tv After Words Scott Pelley Truth Worth Telling CSPAN June 9, 2019 10:00am-11:01am EDT
that's the only way you'll remember 25 years ago i was a young reporter trying to build my career and i cornered you in a local newsroom in albuquerque new mexico to quiz you about your career and so for me to continue theconversation, it's great. i'll pick up where i left 25 years ago . >> i remember that clearly and you and i worked opposite each other. you were at nbc covering the trial of kim mcveigh in those days. >> i went on to marry one of the lead prosecutors so oklahoma city and that horrible event had something that stayed with me but also in a pleasant way in the aftermath of all of it. >> scott, let me start with journalism. this book, truth telling is an example of a wonderful
career injournalism and journalism done the right way with a sense of purpose and a sense of meaning . so i jumped right to the idea of where you think the state of journalism is today, and you write so jarringly in your book that the dividing line that matters now is the one between journalism and junk. that is what's crucial right now. >> it seems to me david never before in human history has more information been available to more people and that's a great thing but it's also true that for the first time, never in our history has more bad information been available to more people. so much of what we see on the internet is cynically cast by foreign, hostile governments. by political politicians to bend and change american opinion . i really ask myself the question, what's the fastest
way to destroy a democracy? is it war? is it terrorism? is it another great depression? i don't think so. i think the fastest way to destroy a democracy is to poison the information. that's exactly what we're seeing right now. we've moved in my view from the information age to the disinformation age and that's exactly where people like you and i come in. that's what journalism was invented for, was to be an antidote to gossip and so much of what we are seeing online these days is just simple gossip . >> it's gossip, it's the influence of social media where it's really the amplification of opinion and yet here we also are sitting astride a reality in the news business where there is such great interest, such a high level of engagement and we see traditional news sources,
although ironically more in print i would argue that in broadcast, doubling down on their commitment to investigative journalism and good old-fashioned accountability journalism, do you agree? >> i do. somebody stopped me on the street the other dayand said this must be a terrible time to be a reporter and i said no, this is a great time . this is the best time to be a reporter because with all the criticism that has been focused on us, particularly by the administration, the american people are now watching us and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to show the american people what we do, how we do it and what our principles are and all of that is true and again, people are engaged but you have as i have had a very traditional past which we will get into into the ranks of journalism. what has been difficult as someone who is not an opinion journalist, someone who
reported straight is that people like you are increasingly seen more skeptically by those who condemn and independent media as being something of a facade. of a charade. that there is no such thing. how have you dealt with that? >> i think the bias is almost always in the eye of the beholder, not in the journalism but by the people who are watching it. you've done and i've done interviews with presidents for example in which the mail comes in 50-50. you dirty democrat, you're tried to get the president and you couldn't do it and the next letter is you dirty republican, you tried to skewer thepresident, you weren't able to do it and it's the same interview but the viewers are very very different . what worries me today, david, is i fear that the american people are withdrawing into what i call citadels of confirming information.
where there choosing media that tells them that what they already believe is right. and that's just no way to run a democracy. you can't run a democracy that way. compromise is the only way to move forward and so we have to listen to one another. we can't wall ourselves off in these digital citadels of confirming information . so that's the message of this book. it is something that i feel is the biggest threat to our country, is this combination of poisoned information and the american people withdrawing into opinion media instead of coming on to themainstream . i hear so many people talk about you know, the mainstream media. themainstream media . that's where i want to be. i want to be on the mainstream, i don't want to be on some tributary off to
the left or the right. the mainstream is where the american people are and i'm proud of the mainstream media and i hope it remains robust, because our democracy depends on it. >> let me pick up on that thought, the notion of the mainstream media which i agree with you is funny on a couple of levels. ironic on a couple of levels. that which is considered mainstream which is a pejorative term the way a lot of people use it with include outfits that never intended to be mainstream like say, fox news. you don't get much mourning mainstream that in terms of being at the heart of what people are watching and consuming. and yet, it seems as a pejorative. there's no question that journalists bear some responsibility for what has been a crisis of confidence. you see this, you experience it. you speak around the country as you meet people around the country. people tend to view us more skeptically and i take your point about that is where
