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tv   Michael Bender Frankly We Did Win This Election  CSPAN  August 23, 2022 9:04am-10:05am EDT

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commonwealth club for inviting us and thank all of you for joining us. it's been a pleasure to be a part of the conversation. >> thank you, i really appreciated being part of the conversation. >> be up-to-date with the publications, about books. with current nonfiction book releases, plus, best seller lists as well as industry news and trends through insider interviews. you can find about books on our free mobile app and wherever you get your podcasts. >> there are a lot of places to get political information. but only at c-span do you get it straight from the source. no matter where you're from, or where you stand on the issues, c-span is america's network. unfiltered, unbiased, word for word, if it happens here, or here, or here, or anywhere that
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matters, america is watching on c-span. powered by cable. >> good evening, and welcome to live, i'm here along with my wife and we have a great program for featuring journalist michael bender in conversation with peggy newnan about michael's new book, frankly, we did win this election. a couple of brief housekeeping notes, too. and to post a question at any point, click on the q & a icon at the bottom of the screen. if the chat column you'll find a link for purchasing copies of frankly, we did win this election. now, michael's career has followed a pretty steady upward trajectory over the past 20 years right to one of the most coveted reporting jobs in washington. after working initially for newspapers in ohio, colorado and florida, and then as a
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senior political writer with bloomberg, and then a senior white house reporter. he covered donald trump's 2016 run for the presidency and all four of trump's years in office, winning awards from reporting from both the national press club and the gerald ford foundation. michael set out to write a book about trump's 2020 reelection campaign, he expected to do what he calls in the introduction, a traditional campaign book about how trump would market himself for a second term. of course, 2020 turned out to be a most unconventional year about 2020 and most untraditional about the campaign. and michael's book looks at the chaos and disorganize that marks the reelection effort, the disastrous dysfunctional response to the coronavirus crisis, the eternal battles between trump and military advisors over whether to
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unleash soldiers and civil rights protests and much, much more. the review of the book called it nuanced sharp, fairly revealing and publishers weekly determined the book, immersive blow by blow rundown. now, peggy newnan, michael's conversation partner this evening has been a columnist for the wall street journal since 2000. and also the author of nine books of u.s. policy and culture, the most recent the time of our lives. so, michael and peggy, the screen is yours. >> thank you. thank you so much, brad. it is wonderful to be back at politics and prose where i had some of my most wonderful and most spirited and most full of back and forth readings from
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past books and q & a's with your audiences and i hope when this is all over and i have another book out, i can come back and see you all again. it is great to spend an hour on this august evening with mike bender, senior white house reporter as brad said for the wall street journal. i'm a columnist on the op-ed page he's a major presence and highly regarded colleague on the news side. mike, let me just jump in here and i loved your book. and for many things, including your love of fact, your deep reporting, your fair-mindedness, and your calm tone as you paint one over the top of them events after
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another. it's really some kind of narrative. did you, you know, when you began this book, obviously, you were thinking the inner workings of the trump campaign in 2020 as they moved for reelection after a most extraordinary and unusual presidency, you must have thought that in itself is a very rich story, which of course, it is. which of course, it's promised to be. but you could not have foreseen the extraordinary events of 2020 pandemic, the head of the trump campaign essentially having a nervous breakdown, all of the things that happened. i was thinking, as i read, man, as michael wrote this, he must have constantly almost each day
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been shocked by events and having to rework things, rethink things and expand the scope of this book. it just must have been quite a challenge, i would think. >> it was a huge challenge and first of all, peggy, thank you so much for this doing this. i'm a huge fan and thank you very, very much. and it was, yeah, it was more than i-- i bit off way more than i could chew on this one. had i known back in 2019 when i agreed to do this at the end of 2019 what was in store in 2020, i'm not sure i would have agreed to do it. it was-- things happened so quickly in 2020 and that's coming off four years of covering trump on the campaign trail, three years in the white house where he is three news cycles in a single day, even though the journal only paid me to cover one of
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them. but then 2020 happened and it's even crazier and there was no time, really, even to think about this book. it was just keeping up with the story in front of us. you know. i mean, the presidential election every four years is the biggest story in the world. and that wasn't the case in 2020. there was so much happening with the pandemic and with the civil justice protest and the economy and all of this kind of merging into one, that we didn't really focus in on the campaign until the end of the race, but really, the final few months. so, yeah, i mean after the race ended and i kind of sat down and outlined the chapters, it was kind of a holy -- moment and seemed like it was its own book and thankfully i have a very, very supportive wife and a very, very supportive family
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and who-- that was able to take a lot of my responsibility and, you know, at a time when, you know, during the pandemic when everybody's stress levels were higher and everyone's daily routines had been disrupted and then here i come adding to that, asking for help and they said, yes, every single step of the way. very, very lucky to have that help. >> so, tell me. you mentioned right from the get-go in the book, you have something that struck me so hard for its-- for its almost sort of detached empathy and punctuality with which you approached what i thought was the wonderful kind of narrative thread of the front row joe. the men and women who were great trump supporters, who went to his rallies, who made friends with each other from throughout the country and then started deliberately travelling
