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James Reston
James Reston
Deadline:  A Memoir
ISBN: 0394585585
Deadline: A Memoir
James "Scotty" Reston, former Washington bureau chief, columnist, and executive editor of The New York Times, discussed his book, Deadline: A Memoir. Mr. Reston reflected on his years as a journalist and discussed his relationships with policy makers and presidents from 1939, when he joined the Times' London bureau, until his retirement 50 years later. He shared his observations about the changes in America and in journalism.
Deadline: A Memoir
Program Air Date: December 8, 1991

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Scotty Reston, author of your memoir "Deadline", if you were going to put together a group for a dinner party -- people that you've met in your lifetime that you thought were particularly interesting; people that you thought were some of the most interesting conversationalists -- who would you put around that table?
JAMES RESTON, AUTHOR, "A Memoir": Well, I think I would begin with George Kennan. George has just been here in the last weekend, getting a piece of work from the National Cathedral. George is not a funny man. You wouldn't have much fun with George at a dinner table, but he's the most thoughtful, precise and prophetic mind, I think, that I have seen in this town in almost 50 years.
LAMB:What has he done in his life?
RESTON: He was the luminary of the original Soviet experts put together in the Baltic States and in Germany in the 1920s to study the Soviet problem. This was eight years before we ever recognized the Soviet Union. And, of course, he was the great author of the policy of containment. But he was a very thoughtful individualistic man who was afraid that we were a nation of extremists and that we always went from one extreme to another, from isolation -- trying to isolate ourselves from the world -- to thinking we could run the world. Therefore, George was always trying to get us out of isolation, or trying to stop us from going too far into militarism. A fascinating man. There were many others like him, but not quite perhaps as prophetic. I think of Chip Bohlen, Tommy Thompson, Eddie Page -- that whole group that served this country very well. They were the real authors, I think, of the victory in the Cold War.
LAMB:Which president that you've covered would you put at that table?
RESTON: Nobody can compare with Roosevelt because men are made by their times and by the issues they have to deal with. President Roosevelt, of course, had to deal with the Great Depression of the '30s, and then he was faced with the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and fascism and the outbreak of the second war, which is really a kind of civil war within Western society. I don't think he can be given credit for our winning the war, because I've always thought that we would have stood aside and allowed Hitler to take Britain, but of course Pearl Harbor changed all that.
LAMB:On the cover of your book you have over here a picture of, I think, the only journalist -- and there are a whole bunch of people we'll look at later -- Walter Lippmann?
LAMB:Why did he make the cover?
RESTON: You know, I don't know anything about covers, but without any doubt Lippmann was the great philosopher-journalist of this century and this country. He was quite different from all the rest of us. First of all, he was rich. He didn't interview people; people interviewed him. Also, Walter merely used the news as a peg for his political philosophy and it was his way of reaching a massive audience. Instead of writing books which would go to a public that was maybe thinking about something else when they came out, he would take the news and use the news as a peg for his philosophy.

He was a fascinating man, very controversial, but I always thought that he asked the question that had to be answered at that time. I thought he was a great questioner of his age. When he was 70, Mark Childs of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and I got out a little book to celebrate his great contribution to our profession, and I said that in my tribute to him -- that he asked the right questions. He didn't like that. He wanted to be regarded as a man who had the right answer, not the right question. As a matter of fact, he didn't have the right answer a good deal of the time, but he did play that enormously important role.
LAMB:Now, since your book has come out, there have been a lot of words written about you with all these reviews, most of them favorable. When you read about yourself, what's the thing that you like that they say about you the most?
RESTON: The thing that I like about it is, I like those who have seen this as a moral story -- not as a political story, but as a story of a love affair and of a wonderful family life and a wonderful journalistic life in what is, I think, without any doubt the greatest era of journalism in the history of the republic. You know, people blow off about my ideas and, of course, people differ with them, and if they cut me up for the difference, that's OK with me. They have every right to do that.

