tv 2018 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books CSPAN April 21, 2018 2:59pm-5:00pm EDT
testimony on tv and how he would rate mark zuckerberg on his adherence to the golden rule, especially for generations yet to come. i agree with what he says that we need to look at these issues far into the future. >> host: thank you. >> guest: what i would say about that is i did watch mark's testimony. i am not a good friend of mark's but spend serious time talking with him about these issues and i think he is sincere in wanting to do the right thing. he had this idea that by connecting people and
amplifying, showing them what they like he would bring them together and we found out that turned out not to be the case. i see the engineers of facebook working very hard to solve that problem. at the same time i see them trying to preserve their business model. .. >> are going to hear from jonathan eig who's written a biography on mohammed ali, mister farrell, who has a book about president nixon, live coverage of tv.
>> welcome to the panel where the panel is writing great lives and as you'll hear, we've got great lives and great writers to share the stories with. i have a couple announcements they always ask me to make . one is be sure your cell phone is turned off. we don't want any calls coming in in the middle of our discussion. and also, there are no personal recordings of these sessions so please honor that. this is part of the agreement we have by getting to do this so please do both for me if you would. the argument important to know is that after the events , we will be going going over designing area one and i encourage you to come over and do that. we will be signing books and if you have more
conversations you'd like to have with any of these authors, you are welcome to walk over with us, follow us or meet us over there at signing area one and we will be there as long as you want us to be there and we'll see you at the end of this event . in general, i want to say that we are going to try to keep this as informal as we can . i would encourage all the panelists to interact with each other. i'm going to ask them to agree briefly introducing their books so you get a sense of it and i'll ask them a couple questions and hopefully they will just take over for me. my name, if you need to do know that is diane smith and i have a book here that they had in the book thing which i thought was quite thrilling to see. i'll be over here too, if you're interested in yellowstone in particular i want to give you one very quick overview of all these books and i have been to show you. this is an amazing biography of richard nixon. i call it a thriller.
you know the ending and yet you have no idea what a page turner this is so i highly recommend this book. we have a biography of muhammed ali by jonathan eig. again, an amazing, very disturbing book because again, we know what happens to him and you see it literally happening, almost feeling like seeing it happen in real life so jonathan eig will be talking about this one. visionary women with andrea barnet here. this is about four meeting women you've never seen written about together before, i think. this is an interesting way of looking at for women who were revolutionary for their time and if you are in need of inspiration these days which i know i am, this may just be your book. and finally, we have adam federman who's going to tell us about somebody who may be
we don't necessarily think of as being a great life . the author and sort of cookbook, new foods expert patients grade, amazing book and i look forward to having a discussion about the difference to writing about somebody we think we know all about, somebody like a richard nixon and somebody like a patient's gray who runs off and lives on an island and lives off the land so we have a unique combination here. i'd like to start with john farrell who wrote the richard nixon book and asked him how he came to the subject, something we think we all know everything about and it turns out we know only part of the story. >> thank you.
there are some certain rules for biographers and one of them is if your publisher asks you to write a biography of an american president, you say yes. i was asked by doubleday to see if there was a story to tell about nixon and i decided that i would actually make the argument, having done this initial research, that we live in a world richard nixon left us, both in the polarization that we have at home, north versus south, black versus white, the people on the coast versus the good folks in the heartland and in the international order, he was the person who brought china back into the world order and gave us the structure we live in and have lived in if you define peace the way he did which is without a world war for 30 years. he's a caricature for most of us, the only president to resign. we know him for watergate and for vietnam and as sort of a
semi-famous story of bob dole showing up at the white house during the reagan years to join the delegation for the noir sought funeral and he walked in there was gerald ford and former president jimmy carter and richard nixon and bob dole with that savage wit of his said , see no evil, hear no evil, no evil. but having said that, the original title for the book was richard nixon : an american tragedy. because i think it is, a tragic story. he came up in almost dickensian straits in the outback of southern california and his parents were demonstrated one way or another, one through coldness, the other through passion that they didn't think much of them but to the two favored brothers of the families died and richard had to step in but he came away with the experience believing that as he told david frost that i am on the unlovable
person. can you imagine going on television? i'm such an unworthy individual that nobody could ever possibly love me and that's the way he believed. he had this thought in the back of his head that he was this loathsome creature. he was throughout his presidency, he was the iago to his own or fellow, whispering you can't succeed, you have to play the game harder, play the game dirtier . and in the final region , due to the mysteries of the national archive, all of a sudden in this century there was a tide, a flood of new material by next in. all white house tapes were released, the histories of his childhood were released, testimony was released so i almost feel like i don't deserve any accolades because i had this really rich stuff to work with and all i sort of had to do is get out of the way. >> jonathan, you have a
similar kind of challengewith your books , since we assume, we know quite what a bit about muhammed ali yet as usual wedon't know half of what was involved . >> nixon and ali could have been opposite because ali certainly thought highlyof himself. he was the prettiest comedy was the slickest, the greatest fighter of all time and probably the most famous man of his time . he recognized before the days of the internet, even before the days of cable tv, recognized around the growth used a black, i drop out of an airplane, parachute any around the planet and walk up to any hot, a house in any village in the world and are going to love seeing me, that's how good it felt to be muhammed ali yet my story is a tragedy to in many ways because the thing that made him great was the thing that ultimately destroyed him. i was 10 years old when ali the george foreman in the rumble of the jungle when the heavyweight title back after
the government had taken it away and i had this feeling in my room and it never occurred to me as a kid that he was something more than a boxer. i says he was a spectacular personality, that he was just so incredibly attractive and hard to take your eyes off of and so entertaining but it wasn't obviously until later that i realized how interesting his life was and how relevant it is today. it's very much a story about race and religion and politics. standing up for what you believe in. when ali in 1964 announced he was abandoning christianity and joining thenation of islam and said i don't have to be what you want me to be , he became the most unpopular man in america. certainly the most unpopular man in white america. you think colin kaepernick is getting a hard time, try to imagine what ali went through in the 1960s when he was stripped of his heavyweight crown, denied the right to box in this country and
sentenced to five years in prison. he really thought his boxing career was over so i began this project taking what else is there to say about the most famous man in the world? we don't know everything about him and it turned out we didn't know much about him at all and i was able to interview everybody close to ali. i lost count after a while, more than 600 interviews for this book and was able to get sei documents that were recently released, not just from ali but members of the nation of islam. i was able to interview almost everybody close to him and really began to develop a different picture than the one that i have in my head as a kid and most of us have ali when we saw this glowing personality and his great telegenic personality. >> and when i came away with was the story that surprised me over and over that ali was so much more complicated than we thought and his life was just one of the great dramas and it's a great tragedy so,
i felt like an enormous responsibility in telling the sky story, telling the story of somebody so well-known and so famous i felt like given what's going on, it was incredibly relevant and i think that ali's story is one that we will be telling for generations to come. i'msure this will be the last biography but i think it will be the greatest . >> so andrew, you had another challenge with women, we assume we know well. rachel carson, jane jacobs, jane goodall and alice waters . and you were taking a different approach and i thought maybe you could tell us how you came to do that. >> the book grew out of the conversation i was having with a friend and i realized that there were four women, each of whom intriguingly similar and adjacent ways had changed the way we thought about the world. carson, the environment.
jacob levy, goodall, animals and alice waters, food and eating and what really interested me was that all of them, there were so many parallels in their stories, even though they didn't know each other, they were working in different fields, even in different generations so for instance, all were credentialedoutsiders. they were people who went into the field and literally got their hands literally and figuratively dirty and against all odds prevail . all were green before green had entered our vocabulary. three out of four wrote iconic books that the united social movements. and maybe most interesting, all came to power at a time when women had no voice and against all odds prevail . and all and had their breakthrough moments in the early 60s, which really
interested me.i thought what was it about the cultural soil of the 60s that allow these voices to be heard and why did they speak so sincerely to the times. so of course i thought my character was in the 1960s and but i started reading their work and i started reading books about the four women's work but also books about them, i realized my fifth character was the 1950s . because each of these women had been pushing against the values and priorities of the 1950s. the cultures increasing disconnection from nature, its love affair with science -based technology. his willingness to plunder the common with no sense of the future. it's deference to big business and all of these women very boldly had spoken up and said i don't think this is the way forward. it's easy to forget how much we absorbed their ideas and
how much part of the bloodstream of the culture. in 1961, the idea was pesticides had been invented during the war , ddt particularly because it killed insects that carry diseases. it was really good for soldiers in the trenches. it killed life at the end of the war, chemical companies had a product and they thought were going to turn it to domestic use, we will turn them and decide the idea was buns would be eliminated from riyadh we would beat up farming by using synthetic fertilizers. we would, cities it was believed were in crisis and the way to solve that was to knock down the old city. build, sort of top-down huge development projects. put up high-rise housing towers, surrounded by grass and m.d., maybe empty closets but basically to remove the old urban bread.
