tv Michael Bender Frankly We Did Win This Election CSPAN August 23, 2022 9:19pm-10:20pm EDT
the world changed in an instant but mediacom was ready. traffic soared but he never slowed down. schools and businesses meant virtual and we powered a new reality because we are built to keep you ahead. >> along with these television companies supporting c-span2 as a public service. >> good evening and welcome. i'm the co-owner of politics and prose along with my wife lisa muscatine. we have a great program. in conversation with peggy noonan. frankly we did when the selection. a couple housekeeping notes
first to post a question click on the q-and-a icon at the bottom of the screen and you will find a link for purchasing copies of frankly we did win thisis election. the journalism career has followed a pretty steady upward trajectory byrs joining the jobs in washington. after working for newspapers in ohio, colorado and florida and a senior political writer for bloomsburg he joined the journal years ago as the senior white house correspondent. after t the 2016 run for the presidency all four of the years in office winning awards for his reporting for the national press club and the gerald ford foundation. he set out to write a book aboul trump's 2020 reelection campaign he expected to do what he called 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 in the pandemic. there was nothing traditional about trump's campaign. michael's book chronicles the chaos and the disorganization and marked the reelection effort and the disastrous dysfunctional response to the coronavirus crisis and the battles between trump and military advisors to ounleash soldiers on of the cil rights protests and much, much more. the review of the book called the nuanced and publishers weekly termedkl the book and immersive blow-by-blow rundown. peggy noonan marked the conversation here this evening and has been a columnist for "the wall street journal" since 2000. four years ago won the pulitzer prize for commentary.
she's also the author of nine books. u.s. politics history and culture and most recent of which was the time in our lives. michael and peggy, the screen is yours. >> thank you. thank you so much. it's wonderful to be back at politicshe and prose where i had some of my most wonderfully dispirited and most full of back and forth readings from past books and a command days with yourpa audience is and i hope wn this is all over. i hope that we all can come back and see you again. it is great to spend an hour on this evening with the senior white house reporter as you know for "the wall street journal" ima columnist on the op-ed page. he is a major presence and
highly regarded colleague on the news side. let me just jump in here. i loved your book including your love of fact, deep reporting, fair mindedness and calm tone as you paint one overr the top aftr another. it's really some kind of narrative. did you when you began the book obviously you were thinking the inner workings of the trump campaign in 2020 as the move for reelection after the most extraordinary presence you must ithave thought that in itself ia rich story, which of course it is and of course it promised to
this one that's for sure. 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. things happen so quickly in 2020 and that is coming after 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 m me to cover one of them. but then 2020 happened and it's even crazier. the presidential election is the biggest story in the world. that wasn't the case in 2020. there's so much happening in the pandemic and the civil justice protests into the economy and
all the kind of merging into one we didn't really focus in on the campaign until the end of the race and the final few months. so, yeah after the race ended and i kind of sat down and ended the chapters it was kind of ant moment where it seemed like a new book and yeah i have a veryy supportive wife and a very supportive family that was able to take over the responsibility and at the time when everybody's stress levels were higher and the 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. >> so, tell me. g you mentioned right from the get-go in the book you had
something that struck me so hard for it's almost sort of detached empathy with which you approached what i thought was the wonderful narrative thread of the front. the men and women who were great trump supporters who went to his rallies and made friends throughout the country and then started to deliberately traveling to rallies and seeing each other. i think there was one marriage in the group. >> they got to know you and they got to trust you. tell us who they were and what learning all about them told you about this current political scene that we are living in.