But the story that I see that is so interesting is to have lived to be an old man and to have lived in the political world of the last 50 years, which was really a revolution in the history of our country. It was a marvelous experience. The world has changed so much in this time. For example, here we are at the end of the Cold War. It is without any doubt the greatest contribution this country ever made to the civilization from which it came. The basic Christian-Judeo tradition was at stake with Hitler. The United States won it and went on to defeat communism. Here we are at Thanksgiving of 1991 at the beginning of the last decade of the century, and I have lived in every decade of this century. I want to tell you, Mr. Lamb, I believe we should be more thankful this Thanksgiving than in any other Thanksgiving of my life. But the point I'm trying to make to you is that we are not rejoicing. Why are we not rejoicing? Why are we are peace with everybody but ourselves? That bothers me, and that's what I've written about.
LAMB:Let me go to a page in your book that you have pictures of, to start with, your wife Sally, up here at the top. You really spent a lot of time talking about Sally in this book.
RESTON: Yes, I did.
LAMB:How come?
RESTON: This is the best part in the book.
LAMB:What's so special about Sally?
RESTON: Well, you see, I am an immigrant to this country. I came to this country -- my parents brought me here when I was 10 years old. I went to the University of Illinois, and there I met Sally. She was much better educated than I. She brought me into a world I knew nothing about, and she got me over that thing that I think is common to all immigrants -- a feeling of being outside, being different, being maybe not wanted. You know, we never had a time in later years where we had to finish a sentence because we understood one another so well.
LAMB:When did you go to work for the New York Times?
RESTON: I went to work for the New York Times on the first day that the war broke out in 1930, and I've always made kind of a sick joke out of it that I got my job through Adolf Hitler which, in a way, was true because I'd been working in the AP in London since 1937, before Munich. I'd tried to get on the Times for two-and-a-half years, and I couldn't make it. But when Hitler went to war, they had to have somebody in a hurry and I happened to be around. That's how I got on.
LAMB:I know you still write periodically, but when did you officially retire?
RESTON: I officially retired in '88.
LAMB:What was your favorite job with the Times?
RESTON: I was in the scoop-artist business for a long time, and that critical period right at the end of the war when we were trying with the Soviet Union and the British and the French and the Chinese to work out a basis for the postwar world; that is to say, a charter for the United Nations. It was a great period for the scoop artist because all relations at the end of the war were new, all kinds of new political procedures and relationships, so you could go around and pick up news all over this town. It was great fun. But I suppose I liked doing a column more than anything. I don't like to be prominent. The Scots are terrible creatures, and when I was a little boy my mother taught me to say when she would ask me, "What are you going to do when you grow up?" then I was supposed to say that I was going to be a minister and preach the Gospel to the heathen. Well, in a way that's what columnists do, you know -- that's what they think they do -- so I enjoyed doing that.
LAMB:Is it fair to say that over the years you've preferred the typewriter or the computer? Do you still use a typewriter?
RESTON: I didn't have a computer until I retired, so-called, but I remember Tom Wicker. He was ahead of us in using computers. I said to him one day, "Do you like this thing?" He said, "Well, I do in a way, but the damn thing is programmed for cliches." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, that cursor there blinks at me all the time and says, "Come on, Wicker. Get going, Wicker. The first thing that comes into my mind is the cliche." I have found it a wonderful instrument. I wish I had had it when I was on the daily beat.
LAMB:What I started to ask you about, though, you've kept a fairly low profile on this thing, the tube, over the years. We haven't seen much of you. Why?
RESTON: I'm of two minds about television. First of all, as a profession to be in -- if you'll excuse my saying so -- it frightens me because it makes you think about yourself. I do not think thinking about oneself is a formula for happiness. Whereas in the print journalism we're always writing from the outside in. That's been one of the problems in writing this book because in a book of memoirs you have to turn it around and write from the inside out. The other thing about it that I want to make clear is, as an instrument for education, at a time of revolution like this, there's nothing to compare with it.