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to rallies and seeing each other. i think there was one marriage in the group. i think there were many friendships and clearly they got to know you and they got to trust you. >> yeah. >> tell us who the front row joes were, and plus, michael, what learning all about them told you about this current political scene that we're living in. >> definitely. thank you. i think the -- one of the things is i wanted to make this book readable and interesting to people. i mean, there's no shortage of trump books, you could fill a library about trump over the last 30, 40 years. i've written over a thousand stories about trump with just the wall street journal and i wanted to give people something that they-- a reason to keep turning the pages here. so i do think this book is the only one to date that explains
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trump inside the room details from the oval office, under the hood of the $2 billion campaign and text messages into the decision making process there. and another unique piece of this is the front row joes. and i effectively embedded for two years with people who go to 30, 40, 50, by the end of 2020, 60 rallies and what i wanted to do here was understand through them, a little bit more about this movement. what about them as people, as men and women, had them coming back again and again. effectively to see the same show. and what it told us about trump that he could elicit this kind of energy. and what i found was, and i was very, very lucky that these folks trusted me to tell their story and i'll forever be grateful. i think it really enriched my
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reporting and understanding of this movement and our country right now. and these were, i mean, these are folks who had a lot of time on their hands. they're recently retired, or almost retired. they maybe never had kids or, you know, estranged from their families and trump, you know, they were drawn to his energy, the celebrity in the same way that a lot of people were drawn to obama. i mean, some of these folks had voted for obama before they voted for trump. you know, based on, you know, obama and trump both wanting to end endless wars and a little bit of the policy there, but they started going to the rallies and saw that some of the same people and in a way, trump had made-- this made their lives bigger, their worlds bigger, and staying at each other's houses
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on the roads and splitting hotel rooms. one woman met another man and they went to hong kong for a day. they flew from michigan to hong kong for a day to march in protest of the extradition laws that that trump said he opposed. waved a trump flag and fly home. the story of 2020, i think, is for them, they're misled right along the way, whether it's, you know, covid or election processes, or fox news and what ends up happening the worlds have gotten smaller by the end of the year when fox called the election correctly in arizona and then across the country and trump claims fraud, a lot of these people just turned off fox news. which had been kind of the background music, background news of their lives for years
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was gone and you know, they get their news from a smaller and smaller, you know, number of sources, and you know, some of the people kind of-- you start to question it a little bit. and you know, a fatal end on the campaign trail in 2020 and you know, i think it's-- i think it's still, it was important for me to understand in 2020 to be-- i think, to tell the story of trump more richly, but even now, even more so now, it's just a really pressing question, who these folks are, not just for the republican party, but for the country. if trump drew thousands of people to ohio in june, drew, you know, thousands more to florida last month and i think it's important to understand who these people are in a human level that they keep coming out for trump despite, you know,
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january 6th. despite what we know about january 6th. more than 500 people charged and people starting to receive prison sentences and these are not-- it's not antifa. these are trump supporters. and yet, trump still maintains a pretty strong hold on the party. >> do they -- michael, sometimes i wondered if, i'm going to put this in a tangential way, i guess, they have the illusion that trump cared about them and understood them, or was the illusion that-- or was the thought that he cared about them not even important? was it all about something else? >> well, i think it is. i think it's the former there. i think that the base saw -- they did take him at his word and they saw in 2015 or 2016 where, you know, that coarse behavior from trump or refusal
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to be politically correct, they saw that as evidence that he understood them. that he was willing to do or say whatever it took to, not to get elected, but to kind of break washington and for them, to fight for them in a way that no one has before, and you know, there have been some cracks, i think, among them now that we sit here in august of 2021 and not predicting the end of trumpism by any stretch, but for the vast majority of them, it was, you know, it was kind of 100% all in in the beginning and you know, the defend him at all costs. i've covered politics for 20-some years, 22 years at different levels. county commission, state legislatures in washington. i've never met, never seen any political movement where the
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supporters take it personally. they viewed attacks on trump, criticism of trump as criticism of them. and all that, instead of working to dissuade them or anything like that, it just reinforced their support for trump in the end. >> and i just felt those portraits that reminded me of the number of people i know and members of my family and how they also have related to trump. so-- to trump and i also felt that so many of the front row joes, i'm going to change the subject in a second, the most important thing was that as you painted, so many of them were not really deeply enmeshed with life, with local organizations and local groups, and churches, and family, they weren't fully integrated in a way into life.
