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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  October 29, 2009 12:30pm-1:30pm EDT

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>> rose: welcome to the broadcast. tonight, the book editor of the "new york times" sam tanenhawse talks about books and his own book "the death of conservatism." >> what we forget especially during the fraught moments, the tea parties and the anti-tax
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marches in wahid which was significant by the way, not simply because of the vulgar attacks on the president but because they were denunciations of both parties in all of government by these people. they reminded me of the radicals in the late '60s. you know, who opposed the government.... >> rose: radicals from the left. we conclude with carrie fisher in a one person broadway show called "wishful drinking." i >> i'm proud of myself that i've been able to get through this stuff and i've been able to... i can't overcome it but i can use it instead of it using... i have problems. problems don't have me. you know, i'm a very... i'm not afraid of anything and that would that would not be so if i hadn't had to deal with all that. i started afraid but i'm not afraid now. >> rose: but if you had your
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druthers. >> well, i wouldn't get manic part without the other one and the manic thing is a blast. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: sam tanenhaus is here. he is editor of both the "new
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york times" book review and the weekend review section of the newspaper when he is not appraising books, he writes some of his own. his biography of whitaker chambers was a finalist for the national book award and the pulitzer prize. his latest book is called "the death of nervatism." in it, he argues today's republicans have lost their way and need to return to their intellectual roots. i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. >> great to be here, charlie. >> rose: did this grew out of that "new republic" piece that you sfwlo >> it did. iy story, an essay during the first month of the obama administration for republicans and conservatively sbek which you wills, because the book is about both. they seem totally lost and also it builds on a lot of thinking and writing i've done ever since i started writing about conservatism some 20 years ago. >> rose: what space would a conservative that you think has ideas and capacity to be
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elected? what's the space? what's the candidate look like? what's the ideas look like? >> well, we're talking about two different things. the candidates come from who knows where. if you look back over the history of the movement and the various tribunes, t right had, barry goldwater there the '60s, rag ghan the '70s, '80s. they were kind of self-created figures. what they did that was so essential and what this booked a dresss is find the people with ideas. there's a great story, bill buckley, whose biography i'm writing, told me a few years ago just one line. i asked him "bill, how did you find goldwater and reagan?" he said "i didn't find them. they came to me." partly that was bill being the intellectual aristocrat. >> rose: meaning what? >> meaning they needed a vocabulary, a language, that would reach outside this very cloistered sect of movement conservatism which is kind of anti-government, opposed to many of the institutions in our
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society which doesn't feel very conservative at all. it seems like a kind of radicalism. they had to find the instruments the language, and the ideas, the proposals that might resonate with the broader public. so they went to intellectuals t. and liberalism is now suffering because there are not great conservative opponents. and i say in this book that you could argue that the nearest thing to a classical conservative in contemporary politics is our president who's a die-hard liberal. he's conservative temperamently. >> rose: because of civility? because of listening? because he understands your point of view? >> and also because he believes in revitalizing the core institutions of government and society. he's tamped down the imperial presidency, which we all began to worry about. >> rose: how has he tamped it down? >> well, through a foreign policy that really emphasizes multilateralism. >> rose: but that's not the imperial presidency, is it? that by... foreign policy that
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wants to engage, an arab engagement, is not tamping down the imperial nature of the... it has nothing do with it, does it? >> oh, i think it does. >> rose: the imperial nature is that you're reflecting a policy of imperialism? for a president you think of somebody who sit there is and believes that the executive branch rules everything. >> that's right. and it dates back really, as i say in the book, it really dates back to the presidency of franklin roosevelt with a democratic idea originally. the first great critics of it were conservatives. another philosopher i write about is james burnham, a mentor to buckley. he was one of the first strong critics as what he called caesarism. the presidency that grows so over weaning in its power that it violates the strength of the other branches. it was conservatives who first made that criticism. but then once their own politicians got in office, they reversed course. with nixon, with reagan and with george w. bush decided there should be no constraints on the
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presidency at all. and we had three presidents in those three instances-- nixon, reagan, and bush-- who committed impeachable offenses probably. and we had democratic presidents who seemed to understand the limitations of power and we had moderate republicans who understood that. gerald ford, dwight eisenhower, the elder bush. they worked within the constraints of the government even if the other branches want to overpower them, they understand the constitutional system required them to go along. >> rose: i think an imperial president has to do within w the consolidation of power within the white house and your arrogance about that power, rather than a kind of foreign policy that had to do with engagement or something else. >> that's a fair point. but the two are not easily detached. if we look at the presidency of gorge bush, the younger bush, look at how the war in iraq was prosecuted. that's not simply a matter of consolidating power internally,