>> i wanted to make this book readable to people. there's no shortage of books where you can fill the library with books about trump the last 30 to 40 years. i've written over a thousand00 stories just to "the wall street journal" and you know, i wanted to give people something that a reason to keep turning the i pages. this book is the only one to date that explains trump from the oval office from the exclusive memos and tax messages and decision-making process. aanother piece of this is an embedded for two years with the people who go to 30, 40, 50 by the end of 2060 and what i
wanted to do here is understand a little bit more about this movement. what about them as people have been coming back again and again. i was very lucky they trusted me to tell her. story i think it enriched my story right now and these are folks that had a lot of time on their hands that are retired or almost retired. trump, they were drawn to his energy in the same way a lot of people were drawn to obama.
was right along the way they have the processes or fox news and it got smaller and smaller by the end of the year when fox called. a lot of these people called off fox news. they get their news from a smaller and smaller number of sources. some of the people start to question it a little bit. some of them on the campaign trail in 2020. in 2020 i think to tell the
the illusion that a trump cared about them and understood them or was the illusion that he cared about themm not even important was that all about something else? the refusal to be correct they saw that as evidence that he h understood them and was willing to do and say whatever it took to break washington. now we sit here in august of
2021 and but for the vast majority it was kind of 100% all in in the beginning and a fundamental cost. i've covered politics for 20 some years, 22 years and the state legislatures in washington i've never met or seen any political movement where the supporters take it personally. itrt reinforced the support from the e company and. >> those portraits reminded me of a number of people i know and members of my family and how they also have a relation to
trump so it's wonderful. i also felt thatha so many of te front row. as you painted so many with local organizations and churches and family they were not fully integrated in a way. they had a lot of time on their hands and money to spend to go for a day but also when trump came on the stage in 2015, they found a home and a central organizing principle. and i've just seen that is so much. here i'm going to jump around a little bit. here's the question that will require a guess on your part
based on your long-standing 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 an expression of the usual careleso trauma for a matter of psychological denial like the fact that the loss would break his psyche but interestingly enough, i don't think it would have broken it in 2016. was the idea that he had been erejected by a majority of the voters just unbelievable to him or was stopped the steel just a way to excite and entertain his followers and also explained to them their defeat, they hadn't
they fall to the great fight and effectively did you ever see anything thatat makes u believe this is totally fully cynical? >> no i don't think it is fully senecal. i think it is part of my answer here was going to be the people around trump, the people closest to trump as you mentioned they don't really know the answer to this question it kind of catches independence. both times most of the questions i ask he brought back to missing
belts in michigan, fault and fot georgia in the i conspiracy theaters and in arizona. there's one point i asked him about you remember through the election the defense in court the claims were ridiculous and to see what his reaction was, he kind of cycled through all of the emotions. he said that it was something a veryb dumb to say. he doubted if it was a
boilerplate. she never really technically represented me. you know that, distancing yourself from her. it's sort of depends on january 6th was this horrific but in o a lot of ways inevitabe to what trump had been telling us for years and decades. it would only be election fraud. he claimed there was fraud when the apprentice lost in its run. there's another theme in the book i sort of describe as the dichotomy with trump. the only way he's going to lose with the concerns that were happening in public at the time
were repeated in 2020 but behind the scenes, it's 2016, he's worried he's going to lose and is talking to some other people and said he told this plan about how on election night he is not giving a speech, isn't going to come out, he's going to give his talks and they are going to, you know, go for a few days and she erupts in. [laughter] the point it kind of takes some of the other people offguard a little bit. a little bit awkward. trump says what's so funny and she saysne no one goes to monaco in november. but there you have trump worried about moving claiming fraud. i do think it is i don't think it is purely senecal.ul
i don't think he fully believes it. running through the cycles at the end of the day he does think even the protected brand and republican leaders know in congress they think that there is something to this. trump didn't win. they know that. they see a way to energize the issues as a way to energize the base into 2022 and beyond. >> one of the things i thought of when i was reading the book is that clearly you had a lot of solid relationships with a lot of solid sources who spoke to you with sometimes extraordinary
candor. you cover donald trump every day for six years. we used to say he liked you were he didn't dislike you. i got the impression reading the book you didn't know why. you had a some theories. i want to hear your furious. but i also want to hear i think you just referenced it. i think it was in the early spring of 2021 when you were at home, it's the pandemic, you just filed the story or were filing one in o the usual mess everybody was in in the pandemic your hair is long you probably haven't shaved, and you get a call c from the white house and you are 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 do 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 in that moment? >> i don't know. i think it's he had not done any interviews at that point for a long time and he wanted to get him back into some sort of rhythm of doing these interviews. i was struck by so many things that day. >> to sit for 20 minutes at the ioval office by himself i had never heard of such a thing. the oval office is the place that's usually fairly well protected and monitored.
