tv Charlie Rose PBS April 3, 2013 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, a conversation with senator george mitchell, former senate majority leader, former envoy to the middle east for president obama. >> years ago you remember mao tse-tung published a book, a little red book, the sayings of chairman mao. >> rose: right. >> i was senate majority leader even then or shortly after and i read it and i thought "i'm going to write the little blue book, the sayings of senator mitchell." >> rose: right. >> number one, the higher one goes and n life and especially in government-- not only but especially government-- the greater the capacity for self-delusion. >> rose: we conclude with a conversation about the new play
"lucky guy" written by the late nora ephron and three people who knew the central character played by tom hanks are eddie hayes, joanna molloy and jim dwyer. >> is that jimmy over there? >> it was, it was breslin himself. do you want to meet him? >>. no >> you don't want to meet breslin? >> i already met breslin. >> when? >> last week. we were both covering that mafia murder on coney island. >> and? >> well, you know -- >> what? come on! >> all right! i walked up and i say my name and i tell him how when i was a kid we'd come down to visit my uncle timmy in brooklyn who wouldn't even say good morning to you when you came down for breakfast. he'd jus point at the pap and say "read breslin" so i'm prepared to quote breslin to breslin and you know what he says in >> what? >> nothing. he just grunts. >> rose: mcalary had two qualities that stood out above everything else which a really good journalist has to be, as you know, you have to be physically and mentally
courageous and have good physical stamina and supreme to want to talk to you. it's what made you successful, it's what made him successful. he could go to a very well educated person, to a person with a lot of money and they would talk to him. cou go to some irish guy that was a cop and was five feet away from being in at a prison and that guy would sit down and want to talk to him. so those were the qualities that made michael what he was. >> rose: george mitchell and lucky guy when we continue.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. captioning sponsored by >> rose: this easter marked 15 years since senator george mitchell mediated an end to the centuries old sectarian conflict in northern ireland. in 1998, the good friday agreement stands as a historical example demonstrating that peace is possible even in the most difficult circumstances. such fate has thus far eluded the middle east. in 2009 mitchell took on the challenge of brokering peace between the israelis and palestinians but for both parties peace remains harder than war. president obama's recent visit to israel has renewed hope for
resolving the conflict. i'm pleased to have senator george mitchell back at this table to talk about where he sees things today. welcome. >> thank you, charlie, good to be back. >> rose: you just made a speech and and have blilt and you said "i will firmly say that there is no such thing as a conflict that cannot be solved." >> i believe that. i believe that every conflict is created, conducted, sustained by humans and can be ended by humans and ultimately will be ended by humans one way or the other. either through the total victory of one side and the total defeat of the other or by both sides recognizing where that doesn't happen that it is in their mutual interest and stop the fighting and to get together and work out an arrangement whereby they can live side by side and that i believe will happen in the middle east. >> rose: okay, but sometimes foo fatigue sets in, too, doesn't it? >> yes. >> rose: people just simply say "i'm tired of thi"
and it happenein ireland. >> it did. rose:nd some parts of the middle east. people are saying "enough." >> in northern ireland, a contributing factor was exhaustion with war. fear and anxiety takes a heavy toll on people. you can't measure in the dollars or cents, but it's there. and the possibility that your child might be killed on the way to school or back, the randomness of death and destruction is far more difficult to bear than having an organized army fighting on some defined battlefield because there you know it's words occurring. these urban conflicts-- which are reallyhe challenge of the 21st century-- this is -- what is happening now is going to be the new norm in the world and we have to get accustomed to it. it's far more difficult for societys to handle and it does set in. i know that you interviewed a group of women just a few moments ago. the entry of women is an active political force in northern ireland also had an effect. they were mothers. >> rose: and they were in the streets.
>> they were wives, they were sisters. they got into politics, they got into the negotiations and they played a verympornt role i creating, furthering, conditioning public attitudes that ultimately supported the peace process. >> let me speak to specifically about the middle east. so the president went back. he did negotiate or he got the prime minister of israel to apologize to the prime minister of turkey. >> a significant accomplishment. we'd been trying to do that for a couple of years since the time of the incident. >> rose: what do you think happened? >> i think the prime minister of israel felt the time was right to do it and in his cotry's intest. israel is in a difficult spot. although they are militarily totally dominant in the region and their support is very strong in the united states it is declining elsewhere. and they had two strong allies in the region: turkey was one, they had a very good relationship with them. even a working relationship on the military side.
