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This programme contains some strong language
When I was a kid, my mom said,
"Work hard, you can become president,"
cos I grew up in a Disney film.
That was back when we believed
that presidents were righteous and honourable,
cos, after all, they were president.
And that died in about 1974 with Richard Nixon, Watergate,
blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah.
"But, Rich, can anybody be president?"
Well, that depends on your circumstances.
If you find yourself standing outside of a Walmart bathroom
at three in the morning,
waiting on the results of your girlfriend's pregnancy test,
no, you're not going to be president.
"But I've watched every episode of West Wing.
"I want to change the world."
Screw you. Go start a soup kitchen.
Being president is a hard job,
and you really, really have to want it.
When you're president, you've got thousands of bosses.
Half of them demand stuff way outside your job description.
The other half wouldn't mind too terribly if you were dead.
So you need Disney-sized motivation,
the kind of motivation that craves abuse.
And here's the kicker.
There's a pretty good chance the job is going to kill you.
Of the 43 men who've been president,
four have been assassinated, all by gunshots.
Another 13 presidents have been shot at,
had grenades thrown at them,
car bombs planted,
or someone tried to crash their plane.
And for every president who's been killed on the job,
there's another one where the job killed them.
and Warren G Harding keeled over from heart attacks.
Zachary Taylor ate some bad cherries
during a Fourth of July celebration at Washington Monument,
died of severe diarrhoea.
William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia
right after his inauguration.
Doctors treated him with leeches and Virginia snakeroot.
He died after being president for only 32 days.
Still want the job? Fine.
Just make sure that you're rich, a white Protestant male
and a Freemason.
Or ugly, born in a log cabin and clinically depressed.
Because one thing is for certain -
if being POTUS doesn't kill you, it's going to prematurely age you.
Just look at Obama.
When he came into office, he was a good-looking, vibrant man.
Now look at him.
Face like a used tyre.
So, according to the odds,
there's roughly a 40% chance that, as president,
somebody's going to try to assassinate you.
But there is a 100% chance of character assassination.
# People, won't you come together?
# We've all got to live as one
# I ain't right sure what that means
# But don't you reckon it sounds like fun?
# Everybody pack your picnic lunch
# And everybody pack your gun
# Cos we...
# Can't trust no-one
# No, you...
# Can't trust no-one. #
I'm really excited.
How many people here are ready to turn the White House red again?
How many people here
are ready to go out there and tell Hillary Clinton
what difference it really makes?
What difference does it make?
I'm here at the Presidential Town Hall, and these Bush supporters
are feeling very good about their candidate.
What do you say, guys?
An election is a thing that happens every four years in America,
where we get to watch a lot of ego-obsessed men and women
say crazy things, trip over mic cables,
insult each other, and generally engage in a series of antics
that makes us briefly forget we live in a world of destructive policies
and a state of grim hopelessness created by these very fucksticks.
Donald Trump likes to sue people.
He should sue whoever did that to his face.
Given that being president of the United States
could very likely put you in a premature grave,
it's fairly astonishing that at the beginning of 2016,
23 hopeful Americans threw their hat in the ring
for the nation's top job.
At some point, every one of these candidates has looked in the mirror
and said to themselves, "You know what this country needs?
That's the kind of haploid, diploid,
megalomaniacal level of self-delusion you need
to run for president.
When I'm president, we're getting rid of Obamacare.
They all talk about passion, service,
wanting to do it for their country.
Of course there's a huge amount of ego involved in all of this.
I turned out to be 100% right on illegal immigration.
People, two weeks ago, they were going after me, even the reporters.
You're talking about a group of men -
and so far, they've all been men -
who have been basically convinced from birth
that they were the centre of the universe.
Most of the people running for president
actually believe that they have a talent,
a philosophy, an ideology, an ability to lead people,
really an extraordinary gift.
And if they don't, we generally find out really quickly.
And where do we find out?
On the campaign trail.
When I'm president, you will not get in to the United States of America.
It's going to get tough.
You're going to be on the road for two years.
You're going to spend up to 1 billion.
You're going to expend a whole lot of shoe leather,
and you're going to have to make some bold statements.
A total and complete shutdown
of Muslims entering the United States.
You're going to get attacked.
Your past and your family are going to come under intense scrutiny,
and God help you if you've got any dirty laundry.
I am confident that I never sent nor received
any information that was classified at the time it was sent...
If you're going to be POTUS, President of the United States,
you're going to have to fight dirty,
because it's the most downright gruelling election on the planet.
There's nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you.
It's tough, it's nasty, it's mean, it's vicious.
And you know what? It's all been done before.
Ten, nine, eight, seven,
These are the stakes.
The 1964 presidential campaign
between Lyndon Johnson and his challenger, Barry Goldwater,
introduced a vicious new tactic into presidential campaigning.
The idea of taking what a candidate says and turning it against him.
Johnson created a series of TV ads
that portrayed Goldwater as some kind of deranged whack job
who, if elected, would destroy all of mankind.
We must either love each other...
..or we must die.
Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd.
'Mr Johnson set out on a political career 27 years ago.
'A road that led to the White House.'
By the time of the 1964 election,
Johnson had already been in the White House for a year,
having stepped in after the assassination of John F Kennedy.
He was seen as the likeable heir apparent, but...
with a hidden agenda.
He knows he's going to win,
but what he wants is a huge landslide victory,
cos remember how insecure Lyndon Johnson was.
He was following the most popular president maybe to this day,
and he didn't just want to win.
He really wanted to win by a lot, because to him,
that meant that the American people loved him
and that, therefore, he could move forward
out from beneath the shadow cast by the JFK presidency.
'Since Labor Day, Senator Goldwater has travelled
'tens of thousands of miles to discuss the issues of the campaign.'
Goldwater made the agenda easy for Johnson.
His slogan was, "In your heart, you know he's right!"
And he was. Extreme right.
Now, Goldwater was an accomplished senator
and ex-air-force pilot, very close friend of the late JFK,
but he didn't care much for Russia or China
or any other commie red bastard,
and he didn't bother trying to soft-soap it.
And we must make clear...
that until its goals of conquest are absolutely renounced,
and its relations with all nations tempered,
communism and the governments it now controls
are enemies of every man on earth who is or wants to be free.
In terms of articulation,
let's compare that to a modern-day candidate
with a whole team of speechwriters and researchers at his disposal.
Hey, I'm not saying they're stupid.
I like China.
I sell apartment for... I just sold an apartment for 15 million...
to somebody from China.
Am I supposed to dislike them?
Goldwater had all the oratorical tools - alliteration,
epigrams, classical quotes -
way more than the average American could absorb.
When he accepted the Republican nomination in San Francisco in 1964,
he pretty much dropped the Trumpism of his day.
I would remind you
in the defence of liberty is no vice.
Hard-core Republicans lapped this up.
Finally, a guy not willing to kowtow to the reds.
The more moderate Republicans, however, were genuinely flummoxed.
Future President Richard Nixon had to turn and explain to his buddy
what Goldwater had just said,
like someone who didn't quite get a Frankie Boyle joke.
Never mind that he was quitting Cicero,
the man who pretty much laid the foundation for practical democracy.
Nope, his opponents took the word "extremism"
and milked it for all it was worth.
And in no time at all,
they had him starring in a one-man version of Mississippi Burning.
"We represent the majority of the people in Alabama
"who hate niggerism, Catholicism, Judaism
"and all the isms of the whole world."
So said Robert Creel of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. He also said...
"I like Barry Goldwater. He needs our help."
Unlike the stentorian Goldwater, Johnson was a folksy down-home Texan
who used the Oval Office to further Kennedy's agenda
of progressive social reform,
eradicate poverty, promote civil rights,
and order lots of slacks.
'Joe, is your father the one that makes clothes?'
-'Yes, sir. We're all together.'
'Y'all made me some real lightweight slacks.
'Now, I need about six pairs
'for around in the evening when I come in from work.
'The pockets, when you sit down in a chair,
'the knife and your money comes out,
'so I need it at least another inch in the pockets.
