DATE January 27, 2005 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Christie Todd Whitman discusses her new book, "It's
My Party, Too," where the Republican Party is headed and being
the former head of the EPA
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
As a moderate Republican, Christie Todd Whitman thinks her party is headed in
the wrong direction, to the far right. She wants to move it to the center.
She says, `The future of Republicanism is too important to allow the takeover
of those who seek to purge the party of anyone who is considered ideologically
impure.' Whitman was the first woman to be elected governor of New Jersey and
served two terms from 1993 to 2000. In 2001, she became President Bush's
first director of the Environmental Protection Agency, a position she resigned
from two years later.
Now she's written a new book called "It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the
Heart of the GOP and the Future of America." I asked her who she thinks has
taken over the Republican Party.
Former Governor CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (Author, "It's My Party, Too: The
Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America"): Well, my concern
is that we've seen a trend in the party amongst some of those who are now
controlling the apparatus and the local--the state party organizations, the
operation, and some in the Congress to define a very narrow litmus test of
what makes a good Republican. Instead of having what used to be called the
big tent philosophy and approach that allows for different interpretations on
some of the basic principles that unite Republicans, there's this idea that,
you know, you cannot be pro-choice at all in any sense and be a real
Republican. You can't think that there's any opportunity to discuss stem cell
research and be a real Republican. You can't believe that government has a
role in providing environmental protection and be a real Republican.
And that's really where my concern is focused for the future of the party. I
am with Ronald Reagan who said that he didn't view the party as one that is
based on a principle of exclusion and pointed out that you can't become a
national party if you're constantly looking for people in groups with whom you
won't work and with whom you don't agree.
GROSS: Well, you've used the expression `litmus test.' What are some of the
ways in which you think moderate Republicans like yourself have been
marginalized or driven out of the Republican Party?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, when you see--let's just take the two most recent--or two
recent experiences. One was what Arlen Specter went through in the last
election cycle when he was challenged in the primary by--and Arlen Specter
being a Republican senator with long seniority, a moderate to liberal,
people--that's the label that they've given him, and I think all those labels
are pretty deceptive, but anyway, he was challenged by a conservative
Republican congressman who said, in challenging him--there's nothing wrong
with a challenge in a primary, but he said, `Part of this is to send the
message to those other moderate'--or they call all of us RINOs, Republican in
name only'--`the other senators that they'd better get in line or they'll be
It was also reflected in the most recent case where Jo Ann Davidson was
appointed vice chair of the Republican National Committee. This was a woman
who was speaker of the House in Ohio, who chaired a good part of the
president's campaign in that state and had a real role in helping deliver a
very important state for the president, and because she is pro-choice when
that announcement was made, there was a series of e-mails that were attacking
her. There were people in the party who threatened to put up other
candidates. And finally, the president had to intercede, and then she had to
agree not to speak to pro-choice groups, the fund-raising efforts of
pro-choice groups and not to talk about her pro-choice stance. That, to me,
just doesn't make any sense. That's a litmus test that is narrow, that is
divisive, and that tells people who might believe that there are some
instances where a woman should have a right to determine what happens with her
body, that there's no place for you here.
GROSS: Let me quote something you say in your book about this. You write,
"As I look back on my political career, I think it could be fairly said that I
did not recognize early enough the rise of the social fundamentalists as a
separate movement within the party. I first ran into them head-on on the
abortion issue, and their vehemence caught me by surprise."
Ms. WHITMAN: Yeah. And I use the term `social fundamentalists' very
knowingly, because to me, there's a real difference between a conservative who
believes deeply in their position but also adheres to the other Republican
principles and Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment, `Thou shalt not say ill of
another Republican,' who believe there are room in the party for people who
disagree, and those who adhere to really a very fundamentalist approach,
which is there's only one right way to address an issue or solve a problem.
And that's different. That's different than being just a conservative, and
those are the people that I find are problematic in the party simply because
they don't want anybody else in their party.
GROSS: In 2000, when you were campaigning on behalf of then Governor George
W. Bush, you said--regarding Bush, abortion and the appointment of Supreme
Court justices, you said, `I have talked to Governor Bush about this, and I
believe him when he tells me this is not a litmus test for him. All you have
to do is look at the appointments he's made to the Texas court, and you will
see those are not extremists.' Would you say that again today?
