tv New York Times Reporter Maggie Haberman on Covering Donald Trump CSPAN August 15, 2018 9:10am-10:20am EDT
maldistribution of money in the united states and abuse of politics today they would fear that many of the things going on in the united states today bore an uncanny resemblance to the england they had revolted against. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q & a. >> reporter maggie haberman covers the white house for the new york times and cnn. she spoke at ohio state university about how the trump administration handles the media and how the president uses twitter and social media. this is just over an hour. >> maggie haberman is an american journalist who is a white house correspondent for the new york times and political analyst for cnn. she previously worked for politico and the new york daily use where she was a political reporter.
ms. haberman's professional career began in 1996 where she was hired by the new york post. in 1999 the post assigned her to cover city hall where she became hooked on political reporter. she worked for new york daily news for three and a half years with are she covered city hall. she returned to cover the 2008 political campaign and other races. in 2014 she became a political analyst for cnn and hired by the new york times in early 2015 to be a political correspondent for their presidential campaign coverage during 2016. she was part of a team that won a pulitzer prize this year, 2018, for reporting on donald trump's advisors and their connections to russia. will you please join me in welcoming maggie haberman. [applaus [applause] >> thank you for that introduction and thank you for having me today.
i really appreciate the opportunity to talk about the current white house, to talk about the media dynamic because i think that from a distance it looks probably as it is and also different than it is. i don't have a slide presentation or statistics to share. what i do have is 18 months of covering the trump administration, plus, 18 months professional covering his campaign and so, i hope to be able to say a bit about how the trump white house and the press intersect. and where in some ways it's historical trends and in many other ways, he defies them. i should just say my background as a reporter is not a traditional white house reporter. i spent ten years at the new york post, which has a very extensive relationship with donald trump. it's still one of the first papers he reads in the morning. donald trump also has a nontraditional background as a president.
so, it feels like everything works out. at least from a coverage perspective. but i wanted to talk a bit about a recent hire that president trump made because i think it's illustrative of the way he is with the media. he hired bill shine who had been a fox news executive. he was a close ally of of roger ailes who had been forced out over a sexual harassment. and shine was the fifth person to be announced as the communication director, i mean, that's not his technical title, but that's his job, by president trump in the last 18 mont months. bill shine had never worked in government before and his role on fox news was behind the scene instead of being with reporters. and he has struggled to get a
job with his commensurate experience. yet he ended up with an extremely typically coveted job in the white house and that has been his landing pad. he has been well-received in the white house by his colleagues. he has been described as an adult in the room because it's a white house that is largely made up of people who have never been in government before. his appearance as a character in mr. trump's first two years in office is indicative of the approach that donald trump takes to hiring in general, which is that people don't necessarily have to have commensurate relevant experience to the job he's giving them and that was certainly true with him as president. it also is indicative of this president's view of how the media intersects with almost everything. his presidency has done so at the highest levels and has often used bill shine, network
for getting news out. if you follow news you're away that the 45th president of the united states called the media the real enemy of the state and it's not the first time he has said that. he's appropriated the term fake news which was used to talk about false or misleading or twisted headlines that have spread around social media during the campaign, that he has used it to describe not just reporters or stories, but entire outlets that cover things he would rather not have in the headlines. his press secretary briefings were once held daily and now a few times a week are limited for truthfulness and quality. and it might surprise that this is something of a game to the president. he has called fake news, privately, quote, unquote, with the reporters and he repeatedly thought to take down the temperature during news outlets even when the twitter feed says something different. he will be holding meetings in
private with executives and invites them to the oval office to try to repair frayed relationships and do that with tweet or rally appearance he points to the reporters covering in the back of the event hall and points out to the crowd as again, fake news. two weeks after president trump was elected, a colleague and i briefed our washington bureau on what they could expect with the incoming administration. and we explained that we had never encountered a campaign that dealt with the media the way it did, that dealt with us the way it did. and that donald trump as a candidate would often tell you something that was not true if it fit for him in that moment and we explained that many of his advisors had never worked in a campaign let alone the white house and the experience since inaugurated.
