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tv   Discussion on President Trump the Media  CSPAN  August 30, 2019 8:00pm-9:32pm EDT

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american daily -- american history tv explosive. for years now, we traveled to u.s. cities bringing the boxing to our viewers. you can watch more of our visits at tour. , journalistsxt discuss the relationship between president trump band the news media. after that, the president talks to reporters on a range of topics including preparations for hurricane dorian. announcer: now, officials examine the relationship between the news media and the trump administration. this is one hour and 30 minutes. >> all that stuff i said?
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that was off the record. [laughter] >> i think we will get started. thest want to thank american political science association and sees in for foriding -- and c-span providing a broader environment for what is clearly a very important and relevant topic in 2019. that being this roundtable on the tropic of the trump white house and the white house press corps. cohen. is dave i am a professor of political science -- an actual professor of political science at the university of akron. i'm an assistant director of applied politics. i'm also a board member of the been press club and have over a decade. and i'm a member of the white house transition project, which for those who don't know, it is a nonpartisan effort to provide
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-- by presidency scholars to provide information on presidential transitions and white house operations to those who are transitioning into the white house. it's a very important organization that happened to be -- one of the founders of that organization is martha kumar, who i am happy to introduce right now. she is an emeritus professor at towson university, and director and creator of the white house transition project. she is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles, including "before the oath: how george w. bush and barack obama managed to transfer of power." she's also the winner of the apsa 2008 best book award. and editor of other books, influential books in the area.
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in addition to her scholarly work, she is a member of many boards and associations, including the white house historical association. and, she received a bachelors in in economicsollege and an m.a. and phd from columbia university. next to her is a native of washington, d.c. she has been a reporter in the nation's capital since 1986. she is a national correspondent for "the hill" and previously worked in the national journal before that covering the white house and congress and national affairs to the clinton, bush, and obama years. she won the beckman journalism award from the white house correspondents association for her reporting about the george w. bush white house. she has degrees from new college
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in sarasota, florida and the university of missouri columbia. to her immediate left is tamara keith, who joined npr in 2009, and has been a white house correspondent since 2014. -- for national public radio since 2014. she co-hosts the npr politics podcast, which is the top political podcast in america. and i admit, it is something i listen to every single week. miss keith has covered the trump administration from day one. covered the final two years of the obama presidency, as well as covering the 2016 presidential campaign, when she was assigned to cover hillary clinton. in 2018, she was elected to serve on the board of the white house correspondents association. she has worked for a number of npr affiliate stations, including wosu in columbus ohio, and kpcc, southern california public radio.
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she has degrees from the university of california berkeley and the ucb graduate school of journalism. last but not least, she is a member of the bad news babes, a media softball team that competes against members of female members of congress once a year in the congressional women softball game. >> and they won. >> basically every year. [laughter] >> then we have -- to her left is mike mccurry, a faculty member at the wesley theological seminary. he is a veteran political strategists and spokesperson, having served in the white house as press secretary to president bill clinton, a spokesman for the u.s. department of state and as director of communications for the democratic national committee. he's held a variety of leadership roles on national campaigns for the democrats, and he began his career in politics on the staff of the united states senate working as press
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secretary to the senate committee on labor and human resources, as well as being a press secretary for senator daniel patrick moynihan. he has degrees from princeton, georgetown, and wesley theological seminary. and last but not least, to my right is raj shaw, who serves as senior vice president at the fox corporation, and prior to that, served as happy press secretary in the trump white house. last year, he oversaw strategy into indications for the white house in a successful effort to confirm justice brett kavanaugh to the supreme court. during his tenure at the white house, he briefed the press, handled crisis communications and policy rollouts, and took a leading role in preparing the president and senior officials for media appearances. mr. shaw also served as white house deputy communications director. prior to serving in the trump white house, he served in roles at the rnc, a leading center
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right political consulting firm, and served as a public policy director. he attended cornell university. with that, we're going to begin the panel. obviously, a very esteemed and heavy hitting panel. i am going to turn it over to martha kumar, who's going to talk for a little while about the data she has collected on president-reporter interaction. martha: good afternoon. with a pleasure to be here this particular group of people. we have very good reporters and officials here who have all done very good jobs at the white house. well, when i think of the trump relationship, of the president with the press, i think of how often we see him with the press. that we seem to see him a lot more by marine one than we have
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other presidents in the oval office and in the roosevelt room. if you think that has been true, in fact, if you compared reagan-ford, yes, he has been more available than has been the case in other recent administrations. in terms of time. of how often he has met with the press. the relationship goes back to the early 1900's, where presidents felt a demand to talk to reporters, that it was part of their job. woodrow wilson, when he came in in, in his first
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weeks in office, held a press conference. and all of the succeeding presidents did. and there is where off the record sessions and that held true until the eisenhower administration. president coolidge took reporters on vacations with him. and, he'd talk to them about why he had them follow him and why he responded to their queries. and he said he thought it was rather necessary to the carrying on of our republican institutions that the people should have a fairly accurate report of what the president is trying to do. and so, he felt that obligation. these press conference sessions lasted up 'til eisenhower, who put them on the record and on television. and at that point, they became much more high risk, and then presidents sought other venues for meeting with reporters.
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but all the recent reporter and all the recent presidents have -- but all the recent presidents have met with reporters. when you take all of their public events, where they have spoken, and you average out how many of them he answered reporters' questions, it comes out to about a third. a third of their public remarks are responding to reporters -- responding to reporters' queries. that was true of obama, george w. bush, george h.w. bush, and reagan. trump, on the other hand, has done over 55% of his public remarks -- they have responses to reporters queries. but the mix of the venues is somewhat different. we're going to look at three different types -- press conferences, the ones starting
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with wilson, which were solo sessions where the president spoke by himself and responded to queries from white house reporters at the white house. and then, joint sessions develop later, mostly with foreign leaders that the president has those sessions. and then, you have exchanges with reporters. those are the short q&a's that take place on the south lawn with the helicopter whirling in the background, or in the roosevelt room, or the oval office, and sometimes in the cabinet room. these are much more informal sessions. then, the third types are interviews. and so, the last two, the exchanges with reporters and interviews, have increased. in trump's case, he has had many more.