that has weathered some of this storm. and they had a reasonably good relationship with president mubarak and the egyptian government when he was in office. now, of course, egypt is in turmoil and that treaty is threatened and their relationship with turkey went badly downhill after the incident over the gaza blockade and i think this is a very prudent step for the prime minister of israel to have taken. i think it's good for turkey as well and it's very good for the united states. the president deserves a lot of credit for getting it done. >> rose: should the president when he went to cairo should also have gone to jerusalem? >> in retrospect probably yes. >> rose: was there opposition to him doing that at the time? >> no, there wasn't. >> rose: did it not occur t anybody at this was a good time to do both. >> i think there was discussion but let's be clear, we can't measure by double standards. president reagan never went while in office. president george h.w. bush never
went to cris while in office. president george w. bush went in his eighth year in office. so obama's -- >> rose: why is that? why is it -- >> well, they just didn't feel it was necessary or appropriate at the time. i don't know. i can't speak for anybody else. i can't speak for this administration. the answer to your question is gle retrospect in the benefit of hindsight. >> rose: because the arabs took it as an front. >> it would have made more sense to go to egypt and to israel. >> rose: i want to talk about the process of negotiation in a moment but looking at the president today and the issues in front of israelis and palestinians, even though settlements are still a big issue you don't see much conversation about it. the president didn't talk a lot about settlements on this trip. >> he may not have talked about it a lot in public -- >> fair enough. >> rose: i assure you it was discussed in private. i don't know how much, i wasn't privy to it. i'm in longer a part of the admistration. but the reality is, of course, it's not the only issue but it is an important issue.
and it has to be dealt with. i think the president made a valid point-- which i made to the palestinian leadership many times-- the way to get settlements resolved is to get an agreement establish a border. and the president was very clear and emphatic on that both on this trip and previously. the united states has taken a position under every president since israel was ceated and settlements started of opposition to settlement construction. the president's position is the same as george w. bush's was and it goes all the way back to president carter's presidency. but israel and the united states are mature democracies. we are friends and allies but we don't agree on everything. and that's a subject on which we don't agree. they continue to build, we continue to -- >> rose: as far as the subject of the palestinians the israelis don't agree because the palestinians are saying the more settlements you have the more difficult it will ever to have some kind of agreement.
>> but the reverse argument to that, charlie, is the longer you wait to get in to negotiations and settle the border the more settlements will be constructed. >> rose: fair enough but listen to this, the co-chairman of the israeli palestinian center. he writes an op-ed entitled "advice to the president." "don't waste time on the process deal with the substance, your last person tried to get the parties into the negotiating room and that was so difficult that only 10% of his time was spent on substance" is that a fair observation? >> it's a fair observation although not wholl accure in terms ofhe numbers. the reality is, though, you can't get them to talk substance if they're not in negotiations. >> rose: yeah. >> so it's kind of a catch-22 what comes first. >> rose: i guess his argument would be you've got to get something going on the substance level then they'll be more willing to come in the room. >> well, that's debatable. we actually did have four meetings in which netanyahu and abbas met directly. i was present in all of them.
there were substantive discussions. unfortunately rather than getting them invested in the process it reinforced their doubts about each other and the other side and the question of the settlement freeze which we had negotiated its termination led to the discontinuation of the talks. but i don't dispute its importance to get the substance but the notion that you can just walk in and say "well, tell me what your position is on this or that," they don't do it. they want to get into negotiations both sides. the question is can they reach agreement on how to discuss getting an agreement? >> rose: should you take the tack that let's find out what we agree on and show some momentum and then when you get to the hard issues you have some momentum going or should you tackle the hard issues first because unless you do that, you're not going to get there anyway? >> it's a good theory but in israel and palestine there are
no easy issues, they're all hard. it's hard, harder, and hardest. the principle is a sound one. you start with what you think you can resolve. our position was-- and i believe the american position remains-- let's start with borders and security. palestinians a eply concerned abouthe borders. the president set out the american position in a speech a couple of years ago. the israelis are deeply concerned -- >> rose: a return to the '67 borders with some changes. >> that's right, mutually agreed changes. and the israelis are understandably deeply concerned about security. they have a state but they still live in fear and anxiety because of the circumstances in which they live. and we thought that's the best way to begin and incidentally that's the way you get to resolve settlements. if you finally have a line: here's israel, here's palestine, you nuild what you want on your side of the line, you can build what you want on your side of the line. the way to do it is to get into negotiations and to stay there until you resolve that. >> rose: do you believe there's a time in which a two-state
solution is impossible? >> yes. >> rose: when is it? >> pretty close. >> rose: really? >> demography is going to be decisive. >> rose: demography? >> yes. right now there are a few hundred thousand more jews than there are arabs living in the region between the jordan sea and the mediterranean. if you include israeliarabs, palestinians in the west bank and in gaza. but the population trends are inexorable and some time in the next few years-- possibly as early as 2015-- the numbers will be equal. the most recent population estimate is that by 2020 there will be a half million more arabs than jews in the region. if that happens-- as former prime minister and defense minister ehud barak has publicly said in israel-- if that happens the people in israel will be faced with the awful choice they should never have to mak they will then have to be either a democratic society or a jewish
society. they will not be able to be both. and that's a choice that should be prevented and it can be prevented if they can get into negotiations and reach an agreement. >> rose: do you think they understand that? does the leadership, netanyahu understand that? >> well, ehud barak was the prime minister and the defense minister. >> i understand that but he's not the prime minister now. >> he's not in government now and there are many who understand that but don't agree with it they think they can have both. they think they can control certain areas there and have a democratic state. i don't think that's going to be possible. >> rose: when you say jewish society, what does that mean? >> that means described as a jewish state. that's what -- >> rose: it doesn't have to be a democratic state? >> well, no, i think it should be a democratic state. >> rose: well it can't be a democratic state if they fear that they are democratically they will lose their power. >> well, that's the point that
barack me in which i was maki. however, it is possible and certainly to have a jewish and democratic state. barack. i mean, you don't take the position that there can't be a muslim in a democratic state. turkey is a muslim democratic state. there are many others. but the fact is that it can be a jewish and democratic state. if it cannot be that if a majority of the population is arab and muslim. that's the problem. that's why you need two states, one for each people: a palestinian state for the palestinian people in which will bendepdent viable, geographically contiguous and a jewish state for the people of israel. both of them democratic. the palestinian state would be demilitarized, they understand that, the leadership understands and accepts that, they're not going to have an army or a navy, they're not going to have airplanes that are capable of striking israel. and that would give, i believe, the people of israel greater security than they have.