they sit, it's their point of view but whether it's missteps that are large crises injournalism , or the nature of the coverage of say the 2016 race. giving trump too much attention or missing in effect what was the trump election. that we are missing some things and it's eroding confidence. how do you assess it? >> first of all, i think it's a good thing that the public is skeptical of media. ithink they should be skeptical of media. they should be very skeptical ofgovernment . criticism, but not cynicism . we should be very aware particularly now in this internet age that we're in, very aware of what we're reading and what we're seeing and be skeptical about those things. that's a healthy thing in my view. you know, i worry david that
the viewers sees a lot of journalists, particularly in television are more interested in celebrity than being credible. i just ãmy teeth, my wife digs her fingernails into my knee when we're watching a movie and we see a reporter, a real reporter appearing in a movie. one night he or she is giving you the presidential election numbers in the next night, you're in a movie recording some alien invasion fromspace . i worry a great deal about that actually because no audience member is going to confuse which is real and which is fake, that's not the point. the point is what is that reporters motivation? are they more interested in being a celebrity than credible and if so, what are they willing to do in order to be a celebrity? i worry about that. herbalism is public service as you well know and it also
has nothing whatever to do with being popular. if you're doing journalism correctly, you're more likely to be unpopular because you're telling people unpopular truths, but the truth nonetheless. so i think there have been many factors that have eroded confidence in the media but consider this. james madison in 1800 wrote that freedom of the press is the right that guarantees all the others. madison believed and he put freedom of the press in the first amendment . he believed that if all of us , he used the word press in an expensive way, if all of us could say what we want to say, write what we want to write, read what we want to read, then all of our other rights would be protected. madison believed that freedom of speech, freedom of the
press was just that important. i would argue to you that there is no democracy without journalism. because the people have to have independent, reliable information. the founders gave us the power over the government so the only way we can exercise that power is with information. and so even though the audience has become skeptical of themedia , i would like the audience to remember how integral we areto the functioning of the democracy . we both cover the white house , you covered bill clinton's second term. i covered all eight years of president bush. how would you approach covering the white house now? there's a level of toxicity on that beat and you know, we were there covering the issues. war and peace scandal but the level of toxicity now is different because we have a president who so disingenuously but in many
ways effectively dismisses the news media and news journalists covering him as enemies of the people and what's sadder to me than in saying it is the reservoir of people in the country who believe it. >> there is some specter of the country that does leave that, because the president says it and that's of course very, very regrettable because of all the things i just said about the founders and madison and there just cannot be a democracy without independent, free-flowing information for everyone to view. when i was entering the cbs evening news in the first months of the president's term, i was thinking that he would shift from campaign mode into governing mode and that the falsehoods would stop.
of course, that was nacve in that moment . the falsehoods continued right into the first days, weeks, months of his administration so in the evening news and many other broadcasts, cnn as well course we just started telling people the president said this, it's false. these are what the real facts are. and then the president described us as the enemy of the american people . ridiculous, because we are the american people. journalists are your neighbors. they are the people who live in your town, write about your town. we bring vitality to the national conversation. we serve the public interest. we serve public safety and you just couldn't have a great america without a great herbalism function within the country. i went to the white house, was invited to the white house to have lunch, me and
other anchors with the president and i said mister president, the enemy of the american people rhetoric concerns me, because i'm afraid it might incite violence. i'm afraid that some poor, deranged individual is going to walk into a tv station or anewspaper and shoot the receptionist because we are the enemy of the american people . and the president thought for a second and he said you know, i just don't worry about that. so i took him aside. i was thinking you might have just been performing for the table so i took him aside after the lunch very privately and i said i really hope you think about this and he said okay, i'll think about it but nothing really changed. a few weeks ago, i got a call from the fbi . and they were telling me that the bomber who mailed the dozen or so bombs to various people that he felt were enemies of the president had a file on me and myfamily and my home address .