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they have a lot of time on their hands. they had some money to spend, to go off on china for a day and somehow when trump came on the stage in 2015, they found a home. they found a central organizing principle. >> yeah. >> and i've just seen at that so much. all right. here i'm going to jump around a little bit. here is a question that will require a guess on your part based on your longstanding observation and also, i guess, based on a hunch. did donald trump himself truly think he won the election? did he believe it or was his insistence that he won, you know, an expression of his usual careless drama or a matter of psychological denial, like the fact of his loss would
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break his psyche? interestingly enough, i don't think it would have broken it in 2016. was the idea he had been rejected by a majority of voters just unbelievable to him? or was stop the steal just a way to excite and entertain his followers and also explain to them, their defeat. they hadn't lost it, they'd fought the great fight, they fought effectively, but it had been stolen from them? i ask you this because i've talked to people around trump and i have heard them wonder, if he really believed what he was saying. so did you ever see anything that made you think he does believe it or this is totally fully cynical? >> no, i don't think it's totally fully cynical. i think it's all--
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i think it's all sort of a piece. and you're right. the answer is that people around trump, people closest to trump as you mentioned, they don't really know the answer to this question. you know, i think it kind of catches, you know, depends what day you catch him. and i interviewed trump twice for this book, in march and in may. both times, most of the questions i asked him he brought back to missing ballots in michigan, fraud in georgia, conspiracy theories in arizona. you know, i do tell in the book at one point in the book where i asked him, you remember paulson is sued by the elections company that she's repeatedly said, you know, sued
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-- the election to joe biden. in court, her claims were so ridiculous, no right thinking person could have believed she was being serious. and i read this to trump to see what his reaction was and he kind of cycled through all of the emotions. he said that it was some-- it was something very dumb to say. he doubted that it was-- she had even said it. he wondered if it was some legal boiler plate. you know, that, you know, and all the way to the end where he gets to the end of this little rant and says well, she never really, you know, technically represented me. you know that, right? distancing himself from her. it sort of depends on, you know, if january 6th was what, it was just sort of this horrific, but in a lot of ways, inevitable, code to what trump had been telling us for years, decades, all right, that he
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would never lose a fair fight. that it would always be election fraud and right, and he claimed that there was fraud in the emmies when the apprentice lost an emmy in its run. but you know, i also think of another section of the book i sort described this dichotomy with trump. in 2016 he's telling me the only way he's going to lose the fraud, some of the same concerns that were happening in public at the time were repeated in 2020, but behind the scenes, i have this scene where it's 2016. he's worried he's going to lose and talking to melania and some other people and he said-- he tells melania of his plan how on election night he's going to have the plane all gassed up. if they lose, he's not giving a speech, no nothing, he's going to come out and they're going to monaco and he's going to be in his tux and live like kings in monaco for a few days and
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melania erupts into laughter and the point it takes other people off guard and awkward and trump says what's so funny? and she kind of catches her breath and she says donald, no one goes to monaco in november. [laughter] >> but there you have trump worried about moving privately and publicly claiming fraud. i do think it's some-- you know, i don't think it's purely cynical. i don't think he fully believes it. i mean, i've sort of seen him, one, through the cycles, so, but certainly at the end of the day he does think it's-- you know, he's going to protect his brand and republican leaders know in congress, you know, you see them feeding into this. they think that there's something to this, right, that trump didn't win, they know that, but they see a way to energize the base, using election security issues as a
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way to energize the base the end of 2022 and beyond. >> one of the things i thought of when i was reading the book was that clearly you had a lot of solid relationships with a lot of solid sources who spoke to you with sometimes, really extraordinary candor. you covered donald trump every day for six years as a major national news organization reporter, newspaper reporters. we used to say, and yet, he liked you for he didn't dislike you. >> yeah. >> i got the impression reading the book, you didn't know why. you had some theories. i want to hear your theories, but i also want to hear-- i think you just referenced it,
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i think it was in the early spring of 2021 when you were at home, and it's the pandemic and you just filed the story or were filing one. in the usual mess everybody was in in the pandemic. your hair is long, probably haven't shaved, are' in running clothes and you get a call from the white house and you're told you know, the president would like to see you. can you be here in 20 minutes and you put yourself together, run over to the white house meet with donald trump who more or less says you want an interview? you can ask me anything. why did he do that? what was he asking for? what did he want from you that moment? >> i mean, peggy, i don't know. i think it -- i think he was-- he had not done any interviews for while at that point and i think they were trying to get him back in some sort of rhythm
