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Other segments from the episode on January 18, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 18, 2001: Interview with Boyden Gray and Mark Gearan; Interview with Harry Shearer; Commentary on Doug Sahm.

Transcript

DATE January 18, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Boyden Gray and Mark Gearan on the White House
transition process
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

As President-elect Bush's Cabinet nominees face their confirmation hearings,
consider this: The Bush team has to hire about 6,000 new people. That's just
part of what makes the White House transition so tough. We invited two
veterans of the transition process to talk with us about it. Boyden Gray
worked for George Bush Sr. as director of the transition counsel's office.
He's also a former counsel to President Bush. He's now a partner in the law
firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Mark Gearan was the deputy director of Bill
Clinton's transition team and served as Clinton's director of communications
and deputy chief of staff. He's also former director of the Peace Corps.
He's now president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.

I asked Boyden Gray of the Bush team what advice he gave the Clinton
transition team as they prepared to move in.

Mr. BOYDEN GRAY (Former Counsel, President George Bush): `Watch out for
ethical minefields,' and I don't know, you know, whether that really sunk in
or not. Mark would have to answer. I'm not--there's no way you can warn
people about what's about to happen to you anyway if you haven't been through
it. So I tried to warn some of the lawyers, `Beware of the attorney-client
privilege. It may not exist. Be very careful what you do. Think way ahead.'
I actually gave that advice in the White House mess. I was invited to White
House mess, and people looked at me kind of funny when they saw me there.

These ethical minefields are very, very difficult, and there is bipartisan
support--very, very strong bipartisan support; I think Mark Gearan would
certainly agree with this--to deregulate, decriminalize, depoliticize the
whole ethics regime. It's become a tool for disgruntled officeholders,
political enemies, estranged spouses and God knows what all to destroy
careers. And, of course, it also destroys the whole point of the thing, which
is to induce a measure of common sense and honesty into government. So you
lose both ways; you lose good people and you lose the point of it all.

GROSS: When you were talking about these ethical minefields, are you
referring to the vetting process for, you know, security clearances for
incoming staff and Cabinet members, or are you talking more generally than
that?

Mr. GRAY: I'm talking both. It starts with the vetting process, but it
continues all the way throughout your government service. There are always
people lying in the weeds waiting to trip you up on some minor infraction,
which can be found no matter how good you are because you have to fill out so
many forms and update them and refile them, and there's no way you can do it
perfectly.

For example, the Form 278, which Mark Gearan can probably remember well, is
your financial disclosure form, and it requires extraordinary detail, much
more than could possibly be necessary to determine whether or not you have a
conflict of interest. The only relevant question is, `Do you own stock in
Company A?' Not how many shares, not how many fractional shares, not how many
options, not this, not that, just `Do you own, or do you not?' Now that's a
simple question.

But it turns out you have to answer about five different questions in five
different ways, and none of the terms that you have to use in filling out that
form, which is incredibly intrusive, line up exactly with what governs your
income tax return. And for people with even modest personal assets, you are
required to lie either to one or to the other because you cannot reconcile
them both, at least without the help of high-priced accountants and lawyers.
So the whole thing becomes a game of `gotcha,' and it is totally out of
control.

GROSS: Mark Gearan, was this good advice that Boyden Gray gave you?

Mr. MARK GEARAN (President, Hobart and William Smith Colleges): It was
excellent advice, and it should be certainly imparted to the incoming Bush
administration. I think a lot of what Boyden referenced, in addition to the
advice that he gave to our lawyers in the White House mess, really now
applies--it's a bipartisan concern--about the need for reform in the system,
the kind of forms that Boyden referenced. And the different kind of forms
that need to be submitted to both the Office of Government Ethics and to the
White House legal zounsel's office and then to the United States Senate, if
Senate confirmation is required for the appointment, places an extraordinary
burden.

It delays the process. It's greatly frustrating to the individuals. People
put their lives on hold for a period of time as this process winds its way
through. And, hopefully, if there's any silver lining to this abbreviated
transition in the very difficult timeline that the incoming Bush
administration's having to deal with, hopefully, it will be that there'll be a
look at reform in the system. `How do we continue to recruit and attract and
retain good, qualified men and women into government and not deny them the
opportunity for public service and not, more importantly, deny our country the
opportunity to have talented individuals come in without burdening them right
from the get-go of this process that is bizarre, antiquated and really is a
relic of the Cold War?'

GROSS: Oh, you mean investigating whether somebody's secretly a Communist or
something like that.

Mr. GEARAN: Yeah, it's just...

Mr. GRAY: That's where it all began, yeah.

GROSS: Well, let me ask you both about the kind of advice you gave to
candidates for high- and medium-level positions about how to look back on
their past and come clean to you or to others in the administration before the
vetting process? Did you urge people to mention to you, like, affairs that
they had had? `Did you really smoke marijuana in the past?' I mean, these
kinds of things that could come up and really blow up in your face.