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consolidating power really to make a foreign policy move that the rest of the world would essentially have to just observe watch if the sidelines. >> rose: tell me what the conservative movement was about. and what called it to that. >> what this book describes is two strands of conservatism that have always been at war with one another, okay? one is what i think of as a classical conservative movement and that really goes all the way back to the greatest of all conservative thinkers, edmund burr. >> rose: an irishman who went to london. >> was very pro-ireland, pro-american revolution. >> rose: anti-french revolution. >> anti-french revolution. why because robespierre and danton wanted to destroy the society they opposed rather than reform it. and burke said "conserve and correct, that's the goal of the statesman." now what happened in american
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politics was when f.d.r. took power and really did revolutionize our government to some extent, the reaction on the right-- that is the massive enlargement of the federal government, the creation of the alphabet soup agencies to enact laws.... >> rose: beyond that, he wanted to enlargehe court. >> he did, and that's really what brought him down. he did overstep his bounds. but what the right did was to decide it wasn't simply roosevelt himself who was responsible for all of this, it was that secret army of mandarins and bureaucratics, right in the managerial alet. and that give birth to an idea that government itself and the intellectual forces that feed it because where do these new deal intellectuals from? they come from the ivy league, they come from the top law firms. they constitute a class that is at war with america itself. >> rose: the same people who jack kennedy hired. >> that's exactly right. and that's why if you look at ronald reagan's correspondence, which i've done, you'll see a
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letter he wrote to nixon in 1960s and he said "well, j.f.k. may have tousled hair but he's still a marxist." >> rose: he actually thought that? was that part of reagan's belief that someone like j.f.k. was a marxist or was it a turn of phrase to create a laugh? >> well, see this... not necessarily a laugh. also maybe to send a shiver of anxiety, this is what we're hearing now. this is the problem the right half v. >> rose: you say you believe he's a classical conservative because he wants to preserve and change? >> yes, that's right. >> rose: come back to that. but stay with this sort of evolution of conservatism. so there it was, a certain kind of conservatism. what was it? beyond burke and beyond conserve and change, who represented it? did ronald reagan represent it? or was ronald reagan a new conservatism that in a sense marked the end of an old conservatism and marked a group of people within a party taking over. >> well, a lot of this is hard to untangle though i try to do hit in the book.
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i'll lay it out as best i can. if you look at that period when the modern conservative movement took shape which was after world war ii, that is, the ideas were percolating during the roosevelt years. here was a man also who ran for president four times. >> rose: right. >> something unthinkable and, in fact, illegal now. we would look back at him and say "this is someone who overreached." on the other hand, he did it through the democratic process. so the right sets itself up in opposition to him. they get their first chance in 1952. remember, in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s, this country did not elect a single republican president. five democratic presidents in a row. and 1952 the student comes. dwight eisenhower. >> rose: they have a national hero. jup they have a national hero. in fact, both parties pursued him. no one knew what his politics were. >> rose: no one would have cared. >> except the ideological right. they were nervous about him. >> rose: this was taft or someone else? >> well, taft was his opponent
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but also the young bill buckley and overs were very suspicious of him because look at eisenhower's connections. he's an internationalist when many of the right had been isolationists. he was a president of columbia university. >> rose: and he'd been in europe. >> he'd been in europe with many contacts with foreign leaders. he seemed a middle-of-the-road guy, which he was. this was the concern the right had. if we elect as republicans a president who is not going to undo, to roll back all the radical changes that happened under roosevelt and then the stew waugh strew man, our conservatism will have failed and there would have been a left wing revolution that's overtaken the country. and, of course, that's what happened with eisenhower. eisenhower kept the new deal in place. in my scheme, eisenhower and bill clinton stand as the two great modern conservative presidents because they followed presidents who had been radical to some extent and rather than try to undo everything, just
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moderate it and tempered it. >> rose: that's tony blair. he did not try to undo everything margaret thatcher had done. >> he did not at all and he was despised on the left part of the labour party for that. so we're back in the 1950s now and eisenhower looks suspiciously like a moderate. so buckley starts to organize a magazine, "national review", partly "to read dwight eisenhower out of the conservative movement. it sounds crazy today. >> rose: because buckley's man was taft or because buckley's man was... >> i think. joe mccarthy. joe mccarthy is the key figure. >> rose: because of anti-communism, which was so central to buckley? >> because he gave the right a populist voice. joe mccarthy... sarah palin does it today. what the right has the most difficulty establishing to the country at large is a connection with the ordinary man. buckley and company were quite elitist. you know, buckley was going to
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write a book called "the revolt against the masses." he was going do this... as far as the middle '60s. they were essentially elitists. but what they saw mccarthy could do... no one ever wanted mccarthy to be president. buckley would never have said that. but mccarthy was the voice of an aggressive oppositionism. somebody who would.... >> rose: take it to them? >> take it to them in the most aggressive way with some political sophistication. so buckley and company lined up behind him. >> rose: and he never denounced him until the end, did he? >> he never really did though he regretted. he might have even said it on this show, he said "i wish joe mccarthy would have never lived >> rose: most of the thing he is said were on that show. >> what's interesting about that moment is buckley now starting his magazine wants all the leading conservative intellectuals, the fill softs, on his side. he's a man of ideas. so burnham wanted to do it. buckley's strange mentor, will mortar kendall, another mentor from yale, who is also to show