Ms. WHITMAN: I would. It certainly is true of the record in Texas. There's
no question about that. My concern--again, this goes to what I believe has
happened and a unintended consequence of the focus on the four million
evangelicals who didn't vote in 2000 on the part of the White House and Karl
Rove, and in a strategy that worked brilliantly for the president in terms of
re-election and giving him a greater majority in the House and the Senate, but
also has created a group of people who feel very empowered and ready to take
on the president, you have people saying after this election from the social
fundamentalist side, `We won this election for him. We've earned the right
for the next appointment to the Supreme Court,' and they want a litmus test on
the issue of abortion.
And quite frankly, you know, as governor, I appointed four justices to our
Supreme Court, and I am a pro-choice person, but I never once asked them where
they stood on the issue Roe v. Wade. I didn't think that was appropriate.
And if they'd answered me, I would have thought they weren't the people I
would have wanted to appoint to the bench, because you should decide those
issues on the merits, not on some particular philosophy that you may hold as a
justice. I think the president still has that approach and would want to have
that approach in approving justices, but you're already hearing the tom-toms
beating that that's not going to be good enough for many of the people that
are going to have a say in approving those selfsame justices.
GROSS: Well, you know, you've criticized the Bush administration for its
attempt to, quote, "turn America's religious institutions into arms of its
political machine," unquote. So I was wondering if you ever felt that there
was a litmus test on faith?
Ms. WHITMAN: I don't think so. What I was objecting to was in this last
presidential campaign, there were very direct outreaches made by the campaign
itself to the churches, asking for their list of congregants in order to be
able to mail to those people, and asking when the president--and I did have a
concern. When the president went and met with the pope and he called on the
pope to engage the Catholic priests to be more active politically and, you
know, clearly in sort of his court on the campaign, that is stepping over
It's fine for the religious community to have positions on issues they always
have, some to greater degrees than others and to speak out, but for the
campaigns to start to reach out to the churches to try to engage them is the
wrong way around. If the churches want to do it, if the ministers or the
rabbis want to do it, that's one thing. But when the campaigns start to try
to involve them--and I know a number of religious leaders objected to it.
They felt very concerned and uncomfortable with that kind of role reversal.
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Christie Todd Whitman. She's
the former governor of New Jersey and former head of the Environmental
Protection Agency under President Bush. She's a moderate Republican who's
written a new book called "It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of
the GOP and the Future of America."
We were talking before about how you think there's a litmus test within the
Republican Party, and if you don't agree with the social fundamentalists, as
you describe them, about stem cell research, abortion and a few other issues,
then you're going to be on the outs, and you might even be attacked. How
successful do you think those efforts have been in pushing moderates out of
the party? Are you concerned that there aren't many moderates left and that,
therefore, the moderates will have a harder time making their voice count
within the party?
Ms. WHITMAN: I'm very concerned that moderates are reaching the stage where
they don't feel that there's a home for them in the Republican Party, and I
think the same thing's happening on the other side of the aisle amongst the
Democrats, too. There is a move to the left there that is often overlooked,
but if you look at the voting record of their leadership in the House and the
Senate, you'll see it's a pretty aggressive liberal voting record. I've met
so many people over the course of the last few years who say to me, `You know,
I've been a Republican all my life. I am a Republican. I want to stay a
Republican, but I am very uncomfortable with the messages I'm getting from the
Republican Party now at the national level. I'm very concerned about what's
happening and whether there is a place for me in this party.'
We were able to hold a coalition together, and moderates supported the
president in this election. I'm not so sure that can happen in 2008 if we
continue to drive these litmus tests as wedge issues as the only way to
determine whether you will get the support of the party or not.
GROSS: Do you think that moderate Republicans in Congress are afraid to break
ranks with the Bush administration and the conservative leadership in Congress
for fear that they will be targeted in the next election by a Republican?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, you know, it's hard to speak for them, but I have talked
with a number of them, and, yes, I would say there is a real concern about
what might happen, what kind of support they might or might not get in their
re-electeds. One of the reasons actually that I wrote the book, because I'm
not running for anymore offices, and I can say some of the things that others
have been saying to me or that others think because I'm not and that they
can't because they have a political future. They're in office now, and they
intend to run again or they're looking to run for another office.
