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tv   QA Peter Osnos  CSPAN  December 9, 2018 8:00pm-9:01pm EST

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with theresa may from the house of commons. and then cory booker speaking with democrats. the lawmaker has been ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," longtime editor and founder of publicaffairs books peter osnos. he talks about working with bill clinton, donald trump, and other political figures. brian: peter osnos, you have been in the publishing world for a long time. which national figure you today book with was the most interesting? peter: that is a splendid
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question. i worked with four people who were once and future presidents. jimmy carter, bill clinton, barack obama, and to my surprise, donald j. trump. i worked firsthand with all four. i did tip o'neill's memoirs. ispublic affairs imprint memoirs.g paul's tip and paul are two of the most splendid human beings. what is most fascinating is the opportunity to work with these folks not as an employee, but as a partner. i have been able to engage them in ways i was not if i was a reporter or employee. i am trying to make something happen for them. there is an element that comes into it, a certain amount of gratitude and influence.
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that is what has made it as interesting as it is. brian: i want to go back 22 years. art of the deal. here you are on april 24, 1996. of all the books you have been involved with, which has sold the most? i the one i did before , donald trump's art of the deal, one of the great phenomenons of the late 80's. it sold well over one million copies. in hardcover. with a return rate of about 8%. it was a great adventure for me. the whole experience of working with trump at that moment in his life and at that moment in the country, just watching this thing happen, it was extraordinary. brian: how did the book happen?
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peter: a pretty good story. the owner of random house at the newhousea man named si who went to school in new york where his best friend was a lawyer. and newhouse were buddies. newhouse, there is a big wave here, this man is building a building, you should look at him. he did and put him on the cover of gq. flew right off the newsstands. sione of the few times newhouse intervened at random house, he said we ought to do a book with this fellow. was -- i like to put it, tasked -- i went to see trump with si and our publisher.
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i took a big russian novel. generations of winter. wrapped black and gold paper around it, put trump's name on it and showed it to him, said this could be you. low and behold, he agreed. he wanted the trump name slightly larger. we made a deal at that moment. no lawyers. we had no bargaining. we told him what we wanted, which was a lot of money. $250,000 for the rights. and then tony schwartz showed up. a journalist who worked at newsweek and the new york times. his idea was the art of the deal. he regrets it profoundly now, but he did, financially, a hell of a job. he really channeled the trump character in a way that trump probably would not be able to do himself. he was misrepresenting trump.
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he was showing the truck personality and the way trump does things, the way he makes deals. published the book and in the first three months, it sold a million copies, as i said. significantly more hair than i have today. it was an astonishing thing to see. it is still selling today at a very high rate. iich is fascinating, because have had the opportunity to reflect on the donald trump we see now and the donald trump i knew then. he is the same person, except on steroids. doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, rarely goes to a place that does not have his name on it unless it is a political rally. i think one of the really great political mistakes of the last 25 years was to say, underestimate what goes on in
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donald trump's mind and spirit. i think the country is seeing it now in every conceivable way. i saw it in a sense, and i'm not at all surprised. when people would say to me, don't worry about it, one extraordinarily important human being, i said, you know, i'm concerned. he said you worry about it so i don't have to. brian: when you sat down with him for the first time, what did you see? peter: i saw a young man who clearly was full of energy and drive. me his pictures on the wall and pictures in his drawer that were not on the wall. he and i had what i consider a relationship of peers. -- although ip
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could see his personality, he knew i was doing something he wanted done. i also came to understand about donald trump -- and this is profoundly important -- donald trump in his heart of hearts believes he always wins. here is a guy who has been in new york real estate, gambling, boxing, wrestling, beauty contests, television, construction. never been the target of a criminal investigation. that is astonishing in new york city. i used to say, you know, how is that possible? i will tell you. trump instinctively creates a buffer around himself. how does that relate to today? he did not sign the stormy daniels deal. michael cohen did. when the new york times ran page after page on his finances, much of which was substantial, he
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said, it was all the tax guys and lawyers. that's trump. trump has an instinctive sense of how to protect himself and him, bypeople around and large, are the ones to take the hit. brian: you mentioned newhouse. what was his role at that time ago -- time? peter: the very important newhouse family owned random house at the time. they owned the new yorker and so on. they owned gq. most of the glamorous magazines. base: so there was a power he could say, i want donald trump on the cover of gq. peter: he owned it. in addition to which, trump was immensely flattered. he was immensely flattered to
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havesi newhouse and to newhouse come to his office and say, i want to be your publisher. as far as i know, there were that he books personally brought into the house. one was trump and the other was the writer norman mailer. random house put him on a monthly salary. .ery little is known about si that's the kind of man he was. what he was responsible in so many ways -- for vanity fair, the new yorker, he had random house all those years, and he is
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the guy who started donald trump. think donaldid you trump politics were when you met him? peter: it is very clear, trump goes where he needs to. i would say he is a man for whom principal as other people would describe it is unusual. he will do whatever he needs to do at that moment. somebody showed me some video of by larry interviewed king around the time the book came out, 1998, actually. sorry, 1988. he was on larry king. the world is laughing, everyone is laughing. the germans are laughing at us, exactly the same language he uses now, only ronald reagan was president. he can call somebody my best friend in the world on tuesday and then on thursday trash him. that is what he does all the time.
