tv QA CSPAN June 7, 2021 6:00am-7:01am EDT
the first book was called lawyer, about arthur lyman. and then on monday or tuesday they announced the starr report was coming out on friday. before that, at random house i did some been called rabbits, which is i would take a document, dust it off, and publish it, because i could do that. it was a very successful way to do government documents at a time before people could really download them with the same kind of ease. so the wall street journal reporter, a publishing reporter calls me and i am sitting in a tiny conference room and he says, peter, i know you like to do this. will you be publishing the starr report? i say, of course i will be. and then i go back in and say, i'm publishing the starr report. i made a single call. and say, i'm publishing the starr report. i made a single call. i called the washington post where i had worked for many years. i said, if i publish this book, will give me -- and remember this is a long time ago, give me
the disc, and your first day coverage, and we will publish it as a book. and they said, why not? so then comes -- oh, by the way, other publishers would not touch it. so we got the lead of the next day story, fledgling publisher will do starr report. i don't like being called fledgling but i took it. so come friday, the report is released. i get down to washington with two of my colleagues. at 8 p.m., after the closures of the deadline, they hand me the disc. then i got a call from a guy used to now who is now working at amazon as a spokesman. he says, peter, congratulations. your starr report book is now number one on the amazon bestseller list. and i'm just getting the disc and the coverage. so the guys go down to virginia.
overnight they start printing the book. the book gets shipped by air, which i did not know about, because if i had, it was a dollar a book. if the book had not worked, we would not have this conversation. it lands on monday. it goes immediately to number one on the bestseller list. the point of the times story was, can you believe this very earnest publisher ends up starting with the raunchy's public document in the history of america? i said, when we called the company public affairs we did not realize how close it would be to reality. i always thought that was an accident, of course. of some kind. but it was meant to happen. host: how many did you sell echo guest: hundreds of thousands. host: what to do for your company? guest: it got me that story and the times and subsequently a full page in newsweek.
being noticed is essential. if you are noticed -- and beside from being noticed, there has to be something worth noticing. that is helpful. how many people star a little publishing company and end up in the new york times as a feature? steamy publishers debut. but it did not change what we had, which was a number of other very good books. in fact, that first season, 1998, we published 12 books. incredibly, four of them were national bestsellers. that is a strike rate that is very unusual. one of them was a book called lyman's lough -- which was about soviet american submarine tension. and it was full of stuff people do not know. and it turns out, i did not know. that submariner's were dying to
read the book. and it was c-span, which was covering a signing up and connecticut, norwich, and i saw these old submariner's with their hats carrying four or five copies of the book and i said, something is going on here. 400,000 copies of the book. 400,000. the other part that was amazing was the only reason we had the book is because the two young writers had missed their deadline at simon and schuster and the book was canceled. the agent just tossed it to us desperately to see if something could be done. between that and the starr report, you have to believe that some of these things just do not just happen. you cannot really track why they happen, but i had concluded at the end of that first year that this is meant to be. because of the things we were able to do that other people either would not or could not.
