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tv   Joseph Rodota The Watergate  CSPAN  March 18, 2018 9:59pm-11:10pm EDT

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[inaudible conversations] welcome to the national press club. with temperatures in the 70s in saturday june 17, 1972. for those of you born right before that date, you may store
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a member of the events of that pure code that began with a break-in at the democratic national committee and the office building at virginia avenue with president richard nixon on august 9, 1974. we will try to shed light on what our guest of honor writes in his newly published book the watergate inside america's most infamous address. with senator john mccain on veterans day, 2014. and third, i needed to disclose
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or i want to disclose i'm here as a resident of the most infamous address where we have watergate -- where we've lived since 2004 after returning to the united states after a career abroad for the associated press. i first learned about joseph from a conversation i had last week with bill caldwell, the general manager of the residential cooperative and he said he met joseph of the author that had come to fact check information for his new book and that perked up my ears to hear that the author had taken the trouble to check and double check information in his manuscript and also the last 30 pages of the book pages 371 to
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400 are filled with detailed notes of every source used in the book. i've read the book from cover to cover and have to say of the objectivity of my command in my view the book is a fascinating read .-full-stop history and anecdotes about the history of watergate and sounding its instruction in the 1960s and of course the scandals and other stories about the people who've lived there including powerbrokers and other personalities from both political parties. although multiple members in president nixon's administration gravitated including ambassador john mitchell and his wife martha and a number of white
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house aides including rosemary was, president nixon's confidential secretary that you might remember. this is the first book joseph has written. -- >> lisa bloomer as a writer. he worked on the federal and state levels in the politics for more than 30 years. he served as a writer and communications manager in the ronald reagan white house and has a top campaign government aid to california governors pete wilson and arnold schwarzenegg schwarzenegger. you might say he's had a political leaning towards the republican party, but i didn't find any political bias towards
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one party or the other in his book. he tells it as history has recorded it in my opinion. and so, let me begin tonight with some questions from the author and then we will open up to questions from the audience followed by the opportunity to purchase the book and have joseph sign it. thank you for being here. the first question as a first-time book author how did you decide to write a book about the buildings and the potomac river and what were the biggest challenges you had? >> thank you everybody for being here. i had an experience some of you had in the room seeing watergate for the first time, so for me it was right after i graduated
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college and came in from california and started an internship and my colleague found the congressional office, dropped me off at a dorm and said that watergate. it struck me as that moment because if you've seen it through the news you've seen one building that's a sort of black-and-white photograph. so i saw this huge building right on the water that was unlike anything else and it was so traumatic and consequential. fast forward working here in washington about 2011 to 2014 searching around for the topic i had to write a book on my own so i was looking for what might be a hidden story or buried
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somewhere in the national archives or hidden away in the government agency that would be a great story. then one day i passed by and thought that's interesting. i remember at that moment looking for a topic and so it was hiding in plain sight. i discovered this hundreds of books about the scandal and there were no books about watergate. so just scratching the surface it seems like a terrific story so i spent the summer writing up a proposal and it was drafted up very quickly and i was on my way. the challenge is there were so many apartments and i had to figure out what is a good narrative and then i had to figure out how to find the
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paperwork so we had to track down material in the national archives here. people were very generous all the way through the. members of the national press club love to hear about breaking news. your book is about history going back to the 1960s what new
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information did you uncover in your research? >> there were several surprises spread out over 50 years and one that comes to mind immediately is the democratic national committee that was on the verge of eviction so they were chronically late on their rent a and the local manager at this point he had been in the united states almost ten years and he said i consider myself fully americanized so he's trying to get approval to take the democrats out.
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he comes back and everything was proven the answer was no, so they have to stay because george mcgovern could be elected president of the united states and we will get rid of them after the election. i could have stopped it and saved us that moment. they could have been broken in some place else. one of the other surprises for me in the book i came from the kennedy presidential library and it was pretty well documented that the vatican was the major shareholder but what is not well documented is how this sort of ricocheted in the political circles and as i worked through the current approval process i came across in the kennedy library. large file about watergate.