>> most of it is the baseline for donaldfo trump and how muche fights with of the media. that is he knows the utility being criticized. i did work for "the wall street journal" withad a generous amout of respect and they had respected of the reporting i'd done on him for a while and interviewed trump tower back in 2016 and he had done a number of oval office interviews along the way so he's familiar with me and he liked my hair. that is one thing every single
time he complemented or commented on. he actually called me in april about a story from a few days earlier like the eighth or ninth paragraph o in the piece wanting to dispute a few of the words and we ended up talking for 20 minutes and to my surprise it was one of the conferences he told me at the end of the conversation he was supposed to be prepping for the news conference. he said he was going to bring news which i believed him but he asked me why i hadn't been coming to the conferences and the truth was with concern of the family and trying to be safe more or less quarantining but he
had said he would get me in,r almost like a bouncer at the club, put me on the vip list and when i told him i thought i would come, he invited me for an interview. so that we can do. so followed up with his press team and said the only thing i ask is don't call and ask me to be here in five minutes. again the pandemic. a load of dynamics with family and i'm in full work from home mode with the same clothes i've been in for days. so they call me and say can you ugbe here in five minutes. i'm going to reference my wife again, ashley parker, the wonderful and talented white house bureau chief forea the "washington post" she basically drives mese to the white house while i'm jotting down questions and chatting with my team getting questions.
i show up and meet with the press secretaryy and communications director and they tell me you have 45 minutes or an hour here. whatever you want to ask is fair game. i asked if there was some news to break or anything like that to get my notes ready or to be thinking about. no,, he just wanted to do an interview and you were on the tip of his tongue so he called. so the book had come out that morning or had been leaked that morning so we spent the first few minutes responding to that but i don't get the sense that's why he called me. this sort of move struck him and we spent an hour plus going back and forth. that was the interview where the sort of big news he claimed he made juneteenth the core of his
rally so that may have played a part. he was trying to get ready for his first rally i in months. maybe sharpen up a little bit in that sense but it was a wide-ranging interview in all thesen different topics. he told me he made it famous and said it pushed back the rally after the secret service agent told him how important it was to the community and that he had been personally offended by holding a rally in the middle os the civil rights protest on juneteenth in tulsa of all places so it can be a very revealing interview when he wants to speak. >> i should note it's 7:30 and we are going to go in about five
or ten minutes i guess the viewers should know i'm going to start to take a look s at the questions that you are sending in and then i will read them as they come in. so that is everybody your five or ten minute warning. you know i told you in advance i might geek out on the theodore white the making of a president a series and kept thinking of when i was reading your book that now i'm going to not [inaudible] short answer the books made akn huge impression on me when i was a teenager he was doing original work covering presidential campaigns which nobody had really thought to cover before and doing them in a beautiful
smooth narrative. he just swept me away about politics. he captured the romance of history, the romance of politics and the high-stakes faced by people involved in it. so just quickly was teddy white whitea big deal to you when youe aa kid and was he ever on your mind when you are working on frankly we did win this election? >> yes. it is a huge honor to even be in the same to ask about him let alone compare to his books and place in this genre to find the books so thank you for that and i love his books. i haven't read all of them but i
definitelyit read the 1960s book and one of my first purchases it was college or my first job in colorado at the sentinel when amazon sold books back in those days. it was a sort of capstone to his books america in search ofrc itself which was like 1960 to 1980 was the one i really devoured and really loved. but yeah it was that one or that sort of urgency of moving on the campaign trail or the sharp analysis of the political fictions. i atef up all of those and certainly my kind of coming-of-age book was game change and that redefined the genre again. i would have loved to have done
something to some of those books but 2020 moved so quickly it was hard to keep track of what was happening to incorporate some of that stuff but i love those books those are wonderful. >> i think i'm going to do one more question and then we will open it up to the floor if i can press the right button. something i grew more and more curious about as i read your book, you are a major front-page correspondent." for "the wall street journal." your wife, whom you mentioned a few answers ago, ashley parker, fabulous reporter, just terrific. she is i think the white house bureau chief of the "washington post." you each represent a separate and competing news