many colleagues thought we exaggerated that we were tired after a campaign and nothing could be as described. and every one of them said that we predicted essentially what it would be like with the media, the broad strokes of it. the first thing that sean spicer the first press secretary gave when he yelled at reporters, literally yelled about the size of the president's inauguration crowd made clear immediately what the tone was going to be. and that's how donald trump has approached everything. he tried to set the tone of the debate and he's been quite successful at it more than not, particularly in the white house. and it's more or less what you see, when you watch the press briefings, whether it's sean spicer or sarah sanders, on television. they're often combative and
have transition from what has always been a typically add ver adversarial nature. the tone of the white house begins with the person in the oval office. to be clear, all presidents are concerned about their media coverage and how they are perceived. bill clinton was atuned to the rhythms of the media to a great degree and still is. george w. bush often maintained that the press treated him savagely and still does. and barack obama used new forms of media to get his message out and often complaining he was covered unfairly, while most reporters did not share that view. but donald trump is uniquely concerned and focused on his image and how that image is covered in the media and that goes back to his career in new york and it's to a degree that no recent president has been. he spends more time marinating
in the media than any recent president and possibly any u.s. president since the earliest days of the nation. i was having a conversation recently with a former advisor to the president and i was noting that he, he makes us-- not just an opposing force, but he's constantly saying that, but treats us almost like an equal force. i've never had the president treat the media as if we're commensurate or on the same level with a president and the person replied, well, he used to be part of the media. the and i was a little confused, but when i-- when we spoke about it, the person the advisor explained that between his time on the apprentice and he had had a fox and friends gig for a while i think between 2012 and 2014, he felt like he was part of the media, and so there is a part of him that gets more frustrated than you might see somebody else get at the way
coverage goes. trump election was disorienting for the white house press corps, it just was, particularly since most people covered the last white house paid very little attention to the day-to-day coverage of donald trump as a candidate. the polls were predicting he was lose to hillary clinton in the general election. most polls were wrong and that teaches us a different lesson what the press should do with the polls. if we're being honest, we're struggling with exactly how we're capturing what we're seeing in a white house that's unlike any we have covered. the intensity of the news, the frequency of the pace can make stepping back and putting everything in perspective difficult. that's what we're supposed to be different not supposed to be on twitter talking to each other all day long. i don't know how many of you use twitter, but it's what the white house press uses as sort of a breaking news.
and you need to understand where he came from. he did not come up as a young politician running for the council races. he did not lose his first mayoral race and try once again the next time. he did not spend time learning how politicians historically interact with the media and the role that media play in campaigns and governments. he grew up in an outer borough of new york city with privilege, and had class grievances. and he thought he was being laughed at. being laughed at and not taken seriously has been a theme of the trump presidency. the president was frustrated through his trip through europe when he met with vladimir putin with a question by an associated press reporter, a reporter that i've known for years, a question that any
journalist would have put to the president during this visit. whether the president would renounce the russian's interference in the 2016 elections in front of the world. and mr. trump asked why they didn't go to an easier. they explained that any report would have asked the question, but generally has not been an answer that donald trump would have accepted. donald trump spent decades and i mean decades, turning himself into a commodity in a way that was unusual for a real estate developer. most real estate developers were not seen on gossip pages the same way. donald trump recognized that the press was valuable to him and he enjoyed it. he was frequently on the new york social scene and all press was good press. used to the transitional nature
of the tabloids particularly new york post and became a favorite of the gossip pages and often known to place items as a source close to trump. this is what he understood the media to be about and what's fundamentally new to him as president and something i think he's still adjusting to is the notion that a press corps that's assigned solely to covering the white house is not there to tell his story, but the story of what is happening with this had government and people who are accountable. back then he used to describe stories he didn't like as negative or unfair and still uses those same words and whether they were accurate or not. the story was a secondary concern. what mattered whether they conveyed an image they liked. the focus on his image is what drives a large percentage of how the white house approaches the crowds.
how much television he watches in the morning and gets upset when reporters takes note of how much television he watches. he records shows he's missed on device he refers to supertivo. he sometimes calls tivo one of the greatest inventions in history and catches up at night. and what the president sees on television drives policy to an extent that surprises people both inside his administration and outside of it. and yet, in some ways this white house has asked that the traditional relationship with the media. the press on the white house correspondents association such as the president's foreign travel. there are a number of aides in press shop and try to be helpful and check facts to be accurate. few have worked in previous administration and the president often laments that he has the biggest press shop and gets the worst press, unquote. and there are fundamental differences in the way this white house interacts with the press compared to how his
predecessors did. and all administrations as i've said have been adversarial to some extent. there are some through lines with this white house and other modern presidencies. i'd say that bill clinton was probably the one that is the closest to his ironically. since the clinton era the presidential administration has to become more closed, more secretive. and that's the end after era. they're less and less willing to spoke for the record. increasely rely on background quotes in an era that pre-dates president trump. for all of his dust trust with the press, bill clinton's administration was generally easier to find people to talk to generally relay information. there were scandals and during the lewinsky scandal, bill clinton would tell different aides different things it seemed as if he couldn't quite remember who he told what to.
