Reaction to this week's political shocks, why many conservatives are choosing to double down on Trump critics, and then, a conversation on the growing dis-union in America.
On May 31, Bob Schieffer will sign off as host of CBS’ “Face the Nation.” It marks the end to 46 years at CBS News, 24 of which were spent at the helm of the Sunday show. Even as TV news viewership is on the decline, “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer still drew more than 3 million viewers a week, outperforming the competition. In a world of short sound bites and even shorter attention spans, Schieffer remains convinced that the Sunday shows still provide a valuable service: In-depth one-on-one interviews with Washington newsmakers. Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer joins Diane to talk about his career, his retirement and the future of journalism.
- Bob Schieffer Journalist, author, and host of "Face the Nation"
Video: A Diane Rehm Show Tribute To Bob Schieffer
We asked regular panelists on our Friday News Roundup to pay tribute to the legendary journalist, who steps down May 31 from “Face The Nation.”
Face The Nation: How Bob Schieffer Influenced A Generation Of Journalists (Video) - The Diane Rehm Show
We asked journalists to share their stories about Bob Schieffer as he prepares to step down from "Face The Nation."
Video: Bob Schieffer On The Future Of Journalism
Veteran newsman Bob Schieffer is worried about the future of journalism, as local news declines and young people don’t seem to understand the impact of their words.
Video: What's Next For Bob Schieffer?
Retiring “Face The Nation” host Bob Schieffer shared a few thoughts about life away from the camera. But “I couldn’t ask for anything more,” he told Diane. “If my life ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel shortchanged.”
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Bob Schieffer has been a reporter for more than half a century. He's covered JFK's assassination. He's interviewed every president since Nixon. He's anchored the CBS Evening News and, of course, he's been the host of the Sunday talk show, "Face The Nation." This coming Sunday, he'll say goodbye to the morning program and to a lifetime in the news business. He joins me in the studio today.
MS. DIANE REHMYou can watch this interview live streaming at drshow.org. You can call us on 800-433-8850. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter. You can send us an email to email@example.com. Bob Schieffer, what a joy to see you.
MR. BOB SCHIEFFERWell, thank you very much, Diane. And it's always fun to come and talk to you. We've been doing this for many years now.
REHMA long time, I should say. My first question, why did you decide to do this now rather than wait until after the election?
SCHIEFFERWell, you know, I've been saying I was gonna retire since back in 2007.
REHMI know, I know.
SCHIEFFERSomebody showed me a clip from the New York Times when I was saying in 2007 I plan to retire in 2008. And my boss at that time, Sean McManus, said don't you want to hang around for one more election?
SCHIEFFERAnd it was the best advice I'd ever received 'cause I did and I've really enjoyed the years since then. But I thought this -- CBS is doing very well right now. CBS News is doing very well. "Face The Nation" is doing very well...
SCHIEFFER...on all fronts. And I just thought this was a good time to go. I mean, I wanted to go when people thought I could still do the job. You know, I've seen too many of these people up on Capitol Hill that they sort of have to be lead out by the hand and I just didn't want to be one of those. The other part is John Dickerson, who's going to be my successor, this will give John time to kind of get settled in during the summer and get ready to cover the campaign and the election next year.
SCHIEFFERAnd so that was another consideration. I didn't want to go till we figured out who was gonna take my place and once John was in place, I thought this would just be the time to do it.
REHMHe is such a great reporter and part of our Friday News Roundup. You and I both knew his mother, Nancy Dickerson.
SCHIEFFERNancy Dickerson was an associate producer on the first broadcast of "Face The Nation" in 1954 when the first guest, by the way, was Joe McCarthy. She later became a correspondent, the first female correspondent in the Washington Bureau. And, you know, Diane, I've joked many times in recent years that I now work with the children of my friends. Now, I'm being replaced by one.
REHMI love it.
SCHIEFFERBut he's a great guy and...
REHMHe sure is.
SCHIEFFER...I think he's gonna do a terrific job.
REHMWell, you know everyone is going to miss you because you have a particular resonance not only with your guests, but with the audience. What do you think creates that?
SCHIEFFERWell, I think, number one, I'm the oldest guy on TV. I've just been there for a long time so it's kind of like a piece of furniture over in the corner. You know, maybe people don't always notice it, but if you moved it, they might notice if it wasn't there in the corner anymore. But, you know, I guess I'm old fashioned in many ways and I still think the purpose of an interview is to try to get some news, to try to move the story forward.
