomery, I can reason with Sonny Montgomery, I can reach an agreement. But if I can’t do that, I’ll be damned if you’re going to make his life uncomfortable in his district because that’s not right.

And in response to your question, he grew up in a very patrician, very WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant], very genteel family, and you didn’t do things like that.

Tenpas

Yes, it’s civility—

Kilberg

It is very deep inside of him and it was very tied to his father and his mother but particularly his mother, Dorothy. You just don’t behave that way and it’s not right. You remain reserved, you remain appropriate, and you remain polite. That often would come out when there were situations in which you should show emotion, but he held himself back and tried not to.

We went down to a shipyard to meet with not only the families who had been lost in the USS Cole—was it the Cole?

Riley

The Cole was under Clinton.

Tenpas

That was Clinton.

Kilberg

No, it was some other disaster and about 13 or 14 people had been killed on a ship and we went down—and we can look up what ship it was, we went down and he met with the families, which was very emotional and then he addressed all the sailors. It was a big, actually it was enclosed, I think, almost like a hangar. There must have been thousands of people there. And he started talking about the loss and what it meant to him. I knew he was about to cry, but when he was about to cry what he would do instead is he would bite his lip and he would get this silly grin on his face. It wasn’t really a grin but to people who didn’t know him it looked like a grin, and that was all over the news. And people said, He’s smiling at this serious occasion. He wasn’t. He was trying to hold back his tears, but his mother said to him, You don’t show emotion. You don’t show emotion and you don’t brag about yourself. And it was just ingrained in him.

Jeavons

And you’re polite and you’re a gentleman.

Kilberg

You’re polite and you’re a gentleman. They don’t make people that way anymore. They don’t make President and Mrs. Bush anymore. And his son is not like either parent in that regard.

Jeavons

I’ll tell you another anecdote from the Vice Presidential days, which actually carried over, and this is something that is just ingrained in him. When I worked in Boyden’s office, one of our roles, I’m not quite sure why the Counsel’s Office was responsible for this, but we received all the gifts and then had to catalogue them. And one of my jobs was to write his thank-you notes. The Vice President’s thank-you notes, which sounds simple, but this man wrote thank-you notes to everybody. Some would just be the generic and they’d get the autopen, but if it was going to a friend—and he had thousands of friends—or somebody important, I had to come up with something somewhat meaningful and personal to say.

So I’d talk with Mary Ann France, who was Boyden’s secretary and had been with Vice President Bush on his Congressional staff years ago—a fascinating woman. She’s given me some tidbits so I could add these things in. It was a huge deal when I’d get one back that wasn’t changed because he would edit them. He would take the time to edit the letters and then send them back, and if it was one that was going to a friend that just got his signature, I thought, My God, that’s great, I captured the voice of George Bush, but that was a huge deal.

I remember there was a great Doonesbury cartoon after he won the election, and Garry Trudeau wasn’t exactly a big Bush 41 fan, but it was one of the color ones on Sunday and it was all about, I got mine, did you get yours? Your personal thank-you note from President-elect George Bush. [Laughter] But it just speaks to his whole—of course you write a personal thank-you note to everybody.

Kilberg

And you write it by hand.

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

I have a ton, tons of people—Jean Becker did a book on the notes.

I’ll tell you a funny story, though, when he was the ambassador to the UN [United Nations]—back in the old days, the Nixon days, you actually had secretaries, so as a White House Fellow I had a secretary and her name was Tara O’Donahue, and she was this great Irish gal from the Bronx. She was really anxious to go back to New York, so he took her with him when he went to the UN. Tara got things confused at times, and he dictated two letters. One was a very formal letter to the King of Saudi Arabia and the other one was this letter to a friend of his from Stockholm and it was kind of racy.

Well, Tara got them mixed up. She sent the text of the one with the racy content to the King of Saudi Arabia. And he called me up and said, I have to fire her. And he told me this story and I just laughed and laughed.

Tenpas

Did he fire her?

Kilberg

I don’t think so, no. I think he told her to take a few days off and come back. And he never did tell me what was in the letter, but it was quite racy. Another kind of racy story was the U.S. Chamber used to have these annual dinners and at one dinner, Jeff and I think you went, too, there was George Burns, you remember?

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

And George Burns then was 93 or 94 years old and he did a two-hour monologue, so help me God, the last hour of which he was sitting down in a big chair and I was so taken with that the next morning I went to the President and said, Jeff and I spent the evening listening to George Burns. He’s wonderful but he’s really old. Maybe you want to have him over here before he’s no longer here. He said, That’s a great idea. Go find George Burns.

It wasn’t hard to find his hotel but then to convince George Burns that the President of the United States was worth delaying his flight for was really something else. [Laughter] He wasn’t flying private, he was flying commercial and his flight was going out at 2 p.m. from Dulles, damn it, and when you get that age, he needed two hours to get dressed, he needed two hours to get to the airport. That was before security, so you didn’t really need two hours. So we got the White House Travel Office to change the time of his flight and all that, and I sent a car to take him over and I went with him. We sat in the West Wing lobby and he told stories and then it was time to take him in to the President.

So I took him in. And I was determined I was going to stay there. I wanted to hear this. I was in the Oval Office and they’re talking small talk for a while and the President really didn’t know—maybe met him once, and then they both looked at me and said, Would you leave please? And I said, Why, are you going to tell dirty stories? And George Burns said yes. [Laughter]

And he pulled out a cigar and I don’t know if anybody’s ever lit cigars in the Oval Office, but he lit a cigar and I raced around, I left the office door that goes into the corridor and I went around into the secretaries’ bay, where Patty Presock was and Will Farish—it was no longer Tim McBride, it was Will Farish—and there’s a little peephole that you could look through, but you couldn’t hear very well. And the President turned off the intercom from his office to Will’s office, so Will and I started looking through the peephole to see them, and then we put our ears to the door trying to hear because there were these raucous laughs.

Oh, and then Sununu came over and the three of them were just telling what we were sure were terribly dirty jokes and, so help me God, for some reason the President had the instinct that we were trying to listen at the door. He went over and swung open the door and Will and I fell. [Laughter] It was just a sketch. I looked at him and said, Are you going to tell us what the jokes are? And he said, Not on your life. But he just had this wonderful—so he could be irreverent but at the same time he had his mother in him. It was really funny.

Riley

That’s fabulous.

Kilberg

It was. And George Burns lived to, I think, 100. He lived another six years or something after that.

Riley

Well, why don’t we take a break?

All

Okay.

[BREAK]
Riley

All right, we’re back after lunch. So why don’t you go ahead.

Kilberg

On this paper that goes from January 20, 1989, to I guess mid-February or so, the Office of Public Liaison was responsible for 615 or 616, I may have counted wrong, events with the President.

Those ranged from Oval Office photo-ops, which he loved, by the way. It was part of his concept of just having a photo-op with the head of the Muscular Dystrophy Association or somebody who’d won X or Y or won a fellowship or a scholarship, through serious substantive meetings in the Roosevelt Room, bill-signing ceremonies on the South Lawn, events in the Rose Garden, briefings in the Old Executive Office Building, Room 450, with the President.

And those were with the President. That did not include the literally hundreds of meetings we held without the President in our policy briefings.

Vogt

These are just Presidential—

Kilberg

These are just Presidential. We held at least twice as many without the President. So we probably held 1,200-something without him, and that is really an extraordinary workload with a staff that never got above 13.

Riley

Wow.

Kilberg

As I think we told you in there, we relied heavily on interns. Susan Dennison, our office manager, spent at least two-thirds of her time finding the best and brightest people to work for us. And Kathy, one of our greatest sources was Kathy from Dartmouth because at Dartmouth, as you know, you have to take a semester off, so we got wonderful kids who would then take semesters off during the school year. We got the best and the brightest, and within a month they were writing Presidential briefings and taking people into the Oval Office, which is unheard of. It wouldn’t happen today. But we had to rely on them because otherwise we would just fall apart.

We had extraordinary people who have gone on to extraordinary careers. We also had Erik Prince, who headed Blackwater, and some other—remember him?

Jeavons

No.

Kilberg

Oh, blonde-haired guy. Doug Wead brought him in.

Vogt

You’re kidding me. That was him?

Kilberg

That was Erik Prince.

Jeavons

Oh, my God.

Vogt

I’ve never connected the dots.

Kilberg

He called me to remind me that he had been my intern. I went, Wow. Thank you very much.

Jeavons

You didn’t need that reminder.

Kilberg

No. But I also wanted to tell just one or two funny stories and then I think I would like Jeff to talk about NAFTA and fast-track, and I’d like Kathy to talk about the Hanukah ceremonies, which actually Sarah [DeCamp Vogt] started and then Kathy took over.

But one other funny story was after having done 400 and something events, we were all just burned out and it came to be Thanksgiving turkey time. I think this was 1991. I decided we would have a little fun with the briefing memo and I will try to find it for you. Because in the briefing memo we say, The President goes out— Oh, and there was a big controversy because we were accused of tranquilizing the turkeys, which evidently was true and had started under Reagan because turkeys can be very skittish. So if you tranquilize them—you don’t really tranquilize them, you just calm them down—

Riley

Half a Valium.

Kilberg

Right. That year I think we were banned from doing it or we were talking about not doing it, but I put in the briefing memo that the turkeys had not been calmed down. So, number one, watch your fingers. Then I told them that the briefing was as such: the President comes out, greets the assembled guests, thanks the turkey producers, looks at the turkey, who proceeds to squawk, raise his arms, race down the South Lawn, and chase Ellie [LeBlond] and Andrew [Kilberg]. Now Ellie was his granddaughter who was about four years old, and Andrew was my youngest son who was about two. And I said, then President follows turkey and grandkids, chases on the South Lawn, is never seen again.

Sununu sent that in. I came in to brief the President to bring him out to the Rose Garden. He didn’t say a thing. He just looked at me and said, Interesting briefing memo. Finished the event, came back, and he said, You still have a job, you’re not fired. It’s not very funny in translation, but it was really very funny the day of.

But we got stuck doing things like the Thanksgiving turkey. In 1992 or 1991, we finally got fax machines that could—our initial fax machines could only send out 10 three-page documents at a time. That’s how we had to communicate. We had to send out letters, actually mail things, or call people on the phone. About 1991, I think it was, we got machines that could pre-input what, 100 numbers?

Vogt

Preset, yes.

Kilberg

Preset 100 numbers. Or maybe 300. But there were two of them and they came into the White House and they were the most valued possession. They were under the control of Rose Zamaria, who had been George Bush’s assistant from the time he was in the Congress, and she was Assistant to the President or Deputy Assistant to the President for Administration.

Maybe she was the senior-most woman on the White House staff. I think she was. She was the senior-most person on the White House staff. She wasn’t really part of the inner circle but part of the whole group. And everybody had to fight all the different offices for access to the machines. One day we were sending out something that was really important, and we were sending it out together with the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. I might have even been there by that point, Intergovernmental Affairs, I’m not sure. But Mark Frantz, who’s a friend of both of ours, who worked for Intergovernmental Affairs and is much more computer savvy than we were, figured out that not only could we send out 100 preset numbers at a time or 200 on these two things, but you also could preprogram 30 numbers into your computer. Remember that? You don’t?

Vogt

No.

Jeavons

I don’t remember that.

Kilberg

He figured out a way to do that at least in the IGA [Intergovernmental Affairs] computers, so there was some big initiative and we did that. We took over 30 or 40 computers and the two big fax machines, and we crashed the entire White House communications system. [Laughter]

And Rose Zamaria banned us. For two weeks we had no access to the fax machines. She didn’t care that we had to do the President’s business. We were punished and banned, so it just shows you how far technology has gone. You would laugh at that these days.

Vogt

Those were the big floppy discs. Those were 5-1/4-inch floppies.

Jeavons

Right. The modems looked like toasters.

Vogt

I don’t even remember e-mail at that time.

Kilberg

No, we only had internal e-mail back then in 1991. And none of us would use it because we were convinced nobody was going to read it and if somebody did read it, everybody was going to read it. Dave Demarest started calling meetings by e-mailing people and nobody would show up. He’d yell at you. And I said, What are you talking about? He said, I’m sitting in this meeting now. I said, What meeting? He said, Don’t you read your e-mails? And we all said, No. We don’t read our e-mails.

But if you think back, it was such a different world. I held a dinner for Tina Tchen, who’s the new head of the Office of Public Liaison for Obama, they call it the Office of Public Engagement, and that is very indicative. We held a dinner of all the former heads of Public Liaison, all of whom were female, because—

Jeavons

Anne Wexler?

Kilberg

Yes. She died. This was April and she died in August. They had a memorial service for her in October. It filled the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center. This was in April and there were 13 of us and all were female because Bill Baroody, who had done it under Ford, had died. And we spent the evening just hysterically laughing and regaling ourselves, because we were struck, all of us, by how what we all did, starting with [Jimmy] Carter and running through Bush 43, was very consistent. She didn’t even have fax machines then, she would send messengers with invitations or she would mail things and call people. Then you got into having faxes. Then you got into having e-mail.

But now when you get to Obama, they changed the name of the office to the Office of Public Engagement, and that is indicative of how they approach communications with citizenry. They use all the social media tools, and it’s a very different approach to interest groups’ politics. I’m not sure it’s a good approach either. I just did a panel on that at the Republican Governors Association with Tim Pawlenty and Linda Lingle, because how you use social media in governing is very interesting—political scientists would be fascinated with it.

But just think how George Bush would have done if there had been social media. He might have done much better. Social media is the epitome of one-on-one and rather than the static of standing up in front of 10,000 people, he might have done much better. But it was just an interesting comment.

Another funny story was when Jeff and I went up with the President to the Economic Club of New York. Remember that we flew up?

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

And it was a terrible night and we couldn’t land. Normally you land either in New Jersey or at La Guardia, and they put everybody in two or three helicopters and you go to Central Park. They couldn’t do that that night because it was too foggy and too rainy. So we landed in New Jersey. May have been Newark, and we had to go through the tunnels and we just caused total chaos, the entire city came to a halt.

Vogt

And he was very upset.

Jeavons

Wow, there are 100,000 votes lost.

Kilberg

He was very upset. Yes. And on top of that, they had to check out one of the tunnels because they got a threat. They thought there was a bomb in the tunnel, so they closed the tunnels. When we got to the event, he was very upset. He didn’t do particularly well at the event and afterward he said to us, I don’t want to come here again. Every time I come here I lose 500,000 votes. I inconvenience the people. I have no business doing that.

It was this concept of, Who am I to stop—every time I come to this city, even in nice weather, I just cause chaos. He said, Who am I to cause problems and interfere with these people’s lives?

It was a very interesting concept and phenomenon that you just—Who am I? I’m just the President. You shouldn’t do those kinds of things.

Vogt

Even to the point where if he was two minutes late for a meeting, it was quite a difference from his successor, right? I remember he was with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and we were waiting to go to the Oval and he was like four minutes late.

Ah, I’m so sorry. Mr. Apologetic.

Kilberg

Yes. He felt very strongly about it.

I want to talk about the difference between his approach to the use of interest groups in domestic policy versus foreign policy.

Riley

Good.

Kilberg

And the whole concept of what happened with the Jewish community and the Arab community. And we can probably bring Hanukah into that, too. Just suffice to say right here, every year a very big thing is made of Christmas in the White House and that’s great and they have all the Christmas parties. I said to him one day, You know, there’s never been a Hanukah party in the White House. Why don’t we do that?

He said yes immediately. So we instituted the first-ever Hanukah celebration in the White House and we did them all four years and they’ve been done ever since. I was a little upset that I saw something the other day in which the Obamas said they were going to have the first real Hanukah celebration. I went, Wait a minute.

Vogt

Yes, I saw that, too.

Kilberg

That’s just not true. We were the ones who started that.

Riley

You’ve got a story behind that, right? You were discussing something before we came in about that?