adult animals would be fattened withpharmaceuticals, animals would be reengineered so that they were , they could fatten faster. and that was sort of accepted that this sort of technological or technocratic mindset was what was really driving the 50s. and all these women said i don't think this is the way forward. there's another way forward, it's a more holistic way forward. we need to understand the systems that support all of these things. it's also easy to forget, one of the things i foundraising was to remember and i hadn't really known this during the 50s , in 1961, a woman in many states, a woman couldbe on jury duty because she would be neglecting her duties . if she, if she had property and she married as soon as shemarried, it was her husband's property . if they wanted to rent it,
the rent was her husband. if you wanted a credit card she had to have a male cosigner. she wanted to be a scientist, she could maybe teach, but she never was sent out to the field. she could be, if she can be a stewardess but if she had children or got married, she had to quit her job. she could be secretary, both jane goodall and jane jacobs went tosecretarial school because that's how they thought they would support themselves . maybe the most unbelievable law, well, in many states if women wore men's clothing she could be arrested. there was a story i read where a woman walked into the courtyard into the courthouse to pay her husband's parking ticket and was ordered out of the courthouse because she was wearing pants. so it's just, i thought how is it that these four untrained outsiders were able to really make inroads and
really change the way we think about the whole fieldat time when no one was listening to women . and so that became kind of the connective tissue that i was searching for as i was researching, because all along, there being sort of repetitive patterns and for instance, i was reading about , i read maybe like a lot of people, i wasn't sure if i'd read silent spring so when i read it, i said this is extremely difficult stuff but she's made it so lyrical and so literal and so eloquent. this very bad news is being delivered in a way that is just, you're able to get through it. and when i got to, then when i started reading jane jacobs, i realized he was speaking about the ecologies of cities using the same language that rachel parson was using to describethe ecosystem . jane jacobs said a city
wasn't just what the buildings lookedlike but there was a human ecology and then if you knock down the whole squad of the city , you destroy the streetlights and if the streetlights was the connective tissue, that knits together the urban bread and that's kind of one neighborhood to flow into another and citieswere fragile ecosystems and that you couldn't , you couldn't intervene from on high without really destroying their life which was the same thing that carson was saying about you can't imagine that you can put pesticides in one place and it will flow into other places. a really good example i used is if a drop of water with paramecium which is a single cell organism, it upon water dries up, where's the paramecium? it's a few specks of dust, it doesn't exist. paramecium doesn't exist
except in the context of its environment so all these women were looking at basically the systems that supported theliving world . whether it was in cities or the national environment and it was seeing the same patterns in jacobs. i was following these through lines and i really feel the biography in a way is a paradigm change. a real shift in emphasis from theory and ideology to hands-on you know, going into the field and observing very closely and see what's there.'s thank you. i want to get adam in here. one of the things that i sort of, when i took my notes about these four books, i was talking about richard nixon being a thriller. as i said, which you don't expect. mohammed ali as jonathan said, really being a tragedy
and you see that tragedy unfolding in the classical sense of that word. inspiration would be visionary women. i would consider this about a revolutionary and this woman you probably have not heard of, i certainly hadn't until i read the book so the question is how do you come to a topic about someone that you don't know that much about in your readers are not going to know that much about, how do you approach that maybe as different as you start to write about it? >> the other colorful figures we're talking about, it's safe to say relatively unknown to most people. and that presented some challenges and opportunities. perhaps the greatest challenge was convincing a publisher to do something about a person most people have never heard of. and in fact, i had never
heard of patients gray until after she died in 2005. i came across her work in her life really by happenstance, reading and obituary in the food magazine called the art of eating. the editor of the magazine had been a great champion of patients his work, and reviewed her best work coming from a weed published in 19 he six and in that obituary he describes coming from a weed as one of the greatest cookbooks that will ever be written which sounded over-the-top to me and implausible, really. but highly intriguing. and around the same time i found a copy of that book on my parents bookshelf which had been there for most of my childhood and i had never seen it and they had hardly used it there was one recipe in the margins . so i opened the book and i was completely taken away by the pros, the life that she lived.
her depth of knowledge about the natural environment, wild plants, fungi. she had become over the course of her life a kind of amateur no botanist, photographer, but she was able to put it together in a sort of masterly way is a travel writer, really. i just could not resist the impulse to know more about her. in december she had written several other books including the best-selling cookbook in the 1950s which has andrea was saying was a remarkable. and in particular for food writing , mft fisher and patience was part of that revolution. >> and really, this project was about understanding who she was and how she came to write this monumental book that had a real impact and influence on food writers in
the united states and the uk. when it was published, patients was seen as a kind of guru and a number of these two writers including alice waters made the long journey to the very tip of the sondheim peninsula to visit her. they sought her out, but by the time she died in 2005, the bbc described her as an almost forgotten culinary star my hope in this book was to reintroduce her to a contemporary audience. >> so john, we often read these biographies of people to sort of learn lessons and i'm wondering, what are the lessons welearn from richard nixon's life ? >>. >> the lesson he learned and most of what i'm going to talk about you can see on youtube. but those of you who are old
enough who will remember him going into the east room of the white house on the day he resigned and standing there, respire, the only time he wore glasses during his presidency is because he wanted to read a quote from teddy roosevelt and it was the only time in his life that he actually reflected on the tragedy and what the lesson was in the lesson was and i think it is really applicable today as we look at our country for the part. was that you never hate your enemy because it's only when you hate them that they win because you destroy yourself. and that was the lesson that i think i can't think of too many moments like it in american history. words of wisdom in that final house, really hard one through a lot of suffering. >> and the other thing jonathan, i was saying to that your book is a very
poetical about ali. i'm old enough to remember the antiwar protests and what not that he got involved with and really the religious side of his existence. i'm wondering how you managed to balance all that. to make him come alive as a totally dimensional person. >> one of the great things about ali is he's not reflective at all. he's flying by the seat of his hands, making it up as he goes along and yet he becomes this bellwether, this icon for the civil rights movement and when he dies, a year and a half ago , all these people regard to his role in the civil rights movement and he was opposed to integration. >> he said integration was a waste of time, that white people would never have any power and the only way forward was for black people to do it on their own, for their own organizations, eventually stick away from
the united states, his father was a guardian and found in mohammed a new version of barbie in that it suggested that you really have to be independent but ali was all over the place. he never really had a strong center when it came to ideals. he was of course perhaps most famous for saying that he wouldn't fight in vietnam and said i got no quarrel with viacom . he never called me the n-word and yet years later, he was asked by an interviewer if he had any regrets in life and he said yes, i regret that stuff i said about vietnam and the vietcong. for a minute i had to, i couldn't believe it. the thing that he will be remembered for most is the thing that elevated him from being an accolade and an important political figure. and why would he say that he regretted it? and to understand that is
really key to understanding ali because he always wanted to rebel and he always wanted to be loved and his impulses were at war within him and you see it from an early age, there's this myth that he used the race the bus to school in his training to become a boxer. what kind of bus was it? a city bus. doesn't the city bus stop all the time? he was doing it for attention, he'd stop every time the bus stopped. and he'd wait with it until it transferred. ali was saying that he regretted those remarks he made about vietnam, he didn't regress the stand he took. he said he would die before he would go against his religious principles. he was offered a compromise about his exhibitions and avoid prison, he wouldn't do it but what he meant was he was upset that it offended so many people. he stuck to his principles but felt bad that he had upset so many people so in the end, ali had this great desire to be loved and that trumped his desire to be respected. that's really key to
understanding him, i think. >> you did that throughout the book reading about him. there's a lot more to him it helps explain why he was married four times and a few extracurriculars. >> and also why he fought so well, because he needed the money. >> he couldn't give up boxing because he needed the money but also, what else are you going to do that going to put you in that spotlight where you have people watching you live on tv. it was what offered tv deals and movie deals he was sitting in a trailer for months and make a movie and then you're not there when people are watching you on the screen. you get to see their reaction, he had no interest whatsoever. he needed that immediate gratification. >> i wanted to raise with john again, the one thing that struck me about him that you are able to accomplish and it goes along well with this story is that you may not like him anymore then you have this image of him or
respecting anymore, but i do feel like i understood him more and how he got to where he was and i'm just wondering briefly if you can , what that challenge was because what people do care about the people you're writing about and you don't want them necessarily to recruit. >> i think that probably there are some that are beyond the pale but even explaining someone like hitler was important, to try to, where the biology comes from but basically i think the rule of a biologist, allied biographer is to approach a subject fairly, and with not sympathy like you're in the tank for them but before them as a human being.nixon had, i was immediately struck by when i started interviewing the friends and family members who were still alive about how enamored they were of this awkward man and it
immediately like a light bulb went off that there's something more here. again, talking about all those documents that were released to his love letters to his wife and he was a nobody, just a starving lawyer in california, and on an entirely different side. it really was tragic that these boring insecure person had the ability to move so far beyond limitation. and still brought down in the end. henry kissinger said that nixon was, that the classic definition of greek tragedy because not only did nixon have this tragic flaw but he saw it in himself and it inevitably brought down the punishment. >> he couldn't stop it. >> so andrea, i'm interested based on what you said earlier about what was in the , in the water, what was the
water they were drinking. that suddenly made these for women acceptable in the culture that they were actually being listened to when they were making a difference because it's an unusual time for women to be rising to the forefront intellectual thought. >> because they were outsiders, the culture at that moment gave priority to theory and expertise. none of them had been trained in their field. they were, they were not part of the status quo but i was struck by the fact that none of the women that i write about were interested in power and in fact they were very, mitch mccarthy was reticent and shy and was quite mortified every time she was asked to speak and her agent was always saying you have to go to more book events. she was so passionate about what she was doing she wanted to get the word out he was
dying of cancer and she's riding in the spring. she didn't want anyone to know because she thought the chemical companies would use it against her. because they were outsiders, because they were untrained in the know any better, they went into the field and they were cute observers and jane jacobson walked through every neighborhood of new york city and started visiting cities all over the country, trying to figure out what makes the sidewalk work?why do they feel menacing? why do some feel and you while others are abandoned? and jane goodall when she arrived in bombay, she hadn't been trained in primatology. she had been a secretary, a skirt chaser and i think he wanted to have her around so he sent her to study chimpanzees in the wild. she had no methodology though she started following them and watching and she would sit for hours and watch them
and she started to see the theory at that time was animals were sort of like clocks. that they were biological monoliths and they operated by fixed rules and they didn't have emotions or sentence or intent and as she watched and again, for weeks and weeks in this incredibly arduous conditions, she started realizing there were friendships. she noticed there were two chimps she finally identified and had given names which is a cardinal sin, that they rushed up and hugged each other and she realized this is more than clockwork. there seems to be a whole constellation ofemotions she saw revenge, anger, she saw tenderness, she saw some chimpanzees were better mothers . and the same with rachel carson. she the time that she was working, biology was about hounding and categorizing things. and in the way that zoology,