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you how brilliant he was, later a mentor to gary wells. fascinating figure, saul bellow wrote a short story about him. so buckley has these guys on the side. but the prize is the most fame oust anti-economist intellectuals, whitaker chambers. and he goes to chambers and he says "come aboard." and chambers says "no! you all sound a bit like crackpots to me! you've gone from someone like chambers himself..." chambers, burnham and kendall had all beer communist at one time or another. that's important to remember because that tradition carries through the late irving kristal. >> rose: the people who became the neo-conservatives. >> they have an idea that you're living through perpetual warfare and the only way you win is through a counterrevolution, which is not a conservative idea at all, it's a radical idea. so chambers says enough with the extremism left and right. because he'd been through all of that. and he says no. he says, in fact, what we have
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to do is find a different model. and his model was, of all people the 19th century british conservative benjamin disraeli. beckonsfield and chambers calls himself a beckonsfieldian. and he says if we're going survive as conservative, we have to give things up. give up the things you have to give up. for instance, don't preach the evils of socialism to my neighbors the right wing farmers who like joe mccarthy because they're standing in line to get the price supports and handout. you have to be realistic about what you can do. and it took buck lay while to absorb that lesson. but the key period came, i think and as i describe it, in the next decade, the 1960s when the great society was in place and the pragmatism of the democratic party and its leading liberals, architects like daniel patrick moynihan, turned into something different. it turned into its own ideology
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of improving the quality of life for all citizens. you have this boundlessly rich country and you have some people who are being excluded. let's remake society and government to make everyone's life better. and at that point, theyoverreac. and moynihan himself who had been the architect of the war on poverty, some of his great programs said "well, what have we done here? we've created these massive programs, we have these wonderful civil rights laws which should have been passed a generation ago and are now in place and what do we see? we see riots in watts." >> rose: we see what he also said is we see the destruction of the family structure. >> that's exactly right. why? because if you were a virtuous liberal in that period, you thought it was unseemly to question the social arrangements that any family might have, particularly if people living in the inner city with all the obstacles moynihan knew very well, and moynihan sympathized
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with that. what was shocking to him was when he created this extraordinary idea of a family-centered policy... and it was richard nixon who wanted to put in the place. >> rose: when he was in the white house. >> when he was in the white house. what did moynihan find? >> rose: moynihan was in the white house. >> well, yes, nixon brought him in later. but he did in the 1965 for lyndon johnson. what does moynihan find? he's called a racist. he's attacked by the right for wanting to make the government too big. by the left for not respecting the... sort of the mortar race and culture of the people he says he wants to help. and suddenly this liberal center, this pragmatic consensus center, which has really been, like, the glory of our politics in the '50s and '60s, that's where the eisenhowers and kennedys and johnsons fit is n is their belief in consensus politics. >> rose: and that's where you think... just moving it forward, bill clinton was? >> yes, he was. >> rose: and barack obama? >> yes, i do. i think he's a consensus figure.
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>> rose: so if the lineage goes forward from eisenhower to clinton, the next stop is obama? >> i think it's an open question with him, charlie. here's why: i think obama has absorbed too liberal... two liberal strains that may actually be in opposition. >> rose: two big a centrist conserveive? >> well, in opposition with one another that he may not be able to reconcile. the first is the new deal legacy. the new deal is really best seen as a kind of massive government intervention at a time of emergency. so the tarp, the temporary assets relief program. these policies, right? these are new deal types of policies. they're done in a time of emergency, you have to prop up the banks. >> rose: but he inherited them from... >> from george bush. well, just the way franklin
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roosevelt inherited them from herbert hoover. up? but isn't there a difference there? i mean, franklin roosevelt didn't inherit... what he inherited was an economic condition... he inherited an economic condition, he didn't inherit the new deal. what barack obama has inherited was programs that had been done... tarp programs and things like that that had been initiated by a previous administration. programs. >> oh, yes, i see the distinction. and it's even more complicated than that because what obama's doing that's quite risky is saying, we're going to do great society-like programs, improve the quality of health care, reform the system at the same time. when we don't have very much money. that's a real gamble. so can he do it? if anybody can, he can. he's an enormously skilled politician. and we forget now some who've reacted to this book say well, tanenhaus misses the boat because barack obama's sinking in the polls h. he's been president for what, eight month
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>> rose: and he's still above 50%. >> and if some kind of health care goes through, he'll have two of the largest initiatives in american political history. >> rose: and i'm not sure it is about his policies as it is about him. he that has contradiction ronald reagan has. people like him more than his policies. but the difference here is it seems to me is obama's policies in part are a reaction to a crisis. reagan's policies were not so much that. they were much more in terms of the putting in place ideas that would... of a very different magnitude that the country had seen. >> rose: although, you will wlaeb the '70s felt like at the very end. >> rose: malaise and all that. nobody ever used the word. inflation was high. >> beyond anything we'd seen. >> rose: i want to come back to obama. so the tension for him is on the one hand he feels the need to do stuff. on the other hand, there's not stuff to do. he has no resources to do it? doesn't have the kind of noun do it because we're looking at a financial discipline and a... i
