tv Bob Woodward on History and Disinformation CSPAN December 24, 2021 11:01pm-12:02am EST
today. in today's panel, history and integrity in an age of misinformation is a special conversation inspired by robert caro's distinguished work and just before introduced our panelists however, would like to thank and recognize a number of trustees who have joined us this morning. , agnes and andrew, david, dorothy goldman, patricia - and others. i would like to thank all of them but i would also like to thank those joining us via lifestream this morning our chair are vice chair elect, the trustees. many thank you to all of you and everything that you do at this institution really is a great
tribute to the dedication and support predict. [applause] [applause] and of course i want to thank the council members who have joined us this addressable unbidden with us for very challenging period of time and we appreciate your encouragement and your support. and evan, we are also particularly grateful for the republic which is the sponsor of today's symposium and i know an note a number of members are with us in the audience today no one thank you especially for your partnership. the first discussion last one hour and will include a question answer session of the q&a will be conducted via written novartis. it will have your questions on those notecards and you should receive no card and a pencil on your way into the auditorium at this morning and if not my
colleagues are going up and down the aisles with notecards and pencils and collect your questions later on in the morning and there will not be a formal book signing today but please find copies of our speakers books will be available in a store on 77th street by building an okay, now to our speakers we are honored it too well, bob woodward, an associate editor at the washington post, where he's worked since 1971, he has shared into pellets or prices first for coverage of the watergate scandal with carl bernstein and second, a reporter for coverage of the 911 terrorist attacks. bob woodward has written number one best-selling books on the last nine presidents including nixon, ford, carter, reagan, george hw bush, clinton, or w bush, obama, and trust as well
as the cia, joint chief, hollywood and the supreme court. his most recent book is carol, which he co-authored with robert costin the moderator for our opening discussion is douglas brinkley, in humanities and professor of history and bronx university and professor douglas brinkley is a best-selling author the grammy award-winning producer had he served as presidential historian for both new york post new york historical and sandinista a contributor to the new york times, the washington post, the boston globe and the author of numerous books in his most recent new york times bestseller, is american moonshine, john f. kennedy in the great space race. just before we begin i ask you please turn off your cell phones and other electronic devices and
remember to keep your mask on. please note with the exception of her house photographer, we are not permitting photography this morning afraid and please join me in welcoming our guests. thank you. [applause] >> good morning, welcome bob fast, robert caro and as the added attraction, bob woodward and what an honor it is to spend some one-on-one time with you. new york historical society and will then going to open it up for questions and some were putting up cards out for about a 40 minute conversation and with trent his book, just number one in the charts, he done incredibly well and so much news going on.
i would be remiss to buy did not ask him the burning question of the moment braided right out of the gate and that is when did you first know robert caro. [laughter] >> i think about 25 years ago. he was in new york with his wife and we invited them over for dinner in our home and we talked about history and how do you find this or how do you verify it and both my wife and i learned a great deal. when you talk to robert caro, you going to school as you know. and when you look at his achievement lyndon johnson piece and then how you've written bob about the power and the presidents also, what is your reflection lbj in american
history and what was the johnson's presidency and the perils of his presidency. >> is easier to describe the creation of the universe. and as robert caro's trump finding out because there are many times in many many of sort them out and up to date and what is the real, what you and i were talking the other day, you can ask the question of a historian or a journalist, how good is history. and the answer is often, said it's best when it is too late, the words out of the presidency, he is deceased and in this
internet age, of impatience and speed, the gift ask the question of how good his history but when his history and when will you be available to people i think the sooner the better, no one can match robert caro this going back and back and refining his understandings. >> you thank you so the perfect combination for so many journals become a historian particular political reporters covering the presidents for a while but then they switch they start doing biographies and you state paternalism you know me demo from an iv stated as a reporter maybe not try to go back to write a book on eisenhower essay or something. >> because when i enjoy, the
contemporary is it you can interview people and you can go and you can take your questions and i always do what is called the premature draft in writing a book and using the holes and you can go back if somebody is alive and assessable. so i think it is the best job in the world i think you're right, a lot of journalists switch to history thinking their historians are probably better journalists. [laughter] >> to try out pretty. >> i find that to be the case sometimes. >> will we plow our way to doing the phd in history with the things that the general essays they write so well because you have worked part-time in the new york times there able write
