tv Adam Higginbotham Midnight in Chernobyl CSPAN December 6, 2020 7:00am-8:01am EST
after more than 70 years, book expo, the nation's largest book show is being retired. the show's organizer announced the annual gathering of publishers and booksellers will come to an end and are looking to explore new ways to meet the community's needs through a fusion of in person and virtual events.
tv will continue to bring you new programs and publishing news. you can also watch all the past programs anytime at booktv.org. >> good afternoon everyone and if you've been with us the previous sessions,welcome back but if you're joining us for the first time , please welcome to north university 20/20 military writers symposium on weapon icing agent tactics with new implications. i'd like to welcome you to our campus in our beautiful state and the only regret we have is that you're not able to be with us or in person to enjoy vermont university. i'm author travis noris and i have the privilege of being a military symposium executive director and also director of the houston war center and also for everyone this issue is part of a program with george universities center for global resilience and
security which is part of a larger initiative, the environmental security initiative. where thrilled you are joining us today for a special presentation to award adam higginbotham that 20/20 military writers award. i'd like to mention details before i introduce them and we present the award. for those of you that are not familiar with the kobe award or for those of you that are we've created a special video to provide context and background of the awards previous recipients and we ask that you go to our website, the link to the website has been pushed out via chat and you can just take acouple minutes to watch the video . it situates the prominence of the award so take a few minutes to watch that. we would also like to ask if you go to the schedule page
on the military writers symposium website you will see that we have given and introduction to the military writers symposium . it will introduce you to the symposium and its background and why we are doing some of the things we are doing right now , this year . as you can imagine, this is our inaugural event virtually . for 25 years we've been praying and authors to our campus . this is our first time doing it virtually and this is also the first time we've partnered with north well. if you don't go to the military writers symposium website there's an icon you can select so you can receive a certificate for the article and it's free this year so if you're interested in engaging on the topic even further sign up and you can interact with world-class scholars and other peers that are interested in this particular
subject. if you haven't gone to the military writers symposium associates i'd like tosuggest that you rejoin . there are no fees other than an expectation you partner with us and help us grow and take it to higher horizons, you'll find a newsreader and a letter from our chairman is also on our webpage so please take some time to look at these other features because they are part of the symposium. it's what has been brought to you through video and web design. so we're here to present a special award . and adam, it's such a pleasure to have you and us here at the university and we are thrilled to give you this year's 20/20 awardfor our recipient . your book has rave reviews and i'll read some of those in the second but i want to provide a little bit of
background for those that may not be familiar with your excellent book, midnight in share noble. adam has a background in writing narrative nonfiction and he's been a feature writer and appeared in magazines which include the new yorker , wired, smithsonian and new york times magazine and many of his stories have been developed for film and for television and i also would probably like to sit down and see that midnight in share noble is acandidate for that as well, for a feature . "midnight in chernobyl: the untold story of the world's greatest nuclear disaster" was published in the united states by simon and schuster in 2019 and is an international bestseller . it's been translated into 21 different languages. it's named one of the new york times books of the year and awarded the 20/20 andrew carnegie medal for accidents
in nonfiction and i want to read a couple of quotes. some of adam's fears and other authors that show, midnight in share noble isa masterpiece of reporting and storytelling . it unlocks a world that's impossible to penetrate. then a quote from the new york times, super , enthralling and necessary terrifying. the accident unfolds with a cold inevitability. amid rich reporting and scrupulous analysis, major themes emerge. he's working on a new book about the disaster of the space shuttle 1986 challenger disaster and we look forward to that being released but it is my pleasure and honor to award of course, we would be in front of a large audience and we would bring you to the stage and all us
administrators and presidents would be here but we would like to just award you a 2020 award winner recipient, the unique nexus of the environment, a difficult story to tell and also as it relates to this environmental security so adam, it's our pleasure to congratulate you and thank you once again for this excellent work in eliminating such an important topic. where thrilled to know that you can translate it to so many different languages and it's what this symposiumis all about . we are thrilled that your this years kobe award recipient. >> thank you so much for the award and i'm very grateful to you and the justice department.