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brian: explain tony schwartz. peter: tony schwartz is a very talented writer. he had worked at newsweek and the new york times. he is the guy who came up with the idea. he came to trump and said we should do a book and let's call it the art of the deal. many of thencept -- books i have done, i was hands-on editing. in this case there was not much to do. what i did do was come up with the fancy jacket, a very elegant picture of trump on the cover, take it around to booksellers, i was in a sense the producer, certainly not in any real sense the editor. schwartz was hyperkinetic. he had speed dial and he would call bookstores everyday to find out whether they still have the book in stock and if they did not, he was very unhappy. it is true that the book took off faster than we had thought. 7, 19 82nd december
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-- 1987, and it just exploded. brian: what did you expect? peter: we knew it was going to be a significant book. trump had built trump towers. he had this huge fancy building on 57th street in gold. the new york times had put him on the cover of the new york times magazine standing at trump tower. whoas done by bill geist, was then a columnist for the times. it was a flattering piece capturing the glamour of this young man. brian: formerly on cbs, not anymore. peter: he was a columnist for the times and he wrote the big piece. my favorite fact about the new york times and donald trump which was recently acknowledged
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is the first mention donald trump was in 1976. the reporter wrote the donald trump, a fine young man, looks a lot like robert redford. you have to start somewhere. i have not been in touch with trump, really, since -- we did a second book together which was a whole other story. he called it surviving at the top, and he was not. it was a moment in which he was deeply in debt. he had $5s revealed billion in debt, i happened to be with him flying from las vegas to new york on his plane. marla maples mr. newhouse and i are on the plane. i think probably over kansas he
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is going to open the door and jump out. he goes into his cabin. a belief in this man and his ability to navigate any problem. schwartz picked that up. donald has left. -- lived it. when you look at his record as president and what is actually working -- how he would describe it in his advantage, tax cuts, got it. immigration, got it. judges, got it. these folks, they are the losers. orbit, hetrump's calls you a loser because he really thinks so. brian: back to the second book. the money background -- you say the first book was a $250,000 advance. how much did he eventually get? peter: he and tony, who struck a
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great deal, i don't remember -- as i recall it was 50-50. donald made a million, so did tony. tony did very well. brian: did those to get along? peter: as far as i know they get along very well. the only time i ever saw trump blow his top was on the second book when we had a photographer come in to take a picture for the cover. the photographer -- artistic fellow -- put black garbage bags on the ceiling of trump's office with take. -- tape. trump came in and said, this is an outrage, take off that tape. i thought he was going to throw the guy out of his office. he might have. brian: were you comfortable
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being around him, flying around with him? what is it like -- peter: i grew up as a reporter. lost the capacity even though i have been out of conventional journalism for a long time. i really never lost the capacity to be a reporter. reporters are trained to look upon things as an observer. i always have and i still do. i don't know if it is always in the advantage. i was not emotionally engaged with the man's temper. it never crossed my mind he was going to be the president of the united states. that's not true. he was talking in 1988. he had this fellow roger stone around, who is still around, still part of the trump universe. roger stone was encouraging him to run. trump was hinting on places like larry king that he would run.