where a lot of historians, academics, were so just footnote driven so there's room for both. the sweet spot would be honey bring popular history and academics history, will unite them. >> one of the historian diseases too many, certainly not you with some historians chase obscurity and i visited the presidential library libraries and meet with the team of people who do the interviewing so safely one of the bush presidency's and you will find the labor secretary and interview him or her and when did you first make your question what was it like. that is not history, and event discussions with the people who do these interviews in my view
is you need to sit down aggressively and ask yourself, where the key and answered questions in the bush presidency and the clinton presidency, any of the abraham lincoln presidency and if you approach it that way, you avoid the kind of masking of basically irrelevant information. >> could have you had the story career that you had a few moved out of washington dc, knowing the landscape so well and the government works pretty good if you done what you do if you lived in atlanta or sacramento. >> i suspect not. there underground parking
garages. [laughter] in sacramento but it's a long trip and tell, and i find that i can have people over to my house and i can actually invite them again and again naturally simple tool but also you have to walk that painful road in perspective and am i getting too isolated, the beginning to washington centric in the red when my bush books that i did, 24 books on his wars in afghanistan and iraq and was criticized because the books were to white house centric. i remember wait a minute, that
was a decision. you can cover the cia and the fitting you can think, yes the decision of our really made here, important parts of the puzzle but as george w. bush said, is the decision-maker honey is an even if he doesn't decide, he is made a decision is removed and predict getting to talk to colin powell near the end of his life and taken his pe in the air we hear near the circle society are hoping to do perhaps in spring a program on the career of general powell jiggly is immigrant chris from jamaica came into city college it was american, great american
strenuous and the question about it was a spiritual guru for allf the people he met, who lived in the most. >> i hope you guys are bob, on sq live in the top ten figures that you collect on reflect on pretty. >> easier to describe the creation of the universe printed. >> what you asked general file those questions. >> as i did, this was three months ago and is very open and didn't know he had cancer and parkinson's and he was quite open about it and even third-party sometimes can be humanized no, i'm so sorry. i just let me dennison don't feel sorry for me, i had a great
life. what is interesting about powell is he was so open even in this conversation which is being taken he was talking on the phone to me a shout out to his wife alma, on the phone and he comes back and he says, she doesn't like me talking to you. [laughter] but here we are. but in his answer to the question of who spiller was on the person inspired mostly sonoma just right off the bat, she stuck with him and he understood in his capacity i think as a great leader was interested of the people. in the first job is to understand the spouse and he
understood her very well and realized he was off doing all kinds of things we colin powell and she raised the kids and to tamping down but nobody is going to do, will this is a great story i talked to my publisher about this, they had simon & schuster and i said he's already a great book but we already know everything because it was open and i could call them up and he would call back right away. or he would answer and i remember that when he was getting ready to write his autobiography which is very good i american journey advocate and
i had interviewed him tony four times up to the point. i had transcripts of all of the interviews that is coming up and i said i have a christmas present for you. and he said a christmas present from you, is it taking. [laughter] is in no i would like to bring it over so i brought it over copies of all of the interviews and he said, here's my christmas present. and he looked at me and he smiled and he said i know why you're doing this because i'm going to contradict you or what i told you in my book. and he didn't actually, my label for him and he never coming he just did not, he was different,
you know this, up goes the wall. who would be your person and you might want to say family member right now. [laughter] >> there you go, i just saved you pretty. >> bullet is true, she's ended the last 18 books that done and is incredibly and she was a reporter for the post and staff writer for the new york. she is tough any type of page, 250 words baby and you give it to elsa and her edits will be 350 words. [laughter] is disheartening but then she is right. [laughter] and it so you want to learn
about and i would also say that the editor of the coast and watergate can and a friend in somebody who was a great newspaper editorial. >> more than 84 years for five years, when you're in the navy was or somebody that you looked up to as a military hero of world war two generation for the korean war generation and you know when you're setting military history. >> this was during vietnam and it was at the end not the age of heroes as we know. so there is not a military person such printed and obviously one who became most famous secretary of state what he did with the marshall plan and so forth.