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the context was interesting. once the news had broken that the vatican was behind watergate then the letterwriting campaign was launched and was run by an organization. at the time they were churning out a lot of anti-kennedy literature focused on his sore at the moment when it's sort off moving through the process and it controversial it's too big and too close to the memorial in all of these issues are coming
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up, it is revealed in the "washington post" that the vatican is behind this company. you shouldn't allow this. it looks very aggressive. they are coming into congress and they are ricocheting and then th the answers they were sending out were not accepted so i came across a memo from one of the top aides to say this is sat is going on problem to be. here's what we are trying to do. i'm going to just answer letters and they are going to do what they are going to do, and that was the guidance of.
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>> in the late '90s most of us in the room recall the scandal involving the white house intern named monica lewinsky who lived in that apartment next-door to the apartment of senator bob dole and his wife elizabeth. one of them is called monica land. >> what did you find out about how she lived in watergate while under siege from the press did you interview her for the book or reach out to her? >> i understand she has put up walls around her.
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marshall lewis, monica's mother rented a duplex apartment and her sister deborah and her mother also had an apartment, this sorsort of like the familye their roots there and so marcia rents the apartment and then invites monica to live with her. i got to interview both the prior tenets so into that there's a moment of how monica is introduced so i interview bob dole who is doing actually pretty well. i ask about this and at the time it was funny reading the stories about him just joking with the
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press corps he would like to go out and entertain them and at one point he started to develop all sorts of jokes and said i must have been elected president, look at all these people. then he was the spokesman for dunkin' donuts. so then it was really funny. but one other notice is you know, if they ever knew i might be interested in combining it with mayan and they are famous people but they are thinking the way that you and i would think about real estate, so they are
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like this is really tragic and i should call my realtor. so he tells the story in the book and without giving anything away because i hope everyone buys the book and enjoys the surprise he does tell the story of the first time he walked into the now vacant apartment and into her bedroom that is in the book into these and the chapter is called monica land is because he would give evil tours of the house. and this is monica land. it would be the dining room and the other part of the kitchen. [laughter] >> you obviously couldn't speak with the likes of the attorney general and his wife but when they went through the book i feel as though you have a.
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can you tell us some things about the research process and how long did it take to make the proposal? >> so many famous people were there in the news going through a so we would go through the articles about watergate and who were there and every time we found a name he would tal they k about what happened to that person. are they alive or dead, if they were dead it sort of took a while so there were a lot of dry leaves but through that process
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came a lot of good things. for example there's one named betty bradley i came across her name in a story about her life as a concierge. then they call this gentleman in atlanta and said our mom left a box of tapes which was talked about and we've never done anything with them. maybe it will help you, so they shipped them and we digitized them and send them back in the tapes and cds so for the first time they never heard the stories and they were fantastic.
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bette davis walking through with a bag full of airplane sized alcohol bottles that she drops in the lobby and pretends nothing has happened. there is an interesting man named nick willis and he appears twice. early on he is one of the key figures in the identifying the property so i tell the story of how the property came to be found with two other competing projects to become the first project in america of this company. and then after the watergate scandal.
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there isn't much on him began contacting the family and so his son who had to live in california. there's this terrific guy telling a story of his life.
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i don't want to draw you out so much so that people will feel they don't have to buy a. [inaudible] there's a lot of digging around
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of people to hav kind of come ad gone but i did find one story, a couple of stories about that moment, so at the time she is not happy. not happy being a senator's wife and she has a lot of pets. it is not clear how many they are. it may not be double digits but there are a lot and so john after the 1980s there is a sort of big moment where they return and that signals people start selling apartments to republicans so john decides he wants to move into watergate and being near his friend bob dole
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so he presents the new ad that is thadditivethat is the end of. [laughter] and there's the pet policy of no more than two pets unless you have a combined apartment and then maybe you could grandfather or replace a pet if you lost one. the biographer said she was asked if she picked the pet. >> i read the book and it was fascinating to hear it again through your comments here. we are appreciative that we've chosen the national press club to be among the first venue you are discussing the book and i mentioned at the beginning how auspicious.