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in 2000 he was on the verge of announcing. the reform party candidate, because ross perot had been so successful as the reform party candidate. ross perot, the businessman. if he can do it, i can do it. it turned out pat buchanan was the reform party candidate. as i recall, trump decided to pull out, but on the way, he called pat buchanan a neo-nazi. brian: tell me where i am wrong here. 1966 to 1984, 18 years at the washington post, foreign correspondent. 12 years as publisher and editor at random house. 1984 to 1996. for the last 21 years you have been associated with publicaffairs books. go back to the second book. how much of an advanced did you have to give him for the second book? time, still nond
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but because the book was such a huge success the first time, i remember being invited, mr. newhouse and i were invited to donald's yacht, which was more in the east river -- moored in the east river. we had an extremely lavish lunch. it, $2.5 million. much of what we made on the first book was given back on the second. that book came out at the moment imploded, or it seemed to be imploding. as i said, it was reported he was almost $5 billion in debt, of which $3.5 billion was personal. the marriage was unraveling. i knew there was a problem because his favorite doctor was mike tyson, he was promoting
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mike tyson, and mike tyson lost. and then four of the people who ran his casinos in atlantic city went down in a helicopter. the guys who were in charge. four young men. business partners of donald, employees, really, went down in helicopter. i said that's just so awful. he said, you know, i could have been on the helicopter. that was his reaction. brian: how much of that second book so? -- cell? peter: i was surprised to discover it had been on the bestseller list for seven weeks. brian: what did you print, 500,000? peter: probably. a couple hundred thousand, certainly. the business was different than. you could ship all these books and take as many as you wanted to give them, today people are careful. there were times when it was
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very high. the downside was significant. brian: the returns rate has to do with what? peter: the publishing industry works with -- you give a bookseller a book. if it sells, great. if it doesn't, they have the right to return it. that is a protocol that goes back to the depression era. the belief was if a bookseller could not give you the book back , they would not be able to survive. brian: before we leave donald trump, complete the story by telling us who roy cohn was and his relationship with si newhouse. did you ever see politics with si neuhaus? peter: roy cohn is celebrated new york figure. he first came to national attention when he was chief counsel to joe mccarthy in the 50's, the period known as mccarthyism. the attacks on communists.
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cohn was at mccarthy's side. he went on to be a major new york figure. he was -- brian: a lawyer. peter: well, a lawyer/fixer. he represented everybody. i once had dinner with him, not through newhouse, but because he was running a memoir, and i was summoned to go to dinner with him with jason epstein. i could see the guys personality. superficially charming, but he was a killer. anybody he want to get rid of, he could get rid of. he had extraordinary access in new york to everybody. when he decided donald was his guy, it was important. the only other thing i know about the relationship between
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roy cohn is they went to school together. i have been told that at the end was on trial, cohn and eventually was disbarred, si went to the trial every day. brian: it was not political? peter: si was not a political guy. in the sense that you would describe politics, it is not the way si worked. si knew how to get things done. he was a modest figure. si newhouse would show up in the day at 5:30 in the morning in a sweatshirt and old chinos. he did not carry himself like a mobile, but he was. one of them more extraordinary moguls. people could not get what si
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had. si had incredible guts when it came to the things he did. he started from scratch. it lost millions. there's this young woman in the united kingdom -- he bought the new yorker and the new yorker is an immense success. if si had not bought it -- brian: and we shouldn't skip over the fact that your son has been here on many occasions. he is now working for the new yorker. peter: staff writer. brian: let's switch to september 1995. the name is barack obama and he is talking about something called the dreams from my father. let's watch. elected president of the law review at harvard,
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that generated publicity. there is this entire industry of agents and folks who -- if you get your 15 minutes of fame, and see if we you can make some money on it. i think the idea they had initially was sort of a feel-good story. a young black man, successful. i had to explain, this is kind of complicated, what's going on here. brian: when did you meet him? peter: i did not meet him until sometime that spring. what happened was, as barack he got a contract with $125,000 schuster for to write a book strictly on the basis of the fact he was the first african-american editor of the harvard law review.
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an energetic agent signed him immediately and simon & schuster picked him up with a substantial advance. barack was young and he was getting himself started and he missed their deadline. so he canceled it. of agent called me because the kind of book cited. said, you can have only whatif you pay he already had received so he can pay it back, which was $40,000. so we paid $40,000 and barack came to see me. i remember vividly. even though he was, at that point, not the barack obama -- he was a young man. i was impressed. brian: he was not a senator yet. peter: he was still in chicago.