we could be flexible. i always say, plan ahead and be flexible. but if you plan ahead too much, you will not be flexible. and we were, so we had four national bestsellers in the first four months, and instead of a deficit in our first year, a couple of million bucks, i don't want to get too specific, but we had tons of money. i did not have the weight at the time, because i am not an inherently ambitious of -- ambitious man, and why should have done this spent what we need to do and put the rest in the bank. instead it flowed up to my distributor. so was not all that useful long term, but it did get us launched and, as i said. being featured in the new york times and newsweek and probably c-span. it was a big help. host: after decades of publishing other bucks, you're out with your own. it is called "an especially good
view." tell me about the book. guest: when my eldest grandson was about 13, he said to me -- they calmly elvis. -- they call me elvis. i decided i did not want to be poopie or something. so they call me elvis. they know it's funny. so they said, elvis, tell me about your family in world war ii. and i realized the extent to which in our world those people, your grandsons and your great grandsons and daughters, may not know your story. so i undertook this task to find out the story and that was a beginning. it became a very extensive -- i call a reported memoir. host: what does that mean? guest: it means it is not just up here, what i remembered. i went back and revisited everything so i could be sure that what i was saying reflected
reality. because there are many times when your mind might adjust things. for your own sake. and in particular, and i hope we get into this, there were things where i should have had profound reactions. but did not. and i needed to understand why. so i went with my wife susan, whom i met in vietnam in 1970, we went to cambodia and poland and india, all these are critical places together. and india was with my grandsons. we revisited things to see what my recollection was really like and what things were like today. for example, in cambodia, i wrote a story and the lead of the story was that there is
nothing left to destroy here because there is nothing left, that is the lede of the story and that would have been 1971 or 72. we went back to the town to see what it was like in today's cambodia, 50 years later, and we saw a thriving market town and people for whom that catastrophe of the past was ancient history. when we went to poland, which is where my parents had started, where they came from, i thousand relatives of mine who were my cousins who are still in poland. we went to auschwitz. it was my third visit to auschwitz for various reasons. i went there and the scrolls in auschwitz with the names of everyone who died in the war for one reason or another, and what
i found were 19 people who had my name, osnos. which i always thought was an unusual name. 19 people with that name are in the scrolls at auschwitz. that makes a very deep impression. and then, in india, where my parents live and where i was born and left in a basket -- i have a birth certificate that says caste: polish. but i had no memory of india. i was in a basket when they left. so we went with the grandsons and revisited every element of their lives that we could access , how they arrived in india in 1940 with nothing but their wits, having escaped from poland and made their journey across turkey into iraq and they finally get to india and we
trace their lives there, where they lived. we even found a woman who lives in the same apartment building with them, auntie nora. we went and saw my -- i brother ended up going to boarding school and we visited the school to see what it was. and when they left they lived in a lovely apartment. they had five servants. then they got on a troopship, the ussr massage -- the uss hermitage. they went to san pedro california, took a train to new york, and started over. host: what was the key to their success? guest: i think resilience, obviously witches and overused word, -- obviously, which is an
overused word, overused because it is right. studying them as people, every step of the way i see something that is just a matter of courage, resourcefulness, i can give you specific anecdotal examples. my father was assigned to a polish military unit at the start of the war but by the time he got there it had already been disbanded. so he could get -- so he cannot get back to war so my mother and brother were under the bombing and all that other business. so by the time they got to bucharest, somehow he understood and is wherever -- in his wherever, that's a get something done, he got a little bit of
money, had a little gold in his sock, had a suit made. in hamburg, a fancy hat. he spoke fluent french because they lived in paris. he went to the romanian foreign ministry and asked to see the consular officer. they sent him upstairs. he finds himself in the anteroom of the foreign minister with the same name. he looked to my father in his suit, and imposing fellow. and the foreign minister qassem in note -- gives him a note. take care of this man. that is how my father gets a visa. meanwhile, my mother and brother have endured nine months, almost nine months in nazi occupied poland. and they had not been mercifully
yet arrested because they ghetto was just being organized. i found out only recently that my mother was involved in an underground medical program to help people. in order to get out of poland with the visa to go to bucharest, they had to convert. jews were not allowed to take trains. so my mother became irate and they got on the train and went to berlin, where my mother had a cousin who was still there and she went to visit the cousin and said, i need a little help getting a train ticket to bucharest. he said, you do not really need to go. you're being silly. she took my brother, she went on the balcony, and said, if you do not give us the money, we will jump. he did not give them the money. he loaned them the money. and i found that man's great-granddaughter, who now