they killed wild animals and then measured their bones and count their teeth and that was the way it proceeded. and carson was really in the natural world day after day watching and seeing the world as a whole web. i think the fact they didn't know better and they were grounded in the physical and in their sense, they were afraid of being intuitive, they weren't afraid of looking hard and the subjective wasn't considered very professional, they were part of their field in many ways and they were also not afraid to use personal attitudes in the writings. they're all incredibly beautiful writers they would weave in stories of things they seen and doneas part of their arguments . so they really were able to put a human face on a very big questions about where the country was going and that was perhaps because they were women but perhaps because they just had a different
orientation. >> many people saw that and received the message maybe differently perhaps, i don't know. so adam, again, what we're dealing with somebody like patience gray who runsoff and does her own thing and that time , how do you approach those kinds of questions from a biographers perspective? >> i think being an outsider defined new patients was. she unlike ali and nixon, she shunned, not only did she shun the limelight, to the extent that she sort of advertised her own career as a journalist and writer in the 1950s. he was appointed the first editor of the woman's page at the observer which was one of the leading postwar papers in london and it also just published a best-selling cookbook in 1957 and in 1962, gave all of that up and rejected the trappings of
consumer society and basically embark on this 40 year odyssey throughout the mediterraneanand in the end , settled a place that was so remote and live without electricity, running water or a telephone so in a sense, in a very elusive figure and patience also had very, she looked at the genre of videography and autobiography very skeptically. she did write a memoir and had a section on childhood but it begins on page 300 and has a quote missing it that says all autobiography is suppression and lives. so i shudder to think, to imagine what she would think of my book. but the same time, all of these figures are full of contradictions and patience left behind a remarkable treasure trove of letters. she course on a daily basis by writing letters and in
part by necessity, they had no other way to communicate and she saved all those letters. she saw thoseletters from her friends , really in an attempt to preserve them. so without those letters i think the project would have been doomed. but it made her an inherently fascinating person and i think teasing that was really sort of one of the threads that run throughout the book. >> and bring to life for the readers is important. so you started a thread that i'm very interested in pursuing all of you here. this title of this is writing great lives. and as a writer myself i'm interested in the process. what's involved and i know as writers you often get the question you write with a computer or by hand, that sort of thing that there is a
real art, i think the writing biography and a lot of work . so i'm interested if you want to pick up a little bit on what started that process because you started the question and then i like to move down and talk about a little bit x i'll be completely upfront to say that i never imagined i would write a biography and i had no idea that i would this book or how i would write this book when i did the research. which i think in a way was sort of a blessing because i didn't come at it with some sort of preconceived idea of how i had to put this thing together and over the course of about 10 years, collecting material and reading through her letters and visiting archives, the process to use the word that doesn't perhaps illuminate much, it was very organic . and this was my first book and writing it came so much
more easily than i thought it would. but i think when you're dealing with a lot of materials, you have to be selective. you can't just dump everything into the book and think that people are going to appreciate that because they won't. so that's a real art and you have to be your own editor and the way in terms of getting a sense of what matters about this place because we know that every life and take multitudes and if we tried to capture all that, it would be pretty dreary stuff. so i think that was one of the great challenges and you know, i'm sure if i have the opportunity to write another book it will be that. >> so john, you have a presidential library to work with but i sense there was a
lot more involved and in being outside the nixon library and i'm wondering what that process was and i'm alsointerested in the dining because these are not books that you turn around in a year . >> first of all, i'm in great all of writing about a white man writing about a black person and you writing about a woman. >> because i despair sometimes when you think about what you had to defeat to write a life. in some ways it's easier than a novelist because you have every plot written for you. but there's also a way that you can approach that. you can write it short, you can write it long. >> you can put a couple in there, you can write one person so there is within that stricken structure, there is freedom of style. that you have to deal with but basically, it is writing. when nixon was in law school
at duke, they call him gus which stood for a gloomy gus. which is just his personality but they also call him iron but. because he did not have a fast file, quick intellect. what he was was a great writer and he was 02 law library and sit there and he would study and he would study and then he go to his part-time job and go back to his little rented room in the woods where there was no heat . i mean, it was this onerous part of richard nixon's early life that but you can't put a dickensian spin on it but there's a lot of iron but in the biographers wrath. >> and timewise, again. just to give people a sense of the time commitment that goes into these books. >> my first three books had been six years from the time that i say it goes off and
somebody said from the time until it hits the stores. >> to give you a sense of what balk here, it's quite extensive. let me before i ask jonathan to start, i'm going to alert you that in a few minutes, i'm going to ask some questions from the audience, if you have questions. i'll always like to point out that if you have comments or you want to talk about a book, we have plenty of time to do that afterwards if you have a specific question for the panelists, we have some, i think we have microphones somewhere which this gentleman in the back will help us with so think about if there's something you would like to ask any of these people while we are here and then again, if you have more of a comment or whatever, we can bring those up when we go over to the signing area so i want to give you a heads up on that. >> i typically spend at least a year without even thinking about writing, just doing the initial research and trying to become something of an expert on the subject of
reading and figuring out where the archival material is and in the case of ali, the first time i was writing about someone who was still alive and his colleagues were still alive so the priority was doing interviews. especially, i hate to be crude about it but doing the older people as quickly as possible and especially when you are dealing with famous people who been around someone very famous, it's difficult. you can just call them up and say can i come over and spend a week interviewing you. it took me two years, three years just to win them over. ali's brother who is still alive, the first time i told him i said i'd like to come down. so i started calling him just trying again, i said i just have one question, what was the name of your dog? he said $1000. i said that's a terrible name for a dog and he said that's not funny and it's ill thousand dollars. so it took a long time before rocco and i became friends and before i was able to interview him at length and
that was the case over and over again and often you're doing these interviews for you are prepared because if they say yes, you can come do the interview, you go and a year or two later you realize you asked all the wrong questions and then you hope you can get back in the door. and going through the process again, ken burns is working on an ali documentary so going back to these people, you burn too many bridges over somebody who's contemporary like ali, a lot of it is interviewing which i love and which i didn't get to do so much from my other books and when you begin to feel like you have some capacity on the subject, then it's okay but the stuff i found if you start writing, i don't know about the others but when you start writing too soon, you're wasting time because a year later you realize you are an amateur, you don't really have command of your material, you didn't understand the importance of your subject and gregory said to me, he was one of the first people i interviewed . >> he said especially for you
as a white guy. because you know, you're going to have a real challenge. you need to make me understand what made this kid he could be special and that's true for anybody who's worthy of biography, what made them think he could do something special but it's true as dick gregory pointed out for a kid was the same age as an hill who saw what happened to phil and was raised in a society where he was told that he certainly was not the greatest, he was in fact inferior and not entitled to the same rights that white people were entitled to. what made this kid think he could challenge authority, call himself the greatest and stick to the man. that's a serious marching order when somebody puts it in yourface and says don't bother writing a book . >> i think that's probably something we all face. >> andrea, go ahead. >> i was, i remembered a comment virginia woolf made. she said writing biography is donkey work area. >> the cause there is a huge
amount of slogging. just to get a lot of materialism. and then you begin to see patterns and see what you got but but i have to say, i borrowed all three of these new but getting a full life and really trying to get every phase of their life and to give it a quick development is enormously ambitious and are an admirable. >> i was as i was doing a group biography, i was looking for moments that illuminated the work, their character, the genesis of their ideas and the kind of common ground that they shared, but i also, four different lives which i had to research and as jonathan said, you start to think okay, what do i need to tell my audience about? about these women that really
makes us care. that makes it all makes sense. so i would, i would do a huge amount of research and write a rough draft of the first of one woman and then i would move on to the second, and then i would do a huge amount of research and then i of course ended up doing a huge amount of rewriting because there were all kinds of things you have to know as a biographer so much more than you can include in their workplaces where i've gone off on jane goodall had a fascinating childhood and i spent a lot of time and i realized doesn't belong in this book. it's out of proportion so i have to cut out the easily 20 pages. which is i guess why it's so slow because you have to know so much more than you can include. and you don't really know, you want to keep the story going so that there's a kind of dramatic arc to it but i think that for me it was
always looking for connective tissue and looking for moments that really illuminated each one. >> one of the things you run into is that especially the older folks, they don't remember the actual event. there are the memory of it or they remember somebody else use them once and their reading back to you what was written about them so it has to be , you have to persevere and george schultz was secretary of state, and he was richard nixon's economic advisor and secretary of labor and when i interviewed him he was doing the same thing. he was giving me nixon was a nice guy, he let his cabinet officials use that on the weekends and you were going through all the stories and finally i said okay, but he tried to get you involved in watergate, going through the irs and blackmailing people and he finally got frustrated and he said richard nixon was
like that:.what problem? he said the one we learned in first grade. there was a little girl who had a little girl. and when she was good she was very very good. and when she was bad, she was pouring. >> those are the moments that your lips work. >>. >> that's actually, i want you to start thinking about your questions right now. i would like to ask others for a snippet of one of those kind of stories that you uncovered. jonathan ? >> there's so many and as you pointed out, we had to tell the stories over and over and embellish them to the point that they no longer resemble the original story. george foreman told me that he wasdrawn by his own manager before the fight in desire . and he was drawn by his own manager? and i know it. i found evidence that the manager was hired by ali's camp after the fight sogeorge also said to me , the other thing he said, he said i
found out afterwards we gave the referee $10,000 cash before that fight to make sure it was a fair fight. and i found out later that ali gave the rest 20,000. so i called ali's manager and i said is it true that george says he gave the rest 10,000 and you gave the rest 20,000? and the manager got really angry, he said that's ridiculous, we only gave him 5000. so like they teach you in journalism school, your mother says she loves you, check it out. >> adam, a little quick one he was very skilled at crafting a very sort of loose interpretation of her own life. she embellished, she romanticized in the autobiographical writing that
she did and late in her life she drafted letters to a writer and a journalist who was thinking of doing a biography and included a lot of personal details, including a reference to someone who had told her in the early days of the second world war that she had been the subject of interest to and i six, the british intelligence agency. and this seems like one of those things that couldn't possibly be true because why would the british secret service be interested in this woman? so that was something i thought was an interesting notion but probably had no basis in fact but as i started doing archival work and i requested information from the national archives in the uk it turned out the patient said bond to the london school of economics with a woman whose sister had
actually been a soviet spy for the soviet union and this woman was being watched by intelligence agencies and it turned out that patient's name turned up in that file frequently and the details were at that time hilarious and just really surprising and i also learned that they probably had a separate file from the one i requested that they no longer have an biography, it's littered with those threads that you never quite get to the end of. that was certainly the case with this instance. >> andrea, one quick one and i'm going to ask for questions so go ahead. >> when alice waters, in the early days it wascompletely chaotic and there were a lot of drugs in the kitchen .