that's a standout. but more often than not, there was a concern among his staff about their own credibility and the information they were imparting to reporters. the bush white house, which i did not cover, has been described by colleagues who did as almost hermetically sealed, incredibly difficult and hard to penetrate. in the day-to-day there was not really misinformation, but a lot of inaccessibility. the obama white house was a combination of these traits. the on the one hand they tried to focus on the i a-- appearance of more transparent administration and on the other hand they did more than they acknowledged. i spoke to an obama white house official who i had approached to confirm a story that the person claimed was entirely wrong simply because one detail was off. and because i couldn't get it confirmed, i couldn't get it
into print. it was a story the obama white house considered damaging politically and they used the routine processes to try to prevent the story from happening, i'll come back to that later. the obama white house yelled a lot when they didn't get the coverage they hoped for. rahm emanuel was known for aggressive personality. understatement today. and it's important to remember that the obama administration went after prosecuting leaks far more than predecessors did. subpoenaing phone records and encroaching on journalistic things that were norm. it did not spark enough of an outcry at the time. more broadly, that white house started to move towards briefings that were on background as opposed to the record despite the fact that there were 70 people attending
the briefing. that continued. and this administration includes that and some of their own new aspects. there are very few people who are directly authorized to deal with reporters and those who are are very careful not to deviate from what the president says. they know that he is watching them on television and that's really in their heads all the time. sean spicer at one point took the briefings off camera, would still do the briefings, but they closed them to tv cameras, which the tv cameras really objected to, but i have to say as a print reporter i found them more useful. he was not performing for the eyes in the oval office, and the tv reporters were not performing for an audience that was watching. i found that to be preferable. but i think the briefings are important, even when they are difficult. and no president in modern memory have had press secretaries who were openly as hostile as this one. the president or indicated
bending people in situations to his will and a lot of hostility in the briefings flow from that. the irony is both sean spicer and sarah sanders are quite denver away from the cameras. they would argue that reporters are, too, but the reporters are not government officials. there is a consistent approach by the white house turning reporters into stories which they do not want to be and that anyone in trump's orbit becomes better known and that's true for reporters because people are trying to understand them and look to reporters to help them do that. officials at the trump white house worry a great deal, i think, much more than anyone realizes about how he will ent act with the news that he sees. they know that the news that he sees on tv, that he reads in the papers are shaping his opinions. so, for instance, i reported that he was losing confidence
in an aide recently, and the aide got very upset and somebody in the white house said to me, the problem is he's going to read that and i said, but it's what he's saying to people. and they said, yes, but it's going to make it more real for him to read it in the paper and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. and this happens had a lot. all press shops in any government at any level, state, local and certainly federal are fighting on two fronts. they're fighting with the person for whom they're working, and they are fighting the press. in this white house, because it's the president with whom they're often fighting internally, there has not been much of a premium placed on sharing solid facts. mr. trump and this is just an objective fact about him has always treated facts and reality as something he can create, that's something that he must accept and so the
behavior of a lot of people around him are related to that. eastern ironically he's more engaging with the press corps than other presidents. he frequently goes off the record on air force one. i was on two of them on a trip to texas he invited press to the forward cabin which is where his office is. obama never invited reporters to the forward cabin. i'm not sure about clinton or bush. he frequently invites reporters into the offense office. he's inherently a salesman and trying to sell reporters on his view of events. when in 2015 he wanted me to writes that he was going to be declaring his campaign for president in a month, and i didn't want to write it because i had taken it seriously in
2011 when he was considering running and he didn't run. my bar was he had to declare first. and one of his aides asked me to go to lunch and the in the trump tower and the cast of characters was around the table, cory lynndowski and others, and increasing the a, 10 million, 15 million, he could see i wasn't moved to writing a story. he was getting frustrating. it was selling me on what he was going to do. and he returns to reporters even when he fights with them to see if he can get a food story this -- good story and that's he put it to the aides. and his presidency, i don't know if a lot of you are on twitter, but this is entirely new for a president. often how we learn about policy. often how we learn about his
moods and it's how we as reporters have to engage with him for better and worse and both exist. and we have never had the ability to see a president's thinking on display the way that we do with president trump. thanks to his twitter feed and that, i think is a positive. my colleague peter baker describes it as hearing the nixon tapes in real-time. and he does not, to be clear is not saying that trump is nixon, but the idea of what somebody would say privately is just heard out there for all to see which is a lot of how trump operates and the plus side of that is that we, you know, can know openly. he's very open about it when he's frustrated about something, to say the least. so, for example, last year, he tweeted something that knocks the attorney general jeff sessions and i knew that the president had been complaining to people privately that the attorney general had recused himself into the probe whether the russian influence during of 2016 election overlapped the trump campaign directly in any way so we were able to report out thanks to the tweet exactly
what the president's thinking was. the negative side of this is that his tweets often contain information that's not true. an example came just this morning. he tweeted his lange time lawyer michael cohen committed a possibly illegal act with a taped conversation that related to payments made by the national enquirer to a woman who alleged an affair with mr. trump ten years either. new york is a one-party consent state. as long as one of the parties is aware it's legal. michael cohen was aware he was taping and so it was not illegal. and the president didn't care to find out or ask anyone. some of his tweets are work shopped with staff before posted on-line and many are straight from the president as he's upstairs in the white house residence where he is most mornings until about 11 o'clock when he comes down to the oval and gets the president's daily brief.