And it puts me in a position that allows me to say some of these things and
bring up some of these issues and point out that, you know, this is the first
time since 1952 where neither party has had an incumbent running for election,
either a president running for re-election or a vice president ready to stand
up and take the party nomination. It's a perfect time for both parties to
take a hard look at where they are and where they're going and where the
future lies for them. And that's the dialogue I want to get started in the
GROSS: Let me ask you a question that I know everybody asks you. Why do you
remain a Republican since you feel that you, as a moderate, have been pushed
to the margins of the party along with other moderates? You're very critical
of the leadership of the party now.
Ms. WHITMAN: Because I believe in the basic core Republican philosophy and
value, and to me, that is--and the really big difference between the two
parties is a belief on the part of the Republicans that the best way to solve
problems is the one that's closest to the people. We try first to enable the
individuals to be able to solve their own problems, and when they can't do it,
then you work your way up from the government that's closest to the national
And I see a direct opposite approach on the part of the Democrat Party, which
is still that the federal government has the majority of the good answers, and
I just don't believe that to be true. I think it, in many ways, denigrates
the individual. Now, of course, I also believe in lower taxes. I saw in New
Jersey how lowering taxes can spur economic growth and, in turn, see the
creation of jobs so that people have an ability to support themselves. Tough
on crime is still really something that Republicans adhere to, and I believe
in that. We passed Megan's Law in New Jersey. I signed that bill, which is
now a national bill. And also strong national defense. Those are all things
that are Republican philosophies in which I believe, but the primary one is
the respect for the individual and the desire to problem-solve starting at the
level closest to that individual.
GROSS: My guest is Christie Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New
Jersey and directed the Environmental Protection Agency during the first two
years of President Bush's first term. Her new book is called "It's My Party,
Too." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Christie Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New
Jersey and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency. She's a
moderate Republican and has written a new book called "It's My Party, Too:
The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America."
Let's talk about some of your experiences as head of the Environmental
Protection Agency. What did you think President Bush's priorities were when
you took the position in 2001?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, I talked to him, obviously, ahead of time about what this
was going to mean and where he wanted to see the Environmental Protection
Agency go and how he wanted the environment addressed. And we were in exactly
the same place. We had both had the approach, having been governors, of
seeing where the federal government had overreached, understanding the
importance of the role for strong government standards, but also recognizing
that if we could proactively and creatively engage the private sector, they
could come up with better answers faster than government was ever going to,
and to break this mind-set that has existed within the environmental movement
that it's a zero-sum game, that you either can have a clean and green
environment or you can have a healthy, thriving economy, but you can't have
the two things at the same time.
In fact, the exact opposite is true. You have to have those two things
together. There isn't a country or a community anywhere that thrives if they
don't have clean water and clean air, if they don't have open space, a good
quality of life, and conversely, environment desperately needs a strong
economy in order to invest in new technology to help improve the environment
and to be able to buy and protect open space. So those two things go
together, and the president and I were very much in agreement on that. And he
said to me he wanted to leave the air cleaner, the water purer, the land
better protected and people healthier when he left office. He wanted to be
able to say that, and that's exactly where I was.
GROSS: Now early in your tenure as head of the EPA, you had a meeting with
the G8 countries, and on the agenda was controlling carbon dioxide emissions,
and you gave your support for that. And then President Bush basically--What
would you say?--rescinded his support of it?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, he had in--as governor of Texas, he had called for a cap
on carbon emissions from utilities, and during the campaign, he had in his
campaign platform labeled carbon as a pollutant and that called for a cap on
carbon. That was part of the briefing books that I got as someone moving into
the position of administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in
preparation for my hearings, and it was the stated policy. Before I went over
to that Trieste meeting, I went to the White House. I had talked with Condi
I talked with others in the chief of staff's office, and I said, `Look, we're
not supporting Kyoto,' and I didn't support Kyoto. As a governor, I had
opposed the treaty. `We're not doing that. Most of the rest of the world is
at least providing'--and at that point, it really was lip service, because the
only industrialized country that had ratified Kyoto was Romania. `But they do
give it lip service. They are very invested in the process. They care about
it. And if I can talk about this commitment that the president made on
carbon, because it is such a significant greenhouse gas, one of the six, that
will go a long way to easing the concerns that many of the Europeans have
about where we're going and the rest of the world has--not just Europeans, but
the rest of the world has about the United States and its commitment to a
clean and green environment.'
And so everyone said, `Yes.' I think it was in the throes of a new
administration. You've got so many balls in the air, doing so much, that
nobody really focused on how controversial that statement was going to be.
