tv Tim Alberta American Carnage CSPAN September 8, 2019 10:00am-11:12am EDT
explores the division of the republican party that led to the election a president trump. after that we visit cheriton, wyoming to explore the literary culture and coming up later then how as whether evangelicals are choosing political power over christian values can check your guide for complete schedule and more information. >> at evening. can everyone hear me okay. my name is jonathan the stores deputy director of events, welcome to politics and prose. if you have not picked up a copy of our monthly event calendar we have them for july and august
and you can go to our website and you will see a list of everything for the next three months at this point so in a moment if you could silence your cell phones that would be great so everyone in the room has no distractions. c-span is filming tonight and we are filming for youtube channel so you don't want to be the person whose phone is going off in the middle of live television your questions during the q&a portion, some questions are heard on the recording so we want you to come up to the microphone set up at the end of the aisle to my left and maybe you're right over here, lineup the microphone during
the q&a so everyone can hear your thoughtful question and to keep them questions, if that's okay. than after the talk there will be a signing appear beside me at the table with a whole bunch of books behind the register so if you have not purchased a copy we recommend you pick up one, two, three, four or five, tommy-- however many want. by as many as you feel and comment meet us up here and that's how we are able to support events like here tonight so thank you for coming out. tonight is my great honor to welcome tim alberta who is the chief political correspondent for political and his book, "american carnage: on the front lines of the repulican clivil war and the rise of president trump" has become one of the most talked about books of the summer if not all of 2019 so far. it's not a small number of books that covered the 2016 election in the first year of the presidency so by this
stage it's these volumes when a book about the subject matter stands out from the pack and tim alberta's book clearly has so far and that's in part because the canvas is broader than covering that scope within this book and it really is an epic covering years of political writ terrain over the course of 600 readable pages you see the republican party grapple with its nominee for 2016 and also see the fallout from their decision to stand behind him in the party's internal changes in the years running up to the election that eventually landed trump on their doorstep. opening with mitt romney overtaken john mccain in 2008 and closing in 2019 when romney once more lingers at the that the book that recent personal encounter with romney as he's really from the indictment of trumpet visor roger stone in the course of the robert mueller investigation, one of
many things like that in the book as tim alberta has interviews with other gop figureheads examining the situation, paul ryan, john boehner, the president himself joining tim alberta tonight is jonathan swann fellow political reporter himself. he's known for his breaking news, insider report of the current administration. please join me in welcoming both speakers to politics and prose tonight. [applause]. >> hello. >> how're you doing? fired up. thank you for coming out to see jonathan peered this is really exciting. >> i have actually unlike you guys had the pleasure of reading this already.
i had advance copy, but i think this will become one of the indispensable books of the trump administration, but more than the trump administration actually tracing the origin of president trump how the republican party came to be, what the republican party is today and one word that comes to mind when i read the book is meticulous, meticulously reported and when i-- i've published a couple of excerpts from the weekend and i reached out as you to some primary sources who were involved to check if they are accurate and the response i got from one was geez, too many people talk so you don't see a whole lot of denial because he actually went to the trouble to get firsthand primary sources and the reason i make such a thing of this is it should not be a celebration that there is it meticulous
reporting, but actually we kind of do need to in this era when you frankly some like michael wolff publishing without making efforts to fact check, fiction under the banner of nonfiction, so when you see something that is defined as what we do and what we care about we should hold it up and really respect that because there is just too much stuff out there that is not reliable has not been fact checks out congratulations on the book, tim. i thought i would start you know now you are celebrated author, tim, and getting that accolades, but i want to remind people that i am a author as well and actually i wanted to read you-- it is germane to this theme. i want to read you a lead from a story i published today in this very germane to what we are talking about.
this is direct quote from the lead of jonathan swann asked co's. president trump has directed his administration to work to have rapper a$ap rocky fleet-- freed from custody in sweden after kim kardashian west contacted white house advisor jared kushner about the issue as first reported by tmz. tim alberto, how did we get here? >> what a blazing introduction. thank you guys for being here, seriously this is great. how did we get here? i think it's really important to understand that donald trump did not materialize out of thin air. we are living in a news environment that's moving so quickly that it's difficult to take a step back and take a deep breath and contextualize everything
that's happening and why it's happening in sort of trace its roots peered there is argument to made obviously that if you could in talking about moderate republican party trace roots back 50 or 60 years. you could trace it to pat buchanan taking on george h dubya but short new to encourage and the revolution 94 the reason i chose to start the book in 2008 was i believe you had this really phenomenal convergence of events with the selection of sarah palin as john mccain's running mate and the schism that really exposed in the republican party, the disconnect between the governing class and the basis of party and the angst and resentment that was out there for simmering below the surface that not many people saw ended then of course you had the financial collapse, that fall with the bailout of the banks and a lot of americans even angrier feeling washington and wall street were played by one set of rules and
americans were played by another they felt the system was rigged against them and you also had the election of barack obama, the nation's first african-american president and you have such socioeconomic disruption and dislocation, millions of manufacturing jobs disappearing virtually overnight. younger demographic transition sweeping the country the likes of which we've never seen before within incoming democratic president and super majority in congress that go about executing a decidedly progressive agenda that certain elements of the country was not ready for. when you layer the cultural and socioeconomic on top of the political, this was guilty into something of a powder keg and it became clear, i think, in the earlier obama administration certainly and then as it moved forward that this was building toward something that i don't want to get too far ahead of jonathan's questions, but i think all of us covering politics during this time the scooter--