it leaves-- it's not -- it leads reporters trying to ascertain his intent. it also leaves his staff in a lot of cases trying to ascertain his intent. there are a lot of people who claim to know what is happening in the white house and they often don't and it is distorted for reporters who are simply trying to get some commonalty of fact, some basic truth to put down and put on paper or on television. there's also this ongoing debate how to characterize what the president has said when he says things that are false. we have all come under pressure, all journalists to use the word lie more frequently. it has been used occasionally in the past with other presidents, but never routinely. the new york times executive editor believes that that word, and he's public about this, believes the word needs to be used sparingly, even in these unusual times with a president
who tells falsehoods. i generally understand and agree with this view, the word lie implies motive and we don't know what's in someone's head at a given moment. and loses power if it's said constantly. it has a numbing effect. other dynamics, examples of the dynamics between the president and his staff that relate to the media in the last week, the helsinki press conference with mr. putin. the best way to look at donald trump, in my opinion, and i think that we focus where things are likely to go and where they have gone, is that he is a president who is frequently at odds with the presidency. if the presidency is essentially an institution, he's sometimes outside of it despite serving in it. it can be really dizzying again for reporters who are trying to act in good faith and understand what the administration is up to. i should take a moment to pause
and point out there are aspects of this job that have changed over time. back in the day reporters would get paged on their beepers and told there was a paper statement waiting from the press office and the white house. they would show up to collect it. the press office would tell reporters there would be no more news for the day, usually around 6:00 and it was a bankable statement. everything has sped up dramatically thanks to cable news, twitter, a shortened news cycle, less-- fewer attention-- fewer people with good attention spans and a greater number of story lines to cover. it is a constant stream of news. we file stories, we watch twitter, make calls. we follow stories, twitter make calls. usually happens about four times a day. and it's important to declare that no president enjoys the scrutiny and bubble-like atmosphere. of a modern day media environment every president felt like they were in some kind of a bubble and trapped in recently memory. in the modern era.
since security threats increased, since presidents stopped interacting with reporters the same way. bill and hillary clinton as i mentioned were famously skeptical of the press and found themselves under a magnifying glass from the campaign to the white house and continuing into the white house. and as i've said if there's any close comparison to mr. trump it's probably the clintons in terms of frustration with the media and constant investigations that began until they never stopped. their complaints, while aggressive were a little more routine. and they ultimately acknowledged, i don't know whether they believed it or not, but they said that they understood the role of a free press as a democratic institution, the importance of it. bush white house did the same. and so did the obama white house although again, the weak investigations were very problematic. all presidents to a certain degree feel that the press is
undermining them. it's an adversarial process. mr. trump was in era, you can choose your own news cycle, you can choose your own news feed. you can decide what news you're going to get because trust in major institutions have eroded badly and we have not necessarily helped ours selvelv along the way. but we've never had a president who has characterized the press as not just disliking him, but disliking america. we've never had a president who was engaged in incredibly personalized demonizing attacks as this president has against individual reporters and yet, we've also never had a president who simultaneously craves the attention of the media one particular in mind while simultaneously excoriating the press. and the times is like the elites in manhattan that
rejected him years ago and looks for approval. as i said trust in media was quite low before trump took office. we had collectively brought a lot of that on ourselves, whether it was during the iraq war or 2008 presidential campaign or in 2016 coverage of the e-mails stolen from hillary clinton's campaign chairman. there's talk about why the white house does something and there's the thought that everything is part of a larger strategy. what i hoped people would understand after the trip through europe and helsinki appearance, there's usually no tremendous forethought into what they do. strategy implies, you know, a big discussion of consequences, thought out path. i've often said that in my experience with donald trump he is saying what he has to say to get through very short increments of time. for instance, he will give interviews when he is feeling
frustrated and penned in, within the white house bubble or in some instances, as a favor to a friend. that is how he ended up giving an interview to the british tabloid "the sun" an interview in which he undermined the british prime minister theresa may at a time when she was politically vulnerable and ended up essentially apologizing to her later, something he almost never does. he gave the interview as a favorite to rupert murdoch, owner of fox news and this must be part of a larger strategy with nato alliances that he favored brexit because he thought it mirrored his own victory in 2016. and it's sort of true about brexit. that's not why it happened. he was surprised to hear our controversial his comments were after that interview and they had landed. there was not a--
interview, transaction for an ally. but that fact has been, i think, very hard for people to absorb and for the media that covers trump to. disoriented as i mentioned earlier. he turns reporters into part of his story in a way that we're completely unused to as individuals and as a profession. a lot of news outlets across the country have beefed up security as a result of him fostering some of these attacks on the press. his rhetoric is not without implication, but it's a big deal for the president of the united states to call the free press the enemy of the people. but we're disoriented again because what i mentioned earlier, the aspect of this as trump as president versus his administration. and what played over the course of the last week, you could see the split screen of a president who had been reluctant to approach russian interference in the 2016 election or to