lives in california, and i said, why would he have done that? well, she said, he had a much younger wife, and she did not really want to leave berlin because she thought she would have to leave behind all her persian carpets. they state, and of course, died. my mother, catholic, with my brother, gets to bucharest. my father is there at the station. i do not think he is wearing his fancy suit or not. that was nine months. what is extraordinary about it is, and all the years that i was their offspring, i do not ever hear them -- i knew the legends, because one does. the tent poles. but i do not really know how it all played out. and my brother, in particular -- remember, from eight to 12, he's 12 years older than me, he just
died last year. from h to 12, through the most extraordinary -- you cannot imagine the trauma of being an eight-year-old child when the nazis come to warsaw in 1939. he never, ever what a knowledge i am not a victim? why might not a victim? because i am here. i could never really figure it out. one reason he was able to endure it the way he was is that his mother was staring -- daring nt believed in her comment that she would help save him, and that my father was this brick. my brother robert, he was a psychiatrist. very successful career as a psychiatrist. and he was being psycho analyzed as part of his training, the psychoanalyst said, you know,
dr. osnos, fundamentally, you are not accessible. he had buried it all. somewhere inside. and it was not accessible. and i think with my parents -- it was not that they were pressed over it. it sent their nature was just to get on with it. -- it was that they are nature was to just get on with it. i would say, my strangers -- my parents and i are strangers with the same dna. i was four-month-old in the u.s. and i grew up here. i understood the decree -- the degree to which what they did is so remarkable. not just them. other people like them. who defied the odds so extraordinarily. they did not march off to the gas chambers. they use their resourcefulness and courage and wit and a little money.
to save themselves and their families. that is a story and now my grandsons who live in northern california -- in a completely different universe -- they know that story. that host: host: was the origin of the book. -- host: we had to fast-forward through your life. you were raised in new york city. you went to college at brandeis. i want you to tell the story of what was an extraordinary 10 days trip to mississippi while you are at brandeis in 1962. guest: the moral of that story as you do not go to college for the courses. at least that was my story. there is a man named william hicks who was on a fellowship at brandeis. he was one of the very few white lawyers in mississippi to represent what were then called
negros in civil rights cases. for some reason, he invited me and two other guys, and they were guys. people. to drive down to mississippi with him in february of 1962. and just drive around the state and meet people. february of 1962 was the very beginning of what would later be a great civil rights. in mississippi. in the ten-day. we literally met, talked, dined with all the people who are later critical figures in the civil rights situation in mississippi, including the great fannie lou hamer, medgar evers, who was murdered a year later. james silver who wrote a classic book, " mississippi and the closed society." and we were even invited to dine
with william faulkner in his home in oxford, mississippi six months before he died. we also met james meredith who was planning -- this was february, so he's planning in the following fall to go to ole miss. he would be the first black student at ole miss. before i left, i said, james, mr. meredith, whatever i called him -- i said, would you write me a letter about why you want to go to ole miss echo and he did. six month later, when he went to ole miss, my college newspaper had an exclusive james meredith explains why he is going to -- and i can tell you that if you dig very deeply into the archives, deep in the new york times, there is a tiny clip that says james meredith gave an exclusive to the brandeis justice. that is what that was. i wrote my first articles there because i was so struck. i was a -- what do they kid from
new york really know about what it meant to be black in mississippi at the time? so it was deeply impressive and moving. it became part of my worldview to understand that and i thought it was an incredible piece. bill hicks was later disbarred. the state turned on him. but he was, i like to say, and incredibly instrumental figure in my life without realizing it. host: before we get further into the story, i should tell people we have known each other for many decades due to your publishing work. you publish c-span's books. this is not a completely antiseptic interview. guest: i just wanted to know that c-span and susan swain, and brian lamb, these are people for whom i am deeply devoted to their mission. host: thank you for that.
after brandeis, a masters in journalism at columbia and then you begin work with someone named ifc stone. -- if stone. here's a clip of you talking about working for him. >> i am peter osnos and i'm a reporter for the washington post. in 1965, 66, i was stone's assistant and my tenure of 10 months ranks is among the longest times of anyone working him -- working for them for any thing. it is a process of seven days a week, 18 hours a day, just trying to keep up all the time. generally starts at about 7:30 a.m.,, izzy is on the phone. he is already been through the
new york times, the washington post. the baltimore sun. at that point, the new york herald tribune and the wall street journal. host: if stone is one of three people you credit in the backplate of every book you publish. how did he influence you? guest: izzy stone is what it was called. he was -- in today's world, people would have called him a blogger or a pamphleteer or he would be on one of those places. in the mccarthy era, no one would hire him. because he was considered left-wing. so he went out and started his own weekly. called if's weekly. it was five dollars.