specifically republican politics, the 2010 campaign, romney's failed campaign in 12 and obviously the 14 campaign we all had the sense that this insurgency was coming for the party and it was already beginning to break down the gates and this weight was building and we were not sure who would ride it and obviously president trump wound up writing and it's really important for us to reckon with those forces i was describing because the presidency is a transient office. donald trump will come and go anyone be president forever, but i think those forces at work will be here long after he's gone and there is a conversation we need to have about how we deal with it. >> you set some time with president trump in reporting this book. to what extent does he understand or think about, how does he think about the forces, how does he understand his own ride to power in that context? >> good question and i really was poking and prodding him in that regard i do get him
address that and as you note, jonathan, you have spent time with president, he is not always a linear conversationalist. if i'm putting it generously. the president-- i think you are the one that said this while we had breakfast, the president tends to respond to topics rather than questions, so i was asking him about populism, nationalism, nativism and the one thing that really struck me when we were touching on these themes was that the president seemed less interested in talking about those forces at work than in talking about the republican party itself. i think it's sort of a proxy for those forces, which is to say that donald trump gave money to john mccain campaign in 2008 and then he was bitterly disappointed to watch as he characterize it john mccain essentially vouching for barack obama's character during the 2000 campaign
he felt as though john mccain needed to get in the mud and run a nasty dirty no holds barred campaign against obama and his chicago style machine politics if he was going to win and mccain did not do that. he had a different outlook on how the campaign should be run and in 2012 it was a similar story. mitt romney was bitterly brutally defined by that obama reelection campaign and obviously successfully selling trump who came out and endorsed romney and most memorably awkward moments any of us had ever seen he told the romney campaign they are slaughtering you and you had to fight back. from you never did find back. there was a real opportunity to be had by going to the dark side of politics and playing the identity card against obama and romney refused to do so. i mention this because to trump as he begins to orient his mind towards pulling the trigger in 2016 and he had begun to
be convinced the republican party was weak, spineless, that these standardbearers of the party were not willing to fight and that's an intangible quality of politics, but it's impossible to quantify for me or you are some of our colleagues who troubled country talking with republican voters after eight years of obama there is a lot of voters across the country who felt like they had been trampled upon, that they were under siege in need of someone to get in that arena and start throwing haymakers on their behalf and i think trump was identify not force specifically in tapping into it. he looked at the 2016 primaries and said jeb bush, guy cannot even stand up straight he's a wimp marco rubio's 5'8" and sweating on stage. i mean, donald trump did not take many of these folks seriously in the one person he feared was ted cruz because he knew
ted cruz would color outside the lines that he was willing to do things and say things most of the other politicians work-- weren't except he was still under elected official, still had some barrier to entry and he still had to worry about his constituents back home. ted cruz if he was bringing a knife to the fight, trump could bring a nuclear weapon. i think that identifying that weakness in the party was trump's greatest asset as he began his hostile takeover of the gop. >> one of the things that's stuck out to me in the book is you spend time in the book with paul ryan, john boehner, pretty much every leading republican figure over the last 10 years, certainly a lot of the establishment figures and some of the tea party online figures almost all of them you can tell recognized that they misunderstood the tea party movement. this was not really
about fiscal conservativism or the animating feature of a lot of the voters and i thought one scene that was telling and maybe you could tell the audience is you talk to newt gingrich, he's probably asking observer as anyone about how to sort of these and satisfy the republican primary voter. what did you learn in 2012? do you remember? >> i do. well, newt gingrich was at a crossroads in his primary campaign for the presidency in 2012 and he tried just about everything to get the media's attention and gain traction in the polls and you may recall in these political years newt gingrich was heading into the south carolina primary. he had done poorly and i were an new hampshire campaign was hanging by a thread. he was pulling in the single digits so newt gingrich decided to south carolina there were two days before the primary would be held and newt gingrich
decided no more going after barack obama for no more going after mitt romney, no more going into these bag of tricks, new to return his fire on media and it was devastatingly successful in back-to-back debates newt gingrich had the sort of nuclear connotations first with juan williams of fox news and then john king of cnn and essentially rallied not just the crowd in those auditoriums behind him but an entire national television audience and he wound up winning south carolina debate-- primary i should say going away and that was really what prolonged that campaign. had romney won that it would probably been a quick and easy campaign so newt gingrich tapped into this other force acts played in the book if you look at probably the three primary reasons trump one i would say first and there is no particular order but i would say first is this incredible distrust of the mainstream media among conservative base and i
have written about that at length in the past at "politico". it's hard to explain just how reflectively disabling in this hospital many conservatives are of the mainstream media and now is-- not always without reason i should add. for newt gingrich to tap into that mean in 2012, he effectively created a blueprint for donald trump four years later and likes of the other things trump sort of turbocharged it" to quickly touch on the tea party, jonathan, i think it's important to recognize that when you watch these campaigns unfold across the country in 2010, you had dozens and dozens of progressive candidates running under a banner of conservative first republican second many criticizing george w. bush in their campaign even more harshly than they criticized barack obama because they believe the bush administration had been a betrayal of conservative principles, two were split on a credit card.
