Longtime presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was a guest on the Monday edition of CBS's The Late Show, and liberal host Stephen Colbert peppered her with questions about former occupants of the White House, especially her favorites: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (whom she worked for in the White House).
Of course, most of the discussion focused on using history to slam Donald Trump, with the host going so far as to ask his guest which of “her guys” she’d want to "take on" the current Republican president.
Goodwin’s appearance was made to promote her new book Leadership in Troubled Times. Colbert stated that this volume was unusual for her since she had previously written biographies of historical figures while the current book was “about an idea” instead.
The host then served up an obvious softball question: “Why did you feel like now was the right time to talk about the challenge of leadership in turbulent times?”
She replied that it's “because I sort of felt there was an absence of leadership in turbulent times” and explained her list of the qualities “my guys” have:
Just listen and think about if it reflects today: humility, empathy, resilience when you go through tough times, being able to control your negative emotions, self-reflection, courage. Those kind of things.
Colbert then attempted to ask his guest another question, but he struggled with how to phrase the query so it wouldn’t be too obvious he was slamming Trump: “Do you think any of those traits --- How do I say this? How do I say this? Do you think which of those that Trump could use most right now to deal with the turbulent times we’re in?”
After all, he added, Trump “is part of the turbulence himself.”
The historian responded:
I think the most important trait that they shared at their best moments was empathy, which means you understand other people, you care about what they’re feeling, and you’re able to communicate and bring different parts of the country together.
She then quoted Teddy Roosevelt as warning “that the rock of democracy would fail if people in different regions, races and religions began to see each other as ‘the other.’”
“That‘s what’s happened in our country,” Goodwin continued. “That was pre-Trump, and we need a president who can somehow bring those divisions together and heal those divisions.”
Colbert then asked an interesting question: “If you had to bring one of them back to challenge President Trump, who would it be?”
The guest replied quickly that she'd pick Teddy Roosevelt and then explained why:
[T]he reason being that you need somebody who can command the center of attention. Teddy could do that absolutely. I mean, he was the person they said wanted to be the baby at the baptism, the bride at the wedding and the corpse at the funeral. He was colorful that way.
Goodwin then claimed that Roosevelt “also had short statements. He would be great at Tweets. ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.' 'Don’t hit until you have to, and then hit hard.’”
As NewsBusters previously reported, the historian has recently been a regular guest when the “mainstream media” need someone new to hammer the President and as is often the case, historians are better at explaining the past than predicting the future, and Goodwin is a perfect example of that.