here's the point that i tried make to the israeli leadership. yes, it will be painful politically to enter into an agreement with the pestians. yes, there will be risks. it could go wrong. but the risks of not doing it are far greater than of doing it. that is, no course of action can free israel from all risk. getting an agreement with the palestinians, it reduces the risk of bad things happening. >> rose: do you believe the palestinians are a -- prepared to make an agreement that? that they are -- because, as you know, there have been several "new york times" which they might have that they backed away. >> that's right. that's right, that's right. and i said that dictly both to chairman arafat when he was alive and to president abbas. that they have waited 60 years for some perfect solution to come floating down from heaven, it hasn't come, it's never going to come. the fact of the matter is in 1947 when the u.n. proposed a partition, israel accepted, the
arabs rejected it, the first of several wars started, all of them won by israel. every reasonable arab leader today, every one, would gladly accept the '47 partition plan which they rejected. >> rose: of course they would. >> of course! but it's no longer on the table. and there is no evidence to suggest that the choices are going to get better in the future so they should sit down now and take the best deal they can and get a state. yes, i do believe the majority still support in polls the two-state solution. >> rose: so why do you object to them coming to the u.n. and asking to be recognized as a state? >> only because it will reduce the likelihood of their becoming a state. >> rose: why? >> because they can't get a state without israeli agreement. and it has the opposite effect on the israelis. >> rose: no matter what the u.n. said the israelis are not going to recognize -- >> absolutely.
they're going do it only through notion. so agreement means, charlie, you need both people to say yes. and if i want you to say yes i shouldn't be taking action that will cause you to say no. >> rose: did you say to the israeli leadership when you were trying to negotiate things occupation on the west bank does you more harm than good? >> yes, of course. of course they know that's our position, we've said i many time i sd,go back and look at the statements of president bush. president bush's plan, his proposed plan in 2004 in writing called for a full settlement freeze and referred to an end to the occupation. and -- >> rose: but that's a different thing than calling for it. i'm saying say clearly to the israelis that this is doing damage to you, the occupation. >> oh, yes, yes. >> rose: not just that -- >> they're well, well aware of that and -- >> rose: it's taking a toll on your own psyche and everything else. >> many israelis make that argument. >> rose: know they do. i us to make that argument with benjamin netanyahu. >> yes, yes, yes. >> rose: and what did he say?
>> their argument is they want peace. they want negotiations. >> rose: they want to be an occupying -- >> well, that wasn't said but it's here that they don't want to be an occupying power. israel is a democracy and i think that the predominant view of the people is they want a two-state solution while there are -- there are many in their society who do not regard this as an occupation and some in the government do not regard it as an occupation. they regard it as disputed territory. i think they recognize the damage it is doing worldwide to their reputation and to their support. >> rose: what has to happen? you said at the beginning of this conversation that every deal can be made. so what has to happen to make a deal between the israelis and palestinians? because every other arab leader says it's important to them. >> i think that ultimately nations, societies, like individuals, act out of self-interest. and, like individuals, nations and societies often have trouble figuring out where their
self-interest lies. >> rose: you're assuming they're rational parties. >> that's right. and so ultimately i believe that it will become clear that the path of least risk and highest return to both societies will come from an agreement in which they can live side by side in separate states in peace. >> rose: and do you also believe that the north koreans will come to an agreement about their own mill taristic rhetoric? that it's not in their interest to engage in that kind of rhetoric or those kinds of plans because they've got too many other problems? there that there's a rational mind there that will suggest there's more to be gained from negotiations than from conflict? >> i didn't say and i don't believe that every mind is rational. >> rose: okay. >> and i didn't say and i don't believe that every government acts rationally. when you and i were younger, barbara tuckman wrote a great book called "the march of folly". >> rose: how world war i started.