kind of this private aside when i was there interviewing her, i realized that i certainly mentioned those things but i heard more in depth, in the weeds stories about what was going on and there's a lot of sex and a lot of drugs but i think it is. there's always a lot of stories that can't make it in but they are great stories. >> i saw a couple hands over here. can i do the lady in the black to start with and please keep the questions short so we can get to as many people who would like to get questions and if we run out of time, we will meet you at the staging area. go ahead . >> i'm anita dobbs and i have spent many, many years teaching high school students english and literature and writing and they can't grasp
what it means to really edit or what it means to revise. they give a few comments here and there because they're so in love with what they've written. i know a few writers and i say to them all my gosh, one paragraph could gothrough 50 revisions so i'd love to hear from each of you. i know every writer isa difference, what you do to revise and edit . thank you . >> thank you for that question. anyone want to jump in? >> i am a big rewriter. i write by my ear and there's probably no paragraph i have worked over 10 times . i really like writing to read itself. i don't want anyone to have to work and i have a bad memory so the only way i remember things like telling stories so i really worked at the writing and in fact i
remember the writer was interviewed and the interviewer said why did it take 11 years for your first novel and your second novel and she said i seem to haveto write it in every possible variation . and i'm a little that way. >> my first book was 700 pages too long so it had to be cut by 700 pages. all of us have more left on the cutting room floor then goes out into the book. you can measure the quality of this product by how much is on the floor so editing is completely thorough . >> andsometimes students don't want to hear that. i have aquestion over here . >> you, my name is paul . i'm on my second book but i think it's more difficult than the first one, even the first one was a mass book. this one is about what my
peers and myself lived through in world war ii about the bombing of 37, i just turned 81. i've always wanted to write about what the war did to us, because there's a lot of heroes, a lot of new plans, i know what they are on the fringe of course but it seems like the kids have been left behind and i would like someone, i think it's adam said you have to write high without destroying anyone. this is what i would like to do with my book and i'm looking for help the cause i don't have a ghost writer. >> so the question to adam then is give us a little bit ofadvice, thank you very much .>> is challenging when you
are close to the subject. biographers have the luxury of distance . but you know, i think that great power also comes from that and trying to illuminate whatever that experience might have been to you and your peers. but i don't know, writing is so personal. i wish i could give some good advice. i mean, maybe the fellow panelists would have some wisdom on that. but i admire your pursuit. >> i wanted to see if i could do it and we will bringthe subject up again when we want to the signing area. >> . [inaudible]
>> in the end you're going to just be at the right here and sometimes, my first book is a very pointy book in the last book is a much better, easier to read book so part of it could be that i'm 20 years older and 20 years more experience and my year is 20 years better, but i start by picking up theboring parts . >> one of the advice i like is cut out the bits that people skip over. >> said kill your darlings. a lot of times i find things that are the most beautiful
art always the most important . >> i think you're answering the question i was going to ask but i didn't hear the question, would you repeat the initial question she had? >> we were talking about how you decide to any things down. >> i have time for one minute so you do you want to pursue this and will take another question when we leave here? i've got a minute left . >> was going to have to share your work, readers can determine what needs to go. writers and keep these things very close but it sounds like you're at a point where people read, get feedback and i think that can really inform the process. >> i give my manuscript to a guy named mark who had written the volume about nixon at the movies and i said mark, your group wasan is ruthless . >> is really helpful though. that's a hard thing, it's hard to have someone who will
really well with you. >> we all need as writers, we need readers to help us see what's on the page. it is very quick, i can take the question. >> .. >> now thinking only about his irish lass, the vagabond princess who -- [laughter] >> i'm not making this up. this is richard nixon. [laughter] and then she would write back, and she would say, dear dick, why don't you come over wednesday, and i'll burn a hamburger for you. [laughter] >> i'd like you to give these people a round of applause. [applause] thank you so much for being here. and as i said, you're welcome to
join us over at the signing area one, and we'd love to see you there, and we can have more questions and more discussions. thanks again. [inaudible conversations] >> and booktv on c-span2 is live on the campus of the university of southern california for the los angeles times festival of books. this is about the 20, 21st year that we have been covering this festival, the 23rd year of its existence. and the c-span bus is here as well. you can come over and take a tour, and you can see we've got free book bags that we're
handing out. they're clear this year. we try to do something different every year, and we're passing out book bags as well right here on the campus. if you're in the area, come on down and see us. we're here today and tomorrow. several more hours of live coverage today. and now joining us on our set right next to the bus is the author of this book, adam winkler, "we the corporations: how american businesses won their civil rights." adam winkler, you were telling somebody who stopped by here that this book is the 200-year back story to citizens united. what does that mean? >> guest: well, in 2010 the supreme court ruling in citizens united held that corporations have the same right as individuals to spend their money on election ads. and then -- and this, of course, started a lot of controversy, and it was followed a few years later by the supreme court in the hobby lobby case saying corporations have religious rights too under a federal
statute. and i just wanted to know how did corporations come to have our most fundamental rights. and as i looked into that back story and that history, what i found was very, very fascinating, that there was a long, 200-year history of corporations fighting for equal rights under the constitution too. like women, like minorities, although they don't protest in the streets, corporations. they've been fighting in the supreme court, and they've got a remarkable track record of success that in some ways is greater than the success of minorities and women in the supreme court. >> host: so when did this fight in the supreme court begin? >> guest: well, the first supreme court case on the rights of business corporations was decided in 1809. so just shortly after the founding of our nation. to put that in some perspective, the first supreme court case on the rights of african-americans wasn't decided until 1857, the first supreme court case on the rights of women 1873. so corporations were in the supreme court a half century earlier fighting for constitutional protections. and whereas women and minorities
lost most of their cases up until the 1950s and later in the supreme court, corporations won that first case in 1809 and have amassed a remarkable track record of success in the supreme court ever since. >> host: so what's the effect of corporations being people as well? >> guest: yeah. well, when corporations have constitutional rights -- the constitutional rights of people -- they use those rights to fight against regulation, laws that regulate businesses in the interests of consumers or investors or the public at large. that's what a constitutional right is. usually corporations win in the political process, but occasionally they lose. and when they lose, they can go to courts and say that regulation violates my constitutional right. so you might think of it in some ways as like a jedi light saber that corporations lose to try to strike down laws regulating business. >> host: well, adam winkler, we're familiar with the hobby lobby case, we're familiar with citizens united. what were some of the rights granted to corporations from
previous cases? >> guest: oh, yeah. well, it turns out that citizens united and hobby lobby are really just sort of the visible manifestations of a much larger phenomenon, literally the opportunity of the iceberg. or metaphorically the tip of the iceberg. if you look back through history, it seems corporations have won a wide variety of rights under the constitution even before citizens united and hobby lobby. they've won, for instance, rights under the fourth amendment, rights of due process, rights of equal protection, rights that are protected for criminal defendants under the constitution. indeed, corporations have nearly all the same rights as individuals today. >> host: 202 is the area code, 748-8200 if you live in the east and central time zones and want to talk to our author, adam winkler, about his book, "we the corporations." 202-748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and pacific time zones. what's -- is it a negative thing that corporations have the same
rights as people? >> guest: i think it's actually a complicated story. it is negative in some ways. we see a case like citizens united that says corporations have the same rights as individuals to spend money on elections, and they can amass resources that individuals really cannot match. we're not really creating an equal playing field between businesses and people. at the same time, corporations have been innovators in constitutional law. and one of the things i show in my book is that corporations were both innovators in devising civil rights litigation strategies that would be later used by, for instance, the naacp in fighting racial segregation, and corporations have been involved in some of the earliest cases that breathe life into some of our most important rights like the freedom of the press. freedom of the press under the first amendment, some of the earliest and most important cases, were brought by newspaper corporations. even to this day, we think of the most important cases brought by companies like "the new york