REHMAnd not to attack in the process.
SCHIEFFERIt's, you know, one of the things about Sunday morning, I've always thought it's the smartest time period on television. The talking heads on Sunday morning, and I mean all the broadcasts on Sunday morning, are not always the same as they are at some other time periods of the day. We don't do many gotcha questions. We don't -- it's not about anchor antics.
SCHIEFFERIt's trying to put a new top on the story. And in many ways, what we do is exactly what Frank Stanton, who invented "Face The Nation," he was the president of CBS News and Bill Paley's top guy when Bill Paley owned the network, he thought we needed a broadcast like "Meet The Press," which had been on the air, where you got the top news maker of the week and sat him down at the table and asked him questions.
SCHIEFFERNow, we have a lot of technology. We can do a lot of things we couldn't do in those days, but it's still basically the same mission. Get the key player in the top story of the week and ask them why they did what they did or why they said what they said and what are they gonna say tomorrow. And I'm happy to say there still seems to be an audience for that.
REHMExactly. You know, you and I have a little competition because you've said that "Face The Nation" is the single best job in television and I say "The Diane Rehm Show" is the exactly the best job in radio.
SCHIEFFERWell, exactly because, I mean, think about this. We don’t even have to go to the news makers. They come to us.
SCHIEFFERAnd I don't know any other part of journalism where that's the case, but I have loved it from the very beginning. I mean, I hadn't been at CBS very long when I thought, you know, some day I'd like to -- that's the job I'd like to have.
SCHIEFFERAnd when Lesley Stahl went to "60 Minutes," she did the show for seven years before that. George Herman did it for 14 years, I think. Well, then they asked me to do it and I was thrilled.
REHMI'm glad. Everybody is glad you've done it for so many years and I know they're going to miss you. What are you going to miss the most?
SCHIEFFERWell, what I'm gonna miss is being in the middle of things. You know, I've kind of been in the middle of things for a long time now. I've always covered politics. I covered four beats in Washington, the four big beats. And I'm basically a beat reporter, still am. I still think that's where you get the news. You know, a lot of people say to me, you know, I guess you go to all the cocktail parties and stuff and that's where you pick up the news.
SCHIEFFERI'm gonna tell you something, Diane. I have never, ever gotten one single story at a cocktail party or at dinner. Maybe other people do. I don't know. But I've never been able to pull that off. I find that where you get the news is like when you're covering Capitol Hill, you talk to the same people every day.
SCHIEFFERYou call them up, anything new over in your territory? And you just keep doing that over and over. There are no shortcuts. And eventually, you come up with the stories. But you have to do that and I think that's one of the things that worries me about current journalism practices, is the de-emphasis on beat reporters. You know, so many newspapers around the country now -- and I'm really worried about the state of newspaper journalism right now.
REHMI think we all are, yeah.
SCHIEFFERBecause unless some entity comes along and does what local newspapers have been doing all these years, we're gonna have corruption at a level we've never experienced in this...
REHMBecause nobody's following it.
SCHIEFFERBecause there's nobody -- so many papers now can't afford to have a beat reporter. For example, many papers don't have a city hall reporter anymore. They send somebody to cover the city council meetings, but to cover city hall, you have to be there every day and you have to know the overall story, not just report whatever happens on a particular day.
REHMYou know, another thing...
SCHIEFFERThe same in television.
REHMAnother thing you talked about is being a reporter on the cops themselves, which you were.
SCHIEFFERI was. I started out as a police reporter, night police reporter to Fort Worth Star Telegram, went to work at 6 o'clock at night and got off at 3 o'clock in the morning, made the grand sum of $115 a week. When I got that job, I thought it was the single best job in all of journalism. I mean, call me nuts, but every job I've ever had in television or in newspapers I thought it was the best job you could possibly have.
SCHIEFFERThe reason being a police reporter is such good training, not only for other beats, but for anything you might wind up doing in life, is that every single story you're walking into the worst moment in someone's life and if you can learn to remember to ask the right questions, to get your business conducted in an orderly and business-like way under those conditions, you can cover any beat.
