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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 24, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm EST

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college compared to people working within north carolina? good time to get people involved or are they involved earlier? >> what i see is with students icy there redefining what it means to be politically active. social media is part of that. they are the tried and true kinds of parts of activism that we like to see students involved with but there are other things emerging too. just starting to understand what that means. i work off-campus as well. i spend a large chunk of my time working on campus with people in regional communities and economic development on environmental issues. i work with a lot of non-profit organizations and government agencies and icy and enormous amount of creativity and change.
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in the ten years or so since i did my primary research in north carolina, i have seen some pretty big changes in terms of accountability, in terms of the relationships between the federal government, state government and nonprofit organizations. we have new forms of oversight. new forms of records and documentation and accountability that are starting to emerge whereas at the end of the 1990s when we were studying the book it felt like the wild west. there was new system emerging. nobody knew what to do or how accountability was going to take place. people who were using public resources, working on behalf of the public who were not actually public officials. they were volunteers.
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heads of non-profit organizations. they were using public parts, the public didn't necessarily have oversight. but today we have all these measures and indicators and reporting systems that are a bit onerous for a lot of folks but it does provide a little bit more oversight. >> thank you so much for your time. >> the c-span campaign 2012 bus visits communities across the country. to follow the bus and travel visit www. c-span.org/bus. ♪ >> theed up on booktv, afterwards with an hour-long program where we interview authors. this week the news hour's jim lehrer and his new book tension city:inside the presidential debate.
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from kennedy/vix and to became/obama. some of the more memorable moments of televised presidential debate since 1950. he shares how he developed his question that kept them secret and reveals which he believes were better left unasked. he talked with cnn chief political analyst. alisha border. >> welcome to after words. with me is the executive editor of the news hour, jim lehrer who has just written a fabulous book called tension city:my view from the middle seat which will be on your book stands on september 13th. it is all about the presidential debates. we have had a lot of presidential debates and some of us cover them but your the only person i know who has moderated presidential debate along how many of them? >> 11. >> host: you are the man in the middle seat, at the center of the stage.
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you have written fiction about these debates but you have never told us what it is like to be in the middle of it. why did you decide to write a nonfiction book about the bates? >> guest: i thought it was time to do it. i felt 2008 when i did one of the obama/mccain debates i knew that this was probably going to be my last presidential debate. i decided pretty much that was the case so i started collecting my thoughts and taking notes through the previous ten and i realized i had some things i wanted to say. it would be hard to say if i were still about to do another debate or whatever, not that i had any scores to settle. >> some good stories in here. >> i thought there was just time to share things because i really
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do believe so strongly in the importance of these rebates. i wanted to share my feelings about the importance of the nitty gritty i think is part and parcel of why they need to be handled well. >> talk to me a little about why they have become an important part of the presidential process. wasn't always that way. we seem to think it was but not always. >> here is what has happened. it is -- presidential debates have become the only times during the presidential campaign where the candidates, usually two and sometimes three are on the same stage at the same time talking about the same thing. they come usually in october with the election pretty close. maybe a month or only a month or less away. the polls show that in probably 90% or more of the people have
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already made a decision as to for and they're going to vote but that decision, some of them are leaning and some of them are not and mostly what they want to do, the issues are pretty much on the table and people decided whether they're in favor of lockboxes for social security or debt ceiling is. or whatever. all of those decisions have been made by the voters which still remains to be seen and understood and decided upon, i like this person. is this person up person? come over somebody. forget what the issues are. what if there's a crisis? what if there's something similar to katrina or another 9/11 or what if there is some major catastrophe or crisis happens? how do you feel about this person? that is why it is important. >> host: you call the book tension city because it is. these candidates have to make people like them essentially is what you are saying and you
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spoke with bush 41, george h. w. bush who said to use the debates are, quote, ugly. i don't like them. why? why did he say that? >> guest: he feels very strongly that it is also a biz. for instance one debate, a three person debate with bill clinton and ross perot when he looked at his watch, famous moment. i looked at my watch. so they're all over me. has nothing to do with issues or whatever but he said in the interview with me, why were you looking at your watch? he said i was looking at my watch because it was boring me. i was looking to see when it was going to be over. those kinds of things to the audience, leaves an impression.