'Now, another thing - the crotch down where your nuts hang
'is always a little too tight, so when you make them up,
'give me an inch that I can let out there,
'because they cut me.
'It's just like riding a wire fence.'
Why, this knife-wielding, pecker-cramped good old boy
was determined to spend another four years in the White House,
and nothing was going to get in his way.
Goldwater never had a chance, systematically bombarded by TV ads
that all implied every child in America was doomed.
Do you know what people finally did?
They got together and signed a nuclear test ban treaty.
But now there's a man who wants to be president of the United States
and if he's elected, they might start testing all over again.
The best that Goldwater could do to counter this assertion
was to drag out the Duke himself, old John Wayne,
to provide some kind of weird cryptic voice-over
that, frankly, made no sense whatsoever.
An umbrella - just that,
or the symbol for appeasement?
A table - just that,
or a sell-out abroad?
A wall - just that,
unless it helps you remember
what has happened to a billion people in this world
and what can happen to you and to your children.
What in the wide, wide world of sports was he talking about?
What, there was a wall somewhere with a billion people behind it?
The '64 campaign had turned into something that resembled
a bitter divorced couple fighting over custody of their kids.
'To many, of course, he is the president first
'and a candidate second,
'but his speeches draw a resounding cheer.'
Lyndon Johnson decided to really turn Barry Goldwater
into someone who terrified and horrified Americans,
and he did it in a number of different ways.
It sounds trivial, but they wrote hundreds of letters
to the advice columnists of the time,
Dear Abby and Ann Landers,
claiming to be Americans who were terrified at the thought
of a Goldwater presidency.
They even put out a colouring book for little children
which portrayed Goldwater in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan,
and then they followed up with, of course, the daisy commercial,
which was probably the most effective campaign commercial
Johnson won by a landslide.
His campaign had convinced Americans
that if Goldwater was elected, he would start a war,
and now, firmly re-entrenched in office,
what do you think Johnson did?
He went to war.
This administration today, here and now,
declares unconditional war on poverty in America.
That's all the joint military chiefs of staff needed to hear.
War. Mm! Good God, y'all.
In March of 1965, two months after being sworn in,
Johnson ordered 20,000 troops
to launch an offensive against Poverty,
a small nation on the Indochina Peninsula of Southeast Asia.
Within 18 months,
this incursion had increased to 200,000 troops,
all trying to keep North Poverty from overrunning South Poverty.
By 1967, there were more than a half-million men fighting Poverty,
and Johnson's support plummeted
to the point where he was the most unpopular president in modern times.
The man who had got himself elected
on a premise of saving America's children
was unfortunately watching America's teenagers
come home in body bags.
Let's imagine for a second an alternative historical scenario.
What if Goldwater had won?
Let's say that LBJ pulls out of the race
due to aggravated scrotal trauma.
He chooses, instead,
Hubert H Humphrey, his vice president.
Now, Hubert Humphrey is an avuncular hack from Minnesota
who's been pining for the job since the end of World War II.
Nobody takes him seriously, so Goldwater wins.
Goldwater doesn't mess around in Vietnam - he ends that war
in two weeks flat, and the world knows, don't mess with the USA.
Unfortunately, his refusal to deal with Arab nations
and their oil exports leads to a gas shortage.
With a gas shortage, the auto industry stagnates.
With no cars, America just becomes this place
with a lot of vintage automobiles,
really cool-looking but held together with duct tape,
also known as Havana chrome, and the auto industry does not progress,
thus we never get the nimble Ford Bronco,
in which OJ Simpson leads the LAPD on a high-speed chase.
That chase would have been on foot
and OJ would've easily outrun the cops,
cos let's face it - he was one of the fastest runners in the NFL.
No OJ, no trial.
No trial, no Robert Kardashian,
who rose to prominence defending OJ on the murder rap.
Robert Kardashian just would've been a two-bit ambulance-chasing
chiseller from Los Angeles and his three daughters would be vapid,
inconsequential bimbos, hanging out at the mall.
It's a tragic fact that politics in America
is coming closer to resembling a reality TV show.
We want to see our candidates lined up in front of
a panel of judges, like Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly,
whose sole purpose is to create confrontation and drama
for the TV audience.
Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments
about women's looks.
You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be
a pretty picture to see her on her knees.
Does that sound to you like the temperament of
a man we should elect as president?
Even Obama seems to be confused
about how he's supposed to exude presidentialness.
Being president is a serious job.
hosting a talk show or a reality show.
No, it's not.
So, here's Obama talking politics with Bear Grylls,
a guy who likes to drink his own urine.
-Would you ever encourage your girls to get into politics?
-But if they
came to me and they said they wanted to go into elected office...
-..I would be completely supportive.
Because I think it can be noble work,
if done for the right reasons, the right way.
But if any of these presidential wannabes were put into
a reality show, they'd be evicted before the first commercial
for being soulless, snooze-inducing, robotic dullards.
Some of America's greatest journalists have tried to
chronicle elections, and every one of them would have been better off
following plankton for a year.
Boys On The Bus, Timothy Crouse.
Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball? Yeah.
Even the estimable Hunter S Thompson, who chronicled
the 1972 campaign between Nixon and McGovern,
was so overcome by torpor and ennui
that he just resorted to making stuff up about the candidates,
just to enliven things -
claiming, for example, that Democratic nominee Edmund Muskie
had hired a Brazilian witch doctor to supply him with ibogaine.
That's a hallucinogen that makes you think you're a salamander.
Open season on voters gets under way
as the presidential candidates start cross-country vote-hunting tours.
MUSIC: Ramblin' Man by The Allman Brothers Band
What Americans want is to be wooed
by old-fashioned grassroots campaigning,
which means crossing the country by bus and plane,
eating pancakes and talking to
a lot of lumpy housewives at shopping malls.
The campaigning itself is a pretty good test of the candidate.
If they manage to get through that without flopping dead
on the floor or turning into a bodacious drunk, you know...
I mean, I sure couldn't.
Just the sheer wear and tear on these people tells us that
they're pretty sturdy physical specimens.
No-one who hasn't been there has any conception
of how unbelievably gruelling it is.
It's gruelling and exhausting.
Remember, you've been campaigning - what? -
by the time you hit September, for 16 months.
Jumping into a plane in the morning and making four or five speeches
in different parts of the country,
which aren't that different from the ones you made the day before,
is not the most, er, wonderful experience, in that sense.
I want to thank the musical organisations that have been here.
I understand we have the Leon High School band
-and the Godby High School band.
President Truman continues his swing around the circuit,
meeting former vice president Garner at Uvalde, Texas.
Campaigning for president is more than a full-time job.
I mean, just raising the money is a full-time job,
not to mention going out and actually glad-handing people,
which is maybe two full-time jobs.
I really don't know how they survive doing it, cos it is -
it's just brutal. Especially this year.
I mean, this is a gruelling field.
People have lasted much longer than anyone expected.
Super PACS have played a role in keeping candidates going.
The next leader of the free world is going to have to tell us,
right up front...
are you going for the Broncos or for the Patriots?
And I'm here to announce...
This guy just paid off his student loan!
He looks like the kind of guy that should be explaining you
your warranty when you buy a large appliance.
After seven years of Barack Obama, this is a time of urgency.
You start to hear the same things over and over again,
said in a new way, with new reactions from the audience.
Jeb Bush - decent governor, I suppose, of Florida.
Which is like being a manager of a Dignitas clinic.
But let's face it - every family needs a Fredo,
just clinging to some blind familial destiny.
Hey, W. How you doing?
I've learned a lot, being a candidate here,
and I look forward...
They try to be as everyman as possible, but they're slowly
losing their identity, turning into nattering nabobs,
shills, ciphers, husks.
You know, they're too busy flitting from rally to rally,
town hall to town hall, dinner to dinner,
trying to get people to like 'em.
It's like an Academy Awards nominations
if all the nominees were from the same film.
I believe America can be greater than it's ever been.
How we can keep America safer and stronger and freer...
When our embassy is purposefully attacked by terrorists...