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when you look at the six presidents, trump has 442. these figures are by the end of june. 442 short question-and-answer sessions, which sometimes can involve one question, but most times are many minutes, and it can go up to 20 minutes or so. they are sessions where the president, especially in the marine one ones, it is a somewhat chaotic situation. and -- [laughter] martha: with people with ladders, cameras, edging their way in. it's a setting where in a sense, with that chaos, he is the ringmaster, he decides who he is going to call on. and in what order.
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he may know what issues somebody is working on and decide he really does not want to do that. he has had 442. obama had 78. and it shows the difference in the way they worked. in obama's case, he liked to do long interviews, because he liked to discuss policy, and he liked to go into depth. his favorite, i think, was the off the record sessions he would hold with columnists in the roosevelt room for an hour and a half or so, talking about a particular policy. george w. bush, 226. clinton had 434. but clinton liked to talk on every venue. [laughter] >> at length. martha: when he was jogging, but that was before you came to the white house. and h.w., 217. and 119 for reagan.
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so, trump is far ahead of the others, but one of the reasons why is because he does not give speeches in the same way that his predecessor did. he likes to make his announcements in comments on twitter. he may drop something about an appointment or a resignation when he's at the helicopter. places where he does not have to give long explanations. so, when you look at the number of speeches that recent presidents have given without taking questions, these are ones where they are usually giving a policy discussion of some sort and digging into it. it is interesting how similar clinton, george w. bush, and obama were in their numbers.
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clinton was 1,033. george w. bush was 1,010. and obama was 1,127. so, it's as if there is just a certain amount of space there that all of them took for their policy statements. trump was 604. so, these are not his preferred venue, giving long speeches. and if you look at the kind of speeches he has given, where he has been consistently interested over his time in office, it would be his political rallies. he started his political rallies where he speaks for about an hour and a half. he started them within a month of coming into office. >> does that tally include the political speeches? martha: yes, it does.
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which is about, at this point, i think it was 65. second point is, the president's favor forums and technologies that brought them to the white house. and trump, we know, loves twitter. trump explained in a social media conference they had at the white house why he did. he said, if he puts out information in a press release, "people do not pick it up. it's me saying, if i put it out on social media, it is like an explosion. fox, cnn, crazy msnbc." he has 62.8 million twitter followers. and he satisfies them with his constant tweets, where in the first 892 days, which was the beginning of 30 months, he had 8,660.
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>> if you have your twitter notifications on, it is guaranteed to wake you up at least a few times. those things are coming in early. [laughter] martha: and each year, he increased to them. he found them useful in the campaign, and he's increased them each year since then. presidential interviews have become important for presidents. it is another -- it is a flexible forum they can use where they can decide who they want to talk about and who they want to talk to. with cable media, which came during your time, mike, in 1996, you have msnbc and fox coming to the white house. cnn had already been there, but there are lots of opportunities for a president now to talk to the media and decide who they want to do interviews with. in the six presidents here,
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obama, not surprisingly, was the one he used the most interviews -- the most interviews, because what he liked to do was take a policy and say, talk to tom friedman or david ignatius about foreign-policy issue or david lenhart of "the times" on the economy. and that was his preferred use of interviews. in trump's case, he has -- he's much more informal. the set-up sometimes is, he is sitting watching fox and decides he is going to call in. he does a lot of call-in interviews. if you look at his fox interviews, counting up ones that are with fox news, foxbusiness, fox sports and also
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local affiliates, that he had 73 of his 262 interviews were with fox. and that's 28%. and that's not all of fox, as we've seen. there are particular hosts that he likes to talk to. in the presidential press conferences, when we look at those, at one time, the crown jewel was the solo white house news conference. and that, we do not see in quite the same numbers as we did earlier. and if you look at the ones that are solo in white house, trump has had three. he's done several that have been on the road. he's done, well, as of the end
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of june, it was eight. he has done more than that now. but, on the road, he would take questions from many different reporters from many different countries. it's not white house correspondents who are focused solely on that beat. and that is where he is only had -- he has only had three. obama had 14. george w. bush had 8 at this point, and clinton had 24. george h.w. bush had 45. i think one of the things that george w. bush learned from his father was that when you hold a press conference, you want to do it for particular reason. that it didn't do his father any good. so he cut it back. clinton did quite a few. and obama, as well. one of the reasons why they do not do it is that they are more
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vulnerable. they have people like tam and alexis, who know the subjects very well, they know what is going on in the white house and who are going to follow up on the questions they ask. and sometimes, if they do not follow up, then other reporters will, as well. so, there's a discipline to that process at the white house that makes it a more vulnerable kind of experience for a president. what they've done in starting with george h.w. bush is, one of the things he learned in his first couple of years was that, while he enjoyed doing the solo sessions, he liked having foreign visitors. he talked to heads of state a lot. and had them come to the white house.
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and, when he did, then they were interested in using the podium of the white house, too. and they developed the joint press conferences. and joint press conferences since george h.w. bush have been a regular feature at the white house. and they have diplomatic reasons for doing them, but from a president's point of view, you take two questions from each side or three or four. that is what it's narrowed down to. so you're less exposed and vulnerable than you are in a solo session. in looking at what they learned in their first couple of years, it's interesting to go back to reagan. we think of reagan as having the nighttime eastern press conference, it was a signature of his communication, but that did not occur until his second year.