Kilberg

Oh, the story behind that—

Jeavons

Well, you start. Because I came in late to that process.

Kilberg

Okay, the story. This was actually under Sarah DeCamp, who later became Sarah DeCamp Vogt, married Jeff, so we decided we would have a White House ceremony. Some years before that the Hasidic Jews, the Lubavitchers, those are not Hasidic, they’re different sects, but Lubavitch, who are also very formal and have the beards and very strict social rules, had erected a menorah outside on the Ellipse. No, we didn’t invite them until the second year, right? The first year we had four Hanukah celebrations and we did each one in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building, we didn’t do it in the state floor rooms because we were so decorated for Christmas we didn’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable. Bush 43 decided people shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, and he switched them all over to the White House. I don’t know if Clinton had done that before him, but Bush 43 switched them all over to the actual state floor of the White House and people seemed to be fine with it.

Anyway, we started them at the OEOB and the first time we had a group of school children from the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School to sing Hanukah songs. We had the President and the Vice President and they were going to—or was that your event?

Jeavons

I think that was—

Kilberg

That was the second one?

Jeavons

Well, I think I did it. The third—when did Sarah leave the White House?

Vogt

Two years in.

Jeavons

I’m trying to remember if I did one or two Hanukah ceremonies. I think I might just have done it in ’91, but that was the most elaborate.

Kilberg

I’ll let her tell you about that one. But one of the first ones we did, we invited the heads of the—oh, what’s it called?

Jeavons

It’s like the Council of 50 or something, wasn’t it?

Kilberg

Yes, and it’s the—can you look it up, Kathy, in here?

Jeavons

The heads of the 50 major American Jewish organizations.

Kilberg

Yes, but they have their own name. We invited them. We invited all the White House staff who we could identify were Jewish and their children. We lit the menorah with the President. We sang songs with the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, and we also invited the Lubavitchers because they had the menorah on the Ellipse.

And Mrs. Bush and I made a terrible mistake. We welcomed them and tried to shake hands, and they will not shake hands with any woman above age 12 because you could be in puberty and therefore be unclean. They don’t mean that in a bad way but just certain months you’re unclean. She was very taken aback, but there was nothing really funny about any of that. It was very warm and the first time that had ever happened. Then Kathy’s was really funny because the President and the Vice President were playing against these kids for Hanukah gelt.

Jeavons

It was funny on so many levels.

Kilberg

Go ahead, tell the story.

Jeavons

It was this three-stage event in Room 450, which started with leaders of eight of the different Hasidic sects, with their traditional hats and the beards, each a little different depending on the sect, coming in and waiting in the Green Room and they all wanted to shake the President’s hand. It was very much a contest to see who could be first and that sort of thing.

And they were presenting a menorah to the President. That was the first part of the event. It’s a room with a stage and I don’t know how many people it seats, a couple hundred, and the folks invited were White House staff and family. So the first part is all of these groups, these leaders, coming in and jockeying for position to actually hand the President the menorah. I have this all on tape. Seriously, I think you guys gave the tape to me as a gift, just to remember how crazy that day was.

So that happened fairly successfully and then there was a photograph and a lot more jockeying for position to see who could be closest to the President and then they got shuffled off and we had kids sing. It must have been from the Charles E. Smith Day School.

Kilberg

I think it was from a different one then. We rotated around.

Jeavons

Maybe it was a different one. So they came and sang some songs and then Vice President Quayle and Mrs. Quayle came in, and it was a contest to play dreidel between President Bush and Vice President Quayle for gelt. And there is something just incongruous and very nice and touching, but somewhat funny, because you have these two WASPs sitting there playing dreidel—

Kilberg

Trying to read—

Jeavons

Enjoying it very much.

Kilberg

Trying to read the Hebrew letter.

Jeavons

Yes, not knowing anything really about it, just knowing that they are going to spin the thing and get some gold chocolate candy. After that, everyone was very happy. I think Vice President Quayle won, and he was very excited about that. Then we all went off to the Indian Treaty Room for a big reception. All the children, all the rabbis, leaders from the major American Jewish groups. And we made sure that the food was kosher, certified in a kosher bakery. But a big controversy came up because there were two big Christmas trees in that room that at the last minute we had to find some way to cover up. Because we were so concerned about them seeing that and being offended. And I don’t even remember what they did. We had to get White House Operations to come in and put up big screens. And it didn’t really work. Let me put it that way. It just didn’t really work.

But that was an interesting day.

And then there was concern among the eight Jewish Hasidic leaders afterward because they said they had been promised a chance for an individual opportunity to meet the President and say a few words to him on his way out of the event. When he walked out into this little Green Room and it didn’t work, they got very angry with me. That was an interesting experience.

Kilberg

But that was typical. When you do any of these events. How you balance, because you never have a unified interest area, you have lots of different groups, all of whom have somewhat different approaches, whether it’s business or religious or whatever. And each one is very insistent on a day in the sun. We can talk about, either now or later, how this relates to the foreign policy, how the Jewish community related to the President on the Mideast. And the insistence on the Republican Jewish Coalition that they were—was it called the Republican Jewish Coalition?

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

That they, as the Republican Jewish group, should control all access and that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—that’s what the big group—

Jeavons

That’s what it was.

Kilberg

And then the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, they all had to go through—and AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] wanted all of them to funnel through the Republican Jewish Coalition. Well, that just couldn’t happen. But then we’d have these negotiations about, Okay, then if you’re going to meet with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at ten o’clock, he needs to meet with us at nine o’clock first.

And the poor guy when we’d go through these and think about them, and Sununu and [Brent] Scowcroft would get very involved in this and we would finally say okay. And the President would agree, so he’d sit through the same damn thing twice just because you had to pay deference to these people who were the Republican Jewish organizations. That was quite interesting, too.

But the whole concept of engaging in aspects of foreign diplomacy through American Jewish organizations is a major topic. It was the topic of about an hour at the Hofstra conference because it was a very unusual way to run foreign policy. I can get back to that or we can talk about it now. Or I can tell you just one or two other funny stories and then we’re through with the stories.

Riley

Why don’t you do the stories?

Kilberg

Okay.

Riley

Katie, I don’t know whether, because you’re going to have to take off—

Tenpas

Just one question that relates to this idea. It seems like most of the conversation is focused on this notion of you reaching out to these interest groups and trying to galvanize their support. But isn’t there a whole other side of the coin that once you open the door to interest groups, they’re calling you as frequently, wanting things from you?

Jeavons

Oh, yes.

Kilberg

Yes.

Tenpas

So your job was—

Kilberg

Two edged.

Tenpas

Was there a separate staff that dealt with the other side of the coin? Or you had to deal with constantly—

Jeavons

No, it was all us. We had to deal with both.

Tenpas

And what would you say the ratio of it was? Where you were actually seeking their help versus them constantly calling and asking for this, that, this—

Vogt

Probably 50-50. I remember going out to lunches some days, coming back and there would be a stack of messages. Once you set the tone—which was very different from his predecessor—We want to hear from everybody and you proved it, boy, it just was like a flood.

Jeavons

It was like drinking from a fire hose. On many days, I think.

Tenpas

And, obviously, you couldn’t accommodate all their requests for White House tours.

Vogt

We were also tasked with responding to letters the President received from any and all of our constituent associations. So you get a letter from the president of NAM or from an environmental group or something. That would come to the person in OPL who handled that portfolio and you had to craft a unique response relative to the policy that was under consideration.

Kilberg

And you couldn’t just use formatted letters because these were major people.

Jeavons

Yes, they’d know.

Vogt

They were called blue sheets. Remember that?

Jeavons

Oh, God.

Vogt

Oh, God. And they would just pile up and pile up and—

Riley

What are blue sheets?

Vogt

Oh, just tracking the communications.

Kilberg

They were literally sheets. Again, this was the day of papers. They were blue sheets and you had to when you filled—you knew who they came from, who you had to return it to, and you had to sign off on it. Poor Susan Dennison, our office manager, spent half her life bugging our staff because they tended to go to the bottom of the pile because you were running around doing six events a day.

Tenpas

And you’re on the phone all the time, I would imagine, too.

Kilberg

But also, your question about we couldn’t accommodate all with tours. We tried very hard not only to funnel as many people as we possibly could into the White House normal tour system, but also into the special tours that only we could give—and other people on the White House staff in the West Wing and the Oval Office. Nobody on our staff ever went home early because as soon as the President left, we were piling people—there’s a system to it obviously, and you signed up to take them around to see the West Wing lobby and the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office and the Rose Garden and the Press Room and by the time you finish it takes 40 minutes. And you can only realistically take six or seven people at a time, so we got stuck with a huge number of those tours as well. Then, the briefings, as I said, if we did 616 events with the President in not even a full four years, we did at least double that in events.

Jeavons

That’s right.

Kilberg

Our policy was not to turn down any single group, unless they were really strange, that wanted to have a briefing. It wouldn’t be with the President and you couldn’t get Cabinet members all the time, but it would hopefully be with at least assistant secretary levels. But we did so many—from departments or agencies or from White House staff in the policy shops—we did so many of them that eventually we were doing them ourselves because nobody would come. None of the senior White House staff or the assistant secretaries to the departments and agencies would come anymore because we would have had them working for us full time.

Jeavons

But we would put all those together ourselves. Completely.

Kilberg

Completely ourselves.

Jeavons

Some group coming in for a three-day conference in Washington and it was—I don’t know, give an example—

Vogt

Usually, it was March-April.

Jeavons

National Association of Realtors or something. Say they are meeting with the President the next day, they come in and for two hours one of us emcees and we try to finagle some senior policy people to come in and brief them for two hours.

Kilberg

And if they didn’t, she’d talk for two hours.

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

Or you’d talk for two hours.

Vogt

But it was usually March-April when they’d have their spring conferences that would come in from the grassroots, and in the fall. I just remember those days were heavy days.

Kilberg

They were heavy days. And sometimes we’d have notice, for instance, on the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, because you had so many people who had really serious physical disabilities I was worried, and I was wrong. I said, It’s going to be very hard to bring all these people onto the South Lawn. Why don’t we just do something in the East Room or the Rose Garden, which is limited in numbers?

And the President and Boyden Gray felt so passionately about this issue that they said, No, the whole disabilities community is going to be here on that lawn, and they pointed to that lawn, and we had 3,800—was it 3,200 or 3,800? I think it was 3,800 people.

Jeavons

It was a lot.

Kilberg

On four days’ notice on that South Lawn with over 200 wheelchairs, all sorts of other assorted disabilities.

Vogt

We had ambulances.

Kilberg

Ambulances. People who are blind and you might say, Well, you just— That was a monumental task. We had to find them, contact them, clear them with all the security—the Secret Service was going to kill us—and then bring all of these people onto that lawn. Luckily, it was a beautiful, spectacular day. But, whoa, what an event! That is one of the things that got us crosswise with the religious right. A number of months before that the President had signed the hate crimes legislation. And in signing the hate crimes bill—it’s important because what date it was—well, the signing of Americans with Disabilities was July 26, 1990, the hate crimes bill was before that and—if you can find it, Jeff, in there. The President decided that since the hate crimes bill included hate crimes of sexual orientation, he was going to include people from the gay and lesbian community.

Vogt

April 23, 1990.

Kilberg

And there was a huge outcry from a fellow named Doug Wead in our office saying, He can’t do that and you’re just going to tick off the religious right and they’re never going to speak to us again. And Sununu said, Doug, you’re wrong, but we’re going to take it to the President.

Sununu and I went in to talk to the President and the President said, It would be hateful if I excluded them, wouldn’t it? That’s all we needed to hear. He said, That would be hateful. It’s the hate crimes bill and I’m not going to be hateful. It was very simple. And we left and Sununu conveyed that to Doug Wead, who I don’t think believed we ever actually went in to see the President, and he made a huge fuss about it in the religious right community and it caused a huge furor, uproar. But the President felt very strongly that that was the case.

There were two people we were very worried about at that time that I had called in to my office. We told them they could not attend the ceremony because they had been very disruptive in the past. But we called them in and the Washington Times reported that these were people we snuck into the ceremony. We didn’t sneak them into the ceremony. They came into my office to be told they weren’t going to the ceremony, and they were escorted out by the White House police.

Three or four months later, we had the signing of the ADA and we had 3,800 people, and the gay and lesbian groups asked to be included in that. We said, No, this doesn’t cover you. You do not have a disability, you don’t even want it to be called having a disability, why is this a disability? No, you’re not included.

And ACT UP [AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power] was determined to use that—if you remember them, they were a very activist gay and lesbian rights organization, they were determined to use the ceremony as a vehicle, and they were determined to get in somehow. And they did. Because with 3,800 people—somebody from the staff, Molly Osborne, I think, who was a very sweet debutante type from Florida, with this wonderful southern accent, said to one of the press two days later, What did you want me to do, stand there and ask everybody their sexual orientation as they walked in the gate? I don’t do it with the right accent but she just went, That’s ridiculous.

But with 3,800 people coming, some people are going to be gay. So some of the ACT UP people snuck in that way, but the other way they snuck in is they went to the White House physician, the President’s White House doctor, and he decided, without telling any of us, yes, they should be there. What was his name? Do you remember the guy?

Jeavons

I do.

Kilberg

He brought them in. They were cleared. We later found when we did our own investigation that he had cleared these people and, of course, these people, not during the ceremony but after, made a fuss on the White House Lawn and that just sent the religious right absolutely nuts.

And who was the really conservative Senator from New Hampshire? He called me up to his—

Jeavons

Bob Smith?

Kilberg

No, not Bob Smith. Somebody else. Oh, no, maybe from Colorado. It wasn’t Gordon Allot. Whoever he was, he called me up—I never knew there were secret Senate hideaway offices. I never knew they existed and he wasn’t very senior so he was holed away in some rafter someplace. He called me into his office, and Sununu said I had to go, and he spent an hour berating me.

Jeavons

It wasn’t Larry Craig, was it?

Kilberg

No. It wasn't Larry Craig. So that cost—Doug Wead left the White House shortly after the hate crimes signing and before, I think, the ADA, but it carried off into a really long controversy with the religious right who believed the President had—

Vogt

He was fueling it.

Jeavons

Over such a silly—

Kilberg

He was fueling it. And that Sununu, of all people, was fueling it and it was so silly but it didn’t stop. It was in the Washington Times. Dave Demarest and I were in the Washington Times for six months running.

Riley

Yes, it shows up in the timeline.

Kilberg

Oh, yes, it just goes on and on and on and on. The Hate Crimes Act was April 23, 1990, and then you followed the ADA bill, what, two months after that? Yes, July 26, 1990.

Just two fun stories about the President and sports teams. And then I do want Jeff to get to NAFTA.

One was the Chicago Bulls who won the national championship, and I don’t know basketball from twit. We had this guy Jim Schaefer on the staff who loved sports, so this was his event and it was supposed to be in the Rose Garden. And the Chicago Bulls are obviously big people and they had their wives and kids with them and in the Rose Garden you can seat, what? A hundred and something, 150, 160 seated, but one of the things you have to worry about is weather. I had this friend in the weather service and I’d always call him before any of these events. And he said, No, it’s really looking kind of antsy.

It was an early afternoon event, and I came out about an hour ahead of time. The skies looked terrible, and then it started to rain, and then it stopped raining. The White House ushers wiped off all the seats, but then they looked at the sky again and we just said, It could do it again. So I said, Okay, we’re moving this inside to Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. With about 20 minutes’ notice, you take 150 or so people, it wasn’t just outside people that we invited, every White House staffer with a White House pass had crammed into the Rose Garden and they were going to see the Bulls and you weren’t go to stop them. And the Old Executive Office Building only held 180 max with the media in the back with their standups. And it didn’t matter. There must have been 300 people crammed into Room 450.

