Transcript: David Rubenstein on “Face the Nation”

The following is a transcript of an interview with David Rubenstein that aired Sunday, December 1, 2019, on “Face the Nation.”


JOHN DICKERSON: So, David, start me off with where this project came from that became the book.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I thought it would be a good idea to educate Americans about history. We don’t really educate Americans as much about history as we should. We don’t teach history as much as we used to. We don’t teach civics as much as we used to. On a recent survey, it turned out that three quarters of Americans cannot name the three branches of government. And one third of Americans cannot even name one branch of government. It also turns out that 49 out of 50 states, the majority of citizens cannot pass, native born citizens, the basic citizenship test that naturalized citizens have to pass. And ninety one percent of naturalized citizen candidates pass that test. So we are rightly concerned about STEM subjects, but we shouldn’t ignore history and civics. So I think that’s important for all citizens. But I also thought it was important for members of Congress as well because they’re making the laws. So I thought about six years ago, it would be a good idea to get members of Congress that know a little bit more about history than they already know, and they do know a fair bit. So once a month, I have a dinner at the library of Congress for members of Congress to educate them a little bit about history by interviewing a great author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Jon Meacham and the members like it. We get 250 to 300 people coming. It’s about- members are about half of that and they have a guest. So it’s well attended and I think members like it. So I decided to put a number of the interviews together in a book and let other people see what members of Congress are learning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Why is it so important for regular old Americans to study history?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: The theory of history is that if you learn from the past, you won’t make the same mistakes as was- as were made in the past. Our famous Harvard historian and philosopher George Santayana said those people that don’t remember the past are condemned to relive it. So the theory of history is that we can learn from what we made mistakes about before, and what we did right before, and then maybe we can do better things in the future. Civilization is all about improving things and if we don’t improve in the past, how are we really advancing civilization? So that’s the importance of history. Sadly, we don’t have as much of a knowledge monologist history as people in other countries have in their own country.

JOHN DICKERSON: When members of Congress come to these gatherings, its bipartisan, do you find that they ask questions with a specific intent because they want to use it in their own lives? Or are they just kind of more general histor- historical questions?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: It’s interesting. Members of Congress come together and it’s like an era of good feelings when the dinners occur. There’s no bickering. Members from the opposite parties sit together. Members in the opposite house sit together. And it’s- you wouldn’t know how rancorous the atmosphere is in other parts of Washington, but it’s like a time where they put a truce down and they come together. Members of Congress are interested in history and they come just like anybody comes to an authors signing with their dog eared copies of books. And they say to the author, can I have you sign it just like anybody would because these are people who really are making the laws and they really feel that if they don’t understand how presidents live before or great members of Congress, they aren’t really doing the job that they should be doing. They really want to know history.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do they take any lessons away from?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, I think members tell me that it’s one of the more enjoyable things they’re doing in Washington. And I think that’s because the authors we get are the best authors and best historians we have in the United States. So it’s not because of my interviewing of them, but it’s because the authors are so distinguished. For example, take Robert Caro. He spent about 40 years of his life on Lyndon Johnson. So when I interviewed him about Lyndon Johnson, members of Congress who didn’t really know Lyndon Johnson, but knew he was a great legislator, they want to hear about it. And so I think they’re quite interested in learning from these people.

JOHN DICKERSON: What–

JOHN DICKERSON: On Lyndon Johnson, often people will say, you know, if- if just somebody, some president applied Johnson’s skills to Congress, there’d be much more progress. The bipartisanship might return. What do you think of that argument?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Lyndon Johnson became majority leader only six years after he joined the Senate. So he was only in the Senate for six years before he came majority leader. It was unbelievable how power went to him so quickly. But the Senate was much more- it was much different then. It’s much harder to accrue that kind of power today. And I don’t think Lyndon Johnson, for all of his skills, could do today what he did in the 1950s.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you see anything or have the historians been able to give these members of Congress any guidance on how they can break out of what they all agree is a time of hyper partisanship?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I don’t think the historians are trying to lecture members of Congress of what they should do. They’re just saying, I wrote these books. Let me tell you about these great figures and you take the lessons away from them that you will. And members of Congress are given copies of these books after each of the sessions and they tend to read them. And I think members of Congress look forward to it. Sometimes the members of Congress call it date night because they bring their spouses from outside of Washington and they live elsewhere. And they really see it as an enjoyable way to spend time with their spouse because they can get a nice dinner. They can see artifacts from the period of time that the book is written about. And they can learn something about American history. 