every week, he and his wonderful wife esther, on thursday, when they got it at the printer, up here in northwest washington, they would take it and put it in the mailbox. it started with 5000 scrubbers. among those first 5000 subscribers was albert einstein. it very soon became a publication read by a certain kind of people. when the vietnam war and to the civil rights movement were so important in the mid 60's, izzy was one of the people who everyone cared red. --read. the years i worked for him something remarkable happened. he had always had serious hearing problems. there are pictures of him before this, he had these hearing aids that made him look like a
bespectacled martian, is the way i described it. but his hearing was restored. and so it was like the world was opening to him and an unusual way. his specialty was digging deeply into documents, reporting stuff other people did not find and writing with a sort of zest and humor, as well as investigative skill. he -- you know, offered me this job. he said, it will be tough, because it is a hard job. he said, washington is great. there's a story on every street. for izzy, the stories are easy to pluck. before a 22-year-old kid, i -- but for the one and only time it happened, he gave me bylines in the weekly, half a dozen. when i left, he wrote a little thing saying thank you. thereafter we became very
friendly. he tracks me when i went to the washington post. when he died, his family asked me to organize the memorial service. you know, to get the people speaking and so on. even when i was a kid, and he was tough on me, he was giving me the most extraordinary education and journalism and how to do the things that you want to do, rather than the things people make you do. i kind of saw how hard it was. izzy -- it was not automatic. he had to come up with the research. he had to come up with the writing skill. he had to go and mail those -- that clip you just played was from a film called if stone's weekly, which anyone can get on youtube. it came out in 1973.
vincent can be, i felt about this movie the way other people felt about the sound of music. auntie shows as one of the 10 best films of the year, -- and he chose it as one of the 10 best films of the year. if you have the time and inclination, youtube, "if stone's weekly," and you see this little young fellow, me. and people who see it say you sure had a new york accent. host: then mentor number two, ben bradlee. we have a clip of ben bradlee. let's watch and then we will come back. >> that's the trouble with these people. they think that they and the press have a common job. well, they do not. the white house press officer or press system and the president, their job is to tell the truth to the country. in a way that makes them look the best. our job is to find the truth,.
-- to find the truth, period. mind you, they all lie to the press. as soon as those lies start coming in, it is difficult to treat them the same. host: that is ben bradlee being interviewed for c-span in 1991. yc mentor? -- why is he a mentor? guest: he was the editor of the post my whole time there. as you can see from that clip, he had a certain stat -- set of standards. he was a great editor not because he hooked the paragraphs, but when ben bradlee was in a room, you knew were you -- you knew you were with the presence of a real editor, someone who believes in journalism in the best sense. he was tough and smart, he was obviously charismatic.