>> government took actions directly contrary to their own interests. north koreaing is a completely separate case and there's no basis for comparing it with israel. >> rose: therefore that may be a place where a rational solutio cannot bfod. >> it's a totalitarian society dominated by the military, completely isolated. and one of the most amazing things, charlie, when you go around the world and meet leaders of as many countries as i have is to see how often they are misinformed, uninformed, almost delusional about the circumstances in which they find themselves in. go back and read the history of saddam hussein sad in the last few months of his reign. it's almost unbelievable. the guy was completely delusional about what was going on. had concept -- >> rose: even though the ships were in the sea he did not believe they would attack. >> it's hard for leaders and i think it's especially hard for the president of the united states to get a grip on reality because you have so many people who don't want to give you -- >> rose: it's hard on the not get a grip on reality? >> yes.
in other words to get all the opposing views, to get a clear understanding of what's occurring. you live a cocoon. you're surrounded by people who's -- who support what you say and don't contradict what you say. i believehat a president mst act aggressively to seek out contrary views, opposing views. i'll make the point simply. years ago you remember mao tse-tung published a book, a little red book. >> rose: right. >> "the sayings of chairman mao." >> rose: right. >> i was senate majority leader even then or shortly after. and i read it and i thought i'm going to write the little blue book, the sayings of senator mitchell. >> rose: right. >> number one. the higher one goes in life-- and especially government, not only but espeally in government-- the greater the capacity for self-delusion. meaning that you -- it's hard to get contradictory views and contradictory advice. >> rose: even if you ask for
them people are reluctant to give you -- >> that's exactly right. you've got to be aggressive in seeking it out. you've got to search for contrary juice. you started the show on northern ireland. >> rose: right. >> if i did anything there it was that over the period of five years i spent there, the three separate negotiations i participated in i got the parties listen tothe other side. just listen to what the other guy is saying. don't walk out. don't dismiss it. don't sit there thinking of something else. actually listen to what the other guy says. it's a very hard thing to do. >> rose: without that, nothing. >> without that nothing would happen. you have to be able to listen genuinely -- >> rose: so who convinced this -- who convinced bashar al-assad -- >> i don't think anybody will convince him. i think he's dug in and i think that it's now like a greek traged the end is known, the only question is when and how it happens. he can't survive and he can't
leave. he's trapped. he's trapped and i think it's a -- the question is how many more lives are lost. >> rose: so therefore is there a time in which the number of lives that may be lost demands an acceleration of the end? >> an acceleration by who? >> rose: by a group of people including the united states, whether it's -- no? >> got to be very careful about that, charlie. >> rose: what about history's judgment? wh about how many people- is senator mitchell prepared to recommend have to die the inevitable comes? >> a very distinguish columnist in, nicholas chris off the of the "new york times" wrote a column criticizing obama for not intervening in sudan. charlie, let me tell you something, i said earlier these regional conflicts are going to be the new norm. let me make one point about the next 50 years. there's a lot of talk about what's happening now.
at this moment there are seven billion people on the eah. one out of five-- about 20%-- is muslim. in the year 2050 there will be between nine and a half and ten billion people on the earth. >> rose: yeah? >> one out of three will be muslim. there will be three and a half billion muslims in the world, which is equal to the total population of the earth as recently as 196 a. >> rose: i hear you. therefore? >> therefore if you like military interventions in conflicts in that part of the world, you're going to have a field day over the next half century. the question is whether the united states can sustain it. we have to figure out a way better than getting in -- >> rose: would you have made the same argument with respect to the balkans? >> i don't know. i don't know what argument i would have made then. i do know now what i've just said to you in the aftermath of
the conflicts in iraq and in afghanistan. and i want to make clear, don't think i ve thasaid i'm opposed to all intervention. i'm not. there are times -- >> rose: well, how do you choose is the question. >> that's the question. it depends on the affirmative action of each case including the political -- facts and circumstances of each case including the political dynamics within our own country. we've never had a debate on what is the basis upon which the united states should intervene because the questions are so fact-specific, so dependent on the circumstances of the time-- our own situation and what's happening abroad-- that you can't conjure up a hard-and-fast rule. you can set forth some general prcipals but a simple question i ask you: is humanitarian-- that is the loss of life, innocent life-- a sufficient basis for american military intervention somewhere else in the world? and if so, what is the number? ten people killed? 10,000?