For example, we in the South wrote all about the brutality and bestiality of the whites toward the blacks long before you guys picked it up on the television, but it wasn't until the television showed the police chiefs and their dogs, putting them on blacks in the South, that people began to say, "Look, this is not America. This has got to stop." And, of course, the best example is Vietnam. I went to Vietnam long before we ever got involved, and we wrote about the dangers of Vietnam endlessly. It had no effect on politics, but when the television cameras were on the battlefield and people saw our own lads setting fire to straw huts with Zippo lighters and saw the carnage of that war, then the country rose up against it and said, "Let's get out of it."
LAMB:How have you liked this stuff going with this book? Have you done a lot of it?
RESTON: I had never thought that publishers expected writers to write a book and then peddle their book. But I'm a gabby guy. I like to talk, and I don't mind if somebody buys it.
LAMB:Go back to this page here. You talk in the book about writing this book and getting up in the middle of the night and going up to -- is this your room at home right here?
LAMB:What was that experience like? You said, "If you get up in the middle of the night when something strikes you, it's better than trying to write it in the middle of the day."
RESTON: I don't know what it is. I don't think much of psychiatry and I don't know psychiatrists and so on, but I understand that they believe that in the process of the resting of the mind, if you go to bed with a thought of what you are going to be doing the next day, for example, that the rest has a way of refining the thought in your mind. I don't know whether that's true or not, but it certainly was true for me. I would go to bed, puzzled about how to turn a thought around or to get a vivid historical analogy or something, and somehow it would come to me in the night. Then I would get up and creep upstairs and write it before I forgot it because I've got a lousy memory.
LAMB:Let me go back to the cover because it has some people on here that you write about. The only outsider, on the cover at least, is Mr. Gorbachev. Does he deserve to be out here?
RESTON: I think so. We are now in a period of anti-Gorbachev feeling in this country. The revisionists are already playing him down and saying he's lost his power. At first they were complaining because the head of the Soviet Union always had too much power and could do anything he pleased, including killing millions of people. Now this guy comes along and introduces perestroika and the sharing of power with other people, and when you share power people take it from you. There's no doubt about that.

But I cannot, Mr. Lamb, forget that this great country with its brilliant founding fathers went through 100 years, and on the issue of secession had one of the most brutal wars in the history of the world -- the Civil War of this country, the war between the states. It was a terrible, murderous thing. This fellow has made the transition. He pulled the troops out of Eastern Europe; he gave Eastern Europe freedom. What more do you want to get on the cover of a reporter's book than that? And if he were to be murdered tonight, which I pray the Lord he will not, or if he were dismissed from power, which he may very well be -- the power is already going to the Ukraine and into Russia and so on -- I don't think it will matter to the historians at the end of the 21st century. I think they will still look back on this period of the last quarter of this century as one of the great liberating periods of the world, and I think his name will be remembered.
LAMB:On the back of the book, you have this picture down here. Again, you didn't choose these pictures for the book cover, did you?
LAMB:But this is you over here standing, asking a question on the other side of General Eisenhower who at the time was president. Earlier you mentioned the way you feel about FDR, but you also mention in the book how you liked Ike.
RESTON: Yes, I think Ike played a great role in this country. If you look at the century in two halves, in the first half of the century we had these terrible, terrible wars which I still in my prejudiced way call "the two German wars." We had those wars, in my view -- or let me put it a different way -- the chances are we would not have had those two wars if the two political parties of our country had been in agreement about what the foreign policy of the United States should be. But we were divided -- deeply, bitterly divided -- between those who thought that isolationism was the proper policy for the country, which I happen to believe it was for 100 years. But after the intercontinental ballistic missile and the nuclear bomb, it was obviously a new world. The other crowd thought we ought to get in, but we weren't able to solve it.

It was only when Ike came back from Normandy as the great hero and triumphant soldier and became president that he said, "Boys" -- as he would always say -- "we must do in international politics what we did with the joint command in the Pentagon and what we did in the great war against Hitler. We were divided in the First World War and had a terrible time because we did not have a unified command. In the Second World War we did. At home we have not had a unified foreign policy. We must have one!" And, therefore, he led -- he confirmed -- the new internationalism of Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. Once he did that, the second half of this century was something else. We forget about the Cold War -- this extraordinary thing that went on for 40 years. The Soviets were never sure that a united America wouldn't hit them and, therefore, the Cold War was fought with very, very few casualties. There were 70 million casualties in the other wars.