times" or "the washington post." what is the popular movie "the post" other than a movie about a business corporation asserting its constitutional rights. >> host: so that's a good thing. >> guest: yeah. so i think the story is complicated. sometimes corporations to need rights. there is a movement afoot right now, peter, to amend the constitution and say corporations have no rights under the constitution. and while i empathize with the attitude that motivates such an amendment -- the idea that corporations have too much power and the supreme court has given them rights to immunize themselves from certain kinds of regulation under hobby lobby or spend money on election ads in citizens united -- i think that kind of approach goes way too far. corporations need to have of protections for their property rights so government doesn't take their buildings to build a highway without paying just compensation. corporations need due process rights so government can't say, just declare them guilty of a crime without proving it beyond a reasonable doubt. and, of course, fox news and
c-span and other organizations that are maybe formed as a corporation -- i don't know about c-span, but certainly fox news and "the new york times" -- they need protection against government censorship, and they wouldn't have it if corporations had no rights. they have all the rights of people or none of the rights, we need more nuanced. >> host: there was a very famous statement mitt rom ney made, i think in iowa in 2012, telling people that corporations are people too. >> guest: that's right. >> host: is it a bad thing that corporations can donate money to campaigns? why shouldn't they have that right? >> guest: well, i think americans first confronted this problem over a hundred years ago back in the teddy roosevelt era. we think of him as this great trust-buster who was anti-corporation and fought the big trusts. and in some ways he did, but at the same time teddy roosevelt was also, i found, he ran his campaigns, one of the first campaigns to be financed almost
exclusively with corporate money. so that's how he had won re-election. and, indeed, his receipt of corporate money touched off a huge scandal back in 1905. at the time it was thought to be the scandal of the century about big corporations giving teddy roosevelt campaign money. and at the time, americans rose up in outrage and passed a law banning corporate money in elections. and that's kind of been how we've thought about corporations for a hundred years, that business corporations should not be spending money to influence elections. and, in fact, a hundred years before citizens united i found cases, court cases where business corporations went to court arguing that these early campaign finance laws violated their constitutional rights. and unlike the supreme court today, a hundred years ago the supreme court said, no, the right to influence elections belongs exclusively to natural persons, not artificial persons. >> host: but weren't corporations allowed to have pacs for a long time,
political action committees? >> guest: that's right. corporations and is unions have formed political action committees for quite some time. this was a good example of sort of thinking about corporations and the way they gained political power in america. the pac was devised by the unions as a way to get around restrictions on union contributions to political candidates. and, in fact, for years while unions used it in the 1930s and '40s and '50s, corporations stayed on the sidelines because they weren't sure about the legality of it. in the 1970s, unions convinced congress to put it into law and make it crystal clear. they did that, and the next thing you know within ten years corporation had three times the number of pacs as labor unions. and it's an example of how we often find in my story that often progressive reforms that were designed to meet the ends of laborers or dissenters or
outcasts have been exploited by corporations to protect their own interests and rights. corporations are very good at leveraging progressive reform to serve the ends of capital. >> host: are corporations and unions treated same in law when it comes to some of these issues? are unions people too, in a sense? >> guest: yes. many of these things are -- many of the legal rules also pertain to unions and, indeed, some of the important union cases lead to where the unions gain free speech rights to form pacs, for instance, where the supreme court says that's okay. those are cases where the supreme court says corporations can do it too. it's examples of how there often has been connection between these two. what we are seeing, peter, interestingly at the supreme court today though is the expansion of the rights of corporations and the limiting of the rights of unions. and, in fact, there's a big case before the supreme court this year where the supreme court seems likely to really make it harder for public employee unions to raise money to spend
on things like collective bargaining and other things like that. >> host: what -- do you know the name of that case? >> guest: yeah. it's called the janus case. it's a case that has a very interesting history. this issue first came to the supreme court when justice scalia was still on the bench. the court heard argument in it, went back in its private conference, decided it -- apparently, 5-4 -- to strike down the rules and limit the power of unions. but then scalia died before the decision was released, and under supreme court procedures, that vote does not count. so the final decision came out 4-4 with no precedent, a split decision. and the moment neil neil gorsucs confirmed to the supreme court, this case was brought right into the court to get it before the justices very quickly. >> host: the book is called "we the corporations: how american businesses won their civil rights." adam winkler is the author, and bob is in overland park, kansas. you're on booktv, bob.
>> caller: hi, peter. hi, adam. i wish i was at usc with you all. i used to live in california in san jose, and there was a humorous bit that appeared in the newspaper one day. there was a fellow who was pulled over for driving in the commuter lane, and he was -- as a single passenger. he contended that he had a copy of his corporate charter in his passenger seat since citizens united had declared corporations to have the rights of humans. anyway, that's a chuckler. but my real, serious question is what do you think about the term limits in terms of our federal politicians being able to stay away from being, having a moratorium from participating in lobbying? i've heard five years as being one of the proposals that was put together.
but then also, you know, there's a corrupting influence that i think is really scary. i think that the way a lot of the politicians can be compromised by corporate influence. anyway, your thoughts on some of those. >> host: thank you, bob. >> guest: well, those are great questions, and you're right, it's a great story about the guy who had the corporate charter and said corporations are people, so i can drive in the hov lane are. with regards to lobbying, one of the ways in which corporations do exert a lot of power and influence over regulation and legislation is that regulators and lawmakers often find themselves leaving office and going to work as lobbyists for big corporations. and corporations use that as an incentive structure, and it creates a system in which regulators are a little bit more reluctant to regulate the corporations if that's going to be their future employers. that's an example of the kind of corporate power we're pretty familiar with, corporations exercising a lot of power over legislation and regulation over congress and administrative
agencies. one of the stories i really tell in my book is if we want to understand corporate power in america today, we also have to understand how corporations have been really successful in the courts of law and how they've used the constitution to expand their rights and expand their power so that even when they lose in the legislature, they have another chance to win in court. and we think of the supreme court as a bulwark for the protection of minorities when over the course of its history it's been much more a bulwark for the protection of powerful interests like corporations. >> host: let's hear from ron in coleville, new york. good afternoon, ron. >> caller: oh, excuse me. hello. i want to give out a shout to booktv. i love c-span2. thank you, mr. winkler, for your book and for investigating this critical topic in a time of serious transition at the very least. and i wonder what your with prescription is -- what your
prescription is for solving some of these issues. >> host: thank you, sir. >> guest: that's a great question too. i avoid any prescriptions in my book. my book is a history book that looks back and tries to explain how we got here rather than suggest the way forward, which is a complicated question. but i think one place to start is a line that the supreme court drew a hundred years ago. back in an era when it was very, very business-friendly, basically 1890s-1930s. the supreme court was inundated with cases brought by corporations seeking expansive constitutional questions, and the court back then drew a line that said corporations should have property rights but not liberty rights. so corporations needed protection for their assets so that the government didn't come and take them. the government can take corporations' assets, no one would form a corporation. it wouldn't make any sense. but the court said corporations should not have the rights of personal liberty, those
associated with bodily integrity, personal conscience and political freedom. and, indeed, a hundred years ago they upheld campaign finance laws, contrary to the thrust of citizens united, and contrary to cases like the masterpiece cake shop before the supreme court this year where there's a question about whether businesses have the right the discriminate against certain consumers if they don't want to serve those customers. the supreme court a hundred years ago had cases just like that and said, no, businesses don't have the right to discriminate against certain kinds of customers who they don't want to serve. so that line between property rights and liberty rights doesn't answer all the questions, but i think it's the first step to addressing the problems of corporate rights in america. >> host: adam winkler, as a ucla law professor can you draw a line between that cake case and, perhaps, a car company saying, no, we don't want to sell you a car?