appear to accept that it did happen, and his own national security and intelligence community saying firmly and publicly that it took place and is at risk happening again in the fall, in the midterm. mr. trump appears to equate the notion of russian meddling with suggestions that his campaign must have been a part of it and he has been adamant that there was quote, unquote, no collusion. and it's not something that he's known for and he has been, for whatever reason, and i do not pretend to know what that reason is and i don't think anyone else should either, particularly inarticulate in describing where he is on this or inconsistent i should say. i asked sarah sanders whether the president was considering turning over citizens to question by vladimir putin, a credible often that vladimir putin had made him. we're talking about former u.s. ambassador who would be questioned by russia, just
handed over. sarah sanders responded that the president was consulting his team that she would let us know what they had to say. i think she thought she was essentially dodging. [sire [siren] >> okay. that's all of our phones, got to love technology. sorry about that. that was my phone into the mic, my apologies. i think sarah sanders thought she was essentially dodging the question. but when i asked her to follow up between mr. trump and mr. putin and said it's in discussion in the white house. and that set off a frenzy, and they thought it was absurd that was taken seriously and unable to pro he is-- process that they were taking it seriously because they said they were talking about it. this is one of many instances
of the disconnects his staff says one thing and he says something else. we're used to dealing with people on our side of the divide, on the media side, as well as on the governmental side who do agree on some basic shared fact set and that's vastly harder to do with this administration. we are used to government also responsive to accountability. in most other administrations you had six months worth of of stories alleging corruption ap abuse of office by the epa administrator scott pruett, anything comparable in the bush era, obama and clinton going back, h.w. bush, the official would have been kicked out. instead, this president seems to double down and see it as an attack on his white house. until it wasn't sustainable anymore and then they pushed him out. there have been other cases
where lapses of judgments and norms not only have been tolerated, but encouraged in this white house. ins not a president who cares tremendously about a historical record being accurate and again, what flows from the top, his aides often don't either. when my colleague and i briefed our d.c. bureau during the transition on what to expect, we explained what the typical reporting on the white house would not work here. that method is you find one or two people who you know are very close to the president, and this has been done, you know, with candidates as well, there's one person who's very good at channelling the principles and get them to explain to you what's going on. that just did not work because there is often a dispute about basic fact set among his own aides. trump encourages warring camps among his advisors, that's one of the staples around people
surrounding him, as long as i've covered him since 2011 when he thought about running for president, his aides will use the press to shape events for themselves in addition to trying to set policy. and that can be very challenging. i think our biggest challenge in this white house is explaining to people what they're seeing and what is happening for the reasons i have said. there has been tons of ink spilled, including by me, what the president and his aides were describing in private before major events. i think it's stopped being revealing because it doesn't always explain why something happened. mr. trump has a lot of competing and sometimes contradictory impulses, discerning the specific impulse that he was acting on can be really hard. the noise around all of this is becoming all-consuming and it can be very difficult to reminds ourselves as reporters what matters and what doesn't. so, for instance, frequent spelling errors on the white
house press releases are worth noting, but hardly worth a story and this is where the president's twitter feed is important to contextualized. and initially all of his statements were covered uniformly. everything was treated as the same. i think the press has become more discerning in how he is covered. i think every utterance is no longer seen as inherently a story, particularly because a sizable chunk is laden with errors. the fundamental thing that i think that people don't understand about this white house, as one of my colleagues put it, the fact that a lot of his approach to the press is what people who are much longer than i am would call trolling. throughout his campaign, he engaged in tactics the press would react to and he did it to get a reaction and often overreaction and he was often successful by prompting us and use it to his advantage with his supporters and he still does.
he uses the routine processes of the press against us such as basic fact checking and corrections. the mainstream media runs corrections when we err which is something the white house does not, or not very orin, but this president often takes corrections and amplifies them to his purpose. he's not the only one to do this, but the one loudest and most often. the press has been turned into combatants few could have anticipated and few of us are comfortable with. he has labeled us the opposition party repeatedly and we're not. a lot of reporters have fallen into the role of playing the opposition and they shouldn't. his style of speaking is unconventional and defies using quotes that are digestible. it's like a whirlpool and goes to an entirely different one and back again and the only true representation of what he says and how he is and for
transcripts-- we've done it with other out lets, but we can't always do it and that means that people unfortunately, i think, don't always get a full picture. most significantly, mr. trump spent years as a figure in new york media honing skills dividing and conquering reporters. he would play the gossip page reporters off one tabloid off another and give a story to the new york post and make the daily news have to catch up and he would get them pitted against each other that way. he does the same thing with rival camps of aides that work for him. he did that in 2011 when he thought about running for president and it didn't work, i think in part because he left so firmly into 0 conspiracy theories about president obama's birthplace. in the 2016 campaign, in one sunday show would not take him by phone instead of making him come to the studio, he would
just do it with a different sunday show until the other one had to capitulate, goes back to my point of bending people to his will. he's had a lot more success at it than anyone wants to admit. finally one of the biggest problems in the trump era is that all of us in the press corps of taking our cues from each other with too much frequency. we're talking to each other on twitter too much. twitter is not our competitor in the era of media cuts and pace that moves at a break-neck speed we're using it for the wrong reasons. i do think that more recently reporters in the white house press corps are trying to have each other's backs. and to treat our profession as more of a collective of a fraternity. in recent days a reporter from one publication tossed a question back to a tv reporter wh when sara sanders ignored that tv reporter. it's a small start.