Mr. GRAY: Of course you have to ask those questions, and it's very
embarrassing, it's very intrusive, it's very invasive and it is horrible. I
can remember once--transition staff meeting one morning back in late 1988,
after poor John Tower had been the subject of a Paul Weyrich press conference,
where he accused Tower of all manner of sins--drinking and wenching--and it
was quite a firestorm. And the next morning, when I went into the transition,
they all glared at me, and the question was whether it was totally
disqualifying ever to have had an affair.

And I was on the spot because there were no rules about this. I hadn't talked
to the president-elect about it, but I obviously couldn't spend the next three
weeks trying to figure out what the rules--`Can you have one affair? Two
affairs? Three affairs or four?' I mean, what was the--so I finally said,
`Look, as long you don't sort of flaunt it and you're discreet about it, who
am I to question your private behavior?' Everyone breathed a great sigh of
relief.

We have not yet had an affair question come up that has driven a nomination,
but I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen. I wouldn't be surprised to see
any number of things come up in the future. It's a `gotcha' mentality, and it
really doesn't matter. I mean, I think with Linda Chavez, she should have,
obviously, been more forthcoming. Had there been more time, I'm sure she
would have been sooner. The FBI would have uncovered it anyway. But it's a
trivial matter, really. And I think there may be change in the wings because
I talked to Elaine Chao, an old friend of mine, and all of a sudden, for the
first time, you know, a senator is faced with having to fill out the living
room with papers, with all--the living room, dining room and the library of
their house is strewn with papers that they have to fill out. And Senator
McConnell has to fill them out, too. And all of a sudden, now for the first
time, a senator is face to face with this horror that he has helped create,
and maybe he will lead the fight to cut way back on it.

GROSS: Senator McConnell, to whom you're referring, is married to Elaine
Chao, just for anybody who kind of missed that. So--yeah.

Mr. GRAY: My point was that all of a sudden now a senator has to go through
the pain because the spouse is always...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. GRAY: ...held to the same standards as the working spouse or the other
spouse. And we had this before with Senator Dole and Mrs. Dole, but life is
much more complicated now than it was even when she served as secretary of
Transportation. So it's going to be interesting to watch to see if Senator
McConnell helps us out here.

GROSS: Paul Light of the Brookings Institute, who did a study of the
transition process, said that he thinks that in the last few years of the
Clinton administration, the appointments process really became the place where
senators took revenge on the president, and many of the holds that were put on
in the Senate confirmation process were unrelated to the nominee at hand.
They were involved with all sorts of other issues. I'm wondering what you
both think of that, if you agree with that. Boyden Gray, what about you?

Mr. GRAY: Absolutely. That's exactly what happened. Senators use nominees
as hostages for other agendas. It's very unfair, but it's politics. I don't
know how you change that. I really don't know. And what happens to people
who get caught in this political cross fire can be devastating, and it really
is something that ought to get changed, but I frankly don't know how to do it,
except to say that we should legislate a total deregulation, if you will,
decriminalization of all these issues. And I think the tone would change
enough that people would say, `All right. It's off limits. Let's not pursue
it anymore.'

Mr. GEARAN: Well, I think one way the Senate could attack it, though, also,
Boyden, is to look at the issue of the so-called `Senate holds,' where an
individual member of the Senate is able to put a hold on a nomination for an
issue totally unrelated to that particular nominee's background or the
position or whatever. Historically, the Senate has done it anonymously.
There's been some changes in that, but it's a procedural matter that the
Senate could change to bring some greater sunshine to the process.

I think folks would have to appreciate the complexity with an individual's
lives, who's not living in Washington, who's been asked to come to serve in an
incoming administration, who would come with potentially a family and school
issues related to children, and so they have to make real world planning
issues. How to do that in this environment, when any individual senator can
place a hold on something thoroughly unrelated, as Paul Light points out in
his article, as a political matter against the president in recent years is
greatly burdensome to someone coming in, and I think it must certainly retard
anyone's interest in coming and serving in public service.

There've been examples of it recently. Richard Holbrook was held up for
reasons that Boyden points out. Nominees have been held up--I heard it when I
travel around the world, as the Peace Corps director, where countries would
wonder when their US ambassador was going to arrive at post. It's very hard
to explain that it's nothing about our individual bilateral relations with
this country or the president or the administration's view of the importance
of that nation, but that it's involving a procedural issue of the United
States Senate. It is very hard for our friends around the world to understand
why they don't have a sitting US ambassador.