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it is a language impression. a body language impression rather than a spoken word impression. and so from george h. w. bush's point of view he thinks it is ridiculous for to have so much riding on these 90 minute exchanges in a presidential debate. >> host: his son feels exactly the opposite. >> guest: he thinks it is terrific. he and bill clinton said the same thing in different words, that they feel it makes them better not only better candidates that better presidents because it forces them finally in those last few weeks before the election to be able not only to decide what they really believe but to articulate. casey it in a positive way. both george bush and bill clinton. >> host: you wrote and i will quote your book, each participant remembers the debate performance through the prison
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deeper emotional as well as political. is there any debate performance, there's or yours, that sticks out in your mind? >> guest: one of the problems by sitting so close and it is all about television, this is for the millions of people watching on television. it isn't the studio program. this is not a pep rally for the opposing candidates or any of that ad is not even an interview program. the purpose of the debate is not to show how terrific the moderator is or how much i know for how quick he or she is in responding on all of that. for instance, to answer your question specifically the one i remember more than any other was the first al gore/george w. bush debate in boston, 2000.
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i was sitting where i am now and george w. bush was to my right and boar was to my left. very close. i was the closest person to them obviously. i have a rule. i would suggest this to anybody who moderates any debate. keep your eye on the person who is talking, not on the person who is reacting. if you watch the person who is reacting you can distort the reaction. so at any rate to make a long story short i would ask question of george w. bush and he would be giving an answer and bore started sighing. remember that? going like that. it hurt him terribly because the public's are that, split screen coverage than but when it was over walking out of all with my family and one of my daughters said that was incredible what
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board did. i said what did he do? and she said -- mentioned about the sighing and all that and i didn't see any of that. people listened to that on the radio thought he won the debate hands down. watching on television -- kennedy/nixon. exactly. exactly the same parallel. >> host: an interesting role about your role as moderator. we see one the newshour all the time as an interviewer. i would love you to talk about the difference between the role of the interviewer we see you as on the news hour trying to make some news or get some news versus the role of the person sitting in the middle seat in a presidential debate. i think it is a distinction that people need for su understands. >> guest: i see them as two
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functions. let's say you have a candidate a and candidate be on the news hour and i was running a discussion on would follow up and introduce new subjects, what do you think about this, etc.. in a presidential debate also have my own little pattern i have developed. hy make the decision rightly or wrongly that i am not going to introduce a whole new subject out of the blue at a presidential debate. it is not this campaign has been going on for year or more, the public has heard all of this. it would be easy to sit in front of ninety million people and ask questions off-the-wall, embarrass the candidates but for what purpose? that is the number-1 rule. the other rule is you have to make sure everything is perceived as being absolutely 100% share.
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doesn't mean it has to be fair but has to be perceived as fair. you can run a discussion on a regular television news broadcast like the newshour and everything, the clock is this and timing is right but if for some reason you are not fair -- not perceived as fair to ideas as well as to the people you can blow the deal. with a presidential debate you always -- i always remind myself this is not about me. i already have the best job in television journalism. i am not auditioning for a better job. i am not running for anything. if people are talking about my question even favorably when it is over with i have failed. it is and about the question. it is about the answer. you want to facilitate the exchange among or between the candidates. not between me and them. it is all state of mind.