this was a real revolution happening in the republican party and they were basing much of their opposition to obama and the sort of galvanizing force behind the tea party was the fiscal issues the company was-- the country was going bankrupt and we know now it was largely a farce because if you look in the voting records of almost all of these republicans who came to congress in 2010 as soon as barack obama left and donald trump came in they suddenly didn't care much about the deficit and that's putting it generously. there was a flip there and i asked republicans in the course of conversation for the book including some who are still in office, what changed, what-- how do we make sense of this and obviously there was some degree of resistance if not a significance degree of resistance to barack obama. there's no question about that, but there was also this cultural undercurrents in the republican party were people felt as though they didn't recognize the country they were living in anymore and that has only
accelerated in the years a sense and especially during the obama presidency and when i talked with some leading conservative movement figures as they said the same thing, look candidly knowing what we know now 2010 had nothing to do with debt and deficit and everything to do with people looking around and realizing this is not my country anymore and when donald trump came down that escalator and said make america great again it tapped into that vein in a way no one else could. >> i want to get you to read one paragraph because i think it sort of cuts to the heart of all of this. i didn't-- i had never seen this interview but you found and i think it nails it so if you could just read that paragraph there. >> as a quick background thomas matthews a congressman from kentucky and he's a character. he is a curlyhaired former mit robotics engineer who always has this sort of mischievous grin on his face and
very few friends in the building and he's a very unique character in the modern times. thomas massie the kentuckian who says he was excluded from the freedom caucus for being quote to crazy conservative said it best in an interview with the washington examiner, all this time i thought they were voting for libertarian republicans says nasty who backed ron paul in 2012 and ran paul four years later but after soul-searching i realized when they voted for ran enron and me in the primaries they were not voting for libertarian ideas, they were voting for the craziest son of a in a race and donald trump one best in the class. [laughter] that is a republican congressman, mind you. >> you go through the book and you have seen after seeing of these republicans who as steve bannon one set of paul ryan was seemingly grown in a petri dish at the heritage foundation, cultivated, we thought there was this army of
voters who wanted nothing more than entitlement reform and turns out they quite like their social security and they are more animated by cultural issues like attacking the media, immigration and these other things there there is an amazing scene in the book which i want you to describe it gets to this having breakfast with john boehner in the summer and you ask him whether the republican party will survive or outlive trump and what does he say, he stopped himself. >> he stopped himself. john boehner without hesitating looks up and said there is no-- and then he stopped himself and i said you were about to say there is no republican party and he said well, there is on plays-- paper but what the hell does it mean anymore. john boehner and so many of his ilk, these institutionalist came up in an era in which politics were largely symmetrical. there was a red team and a blue team and as ugly
or as unpalatable as it may have been parties were strong. party leadership was strong or do they have-- ability to get in a room and spoke a couple of cigarettes and have a bourbon and hammer out a deal and that too many of us is distasteful and reeks of this insider politics and, not here to suggest we need to bring back that and it will solve america's problem but the institutional weakening of america is a huge reoccurring theme threat the book and something we should be concerned about and i would start when you think about the institution weekend and the lack of confidence in american institutions whether it's organized religion, public education, the government itself obviously john mccain used to say approval of congress is down to blood relatives and when you think about the institutions that matter political parties don't often come, but they should because it's vitally important to have strong political parties are donald trump
would not have been able to take over a strong republican party. that's with understanding. he hijacked a republican party that was ready to be hijacked and there's another scene in the book where ryan's previous, the rnc chairman is doing everything he can think of to appease donald trump because trump in the late summer of 2015 as you may recall is threatening to run as an independent and if trump runs as an independent he thinks the republicans are done because trump will pugh lopp all these conservative votes and hillary-- hillary clinton will coat to the white house so he's trying to appease donald trump and convince him we will not stack that out-- tech against you so we comes up with this idea with his advisers and it's a loyalty pledge to love all the candidates sign a pledge of swearing their allegiance to the eventual nominee of the republican party that i will not run as an independent and trump gets on the phone with him and says i will sign
your pledge, but i'm too busy to come to washington dc. i need you to come to new york. now, this is symbolic but it's important because when his advisers here this they say to him don't do it. you are the party chairman, the party boss. tell him to get his to dc and we will fog march him into the room and then you to go to the cameras and declare victory that you tamed donald trump. that's not what happened to. he said it doesn't matter, we have to get him to sign this and he goes hat in hand to new york to trump tower. trump signs the document and then shoves him out the back door and goes out and addresses the cameras by himself and clears victory. i am not saying that's why he won the nomination, but when you think about the 2016 campaign in a nutshell, who were the two candidates that energize their party base the most?
donald trump for the republican and bernie sanders for the democrats. what you have in common? neither of them ever belonged it to those parties. that's something we should reckon with hair. the institutional weakening of these two parties have only just begun to see and it's getting worse and where that takes us as a political system i think is very scary to think about. >> so they misunderstand and we in the national media misunderstand the tea party movement, yet the 2012 election and the result is misunderstood, the republican establishment do an autopsy with this great plan to win over minority voters and hispanic voters and trump does the exact opposite. he wins with an even greater number of proportion of white voters and we can talk with the demographic destiny of that discussion, but much of this book is deeply reported inside the room documentation of the republican party doing everything they can to
stop this marauder donald trump who is trashing over there autopsy doing everything the consultants told them they couldn't and this brings me too my favorite quote in the book i want you to tell the story behind it, the quote is, mother is not going to like this. please explain. >> judging by the laughter i'm assuming some of you read the acts or in political last week. at the excerpt in question is from chapter 16 of the book and what i was able to do was reconstruct the weekend of the "access hollywood" tape being released and on the morning of friday, october 7, donald trump and his brain trust were holed up in the 25th floor of trump tower in a conference room doing debate preparations because on sunday night trump was set to meet hillary clinton in st. louis for the second presidential debate so trump is in the room and previous is acting as the moderator sitting across from him and chris christie is