GROSS: My guests are Mark Gearan, who was deputy director of Bill Clinton's
transition team, and Boyden Gray, who was a director of George Bush Sr.'s
White House transition team. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, we're talking about the White House
transition process. My guests are Boyden Gray and Mark Gearan. Gray was the
director of the transition counsel's office for George Bush Sr.'s transition
team. Gearan is the former deputy director of Bill Clinton's transition team.

Well, Boyden Gray, you said that the first advice, the most important advice
you gave the Clinton administration when they were coming into the White House
was, `Watch out for those ethical minefields.' What was the second most
important piece of advice?

Mr. GRAY: Well, the second was--I think I mentioned it--to, `Be sure you
understand what attorney-client privilege means...'

GROSS: Right.

Mr. GRAY: `...and doesn't mean.' And that became an issue quite important in
the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky matter. It was litigated several times in
the courts, and I think it went to the Supreme Court. So, I mean, I think I
hit two issues that I should have highlighted.

On the ethics front--and I think that, you know, I worry that we made the
mistake, the mistake I'm about to describe to you; I believe President Clinton
made the mistake, and I worry that President-elect Bush is going to make the
same mistake. We started out by saying, `We're going to be the most ethical
administration' and did a bunch of things in the first week, all of which had
the, you know, perverse consequence of raising the sort of cries of hypocrisy
from the media, making it easier for them to attack us later for the most
minor infraction.

The Clinton administration came in, and with all due respect to Mark, I think
they compounded the mistake by saying they were going to be the most clean
administration. And I hope now that Governor Bush won't feel compelled to do
one-up yet once more, one more time, and say, `We're going to be cleaner than
all the cleanest of the clean in the past,' because all it does every time you
do this is overcomplicate things, add more rules that can only be found to be
broken and allow the press to say, `See? Gotcha! You're not the cleanest
because look what you just did. You just dropped a chewing gum wrapper on the
street.'

GROSS: Mark Gearan, the Clinton transition had a reputation for being kind of
disorganized and slow, and apparently there were a lot of jobs that went empty
for a really long period of time.

Mr. GEARAN: Yeah.

GROSS: What was the biggest problem, looking back in self-critique, that you
think...

Mr. GEARAN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...the Clinton transition had?

Mr. GEARAN: Well, I think it was both the transition and then into the
administration, in that there were a couple of dimensions to it, I think. As
Democrats coming into power after 12 years of being out, there was a lot of
pent-up demand, if you will; for people wanting to come into government,
excitement about a young, new administration; and the sheer volume of that had
a dimension and burden on both the transition staff and then the eventual
White House staff.

Secondly, because of being out of power for 12 years, we did not have the
experience within the White House staff of folks who had served in the federal
government before at an executive level position to come into it.

And third, of course, with the president not having direct Washington
experience--and he's been rather frank and honest about this, with great
candor, I think, and the limitations that that brought to the early days of
his administration. I think if he were to do it over again, it would have
been a speedier decision-making process for him to make some of the initial
judgments on personnel choices, because the reality is the process itself--the
forms, the vetting, the nomination, the Senate confirmation--all of that is so
cumbersome that to then exacerbate it without a streamlined decision-making
process for the president and for his ultimate decision or his delegation of
that decision, just compounds the process. So all of those added up into a
process that was far too lengthy and time-consuming, and I think people
learned a lot from that.

I would say, in what the Brookings Institution observes, is this is a growing
trend for delayed appointments; that what used to be an average in John
Kennedy's administration of one to two months is now easily and routinely six
to nine months. With that, and in parallel track, is the growth of the sheer
numbers of presidential appointees. They used to be far more modest. That's
what Boyden's referring to, the proliferation of presidential appointees at
the assistant secretary and the sub-deputy assistant secretary level that all
requires confirmation. So it's both the added timeline, the politization of
it, the `gotcha' mentality that frequently infects the process.

GROSS: Are there any major differences in the transition process for George
W. Bush as compared to George Bush Sr.?

Mr. GRAY: This transition is more like--in the sense of not being an
intraparty transfer, this is more like Reagan coming in, taking over from the
Democratic party in 1981. When President Bush became president, he was taking
over from his mentor, President Reagan, so we didn't have to fire everybody.
We were happy to keep quite a few. But it was difficult and emotionally
difficult for this reason; precisely because it was friendly, it was very hard
to tell some people that they had to make way for some of President Bush's
loyalists. And that was the most painful thing about it, the least fun,
because you couldn't assume all the people who were there were going to leave.
They were all part of the team, they had all helped you get elected, and all
of a sudden some of them were going to have to leave, and that was very, very
difficult.

GROSS: Boyden Gray, is it your impression that the contested vote has
poisoned the transition process at all?

Mr. GRAY: No, I don't think it's poisoned it. It's just truncated it, but I
don't think it's poisoned it in any way. I think the transition...

GROSS: By poisoned, do you think there's any more animosity between the
outgoing and the incoming administrations?