i arrived there as a kid and was there for 18 years and grew up there. it was because of the way ben bradlee led the paper that i came to believe you could do journalism in the best way. he was on your side. always. as long as you did your job right. i was 26 when he sent me to vietnam. he did not tell me i was doing a good job. he did not say you were a fine fellow. he said, do you want to go to vietnam? of course i said yes. ben bradlee believed journalism was about getting the story, and getting it right. i admired that. in the way young person would admire. and there was the relationship between ben bradlee and catherine graham. in journalism terms, the two of
them, she, as the publisher, and he, as the editor, were able to build a newspaper that was unique in its ability to go after the news and defend itself . it recognized when it did things wrong. and so, when the time came to start my little publishing company, i said, well, izzy gave me some early grounding and then got me what it is like to be that kind of leader. i went to band -- ben and said it, i was sure he was going to think i was out of my mind. i had been gone from the post for 10 years. i said i would like to put his initials on my books. he was flattered. so i did. izzy had already died, so i asked his son, and he thought it was all right. so now you asked me about the third. host: first i want to asked
about vietnam. not only did you report from there, but you published numerous books, including notably robert mcnamara's regrets about -- memoir including regrets about vietnam policy. what have you come to think about that whole policy experience and experience for the u.s.? guest: i think what we wear as a country was well-meaning -- what we were as a country was well-meaning but incredibly naive and ignorant. the reason was we stumbled into non--- stumbled into vietnam, thinking we would make the world safer for democracy. we did not stop -- we did not understand vietnam at all. we did not when we got there and we did not when we left. and while we thought we were going to protect democracy in vietnam, there was no democracy in vietnam. so when i got to work with
mcnamara, i had to explore what it was that he thought they were doing and why it went so terribly wrong. part of it was, of course, there was hubris. arrogance. part of it was the generation they were. post-world war ii, they had won the war. in world war ii, the u.s. was ascendant. they could not imagine they cannot do whatever they wanted to do. so they stumbled into this thing where they were essentially clueless. and as a reporter, by the time i got there in the fall of 1970, the future was clear, although no one would yet admit it. that it could not and in a conventional way. the war. but we pretended it did. peace in our time.
whatever kissinger's saying was. i was there, as the pows got off the plane from hanoi. in america said, that's it. -- and america said, that's it. the vietnamese new, they deeply new, the south vietnamese, it was over. when richard nixon in spring of february of 1972 went to beijing, which was considered at the time a big thing, the first time the u.s. and the chinese, nixon and mao, the largest vietnamese paper had a cartoon on the front of the two guys in flick route 8. the vietnamese looked at that and it was over. as reporters, we understood this. we were not advocates. we were trying to portray what we saw. the stories i most look back on
where the ones that showed you the disconnect between american and vietnamese sensibilities. one quick story. in the delta, the air force pulls out of a base, takes everything with them, literally everything but the dogs. the dogs were the security dogs. a month later, the dogs start looking a little straggly and eventually they all died. why? because the vietnamese daily ration for the dogs was appropriate to the vietnamese. the american daily ration for the dogs, it was larger than what the vietnamese got to eat every day. we were feeding the dogs better than the vietnamese soldiers, so course it died. -- so of course they died.
in a way it is a metaphor of not knowing what you're doing. is it evil to be ignorant? it is certainly not forgivable. mac tomorrow came to understand that -- mcnamara came to understand it and that was his struggle. it was his willingness over time to accept that, it was a process. i have the tapes and the transcripts of how he was coming to terms with it. when the book was published it was immensely controversial. how dare he, after 25 years, say he knew the war was wrong. why did he not say it then? i do not think there was an answer to the question. the problem was guys like bob mcnamara did not stand up and beat their chest. host: vietnam is also where you met your wife. guest: we have been together 50 years. don't tell anybody. host: it produced two children,
katherine and evan. our next clip is of evan talking about you. let's watch. >> my grandparents on my father's side came from poland. they were polish jews who left at the beginning of world war ii. on my mother's aside, my mother's father was an american diplomat who was sent to hungary and was in fact kicked out, accused of being a spy, which she was not, by the soviets backed government. but in some ways these stories, the experience of being ejected from poland or hungary, formed a kind of backdrop in our family story about life under authoritarianism. it was not an explicit part of our conversation but i think it always -- i was always interested in what it felt like to live in a country in which there were fundamental constraints on how you lived and what you could care about and what your values were. so when there was a moment in my life where i could go to a place and try to dig into that, china was the place that fascinated me.