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of doing these interviews, but i mean, i was struck by so many things that day. >> and take the oval office, so shocked that he would sit for 20 minutes in the oval office by yourself. >> yeah. >> i had never heard of such a thing, you know, the oval office is the place that's usually fairly well-protected and monitored. >> when you mention that had trump sort of liked me. i am an a member of the media and that kind of is the baseline for donald trump and no matter what he says at these rallies and how much he fights with the media, that is, he knows the utility that they play. he likes to have those relationships and he wants to be talked about. being criticized is better for him than being ignored. and you know, i did work for the wall street journal, a paper that he had a certain
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amount of respect for and you know, had respected, you know, the reporting i'd done on him for a while. i mean, i interviewed him at trump tower as a candidate back in 2015, 2016 so we had a bit of a relationship and he'd done a number of oval office interviews with me along the way, so he was familiar with me. and you know, he liked my hair. that was the one thing he always-- every single time complimented or had a, you know, comment on which i took it as a deep compliment from someone like donald trump. and a little bit, he called me in april, april during the pandemic about, it was about a story from a few days earlier, like the 8th or 9th paragraph in the piece, wanting to dispute a few of the word and we ended up talking for 20 minutes and you know, to my surprise it was right before one of his covid news conferences he told me at the
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end of his conversation that he was supposed to be prepping for the news conference, but he had spent all the time talking to me so that if he went out there and bombed, he was going to blame me for it, which i believed him. he asked me why i hadn't been coming to the news conferences and there were covid concerns with the family and i was more or less quarantines, and he had said, you know, he had told me he could get me in. kind of like a-- almost like a bouncer, you know, at the club. and he put me under the i.t. list and he invited me in for an interview and i said, that we can do. so, i followed up with his press team and said, you know, whatever clues, like, you know, the only thing i ask, don't call and ask me to be here in five minutes. that's, again, pandemic. there's a lot in the family and
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yes, i'm in full work from home mode and in the same clothes for the same couple days and sure enough they call me and say can you be here in five minutes? i'm going to reference my wife here again here, ashley parker of the wonderful and talented ashley parker, the white house bureau chief for "the washington post." she basically drives me to the white house while i'm jotting down questions and texting with my team and getting, you know, more input on questions. and i show up and meet with the press secretary and the communications director, and they tell me, you know, you have a 45 minutes or an hour here, you know, whatever you want to ask is fair game. and they had, you know, i asked if there was news they wanted to break and kind of get my notes ready for or should be thinking about, no, he just wanted to do an interview and you were on the tip of his tongue so we called. >> so, i mean, the john bolton
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book had come out that morning-- or leaked that morning and we talked about that, but i don't get the sense that's why he called me in. i think it was sort of the mood struck him and we spent an hour or plus going back and forth, that was the interview where sort of big news to remember from that interview where he claimed that juneteenth, he had made juneteenth famous. >> yes, i remember. >> and for his tulsa rally. and that could be, he's trying to get ready for the first rally in months and maybe sharpen up in that sense, but it was this wide ranging interview that touched on all of these different topics and you know, it was-- yeah, where he told me that he'd made juneteenth famous, but that he'd pushed back the rally after a black secret service agent told him that,
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how important juneteenth was to the black community and told that he had been personally offended by, you know, holding a rally, in the middle of these civil rights protests on juneteenth in tulsa of all places. so, you know, it was -- trump can be a very revealing interview when he wants to be. >> i should note, let's see, it's 7:30 and we're going to go in about five or 10 minutes, i guess, the viewers should know i'm going to start to take a look at the questions that you are sending in for michael bender. i'll take a look at them and then read them to michael as they come in. so that's everybody, your five or 10 minute warning. you know, michael, i told you in advance i might geek out on theodore h white, making of the president theories. kept thinking of when i was
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reading your book, but now i'm going to swerve and not do geeking out on white although short answer, was teddy white's books made a huge impression on me when i was a teenager and a young woman. he was doing wholly original work, covering presidential campaigns, which nobody had really thought to cover before, and doing them in a beautiful, smooth raw gauged narrative and he just swept me about politics. he made it sound-- he really captured the romance of history, romance of politics and the high stakes faced by people involved in it. so just quickly, was teddy white a big deal to you when you were a kid? and was he ever on your mind