JOHN DICKERSON: In your own work, have you had a moment or a time in your career where the lessons of history have really been applicable?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, as a young man, when my hair was dark and I was much thinner, I worked in the White House under Jimmy Carter. I wish I had as much knowledge of history then as I do now. I was only in my 20s. And of course, when you’re in your 20s, you think you know a lot more than you really do. So I wish I had the energy today that I had then and the knowledge that I have now,  I wish I had then, but that’s not the case.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of Carter, when they came in, he was- he had-  he was a disrupter of the system. He had won the presidency when people didn’t think he would. And they came to Washington saying, we’re not going to do things the old way. Would a little lessons of history have been helpful to the Carter team when they came in?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, I think in hindsight, we made some mistakes and I would take the blame for it as long as- as well as other people who were involved in the system as well. But we did some very good things. We did say we’re gonna shake up Washington. And Jimmy Carter came up with a very unique idea. He said, I’m not a lawyer. I’m not from Washington. And that was unique at that time. And he kind of used that populist appeal. When we came to Washington, we probably didn’t have as much breadth of knowledge of people who had served in Washington before. But in hindsight, President Carter was president for only four years and we did enormous number of things. And today, the amount of legislation we passed that four year period time dwarfs what’s getting done today. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. If you- one of the things you’ve asked these historians when you talk to them is if you could talk to one former president and ask them a question, which one would it be? So for you what former president, if they were alive today, would you- would you want to talk to him? What would you ask them?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: In my view, in our long history in this country, the greatest American, without doubt is Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln held this country together because it wasn’t obvious to people that the country should stay together. I’m not sure any other person who we elected president would say to the south, “No, we’re not gonna let you go away.” So I would ask him two questions if I had a chance to have dinner with him. One, why did you feel was so important to have the South stay as part of the country? Why not let it go away? And secondly, were you convinced that ending slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation was the only way to win the war? And are you pleased that you ultimately freed the slaves? And why did you not do it earlier?

JOHN DICKERSON: When you look at Lincoln, he came into that job with a kind of a patchwork of experience and a lot of failures. Do you think his rise and also, you know, he wasn’t a well-versed politician of Washington. What do you see in his background that tells us about Lincoln’s success?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: He probably didn’t have more than a second grade education. He taught himself how to read. He loved to read, but he really didn’t have a classic college education. He didn’t really go to law school. And he’d made a lot of mistakes in his career. But he was very clever in getting the nomination that year in 1860. He wasn’t the favorite for the nomination. He was probably fourth or fifth most likely to get it. But the clever thing he did that Doris Kearns Goodwin points out in her book Team of Rivals, is that he took the people who were more likely to be president or presidential nominee of his party and he brought them together in his cabinet, and he really took the best of their knowledge. And in the end, those people idolized him. The people who had thought he wasn’t a really talented person, they became his best friends. His secretary of state, for example, Mr. Seward ultimately became his biggest admirer and his biggest friend, though they had been rivals for the nomination. And I think Abraham Lincoln’s great talent was that he didn’t take himself too seriously. He had a great sense of humor. He knew how to write extremely well. He had a way with words that really no president has really had since that time. Think about the Gettysburg Address, 272 words that the most eloquent statement of what this country really stands for than anybody’s ever written.

JOHN DICKERSON: Which president, when you started becoming a presidential historian yourself and so interested in them, which one was the first one that you really got turned on to the presidency about? 

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: President Kennedy. When I was in the sixth grade, my sixth grade teacher went over the inaugural address of President Kennedy, which was 14 minutes in length. It was very short. And she went over that with my classmates and me. And I realized then that it was poetry in prose form. And I was honored later in my life to practice law, the same firm as Ted Sorensen who’d worked on that speech with President Kennedy. I think President Kennedy was somebody that took my generation and said, come in and give back to your country. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. And it inspired me to go into public service. And many people in my generation were similarly inspired. And so I think he was the one that I probably was most impressed with early on in my life.