I went to get the President and he started to go to the Rose Garden and he said, Nobody’s there. And I said, That’s because I moved it to the Old Executive Office Building. He said, But it’s not raining. I said, But it was raining and it’s going to rain again. And he said, all the way from the Oval Office to Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building, It’s not raining, Bobbie. It’s not raining, Bobbie.

We get there. He does the event and in the middle of the event—I have the transcript—he says, The reason we’re here is my staffer thought it was going to rain. And it is not raining. And since all of you are here, I invite the entire team to come on over to the Oval Office.

Well, the entire team, with their coaches, and, of course, their wives and their kids—

Jeavons

Didn’t they all have kids?

Kilberg

They did, that was the point. All said great, so they all jumped up and we managed to peel off the White House staff and convince them not to come. But there must have been 60, 70 people who started traipsing down the four flights of stairs, with the President leading them and the agents going nuts talking into their sleeves, What are we going to do?

Through the first floor, down over across the steps that go to West Exec, down West Exec, up through—half of them up through by the press area, through the front going in the West Lobby, half going down the basement and up the stairs and 75, 80 people, large people with the basketball team, ending up walking into the Oval Office. I got there first and opened the door, and there was Mrs. Bush with this nice little old lady who was there, evidently, for a meeting with the President. And her mouth just dropped open because when we counted them, the agent told me there were 82 people squeezed into the Oval Office, half of them with wet shoes because it was raining outside. It was just the funniest thing. He took individual pictures with all 80 of them and then he left.

And Mrs. Bush was still standing there with her mouth open. So that was story number one. And then he said to me, We will, from now on, always have these outside. Right? I said, Yes, sir.

The other one was the Duke basketball team. They won the national championship two years in a row. And he always did the—

Vogt

Makeshift basketball hoop.

Kilberg

Yes, but he always did meetings with all the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] awarding teams. This was the first time we decided—so somebody else had won in 1989. I don’t know who but it was somebody.

Vogt

The Michigan Wolverines.

Kilberg

Excuse me. But they had not done the basketball hoop. Somebody thought, I don’t know if it was Jeff or Jim Schaefer, that it would be a great idea to bring a basketball hoop in and the President could shoot baskets with the team.

The advance guys and Marlin Fitzwater got very concerned about what if the President missed. And I said, So what, he’s only human. And they said, No, no, you can’t have the President of the United States miss. What’s that image going to be? He’ll never get over it. So the President comes out and practices. And he misses every one. Maybe gets one in. And Marlin said, I told you. And the President said, I’ll be fine, I’m going to do this.

So he came out and said, Okay, now we’re going to play basketball, and he got all three shots in. That was just lucky.

Vogt

Delivers under pressure.

Kilberg

He was under pressure, right. The next year somebody paid for a basketball court, a half-court, down not far from the tennis courts. And it was dedicated as the Duke–University of Tennessee, because it’s the men and the women’s basketball court. And he took off his jacket, it was a nice spring day, and had some of the White House staff—I guess you weren’t there—and the basketball team, Christian Laettner and all these guys play. And they played basketball for about ten minutes. It was really fun to watch.

At any rate, that’s not particularly funny but it’s interesting.

Riley

Did you do the first pitch on opening day of baseball? Was that a piece of your portfolio?

Kilberg

No, it would have been the advance guy. This doesn’t count. The 616, almost every one of those was on campus or in town.

Riley

Gotcha.

Jeavons

Yes, there were a few that were—

Kilberg

There were a few that were not but—Jeff did a lot of traveling and setting up things outside, but those usually were not designated as our events per se.

Vogt

Yes. Like factory visits—

Riley

Okay.

Vogt

Particularly NAFTA. Advancing NAFTA, we were trying to promote the message of trade and a billion dollars in trade creates 20,000 jobs or whatever the stat was. So we had set something up to go to Moline and John Deere one time. I think it was in early ’92 and we had the whole thing set and ready to go. About four days later we found out that their earnings report was coming out and it was not necessarily favorable, it was actually going to diminish our message, so we pulled the trip.

I blame that all on Bobbie for choosing the venue.

Kilberg

Tell them how you organized all the education and the interest-group stuff around NAFTA, fast-tracked first on NAFTA, and also your trip to Asia with the—

Vogt

The 18 CEOs.

Kilberg

Yes. Did the President go?

Vogt

Yes, he was on that trip. In terms of fast-tracking NAFTA, there was Super 308, there was MFN [most favored nation], there were all these different international trade issues at the time. The MFN-China issue came up almost immediately because of Tiananmen Square and Bush, having been the liaison over there, was sensitized to the dynamic of yes, this was a very awful event in human history, but the only way you are going to engage them is to keep trade and economic engagement open.

It was very politically challenging to maintain an event, particularly after that, which we did, through the support of the business community and a whole array of briefings, much like Clean Air Act, Carla Hills, Secretary [Robert] Mosbacher, again labor groups, environmental groups, and the core constituents in the high-trade states that we targeted helped to get us fast-track authority.

Again, the backdrop is a Democratic Congress.

Riley

Right.

Vogt

So, a pretty big push, particularly advance the ball 15, 20 years and look at it today, that would be a very challenging proposition for a Republican President. And I remember, we had a trip and invited a lot of the association leaders down to San Antonio, where we signed with the President of Mexico? Didn’t we?

Kilberg

Yes. I didn’t go with you. You had to stay overnight. I didn’t go.

Vogt

But the Asia trip was an interesting one. We were suffering economically at home. We had had a stimulus package that, much smaller than the present-day stimulus packages, but it was one with a first-time homebuyer’s tax credit and similar fiscal policy initiative. But we were in the throes of a recession and coming out of 7, 7.5% unemployment, and again, pushing trade—I think this was the brainchild of Secretary Mosbacher, who called the President and said, We ought to take all these business people on this trip and advance America’s cause with these Asian trading partners.

So in ten days we had a trip. We had both planes and the whole entourage. We went from D.C. to Honolulu to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Singapore—by Seoul I passed out at 5 p.m. for 15 hours. I was dead. Dead. I don’t know how—this was the one where he got sick on the President.

All

Oh.

Vogt

Osaka and then to Tokyo. And then played tennis all day. Not all day, but he was just going nonstop, which culminated in that wonderful CNN [Cable News Network] video. But it was a very challenging trip because I think the trade message with these CEOs was we’re advancing trade. The CEOs weren’t all on the same page. We had the three principal CEOs from the automotive industry, Red [Harold] Poling, [Lee] Iacocca, and Bob Stempel from GM [General Motors], and all of them were complaining that China and Japan, their markets weren’t open and we weren’t building the steering wheels on the right side of the car. So it all got very muddled, and I saw in here, even the event summarizing the findings, that our message was even cancelled in the throes of things.

But it was illustrative of his energy level where it was just nonstop on the go, ten days straight, every staff member was absolutely dragging.

Riley

Was there much infighting or elbow throwing about who gets to go on this trip? A lot of people lobbying to—

Tenpas

Yes, how do you pick?

Kilberg

I told you to do it.

Vogt

Bobbie was gracious enough to allow me the opportunity. It was an extraordinary opportunity for me. There wasn’t a lot of elbowing. It was more of, okay, here are the people who need to go and why. We had delegations from the Commerce Department, and my counterpart over there, Diane Terpeluk, who worked in the Vice President’s office and was business liaison under Mosbacher and some of their staff. We just shepherded the 18 CEOs. But for the most part, it was a series of state visits, state dinners, and talking about the specific trade issues that each one of these—we had a big agricultural trade conflict with Australia at the time. That was top of the news. With Japan it was mainly the automotive, but, no, I don’t remember any big infighting.

Kilberg

No, I don’t remember for that trip either. I signed off on Jeff going but I do remember, particularly because Kathy Super, the President’s scheduler, was a very good friend of mine and I’d often sit in her office and she’d tell me stories. The advance people controlled the manifests but she would see them all the time. She would tell me stories about how upset people were that they were kicked off Air Force One, but it was often more on shorter trips. I don’t know how many people would voluntarily say, I’d love to go on a ten-day trip.

I think there was a fair amount of that, you know, if you go on Air Force One a lot, you’re very important and if you don’t, you’re not.

I didn’t sense in this one there were a lot—but one of the things, talking about silly perks, there was one perk that was very frustrating for us because you could only eat in the White House Mess if you were a commissioned officer, and initially, we only had three commissioned officers. Jeff was one, Kathy never did become one, and they really, really restricted the level of commissioned officers. The President’s viewpoint was that we don’t want to seem to be an arrogant White House, we don’t want to seem to be an overstaffed White House, an over-heavy White House, but the net result was that when you took the heads or the CEOs of businesses or companies or nonprofits or environmental groups to the Mess, you paid on your own dime. I did that virtually every day I was there, and I lost a lot of money because I could bring Kathy and her person that she wanted to engage with—or before Jeff became a commissioned officer, Jeff and his person, but we were hampered in some very simple things.

You could not show people that courtesy, which they viewed as very important. And the President also believed that the White House budget should be lean and mean, and people should not work in the White House because they wanted to make money. So anybody can make money on the salary levels, but they cut White House staff salaries precipitously and people were working for peon wages. It was really a testament that we had people doing it because they really believed in him and wanted to do it, because wages were terrible.

Vogt

It was a tremendous honor to serve.

Jeavons

That’s true.

Vogt

And I think the President viewed that as well.

Kilberg

That’s right. He said it was an honor to serve.

Vogt

And there was a lot of money. I was just at $25,000 a year? Now my kids get that in tennis shoes just to keep up with their growth spurts.

Kilberg

The first foreign-policy trip that the President took was also to Asia, to Japan and some other places. It was in early ’89, I think, and Sununu went with him and Sununu came back and said he was just blown away. I said, What were you blown away by? He said, By the President. I did not know this about him. But he knows every foreign leader in the world. It was just amazing, the personal diplomacy. Not only did he know the Prime Minister of Japan but he knew the Education Minister and the Economic Minister and the Foreign Minister and he knew their spouses, most of whom were wives, the wives and the children and what schools the children were in and what careers they were in or if somebody was in trouble with drugs or whatever, he knew it all. And he had a relationship.

His whole foreign policy in many ways, the execution of it was based on his personal relations with heads of state. One of the things that bothered me most when Clinton came into office is that he knew none of these people. He knew none, nor understood, I don’t think, many of the cultures. Eventually he had a foreign policy that—it was probably a B- or a C+, but he didn’t have what George Bush had, which was astounding. And when the Gulf War started, the President, within a two-day period, called individually 120 heads of state, individually, and talked to each and every one of them. That was just unprecedented, but again it was the way he related to people. It was based on a personal knowledge, and I don’t think you can bottle that.

Jeavons

No.

Kilberg

You couldn’t bottle it and you couldn’t sell it to the next President. It’s not possible.

Jeavons

I don’t think he would have been able to do what he did in 1991 in the Gulf War if he hadn’t done that himself.

Kilberg

That’s right. Yes. There was something else that one of your business things reminded me of and I can’t remember it now. Terrible.

Riley

You also mentioned earlier the question about your portfolio in the foreign-policy area.

Kilberg

Yes, I’d love to talk about that but before we do it I need a break.

Riley

Good. I need some coffee or some Coke to get me through the rest of the afternoon.

Kilberg

That’d be fine. And maybe I’ll remember what that was.

[BREAK]
Riley

Okay. You have some other things you want them to get to. I’m happy to defer to their expertise on these things. And I’ve got my questions.

Kilberg

Just one. I wanted Jeff, since I know he has to leave, to discuss anything he wanted about the business area but before he did, when he talked about the extraordinary amount of energy that the President had on the Asia trip before he collapsed for that one moment in Japan. That resembled everything else he did, including his definition of speed golf. Whoever was the officer of the day, which varied, would go wherever he went on trips and usually only when Tim or Will Farish, who were his personal aides, couldn’t go for some reason. On at least three different occasions I wound up going when the President went to play golf at—he went to the Army-Navy Club most of the time, I never got to go when they played at Burning Tree because women are not allowed, as you know, on campus. But I’d go and I’d set myself up—in the Army-Navy Club—in the clubhouse and have all this work to do and I’m writing away or whatever.

I look up an hour and 45 minutes or an hour and a half after they left and they’re back. He said, Come on, we’re going. I said, What? So they played 18 holes in between an hour and a half and an hour and 45 minutes. And while I never went out on the course with them, the definition from their party of his foursomes was just hysterical. You’d hit, you’d look quick, get on the cart.

Jeavons

Before the ball got there even.

Kilberg

Before the ball got there. Hit again. And, of course, there was nobody waiting. He didn’t have to wait behind anybody but that’s how he defined exercise. It was nobody’s definition of a golf game other than George Bush’s. An hour and a half, really hour and 45 minutes was the shortest but it’s just—

Riley

Gosh. It’s like polo, isn’t it?

Kilberg

That’s right.

Vogt

Why get out of the cart?

Kilberg

Practically. Just whack it out of the cart.

Riley

Can I probe something on this that I was curious about? There were, at the time, some reports that his Graves’ disease had—

Kilberg

Slowed him down?

Riley

Yes. As somebody who knew him for a long time did you detect anything?

Kilberg

Yes. He seemed out of sorts and he seemed slower. Not mentally slower. Just out of sorts and dragging and also his eyes looked really funny.

Riley

Did you notice it before he was diagnosed with a problem?

Kilberg

I think he was diagnosed with a problem long before he told any of us. So I did notice something and I asked people and I asked Sununu. Nobody else had asked and he said, Oh, he’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Shortly thereafter they mentioned the Graves’ disease, but my guess is that they knew about that a considerable amount of time before they told us.

Riley

Do you think it had an effect on his performance in office?

Kilberg

No. But I think given it came—if I remember right, when did it come, it was the end of ’91?

Riley

That’s what I want to say.

Kilberg

I think if I remember right, I remember thinking—it did not affect in any way his performance in office, but it slowed him down a little bit to just kind of like a normal person rather than a typical hyperactive George Bush. And I think it affected his focus on the campaign. I think it just delayed—when you just added that to everything else it affected, again, that internal body political clock and he just wouldn’t focus on the campaign.

So I think it did have an effect on getting geared up for the campaign.

Riley

Okay. Fine. So with that out of the way, what else have you two—

Vogt

Starting at the beginning I remember in the early days of the administration we were dealing with the Office of Supervision and the whole savings-and-loan bailout, and Neil Bush was being tagged. We were starting off with some pretty heavy challenges, the likes of which, last fall, similar challenges—it’s all relative but trying to bail out—that was a $150, 155, 160 billion bailout, even more. We had all the banking community in. We had the Clean Air Act reauthorization. We had the Americans with Disabilities Act. These were all very contentious, very complex, very tough issues. And that was our first year, out of the box. And then, of course, the Gulf War came. So it was like, okay, if you go back and try to look at those days, wow, we were on our game and we were advancing exactly what we wanted to advance. We were doing it in the context of a Democratic Congress and with these challenges all going on at the same time, you can understand why there was trial and tribulation going into ’92 given what we were faced with.

Kilberg

Now I remember what I forgot, the Grocery Manufacturers Association Conference in Orlando? Did you go to that?

Vogt

No.

Kilberg

How did you not? It was a business group. I was going to blame it all on you.

Vogt

It wasn’t overnight. [Laughter]

Kilberg

That’s right. It wasn’t overnight. We went down to Florida, to Orlando, to the Grocery Manufacturers Association Conference. It wasn’t our event because it was off campus and out of D.C. I’m not sure of the date but it was 1991, it was after the Gulf War and in the middle of the whole economic downturn. We went to address them on issues and also to show that the President understood that groceries are very central to a family’s life, and they brought us into a room where they had all these new machines set up.

Jeavons

This is that one.

Kilberg

And one of the advance guys said to—not to me, was Sununu with us? I don’t remember. Said to somebody—Skinner?

This is David Baker, who’s my special projects administrator, he’s just going to sit in.

Riley

Okay, great.