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but once they developed that format, then that's what he did. today, presidents do not have that opportunity. news organizations are not going to give them all networks giving them an hour. but he had it. and he used it. and he also developed the radio address. now, that's something in this administration that has not been used. trump had some of them, but gave them up, as he felt they weren't getting anything out of them. but reagan wrote the messages himself and gave them on the radio live on saturday mornings, usually from camp david. other presidents, obama used
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them, and he used them regularly, because they are on radio and television, and it is one more way that you can get your word out. in looking at the overall at the white house operations, one of the things that is important to have for a successful communication is to have an organization that is well coordinated and that's defined. the communications job has been the most vulnerable job of the senior staff in the white house. and i guess it's logical if the president's poll numbers go down, he is going to blame the communications director. but, in this white house, it's more than just the number of people that have left. it is the lack of definition that has made it difficult to bring together a communications operation. there's no settled structure for communications. when you look at the person who
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is talked about as the head of communication, you find communications is a freestanding director as a duel role with the press secretary. now, as a triple role, because press secretary grisham is also the communications director, and she's the communications director for the first lady and i think also the press secretary for the first lady. so, she has no shortage of jobs. another way that they have had the communications job filled was -- phil schein was the deputy for communications. so they brought it into the chief of staff's operation. then, you had the senior advisor of strategic communications, who operated pretty much at the top directly with the president. that was hope hicks.
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then, you've had the separate press secretary role. so, you have many different roles without a definition of exactly how that structure should work. and the reason is that president trump is his press secretary, his communication director, he runs the show, he is the ringmaster. the one movie i noticed that he's played for staff was the, at a retreat at camp david, was the one on p.t. barnum. and i thought that wasn't just by chance. so, he's the ring master. and he has got a lot of rings. i think maybe more than three. but he's the one that is running it. >> thank you very much, martha. i want to throw this out to a -- the panel as a whole, piggybacking of what martha's
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data has shown. could we explore maybe the positives and negatives of president trump using the short q&a session, particularly the chopper talks that he has? and, you know, what is good about it and what is bad about it? >> do you want me to go? ok, i've thought a lot about this. so, the positives are that he is incredibly available. that we see him a lot. we can get questions to him if he can hear them over the chopper. we just see the president a lot. and we hear from him a lot, and that is a positive thing. also, this white house likes to say, "we are the most transparent white house ever." and i think that that can be
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quibbled with, but one thing that is very true is that at some point or another, president trump will actually tell you what he is thinking. he reads the stage directions out loud. and, things that are said off the record, or are not, you know, are not official become official within days. where, you know, his staff will be denying -- there will be some unnamed source that says something, and then the staff will deny it, and then within a matter of days, the president will say, yeah, i am thinking about that or have been talking about that. and having these frequent opportunities to shout questions to the president does mean that you get a lot of unvarnished trump out there. the downside is that it's always on his turf.
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in that we are a bunch of shouting, angry press, shouting over the helicopter, and we are shouting over each other, and we are -- it is not a delivery process. you cannot ask questions with a lot of depth or specificity. because literally, you can just be shouting, "mr. president, what about the blah blah?" and he sort of hears it and starts talking. the other challenge with it is, and this is why it is really on his turf, is that he only answers the questions he wants to answer. if you are in a formal press conference at the white house, the president chooses who he calls on, and certainly he can pick reporters who vehicle ask will ask him as question he wants to be asked, but he doesn't actually get to pick the questions. whereas out on the lawn, he gets
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to pick the questions, and that gives them more power over the situation. >that i have covered multiple comparison, iin am also struck, why is he doing this? any professional staff would have thought maybe do it once a month, but not every time you're why ito the helicopter . why i say that is why it does not work effectively for him all the time.
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what i've learned from covering the presidents is that the president may feel like he is penetrating and piercing the wall and directing the coming occasion but he is also creating a really muddled message. we have talked about that in the press corps all summer. usually the congress vacates washington, and the president gets all this space to talk about what they want to talk about. they organize a message, they have some strategy about what they are trying to say and i oftentimes watch the president up close or not and i think, this, you would just get so much more out of this, mr. president, if you do not do it quite this way. he is so drawn to this format. one of the reasons why he does like this format is because of
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what she said, is that the theater part of it makes us look subservient to him. he utilizes that format to draw a contrast with the press and turn around and is something negative about the press corps. now, that is an organized, strategic message that he does follow through consistently. he's using that format to do it. but i oftentimes look at what she's said about how, we are in oval office as reporters and my colleagues -- at the chopper, and the president operates almost like you are throwing chum in the water. so, the reporters are fighting with one another to get their word in. and i often think it is not great for us in the press corps, not great for journalism. and it is not super effective for president trump because i will tell you another thing about president trump, his
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hearing is not perfect and he does not in that format always hear precisely what is being -- he may choose what he wants to answer but he is not always hearing the question always perfectly effectively. if he did hear the question he might think twice or three times before he dove in. >> there has been a lot of post chopper cleanup that is had to happen. oh, no, he was actually addressing this other thing. also, just as a radio person, and i think tb people would agree, the audio quality with a chopper behind you is terrible. there are children growing up in america thinking that the president always has really loud noises. or is loud noise. >> are the optics what he wants? in the other words, is the chopper looking more presidential? >> and no artificial like, natural light. you've got the trappings of the white house, you have marine one, you have the building. from another angle you have the west wing behind you.