They peddle bromides they think American voters can respond to -
things like, "Let's take America back."
"Let's make America strong again."
Basically, anything that can fit onto a bumper sticker.
And they desperately avoid the real issues.
And the reason a candidate avoids the real issues is because,
basically, both sides - Democrats and Republicans -
they're on the same page.
Yeah, they quibble over social welfare, but they both agree -
needs to be fixed.
They quibble over a few-billion-dollar difference
in defence spending but they both agree we need an army
that can kick the world's butt.
They argue over the free market but they both want the Government
to keep their big, meaty paws off of it.
The only difference is that Democrats stay above the waist
and Republicans, for some ungodly reason,
are obsessed with what Americans do with their fundament.
Abortion, Planned Parenthood, gay rights.
Republicans cannot stay out of a woman's jinkety-jankety.
Other than that, there's no difference.
Republicans, Democrats - it's the difference between hair and fur.
-Could I have a Coke, please?
-I'm sorry, we only have Pepsi.
Everybody wants the same thing.
Everybody wants economic growth, first and foremost.
Everybody wants a balanced budget, a secure international scene,
but we just have these two broad tendencies
with a lot of Venn-diagram overlap.
At times like now, when the parties seem to be very polarised,
that Venn diagram is only overlapping by about 50%.
Normally it overlaps by about 80%.
-In terms of what they...
-What they want to achieve?
I am running for the presidency of the United States
because, citizens, it is time.
It is time that we take our future back...
So how do these people get themselves to stand above the fray?
They build a team, a human shield made entirely of yes men.
They've surrounded themselves with people who keep them
sheltered from the real world and give them
a courtesy reach-around hand job and keep them on a steady,
high-octane diet of Powerade until they turn into rutting,
savage-eyed alpha males crashing through the woods
looking for anything with a hole in it to fuck.
But I mean that in the nicest way possible.
And to get to the point where you have zillions of advisers
telling you what to do and what not to do and how to do it,
you don't know which is telling you the truth, you're surrounded
by ambitious people, you're raising money hand over fist...
..it's not a lot of fun.
# The prodigal son
# Left home by himself
# Home by himself
# Oh, the prodigal son left home by himself
# Prodigal son left home by himself
# That's the way for me to get along... #
People running for president uniformly believe
they can change the world. So the idea is to win at all costs.
After all, if you lose,
you're not going to be able to do anything, are you?
Winning an election is about deflecting as much as shit
as the other guy can throw at you.
If he claims that you fuck pigs, he's desperate.
But if he puts you in a position of having to deny that you fuck pigs,
After years of a B-movie Republican gunslinger running things,
a lot of Americans are ready for a change.
We're going to build the kind of America where hard work is rewarded,
where American goods and American workmanship
are the best in the world. That's what this election is all about.
A Democratic governor from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis,
was primed to challenge
the incumbent vice president, George HW Bush.
I seek the presidency to build a better America.
It's that simple and that big.
I thought he was a serious candidate.
This was clearly going to be a competitive race.
I thought it was quite winnable.
And if I hadn't made a couple of really bad mistakes,
I think I could have won it.
By working together to create opportunity and a good life...
Dukakis was determined to take a fresh approach to campaigning
and avoid the mudslinging and the negativity
of so many previous elections.
'I hadn't engaged in any of that stuff
'during the primary, quite deliberately,'
and I thought people were fed up of that stuff.
But the lesson to be learned from '88 is that if the other guy's
coming at you, you've got to have a carefully thought-out strategy.
For a new era of new economic greatness in America,
Michael Dukakis for president.
Bush, on the other hand, was an old-guard politician.
He'd been around a long time and he knew all the angles.
And his opening gambit was to play the old crime-and-punishment card.
As governor, Michael Dukakis vetoed
mandatory sentences for drug dealers.
He vetoed the death penalty.
The Republicans seized upon a parole programme
in the state of Massachusetts where Dukakis was governor,
which allowed violent criminals to be released not so much on parole
but to be released on work furloughs for a few weeks.
William Horton escaped from the furlough programme.
He attacked a man and his girlfriend
and he raped the young woman and he stabbed the man.
Republicans seized upon this as a way to attack Dukakis
as soft on crime.
His revolving-door prison policy gave weekend furloughs
to first-degree murderers not eligible for parole.
While out, many committed other crimes like kidnapping and rape,
and many are still at large.
Now Michael Dukakis says he wants to do for America
what he's done for Massachusetts.
America can't afford that risk.
Never mind that those weren't convicts.
Those were members of George Bush Senior's campaign staff,
rented strangers, told not to shave for the day
and make a video that basically says,
"Elect Dukakis, and your kids will be kidnapped and raped."
Yep, that happened, and we let it happen.
Smears, cheap shots, dirty tricks
are part and parcel of American elections.
They're the currency of American elections.
Ronald Reagan himself had a furlough programme.
This governor of California had defended the programme,
even though two of his furloughees went out and murdered people.
But I said, "Not going to do it."
It was a big mistake. It's a big mistake.
And it was very likely this strategy of not fighting,
of not slinging back mud, that cost Dukakis the race.
See, mudslinging serves two important functions.
Number one, how a candidate responds to it is a microcosm of
how they would handle duress if, in fact, they were president.
Let's face it - no sane candidate is ever going to say anything bad
about himself, so you have to take them out of
their "I'm a nice guy" safety zone
and see what they'll do when the gloves come off.
For the next 90 minutes, we will be questioning the candidates...
It was during a televised debate on PBS that moderator Bernard Shaw
delivered the fatal blow, while 67 million Americans watched.
There are no restrictions on the questions that my colleagues
and I can ask this evening.
He went onto a stage
with millions of people watching
and he knew damn well,
he did something he didn't often do.
He made a mistake.
The first question goes to Governor Dukakis.
You have two minutes to respond.
We had rehearsed, time and again, that question.
That's the question where people want to know, whose side are you on?
Are you on the side of the criminal
or are you on the side of the victim?
And we had practised the answer endlessly in debate prep.
I mean, I can do it for you right now.
It begins with, "I know what it's like to be the victim of crime."
Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered...
..would you favour an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
I really viewed this as being a kind of routine question
and, unfortunately, I think I kind of answered it
as if I had been asked it a thousand times.
No, I don't, Bernard, and I think you know that
I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life.
I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent and I think there are
better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime.
We've done so in my own state...
When Bernard Shaw asked him the question,
"Would you support the death penalty if your wife,
"Kitty Dukakis, was raped and murdered?"
and he responded in a very robotic, stilted,
falling back on his talking points fashion,
and Americans wanted him to shout out,
"How dare you ask me such a personal question?"
So, Dukakis was doomed -
viewed as a shell, a man with no emotion toward his own wife.
And his opponent made sure there was no coming back from this mistake.
Here I do have, on this particular question,
a big difference with my opponent.
You see, I do believe that some crimes are so heinous, so brutal...
I walk all the way backstage
and I'm the first person to get to Michael
and he looked at me and he said, "I'm sorry."
"I just missed it."
Of course I regret about that, I would have been delighted to be
-President of the United States.
I mean, how many people get to be president, for heaven's sake?
No, I'd have loved the opportunity, but I didn't get it,
didn't win it, so...one does other things.
Let's imagine for a second an alternative historical scenario.
What if Dukakis, instead of answering robotically,
had actually said to Bernard Shaw, "I'm sorry, Bernard,
"did you just ask me, 'what if my wife was raped'?
"How about we step outside and I punch your lights out?"
Then he would have been a national hero, easily beating George HW Bush.
No George HW Bush,
no George Bush Jr 12 years later to follow in his footsteps.
George Bush Jr would still have been owner of the Texas Rangers
baseball team, which he would have run into the ground, so now
Texas fans switch their allegiance to the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA.
The Mavericks have a huge payroll and are able to hold on to
both Kris Humphries and Lamar Odom,
instead of trading them to the LA Clippers,
where they promptly go off and marry Kardashians,
thus perpetuating the tawdry freak-show nature of reality TV.
The Kardashians would just be three inconsequential,
vapid bimbos hanging out at the mall.