it was exactly what i'm talking about. i'm concerned that all of this, not all but a lot of this political rhetoric on the right and on the left is getting way out of hand. and we need toabout a safety . all of this name-calling has just become way too much. and we need to think about the safety of men, women and children in this country and idea, the very idea of bombs going through our post offices and through the public mail is just a horror to me and i think it's because of this rhetoric that we're hearing. >> is chilling. a power platform therefore in journalism isreally important . i see for myself, but i know so many others in our line of work. there isn't anybody who doesn'tlook up on sunday night and watch 60 minutes and wish they could do that job . you have that job and you had
that platform and the thing that strikes me, i remember meeting and associate producer years ago who worked for mike wallace and we were sitting at lunch and i got the first derivative of the don which, the famed former executiveproducer of 60 minutes . his, his lesson about what the mission of 60 minutes was and he said to me, he said issues are for theologians and philosophers. we tell stories. the power of story is what you do, it's what you related in this book because the stories that you have told, the people you have met formed you as a journalist. what isthat the building block of your career that's probably the most meaningful ? >> in some sense i learned from don as you were saying. you go into don's office and use a gone, climate change. it's a big deal, we got to do a story about it and he would wake you are and say that's an issue, tell me a story. and what he meant by that was if you find the narrow
fascinating story that illuminates all of the issues of climate change, that's when you have it. it struck me, steven spielberg for example didn't write a movie called dj. he directed a movie called saving private ryan. you learned everything you need to know about dj in that very first story. he didn't do a movie called the holocaust, he did a movie called schindler's list and again, you learn everything you needed to know about the holocaust in that very first personal story. that's what we do 60 minutes. where going into our 52nd season , next season. i say this humbly and with just enormous gratitude. it's the most accessible television program of any kind in history and we are working like hell on it every week to make it as good as we possibly can .
>> how does it work? take people inside a little bit. how do you think about what you want to do, what stories you want to tell and then how did it get there -mark. >> mechanically, i have about a dozen people who work with me, producers and associate producers like the one you were speaking of earlier and we all get together and we're going to do, i'm going to do about 20 stories in the course of the season. and so the tension always is what are those 20 stories owing to be? we can do 200 stories, but we want to focus on the very best things that we can do area often to me, that comes down to public service, and we do some good here, many exposing corruption or the work for example my colleague bill whitaker has gone on opioids this past season, it's been an enormous public service to this country.
and we illuminate a problem that most people are aware of . or can we just tell a fascinating story about someone who might be very inspiring to the country as well? so we go through those ideas and then the producers go out and they start researching the story and interviewing people. and that is an important moment because we really only want to interview people who are great retailers themselves. and so sometimes a producer will come back and say we tried, we just can't find the right people to put in the story to make a 60 minutes story. so we will discard that one and move on to the next. people think that bill whitaker and i and leslie stahl and steve croft are all in the same office working together but actually, it's very still fight . each of us as our own team and i have no idea what leslie stahl or steve crawford are doing. i see their stories for the
very first time on sunday night at 7:00 eastern time so i'm always apprised and delighted when isee them . as you know david, as i like to tell young people and i'm constantly telling my staff, they just roll their eyes these days but i always say there's no suchthing as good writing. there's only good rewriting . so i think the audience would be amazed at how many times we write, edit , rewrite , edit, rewrite and edit the stories before they ever see them. a story, a typical story we shoot if it's not on a pressing deadline will go through 12 iterations of it. the entire thing, watch it. get the things that are working well, a lot but it's not working well, rewrite it again and again to check the facts again and again, i think the audience would be amazed david at the fact checking efforts at cnn or cvs or any of the other major
news organizations. we really sweat bullets over these things. none of this is cavalier as you well know. i wish the audience understood that a little bit better and it's really up to us to give them a better look into what we are doing but your question was mechanically, how do we put 60 minutes together? there's the answer. >> i'm going to be self-indulgent because i'm a big admirer of your work but when we talk about an impact on the audience, when we tell a story about how people feel not just here but they understand something, it comes from some of the craftsmanship of the storytelling. it's specific that our medium that we love which is television and i could go through many stories. i didn't need the book for this but one you didn't write, you may have written about it, i may have missed it but one story i remember in particular and i know people who worked with you and part of your reputation is that you are as a story producer, you think a lot in