And then also, at the time, we were just entering into the California energy
crisis. This country is 53 percent dependent on coal as our energy source,
and that, of course, is a major source of carbon in the atmosphere. When I
got back, the president had already received a letter from the Hill, calling
on him to restate his opposition to Kyoto and to really show that he was not
going to move aggressively forward to a cap on carbon, and as he looked at it,
from his perspective now on the national level, with the energy crisis in
California, knowing that if he were to call for a cap on carbon, utilities
would immediately start to make long-range plans to change their mix away from
coal to gas or oil, and that would require either more importation or more
exploration, neither which we were ready for at the time and still aren't
ready for now, and so he determined that this wasn't the appropriate step to
It was not done just to, you know, put me in a box. It was done based on
sound policy, principles that he saw--a difference that he saw from the
perspective as president than when he was governor or a candidate for
GROSS: You wrote a memo to President Bush saying that global warming was an
important, quote, "credibility issue for the US," and that, quote, "We need to
appear engaged. I would strongly recommend that you continue to recognize
that global warming is a real and serious issue," unquote. His reaction to
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, that's the thing that has been sort of emblematic of my
frustration over the years, was that the president recognized that, because
right now, we, as a nation, under this president, spend more money than all of
the rest of the developed nations combined on climate change research and
technology development. The president has called for an 18 percent reduction
in greenhouse gas intensity over the next 10 years. He is very engaged
internationally, but we didn't--at the time the president withdrew from Kyoto,
we didn't recognize a difference between the treaty or the protocol and the
process that had engaged the rest of the world for the past 10 years.
And so the way it came across is not only did we not support Kyoto, which, in
fact--Bill Clinton had never been able to get the Congress to go near the
Kyoto protocol. He didn't even bother to send the treaty up there, because
when he'd sent the preliminary part of the treaty up, it had been rejected
95-to-nothing. It was not a partisan issue. It was a general agreement that
this thing wasn't going to fly. It didn't solve the problems of greenhouse
gases and climate change. And so the president was not taking an
extraordinary step when he said that. But it was the fact that we didn't
distinguish between the process and the protocol that I believe has caused us
a lot of problem. It sent a message to the rest of the world that we, the
United States, the largest producer per capita of greenhouse gases, really
don't care what you think is important, and because this might harm our
economy, we're not going to play; when, in fact, we are playing. The
president does recognize the concern, but again, this was part--the reason we
did it the way we did it and the reason he said what he said and the way he
said it was to reassure the base that he was going to stand strong to the
Europeans, and we weren't going to let our economy be dominated by those who
cared about something which many thought and still think today is just a red
herring. It's not a real issue.
GROSS: What position did this put you in? Here you are, the head of the
Environmental Protection Agency, and you think that the Bush administration is
basically putting out the message to the world, `Well, right now, we don't
Ms. WHITMAN: It made life a little awkward, especially since I'd just been
in Trieste and talking to my counterparts from the eight major industrialized
nations saying that we were going to have a cap on carbon, but again, this
wasn't about me. This was about policy, and I understood that. That's what
should--find when you are a member of a Cabinet and not the chief executive
yourself. He was the one who is responsible for policy, and that was his
policy. So, you know, I recognize that. I was not ups--well, I can't say I
wasn't upset. I wasn't offended by it. I didn't take it personally. I
thought, in fact, we could have done it a different way. We should have
disengaged a different way, and we could have sent a different message, and
that's what I was hoping for, but again, I think in that instance, it was
political considerations that trumped others in how we delivered the message
and what we were doing.
GROSS: Christie Todd Whitman has written a new book called "It's My Party,
Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America." She'll
be back in the second half of the show.
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music; announcements)
GROSS: Coming up, Christie Todd Whitman explains why she chaired the
Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in New Jersey in spite of her criticisms of
her party's move to the right. And we talk about her experiences in the Bush
administration as head of the EPA.
Also, Ken Tucker reviews the first solo album by 26-year-old musician, singer
and producer John Legend.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Christie Todd Whitman.
She believes the Republican Party has moved to the far right and that it's the
responsibility of moderate Republicans like herself to move it to the center.
Her new book is called "It's My Party, Too." Whitman served as governor of New
Jersey from 1993 to 2000. In 2001, she became the Bush administration's first
director of the Environmental Protection Agency. She resigned from the EPA
two years later.