REHMYou know, it's interesting how reluctant those in power are becoming, though, to respond to those direct questions, even those on the police force.
SCHIEFFERWell, we're so much more sophisticated now in information management than we ever were in those days. When I was a police reporter in Fort Worth, there were no public relations people. The laws were also different. There was no Miranda Law that you had the right to remain silent and all that stuff. There was no Gideon Law that said you had to inform people they had a right to an attorney. As a police reporter, and I think you could obviously question the ethics of this, in those days, unless people ask, we never told them who we were.
SCHIEFFERNow, we never lied about it, but if they did not ask and they might think I was the detective asking questions, we let them -- we just let them go ahead and ask.
REHMBob Schieffer. And when we come back, we're going to talk about the day JFK was assassinated and what Bob Schieffer was doing. Stay with us.
MR. MAJOR GARRETTI watched you when I was young, aspiring to be a journalist, hoping someday to get a chance to come to Washington D.C. and see if I could make it. What you taught me then, stays with me now. Journalism is not content. Journalism is hard work, reporting the facts, being credible, being always respected and believable. You are all those things to me and millions of Americans. You've taught me an enormous amount about journalism and you've taught me a lot about life and a career well lived. This is my tribute to you, Bob.
REHMAnd that, of course, is the voice of Major Garrett...
SCHIEFFERI'll be darned.
REHM...of CBS News. And by the way, you can watch all these tributes and read and see more on our blog at drshow.org. You can also watch today's program by streaming at drshow.org. Just before the break, we were talking about JFK's assassination. Where were you on that date? Tell us what happened.
SCHIEFFERWell, I was, in those days, a reporter at Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And since I didn't get off till three o'clock in the morning, I was asleep when he was actually shot in Dallas. My brother came in a woke me up and said you'd better get down to the office. They're just reporting the president's been shot. Totally in a fog, I couldn't believe it. And, Diane, the thing that a lot of people don't understand today is we'd never had an event like that in the history of this country, at least for the people who were alive on that day. We've had a lot of terrible things since, but never before that had we had something like that, at least for that generation of people.
SCHIEFFERI got dressed as quickly as I could. I went to the office. Just as I pulled in the office parking lot, it came over the radio that the president was dead. They pronounced him dead. And I really lost it. I finally made my way up to the floor where the city desk was located. It was total and absolute bedlam...
SCHIEFFER...as you could imagine. And I just sat down at the city desk, I didn't even take my hat off, to just try to help them answer the phone. I always wore a hat in those days so if people wanted to think I was a detective, they could think that. I guess I thought I looked like Dick Tracy or something. But anyway, I'm sitting there at the desk. The phones are ringing. I pick up a phone and a woman says, "Is there anybody there that can give me a ride to Dallas?" And I said, "Lady, we don't run a taxi here. And besides, the president's been shot." And I almost hung up the phone. And then I heard her say, "Yes, I heard they -- I heard it on the radio. I think my son is the one they've arrested." It was Lee Harvey Oswald's mother. Of course, I quickly wrote down her address. I had a TR4 two-seater sports car in those days. And I thought, I can't take this woman to Dallas in that car.
SCHIEFFERSo I went to the auto editor and the local auto dealers would let him drive a car every week. He would write up a little report on it in the Sunday paper. Generally a good report, as you can imagine -- free car, free gas and all of that.
SCHIEFFERSo anyway, his name was Bill Foster. And we went out to the west side of Fort Worth, the address she had given us, and there she stood on the curb. And it was his mother. Bill drove and I got in the back seat with her. And of course, you know, I interviewed her on the way to Dallas. And she was a very odd and unusual person.
SCHIEFFERWell, she never once expressed any sympathy for the president's family. She never asked about his wife, his children. All she was worried about was that people were going to feel sorry for his wife -- for Oswald's wife -- and give her money, and she wouldn't get any. She said, "They will turn their backs on me. They've always turned their backs on me."
SCHIEFFERAnd it was so startling that I didn't even put some of it into the story. I thought, how would you feel, you know, if your kid had just been arrested for killing the president? I should have, because it would have given us a better picture early-on of who he was and where he came from. She had put Lee Harvey Oswald and his brother into an orphan's home at one point when they were very young and told them that they were a burden on her. I mean, she -- for want of a better word, she was a truly awful person.