the field and you're very precise in the field because you're a photographer as well what you shoot and how ultimately the story comes together. i always remember a piece you did for the evening news about the destruction of what was left of the building in oklahoma city. you had multiple cameras set up to capture the implosion of the building, but that wasn't the story. the story was impact on those who watched it. talk a little bit about how a day like that comes together where you're thinking about, i'm going to use all of my tools in my basket here to make an impression, to tell a story. >> in that particular case david it occurred to me that everyone was focusing on the building . but the building was a symbol of what had been, what had been lost. the in norma's burden on the families in oklahoma city, everyone as you remember,
everyone knew someone who had been impacted by that terrible act of terrorism so i wanted to turn the camera around if you will, away from the building and search the hearts and minds of the people who were watching the building being destroyed, ultimately in the implosion. it just seems to me that every story is about the people and the way they are reacting to something. the emotions that their feeling, the way that they think about the things that are happening in the world today.it reminds me of an anecdote in the book, i was in paris during the evening news, the day of the isis attack that killed 120 parisians a couple of years ago and that night, it was raining and i was watching a parade of people, to a makeshift memorial on the street on the cobblestone street there in paris and
children, men, women, and i was looking in their faces in the reflected light of the candles that they were holding and it just hit me, all at once. i have seen these people before. i saw them at the world trade center on 911. i saw them in oklahoma city after the bombing. i've seen them in every language and every culture around the world. they had this expression on their face ofutter bewilderment . sort of a what's the meaning of life. and it occurred to me that maybe we are asking the wrong question. don't ask the meaning of life. life is asking. what's the meaning of you. and that is really the organizing principle around the book. that's what caused me to start to write the book was that i had met so many people as you have all around the
world who exhibit the greatest principles and values during the most difficult times. and so i wanted to write about those people. it's a memoir, yes but i wanted to write a memoir wasn't about me because i figured nobody would care about me but it occurred to me that i had in fact met the most incredible people in this profession that you and i hold so dear. and so that was the device that i used two tried to tell those stories about the people and what made them rake. >> you talk about the book, you write about other people's colleagues who have had a tremendous influence on you. as a war correspondent as you have been your career covering the major conflicts of recent memory. you relied on the influence of your former colleagues bob simon, the legendary workhorse and correspondent for cbs news. who died tragically on the
west side highway in a car accident. despite breaking and surviving all the dangerous war zones that he been in. what did he teach you about storytelling and about journalism? >> i learned from bob mostly byobserving . he wasn't the type to be a patient teacher and mentor. but he, his work was titanic to me, just amazing. about tell you a quick anecdote that i relate in the book, we were in 1991, we had a bureau in saudi arabia. and this was in the run-up to the gulf war. saddam hussein was launching scud missiles from iraq into the ron and we were, had a bureau set up in a hotel and the protocol was that when
the air raid siren went off, the lights would go out, the air raid warden would come in and escort everybody down to the bomb shelters the first time this happened, i'm a young correspondent cbs at this time. i probably hadn't been there more than ayear . the air raid siren goes off, the light still out, the warden comes in, we all go down to the basement so now i'm in the bomb shelter and i'm looking around , i don't see bob. i'm worried about bob. i figure oh my god, bob is not in the bomb shelter so i go looking for him and i found him . on the roof of the building with a live camera narrating what's happening as the warheads are driving around him . and it just me. i guess like a scud missile. just hit me and i said to myself that is what a war correspondent does. and i had seen my last bomb
shelter and you know, it was just that moment. this is exactly right what edward r murrow did, standing on top of the roof of the bbc recording the blitz as the nazi bombers came over london . your bob simon doing exactly the same thing. that is what a war correspondent does. is it hazardous? of course. many of our colleagues, friends of ours, both of them and savard have been killed, but when america goes to war, all of america has to go. and the way that all of america goes to war is through independent reporting by the war correspondent on the battlefield. indispensable, absolutely indispensable to a democracy at war. and so the risks are great. but when you see your
colleagues like bob simon taking the risks, you begin to understand what is required of you as a reporter and as awar correspondent . >> the other thing i would say is if i made the other thing i will say is bob was just an exquisite writer. i would get transcripts of his scripts so that i could see them on papers, to see they way they were constructed. i learned more about writing from bob simon than just about anybody in my career. >> this is why i've always been so jealous of 60 minutes, because you are at a platform where that is so prized, where the craftsmanship is prized and i know you would uphold those values to on the cbs evening news and i enjoyed all of my years recording for nbc nightly news. but you and i both know that in a cacophony of the news media space, there is a lot more talking and there is
writing. there's a lot more instant commentary than there is craftsmanship. and i know writing in particular from you, from one of the first stories i ever saw your wsa in dallas doing where you got a tremendous amount of time, i point out after a tornado, where you would write withsuch precision . it's something that bob simon did. it's something martin fletcher did for nbc where they understood the power of images and of good detail in writing which is something you impart in the book which i think is so important for aspiring journalists to read and to think about whether their writing as journalists or in any other platform. >> the last chapter in the book is called to young journalists and in which i tried to impart some of this wisdom that i received from don, bob simon and others. and my hope that this part of my career is to be a steppingstone. for this next generation of