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he may not have even run for state senate yet, i don't remember. hourme in and we spent an and i said, we would love to do this book with you. i young man named henry ferriss was his designated editor. he had written two thirds of it. henry worked with him on the last third, which involved going to kenya because that is where his father was from. when he was president, i got all the people who worked on the book together, on the day of his inauguration, i got everybody on the phone and i said, this is historic. what was it like working with barack obama? everybody said the same thing. we just wish he was more trouble . we would have more stories to tell. the book came out in the spring of 1995. it did ok. it was reviewed in the new york times and the washington post.
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there was a multicultural japanese owned imprint we give the paperback rights for $10,000. that was the end of the story until 2004 when, by now a national figure, he did the keynote. --an: a nine-year period peter: the book sold, not that many copies. he gave a speech at the democratic convention and the next morning, something's going on here. times books no longer existed. i called and said there is something on your shelf you might want to look at. it is this book dreams from my father. i do not know whether a young editor had that idea or not, but they ended up the publisher of the reissued dreams. nothing changed. same cover, which -- iconic now.
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director. art sold many copies. brian: hardback or paperback? peter: it still sells, you see it everywhere, all over the world, exactly the book this young man had written. brian: was it your idea to do audio? peter: i have no idea. brian: he read it. peter: why wouldn't he? his audio was not part of the deal originally, i think. but it's a beautiful book. i don't think anybody would argue it is the book of a writer. brian: did he write it? peter: no question. there is not a word in it that is not his. he was not in that position to hire somebody. there was no tony schwartz in barack obama's life. barack obama among presidents is a writer. genuinely a writer. you can hear that in his speeches.
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one of my favorite facts about we obama experience is that gave him $40,000 for the contract he and michelle got after he left the white house for their books, $65 million. i said, you know, that may be the biggest arc in the history of publishing. you think he made off of dreams from my father? peter: eventually he made a ton of money. he made millions, but not from us. book -- reissue of the it was a huge bestseller. brian: you wrote about it in 2006. a column you used to do. i just want to read this. you said, he speaks well and writes well. americans admire people who make the most of what they have. obama is certainly doing that.
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i just wish this virtuous symbol of america's aspirational class did not move quite so smoothly into a system of riches as a reward for service, especially before it had actually been rendered. explain that,. -- comment. peter: that represents one of my don quixote strengths of publishing. it bothers me a lot that people see public service as the way to a payday. andas elected to the senate even before he was sworn in, because of the success of dreams from my father, he had a multimillion dollar contract with crown books. he had not been sworn in. i wrote that:. i never heard from him about it. his agent was furious. how dear you say these things about this great man? i was not surprised he would be angry.
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it was a business transaction. -- he dumpeduse his first agent -- peter: dumped is a word. he moved on from this agent who was not a major publishing figure to bob barnett. that does not surprise me. brian: explain who bob barnett is. peter: bob barnett is a great figure in washington. , was and is ar partner at williamson conley. 1984, he was active in the democratic party politics. aroundpart of the team geraldine ferraro, who was the woman nominated for vice president. of thised the mechanics kind of celebrity process. decided, i could
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represent these. he started by representing tv people. in tv journalism got very lucrative. he came up with a brilliant concept. takeary agents tend to 10%, up to 20% as their feet. bob said, i will charge you by the hour. not a percentage of the overall figure, but by the hour. is $1say the advance islion for a 15% asian, that 15% agent, that is 150. you can see why he became part of an industry of people coming
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out of public life and caching in. what i think is a serious problem, and i know i am in a is we created a system in which public service becomes payday. most recent examples of that is james comey. , a highery's book loyalty or whatever it is called , he was the fbi director. trump fired him because of his doing the russia investigation and other reasons, probably. comey was a man of principle. then he took $2 million to write a memoir. on the night that the memoir was released, he had a one-hour interview with george featured on abc.