While you were the head of the EPA, the National Wildlife Federation obtained
documents that showed that White House officials tried to force the EPA to
alter a report and downplay the risk of global warming. White House officials
insisted on making, quote, "major edits" to the section in the report on
climate change and then insisted that after those edits were made, no further
changes could be made to the text. Finally, the EPA just pulled that global
warming section from the report completely. The popular interpretation of
this was that the Bush administration was willing to practice bad science in
order to get the outcome it wanted, which, in this case, meant ignore the
consequences of global warming, so that industry wouldn't be burdened with
more regulation. That was the kind of popular interpretation of this. Is
that a fair interpretation?
Ms. WHITMAN: I believe what you're talking about is when we promulgated the
report card on the status of the environment. That report card was something
that I asked the agency to put together when I first stepped into office
because I don't believe you can measure how effective your regulations are or
your findings and your court cases you bring unless you know whether you're
actually improving the environment. And we didn't have a base from which to
IN fact, 30 years ago, when the Environmental Protection Agency was first
established by President Nixon, there had been calls from the National Academy
of Sciences and others for the agency to create a report card giving us a base
of where we were on the important environmental issues. And it had taken
better than 30 years to get the scientists to agree on what benchmarks to use
and how to measure intensity and things on air, water and land and human
health. In the world of science, climate change is really relatively new. As
much as we think we know about it now, there's still lots of questions. And
it's relatively new.
So to feel that we were somehow going to get scientists to agree on this when
it had taken 30 years to get them to agree on benchmarks on air, water and
land, the relatively easy things, to my mind, was a bit overreaching and
disingenuous. So what we did with that report is we mentioned climate change,
and we sent people to the most recent research projects that we had online and
the ones that we knew were being undertaken, so that they understood that
there was an issue there, that there was an engagement on the part of the
administration, there was a lot of money being spent. But I wasn't going to
hold up that entire report to try to get scientific consensus on what we could
And when I say `scientific consensus,' this report--the science behind it is
not just the science of the Environmental Protection Agency. It's the
scientists throughout government and from the National Academy of Sciences and
from institutions of higher learnings. Scientists from all across the country
validated what's in that report. And I didn't want to lose that because of an
inability to get substantive enough language on climate change. I didn't want
anything that was less than the standard of what we had in those other areas.
But I also knew the reality was such that I was not going to get that kind of
language in time to put something out. And I felt it was more important for
us to get this out on air, water, land and public health and work on climate
change as a separate thing. It didn't compromise the report at all, and I
felt that that was really a red herring and an unjust criticism. And I'm
afraid what it's done is cause people not to use the report in the way that
they should because it is a very detailed, very...
GROSS: But what...
Ms. WHITMAN: ...explicit, very informative report.
GROSS: ...about the White House saying that it wanted to edit that section
and not let anybody make changes once they edited it? How do you interpret
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, that was a--again, when people throw around the White
House, as they did in that whole battle, that was really the Council on
Environmental Quality, whose job it is within the White House to achieve
consensus among the various departments and agencies on anything that is
crosscutting. And clearly climate change was crosscutting. It was not just
the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency. Energy had a real stake,
Department of Commerce had a real stake, NOAA, all these other scientists.
And there just wasn't agreement. And they were saying, `OK, you can only go
this far and no further.' And the `this far' that they allowed was not good
enough for me. It didn't meet the level of sophistication and thoroughness
that we had in the rest of the report, which is why I said, `OK, we're just
going to take it out.'
GROSS: There are actually many scientists who have accused the Bush
administration of not taking science seriously; in other words, of adjusting
science to suit its outcomes, of manipulating scientific findings to suit the
outcomes that the Bush administration wants and of not taking seriously
scientific recommendations that seem to contradict the outcomes that the Bush
administration wants. And I'm wondering if you ever saw evidence of that, or
if you think that is an unfair charge?
Ms. WHITMAN: I can only speak to that from my experience as head of the
Environmental Protection Agency, and I will tell you that we took our studies,
our scientific advisory board recommendations, very seriously. I
appointed--reappointed--because there had not been one under the Clinton
administration--a science advisor to the administrator. But in any event, I
did not see that.
We did appoint panels that were broad-based and reflective of all those who
had an interest in a scientific stake in what was being discussed, but we
didn't massage the outcomes. Now there are other departments and agencies
where different issues were brought up, and I don't--I can't speak to how real
those were--weren't. But I just served on a panel of the National Academy,
drawing up recommendations to the administration--this administration or any
administration--on how to appoint people to these kinds of science boards,
with a recognition that if the individual was being appointed for their
scientific expertise in a particular area, than you didn't ask them about
their politics. That had no relevance.