journalists moving forward, and hope you create in them a zest for what we do. and respects for the role of journalism in democracy and then a real appreciation for the art of what we do. the writing and the photography and the video editing. it is an artwork. you know, we are blessed at 60 minutes because each of those 60 minutes stories is about 12 minutes long. it's a few seconds on either side of 12 minutes and what those really are are many occupants areas, so much of what we have to do on the cbs evening news or on cnn, what have you is our stories have to be a minute or two minutes orthree minutes long on the way outside . on 60 minutes with those pieces running minutes, that really gives you an opportunity to do some writing and to do something with a little bit of style. and evil often ask me as you
didearlier , how does 60 minutes survive all this time? i think that's one of the answers. i think the audience appreciate quality. >>. >> i would agree with that. >> you have a great lesson to young people as well, it resonates with me becauseit's what i tried to do . you worked in dallas, you grew up in lubbock and talk about your time working as a copy boy. 15 years old and ultimately tried to get in the door at w faa which was the abc, it's always the abc affiliate in dallas. what people may not know, that was functionally a network news operation at the time you were breaking them in the 80s and it wasn't easy to get into the door. an office, the news director marty cade, a legendary figure in our business whose news desk director then that there was a lesson in persistence about gettinginto this business that you had to
deal with . >> david, nobody ever wanted to hire me. not at any level. i took a bulldozer and ãmy way into every place i ever worked. and so marty didn't want to hire me and i just kept at him and kept at him. you finally hired me to work one day a week eight hours a week and then finally i just worked so hard that one little job that they gave me a full-timejob there . i'll tell you quickly, another in the book. ebs desperately did not want to hire me. they had heard of my work at w faa and some work that i've done with refugees in guatemala. some stories that i got on that subject and so they invited me to come up to new york and meet dan rather and everyone and see if they want to make me a correspondent . well, i had two days of visits in the cbs headquarters in new york. i thought it went great, went back home to dallas and they never called me back.
they didn't even call me to say no, they just didn't call. the next year i kept working on my material. i saw them again, went home, they never called me back. the third-year friend of mine called from cbs and said their hiring radio correspondence, now's your chance area so i called the director of equipment at cvs and i said it's scott kelly again, i want to know if you might want to look at me as one of those correspondents and he said and this is a direct quote, , we know your word. and there's no need for you apply. >> and i said, have you fill those jobs and he said no. why? i'm coming to see you. i just need 10 minutes of yourtime. in the tom hanks hollywood version of themovie i get the job but it didn't happen that way either . and it was another year , i wasn't overnight success after four years of trying and the important thing that young people need to know to get all the way back to your
question, i felt young journalists in college, you're going to be told no 30 to 1. collect those nose, throw them over your shoulder. it's one more step towards yes. the only people who don't work in our industry are the people give up and you're another living example of that. >> true enough. i remember i used the tell people like yourself, i'd make a point of meeting someone like you older than i am and i'd say i feel the need to say listen, i'm going to achieve x and it's important you know that and i would walk out thinking they don't care what i intend to do what it was my own statement of ambition and i'm going to get to these people and find out how they did it and i'm going to announce eventual arrival. you know, what about your parents? talk about the influences on you, not just to remember to go after a career and a
profession that would be meaningful but what shape your values as someone who thought of this as a public service and that it was worth his kind of sacrifice? >> my parents were classic greatest generation parents. they had grown up in the dustbowl of oklahoma . father, the minute he got out of high school signed up for the army air force and he flew 35 missions over germany . during world war ii. my mother was a riveting rosie, she built airplanes in the united states when dad wasflying them over germany . so there's just a lot of grit in my parents and people like them. people that i grew up with in lubbock texas, affirming community. people live and die by the weather and all kinds of
pestilence that would attack the cotton crops on some years and other years would be great and you really saw perseverance in those people. i mean, they had overcome the dustbowl, the great depression, the second world war and you begin to think if they can do that , i can aspire to do things as well . and to persevere . in much easier times compared to those. my mother was my co-conspirator though , my career and pursuit of the truth actually began with a lie. i wanted a job at the lubbock avalanche journal newspaper because i thought i wanted to be a photographer at the time and the problem was only hired kids who were 16 and up to the copy voice and i was only 15.so i lied about my age. i got the job and my co-conspirator mom would drop me off a couple of blocksfrom the paper that nobody could see i didn't have a driver's
