tv 2019 White House Correspondents Association Dinner CSPAN April 28, 2019 7:29pm-8:01pm EDT
years old. >> next, historian talked about the history of journalism and amendment and made several references to president trump, who did not attend the dinner. instead, holding a rally in green bay, wisconsin. [applause] >> i can say i was surprised when i heard the invitation to speak your tonight. -- here tonight. told they wanted to try boring. i said, i can deliver on that the time. -- big time. now, you're talking my language.
here i am, your 20-minute sedative for the evening. as you all know, on tuesday, the president let it be known that he wanted members of hitters ministration -- of his administration to be away from the center. then i heard a rumor was circulating in washington that i was going to be reading aloud from the redacted portions of the mueller report, and everything was explained. of course, there has been some squawking from the comedians, and i am sorry about that. i thought that those folks would have a little bit more of a sense of humor about my selection. after all, they are comedians. we need them now more than ever during this surreal interlude in american life. people are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke.
that describes our topsy-turvy moment. [applause] >> i hope the comics will be back in the future. meanwhile, it is always fun for a serious historian to stand in the crossfire of an active work some -- war zone. i thought i should research my audience as a dutiful historian. i picked up a coffee of henry gibson's big-play, enemy of the people. i had not realized before the president was a student of norwegian literature. did you know that? it takes place in a smaller wage discoveryat hopes the of mineral springs will turn the sleepy backwater into a driving spohn. -- spawn. they discover that the miraculous springs are actually polluted and breeding typhoid and other diseases.
it is naive to say he imagines the townspeople are gathering to a blood him as their savior from this calamity. then he discovers it is a political comedy -- commodity with political interests. his house is stoned and his windows are shattered and he was an enemy of the people. the next time you're dubbed an enemy of the people, please think of the term in the norwegian sense and where it as a badge of honor. [applause] make a delighted to spirit tonight for the first amendment. we have to fight hard for basic truths we once took for granted. of -- a piecech of parchment called the bill of rights. analysis, it sends
between the free press and executive tyranny. james madison was a tiny sickly man who probably would not have done past the bounces in this ballroom. medicine believes in these 10 amendments and did not want them to act on -- madison believed in these 10 amendments. considered the first amendment indispensable. he regarded a free press as the cornerstone of democracy. as jefferson famously said, it was to choose between a government without newspapers or a newspaper without government. he would prefer the latter. [applause] the first amendment was not oftten for the exclusive use choirboys, nor was it granted on good behavior.
stupidity is protected by the u.s. constitution. that became clear during george washington's first term in office. as best as i can tell, washington committed only one major blunder as president. he failed to put his name on mount vernon. he failed at an early opportunity of branding. [applause] settlepoor man had to for the lowly title of father of his country. a very sad story. [applause] [laughter] the golden age of iters hidingn, wr behind pseudonyms. washington became the victim of the most preposterous slander.
the british had gotten a very poor return on their investment. attacks cameiggest from an unexpected source on washington, thomas jefferson, the secretary of state, who hired a poet as state department translator. he was perfectly qualify for the translator job except for one small detail. he did not know a foreign language. he recruited him to form a party organ called the national gazette that would publish against the very president that jefferson served. off copies ofp his incendiary paper on washington's doorstep every day. it is hard to convey the anguish to see the compressed criticism.
cartoon they printed a showing washington being beheaded along louis the 16th. jefferson required washington's towering rage. rascal sent us three of his papers every day. despite this extreme provocation , washington always honored the first amendment saying this must they place in opposition to the infinite benefits resulting from a free press. like every future president, washington felt maligned and misunderstood by the press, but he never generalized that into a vendetta against the institution. [applause]
>> he had it printed in the newspapers that readers could digest and consider it. main theme here tonight is that relations between presidents and the press are inevitably tough, almost always adversarial, but they don't need to be steep in benham -- in venom. [applause] >> our founders were highly literate people and none more so than alexander hamilton. an immigrant who arrived, thank god, before the country was full. [applause] [laughter] why they let the guy in. clearly somebody had slipped up at the southern border. now, hamilton was a human word machine. when columbia university press published 27 fake volumes of his
collected papers, the editor use to joke you wanted to dedicate the entire voluminous addition because without his cooperation, the project would never have been completed. hamilton had a flourishing career as a journalist and government official, founding the new york post long before the incarnation. hamilton cranked out as many as five or six essays per week. mind you, with a full-time legal practice. he was writing the federalist papers as a sideline. after leaving his first treasury secretary, hamilton took to the newspapers to defend a major treaty. he wrote one set of essays under the pen name camillus, then launched a parallel series with another name.