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it happened in june 1972, and as you all know, the "washington post" broke many stories. before i turned th turn the eveo audience questions, and show said he brought some slides about watergate and some of its residents on the premise that the slides and pictures are worth more than a thousand words. can you elaborate on the images that are shown there's about five or six i believe.
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>> i was working on this. it isn't a coffee table book, but a lot of them have never been and so there was a surprise i thought i would pick out a few things. this cartoon appeared with a political cartoonist famous for doing a lot of cartoons and so i got this cartoon and this is an
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italian designer meeting with skeptical bureaucrats and rejected plans for the watergate project. there's the original design and it's not a rectangular building it's more like a shell. perhaps if it looked a little more like this, it's the leaning tower of pisa. there's two things about this cartoon, one is how i got it. his name was thomas and he was an architect in rome in the same building so this hangs in his room is a tribute to his uncle. when i met with him and having
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an emotional interview he stepped up and came back and presented the cartoon. what's also intereste interestiy lost track of the cartoon, so when i reached out to get permission they said we don't have any cartoons about the scandal. we sent it an send it and they r been seen so it was delightful to them to have added to their father's history. i don't want to say anything about this and to talk about how tall building is. the index you sort of scamper around.
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you can see them followed and so this is an italian building design at the time where they are designing their gallons into the middle-class american families are enjoying spumoni. the. we have another version that is spectacular for the buck that hung in the watergate sales office. this is a picture of the original model and there's a couple of things to point out. for the watergate south residence this is the design that is larger than the current
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building and it is not split into, so i talk about how it comes to be two buildings in between watergate south and the watergate hotel the plan was to take most of the open space and put townhouses facing the water modeled after the palaces of pompeii. it's at the request of the commission of fine arts and the planning commission that wanted to see the publicly usable space so between the buildings they saw that there wasn't space the public could enjoy because it was a waterfront spot they said it doesn't count as open space, so those were sacrificed pretty
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early in the negotiations. this is a photograph of martha mitchell in watergate salon. then martha's daughter is sitting next to martha holding the family dog so this is from a moment in time that is pretty interesting from the first year of the nixon administration and this is from a photo shoot including one that wasn't published this one was in life magazine in july of 69. the title of the article was it used to be georgetown and now it is watergate. it was sort of this is the best
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of the best. >> and then they just barely survived emotionally and talking about the last in her they had their.
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this is a photo looking through the glass door of the dnc and the transition between those two is interesting and it reminds me of a washington post article roughly the year before the break-in and the glittering potomac titanic and meant that as a compliment and the only difference with the similarities is a vast structure to use the same computer nasa was using to design the exterior panels on the glass. it is so complicated and then
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the passenger list with ambassadors and journalist it was like the titanic but there was no steerage class and no iceberg and of course there is an iceberg but not physical but where the watergate is changed forever. the two pillars are going into that night are luxury and privacy. that is what it is good for and the scandal undermines privacy almost immediately. the people descend on the building and tourist to send.
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from the monica lewinsky era and that is the stakeout but that they are waiting for monica and because how hard it was at that moment and how she was taking care of in the watergate community and that how people are responding that is happening and then they did
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their back to protect her privacy and how the curtains were drawn she was afraid of people taking her photograph and the stores would deliver things to her and the fact that it was self-contained it was designed to be a city within a city she does have a normal life within the watergate without having to venture off campus. so physically it was helpful and also the residence were generally very protective of her and did not expose her to the press i didn't see any sense of anybody exploiting their residency to harm her or expose her. when she left the watergate, she left thank you notes for the various residents thinking
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them and apologizing for the unwanted attention she had brought to the building. >> and there was a great photo of lbj on opening day of the dnc showing a perplexed computer room and talking to two people and to tell the story and the last person to leave the dnc offices he is a lawyer in los angeles a summer intern and i love this guy.