JOHN DICKERSON: And you’ve dedicated your life to public service in one form or another. What do you think is the state of that notion in America, the ask not notion?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I think Americans want to make the country a better country. But I think it’s- what has changed from President Kennedy’s time is that many people think you can help your country as you can without having to go into government service. There are so many NGOs today, so many ways to serve your country in nonprofit areas that do not require you to be on the government payroll. And so in my own case, for example, I think I’m trying to give back to the country now through philanthropic acts and things like that and other countries- and other citizens are as well. So I think that’s changed. But I also think many people in our country don’t feel that government service is as noble a thing as it once was. And in fact, we tend to denigrate government servants much more than we do. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Is there danger–

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Than- than we should, I should say. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Is there a danger to that- that–

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: There is. For example, it’s very easy to make fun of members of Congress. And you can always get a joke by making fun- fun of members of Congress. They’re relatively modestly paid. They have an incredible lifestyle in terms of how much work they have to put in. And they’re under enormous amounts of pressures and we don’t realize the burden they often face. But we- you can still make fun of very few people in our country. You make fun of lawyers. You make fun of private equity people. You might be out to make fun of members of Congress and you won’t get criticized for making fun of members of Congress. But actually, they’re pretty good public servants and we should honor them more. I think we should pay them more. Their salary hasn’t gone up in about 10 years. And in many ways, that’s really unfortunate.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think if we actually honored public service a little more, it might squeeze some of the vinegar out of our public life?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: It certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to start. Right now, there’s a lot of vitriol in Washington there’s a lot of reasons for it. It’s the Internet, social media, a whole variety of things. But I do think that right now public service is not honored by young people as much as it used to be. It used to be the case that people who were very talented coming out of college would say, I want to go and serve my country in the military or in some other government way. Now many people want to go do tech startups, with nothing wrong with that or go into private equity or hedge funds or do other kinds of things. But I think more government service would be-  would be a good idea.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s talk about the presidential campaign since you spent so much time thinking about presidencies and interviewing historians. Let’s imagine any presidential candidate, if you had to ask them a couple of questions. Given your understanding what the job is actually like, what would you want to know?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Why do you really want to be president? It’s nice to be called president of the United States but what do you really want to do as president of the United States? Do you really know how difficult the job is? Do you have the management skills to actually lead the federal government? Do you want to be president because it’s a powerful position or because you think you can improve the lives of other Americans and people around the world? What is your real motivation? And if the motivation is right, then that’s a good thing. But I think people should look themselves in the mirror and say, I want to be president because I really think I can help the country and make the lives of people better. Not because I’ll have an airplane and I’ll have a helicopter and I’ll have a nice house in the White House and so forth. I think you should really make sure you know what you want out of it and know how difficult the job is. It is not an easy job. People who have that job, they age pretty rapidly. And you should recognize that it’s not a job for the faint of heart. It is a tough, tough job.

JOHN DICKERSON: And there’s also a psychological squeeze to that job. Do you think that’s gotten worse?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, it’s a squeeze because people don’t really praise you that much when you’re doing the job. Maybe after they leave office, they might praise you. But people are beating you up every single day. And remember, you’re getting the toughest decisions that are coming to you. If it was easy to decide something, we’d get decided before it got to you. So you have to make tough decisions and no decision you’re going to make is going to please everybody. You’re gonna please probably half the people with your decision that you’re gonna upset the other half. So it’s not an easy job. And I think those people that take on that job should recognize how hard it is. Talk to people who’ve been president, talk to people who’ve worked in the White House, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned with Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals. One of his key moves was setting up that team. And you also just mentioned management. Talk about that a little bit. You have done a lot of managing in your career. How important that is and why it’s important.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Clearly, people have been good presidents without having a lot of experience as managers. Abraham Lincoln really had never run anything. Barack Obama had not been a manager of a lot of people. A lot of people who have gone right from the Senate, like John Kennedy, really didn’t manage many people before. So you can still be a good president but I think you have to have the skills. I think what you need to do is you need to make sure you have a sense of who you are. You need to have self-confidence, but not arrogance.

I think you need to be able to admit mistakes when you make them. You need to be able to get along with other people. And the most important thing is you need to know how to communicate with the American people. The presidency, as Richard Newstat once wrote in a book about Harry Truman, the presidency is really about the power of persuading. And you persuade people by speaking well, you persuade people by writing well, but you persuade people most importantly, by leading by example. And you do certain things that other people say, if he’s doing that or she’s doing that, I should do that. And that’s the most effective way that a president can lead, is lead by example. Do what you say others should do.