Kilberg

I think it was Skinner, maybe not, who said to somebody and I was just standing there, I’ve arranged for the President to try out these new machines and we’re going to use this food scanner over here. It’s really neat. I said, I don’t think that’s a good idea. And everybody said, Oh, don’t be ridiculous.

Before I could turn around the President was in and they’re moving to this food scanner. They gave the President a loaf of bread or milk or whatever and said to push it through. He had no idea how to do it. He did not know how to scan food and put it on the tray and have it scan. He asked all these really dumb questions and the press just made a field day of it. He didn’t understand what average people needed to go through. He’d never been in a supermarket. Well, of course he’d been in a supermarket but not in the last what? Twelve years, 11 years, and they excoriated him on that. It was just terrible.

Jeavons

Oh, and not knowing, also, what a loaf of bread costs.

Kilberg

That’s right. He looked up at the price that came up on the scanner and he said, I didn’t know it cost that much.

So, again, just an unfortunate story but what can happen sometimes when an advance guy or gal doesn’t coordinate with anybody in the policy shop or anybody on his personal staff. And just walks in, and without a briefing they put him in front of something.

Riley

That wasn’t your event to organize?

Kilberg

No, no. It wasn’t our fault, but I should have been more aggressive in literally standing between him and the scanner, but I didn’t.

Jeavons

It’s amazing to think something like that—what would otherwise be a very simple mistake, and it actually wasn’t even a mistake on his part—really became, if you think of the beginning of the end and you can point to a few pivotal images or moments when things started to just go south, it was that. It was throwing up on the Prime Minister and the Emperor of Japan. It was Hurricane whatever it was—

Kilberg

Andrew. That’s right. And even if I, in hindsight, thought I should have stood between him and the machine, it never would have occurred to me standing there that he wouldn’t know what a loaf of bread costs because I wouldn’t have calculated quickly enough to say, I go to the grocery store after work every day and get food for my kids, so I know, but he hasn’t been allowed to be in a grocery store for 11 years.

I would not have computed that politically in my mind fast enough to act. It never would have occurred to me.

Riley

But I think it is interesting that your political antennae sent off danger signals to you in a way that evidently the President’s did not.

Kilberg

I don’t think he knew he was even being taken there. He just walked into the room and they said, Now you go here and then you go here, because this was on the spur of the moment. I don’t think it was in his briefing memo. As a matter of fact, I know it wasn’t in the briefing memo. So it wasn’t a matter of his political antennae not going up. He was just over here and he was put in front of a machine.

Riley

But still pressing the point, you didn’t know this was about to happen and you find yourself confronted with something that, whatever, you have developed a sixth sense that tells you something doesn’t feel right about this.

Kilberg

But I didn’t do anything about it.

Riley

You didn’t, but at least you’re telling us that the alarm—that you did have a conversation with somebody that suggested you recognized something was not quite right here. Now, the President might have had a similar reaction or might not, evidently he did not, which is largely a function of poor staff work, but it may also be an indicator of a not quite as refined sense of political danger as you had.

Kilberg

Or you’re in a bubble. No matter what you do, you’ve been in a bubble for 11 years.

Riley

Of course.

Kilberg

Again it wouldn’t occur to you that if they put me in front of this thing I’m not going to know how to use it and I’m not going to know what the price of a loaf of bread is because you didn’t even know they were going to present him with a loaf of bread.

Riley

And I suspect that, in my reading of his reaction, there was also a little bit of self-effacing humor in this.

Kilberg

Yes. He tried to make fun of it at the time.

Riley

And it didn’t—

Kilberg

It didn’t work.

Riley

For whatever reason it didn’t take in this instance.

Vogt

I think after that there were chosen events where we were trying to do spontaneous stuff. We went to the Chicago Board of Trade one day and he gave a speech on NAFTA, and then we stopped at the cheeseburger, cheeseburger place—

Kilberg

What’s cheeseburger, cheeseburger?

Vogt

It’s under the Loop. He went there with then-Governor [James] Edgar and he went in and paid for his own burger and he said all of the potato chips or something—no fries.

Jeavons

Chips.

Vogt

Chips. Or whatever.

Jeavons

Pepsi. Immortalized on a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Riley

No fries. Chips. Yes.

Vogt

But it truly was an unfair characterization by the press.

Riley

Of course. Let’s go back to the question about the foreign-policy component versus the domestic component. Within the Bush Presidency, was there a bigger foreign-policy component to OPL than normal or is it always the case that—

Kilberg

No, it wasn’t bigger than normal. It was smaller than normal actually. Because in Reagan’s years, in building their various coalitions, they focused very strongly on all the ethnic-American groups.

Riley

Is that right?

Kilberg

Yes. I don’t know if they had special assistants for each ethnic-American group, but they had a huge focus on that because that was a natural constituency of the Republicans, or they thought so at the time. When we came in we had Sichan Siv, and he had most of the foreign-policy areas but over time any of the foreign-policy areas that actually dealt with economics or business devolved to Jeff. And any areas that dealt with the Middle East or the Jewish or Arab community devolved to Sarah and then Kathy, who reported to me and Sichan increasingly focused on—what’s the word?—freedom issues.

Vogt

Human rights.

Jeavons

Refugees.

Kilberg

Refugees. Human rights. Particularly in Asia but also in other parts of the world. If you know his story, which is most compelling, he was a Cambodian refugee whose family was beaten to death with clubs so the Khmer Rouge didn’t have to use bullets. It’s an extraordinary story of coming to America with absolutely nothing and being wonderfully successful and winding up in the White House and then winding up as an Ambassador.

But his focus was much more narrow, and it was also a matter of coming from a totally different culture. It took Sichan a while to understand—and we all helped him—it took him a while to understand how American politics worked on a daily basis within the context of governing in a White House. But he worked very hard at it. Extraordinarily hard at it. So the answer I think is it was not a huge part of our—Sichan’s portfolio was not a huge part of what we did, and much of it wound up on our side of the aisle just because it had the business and economic—

Vogt

Like the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] when the Soviet Union broke up, we would call CEOs in to promote and advance the cause of investment in the Soviet Union, the former states—but it’s very case specific. We brought in coalitions on Desert Storm because again we had to get authorization in Congress. MFN, NAFTA, FX fighter, I remember that, there were meetings on that. So there were some specific foreign policy-related group meetings and Presidential events that we did.

Kilberg

Yes. And Sichan would do those with you, right?

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

Or you did them yourself?

Vogt

We would do both. I say that because on one occasion he wanted me to put this whole FX plane thing together, so I got the whole meeting together. There were like 30 of us in the Indian Treaty Room, and just as the meeting started he left. And he never showed up again. And you know what? To this day I don’t know why. [Laughter]

Kilberg

Eventually Sichan, I think maybe it was the beginning of 1991 or so when he went over to State? I don’t remember, but he left for State at some point in time and loved State, absolutely adored the State Department.

Riley

Well, how is it that you become—it appears that the relationship with the Arab-American community becomes—

Kilberg

Yes, let me go through that whole scenario. First you asked about the distribution of time management between foreign policy and domestic policy. The second was the President’s feeling that domestic—there was certainly a legitimate component and a very strong component to what different policy and interest groups thought in the domestic policy arena to what he wanted to hear about and that all came together.

He did not feel the same way about foreign policy. He really did not believe that foreign policy ought to be affected in any manner, shape, or form by domestic-policy considerations. He thought it was perfectly legitimate to be informed of and to be affected by domestic-interest groups and what they thought because they had to live with all these. But foreign policy, though we all live with it, he really felt should not be part of the equation. And if you have any doubts about it, all you need to do is look at the results of the ’92 election because we came in with—let me see what I said here—but I think we came in initially first.

Riley

Just for the record, you’re looking at the Hofstra.

Kilberg

Yes. I’m looking at the Hofstra volume and I’m trying to do—we went on in 1988, we got between 32 and 35% of the overall Jewish vote and almost 50% of young Jewish voters under 35. In 1992, after four years of our American foreign policy in the Middle East, we were down to below 20% of that vote, somewhere in the range of 18 to 20%.

So we clearly did not base our foreign policy on domestic political needs because we never would have done that.

Vogt

Oh, but we were breaking ground with Israel and you were a lightning rod for that.

Kilberg

Oh, yes.

Riley

Tell us about that.

Kilberg

Well, a number of things happened. First of all, and Kathy can talk about some of the extraordinary things George Bush did, both as Vice President and as President, with regard to Ethiopian Jewry. Ethiopian Jews never would have gotten out of Ethiopia if it hadn’t been for President Bush.

Riley

Oh, really.

Kilberg

Yes. The same when he was Vice President.

Jeavons

That continued when he was President, too.

Kilberg

And that continued when he was President. Also, without President Bush’s personal leadership, Soviet Jewry would not have been able to leave the Soviet Union when it began to collapse.

Riley

Okay, this is true of Vice President as well? Or just President?

Kilberg

Yes. When he was Vice President as well.

Jeavons

He was passionate about it when he was Vice President, but he clearly continued that policy.

Kilberg

He was absolutely passionate about it. And the American Jewish community was very respectful of that and very thankful for that, but there was a difference in their feelings about him versus President Reagan. The Jewish community instinctively believed, though they still didn’t vote in majority for Ronald Reagan, because they were just so tied to the Democratic Party, but they instinctively believed that Ronald Reagan loved Israel. And they felt very comfortable that he was always there for Israel’s best interests. President Bush they had more mixed feelings about. They were very concerned about his feelings, his statements about settlements on the West Bank and they felt he was going to have—and indeed he said on a number of occasions, I’m going to have a more balanced approach to Israeli–Palestinian relations.

That was not something they were comfortable with at all and it was of great concern to them. And you started off also with the difference between George Shultz and Jim Baker. The Jewish community, again I’m making gross stereotypes and generalizations, but the Jewish community loved George Shultz and trusted him, partially because of his long history with the Jewish community and also because of Ronald Reagan. And they did not trust Jim Baker.

Riley

Was some of this Texas based?

Kilberg

Oil and Texas.

Riley

Oil.

Kilberg

Yes, some of it. But when you put that all together it started off being fairly sensitive. Plus, the President did not get along with [Yitzhak] Shamir whatsoever, at all. And that, again you go back to personal relationships and how he—as I said, when the Gulf War started he called 120 heads of state. He based his ability to work on many foreign-policy issues with how he related to the players, and he just did not get along with Shamir. He did not trust him. He didn’t believe him.

Early on in the Presidency, Shamir came in and one of the first things they discussed was Jewish settlements, and Shamir said to the President, That shall not be of concern. The President took that—and I’m not saying the exact words because I don’t remember them and I was not in the meeting, but this was relayed to me by Richard Haass after the meeting. The President took that to mean that the United States didn’t have to worry about Jewish settlements because Shamir would take control of that situation.

Shamir didn’t mean that at all. According to Shamir, it meant it’s no business of the United States. It’s not of your concern, it’s our concern. Leave us alone in that. And Bush felt that Shamir—because Shamir went out of that meeting and five days, ten days, two days, I don’t know, later, the Israelis announced an expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and the President was furious. He thought Shamir had lied to him. And Shamir’s explanation was, No, I didn’t lie to him. I said it wasn’t any of his business. It’s not of concern.

We couldn’t say what are we missing here in the translation, because they were both speaking English at the time. So there was a very different feel. And at one point—and the President, I think, in private conversations didn’t make a secret of the fact that he very much wanted [Yitzhak] Rabin to win. He very much hoped Rabin would win the next election and restore—because he loved Rabin and could really get along with him.

But one day the President was telling me that [Hosni] Mubarak had come and they went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. They went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game and what a great time they had. I said, When Shamir comes next time, why don’t you invite him to something? And he said, I don’t think he likes baseball. Well, probably not. I said. Why don’t you take him to Camp David? And he looked at me in utter astonishment and said, What would we do at Camp David? What would we talk about? And I went, I don’t know.

But the whole concept that he was comfortable spending time with Mubarak but he was not comfortable spending any personal or down time with Shamir because he had no—there just was no chemistry whatsoever, at all. So that was part of it.

The second part of it was—and I’ll get to the Arab-American interest groups after that—that I’d never before seen, and I am no foreign-policy maven whatsoever, but I’d never before seen foreign policy even partially conducted by conduits through American organizations. And what happened with the American Jewish community was that because the President had such poor relations with Shamir, but many of the American Jewish leaders had good relations with Shamir, you got this underground communication network. Kind of like when we were kids and we—

Jeavons

Telephone?

Kilberg

Yes, but it’s not telephone, but you got these cans and you strung them. You used to do that. You’re too young. What do you call that?

Jeavons

I don’t know if there is a name for it.

Kilberg

Anyway, when you started you talked into the can and by the time it got around, what you said did not resemble what came out the other end at all. But the President would use that—some people thought he wasn’t just getting it. He got it perfectly well. He was using those intermediary people in order to get messages back and forth, and he felt that sometimes that was the better way to communicate. He would tend not to do it with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. That group. He would tend to do it with his Republican Jewish friends. So Max Fisher, a very famous industrialist in Michigan, who at one point had been head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a variety of other people, Jack [Jacob] Stein, Gordon Zacks, George Klein were all people of great stature in both the American Jewish community and in their relations with Israel and with all the Israeli leadership.

They would come into the Oval Office and the President would say X, wanting to be sure that Shamir got the message. The problem with that was, and I said it in here someplace, the President would say X, Max Fisher would hear X+Y. They would leave the office and they’d go down, they were not shy about it at all, to another office in the West Wing, kick Ed Rogers out of his office and say, We need to call Israel.

And they’d call Israel. Or they’d go back to the hotel and they’d talk to Shamir. So you’ve gone from the President saying X, to Max Fisher hearing X+Y, to Shamir then hearing from Max Fisher X+Y+Z, and then Shamir telling Max Fisher X+Y+Z, and then by the time Max Fisher got back to tell the President it was W. It began to be an immense concern, so Scowcroft convinced Sununu to stop bringing these people down to the Oval Office. That worked for a while and they weren’t coming down. This all related again to settlements and to how much they were willing to give in the sense of a Palestinian state and anything else.

I start getting these calls from Jackie Kennedy, John Sununu’s secretary, and she would say, It’s starting again. And I’d say, What do you mean? Well, Max Fisher’s here or George Klein’s here and Sununu’s walking them down to the Oval Office. And I’d say, But he said he wouldn’t do that. She’d say, Well, he is doing that. You’d better get over here.

So I’d race from my office in the Old Executive Office Building, race around to Patty Presock, and she’d open the door for me and I’d go in and there’s the President with Max Fisher or George Klein and Sununu. Sununu would shssh me away, so I’d race to Brent Scowcroft’s office, which was just down the corridor, and I’d say, You have to get Brent out of a meeting. Max Fisher or George Klein is in the office with the President.

And Scowcroft, who was a short, wiry guy, would leave whatever he was doing and he’d tear off down the hall to go into the Oval Office—they weren’t going to tell him to leave—to listen to what was going on. Because he knew that whatever was said there would turn around and wind up back with Shamir. It was a very interesting way to run foreign policy, but it was a channel because the President almost felt he didn’t have any other channel. But it was a channel clearly fraught with some dangers.

During the four years we were there—and I will say by the way, that this list stops in February because I moved to Intergovernmental Affairs, but it also stops because once the campaign was in high gear the President was rarely at the White House, and we didn’t do anything that was on the campaign trail because of the Chinese wall. So, essentially, Public Liaison events almost stopped, didn’t they?

Vogt

Yes.

Kilberg

Pretty much. But from 1989 through 1991, we had—this is the American Jewish community—we had 20 meetings between the President and the American Jewish community. During that time the Arab community had four. In addition to that, we had 22 meetings in 1989 without the President with various different Jewish community groups. His wife did all those. And over 60 during our four years in office, all aimed at listening to Jewish community concerns and discussing the President’s policies on both foreign and domestic issues. And indeed when the Jewish-American community came in, or the Arab-American community, we insisted on talking about Clean Air and business stuff. We would not just let them come in and have a discussion or have us bring people to discuss the Middle East with them.