And there were some accusations that people were being asked what was their
party affiliation when they were being appointed to a science advisory board.
And one thing you do have to recognize is that science advisory boards are not
always just scientists. They also happen to be others who have an interest in
the issue being discussed, and they may be being chosen for their scientific
understanding, or they may be being chosen because they understand the broader
picture. For those it's OK to ask those kinds of questions because they're
coming at it from a more political perspective. But for those you put on
those panels as experts in that particular scientific area, than you shouldn't
ask them those questions. And we made that very clear in the report.
GROSS: You were concerned about the power that the social fundamentalists, as
you describe them, have in the Republican Party--and the litmus test they're
putting on some issues such as abortion, stem cell research. And one argument
that has been made about the downside of their power is that for the
fundamentalists--a fundamentalist reading of the Bible determines their policy
positions. And as a head of the Environmental Protection Agency you are in a
very science-oriented position. And I'm wondering if you think that religion
ever affected the view of science in the Bush administration? I mean...
Ms. WHITMAN: You know, that's a...
GROSS: ...there's stem cell research there...
Ms. WHITMAN: No, no.
GROSS: ...there's teaching evolution in the schools, but then there's other
scientific issues such as the ones that might involve you in the EPA.
Ms. WHITMAN: I didn't see it so much for us at the Environmental Protection
Agency. It may have been behind when Tommy Thompson decided not to allow the
morning after pill to be offered across-the-counter. That may have been part
of the decision. But I can't speak to other people made their decisions. You
know, it--if you're a religious person--and I go to church regularly--it
impacts your entire way of life, but to some people a greater degree than
others. And some people, as you say, read the Bible literally, take it
literally. I am a religious person, but I fully support Darwin. I do believe
that evolution of the species. And there are those who are fundamentalists
who say, `Well, you can be a good religionist then because that's not the
reading of the Bible.' I don't know how religion plays into other people's
lives. I never saw anyone say they were going to change a decision because of
their interpretation of religion as it applied to that area. But again, at
least I can only speak from my experience at the Environmental Protection
Agency, and I simply did not see that occur.
GROSS: My guest is Christie Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New
Jersey and directed the Environmental Protection Agency during the first two
years of President Bush's first term. Her new book is called "It's My Party,
Too." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Christie Todd Whitman, and she's the former governor of
New Jersey and under President Bush she served as head of the Environmental
Protection Agency. She's a moderate Republican who has written a new book
called "It's My Party, Too: A Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future
of America." When you left the Bush administration in 2003 and stepped down
from your position as head of the EPA, you said it was basically to spend more
time with your family. Was that the real reason? (...Unintelligible) didn't
like that now? OK.
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, actually, I kept telling everybody that it was because I
wanted to spend time with my husband. We didn't like--my kids were grown at
that point. And John and I really didn't like living apart. I mean, we
actually like each other and at that point we had been married 27 years, it's
30 years now, and we really--you know, talking--when you're in a high-pressure
job and he has his own business and that's high pressure--just talking over
the telephone at the end of the day really isn't as satisfying when someone is
your best friend, as well.
The timing, however, really did have something to do with the decisions that
were coming down, because there were a couple of issues on which I'd been
working for the two and a half years. And they were coming to decision time,
and it was moving in a direction with which I wasn't comfortable. And, you
know, it wasn't my policy. I hadn't been elected president. George W. Bush
had. And so he had the right to establish the policy he wanted and to have
those decisions go the way he wanted to have them go. And I decided the best
thing for me to do is to leave quietly, then, because it wasn't my
administration, it was his, let him appoint someone who was more comfortable
with the decision that he wanted made, and get back to where I was really
happiest, which was at home.
GROSS: What were those decisions coming down from the Bush administration
that you disagreed with?
Ms. WHITMAN: The main decision had to do with something called new source
review within the Clean Air Act and where you put the standards. And as a
governor, I had brought some cases, challenged the federal government on new
source review, on going after dirty power plants. And my feeling was that I
couldn't do anything that was going to undermine those cases. I could not
sign a regulation where the standards were such that they would undercut the
cases. And I saw us going in that direction where the trigger points that
were gong to be established, for a whole host of reasons, were such that they
were going to give the plaintiffs a very good opportunity to get out from
under the cases, and I was concerned about that. And I decided before final
numbers were struck--and they hadn't been struck. They were still in the
process of discussion when I left the agency. As the reforms would apply to
utilities, I thought it best that I move on, because I wasn't going to be
comfortable signing something that I thought might undermine those cases?