impersonating hillary clinton and there are other advisors and family members in the room and they are going through this session and one by one make it began to trickle out of the room and a suddenly they look up and realize it's just the three of them and he knows in his gut something is wrong and to make a long story short they bring in this transcript the "washington post" reporter sent over to the campaign saying this is the transcript of the audio that we have of the president-- of donald trump candidate trap making these vulgar remarks about 10 years prior and we would like a comment for our story that runs this afternoon well, trump sees the comments and he says that doesn't sound like me. i wouldn't say that and ryan is beginning to pull his hair out. he's very worried and the one person in the room who's not beside themselves at this point is jared kushner, jonathan's friend, who says-- i'm sorry could help it, if you have not
seen jonathan-- >> i am making no comment in my face is not doing any expression. >> if you have not seen the interview with jared kushner, it's a master class in journalism. jared kushner says i don't think this is all that bad. and everyone says excuse me and he says what he talked about this is as bad as it gets and trump says again no one in particular i don't think this is me. and just been one of his advisers walks in the room the reporter sent over the audio and they pressed play and trump here's his voice and he says well, that is me. where this gets interesting in the ensuing 12 hours of absolute insanity and trump tower as everyone runs around my chickens with their headscalled pop with calls coming in for donald trump to quit the race including the speaker of his house saying this is fatal. you have to get him out of the race and ryan's
is fielding calls from governors, congressmen and some of the biggest donors saying you have to kick him off the ticket. of the problem is ryan's is the former general counsel of the rnc, top lawyer and he knows the rulebook inside and out there's a mechanism to kick them off. the only way is to persuade him to step aside and if you know anything about donald trump's relationship he won't be pushed aside by a bunch of these people who he views as weaklings and clowns. the one person donald trump is worried about that day is mike pence the two of them have a relationship that's wildly misunderstood and i hope you will pick up the book and read about their relationship if nothing else from the book i hope you get a glimpse inside their unique relationship. essentially, mike pence was like 70 other republicans viewed him as lump sum and republican watched his political ascent and thought this guy stands for nothing that we
embody as conservatives, republicans and mike pence had always called himself a christian conservative and republican in that order donald trump never identified with any of the three. .. there was this a caricature of donald trump portrayed by the bloodthirsty liberal media. i see somebody different. trump really appreciate the fact mike pence generally seems to like him and sincerely seems to believe he is not a bad person, the villain in windows police he is. on the day that take the drops, donald trump's mine goes to one person first and is not melania.
it's mike pence. he knows it mike pence drops off the ticket, that he's done. mike pence is his salvation at this point back. you have millions of christian conservative voters who are not sure they can pull the lever for trump, and mike pence's giving them the reassurance that they need. donald trump has gotten very close with mike pence and with his wife care. they have very different relationship than to donald and melania trump. [laughing] goes without saying. mike pence as you may have heard does not go out to any functions in washington wizards alcohol present unless his wife is with you. mike pence when he was in congress never let fema staffers to work past 6 p.m. in his office because he did not want to take any risk of appearances. mike pence and his wife are constantly holding hands wherever they go, donald trump found that confusing. he was a look at these kids, so above, holding hands. mike pence also did something
peculiar in the might of trump. he had a nickname for his wife, mother. donald trump thought that was about the funniest thing he had ever heard. mike pence's call his wife mother. on the afternoon of friday, october 7 in the middle of this apocalyptic fallout from the "access hollywood" video, donald trump gets a call from mike pence and he is beside himself. he is very upset, very agitated and he tells donald trump in the very curt brief phone call, donald, you need to apologize and it needs to be sincere. i'm going back to indiana. i need to spend time with karen. we need to pray, think. i'm going to be off the campaign trail for a couple weeks. that's it. donald trump hangs up with his running that any looks at some of his senior aides and he says, oh, boy. mother is not going to like this. [laughing] sorry, that was a long explanation. >> you know, reading this book i
feel like with mike pence you reserve, you might dispute this. i felt anyway the harshest judgment for him. you said taken as a whole, i think the word used was obscene, the boot licking was obscene. why did you view him so harshly? >> so a couple of things. obviously history will judge all of these individuals, and i'm just one small voice in a chorus. it's one thing to accommodate someone on policy grounds. i think it is one thing to recognize that your preferred candidate did not emerge as the party standardbearer and jeff to make lemonade. and we seen a lot of republicans do that obviously. and mike pence on a policy basis
was once the champion of comprehensive immigration reform as a pathway to citizenship. he was once the biggest free trader in all of congress. mike pence used to torment the george w. bush administration over their spending. mike pence was so offended by the disney film and its implication about winning survey combat he wrote an op-ed about it warning this is a true story by the way, warning that the film mulan would a dangerous repercussions for the nation's use and their views on women serving in the military. mike pence is a true believer. he has been for his entire time in politics. during the campaign, before he became donald trump's running mate, he did speak out forcefully on a couple of occasions, namely when trump put out a statement saying that no more buzz him should be allowed in america at all, period, a fold that not all muslims entering the united states of america which of course is not just insane and xenophobic up lately unconstitutional.
and mike pence called out donald trump for that instead it was offensive and unconstitutional. mike pence and private held these pretty strong feelings about donald trump. it's understandable that when you join the ticket there is a certain degree of deference owed to the party's nominee. and to your running mate. eventually to the the presidenf the united states and i think everyone can understand that. but for republicans on capitol hill who know mike pence and to work with him for long period of time who know them personally and politically, they have been sort of aghast at watching how mike pence at seemingly every inflection point back to which the president has colored so far outside of the lincoln push the envelope so far, done something so just blatantly unbecoming of the office he holds, that pence has done nothing, nothing to voice his displeasure with it.