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10 minutes into it, they pause for the first commercial. wrong. fundamentally he had just said the president of the united states is not fit for office. now we are on to a toilet paper commercial. that is the way the system now works. he had 7 million viewers. a month later or six months later or whatever it was, stormy daniels is on 60 minutes. 22 million viewers. ,e have turned political crisis political beliefs into entertainment. the people who offer these books expect to be paid accordingly. . don't approve of that that puts me in a very distinct minority. brian: another person you did books with his bill clinton.
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here is bill clinton in an interview he did for this program in 1996 after he had been reelected talking about "between hope and history." >> why didn't this book sell? >> i did not promote it. is i know how hard hillary worked to sell her book. books sell when people go around, go on book tours and talk about them, sign copies for hours. brian: his book had been out before this interview and it turned into what his second inaugural was in many ways. when did you get involved? peter: when i saw that interview, i wrote to clinton and said you are the first author in the history of publishing to not say it is the publishers fault it did not work out. one isppened on that that i had done putting people
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first, which was the in 1992.ore manifesto their first election. book, that as an instant we did not need to pay for it, it was public domain, and it was a huge bestseller. the cover became a symbol of the campaign. it was used on posters and so on. brooks, i looked at the budget for the year and said we have a problem. we need to make some money we don't have in the budget. roommate was clinton, had been chief of staff in the campaign in 1992. i called eli and said, anything you can do to help us with
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clinton? a book? he's that i will see what i can do. , 1996, hent's day we are going said to do a book. i had my team around cheering, i said, this is going to be hard. you had to figure out a way to do a book with a sitting president. we could not do it with political money because then it is a political contribution. you certainly cannot sign a contract in the conventional sense. we had to invent something. what we did was we said we would pay everything connected with making this book cap and -- book happen. we hired a washington lawyer named bruce sanford to be clinton's lawyer. there was supposed to be somebody helping him write the
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book. we bought that person a futon so he would have a place to sleep. and we proceeded. getting a book out of bill clinton in 1996 was not for the faint of heart. that was really a struggle. every time i felt we were getting close, something would happen. a plane would go down. i remember one meeting we were supposed to have in the plane went down in his secretary of commerce was on it, we left the meeting. he was killed. finally we wrestled this thing into something. august just before the convention. i got a call from a guy at the white house who had become our liaison. he said, you know he has just finished everything on the plane . we are flying to wyoming and he finished editing. he called back and said, but we can't find the manuscript. we did find the manuscript.
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the fellow who is going to be editing the book in the random house offices, he said when i told him i could not find it, he said i had a migraine and went blind. eventually the manuscript came. since we had, for reasons i never understood, kept this book secret, we announced it in the second week of august at a sales meeting. it was a front-page story in the new york times. we announced a printing of 200,000 copies. by the time -- 48 hours later there were 600,000 orders. i have two choices. first, i had bosses. knowing we were doing this book because we wanted to fill a and if people think it's worth owning bill clinton's 1996 book, who were we to say no? so we should 600,000 copies.
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what i did know and other people did not is the book was not very interesting. in the process of writing it, it had become smudged. the corners have been shaved off. morris atamed stick that time was very influential with clinton and he was responsible for some of the --ff in it that really was the first week it was out it was number two on the bestseller list. then people started to see it was not all that interesting. waswashington post -- i just leaving random house at that time to start publicaffairs books. the washington post said the book was being returned by the which i thought -- it would have been fine at 200,000. brian: i remember it sold a hole soldndred 60,000 -- it
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160,000. peter: the ceo of random house at the time said, you're being too timid. publish it as hardcover. it was 128 pages. we did not quite get the jacket right. nothing ventured, nothing gained. brian: this is not off subject, but it's not one of your books. fromays remember this editor-in-chief over at simon & schuster talking about a book he did with ronald reagan after he left office. i want you to hear this little bit. >> we probably printed three or 400,000. i would be surprised if we sold 15,000 or 20,000 in the end. it was the largest disaster of modern publishing. the answer is although people love ronald reagan, they did not want to buy his book.
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i think that is often true of presidential memoirs. it was quite a fine book in its own way. it always struck me that presidential memoirs tend to be numb books. the last readable one was written by ulysses s. grant. brian: as popular as ronald reagan was, why did you think he did not sell? peter: a variety of reasons. it was a very boring book. it was not reagan's book. it was written with a collaborator and it was written to -- it was like a tailor-made suit. it was written to specifications. the public kind of knew that. ,nterestingly, many years later a collection of reagan's letters , diaries, was published. his voice.