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mean a financial situation that has huge deficit down the road, has a structural deficit coming in because of medicare and social security and things like that. >> rose: yes. that's his sort of philosophical ideological problem is can he persuade the country at this moment that we can make these ral cad changes? he also has a political problem which is that something the conservative movement succeeded in doing was purging all the moderates from the republican party. >> rose: stay with this in terms of obama. where do you think his instincts are? do you think they still think... having said all that you have, having said the necessity of reacting to an emergency, thatless at the end of the day a centrist conserver? >> yes. because i think in his mind-- here i am reading his mind-- some of the really prized institutions in government and society which may explain, by the way, this odd battle he's
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having with fox news, to him they seem under siege. and he will have to take fairly drastic measures to rescue them. >> rose: they again. i want to make sure i understand it. >> i think for someone like obama who's the ultimate rationalist in the sort of j.f.k. mold, you know, j.f.k. the the had the famous press conference i quote in the book where he said "the differences between liberals and conservatives, republicans and the democrats, these don't matter anymore, what we face are technological administrative problems." >> rose: there was also this powerful...... the new frontier had a powerful belief in if only enough brain power which we have is applied to a problem, we could solve it. >> right. now that could be a little dangerous, too, because then you create the cult of the expert, which is part of what burnham was about. when politics is really... partly about emotion and passion and also there are aspects of this huge 300 million person
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society that are beyond rational governance. we really don't know what the economy is going to do. the brilliant economists who are surrounding obama now, larry summers, for instance, geithner, these are people who are all implicated in some of the failures of our economy, too. i think that's one of their strengths is the difference between his brain trust and kennedy's is that his has some experience in actual politics and life. but i think where obama still seems conservative is in his belief that the extremes don't really count for so much. and what we forget is, especially during these very fraught moments, the tea parties and the anti-tax marches in wahid which were significant, by the way, not simply because of the vulgar attacks on the president, but because they were denunciations of both parties and and all of government by these people. they reminded me of the radicals
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in the late '60s who opposed.... >> rose: exactly, right. radicals from the left. >> radicals from the left. and they had taken over some of their tactics, some of their language, and all the rest. now, when obama stands up against that, i think you're delight to some extent it's valuable to say, well, the closest thing they seem to have to an intellectual or thinker these days is rush limbaugh. he may be right. what this book partly tries to show is how the era of the whitaker chamberss and buckleys and james burnhams, people who really did think through in philosophical terms what the... the great questions and answers might be have been replaced by the shouters and screamers. they are directing the republican party to a large extent. >> rose: what voice that you can either hear or read, whether it's a david brooks or whether it is someone on radio or television or whether someone with a developing political
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career represents a group of ideas that you think could gather a kind of gravitas and be an attractive opposition to the governing narrative of our time? >> i don't see it. it's one reason i wrote in the book. >> rose: is that what you're saying. there is no growing narrative in opposition to the majority, narrative of our time? >> the idea of a conservative governing philosophy, a philosophy of governance... we hear a great deal about hatred of government and the evils of government, but you hear very few in the right talk about governance, the arts of governance. so there are very smart and thoughtful conservatives among us. david brooks is one, george will is another. they are there, but i'm not sure whether what influence they have on the party. now, there are not the goldwaters and reagans who are going to them. >> rose: but what you would expect to see is some politician
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be able to... if there is a market out there, some politician be able to take some of those kinds of ideas, which are kind of enlightened sense of conservatives or centrists... in the end it's a centrist philosophy directed certainly by david, less so by george who i assume to be a le bit of the right. on the other hand, george has been... jorge is is saying "get out of afghanistan.". now, i don't know whether that's left or right. >> well, it's pragmatic. he wrote a great book in the 1980s which i cite in my book called "state craft is soul craft." what's interesting about thatñi book, charlie: is it was written by someone who was a great admirer of ronald reagan. it was published in 1983 and what does wil say? he says "conservatives should not too wedded, they should not make a fetish of free marketism because there is no moral value in the market. so we have to impose higher values. and one of them he calls in a lovely phrase the ethic of common provision, which is a
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nice way of saying we need welfare. you have to look out for the poor. those are conservative values. >> rose: nixon was open to those kinds of ideas. i mean, he was this dark character. you agree that. >> yes, he was. nixon, i think, was the most gifted intellectually and politically president of the modern age. he was also crazy. is. >> rose: because he had demons of paranoia? >> paranoia was so extreme. and he embodied the two strains of conservetism. nixon is a central figure this book because you see what i call movement conservatism and classical conservatism fused in nixon. nixon's policies were more liberal than any democrat who's followed him. remember when the late edward kennedy died and we were all looking... a postmortem and everyone was looking at his record. what was kennedy's regret? that he hadn't cut a deal with nixon on health care. that's better than anything we're seeing now!