but no, i remember interviewing atkinson when i was in the navy and was taken graduate courses that george washington to kind of give me something to keep my mind active. he was tough, he was really tough. i wrote him, wrote a biography on him and wanted to call an intimidating scene and seniority. [laughter] yes he was kind of which you could call the hard . t-mac kenny was kind of opening and the graduate student and he was in his law firm and you know, i am not sure and this again is
one of the lessons for the graduate student coming in and talking to somebody, didn't know enough and i read his autobiography which was very strong on a pulitzer prize. present at the creation that is a very humble thing. [laughter] >> so man turntable, what you're looking on and why. one thing and just on atkinson's, his favorite quote that he uses like his motto that it was my kids would say but complaints aboard a nuisance to all and undermines the serenity essential for endurance. every time about to complain
about something nothing of initiatives wallet that comes into my mind when writing a book right now called senate spring revolution, john f. kennedy and rachel carson and lyndon johnson when environmental awakening, a history of the 60s and early 70s which he called the war on 60s from then until 74 safe and in my book is a figure because as a reporter is on to the ddt sprain on problem because, violent, they would spray gp, and counting the work people started sewing the sister of doctor benjamin spock of the pediatrician is it with others and get i am an organic farmer
you are spraying ddt over my car that i have have a right to be an organic armor and you get spray that stuff and the supreme court justice factor but lo and behold rachel carson's book came out in 1962 about carol was the first person of met with rachel carson at the hotel and wrote this incredible investigating series about rachel carson's book and it coincided almost exactly to carol stories were coming out in the new yorker do next or person and john f. kennedy dinner press conference and said are looking at carson's research and kennedy created a counsel and found out that indeed a lot of these insecticides and pesticides are developed in multiplied during
world war ii were certainly dispersion she was connecting it to humans. ♪ thank you for that. [applause] >> was a catalyst for this environmental awakening. >> i think rachel carson, carson's big but before that from 1945 - 1962, her book insight nuclear testing movement grew in the united states and there was internet or john hershey wrote his book were you talking about people skin, nothing in the horrors of it remember his own image john f. kennedy the big hero in an essay. he became an older, kennedy was against - and douglas was
against it and norman was against it had a name that nobody talks about anymore, we went to nobel prizes, albert schweitzer from africa he won to a started denouncing nuclear testing using the willy-nilly and the chemicals and of course you know what's interesting is for historians and journalists is that you said that he made jfk the pt 109 hero. now kennedy if he were here, i actually do that myself. [laughter] honey say that article came out, joe kennedy bought it and then told in strong-armed the readers digest to be in an addition that already ran in the new yorker and they made booklets then lick
us a lot of money where he went and out to hershey 20 ran in 1952. >> this was the journalistic problem and historical problem of the tree falling in the forest and nobody hears that until somebody comes along and says see, look at this, and this is what makes that last really great and i always say, somebody came from mars and he spent a year in the united states and they went back they said okay who has the best job in the united states, they reject journalists. because we do, i mean think of this, we get to make momentary interviews into the people's lives rather interesting in the we get the heck out when they cease to be interesting. >> we have it made his presidential historians because
once a politician decide to hate reporters, you're a historian, we will talk to you predict will capitalize on that enough when you look at the polling in america, you probably have an 8d then a journalism will be much lower. [laughter] >> i sabi a former president clinton talking about obama and how much she loved him and how great he was and is genuine it any means it from the back of his dear active mind is geo glad it was not around during the monica lewinsky thing. [laughter] >> let me ask you a couple of questions but i cannot do all of
this, while we mentioned bill clinton, the stones out now, we are far enough away from his presidency, we did have a balance rate years as her class and nato expansion and in the '90s from today's perspective like an even better, we have two things during the clinton years. we had peace and prosperity and i wrote a book about him which is one of the first books and had a lot of screaming and chatting in chaos which was true but again you have to even as a journalist look back on it and say, what he did for the economy, his economic plan was joe biden unfulfilled dream. and that gets we are going to cut the spending but we are