REHMWas there a husband in the picture?
SCHIEFFERShe had had several along the way.
REHMI see. Okay.
SCHIEFFERAnd, but she was basically an itinerate and she'd go from town to town.
REHMWhat did she look like? How was she dressed?
SCHIEFFERShe was short. She had gray hair pulled back in a bun. She wore very large, black horn-rimmed glasses. When I picked her up that day, she was wearing a white practical-nurses uniform.
SCHIEFFERSo we get to the Dallas Police Station. I didn't tell anybody who I was. I just walked in.
REHMYou had your hat on.
SCHIEFFERI had my hat on. First uniformed cop I saw, I said, "I'm the one who brought Oswald's mother over from Fort Worth. Is there any place we can put her where these reporters won't be bothering her?" Well, lo and behold, they found me a little office in the burglary squad. We went in there. There was a phone there, which was very important in those days. No cell phones or anything like that.
SCHIEFFERSo I could go out in the hall with that big crowd of reporters who were out there and gather up information from our guys and go back and phone it in. We were still churning out extras. Along about dark, she said to me, "Do you think they'd let me see my son?" And I said, "Well, let me go ask." So I did. Captain Will Fritz, Chief of Homicide, and they did things like that in those days -- again, it was very informal -- he said, "Yeah, we probably ought to do that." They would often do -- put prisoners on display to make sure people didn't think they were beating them up while they had them in custody.
SCHIEFFERAnd so we were ushered into this holding room, off the jail. And I'm thinking, my heavens, I'm going to see him. They're going to bring him down. I'll get a chance and maybe interview him. And finally, a guy standing in the corner said, "Who are you?" And I said, "What?" He said, "Are you a reporter?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Son, get out of here. If I ever see you again, I'm going to kill you."
SCHIEFFERAnd I think he meant it.
SCHIEFFERAt least he said it. Well, I quickly excused myself and that was the end of my story in this, the biggest interview I almost got and didn't. But, I mean, you know, in those days, Diane, if you looked like you belonged someplace, you could generally get in. And that's...
REHMDid she get in to see her son?
SCHIEFFERShe talked to him after that.
SCHIEFFERThey let her -- they let her talk to him. But the whole weekend was surreal, when we think back on it, you know?
SCHIEFFERAnd I think, had Jack Ruby not killed him when they were transferring him from the city jail to the county jail and he had gone to trial, I think a lot of these conspiracy theories that came up after, I think they would have been put to rest. I am convinced. People say to me, over the years, "Do you think there was a conspiracy?" I say, "I don't know. But no one has shown me evidence that has convinced me that somebody else helped him." Maybe somebody did and maybe that'll come to light in years to come. But nobody has shown me that evidence yet. I think he was a very disturbed young man who had never accomplished anything in life. He was a total loser. And I think he was going to -- somehow saw himself as becoming a big man.
SCHIEFFERIn a funny kind of way, Jack Ruby felt the same way. I think, also, that was just what you thought it -- what it appeared to be at the time. He thought, Jack Ruby thought that Jackie Kennedy would be impressed if he killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
SCHIEFFERAnd we have what we have.
REHMWhat a story. But, you know, you can't help but wonder, with Oswald going to Cuba...
REHM...with Oswald going to Russia, with the questions about mafia connections, you can't help but wonder whether this is a mystery that still has not been solved.
SCHIEFFERI think it has been solved. But I mean, that's -- that's my opinion, clearly labeled. But the conspiracy theories will go on...
SCHIEFFER...forever, I think.
SCHIEFFERAnd for all -- some of the reasons I just said, I think people will always wonder and there will always be that little question mark. But so far, as far as I'm concerned, I've not seen the evidence to convince me there was.
REHMI want to read you something that a friend of ours has written. It's from Barbara. She says, "Losing Mr. Schieffer is a repeat of losing Walter Cronkite. I'll miss his professionalism, civility and authenticity. Hooray for old-fashioned." Now, I want to take you up on that, because what is it that you believe has happened to journalism that has created this new, active, sort in-your-face kind of reporting that seems to please some younger people but offends those of us of a certain age?