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so as a policy guy, he was.... >> rose: but take me through obama. you're willing to argue now that richard nixon was more gifted and the rest of it, even including barack obama? >> well, i think wee leaving out a figure who intellectual... here we are ranking them all does surpass obama. i think clinton was... bill clinton was extraordinarily gifted political figure. >> rose: gifted in terms of... in what way? gifted in what way? >> in he combined a skill at retail politics with a conceptual grasp of policy i don't think we've seen. did you ever meet richard new staff? >> rose: of course. >> i asked him once about ten years ago right before the impeachment i met him, the one time i met him and i said "how good is this guy? is this guy as good as roosevelt?" you remember roosevelt was the
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model. he said "better. better. more sheer talent." he said "character flaws, but better." so when we... i say nixon is more gifted than obama, he's lacking an essential component obama has. >> rose: emotional intelligence. >> yes. >> rose: emotional intelligence. >> emotional intelligence and a sense of self-identity. nixon never really fit in anywhere. the interesting thing about obama is that he seems to have a sort of rootless upbringing and yet he's situated really at the center of american identity, a tremendous patriotism. you kind of forget the acceptance speech in denver and then the inauguration address and then the victory speech. a tremendous patriotism, sense of american history, of hope. nixon never really felt that. the resentments and angers coursed very darkly through him. >> rose: he never adopted the politics of optimism. >> no, he didn't, or the true temperament of him, which makes him fascinating. here is a man who's a total
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introvert, chooses the most extraverted of professions. >> rose: the book is called "the death of conservatism." sam tanenhaus. thank you. enjoyed it. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: our our next program, we begin charlie rose brain series. it is a look at the most& interesting thing about us, our brain. >> rose: carrie fisher is here, since she first appeared in "shampoo" and "star wars" when she was just a teenager, she has left a memorable imprint on some of our favorite movies. here's a look at some of her work. >> what do you think? >> you know, i think you got exactly same eyes as your mother and your chin is a little bit like hers, too. >> no, it isn't. >> rose: i think it is. >> >> no, my eyes aren't like hers, either. i'm nothing like my mother! >> i'm not trying to insult you, you know?
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can't we just be friends? >> okay. >> what's so important? what's he carrying? >> the technical readouts of that battle station. i only hope that when the data is analyzed, a weakness can be found. it's not over yet. >> it is for me, sister. look, i ain't in this for your revolution and i'm not in it for you, princess. i expect to be well paid. i'm in it for the money. >> you needn't worry about your reward. if money is all that you love, then that's what you'll receive. your friend is quite a mercenary. i wonder if he really cares about anything, or anybody. >> who is that girl? >> well, jake, you look just
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fine down there slithering in the mud like vermin. >> no problem. >> you're not gonna get away from me this time but don't wait too long. remember what happened david warsaw? his wife left him and everyone said "give him some time, don't3 move in too fast." six months later he was dead. >> what are you saying? i should get married to someone right away in case he's about to die? >> at least you could say you were married. i'm saying the right man for you might be out there right now and if you don't grab him, you'll have to spend the rest of life knowing someone else was married to your husband. >> i really think he wants to kill me. >> now, scott, we don't want to kill each other in here, we might say that we do sometimes, but we... we really don't. (laughter) >> actually, the boy's quite astute, i really am trying to kill him, but so far unsuccessfully. he's quite wily, like his old man. >> rose: she is now on broadway in a one-woman play about her
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life called "wishful drinking." it's about her life growing up in hollywood, her struggle with drug abuse and bipolar disorder and, yes, "star wars," too. >> (laughs) now, oh, this will really, really impress you. i am in the abnormal psychology textbook. (laughter) how cool is that? now, keep in mind, i am the pez dispenser and i'm in the abnormal psychology textbook. who says you can't have it all? now, obviously my family is so proud. but the thing is, i heard i was in the textbook and i heard i was in there with a picture. and i thought "what? i mean, what picture? it's not like anyone ever, ever called me and said have you got a snapshot of yourself looking depressed? or manic? like from the show." so for years it truly bugged me, what picture? well, i have fantastic news.
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we found the picture. and rather than describe it to you, would you guys like to see it? because i so want to show it to you. (laughter and applause) >> true. >> rose: i am pleased to have carrie fishr back at this table. welcome. >> thank you, sir. >> rose: this is good! >> it is, it's fun to do, too. >> rose: is it therapeutic at all or do you need therapy anymore? >> i have had so much therapy that that's therapeutic. yeah, it sort of is, though, it sort of is. you make ridiculous... if my life wasn't funny, it would just be true, and that's unacceptable. so i've made it... you know, it is ridiculous. >> rose: but you go out and talk about your life and you can see they're almost in rhythm with you when you said "shall i show you the picture?" they said "please do." you can hear the audience breathing with you. >> rose: the great thing is sometimes i look down and say "if you had a daughter that great, wouldn't you want to do something nice for her?" and i'll see people go... it's
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no nice. that's the best part of it. >> rose: why did you this? >> to get back at my parents. no. >> rose: (laughs) never goes away, does it? >> nothing goes away. >> rose: the instinct for the line never goes away. >> yeah. i was doing speeches all the time. i was giving george lucas awards constantly. >> rose: right. (laughs) >> so i had a "star wars" section of a speech saying "he owned my likeness and every time i look in the mirror i have to give him a couple of bucks.". and i was getting mental illness awards a lot. so you know, you come up with material. >> rose: and so all of a sudden you had this material and you said why not put it together and present it? >> distinguish it together, yeah. >> rose: and when you saw those pictures of you as a young beautiful woman. >> i wish i looked that way. but i didn't think i was good looking then. >> rose: explain that to me. >> if i had, i thinksy wouldn't have been funny. i grew up with a beautiful mother and i would stand next to her and feel like i looked like a thumb.