So, you're probably thinking, the Founding Fathers,
those who created democracy in America,
were upstanding and dignified men with waistcoats
and really florid signatures,
who would never stoop to cut-throat politics.
This is the Constitution of the United States. 4,543 words...
that explain how the government works.
This is an owners' manual for a 2014 Toyota Tundra pick-up truck.
The people who wrote the Constitution
had no idea if it was going to work.
All they knew was there had to be a better way to elect a leader.
Because up to this point, historically,
there were only two ways to acquire power.
One, you overran people with invading hordes. Very messy.
Or two, you had to find a way to successfully
be born into a royal family.
The Founding Fathers figured there had to be something in between.
So they came up with this idea of a trilateral structure -
executive, judicial, legislative - where everybody could make sure
that everybody else wasn't getting too uppity.
They already had the perfect choice for president - George Washington.
A philosopher king straight out of Plato's Republic.
A man who, other than not knowing how stupid it was to stand up
in a crowded boat, was articulate, humble, and the nation's hero.
So after drafting this template for democracy, the Founding Fathers
immediately did the most undemocratic thing possible.
They anointed Washington president, unelected and unopposed.
Washington didn't like the office.
And didn't approve of the existence of the office, in a way.
Nobody really knew, nobody had done this before.
Actually, they didn't even use the terms president
or vice president at first. There was a lot of back and forth
about what to actually call their leader.
OK, here's a little game I like to play.
Which of these were actually suggested titles
for America's leader, and which are famous racehorses?
His Serene Highness.
Within his first four years,
Washington exposed a huge flaw in the Constitution,
something the Founding Fathers and all their idealistic vision
had never foreseen, which was that as soon as you're in charge,
somebody, somewhere is going to decide you're doing it all wrong.
The Founding Fathers never envisaged the two-party system.
Today, we understand the two-party system
as essential for the functioning of democracy.
They didn't really foresee that
there are differences in self-interest - they thought
people would put these aside and unite for the good of the country.
Almost immediately, two of the main architects of the Constitution
started sniping at each other -
Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State,
and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury.
Jefferson was a plantation owner, Republic-minded.
In other words, sympathetic to farmers and planters.
He felt government should interfere as little as possible
in people's lives. And by people, of course, I mean white folks.
It's become fashionable in the last decade or so
to bad-mouth Jefferson and question whether
he deserves that great big photobomb up on Mount Rushmore.
Because, you know, he owned slaves.
Yeah, he did.
So did the first five presidents.
So you want to blame the driver, or the guy who handed him the keys?
That would be you, Britain.
Jefferson once called slavery a great stain on the nation.
Now, as a duplicity of the times, you could call slavery a stain,
and then you could have the slaves remove the stain.
And as for any disparaging remarks about Sally Hemmings,
Jefferson's slave mistress,
bear in mind that Jefferson's wife died at the age of 33
and on her deathbed, Jefferson promised he would never marry again.
So what can you do? You're the president and you can't get laid?
You have to file that under,
"Lamentable, but what choice do you have?"
Kind of like programming on ITV on a Sunday night.
Hamilton had an altogether different worldview than Jefferson.
He was what you would call a federalist.
He believed in big government,
and that if a big government didn't get its act together
and start making some do-re-mi, shore up a federal bank and print
a unified currency, then America was going to go down the dumper fast.
He admired the English financial system,
he admired the banking system, especially in England,
and he wanted to replicate those for America.
Because of their polarised views on how the country should be run,
Jefferson and Hamilton's animosity towards each other escalated.
Jefferson and Hamilton used newspapers very unethically.
Both of them were members of Washington's cabinet,
yet both of them took government money and funded newspapers,
the point of which was to express opinions for their side.
They would plant articles in newspapers,
often writing under pseudonyms.
In a 1776 issue of Hamilton's paper,
he, under the name Phocion,
talked about the "pretensions of Thomas Jefferson
"to the presidency", the nation must "be on The Guard".
He was "a demagogue", he wore the, quote, "garb of patriotism,
"but only as a disguise."
According to Jefferson, writing in his own paper,
Hamilton's ideas were "stupid, suspicious and licentious",
and they would just go back and forth, back and forth.
In essence, Hamilton and Jefferson's differences
derived from the ambiguity of the Constitution,
because the thing about the Constitution is,
it's purposively vague.
That's why we've spent 230 years arguing over what it means.
For example, when it comes to describing the president's
actual duties, this is what it says.
"The president shall take care that the laws of the United States
"are duly and faithfully executed."
"Take care." That's it?!
The label on my shirt tells me how to take care
in four different languages.
But the Constitution just says, "Hey, you know, watch out."
You can imagine that opened itself up to a lot of interpretation.
Basically, Hamilton and Jefferson disagreed on how much power
the president should have, because Hamilton was a pragmatist,
and Jefferson was an ideologue.
Hamilton knew he could get way more done
by being a behind-the-scenes guy,
which is what he did for the next four presidencies.
He was the facilitator, the go-to guy.
He's on the 10 bill because he started the Federal Reserve Bank.
He moved the capital from Philadelphia to Washington DC
because he believed it should be in a neutral place.
By the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson
and the watery-faced John Quincy Adams,
the two-party system was firmly entrenched.
And now things got really nasty -
in the most gentlemanly way possible, of course, through print.
Part of us, as Americans, have a Mr Smith Goes To Washington movie
in the back of our minds. Some shining city on a hill,
back in that idealised past, where people were good to each other
and the Founding Fathers would never play dirty tricks on each other.
Well, of course, that's ridiculous,
because even if you go back to the election of 1800,
where Thomas Jefferson hires a writer to call John Adams, quote,
"a hideous hermaphrodite", unquote,
and the Federalist John Adams attacked Thomas Jefferson
as being "soft on the French Revolution",
just as Michael Dukakis was soft on crime.
And that election included my favourite campaign trick,
where the Federalists spread the rumour
that Thomas Jefferson was dead.
Which I think is wonderful!
Because, really, in those days, how do you rebut that very quickly?
Well, you can't vote for him, you know, he's dead!
So, you think the modern-day media
is a cesspool of slime and misinformation?
Look back to the good old days when you could just
pay a journalist to accuse your opponent of being insane
or a sexual deviant or an atheist. Just took a little money.
Jefferson won the 1800 election,
became the third president of America.
As for Hamilton... Well, he was never going to be able to
run for president because he was born in the Caribbean.
He continued his career as a great facilitator,
then ended up being killed in a duel with a guy named Aaron Burr.
Today, his achievements have been commemorated
in a Broadway musical, soon to transfer to the West End.
Hamilton, the musical!
# It's time to take a shot Time to take a shot
-# I am not throwing away my shot
-Just you wait
-# I am not throwing away my shot
-Just you wait
-# I am Alexander Hamilton
# Just you wait
# I am not throwing away my shot! #
So there you go - one of America's most influential Founding Fathers
is now a hip-hop musical.
Because nothing inspires wicked beats
like an 18th-century Federalist.
See if I can't find one of these all-instrumental rap stations.
Bet it goes something like this.
# Alexander Hamilton was the bomb
# Born in the West Indies and orphaned from his mom
# Where he witnessed first-hand the degradation of slavery
# And was promoted by George Washington for his bravery
# He founded the bank of the Federal Reserve,
# But Tho.Jeff got on his nerve
# Tho.Jeff, he said, the economy needs to be saved
# But he, Jefferson, was too busy banging his slave
# To listen
# And that is the paradox of the two-party system
# Because Alexander Hamilton ain't bullshit. #
I do this shot all day, man. Give me any politician, I'll rap him.
I'll rap a politician.
# Donald Trump's mom was born in Stornoway
# At a very early age
# All the hair on Donald's head had worn away
# If you elect him president, beware
# How can a man control a country
# When he can't even control his hair? #
So, the 1800s arrived and we get a steady succession of presidents.
Some forgettable, some will eventually
have a three-day mattress sale named after them.
And in 18w5, you get John Quincy Adams, the first true dud.
The only son of a former president
who ended up being a worse president than his dad.