Mr. GRAY: Well, I don't know. Mark may have a better insight, but I've heard
no complaints from the people that I work with on the outside, of course. but
the people I work with and talk to who are in the transition, I haven't heard
one single word of complaint about tension or difficulty with the outgoing
administration, not a single word, and I'd be very surprised if there were any
sort of sabotage going on. I think the transition by and large has gone very,
very well. The public seems to be giving it high marks. Snd so I think there
may be long-term consequences, of course, for governing from the Florida
situation, but I don't think it's affected this transition period.

Mr. GEARAN: And I think, Terry, really, President Clinton set the tone, in
working with his chief of staff, Mr. Podesta, to ensure that the outreach was
there, the briefings, even frankly before the final decision from the Supreme
Court on the contested election was finalized, that they had access to
information. I think Vice President Gore reinforced that with his very
elegant and eloquent statement to the country. And with that tone set from
the top, that makes a very real-world difference, I think, to folks throughout
the government.

That is the tone, that's the professionalism that I think they want to bring
to bear in this, and that's the best part of public service, where we can
transcend the partisan divisions at this point and prepare the next president
in his administration, because I think most people at senior levels of
government realize, even with a full transition, even on the best of days,
these are very difficult jobs for people to come into. To encumber them at
the start with some cheap shots or hijinks along the way would be
inappropriate. So I'm gladdened that that's Boyden's perspective, and that's
certainly my observation from talking with friends and former colleagues.

GROSS: What will you each be doing on Inauguration Day?

Mr. GEARAN: I'll be watching the inauguration.

GROSS: On TV.

Mr. GEARAN: On TV.

GROSS: Boyden Gray?

Mr. GRAY: I don't know whether Mark's going to have to watch me. I may have
to do some TV program early Saturday morning, but I'll probably be somewhere
along the route watching. There are several receptions on Capitol Hill for
incoming senators and whatnot that I feel I probably have to go to. So I'll
be running from reception to reception and hoping to grab a bite to eat
somewhere and hoping to watch--I may be watching it on television myself. I
may duck into a congressional office and just watch it on TV rather than try
to strain my neck and bear the cold. I don't know what I'm going to be doing,
actually, but I'm sure I'll be enjoying myself.

Mr. GEARAN: It's a great day and a very memorable one for those that are
privileged to have worked on a campaign, and then to come into an
administration, there's nothing quite like that excitement, and so it's
certainly exciting for those involved.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both so much for talking with us.

Mr. GEARAN: Thank you, Terry.

Mr. GRAY: My pleasure.

GROSS: Boyden Gray was a director of George Bush Sr.'s transition team. He's
a partner in the law firm Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. Mark Gearan was deputy
director of the Clinton transition team. He's now the president of Hobart and
William Smith Colleges.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Satirist Harry Shearer discusses his work relative to
the Clinton era
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

It's not just the Bush administration that's working on the White House
transition. Satirist Harry Shearer is making the transition, too. We invited
him for a look back at the Clinton administration and a look ahead to George
W. Bush. Shearer's satires are heard on his nationally broadcast radio
program "Le Show" and have been featured on "All Things Considered." He's
also an actor, a former cast member at "Saturday Night Live," and he does a
lot of the voices on "The Simpsons."

Before we talk, let's hear a sketch he did on the latest edition of "Le Show."

(Soundbite of "Le Show")

(Soundbite of "thirtysomething" theme)

Mr. HARRY SHEARER (Satirist): Clintonsomething.

(As Hillary Clinton) This is my health task force stuff, Betty.

Unidentified Actor #1: (As Betty Currie) I know it.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) Well, this goes over to my Senate office.

Unidentified Actor #1: (As Betty Currie) Is that OK with you, Mr. President?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Oh, sure, Betty. I can't take
all this crap to my library.

Unidentified Actor #1: (As Betty Currie) No, sir.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Well, Mr. President, you've had yourself a pretty
damn good farewell tour.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah. No shuck, man. I've
had a better farewell tour than The Beatles ever had.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) They never had one.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) That's what I mean. Come on, I
don't have a lot of time left to sit at this desk.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Goes by quick, doesn't it? Quicker than a gator's
apology, quicker than a ...(unintelligible) heartbeat, quick as...

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah, James, it goes by
quickly. Man, it's been amazing.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) If you had it to do all over again...

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) What, are you kidding?

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Well, it's made you a white-haired, old fart before
your time.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah, sure, but come on. I got
to do a lot of good for the American people.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Yeah. And--well...

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) And if you believe this week's
rumors, I'm--hell, I'd do a cameo in a James Bond film.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Yeah. Yeah, I saw that. Is that...