organizations. you are both covering the white house. you're both covering the extraordinary trump white house and thery extraordinary 2011, 20 election. you can't tell her about the journal of the investigative project both working at home with an occasional earshot of each other. as i read by the end i thought this is a katherine hepburn movie. you are pat and mike. how did you do this on a daily basis? tell us about that. and is there any chance at all that no one has come to you and
said this is a movie i want to watch? >> we haven't sold the movie rights. open toot negotiations and discussing the book. it was kind of both sides of the claim. it's great and it's terrible. it was nice covering someone like trump and for all theat pressure and all the battles at the white house and people outside of the white house, trump will broadly to be able to vent about that.
there's a lot to go around. very rarely is it the same exact details of the story. i was home first and she had come in the door and said i need to work tonight i need to bedroom and i said i need to work tonight. i will take the first floor and it was this back and forth and kind of opposite corners of the house until the next morning when i was in the newsroom and one of my colleagues from across the newsroom said ashley just broke that tellers and got fired. it's one of the times i threw something across the newsroom and it was early enough it didn't hit anyone. but it helped that probably she regularly between on the
stories. >> how old is your oldest child? >> ten. a10-year-old daughter. >> that is a 10-year-old daughter. what does she think you t do foa living? what does she think ashley does for a living and how does she understand that? >> she's a very precocious 10-year-old being raised in washington, she knows. i brought her to the white house a couplele of times. the days of the trump white house its flaws bring your daughter to work day. i don't know how -- i know the person who ran it and she was really good and those days were wonderful. she sat in the briefing room and asked sean spicer questions like why the white house [inaudible] six at this time he didn't know randy saidd he would get back to her. t president trump told her 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 it if she was getting 20% of your answers wrong at school. >> only getting a.d. why are you -- >> i have a good memory from when she was even younger on the radio she didn't like trump because she also had met obama in the white house and you can imagine michelle and barack obamaer very brief christmas parties but totally ignored me rightfully so and put all of their attention into her forwarr whatever 90 seconds that was and she remembers that all then she heard trump on the radio excoriating obama. but also in the pandemic the only time she saw the tv turned
on she started by the mid-pandemic to ask trump on tv so kind of both sides of the coin. a little bit of a trump fan. >> i'm taking a look at these questions here. let's see. could noonan make the questions more succinct. i'm here to hear benders thoughts. >> it's been really fun. thank you so much. as somebody asked about trump got 74 million votes in 2020.hi
do you think that is the high watermark based on the 2020 campaign, shouldn't those from the biden camp and of those on the left be secretly wishing for donald trump to win again, do you have an opinion on that? >> that's a good question. i think democrats are going to have their own issues and have their own issues to beo moving one way or another for what happens in the republican party, but everyone was shocked. the trump's own campaign predicted and that is 15%, that is huge over performance however you want to look at it so it kind of mystifies me that this was a little bit off script and i might be an outlier on this but it mystifies me that we still have this kind of conventional wisdom that
republicans are helped by smaller turnout. .. had long embraced in fact shepherded and a lot of states. it could have been even higher. hooks i just have a thought here, this is not one ofst the questions but jumped into my mind as i read a question, have you been in the by then white house much? w if so what is the difference between how did the biden white house feels and how the trumpet
white house felt? >> i have not spent that much time in the biden white house. but i've got more questions about this. i think it w is hard but it's hd to cov as i is to cover biden. but covering trump with easy pickings and there are so many things you tell us to learn things to collect. the problemm with covering trump summary things were not reliable. i mentioned my long newspaper career whether it was commission meetings or schooly board meetings or state legislative committeee hearings. never have i been anywhere except the trumpet white house were eight people could go to a meeting and 12 versions of what happened in that meeting emerge after words.ni to understand what was happenine behind the scenes you needed to talk to almost everybody he wash in the room to have an
understanding of what happened because there are so many rivalries trump came up in the tabloid culture you understand the tabloid culture you understand how the trumpet world operated. the same at 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 happens. it's exhausting cover biden but in a much different way. >> i never quite understood. i felt like i spent five years writing of the deeply lots of backstabbing, lot subdivisions. i actually never understood why they did not all get along. why they were all against each other. did not understand why it was such a fractious white house.