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just the opposite. >> so you have to kind of change your memory to a certain degree. >> guest: exactly. you get to know why you are there. if you know why you're there and made a decision to stay with that it is not difficult. if you are fighting and all the time it would be very easy. i say this in the book. it would be easy for a moderator particularly the way it is now, single moderator format to just drop hand grenades right and left. make a name for yourself and everybody could be talking about billy bob the great moderator. he really leveled and all that sort of stuff. it is a temptation that must be overcome by everybody involved. >> host: this leads me to before you did the single moderator and there were group panels and there is a famous question that
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bernie shaw of cnn asked which is now referred to in your book as the killer question. you were quoting somebody who referred to it. >> guest: jules workover and jack chairman. >> host: talk about what that was. >> the exact words i can't quote off the top of my head but essentially it was the first question in the debate, number one question and he said governor dukakis, this was in 1988 against george h. w. bush. he said governor, if kitty dukakis were raped and murdered, would you be in favor of the death penalty for the perpetrator? and dukakis -- take it one step at a time. that was the question that bernie shaw decided to ask.
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and there was at that time there worse a moderator and three panelists. they had a meeting, three panelists and bernie. the day of the debate it went over there question and they will do things and the long and involved story was the three other panelists, margaret warner who was with newsweek. now with the pbs newshour, andrea mitchell with cbs news and and compton with abc news. the three panelists, three women said to bernie wait a minute, rethink that question and try to talk him of it. at least not use her name. bernie was adamant about asking the question and he asked the question. in doing some reporting,
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old-fashioned reporting about the meeting and how it came about discovered that there were hard feelings that exist to this day about the fact that the 3 panelists talking about answering the question in the first place and back talk about whether somebody new the question of the time and no evidence that it did leak out but at any rate, i say in the book it is a good lesson for all of us in journalism including the two of us, all of the frailties of human kind exist among journalists as they do among politicians and lawyers and preachers and bus drivers and everybody else and in this case there was an honest disagreement over what each one heard and what each one believed. there weren't any good guys or bad guys here. just a reminder, just remember
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is that we can all see things differently very honestly. >> host: it is interesting because you write in the book that michael dukakis didn't seem to object to the question after words. but it did -- viewers did look at it and say it told them something about michael dukakis. >> host: that is the double-edged sword. >> guest: dukakis's answer was i have always been opposed to capital punishment and he gave a little essay on capital punishment. everybody was expecting some kind of emotional -- my god! they're talking about raping and murdering my wife! and he didn't see it that way. he didn't react that way and it hurt him terribly. i say this in the book as well, david broder, the dean of political reporters who died recently, at the time was political editor of the washington post said to ann
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compton after that there is no way do caucus is going to come back from that and it turned out dukakis himself, everybody makes mistakes. he said i watched that tape and listen to myself again and i didn't think it was that bad. he said i did it in the context we have been talking about capital punishment, been talking the all my life. it just seemed like i gave my regular answer and i missed the emotional thing. george h. w. bush said if he had asked that question he would have been grab that guy and kill him with my bare hands or something like that. >> host: kitty dukakis was sitting in the audience when it was asked. >> guest: a huge gold, side in the audience and everybody on television felt the same way.