100,000? five million? what are the circumstances? >> rose: where do you place strategic interests? >> at the top of our list. hi think that american foreign policy must have as the highest priority american nional interest. now, the question is: does that include room for things like humanitarian. can one make an argument that we're better off on these thing occurring in other places. the answer probably is yes but you can't define in the any precise way and it depends upon the judgment of the leader. all i'm saying is that whoever leads this country over the next half century is going to have to be able to make very difficult judgments because there are going to be lots of these conflicts all around the world. not just in the muslim world. we're going to be increasingly asked to intervene. we're not in a period of decline as some analysts suggest. in fact, i will argue that in
ten years america's economy will be stronger, its military will be stronger. >> rose: more and more people are arguing that. >> all of those arguments and so the demands are going to increase, not decrease. >> rose: but i'm mostly disturbed may be you say not with that, i think you have to mike smart judgments but you wonder if you're going make smart judgments if the president is not necessarily hearing all the advice that he needs to hear. >> it's a challenge for the person who's president. >> rose: not just our president but leaders everywhere. >> that's right. that's right. it's a challenge to seek out -- charlie, our brains are wired tom receive and remember information that is consistent with our prior beliefs. and we resist information that is contrary to our beliefs and we interpret information based upon our prejudices, our bias,
our beliefs. i want to read you one thing to make that point and it's universal. it isn't just one side or the other. >> rose: why do you have this in your pocket? >> i carry with with me because i use it every time i get into a question. this is an example of how people interpret events in a system with their prior belief. in 2004 george w. bush wop the popular vote by about three million votes and he received 286 electoral votes. after that election the "wall street journal" editorial page wrote: bush won by what with any measure is a decisive mandate for a second term. he has been giving the kind of mandate that few politicians are ever fortunate enough to receive in 2012, barack obama was reelected by about five million votes and he received 332 electoral votes, both substantially -- >> rose: now we want to hear what the "wall street journal" said? this case, don't we?
>> quote: obama won one of the narrower reelections in modern time he will now have to govern without a mandate. these are intelligent people but they interpret event us there the prism of their beliefs and they are not alone. so do you, so does do i, so does everyone else. that's why it's so hard for a president to fight his way through the cocoon in which he lives to get information, just the here is number of issues. the here is weight of matters on which a president must be informed and must decide is truly incredible. think about this. all over the world the united states now is the dominant military, economic, social, cultural power in the world. people around the world -- >> rose: not just now, we've been that for a while. >> for quite a while and it's increasing. one of the fascinating things about getting around the world is you see how people exaggerate american influence. if a guy turns on the faucet and there's no hot water somewhere
in asia, well, the c.i.a. did it. >> rose: right, exactly. >> or obama's responsible. >> rose: also a lot of people are saying well, your best years are behind you and that whole argument is being de. >> i strongly disree with that argument. >> rose: thank you, it's always great. (laughs) >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: george mitchell who continues to lead an extraordinary and interesting life. back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: mike mcalary system the subject of nora ephron's play "lucky guy." his reporting on the police department won him the pulitzer prize before his death on christmas day in 1998. joining me are three people who knew him well, eddie hayes, his lawyer and friend and two colleagues at the "new york daily news," jim dwyer and joanna molloy. the reason we're having this conversation is because this play is about one man but it's
also about a time in the life of new york and all of these people knew about it and nora ephron clearly wanted to capture it and did in the play. so it's about a time, it's about a kind of journalism, and it's also about one man who had a remarkable life because there were so many things that happened within the short period of 41 years. so i'm pleased to have them here. let me begin by having eddie hayes, his lawyer, tell me about him. because you are prominent in the play. and there's a guy who captures some of you pretty well. and we so l see that in a moment. >> well, one of the things about the guy who plays me is he captures the superficial parts and that's important because i'm a pretty superficial guy. (laughter) and i'm not kidding. and i'm not kidding. and the thing you have to undersnd about mcary is he was defined by what he did. mcalary is not going to be a guy that's going to write the bible, that's going to write a book about physics.
mcalary is a guy that you send to find something out, right? i'm a guy you hire to take you across the street. a constitutional scholar? get somebody else. right? mcalary -- >> rose: that surprises me! (laughter) >> mcalary had two qualities that stood out above everything else which are a really good journalist has to be, as you know. you have to be physically and mentally courageous and have od physical staminand people ve to want to talk to you. right? it's what made you successful. itis what made him successful. he could go to a very well-educated person, to a person with a lot of money and they would talk to him. he could get go to some irish guy that was a cop and was five feet away from being in at a prison and that guy would sit down and want to talk to him. so those were the qualities that made michael what he was. and michael was tough, he was reckless, he was impulsive. and men like that make mistakes. but nobody ever complains when you need him, right? when somebody says "go get a guy
with nerves of steel," you know, you grab mike, right? >> rose: how did you meet him? >> i met him because another guy brought him out to look at this house and he couldn't possibly afford the house and i told him that. he calls me up the next day in the middle of a riot in brooklyn. >> rose: were you his lawyer then? >> no, nothing to do with him. he calls me up the next day in a riot there brooklyn. i said "get out of there, michael, you're gonna get hurt." he says "i'm gonna be on the front page tomorrow." and he was. he came up to see me -- iold themo come see me. i said mike, do you still want to buy the house? he says, i do. i said you don't have the money but i'll lend you $200,000. now, how are you going to pay me back? he says "that's your problem." (laughter) i said "what do you mean?" he said "i heard about you, you're going to be my lawyer, you're going to figure out a way for me to pay you back." i said "with an attitude like that, we'll think of something." >> rose: therefore a friendship loved him like a brother.