JOHN DICKERSON: As we judge presidents, how should we think of them? Should we think of them like- like a baseball player where if you’re doing really well, you’re still striking out a lot? Or is it like a surgeon where one mistake and the body dies and you know, it’s catastrophic? How should we get our expectations right about presidential success?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, in baseball, if you hit a hit three for 3 out of 10 times, you’re gonna be considered pretty good for the time times you’d be in the Hall of Fame. Right. But that means you’re striking out or not getting a hit 6 out of 10 times or or 7 out of 10 times and a surgeon as you point out, you can’t really make mistakes. I don’t really analogize it to being a surgeon, but I do think it’s similar to baseball in the sense that if you can get things right 30 percent of the time or 40 percent of the time, that’s pretty good because so many times things are beyond your control and you can’t really manage things the way you want. Remember, you’re only the President United States. You’re not the president of the world and so many things are events that beyond your control. It’s not a job that is very easy to do. And I think it’s a good thing that there’s a limit of only eight years. It used to be the case and you could serve longer and we changed the Constitution, but it’s a debilitating job. Eight years, I think, is a really really long period of time to serve in that position.

JOHN DICKERSON: So it’s more like a baseball player and you want to be successful 3 out of 10 times or 4 out of 10 times. What do you think the current way of evaluating presidents is, though? It seems more like people expect them to be great 9 out of 10 times.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, we evaluate presidents today to its large extent by public opinion polls because we don’t see whether they got legislation passed or they are helping the country in some ways. We look at public opinion polls and we take them almost every day and that’s how we evaluate them. That’s probably not completely fortunate. It’s obviously important to know whether a president is popular or not, but I think we shouldn’t obsess over the standing in public opinion polls. Remember, you can be very popular sometimes and do bad things and you can be unpopular and do very good things. So public- public opinion polls shouldn’t be as important an indicator as whether you’re really making the lives of Americans better, not on the short term only, but also in the longer term.

JOHN DICKERSON: You’ve had success in public sector, private sector, philanthropy. Let’s say you were thrust into the job. As the- as the president, what do you think the hardest part of the job would be for you?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I think the country would be very upset if they saw me in that position, but I don’t think that will happen. But I’d say if I were to do that, something like that, I would want to surround myself with people who I thought had experience, who had the right motivations, were coming into public service because they wanted to help the country and not for any other purpose. I’d want to make sure I recognize that members of Congress are an equal branch of government and want to work cooperatively with them and also want to recognize that the judiciary is an equal branch of government. And what it says also is a very important in terms of how the government is to be governed. But also the most important thing is persuading people to do things that you think are the right things to do. And you have persuade people by being honest with them, being forthright with them, bringing them along in a way I think makes people feel they are getting something from them. The negotiation, they’re getting a bargain as well. You can’t save people. I I have done the best deal and not leave anything for other people. A good negotiation is one where both sides feel they’re getting something. They’re not completely happy with it, but they’re getting something out of the out of it. 

JOHN DICKERSON: How do you think Donald Trump has done on that front? 

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, I think it’s very difficult to judge a president this early, to be honest. I think most historians would say give me 40 years after the presidency to evaluate whether the person has done a good or bad job. So I think it’s early because we don’t have all the documents and so forth. And clearly, things going on in Washington now wouldn’t let’s say it’s a difficult time for him. But I think it’s too early to say how well he’s done or how poorly he’s done. Clearly, he has challenges. Clearly, he’s trying to work through them. I think for the sake of the country, my hope is that whatever is going on in Washington now, will get resolved in a way that makes the American people feel the country is moving forward in a direction that we’re happy with, because this country is the greatest country on the face of the earth and if we don’t do well, the rest of the world won’t do well. So we have an obligation to our citizens around the whole world to do well and make sure that our government works as well as it could possibly could.

JOHN DICKERSON: Given what you know about the presidency, what do we misunderstand about the job or let me try that again. Given what you know about the presidency, when you hear it talked about in presidential campaigns, is there a part of that conversation that you say, you know, this is nice, but it’s really not what the job is?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Well, when you’re running for president United States, your job is to get elected to some extent and do so in a reasonably honorable way. You can’t say things that are ridiculous, I think, but you should do so in a reasonably honorable way. But you have to recognize that what people say in a campaign rarely can get implemented so easily. So if you say I want to have a certain type of tax, I want to change the law this way, it’s not that easy to do. You have to deal with Congress. And so I think it would be a good idea if people were to propose things that are realistically possible and not- not to ignore the impossibility of doing something great. But sometimes you have to have bold ideas and bold ideas are good, but sometimes some things are just not going to happen and you can get people excited about the prospect of it and you’re really going to disappoint people. I think it’d be a good idea, when campaign proposal put together, to talk to people who’ve worked in the government, who’ve worked in these areas before, and make sure you know what it is realistic to be achieving. Because I don’t think you want to disappoint the American people and get hopes up when they can’t really be achieved.