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but you see your point is, why it is a double-edged sword, a lot of people criticize bernie shaw for asking the question. however, the question revealed an awful lot about michael dukakis. if dukakis had reacted differently it could have changed -- i don't know if it would have changed the end results of the election but certainly perception. >> host: it is one of those questions. these candidates go through huge amounts of prep work for these debates. there is no way that one of his advisers would have said let somebody ask you this question so he could have prepared a canned answer. there are lots of canned answers. >> they work on those. >> host: that leads me to one which is in the benson/quayle vice-presidential debate when lloyd bentsen came up with one of the lines we will remember for all time when dan quayle
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mentioned jack kennedy as he had done on the campaign trail and he had a line saying i knew jack kennedy, jack kennedy was a friend of mine and you are no jack kennedy. there is some dispute whether there was a prepared line. it sounded like one to me. >> guest: sounded that way to me. i was not able to talk to lloyd bentsen because he was ill when i got around to it. in public statements he made to reporters after the debate when he was asked whether that was prepared line he said no. it just came to me. however, some of the folks around lloyd bentsen later said we had heard him say this before. we had heard dan quayle say something about john f. kennedy before that -- the experience thing was the point dan quayle had more experience in congress
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and in government than john f. kennedy did when he was elected president. they were ready for this. i think we just have to leave it to here again to two different views of what happened. >> host: talk a little bit about the negotiations that going to -- i know you are not part of them. you clearly know about them. the candidates just don't show up at the podium and get ready to debate. it is a grueling process that their campaigns go through. like peace talks. >> guest: absolutely. the thing everybody has to remember is the negotiations are by two groups of people. one with only one purpose. and that is to make his or her candidate have an advantage over
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the other candidate. everybody on the other side is doing this same thing. they couldn't care less about whether or not this is fair or whether this is or whatever. if they think it will help the candidate to be seated, we will negotiate the best we can to have the debate seated. if they think -- if our guy is too short compared to the other -- for dukakis against george h. w. bush, other -- not so tall. they lifted the space behind the podium so michael dukakis wouldn't look as short compared to george h. w. bush. that was negotiated. one of the candidates, some of these candidates swept a lot more than others. we all know that. if the people who sweat always want the temperature to be 30
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degrees -- 90 >> host: negotiate the temperature. >> guest: and the format. remember the bobble negotiations. bob dole is a man who talked in verse. and one liners. never talked more than two-1/2 minutes. his negotiators were willing to give up anything for those at this to the only -- never more than 2-1/2 minutes long. and against bill clinton. -- bill clinton could talk for 2-1/2 hours on any given question. in order to get that, clinton also wanted a town hall facing. so they swapped. their negotiators swapped. bob dole got short answers in some of the debates and in exchange for clinton's people getting what clinton wanted which was the town hall debate for the first time.
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everything about the size of the holding rooms, everything about it is negotiated. >> host: including the moderator. that may posit that that may be why they ended up with a single moderator because they couldn't agree on anybody a other than you. >> it is not false modesty. it is the truth. a couple of times that i ended up moderating debates it is because they could not agree on anybody else and they could agree on me and they threw up their hands. >> politically this person said some things. >> guest: or whatever. they're always looking for advantage. one side thought this would be a disadvantage, dispersant for whatever reason. it doesn't have to be a legitimate reason. it is almost like in a jury, you arbitrarily say juror number 7 out of here.
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it is the way it is. in my case, there were fewer objections to me rather than positive feeling. >> host: how do you prepare? you are now racing will moderator and this is a great weight on your shoulders and you can't -- tension city is kind of small compared to what you are going through as moderator. how do you rule yourself off and figure out what it is you're going to ask? may be foreign policy debate for domestic policy debate for town hall, how do you sort of sit there and say what are the questions people in the united states need to hear about? >> guest: you got it. that is what it is all about.
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fortunately, working with my colleagues in the news hour who are terrific professionals, i always begin with them. help me out here. make suggestions, etc.. and i do an awful lot of reading and do all that stuff and then depend on the timing but there comes a time when i don't talk to anybody else. i have no more conversations with anybody except my wife at the very end because knowledge is everything. i don't want anybody on our staff to say will he ask a question about fill in the blank? >> host: ever get called by campaign? >> guest: never. not like that. think how helpful that would be if the campaign could find out ahead of time what the questions were going to be or even a hint of one or two or anything like that. i want to make sure in my case i
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want to make sure that is impossible because if i don't say anything to anybody -- anybody period about what my questions are going to be there is no way for anybody to find out and as you say what i have done is wait until the last day and go through it with my wife and that is it. and shea tests them for apples and orangess. >> host: explain what you mean by that. >> guest: you have got to ask -- if you're going to ask candidate and apple as a candidate be an apple. the task and apple to one and an orange to the other. the questions have to be perceived as, quote, equal in terms of intensity, in terms of aggressive. whatever it is. if you ask a pointed question that has to do with a personal characteristic you have to have
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a matching question that is perceived to be as tough as the other one of the other candidate. all of that is really hard because as i say, the perceptions for the candidates are critical but it is also critical for the moderator because in the whole process, not just about the moderator, when it is all said and done, what i want and what everybody will see -- that was a fruitful, honest exchange of ideas among one or two or three people. it would be two or three. who is going to be president of the united states and that is what it is all about and everybody connected with it has to keep that always in mind and that is all it is and all it is meaning a single most -- it can
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be the single most important event of the campaign. >> host: let's talk about a three. that is a different dynamic. we have george bush, clinton and ross perot. tell us about ross perot and how he changed the dynamic. ..