the trump administration similar to previous administrations, we can't treat this as a paradigm, but can't treat it as a typical presidency either w -- with that i'd love to take questions. thanks for having me. [applaus [applause] >> do you think there's any overall strategy that this president has in terms of foreign policy or domestic policy or is everything an ad hoc-- >> transactional. >> the question is whether i think there's any strategy to this president's approach to foreign policy or any policy or ad hoc or transactional? i think that president trump does not have a theory of a case, which i think other presidents have had. i think that he thought very little about what the job of president involved until he won
it in part because he was superstitious and in part because if he's being honest, he didn't think he was going to win and that was something he was having fun doing. so, he was uniquely unprepared when he won. he has a series of impulses that he's had since the 1980's. you can go back to 1987, he placed a full page ad in the new york times and i think a couple of other papers where he talked about japan, quote, unquote, ripping us off. he talked about unfair trade deals. really, if you close your eyes it's stuff he says now. so those are consistent, but i don't think that that implies a strategy. i think that in 2017 because of what i just said about his lack of preparation for the job, i think he was aware that he was in over his head and i think that he was more open to being directed by different aides.
i think that he was less -- he was more open to hearing inputs and he can be very indecisive. for instance, when he was choosing a vice-president, as a nominee. he went back and forth between pence and christie, a hundred times, depending who last talked to, each person he last talked to thought that's who he was going to pick. when he was planning for inauguration, the ripped up the plans a hundred times. that's a little more common, but i think that at some point earlier this year, he started feeling like he understood the job better. doing the job, gives you a sense of what the job is and he felt much more comfortable in it and i think you have seen him fall into what are his more natural impulses. so, for instance, tariffs, which his advisors spent months, ten months, i think, keeping him from imposing. he finally barreled ahead with. this is something that i don't think the media covers well in the sense that we cover
everything as if it's a fight between warring factions, a lot of it is just him. i don't think it's a grand strategy of the case. i think a lot of this is rolling with whatever is in front of him. >> okay. this is more of a question in your opinion, not necessarily just talking about president trump's, you know, but historically it seems to me in the past when you'd have an election, obviously, during the election you had your warring sides and everything, but seemed like it would settle down more and then you just had the presidency. and there was still a respect for the office of the presidency. what's your take on that now? where do you see this going with how we are now? >> the question was historically after a presidential election there's been more coming together and respect for the office of the
presidency, which i think you're suggesting is lacking now. so, i think i would say a couple of things. i think that-- i think that political polarization pre-dated president trump by a large factor going back to the '90s now. i do think that he has thrown accelerant on a lot of existing political trends. i think that there is a group of people that have been opposed to his election from the moment he won and decided that-- and they refer to themselves as the resistance and that has meant that he's not-- unity is hard to come by, but he has reacted to that by essentially saying i'm not going to -- i'm not going to include you guys, i'm going to fight for my own supporters. and that is unusual to have a president do. it's not -- it's not unusual to have a lot of anger on the
other side after this kind of a presidential contest. i'd say it was probably outsized for trump more than what we're used to, but what is unusual is a president who doesn't reach to the other side. and it's knowing him, i go back to the whole thing about him wanting to be taken seriously in his mind he won the office and now he lives in the most expensive real estate in the country and he's not taken seriously. and where that leads, i don't know. i think that barring a massive wave election by the democrats in the midterms this year, i think that's going to tell us a lot in terms of where this goes. you will either have a very narrow majority by either the democrats or the republicans, and what i think that's going to lead to is very little getting done legislatively next year. so i don't think that the
climate's going to improve. i don't know if that answers your question, but i hope it does. >> yes, i was wondering if you would talk a bit about how the media handles when he does the walkbacks, in particular, the would versus wouldn't, and the i don't trust our intelligence on this, versus i do trust our intelligence. and coming within some cases, 24 hours. >> it's a great question. the question is how do we handle the walk-backs that the president does. this past week, whether he trusts the intelligence community or doesn't. and would or wouldn't. and his own advisors were making fun privately, to be clear. i mean, i don't have a great answer for how do we handle it other than that we cover it and we try to-- i think the danger is that this is what i meant about how routine process doesn't really encapsulate what he says. a typical headline based on the
walk-back, for instance, would be president trump says he believes the intel community. that doesn't tell the full picture because he is reversing himself from a day earlier. so, i think in terms of the handling of it, we just have to be a lot more precise than we are sometimes. he think we need to include the full context in ways we are unused to. and i think that it does require a certain level of nimbleness that the collective we are not always capable of, but it's-- look, it's whiplash. we're covering, he says one thing one day and says the exact opposite. during the campaign he would sometimes do that in the same sentence. the difference is-- the difference is that in the campaign, i think that the press and some voters felt like, well, he's not going to win and i think that's a shame on us and a shame on people who didn't take it seriously because he was clearly resonating with crowds. i think that all we can do is continue to make sure that