-- they were both rapturous and their mutual admiration for the former treasury secretary, one alexander hamilton. [laughter] during the administration of john adams, the country lurched into it. reaction.od of congress approved an act that againstillegal to write the president in the press. john adams not only lost his real election in 1800, but as jeffersonian opponents reigned supreme for the next quarter
century. campaigns against the press do not get your face carved into the rocks of mile rushmore -- of mount rushmore. when you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy. [applause] >> people now say that we are ofhting for the soul america, but we have always been fighting for the soul of america. we have always fallen short of the hollowed ideals in our founding documents. america has always been a work in progress, a perpetual journey. a freedom ride with the final destination. it has been forced to renew and rediscover our country's promise. dr. martin luther king jr. said never believe that the moral are universal --
fieldscious republic gradual, even perishable at the moment, after the shooting in the synagogue, our civil society feels fragile as a. -- as well. we have also seen the wisdom of our constitution at work. a independent judiciary and rejuvenated congress. we are being tested, fiercely tested. i would like to think that decency will prevail. history shows that the american people can be swept up in all sorts of misguided and wrongheaded things. think japanese internment camps. in the long run, democracy and doors. [applause] endures. [applause] >> during the civil war, we
battled each other with battalions. we slaughtered 750,000 of our fellow citizens. amputees hobbled through every american town. at the end of the bloody conflict, abraham lincoln set around eight -- set around a satinia camp fire -- around a virginia camp fire. i believe like lincoln and that saving that remnant of grace in our country. he ended the unspeakable cruelty of slavery and jim crow. america has always been at its greatest when it admitted its mistakes and saw to overcome them. -- sought to overcome them.
[applause] >> let me move on to the press in the 20th century. back in the day of william mckinley, there was a long table and reporters on the second floor. one journalist complains, it is part of the law of the white house that newspaper men should never approach the president as he passes unless he himself stops and talks to them. those were innocent days. reporters shielded the private presidents. harding, a married man, drink heavily and gambled freely.
he had a 15 year affair with his best friend's wife and the mistress and an illegitimate baby right there in chicago. theyoung mistress sat in balcony of the convention hall to join the speeches. party bossesed the he could not think of a single personal problem to worry about. [laughter] >> of course, the press would grow bigger as the century theressed in relations with white house. they would grow more accurate no means -- acrimonious. collect it a museum of presidential decorum, at this confrontational moment in american politics, civility has been an essential lubricant in our democratic culture and our best presidents have handled the press with grace, charm, candor,
and even humor. after mckinley's from italy, roosevelt -- rooseveltnley, teddy devoured the white house and seemed to retain all the books. when novelists who wrote it -- who brought a new book to dinner, they were surprised the president had read it by breakfast the next morning. he enjoyed a natural affinity with the press corps. hour, --ra's wouldbbling president spout a never-ending stream of opinions while his poor barbara tried to shave him without slitting the presidential throat. [laughter] when calvin coolidge was president, he had the first
couple of press conferences. they had to sit stiffly behind his desk working through a tidy stack of index cards. press relations only worsened with his successor, herbert hoover. in his own personal clone, even his own secretary of state conversing with uber said -- hoover said it was like sitting in a bath of ink. he proved so unpopular that one reporter said he was the first known instance of a rat joining the sinking ship. when franklin roosevelt came into office, he slipped away the restrictive rules and treated reporters like run ups -- like grown-ups. we are not going to have any
more genial questions. why i should not talk to you ladies and gentlemen off the record. please note the ladies and gentlemen. the one hundred 25 reporters packed into the oval office that they. they were so impressed by fdr's rules that they gave him a standing ovation at the end. the first and undoubtedly the last time that whatever happen. fdr conducted nearly 1000 press conferences at the end, not to mention 30 fireside chats, and even eleanor roosevelt held her own press conferences where she invited only female reporters. [cheers and applause] >> right on. most hidebound publishers were forced to no higher women publishers -- to now hire women publishers.
john f. kennedy probably retired the prize. his memory reminds us how far a little self-deprecating humor can go. remember modesty? when a small boy asked kennedy how he became a war hero, he replied, it was absolutely involuntary. they sank my boat. 1958, kennedy was being touted as a presidential hopeful, but he was shattered by rumors that his rich father had but the race. -- bought the race. he proudly announced he had a telegram from his general daddy -- generous daddy. i will be down to graham going to pay for a landslide -- "i will be dammed if i am going to pay for a landslide." the press was enthralled. 60 million captivated viewers
onlyglued to their tv sets eclipsed by the 70 million who watched the beatles debut three years later in 1964. i often wondered what the beatles' poll numbers would look like that presidential year. he became president, he said i think that most of the time the overwhelming majority of reporters do a fine job. as a former reporter, i know just how tough their job can be. nevertheless, reagan had a bumpy relationship with the press. 19 81, he was shot and nearly killed outside this very hotel. the washington hilton, as he was going into his limousine. a bullet lodged within an inch of his heart. reagan was scheduled to speak at the white house correspondents dinner. and so, he telephoned in this
line. if i can give you just one little bit of advice, when someone tells you to get into a cart wake, do it -- a car quake, quick, dou -- it. we all bona fide members of team usa whether democrats or republicans and not friends of enemy camps. [applause] >> ok, i know i am wallowing in lesslgia and ignoring savory moments of these and other presidents. next and forced himself to go to dinners like this with reporters who had just written exposes of him. nixon followed the advice of ron zigler and decided to play a good sport at the white house correspondents dinner.