SCHIEFFERLet me just first say, in answer to Barbara, I would never put myself in a class with Walter Cronkite. But I'm very honored when my name is mentioned in the same paragraph with Walter. Walter is who I wanted to be when I was a young reporter. And I always wanted to be a reporter. And the fact that I got to do that and then work for the guy who was my hero, I truly feel fortunate that that happened. Diane, what's going on in journalism now is the whole communications landscape has been turned upside-down. I mean, think about this. When I was a newspaper reporter, most Americans got their news from print...
SCHIEFFERThat weekend that President Kennedy was killed, that changed. From that point on, most people got their news from television. Now, we don't know where they get their news. We are totally bombarded with information from all sides. And most of the information we're bombarded with is wrong, I mean, and some of it wrong by design. Because, you know, the kid who has a computer in his mama's basement, who has an idea at three o'clock in the morning and sits down and puts it on his blog, he doesn't quite follow the same standards that those of us in mainstream journalism do. Number one being, we don't print anything or broadcast anything unless we think it's true and unless we get...
REHMAnd it's been checked.
SCHIEFFERAnd has been vetted to the best of our ability. I think there are a lot of young people coming into the profession, and some who are not even in the profession, that have no idea what that's about. They just -- it just never occurred to them that this is how you go about doing it. And I don't think they understand the impact of words, the impact that information can have. And it's not just in journalism. It goes to, you know, to bullying. It goes to many different parts of our culture and our life. People say things now, most of them with the cloak of anonymity, that they would no more say to you and I to our faces. And yet they feel it doesn't bother them at all to say these kinds of things now.
SCHIEFFERI mean, we are -- and I'm sorry to say it -- a much meaner culture than we used to be. And I think it's a serious problem. I mean, some of the emails that I got, you know, while I was doing the last presidential debate are not to be believed.
SCHIEFFERYou think, how could people? I mean, I'll tell you one of the funnier ones. The kids on the staff took great delight in showing this to me. While that debate was going on, somebody emailed in and said, "Who is that old guy? Is that one of those old guys on "The Muppets" that always makes fun of the other characters?"
SCHIEFFERAnd that's one of the nice ones, you know?
SCHIEFFERBut, you know, when I came up, we used to say that anybody who had a barrel of ink and a printing press was a publisher. Now everybody is a publisher, because everybody has a computer.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to ask you an uncomfortable question because you've talked about people printing anything they want to print. What about somebody like Brian Williams, who exaggerates what he has done? Do you believe that, at this point, he will or should come back to the anchor desk?
SCHIEFFERYou know, Diane, Brian, who was a friend of mine for a long, long time -- I haven't talked to him in a long, long time -- I was very surprised all this came out. What -- where this goes, I have no idea. And I would just say this, I've sort of made it a practice over the years never to comment on my competitors -- people that I consider my direct competitors. And I've also tried not to give advice to my competitors. For one thing, they might take it and use it against me.
SCHIEFFERSo, I'm just not going to say anything more about that. I feel for Brian's family.
REHMI do too. George Stephanopoulos is...
SCHIEFFERYou're going to get the same answer here.
REHMSame answer? But a totally different kind of situation. I mean, an ethical situation regarding a $75,000 contribution.
SCHIEFFERI don't know what that's about. And again, I'm just going to say, I just don't comment on what my competitors do. So I'm going to let it go at that.
REHMAll right. I totally understand. President Obama is winding up his presidency. How would you evaluate his time in office?
SCHIEFFERWell, it's hard to say. I think it turned out not to be as easy as some people thought it would be to be president. This is a very difficult job. I think experience does count. And he may have some things that he'll be able to look back on. For example, I think this trade agreement, if that happens, I think that could be a game changer. You know, you're talking about something here that affects 40 percent of the gross domestic product in the entire world. I think that's going to be a good thing. And I know it is very controversial...
SCHIEFFER...especially to some in his own party.
SCHIEFFERBut I give him credit for having the courage to do that.
REHMWhat about Iran?
SCHIEFFERWell, if we can get the right kind of deal, and I'm not sure yet what the deal is. And you know, the thing about this deal, Diane, you never know what these deals are until you get right down to the last "t" being crossed and the last "I" being dotted. If it's the right kind of deal, I think this, too, could be something that people will look back on, as they did with Jimmy Carter and the Camp David Accords, and say this -- this was a major game-changer. But we have to see -- we have to see what this deal is before we can really make a judgment.
REHMAnd the problem with it...