That's right, John Quincy Adams purposively underperformed
in the White House to ensure that future sons of presidents
would learn from his mistake and never attempt to repeat it.
And how did these early POTUS-es, POTI,
engage with the public?
They didn't. Not remotely.
No, they stayed holed up in DC amongst their peers
just pontificating and extemporising and writing lots of doctrines.
A doctrine, by the way, is a word that the more you say it,
the stupider it starts to sound.
Smaller than a writ, but bigger than a pamphlet.
But none of these guys would be caught dead fraternising with
the average guy from Main Street, USA. Why would you?
Imagine how much more you can get done if you don't have to
deal with those pesky citizens and all their rights and demands.
# Come on, baby Let the good times roll... #
The candidate who more or less
invented campaigning as we know it today was Andrew Jackson.
He realised that to win the election of 1828,
he was going to have to work the crowd,
meet the public, kiss some babies.
He began to do something that no milk-tit gilded-cage candidate
had done before. He stumped.
What is stumping? Just what it implies.
Get yourself a stump, arm yourself
with a few all-encompassing phrases,
crowd-pleasers like, "This is the best potato salad I've ever tasted.
"Can I count on your vote in November?"
And then get to stumping.
thank you very much for inviting me to your wonderful state
here in the heartland of America, but also very near the coast.
I realise I am probably standing on sacred Indian burial ground
and I will fulfil my promise to remove those bodies
and relocate them, so we can put an all-important manicure parlour here,
and that means jobs, jobs, jobs.
Andrew Jackson's campaign depended on the persuasive power of personality.
Until Jackson, politics in America was an institution.
He turned it into a happening, and here's why. The man was a badass.
How much of a badass?
All right, let's take all 43 presidents,
put them into a steel cage,
no-one comes out alive - battle royal.
You have to honour and defend the Constitution.
No Apache helicopters allowed. Who wins?
The smart money would be on ex-soldiers,
like Rutherford B Hayes,
who took five bullets, making him the 50 Cent of presidents,
but does that make him a tough guy
or just someone who survived a bad shot?
Eisenhower had guts - he beat the Nazis.
But by the White House years, those guts were inflamed
and falling out from gastroenteritis.
Put a 20 on Andrew Jackson and while you're at it,
put Andrew Jackson on a 20.
# We fired our guns and the British came a-comin'... #
He killed Indians.
He whomped the British in New Orleans,
kicked the Seminoles back to Florida and as a duellist,
once plugged a guy named Charles Dickinson.
By the time he decided to run for Prez,
his temper and passion were legendary
and he kicked the crap out of anybody who called his wife a ho,
which many people did.
In September of 1827, having made up his mind
he was going to be president, bar nothing, Jackson started
organising "Friends of Jackson" rallies throughout the country.
His supporters nicknamed him "Old Hickory".
They called themselves "hurrah boys", wrote songs,
printed pamphlets, planted hickory trees,
passed out hickory brooms, hickory sticks, hickory canes -
the man literally won an election through a concerted arboreal effort.
They ripped his opponent, the incumbent John Quincy Adams, to shreds.
The Adams camp responded by pointing out that Jackson couldn't
even spell the word "Europe", which sadly was true.
On voting day, they showed up in droves
and elected Jackson by sizeable margin.
Jackson took office in March 1829.
Massive crowds lined the streets of Washington to celebrate.
Eventually, they surged into the White House, wiped their feet on the rug, smashed the furniture,
cleared out the liquor cabinet, started punching each other.
On his first night in office, Jackson slipped out the back door,
went and found a room at a local inn.
Now that he had won the first presidential popularity contest,
Jackson invented a new party -
the Democratic Republicans, nowadays called Democrats.
Almost immediately after his inauguration,
Jackson's wife got fed up with being called every name in the book, and died.
So now Jackson is even angrier.
As soon as he's cleaned up all the broken furniture in the White House,
he set about trying to destroy the careers of all the people who
had opposed him.
And fighting the Federal Reserve Bank,
because Jackson hated paper money.
He was a backwoods guy, believed in gold and silver.
Spent eight years fighting the Federal Reserve because
he believed that bankers were supreme sleazeballs.
And then when he dies, they put his face on a 20 bill -
quite possibly the biggest posthumous fuck-you a president has ever received.
Also as a footnote, he was the first president to ever be shot at.
He was leaving a funeral at the age of 67,
and some twisted geek took two shots at him, missed both times.
Jackson proudly responded by beating the living snot out of him
with his hickory came. They don't make 'em like that any more!
In spite of his contrariness, or possibly because of it,
Jackson was assailed by the media of the time, mercilessly lampooned.
You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.
Because he courted public acceptance,
he had to accept public derision.
Thomas Nast was the most famous of a new breed of journalists,
who didn't use words as much as he used pictures.
He was a political cartoonist with captions.
See, back then, a political cartoon served a purpose.
A lot of Americans were pig-illiterate but they could
look at a cartoon and glean a lot of information.
Nast was so skilful at lampooning that just one of his illustrations
could destroy a politician's career.
But nowadays I think we can all agree that the ability to draw
big ears and bulbous features on a politician
doesn't pack the punch it used to.
Astoundingly, today there are still over 200 political cartoonists in America.
200 people who have to wake up every day, think of the lamest premise
possible, sketch it, rethink it,
re-sketch it, colour it in, deliver it to the editor
so that we can look at it in the paper and do this.
Have you ever overheard anyone say, "Hey,
"did you see that political cartoon in the paper today?
"God, David Cameron had a head like a condom!"
Seriously. You're a political cartoonist, do yourself a favour.
Go down to Leicester Square, get yourself a stall,
surround yourself by pictures of dead rock stars
like Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison and make a living hoodwinking tourists
by drawing their giant engorged heads onto little tiny bodies.
You'd be better off.
By the middle of the 1800s,
Americans were finally involved in the election of their president.
Andrew Jackson had changed voting forever.
From now on, if you wanted to be president, you had to bid for the vote of the masses.
And that of course meant spin, spin, spin.
Media spin. You think that's a modern phenomenon?
William Henry Harrison, born into a wealthy family,
father was Governor of Virginia,
he was educated at Hampton Sydney College.
He was 5'8" of pure unadulterated toffee.
In the election of 1840, Harrison and his party, the Whigs,
took an offhanded comment by a Baltimore newspaper that said,
"Harrison looks like someone that if you..."
His party supporters picked up on that hard cider and log cabin reference
and gave it the full spin.
# Look at me
# You know what you see?
# You see a bad mother... #
All of a sudden, a guy who owned a 200 acre farm with slaves
was transformed into a hard drinking, big stinking backwoods philosopher.
The Whig party organised rallies for Harrison that could only be measured in terms of acreage.
The parades were 10 miles long.
What hickory had done for Jackson, log cabins did for Harrison.
Harrison won the election over Martin Van Buren,
and then because he had to keep up
this outdoorsman persona,
he delivered his inaugural speech in his shirt sleeves...
in the snow...for two hours.
And then he went off and died.
His greatest contribution as president was to the lexicon -
a distiller started selling William Henry Harrison commemorative whiskey bottles
in the shape of a log cabin.
That man's name was EC Booz.
And so the parade of presidents rolls on,
each campaign more vigorous than the one before. Newspapers come and go.
By the early 20th century, thanks to the airwaves,
everyone knows what a president sounds like.
'You people must have faith.
'You must not be stampeded by rumours or guesses. Let us unite...'
In Beaver, Idaho, 1927, a man named Philo Farnsworth
pottering around in his garage, invents something called
the image dissector and modern television is born.
Now, inevitably, thanks to television,
anyone running for president comes under a new kind of scrutiny
in living black and white.
In 1946, 8,000 Americans owned televisions,
and by 1948 that number had swollen to 350,000.
That was the year of the Dewey-Truman election
and for the first time, Americans got to see their candidates on the box.
So both the Democrats and the Republicans chose to hold their nominating conventions
on the East Coast, to take advantage of the time zone.
In Philadelphia, Harry Truman went to the podium to accept the
Democratic party nomination.