he did not impress the news media. after his next press conference, nixon said the reporters were considerably more bad mannered and ambitious than usual. treating them with considerably more content is a more productive policy. [laughter] >> when nixon had hosted a party he thought hiss, masculine appeal and sufficiently acknowledged press coverage. that is what the new york times and washington post should be writing about. i am going to kick their butts around the blood -- asses around the block. of course, the one that ended up getting his ass kicked around the block was you know. you folks in the media, we as ,istorians, the later once
given immediacy to our sagas. an immediacy to our sagas. i think you do noble work to preserve democracy at a time when a rising tide of misinformation masquerading as news threatens to make a mockery of the first amendment. [applause] journalisticy takes injured -- and forgeries out there that the genuine article can become devalued and defaced. they search out news outlets that strengthen their preconceived views. any to a good a time as take stock and rededicate yourself to the highest standards of journalistic integrity and accuracy. donald j. trump is not the first and will not be the last american president to create bias about the first amendment.
be humble and be skeptical, and the -- be aware about the very things you are fighting against. the press is a powerful weapon. it must only be fired with reluctance and aimed with position. warren buffett has a handy saying, always take the high road, it is far less crowded there. washington, a politician will sail along for hours not spotting another car. you folks should always remember you are heirs to a crusading tradition that dates back to ida b wells exposing the horrors of lynching. upton sinclair, the scandalous beef packing industry. rachel carson, the dangers of pesticide. exposing watergate.
the new york times and the washington post publishing the pentagon papers. is glorious, you folks are part of it, and we can't have politicians trampling on it with impunity. [applause] [cheers and applause] >> thank you. i'm sorry to report i am not finished. once that under the political system that would keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
we simply cannot allow the press to become an imaginary hobgoblin exploited for political gain. the thing that troubles they must at the moment is the sustained and cavalier disregard of autocratic regimes abroad. as john adams said, facts are stubborn things and our wishes cannot alter them. facts are the foot soldiers of our professions. they do the hard marching and should wear no ideological coloring. we cannot have agreement without the facts. more importantly, without the facts, we cannot have an honest disagreement. any president who was buyers to the nobel prize for peace, we don't want in the running for the nobel prize for fiction. ulysses s. grant was not a flawless president, but he was a stickler for the truth. one day in the white house, he was busy when a stranger called
knowing grant was occupied. they informed the usher, till the gentle man the president is out. overhearing this, don't tell him that, he said, tell them i am engaged and must the excused. i never like for myself and do not want anyone to lie for me. -- lie for myself and do not want anyone to life for me. -- lie for me. what is happening today is perhaps even more insidious, a relentless campaign against the very credibility of the news media. even the smartest courtroom lawyers and -- can defend the press against sweeping attacks. you folks can only preserve that credibility in one way, with accurate, and energetic
recording -- reporting. since i have truly deprived you of a comedian tonight, i vote i and with some pertinent quotes with a satirical eye on washington follies. i love this quote. " sometimes i wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles really mean it." abouthould be scathing capitol hill is saying there is no distinctly native american criminal class except for congress. -- as we head into anothe election season, i leave you with one final gem.
rs must bes' diape changed often, and for the same reason. good night, and god bless america. [cheers and applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> once, television was simply three giant networks and a pbs -- pbs.led ob let viewers decide all on their own what was important to them. c-span opened the doors to washington policymaking for all to see, bringing you unfiltered
content from congress and beyond. in the age of power to the people, this was true people power. the landscape has clearly changed. broadcasting has given way to narrowcasting. youtube stars are a thing. but c-span's big idea is bigger today than ever. on television and online, c-span is your unfiltered view of government so you can make up your own mind. >> here's a look at some of tonight schedule. q&a is next with new york times columnist david brooks on his book "the second mountain: the quest for a moral life." at 9:00 :00, questions from the british house of commons. prime minister theresa may was away, and and a member of her cabinet to questions.
supreme court justice is the guest on talk of the hill. he is interviewed about the court's inner workings, current cases and proposals by some democratic residential candidates to overhaul and expand the court and term limit the justices. ♪ brian: david brooks, in your new mountain" yound have this sentence. gina wondered if i was going woo woo about eight years ago. i hope she is satisfied with the brooks woo woo phase. david: i was writing about sociology and most of my books. i books have never been about politics. most of my
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