>> rose: you talked to him everyday it is said. >> i say so, yes something would happen -- what the hell would snap there'd be bombs blowing up. he'd say "hey, this is good for us. or we'd come down on opposite sides, we'd have completely different opinions and say "this is good for us." and i'll tell you why. because you get the guy on the other side of it -- and he was a terrifically generous man and he was kind of this brash public personality but -- >> rose: he wanted to be breslin. >> no, come on, let's -- i'm going to start a riot with that. >> rose: start a riot. you're here. that's why we're doing this. is that clearly part of the play? >> i don't think that's fire. >> rose: wait, you don't think it's fair to michael or fair to what or to what nora wrote? >> it's not fair to michael or what noro r.a. wrote. michael had a much different attitudes towards other people
and the people he grew up with than jimmy does. jimmy's a brilliant writer but michael loved the people on his block, he loved the people he knew and grew up with and michael was fearless physically those are the qualities that distinguished him and he was different than mr. breslin. >> there's no question but there's also no question that anyone in our generation, joanna mike, the presence of breslin was monumental and is still. he was a guy that nobody could avoid learning from and reading about all the time. >> you have to admit he admired -- he grew up idolizing jimmy breslin. >> that doesn't mean he didn't accomplish things in life that jimmy -- >> that's not it. the issue. no doubt he did a whole different kind of reporting. >> i'm not talking about him from professional point of view. i'm his family. it's like what happened to your
brother. well, you know but on the other hand the play does suggest that that's was -- an ambition and you d't deny th jimmy breslin was an enormous -- >> brilliant writer. >> rose: okay, go ahead. tell me about him. >> well, i sat next to him in the newsroom and he would get into it with the editors one after another would come over and say you have to take -- you can't say that, you have to take this out, the lawyers aren't going to like it. and i said which one is your editor anyway? and he'd say "that half of the room." (laughter) in the play nora wrote that our editor-in-chief hesitated to even run this pulitzer story because mac had trouble after
the story about the woman claiming that she was raped. and so they were hesitant about him and she said she almost did not run that story. >> rose: let's talk about the thing that makes the life dramatic. first of all, he was a flamboyant character in terms of the way he was when he went in a room, when he was in the bar, when he was with other reporters. flamboyae? >> sure, he was a new york heavy hitter and that was -- that's the way he was. >> there's a wonderful story about him, first time he ever went into elaine's when he was 22 years old and he happened to see at the bar jerry brown, the former governor -- then the governor of california and now the governor again and apparently brown had just broken up with lynd da ronstadt so mike went to the bar and got $10 in quarters and went to the jukebox and played "you're no good" 40 times. (laughte >> you knew that was coming!
you knew that was coming. >> rose: i loved it. >> and you know, who does that when they're 22 years old and it's such an intimidating place. >> you know what i always wonderd? where did he get that brash confidence have from? he just -- i don't want to say he was disrespectful. >> was it there from the get-go with you? >> absolutely. the >> he always believed in himself >> you'd bring him into elaine's or mcgwire's he'd have henry hill or the chief of police, he'd have the police commisoner as his friend and he was this young guy. >> he would have a mobster and the police commissioner. >> rose: but that's part of the golden era of that kind of journalism, right? you >> now you get indicted for even thinking about it. you're in a rico case. (laughter) >> rose: >> he started when he was 14 and he got beat up in boston covering patrick ewing games and so maybe h first met mike at a
tennis game and mike just showed up. he was 14 years old. had no place to stay and no money. so mike lube a let him sleep on a floor in his hotel room. so maybe by the time he was in his 30s he had confidence >> he could produce. he was willing to take a chance and he could produce and, you know, let's face it. he was not the most -- deepest thinker in the world. his idea of -- it was send maine to do it and i'll get the story. and he got the story. >> rose: now a scene from the play. here is christopher mcdonald who plays eddie talking to mike mcalary played by tom hanks. here it is. >> mcalary! you ever been to bellport before? >> no. mcry. >> the editor of the "new york times," abe rosenthal, is three blocks away. anna win tour, editor of vogue
over there. beautiful front porch, 6,000 square feet. it will be a lawn. i live down the block. anything goes wrong, i'll get you a plumber. you have kids? >> two. >> that's good for you. you can have six kids in this house. eight if they're not too big. laugh >> okay, how much is it? >> $550,000, but for you $550 >> okay, tell me something. what is a mortgage? >> how much are you planning to put down? >> subzero. >> jesus mary mother of god. well you can live in that. what do you mean put down? >> cash, cash like say $200000 just to pluck a figure out of your head then a mortgage for the rest on which you pay interest. do you have $200,000? >> no, i do not. >> what's your salary? >> about $58,000. >> how much do you have a in the bank? >> i have $3,000 in the bank. >> you can't afford it!