and beyond that, as you probably seen the video clips, and a number of these cabinet meetings mike pence has been asked to open the proceedings here if you haven't seen any of these clips you should watch them. when i refer to the boot licking in the book, mike pence has on any number of occasions begun of these cabinet meetings with essentially acute to three minute worship service at the shrine of donald trump. is that unfair? i'm not going to put you on the spot. and people on capitol hill, supporters of the president, conservative members of the republican conference who have seen these figures have passed them reckoning is making jokes about mike pence. they started to call him a bobble head because of his routine of standing nine trump and just nodding very solemnly. and i think as george will wrote in his column about a a year a, and i quote this in the book, that there is a special status
reserved for pence in the minds of so many people because mike pence, more than probably any other republican in washington, was the polar opposite of trump. he was somebody who was just unimpeachable he decent, unimpeachable he treated his convictions. a man who lived out his faith, who spoke truth to power, who when somebody would do something that was clearly racist or clearly misogynistic or clearly aimed at stoking fear and playing to the worst angels of our nature and aggravating the darkest impulses, america, mike pence is one of few people washed up we could reliably count on to speak out about it. and to see him recede into this role that he is been in now i think has upset an awful lot of people, both objective observers like myself but also longtime friends of mike pence who simply
cannot believe that this is sort of who he is now. >> i mean, and we will go to q&a soon. the other way to look at it is pence you could also say has been totally vindicated. if you are a social conservative, donald trump is giving you everything you want. he's in fact, have some of social conservative victory george w. bush couldn't deliver. he is still in the judiciary top to bottom with altered impeccably conservative young judges who will be there shaping the country for many, many years to come. he's cut taxes in the most classic republican way imaginable with a dream at some point growth filling up the deficit. and aggressive deregulation. i understand the rhetoric. i understand trade and immigration but has really changed the republican party that much? hasn't he just wanted few things tinkered and basically rammed through an agenda that all of these guys wanted for a long
time? >> great questions. to the first point you make that's right and the take pains in the book to explain adequate a couple of people who say something that would blow your mind can some prominent christian conservative leaders who told me in the first four or five months of trump's administration aim at the white house for more meetings in those four or five months then it with a white us during all eight years of george w. bush presidency. mike pence was a part of that. whether it's on religious liberty or whether it's on abortion, whether it's on any number of causes that are near and dear to social conservatives, mike pence's been a vital voice in the room nudging trump constantly in that direction. without question, jonathan, one can make the argument with your mike pence or anybody else read the president that have remained quite publicly in order to retain my influence over this man. that if i were to begin public refuting with him i would immediately lose my seat at the
table. that is not an argument i'm entirely empathetic to. i try to take pains in the book to put people in shoes of paul ryan makes a similar argument. i think the question all of us have is at what cost? you got deregulation, at what cost what you got these justices, at what cost? to the second question you ask, a really important distinction has to be made. when you asked has donald trump transformed the party, as he transformed the country, i think it's important to recognize that america is unique for a number of reasons but one reason america's unique is like so many of the nation's on earth, the american presidency is both the head of government and the head of state. what do i mean by that? as head of government you are charged with overseeing lawmaking, signing things into law. you are charged with working with your coequal branches of government. your site with nominating
judges, assigned with the everyday business of running the country. but at the head of state, the american presidency is also indispensably important in setting the tone for the nation, project into the world what our values are. i have three little boys under the age of five. my parents are here tonight. my wife is your tonight. i can remember being a little kid and queuing for my parents, not only the difference between right and wrong, which they would hammer into my head and into the heads of my brothers, the difference between right and wrong in having the courage of your convictions and acting upon them, but also that the president of the united states is supposed to be a role model, a moral leader, someone to whom we can all look up to and rally around even when we may disagree with a lot of things they say and do. that they conduct themselves in a way that is worthy of the country and at the office that they hold. when you see an incident like last night at this rally where
you have many of the, not all, but many of the president's supporters, most of them white in this crowd chanting about a dark skinned duly elected federal members of congress who came as a refugee from the war-torn country in africa, this crowd chanting sending her back, center back up at the present steps with the podium and allows this to go on. and from some reporting missing the last hour or so which seems as though a couple people close to the present including ivanka and jared including vice president pence, some others who may have been reporting on the scope they came to mention you have to fix this. that was as ugly as seen as we witness in a very long time in america last night. i think despite i conservative agenda being executed in in a y that would be the envy of lots of republican voters it is that failure as a head of state that is the elephant in the room, no
pun intended, that lingers over the trump presidency on paper any incumbent president with this economy and with its record of achievement and his delivery for so many of these republican voter should be, should have 55-60% approval rating and should be coasting to a second term. why is his approval so low? the country is polarized. envy is hard on him, sure, but there's recognition we all have i think even some of the staunchest trump supporters, people who work in the west wing who you and i talk with, that something isn't quite right about this. donald trump is going to come and go, but where do we go from here? i think that is something we all have to grapple with. >> we want to open to audience questions, so go for it. >> okay. to my question, one simple one. did court -- [inaudible] the other question is on election day, 2016, did it
happen here? >> did it happen here? >> you know what i'm talking. >> no. was suggested to trump on more than one occasion that he pursued john kasich as his vice president, but to the point of making earlier about strength, trump did not view john kasich he of the lovey-dovey hockey town hall as an ideal running mate. although he was eventually convinced not to pick chris christie who is sort of trump's instinct to pick another brawler, double down on the strongman image, he won the thing convinced to pick mike pence because pence offset trump in a way that even john kasich would not have. to your second question, which is a really easy one, thank you for asking it, he was asking what election in 2016 decide here. look, i don't think -- [inaudible] >> can it happen here?