JOHN DICKERSON: If you had to build a president from component parts, which parts would you choose? What skills and attributes would you pick?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: To me, the most important skills that a president should have are, one, integrity, two, know who he or she is. Three, make certain they have some sense of what they want to achieve with the presidency. They know where they’re taking the country. Four, be honest with themselves and the American people about what’s realistic and not realistic. Also have the ability to gather information, be able to use other people’s knowledge and bring people together in a way that you can get the best decision from the best brains that are available. Don’t be afraid of people that are smarter than you. Don’t be afraid of people have more experience and you. Take the best of the country, bring it together and that’s what I think a president should do.

JOHN DICKERSON: On the economy, when we talk a lot about the economy in the context of political campaigns, how much influence does a president really have on the economy?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: The president has a fair amount of influence. Remember, it’s a global economy today, not just a U.S. economy. But the president can lead. The president’s ability to lead is still important, but there are global factors beyond your control. But for example, today, if there is a trade agreement with China. as I suspect there will be, that’ll be a plus and the president will deserve some credit for getting a trade agreement. If a president passes legislation that is good to stimulate the economy, that could be helpful as well. But I think the president can’t control things that are absolutely beyond anybody’s control. There are certain factors that no president can- can take into account and really control. I think a president has disproportionate amount of public blame or credit for what goes on the economy. But I think he his influence is less than the public perception in terms of the economy’s impact.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think because the economy is now global, transactions moved so quickly? We saw in the mortgage backed security crises of 2007 to 2009, there was a federal response. Is it now more a part of a president’s portfolio, that he or his team has to be an emergency manager of the economy for these kinds of global shocks?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Today, if there’s a major problem in the global economy or the U.S. economy, the president has to be on top of it. I think under Herbert Hoover, for example, he wasn’t sure that he had really the need or the responsibility to solve the- the Great Depression and I think that was a mistake. He could have probably done more. I think today, if there’s a major problem or a minor problem of any consequence, the president of the United States is today, seen as the person who has to come up with some solution. Sometimes it’s beyond his control and that’s unfortunate. But I think a president is seen as a person who can solve problems or at least provide comfort. If there’s a hurricane and there’s damage, the president can’t do that much about preventing the hurricane and can’t solve all the related problems, but showing comfort, compassion, I think is an important job of the presidency.