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Hey, for once I don't have to
worry about upholding the dignity of the office. You never know. Anyway,
pretty good for a kid from Hot Springs.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Hope. Hope.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Hope. Yeah, right. Well.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) Yeah. Yeah. Yes, I'll go to the first two
hours of the hearing, then I'll do the press avail. Well, the statement has
no credibility if I deliver it before going to the hearing. OK, then the
lunch. OK, right. Thanks.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) I'm gonna miss being that kind
of busy.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Oh, sure. Hard to get the old adrenals pumping out
on the 14th hole.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Well, see, James, being the
youngest has always been my blessing and my curse.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Mm-hmm.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) I mean, if I'd taken office
at the age I am now, my appetites would already have been curbed.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Really.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) On the other hand, I did have
the energy to pull all-nighters with Yasser Arafat.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Hey, hey, hey. Listen, you could do a lot worse
than going down in history as the first American president to have a midlife
crisis while in office.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Well, you know, at least I
didn't paint Air Force One red and take the top off it.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) Bill, can you make a Senate spouses' tea
a week from Thursday?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Only if Hadassah Lieberman
is there. Man, she is hot. Just kidding, hon.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) Mm-hmm. Great.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) You guys OK?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Oh, we're fine.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) So...

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Elvis is leaving the building.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Hey, Mr. President.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Al, it's--it's been a little
while.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Yeah, well, you know, I--I needed some time for
healing.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Hey, hey, we all needed a
little healing.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Mm-hmm. Are you healed?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah--no. I mean, you listen.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Yeah.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) You did what you thought you
had to do, you know. You were wrong, but you did what you had to do.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Hey, look. I won the popular vote.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Hey, hey, pal. All I know is
Ricky "Friggin'" Martin is playing the Inaugural, you know. What kind of
middle-of-the-road soulless crap is that?

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Is that--tell the vice president I said hi.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) James sends his regards.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Oh, hey, tell him I am so sorry.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) OK. Sorry about what?

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Well, if I'd have won, his wife wouldn't have been
appointed as counselor to the vice president.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) He'd still have that "Odd Couple" act with her.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) All says he's sorry he broke up
your act.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Yeah, that's OK. So I didn't need to be on "Meet
the Press." I could always go run another Israeli election.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) So, Al, look. We're gonna have
a little farewell party Friday night, but I know you're probably busy moving
out of your residence, so...

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Well, actually, sir, we're all packed, as a matter
of fact.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Oh.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) I'm sitting on a cardboard box full of my winter
clothes right now 'cause the furniture is gone.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Oh, well, it's kind of too late
to change the guest list, Al.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Mm-hmm.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) But I'm sure we'll see you
shortly after GW puts his hand on the Bible.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Yeah. Yeah. I'll be the guy at the Ritz-Carlton
throwing up into the bidet.

(As Hillary Clinton) Bill?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Yeah.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) You want to keep this box of cigars?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Well, I don't smoke them
anymore.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) So to speak.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) So--yeah. But I guess we
should keep them.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Hillary Clinton) Yeah, that's what I figured. If you're
indicted, they're evidence. OK, just checking.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Sometimes she acts as if her
billing records don't stink. Anyway, look, Al. It's been a great eight
years.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Well, Mr. President, as the Fleetwood Mac song had
it way back then, let's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow."

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Mm-hmm. Well, you know, as
the Mac sang at my farewell concert, "You Can Go Your Own Way."

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) Uh-huh. Well, tell James I'm sorry.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) He's sorry again.

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Hey, no problem. Who knows? I could get back in
the game just by having a little thing with Laura Ingraham, you know. That's
one foxy right-winger. Whoo!

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) He says thanks.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) OK. Well, good luck with the houses.

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) Oh, thank you. Good luck with
the life.

Mr. SHEARER: (As Al Gore) You know, I...

(Soundbite of phone hanging up)

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) You know something, James?

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) What's that, sir?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) I can probably take being third
wheel on Hillary's motorcycle for a little while, as long as...

Mr. SHEARER: (As James) Yeah?

Unidentified Actor #2: (As President Clinton) ...as long as I don't have to
take his calls anymore. Come on. Voters are paying for the dish. Let's
watch "Razorback Hoops"(ph) one more time.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: A sketch from satirist Harry Shearer's nationally broadcast public
radio program "Le Show." I spoke with him yesterday.

In these final moments of the Clinton presidency, I should ask you what you
finally came to think of Clinton as a man, as a president and as a subject of
satire.