having observed a number of the white house fairly up close i tend to think a fractious white house is better than a white house were everyone gets along very peaceful they are all on the same page. i think there ought to big big fights in the white house and they ought to be in the white house also the white housetw and agencies they ought to be serious fights about serious policy. i did not get the impression the trumpet white house it was about serious policy. it was about some magical discord that i could not quite understand. did you have a handle on it? >> is a really, really good point. ideally that's without trump wanted. he wanted this chaos in front of him that would sharpen the
creativity and help him find the right answer. but the truth was so much happened not in the room in front of trump as you said policies being discussed, but behind closed doors behind each backs. and trump never tried to harness that. trump never tried to focus that interview in 2017 and i asked trump about some of theg, backstabbing and his take on it was they were all fighting over who love me the most. that's how he was doing it in a way. these are sort of unresolved frstorylines from 2016 the peope who stuck around trump the longest were thehe most loyal to
extraordinary degrees really. the all try to take credit for the victory in 2016. the truth was none of them have the playbook. inside the white house jared keeps completely out of the white house. killing on conway at first female manager to win the presidential race in the nation's history. she never quite get that do. steve bannon articulates a trump -ism night no encounter has since then. i might be thebe only person frm the get go but trump's reelection. everyone else seemed to have the reasons for to be around trump.
he gets this backstabbing ultimately does himself in a couple of different times. >> it gets connected to this but just briefly why it was the incumbent president, donald trump reelection campaign such a huge meaningless shambles? as i read the book they found it impossible to 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 people around trump and trump had so much trump grappling with the historical venture on which they were embarked and had been for four years. they did not know right until the end what they were
campaigning on and for be on donald trump and let's all continue to have jobs in be enjoying ourselves. i was just kind of shocked at what a shamble that campaign seemed to be, were you? >> yes one 100%. for a campaign that set up three years in advance that should have been firing on all cylinders in the end and it was far from it. they were rebuilding the campaign and the lot of noise in those final days. broadly the big problem is trump knowingly never really resolved himself what he wants to be. it's personified as the cold blooded businessman that trump idealized. and brad is a pop culture marketing advertiser branding, salesmanship and sees the energa
in that. in some ways should never have been running a reelection campaign in 2020. but on the other hand because trump such an unusual candidate here. gets the job to brad more or less to billion-dollar advertising firm. in the final days trumpet gets rid of him and put in charge who is more of an accountant. he gets deep in the weeds starts canceling lunch for the campaign trying to save money and effectively their 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 did not know and await what the theme was here? >> i hire people to do that. they have let me down as usual. and the way i address that is after tulsa the one rally for the nation does not show up for him. kind of the beginning of the end at that point. the feedback he gets from all corners he kind of sidelines the one time he sidelined jared he brings in other opinions and people tone two things one issue have to focus. you either have to focus, find your message and fear with this campaign is about. or shake up the campaign. and for trump the people around
him knew that was never going to be a choice. trump was never going to choose what he was doing it was always going to be someone else's fault. and that is the decision he makes. which basically starts to unwind the two and half years have been put into the campaign at that point. that had not been for a historic pandemic and what i have felt and argued was the most extraordinary bungling of the pandemic is it possible to save from your vantage point is it possible to say if it had not been for the historical fact wea would've had a good shot? i think i infer from your book he was in pretty darn good shape