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when you were working on frankly, we did win this election? >> yes, it's a -- a huge would be in the same like-- that i'm even asked about him, let alone compared to his books and his, you know, place in this genre defined books. i mean, so thank you for that. and it's-- yeah, i mean, he was -- i loved his books. i haven't read all of them and i read the 1960 book and one of my first purchases, it was college and my first job in colorado at the grand junction sentinel when amazon had those books. it was sort of a capstone to his book, america in search of itself. 1960 to 1980, that was the one that i really devoured and really loved. but, yeah, i mean, there was--
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there was that one or you know, that sort of urgency fear and loathing on the campaign trail or sharp analysis of a political fictions or the depth of what it takes. i mean, i ate up all of those and certainly, i mean, my kind of coming of age book was game change and that, to find the genre again. but, yeah, i mean those were-- i would have loved to do something, you know, kind of true to some of those books, but 2020 just moved so quickly it was hard to, you know, kind of keep track of what was happening in front of me, and instead of trying to, you know, incorporate some of at that stuff, but, yeah, i loved teddy white and in this book, they're wonderful. >> all right, something i think i'm going to do one more question and then we'll open it up to the floor, if i can press the right button here. something i grew more and more
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curious about, michael, as i read your book. you are a major front page white house correspondent for the wall street journal. your wife, who you mentioned a few answers ago, ashley parker, fabulous reporter, just terrific. she's, i think, white house bureau chief of the washington post, okay. you both-- you each represent separate and competing news organizations. you are both covering the white house. you are both covering the extraordinary trump white house, and the extraordinary 2020 election. you can't tell her about the scoop the journal just got and she can't tell you about the investigative project the post just launched. make it more complicated, suddenly there's a pandemic and
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you are both working at home with an occasional ear shot of each other. as i read by the end, i thought, this is a katharine hepburn movie with spencer tracy, you're pat and mike, you're woman of the year, how did you do this on a daily basis? tell us about that and is there any chance the all that no one has come to you and said, this is a movie. i want the rights? >> no, we have not sold the movie rights to our marriage, but everything's, you know, open to negotiations, open to discussions, i suppose. no, it was-- it's kind of both sides of the coin. it's great and it's terrible. it was really nice covering someone like trump and the-- for all the pressure and all of
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the, you know, the battles you had with the white house and people outside the white house, trump will sort of broadly, to be able to vent about that, you know, about people sort of like second and third tier, behind the scenes folks that no one else knows except other reporters at the white house and not have-- and kind of fall into a conversation about, you know, this happened to me, can you believe what this person said or did or didn't do, that kind of thing. so there was a lot of, you know, talk about that, right? and that made it in a lot of ways easier to cover and it was hard, actually during the pandemic, i mean, we're in a row house in washington, we had a nanny share on the first floor of a couple of two-year-olds. my 10-year-old was in virtual school on the second floor, and the third floor in our bedroom is like you said, two competing journalists on the same beat
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and kind of opposite sides of the bedroom and now turned into an office and the peloton room and cafeteria and all of those things. but you know, i would say we're competitors, but the truth is, peggy, i usually came up on the short end of the stick on that one. i will tell a quick story about, and one thing, there was enough in trump world. there were so many things happening that what helped, there was a lot to go around. and it was hard to believe, but rarely were she and i ever taking the same exact details of a story except once, which was when rex tillerson got fired and i was home first and she had come in the door and said, i need to work tonight, i need the bedroom. and i said, well, i need to work tonight and you know, i'll take the first floor. and it was this back and forth and you know, kind of to the
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opposite corners of the house until the next morning when i was in the news room and one of my colleagues from across the news room said hey, bender, ashley just broke that tillerson got fired and one times in the four years at journal threw something across the news room and it was early enough in the morning and didn't hit anyone. it helped probably that she, you know, pretty regularly beat me on the stories. >> all right. >> michael, how old is your oldest child? >> 10. i have a 10-year-old daughter. >> and that is a 10-year-old daughter. what does she think you do for a living? what does she think ashley does for a living? how does she understands that? >> she's a very precocious 10-year-old being raised in washington. she knows, you know, what's going-- i mean, i brought her to the white house a couple of times, i will say the days that the trump white house was flawless, was on bring your daughter to
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workday. i don't know how, actually i do know -- i know the person who ran it and she was really, really good. and those days were really wonderful. she sat in the briefing room and asked sean spicer questions, and asked why the white house was white and i think she was six or seven and he did not know and said he'd get back to her. she met president trump. trump told her that he liked her dad who got the story right about 80% of the time. which again, i took as a huge compliment, but she was very confused because she knew she would get, you know-- she would hear that she's getting 20% of answers wrong at school. >> yeah, you're given only a b there. daddy, why are you just a b? >> and i have a vivid memory of 2016 she was even younger and heard it on the radio she did not like trump because she'd heard -- she also met obama in the white house and as you can imagine barack and michelle