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in the office using the free phone calling the family and just hanging out and across the way of course is mr. baldwin with the binoculars to say there is still somebody there. the last guy before he left. >> before going to the audience what about will there be a part two? and can we expect a movie one day? [laughter] >> the movie rights are still available i had a new author i really have enjoyed the process of writing the book and hearing people react to it which is a light full.
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and as i learn how to be an author i learned never talk about your next book. so we shall see. >> so following the format at the national press is the moderator says we will take questions that make them brief we don't want to have speeches which is something i teach to my class at gw get the information out of the person you are interviewing them don't lecture them so i am happy to say that a fellow press club member and resident of watergate john gallagher has the microphone when you raise your hand he will find you to ask the question and to identify yourself that would be nice.
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>> so i worked at the watergate on the sixth floor during reagan i did a quick look through your book but in addition to not being evicted from the six floor with the mcgovern headquarters on the first floor that was a little note but the security that you talk about the privacy that you had is very weak because i worked on the young democratic office on the sixth floor and we had visitors sleep overnight. [laughter] and they slept on the floor they were friends of mine. third, fake news started back then. you may remember james testified the reason they broke into the watergate was the dnc has links to violent youth organizations and
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specifically against vietnam vets with the war so in reality you got it right because you show in the book from the correspondence with what they were after and the financial records of larry o'brien a salute you do you have any comments? >> the quintessential washington question. [laughter] so this was a challenge of the book how do you write a book that hasn't been written before? so my perspective on the break-in the whole book has the perspective of giving the reader a junior one-bedroom apartment in watergate that they by october 1965 then that is your perspective on everything. watergate east is the first building in the junior
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one-bedroom studio apartments 17000-dollar apartment now they are the guest rooms of the billion-dollar apartments. so i don't chase the scandal around the universe but how would that affect you if you lived there and you saw a man in your building or how do you learn about it? how do you worry about that? for example there was a lot of press at the time that say this is great for business because we are selling watergate seemed brandy. that's great. but then the rest was not good
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for watergate they had a very good brand the whole complex is where they wanted it this unwanted change. so i talk about there is two things that happened shortly after the break-in everything that has the word watergate is stolen from the watergate hotel. so we are running out of everything so they have to reissue the towels they have to be bought nothing can be imported if it has watergate it is ripped off somebody wrote about a housekeeper walking in and it was stripped bare. the guest word walk out with a keen bedspread with a w on it. but then you flashforward the book ends around the time of the shutdown of the hotel so
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then i interviewed the man who liquidated the contents of the hotel i don't know how you liquidate that but he explained what it was like and recently he liquidated the plaza hotel and made a ton of money because everything has the word plasma honest everybody was buying it so they would had almost nothing at the watergate that had watergate on it and it really cut into the revenue. [laughter] 's that was the impact it was still felt in the mid- 2000 or they would be selling watergate towels for a good price they do appear on ebay from time to time but not often.