is. >> guest: right. >> host: is there a direct line there at all? >> guest: probably not. i think the cake case, it involves a colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. he claims he's got religious affiliations, and this would force him to speak in a certain way if he's forced to make a cake. i think the court ruling, if it rules in favor of the baker, will likely be somewhat limited to maybe businesses where there is some kind of expressive aspect to the profession. but i should say that, you know, we've confronted these issues before. in the 1960s businesses challenged the civil rights act and made very similar kinds of claims that requiring hem to serve african-americans -- them to serve african-americans would violate their constitutional rights. and the courts universally turned these cases away and said, no, the right of business is not the right to discriminate against customers. i hope it's a lesson the supreme court today doesn't forget in the context of same-sex couples. >> host: lloyd is calling from
right here in los angeles. hi, lloyd. you're on with author adam winkler, "we the corporations" is the name of the book. >> caller: hi. i should be there but i'm not. i wasn't feeling well but glad to get you on television and have this opportunity to ask a couple of questions. i'm wondering, i know the doctor is a historian and probably would shy away from opinions, but i'm sensing dangerous drifting towards fascism that we have many our current administration -- we have in our current administration. and i'm watching as the current administration is stacking courts and, you know, i'm just really concerned about it. and i'm feeling like we're in a constitutional crisis. i'm wondering should we be thinking about having a constitutional, what to you call it when we get together and review the constitution and redo it? i don't know what the word is. >> guest: convention.
constitutional convention. >> caller: yes. and then we, you know, because we're looking at items like the second amendment that, you know, was written so long ago it doesn't even apply to us, in the same way as it does right mow. and, you know, and i'm really worried about, you know, corporations getting so big that they're just running everything. i mean, the banking industry is one industry that is right now i saw where a couple -- recently one bank i won't name they've been fined a billion dollars for their -- >> host: wells fargo. >> guest: that's right. >> caller: okay, thank you. >> guest: yeah, wells fargo. yeah, no, that's exactly right. well, you ask a good question about a constitutional convention and whether we need one. i think a lot of people right now are feeling up certain about the -- uncertain about the state of our constitutional democracy, whether the checks and balances that the framers envisioned would be there to check
government are really working or not. i think it remains to been seen whether they will. and there's been a big push by some to have a constitutional convention, both people on the right who want a balanced budget amendment and want to maybe get rid of some of the constitutional protections that they don't like, and maybe some people on the left who want to get some constitutional protections, like maybe the second amendment, that they don't particularly like. i'm not a big fan of the idea of the constitutional convention. i think it will -- right now americans are very, very bitterly divided. i don't see the kinds of statesmen running our country that seem to have the wisdom of our founding fathers, so i wouldn't be prepared to replace their handiwork so quickly. but there's no doubt that we need to think seriously about what kinds of amendments that might be worthwhile. we've kind of lost sight of how we can amend the constitution. there hasn't been a constitutional amendment really in 50 years whereas there were some periods in history, the early 19-teens, for instance, where we had four constitutional amendments in eight years, and
they were all very big and consequential. perhaps we might think about constitutional reform, although maybe a convention wouldn't be the way that i would go. >> host: next call for adam winkler is from virginia in spring valley, new york. virginia, please go ahead. >> caller: yes, hello. i'm glad to be able to speak with you all. i wash you religiously every saturday. my question is my concern is the limitation -- [inaudible] by corporations in having unions. it seems that, there seems to be a predominant factor that most places in the south, companies don't have unions. they have a right to -- something called a right to work in the south. >> guest: that's right. that's right. and unions have really been struggling. obviously, the number of people
who belong to unions today is at historic lows. unions definitely have been suffering and trying to organize and are suffering even more with the changes in technology and how it's changing businesses and how they operate. so we've definitely seen unions take a hit in recent years, and corporations do play a role in that. corporations have been very active in pushing for right to work laws historically. big business often as the most to gain from keeping workers atomizedded, if you will, not joined together where they can exercise more bargaining power. but i think, you know, longing for the days of the unions to come back probably not realistic, not really clear how that's going to happen and whether the structures of the economy are really welcoming for that attitude. so we need to find other ways to protect individuals and workers from being victimized by big business or employers or wealthy interests more generally. >> host: your first book,
"gunfight," what was that about? >> guest: well, it was about another kind of remarkable, surprising history in some ways about guns and how americans have balanced gun rights with gun control over american history. you know, we often hear the story that the second amendment is part of our founding heritage and that laws that regulate guns invade those fundamental rights. but the story's much more complicated than maybe the nra has been telling us for all these years. it's true that the right to bear arms is a part of our history and tradition. at the same time, so is gun control. and the founding fathers who wrote the second amendment had gun safety regulations. the wild west, the heart of america's gun culture, had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation. and that for many years the nra was a big supporter of gun control and pushed to regulate and restrict guns on the streets , same laws the nra challenges in court today as a violation of the second amendment. so the history of gun rights and
gun policy is much more interesting and fascinating than perhaps the one-sided view we might get from nra. >> host: dave from vancouver, washington, you're on with adam winkler. >> caller: yeah. that dovetails right with my question on your current book. scalia and the conservative wing of the supreme court are very much oriented towards strict constructionism. my question is, how would madison and monroe and jefferson, adams all look -- they were still alive at the 1809 case -- how would they look at corporations and all the rulings for them? i know washington was gone and franklin was gone, but we still had a lot of founders around. how did they view corporations? >> guest: well, the 1809 case was really understood through the lens of partisanship and battles over the bank of the
united states. the 1809 case involved the bank of the united states which was the richest and most powerful and only real national corporation in the founding era. and it was set up by congress but established as a private business corporation that sold to the public. and some of the framers were actually very much in favor of granting the bank of the united states constitutional rights because the bank of the united states was under attack by jeffersonians who, states' rights advocates who thought the bank was a national power that they wanted to bring down, and they wanted -- it invaded states' rights. so even the founding fathers were split on the 1809 case. it is important to recognize, and it's a difficult question for those people like and scalid gorsuch to argue that the framers intended or understood the constitution to protect the rights of business corporations when they wrote it. there's no evidence in any of the ratifying conventions or in
the philadelphia convention of any discussion of whether corporations should have the same rights as people under the constitution. and so that's a difficult question for an originalist. and, indeed, the idea of a living constitution, broadly reading the constitution to embody its principles even beyond the intent of the framers was the very idea invoked by the supreme court in that 1809 case and many, many times since to justify expansive readings of the constitution to protect corporate rights. >> host: mike in montana, you get the last word. >> caller: oh, great. hello, mr. winkler. something i've been wondering about for a long time, can a government take a charter back? has it ever be done? how do they do it? that's it. >> host: thank you, sir. >> guest: it's good question and, yes, government does give corporations charters. it used to be a more formal
process than it ised today, and they can be revoked by government. there's a residual power that corporations can lose their charters. it's not often a used. it's sometimes thought of as a corporate death penalty, if you will. but very, very infrequently and rarely used by states, so corporations have managed to gain many of the rights of people, but they remain immortal and not subject to the same kind of penalty of death in most instances. >> host: now, adam winkler, we've been talking about a lot of public companies like -- well, hobby lobby, i guess, is a private company. so the trump organization would be treated the same way, correct? is there a difference between how a private company and a public company are treated? when it comes to rights? >> guest: so under the constitution, no, there's no formal distinction between the two. the court did say in hobby lobby they thought public companies wouldn't claim religious freedom rights because of the nature of those companies and having public shareholders. but that's not the same thing as saying they don't have those
rights, and the court's never really drawn that line. in fact, one of the things i find is part of the reason why corporations have such expansive rights today is there's been a lot of cases brought by nonprofit organizations like the naacp or universities that were formed as corporations, and they win rights, and then businesses then take those precedents and expand their rights to fight against regulation. >> host: as adam winkler said, this is the 200-year back story to the citizens united case. "we the corporations" is the name of the book, "how american businesses won their civil rights." thank you for being on booktv. >> guest: thank you for having me. >> host: and booktv's live coverage of the 23rd annual los angeles times festival of books now continues. here's what's coming up in the next couple of hours: an author discussion on the trump administration is up next, david cay johnston is one of the
participants. we're going to hear from this panel in just a second. after that we are going to take only president trump supporter calls to hear your view of what this panel had to say. this panel is probably, safe to say, uniformly negative on the president. but we want to hear from trump supporters after this to hear what you think of this. following that another author panel, and this one's going to be on some of the labor issues facing the u.s., and that includes author rick wartzman as part of that. now back into the hancock building and panel on the trump administration. >> political conversation at the paper in general is to make sure that we can have engaging civic discussion, you know? encourage people to participate in their process, to really think about the people that run the government at all levels. and i think that this is a great
kickoff for that conversation at really extraordinary event that that you all are helping to continue this conversation by coming to the festival of books. so thank you very much, and also just a little plug. if you are not already subscribing to the l.a. times essential politics newsletter, it's very easy to sign up, latimes.com/essentialpolitics e-mail, it's free, you get everything you need to know about politics and the country. also if you are looking for the why president trump is amazing panel -- [laughter] that is not in this room. [laughter] so just make sure you're in the right place. [cheers and applause] we're going to have an interesting conversation with three incredibly talented authors, and that is certainly not the area that this panel is going in. we will have a book signing, all of these authors will be signing
books at signing area one after we conclude which will be at 2:30. without further ado, i'm just going to go from sitting closest to me, we have sarah kendzior, her book is " the view from flyover country: dispatches from the forgotten america." [applause] and you may have already seen him on television this morning, david cay johnston, "it's even worse than you think." what the hell -- oh, excuse me, "what the trump administration is doing to america." [applause] and finally, steve almond. "what the hell just happened to our country. ". [laughter] [applause] and we're going to keep the bios that short. we want to get to as many of your questions as possible, hopefully at least 15 minutes or more, and i know a lot of you have questions. so i'm just going to kick it off with what we all woke up to this morning which was president trump tweeting some attacks on
