Hardball | November 21, 2012
>>> we're back. it's a resume no one can hold a candle to, drafter of the declaration of independence , founder of the university of virginia , secretary of state, vice president, president of the united states , thomas jefferson . through all his virtues and faults holds a special place in americans' heart and the subject of a terrific new biography " thomas jefferson " by pulitzer prize winning author, jon meacham . my hero for many years. it seemgz s to me a wonderful biographer like for you to bring to the front of the stage again, someone we haven't thought of for a while and should, why should we given we're in the age of barack obama ?
>> because jefferson was a tall, cool cerebral politician who didn't -- affected affected not to like politics but turned out to be good at it.
>> like somebody else we know?
>> like somebody else we know. and what i wanted to do in this is like what you've done with jack kennedy and richard nixon in the past. i want to recover him as a politician, as someone from 1769 until 1809 was all about trying to find solutions, principled solutions to problems in real-time. he would cut a deal, he would make a bargain as long as it didn't compromise that fundamental principle about the survival of the republican liberty. and politics and politicians -- politics is always going to be contentious. it doesn't always have to be frustrating. and in his day, it wasn't all that frustrating.
>> but i think in your book you made the point that he didn't mind spending time -- spend time at the raleigh tavern together drinking ale and finding common ground even at midnight. was he good at that? because obama is not particularly in that direction. he doesn't like hanging out with the guys, if you will.
>> it's one of the most important thing that the incumbent president can learn from our third president. jefferson -- every night congress was in session, he had lawmakers down to the white house . he wanted them to know him. he wanted them to hear his plans, his agenda. he did not think congress -- and we all know this from our own experience, if congress just read about a plan or heard about it someplace else, they were not going to be invested in it so he used the table, he used the art of cuisine, of entertaining those virginia rights of hospitality that he grew up with to really move opinion in his direction. doesn't mean that it created a bipartisan but as you know, life is lived on the margins in politics and every once in a while when you need a vote, you're more likely to get the benefit of the doubt with somebody with whom you've broken bread and who knows what your eyes looks like and voice sounds like than you are from some distant remote figure.
>> let's talk about the most important sentence in our country's history. we hold these to be self-evident, endowed by the creator, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happ happiness. i'm blown away by that when it's among our rights. he was an ideaist. his yl of an internal being, of a god was what? what was his religious belief and how did that fit?
>> he believed there was rewards and punishments after death and he did believe that there was divine agency in human history . he was not a traditional protestant. he felt that the theology that sprung up after the first years and first centuries after jesus was, as he once put it, the mere be a bra ka bab dra of people calling themselves prejuice sus. but he understand --
>> did he believe that rights were god-given, about rights being essential and the idea of equality. dethink of white male equality?
>> for him it was white men but he also understood that this was an unfolding drama. he knew that that was a promise that had to be fulfilled and what's so remarkable about the american contribution to the conversation about rice and responsibilities is we were the first people to say that our rights, yours and mine, individuals, came from above, came from the nature's god or the laws of nature or the creator and that if they came from above, then the hand of a king nor the hands of a mob could take it away. and that is what -- that's why they are sacred and inviolent. and without that --
>> it's worth reading about. the name of the book is thomas jefferson , the art of power. and he once said the whole art of politics is telling the truth. thank you, jon meacham . a great book for christmastime.
>>> when we return, let me finish with the best first step that president obama should take for successful second term. you're watching "hardball," a place