SCHIEFFERAnd here's the other part of it. The main reason that I think it's a good thing to get a deal, if it's a good one, is what is the alternative? And nobody's explained that to me yet.
REHMBob Schieffer. And when we come back, you'll have a chance to ask your questions. Remember, you can see the program. Go to drshow.org.
MR. CHRIS FRATESIt was kind of a trip for me, when I finally got to meet Bob. We were in a divey bar in Northeast Washington, and Bob rolls in, in a black Stetson, with two backup singers on each arm because he was going to do a performance for charity. And that's when I realized that you can be very serious and very influential and not take yourself too seriously, and I think that's a legacy that Bob leaves us, is how to do serious journalism but still have fun.
REHMAnd that is the voice of Chris Frates of CNN. Tell us about your musical ambitions.
SCHIEFFERWell, you know, it's getting to be about 10 years ago, I guess it was, that I was being roasted at a benefit for spinal bifida, Judy Woodruff and Al Hunt's benefit, and I was the roastee, and as sort of a comeback, I wrote this song called "TV Anchorman," and it was about a guy working a gas station, but he had a sincere face, so they made him a TV anchor.
SCHIEFFERAnd people laughed, and the next thing you know, Al Neuharth invited me to come out to University of South Dakota, and said, and bring the band. Well, we really didn't have a band.
REHMDidn't have a band.
SCHIEFFERIt was Diana Quinn, who has a band called Honky Tonk Confidential. So I couldn't resist, and so we did. And I got to kind of writing songs and really got into it, and it's still around. People still ask us to play from time to time, and it's a lot of fun. But, you know, I always said I hope people understand that this is a joke, that I'm not serious about this.
REHMBut it's gotten fun for you.
SCHIEFFERBut it is fun.
SCHIEFFERI mean, we did a big benefit for Race for the Cure down in Fort Worth last year, and we opened for Bernadette Peters and the Fort Worth Symphony. So it's a lot of fun, and I'm going to keep doing it. You know, I'm not -- I don't think anybody's going to invite me, although I must say, and we were invited to play at the Grand Old Opry in 2008, which was the highlight of my life thus far, and I don't think we're on the verge of breaking through with any hit records here, but it's a lot of fun.
REHMI can imagine. I want to ask you about something that I think is on a lot of people's mind, and that is the Iraq War.
REHMThe decision of George W. Bush to go after Saddam Hussein and whether you believe that was the right decision, especially now in light of Ash Carter's comments just recently, the secretary defense, who talked about the Iraqi soldiers simply turning and running.
SCHIEFFERYeah, you know, I think we went to Iraq for the wrong reasons, and I think we left in the wrong way. President Bush did send the troops there thinking that they had weapons of mass destruction. I remember that seemed the right thing to do for me after Colin Powell went before the United Nations and kind of laid out what the situation was. Somebody said to me at the time, what did you think was the strongest part of the message. And I said, for me, it was the messenger. If Colin Powell said that, that was good enough for me in those days.
SCHIEFFERI think we now know that the intelligence was simply wrong. And I don't think anybody would've gone in there had they known that they didn't have the weapons of mass destruction. What we now kind of understand is this was Saddam Hussein trying to impress the Iranians and fool them into thinking that he had weapons of mass destruction because remember, he was in a war with Iran at that point.
SCHIEFFERI think the second major mistake was the way we pulled out of there, I mean, by laying out a timeline and just telling everybody, don't worry, we'll be out of here by a certain date. And once we were out of there, you remember things started going bad from then on, and then we had what we had the other day in Ramadi.
REHMDo you think we're going to...
SCHIEFFERAnd I think Ash Carter, the secretary of defense, I think he was right to say what he said, and I don't see anything to suggest that it's any different than that. At the first sign of trouble, the Iraqi troops turned and left and left all that equipment there. Well, I think somebody has to explain to them that, look, we can help, but we can't do this for you, and...
REHMDo you think we're going to have to go back in there?
SCHIEFFERI don't know what we're going to have to do. But right now, all I can say is that things are really not very good there.
REHMNot very good, that's for sure. On this program, I asked Colin Powell, long after he left office, whether he had considered resigning rather than going to the U.N.
SCHIEFFERWhat did he say?