During that entire time I don’t know how many meetings we had without the President with the Arab-American community, but I can’t imagine it was over five or six. And we had four with the President and the Arab-American community compared to 20 with the President and the Jewish-American community. What essentially happened was that over time we really started feeling in a way that, wait, there is another voice here that should be heard and that’s the Arab-American community voice and they’re not organized.

They were in little fiefdoms, but they weren’t organized in an overall group that could come and make a presentation or that the President could have a discussion with. So we encouraged them.

We had one meeting. Sununu said, Let’s put together a meeting. He was Lebanese American as you know and bent over backward to make sure nobody ever believed, because it wasn’t true, that he had any bias. That’s why, I think, so many Jewish-American meetings took place with the President. But we invited a group of about 20 to meet with the President in the Roosevelt Room. It was kind of heavy toward the Lebanese Americans because he knew the Lebanese Americans, but there were Syrian Americans and Iraqi Americans and Jordanian Americans and Egyptian Americans and out of the group at that meeting, after the President left, they sat there for a while and I said, You guys really ought to think—and I got terrible criticism in the Jewish-American media for this— You really ought to think about organizing. You have a viewpoint on domestic-policy issues as well as foreign-policy issues that is perfectly legitimate to express in the marketplace of ideas. And you’re not being heard because you’re not organized. With all due respect, we can’t go around talking to the 20 of you one person at a time. You really need to be organized.

So they did try to get organized and they wound up meeting four times. The two most prophetic meetings, I think, for both groups, were right after the Gulf War. Just by chance, the first Arab meeting we had organized came four days after Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait. That was in the Roosevelt Room and that was a very charged and emotional meeting. Many of the people in that room felt the President should not go after Saddam, should let it be. A lot of the other people in that room felt very differently, and it was very emotionally charged. A number of them did have, just as the Jewish-American community did, very close ties with heads of state of different Arab countries. I’m sure they went right out and—just as the Jewish-American community did, but they all went to one place, Israel, they went out and talked to their Arab-American leaders, Arab heads of state, just as the Jewish community did.

We did one with the Jewish community, too, during the Gulf War and it was very interesting. I don’t know if you were in either of those.

Jeavons

Yes. We had one in the Cabinet Room.

Kilberg

We had both in the Cabinet Room.

Jeavons

On the Jewish community side, we had one in the Cabinet Room and then we had one at the Waldorf [Waldorf-Astoria Hotel] in New York.

Kilberg

That was the second one.

Jeavons

Yes.

Kilberg

But for the Arab-American community, after the Jewish community, with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, plus some of the Jewish Republicans and some other groups, we had a meeting in the Cabinet Room and it was a very emotional meeting in that—what was that lady’s name? Shoshana [Bryen]? She was the head of the group that relayed being in Israel during the bomb—during the Scud missiles? And Itzhak Perlman was there to do a concert. The concert hall was full, people came with their gas masks and despite the sirens they just sat there and listened to Itzhak Perlman. He said, I’m not going to stop playing, and that was a very emotional thing. The President talked a lot about fear and families and why people were so on edge and how he would be so worried if it was his children or grandchildren there. It was very emotional. Then the next day or two days later or two days before, I can’t remember, we had the Arab-American community in, also in the Cabinet Room. A similarly emotional meeting. What’s very interesting about that is that is the only time in the four years at Public Liaison that the President ever used the Cabinet Room for outside interest groups.

He felt very strongly that the Cabinet Room was reserved for the Cabinet, for Congressional leaders, and for Governors. That was the ultimate sign of respect. So every other outside group met in the Roosevelt Room, but the point was not lost on the Jewish-American community and the Arab-American community that he felt they should be in the Cabinet Room as a sign of respect for what they were going through.

We then went up to New York to the Waldorf and met with probably 50 Jewish leaders during the Gulf War to talk with them about what was going on. I don’t know where I was actually going with this except to say that even during the Gulf War, it was a very personalized policy and process. But he certainly didn’t let his decisions be guided by what domestic politics would tell him in any way, shape, or form.

Riley

Did you want to add to this account?

Jeavons

I couldn’t have said it better.

Riley

Okay. Now I’ve lost my question.

Kilberg

Well, we’re all doing that today.

Riley

Yes, we are.

Kilberg

Oh, here’s the other thing about the President. This was the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, who would never have gotten out without Vice President Bush’s strong support of Soviet Jewry as Vice President, the immigration of over 500,000 Soviet Jews to Israel when he was President. With the American Jewish community actively participating in the development and implementation of that policy. That’s right. They were in on numerous occasions with the President in small meetings in the Oval Office.

Jeavons

And with Condi [Condoleezza] Rice too.

Kilberg

And with Condi Rice. Talking about getting these people out, which frankly involved a huge amount of money. The Soviets were interested in money and the Israelis were interested in money, and you had to raise a huge amount of money to get these Jews out, to pay the Soviets, and then to have them in Israel be supported by the relief organizations.

Riley

And the President was helping broker the fundraising for these purposes?

Kilberg

It wasn’t always the fundraising, but he was brokering the diplomatic channels to make it happen. But the diplomatic channels without the money never would have happened. And there were planes. They were chartering planes, but it was the private sector chartering planes, not the government. I don’t think those were American government planes.

Jeavons

I don’t think they were either, but I think what was important is that in other potentially similar situations it wouldn’t have been the President as the ultimate champion for something like that. It would have been the Secretary of State. But for him to take such a personal interest and really be involved in making it happen the way it did.

Riley

And it carried over into his Presidency from the Vice Presidency.

Kilberg

Absolutely. And we talked here about lifting travel restrictions for Syrian Jews, which he pushed very hard for when he was President. Rescinding of the Zionism Is Racism resolution in the UN, that was a huge thing and he got very personally involved in that, as did Condi Rice.

Hate crimes legislation, which we talked about, domestically. A State of the Union address in 1990 where he strongly condemned racism and anti-Semitism, and then the public repudiation of David Duke. He stood up and said, this was the quote that I used, David Duke does not represent the Republican Party. I would never vote for him for any office. I hope the people of Louisiana will not vote for him for Governor. He got a lot of crap for that, excuse me, from people in the Republican Party who said, This is our candidate, and he said, Hell, no, it’s not.

And the correct name for the Jewish organization of the 50 major groups is the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Those are the 50 major groups and each of their presidents belonged to that. Then you had B’nai B’rith, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC, the Orthodox groups, American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee. And the Republican group was called the National Jewish Coalition. But there were a huge number of those groups compared to the Arab-American community, which had really few—

Jeavons

Actually, compared to a lot of constituencies in general.

Kilberg

Yes, just in general. Each of these groups, when they came in to see Jeff or his wife Sarah or Kathy, they wouldn’t come in together. You had to meet with each group individually. That’s why you got so many meetings.

I know you have to go but add something from the business perspective.

Riley

What are we missing from your end?

Vogt

From my end?

Riley

We can come back and wrap up—

Kilberg

What about talking about the Civil Rights Act from the business community perspective?

Vogt

We had the Civil Rights bill, we had the minimum wage bill, we had things just fraught with contention. The Civil Rights bill was very divisive from a business community perspective. I’m struggling with how many different meetings we had on that, but I know Boyden was intimately involved in that, it just exemplified his way of reaching out, hearing everybody’s views, and then arriving at the right resolution. Allowing people to participate and if they participated they were more likely to support your position.

Riley

Sure.

Vogt

What else?

Kilberg

After the tax bill, I seem to remember that Nick Calio, in particular, who was our liaison to the House Republicans, began to give you more grief. He began to not include you in things. Jim Cicconi said it very well in one of these books, Everybody went into their own cocoon. You had a White House that at the staff level had cooperated extraordinarily well on a variety of issues, Clean Air, ADA, any of the business issues. Then the tension that developed with the tax increase when that was going on caused us all to kind of go inward. There was much less trust.

Jim said it was as though the balloon had been popped for all of us. I remember once you were really angry because Nick had brought a whole group of CEOs or somebody on some topic over and had not included you. That became a pattern?

Vogt

Yes, it did. We did sort of shut down there after the tax bill.

Riley

This is Nick?

Vogt

Yes, Nick was trying to go it alone. He had his own targets for other future legislative initiatives, and he would bring in select business people without even consulting with Bobbie or me to get them to mobilize for support for whatever. But we were all caught flat-footed on the tax policy change if you will. I think it started a new phase of, unfortunately, some backbiting between the departments. It’s like okay, what’s the real deal? Before we were all on the same song sheet.

Frankly because of Bobbie’s—Bobbie was on the President throughout every office in the White House. That’s what it took to make sure that everybody was aligned, and I think that was the character of—I think she was a great ambassador to the President in that regard, making sure there was alignment and that we were public servants first. We were the point office of the public, both coming and going. So I think it was unfortunate that this change in our tax policy position started a shutting down in some of the communication channels.

Jeavons

It went from a very collaborative—it went from we to me. Not our office but—

Riley

Can you identify specifically why that happens? Is it because Darman and Sununu, who I presume have had key roles in orchestrating things before, are they discredited as a result of this? Or is it because the partisan reaction is so strong that people are gun shy about things? Is it because the vast majority of people were true believers in the read my lips pledge to begin with and you felt like you’d been betrayed by the President in this case, or what?

Jeavons

I’ll give my opinion, yes, I think it pretty much was Darman, right, who pulled the trigger on that?

Vogt

Yes, Darman was seen as the chief architect and Darman, God rest his soul, was sort of, Oh, yes, you’re just over there and you’re nobody.

Jeavons

You guys are fluff.

Vogt

Yes, we don’t need you, as Bobbie said, we don’t need you to set up any meetings for us. This is the deal and go out and sell it. So there was sort of a—okay, we don’t like the deal, we weren’t even informed on it.

Jeavons

But on the tax bill too, again, this is my own personal opinion. Looking at how that was orchestrated, I felt like Darman did a disservice to the President. Because I don’t think ultimately the President—I think he got bad advice.

Riley

Had Darman been—he’s somebody we haven’t talked about. You earlier said you felt very comfortable with Sununu and his operating style. Was that equally true with Darman? You’re shaking your head no. I need some elaboration on that.

Kilberg

First of all he was extraordinarily smart, but second he knew he was extraordinarily smart, and third he was arrogant about being extraordinarily smart. You could sit in meetings, even in the good times, and he would just take people in the White House staff apart and make them feel small—not particularly us, but the other people in the Domestic Policy group. The White House Domestic Policy versus OMB [Office of Management and Budget] because he felt they just weren’t up to it and their analysis wasn’t as good as his analysis.

Vogt

Nobody was his peer.

Kilberg

Nobody was his peer. But you have to remember also that he had an OMB staff of what, a hundred and something? The Domestic Policy Council group had 20 maybe. He had the ability because he controlled the budget purses of the departments and agencies to call for analysis and you’d get it lickety-split, and Roger Porter’s office would call and maybe a few weeks later somebody would get something over to them. It was not even a fair balance there of just plain old assets you could call upon. That made life difficult. What was the other part of your question?

Riley

I think that was pretty much it, just whether from your perspective Darman had been an important cog in the machinery in the early stages.

Kilberg

Huge, absolutely huge. Very defining, he would define the debates. Now Sununu could take him on, but they forged a lot of very close alliances. The only other person who could really take him on was Boyden. Boyden took him on with Clean Air and Boyden took him on big time on the Americans for Disabilities Act and Boyden rolled him. But Boyden is Boyden. He looks kind of like Ichabod Crane, and he’s big and he’s tall and he’s imposing and he’s extraordinarily bright. He had the President’s ear in a social way that Dick didn’t. The President viewed him as a social peer as well as in other ways.

Jeavons

Boyden intellectually could go toe-to-toe with Darman.

Vogt

He’s a tough nut.

Kilberg

The rest of us mere mortals really. [Laughter]

Riley

In Greek tragedy that’s the fallout.

Kilberg

Or if we could, we didn’t know we could. He really had an ability to intimidate.

Riley

There is a strain of conventional wisdom that emerges from some of the accounts and you’ve got Charles Kolb’s book here that Porter and the domestic policy-making staff were junior officers generally in the administration. Is that an overstatement?

Vogt

I thought Porter was front and center on the issues. I guess the frustration—this is my personal opinion—here we had this incredible man with incredible political capital directly after the war. I know this has been voiced before, but from a domestic policy and initiatives viewpoint, someone said what we did wasn’t nearly what we could have done. Then things just started to go south.

Riley

Was it Sununu who was alleged to have said you didn’t have to do anything, you’d already accomplished your domestic agenda or something like that?

Kilberg

Really?

Vogt

I didn’t know that, but it is at that point where you want to lay out a health-care reform package and fundamentally change the direction of—there’s still the justice reform. This is a debate that has gone on for ages. Of course with a Democratic Congress, it’s very difficult, but I felt like we just hadn’t taken on a select number of serious domestic policy initiatives, taken that up to the Capitol.

Kilberg

But here’s the interesting, and I don’t mean to quote from other people’s books, but this is David Mervin’s: By 1992 the onset of recession had become the most pressing issue in domestic politics, so we weren’t finished. David Demarest, head of the White House communications operation, gave some insights. The President is agonizing over how the issue should be addressed. Bush apparently believed that the state the economy was facing were two choices, and that’s what we talked about earlier. On the one hand he engaged in a lot of empathetic rhetoric, stressing his concern for those who were suffering from economic distress and leaving aside the fact that the economy, despite its present difficulties, was fundamentally sound. Suitably empathetic speeches were compiled, but Bush worried that if he spoke in those terms people would conclude that the President thinks that things are really bad and the effect of this would be to drive this economy further into the ground.

On the other hand if he gave upbeat speeches emphasizing the underlying strength of the economy, this would only seem to confirm the claims of the press and the pundits that the President was out of touch. So given these two choices Bush went right down the middle and he said, I know there are people out of work, I know that people are hurting. I know that there are a lot of families out there that are struggling to make ends meet, but I also know that this economy is not as bad as people are portraying it. As Demarest pointed out, this is a muddled message from the communicator and therefore doesn’t get through.

I remember also, clearly, if somebody was saying in 1992 that our domestic issues were over I don’t know who that was. Was that Sununu you said?

Riley

I think it was Sununu who made a—I can’t remember whether this is documented enough that you can say he absolutely said it or whether it is something that was quoted from him, but you didn’t have to do anything else on domestic policy because you had already accomplished what you set out to do. It probably was post Desert Storm, probably in the aftermath that you were in good political shape.

Kilberg

He may have said that then. I remember a conversation Jeff's friend Nick Brady had with the President at some reception I was at. They were in the corner talking and the President asked me to come over for some specific reason and it wasn’t this conversation, but I listened to it because I was there. Brady was essentially saying, This economy is fundamentally sound and the reality is there’s not a lot we can do as a government to push it one way or the other, it has to work its way out.

Jeavons

Which proved to be the case.

Kilberg

Which proved to be the case, but also proved to be a death knell politically.

Riley

This brings me to something I really did want to ask you about. In your lecture at UVa at the Miller Center, one of the first things you talk about is that President Bush had a very different sense about the role of rhetoric for a President than his predecessor did. I think the terminology was that there needed to be a less—

Kilberg

Inflammatory or less—

Riley

Less rhetorical—I don’t know whether rhetorical is the right word, let me see if I can find it.

You’re off? Thank you very much for your time.

Vogt

Sorry to interrupt.

Riley

We’ll get you a copy of this down the road.

Kilberg

Here it is. His three major goals in conducting the White House was to be inclusive, this says programmatic, it’s pragmatic, and lower the rhetoric. He felt that the rhetoric by the end of Reagan’s term had become fairly harsh and shrill, and he wanted to lower it to what he thought was civility, a term he often used.