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>> yeah, i would just say, kind of coming from another perspective here, i think it plays to his advantage optically, no question about it. and i think all presidents tend to choose forms that play to their strengths, right? i think could have a similar criticism of president obama had these long form responses to questions where he would give a very detailed 15 talking points answer for 10 minutes and didn't really address anything that was asked. >> we called it filibustering. >> it worked for him. and i thought he would address that topic. i'd be as a political operator, kind of frustrated. so, i think president trump uses this form it. i think other presidents used other formats. mike's old boss just talked as often and as frequently is it could because he a lot to say. >> too much. >> and i was in the white house
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when this format accelerated and there was not a whole lot of, you know, deep strategic thinking he just likes it. that's really the -- >> clearly, it evolved. he tested some other formats and he just feels comfortable. >> yeah. it also is one where the length of time is up to him as well. so, i think it plays to his strengths. he can address, use the day without having to do a formal lengthy, deep dive into everything that is going on. >> all right. i'm going to take my crack at the changing the direction of the conversation and i will give equal time. because i will be fairly critical. whatever the format is, whatever the venue is in which the president speaks, the president has got some obligation to tell the truth. to be factual and to know what is going on in his government. and to speak to it knowledgeably.
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and these run and gun opportunities that the press have when they are shouting questions does not hold the president accountable for actually talking about what his presidency is doing. and we pay a price for that. so, i think there is some principles that we are going to have to re-instill when the next president arrives. as a democrat, i hope that is sooner rather than later. but i think they are centered on some important principles. one, the public has a right to know. what's going on in his government, what the president is doing. and not have some cloud or mirage of fantastical thinking that substitutes for genuine, authentic, real information about the work of government. and second, goes with that, the government has an obligation to tell. it is not good for our democracy that a white house does not conduct the daily press briefing, does not have someone accountable that stands up, goes deeper into policy, answers
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questions on behalf of the president when the president is not there to do that. journalists do not have any real opportunity to follow up, to go deeper, to ask questions about the real meaning of policy. and i think there has been a price paid for that, because we are not necessarily understanding exactly what is really going on in this presidency. the whim of the moment or the tweet of the early morning is not a substitute for coherent and adequate presentation of what policy is about. people who are there to be held accountable, the president's cabinet, people that, people in the white house who have responsible positions who have some obligation to assemble information and make it available. and i think it's a failing on the part of the press, i'm sorry to say that you, that you are not making a bigger deal of that. and not demanding that there be people who come out and actually answer questions that i think would be on the minds of the
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american people. so it's not just a non stop theater of the absurd. so, i hope we will return in the next presidency to a time in which the role, there is genuinely a press secretary, which we don't have. there is genuinely a responsibility on the part of people at the senior levels in the white house together the information necessary to keep the american people well-informed. the hardest part of the job of being press secretary in my mind
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was digging deeply through all the entrails of the government to get people to tell you information that you needed to have. i'll tell you one quick story. when i would go, if president clinton had an opportunity to have a photo opportunity or encounter with the press before i did the daily press briefing, i would take my little black briefing book in and go through it with him and say, ok, this is going to be the big issue the press is going to ask about. and here's is the answer. in he would say, that is bull[beep] yeah, but that is your policy. [laughter] do you want to do something about it? and he would and terribly pick up the phone and call someone and said that mike's got to go out there and asked this question. why aren't we doing something about it? it was an action forcing event. it improves the function of government to have that kind of
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accountability, where you were answering questions posed by members of the free press and we have lost something because we do not have that kind of accountability now. i promise to give equal time. >> yeah, obviously, i don't entirely agree with that perspective. i tend to think that you can't -- that is sort of a description of how white house is worked in the past where most people got their news from traditional news sources and they had a great deal of credibility. i think they were more fair than they are today. we're in a time, you know, at least in my kind of relatively young career, it's, the country is as divided as it's ever been and as tribal as it has ever been. in saying that, i think the tribes, the right and left, are a lot more concerned with winning than being right. i think in this era, by a large the news media has jumped into one tribe. the traditional mainspring press corps, i do not mean to besmirch
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the integrity of all journalists at all or the all the folks in the white house correspondents association all that, but i think the agenda driven journalism is what you see day in and day out and the notion that, like, say "the new york times" is the paper of record when a leaked transcript of the executive editor's town hall says we have gone from one narrative that is a voting all of our resources to the trump russia story and now we are going to devote all of our resources to the president is a racist story. it lacks credibility, you know? so, in this environment. i do not think it is an accident that this president whose identity is more closely associated with discrediting the mainstream media than any politician i have ever seen was elected. i don't think it is an accident. i do not think that trust in the media being at an all-time low is accidental. it is not some big conspiracy.
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journalists tend to lean left, and they tend to exhibit bias that excludes the viewpoint of a lot of people, tens of millions of people that elected this president. and so, to talk about like, kind of, well, there needs to be this ritual that existed. it existed in a time and a place when the questions were fair and the responses were transparent because they would be interpreted fairly. instead it is like incredibly combative environment. when i was in the white house, it was nonstop hostility. and there are plenty of great reporters that did great work and a lot of honest folks. and a lot of folks who aren't. the hierarchy going these news organizations, the more agenda driven it is. i'm sorry to say that. >> two points i would make. one is raj paying you a compliment.
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when you talk to the white house reporters, some of them who are still there now and who were there when i was there, they credit you with someone with being someone that is accessible and honest and fair in your dealing with them. and i think this white house needs more of that. so, i give you credit for that. the second thing is, martha kumar, even though she is exhausted and giving the details, that is the single best repository of information about how this relationship really works. so, as a credit to her and of interest to people who study these matters as political scientist, i hope you appreciate what she has done. i'm not aware of anybody else who has assembled the kind of data she has put together around the nature of the relationship between the white house and
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those who communicate it, those who do the work in the media. so, i'd be remiss if i did not say that, even if i disagree with a little bit of what you say. having a president declare war on the press by literally calling them enemy of the people and to constantly talk about fake news, then abrogates those things that are really truthful that are being reported by the media that the american people need to know. not everything is wrong about what gets reported about what this white house is doing. there is a lot of truth to it. >> and i would say, it is not us -- a press briefing or a white house delivering information to journalists isn't really about us. it's about the american people. we are vessels of the american people. those press briefings are on c-span. the public can watch them. they can see the answers about the functioning of the government. and i think that one of the reasons -- a real frustration
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that, as a press corps, we had when there were briefings in this administration was just that there were always answers on the flash bang news of the day, the thing that creates fireworks in the briefing room. there were not frequently answers on what's the president's position on this bill or what does this policy mean? on sort of the boring policy specifics that, like, that is what briefings used to be about. the stuff that mike is talking about. i'm sure we could argue about -- it goes both sides of the street, certainly but with that breaking down, with the press
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secretary being contradicted by the president on a fairly regular basis or what the official position is then changing rapidly -- so rapidly that you get whiplash. i can understand why -- why stephanie grisham does not want to do a daily press briefing. >> i wouldn't necessarily disagree with all that. i don't, like, i don't necessarily think that, i mean, this president does not have like an actual traditional spokesperson, right? martha set it at the top. he is his own communications director, press secretary. that is how i viewed the role. your defender-surrogate. unless i've spoken to them, i do not want to rely on other folks that may not have. i do not disagree that that's like, you know, it is very much a valid point.