[inaudible] >> what is that it? i'm not sure i follow the question. [inaudible] >> are we in a hitler analogy culture? >> could it happen here? >> i am not in a position to sit up here and make any sort of comparisons like that. the only thing i will say is, the story of the past five or six days, in my view, is not what donald trump did and said. it is what republicans, people in his party did not do and say. and when this vote came to the floor a couple of days ago in the house to sort of essentially reprimand the president for his remarks about these women of color in the democratic caucus, the only four republicans who voted yes. one of them is a guy has spent a lot of time with an account quite extensively, his name is will hurd, he's from the 23rd
district in texas. will hurd is in one of the most competitive districts in america in the 23rd district down a texas turkey represents represent 820 miles of mexico border from san antonio to el paso, and will hurd is from the crosses of the democratic party because he's a black republican representing a majority hispanic district and donald trump's approval rating is 20-25 points below water. will hurd hung on on in 20 came despite the president unfavorable ratings because his own favorable ratings were about three points above water. he is a professional, a very competent lawmaker, somebody was exceedingly reasonable, pragmatic, listen to both sides of every debate. this is somebody who was well represented in congress. i don't have an ideological boat in my body. i want people who will do the job and do it responsibly and intellectually honest. guys like will hurd don't come around very often. the good news is that he's here.
the bad news is by coming out against the president the other day, it's not as a democratic party that has up in the crosshairs anymore. it's the white house. it's going to be very, very difficult for guy like will hurd to hold onto his feet in 2020 because he is publicly crossed the president. i would just say that the lack of pushback from within the president party i think is a much bigger story at this point and what the president is doing and saying. >> so i'm curious how do trump and transixteen and after the president cannot use the judiciary as a unifying issue ethanol amongst the conservative base or excitedly, whether any certain like court ruling from the obama era that you found really galvanized conservatives are made them feel under siege? >> to answer the second question quickly, obviously unity obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationally. your aunt hobby lobby, the little sisters of the poor picket any number of major court
cases during the obama years that were extremely polarizing that did make religious conservatives particularly but conservatives across the board really feel as though the heavy hand of government was sort of pushing down upon them. and on top of the forces of the cultural left and secularism in america, it's i think that obviously did lend an added sense of urgency to the 2016 election. and let me answer your first question by mentioning something else was vital to this entire narrative, and that mitch mcconnell. because -- [laughing] let me say this. you are certainly free to disagree, but we would not have president trump today, he would not appoint election in 2016 had that supreme court seat not been dangled out in front of voters in november 2016. by blocking hearings on merrick garland, president obama's nominee, to fill that supreme
court seat went antonin scalia unexpectedly died in 2015, by blocking hearings and not allowing merrick garland to be confirmed, mitch mcconnell health donald trump to mobilize untold numbers of voters who may not have been willing to turn out and vote for donald trump otherwise. mitch mcconnell is first person to realize come he and i had a discussion about this in detail, when you think about the fact donald trump won the presidency by three states, michigan, wisconsin and pennsylvania by a combined margin of 77,744 votes, and when you look at the exit polling in the states, the issues most important to people, and would use some of between 18-22% of the republican voters said the number one issue was judges, do the math. mitch mcconnell wasn't loving or hating, with your diehard liberal or a bleeding heart conservative, mitch mcconnell absolutely delivered the widest
of donald trump by holding open that judicial vacancy. traditionally i think we all can recognize, those of us who pay attention to politics, those nerds among us, conservatives traditionally are much more vested in the judiciary and are democrats. that is a big source of concern on the left. you have some ascending group trying to match on the left sort of the apparatus that's been built out on the right with the federalist society and others. but to answer your question, absolutely the judiciary was critical to the outcome of 2016. >> i'm curious if during your reporting you spoke to any democrats who had some regret or even just self reflection about the attacks been leveled on john mccain and mitt romney and 2008 and 2012 in the sense when they leveled large of the same attacks against donald trump they sort of came off as the boy who cried wolf? >> that is an excellent, excellent, excellent question. and the answer is yes.
look, folks, mitt romney in 2012, jake tapper at cnn said this did what i thought it was perfectly put. at least that the prism of the mainstream media and the media perception of mitt romney in 2012 he was a dog torturing robber baron era by 2016 he was a white knight of the republican party. what changed? look, mitt romney like any candidate for high office should be held to high standard, but the obsessive coverage of is sort of weirdness, his otherness, you know, he i and his jeans. he said his wife owns a couple of cadillacs. look, we all get it. as he said when he was wearing a tuxedo at one of these white tie dinners, he said finally i get to wear something out in public that we wear around the house, right? [laughing] and he got it but it was almost to the point, it was almost to
the point of absolute absurdity by the end of the 20 oh campaign. it was his presidential debate with barack obama in which mitt romney was asked about needing to diversify the federal workforce. the a specific why there aren'te women in high ranking government positions. and mitt romney offered this very, very interesting well thought answer about how when he was governor of massachusetts he had made that a top priority and that it angered him however he was attempting to fill top staff position that all these resumes were men. he went to his chief of staff who was a woman and he said look, i want to get more qualified women into these positions. as he is answering this question, even says, and she did and she wound bring these hold binders full of women. now, to any reasonable person was listening to that, you would think man, , that's good for hi. but it's a thoughtful substitute answer. for the next 96 hours all you heard was mitt romney is a misogynist and mitt romney does
not talk to women and mitt romney is where an awkward. look, folks, , i'm just sitting here chilly, i traveled to 38 38 states and 2016 and talked a lot of voters. i will tell you got a shadow of a doubt that the desensitization people have begun to feel a special concern is if you meet as always beating up on their guys, they had been numb to it. when 2016 came around these criticisms of donald trump, he's a moral, he's unethical, he's a hypocrite, he's a womanizer, he does and says these disgusting vulgar things. they fell on deaf ears for a lot of voters. they turned us out and that is something i also touch on in the book. i think it's a book to understand the role the media and public perception plays in all of this. this book is not meant to hold up a just a donald trump and just to republican party. it's meant to hold up a to all of us because every single person sitting in this room can probably do a little bit of soul-searching and reflecting on how we got to this point, the
role we all may have played in it, either individually or collectively. >> to what degree in terms of victory and moving forward will vote suppression and gerrymandering be a factor in keeping the republican majority moving forward or not? not the majority but being able to hold the white house and the senate. second is, what accounts for the republican party which is been chronicled in books like chain reaction and nixon land, maximizing racial resentment and dog whistle races to the now bullhorn races we have with trump? what accounts for the transition? >> boy, two good and collocated questions. the simple as i i did for the first one is republicans were able to move right party systematically as a party after 2010. not just because of the takeover in congress but because of the takeover in state legislatures across the country and by
reading the bill to draw the maps in many of the states. they were able to get a foothold and solidify their power. the 2020 census is coming and there will be an opportunity for republicans and democrats to fight for the ability to draw those maps and that is a huge focus now for democrats who feel as though they had been targeted systematically and effectively by these republican gerrymandering. i should remind everyone political parties exist to promote and protect their own power and the democrats have no to do a little bit of gerrymandering themselves. as high-minded as i would like to be about this process and these calls for reform, i will believe democrats after winning back some of the state houses will not abuse the gerrymandering hour when i see. if you look at some states like maryland, it's a bit of a picasso painting. if i working for a day i would wave a magic wand and would have
non-partisan commission in every state. not because of give us a bunch of mushy moderates but because we could have a debate of ideas. let me say this really quickly because it shocks people when i say. i give talks about congress a- say this and blows people away. democrats flipped 40 seats last november. that's a wave election by anybody's metrics, 40 seats is a big deal, a sweeping rebuke to the president's party and yet how many voting members either in the house of representatives? anybody? hundred 35. what is 40 out of 435? about 8.5%. you go back to 2010 come biggest wave election wheezing in a lifetime. does anybody remember common republican pickups there were in 2010? 63. biggest wave election we've ever seen in a lifetime. weight is 63 out of 435?