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and it was a huge success. many more times than the memoir. why is it? the interesting thing about ronald reagan, one of the interesting things is, ronald reagan actually was a better writer than people would have guessed. he was especially good writing letters where he could express things he would never say to you personally. reagan in person was almost extraordinarily impersonal. gracious, but, not there. a paper, there was correspondence he had with a 14-year-old black kid in the district. which if you read it is really impressive. in person, very different. i worked with nancy reagan on her memoirs. i will tell you if you have time to quick stories. -- two quick stories. we had to describe the nature of
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their relationship. we went back and forth. i worked very closely with nancy as opposed to trump. we talked about what she could say that would convey the reagan persona. what she eventually said was ronald reagan likes people but doesn't need them, except for me and sometimes i even wondered about that. it's a hell of a line and we used it. brian: who wrote it for her? peter: she right the book with a guy named bill novak. it was language we created that would convey what she meant even if it wasn't every last word of hers. she certainly would not have let us say it. the thing about nancy reagan -- after i heard something like she in an interview -- when was describing her relationship with reagan when they were just
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courting, reagan had been married to jane wyman, the actress. jane wyman said he is the most boring man in the world when she left him. was a starlet, and romney, who was a movie e, whowere dating -- ronni was a movie star, were dating. she said everyone of these movie magazines was writing about us. did anybody really care? so what? the next day she came to the bel air hotel where we were meeting with her assistance carrying all these scrapbooks. every single story ever about ronnie and nancy is in the scrapbooks. every reference to jane wyman come across that. -- crossed out.
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you want to know what it was like to be nancy reagan, that's it. you are looking at people's character. since you are not asking them to be your mother, your trying to find out who they are. you are trying to extract their character. that was a brilliant one for us because you could just tell how fierce nancy was. you mentioned bill novak. he also had something to do in my memory with all politics is local? did tip o'neill's memoir, which was man of the house. brian: if the same thing, i think. peter: all politics is local is what we left out of man of the house. when we were done with man of the house, and it was a great -- honestly, i think it
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-- these were tape's stories p's stories in a small package. brian: to bonilla was a scheduled to do this program and he died january 5, the program was scheduled january 17. we asked his aide-- peter: and i believe was the writer. brian: here is gary talking about tip o'neill. >> the agent had this idea of the shrunken format. the elements of politics, like the elements of style. when peter osnos and the people at times books took a look at the book, they said it has got to be all politics is local. that is tip.
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everybody is so happy now that that was the title. because that was tip o'neill. brian: 1994, that interview. tip's book came out in the following 1987, a couple months before the trump book. it was a very great success. there were wonderful stories surrounding the publication of the book. tip was an extraordinary character. brian: did you know him? peter: very well. ones i get deeply involved in tend to be books like that where i go to meetings and do the interview and work with the collaborator until we get the language. we did that with tip. plus the fact that he was a fabulous character. anecdote involving the
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publication was that we were told that william safire, a columnist for the new york times, former speechwriter for richard nixon, one of the more visible conservatives as they were called at the time, journalists -- he was writing the review for the times. said he is going to wipe the four -- the floor with you. as publishers you cannot do everything about the reviews. the review came out. it was a picture of tip in a shanter.ter -- tam o it was mostly about his use of language. it was a wonderful review.
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here is an interesting one. tip got a million dollars for that book in 1980 -- 1985. i only got to random house in 1984. there was a front-page item in the new york times saying tip o'neill got $1 million. i had not yet created my source of an armistice comfort on the idea we pay people that much money because of the service they have rendered. said i have been working here a long time, why shouldn't i have a little fun now that i'm getting out of politics? on some level he was right. one of our wonderful moments in that process, and it was wonderful, we had to figure out o'neill, theomas p
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successor to john f. kennedy, all the guys in boston were saying -- if you don't get tip to talk about kennedy and women, no book. they resented the fact that novak, who was not one of the boston journalistic mafia, was writing the book. we went back and forth, what are we going to say? we came up with the following line. there are a lot of stories about jack kennedy and women. i'm just not going to repeat any of them. publicly, used to say of all the widows alive, plus jackie. brian: here is an interview from this program we did with president bush in 2011 asking him about why he did not include in his book about scott mccallum. brian: you don't mention your longest-serving press secretary.