going to increase revenue within or we are going to put ourselves on the road to balancing the budget. it actually makes sense pretty and of course the problem always with clinton was getting thirty and then getting there. and there was a lot of and certainty and if you look in retrospect, at least i do at the outcome. >> what about richard nixon's legacy? [laughter] >> is there anything that you realized or is there anything positive? >> certainly. you can't have been a passenger on the titanic and
the country and then when the truth came out that was hard duty to be chairman. so also i really want to talk to you with a very angry letter to say you and i didn't have much of a relationship. [laughter] and you are a part of the press and i see all of these things and i claim i did not say and so forth. that you need to make peace
with people that you disagree with. and i think that is reputation is not as strong as it could have been. again, wen see now the coverage of trump. that so many people, they get so angry. i have written three books and trump has filled the last three or 45s years of my life. i'm not angry about it. but then anger really interrupts the ability to find out what happened so that if
you can interview donald trump are you surprised. >> and for the second book i did ten hours worth of interviews. i could call him. i had a number. this was for eight months. he would call the same day and also would answer the phone and would say mask use calling. [laughter] he said donald trump. [laughter] and he was that way. and then to say you will not like the book at all and he said maybe i'll get you on the next book.
[laughter] which he did not. [laughter] and then we asked him to talk to us and he declined. >> this is a good segue for me. but it's from september 23rd 2021 this is v a recent document and it is the subpoena and then to produce documents and i notice on the footnote it has bob woodward as part of history and dealing with the subpoena going on which tells
me the back story to that. >> so now we have lots of new information and then to be labor this but that catalyst for the whole bannon subpoena and holding intent that he did all kinds of things with trump one week before the insurrection. and he had ars conversation with trump that turns very dramatically and he got a call from the ski slopes from januarh it would be a moment and then
said wee will cast a shadow run by the presidency and put that in the crib and that's not nice. [laughter] and those who were legal experts and ran a criminal division of the justice department and there was a case to investigate or prosecute bannon and trump what is the us code 18 section 371. where it is against the law to conspire against the federal government and its legitimate activities. and the idea that people are
working, it is astonishing and in the end when you look at this bannon and trump knew they needed that certification but what they wanted to do is stranglehold the biden presidency. that is against the law. that because there is a process and then you get into the weeds and trump and bannon's efforts to not do what the constitution or t the h amendment requires to get the certificates from 50 states and count them. but that was a course to get
there. as an issue for the justice department because politically they don't want to be seen after the former president. but if there ever was ann obstruction, this is it. >> everybody must read it and so many ways. and is that narrative threat or are you taking a break? or those one —- as bob woodward always in motion? >> ask else for that question yes and no. the whole question, and this
is for you, what is the trump presidency going to me known for in history? and we need the evidence and testimony of the bannon's and the other lawyers that we talk about and meeting the day before in a hotel in washington it is to call republicans and then it turns out but there is no evidence. in fact the people who investigated and instagram being trump supporters.
but one of the lawyers for trump and with history. and then to define this. >> arere you surprised doing this with bob costa? and are you surprised that trump still has so much fuel in his take? when you watch january 6 people would've thought that was the end of donald trump. and he seems to be beyond the life and well. >> he is. intensively the people believe.
with what was going on with the party and on the hill. so as we talk about bob costas of the g great journalist. in addition to cost. with those journalist. with the understanding you did not name a bunch of people. if you are a manager and that is a good question. and we have a lot of respect to the daily reporters.