JOHN DICKERSON: What about confidence? We’ve- we gets thrown a lot in poli- political discussions about confidence in the economy and the way in which a president either adds to confidence or not. What do you think of that theory?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I think a president who knows what he’s doing and is comfortable with what he’s proposed and can give a sense of confidence to the American people. You need to give the American people a sense that you know what you’re doing and you are comfortable that what you’re doing is likely to come up with the best result, but not saying that everything you do will be perfect. I think self-confidence is important, but not arrogance.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ask you a couple questions about philanthropy. What inspired you to get involved in philanthropy and make it such a big part of your life?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: My parents were not college educated or they didn’t graduate from high school. I was their only child. I grew up in very modest circumstances. My father worked in the post office his entire life, made a very modest salary. So, when I got lucky with my business, I said, I don’t think with my last name and my modest birth, I would have been able to do this in other countries. So I thought I should give back to my country in ways that were meaningful to me and I’ve tried to do that. Now, I was an original signer of the Giving Pledge. I’m proud of that. But that isn’t the only thing I’m trying to do. I don’t want to just give away money. I want to give my time, my energy and my ideas. Philanthropy is a derivative of an ancient Greek word that means loving humanity. And you can love humanity with your time. Everybody isn’t wealthy, but you can give your time, your energy, your ideas that can be just as valuable. The most valuable thing you can give is your time. You can make more money if you’re inclined to do so. You can come up with good ideas all the time if you’re inclined to do so. You can’t make more time. And so time is a very valuable thing. When de Tocqueville came here in the night in the 1830s. He observed that everybody United States was volunteering for things. In Europe, they didn’t do that because the Europe the government took care of all problems. Here, we didn’t have wake rake wealth. And the tradition has continued in this country. We are the most philanthropic country in the world as measured not just by money, but by time volunteering and so forth. And so in my own case, I thought I wanted to give back to the country and that’s what I’m trying to spend most of my life doing now.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you see that spirit continuing through the younger generation?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I think the younger generation is trying to do this, but it’s more complicated. The challenge is to get jobs as harder. The challenge is to get a good education is harder. I think there are a lot of difficulties that my generation perhaps didn’t have, but the current generation does have. And remember, when I was growing up in this country, we were a more robust part of the global economy, were not as significant a part of the global economy as we once were. And therefore, you have factors that Americans have to take into account today when they’re dealing with the economy, that I didn’t have to take into account when I was younger. Still, I think Americans are inclined to want to make the country better and thus, like most citizens of most countries, are inclined to be patriotic about their country. Patriotism is a good thing. We shouldn’t denigrate patriotism. We should say that people are patriotic, want to help their country doing something good for the country. We shouldn’t, though, make it used in an inappropriate way. People who are not necessarily very conservative, but let’s say they’re liberal, they can be patriotic as well. Sometimes we bastardized the word patriotism to mean it’s only people that are have a certain conservative point of view or only relating to the military. Obviously, the most patriotic people in our country are people who sacrifice and prepared to give up their lives and those are things that are incredible, that people are willing to give up their lives and give what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion to our country. But you can be patriotic as well by not serving in the military. You can be patriotic by serving in the country other ways and that’s what I hope a lot of people are doing and younger people increasingly. I hope they’re doing that as well. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Tell me about patriotic philanthropy. 

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Patriotic philanthropy is a phrase that I coined. It’s a little misleading. All philanthropy is patriotic in some respects. You’re helping your country, presumably. But patriotic philanthropy is something I tried to do to remind people of the history and heritage of our country. And so when I bought the Magna Carta and later Declaration of Independence, the 13th Amendment, I put it on display so Americans can see it. Why is that important? Well, it turns out that if you see the page, the Magna Carta on a computer slide, you won’t have the same impact. It won’t have the same impact on you as if you see it in person. When you see it in person, you’ll learn more about it before you see it or after you see it. And the same thing is true of fixing up the Washington Monument or Monticello or Lincoln Memorial. If they are better experiences, more people will go see them. Before they go there. After they go there, they’ll learn more about Lincoln or Jefferson or whoever it might be and I think that’s a good thing. I think people should learn more about the history and heritage of a country, the good and the bad. So, for example, in Monticello, when I I said I’ll help fix up Monticello and needed some rehabilitation. I said, I really want to do it, but I want to make sure we recognize it. Thomas Jefferson, for his eloquence and his great skills, was a slave owner and we should have the slave quarters built out as well. And so that’s that’s done there now. And I think, therefore, in all cases, we should illustrate the good and the bad. So the Americans can learn the good and the bad of our past and hopefully perpetuate the good parts.

JOHN DICKERSON: And that, in learning that, that presidents can have great parts of them and then also have parts that are not so great and that that’s kind of the human condition of a presidency, not necessarily. In other words, that they’re all angels are all devils.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: Yes. We’ve tended to defy founding fathers and we’ve tended to make them almost religious figures. They were great men, but they weren’t gods and they had their flaws. Many of our early presidents were slave owners. There’s no doubt about it. So, I think we should look at people with some dispassion and say, look what the great things are that they did for our country. But let’s say they did have some flaws and some foibles and we should take those into account and learn from them.

JOHN DICKERSON: If you could give the American story to every presidential candidate, what lesson would you hope they draw from it?

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: I would say to all the presidential candidates, learn more about American history, learn about the things we’ve done right and wrong in the past. Do not think you have the sole knowledge of what’s the right thing to do is and bring other people into the equation. Make sure you bring into the to your proposals about what you want to have done and what you’re into your administration if you’re elected. People that have a sense of history. Very often many of our presidents have met with historians because they want to learn what previous presidents did. I think that’s a good thing. And I think learning what our previous presidents did, the good and bad, is a good way to learn how to be a good president. 

JOHN DICKERSON: David Rubenstein, thank you so much. 

DAVID RUBENSTEIN: My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.

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