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who went out and then wrote a book that was somewhat critical. why not? >> he was not part of a major decision. this is a book about decisions. this is not a book about personalities or gossip or settling scores. i did not think he was relevant. brian: what's the back story on publishing a book with scott mccallum? peter: the origin of the book was conventional. i did not know scott mcclellan. no one at publicaffairs books as far as i know scott mcclellan. a proposal came from an agent whose name i don't remember, not in a very unusual way, it just tod of came in. i said mcclellan, you were the press secretary to george w. bush. what yunnan about public affairs ?
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-- what do you know about publicaffairs books? all of our books have a dedication page to three people considered my mentors. -- of them was i at stone stone, certainly not somebody george w would have found politically sympathetic. robert bernstein, who was the chairman at random house. i said these are the people whose principal values we are trying to reflect. do you want to be here? he said yes. we came upon the fact that he beenhis sense of having basically put out to drive -- dry, put out to say things at
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the white house that were not true. it offended him, and he wants to say that. -- wanted to say that. we got the book done, it was supposed to be published on a tuesday. -- on not supposed to be a thursday night, a young fellow named mike allen starting out writing washington stuff bought a copy of the book -- it was not supposed to be on sale -- put a little blog notice saying -- and by 9:00 that night it was taking off. over that weekend there were 80,000 owners of the book. it exploded. at the washington post we had what we call the nuclear tip. there was the fact he had been ordered basically to lie and he was saying so. we called the book "what happened." how did we get into
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iraq? weapons of mass destruction when there were not any? that is where scott was finding his voice. the book did extremely well. it costs got his washington career. he now lives in oregon or -- he is there it vice president of communications at a community college. but he knows he did what he had to do. it was not about making a fortune. he would not have signed with us if it was. it was about saying what he had to say. i have had nothing to do with him before or since, but that is the story. brian: i need to tell our viewers a couple of things. you have published every book we have published here. we are about to publish our 10th on presidents next spring. we don't take money here. nobody involved in the books takes money. over, ite money left
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goes into our foundation. i think the audience ought to know that. never been involved in content in anyway in what we put in are books. want to make sure the audience knows that. are you ever going to write a book about all the stuff you know yeah, -- no? peter: -- all the stuff you know? peter: i am, i am writing it. we barely scratched the surface. i came from a family that surprised world war ii -- survived world war ii. in india, arrived in the united states in a basket. i'm not writing for any commercial distribution. as much as i love the new york times, i don't want my life to end up being waiting around to
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see if the new york times wants to review my life. you can do these books now for your family, for people who care. by yourself, one way or another. i will find a way to do that. i am writing a memoir. i'm calling it "a very good view." that's what i think i have had. i have a very strong belief now that people who have had interesting lives, including brian lamb, should be doing this. letters.have upstairs in our letters are all the letters my wife's father wrote to his wife, his then girlfriend, during world war ii. we are not going to have those things. emails are not letters. one of the things i noticed going over letters to my wife when we were very young is i was mushy. i'm not in emails.
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peter osnos, thank you for joining us. ♪ announcer: for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q& q&a programs are also available as c-span podcasts. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> next sunday, university of london professor sarah churchwell discusses her book, behold america, which examines
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the terms america first and the american dream. next sunday on c-span. ♪ >> c-span's washington journal news andy day with policy issues that impact you. weing up monday morning, will discuss the week ahead in washington with bloomberg senate reporter stephen dennis. reporter stephen dennis. congressional relations director talks about a potential government shutdown. and reuters correspondent discusses federal support for the auto industry. be sure to watch washington journal live at 7:00 eastern. join the discussion. >> tomorrow, the national press foundation host a discussion with congressional and white house correspondents as they preview the 116th congress and
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the third year of the trump administration. ,atch live coverage on c-span2 all mine at and on the free c-span radio app. the next, british prime minister theresa may takes questions from members of the house of commons, then senator cory booker speaks at an event for new hampshire democrats. of11:00 p.m., another chance q and a with peter also knows -- peter osnos. ahead of next week's scheduled vote on the brexit deal, british prime minister theresa may calls on parliament to approve it. during question time, she discusses a report on poverty in britain. an hour.ust under


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