GROSS: The Bush administration is considered an administration that demands a
high degree of loyalty from the people within it. What does the word
`loyalty' mean to you now as a former member of that administration?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, you know, I'm not--this book is not about criticizing the
administration. It's about critiquing the party. It's not about the
president. It is about looking forward on where this party is going to go.
That's my whole focus, and that's the reason that I wrote the book. I am sure
there are some within the administration who will try to say there's
disloyalty here, but if they actually read the book, they'll see that I'm not
terribly critical. I point out where we differed on things, but that's fine.
That's my opinion vs. the president's. And I recount some of the incidents,
but not in a titillating way. When I talk about what happened, it's to
illustrate a point going toward my concern about what we lose when we focus so
heavily on a small minority of the party. And we focus on those who have a
single issue, idea or have a very narrow scope of how you can address issues.
That's really the whole purpose behind writing the book. It's the whole
purpose behind mypartytoo.com. It's to open the dialogue to let moderates
find a place where they can talk to one another and start to support one
another and build more of a vibrant base that I believe will allow the party
to continue to be a majority party in the future years, because I'm not
sure--we won this time, but, as I say in the book, `at what price?'
GROSS: But do you see President Bush and his administration as being
representative of the move to the right within the Republican Party that you
criticize in the book?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, one of the problems I think the president's going to have
is that because of the focus on the four million evangelicals who didn't vote
and their success in bringing in more candidates to the Senate and the House
that they now are butting up against some of those with those narrow tests.
And where the president wants to be more expansive or wants to move more
toward the center, he's going to have a hard time doing it, and you already
There was a Novak column recently that said, `Is the president becoming more
moderate?' as if that was the worst thing in the world to happen, and
challenging him on some things where they didn't feel he was conservative
enough. As I mentioned earlier, you have those who say they will not support
anything the president wants to do on Social Security if he doesn't go out and
be more aggressive on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. You see
it happening again and again, and this is my concern. And when I say, `At
what price the future,' at what price the future of the party, because the
president, himself, is going to find it very hard, I believe, or a lot harder
than he should to govern the way he'd like to with the majorities that he now
GROSS: You're very critical of the direction the Republican Party has gone
in. You're critical of the amount of power that the religious right had in
the re-election of President Bush. In New Jersey, you headed the Bush-Cheney
re-election committee. Considering how much you disagree with the direction
that the party has moved in under President Bush, why did you want to head his
re-election campaign in your state?
Ms. WHITMAN: Because I thought the president--and I still believe--is the
best person to head the country at this time. And while I may disagree on
individual issues, I agree on the tax-cutting policy, I agree on No Child Left
Behind, I agree on the fact that he met his promise in providing drug benefits
under Medicare. I agree on a whole host of areas and issues, and those were
the ones that were the most important to me.
GROSS: Was your book timed to come out after the election, not before the
Ms. WHITMAN: Very much so. Very much so. I insisted on that, that it
wouldn't be a part of the election, again, because it's not about the
president. It's not a critique of this presidency as much as it is about the
future of the party.
GROSS: In my continuing attempt to end interviews on a profound note, I have
a final question for you. You've talked about a time when you fell. I think
this is when you were governor of New Jersey. And so, you know, people love
embarrassing photos. Your photo was all over, but, of course, you were
wearing a skirt. And it's really awkward to fall in a skirt for obvious
Ms. WHITMAN: Over backwards, it certainly is.
GROSS: Right. So is it acceptable, do you think, for women politicians to
wear pants, or are you expected to wear a skirt, you know?
Ms. WHITMAN: Well, you know, actually, Terry, that's a very interesting
question, because when I first became governor, I was very conscious of that,
and I always wore a skirt. And then gradually, I decided, `This is for the
birds, and I'm gonna wear pants at the same--I'm gonna mix it up.' And I've
had a number of women legislators who have come up to me subsequent to that,
say, you know, `You're the one who enabled me to wear pants, because I didn't
dare do it before.' It's part of the nature of the changing image of women and
women in the work force. So yeah, initially, I wouldn't wear pants, just
'cause I was afraid it wasn't the image of a governor, of a woman governor.