Now Truman was an incumbent president
but his victory was nowhere assured,
nor was it a good sign when a lot of pre-celebratory pigeons were released,
freaked out, started crapping on the conventioneers like something out of a Hitchcock movie.
In fact the Republican candidate,
Thomas E Dewey was so assured of stealing the presidency,
that his adviser told him, "Just don't say anything stupid and you're in."
Every poll and newscast seemed to support this.
'We now know that Governor Dewey will carry New York State by
'at least 50,000 votes and that he will be the next president
'of the United States!'
And November 2nd, 1948, Harry Truman went to bed a loser...
and woke up in the morning president.
So radio and this newfangled TV coverage managed to convince
many Republican voters that Dewey was a sure thing
so they didn't even bother to turn out and vote.
Truman squeaked back in by slightly more than two million votes.
November 3rd, 1948 marks the one and only time in history
that a newspaper got something wrong.
Television has established itself as new and vital tool in future
election campaigns, but it won't be long before the novelty wears off.
When did television campaigning get ugly?
Certainly not at the beginning.
In 1952, about the only slanderous thing that Democratic frontrunner
Adlai Stevenson could say against his opponent,
General Dwight David Eisenhower,
was that Eisenhower appeared to have grown to a height of 8'6".
General, I'd like to get married
but we couldn't live on the salary I get after taxes.
Well, the Democrats are sinking deeper into a bottomless sea of debt
and demanding more taxes to keep their confused heads above water.
Stevenson supporters fought back teeth and nail with
a series of devastating show tunes.
# I'd rather have a man who knows what to do
# When he gets to be the Prez
# I love the gov, the governor of Illinois... #
Unlike the governor of Illinois, Eisenhower had
no real political experience.
He was, by his own admission, a lifelong professional soldier,
he'd been dragged into the race on a tide of national hero worship.
-He returned home and his own people took him to their hearts.
Stevenson was an egghead, the thinking fellow's candidate,
and thus hopelessly unsuited for the presidency.
In fact he was quoted as saying,
"I have no ambition to be president,
"I have no desire for the office, mentally, temperamentally or physically,"
and then promised to shoot himself if he were nominated.
The Democrats nominated him anyway.
Both candidates were what you would call nice guys - who needs that?
Hey, if nice guys were electable,
Adam Hills would be a president somewhere.
Turns out TV wants to see the dark underbelly,
the savage heart, the snake in the woodpile.
Fortunately in 1952, such a snake reared its head.
My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight
as a candidate for the vice-presidency.
And as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.
For Nixon, exposure on television was both beneficial and deceptive.
'We are looking for those moments where you see the real person.'
When you look at that person, do you trust them,
do you feel like they keep it real or do you feel like,
"Hmm? I don't really know what this person believes."
Just because you tell us you think something or you feel something,
are we inspired by you, do we know what you believe?
I want to say this to the television audience.
I've made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life...
Nixon verbally had lots of what we call deceptive hotspots in my world,
but then he had the body language hotspots.
You see Nixon holding on to the lectern.
We tell people what we are, not what we're not.
Nixon said, "I am not a crook."
..people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.
Well, I'm not a crook.
And he's, like, "And I welcome these questions."
And he steps back from the podium and crosses his arms.
And he is, like, robotic.
I've earned everything I've got.
We lean towards people and things and ideas that we like.
And we lean away from people and ideas and confrontation that we don't like.
I've earned everything I've got.
You feel it. You're like, "This guy's fake,
"he's phoney, he's lying about something."
But can't you also just see they're coached?
Yeah, of course, Hillary Clinton comes out like this,
like she's the Christ, we call this the Christ pose,
like she's on the cross.
And then she does the A-OK at the end of her hands,
so she stands out, she's like, "Hello, everybody,"
like, "I'm your saviour, I'm here to save you."
If you want a president who will listen to you,
work HER heart out, to make your life better...
..and together, to build a stronger, fairer, better country...
Al Gore, one time, he was debating against George W Bush,
they were both seen as presidential,
both seen as likeable going into the debate. What happened,
Al Gore speaks, it's George W's turn, he speaks,
Al Gore stands up, walks over to George W.
It's not only what's your philosophy and your position on issues,
but can you get things done?
And, like, stands over him.
It was so disrespectful, like, intimidating him.
And George Bush looks over at Gore, like, "How are you doing?"
But can you get things done?
And I believe I can.
It made George Bush look likeable, even more likeable,
in control, and not going to be pushed around easily.
So we have an incredible country.
For people like me, Donald Trump being in the race is fun.
Because he's showing up real.
We don't have victories any more.
You feel like the guy that stands up on that stand is the same guy
that's going to talk to you at dinner.
And if he thinks you're an asshole, he's going to say - "Dude."
And that all you got to go on?
# Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong
# My own beliefs are in my song... #
Nowadays, candidates live in a world somewhere between
character assessment and character assassination.
JFK was likeable, Nixon was shifty, so JFK won.
People look at you on TV, they make up their mind in a heartbeat
deciding if you have that likeability factor.
And by likeability, I mean, is there remotely anything
about these wazoos that you the voters can relate to?
So for a long while, telegenics, TVQ, as they like to call it,
went a long way in determining who would be the next president because
viewers could look at a candidate's debating skills, his speeches,
his actions, and determine for themselves who was the most
decisive, who was the most presidential.
And the single most important factor in choosing a president,
who is the guy you would most like to sit down and have a beer with?
It's the most difficult personal hurdle
that a POTUS contender can overcome.
So who is the guy you would most want to have a beer with?
OK, forget any of the Mount Rushmore guys,
cos that's like drinking with a celebrity, right?
You just want to get a selfie taken.
Andrew Jackson, mean drunk, Bill Clinton, sure,
if you don't mind being a wingman
while he sneaks off with some waitress to take care of business in the back of a Camaro.
Nope. The guy you want to drink with is Harding. Warren Gamaliel Harding.
Harding would have been the perfect drinking buddy.
He played baseball and golf, played poker like a maniac -
once won an entire newspaper company in a card game.
Even when he was president, kept flitting back off to Ohio to
sit on the porch and polish off cocktails with his small-town pals.
And this was during Prohibition.
Boy, did the man have stories.
And I don't mean, "I'm kind of a big deal in the White House" stories.
I'm talking about STORIES.
You know, multiple terms in the Oval Office, if you get my drift.
Warren G Harding, affectionately known as Warren G Hard-on,
made Bill Clinton look like the guy at the prom with acne.
Slept with his wife's best friend, slept with his best friend's wife,
his own wife, Flo - Flo...
was some kind of hectoring ballbuster
who travelled with her coterie of acolytes,
and advisers and once tried to put a seance chair
in the White House living room.
Isn't that the best kind of drinking buddy -
the guy and his personal stories are so horrific that they make
you feel better about your own pathetic life? Damn right it is.
Warren G Harding is your man.
So let's go order up a couple more pitchers of beer and plates of ribs
and check out the rack on that waitress.
# I'm a man, yes, I am and I can't help but love you so
# No, no, no
# But I'm a man, yes, I am and I can't help but love you so
# Yes, I am
# No, no, no, be it so, baby? #
Back to the question. At what point did modern campaigning get ugly?
I mean, really, really ugly?
The sitting president, Richard Nixon,
set out to destroy the Democratic primary by pitting its four
main candidates - Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern,
Scoop Jackson and Edmund Muskie, against each other.
-Who can take a sunrise?
-Who can take a sunrise? #
Nixon had already spent four years in the White House doing
a perfunctory job of running things.
No-one could quite get a beat on his character. He just seemed shady.
They didn't nickname him "Tricky Dick" for nothing.
Of course, while Nixon was respected by Americans for being strong
and tough, nobody really loved him. And he was not exactly
a warm figure that gave off sort of popular vibes.
So Nixon had to worry about his re-election.
Just remember, we cannot fulfil the American dream unless each
American has a chance to fulfil his own dream.
That's what we believe in.
Nixon was leaving nothing to chance.
So first of all, he infiltrated the Democratic primaries,
so he would get the opponent he knew he could destroy.