about 14%. i 14%. i cheated. i've memorized these things. the point is in the biggest wave election we divorcing in a lifetime in 2010, 86% of the seat and yes house of representatives remained lawyerly partisan, locked down by one of these parties. in 2018 another big wave election, 92% of the roughly remained locked down by one or the other party. what does that tell you? it tells you the overblown majority of the elected officials we send washington are not chosen in november. they are chosen in the primaries. what do we know about primary turnout? in your average off your congressional primary election,, turnout is going to be somewhere between seven and working%. who are those who are turning out to vote? i did a very reasonable persuadable moderates in the middle of the electorate who just want competent governance and are willing to listen to arguments on both sides? generally not.
god bless and goes at least they're engaged but why are not the rest of us? we keep sending people back to congress and expecting a different result. congress has a huge personnel problem and a big reason why is because so many of the people we send, the of one majority of people are elected in primaries. when you never face a general election threat in your district, what is the only incentive you have? it's to protect yourself in a primary. when you're oriented as a lawmaker toward protecting your flank in in a primary every dau wake up, it's going to have some really bad result for the country. as worried as we are, you got me on a tangent here, but as worried as with all may be about the executive branch and some of its unsteadiness right now, the legislative branch mip and is a much bigger concern because the presidency is a transit office. trouble, go but the legislative branch of the federal government is structurally in the deep trouble and there's no end in sight for it.
the second question quickly about the racial dog whistling, i i just mention what happened last night. you said it's not a dog whistle. it's just not. donald trump is obsessed with the base. you know this better than anybody. you talk to people run for president picky talks excessively about the base. when he talks about the bases talking generally very narrowly about the core people who come to his rallies who wear the maga has, your middle and working class americans, white evangelical in many cases and they are the true believers. they are the people who are with trump to matter what i see set if on fifth avenue they would still be behind it. what trump is missing is with incidents last night, every one base voters who we be mobilizing, he is probably also alienating a suburban college educated socially moderate
republican who wants tax cuts and the even one conservative judges that they are scared out of them i put what they saw last night. there's an old saying in republican campaign, why would republican abaco address the naacp? a republican presidential candidate. you're not can to pick up any more black votes and it is always it's not to pick black votes. to pick up the votes of what suburbanites who want to see you engage with the naacp. politics is a coalition business, and donald trump won the presidency in 2016 not just because of his base we all love to read about all of the story from middle america about the auto mechanic in ohio somewhere. those people matter obviously and their big support of the present but the present one is campaign because he had overwhelming support -- the president one -- traditionally republican suburban moderates. we know in 2060 they voted for him and we also know in 2018 by
virtue of this democratic takeover at least a significant chunk of those republican suburban moderates flipped. they voted for democrats in the suburbs from salt lake city to orange county to detroit to lan all across the country. donald trump is playing with fire and is not because he's mobilizing the democratic base. it's because his potentially alienating at other half of this coalition that needs to win in 2020. >> thank you so much. we are running at a time but i want to these last three questions here or less to my questions if that's okay. >> sorry, i'm giving very long answers. >> this may be beside the point at this point, but during the campaign i always thought donald trump hope for outcome would be to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote and you could go back to his business and say he was cheated and, you know, not be worried with the running
of the government because it didn't prepare anything for a transition and election night. he looked pretty shocked, like he didn't want this. >> welcome i would draw a distinction. i want you to weigh in on this also. i would draw a distinction between not wanting to wait and not expecting to win. because i did an awful lot of reporting on this, and i was never able to find anybody who could greatly tell me that he did not want to win. donald trump is a very competitive guy. we had to listen for 18 months to all of these talking heads on cable tell us this is just to promote his hotel, this was just to get his name back in the news, that he just loved the reality declare, that donald trump is going to drop out before the iowa caucus. he actually do want to be president. he is a a fiercely competitive individual and he loves the kind of competition. i don't think that donald trump expected to win. as medevac all of my reporting tells me he did not expect to win. as i say describe election night
in the book, trump had to pretty quickly rewrite his election night speech he cuts he did not speech prepared. when reince priebus whispered in his ear and what other little war rooms, i think you're going to win, everybody in the room sort of stopped and time stood still and trump said okay, we've got to go upstairs. we got to go to the residence. i don't have speech. so donald trump, from everything i know, was certainly not expecting to win the presidency because he could see the same polling that we all saw it and not use public polling. anybody inside of his campaign who tells you they thought donald trump was going to win is lying to you. i'm telling you that straight up and backlit steve bannon loves s gohmert telling a buddy that trump is going to win. he knew from day one it was nonsense. the one republican i did that in a for this with steve bannon and swan gave me a hi-fi for that the other day because for crying out loud, talk about an unreliable source. [laughing] that is the distinction i would