And then I decided the governor is the governor, and pants are not. I'm the
GROSS: Well, Christie Todd Whitman, thank you very much for talking with us.
Ms. WHITMAN: It's a pleasure. Good to talk to you.
GROSS: Christie Todd Whitman has written a new book called "It's My Party
Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America."
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the first solo CD by John Legend,
which he considers a good example of the new soul music revivalism. This is
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: "Get Lifted," John Legend's debut solo album
TERRY GROSS, host:
John Legend is a 26-year-old who has played piano, sung and helped produce
hits for acts ranging from Alicia Keys to the Black Eyed Peas and Kanye
West. Now he's released his first solo album called "Get Lifted," and rock
critic Ken Tucker says it's a fine example of the new soul music revivalism.
(Soundbite of music)
Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) Woo hoo hoo, I promise not to do it
again. I promise not to do it.
Mr. JOHN LEGEND: (Singing) But you can't say that I don't love you just
because I cheat on you. Because you can't see all I do to keep from knowing
the things I do. Like erase my phone, and keep it out of town. Keep it
strapped up when I sleep around. Well I should have known one day you'd find
out, but you can't go and leave me now.
Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) You know that I love you.
Isn't that the most immediately catchy chunk of R&B you've heard in a while?
John Legend was born John Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, the grandson of a
minister, the son of a church choir director, the graduate of classical music
piano training. Don't be put off by his adopted surname. I mean, taking
Legend as your last name is, when coming from a guy as obviously intelligent
as this one is, more sly and comic than boastful. And for a guy who comes
from a gospel background, Legend really knows how to write about secular
temptations with irresistible force.
(Soundbite "All Right")
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) OK. I see you checking me out. I think I know what
you winking about. You with your man. You don't want him to see. It's all
right with me. I know I drink a little bit much, and you think I'm talking
crazy and such. I can't walk straight, but girl, I can see. You're all right
Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) You're all right.
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) I see you a little something that...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) ...I like.
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) You're looking mighty fine in those...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) ...skin-tight.
Mr. LEGEND: You know what I mean? It's all right with me.
Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) Hold up.
TUCKER: That's "All Right," a song that, when it hits its peak, will put
steam on your windows. John Legend may not possess a great voice. It's a
nice grainy tenor, the voice of a piano player-producer-arranger who likes to
croon his melodies to the people who'd really sing the heck out of them. But
he puts the emotions across. And sometimes, the emotions aren't always nice
ones. Take the song "I Can Change," in which the narrator admits he's been a
dog, and is begging a worthy woman of forgiveness.
(Soundbite of "I Can Change")
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) As I look back on all that I've done to you, my
biggest regrets the things that I never could do. I see the light now baby,
it's shining through. Gotta give up the game. Yeah, I've got some changin'
to do. I won't get...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) ...high, if you want
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) ...get that straight. 9 to 5...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) 9 to 5 if you want
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) ...keep my ass home at...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) ...night if you want it.
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) Whatever you need me to do. When you talk...
Mr. LEGEND and Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) When you talk I'm a
TUCKER: That song actually begins with a spoken intro by the tiresome rapper
Snoop Dogg, mattering on about how he's gonna step up his love game and doing
that annoying izzle pig latin thing. This is apparently the sort of thing a
young R&B artist like Legend feels comfortable putting up with if it gets his
music across to the masses. Seems like you'd just rather hear something like
this in which he makes clever mention of some hip-hop artists while beating
them at their own game.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. LEGEND: (Singing) Maybe it's me. Maybe I bore you. A no-no, it's my
fault, 'cause I can't afford you. But maybe, baby, Puffy, Jay-Z would all be
better for you, 'cause I all could do was love you. Baby, when I used to love
you, there's nothing that I wouldn't do. I went through the fire for you,
anything you asked me to. But I'm tired of living this lie. It's getting
harder to justify. I realize that I just don't love you, not like I used to.
Backup Vocalists: (Singing in unison) La, la, la, la.
TUCKER: I've avoided playing some of the slower, murkier ballads that fill
out John Legend's debut. They're the work of a young artist who's sorting out
his influences. And all I can say is, `John, please put aside your Donny
Hathaway records.' The rest of the time, John Legend makes good on his album's
title, lifting us into a realm where gospel and street life take on equal
gravity, equal pleasure, equal importance, just as they always have in
first-rate soul singers.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is film critic for New York magazine. He reviewed the new
album "Get Lifted" from John Legend.
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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