not a great solution, i think that i would take and it would be challenging because we call ourselves paper of work and not immune to pressures of the internet and publishing quickly and so it can get crazy. i think my biggest piece of advice would be in twitter, i still look at twitter, i don't look at it as often as i did, i
look at it to make sure i'm not missing breaks news and because the president of the united states, he tweeted about his lawyer and story we had broken yesterday earlier. i think twitter has been really, really disclose in general and the way that news spreads. my biggest recommendation is people don't use twitter and they go directly the news sites which takes a lot longer, here is why i say that and this got me a lot. one is i was -- i found twitter disorienting when i first started using it because i'm a bit of an old lady in terms of news and what was strike to go me on twitter that literally everything looked the same, i
could not tell a link to five-part investigation on water in town looks like same, you can't tell proportion size magnitude, literally down to the same size, if you go website, or if you read the newspaper you can see base on story placement, based on headlines, on a lot of things the interest level and stock that they are putting in the story. that's twitter. other stories of twitter and that's why i think it's a bad place to get news, in 2012 when i was writing a blog with a colleague alex burns who i now work with at times, we interned at romney rally and she sent us quote from something that was said by romney, in the context in which she sent it to us it
sounded as if romney was making fun of newt gringrich for quiet about his late mother. that was not the context at all. she hadn't heard the rest but shame was on me that i clicked publish and i should not have done that and it was sering experience that i get nauseous about because one story sneezes and the other catches a cold, i still think you have to stick -- look, if you prefer conservative news, national review is a really good website, you know, the journal tends to be more conservative leaning, i think that there are wonderful reporters at fox news and chris wallace is a great reporter, bret baier is great reporter but do i think commentary shows there travel less than news
programs do. i think that you have to go to a trusted news source at this point. i think there's so much stuff on the internet that's not true that all can say is less time that you're not familiar with is probably the best way. >> i read recently where the number of news press briefings has been scaled back considerably and i was wondering and how is it decided on how the different organizations get called on? >> it's an excellent question, the question was about the briefing, press briefings and how frequently they take place these days and also how reporters get called on, the press briefings is up to the white house to decide whether they're going to have them or not. they have had fewer and fewer recently because it's a lot -- it's becoming increasingly hard
for them to engage with reporters on a number of subjects and that's not just issues like, you know, the president's trip to europe and it's not just about investigations into meddling, there's all sorts of investigation of the president personally or touch on the president personally that sarah sanders cannot speak to, that's not her role, it's not appropriate, i think it becomes although sometimes she will answer those questions based on that, sometimes he won't which is another issue, but i think i think the briefings as i said before are important even when we are not necessarily getting the best i was, it's important to ask officials questions in that kind of a setting. and i don't think they will ever totally go away but have reduced in number. in terms of how they get called
on, we have assigned seats and i think the chart has done by association, as i mentioned, the front row usually which is tv people mostly and wire reporters get called on first and then it's just wherever the press secretary's eyes go to. hope that helps. >> could you describe the mechanics of getting the information to the press secretary who then gives us the information? >> that's an excellent and very hard question to answer which was can i describe the mechanics of how the press secretary gets information that she then conveystous. the very quick answer is no, the somewhat longer answer is in some cases she gets it directly from the president, in some cases she gets it from the chief of staff and in some cases there are meetings before she comes
down to the briefing. whoever does the briefing has done fair amount of prepping beforehand but doesn't mean they are getting -- that they're prepping by making phone calls around the government to find out what they can, they are prepping to try to figure out what questions we might ask and how to answer them best. the best for them and not necessarily best information. there are times you will hear sarah sanders say recently, i will have to get back to you on that, i haven't talked to the president about that. that's often true, it does not explain why she doesn't then go talk to the president about it and answer the next day but from my sense from people in the white house is less and less certain of what they are being told is true and that has an impact on how they then communicate it to us, i realize that's not the most in-depth
answer but clearest it can be right now. >> hi. >> hi. my question to you is you have incredible opportunity being in the white house to keep raising the hard questions especially what's happening with immigrant children, what's happening to our environmental regulations being decimated and what's happening with the nra's power, do you get complacent or stay strong and keep asking the hard questions? >> the question was broadly whether we get complaisant in our jobs or do we keep asking hard questions and it's a good question because i think part of what president trump's approach to us certainly in the campaign and now has been so to wear us out and to weigh us out.