the new york times over their coverage of michael cohen. and i wanted to kind of ask david to start with what's the takeaway from president trump's personal lawyer being pulled into the mueller investigation into russian interference in the 2016 elections? >> well, the focus by the prosecutor, federal prosecutors in manhattan is a real danger for donald. it's donald's business dealings that are likely to make him most vulnerable. donald has been doing what could politely be called squirrely deals with russians back to 1983, and his lawyer in this case -- mr. cohen -- if anybody reads the agreement he drafted with stormy daniels, it's -- you don't have to be a lawyer to know it's a badly-drafted document by somebody who went to, it turns out, literally the worst-accreditedded law school in america. [laughter] but it will open the door to all
sorts of relationships, to money lawnerring which i'm confident donald has been involved in for years. and cohen is not the kind of guy who confronted with support donald or go to the joint for 20 years is going to be a loyal follower or. and i think it's significant president trump tweeted this morning that michael won't flip on him. [laughter] well, if you haven't done anything wrong on him, there's nothing to flip on. [laughter] [applause] >> either of you want to jump in on that? sarah rah? steve? >> yeah. i agree with what what david had to say. one thing i'd like to say about trump's tweets in general when it comes to the mueller probe, he likes to frame this as spectacle. it has a sort of wwe quality. and i think that particularly comes through when he's going after "the new york times"' maggie halveman who he claims not to know but there's many
photos of them together and who has often written these sort of palace-intrigue type tales for the times that kind of elude the legal matters that david was just referring to about money laundering, mafia ties, that kind of thing. so, you know, i think these types of tweets are a tactic. >> and i will just say maggie is a friend and also just a terrific journalist who has covered donald trump, the man, for many, many years. she worked in the new york press before she started covering national politics. they actually do have a relationship where they've talked with each other extensively. he sat down with her in the oval office a number of times. steve? >> >> i would say a quick thing. the promise of my book is bad stories wind up leading to bad outcomes, but also they push out of the news more essential stories. and, obviously, everything that's happening around trump and cohen and the rest is important, but also in the last couple of days the senate approved by 50-49 to be the director of nasa a politician
whose central qualification was, i think, running a museum in tulsa, oklahoma, into the ground. and i wasn't quite sure whether climate change finish human activity is a central driver of climb change. this is nasa who's in charge -- one of the agencies that's centrally charged with taking on what is the biggest existential threat to the entire species. that story is almost nowhere. so no wonder the koch brothers are in a back room bragging to their donors. that's finish if you see what i mean, all of this is interesting. but the palace intrigue distracts us from what is really happening which is -- i'll stop there. >> well, and we're going to get to a lot of that coming up, particularly in foreign policy as well. want to talk a little bit about the books that you've written and start with sarah. why did you choose to write about forgotten america? what is forgotten america able to teach us? >> i mean, i think most of america's forgotten.
this book is a collection of essays that i wrote between 2012 and 2014 about the decline of institutions and social trust in the u.s. i live in st. louis, and i write about national issues. but from the perspective of someone who lives in a city, you know, whose best days are assumed to be behind it. and i think that, you know, as the years went on more and more of america began to look like st. louis. you know, we've became -- we're kind of ahead of the times in the worst way in terms of racial strife, in terms of poverty and in terms of just sort of an erosion of trust. and so the essays cover a variety of topics, politics, economy, media is something that ties them together. it's that sense of injustice and dysfunction, unfortunately. >> and the disappearing of the middle class which you talk about extensively, sort of like that erosion of the social contract when it comes to the economy. >> oh, yeah, absolutely. you know, and in particular since the great recession. and, you know, one other thing i
point out is that the great recession did not have an equal geographic recovery. places like l.a. look very, very different than where i come from where i can drive through, you know, inner city areas that have been decaying for decades out into the suburbs where there's shutteredded malls, you know, empty shells of tack bow bells and burger -- taco bells and burger kings. people think of it as banal, but it causes suffering and frustration for people who live there. you know, i wrote the book in the hopes of bringing attention to these things so that, you know, conditions could improve. >> now, david, you've written extensively about donald trump as a person, as a president. but specifically you write it's worse than you think, right? and that things have been reported glancingly, as you point outside -- very similar to what steve just mentioned -- and in some cases not at all. so why did you choose to take that angle when it comes to this book about the president? >> well, i did an earlier book
in 2016 about who donald is, and i've covered him for 30 years. and about his criminal past, his deep involvement with an international cocaine trafficker, things like that. and when he won the electoral college after losing the popular election, my immediate thought was that what's not going to be covered is our government. the coverage that we have of the white house and the palace intrigue and the politics is fantastic. it's vastly better than i thought. and really good reporters like maggie haberman and others have been far better than i imagined. but, indeed -- as steve brought up -- coverage of the government's been very lacking. so i did two things. with former masthead editors of the l.a. times where i also worked, "the new york times" and the "wall street journal" sunday we created a news service called dcreport.org. it's free, there's no ads, we don't share our mailing list to
cover what trump and congress do. but i also wanted to do the book, and it covers essentially the first 250 or so days of the administration because the people around trump have put into the government what i call political termites. and just as termites unseen eat away at your house until you put your foot through the kitchen floor one day and discover you are a horrendous bill for repairs, these people are unseen. their names are not in the public record. they are persuading people to resign, in one case i tell about a fella who was a highly paid, top of the pay grade if not at the top interior department executive who now processes oil royalty checks because he will not quit. and, indeed, the coverage by the news media of what's being done to our government is still very severely lacking.
>> now, steve, you write that trump is a result of bad stories. so talk about that and how you approached such a topic. >> yeah. so i think there's, i think i'm probably accurate in saying there's a fair amount of anger and frustration, but underneath that -- does that sound about right? [laughter] underneath that, at least for me, is a lot of sorrow and confusion. and like election night in the middle of the night when it was clear what the result was going to be, i looked at my kids -- they were 10, 8 and 3 at that point. they were sleeping. we'd forced them to sleep. and i had two thoughts. the first was, my god, what would it be like to be a parent of color or an immigrant, particularly an undocumented worker or a muslim parent? how frightened must they be about their families. and my second thought was how in god's name am i going to explain this to my kids?
how do i explain that the adult world just elected as their leader somebody who brags about sexually assaulting women, mocks disabled people, incites violence at his rallies, is openly racist, openly bigoted and, in fact, wouldn't be allowed on a playground, frankly? [laughter] and i come at this not as, i'm sort of an apostate journalist, mostly i'm a storyteller. so i come at it through stories. i think that's how we construct reality inside of ourselves, around ourselves. stories are what allow the species, have allowed the species to really dominate. if the stories are good, they extend the bonds of human kindness, right? we cooperate, there is a common good, self-governance. all the good things come from good stories we tell about ourselves. on the other hand, if we tell fraudulent stories, intended to sow discord, then we're inevitably going to come up with
bad results. and so it was my way of trying -- because if we don't examine those stories, we can get rid of a bad person. we can get rid of a bad political actor. but if we don't interrogate what brought that person to power, then we're vulnerable to the next potentially more organized, more together bad political actor. and so i just went through this as a way, i guess, of being able to explain to my kids here are the bad stories, and they start before the country was even founded. the great fraudulent story of race. that's a bad story that was intended to create some idea of a pig men -- pigmentary alliance, the idea of america as a representative democracy. i think 2016 should have put that myth to bed. and there's a whole series of other kinds of bad stories i'm trying to sort of get to so that we can have a conversation about those rather than just the
outcomes. because i feel like sticking my head in the news cycle these days is like sticking my hand in a blender. it's just chaotic. >> well, and one of the things i will point out about you don't often on the back of a book read quotes about it that include an f-bomb. we're on television, so i'm not going to say it, of course. [laughter] also you have a testimonial here from one donald j. trump, the author of "how to get rich." i don't mind bad stories. i can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true. which i just love. [laughter] i thought i would ask each of you to kind of pick something specific, something that has really had a lasting impact that president trump has done and something that you think people, maybe it's an undercover thing or something that truly affects the entire country. and i'll start with sarah. >> my god. [laughter] where to begin. i mean, i think the biggest defect is in the shifting of expectations and in accountability and what kind of expectations we have for justice
being served. i think, you know, it was predictable to some degree that he would win. it was predictable that if he won, he would try to govern as a kleptocrat, he would try to govern as a criminal, he would abuse executive privilege for his personal wealth. he would do typical things that you see in an autocracy like installing your family members into the administration, and that these things are obviously going to be in violation of the constitution. and so, you know, you come to rely on a system of checks and balances, on these laws. and i think what we've learned is that, you know, the system relies just as much on norms as it does on laws and that both of the things are very fragile. and i keep waiting, you know, for accountability to come. not just to trump, but for people like kushner, or you know, who has no particular use there. i know he's supposed to be solving the middle east -- [laughter] tell me how that's working out. but, you know, who has committed crime in plain sight. trump has broken violations, obstruction of justice in plain sight and still, you know, we
have a complicit, complacent gop. you know, there's -- i don't know where this is going to end. i think the longer it goes on, the more our expectation of justice and of responsibility in the executive branch begins to fade. and so i encourage people to keep your expectations high even if you don't think they're going to be met. i think it's reasonable at this point to expect autocracy, but that's different from accepting autocracy. [applause] >> david. >> well, sarah's quite right that what we're seeing is a kleptocracy and also a government of the worst, the most venal, the most corrupt. and let me ask a question. raise your hand. how many of you know what the rcep is? almost -- i don't think anybody raised their hand. steve, okay. [laughter] >> only because david told me. [laughter]
>> donald came into office and immediately killed the trans-pacific partnership. i was one of the most prominent critics of that and believed it needed fundamental fixes because it gave more power to corporations and diminished human rights. and especially was favorable to monopolies. but the trans-pacific partnership, a 12-country pacific trading zone, was intended in large part to also contain the ambitions of china which is, for example, building artificial islands to extend its reach into international waters. and i had written previously about how the chinese military strategists had said the purpose of the people's army was to prepare for the inevitable war with america and how they, during the bush and clinton administrations -- sorry, clinton and bush administrations, sucked out of this country all the rare earth technology that you as taxpayers paid for and how they did it.