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is if you're so out of hold you can it. with perot was fascinating for me not reading a of his peak as he came to determine not to attack. he was not going to attack clinton or bush under any circumstances. he was going to talk only about what his ideas were. and every time i tried to get him to criticize clinton, he wouldn't do it. he wouldn't take the bait. but he was very conscious of the rules come at very conscious the timing everyone's a while i was afraid he was going to say exxon and say and say hey, jan, you're not being fair and giving me enough time. i use body language to say it's going to be okay. can you not a minute here. everything will be fine and everything once. >> more tackling.
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>> or to claim one of those with half -- the first 45 minutes of the most difficult 45 minutes for short as 45 minutes of my life. and there were no fools. we are experimenting. they were experimenting. the candidates agree. so the first question -- and i had to make sure that not by timeclock that not for the first 45 minutes. so how i perceived it and people were counting the time and telling me in my ear that there was not -- there is nothing that could be done about it. i can hear was the case that when the 45 minutes was over i only had one thought in my head. what they perceived as being fair to all three of those guys? and it was.
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as far as i concerned, i was not cognizant. >> host: people don't understand that when you are doing this, your people talking in ear come as well maybe you need to give perot another minute. it >> guest: all the live eight timing is clinton up to over bush won over it -- that's all they've seen. these folks are real pros. and those of us have done a lot of live television all know you speak very quickly and get used to the voices. nobody with any words. but that's all the same. nobody ever talks editorially. no one said anything editorially in my ear. >> host: by 1996, you are so low. i was when he first started being so low. one other thing that was so interesting to me in the book wasn't talking about that here, bob told noritake amp the vice
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presidential candidates went after bill clinton on the so-called character issue was sort of stunning to me to kind of look back on not because it is almost impossible to imagine today? i mean, he was not a question because it was charming and relevant import the campaign. how did that go? >> is surprised me. this was long before monica lewinsky, but jennifer bowers case could come out and there was a kind of stuff. and i just assumed it would be prodded by tool. then i asked a couple questions that he could have taken. so 20 minutes and are so -- maybe longer than not i finally said, senator dole, is there anything about president clinton
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scared her that you think it's relevant to whether he should be reelected president? and dole made a joke about it. he said while he's shorter than i am are taller than i am are taller than i am right remember something like that. and he just completely dodge the question. and of course then he was caught caught -- the republican supporters were alone or have afterwards. in the next day was czech camp and al gore. so everybody assumed in every pundit in the world said zero well campell take it off. so i immediately try to get a cab to say and he would not say anything. can't tax a to effect that that we are not here to talk about people's character. we are here to talk about issues and that was the end. >> host: but then he misunderstood the question.