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and i just thought, well, i better develop something else here. >> rose: i better be funny because i'm not as beautiful as my snore >> yeah. and i better make things funny that are painful. it's the best alchemy that you can do. >> rose: how long have you been experiencing pain? >> well, it's gone a way at now. you get a certain age, man, and how can... a friend of mine-- as a priest, father tom, of course, my friend-- and i said to him one day, i have to go to my daughter's therapy session, this is going to be so hard. and he said to me "well, you've done hard before." >> rose: (laughs) yes. >> and that's one of the trueest things i know. >> rose: in the book you said "i don't know the difference between movies and real life. in my life they tended to overlap. characters that my mother played in movies became confused with the person who was and is my mother." >> i keep thinking when i get old and get some kind of brain loss that i'll just go right back into playing princess leia there the old folks home.
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i thought my mother was my mother at home and when i saw her on t.v. i was little once and... yeah. still short. and my mother was in this movie called "susan slept here." and in it she's very young and she looks up at dick powell and she puts her face up to be kissed with her eyes closed and he kisses her on the forehead. and i knew at three years hold that that was embarrassing. and i remember going... to see if anyone else had seen her humiliation. so at that age you don't understand. >> rose: you stayed close. >> i am... i live next door to my mother. >> rose: and... but you never... there was never a fwlaech the... >> oh, god, yes. >> rose: there was? >> the normal time. a teenager. and she was having... we never called it a nervous breakdown, it was a nervous break through. she just kept going. and i was a teenager and you have to individuate, girls especially their mothers. my daughter was mad at me when she was 16, really mad.
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>> rose: when you look at all the thins that you're doing there, all those memories, what does it do to you? >> well, hang on a second. all those memories. i've had electric convulsive therapy, so all those memories are kind of riddled with holes. and i'm also at a certain age and i took a lot of l.s.d. so i'm not miss memory walking around. >> rose: now this is serious. it's serious in two ways. one, there is your life and then there's sort of living with bipolar. >> yes. >> rose: everything else is small in comparison with living with bipolar or can you disconnect them? >> well, when you're in the thick of it, which i have been a few times, there's nothing that compares to that. and i.... >> rose: what is it... i know you've been sdhd a thousand times. you say that, nothing compares to that. well, one time i could not sleep and i went to the hospital and they wouldn't give me anything.
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they took me off all my medicine because i was having an allergic reaction. i stayed awake for five days. that's how they torture people. and i became psychotic. now, i do not put this in the... sometimes people complain that i don't do enough of the dark side. but i don't know that people want to go on that journey with me. but i was psychotic. i thought i was getting secret messages from the t.v. i also thought the t.v. was watching me. i got.... >> rose: how long did this last? >> days and days. >> rose: during those... >> that was very, very bad. that was terrifying. i had a light coming out of my head at one point. my shrink came to visit me and i said to her "you know..." and i said "you know, i don't know if if i believe in reincarnation but if there is such a thing i want to come back as your shrink." >> rose: (laughs) >> it was... i was... you know. >> rose: and what... you said to me before we started, we were talking about bipolar disorder and you said... and i was saying we know some people that have
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committed suicide. >> uh-huh. >> rose: and you said, buoy, the best thing that you could possibly... you made especially approving remark about electric shock. >> it is fantastic. and it took me ages to agree. they'd been asking know do it. it's for depression mostly. it just breaks up the concrete. i mean, i was truly, truly stuck and depressed. and not suicidal. but what you want to do is not live right now. i need a break, you know? i mean, it's bad. and they gave me this treatment. they give it to you three times a week for three weeks. you do lose four months. worth it. i mean, you lose.... >> rose: four months are gone? >> four months leading up. those four months, if i met someone new, gone, i would look at my e-mails, someone would say to me "that was so fun at dinner." and i would think "who's that?" >> rose: i'm not laughing but i know what you mean. >> no, it is funny, though, it
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has to be funny. if it's not funny, it's horrible. >> rose: exactly. >> so it is funny. it better be, because otherwise what? you know, i've seen people that take all the charm and romance out of self-pity. i'm not really interested in finding it tragic. >> rose: nor am i. >> and when you go to a mental hospital, which i hope you don't do, unless it's doing an interview, the people in there.... >> rose: not a bad idea. >> many of them are hilarious. >> rose: exactly. >> because they have to be. it doesn't get worse than that except the cancer ward. >> rose: and just go in and let them talk. >> rose: >> and we're laughing. >> rose: are you in a good place today? >> yeah, i am. >> rose: because you're even with everything? >> because there's nothing that i... i have no secrets. >> rose: you said a great line. you're only as sick as your secrets. >> that's right. so i am really very, very well. >> rose: you let it all go. >> not all of it. you can't do all of it. >> rose: because it will hurt somebody or because... >> well, if it's someone else involved that's their secret and