license . and this may be the first timeavalanche journal was hearing about this . but that's how it all began and one day i was working on my high school homework in the wire room back then and the executive editor came in. i remember i wanted to be a photographer read the executive editor said he wants the reporter? i said i don't know. i never gave any thought. he said do youor don't you. i said sure, i guess . and he sat in front of the typewriter which i had no idea how to operate and i've been a reporter ever since, i was 18 years old. >> you are a student of history and there's lots of ways to notice but one of the ways i know it is when you cover the whitehouse , you spend a lot of time traveling and it's wonderful because you get a chance toconnect with your colleagues over long times . their efforts around the world and around the country and and compton, the wonderful veteran
correspondent of abc would say the thing about stock is on these trips and he has some major tone of history in the reading. but you know, also the great thing about being a journalist is that we have this front row seat on history and two stories and out, your coverage of the oklahoma city, you cover the event but you also covered the trial of timothy mcveigh. as i did. i was covering the white house during 9/11 and a force among other things you did an amazing hour documentary or maybe it was two on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. and i've been thinking a lot as we, next year will be the 25th anniversary of the oklahoma city bombing and so many people, so many americans don't think about it in its importance because it was displaced by9/11 but in meaningful ways , both those events taken together change america, change our
politics, change journalism in some ways and as you been reflective about the response to those events, particularly 9/11, i wonder what you think those changes were and have been in this country? >> david, so much time has passed as you just mentioned it occurred to me recently that it's very likely that we have young troops hiding in afghanistan today who were not born on 911. the reason that we're in afghanistan . you certainly have a lot of people in the military today, a lot of young people in every walk of life who have read about those events only in history books which is remarkable to me. i was speaking with someone earlier today in fact when we were downtown in many and i told him that it was looking back, it was hard for me to believe that these things had actually happened. that oklahoma city as you
remember so well was so monstrous and then 9/11. i was at the world trade center when the buildings came down. i write in the book the first chapter in the book is called gallantry and it's about what i witness with the firefighters of the fdny as they were charging in these buildings knowing the risk against just a chance that they might be able to help someone. so everything seemed to have changed america because of those events . i worry that the country is tilting not, tilting away from healthy skepticism and into cynicism because of the wars that occurred after the events of 9/11 and the way the bush administration had not leveled with the american people about why we were getting into iraq and whatthe evidence was in iraq . this is such a wonderful, beautiful country. i love america as you do with
all of my heart and i hope we will be able to move from the cynicism that we see, particularly in washington today, to move back into an age of optimism for a new american century. these have been difficult times. dark, difficult times particularly in regard to terrorism and war and it is my hope that our young people who are turning up today are going to be able to put all of those things behind them and move into a much brighter future. >> and yet the lesson that you write about and that you covered at the time in great detail in iraq , in afghanistan and then during your interview with the former director of the cia, george tenet speaks to an enormous challenge whichis how do governments , how do societies respond to fear when they are afraid?
we were afraid after the oklahoma city bombing in ways many people don't remember. his attack on the heartland and what more people remember is how the country felt. the fear that people felt after 9/11. your interview for 60 minutes with george tenet is something you write about powerfully because you wondered whether the torture, what they called enhanced interrogation, the response to 9/11 ultimately compromised who we were as americans and you write at one point that he was very animated in speaking to you and saying basically, don't judge us. don't judge the cia until you've walked a mile in our shoes and you wrote, there it was . george tenant has never, will never acknowledge that the cia's program was torture but in that answer was the explanation for why he pressed for the authority to violate the law. the authority which was enhanced authority that he got after the attacks of 9/11 bypresident bush, talk about
that . >> that, mike wallace of the great 60 minutes correspondent, the original 60 minutes correspondent did a story immediately after 9/11 that asked the question would america resort to torture in the war on terror? i was outraged by that story. because i thought it was ridiculous. i thought it damaged the credibility of the broadcaster who was such a ridiculous idea. and of course, it was exactly right. the enhanced interrogation techniques were clearly in violation of the us anti-torture statute. one of the things david that has been so gratifying about writing this book is that i was i witness to many events but in writing the book, i
was able to find all kinds of recently declassified documents and that sort of thing and informed what it was i was seeing with my own eyes and am of those documents came from the cia archives i went through. and there is a letter from cia attorneys to the justice department that says essentially, these are the techniques we want to use. we realize a violate the law and we would like you, the justice department tell us in writing in advance that you will not prosecute anyone who uses these techniques on behalf of the cia. and the attorney general and want to put this down on paper apparently but the attorney general the time john ashcroft phoned back and there's a record of that phone call in the cia archive and said you're good to go. you can violate the law. now, imagine the position the bushadministration is in .