Riley

So lowering the rhetoric. I didn’t know whether you meant that the content of the rhetoric had become overly hostile and shrill or whether it is the case that Reagan viewed the role of the President more wholly in communication terms than did Bush, that Bush felt the emphasis on rhetoric that was so central to Reagan’s Presidency wasn’t consistent with the way he viewed his own conception as a political leader.

Kilberg

I think both, but what I said in here related to—and it has been so long I can’t remember now what specifically upset the President in 1991 and 1992 about the White House rhetoric. I do remember he was very concerned about the rhetoric being more and more phrased in terms of we and they and that either you were for us or you were against us. He believed very strongly, as I said before, both in his rhetoric and in the way he operated a White House, such as the Office of Public Liaison, that it was our job to be inclusive and to bring the kinder, gentler nation, but also the more inclusive nation. It was our job to bring into the White House people of varying and disparate views and to hear them out and make them feel part of the process.

So we brought people from the far right to the far left, in the middle, all sorts of people who hadn’t been in the White House, as Kathy said, for many years. As a matter of fact, I was floored one day to come into a meeting in 450 and see Ralph Nader sitting in the front row while the President was speaking. I said, Even I wouldn’t have done that. But there he was. So I think it was partially that.

The second part was he just was not comfortable using rhetoric. Sound bites drove him nuts, he hated them. Yet President Reagan was a master at that. I remember his saying, Reagan is a master of that and I can never possibly compete. That’s not me. I have to look at problems as complex issues because they are and how do I ever convey that? So I think it was a combination of both of those.

It was also, I think toward the end, and I don’t know that this affected President-elect Bush at all. I had spent hardly any time with Ronald Reagan at all prior to the transition, but I sensed—and Rebecca Range, who was the last Reagan Director of Public Liaison, was very kind to let me shadow her for a number of days, and I was fascinated by the fact that President Reagan never asked who I was and why I was standing there. But I sense that by that time President Reagan was beginning to have some diminishment of mental faculties because sometimes he’d just kind of stand there and stare out at space. I had the sense that something was already beginning to happen with Alzheimer’s. As I observed it in this short period of days, it led President Reagan more and more to rely on rhetoric he was comfortable with. I don’t know if that kind of spooked President-elect Bush a little bit or not, but it might have.

Riley

The reason I raised it in this context is that what it seems you’re confronting with the economy in 1991 and 1992 is a problem that almost can only be dealt with by rhetoric. If Nick Brady was right and the government can’t do anything—

Kilberg

That’s right, and the President, our President didn’t have the ability to rise to that rhetorical occasion because that was not how he did things.

Riley

Would he have benefited from—is it possible that if he had better speechwriters or—

Kilberg

He had a coach.

Riley

Did he?

Kilberg

Yes, and I have that down in my notes. At some point somebody got him a coach. It was a lady who came from New York. I remember seeing her, and it didn’t make any difference.

Jeavons

I think he had good speechwriters but I think he—

Kilberg

Yes, I think he had great speechwriters.

Jeavons

Yes, but he’d go in and change it.

Riley

Sure.

Kilberg

No, that was something else, that was Dennis Ross thinking about a Baker speech. Dennis had written into a Baker speech all sorts of conciliatory statements re Israel, while being very strong on the settlements et cetera. And when the speech was made to AIPAC, he sat there in horror. Baker had taken out all the conciliatory sound bites that didn’t mean anything. But I think he had good speechwriters too. Peggy Noonan clearly was a wonderful speechwriter for Reagan, but people say that her words, which were very good, without Reagan delivering them would just have been words.

Riley

Sure. Were you involved in the speechwriting process? Did you see drafts of speeches?

Kilberg

Sometimes. We didn’t write speeches, none of us—

Jeavons

We wrote talking points sometimes.

Kilberg

Talking points, we did the cards.

Jeavons

When he’d go to a meeting with a group we did the talking points.

Kilberg

We did the cards, which we much preferred him to do than speeches.

Riley

Did you see advance copies?

Kilberg

Yes, but frankly, I don’t know that anybody listened to what we had to say. But yes, we would get advance copies and we would send back some comments. But the State of the Union tended to be much more closely held than regular speeches—

Riley

Really?

Kilberg

Yes. We would always get copies. State of the Union is always viewed in all Presidencies as the super-duper secret document. I don’t think I ever saw a whole State of the Union speech, but they’d send me a specific section and say, What do you think about that? But a regular speech to the National Association of Manufacturers or whatever we would always see the drafts.

Riley

It may be that the State of the Union is always kept very secret, but it also is the place that is more inclusive in scope than virtually anything else.

Kilberg

Correct.

Riley

So everybody has a piece of the action.

Kilberg

But again, our office was not an assistant to the President, it was a deputy so the rule of thumb would have been, especially since David, for most of the time until Skinner came in, Dave Demarest was in charge of the speechwriting as well as us, and Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Affairs would feed him things and Media Relations would feed him media stuff going on around the country. I think they just figured that he knew.

Riley

Okay.

Kilberg

So sometimes, a State of the Union, he would send me sections to look at, but our office would not have been a part of the normal circulation of the State of the Union. It would have been for regular speeches.

Riley

Of course. We haven’t talked about Dan Quayle at all. Was he a nonentity in relation to the work that you’re doing? Can you give us some assessment of—you’re exchanging—

Kilberg

Pretty much. We’d call on him to come talk to groups, he was very good at that. He did have the tort reform coalition, which Jeff should have talked about. That was very important and he felt very strongly about that. And he had a regulatory reform, separate from—they go together but separate from tort reform. Those two things were very important for our groups. He also had the wetlands thing.

Jeavons

Really?

Kilberg

Yes. He got involved in wetlands from the perspective of business and regulatory. Except for those three things, I don’t remember really integrating with him at all. Do you?

Jeavons

Not really.

Kilberg

No, he had his own Office of Public Liaison and for four years we never saw them. We often offered to work with them on stuff and they never responded.

Jeavons

Well, our interaction was less with the Vice President—we did interact obviously, you much more than I, with Bill Kristol, and a lot of that was on the Jewish community stuff.

Kilberg

Yes, I’m sorry, but that was not Quayle, that was really Bill Kristol, his personal issue, his personal interest in the Jewish community.

Jeavons

But no, really not much interaction at all.

Kilberg

And they sent him traveling a lot.

Riley

Are there others in the upper reaches of the administration we haven’t talked about? You mentioned Scowcroft once or twice.

Kilberg

Yes, Scowcroft.

Riley

I was just going to comment that they seem to have had a very close relationship, but I don’t know whether it was one that—meaning the President and—

Jeavons

Oh, yes.

Kilberg

It was an extraordinary relationship.

Jeavons

Still.

Kilberg

Still is very strong, the Scowcroft Institute. Brent was with the President all the time, since foreign policy was really what George Bush loved, but how the National Security Council really operated I can’t tell you. I can tell you we had very good relations with—any time we asked Brent to do any briefing or meeting with us he would do it. Richard Haass and I worked very closely together with Sarah and then with Kathy on the Middle East peace process from our perspective, which was the input coming to and from the Jewish-American community and the Arab-American community. Richard was very concerned with that because—and I think it was said in here, and it is very true—what I said is that over the long term, foreign policy must have domestic support in order to succeed in the United States.

Richard had a strong interest in every briefing, and he also had a very strong interest in repairing damage. I remember a number of times racing up to his office, which was either on the third or fourth floor of the OEOB, it was very hot.

Jeavons

I have just been over there.

Kilberg

That building was not well air conditioned. You’d come into his office and he had a bunch of safes and everything. It was not a pleasant place to go. On a number of occasions racing up there because there was something that either Baker or the President had said that just infuriated the Jewish community. Richard was very concerned about it because he really did feel it would affect his ability to get things done.

Riley

Sure.

Kilberg

I’m trying to think of one thing that Richard was really involved in.

Jeavons

I remember one point when, I think it was Secretary Baker who had made a speech or some public comment in an interview and it had to do with the Green Line.

Kilberg

Yes.

Jeavons

It sent the Jewish community just crazy. I wish I could remember exactly what it was. Whatever he said, I know Bobbie’s phone and mine were ringing off the hook. What did he mean? What he did mean by that? Richard was very easy to deal with for the most part. Another person I think is absolutely brilliant.

Kilberg

Now going back, but when you said did we see drafts of the State of the Union, no, except what Demarest showed us, but we did participate in the development of the themes for State of the Union. They would have message theme meetings and we would sit there and go over with everyone else in the room, and that included Domestic Policy and Foreign Policy and Communications, what the themes of the State of the Union should be and what you want to emphasize and what is of interest to the American people. We were totally integrated into the themes meetings, just not the verbiage.

Riley

Not the language. That’s important to know.

Jeavons

And I would say also integrated in the sense that they would ask, even if it was through Dave, Okay, we’re talking about environment and this is the section on environment, what are you hearing? What do the groups want to be hearing? In a perfect world what would make them happy? So the temperature check was an important role we played.

Kilberg

Condi Rice, by the way too, especially on any issues dealing with Soviet Jewry, was wonderful. And it was interesting because she was very low key in most ways. She was very powerful in the National Security Council but she was Special Assistant to the President dealing with Soviet bloc countries. But she kept a very low profile elsewhere and was very self-effacing. If you’d ask her to talk to a group she’d say, Oh, really? Do you think they’d want to hear me? And it wasn’t that she was playing games. She seriously was self-effacing.

There was one really important one where Richard became very upset. I can’t find it.

Riley

It can be added later if it comes back and you—just scrawl it in the margins when the document comes back.

Kilberg

Okay, that’s not being academically—

Riley

No, that’s fine. As I said at the outset, the transcript becomes the authoritative record of the interview. So it is considered an extension of the interview when you put it in. We prefer not to get a complete rewrite of the transcript, although it has happened, which will make for an interesting correlation a hundred years from now if somebody wants to listen and try to follow what is going on in some of those thoroughly changed documents, but it happens occasionally.

You mentioned that your initial entrée into the Bush family was through W, George W.

Kilberg

Yes. Am I close to George W now? No.

Riley

What was his role in his father’s administration, if any, and did you have continuing encounters with George W during the course of the 41st Presidency?

Kilberg

I had fairly constant contact with him during the campaign in ’88. For a good part of the time he almost moved to Washington. He had offices down the hall from me. A gal named Debbie Dunn was his assistant. He was interested in all aspects of the campaign. He was particularly interested in the convention, which was what we were doing, and the kinds of themes that would be highlighted in that, how his father would be projected—how you would paint and project his father. He was very much a presence. He also was a very gregarious presence. He spent a lot of time going around. You know you get pretty tired in pumping up staff, particularly the young people.

Riley

Sure.

Kilberg

During the transition, I rarely remember seeing him. I’m sure he was there, he just wasn’t on my radar screen. When we were doing the transition, I was very busy. Kathy wasn’t with us at the transition, we were over at the White House. We were kind of the Office of Public Liaison in waiting. We spent most of our time meeting with interest groups wherever the transition offices were. They were somewhere off Connecticut Avenue. I don’t remember seeing much of him there at all.

During the White House days he would appear whenever there was a problem, would just kind of appear, then disappear and go back to Texas and the Rangers. He wasn’t running for Governor yet. He was obviously instrumental in telling Sununu he had to leave. He first told Andy Card that Sununu had to leave, and Andy couldn’t get Sununu to understand that. The President didn’t want to talk to Sununu. So eventually George W talked to Sununu and I know that because he did tell me that. Not Sununu, George W told me that. We did talk from time to time.

Riley

Well, I’m glad to get confirmation of that because I think it is generally in the atmosphere that that happened, but I don’t know that there has been much first-hand confirmation.

Kilberg

He certainly did. The President must have talked to Sununu at some point, but I know he felt he had to do it and he had to convince him because Andy was getting nowhere. It’s kind of hard to expect the deputy to tell his boss to go, especially when the deputy then wondered what was going to happen to the deputy. The deputy was made to go too. He went over to become Secretary of Transportation, which he didn’t really want to do but he did. So he certainly landed on his feet.

I think Sununu was a great guy and he put discipline, order in that place. The clocks ran on time, the decisions were made. You may like or not like the decisions, but they were made and you went on to the next thing. I had absolutely no problem with him at all.

Riley

Was W a presence in the emergence of the ’92 campaign to your knowledge?

Kilberg

I wasn’t there, I was in the White House. I don’t know.

Riley

But you didn’t see him any more or less.

Kilberg

I didn’t, but I wouldn’t have. They were physically in two different places. It was a very strict Chinese wall. I can’t remember. There were only one or two people we could go to. If we needed to get a message to the campaign—

Riley

It was probably in the Counsel’s Office, or maybe not.

Kilberg

Mary Matalin. She wasn’t in the White House, was she?

Jeavons

No.

Kilberg

One of us at each office was designated. For instance, I was designated in OPL that I could call Mary Matalin and tell her things, tell her she needed to worry about this group or that group or this is happening or that is happening. But I think she was sitting either at the campaign or the RNC, probably at the campaign. I think it was Mary Matalin. I may be wrong, but I think that’s who it was.

Riley

I don’t think we talked about Cabinet Affairs and your role there. I can’t even remember who the Cabinet Secretary—

Kilberg

Ede Holiday.

Riley

Okay, was Phil Brady?

Kilberg

Phil Brady was after Ede. Did Ede go somewhere?

Jeavons

What about David Bates?

Kilberg

David Bates—

Riley

There may have been three of them. But in any event—

Kilberg

No, David Bates was during—no, that’s right. David Bates was, Ede was.

Jeavons

Didn’t Ede start, was Ede Holiday—

Kilberg

Ede Holiday was at the end.

Jeavons

Ede was at the end, she came over from Treasury.

Kilberg

From Treasury, she was general counsel at Treasury.

Jeavons

David was Assistant to the President for Cabinet Affairs.

Kilberg

Yes, Bates.

Jeavons

And started in ’89.

Kilberg

I can’t remember, did Phil Brady go over there too?

Riley

Maybe he was Staff Secretary, I may be getting my—

Kilberg

Jim Cicconi was, yes, Jim Cicconi was Staff Secretary and then Jim left, and Phil Brady came and took it over. It was David Bates to Ede Holiday. We didn’t have much. When I went downstairs last night to look for documents, I found huge books that Cabinet Affairs did every six months on all domestic-policy initiatives. I remember sitting through hours and hours and hours of domestic agencies, not foreign-policy agencies, domestic agencies coming over and presenting as to where they were on different initiatives. I don’t know if I ever made any of the others of you go to that because I couldn’t stand sitting there.

Jeavons

I don’t think you did.

Kilberg

But they were reports. They were useful to some extent in that it would give us an idea of what some departments and agencies were doing, and it gave me ideas of people I could call on in those departments. They used to come over and brief on issues we might want to bring to interest groups and get their opinions on. But other than that we did not have much in the way of relations with them. We were supposed to go to Cabinet Affairs when we wanted Cabinet members to come speak to any of the groups we had briefings for. Sometimes we did that, sometimes we just went to the Cabinet members ourselves. If we were short on time, which we often were, I’d just go do it and then they’d get angry.

Riley

Why the move to Intergovernmental Affairs in ’92?

Kilberg

That was very complicated. Number one, the President fired Deb Rae Anderson, the head of Intergovernmental Affairs. It finally got to the point where she just wasn’t functioning.

Riley

What was the problem?

Kilberg

I don’t know, nobody would tell me. They just told me that she was going to be let go. Skinner wanted to bring in Sherrie Rollins as Communications to the President, and Dave was going to be moved out. Sherrie was also not sure whether I’d be loyal to Dave, or I sensed between the lines that Sherrie was not sure whether I’d be loyal to Dave or to her. They had this gaping hole in Intergovernmental Affairs and would that be something I’d want to do? I could stay just where I was, but if I wanted to move that would be great and when we won I could be head of Intergovernmental Affairs. After three years and however many months of Public Liaison I thought that might be interesting because I enjoyed dealing with the Governors and the mayors and I liked that idea. So I said sure, but of course we lost.