LAMB:You report that you have covered 15 secretaries of state. Which one would you have at that dinner table?
RESTON: Oh, I'd have [Dean] Acheson there. First of all, he's funnier than any of them. And of course, you'd have to have Henry Kissinger there because he's also funny. But Acheson had a great gift. When he was in Covington and Burling law firm and he was once arguing a case before the Supreme Court of the United States, he was getting all mixed up and Justice McReynolds leaned over the bench and said, "Counselor, what is this case all about?" From that rebuke from the bench he learned to speak with precision, and he learned the arts of mockery and ridicule. He could speak and he was a great collector of stories. I have the greatest admiration for him because, you know, we have a terrible failing in our business of giving names to things -- labels that fit into one-column headlines. So we talk about the Truman Doctrine, we talk about the Marshall Plan. The Truman Doctrine was not the Truman doctrine, and the Marshall Plan was not the Marshall plan. If anything, there was the Acheson doctrine and the Acheson plan. It was he who was, in my view, the really informing and decisive factor.
LAMB:But what about these three fellows?
RESTON: I am not very objective about those three guys. The one leaning over on the left, Dick, is the oldest one. He was the White House correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, then for the Los Angeles Times. He was their London and Moscow correspondent. My wife and I bought a wonderful and famous old weekly newspaper up in Martha's Vineyard, The Vineyard Gazette. He and his wife Jody have been running it now for 17 or 18 years. Jim, the guy in the middle, is a freelance writer who has just written a book called "Collision at Home Plate" and a biography of John Connally. And our third son is a lawyer in Washington.
LAMB:We're talking about this book right here called "Deadline". It's a memoir of James Reston. Everybody knows you as Scotty, and we need an explanation. Is it obvious?
RESTON: Well, it's fairly obvious, I think. I was born in Clydebank outside of Glasgow in Scotland. My parents came to this country when I was a year old, and my mother became quite ill and they went back. They regarded that, when they got there, as the greatest blunder the family had ever made, and then they got trapped in the First World War but survived that with a determination to return to America, which they did in 1920 when I was 10. So I was stuck with that nickname, Scotty, from the time I arrived, and everybody all my life has called me that except my mother and my sister.
LAMB:There was some discussion about the title Deadline for this book. Some people thought you ought to call it "Scotty."
RESTON: I'm not really happy with "Deadline". There's a paradox about that, I think deadline is a pessimistic word. It is not meant to be used in journalistic terms. But deadline suggests the end of things, even the end of life. Actually, it is an optimistic book. It is a book believing in morality, believing in marriage, believing that our country can help bring peace to the world. It's a book celebrating the presidents who were most optimistic -- the Roosevelts and the Trumans and so on.
LAMB:I don't have the page open to it, but because you brought it up, you do deal with death. You talk directly about how you feel about that thought.
RESTON: Yes, well, I always wished I'd had my parents' faith, but my parents thought of death as a reward, that we were on this earth for a brief span during which we should have faith in the Lord and raise our children, and when our days were over and we had finished our work, we would be rewarded by everlasting life. Unfortunately, I have not been able to have that faith, but it was a wonderful solace and comfort to them, and they were sure all their lives that at the end of life their family would meet again on the other side. They had no doubt about that.
LAMB:What do you think about it? What are you, 81?
LAMB:Is that something you think a lot about at that age?
RESTON: Writing is a book of memoirs is a funny thing. I think it's an unavoidable thing that when you come to the end of the book you've come to the end of your life story, and it's very odd not to feel that you've come to the end of your life. But I don't know that I can think back on the couplet -- what page have you got there?
LAMB:I'm not sure I've got the right page.
RESTON: It's at the retirement . . .
LAMB:Love and hope and . . . maybe I can find it here.