[inaudible] the first book is an ascension so he's a great field. now i want to give this presentation aboutthe book . although i spent five years working exclusively on the project , reporting on the disaster that overtook the new sharenoble plant in 1986 , it stretches back much further. when i first traveled 14 years ago in 2006, at that point the share noble disaster hard facts of that would have happened partly
because of its confusion and propaganda. share noble also is etched permanently into history and i want to get the truth of what really happened to tell the story. in trying to reconstruct the events that destroyed the reactor, i was first inspired by reading a night to remember, also a brilliant account of the sinking of the titanic. they interviewed scores of survivors for the sinking and i wanted to do the same thing for the share noble disaster for the second half of the 20th century and write it like a history book but also a gripping narrative that re-creates a minute tominute . it was important for me to tell the full story, not just what happened in the accident
and beyond but to discover what theirlives were like before the explosion . and what they lost. when i first began meeting eyewitnesses i began to realize how my own conception of life and the soviet union had been colored by western propaganda. this is all throughout victims of the socialist experiment but individuals whose hopes and aspirations had been much like mine. today should not share noble is synonymous with catastrophe but before the accident, that share noble plant was one of the jewelsof in the crown of the soviet nuclear industry . [inaudible] it was a prize for workers throughout the ussr. many were specialists among the best in their field.
part of the appeal of working at share noble was a life impervious to house the technicians and their families. it was filled with spacious facilities and surrounded by white sand beaches on the banks of the river. the director made sure to satisfy the ussr, the shop of furniture and fresh vegetables that were hard to find even here amidst lamb, cucumber and even fresh tomatoes. there was a scuba diving club, a beauty parlor, i got club and discos and live music on the weekends. the public spaces were filled with culture and accelerating
science and technology in the design ofthe true workers paradise of the future . but 1986 45,000 citizens were overwhelmingly young. the average age of the population was 26. the third of them were children . this on the left is alexander you should go, and engineer who had worked on the night of the accident and his wife natalia. the couple met with schoolchildren and married at southern university. this picture was taken on the night of alexander's 24th birthday before the accident. this is natalia and here he is in 1986. this on the far left is
toptenov when they were both students studying nuclear engineering . to top it off the operator was pulling duty in the control room the night of the accident. the more i thought of the ussr i became involved in a scene only through the lens of cold war but i remain fascinated by the scale and contradiction of the soviet experiment. now as i had the opportunity to revisit the share noble story from the recollections of those who lived it i began to re-create the twilight years of the soviet union on the page through the familiar landscape functionaries but how it really was. this was a strange filtering world of people living beneath the earth and et al. totalitarian system for the same wings and designs of people anywhereelse . i juggled the responsibilities of careers and family, [inaudible] this
is a story populated by technicians and soldiers and apparatchiks, construction workers and newspaper reporters. [inaudible] they also listen to soviet rock music. they drank imported bottles and mustered up the latest in soviet manufacturing achieving weapons available on the black market. the city was part of a sprawling polyglot entire encompassing 100 street methodologies and languages from the ukraine to the coast and the soviet far east.
one of the most fascinating characteristics was this one, standing in the center. maria proschenko, brought back into the ussr by none other two razor alone in soviet territory. it was because of her chinese birth, eventually appointed the chief architect. by the time of the accident, she was overseeing an expanse of the city to accommodate population of 200,000 people in what was banned as the nuclear largest nuclearenergy complex in the world .this in the center is his ex-wife valentina, gathering mushrooms in the woods in 1980. he was 34 when he was given a
job at the share noble station and arrived with nothing more than a snow-covered field and ariver in western ukraine . for the accident he had celebrated his 50th birthday and by then spent his entire professional life in the service of the communist party. within the construction the club was three kilometers away. [inaudible] this picture was taken in the early 1980s, the western and where you can see renters and number four. by this time the industry had become sworn to secrecy. [inaudible] although probably not to hisface . he oversaw the soviet weapons
program but also the most important area of the civilian nuclear power industry. the head of the soviet industry of atomic energy anatoly alexandra with is credited with use of the station. he before the accident both knew the design had numerous false. but they cover them up the little to rectify them and informed the men who operated reactions of the scale and significance. unit four of the chapter came online at the end of 1983. by then plans were underway to build another station creating giant reactor 12,000 megawatt power.