with the most turtle and new york times and cnn. and the book that we did that and then in 2016. and donald trump is running for president and not taking it seriously. and then i went to interview trump for 90 minutes and decided and then how to talk to him about the presidency? and then said yes but we'll
then there is the vpn. >> have you found in recent years for what you do when you do a book like this, that you find ways to protect you? >> it>> is very interesting. sometimes there are hateful things that. i don't think people look at me because i spent a lot of time with interviewing him. this was just last year i spent all that time. although he doesn't like l the books but here is the problem
with trump mike carol's problem with lyndon johnson. you never get in his head. you can do is describe the haze and if you layout all the facts. so what does trump think? does he think?? [laughter] seriously. freud says that as a victim we define ourselves by impulses. and i think that is absolutely true. >> talking with trump that merrill lago i asked him what books and he m said i don't read books. i said you must haveun read a book when you are younger he
said no he never read a book on lincoln or kennedy? he said i'm a visual person. and from television so bragging about not reading so most people exaggerate what they are reading he says i don't read. it is for losers. [laughter] >> think of that. should that not be disqualifying word disqualifying someone seeking the presidency? >> i have often told people who want to run for president go to president school and spend a week with robert carol. [laughter] >> and these people who have military service at least you can work out some of the kinks of the leadership skills in the army or the navy so what
brief recommendations do you have for the audience to avoid misinformation? >> wow. stay off twitter. [laughter] and there are some very good things on twitter. it is really hard. but look, im prejudice. but if you read the "washington post" online, the wall street journal, "the new york times" with all of the good networks and listen to cnn. listen to fox because you need to know what's going on so you need to have a good idea what is going on with those various
interpretations. >> he will predict you are saying things that this is about the 24 hour news cycle. is there a problem and is that causing some of the public mistrust quick. >> sure. it is. of course. and as i see the impatience and the speed and you can feed and what they try to do in this book is somewhere between journalism and carol and brinkley history. and you have to get it fast and in authoritative way. people who subpoena bannon the chief strategist for trump,
know that when we put something in the book we have a solid basis for it. it is from participants or witnesses or documents or notes. so they can use it and bottom line is that the book and with the caro remains and democracy is on trial. and people better take it seriously. >> thank you for your books being a publicg intellectual which a you are, because you have almost become like cronkite is the most trusted person in america. not that you are the most
trusted like cronkite you are almost an institution on yourself. i am counting on bob woodward and bob costa to deliver goods years from now. is that the pressure to have that? that people need you? >> you are just talking about longevity. that's all. [laughter] but then you are still in the game. that you need to think about what you are doing and to think about and we talked about this theit other day and what happened in journalism that you don't pick hard targets backend watergate, i remember a lot of journalists a nixon privately did it. but you'll never find out.
you can't tell what goes on the supreme court. or't the cia. but you can. but it's between journalism. >> what we are winding down to the last public questions. he mentioned steve bannon. so do you feel the investigation of carter page was an abuse of power? >> i don't know enough about it. and the whole russia investigation went off the rails. that is why we did not see the mueller report was a best and it took a lot of focus and
emphasis. >> what do you feel are the questions from the obama administration? [laughter] i did two books on him. one on and afghanistan and one on the negotiations on the budget. but my critique is the second obama book which he did not like at all. obama did not find a way to work. and presidents need to find a way to work there will. lyndon johnson is the prime example. he found a way to work his well. and i think it is important a president is elected to do
certain things. and now biden, where is that going? with all of his experience, is that something that is benefiting him? but he is not found a way to work his well. know, i've been elected for reasons and let's work those reasons. >> this is been a tremendous talk bob. [applause] [applause] >> thank you so much. >> thank you doug and for those of you who don't me, vice president for the public programs, and we thank you all thank you guys.
>> thank you. for those of you that don't know me, i'm vice president for public programs and we thank you for joining us on zuma and in person. this was very special thank you for coming and joining for the occasion. bob woodward, doug brinkley thanks again. >> good morning and welcome once againn to the new york historicl society and our beautiful auditorium. whether you are joining us in person or live stream we've been joined by another historical trustee and i'd like to