>> what do you think or the portrayal of you? he captured something. did he talk to you? >> i'd never wear a hat indoors. (laughter) >> but you wear a hat with great flourish. >> because i'm bald he's a wonderful actor, terrific guy and he has my voice and i think -- first of all i like him very much personally. >> does he capture eddie? >> absolutely. ed city a dandy and every time he walks on the stage people say "what funny thing is he going to do next?" >> did you talk to nora about this? >> i did. i spent a fire amount of time talking to her. i didn't know her at all. i got a few calls after mike died and she was thinking about making about a movie so we talked for three hours then i start running into her every couple of months and she'd say
oh, do off phone number for this guy or that person and so forth then after a while she stopped talking about it and four or five years later i saw these hollywood producers, i happen to be talking about something else and they said oh, have you read this screenplay by -- about the new york columnist in? i said what screenplay? and they said nora ephron, it's the best thing she's ever written. and i said really? no. >> rose: when was this? >> five or so. so it was about four or five years, and next time i ran into nora ephron i didn't want to bring up this thing all the time because it wasn't getting me -- i didn't see it but i said or in, a this guy said it was the best thing you ever wrote so what's happened? she said i can't get the financing. i said how can that be? you made "sleepless in seattle" and all these incredible movies. even if it's not the best thing you ever wrote, maybe it's the second or third thing. she said "the problem is i can't get the person i want to play the lead." i said "who's that?" she said "i can't tell you.
but tom hanks does not like people in your profession." (laughter) >> rose: she'd worked with tom a lot. they were good friends. tom spoke at her memorial with his wife rita wilson. >> it's been an odd experience for a lot of new york journalist and eddie, i'm sure as well because it's little splinters ouour lives. we're saying who are these people with our names and why are they singing these songs and i said this is what the von trapps must have felt like when they watched "the sound of music." >> every one of these people are exceptional, they made a huge difference in new york life, it's been a great pleasure to be around them. fabulous people. >> i want to talk about three or four things here and one of them is the time there is that and
era that no longer exists? we still have to be lloyd journalism, we still have columnist ins. >> i'm read for you, charlie, i brought a show and tell. i knew you sked are tabloids still relevant and here is my little show and tell of the daily news where matt got his pulitzer and here is -- we have been relentless on this gun issue, we have "blood on your hands" and the picture of congress and we have a petition of thousands and thousands of new yorkers and from everywhere signed it to get a ban on automatic whens and without tabloids who's going to do front pages like that and there's mayor bloom bergholding all the petitions so i think tabloids are still relevant >> the city was a different place, the subways were broken down and covered with graffiti
and you know the central park 5, the beginning of that ken burns documentary, the first five or ten minutes i looked at that, they showed all that stuff and i said holy cow i forgot about that city. you know? it's been -- it's really transformed. a younger person today does not understand it. sometimes my kids when i say you can't come home at 2:00 in the morning they say dad it's not 1991 anymore. >> take a look at this. this is a scene in which tom hanks is in a play and we'll see mike mcalary on the program at this table. here it is >> i am a newspaper reporter and i love my job. i'serving the public. i'm telli peoplehat happened yesterday. i'm telling them facts. i'm rewarding the good guys and putting the bad guys away and (bleep) there's such a thing as my story. >> your story is you had a bad
case of breslinites and you'll never get over it. >> well, that's how you tell the story. >> exactly! you've also got a gut for red meat, you've got people to talk who don't want to talk and someday you're going to have your own column >> you really think so? because i swear to god that's all i've ever wanted! >> to me this is the only thing, being a journalist. am i writing in a column in new york city. everything else is second place. and i loved it before and now i've reclaimed that. you know, i realized that i had to fight for it. i had to come back. >> that's my man. >> wow. >> so he's talking there after he had a nearly fatal car accident in 1993 and it -- he literally -- his heart stopped beating, all kinds of terrible things happened to him and just
through iron will and his amazing wife get back on his feet. >> he loves his kids, loved his friends. you know, i mean he's in some ways a very traditional neighborhood guy. good family, loved his job. always there when you needed him. >> rose: you said that the biggest influence was not jimmy breslin but mary tempton. >> well, i think we all wanted to have mury's brains and jimmy's style and -- because murray could think through things with -- he would tie the 16th centurytor diet of worms into whatever was going on at the city council and he had this fabulous baroque mind. >> he was a wonderful sweet man, murray. >> he was a great guy. >> rose: this is mike mcalary there. you can see him as you see anymore the picture there. the wins pulitzer prize for