they intended chernobyl to become part of a network of atomic paths which would spread across the western part of the ussr by the end of the century . the operators in the control room at chernobyl and already discovered for themselves the army was not the price of technology but alexandra and spassky had told everyone. the military reactors. [inaudible] was inherently unstable and the design that they intended to build had only exacerbated these problems. the list of defaults was long and torturous ranging from those caused by the director to instrumentation failures at both share noble and emergency control room design in other circumstances that meant that reactor power can increase instead of fall as it was intended to.
taken individually none of the many faults would happen except in the unlikely event the operators would line up every single one of the false in a disastrous fall and then take a final initiating step by shutting the reactor down using the emergency control. this is exactly what happened in reactor number four at share noble early in the morning of april 26 1986. during the course of the long-delayed safety step the chain reaction began to run out of control and toptenov pressed the emergency shutdown resulting in an explosion that totally destroyed the reactor and in the control room he had no idea what had happened and
was skeptical of the scale of the disaster unfolding even as employees elsewhere were involved in chaos . i like to read a book describing what that was like . upstairs inside the window at the engineer's room on level xii.5, he was engulfed in the steamand darkness . he groped along his telephone connecting him with control room for. control room three ran through with the command. you should go gather the stretcher but before he had breached the control room he was stopped and his close blackened, hisface bloodied and unrecognizable . only then did yushenko
realize it was his friend. he said he had come from the section and therewere other still there . yushenko came across a second operator on the other side of the wreckage unable to stand a filthy wet and grotesquely scolded . he was quivering with shock but waived yushenko away. i will write. then yushenko is colleague was recognizable, sent to control room number four to manually do the task of the high-pressure cooling system and fill the reactor core with water. that would require at least two men and you should go went away to get help.
they immediately found themselves in water. the door was jammed shut but the two men limped inside. everything was in ruins. the water tanks had been torn apart by cargo and the wreckage where the walls and ceiling should have been they could see only stars. they were staring into empty space, the bowels of the station in moonlight. the two men turned into the corridor and ran into the night, straddling the more than 15 feet of the reactor, you reach an and alexandra were one of the first to comprehend what hadhappened to unit four . it was a terrifying, apocalyptic site. the right-hand walls have been demolished by the force of the explosion.
the floor had simply disappeared and the water tanks on circulation pumps battled in the air. yushenko and his friend were certainly dead but felt like he had been standing beneath a steaming pile of rubble from the seventh ends of the table, swaying on everything they touched, showering the wreckage withsparks . and from somewhere on the tangled mass of shattered concrete, from unit four where the reactor was supposed to be, alexander yushenko could see something, a pillar of blue white right white light disappearing. encircled by a flickering colors and flames in the
burning building and superheated chunks of metal and phosphorescence transfixed him for a few seconds. and now was in immediate danger, created by the radioactive air within unshielded nuclear reactor into the atmosphere. yushenko described the scene to me when i visited him at home and was still alive to talkabout it 20 years later . by then he had agreed to meet me. [inaudible] he know nothing
of its involvement and he remained anxious to make sure they didn't find out about it which is why it wasundertaken in his living room . others i would meet over the years were also bound by silence they had taken to an empire which had ceased to exist so i can campaign for soviet start, they subjected me to hours of bullying both in terms of our conversation before agreeing to the restriction. but many including former kgb officers, scientists were happy to discuss the accident. having remained silent for years for fear of consequences in the dark future of the soviet state revealed everything they knew and disclosed documents, notebooks and metals. this is the first picture
taken of reactor for after the explosion from a helicopter hovering over the scene on the afternoon of april 27, 1986. the explosion inspired a toxic radiation cloud in the atmosphere and the remainder of the reactor had become radioactive. a fire that no one in the world knew had to prevent. the directors initially told those in moscow the situation was under control and an even as they began to realize reactors were far worse. the soviet government was determined to keep it a secret from the outside world . the government arrived at control of the project but refused to sanction an evacuation forfear of revealing what had happened .