the worst attack ever on american soil since the civil war. and just occurred on their watch. they were going to make sure that nothing like this ever happen again and as george tenant said, i asked george tenant, i said why were these enhanced interrogation techniques necessary and he said because these are people who will never, ever tell you a thing and would your throat the moment they got out of where ever they are beingheld . tenant had never done an interview before. he had seen withering criticism about the days before 9/11, after 9/11 and the lead up to the iraq war, all of which was pci, director of central intelligence so this was his first opportunity to answer all of that and he just came to me. it's the most fun if you will
that i've ever had in an interview because it was engaging and so competitive and he saying we do not torture people. we do not torture people. and it was a cement debate. because clearly torture is what we were doing. as senator john mccain said when he cosponsored the new anti-torture bill, john mccain told from the well of the senate that we had lost our principles and we had to get back on the side of the angels. if i ask you about sketches and leadership, in a way your coverage of politics given your you know, your rate curiosity and love of being a globetrotter to find stories, to be in a white house briefing room, to cover a president is in some ways and
finding and you tried to break out of that but almost covering the whitehouse from the outside in but you write about covering bill clinton , in great detail about first having the opportunity to meet at least mrs. clinton, secretary clinton during the interview about the gennifer flowers scandal. you described former president bill clinton as an earlier version ofdonald trump . pretty unsparing. >>. >> that is unsparing but what i'm talking about their very specifically is his ability and proclivity towards lying. in his case, about one specific thing, not about policy but about his own demons, shall we say. his own personal demons with regard to actual predation which became infamous after a certain point in time . by early donald trump, i mean was somebody would go to the american people and why only
in their face. president trump is not elevated this into line about just about everything. including policy. president clinton was a shrewd politician. one of the brightest people i think we've had in the white house in modern times. because he had a real command of the policies that way they were working with and policies that they wanted to change. i was very excited coming out of the gulf war. it's 1992,the presidential campaign is starting to stand up . i've been assigned to the largely unknown governor of arkansas it was okay with me because i was pretty new to us on cbs and i write about this in the book. i got a phone call before new hampshire. when i was supposed to join up with the clintoncampaign
and the national desk editor said you got to go to little rock right now. your guys dropping out of the race tomorrow . and i said you got to be kidding me, my first presidential campaign that i'm going to cover for cbs 2 and my guy is done smart he said there's a woman who says she's had an affair with him so he now. we need you to go to little rock and do a story tomorrow for the evening news about how he's dropping out. so i went to little rock. like a way, the campaign arranged for me to get on this mall private jet with governor clinton and he was flying to manchester new hampshire, it's raining outside of course as hollywood would had i'm sitting in the back ofthe plane . governor clinton walks on board, sits down right in front of me in an opposing seat. we are literally need any but he is looking throughhis shoe . doesn't look up at me at all. doesn't say a word. airplane takes off. and for a few minutes of dead silence, never acknowledging that i'm sitting right in front ofhim , i said governor, i'm scott kelly
with cbsnews, i'm going to be covering your campaign . and he looked up from his shoes and he said well, let's hope it lasts a long time. and then as i say in the book, lasting turned out to be the special talent of both bill and hillary clinton. so i had spent a great deal of time with both of the clintons over these many years covering president clinton's first campaign, covering his white house second term and then covering his wife's campaigns as well. >> you share a moment in the book after an interview where you expressed to her inspired you've been for the fights she's always had and she said something to you that was kind of revealing i thought. >> absolutely. you have to, you can agree or disagree with her politics and her policy but you have to admire as i put it to her
on that day that the fights in her never give in, never give up. our most churchill if you will and the way that she pursues politics. and after an interview for 60 minutes just before the democratic national convention when they were introducing him mccain, tim kane i beg your pardon as the running mate, after the interview when the cameras stopped and themicrophones were cold , i leaned forward and sort of took her hand and i said madam secretary, people will agree or disagree about your politics and your policies, but i've always admired the fight in you. and she leaned up into my ear and whispered almost inaudibly, if they had left me alone, i probably would have quit bynow . and to me, david, exactly she
said to me that was very revealing. that as long as they were going to punch, he was going to punch back. and that was the kind of fight within her.she credited her mother, actually, with giving herthat spirit . >> as you look forward, we call in the journalistic community been stunned in our political coverage by the unforeseen and learn to look more skeptically at conventional wisdom but here we are in the early days of the 20/20 campaign that could very well not be about the future as president bush told me all campaigns are about thefuture and not looking backwards . how do you handicap what you're seeing out there right now? >> with the 24 democrats, you know exactly what's going on here . this is a campaign for campaign contributions.