Mr. SHEARER: As a subject of satire, he was unmatchable. You know, at the
end of every administration people always say to somebody in my line of work,
`Well, what are you going to do now?' Especially after Reagan, people were
going, `Oh, boy, I feel sorry for you.' But Clinton was a great, great
subject for satire because he had so many facets to him. He was brilliant and
stupid. He was grand and petty. He could empathize with so many different
kinds of people and he could barely understand his own emotions or those of
the people closest to him. It--unraveling a person with that many
contradictions took a while longer than figuring out a character comparatively
much more simple like Ronald Reagan. But when you finally started learning
who this guy really was, I just thought he was unmatchable, 'cause he was--you
could just write him in so many different situations and let him surprise you
because he had all these different weird and contradictory qualities to him.

Now as a citizen, one has to say one wishes that people gifted with such
intellect would have a little more understanding of the political rules of
their particular era, you know. It's one thing to fancy yourself the
inheritor of the legacy of John F. Kennedy. It's another to forget that the
rules have changed and the press doesn't protect the personal proclivities of
the president anymore. And, you know, that one little detail sabotaged,
probably, most of his second term. So as a citizen, you're sort of
wondering, `Well, why didn't he get that?' He got all the subtleties about
how you need to deal with the Russians, but he didn't get that the press
wouldn't keep this kind of thing a secret, although it kept John F. Kennedy's
affair with an East German spy a secret. Well, that's information that he
clearly had in him and didn't quite make the synapses work in that regard.

So, you know, I guess there's a bittersweet quality to looking at him because
there's a disappointment that he couldn't be all that he had the potential to
be. On the other hand, I think that there's a certain Jeffersonian sense in
which any limitation on a president is to be welcomed, you know. If they
don't stop themselves, we have to.

GROSS: Now President Clinton was very Hollywood connected. Who are George
W.'s connections in Hollywood? You live in LA. I imagine you have a sense
of this.

Mr. SHEARER: Well, I mean, obviously, it's the Schwarzenegger coterie. And,
you know, they like to talk about the fact that they're--hey, you know,
Hollywood is basically a liberal town. But there are a lot of conservative
people both in front of and behind the scenes. I have a very good friend
who's a writer-producer who used to run "Cheers," as a matter of fact, who's a
major conservative. And he might be too conservative for George W. He might
be too conservative to be part of George W.'s Hollywood coterie. But I think
when you see guys playing action figure--Bruce Willis. When you see guys
playing action figures or cops in Hollywood work, chances are good they're
Republicans.

GROSS: What will you and won't you miss about Clinton-era entertainment?

Mr. SHEARER: You mean the people who were connected to him or...

GROSS: Exactly. Exactly.

Mr. SHEARER: ...the entertainment that grew out of him?

GROSS: No, the people who were connected to him.

Mr. SHEARER: Well, I mean, maybe this time we've seen a Streisand farewell
concert that really means goodbye, you know. If Gore had won, I don't think
we could say that with such confidence. You know, I guess Delta Burke won't
have a new series on CBS very soon. I don't know. I don't think that--you
know, the one piece of entertainment that really, provably grew out of a
fascination with Clinton was "The West Wing." I don't think that show would
have happened had we not had that yearlong walk through the Oval Office and
its adjoining little room that made that a spot that was plausibly tinged
with dramatic possibilities. And I have to say, I'm not a big fan of
political fiction of that sort because we live in an era where the real stuff
is so rich and meaty--you should pardon me--that it seems a waste of time and
effort to learn the names of fictional characters when we could be learning
more about the real people who actually have the guns.

GROSS: My guest is satirist and actor Harry Shearer. We'll talk more after
a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Satirist Harry Shearer is my guest.

What are you looking forward to in the Inauguration?

Mr. SHEARER: Ricky Martin. No, I--you know, I think it's the return to a
sort of--I guess, after having looked at the sneaks of Laura Bush's Inaugural
Day wardrobe designs, I'm looking forward to the return of what you might call
petroleum club chic.

GROSS: Is there a department for--is there a place for that in the department
stores?

Mr. SHEARER: I think Neiman's has it...

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. SHEARER: ...on an upper floor...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SHEARER: ...where you need a special key to run the elevator to get up
there.

GROSS: So tell me more what Ricky Martin's appearance signifies to you.

Mr. SHEARER: Well, you know, it's diversity. It's reaching out. It's `ce
habla espanol.' It's all of that. It's, obviously, you know, one of the
most popular figures in American pop music right now. My favorite story
regarding that is his songwriting partner, whose name I forget, who issued a
public statement expressing disappointment that Ricky Martin was entertaining
at the Bush Inaugural. But, you know, you look for those--you remember that
Jimmy Carter sort of sent a signal with his Inauguration when he walked up--I
guess it was Pennsylvania Avenue, rather than riding in the car, you know.
`I'm a man of the people'; that sort of signal. If that's the signal he was
sending, then, you know, I think we're already getting word that this will be
the most highly security--the most intense security presence at any
Inauguration. So it wouldn't surprise me if we never really catch a sight of
GW until he hits the platform.

GROSS: Harry, have you been watching a lot of CNN and MSNBC?