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>> guest: he took a lot of heat for that. but he also said -- in fact both of them said to me one afterward for this book in this documentary did come and have no regrets about that. they vote for the kinds of politicians who are uncomfortable talking about this stuff. and also what i did not know was that the "washington post" and other news organizations were working on the story about an illicit -- a fear that ponto was pounding. he had not been, but he had for many, many years that a single woman in the dole camp knew that. told that he was working on the story and all of that. and it could be that kept him from -- that they decided not to open up a can of worms because even though the story -- he has
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long estranged from his wife and the affair he was having with a single woman with long conyers before. but it might have affected the whole and how they answered the question. >> host: if you fast forward to today's political environment but the way were so polarized, et cetera, do you think even given the facts, to think that question would be answered differently? or is that too hypothetical to answer? >> guest: gloria, i think it all depends on the candidates. if we had a similar situation trying to re-create what it was like in 1996, i think the one in 19 issue to use it specifically was certainly in the wind had been written about and reported about in the mainstream media as
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they call it. and it seemed -- i can't imagine not being asked in this world and very graphic terms. i just think he would be -- i think in a legitimate -- >> host: if they knew about john edwards now -- casco yes, absolutely right. i hadn't thought of it, until you read this, but knowing what we knew even then about the gennifer flowers case and for him not to be asked about it -- and i didn't ask about it either. i gave him ways to get to it. >> host: very artful. >> guest: but i think today's world that would've come out. >> host: and then i guess the question is when you ask questions, whether it is alluding to character or whether it is about medicare, social security, whatever, people what she did they and they want to
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see if the candidate is the real deal. >> guest: you got it. >> host: said talk a little bit about that in moments where you thought that is not the real deal. it doesn't look good. maybe it was the defining moment for the moment for al gore or whether candidates can sound too candid and to craft. >> guest: i think that's where most of the candidates, not all of them, but most of them have the mistakes they made, most of them the canned variety. my advice to anyone involved in any kind of debate or interview come in the first thing you do no matter what company you answer the question. are you in favor of a lot docs for social security? >> guest: yes. and then you tell them why. he don't start with social security so forth so on.
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i remember an example of a bush-gore debate, where one of them was fast in a town hall meeting in st. louis. i knew the question was coming because i had come through them before hand with the questioners. has been announced, i can't remember his court were bush, but they both handled it poorly the same way, the question was, what do you have to say to the young people about our country right now? and the answer is an answer about social security. in other words, the opportunity was fair -- were either one of those kinds to say, you know, anything about the opportunities that exist in our country today. you know, you could insert amount. but instead, when in doubt go to the can.
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they make a terrible mistake do not. ronald reagan said his first favor he did so poorly and they gave him all these briefings and telling them what to say in olyphant. and he did so poorly because of that. he was trying to take what answer he was supposed to give. he added that it got that about that off to and they quit doing it. he came out of pretty well. >> guest: yes indeed he did. these candidates also listen to the consultants too much. they are not running for president. the consultants are not the people with the great knowledge. the person running for president is the person standing up there and he or she should be able to handle him or herself on top of the key issues. if you don't know the exact answer you say love, i haven't checked that out, but be straight with people. and the candor would change the
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nature of the way people would be. i think canterwood said mike on the list as a desirable trait to have as people running for president. >> host: or the appearance of candor because it is television after all. ronald reagan you play now got all mixed up on the answers to the cave when he was overpriced. and then we had a couple of good things the next time and managed to do very well because, by the way, he was also good at television. and bob dole, not so good at television. >> guest: a lot of people have said that. reagan was great at television. he was an actor or whatever. like it or not, and the president of the united states has to be able to communicate on television. that is like being at least 35 years old. it is a qualification. you can of the greatest ideas in
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the world and if you want to get the american people to rise up and go toward or not go to war were right up and raise the debt ceiling or whatever it is, you have to be able to make the case on television. be able to look at television camera and people have to start nodding yes, you're right mr. president. it is a qualification for office but are anyone likes it or not. >> host: that makes me think about the 2008 today not so long ago because there seemed to be such a difference between john mccain who has been in public life for quite a long time. in his coat in front of the camera versus barack obama. do you take that into consideration somehow when you think of your questions? >> guest: no, no, no, no. in that case, mccain obama and