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and i would say more access to the president is kind of the answer. >> i'm going to throw this out to the panel as a whole. but it's something mike just touchdown and that is what is the impact of the president referring to the press is the enemy of the people? i counted it up. 37 times he has tweeted that the presses the enemy of the people. and 540 times he is tweeted that the press was fake news. so, from all of your perspectives, what is the impact of the president saying this? >> let me start with the stipulation that there has not been a u.s. president who is not have complaints about coverage in the newspapers, the press, the media of the day. that probably is accurate going back to george washington.
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>> except maybe gerald ford. i'm sure he even slipped into it. >> so, that is a routine aspect of what we call the adversarial relationship. it is adversarial because the white house has this view that we're trying to do is in the interest in of the american people and if it just got reported accurately the american people would understand what a great job you're doing and why we are doing things in the interest of improving the country. and the press turns right around and thinks that the white house is usually dissembling and not providing accurate information and trying to, you know, steer our attention away from things that really matter most. so, it is in its very nature an adversary relationship from the beginning. but it has become so poisonous now because of the rhetoric of this president. and so uncomfortable to watch what should be the transaction
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of business. yes, it is an adversarial relationship but it can be amicable, it can be professional. i was the human piñata at the white house. they kicked the shit out of me everything will they. they were -- would slap at you and you were supposed to make sure nothing interesting spilled out. [laughter] which i was not always successful at. >> this is the man who did a briefing with a paper bag over his head at one point. and had a piñata in his office. >> but, you know, it is kind of an indispensable element of our democracy that you have people there who are going to face tough questions and being held accountable. come up with better answers than the one that you get. and we are getting not of that now. none of that. who's the one who is the press secretary? >> stephanie grisham. >> is she ever going to do a
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briefing? >> no. prove me wrong, please. >> she will if she wants to. >> let me ask a question, behind the scenes do they interact and work with you to try to get information? >> and there is lots of emails, yes. it is a very professional operation. it's a very professional operation under stephanie grisham. they answer emails, they are around. >> there is an element about this era that makes reasonable people on the topic comes to politics become unreasonable and i think that is sort of the case with both sides of the divide. and that the case when the cameras are turned on. actually, i think some of the most effective and useful interactions are like in somebody's office just getting the facts. it happens all the time, it is quite, it is effective, it is useful and it gets reporters information that they need. it allows the white house to have its input and share his
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perspective on the story. it runs and that is life, you know. >> some idiot came along at some point and said these white house briefings other be on television and that change the environment. >> pretty smart guy. >> that idiot's name was? >> c'est moi. [laughter] i did, just a small tension on -- tangent that point. that really was a big mistake that i made, that the environment in which you have these encounters in which you work through issues in which you try to get answers and are held accountable is a lot harder to do when the like and cameras are on. and i did not think that through very carefully. i had done televised briefings at the state department. when i got to the white house they said, we do not do televised briefings. i said, what is that about? we're in the television age, and i changed it and i made it a critical mistake which is if i it said no live broadcasting, that would have been different. you are welcome to tape this, use it, put it together for your
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stories, use it in soundbites for later in the day when you are reporting, but i think turning it into the theatrical event that it became changed that relationship fundamentally. and, it was an error. >> but you also had the other kind of session. you had gaggles in the morning at around 9:00 where reporters came in and asked questions. and those sessions, there was no television, no grandstanding. and you can get through 20 questions in 15 minutes. and they gave you guidance on what -- the great advantages we could put out every topline, if there was a breaking news thing. if we knew what was going to be on the test that day when we did the briefing and we could go around and hot down the information. i would call the cabinet secretary and say the press is all over this issue. they are going to ask me about this.
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we need to really work through what the answer is going to be. i could talk that the president, see what he'd want to say about it. i don't think any of that is happening now. maybe i'm wrong. >> it is happening. and i don't know everything that is going on. and i do agree that the process of going to the briefing for the communications operation makes it sharper. i agree with that. i would say, though, that there is, i agree there is a level of theatrics to the briefing today. there is sort of your celebrity
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journalists now. that is sort of a new thing. a new thing in politics today. and like, you know, you see kind of, you know, it's a show. it's for, when there were briefings, it was like a half an hour of like, both sides. the press on one side is an adversarial side. going back and forth in the ratings go down when the show was over. >> the ratings could go down if it was 90 minutes long and full of policy. >> when we brought cabinet secretaries in to talk at length about an issue, those were not picked up on cable ever. not once. >> right! that is the goal. >> i think the goal is to have that person's perspective and the initiative actually covered. >> well, i think, for example steve mnuchin came out not that long ago i talked about cryptocurrency and he was covered. on cable. >> i 'm just saying, when i was there and there were many
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examples, they routinely would not cover it. >> david, can i go back to the original question. the original question was so good -- what are the repercussions of having a president who talks about the press corps being the enemy of the state? and i just wanted to comment about that because mike is absolutely right that presidents in the past had all kind of grievances about the press corps but there was kind of this unwritten rule that when they went abroad what they were trying to represent is the beacon of democracy in the united states, and that we represented a democracy that could not exist without a free press. that was a brand that the united states was proud of, it was part of our constitution, we are in the constitution and every president i have recovered wanted to transmit that message wherever they went abroad. one of the things that is challenging about something that raj was saying is the tribalism in the policy but president trump sees an audience it has to do with his domestic base.