of the citizens were given no information, instead the roadblocks were thrown. meanwhile, soviet air force helicopter pilots were drafted into the boron clay and led into the open mouth of the reactor in a desperate bid to put out the graphite fire and sort out the nuclear fuelthat remain inside . they were met by colonel boris netzer off, who had served in syria. [inaudible] in the ukrainian city of the trust where he was reading poetry. by then, he had had surgery for cataracts and induced viral radiation exposure.
he had written his memoirs and was still flying jets at the age of 79. he had was finally enhanced over the city at 1:10 pm on sunday afternoon. almost 36 hours had passed and more than 1200 had been gathered to speed their escape. the operators were coordinated by the architect without oversee the construction. she sat on the bridge at the mouth of a tim like this one and instructed them the drivers on where to meet their pickups. they had three hours to remove 27,500 people from the city. only important documents, they were expected to believe they would be gone for three days and would soonreturn . by the morning of november
28, it was already clear to the members of the government that they were facing a catastrophe on a global scale . in moscow, a set part telling mikhail gorbachev and emergency meeting . he would face an unexpected test of the government agreed to the 27 congress of the soviet union and then was nothing more than a slogan. gorbachev was in a tenuous position . he was vulnerable to being overwhelmingly conservative apparatchiks if they thought to you was too much of a reformer. to this day gorbachev says he insisted on openness about the accident from the outset but to begin with, lacked adequate information to remain with the public. even if this is true, and this isn't taken, did not reflect any wish to come
clean about what hadhappened that share noble . the soviet authorities continue to deny any knowledge of an accident until late last night and to do nothing to stop the spread of radiation and by then, almost all knew something terrible had happened. the invisible plume of radiation that began rising from the rooms in the early hours of saturday morning took slowly off and left across continental europe. by sunday had arrived in denmark where it's presence was logged by an automatic monitoring section . butbecause it was the weekend , they went unnoticed. that afternoon any increase in radiation was reported at sigmund but most other actions were taken. that night they made plans on the sweet and began to scavenge and confiscate where
the rains highly fell. almost 800 miles from share noble,. >> cliff robinson 29-year-old technician was on his way into the copying station breakthrough where he set off one of the radiation levels. this mystified him because he only just got to work. he couldn't possibly be contaminated. but one after another of the workers also began setting off the alarms. and her delete from one of thetwo reactors . gorman's and was conducting tests in the air and he shoes when he heard crackles throughout thebuilding .