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>> iam president of the wharton school and a long-term member of the national press club. best organization in d.c. so with the reincarnation of the watergate hotel that was quite negative% in the second is part of the legacy of the watergate is the gate because many scandal since then if not most have the word gait watergate white watergate or russia gait or whatever but that is part of the language. >> the book begins and ends with the first auction in 1948
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with the washington gaslight company decides they don't need the land and in their view prime waterfront land ripe for development they try to auction it off they have an option in the basement and they don't get anywhere near the price so there is an interesting moment where the book begins as the watergate land goes on sale than the book and at another auction of the hotel which is the creditor of the hotel tries to sell the hotel and it is a casualty of the collapse of lehman brothers so that is how it begins and answer those two auctions and that was a good way to end the moment and then there is an epilogue returning to the watergate eight years
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later and i'm staying there this weekend it is fantastic i think they have done a really nice job of embracing that number one it does feel very international and stylist which was originally the plan from the developers never before seen in washington it is just beautiful and an interesting good job and it is in contrast to what was happening 20 years earlier when the hotel moves into british ownership i had an interview of a woman who bought the watergate on behalf of -- on behalf of the coal miners of margaret thatcher's
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britain but they still needed that pension fund so this young woman came out in her late 20s to the united states with a real estate portfolio of over $1 billion before she was 30 and the watergate was a jewel in her crown. at one point they bring on the canard company it was a little titanic tie and they run it like a british hotel and put up a painting of queen elizabeth rename most of the suites presidential suites are royal suites and a portrait of queen elizabeth is taken down when the argentinians visit. [laughter] that would have cut down but
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then they announced all the features and completely leave out anything that took place there at also here you are 50 years later i think the life lesson is if something happens you have to own it but if you find it it may not work it is part of the lesson of the story of the national register of historic places where the building to register the property fairly early and part of that is to recognize the scandal is part of the identity of the building the
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gate word stays with us forever i don't think feel the pics were even over before the latest # swept through that was from the swimmer misbehaving but i tracked down william safire right wind gait that you may not know so i happen to found the expert on wind gait that was a scandal involving a doctor and mislabeling of french wine from the french wine industry and that was the first one and those are in the book.
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>> with all the research you did which was clearly a lot which of the residence would you like to have lunch and a few drinks with? >> i would be fascinated still alive is anna, i don't know if it would be right to have tea with her but she is in her '90s she bought one of the last penthouses in watergate east and was married to a revered military hero who ran the flying tigers air force before world war ii and she
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comes to washington brought here by a friend close to her late husband she is chinese and was married to an american living in louisiana so there was a concern she could be mistreated by the legal process and she would be better off here. so she moves into the watergate and she appears throughout the decades in the book as somebody uses the watergate as a platform to become famous and wealthy and in the book i talk about a fairly well-known incident it shows up in the can burns documentary where she is alleged to have passed
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instructions to the south vietnamese government to step away from the peace talks and rob lbj of the accomplishment on the eve of the election and that moment resurfaces periodically throughout her life she never really shakes it it was in the press one year ago but a remarkable life very curious and i have a lot of questions to ask her. >> and through lavish parties and sally quinn covered her so i was going through the newspaper articles of and as parties they are in the style section and the byline was sally quinn and i interviewed sally and she was a fantastic
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interview. then i have a factual air and a carl bernstein report to covered the dispute over watergate south as a young reporter so he is in the meeting as a watergate south residents are arguing with the developer over the kennedy center and the byline was carl bernstein which i thought was hilarious. >> do you have any thoughts how such a huge concrete almost brutalist architectural development could end up fostering such a warm and private small-town sense of community? how did that happen? >> some people say it is
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brutalist like a square cement box the plasma that comes to mind the church torn down on 16h street so there are no right angle's in the watergate and i looked at a lot of the work of the other buildings and sketches and they really look like drawings that he considered the oval as the modern shape progressing from square to round to oval much more sweeping with movement the building remember he is well known from the toe that
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he is a roman the most important roman of his day he has studios that you can have as a private citizen chauffeured around rome in a convertible and when you walk into a restaurant he would walk in like a renaissance prince. watergate is roman in a way. so it lines up with virginia but on the water cited is very open so if you had the opportunity to be in the big structure in rome it is flat to the city looking on this but -- ominous but also the man who designed the watergate on the site initially he came
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out but the initial design was based on the study and photographs and drawings and the work of l'enfant he pictured it an important parcel in between the natural environment of the potomac and rock creek park with the official environment of the city like lincoln memorial and the capital mall. so the building really represents a transition from water and nature into washington and to your question why does it become center of intrigue? because it is also a very modern idea to create a place a city within the city everything was there the