Mr. SHEARER: Yes, I have. I'm the one. As their ratings decline, you--they
can count on me. So, you know, I wouldn't be surprised if, in about three or
four weeks, when the bottom really falls out, they'll start addressing me by
name. `Harry, what we have coming up in the next half-hour...'

GROSS: You know what I find funny? You know, Mary Matalin left her show...

Mr. SHEARER: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...on CNN to join the White House staff. And she's replaced by Linda
Chavez...

Mr. SHEARER: By Linda Chavez.

GROSS: ...now that Chavez has had to withdraw her nomination.

Mr. SHEARER: Well, for anybody who doesn't understand the concept of the
revolving door in Washington, there it is, in sharp contrast and demonstrated
and dramatized completely by women, which is progress.

GROSS: How emotionally involved did you get with the Florida recount?

Mr. SHEARER: Emotionally? I didn't get emotionally involved except to say
that I was absolutely throbbing and vibrating with every move of the story. I
mean, I was totally sucked into it. I love those little moments where areas
of American life that normally go on behind either closed doors or just
outside of public ken are suddenly opened up to this stunning glare of the
all-news spotlight. And we--you know, in the same way that during the early
stages of Monicagate--to me, the most stunning fact that was coming out as
people were looking at the practices of the Ken Starr office, were people
saying, `Well, you know, this is--excuse me, but this is how prosecutors work
in this country every day.' And I thought that was a lead that was never
quite picked up, you know. That was a door that was almost opened.

Anyway, in this case we had, you know--we got to see what the reality behind
`every vote counts' really means, you know. How votes--I mean, they didn't
invent hanging chads and dimpled chads and all that stuff in Florida. They
didn't invent looking at those ballots with weird-looking magnifying glasses.
It's just this is the first time we'd all seen it. And I thought it was
fabulous, you know. To have some degree of understanding of the flaws and
frailties and wackinesses of our system is, I do think, a gift. And, also,
after we'd had this yearlong campaign that was so incredibly bland and so
desiccated, to see, finally, the reality of the lust for power on both sides,
the fangs and claws coming out--revealed, it was, like, this billion-dollar
curtain of blandness had suddenly tumbled down from the stage. And we were
seeing the real-life drama backstage of these two guys who, basically, wanted
to be president. And that was the only issue involved--is `Me.' `No, me.'
`Me.' `No, me.' I loved it.

GROSS: Harry, do you have a favorite Inauguration Day memory?

Mr. SHEARER: Yeah, I guess JFK. I was a kid and I thought that even though
none of us dreamed that some of the clues that were dropped in the
Inauguration speech meant that in a couple of short years the hind ends of us
or those we knew and loved would be on the line to go to Vietnam--but there
was the idea that after the blandness and sort of lack of familiarity with the
power of the English language of Eisenhower, you got this guy who could speak
in these fairly graceful cadences and probably the last American president to
make a plausible call for sacrifice on the part of the citizens for the sake
of the country without it sounding hollow.

And I thought--one of the criticisms I had of Bill Clinton is that the
Republicans had a lot of great spokesmen who made very effective cases for
individualism and for de-emphasizing the role of government. And that's a
natural tendency in this country anyway. We're an anti-government country.
And Clinton had at least the rhetorical skills to make the case for community
and for government as an agent of community to do the things that only
community can do. And he rarely did it. And, of course, the time that he
chose to do it, or the time that he chose to do most of that, was in his
farewell appearances where he started talking about, `Hey, you know, we're
imprisoning too many people on drugs.' And you just think, `You had eight
years to do something about this. Now you tell me.' But I thought the
Kennedy Inauguration still is the most vivid in my memory.

GROSS: Are you going to be watching on TV on Saturday?

Mr. SHEARER: Oh, you bet.

GROSS: OK. Well, Harry, thanks so much for talking with us.

Mr. SHEARER: Terry, it's always a pleasure.

GROSS: Satirist Harry Shearer is the host of the public radio program "Le
Show." He's appeared in many movies and does many of the voices on "The
Simpsons."

(Soundbite from Ricky Martin song)

Mr. RICKY MARTIN: (Singing) Do you really want it? (Foreign language sung)
Go, go, go. (Foreign language sung). Tonight's the night we're gonna
celebrate the double life. (Foreign language sung).

GROSS: Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward on the early career of the late
Texas rocker Doug Sahm. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Texas rocker Doug Sahm and his career in integrated bands
TERRY GROSS, host:

In the early 1960s, San Antonio rocked to the sounds of a number of racially
integrated bands. And right in the middle of them was a teen-age whirlwind or
Texas tornado named Doug Sahm. All though a lot of people are familiar with
his career after his 1965 hit "She's About a Mover," a recent reissue on
Norton Records fills in the back story. Here's our rock historian, Ed Ward.