it was only hours later the authorities finally realized that the explosion had originated from with from nuclear school fuel that had been exploded in the air. and the wind was blowing from the east. by the beginning of june, two months after the explosion the inside reactor for had been extinguished and continued to escape fromthe ruins . ukraine, belarus and russia, an area populated by 5 million people was. [inaudible]. microscopic pieces of fuel and graphite, hold on. microscopic pieces of fuel and graphite fell on the pine trees around the station itself, changing the color and creating what became
known as the red forest. privette became a ghost town for tens of thousands of soviet troops who began to try to decontaminate the area . but the reactor itself remains in the air. they had been given the task of covering up the wreckage as a sarcophagus of concrete and steel. but before they could do that hundreds of tons of radioactive energy spewed from the reactor and had to be cleared from the surrounding rooms. they attempted to seize ropes off, some of which like this one were developed to work on the surface the surface but these and aid failed in the wreckage. and eventually they got a
petition to send in more than 3000 men to do this job by hand. the ruins of the reactor building remain to radioactive for the architects of the sarcophagus to survey. a set about examining aerial photographs showing helicopters and reconnaissance strikes and eventually by flying over the ruins attached to the end of the crane hook. this was nicknamed. [inaudible]. the sarcophagus was pulled up using cranes and bobby trucks and ships of tens of thousands of men who worked around the crock 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
>> was eventually undertaken in november 1982. attempts to decontaminate pripyat and make it habitable were abandoned. it was surrounded by a fence and sealed off from the outside world. vehicles and aircraft became too badly contaminated to be used again and would have to be abandoned in an equipment graveyardlike this one . or buried along with the radioactive centers of in pits like this one. by 1997, the accidents were estimatedat $128 million . more than three decades after the explosion of reactor for
the city was half of the chernobyl exclusion zone straddling the borders of ukraine. a defensive checkpoints manned by the industry realized that the ukrainian government, that had become a destination from ps. 100,000 people made the journey. ukrainian media recently reported that contamination had become necessary to remove the trash. once a year, controls of the checkpoint were removed and former residents of were allowed to return. this is a view from the alexander and the tower where
yushenko once stood. on the eve of the reactor in 2016, lifelines from which this panoramic view were taken into a new future. this is what the city of the future looks like today . that share noble disaster took the lives of many people, thoroughly changed the populations of more and proved a pivotalevent in the collapse of the soviet union . i hope you will read this book and see how altered the course of history but also the lives of those men and women attached even now are still struggling to understand what it meant. . >> adam, thank you for a very engaging and riveting presentation and the images that you included along with your generation were absolutely super, thank you for that . the first question have to do with leadership.
when you think back to that series of decisions that were made immediately after the explosion, can you unpack from your perspective some of the large leadership failures that can either change or alter or had should have been done. >> i think that in the defense of those who were there on the ground there was an enormous amount of confusion about what had happened. and the true nature of the accident. but i think, who was ultimately held responsible spent a long time insisting that everything was pretty okay and there had been a fire and it was contain. but he did not accept that the reactor is being destroyed and it was easy to
suppose that this was because he wanted to keep his job and like also be officials engaged in this process of denial. but it was endemic to the i think there was also an element that work at the people who were engulfed in catastrophes like this one, they were simply unable to process. they felt in their own elements. so although there were many failures on his part, i'm not sure that they consciously covered up what had happened but the leadership failures really complicated it, handling after this happened, or ones that were endemic to the soviet state. managers and not by the time of this point in what came to
be called the nation become accustomed to lying about these areas, concealing problems at work, overstating the goals they were set. . lying was the stock in trade of the soviet union. and i think that's really the major overarching leadership failure that complicated this . >> you very much adam. the next question have to do more with about journalism and the writing process and gaining access to some very difficult information. over the course of your presentation you identified people you interviewed in two
locations. just for those who are interested in the process of writing and the craft of writing a story, can you just explain or highlight how you gain access to some of your sources, the complexity and the challenges associated with that and how you wove together interviews, materials, secondary sources of primary sources. >> that's a question. so the short answer is that first of all, you have to understand it took years to break up the soviet union so the restrictions on talking to those people were there officially. at the state level they cease to exist. secondly, i had a lot of help and i worked hard to find these people. so i worked with a fixer in kiev who now i've worked with
since 2006, i friend who himself has done a lot of work on researching their share noble accident before we even met in 2006 and he and i worked closely together to identify people that i wanted to and then try to track them down and then a lot of persuasion on his part for i even showed up. i would sometimes from my research with the things i wanted to an established who was dead and who was alive and who was not and then he would try and charm these people into cooperating. [inaudible] and that was no more true than in the case of
the share noble disaster in tf, [inaudible] who had created this vast archive and handwritten memoirs and also contacts for a lot of the people. and she had been working at this project for years and years. over the course of several months, he and i kept meeting and persuaded her of our sincerity in pursuing the project because initially she had thought it was impossible to produce an objective view of chernobyl and eventually we hit on the idea this idiotic and chaotic something was what we wanted to keep on with and she was helpful.