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i have always been struck that he is not always thinking more broadly than just his base. he is governing to his base. the problem with that is when you bring in other heads of state, whether it is putin or the president of poland or dutarte, if you are traveling abroad are bringing them to the white house and you make jokes, i'm sorry to say these reporters right here in the pool, they are the enemy of the state, they are the bane of our democracy, and then two heads of state laugh, chuckle, that is dangerous. and here is why think it is dangerous. i've talked to the people of the state department who are appalled, they are abroad, talking about how dangerous this is. they want to know what they can do at the state department about it. we hear lawmakers, both parties on capitol hill, they are not happy about this, they are not sure what they are supposed to do about it. and the concern i have listening
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to president trump is when you need the public's trust and you are going to call on it and there will be a day when president trump has something big, an emergency to describe to the american people, and you need their trust, you are going to need that press corpsto be able to transmit that message because you cannot do it by yourself. you can't do it internationally by yourself. so, all i want to say if i understand what raj is saying, that we have had however much -- you might hate "the new york times," the publisher has talked about this in the oval office twice that i know what. pleading with him, describing to him why this is considered dangerous. and i think the president gets it but his instincts are such that he just cannot help himself. >> do you want to talk? >> i don't, you know, i wouldn't agree with everything the president said criticizing the press. i also don't think anyone should attempt to or try to ask him to say things he does not believe in. he doesn't do a good job with it. he believes what he believes about the credibility, veracity,
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and overall value of the press corps, and i think he has a lot of confidence in that point of view. i think, again, there is definitely a difference between grievances and some of the rhetoric you guys are citing, but i mean, it is tough if you are the leader of the free world and there are studies that come out that show 90 plus percent of primetime news conference is negative. i mean, like, that's that's like alarming. >> because 90% of the stuff he is doing is crazy. [laughter] >> no, that is absurd. no, no, look, the news media has a ton of bias. it just does. >> if there was a liberal bias in the press, i wish you would've shown that more frequent when i was at the podium.
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i didn't feel very comforted. i felt more afflicted. >> i don't think partisan bias is the only form of bias. there is biased towards, conventional wisdom, biased towards constructs, bias towards a lot of things but i do think there is pretty like unsparing partisan bias in the news coverage. i just, to kind of ignore that or to pretend it is like not the driving force behind this conflict, i think, kind of missing the mark. >> are we potentially conflating bias with the news media's role in holding those in power accountable? >> i think there will always be a tense to do that. look, there are a lot of great reporters a lot of whom write a lot of great pieces. maggie abraham at "the new york times." great reporter, pretty conservative in her reporting and very good. and there is a lot more i could cite. i think that there are kind of
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-- >> quick question. i'm curious. are there more of them in the white house press corps, because they represent the majority? >> that is a challenging question probably. the peoplefing room, who generated the most amount of were the most ridiculous and out of line with conduct. questions always came from that perspective. they became contributors on cnn within six months. there is this schoolyard taunting coming from the press corps, is everybody? of course not.
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i hear from a lot of reporters and they roll their eyes. i think they are defining the profession. >> you have a choice on who you call on, and you can work your way around the room. >> when brian is in the corner screaming a question, you have to address it. not to pick on him but that is what you get sometimes. >> to go back to the original question, i agree that it is dangerous to call the press the enemy of the people with such a broad brush, or at all. i think it's dangerous overseas for journalists and democracies overseas. domestically it is dangerous and dehumanizing in a time where there are real physical dangers.
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there was a person sending bombs to cnn and other news organizations. all of that said, i don't think on a day-to-day basis, other than having security at my own office, on a day-to-day basis it doesn't affect the way i do my job. i worry about being the opposition party. i see myself as being a journalist doing journalism, asking questions and exposing truth. i don't like being put in a position of somehow being oppositional when obviously it's a, there is a lot of pushback. we are just trying to shared the news with the people in a way that is fair and reflective of reality.
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having that out there doesn't make me more cautious or less cautious. i do think it is dangerous to our institutions. >> i think those points are valid and the rhetoric is hot, i don't dispute that. you said we are all committed to reporting the facts. do you really believe that all the people in the briefing room are committed to that? i don't. i think a lot are area a lot want to -- >> there are a lot of partisan news organizations. >> i think that's fine, i think that is great. the problem is when you have
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correspondents that are agenda driven. i picked on brian, i will pick on another person right now. >> i actually want to take your side in this. we have to move the discussion to what do we do about all of this? in the u.s. congress there is a standing committee correspondence, and they established what the grounds are to get credentials so you become a credentialed member of the press corps in congress. there is nothing like that in the white house. the white house relies on the press secretary to decide who is going to get a hard pass. i was never comfortable with that and i'm not comfortable with that now. the white house staff and the president shouldn't be deciding who should be in that press corps covering the white house. it's up to you guys to have some professional standards about
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what constitutes being a white house reporter. there is such a thing as the white house correspondents association, it ought to have some standards about who is a legitimate bona fide performer. kick people out that are there to cause trouble area it frankly ruins your reputation and you have to take some responsibility. begin to put some rules in place. you can work with the secret service. the white house correspondent association supports the application to be a hard pass carrying member of the white house press corps and step up to the responsibility and do something about it. >> pretty tough. >> that is exactly what i am proposing. >> we are currently not a credential organization. >> you should be, and you should take that responsibility on.