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i might agree is the first of his debates, which was university of mississippi. the issue there is body language. and it was not exactly signed the core way, that you may remember i tried my best to can't mccain to look into a trust them directly because they had negotiated a set of rules which made that possible. before you are not allowed to question each other. but this is a new deal and the debate commission was interested in not. he's a mixture that gets done. mccain wouldn't do it appeared and i kept doing it and finally mccain said he think they're not hearing me? to think he doesn't hear me? he cut a little annoyed with my doing it. so i backed off. the point had been made in here
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again that was a negative. i think in fact you don't have to use me as the source here. i think in fact you don't have to use me as the source here. i think in fact you don't have to use me as the source here and james johnson in fact you don't have to use me as the source here and james johnson in their book believe that had tremendous influence on the outcome of the election because when that first debate began, they were neck and neck a little bit of the advantage to mccain. obama took the lead in the polls after that and one of the reasons people said when he came over as angry and fidgety and rigid and never, ever recovered from that. >> host: but you also certified about the threshold for a presidential candidate needs maliki is ready or she is ready. and for barack obama that man's heart has been a threshold. but talk about that a little bit. a candidate -- people are looking i do i am a television
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set. >> host: >> guest: that is the key to the whole thing. in obama's case, the issue out there spoken and unspoken was this guy really ready to be president? is he going to be cool enough under pressure? can he really handle himself? covered the first debate people at the candidates and their opinions. political advance, staged events by parent campaign whenever. how is obama going to handle himself against john mccain? that we are in the big leagues. and let's see. obama presented himself as someone who is calm and kill a much lighter confident that everything was good to be president. all the things he demonstrated with body language as he did
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with words. at the same time, john mccain on the other hand is demonstrating the bad rap on him was got angry and he was fidgety and this and that improved it. he he proves a negative and in obama's case he proved a positive. here again very subtly -- either one -- i'm sure nobody remembers. neither would answer any questions directly about what to do with the financial crisis. i just kept asking, are you in favor of the debate? each one would answer from a different point of view, but they never would say. so there was no content physically between them. it was all about body language difference. >> host: that set the scene because it's in the middle of the financial crisis.
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john mccain suspended his campaign if a recall and there is a question about whether you're going to have at first debate. so what did you guys do at the state commission? >> guest: well, what mccain wanted was the debate to be postponed in obama said i am coming and we are going to have a debate. so it is kind of a blinking kind of thing. the debate commission folks said to me because i was already in oxford when all of this happened. the debate commission said we are preparing for a debate. they will be at a one way or the other. unless we are told something else happens et cetera, et cetera. i was approached by the folks
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are intermediaries that some people from the university of mississippi. they spent millions of dollars preparing for this debate. the state of mississippi in the university university analyst had asked me if i would moderate an event just with obama. in other words, if mccain didn't come, maybe using student run at townhall thing and i said well, that's not bad because they too delighted to be for a week or so. i had a lot of conversations about kind of what we would do and whatever. but i realized in my case fortunately at the last minute, literally at the last minute, mccain decided to come. i was the morning of the debate. he didn't decide to come. >> host: so you're preparing your questions. how do you do that? compartmentalize?
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how do you do that with eve cut this huge story going on outside. and it is your hotel room you are sitting in doing these questions. >> host: it's the nature of the beast. i decided that the other thing about all of these things, gloria, is that it is possible's always got the things you have control over. a >> host: but that's hard. tesco very much so. i decided i was not going to prepare for a one-on-one with barack obama because i hadn't agree to do that and i didn't know what was going to happen. i just went on preparing as if we're going to have the debate of the the regular way. the issue here was my first subject -- i was supposed to do foreign policy and national security and bob schaffer would do this hacking and he was going to domestic.
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i called schieffer who is my friend and i said by the way, just for the record as of right now the financial crisis is a national security foreign policy issue. and i told the debate commission they could tell the candidate. in retrospect i wasted some time. he explained at the end of the debate that this really was important enough to talk about on the first day. but anyhow it went off hockley on time. but it was hairy. there's no question about it. i compared in the book to the debates themselves in the experience from my point of view like walking down the blink of a very sharp knife. anything can go wrong and you can get caught. and i think everyone who was involved in these fields the same way. >> host: you wrote about debates in which things horribly wrong. you know, 27 and it does sound,
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right click jimmy carter? where they were on the stage for 27 minutes and had nothing to each other, which is kind of remarkable when you think about it. was there any time in your debate were you were sort of panicked inside and todd like this is isn't going to come off? you mean the content? >> host: gas, the content or the logistics. something was sort of out of control. i know there is your debate that got out of control. >> guest: no, there wasn't any time i thought seems to be out of control. through many times when i was disappointed when i was unable to use the rules in such a way to ask the follow-ups and i thought should be asked. and i always work very hard.