RESTON: It's in the retirement chapter.
LAMB:Here it is. Do you know where it was? You're taking my crutch away.
RESTON: Yes, I know where it was. Having said that, the final chapter is "Love and Hope," and here I cribbed a little verse from Alfred Duff Cooper who used to be the head of the admiralty in Britain. He said -- and this is a reference to myself and my wife -- "We will not weep that spring be past and autumn shadows fall. These years shall be, although the last, the loveliest of all." And that has proved to be true. You see, young love is marvelous, but old love -- that's the real joy.
LAMB:You talk about something that a lot of people do and that's the daily ritual of reading the paper, and the time you spend with it, but also when you were writing a column -- you can tell the story -- how you and your wife would sit around and read, and you would watch her reaction to your column.
RESTON: Yes, well, I would field the paper on the first bounce in the morning. I'd get up and if I had a column in that day in the Times, I naturally turned to my favorite author. So I would read it and then I would hand it over to her, and I would watch her out of the corner of my eye. If she said nothing, I knew I'd written another loser. But if she said, "Hm-m," then I'd have to wonder, now what did she mean by that? And then if she said, "I liked your ending," I'd have to try to figure out, was she glad she had come to the end of the darned thing or did she really like what I had said at the end? But she always tried to say something nice about it.

She played a role in my life that is absolutely fundamental in this town. People fail in this town when they begin to think they are what they merely represent; when secretaries of state think they are the State Department, when presidents think, as Lyndon Johnson said, "I will not be the first president to lose a war." He's thinking about himself. I've always thought that the role of wives is terribly important. I've tried to write a chapter about the role of wives in this book. But I believe there should be a constitutional amendment under which the wives of presidents and members of the cabinet are obliged to say at least once a month to their husbands, "I love you, but I think you're a stupid numbskull. Why are you doing that?" Now, if Mrs. Nixon had said that to Richard Nixon at the time of Watergate, it might have saved his presidency. And if Ladybird had said it to Lyndon during the Vietnam War, it might have been different. But that's merely a silly fantasy of mine.
LAMB:Go back to the reading of the newspaper or newspapers. You refer often in here to the fact that the old newspaper hits the stump in the morning. You've got the Post and the Times and the Journal and all. What are you own habits? How do you read a newspaper?
RESTON: One reads a paper in a totally different way in the '90s than we did when I broke in. Indeed, during the years when I was executive editor at the Times it was my responsibility to make a modern definition of the news. When the television came along and the radio before it -- the radio, in particular, took away from us -- the job became the first purveyors of the news. You are too young to remember the days when a great story would break and the newspapers had to bring the first news to the people. Little boys would run through the streets at night shouting, "Extra! Extra!" -- that wonderful, haunting cry. Radio took that away, and therefore we had to find a new role.

The new role that we found and, I think, have stuck by ever since is that it is fundamental that we write about the causes of the news and the consequences of the news. We've just gone through an election in Louisiana. Well, how could it be in a great state of the union that two men of their limited qualities could come to the top of Louisiana politics? How could that happen, Mr. Lamb? We ought to dig into that and find out. What are the causes of this aberration of Mr. Duke? The causes are terrible. I'll tell you -- I'll predict to you -- this man has brought, again, racial politics to the fore in this country. That is a terrible thing to have done. From the time of the Civil War to the New Deal we have fought against this, and now it's been revived by this two-bit blown-haired character from wherever he comes from -- a former Nazi, a head of the Ku Klux Klan. What has that got to do with anything? Nothing.
LAMB:In the appendix of your book you've put a couple of things, but one I wanted to ask you about was this never-before-published John J. McCloy's ...
RESTON: That is correct. Jack McCloy happened to be my next-door neighbor when we first came to Washington, and I got to know him very well. He was assistant to Col. Stimson when the colonel was the secretary of war, and he sat in on the great decision in the White House when Mr. Truman decided to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was worried about and talked to me privately about the two things that he thought were absolutely fundamental to good government in America.