and then in terms of how i wove together the material synthesis, what i started out with was really i was compelled to write the story by the testimony that the individual witnesses like yushenko. then obviously you're dealing with people's memories of things that happened, so then i would use both original documents and memoirs and letters, and also video and audio recordings to cross reference people's testimony and to cross reference one man's testimony into another in order to arrive at what i think bob woodward called the best availableversion of the truth . so i hope that answers my
question. >> that's the complex question and i'm also expecting you to give an entire seminar on that very experience so thank you for presenting that to us for the purpose of today's discussion . going to take a different route and this question comes with an assumption and i would classify the question as pop culture, media, along those lines and the assumption is that you have seen the hbo series on share noble. so the question is simply what did you like or dislike about that ridiculous series. >> i have seen it. i -- what did i like about it? the production design and scenery i thought really re-created that time of life
in the soviet union with fantastic veracity. and it looked amazing. but as someone who engaged on the subject in great part to try and address a lot of the myths and exaggerations that had grown up around the share noble story in the years since it happened, i was pretty disappointed either way it misrepresented and sensationalized events that really in my opinion did not need exaggerating or sensationalizing, as the truth is really quite astonishing enough so i guess that's what i say.>> thanks. so to classifythis next
question as culpability . and the questioner asks when you spoke to people on the ground, and people are reflecting back years later, did you find there was a sense of them leaving the ussr and since share noble now as part of a different country, or did you feel that currently is being looked at as human error or predominately as just a repercussion of a former regime so of culpability from your perspective. >> i think to generalize, i would say that people view it as in the ukraine i should say as part of a larger pattern of exploitation and incompetence that came down from moscow.
and they view it as something with the result of the nature of the soviet space . and in the speech that then president of the ukraine gave in this elevating ceremony at the site and april 2016, he made it clear that the future noble as part of a whole series of events for which moscow would be held responsible which is a victim of ukrainian people. in terms of who individual witnesses wouldhold responsible , i think that the thread all of this that ukraine would expect, obviously it's people who
worked the thread line would come down from what those forward in the ukraine in engineering and what maybe russian who i was interviewing in moscow, they would sometimes try and hope these ukrainian operations responsible. but that's a perfectly predictable part of a long propaganda narrative. >> so can we talk about the cast, not just for this, i assume you get a culpability question about who to blame and some of the dimensions localized at the highest level so i'm imagining that you have to deal that question quite a bit i say that because i'm imagining you have to field my next question which i'm combining reader questions and it's about the same premise so
it's about nuclear power. so once you give a presentation on nuclear power people want to ask your projections for it and what i'm imagining your thoughts on nuclear power moving ahead so having to spend such a tremendous amount of time thinking about reading about, interviewing about and researching this incident, what are your views on the continued use of nuclear power and i'll read directly from one of the questions, is it worth the risk of efforts as it relates to climate change? so two parts, what are your thoughts about the use of nuclear power and then the next part, situating that with climate change. >> i think that to put it simply, is accident, this was
a result of something and circumstances that were unique to the time and place. and even bearing in mind the accident in fukushima, nothing on this scale is really possible to happen, this level releasing accident is quite on the scale because the reactor in the 1940s technology has all sorts of problems with. and the reactors that are sort of on the table today are nothing like this. and i believe there are far safer than the technology that developed solely to generate electricity. whereas all the reactors in
the period were talking about hope in the west had originated with military technology in order to create material to use in nuclear weapons but first of all, the technology available isn't much bigger so i would say that it's worth the risk from a pure technology point of view and furthermore i would much rather if i had to be the choice i rather live next to a nuclear power plant because my chances of contracting cancer for example would be far less if i lived underneath it. in the context of a global warming, no matter how the cost of generating
electricity from renewable sources as over the last decade. as i understand it currently, there's still no way that we can both eliminate the use of fossil fuels and generate electricity and meet the steeply rising need for electricity generation through oil over the next 40 years without having some means of bridging that gap. nuclear energy seems to be the only form that is a approaching carbon neutral so from that standpoint i would definitely and doors the use of nuclear power. i'm also fine with endorsing, taking a scientific rather than emotional approach to analyzing how we go about generating electricity.