REHMHe said my orders came from the president of the United States. And I asked him to whom he took his oath of office, was it to the president or was it to the American people. And he said it was to the president.
REHMHe was not a very happy man when he left the studio.
SCHIEFFERWell, that message had a profound impact, I think...
REHMIt certainly did.
SCHIEFFERI think on the country, and it had a lot to do with a lot of people, as I did, believing that we needed to do this.
REHMLet's go to Frank (PH) in Charlotte, North Carolina. You're on the air.
FRANKYeah, I'd like to ask you a question. Me and some of the people that I work for, you know, we've been having this debate from, like, some 30 years, and it's, you know, what does -- what are you here for? You know, what does life mean, you know, to you and what you should do? You know, for me, I walk around with signs most of the time, and they say things like one of the comments that you made a few months ago about the Palestinian children. And my sign said that nobody has the right to kill anybody's child for land.
SCHIEFFERWell, what is it that you say that I said? I'm not sure I know what you're talking about.
FRANKIt was you and Madeleine Albright, when you quoting Golda Meir, when Golda Meir said that we hate to kill the Palestinian children, you know. And the thing is nobody has the right to kill anyone's child for any reason, okay, and then you and Madeleine Albright agreed with that comment that you made. You know...
SCHIEFFERI think what Golda Meir said was, she said something to the effect that we hate it that the Palestinians have forced us to kill their children. And I think what she was saying, and I think it goes back to what we saw in the latest outbreak, you know, I think you're talking about does Israel have the right to defend itself. I think we would concede that every country has the right to defend itself and protect its people.
SCHIEFFERThe problem with dealing with that outbreak that came last year was the Palestinians were locating their guns in populated areas. You know, you have things like bomb shelters in Israel, where nobody down close to the Gaza border down there is more than 15 seconds from a bomb shelters. The Palestinians built no bomb shelters. They used the concrete that they had to build tunnels to go into the United States. So I would never say that Israel does not have the right to respond to an attack on its people, and that's what it was doing.
SCHIEFFERUnfortunately, many lives were lost on both sides by that. What I favor is negotiations, sitting down and trying to work out something so neither side has to fire at the other population.
REHMIt would be good. Let's go to Chris (PH), who is in Florida. Hi there.
CHRISYeah, hi, Diane, welcome back.
CHRISI just wanted to ask Bob, as he slips into retirement, is he going to make himself available to moderate any debates next year? We should have some good ones coming up.
SCHIEFFERYou know, thank you for saying that. I announced last year, after I moderated the third presidential debate, that I was retiring from debate moderation. I think it's just time to bring in new people to do that. So the answer is no, I'm not. But I will be watching closely, and, you know, moderating the debates was, from an intellectual standpoint, I think the most challenging thing that you can do, certainly the most challenging thing that I've ever done, and I loved every minute of it. But no, I'm going to quit while I'm ahead on that front.
REHMThe preparation for those debates has got to be extraordinary for a moderator.
SCHIEFFERWell, for me, what I did, here's what I did last year. About six weeks before the debate, I went around to the various think-tanks here in Washington and just made appointments with experts on all different kinds of fields. And, you know, the thing about experts, nobody ever comes and asks them anything. So when you call up and say would you tell me what you think about, you know, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, I had 26 interviews of over three hours for each interview.
SCHIEFFEROnly two of them did I even have to go to their offices. They said, no, let me come over. I'll be glad to come over. People want to be a part of that. And so I did that, and in addition to that, of course, I talked to my colleagues, I, you know, kind of kept up with the news of the day, and I'm really old-fashioned. I still clip newspapers, so my assistants and people that work with me, they do it on their iPhones now, but I still have a pile of clippings. So that's how I did it, Diane.
REHMSo, but what you end up with and have to narrow down to has got to be part of the challenge.
SCHIEFFERYeah, that is part of the challenge, but I'll tell you this, before the first debate, I had this dream, and I dreamed that I had asked all my questions, and I looked up, and there were still 20 minutes to go.
REHMYou had no more questions.
SCHIEFFERI probably went into the last debate with 300 questions.
SCHIEFFERNow, I have stars by the ones that, you know, I write down the ones that I want definitely to get to, but I would never be at a loss for a question.
REHMWhat do you think of having multiple people at the debates as the interviewers?