One was the use of presidential power in nominating people -- picking the right people -- and then second, how decisions were made. He thought the decision to drop the bomb was not necessary, very wrong, with the wrong people in the room. For example, the secretary of state wasn't even in the room when the decision was made. So I badgered him for a long time to let me write this story, and he said, "You know, I hate people who are in government and then blab when they get out saying, 'If they had followed my advice everything would have been so much better.' I'm very uncomfortable with that. "But," he said, "one day I'll give you the story." He lived on into his middle 80s, looking after his dear wife Ellen, and he never got around to finishing his memoirs. But he told me he was working on them, and he said if he didn't survive to finish them he would give me the chapter on how the decision was made to drop the bomb. I never saw him again after that promise, but I talked to his daughter Ellen and she arranged with the lawyers of his estate to give me the chapter he had written about how the bomb was dropped. It is in the appendix of that book.
LAMB:You didn't have a secretary all through your career. Why?
RESTON: I did for a time, but I made a deal with the New York Times that if they would allow me to hire a young man or a woman just out of college, with or without any newspaper training, I would settle if they would have that instead of a secretary. My theory for that was that there is a great danger in my business that you get out of date. There is also a great danger of writing things and not having somebody read it before you publish it to say to you, "Reston, that is a stupid column," or, "You are repeating in the fifth paragraph what you had in the second," which is an old failing of mine. And also to say to you, "That's an old man's idea. My generation doesn't understand that. If you want to keep in touch with the young, that won't go." Therefore I had about 30-odd clerks, each hired for one year, like the clerks of the Supreme Court, but with no promise that they would go on in the Times. I'm glad to say most of them did.
LAMB:I want to go through this list again. One of the first ones I wanted to ask you about was right here, Donald E. Graham, who is now with the Washington Post. He worked for you in 1963. For outsiders, it looks like the Post and the Times compete, but you talk about Phil Graham and Kay Graham and Donald Graham all being very close to you.
RESTON: They were great friends of my wife Sally and me. When Phil last became very ill at the beginning of the '60s ...
LAMB:By the way, he was publisher of the Post at the time.
RESTON: He was the publisher of the Washington Post. He became a manic-depressive, and during that period he asked me if I would do what I could for his family if he didn't make it. Well, he didn't need to do that because his wife Kay has proved to be not only a great human being but, in my view, a better publisher than he would have been. In any event, he committed suicide. When that terrible crisis happened in the family, I asked his son Don to come into my office as my assistant in the Times during that period of sorrow, and he did.
LAMB:But you also write that you were asked to come to work for the Post by Phil Graham and by Kay Graham.
RESTON: Yes, I was. I had the honor of being asked to do that, and Lippmann was very eager that I should do it and so on. But that was almost like asking me to leave my Sally. I couldn't do that. The Times had given me every position at its command, from reporter in London to diplomatic correspondent, national correspondent, Washington correspondent, associate editor and editor in chief. How on earth could I leave a paper or a company, friends, who had done that for me? I just couldn't.
LAMB:Let me go back to this list so the audience can see the names of the people who are, almost in every case today, still in journalism and some are prominent. How did you decide? Your first one here, Jonathan Yardley, read this book before, the manuscript of the book?
RESTON: Yes, Jonathan read it and, as I say in the book, it's a good idea to have book reviewers review your book before you finish it because Jonathan made some wonderful suggestions to me, and I threw away what I wrote in the beginning and started all over again.
LAMB:Were these people all picked when they were young?
RESTON: They were all picked when they just came out of college. I don't know. The Germans have a word for the feeling or something. I don't know, how do you pick people? I think the great art of institutional building is, of course, picking your team. I learned it in a very simple way when I was a sports writer when Casey Stengel, the good old manager of the New York Yankees, came to the end of his career and they asked him to sum it up -- was he a good manager? He said he found that he was a much better manager when he had Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle in center field. I figured that was a pretty good rule to follow, and that's what I tried to do.
LAMB:Let me ask you about presidents. Right here is a photograph of you and President Johnson. Where was this taken, and what did you think of him?