ED WARD:

When Doug Sahm passed away unexpectedly in November 1999, the obituaries all
noted that he'd been performing in public since he was a child. But few
people had a chance to hear the records he made before he became famous.
There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that the one he
made at age 11, "Rollin' Rollin'" and "A Real American Joe," credited to
Little Doug, was awful.

But Little Doug grew up. At the age of 15 he was already hanging out at the
Tiffany lounge in downtown San Antonio listening to the bands there. They
played rhythm and blues and, remarkably, most of them were integrated. Black,
Hispanic and white musicians played tunes that Doug was already familiar with
because across the street from his house was San Antonio's premier rhythm and
blues club, the Eastwood Country Club.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time until Doug formed his own band. And
in 1957, the Knights were born.

(Excerpt from "Crazy Daisy" by the Knights)

Mr. DOUG SAHM: (Singing) Well, crazy, crazy Daisy, you won't do your daddy
right. Yeah, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. Well, crazy, crazy Daisy, you won't do your
daddy right. Well, you're like real fine sugar, but I ...(unintelligible)
if you don't treat me right. You oughta see ol' crazy Daisy when she's
walking down the street. Oh, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. See you, crazy Daisy...

WARD: This recording of "Crazy Daisy" dates from December 1957, but wasn't
issued until Doug got a bit more famous locally. The label owner didn't think
it was good enough to release at the time. And given that he went back into
the studio on February 1958, to record it with the Pharaohs, a Hispanic
west-side group, there was something to that. In fact, the second version's
much better.

(Excerpt from "Crazy Daisy" by the Pharaohs)

Unidentified Singer #1: (Singing) Crazy.

Unidentified Singer #2: (Singing) Crazy.

Unidentified Singer #3: (Singing) Crazy.

Mr. SAHM: (Singing) Crazy, crazy Daisy, you won't do your daddy right.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Crazy Daisy.

Mr. SAHM: No, crazy, crazy Daisy, you won't do your daddy right.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Crazy Daisy.

Mr. SAHM: You're like real fine sugar, but ...(unintelligible) if you don't
treat me right.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Crazy Daisy.

Mr. SAHM: You oughta see my crazy Daisy when she's a-walkin' down the street.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Down the street. Down the street.

Mr. SAHM: Oughta see my crazy Daisy when she's a-walkin' down the street.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Down the street. Down the street.

Mr. SAHM: She's the kind of a chick that every guy wanna meet. Whoa, yeah.
She's my lovin' honey, and I'll give her all my money, but I'll never, never,
never let her go.

Well, crazy, crazy Daisy, you won't do your daddy right.

THE PHARAOHS: (In unison) Crazy Daisy.

WARD: It still took a year to convince the record company to release it,
during which time Doug and the Knights were ripping up high school dances
nearly every weekend. When "Crazy Daisy" finally did come out, though, it was
a big hit in San Antonio. Doug was a multi-instrumentalist, having played
tenor sax on the first "Crazy Daisy" and guitar on the second. So he was
called in to provide guitar on a record by a local singer named Jimmy Dean.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. JIMMY DEAN: (Singing) I'm gonna tell my mom and daddy that you're
treating me bad if you don't come and dance with me. You been flirting with
the boys and give them the eye, now you got to come dance with me. Well, I...

WARD: Meanwhile, Doug was moving up the local hierarchy of musicians, playing
any gigs he could get. His biggest coup came when he joined the band of black
tenor saxophonist Spot Barnett and made such an impact that his idol,
guitarist T-Bone Walker, went around telling people to catch the white kid
playing with Barnett. The west-side sound, largely Hispanic bands playing
doo-wop material, was taking off locally. And the Harlem label, run by a
local disc jockey out of a record store, was recording it. In 1960, Doug got
to make his first record for them.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. SAHM: (Singing) Why, why, why, oh, did you ever have to love me? Why,
why, why, oh, did you ever have to care for me? Was it, was it how...

WARD: "Why, Why, Why" became the biggest hit Harlem had had to date and
almost broke nationally. Doug even appeared on "American Bandstand",
promoting it. But his success was limited to south Texas, and even that was
fleeting. It only made him hungrier for more. But it would be five years
before he convinced Houston hit maker Huey P. Meaux to record him and a band
he'd put together and launch him on the road to international stardom.

GROSS: Ed Ward is a writer living in Berlin.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. SAHM: (Singing) Well, she was walking down the street, looking fine as
she could be. Hey, hey. Well, she was walking down the street, looking fine
as she could be. Hey, hey. You got lovely conversation. Whoa, yeah.
What'd I say? Hey, hey. She's about a mover. She's about a mover. She's
about a mover. She's about a mover. Hey, hey, hey, hey. What'd I say?
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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