but i don't think that we -- i mean, i have three children and i have a job so, yes, i get fatigued in life but i don't get fatigued from asking the questions that need to be asked and particularly on the border crisis which is a crisis that the white house is making. i was thinking about it this morning that it has gone off -- i thought the media did a good job staying on it, but i do worry that attention span of editors and the media consumers and i just think the sheer volume of the trump era does make it harder. i do think that we are all doing the best we can. if you think about the amount of reporting that has gone into scott pruitt, the russian probe, the border crisis, i mean, i
think the press has done a good job during trump era and not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination because i generally think people are doing a pretty good job. thank you. appreciate it that. >> can you take a few more questions? >> sure. >> you had your hand up here. >> you mentioned that president trump is quite unique and different. i think you mentioned also that he is the first president we've had that's not a politician. do you think it's difficult for the press to cover him because not a politician and do you think that the press have become more comfortable with him in the second term? >> the question is we cover donald trump different because he's not politician and we would cover differently in second term? >> i don't think the press
covers him as nonpolitician, the press covers him as he is, a lot of thicks he doesn't understand about how have traditionally operated because he's not a politician. and i don't think it's the job of the press to be comfortable or uncomfortable who we are covering, we are just suppose to cover them, thank you. >> in what ways do you think the way president trump deals with the media will influence the next president or future presidents and how do you see that evolving? >> the question in what way has president trump addressed the press lingering essentially as an ongoing -- with the next president, excellent question that we ask ourselves a lot. we ask it and wonder about it not just in terms of the media but all aspects of the presidency, what he has changed
because a colleague wrote last year that, you know, he was trying to bend the presidency to his will and making a draw first year. at this point i think he's probably winning. i think there are some things that -- i don't think any other president tweets the way he does, for instance, every pollster i talk to says that even among his supporters people who said they don't like the tweeting. and so i think that that's probably a unique to him but i do think that there's going to be a lot of push who see that you can push the bounds of what is acceptable in terms of telling the truth, in terms of cabinet members, in terms of just the volume of either
misinformation or disinformation or false information or lies or and see that trump will have not always -- it's not that he's not being held accountable but that's something that i find a little aggravating when i hear that this is people keep saying to us when is someone going to hold him accountable, we are not congress, we can't hold hearings, that's the job of coverage, we are covering him and i think we covered pretty aggressively. i do think how much sort of a permanent, i do think that his election taught us how much of our system is norms and how much our system -- [inaudible] >> and whether that changes down the road. one more question. >> one more question and then we will let you get prepared.
okay. [laughter] >> you have covered him for years, you covered him in new york in terms of saying that he was somebody who was on the outside who was trying to get the acceptance of those inside, who is he looking for acceptance from, what do you think is driving this now? is it the -- i mean, is -- who is the audience? >> the question was about that he was playing for acceptance that he didn't get and the question is who is he play to go now, it's a great question, i mean, i think generally he -- he's not unique among politicians in terms of craving approval. clintons craved approval but i think that the funny thing with donald trump is that even when he gets and he has to keep
going. i think back then it was to -- it was business leaders, it was real estate developers who were seeing, operating a different tier than he was. it became political figures in 2011, 2012. getting romney to accept endorsement was a big thing. so much of what we saw in 2016 campaign occurred in 2011, 2012. and now i honestly think that a lot of it -- i think it's true of everybody, i don't know how to describe it. it's the media, it's the people he sees him on tv, it's the whatever audience he happens to be looking. >> quick question, why don't
pompeo and bolton resign? >> i can't pretend -- the question is why don't pompeo and bolton resigns, i don't pretend to be in either of their minds so i don't know and i don't know that either of them want to. i think that john bolton wanted to be national security adviser for a long time and now he is and that's probably the main reason he doesn't resign and in terms of pompeo, i think he that's he has a a rapport with the president and i think people who are in government right now believe for the most part and not everybody but they believe that they are doing more good than harm by their presence there and so i think that's why. >> maggie will be keynote speaker for dinner in less than an hour and join us there and thank you very much. >> thank you.
[applause] >> thank you so much. >> saturday morning at 10:30 eastern in mississippi book festival for fourth annual at the state capitol with discussion on race and identity, southern history, u.s. politics and presidential leadership, author of loving, interracial and threat to white supremacy. jack davis with pulitzer-prize winning book, selena speaks with former mississippi governor haley barber, the great revolt, reshaping american politics, and author frank williams with lincoln as hero. join us live saturday beginning at 10:30 eastern for mississippi book festival on book tv on
c-span2. >> next supreme court justice steven breyer talks about the constitution held july in aspen, colorado. [applause] >> thank you very much, good evening. thank you all for being here especially those who may well have been impacted by this fire, we certainly wish you all the best as the fire fight continues, i appreciate you making time for us, i hope that this conversation was with justice breyer is well spent, we are looking forward getting questions on this conversation, we have about 55 minutes to get done what we are going to do here online and aspen radio. i can do a lot in 55 minutes. justice breyer, welc
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