Riley

Right.

Kilberg

Then they moved out. They brought in—American Forest and Paper [Association]—[William] Henson Moore had been at Energy?

Jeavons

Yes, he was Deputy Energy Secretary.

Kilberg

Whoever became the new Energy Secretary didn’t want Henson there, so they moved him over to the White House. He was Skinner’s deputy and that turned out to be a disaster. They didn’t know what to do with him. So they said, You go over with Bobbie in Intergovernmental Affairs. So there we had Henson, who at this point had totally tuned out, sitting opposite me. We had these two ridiculously large offices in Intergovernmental Affairs and neither of us knew who was in charge. But luckily or unluckily, he really at that point, as I said, had basically checked out. He was there but he wasn’t there.

Riley

Did you actually have a job at this point or were you just coming in—

Kilberg

Oh, no. I was head of Intergovernmental Affairs and things were very busy. But they weren’t busy in the sense of by the time you got to March—I think I went up there March 1.

Riley

Yes, March of an election year.

Kilberg

Yes, March, an election year, the President was actually—Intergovernmental Affairs turned out to be much busier than Public Liaison, which continued to do briefings but no longer had the President because he was never there. We didn’t have the President either, but every place he went he needed a briefing because every place you go is in a county, a city, or a state. It is in a jurisdiction. So we were there every night. Mark Frantz, a friend of all of us and the best staffer I had over there, and we were there every night to 11, 12 o’clock at night doing briefings on what is going on in X state, what are the demographics, what is going on in Y city, every single one. Plus we wound up with the responsibility of deciding on all the greeters. The greeters were traditionally elected officials or mayors or county executives. So it didn’t stop. We did not do a single policy thing, we did sheer logistics and briefing memos constantly.

You asked, in one of your questions, which Governors I most liked. The Governors I found the most cooperative and who did try to come to us with great ideas for the campaign and we basically sent them to the campaign, and we’d also send them for policy ideas to Roger Porter and others, but basically nothing was happening. They were Tommy Thompson, John Ashcroft, John Engler, Tom Ridge was not a Governor then, was he? Was Tom Ridge a Governor in ’92?

Riley

Yes, I think so.

Kilberg

Was he elected in ’90? Tom Ridge. No, it couldn’t be because Mark Frantz was still working for me and he went up to be Tom Ridge’s chief of staff. Tom decided to run for Governor, I think.

Riley

I met him at Penn [University of Pennsylvania] at some point.

Kilberg

Thompson, Engler, and Ashcroft were the real stars. They were very solid. They ran great Governorships. A matter of fact, one of Tommy Thompson’s people came over to run, they were supposed to run Governors for us. Then Skinner had a guy he wanted, he was bringing from Transportation with him, his first name was John [Cline]. He was a wonderful guy but had no experience. He decided that this guy wanted to run Governors and support David Burktell, who had moved his entire family from Wisconsin. I was told one day by Skinner, You have a new deputy for Governors. I said, I just got a new deputy for Governors, he just arrived. He said, Well, he’ll have to do something else and brought John in.

John was very good and very effective actually. John had been one of his chiefs of staff, not Cam Findlay but another senior person in Transportation. This guy turned out to be a very good friend of mine. He was very competent, it was no reflection on him, but this poor David wound up doing counties or something.

Basically we were a briefing machine for those statements. Going back to Public Liaison for a minute, once the budget deal fell apart, the tax increase budget deal, OPL turned more and more into an event machine. There was less and less of this Let’s all get together and go through the whole concept of how to create and sell a solid domestic-policy process. That all fell apart. The war started. Everybody paid attention only to the war. So we became an events machine. A very good events machine, but an events machine.

Riley

You’re not absorbing and—

Kilberg

We still were having briefings for outside groups, but it was less they’re telling us and having discussions of what they’re interested in and more our just briefing them on what we were doing.

Riley

Got you. Did you stay in the office after Bobbie left? You had been gone already?

Jeavons

I left in April of ’92 and I went for three months somewhere else and then—

Riley

In April of ’92.

Jeavons

To DOE [Department of Energy].

Kilberg

You were there for a couple of months.

Jeavons

I was there for a couple of months under Sherrie and CeCe.

Kilberg

Couldn’t have been a couple of months under Sherrie, she didn’t last a couple of months, only lasted five weeks or so, maybe six weeks.

Riley

There’s not much to say about the operation of the office other than it just continues to do events, which must decline in ’92 because the events are campaign events at that point.

Jeavons

I went to Congressional Affairs at Energy, and that was the one place where we actually accomplished one other major domestic-policy initiative, which was signing the energy legislation. It was the last time a big piece of energy legislation got passed, now that I think about it. So that was kind of fun. Even though it was not the White House, we did get something accomplished.

Riley

Were you at all tempted to go to the campaign or were you asked about the prospect of going?

Kilberg

No, nobody asked me and I wouldn’t have been tempted. It seemed to be such an unhappy place, and I really didn’t think I would make any difference.

Riley

Was there ever any sense of optimism after the 1990 budget deal or—

Kilberg

Oh, yes, the war, everybody got very geared up in the sense of work ethic and what it was important to be doing during the war and everybody was very engaged. I think people thought after the war we had a, what, 92% approval rating? We all went down to the Hill where the President made his speech. It wasn’t a State of the Union, it was something else. But he made a major address. We all went there. There was the feeling and the patriotism, and the sense of purpose and accomplishment were really quite extraordinary. Then we had this big parade on Constitution Avenue, remember that?

Jeavons

It was amazing.

Kilberg

It was amazing. We brought all our different interest groups to that. So you had something really strong going, but there was this inability to capitalize on it in an appropriate way. I think by the summer and fall—

Jeavons

Oh, yes.

Kilberg

Certainly by the fall of 1991 when Skinner came in, it was just such a hit in the gut in the sense of—it wasn’t depressing in and of itself, it was just the result of it was so depressing that everybody just sort of—it was not a happy place.

Riley

Were you having conversations with the President on occasion or sending him memoranda at any point to try to help with—

Kilberg

No.

Riley

To help get this thing righted that’s gone off the tracks?

Kilberg

No, because he was not really accessible anymore. Skinner made him not accessible. With Sununu he was accessible. Skinner made darn sure nobody would go in there unless it was a Skinner-controlled apparatus. So, no, we didn’t. As I said, we took two trips, once I went by myself, once I went with someone else, to see Baker. He was not helpful. He said, No, I’m not coming back. Eventually he did come back.

In the fall things did perk up a little bit in the sense that you had Dennis Ross and Margaret over there, and you had Jim and they were decisive and positive. So you felt a little better, but at that point in Intergovernmental Affairs the only thing, you wouldn’t have any time to do anything other than all those darn briefing memos where we literally made five stops a day, that’s all we could keep up with. So I can’t speak about Public Liaison at that point.

Riley

The Perot thing. Did it have any effect whatsoever on your labors? Probably not.

Kilberg

No. By that point I was in Intergovernmental Affairs. And by the way, in Intergovernmental Affairs I was still working for Sherrie.

Riley

For five or six weeks.

Kilberg

Yes, but unlike Public Liaison, where I think she probably had some concerns that I was going to be loyal to David and not her, she didn’t think that about Intergovernmental Affairs, I don’t know why. I guess she was so anxious to get Deb out of there. But there was one interesting time that the President took Tony Snow, me, and Marlin, who was being pilloried also by Skinner, Marlin hated Skinner. The three of us went to the President’s box at the Kennedy Center for some concert. I don’t even know what it was.

We all thought, Isn’t this strange? Then he said, Now let’s sit down. All of you sit next to me in the front row in the President’s box. We said, Why this photo op? It was widely interpreted by the White House staff, I don’t know if anybody else interpreted it, as the President standing up for three of his closest friends and sending a message to Skinner in his own oblique way that what the hell are you doing, because Skinner was trying to get rid of Marlin. He had basically taken Tony Snow’s job away for absolutely no reason, and I was moving to Intergovernmental Affairs. We got more comments, all three of us, about that was a really good thing the President did from the White House staff. The more I thought about it over the years, I think that was aimed at the rest of the White House staff, to say, Don’t worry, this too shall pass. But it didn’t, it was there until August.

Riley

Were you surprised when the election results came back as they did?

Jeavons

No.

Kilberg

No. Both in ’88 and in ’92 I was in Houston for a number of weeks. In ’88 I went out there to be in charge of the senior staff and everybody with all the election night stuff. That was a very different kind of feeling. In ’92 they sent me back. I know I wasn’t there for two weeks. I was there four or five days. I set up a room in the Houstonian for us all to have dinner, senior staff and close friends, the night of the election.

The President came down about 5 o’clock our time, which was 6 o’clock East Coast time and he knew. He just went person to person. I’m going to start to cry even now thinking about it. He just went person to person and hugged and kissed everybody and said, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. We all sat there for two hours, maybe three hours with him. We just reminisced and then he said, Let’s go and concede. We all got in vans. He got in his limousine, we got in vans. We went over to the John Brown Auditorium and we conceded. I’ll never forget—did you interview Kevin Moley?

Riley

No.

Kilberg

He was one of the chief advance guys on both elections. He may have been one of the chief advance guys in the White House. He ended up being, at the end he was Ambassador to one of the countries in Europe and his wife Dorothy had worked at the RNC. Their young son had gone to our day school.

Jeavons

He started in advance in the Vice President’s office.

Kilberg

Kevin, yes. Well, Damon [Moley] came doing press advance and he left college to do it. We’re standing there. I brought all the President’s friends over to the rope line. Here was the President talking to the crowd and here was the rope line. Actually we were in a ballroom and I don’t remember it being all that full either. Kevin brought the press in in front of us. I don’t know what happened but Kevin started getting fisticuffed. I remember holding Kevin back, this kid back. Tears were coming down his cheeks and he was saying, You mother f’er. You’re the reason we lost this race, screaming at the press.

I just thought, God, these kids had gotten so involved. From Kevin’s perspective he’d known George Bush his entire life, since he was a kid, and he just felt so strongly about it. I had two of the President’s friends pull this poor kid off this press guy who had just infuriated him. But it was a very emotional night. Then we all got back on the buses right behind the limousine and got out at the Houstonian and the President just said, I’m going to bed.

Riley

There you go. Did you have any role in the transition out, either helping them with thinking about a future in Texas or briefing the incoming?

Kilberg

The incoming people? I’m sure we did a briefing book for the Clinton people. I frankly don’t remember, I’m sure we did. But I left on January 8 or 9 because I was running for the nomination for Lieutenant Governor. So I wasn’t even here. I missed Dana Carvey and everybody else.

Jeavons

Me, too.

Kilberg

I wasn’t there the last two weeks so I don’t remember.

Riley

Did you talk with the President about your decision to run for office?

Kilberg

Yes.

Riley

Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kilberg

He thought it was a great thing to do, he said he would support me. He wrote my first check. He asked me what he could do, what board and commission would be most helpful. I said, I don’t know if it would be most helpful, but I’ve always wanted to be on the Naval Academy Board of Visitors. Actually it was somewhat helpful because there are a lot of Navy people in Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach. Unfortunately they don’t vote in Republican conventions. They might vote in a primary.

So he put me on the Naval Academy Board. He gave me a hug and said he was glad I was continuing what he started. But that was about it. I didn’t spend much time with him afterward.

Riley

And not much you said with W beyond that, you sort of lost touch with him?

Kilberg

I didn’t lose touch with him. He appointed me—I was a Pioneer and I was a Ranger, I raised a lot of money for him. I brought people down when he was still Governor of Texas. I brought leaders from the tech sector here down to meet with him. He was obviously looking for supporters and twice or so we got a plane, and I brought 20 or so people down. He’d call me every once in a while from the White House but not a lot. He put me on the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology, so in that role I probably saw him in a meeting once a year or so. He’d always invite me to holiday parties.

The person who actually much more embraced me was Laura, and she would include me in her women’s group, not her small group, but her larger women’s group in the residence. So I would with some frequency go up to the residence for lunches or different kinds of—they weren’t meant to be women’s things but they were. We did a breast cancer thing and some other things. They were very kind to include me in stuff, but no, I would not call us friends. We became acquaintances again rather than friends. I would call her a friend, but I’d call him simply an acquaintance.

Riley

In looking back, were there missed opportunities, places where things might have turned out differently if a second term could have been won or was it just the nature of the times that it was unlikely to happen?

Kilberg

I think the economy was such, it was obviously not like this, but the economy was such that someone who was willing, as Clinton was, to make glib promises that he couldn’t fulfill, though you knew that the cycle was going to turn so he would eventually get credit for something that was not his to get credit for, without being irresponsible, there was not much we really could promise. Clinton that didn’t bother, Bush that bothered. It was innate to his character that he was not going to say things that were not true and that he could not do. Similar to John McCain—I was one of his national finance chairs, and I’m very close to him and I love him—but John McCain went up to Michigan in the primary, if you remember, and said, Your jobs aren’t coming back. You need to be retrained. We lost Michigan by what, 40 points or something. We would have lost to Mitt Romney anyway but not the way we did.

John McCain too wasn’t about to say something that he knew flat out was false, and President Bush wasn’t about to say that either, and you paid a price for that. I do think that, certainly compared to Bill Clinton, the President’s unwillingness or inability or discomfort with sound bites and utilizing the media to try to project himself in a way he wasn’t comfortable with was just not something he could do successfully. You can’t force that.

He is such a wonderful, terrific person in his own right in what he is, that it is a shame you have to remake yourself in order to win an election. He just wasn’t about to do that. So I don’t know. I don’t know what else you could have done.

Jeavons

I would just say to Bobbie’s point, if he were a different—taking the economy out of the picture and the sentiment of the voting populace and the media, which I do think played a role, plays a role in every campaign. If he were a different kind of politician, to what Bobbie was saying earlier, he could have won. But I’m glad he wasn’t, I’m glad he isn’t because that wouldn’t have been his authentic self. I don’t think I could ever work for another American President just because—yes, I was younger, perhaps more idealistic, but that’s what drew all of us to someone like him. It’s a shame. I think he could have done an awful lot more.

Riley

One of the things I can tell you without violating any confidences from subsequent interviews, there are an awful lot of Clinton people who give President Bush credit in their interviews for the 1990 budget agreement, that it was politically suicidal and they were happy to take advantage of it, but they recognized that the successes they were able to have—they had some tough choices to make in 1993, but the people who were in the inner reaches there understood that whatever they were able to accomplish in the budget had its roots in what happened in 1990.

Jeavons

That’s right. You can say that in a lot of different areas. It’s all relative and politicians are politicians, but of anybody I can think of since I’ve been a cognizant adult, he put principle above politics. You can think about that on the foreign affairs side. Look at what happened with the fall of the Berlin Wall and him getting criticized for speaking the way he did. Obviously I’m a little more in tune with this now, based on working with my clients, but—

Riley

So that the readers know, you’re now working—

Jeavons

Yes, one of my main clients is the government of the Russian Federation. He could have gone over and urged them to talk about how it was his and the United States’ victory over Communism and he chose not to do that, which I think was the right way to go. Actually I think there are a lot of interesting conversations we would get into as well about his policy toward NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] expansion. I think at the time he and even Secretary Baker were very cautious and not for it. Or we could delve into high levels of foreign policy that I shouldn’t be talking about. To me what George H. W. Bush epitomizes is principle over politics.

Kilberg

If you take a look at the budget deal, you put all the tax increases aside, Ronald Reagan raised taxes as well. But the way he couched it, you would have thought he lowered them. When you look at particularly what the Bush budget required in the sense of spending restraints, it was what enabled Bill Clinton to be successful because for every spending increase you had to have a reduction somewhere else, or something kicked in, whatever it was. You couldn’t legally do it, they put in budget restraints for the first time that were statutorily required. Everybody overlooked that.