>> he has potential, that kid. >> people often say, how does it feel to be evan osnos's father, and i would say, i'm immensely proud. i went to to vietnam as a young man. evan went to iraq and covered the war in 2003 and subsequently into doesn't four and 2005 for the chicago tribune. -- and subsequently in 2004 and 2005, for the chicago tribune. and then he went to china. the abilities to have these parallel experiences makes it possible to understand some of what is happening to us. my wife susan will be furious i am telling you this, susan, will you forgive me? my great mother-in-law, a
fabulous woman, carol. she's got peter's brains but susan's personalities. evan strength is not just his ability to write and report. but his understanding of the world around him is always been extra ordinary. host: we have 20 and it's left in our hour. listed to mentor number three. you work for robert bernstein. let's take a look at him on video from 1989. >> you feel that human rights is the most important issue in the world today. we feel major problems like ecology, drugs, aids, disarmament, overpopulation are all international problems and can no longer be solved by a single nation. if human rights conditions do not exist in countries, those
countries can really not participate in the changes that have to be made and governments are not the experts. the experts of various countries are always individuals and they have to be able to work with the experts in other countries if we are to survive. speaking to those of you from the u.s., we believe while there are many institutions in this country, the greatest institution is our ideas and we have to try to export those ideas in a modest but firm way, because our survival depends on them. host: how did he influence you? guest: bob bernstein was a publisher. came from a new york jewish family, went to harvard, served in world war ii. started as a salesman, a book salesman. and eventually became the chairman at random house.
or he published all kinds of wonderful -- almost every major author you can think of of that era was a random house author. but on the side, he was one of the founders of what was first called helsinki watch and eventually became humans write what -- human rights watch, which has now become the most important human rights organization in the world. i used to say it started in the phone booth. bob calling george bundy who gives him $200,000 to get the thing started. one of the ways that bob was extraordinary was standing up at a meeting, a board meeting at human rights watch, saying, we endow our libraries, we endow our hospitals. we endow our universities. let's endow our values. the amazing thing about bob is when i reminded him of that, he had forgot he had said it. it was all about his instincts.
for what was right. to be a person at his level, it is hard now to fully appreciate, being the chairman of random house, it meant anyone would come to his table. the early years of what became human rights watch, he would have arthur miller and tony marx and everyone -- toby morrison, and everyone wanted to be around bob. and his first investigator of the human rights situation in eastern europe, and the first executive director, and a very distinguished new york lawyer, they started this thing. it was tiny. susan went to work for them. i used to say, if had been google -- if it had been google, we would have been billionaires. she was the first press director of human rights watch. but what bob did consistently was sustain his leaf and values.
-- his beliefs and values. mercifully for him it was combined with a very great publishing sensibility. he hired me and -- well, first he told me when i was working at the post, he said, peter, journalism is not a fit profession for a grown man. when you get serious, call me. so i did, eventually. when i got there, 1984, it was the first year fortune magazine was doing that 100 best companies to work for in america. rittenhouse was one of them. -- random house was one of them. it was not just because it was a publisher of great books, it had a sensibility about what was important. and that was bob. a lot of people cannot really appreciate -- yc starting every sales meeting by talking about human rights? because that is the way he is made. in the end, izzy, ben, and bob. be the best -- b b s.
i was going to recognize what i called value, standards, and flair. that is what those three gentlemen gave me as a model. and i was preparing to call the company bbs, but people said they would not know what it meant, which is how he became public affairs. -- how it became public affairs. host: you have the opportunity to bring lots of people to bookshelves around the world. i wonder what you feel like you can do as a publisher that you could not do as a journalist? guest: i did not know when i got to random house what i was supposed to do. no one told me. it was not like i had a course. so i did everything. literally everything. i took out the trash.