RESTON: It was taken on his ranch in Texas shortly after President Kennedy was murdered. Barry Goldwater came out to run against President Johnson in '64. Sally and I went out to Colorado for his announcement, and Johnson asked me to come by the ranch. He didn't want to see me, but he wanted to know what the press thought of Goldwater's announcement. What did I think of him? I thought he was a tragic figure. He did more for civil rights and voting rights in this country than any other president, without any doubt, and he wrecked it all in Vietnam. When I look back on it, I think there was a good reason back of it, in a way. He believed so firmly in this country that the idea that this country could be defeated by a little, as he called it "ragtag" army -- and that's cleaning it up a bit -- was just inconceivable. He just thought when we landed there -- and there was a bit of racism in this -- that these "little brown men," as he called them, would run into the rice paddies and the elephant grass. But he got involved through ignorance, and this is one of the great problems and one of the things I've tried to keep writing about in this book.

These presidents did not know the world. It so happens that Lyndon Johnson was perhaps more ignorant of the world than any of them, and, therefore, made in some ways the worst mistakes. But none of the rest of them -- indeed, George Bush had more experience in the world than any of them. This is why I've tried in this book to make us realize that we have the best foreign service in the world, and it has been in my lifetime the most vilified foreign service. But these people who have been brought in from the outside, the Achesons, the Kissingers and the foreign service, they were the people who saw us.
LAMB:Here is a picture with President Pompidou of France and Richard Nixon and you. Is this something that happened often during Mr. Nixon's term?
RESTON: No. I saw him only three times during his eight years in the White House and all his period when he was vice president and when he was in the Senate. I was never close to any of these people, I want to make clear, because I think it is the reporter's job in Washington, really, to be the watchman on the walls and apply a critical eye to whatever party and whatever president is in power. It is very dangerous to get close to people in power in the White House for the very simple reason that they are faced with such agonizing problems that if you have any human sympathy for them, it's really quite impossible not to sympathize and therefore not to be objective. Our job is to be fair. I use these big words like objective, but fairness and fair criticism is what is required. But I wasn't close to any of them, really.
LAMB:I picked up in the book that you like the word "moderation." You like to be called a moderate, politically.
RESTON: Well, you see, if you look back on these 50 years, they have been the subject of the most savage debate since the war between the states or maybe since the confederation gave way to the Constitution. The great thing about the Constitution is that it makes the extremists fight. It says we will not trust the executive, the Constitution does. We will not trust the Congress. We will not trust the court. We will divide the power between them and let them watch and question one another. Now, this debate has been dominated for 50 years by the extremists, but in the clash of power and debate it is moderation that has come out, because they have moderated one another. That was the genius of the system. It was when they could not tolerate it over the issue of secession that we fell apart in the Civil War. That has been the great problem in the fascist countries. It could not solve the passage of power. They had to fight; they had to use the instruments of war.
LAMB:Last question: Journalism in the future?
RESTON: Journalism in the future depends a great deal on this square, I hear. If you use the cable as you are doing it now, to dig more deeply and give some time, as you have kindly given me here this morning, time to discuss questions, the future of television journalism will be wonderful for democracy. I remember Johnson once said to me -- he said this in Latin America when I was chasing him -- "Think what will happen here where they speak Spanish when all the great Spanish courts can be heard speaking to the children in the coves and valleys in the Andes. Think of what a different generation it will be." Well, unfortunately, commercial television is not interested in the documentary, which is, I think, part of the reason for the difficulty today. Cable has a great opportunity to do it.

The future of the print journalism depends on the future of public education. I happen to think that there will always be a need for the press which you can refer back to, but I don't really believe in the big multi-section newspaper that gives you a hernia when you try to pick it up on Sunday morning. I think the economics of that are going to be different in the next century. There will be more explanation, more opinion, more analysis and less spontaneity.
LAMB:This is what the book looks like. It's called "Deadline: A Memoir" by James Scotty Reston. Thank you for joining us.
RESTON: It's my pleasure, sir.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1991. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.