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i'm not going to betray. but, you know, you do it... anyone i talk about in my show and i went to them and said "isr this okay? because you can take it out." and a couple of people did. >> rose: you wrote the entire thing. >> sure. and i change it a lot. and i interact with the audience. they're kind of my scene partner. >> rose: how do you put it together. you've got a life. >> i have quite a life. >> rose: i mean, you've had everything. you've got movies, you've got famous movie stars, you've got all the stuff you can connect. you've got famous parents, you've got the divorce. >> rose: and the absurdity of it. >> you've got the relationships, you've got the man dying in your bed. >> it's living out loud, you know? >> rose: exactly. >> so i'm okay now. but when the stuff was happening it was decidedly not okay. so anything after that i've done hard before. now it's going to be very tough. >> rose: do you have the same
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friends you had all along? >> for the most part. >> rose: for the most part. >> i think some things sometimes... you know, when the drug addiction was happening people were very upset about that and i... the worst thing about drug addiction is the look you put ine's faces. >> rose: like... what is it? >> just... oh, my god. you know, you... it's scaryr them. and it's a mass of disappointment. >> ro: and they feel into want do anything. >> yeah, because you should just be able to stop. you should just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and stop. and i'll tell you something, the e.c.t., along with 12-step stuff that made it much easier. >> rose: it did? >> yeah, i have the it once a month now. or once every six weeks. they're spreading it. but they put you sleep, there's no more convulsions. they should call it e.t. put you to sleep, they give you a shot to freeze your muscles and put this little thing here and done. >> rose: you do it how often? >> once every six weeks.
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>> rose: there any down side on this? >> not for me. well, the memory thing. but who knows which.... >> rose: do you talk about this in the show? >> i used to but now i've moved into talking about being overweight because someone wrote on the internet "whatever happened to carrie fisher? she used to be so hot, now she looks like elton john." >> rose: (laughs) >> so i was, like, well, that hurt all seven of my feelings. but i claim it. if i can claim it, it's mine. >> rose: and there's no secrets and you own it. >> if you declare something it has less power over you. far less. say your weak things in a strong voice. >> rose: that's great advice. be able to acknowledge your weakness and therefore... >> it's not a weakness then. my liabilitys are my assets. i mean, i have made a living of writing about my liabilities. they're mine. >> rose: but you've been that way forever. everybody... ever since... i've known you a long time. >> right. >> rose: and thaefsh has... you've always been known for two
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things. you are outspoken, tell the truth as you see it, and hilariously funny. those are the two things. if someone said "carrie fisher" i would say tells the truth, funny. that's what i would say. >> you want to keep it simple and tell the truth. >> rose: where did that come from? >> i really don't know. i mean, my mother is funny. but my funny... i've had a darker life than my mother. though she might argue that. >> rose: (laughs) no, i have, come on. she didn't wake up with dead bodies and stuff. >> rose: tell us what waking up with dead body is. >> that is awful. that took me out. >> rose: "took me out" means what? >> it happened on my watch, i blame myself. >> rose: what happened? >> well, who... he had sleep apnea and oxycontin use. but not enough to overdose. so i found him... i found him. >> rose: this guy was a republican lobbyist, wasn't he? >> he was. and in case you're thinking of becoming friends with some republicans, they do have funny
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stories. he was fun despite being a gay drug addict republican. he was a lot of fun. snu you liked him a lot. >> i loved him. >> rose: and it was hard? >> oh, god, come on. it was horrible. it was horrible. but my brother... i went away with my brother and i was just blaming myself honestly. other than grieving. i went to a grief counselor and she said "i'm so sorry we had to meet under these conditions." you're a grief counselor! >> rose: that's what you do. >> she says "i can't even imagine what you've been through." well, if you can't, i'm really screwed. >> rose: (laughs) i'm here for help, that's your business. >> my brother had me watch war films and documentaries, ngor the point. and i watched people talk about experiences where their friend had their arm blown off and said "could you get my watch?" off their arm. and i thought.... >> rose: oh, my god. >> what man has done, man can do. because that's a lot harder than
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just waking up with greg. so i watched a lot of that. and that's... if you can find someone that's had a worse time than you are, hang on to it. >> rose: there any part of you that says "the reason i've had to endure all this is because god knew that i could take it"? >> i don't know if i believe that. but i can take it. i mean, a lot of people know i can take it. >> rose: they, do absolutely. >> i can. >> rose: they know you can take it because you did. >> but what's the choice? it. it's really hard. but then the point is tod the funny thing in the hard thing. >> rose: now, are there people that if they had not been there you wouldn't be here? >> sure. well, i was never suicidal. but, again, i say i wouldn't mind being out of the... you know, sort of like michael jackson taking that and you're dead, that's not drug addiction. drug addiction is give me the pills and i want to feel all those edges mute.