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supermarket and the drugstore and dentist and bookstore later that it is a refuge for martha mitchell's daughter and the liquor store in the beauty salon and the florist and all these things are there. i hotel, to office buildings. so it is the place the land bought purchased in the early 60s the last building is finished one year before the break-in this is not year the prime years people are leaving city the idea it is to get out of there modern living is in the suburbs to have the cool midcentury house with conveniences the library will
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be modern to drive your car to the mall the watergate is designed to push against that to bring people back to the city give them a modern life in the city. so that factors into it and lastly there is a lot of people on 10 acres powerful and interesting and smart people the early buyers are highly educated the building was marketed aggressively to the lives of single women there was a place as a single woman in washington you could buy an apartment with security and style very modern and everything attached to
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together so it is part pressure cooker in part fishbowl because you can see everybody and everybody's freshman dorm off. [laughter] >> so now when apartments become available today so quickly is at the same luster to they become available very often? >> the residents would know better but i am from california so i had two hours that my next talk on the book from here i go to palm springs to talk about this book during
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modernism week which is a 90000 person festival around midcentury architecture. we do have some architects here but this is the world of people who love to rediscover and learn about him preserving midcentury architecture. so i am hopeful that the watergate which is really one of the premier samples of architectural creativity from that era becomes over time more exciting because midcentury building carries a premium now over a brand-new home but 30 years ago i live in a 1962 house so 30 years
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ago nobody wanted that. but now you have a 1962 house? that is great. i am hopeful that we'll be in the watergate's favor and also frankly that the book gives people a deeper understanding what it means and how it comes about and what was that moment like and why does it look like that? and a lot of thought went into the watergate and a lot of amazing people help to bring it to life after the break in with change of ownership tried to rescue it and also people living there but just as an aside some of the early residents were people who fled virginia because of the
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conservative attitude toward race so one family said we had african-american friends who cannot visit us on the weekend with the pool so they wanted to move to the district where it was not segregated. so some of them are famous some of them are well known and a lot journalists. >> the national press club is 110 years old founded 1908 organizational meeting took place across the street at the hotel if you go through the lobby they have a historical
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exhibit you will see a reference to that meeting and we have a tradition of having outstanding speakers and guests and we are so happy that you could join that list today and we have a tradition as a token of our deep appreciation we present you the coveted national press club mug 17. [applause] those that want to purchase a book or have him sign it, thank you again if you are not members please look at the open website and you can see a list of the events we have each week. have a good evening 17. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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>> obviously there is $1 trillion at all levels on the status quo that we have a very accessible education system but in the book i say there is a dark side to accessibility maybe it just means everybody need to spend a lot of years in school to and therefore they would with lower-level accessibility but they think of the kids from the poor families who get the leg up but not all the other kids from the same neighborhood just like school and those opportunities were taken away because now so many
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people with college degrees why do begin the chance to someone else? so that is part of it also a general social set -- shift to have a high stigma not being well educated so then the interactions with funding have course that is the easiest thing to do something about and we talk about that in the book. >> another of my favorite stories is changing instruments he would put them in his mouth. that happened not very hygienic at all but how far we
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have come but moving so fast and he accidentally took off his assistant finger in the middle of the operation. and as he was changing instruments he slashed the coat of the spectator and it was said the spectator died of fright but the assistant died at angering the patient died of gangrene it is referred to the only operation with a 300% mortality rate. so he actually performs the very first operation under ether that is discovered in america months before hand and makes its way to london. but he doesn't believe it will work he would say you can almost hear the ripple of the pocket watches as he says time
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me to see if he could beat his record he says time me gentlemen he will try the yankee dodge he didn't think it would work a lot of things were not working at this time like the quack who went around hypnotizing patients not always doing with operations but walk into the room and women would faint so he is rightly skeptical he says time me i will try the yankee dodge and it does work. but what is incredible to me if anybody here tonight ever thought about the history of surgery you might think about the age of being over we don't
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have patients crying out for help with the struggle against the knife this rating for surgeons people think the discovery of ether ushered into the modern day surgery but i argue surgeons still don't understand that we are willing to go under the knife and deeper than they did before and as a result they are slow-moving executions with infection rises sky high and it is a much more unsafe. but what is incredible when he performs the first operation under ether in london joseph lister was in the audience witnessing this monumental moment and he assures surgery into the modern era by applying germ theory to medical practice.

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