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i make sure that i stay within the rules in ways that there can be a flow to it. postcode to have input or is it just campaign negotiating? >> guest: to give you the rolls and save we hereby invite you to moderate the debate so-and-so. are you interested? will you do this? and agree to enforce these rules. >> host: what is the best format? >> guest: the best format is a loose format. and we have a fairly loose one in oxford. in that case there were nine minutes where you can talk about it back-and-forth and all of that. i i think wide open format is too much if he could gain.
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you could lose control of it and you would play to the strengths -- they spoke of them are very good communicators but one is a slightly better communicator, you would give an edge if you open up completely. with no rules at all. they ask each other questions and you play kind of as ringmaster, but not as moderator. so anyhow, my ato b. here we are. here's candidate katyn canaday peak the first thing we're going to talk about his troops in afghanistan can withdraw the troops. what is this how not? i'm against it -- let's talk about history for a minute. can we talk to each other and talk to me into the moderator. it would be a full discussion.
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what you said then it would be -- the use of such and such and you could do that kind of. what do you mean when you said a little more they whatever? okay enough of that. now let's go to about libya and do the same thing. do a pace that founder and make sure everybody understands the context and everybody understands each candidate feels about it cannot be restricted to a particular time to talk about libya appeared in other words you might say we cut it. but it may take 12. either way you can do it way. his hard work. >> host: by the time i get to these debates, they don't like each other very much. they've gone through an entire campaign of trying to discredit each other and policy and in other areas.
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when you ask them to in cages he did with the bombing campaign he saw mccain wouldn't talk to him. so was that easy? at this point these are people who do not like each other. tesco i hadn't thought about it but that may be exactly what the problem was, that mccain had just had a with obama and his people. they said some things about him. he was tired of it and didn't feel like having a quote civilized exchange. >> host: that was authentic. that was real. >> guest: and clearly you look at obama would we know since he's been president, though it's a real barack obama on the stage, too. the manner he demonstrated his demeanor he's been demonstrating since as president of the united states. the other thing well i do keep in mind and i rank all the time
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there are very few hacks and to become candidate for president of the united states. his people have been through human meat grinder and mixmaster is an they've been pummeled and called every name in the book and they've been accused of everything and i've had people yelling at them on all kinds of information. and they have been tested and tested and tested. at the time they can on the stage before 100 million people it would debates, and this is not the first time they've done that. it's just the most important time, but they know from where they came. most of the public already knows those people to pretty well. >> host: on the one hand they are overpriced by consultants on advertisers. the other hand they are told just be yourself. just be who you are. have you sensed nervousness?
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>> guest: definitely. and every one of you you can smell it from day one. i have the same feeling with the debate. i am nervous when i begin. but once i get into it and you can tell when the candidates get into it. but for them, it's never over until it's over. the next question could be one thing they have not completely about. there may be something they are, so they can't -- there's no cruising allowed for any candidate. the nervousness knowing, looking at your watch -- the best example editorially was gerald ford in the debated jimmy carter when eastern europe was dominated by the soviet union and his head was handed to.
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i asked him about that. he said here is where i am. i didn't say ray, but here you can be understood by everybody jumped him and attempted badly. he was already behind in the polls and so this made it even worse. but it's those examples are the ones that every candidate knows about. and they want to make sure that doesn't happen to them and that makes them very cautious and their consultants very cautious. >> host: we've got a couple minutes of. what do you do when it's over and suddenly the reviews are in? not only to candidates, but also the moderator. you spent so much time preparing. and people say why did he ask a question >> guest: well, it is exhilaratingn

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