Riley

Well, as a historical matter they’re not doing it.

Jeavons

That’s nice to hear.

Riley

I’m telling you that as a—

Kilberg

That’s good. The right, the conservatives within the party, excoriated Bush for worrying about the deficit when they said, What you really ought to be focusing on is just plain old economic growth. Well, guess what? Now everybody in the world is worried about, as I am, the deficit that is going to be left to my children and grandchildren. The two have to go hand in hand.

Riley

From your perspective, what do you define as the most significant accomplishment out of the administration?

Kilberg

I think foreign policy-wise the Gulf War and, strangely enough, stopping where they stopped.

Jeavons

No question.

Kilberg

The Gulf War and domestically I would say a combination of the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. I would not say the budget for obvious cost reasons. But I would say those two, and not just because we were deeply involved in them but because I think they really set a standard in defining President Bush’s Presidency as different from other Presidencies.

The other thing was on the Civil Rights Act, one of the things that the business groups were most concerned about was the uncertainty. I remember after, the President was at a meeting with something else we were doing and I said, Can I walk back with you from the Old Executive Office Building to the Oval Office? and he said sure. I remember walking down the steps and talking to him about the fact that the business community’s business roundtables were telling me, Just let’s make a decision, we need some certainty here. We are not going to be opposed to a lot of these provisions if you could just settle on them so we can get about our business. So that was one point.

The second point was that the President was very open, still at this time, to listen to people from all viewpoints. So Bill Coleman, who had been a Secretary of Transportation, called me one morning and said, I want to bring Ben Hooks in, who at that time was head of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People].

I ran it by Sununu and Sununu said, Ah, I’m not sure. I ran it by Roger Porter and he said no. I went back by Sununu and said, Do me a favor. Just go into the Oval Office and ask the President. The President said, Yes, if he can come in quietly. So I arranged for him to be cleared. It was 6 o’clock at night. I think this bill was coming to a vote very fast in the House and Senate, so you had to do it right then.

Benjamin Hooks and Bill Coleman, without Sununu. Sununu said, Let them go in by themselves, went in and talked to the President. It must have been for an hour and a half, to the point that I was getting frantic calls from the White House Social Office. Debbie Dunn and Laurie Firestone were about to kill me because it was the night of either a major state dinner or a major other dinner, but it was a very formal fancy dinner and there was no President.

They kept on saying, What the hell are you doing? I said, Well, he’s still in the Oval Office talking to Benjamin Hooks. Laurie said, I don’t give a— Get him over here. He was late to his own—again I don’t know if it was a state dinner or whatever it was. It was a really big thing, because he just wanted to hear this guy out. After that conversation he, again it would have to be Boyden who would tell you the specifics, but Boyden wasn’t crazy on the Civil Rights Act at all either, but after the specifics the President went somewhat in the direction of where Benjamin Hooks wanted him to. Again, that’s part of the willingness to listen and to make changes after you listen, and be respectful.

Riley

Is there any piece we haven’t dealt with or are there still mischaracterizations of President Bush that you could comment on that will help us to understand the President or the man in a way we don’t now?

Kilberg

Let me just go through here and see if there’s anything I can find that answers that.

Riley

I always say we typically exhaust the interviewees before we do the subjects that we discuss. So we will not get everything on all the lists, but—

Kilberg

I don’t know that enough people really understand the extraordinary humanity of the man in both large ways and small and his feelings about people. I say it as a great compliment, they don’t make folks like that anymore. There’s something about the warmth and civility and concern for fellow human beings that he was growed up to have. I say growed up very purposefully in a time and a place that are maybe gone now. But there was something very special about that sort of person. I can think of many other experiences in my parents’ generation of people like that who are gone.

We are in a society so in a rush and a society so polarized, and individuals like him are just hard to come by. I remember just one or two personal things. My father died of colon cancer in 1983. So he was Vice President. I knew that the Vice President knew about it, but I didn’t know that he knew my father was close to the end. Evidently [Erlinda] Linda Casey, who was his secretary, told him. So unbeknownst to me, Linda figured out what hospital my dad was in and the Vice President called my father in the hospital, got my mother. My mother held up the phone to my father’s ear. My father could not speak by that point, but according to my mother and Linda, the Vice President went on in a monologue for five minutes just talking about things he knew about my dad and things about me and how the grandkids were doing and all this, and that he’d seen Jonathan do this or so-and-so do that. And he barely knew my father. According to my mother, my father just had tears in his eyes. It was just a simple—he didn’t have to do that. It was something he just decided himself to do.

My mother, who was a Russian immigrant, I brought her to the [Boris] Yeltsin, or was it [Mikhail] Gorbachev, I think it was Gorbachev.

Jeavons

It must have been Gorbachev.

Kilberg

They were signing some deal in the White House, and I invited her to see if she wanted to come to the ceremony, and she felt that this would be very exciting. She still spoke some Russian, she came here as a child. If I remember it right, they were delayed and delayed. There was something in the agreement that was being changed at the last minute. So we had all these Russians from the embassy, and very few interpreters because all the interpreters were in the Oval Office.

Jeavons

I’ll tell you what it was, it was the START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] 20 years ago.

Kilberg

Okay, it was the START treaty. They were sitting there and they evidently were changing the language in this thing. So the President or somebody called over to the Ushers' Office and said to one of the ushers, We’re going to be really late. I don’t think it was Gary Walters. Who was it told me the story? He said, But we have all these Russians here and they’re all just standing around and nobody speaks any English and nobody speaks any Russian. They said they could hear the President shout at him in the background, Bobbie’s mother does, have her— [Laughter]

So my mother, who at that age was 80-something and walked with a cane but was very elegant, proceeded to go around and was explaining in Russian, with an American docent, all the different pictures in the White House. It was the best day she’d ever had in her life. But it was such a strange thing. In the middle of what you said was the START agreement—

Jeavons

Yes, it was.

Kilberg

He’s shouting, Bobbie’s mother knows Russian. You say that’s silly, but it’s not silly, it just all wraps up into his humanity. I think the one thing I want people to always remember about him is that he is just an extraordinary person. I worry about him now because as you know he has a balance problem.

Jeavons

Is that why he’s walking with a cane?

Kilberg

Yes, and if he stands for a long time he has to put his arm on somebody’s shoulder. His mind is as sharp as everything, but he’s aging. I’m sure they’re figuring out what the balance problem is but I don’t know. He’s aging and I just worry about him. He sees his friends dying off now and that is very hard on him. I’ll get an e-mail every once in a while with XX for kisses, GB and he says, Did you know that so-and-so died? It’s hard, and he’s a wonderful guy.

Jeavons

Special man. I don’t have those sorts of personal recollections but just a couple from some of my experiences at work that I can remember that speak to this. There are lots of events, you’ll see in here, like taking in the March of Dimes poster child or something like that. I think one of the first times I did that, it was an adorable little girl, I can’t remember what her illness was. But she came in the office. Here’s this big, tall—he’s what 6’ what, 3 or 4?

Kilberg

He’s 6’4.

Jeavons

She’s meeting the President, she’s maybe 7, 8, 9 years old. He immediately got down, not on his knees, but so he could talk to her at her level. I just thought, That’s something that wouldn’t normally occur to somebody, but it would to him. Or being outside for a German-American Day proclamation signing. We liked to bring kids over. There were kids singing from some German school. At one point I saw him listening and he had this look on his face, not exactly happy. He wrote a note and handed it to Tim McBride and I thought, Oh, shoot, did I screw something up? What’s wrong with the event?

Tim disappeared for a while and came out with the puppy, with Millie. It was like, oh, I know the kids are going to want to play. They were thrilled. The dog was romping around. It’s just those little touches that aren’t for the camera, they’re because they’re important to the person he’s with.

Kilberg

I used to bring Andrew over with some frequency because I missed him when he was little, and the President would take, he’d just say, Oh, just put him out there in the horseshoe pit with the dog. The horseshoe pit one reminds me of a funny story. Queen Elizabeth came for some major visit and ceremony. I have this picture at home. The Blue Goose [lectern], the President—

Jeavons

This is when it was just the hat, right?

Kilberg

The President’s podium has a step you can pull out because it is set for his height. Well, he’s 6’3, 6’4 and she’s what, 5’4, 5’5 whatever. I don’t know who missed it in the protocol briefing, but he forgot to pull it out and nobody told her it existed. So after he spoke, she spoke to the South Lawn of 2,000 people and all you could see was her hat.

Jeavons

Which was a beautiful hat.

Kilberg

It was beautiful, it’s blue and it was absolutely beautiful. So you had all these photos of this talking hat. He just referenced that for years thereafter. Later that day they went to do horseshoes. I don’t know if she was a fan of horseshoes or what. I don’t know why but somehow I was at the horseshoe pit and she was really quite funny. She brought the horseshoe back and then looked at him and went, Maybe I ought to do it this way, something about my hat. But she had quite a sense of humor too. She realized that she looked like an idiot. But he was mortified by that. Just during the time of the horseshoes that I was there for maybe ten minutes, he must have apologized 45 times. He just worried about it. It was the talking hat. It was just a silly thing.

Riley

No, it’s not silly. I think one of the things we try to capture in these oral histories is not just the policy and how budgets are made and the intricacies of the politics of every White House, but the humanity of the Presidents who are there. That’s not the kind of thing you’re going to find in the written documents, it’s the kind of thing that is lodged in the memories of people who work there. I think particularly with this President who inspired such enormous loyalty in comparison to some others that it is important for people in the future to know what kind of person inspires that kind of loyalty.

Kilberg

Is it really different—do you sense more of a sense of loyalty toward George Herbert Walker Bush than other Presidents?

Riley

In a different sort of way because I think that the level of respect for exactly the things that you’re putting your finger on is very different here. Clinton inspired loyalty but in a very different way because there was—I think part of what you talked about is a kind of respectful loyalty. There is a respect for not just his intellect but the way he treated people and humanity toward others.

Reagan inspired a different kind of loyalty, Clinton inspires a different kind of loyalty. I do think that the nature of the relationship that each President has with the people who are close to him is idiosyncratic. I leave it for others to decide whether one version of loyalty is superior to the other, but the important thing is that we know the roots of it. You’ve given us a remarkable portrait of that. The spoken address you gave before, which I think has been elaborated on here in numerous ways, will survive for a very long time. That is one of the things that makes me so pleased I’m in the job that I’m in, because I agree with you that there are dying breeds of people and it’s a privilege to have a chance to sit down and not just hear about it, but to create a record that people can come back to and understand that there are certain breeds of people who did exist and that they do inspire this kind of loyalty. So I’m grateful for your time and—

Jeavons

I would have paid to come do this.

Riley

Don’t tell me that, I may have to bill you.

Kilberg

There was one last thing I wanted to conclude with but I just lost it here but it related to—I found the thing that Richard Haass was so upset about—

Jeavons

Deb Anderson.

Kilberg

Thank you, that was the woman in Intergovernmental Affairs. What it was, one of the times when Richard Haass went nuts, it was Baker’s speech, when he took out all the grace notes. You put this in here so you’ve read this then.

Riley

It’s in there, I can’t say that I read it carefully. But these briefing books go with the interviews.

Kilberg

There was a very strong statement about the ban on new settlements. Nevertheless, reaction to Baker’s speech from AIPAC and other American-Jewish organizations was predictably furious. First the White House went into full damage control mode. Richard Haass was enlisted to meet with representatives—I enlisted him—of several prominent organizations, and hear the concerns about Baker’s speech. Meanwhile Bobbie Kilberg summarized the follow-up to the speech in a May 24 memo to Sununu, which is interesting. I have no memory of this but I obviously did it. It said, Secretary Baker’s speech has generated widespread domestic political concern for us within the Jewish community and we do not believe it is a one- or two-day story. While the controversy over the specifics of the speech may die down, the general anxiety within the Jewish community will persist.

Baker’s use of the term greater Israel, which has been associated only with the most radical wing of the Zionist movement, has been perceived as especially antagonistic. Several people noted that if Secretary Shultz had made the same speech he would have gotten away with it because the Jewish community trusted him and felt warmly about him and Reagan. They have not developed the same feeling about Secretary Baker. And then it says, This public strategy has undermined rather than strengthened Shamir’s position in Israel and will have the ultimate effect of solidifying the far right led by [Ariel] Sharon and indeed that’s what happened.

But I guess the final point would be that sometimes the Office of Public Liaison had to deal with the fallout from Cabinet members’ actions. Because the general public often didn’t distinguish between the action of a Cabinet member and the President, though in this case I think the President and Baker were pretty much on target on the settlements. I think on the settlements they were actually right, but often, some of our role was to defuse the anger that came directed at the President from the Cabinet members.

Riley

Exactly.

Kilberg

That I had totally forgotten about. Well, we’re glad you’re here because our memories are getting pretty old. This has been—

Jeavons

Twenty years.

Kilberg

From the end it was only 17 years.

Riley

Well, we try to do better, we try to get to people earlier when we can.

Kilberg

I felt you had gotten to me in a very nice timely fashion.

Riley

We did, earlier. We talked about this when we spoke over the phone after you got the invitation. I went back and looked at it. That was a very helpful—

Kilberg

Well, there was not just me. I was about the 14th person who did that. They went through the different offices, so I hope you all have those.

Riley

They’ve all been recorded and transcribed and yours evidently had been pretty heavily edited too because it read very nicely. That sounds terrible.

Kilberg

No, no, I did edit it.

Riley

Q and A and so forth had been—

Kilberg

I remember editing it, but still they got some things wrong. For example, programmatic should be pragmatic. So I made myself a bunch of notes and I don’t know if it’s appropriate to—

Riley

If you want to, send it back with me. The truth is that I know where it is, it is in our files, but I don’t know how to redo it because I don’t know where the file is.

McDowell

You’re talking about the file of that? I know where it is. It’s electronic.

Riley

Then we can go in and edit it.

Kilberg

So I could actually go in and where it is supposed to be pragmatic rather than programmatic, I can change it.

Riley

I you want to send us that—

Kilberg

They’re small things, but they’re things that will be confusing to scholars down the road.

Riley

You can send it to me and I can take care of.

McDowell

It’s a PDF and I can create—

Kilberg

You can send it to me and I can just edit.

Riley

We can send it to you, it’s just if it is a PDF file, it’s going to be hard to manipulate. The broader questions, there were some volumes published through University Press of America over time on President Bush that must have been from previous people who had come through. Obviously they weren’t all-inclusive.

Kilberg

They ran out of money by the time they’d gotten to me and some other people and that’s why they did publish it.

Riley

Do you know that for a fact?

Kilberg

Yes, because I remember Ken [Thompson] telling me that.

Riley

Ken would know because that was Ken’s enterprise. This was done—I left the Center as a graduate student in 1990 and came back in 2000.

Kilberg

I think that’s what happened. I think by 1996 they were really hurting for money.

Riley

But I know one of the things we’re desperately trying to do, and the current director and the senior leadership are very hot about this, we have a terrific archive of this kind of stuff, lectures that have been given that were unpublished. They very much want to create a searchable, usable, centralized archive on our Web site so that all of this stuff is available. I think the problem is basically staffing right now. It is getting the people who have some time and the resources necessary to go through and clear all this stuff.

But what I pledge to you that I will do is when I get back to the Center I will write the associate director who is responsible for these kinds of things. I will say that we’ve had a conversation and from my experience this is a terrific document that ought to be available to everybody and just say please, to the extent that you can, make it a high priority to try to get on to this business of getting these things compiled and available on the Web site.

If it is available on the Web it will be much more valuable than it would be even in a published form. I discovered in my own research—

Kilberg

Kids don’t go—

Riley

If it’s in electronic form they’ll find it. If it is published in a book then I have to beat them over the head to go look for it.

Kilberg

It would really be nice too and I think you guys have a great name anyway, you can make even more of a name for yourself if you have a conference before he dies.