>> thank you very much, we have seven minutes left, time for one more question . >> the central premise for this question is about content but also the writing process and being a writer. was there anything that didn't make it into the book that you really wanted to see there but you just could not get it to fit within the narrative or was too long or too short ? would you beable to speak on that ? >> there was a huge amount. i interviewed, i started reporting over those years between 2006 and 2018. i interviewed about 85 people and in ukraine and russia there were some people that had training but everybody had been absolutely amazing in the story and many of these people i interviewed.
[inaudible] but when it came time to put the book together , most people never even made it as main characters onto the page and what they told me just informed the wider narrative buried in the footnotes. there were several characters whose stories i really would love to have brought to the page. in a more sort of mercenary narrative, their stories overlapped or indicated too much stories that other people had told. so there was a massive amount of material i had to leave out. as they say it was as much that. >> so adam once again we want
to thank you for a riveting presentation and also i would like to congratulate you again. we will get this to you in the mail. immediately after the symposium. they want also to mention for all of you joining us if you are interested in receiving a signed copy of adam's book, tomorrow when we come back to the website you will see you will be able to reach out to let us knowthat that will be the case and we will make sure you get a signed copy of adam's book . and again, it's been a pleasure and we do look forward to some time in the future posting you in vermont and having you engage with our faculty, staff and students and again, congratulations for the award. i want to wish you resounding applause. i'll give you that myself. so congratulations and for everyone else that's still on
the call for us today, we have more sessions. please look at the schedule. if you haven't already please watch the award video and you will find some context and it also showcases one of our faculty, professor steve silverman who won the award two years ago and also just stay tuned for the panel which will be released tomorrow at noon. so until we meet again for those of you joining us, we have an hour to eat lunch and just reengage so here's adam, thank you once again and thank you everyone for fielding questions. >> on our author interview program "after words", deputy assistant attorney general in the bush administration gone you weighed in on presidential power and the u.s. constitution. here's some of the discussion
. >> i started out wary of president trump. i wasn't a supporter of his in the 2016 election and the thing that worried me was he was a populist and the constitution seems designed to stop populists. it's undemocratic in nature in a lot of ways and in the electoral college the presence of the state has informed parts of our constitution so i was worried when came in as a populist one but he an agenda that he feels he received a mandate for that he would strain against or even go beyond the constitutional restraints of his power and i was worried in the beginning doing that and things like the travel ban, threats to build a border wall without congressional approval and i urged them to try to use his presidential powers for national security and foreign affairs work and understand in domestic affairs that his role really comports to the
law and to work with congress to get legislation passed. i think what happened since 2017 till today is that i found his critics have become the ones who have i think gone too far in trying to stretch the constitution because i think trauma trump is so egregious that they launched attack after attack on his legitimacy from critics for example have thought about getting rid of the electoral college . they have talked about packing the supreme court and adding six new members to get to 15. they want to return us to a world with permanent statutorily detected independent councils which i think criminal eyes are politics. they want to nationalize large parts of our economy. i think that has left trump undeniably using the constitution more as a shield and using the constitution to pursue his own self interests
but in the field of relying on more traditional interpretation. either intentionally or unintentionally he has become more the defender of the traditional constitution than his critics. >> to watch the rest of this program, visit our website booktv.org. click the "after words" tab to find all previous episodes. >> afternoon and welcome to the 565th meeting of the economic club of new york. i'm john williams, chairman and president and ceo and with a distinguished entry, [inaudible] the united states and the whole world. this is as important today as ever as we continue to bring people together to tackle diverse points of view and particularly during these challeg
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