SCHIEFFERYou know, I don't have any problem with that. I think the ones that I've done, and what I have recommended to the Debate Commission, I think the single best format is we have the two candidates sitting at a table with the moderator, where you can -- you're close enough that you can all touch each other. I think it kind of changes the tone of that. I've done it that way, and I've done it when they stood behind podiums. I kind of like the format that we used the last time.
SCHIEFFERI do not -- I'm not in love with the so-called town hall forum, where you have 20 citizens, and it all sounds good on paper, but then somehow it never quite comes off.
REHMWell, how are Republicans going to winnow down the number of people on the stage?
SCHIEFFERWell, you know, that's going to be up to Republicans, but I notice there's a story out today that Fox, which is going to have the first debate on August 6, they say they're going to limit it to the top 10 in polls. And then I think CNN has the second one. I think they're going to do a double-debate. They're going to have the top 10 in one debate and then others in a second debate of some kind. But they've got to figure...
REHMIt's going to be complicated.
SCHIEFFERIt's going to be very complicated.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Bob, what do you plan to do after next Sunday?
SCHIEFFERThe first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to take three months off where I'm not going to do anything.
SCHIEFFERSam Nunn, who is a longtime friend of mine and the longtime chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, said to me, he said, don't do, don't commit to anything for three months. He said, you'll be overwhelmed. And I haven't been overwhelmed yet, but I've certainly had a lot of things that people have suggested for me, and I'm just telling them all, call me this fall, and we'll figure -- I don't know what I'm going to do. I've never had trouble filling my day, I know that, and I'm not worried about that in the least.
REHMAre you and your wife hoping to travel more?
SCHIEFFERWe'd probably do some traveling. The only order I've got on that front is she said don't expect me to fix lunch, and I don't expect you to hang around the house during the day. And so I'll have to find something to do.
REHMYou'll have to find a way to go elsewhere.
SCHIEFFERYeah, but I just don't know, Diane.
REHMDo you want to write?
SCHIEFFERMaybe. I'm not sure. I've written four books.
SCHIEFFERAnd they are really hard work. I mean, I loved doing them. To me, in some ways, when I wrote "This Just In," which was kind of my professional memoir, it's -- of all the things I've done, I think that's the thing I'm most proud of. But I'll also tell you, people say, oh, I could write a book if I'd just had time. It's hard work, if you've never tried it.
REHMIt sure is.
SCHIEFFERSo I'm not sure if I'll do that again, but I'll do some writing in some form, I'm sure.
REHMAnd, I mean, what would be a dream for you to do?
SCHIEFFERThe dream for me is just to stay alive. I mean, I couldn't ask for anything more than the wonderful life that I've had. I mean, I love reporting, I love the news. I loved it when I -- the first time I got to go behind the police barrier, when I got to show my press card and go where other people couldn't go. I loved talking to all these people that make the news and have an impact on our life. So quite frankly, if my life ended tomorrow, I wouldn't feel shortchanged. I got quite a bit out of this trip to Earth, and I'm just thankful that I had the chance to do what I've done. And it's just been fun.
REHMYou loved it back in the eighth grade.
REHMWhen you first saw your name in print.
SCHIEFFERI did. I thought my byline sitting up on top of that story was about the best looking thing I'd ever seen, and I decided I wanted to do that again. And so I got to do that, and most people don't get to do, in an adult life, what they wanted to do as kids.
SCHIEFFERAnd so since I couldn't be a baseball player, I'm glad I got to do this.
REHMWhat position did you...
SCHIEFFEROh, I was a catcher. I was a catcher.
REHMYou were in catcher.
SCHIEFFERYeah, I mean, the highlight of my baseball career was the way it ended. I played at TCU, and Dizzy Dean's nephew, who played for SMU, hit me in the eye, and that ended my baseball career. It probably would've ended shortly after that because my arm was giving out, but at least I'm in the history of baseball because it was Dizzy Dean's nephew that ended my career.
REHMWell, you are certainly, absolutely, without question, in the history of journalism. We are going to miss you so and to miss your wonderful and thoughtful commentaries at the end of each program. And Bob, I hope, as a friend, I continue to see you and your lovely wife.
SCHIEFFERWell, you, too, Diane, and I always enjoy being with you.
SCHIEFFERAnd it's been fun to know you over these many years.
SCHIEFFERThank you so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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