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>> there have been two incidents where hard passes have been revoked. courts stepped in with the jim acosta case. we will see the litigation when it comes to brian karam. yes it would be great if there was the right mechanism to remove the bad actors. i think some degree of condemnation of the worst behavior in limited circumstances would help the conversation a lot. talking about two sides to these things, i think when the white house screws up it should own it. when the president says that are true, it should own it. i've done this a few times. one time i did it at the podium and i got a little bit of blowback. >> i have the quote right here. i remember that day. february 8.
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>> it is incumbent upon me to be as truthful as i can be with the parameters and the advocacy that -- i come in with an agenda and i'm supporting the president's agenda. it's incumbent upon me to own mistakes. i think the press corps as a whole, for this relationship to get better, has an obligation to say we support the first amendment, we don't want to silence voices, but that kind of conduct is not appropriate. >> i want to throw in one other idea. we are going into a national election, and it would be good for the press to go to the candidates running for president and say, will you commit to having regular news conferences with the president? would you commit to having
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someone on behalf of the president conduct if not a daily briefing, at least a regular briefing that is available? will you do something to improve the culture of the relationship between the press and the white house? state that in writing and make that part of your campaign? >> i think biden was just asked. >> i would like to get the bandwagon going on this. those in the political world, we are not going to establish standards and hold people accountable. at some point the community of professional journalists have to recognize it is your responsibility to do these things. >> he keeps stealing my thunder. we are going to open it up for audience questions and just a minute. my final question was going to
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be when this president leaves yeare, whether it is in a or -- does the relationship go back to the status quo? do we see that relationship being reset? >> the daily briefing is an opportunity. if you think about it you have 125 people in that room whose job is to take the president's message to the public. all those people are there assembled to take the message. that seems to me to be, and opportunity, much more than it is a hazard for a white house.
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other administration have regularly done briefings. briefings were done in the cleveland administration. you always had the availability of a press secretary. it wasn't public at that time. the idea was you did provide information on a daily and regular basis. i think it's to the white house's advantage. it's to the advantage of the president to have people coming up and explaining his policy. i talked for example in the mid nguyen briefing that minute and talked about the ways in which
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the treasury department was working with other departments within the government. that was a positive for them. having briefings where you bring in cabinet secretary's i think is just a win. >> i don't disagree, especially when as an administration when a government can focus on policy, i will say accomplishments record, i was always a big fan of when we have sanctions announcement. to get somebody out there to talk about it. get secretary mnuchin out there, talk about it in the context of the policy. i don't disagree. i think the meatier we got with the policy -- the major news outlets tuned it out. that was my experience. >> i don't know if it comes back. my experience is somewhat limited compared to some of the other people on this panel. administrations sort of build on each other. if one administration had fewer briefings, then the next
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administration would have fewer. if one administration went directly to the public then the next would go to the public. they would have more videos and better videos. i don't imagine we are going to get back to exactly the way it was. i don't think we are going to have as many solo press conferences. i think all presidents have similar views and frustrations about the press. i hope we will have a more regular press briefing. i can't imagine going back to the way it was during the bush years. >> you think the next president is going to tweet more often? i will say to your point, there are a lot of mediums to get a more unfiltered message out.
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the press as a filter is not convenient for anyone. that's why certain candidates who are frontrunners will engage with the press a lot less. you've got give-and-take and in the era of social media and youtube, you can get out there and not have to take questions. that's always to any leader's advantage in any circumstance. >> i get asked all the time of time, is this going to change? we have seen presidents be the un- or the other. trump was the un-obama. george w. bush was the un-clinton. we get exhausted by our presidents really quick. i wouldn't be surprised if we ended up with a president who is the un-trump. it may be that the techniques
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and the technology are adapted by that president. the presentation of it is somewhat different. there is no other trump personality. if tomorrow trump left the white house and we got president pence, president pence would be different from president trump. it would be very different. >> he's very pro-press. >> when he was a congressman, he was one of the sponsors of the shield law. >> i've been on overseas trips with pence where he has told a fellow leader this meeting is going to be over unless you let my press corps in. it's been interesting to watch. >> before i open it up for questions, social media, essentially social media, has twitter killed the daily press briefing? >> i would argue twitter has
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helped polarize the conversation incredibly. i saw a "new york times" piece earlier this year that democrats intwitter versus democrats the real world are dramatic different. on twitter they lean further to the left. it's an environment on twitter and social media in general. i think people look at that because there is so much volume as a great data source for opinion. the reality is it's very skewed. it's in that environment where there is so much confirmation bias. it drives opinion and commentary sharply to the left. and then there's the right kind of response. i think social media has a
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tremendous impact and polarizing with the press corps and the response. >> there are 275 million people on twitter. most of them don't tweet. it turns out 10% of the tweets ucr from 80% of the people who use twitter. what he is saying is absolutely correct. we hear a chorus that is very small, but loud. >> i would like to open it up for questions. go ahead. >> i think maybe the president misunderstand the audience on the press briefing. i hear you talk about how the press briefing influences national news coverage. i live in the state of idaho. there are newspapers that get that information from that national press briefing that maybe you are not going to see in the national news.