They were doing all kinds of sabotaging events,
giving false information, trying in every way to weaken the
candidates that Nixon most feared as potential opponents.
Donald Segretti, one of Nixon's campaign workers,
wrote a letter on stationery belonging to Democratic nominee
Edmund Muskie - the letter was meant to cause chaos,
accusing Humphrey and Scoop Jackson of sexual and alcoholic misconduct.
Some years later, Segretti would eventually admit they were lies.
Each and every allegation in the letter was untrue
and without any basis in fact.
It was not my desire to have anyone believe the letter, but instead,
it was intended to create confusion among the various candidates.
But in 1972, Nixon's plan had worked.
The Democrats basically started cannibalising each other
and McGovern moved to the forefront of Democratic contenders.
He wanted to run against George McGovern, he thought George McGovern was the most vulnerable
potential opponent, the person he could most easily defeat.
-Seldom in American history have presidential candidates held
such sharply opposing views on major issues.
McGovern wants to end the Vietnam War immediately.
Nixon's re-election committee had more money than they knew
what to do with, and used it to paint McGovern as a fuzzy socialist.
FACTORY WHISTLE BLOWS
Senator George McGovern recently submitted a welfare bill
to the Congress.
According to an analysis by the Senate finance committee,
the McGovern bill would make 47% of the people in the
United States eligible for welfare.
Nixon had a systematic campaign to relentlessly tag McGovern as
a radical and an extremist.
Tying McGovern to the Yippies - Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin -
even one anonymous piece trying to connect him to Charles Manson.
And who's going to pay for this?
Well, if you're not the one out of two people on welfare - you do.
The McGovern camp responded by pointing out
a tiny infraction by the Nixon campaign organisation, that
they had broken into the Democratic campaign headquarters at Watergate.
This is about credibility. This is about electronics.
This is about bugging. This is about spying.
Nixon stressed that McGovern would wreck the military.
The McGovern defence plan. He would cut the Marines by one third...
..the Air Force by one third.
Meanwhile, McGovern could not emphasise enough...
This is about deception. This is about the White House.
And this is how you stop it.
With your vote.
No, no, I'm still here.
I'm still here, the director has forced me
into this lead pipe obvious joke,
that some people broke into Watergate in 1972.
Watergate, break-in. Hey, everybody...
# Who can take a rainbow... #
Despite McGovern's efforts, Nixon was still the favourite for the election.
He shifted his presidency into turbo-drive - he visited China.
He made deals with Russia.
He got tougher on Vietnam while at the same time brokering
a peace resolution, all within a few months,
which just goes to show you how much a president can get done when
someone is gunning for his job.
He was a strategist, he was relentless in his thinking,
even as he was immoral in his tactics.
# The candyman can
# The candyman can
# The candyman can... #
He even manipulated the economy, juggling stats and figures to
make everything in America look peachy keen,
all so he could sail into the Oval Office
on a victorious cumulonimbus cloud made entirely of ticker tape.
Sorry, that last description really got out of hand.
It's hard to believe in this modern age of what they call transparency,
that voters would choose to ignore the fact that a sitting president
had orchestrated a burglary of his opponents' campaign headquarters, but they did!
And they sat back and watched McGovern slowly defeat himself.
He chose as his running mate Thomas Eagleton, a senator from Missouri.
Somehow, revelations hit the newspaper about Thomas Eagleton.
It was reported that he had undergone electro-shock therapy for clinical depression.
And questions began to arise about his ability to function as
Well, McGovern said he was 1,000% behind Eagleton and then
two days later, shoved him out the door.
Yep, replaced him with R Sargent Shriver.
McGovern had made the biggest mistake a politician can make,
which is to stab your buddy in the back.
Apparently that's a lot worse than breaking into Watergate.
Nixon won by a landslide
and then America watched the whole thing unravel.
By the time Nixon resigned in August 1974,
the man who had once been affable old Ike's running mate
was the most hated politician in the history of history.
# He thought he was the King of America... #
Nixon spent two more years in office, and was forced to resign.
The only POTUS to do so, although it was touch and go at one point for
One of the last conversations I had with President Eisenhower,
as a matter of fact the last conversation I had with him
before I was inaugurated,
he called me on the phone, he said he wanted to wish me well.
And then he went on to say, and his voice broke a bit when he said it,
he said, "You know, I have only one regret on this great day.
"This is the last time I can ever call you Dick."
So the 1972 elections are full of almost Shakespearean intrigue
and deception and anger and chaos and yet apparently,
so uneventful that Hunter S Thompson feels the need to make up stuff
about ibogaine and Brazilian witch doctors. Why?
Because Americans know it's hype.
It's all one big dog and pony extravaganza.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Senator Marco Rubio...
They watch the spectacle of men fighting savagely for a party nomination,
calling each other whores and traitors and slimeballs,
right up until the convention.
An air of expectancy hangs over the Cow Palace as the time for the chief business of the convention,
the nominations, approaches.
But then, once the guy's nominated, they all come together in
a miraculous mutual orgasm of party unity.
Come on, let's let bygones be bygones and join together and
put the old stomp and whips on the opposing candidate.
And then the real race begins.
It'll be won by the team with the best organisation and the most money.
You gather as many earnest,
unjaded foot soldiers as you possibly can, you canvass
every state by foot and by phone, and you work it just like Santa Claus.
The only problem is, Santa Claus doesn't exist.
And neither does true democracy.
Because we don't elect the president,
just in case you didn't know it.
Nope, we go to the polls and we write down on
a piece of paper who we would LIKE to see president.
So quite simply, we the people don't directly vote for the president.
We cast our vote for our state's electors, who are pledged to
one or other presidential electorate,
and this system is called the electoral college.
Look, we all know why we had an electoral college in the original
Constitution, it was because the folks who drafted the Constitution
didn't trust average folks to elect the president.
They wanted them to vote for people like them,
who THEN would elect the president.
Well, that was...in 1787.
Yeah, it's a flawed system,
and it allowed George W Bush to get elected when he beat Al Gore.
And we ended up with a situation in which one guy won the popular vote
and the other guy became president.
And in my opinion, it was a disaster.
Yep, the best man doesn't always win.
Let's imagine for a second an alternative historical scenario.
What if Al Gore had become president?
How would the world be different?
Sorry, can't come up with anything.
Nothing would have changed - his most notable achievement
would be just making it into this documentary to fill up some space,
same as his presidency.
Yeah, he might have lowered global temperatures by half a degree
but let's face it, the Kardashians would still be
showing way too much skin - nothing changes.
So now, you've made it to the White House, congratulations,
Mr Big Face. You're the leader of the free world.
But have you bothered to read the job description?
What do we expect of a president?
Well, obviously and unbelievably - everything.
After all, he's the most powerful man on earth, right? Yeah, on paper.
But when a president gets into office,
he has to spend a lot of time just trying to acquire power.
I'll give you a hypothetical example.
As president, I will ban all Muslims.
Can he do that? Does he have the authority?
Yeah, well, sort of.
He could invoke section 8 of the US code which says...
..tell your story walking.
But then he would have to get the majority of Congress to agree with him, and then they
would be challenged by the Supreme Court, who would probably override
the whole thing as incredibly, incredibly unconstitutional.
So it's likely that the ban would be imposed, stalled, rescinded,
reimposed, stalled, re-rescinded,
leaving a lot of angry Muslims stranded at the airport.
And that would be one busy multi-faith prayer room.
What's your point, Rich, other than trying to open
a floodgate of angry letters from the BBC?
My point is that a president has to fight for every decision. Boom.
No knockout, 12 brutal rounds, against federal judges,
and congressmen, the Supreme Court, the opposing party,
people within his own party, it's a constant, unending grind.
# Fight the power
# Fight the power
# Fight the power... #
The perception is that the president is the most powerful man in the world.
Yeah, he stands atop our government
and he exercises power in a way that no other
political actor in the US does,
on the one hand,
but on the other hand,
he operates in a system that is stacked against him and so he
stumbles, and scratches and claws for power wherever he can find it.