that he was in good shape before them for. >> yes people forgot that. in february 2020 trump is at the high watermark is impeached and he is thriving the h polling shs that all fritters away pretty quicklyy imposes own had its own agenda. i put this question to people close to trump about this. one is mid covid is disastrous debate performance he had in cleveland. we were looking to have a pole between that debate performance
but before trump tested positive for covid himself a few days later. kind of in that window and saw his numbers tank from that. that seemed to seal the deal foe a lot of people. i was struck by a very senior person inside the white house who told me when i asked that question if it was not for covid trump would have found some other way to screw it up. >> say that again that is so interesting. >> that trump insisted so many times to shoot himself in the foot so many of trumpms subproblems were of his own making this person believed that have it not been for covid that trump would have found some other way to lose this thing by just a few states. >> i've never heard anybody say that. that is so interesting. michael we are coming up on the
end here. maybe i will just ask you is there anything you sort of wanted to cover that we did not get to? i know there is a great deal the 2020 campaign continues to fascinate me. i cannot read enough about it so your book was a great gift for me. what do you think i20 ought to k as a long-time observer at this point after five or six years, donald trump's future. can you imagine when you think of the three years and check words donald trump's futureal b. >> i was i could come up with more pointed to your questions that's a very good way to end it. t see. he wants to be part of the headlines i mentioned earlier
there's no bigger sin for him or travesty being ignored. once be part of the education. what's to be told he's still the most powerful figure in the republican party for the fact is were going to have to see what 2022 has in store. he has made two dozen endorsements i think from that u.s. senate and a lot of cases he is backed republican primarys challengers. i am still of the mind for a former president as popular as some parties it is difficult to unseat incumbents. he is back to some people who
these are going to be data points. if it's not overwhelming that's not saddamam hussein numbers hes going to get criticized for it. this is their opportunity to find the party post trump. i don't know if they will or how they will need to know with this book they have to go into thatde 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. >> here in our third printing more or less sold out on amazon since the second day it was out.
keep trying to find it politics and prose has copies, the book is always available. i am so touched people are interested in this book and it's doing well. it is been more than i hope so thank you so much. this is a highlight for me, thank you very, very much regrets thank you michael very much. thank you everybody who called in and had such smart questions. and bradley, thank you and back to you. >> great moderating peggy i know the past year would be exhausting enough for you. he would do just done your day job for the journal. everyone watching thanks for tuning in you can find links to copy frankly we did win this
election. you heard michael say amazon may be sold out, we not only have copies we have signed copies. so please order as many as you would like. from all of us here politics and prose, stay well and well read. >> if you are enjoying book tv and sign up for our newsletter using the qr code on the screen. to receive the schedule of upcoming programs, author discussions, book festivals and more. book tv every sunday on cspan2 or any time online at booktv.org. television for serious readers. ♪ >> weekends on cspan2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story and on sunday book tv rings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for cspan2 comes in these television companies and more.
including comcast. >> you think this is just a committee center? no it's way more than that. comcast's partner with 1000 committee centers to create wi-fi enabled so students from low income families can get the tools they need to be ready for anything. >> comcast along with these television companies support cspan2 as a public service. >> i am brad graham the co-owner politics and prose along with my wife. here with us this evening's attorney and legal commentator to talk about his new book hatchet man help bill barr broke the prosecutors code and corrupted the justice department. upcouple of brief housekeepingar notes though pose a question any point click on the q&a icon at the bottom of the screen. the check, find a link for purchasing copies of hatchet man. now, the key thing to