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that is trump country that he is not to. i wonder if you could just talk about, am i wrong about that? >> that is a fair point. think there is definitely the exchange of information that gets lost when the briefing is gone. there are a lot of factors in play when the briefing goes away. if it was just about dissemination of information you would just see the briefing. i would say there has been a complaint i heard from a lot of reporters that the folks at the podium and behind the scenes are only answering the queries from the new york times and wall street journal. i think that's probably a fair critique that the more marginal and regional and local papers don't get nearly as much attention. sometimes it's because these national papers have a damaging
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story and you have to deal with it. that's still not fair. regionally and in trump country, a lot of parts of the country don't get the attention they deserve. >> in the communication structure, i think we called at the office of media affairs. if you were from boise idaho and had a question about water policy you could call up and it was in fact the western regional secretary. >> there is a two to three person shop that handles that. there was as of the end of last year. more often than not they are their questions are not the news of the day. it's on policy issues. you deal with the department of agriculture or interior. you can kind of get the details
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and get it out of there. one thing, in the first six months when sean spicer was the press secretary, he tried to do a pretty routine skype in which somebody would offer a question regionally and have a conservative reporter and folks who did not have access. just sort of dealing with government and government i.t.. i thought that was pretty cool and innovative. >> other questions in the audience. >> going back to something martha said, is president trump essentially the de facto communications director of this white house? >> absolutely. campaign manager and fundraiser.
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delegation of authority is not his greatest strength. i would argue he is this incredible personality, incredible individual who has a lot to say. he doesn't care about the party line position. very inquisitive. i think getting him information and letting him operate the way he operates is the way to go. >> the traditional role would be to do some long-term planning, work with the hill and other places. it's going to be this big thing. and then drive that message.
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the problem for this white house is the president doesn't necessarily say that is the position and let's just stick with that. i realize -- >> you can say it. >> let's take an infrastructure week. he just gets bored. every infrastructure week, he is going to drive the message all week. he is so terribly off message in a way that completely blows up a month of news. >> there is usually something interesting for you guys to dive into. what i would say is he is a powerful communicator and i
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don't think it's an accident cable news and prime time news is getting astronomical ratings right now. he is the most interesting story national politics has seen an a long time. we tried at different times to stage manage and package the president, and that doesn't work. i think he needs to be unfettered. i think it really plays. as a staffer you complain about a lot of things. >> would you say that about the economy and the discussion we are having about needing a coordinated message about what is going on in the economy? >> i think trade is more complicated because there is a lot of moving parts and
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negotiations are nimble. i think that's a fair critique. >> it was a question, not a critique. >> you are saying that we need a consistent message. >> no, i just wondered if you thought that -- >> i think the administration could benefit from more consistent messaging on a lot of fronts. that's less about the relationship with the press. from the bias i come from is you would love to wake up in the morning and know what it would be like. >> make america board again. sometimes it is the democrats like that. sometimes it is not. -- >> make america board again. the democrats should pay me for this. there is no question he is interesting. maybe there is a hunger from some people that maybe we want to duller times. >> one aspect is the official
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spokespeople and the official venues in which you talk. the other is the unauthorized domains in which people are leaking or not authorized to give official pronouncements talking to the press. i'm wondering if you can talk about how the unofficial conversations go with the president and press in this white house? >> i think that's important and there are two aspects to that. some of the informal relationship building that happens, particularly on foreign trips when they get together and go out to dinner and it's off the record, you build relationships of trust. someone got in trouble today for doing something similar. those are very useful if they are conducted off the record, technically they are not supposed to be used by reporters.
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they begin to shape what a reporter wants to find more about. can i call you later and get some information on background? we have the different rules for attribution and how that goes. i think those are very important useful examples of how you can build better relationships. leaks are either conscious and designed to get some out there to try to understand what the public reaction might mean on a certain issue. we sometimes would plant a story on the front page of the new york times, usa today, to get it out of there and see if we could build more interest. give someone a scoop and everyone else has to follow up on it.
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you along gate the news cycle, you get two days instead of one day. leaking that happens that is detrimental to the political interests of the white house is usually very good evidence of mismanagement that someone else has felt that their case was not heard. they go outside that process to put their own ideas out there. i think we have seen a lot of that in this current administration, and it has to do with the lack of confidence and the policy process itself. understanding where leaks come from and why they happen is really an important thing. >> because the president is such a voracious consumer of news that some of the leaking is about getting it to the president?
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>> i'm sure that happens sometimes. you guys know more about the genesis of some of these stories than i know. you see stuff and how on gods green earth to deck in front of a reporter? i remember in the obama administration, you would see this book about a revelation of things that happened 18 months before. that's on the front page of newspapers the next day. the lack of control of information makes the job of communicating with the press a lot harder. >> president trump, when he is on air force one, he is such a talker. bill clinton is like this to. he wants to get the feedback about what is going on.
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maybe he is on a rally hi and he wants to work off some steam. the press corps obviously gets used to that. the other feature i found in the beginning when i first heard about that, he calls reporters. he knows who he wants to talk to. he will pick up the phone himself. i don't think he checks with a soul, and calls. or he will be on the receiving end, particularly a reporter wants to talk to him, and he will. sometimes he will go off the record in talking to them, but he does it his way, whereas previous presidents, they wouldn't think about doing anything like that without talking to their chief of staff or communications or press people because it could bollix up something they were trying to work on. capitol hill, not too crazy about this.
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what they like his predictability. they don't want to hear about it first on twitter. they are driven about as insane as anybody else. he's unusual. >> he's calling them all the time. >> he calls them. but sometimes after. like, i'm thinking of nominating so-and-so. and then he gets all the blowback. >> it's like the hills version of chopper talk. he mixes it up. he engages a lot. i am of the view, stage managing this president is not ideal. there should be more opening up and more radical transparency to some degree that i think would serve -- ultimately would serve
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the white house well. i think a lot of folks justifiably had their guard up. >> raj gets the last word. we've run out of time. thank you to a psa and c-span and our audience. we are adjourned. [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] >> watch book tv for live coverage of the national book festival saturday starting at 10:00 a.m.. coverage focuses on just
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e ruth bader ginsburg. sharon robinson talks about her book, child of the dream. foundings malone, director of the m.i.t. center for collective intelligence discusses his book "super minds." the national book festival live on c-span two. >> president trump is spending part of the weekend at camp david. as he was leaving the white house he took reporter questions on hurricane dorian, china, and the economy. this is about 25 minutes.


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