what they're trying to do now is not appeal to the voters so much but to appeal to democratic money around the country. in the not-too-distant future, that money is going to coalesce around three, four or five candidates and the rest of the 24 are going to drop away and then those candidates will proceed into the primaries, but that's what we are seeing right now. there are a lot of candidates but that's really why there are so many candidates. they're trying to see who becomes the most credible among the democratic donors. the president going forward as we know, the president's approval rating is almost unique inpresidential history in that moves in such a narrow range . somewhere from the mid-30s, maybe to 40 percent, never beyond that no matter what happens, he's always in that
very narrowrange . strip the names and the parties off of all of this, if you just look at the numbers, i would be very worried about that incumbent president . because of a popularity rating that is really only ever in the 30s. i notice something when i was doing the research on the book, i was wondering how many times in american history as a candidate won the popular vote and lost in the electoral college? the answer to that question is five times. and three of the five times, the candidate lost after one term. the only time the candidate has been successful in losing the popular vote and winning the electoral vote and winning a second term was george w. bush. so if i look back at history and i look back at that
narrow window of approval, i would be worried if i was running the campaign for donald trump . >> i'll end with this. as you are looking back on your career which is still flourishing so there's many stories yet to tell, would you write to a young journalist you care about the future of our profession, both the vocational piece of it and the business piece of it. do you think that your career, i don't mean to sound maudlin about this but is your career available to other people? if you were starting today, could you do it the same way? would it be available in the same way you've experienced or has the business changed so much that it will be fundamentally different? >> the business has changed so much that it will be on the mentally different. different in a way that i
probably can't appreciate. as you alluded to earlier, there were three television networks as god intended . [laughter] now, on the one hand i tell people there have never been more places to work which is true. there's never been more jobs in journalism than there are right now . >> .. >> .. and so, that is where the revolution is. it is not in context and some people make the mistake of thinking will, media has changed utterly so that means all the rules have changed. not so. in content we ask, is it right, fair, balanced? it doesn't matter if you're
working on a stone tablet or glass tablet but the rules of content don't change over hundreds of years. the audience must have reliable independent information. it's the only way that a democracy can work. china works without that but has an autocratic communist government. russia works without that but it has an autocratic government. he want to live in a dictatorship you can get away with not having a free press but in a democracy if indeed, the people rule they have to have independent information and there's only one way to do that. one of the reasons america is great is because we have the greatest journalism in the wor world. the book is truth will tell you, scott and one great to talk to you. thank you so much. mcdavid, great to be with you. thank you. >> this in all our efforts programs are available at
podcast and can be viewed on our website, but tb .org. >> live from chicago it is day two of the 35th annual printers wrote lit fest. throughout the day today you hear from several authors including education activists and professor on racism in schools. follow-up social media for behind-the-scenes pictures and videos and check your cable guides for more agile information. for step today is journalist dorothy butler gilliam, first african-american woman reporter at "the washington post". >> welcome, everyone. this is presented by the near self-cleaning board. i want to give a special like you to our sponsors who have
been generous in their support this evening. excuse me, especially when thrust is our [inaudible] today's program will be broadcast live on the spin to book tv and if there's time at the end for a q&a session with the author we ask you to use the microphone located at the center of the room so the home viewing audience can hear your questions. for we begin today's program we ask you to silence your cell phones and turn off the camera flashes. i'm here to introduce you to -- here to introduce our guest is [inaudible], reporter and columnist for the chicago sun-times, president of the chicago chapter of the national association of black journalists and president of the chicago journalist association. please welcome