when it came to having an author dinner i would do seating. my objectives were to understand the process. i was a reporter so i reported the process. i eventually came to recognize that i like two things, i like very much finding out what the story is, and i like very much figuring out how to share it. most journalists are focused on that first part. i did not know until i got there that i could focus on the second. and that i would enjoy it. that it's books and publishing, it's a business for sure. anyone who forgets it's a business is not paying attention. but it is more than a business. and i like post -- both elements of it. i like that i could find and get
good books. at public affairs, good books that matter. and i could publish them in a way that was meaningful and pay the rent. because you can publish great books, but if you cannot pay the rent, eventually someone will come along and knock on your door. so our goal was to find the books that i thought were important and work with the authors and figure out how to get them into people's hands. host: i wonder if you'll indulge me in a lightning rent. as you have had the opportunity to work with presidents, and if i say their names, can you give me a sentence? about what you learned through working with them in ways people rarely get to see? guest: a real tests. host: let's start, jimmy carter. guest: he was everything he pretended to be. he was a man who is deeply principled anti-thought and was
in fact a writer. host: bill clinton. guest: bill clinton was dashing, charismatic, means well, but trying to extract the goddamn book was hard work, but we did. we published it in 1996. on this very program, it was book notes at the time, brian asked me, why did the book not do better echo and i said, i did not have as -- i did not have much time to promote it. it's the first time the author said it is not the publishers fault. host: barack obama. guest: his book had been rejected, turned down by simon & schuster because he missed his deadline. this young man shows up on my doorstep. he wants to write his story. i think basically what he wanted
to do was pay back his loans, college loans. we published it in 1995. it did ok. two is in four, any gave the keynote speech -- 2004, when he gave that keynote speech, my descendants dusted off the book, published it, and sold 4 million copies. one more sentence, when we got together when he was inaugurated and i got all the people who work on the book inside, this is really historic, this is an ordinarily important book, we all agreed that our one regret about barack obama was that he was not in more trouble. we did not have enough anecdotes. host: donald trump, you published two of his book, including art of the deal, which many think put them on the pathway to the white house. what is your observation of him? guest: i believe the donald trump we saw as president was the donald trump i saw as a youngish fellow on steroids.
he had many of the same characteristics. lived over the store, did not drink or smoke. really only interested in himself. did not really have values. but when he was a developer, and a personality in new york real estate and so on, it did not matter all that much. then he became president and it did matter. i truly believe that one of the greatest mistakes in modern american history was when he announced in 2015 and said he was running for president, people said, oh, this is a joke. we will put his stuff on the entertainment pages. the truth is, they underestimated him, the degree to which he resonates with certain people for certain reasons. where people forget is when he comes up with all those names and because people terrible names, he thinks those up. donald trump is disciplined. i will not pass judgment for the
nature of the c-span audience, but this is a formidable character. when i saw him, he was a character in process. when he was president, he was a character fully grown. host: one more later. not american but i want to get your take on them and that is vladimir putin. guest: when he got to be y --- when he got to be, yeltsin basically picked putin, he says he picked him because he thought that of all the guys hovering around them, he thought he was the one with the spine. so he picked him. and putin's first press, his first pr person, said to me, what can he do to introduce himself to the american people?
should he write a book? and i said no, because everyone will know he did not write it. so why don't you get three major journalists from what was then a fairly open russian press to interview him? and they did, 24 hours. and we published the transcript. it was called first person. it was putin describing himself. it was a book in which we were able to present putin in his own words. a lot of it turns out to be deceptive, like how much he loved his wife and children and so on. but you can see the character of the guy, former kgb guy. i only met him once. when i saw -- there was a man who was really tough. -- what i saw, there was a man who was really tough. he was talking about, there was a submarine that went down and all the sailors were dead and his view of it was, we did what
we could, i'm so sorry for them. he's a man with very little sentiment. of the kind that other -- empathy or any of that. but he's tough and it should also not be underestimated. look, he's now served as the head of russia longer than stalin. host: summit random house -- you ran public affairs for eight years and you published 300 books, 50 of which were bestsellers. public affairs is now part of a much archer publishing house. as a founder, how do you process what happened to your company? guest: it was inevitable. we were sold to hachette in 2016. acquired. we were a partnership with our
investors and at some point inevitably something would happen. we were -- acquired by hachette who have been very good to public affairs. they did not change anything of consequence. they would not give me a desk, but that's -- i found a thing in the wall street journal. which was an ad for something. it said, the average company lasts 20 years. how do you get to 100 daca -- 100? it was a start up. we stayed in the sometimes difficult years, of handling money, we made it to the point where someone wanted to bias. not to destroy us, or take us down, but to give us another life. so i said we got to the other shore. to this day, i think public affairs does what we set out to
do, which is published a certain kind of book. if you have done it for 20 now -- may 29 is going to be our 24th anniversary of founding. my goodness. if you're still around at 24, and you've done what you set out to do, ok, but a lot of that -- and i think the c-span viewers should know, a lot of that -- and i am not, this is not logrolling here, the way c-span has evolved is very important to me. because if you put the mission where it belongs and figure out how to support it, then you are really doing what you should be doing. that is what our goal is at public affairs. host: we're talking because the publication of your memoir. we have about five minutes left. in the final section of the book, which is called reflections, you have a chapel called wrinkles -- a chapter called wrinkles. what is its big reveal?