Take for instance Obama's repeated efforts on gun control.
In the aftermath of Sandy Hook,
he comes out, puts together a commission led by his vice president
that's going to propose all kinds of legislative enactments
and he hits a wall in Congress, doesn't get anywhere.
He's the president of the United States and he's grasping for
whatever he can find in order to make advancements.
So a savvy president doesn't wade into a mass confrontation
against judges and congressmen, and opposing linebackers.
He does an end run.
There are a lot of unilateral powers that presidents have claimed,
they've invented, adapted to suit their needs, executive orders,
national security directives, memoranda...
A security directive is the president's ultimate secret weapon
it's like a double barrelled shotgun,
but one of the barrels is always bent and aimed at their own foot.
He uses it when he has to make a decision that he thinks is
right for the moment but probably won't look that good in retrospect.
He will use it if it's a time of crisis or if he wants to
create a crisis.
Congress never finds out about security directives until
it's too late to do anything about it.
And they're not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
So Americans have no idea how many security directives are
floating around out there - but one thing is for certain, every
president since Truman, who more or less invented it, has used them.
Truman called them NDSs - National Security Directives -
and he issued one that basically said if Japan ever pulls that
Pearl Harbor shit again, this time,
we don't screw around for two years, we annihilate them right away.
Naturally, when Congress caught wind of this, they said, "Hey,
"hey, Harry, you can't just go around willy-nilly threatening
"nations with a hydrogen bomb. Enough with the NSDs."
So, since then, presidents just keep changing the initials
of a security directive
and redefining them for their own purposes.
When Eisenhower became President and wanted to force an embargo
against trade with the USSR, he just changed the name from NSD to NSCP...
..and adapted it to his needs.
JFK used one to invade the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.
He renamed it an NSAM...
Reagan changed the NSAM to NSDD,
which I believe means...
..and promptly sold arms to Iran, then funnelled the money
to Contras in Nicaragua.
And George Bush changed the NSDD to NSPD...
He didn't know what it meant - he can't spell.
So, basically, whenever a president wants to do something
he is pretty sure is a little bit ropey,
he just shuffles some letters and hopes he doesn't get caught.
Cos that's what presidents do -
a lot of sneaking around behind Congress' back.
The odds are stacked against him,
they don't have the power they need, which is precisely why
they scratch and claw at every turn to get what power they can
in order to make a lasting mark.
And those who do or those who leave a legacy are worth remembering.
Nobody wants to be remembered as a crap president.
How do you know you were a crap president? Very simple.
After you're dead,
just look around and see how much stuff is named after you.
If all it is is a library and an elementary school
in a rundown neighbourhood, yeah, you were a pretty crappy president.
The good thing about bad presidents -
they save Americans money.
George Washington - father of our country.
Thomas Jefferson - author of the Declaration of Independence.
Abraham Lincoln - the Emancipation Proclamation.
Without a doubt, these men and more served their country gloriously.
They'll be forever in our hearts, but isn't that enough?
You know how much of Americans' hard-earned money goes
to maintaining these granite monstrosities year after year?
Hundreds of millions, that's how much.
Jesus, do we have to prop up their rampant dead egos forever?
Why can't a candidate just say, "Look, elect me, I will serve
"faithfully for four years, eight years tops and then when I'm dead,
"I will have myself buried in an unmarked grave underneath
"a random overpass somewhere.
"I will never cost you another dime"?
I'd vote for that person.
Hi, my name's Vermin Supreme.
I'm running for president of America.
I have a four-platform plank.
Plank number one - time travel research.
I'm the only candidate who will go back in time and kill baby Hitler
with my own bare hands.
Ultimately, you go down in presidential history as good or bad.
So, what makes a good president?
A good president is one who is not ideological but who is pragmatic.
I think in the last 20 years, in this country,
we've had a pragmatist in the White House and his wife
might be the next pragmatist in the White House.
Any leader throughout history has to be larger than life.
The presidents who were larger than life but who had within them
caring and concern were probably the best presidents,
like FDR, like Abraham Lincoln.
The great presidents generally governed in times of crisis,
which made their actions, their role,
their presidency more important in many ways.
So, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - a great president?
Yes, a great president, no question about it.
There have been great presidents but let's face it,
America's history is also littered with intelligent, talented,
effective men who wasted a sizeable chunk of their lives
Jimmy Carter was a US Naval officer, nuclear engineer,
successful farmer, Georgia governor and human rights activist.
But for four years between 1977 and 1981,
he completely disappeared from the face of earth.
Nobody knew where he was.
Turns out he was holed up in this building,
ineptly trying to free a bunch of hostages in Iran for four years.
Fortunately, the man realised what a colossal waste of time being
president was and went back to doing something useful, namely,
building houses for homeless people and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Carter's uneventful term in the White House made him realise
what he was supposed to be doing with his talents.
He learned something about himself from his experience,
which is more than you can say for some presidents.
-What would your biggest mistake be,
what would you say and what lessons have you learned from it?
I wish you had given me this written question ahead of time
so I could plan for it.
I don't want to sound like I made no mistakes, I'm confident I have.
I just haven't...
He has put me under the spot here and maybe I am not as quick
on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
So, maybe, a good, fitting last question is -
did anybody ever have fun being president?
Yeah, I'm pretty sure one guy did -
Now, I can't stress enough that Teddy Roosevelt was
a borderline psychopath on whom
no presidential standard should be based,
but, boy, did he love the job.
Being president was just one of the things
he did between cattle ranching, writing books,
modelling moustaches, shooting Spaniards,
invading helpless countries and building the world's biggest canal.
He put a boxing ring in the White House,
ran up and down the staircases every day,
walked around whacking all his friends with a big stick.
Does this remind you of anyone?
I think it's a safe bet that somewhere in Putin's library
is a really dog-eared biography of Teddy Roosevelt.
When his eight years were up,
he went off to Africa to shoot critters, got bored,
came back, started up his own party so he could do it all again.
Yep, that's what Teddy Roosevelt did.
How many times have you checked your Facebook page in the last hour?
Show me a person who had fun being president,
and I'll show you someone who needs therapy.
Recently, if I were to pick one, I'd pick Clinton.
I think he relished his time in office in ways that other
presidents have not.
For them, it has been a little bit more of a slog.
I was actually an admirer of Bush 1's foreign policy.
He had a view of the world which I thought was really
quite mature and quite responsible,
and talked about it in some length by the way in his memoirs.
Too bad his kid didn't read them.
I don't think anyone ever had as much fun in the presidency as FDR.
Franklin Roosevelt loved power, loved political manipulation,
loved getting things done.
This is a man who really revelled in being president.
I think Johnson was probably the one that I would pick.
He played a lot of dirty tricks to win that election and '64
but when he was president,
he brought all that Texas wheeling and dealing and profanity
and whiskey drinking and everything to the White House
and he was larger than life
and he really, really - I think - enjoyed being president.
I think he hated to leave it but he was of course done in
by the Vietnam War.
Well, none of them want to leave because it means
their life as the centre of the universe is over.
You have to want it, it's an impossible job.
It's a job that would break most men.
It's also a job that launches you into history and allows you
to affect change in ways that no other job can.
Wouldn't you like to be the most powerful person in the free world?
My guess is that being president for better or worse is a long,
strange trip you never quite come back from.
After all, you've been the most powerful man in the world.
What are you going to do for a rush after that?
That's why Bill Clinton is going to feel like the luckiest guy in
the world if he gets back into the White House as the First Dude,
gets to run around and pee in every corner and re-mark territory.
That sounds like a prediction - it is.
You don't have to panic, Britain,
Donald Trump is not going to be president.
I will wager everything on that.
I will go so far as to say if Donald Trump becomes president,
I will never appear on British television again,
and that is a promise.
HE LAUGHS Who am I kidding?
If Trump becomes president, I'm spending all my time in Britain.
I'm Rich Hall and I approve this message.
# Everybody pack your picnic lunch
# And everybody pack your gun
# Cos you can't trust no-one
# No, you can't trust no-one
# No, you can't trust no-one. #