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obama, very, very brief, christmas party, but totally ignored me rightfully so and poured all of their attention to her for whatever 90 seconds that was. and you know, she remembered that all, and then she heard trump on the radio, just excoriating obama and that really affected her. so, you know, but the two-year-old also has, you know, she-- during the pandemic, really, she saw the tv turned on and turn the tv on for trump so by mid pandemic asking to watch trump on tv and kind of both side of the coin here. trump, a little trump fan and a never-trumper. [laughter] >> all right, i'm taking a look at these questions here. let's see. could noonan make her questions
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more suscinct? i want to hear bender's thoughts, exclamation point there. >> i've asked great questions. it's been really fun. thank you so much. >> gee, some -- let me ask, somebody asked about trump got seven-- donald trump to the 74 million votes in 2020. do you think that is the high watermark for djt based on what a disaster his 2020 campaign was, shouldn't those in the biden camp and on the left be secretly wishing for donald trump to run again? have you got an opinion on that? >> i don't-- it's a good question. the-- i think democrats are going to have their own issues and have their own issues to kind ever
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be rooting one way or the other what happens in the republican party, but i mean, everyone was shocked by the 75 million votes that trump got. trump own campaign predicted 63 million and that's a huge-- it's 15% and that's a huge miss, you know, overperformance or however you want to look at it. so it actually kind of mystifies me and this is a little off script and like, you know, i might be an outlier on this one, it mystifies that we have this conventional wisdom republicans are helped by smaller turnout. if anything, trump did get more, you know, exceeded expectations were black men and hispanic men and 75 million votes is astonishing. >> yeah. >> and the people that would have been, had he embraced some of the vote by mail and absentee mail mechanisms that the republican party long
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embraced and in fact shepherded in some states and that could have been higher. >> i just had a thought here, this isn't one of the questions, but it's sort of, that it jumped into my mind as you read a question. have you been in the biden white house much? if so, just in an impressionistic way, what is the difference between how the biden white house feels and the trump white house felt? . i haven't spent that much time in the biden white house, but i've got some more questions about this and i think that it's-- i think it's hard-- it's just as hard to cover trump as it is to cover biden. people think in a way that it was, by covering trump was easy pickings and there's so much, so many things, you know, to details to learn and to collect. the problem with covering trump so much of it wasn't reliable or coming from reliable
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narrators here. i mentioned my kind of long newspaper career. whether it was any of these county commission meetings or school board meetings or you know, state legislative committee hearings, never have i been anywhere where-- except the trump white house, eight people go into a meeting and 12 versions of what happened in the meeting emerged afterwards. i mean, to understand what was happening behind the scenes, you needed to talk to almost everybody who was in the room to have an understanding of what happened because there were so many rivalries, there were so many-- trump came up in the tabloid culture, right? you understand the tabloid culture, you understand, you know, how trump world operated. and the same is -- in a different way is true of biden. you need to put in that much work to get sometimes a single source or two sources on what happened. so, i do think it is-- it's as exhausting covering
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biden, but in a much different way. >> why did the -- i never quite understood, i feel i spent five years writing of the trump white house deeply within, you know, lots of back stabbing. lots of divisions. i actually never understood why they all didn't get along. why they were all leaking against each other. i didn't understand why it was such a fractious white house. i tell you that having observed a number of white houses fairly up close, i tend to think a fractured white house is better than a white house where everybody gets along in this very peaceful and they're all on the same page. i think there ought to be big fights in a white house and i think they ought to be between in the white house and also between the white house and the agencies and they ought to be serious fights about serious
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policy. but i didn't get the impression in the trump white house it was about serious policy. it was about some magical discord that i can't quite understand. did you have a handle on it? >> no, i think it's a really, really good point and ideally that's what we sort of thought trump wanted. he wanted this chaos in front of him that would, you know, sort of sharpen the creativity and help him find the right answer, but the truth was that so much of it happened not in the room in front of trump where you're-- like as you said, the policies being discussed, but behind closed doors. behind each other's backs and i think, really, and trump never tried to harness that. trump never tried to focus that. the interview in 2017, that is during the scare mariucciy era