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but i didn't want to be around for some of it. it was just awful. but i have a child, you know? >> rose: that changes the game. >> i'm not going to do that. i would never do that to her. >> rose: you live for something more than carrie. >> i would like to be a good role model. and in somef the ways i'm a good role model of what not to do. which would be pills etc. >> rose: in other words, do as i say, not as i did? >> yeah, but my daughter... my daughter... my daughter is confident, she doesn't have my thing. she doesn't have... she's not bipolar. >> rose: when you look back at the extraordinary opportunities you've had as a very young person, did you blow it or not? >> (laughs) well, from... probably depending on your point of view i blew it and i triumph over it. >> rose: but you blew hit in the that you might have had a different kind of life and/or sdpler if you were not susceptible to all these things.
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now, bipolar disorder is not one of them. >> i'd like to say i come from a place of privilege and ordeal. >> rose: okay. i get privilege. the ordeal is? >> bipolar, drug addiction, father going when you're... you know, a lot of stuff that just happened to... happens to people. >> rose: they're doing a lot of stuff now about addiction and they're looking at brains that have addiction and there's a lot of that have is not just will power, as you know. more and more... will power you would have been over it. >> there's no wil power. >> rose: do you think... do you think addiction is a brain disorder? >> i think's... i think people are born with it. you know, i think... you know, the scary thing for an addict is that drugs do something for them they cannot do for themselves. and that's an enormous power. now, other people.... >> rose: wait. drugs do something for them they can't do for themselves. in other words, they can't find peace? is it peace?
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>> an addict or alcoholics are... they want... i want to feel like you seem. which is unfair. i have no idea what you're like. >> rose: pretty much like i am here. i am pretty much, for better or worse. >>t people seem okay. >> rose: exactly. >> so i want to feel like you seem. and the way that i went about doing that was with pain medication. >> rose: but was there any other way you might have gone? >> i tried... you know, i was in therapy starting... i asked my mother to send know a slik at 15. it wasn't her idea! she thought i was going to go in the office and say "my mother is so awful." that's all she thought. >> rose: when was the point in which it was the lowest? next question is when was hit in the best? >> the hallucinations were really bad. >> rose:'s pretty bad, isn't it? >> yeah. >> rose: break up your mother and your dad. >> yeah, that was probably my fault.
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>> rose: (laughs) no! but i talked to someone today about that. same thing, parents divorced and they said... i said how do do kids take it and they said well, there's always one that will blame himself or herself. >> and it's the one that's just old enough to wonder. >> rose: and that was you? >> yeah. my brother was younger and i was sort of like.... >> rose: and you loved your mother and hated your father... >> no, i loved my dad. the thing about my dad is he is amazingly charming and that was the heart break of it. >> rose: that's probably the reason. >> well, that's why he got all those women to... yeah. yeah. >> rose: and then you married a gay man. >> i didn't mary him, but i... i only had a child with him. >> rose: what is one of the most wonderful people i know in hollywood. >> well, isn't that nice. >> rose: you don't like him? >> no, i do. >> rose: he's a great guy. >> we're separated so i'm allowed to be "isn't that nice." i think maybe we'll get back together though once he gets over this gay thing. god. he's sort of... isn't gay kind of a virus? it just goes away.
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>> rose: no, i don't think so. >> oh, all right. well, never mind then. >> rose: how are you handling growing older? >> i'm not fond of it. >> rose: if you had a chance to choose, you might not? >> well, the choice is death or not looking as good. you know, i mean.... >> rose: . >> i mean, this is my house, i don't want people to look at my house so much as listen to my furniture, like i said. >> rose: that's a good line. >> so i don't know. i would like to... i've tried to starve myself, exercise, do all this trash so i could look like demi moore. which never was true anyway. but it's not working. it just looks like i wander all over town eating carrot cake. >> rose: so it didn't work? you tried? >> i'm still trying! i eat hardly anything. >> rose: you're not alone, my dear. >> i know, that's why i talk about that and not the electric convulsive therapy. i'm a little lonelyer in that group than the fat people. >> rose: just be serious for a
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moment because i don't want to laugh at mental disorder. what do we say about that? finally? a... >> talk about it. tell people. when i checked in the hospital i signed in with my left hand and wrote the word "shame." >> rose: did you? >> yes. and that is the.... >> rose: wow. >> one of the worst parts. it's humiliating. you've lost control. you're not out of your mind, you can't get out. and you... and you know you're... it's not right. but i think people have to have compassion for it. it's hard to understand it, but you could appreciate that it is an illness. i mean, that's... it's not right. >> rose: we can't we appreciate it. >> because it's sort of like... we're the defective units. it's sort of an embarrassment, you know? a lot of who i am and how i think is from that. it makes me a particular person. and i'm proud of myself that i've been able to get through this stuff


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