so donald kills the tpp and does nothing. china has the rcep, the regional comprehensive economic partnership. fifteen pacific rim countries plus india. when i was in australia last fall, every person i spoke with from high level, very informed people to the chambermaids at the two hotels i stayed at said the same thing: australia must pivot away from washington and towards beijing because of this trade issue. and australia's america's most loyal lap dog ally. far more than the brits or the french or even the canadians. and they are being forced by his inaction to do that. this will not hurt you tomorrow, but it will hurt your children. if you're my age, it will hurt your grandchildren. it will cause serious long-term damage, and it is essentially a huge public gift from donald,
beloved by right-wing republicans, on behalf of the communist regime in china. >> steve. be. -- >> yeah. i mean, yikes. [laughter] i mean, i think the central thing that i realized when i sort of gathered it up was how vulnerable america is to bad stories. and how much all of us -- not just some of us, but all of us finish turned away from the compass of self-governance. we sort of treated democracy like a self-driving car. and actually, people outside of the united states understood this much more quickly. for instance, vladimir putin. he knew that there was no way militarily or economically that he could fight the united states. that, in fact, had led to the demise of the soviet union, right, as such. but he wants to make russia great again, and that means making sure that the united states is in decline. and he knew that like every empire, it is brought low by internal division. and the internal division in our
country is bad stories. and one of the central things we saw both in the coverage of the campaign which was just fingernails on chalkboard maddening was how much bad stories predominated. stories that are irrelevant or endlessly debated and almost no coverage of policy, any of the substantive things that sarah and david both have devoted their work to. what's really happening, what's the mechanisms of government. is there a corrupt, what teddy roosevelt called this corrupt alliance between corrupt business and corrupt government. we really turned away from that and toward the spectacle of this kind of wounded, masculine ego on display. and i say that it was all of us because i do think it was all of us whether we watched in disgust or rapture. we all focused on ahab. we all followed him on his doomed quest, and we turned away from what elections are supposed
to be about which is a competition -- you know, the it's a competition of ideas and policies. and there was almost none of it in our coverage. we were mired in a set of bad stories. >> now, there are certainly more debates to be had, and there are some here at the festival of sort of the media's role in coverage of politics and in general its responsibilities and obligations, but i will add a hopeful coda, something we've noticed in data at the l.a. times of how many people are looking or if policy. -- for policy. they are searching for in 2016 hillary clinton education plan, donald trump trade views. they're not necessarily as caught up in kind of the cable cycle of the endless back and forth and what's being tweeted. like, they are actually searching for stuff. and we also see that in the youngest generations that's even more. they're going to direct sources. they are reading, actually, white papers that candidates put out. that's a nice, hopeful symbol there. i'm going to turn back to david who has done such deep reporting
over the years over donald trump and his financial dealings. and, you know, you compare him frequently and in the book and on television to the mob, sort of his -- the way that he operates his businesses and now how you believe that translates to the way you believe he's operating the administration. so explain that. >> well, donald is not a businessman. i'm a businessman. i'm the co-founder of a successful little company that manages a hotel. and you start a business to create wealth. donald is a cash extractor. he runs businesses the same way the mob does when they get their hands on a business that some guy, a degenerate gambler, blew his money on and the loansharkings are out after him -- loansharkings are out after him. his casinos were among the first to fail in atlantic city because while his competitors were investing profits. donald would just say just patch it up, and he would just pull
cash out as fast as he could. and economic theory says those businesses that are the least capitalized will be the first to fail, and his were among the first to fail. it's important to understand that there is not now and there never has been one scintilla of verifiable evidence that donald trump has ever had a billion dollars. when i broke the story in 1990 that he was not a billionaire, he went around for four months calling me a liar, and then he had to put into the public record his babser's assessment of -- banker's assessment of his net worth which happened to be -290 million. as i wrote in the philadelphia inquirer, you are probably worth more than donald trump. [laughter] he's going to operate the same way in government. there is no long-term strategy and policy, i want the u.s. government to go in that direction. you look at all of our previous prime ministers, and all of them, i believe -- presidents, and all of them, i believe, tried to do well for the country. the best example compared to
donald is chester arthur who was an utterly corrupt new york city politician who became our 21st president because his president got assassinated. and when his cronies came down from manhattan to say, boy, are we going to get rich now, he said, gentlemen, i'm the president of the united states, this stops. leave and don't darken the white house door again. and we got from him the pendleton civil service act which has given us an incredibly talented, dedicated, hard working federal work force in state, in law enforcement, in biology and a bunch of other fields. donald's presidency is about donald. it's about making him richer, it's about extending his influence. but most, foremost among all it is about the glorification of the self-described genetically-superior world's greatest expert on 22 different subjects, world's greatest memory except when he can't recall donald trump. [laughter] >> who alone can fix it, as he
pointed out during his convention acceptance speech. so one of the things, reflecting on all of your books, they're obviously all about different types of viewpoints on this, but the theme to me is that it really seems like you're all trying to understand america. and i'm curious, you know, from what you've seen out of the trump administration in the first year and what you've learned in doing all of your reporting, where's this going? what's going to happen over the next two and a half years? and it's not really a polling question, but i am curious, you know? what is happening in forgotten america, and what is happening in sort of the forgotten places or overlook stories that people are kind of moving to be distracted by this, the cable stuff? start with sarah. >> that's a wig question. you know -- a big question. you get a year's worth of scandals in a week so makes it hard to say. one thing i don't like as someone who lives in a, quote-unquote, red state is this idea of two americas that's basically been put forth since
the 2000 election, that you have red and blue, that you have these clear divides. i think, you know, america is purple. i write in this book it's purple like a bruise, and i think if something holds us together at this point it's that sense of collective suffering. and like a bruise, it's apparent, something we see, it's obvious. you know, trump couldn't have gotten in he wasn't able to exploit pain. and he's always been able to exploit pain going back from his days in new york city working with roy cohn to shake people down, to find the most vulnerable industries and pounce like a vulture all the way up to "the apprentice" where he gained fans with the tagline "you're fired." and he's continuing to do that now. and i think, you know, as david said this is only about trump. this is about trump's financial debt, and this is about his ego and his volatile personality which makes it very difficult to control and predict especially
as mueller probe bears down on him. you know, and that's something i'm worried about, because i think, you know, if he feels like he's going to go down, he may well try to take the world down with him because he can't stand that scrutiny. trump needs attention, he craves attention, but he shuns scrutiny. he needs to be a brand because he's terrified of being a person. and i think the more he's exposed, unfortunately, the more dangerous it is not just for america, but for the world. how that manifests itself, it's difficult to predict not just because of trump, but because of the shady people who make up this administration who each have their own agendas in addition to what trump wants. >> steve, are people paying attention to that? >> well, some people are. and certainly i think the fourth estate has been, has done some heroic work trying to pay attention. but i think what -- the way i see trump is really as the inheriter of an ethos and an
audience that, in fact, took shape with the repeal of the fairness doctrine in 1987 which was, essentially, this boilerplate on propaganda -- yes, thank you, whoever you are. [applause] there used to be a mechanism when mass media arose in this country lawmakers said, my god, the founders never talked about a medium that could reach millions of viewers at once. whoever controls those outlets can control the minds and hearts of the american people. we've got to have some mechanism to regulate it. so they came up with a series of measures which essentially said media has a responsibility -- if you're going to use the public airwaves, it should be in the interest of the public, shouldn't be for partisan or private gain. and that means that all shades, i mean, thank you for the applause, but it's kind of common sense. and it also was policy for many years. the idea was if you're going to -- it's the job of broadcasters to debate controversial issues, and all shades of reasonable opinion should be included.
when that was repealed by reagan, big surprise, in '87 essentially the rise of the right-wing talkers began. and that was, essentially, the media echo chambers that we live in. we're in one right in this room, and there's another set of them out there on the roads of america where people listen 24/7 to voices that are paid to exalt their grievance and to try to keep them, i think, from experiencing their vulnerability, right? the way you get votes is that you tell people that brown people are going to come and, you know, fear of a brown planet rather than getting them focused on whether government's going to help them with their health care. it's, you know, the politics of racial resentment over the politics of economic uplift. it's the old story of race with a new costume. and the fact is that the fair beness doctrine was in place -- fairness doctrine was in place to try to make sure it wasn't perfect, but it was a spoiler plate on propaganda. and as soon as it was gone, the rise of this other kind of media that was essentially ppa