abner louima stories and another picture there from the "daily news." there he is celebrating with champagne, sitting down. one there was the controversy about his reporting, about a woman who said she was raped. tell me about that, eddie. >> well, i represented him on that. it was dismissed. the allegation was that he had libeled her by writing that she was not raped and the judge found that he had extremely good sources, one of whom was a man we all admir named jhn miller and some other people in the chief of detectives office and i represented many of the people that worked in the chief of detectives office and you have a lawsuit, the laws in the united states of america you lose, everybody goes home. was she raped? they announced -- the indication now seems to be clear she was raped. >> rose: so he got it wrong and then they told him he was wrong? >> yes, the police got it wrong. there were a lot of things about
the first set of facts that made you very suspicious. they were made a mistake. michael operated on information from great sources and those sources turned out to be wrong. >> rose: it wasn't just john miller it was other people, too. >> the great thing about this play is that it's very honest and direct in my opinion about these events. and it tells michael where he was brash and reckless and where he was brave and crusadeing and it's a whole brain. the whole brain, the whole heart at work and that's why personally i actually love the play. you know even though -- you know, there's little splinters of things that are not quite historically accurate but who cares? you're telling the -- >> rose: what do you love about it? the play? >> well -- >> rose: go ahead, -- because he said he loved the play. >> well, i was just going say that through all the vicissitude
of mike's life that nora ephron managed to make so many funny parts. i mean, that whole drama she has one of her funniest lines and there's been a drama written about mike before that was great but she had a genius for humor. >> rose: it was off broadway? >> yes; called the wood. and -- but nora had a genius for for humor and she somehow made us laugh. >> rose: what did that controversy do to him? wfrjts it took a hell of a lot out of him. he was -- he had just come back from this car accident. he wanted to show wasack on top of his game and, you know, is it was a terrible mishap, mistake. and -- >> rose: did it affect his career? >> yeah, it affected his career.
>> and he felt betrayed because 28 people at work signed a petition against him. >> rose: because of the -- >> yes, of his story. >> rose: in the midst of this lawsuit he then discovered that he had advanced cancer and so and then theawsuit got dismissed and then he's dying and he gets this tip about a man who's been sodomized and tortured, the won that he -- >> rose: while he's getting chemotherapy? >> actually leaves the hospital while he's getting chemo, pulled the tubes out of his arm and went down. the whole point of the play is stories. as carter says, everything else is just a point of view. so it's not that michael was a good guy or bad guy that happened there, he had information, he hasn't had much time to act on it, something went wrong. that's it. nobody complained when he went down and made abner louima out of basically his deathbed. >> and why i go -- when i go to this thing there's a moment
right after he breaks the louima story where mcalary as tom hanks turns around and says "it's not the oldest job in the world but it's still the best job in the world." and each of the journalists on stage turns around and says "because you can make a difference." "because you can stay out all night." "because of the deadlines." "because you get to come back and do it again the next day. and it's so true. it's so true. i love that. >> it really did capture an era and a person who i think that mike was sui generis. >> he was. >> and nora ephron never met him but somehow through interviewing all of us she captured him and now because tom hanks plays him so well i cannot believe it. i bumped into some of the actors on the street outside the play and i just said thanks for letting me see all my friends
again. >> rose: so you were very, very close. you loved him. they captured his essence in this play? >> hanks -- as far as i'm concerned hanks walks on water. >> hanks is the bruce springsteen of actors. >> he's great and the whole idea of tabloid journalism telling a story, the picture of a guy that rises to the top, that falls through here is courage, raises himself again literally from the dead. that's a great story. >> rose: four months before he died. >> that's right. he died on christmas day. >> rose: for all that it does visit anything, it doesn't do that ought to be set about mike mcalary? >> well, there was only one teeny, teeny thing that i actually sent george c. wolf a note. >> rose: the director. >> yes, they don't have the bartender talking.
(laughter) the bartender would have been an equal part of the conversation. >> rose: and you? >> michael made a mark in new york city that jimmy breslin never did. i don't care what anybody says. >> the best reporters of our age many of them, are not in the show. the women. it's a show about guys. >> rose: that's why we wanted her here. >> thanks charlie. when i first got to the news on the night shift there were 27 guys and me. (laughs) yup. >> rose: the "new york times" in its obituary had this headline. "mike mcalary, 41, columnist in with swagger to match city's." thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you, charlie.
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