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and i asked trump about some of the back stabbing and back-biting. his take they were fighting to see who loves me the most. that's how he was doing it in a way and i think that these are sort of unresolved story lines from 2016 in that you know, the people who stuck around trump the longest were certainly the most loyal, you know, to extraordinary degrees, really. but you know, they all kind of tried to take credit for the victory in 2016. but the truth was, none of them really had the play book and as they sort of start, right from the beginning they were stepping over each other inside the white house and jared kushner keeps dave bossy and corey lewandowski completely out of the white house. and kellyanne conway, the first
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campaign manager to win a presidential race as a woman. and steve bannon articulates trumpisms in a way that no one can or has since then and might be the only person from the get-go put trump's at the top, reelection. and everyone had reasons for being around trump and he gets swept up in this sort of, you know, back stabbing with gary cone and jared cushman and ultimately does himself in a couple of different times. >> i guess connected to this, but just briefly, mike, why was the incumbent president, donald trump, reelection campaign such a huge, meaningless shambles? why did they never-- i mean, as i read the book, they found it impossible to
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articulate to put into words what they were standing for and what they wanted more of. what they wanted to continue. it seemed to me that the people around trump and trump had so much trouble grabbling with the meaning of this historical venture on which they were embarked and had been for four years. they didn't know until right inle the end what they were campaigning on and for, beyond donald trump and let's all continue to have jobs and be enjoying ourselves. but i -- i was just kind of shocked at what a shambles that campaign seemed to be. were you? >> yes. 100%. i mean, and it's, you know, for a campaign that had been set up three years in advance, and firing on all cylinders at the end and far from it, rebuilding
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the campaign in a lot of ways. i think broadly, the big problem is trump never resolved in itself what he wanted to be. and it's kind of personified by jared kushner and-- two, kushner is the kind of cold bloodless business man that trump ideaizes, and brad is the salesmanship and the energy in that. and somebody who never have been running a reelection campaign in 2020. but, the other hand, it was the perfect guy for trump because trump is such an unusual candidate here. and you give the job to brad, brad builds more or less a $2 million advertising firm for trump, in the final days, trump gets rid of him effectively and puts in charge bill stepien,
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more of an accountant and bill gets, now, deep in the weeds and wants to shrink costs and starts canceling, you know, lunch for the campaign, trying to save money, which, you know, just confused people and, you know, and effectively builds their data operation, their calling operation with just months to go, and still, with no real message or focus from trump on what this campaign is supposed to be. >> did trump know that about himself, that this was a major weakness, that he didn't know in a way what the theme was here? >> just think, look, i hire people to do that. they let me down as usual. >> well, i mean, the way i sort of address that is as after tulsa, that the one rally right
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where maga nation doesn't show up for him, and kind of the beginning of the end at that point. and the feedback he gets from all corners, not-- you know, he kind of sidelines, the one sort of time he sidelines jared and brings in other opinions and people tell him two things. one, you have to focus and find your message and figure out what this campaign is about or shake up the campaign. and for trump, you know, the people around him knew that that was never really going to be a choice. trump was never going to choose himself or choose what he was doing, it was always going to be someone else's fault and that's the decision he makes, and you know, which basically kind of-- starts to unwind the, you know, the two and a half years that had been put into the campaign at that point. >> michael, if it hadn't been for a historic pandemic and what i have felt and argued was
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the most extraordinary and historic challenge of the pandemic, is it possible to say from your vantage point, having observed for five years, is it possible to say, you know, if it hadn't been for that, the historic fact and its bungling, he would have had a good shot? i think i infer from your book, that he was in pretty darn good shape before then, or at least trump said he was in good shape before then. >> yeah, people forget that. in february of 2020, as trump is kind of high watermark politicalically. he's been impeached, yes, and survived and thriving, and the polling shows the american people kind of blame democrats and it's a fund raising coup for his campaign and kind of starts to fritter away pretty quickly when he tries to sort of, you know, impose his own
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reality on a pandemic that had its own, you know, had its own agenda. and i mean, i put this question to people close to trump about this. one is, and one thing it happened mid covid was just a disastrous debate performance he had in cleveland. >> yeah. >> and you know, and that was -- looking at a poll between that debate performance, but before trump tests positive for covid himself just a few days later, kind of in that window and saw his numbers just tank from that. so, that kind of sealed the deal for a lot of people, but i was struck by with a very senior person inside the white house who told me, when i asked that question, that if it wasn't for covid, trump would have found some other way to screw it up. which was-- >> say that again. that's so interesting.