draw but you tell me what you think about that. >> i covered the campaign 100%. he 100% wanted to win. i don't know what's going on here. he went hundred% wanted to win, and i remember being in virginia like at 1 a.m. on a monday morning i guess, the last few days of the campaign as all trump was doing his eighth rally of the day or something and he wanted to win. he really wanted to win. as much as anything, he hates to be humiliated. people close to believe he entered the campaign will as a promotional vehicle. one person close to totally discard of the world's latest infomercial. but i think one of his more revealing interviews early on he said i think it's with maybe mark halperin, he thinks maybe it's not on the record, maybe he
said that subsequent in public, that he thought he gave himself a 20% chance of winning. as time went on a couple things happen. he got addicted to the crowds and that of the people in his arms have been to trump rows, but i've been to a lot of them and the only thing i can explain, i've covered politics and two country. i've i've never seen a politician of such a visceral connection with the crowd. don't think i i can comparativs like being at a rolling stones concert. they know the lyrics. they know the lyrics. he will say hillary and the crowd were just immediate start chanting locker up a cable safety media pick the crowd when you start chanting cnn sucks. it's a drug for and he was intoxicated and he loved it. and then as time it on he thought maybe i can when i guess. i'm down to the last two. tim is right. none of them thought he could win. steve bannon does like reminding you did send email which i still have two weeks before the election we did predict all the
stakes. i tend to believe it was bluster but he really was saying he was going to win. if that makes any difference. but other stuff like pre-breeding us as a a force and sang here all the reasons why he lost. this is before the election. and here's the way you can spin it, et cetera. you know, that's the reality. >> to add a final really quick thought to that, i spent the final week of october, i spent that we gone the campaign plane with now vice president pence, and i can tell you as surely as i i know that i'm sitting here with you that nobody on that plane, save for maybe my plans, leave that they're going to win. it was really interesting because they were all beginning to spend me essential mike pence 2020. they were all attempting to sort of, you know, polish pence as a guy who is the stable figure in the campaign and who rejected
the ugliness and the guys going to come out of this looking good. something really interesting happened. and it happened the day after as you may recall, his plane went off the runway at laguardia and i was on that plane and it was kind of a remarkable scene. secrets of jumped up with a pistol and hovered near tragic and nobody quite new what they'll do make a any of it. have you in on that on the plai was with for almost a week all of pence top staffer said the same think of no way. we've seen all the numbers. he cannot win. trump cannot win. on the last day i was with him, we had to get on a different plane that didn't have wi-fi because of the earlier nights incident. just as our plane was coming get into pennsylvania dipping into cell phone range, every single persons phone on the plane put up with the lord that james comey had sent a letter to congress reopening the
investigation into hillary clinton's industry and i will tell you, it's indelible in my mind. i can see it today, the were not many of us on the plane, i reporters and four owe five secret service and the vice president in five or six of the staffer we're all sitting there clustered, and until you kid on christmas morning does not begin to describe the looks on the faces of the pence people, because for the first type in anti-camping there was a flicker of hope. however fleeting but a flicker of hope that oh, my goodness, can you believe our luck? we might actually win. and i will remember that until the day i die. >> it's my recollection of the day the "access hollywood" tapes were released, the e-mails for john podesta were released, like half a day later i think. that was another factor. but my question is why is my conservative brother forgot he's in anti-communist suspicious of russia? >> the russian thing is fascinating because you hear a lot of republican defenders of
the president say, focus on what this administration does, , notn what he says. i think by and large that's nonsense. i i think as i explained a minue ago what the president says is of enormous importance. it was marcus. it was military personnel. the president is a most horrible person in the world. russia is actually a pretty interesting example of what they're talking about, however, because if you were to examine on the policy basis the administration's approach to russia, not his personally but the administration and those republicans in congress, you would think it is a pretty typical republican cookie-cutter republican approach to russian relations. in terms of sanctions, in terms of some help for allies in the region. the president relationship with vladimir putin is so bizarre that i'm not sure we'll ever get to the bottom of the on that kind be fun in saying that.
truth. i don't know will ever understand, look, and is not just putin. donald trump has this affinity for strongmen across the globe. we have seen it time and again and it's vexing not just to us but people in the administration. i don't think we will ever be thoroughly explained, but with russia in particular there is a huge chasm between the president for the point that sees with vladimir putin and joking with him about election inference and how he locks up journals, ha ha, isn't that how lairs, all the stuff, contrasted against the administration itself and the state department and republican congress and how they approached russia. it has been much more traditional. it's a little bit odd in that respect. >> thank you for coming out tonight, everybody, thank you so much for -- [applause] if you're not already purchased copies of the book, i encourage you to do so him and the fun will begin in just a second. thank you much.
and if you could help a folding up your chairs, , that would be wonderful. [inaudible conversations] >> the c-span cities tour 6. the american story as we take booktv and american history tv on the road. coming to you every first and third weekend of the month, the history and literary life of the different city as we visit historic sites and talk to local authors. with the support of our spectrum cable partners, this weekend we traveled to sheridan, wyoming. coming up in the next hour we will hear from authors about the city situated along the base of the big horn mountain range. known for its open ranges and cowboy culture, and the moment the history of rodeo in sheridan. then in about 15 minutes we will learn about ernest hemingway and his time in the region. and then later we
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