guest: the big reveal is i am not invulnerable. i had to deal with the fact i had gone through. , more than once, of what is classically called clinical depression. why? what does it come from? what is mental illness what is stress -- what is mental illness, what is stress? i firmly think we need to know the difference between what happens to everyone, stress, which can be very powerful, and what is mental illness. i have thought, because i was depressed, that therefore i had a mental illness. i am now convinced that what i really had was all kinds of stuff bothering me which i could not deal with. i call it deflection. in the book. i references early on. these are when things happen. and instead of absorbing them, you deflect them. but they are there.
and in the case of -- i had several really high stress points at one stage involving my family, mercifully none of which matters now. and i did not know quite how to deal with it. what was the one thing they all had in common? i was not in a position to fix them. because i cannot fix them, and my whole instinct is action, or trying to resolve a problem, i had to go somewhere. i called it depression. but trust me, if you have a problem and you are seeing a therapist, the first question the therapist should ask you is -- what is going on now? what in your life right now can be affecting you to the point we need help? it is not whether your parents or your family -- that's not the issue. if you are grown up and have
your own family and your own way of seeing the world and things are rough, do not be surprised that you feel it. stress is normal. and take advantage of the fact that stress can be managed just like everything else. host: you started this book as a memoir for family and friends and now it is published. you say at the end for a wider readership you suggest they got a colorful set of expenses with life lessons. what else will they get from you? or what is a life lesson? guest: one of my life lessons is if you are running a business, the only thing that you need to know, the only thing that matters, pay your bills. the people you are to the -- the people you're doing business with have their interests. they may want profit or not, but always remember that the key in a business setting is doing what
you believe in, sticking with it , pay her bills. host: last questions. your for some observations about aging and ageism in our society -- last question. you offer observations about aging and ageism in our society. what is is like -- what is it like to be your age in an america with a focus on the digital age? guest: we're are the first generation to -- traditionally, 65 -- one third of your adult life comes after 65. as a society, we have not figured out what to do with it. so i think we should stop talking about retirement and call it repositioning. which is to say, you change your role. you do not necessarily, unless you want to -- the rocking chair becomes the wheelchair.
find ways in which you can continue to engage with the world around you. this book was part of that for me. a brain exercise. i believe that what they call the baby boomer generation, i believe it is the first generation to really, truly have to deal with that. 20 years, 65 to 85, of how to make the best use of your time. as a society and culture we have not figured it out. we need to, because there is a loft -- a lot of experience out there, an awful lot of people who have been through things. i say at the end of the book, the first to stories in this book are from the 40's. that is 80 years ago. if you think it is history, it is history. 80 years before that
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dr. kristin englund from the cleveland clinic talks about the u.s. response to the coronavirus. we will take your calls and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter. washington journal is next. host: good morning morning. the senate gaveling back in session following the recess. the house returning next monday. vice president harris in guatemala today, then mexico. biden departing for great britain. the g7 summit will take place in cornwall, england. ahead of the washington journal, we want to follow-up on an issue that led the sunday show positive conversation, cyber threats, ransomware and its potential to cripple the economy. is the gov