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>> yeah, that trump insisted so many times on shooting himself in the foot, so many of trump's problems were of his own making that this person believes that had it not -- even not been for covid, that trump would have, you know, found some other way to lose this thing, even by -- just a few states. >> i've never heard anybody say that, that's so interesting. michael, we're coming up on the end here. maybe i'll just ask you, is there anything that you sort of wanted to cover that we didn't get to? i know there's a great deal. the 2020 campaign just continues to fast night me. i can't read enough about it, so your book was a great gift for me. what do you think, i guess, i ought to ask as a long time observer at this point after
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five or six years. donald trump's future. can you mantel when you think of the three words, donald trump's future. >> i know you would ask the question. i was never going to get the question-- nothing i could come up with that could be more poignant than your question and that's a very good way to end it. ... heavy, there's no bigger travesty for him than being part of as boring werebeing ignored so he wants to be part of the conversation . he wants to be told that he's still the most powerful figure in the republican but the fact is we'll have to see what 122 has in store. he's made twoad dozen endorsemet i think from the ascendant all the way down to staten burrell island board, and in a lot of
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these cases he's backed republican primaryes challenger. i'm still of the mind that even for a former president who is as popular and his own party as donald trump, that it's difficult to unseat incumbents. so he's endorsed primary challenges. he's backed some people who his team would rather not. he supporting rightbet now. so these are going to be -- if it's not overwhelming, if it's not sort off saddam hussein numbers, he's going to get criticized for it. the republican party has a choice before them in 2022. this is their opportunity to define the party post trump, and i don't know if they will or how theyan will, but i do know that
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with this book they have to go into that decision with their eyes wide open. >> okay. that is a great way to wrap this up. michael, i had a lot of fun. i know the book is doing very well. i hope it continues to prosper and fly off the shelves. >> we are in our third printing. politics and prosese has copies. e-books are always available, and i'm just so touched that people are interested in this book and is doing well. it's more than i hoped, so thank you so much. in this t as a highlight for me. thank you very, very much. thank you very much. thank you, everybody who called in and that such smart questions. and, bradley, thank you, back to you.
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>> great moderating, peggy. michael, i know the past year would've been exhausting enough for you if you had just done your day job for the journal. i'm so glad he made the extra effort and down even more deeply into what was happening with and around trump for your book. >> thank you. >> everyone watching, thanks for tuning in. a w reminder that in the chat calling you can find a link for purchasing copies of "frankly, we did win this election and you heard michael say that while amazon may be sold out we now don't have copies at p&p, we have signed copies so please order as many as you would like. from all of us here at politics and prose, stay well and well read. >> if you are enjoying booktv, sign up for our newsletter using the qr code on the screen to receive a scheduled upcoming programs, other discussions, book festivals and more. booktv every sunday on c-span2
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or anytime online at television for serious readers. >> weekends on c-span2 on an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story, and on sundays booktv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 come from these television companies and more including charter communications. >> broadband is a force for empowerment. that's why charter has invested billions holding infrastructure, upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter communications along with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. >> i'm brad graham, co-owner politics and prose along with my wife lissa


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