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tv   In Depth Evan Thomas  CSPAN  August 31, 2019 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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split. we will have a situation where the federal reserve and other central banks will have no choice in their policies but to continue to subsidize the very risk. so these institutions placed upon society while they are saying everything is okay. they always will say everything is okay, particularly if they're not the ones holding the bag on the other side. i think that's one major thing that needs to be done. from that, everything aligns.>> this, we will the air right now. o'connor."
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>> host: what is the thread that connects all these topics. >> guest: one of the great things as journalist you can do anything you want. i'm not a scholar. i don't have a specialty. having said that there is a connection. i fells i would say it's america after world war ii. this country really coming into its own as this global power, this supreme power, really. that fascinated me, and what is it like to be a leader in this world that's your world, your time, your world. so that drew me initially to the wisemen which i did with walter isaacson, and then -- john paul jones, couple centuries before, but even he is a study in leadership, and i just -- i'm fascinated by the burdens of
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leadership, because it's hard. it's harder than we think. and i'm fascinated by what it's like to be a man -- usually men -- obvious live we sandra day o'connor, but up to her, men. and human fallibility and weak in enormous pressures. how do they handle it? well, some really well and some bravely and some not so well but it's the pressure that interests me and how human beings respond to the pressure of the grandiose about this global leadership. >> host: let's good back to first book with walter isaacson in 1986, "the iowaman." harien marks ache sewn, bowlan, it's. seems there was a coordination to their process and a coordination to their goal and that it was a shared goal. is just looking back a history?
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>> guest: no. no. i take your point. we're always looking back. imposing order on chaos, it's just years passing. i take your point. in this case, yes, actually, there was a shared world view. and the world view was it is america's time. 19th century was rule brit tabban, chaos in the early 20th century but out of world war ii it's our time, and it's our time to do some good some honorable, decent, idealistic things to bring democracy to at the world. there's seriously idealistic but this. now it's also true they were going to make money doing it. so you can't divorce these things. these are people from wall street, and they had made money by dealing with the world. so part of the global vision is
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free trade, a global community in which countries trade with each other and america will do pretty well in that and these people individually -- america is going to do well so you can't divorce the money piece but there's a lot of idealism. but the third piece is power. in order to do this you have to if have power and use power. when do you power, when it is military power, war, diplomacy? being smart enough to not do -- not good to war. thoser huge challenges which these men met pretty well initially. obviously the wise men is a val dickory book segue brateing the world they made because it by and large wag some important exceptions, created decades of global peace, no world wars. global peace, and a system, a
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trading system that really benefited the united states, but also benefited europe, which was rebuilt; asian, africa, other -- the whole world -- always new books but how things are not as bad as you think. and -- because global standards of living have gone up. democracy has spread -- it's receding but it spread after world war ii. so good things happened not just to the out but to the whole world because of this system. important exceptions, vietnam was a disaster. americans can be -- we make mistakes and exploit people and do bad things. all true. but if you take the totality, the world got better. >> host: well, from that book, "the wise men" you write that even the most careful scholars in fact darkly the most careful ones, seems to forget that at the midst of the momentous forces that shaped the modern
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world were flesh and blood individuals acting on imperfect information and half formed beliefs. >> guest: isn't that life? certainly my life. and it's also the lives of the moan who make the great decisions. for instance, what is russia really up to? rush russia was a closed society, the soviet union was a closed society. we like to think of james bond. we didn't have any spies in moscow. the first american station chief who was station thread was thrown out on -- caught on a sex trap, what they call holiday holiday honey trap. we're guessing. until we had spy satellites in the late 1950s, tell the late 1950s we had spy satellites and looked down and see if that are were building missiles with didn't know what was going on. so did we have information?
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we had no information on our chief adversary, and of course you add to that human feet, human blunder. we made mistakes but here we are. he we didn't all get killed but might have had not been for the good jam of dwight eisenhower our first truly nuclear president and was -- because he had been a smart soldier, injured war, was determined to keep us out of war. we're not now radioactive dust which we could have been had he made the wrong move. me survived this dangerous period but we were in ignorance through much of us. >> host: before we get too far from an aside that you made, i want to ask you about it. you mentioned that democracy is receding today. >> guest: i'm thinking about is -- i was out at stanford a year or two ago and they have a professor named mcfall. >> host: michael mcfall, the
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form ambassador in russia. >> guest: i was at my wife's reunion and they tracked democracy, and it was disturbing. >> the rice of the strong men and poland and hungary have seen their democratic norms erode. it's the end of law. whether the judiciary is truly independent or taking phone call -- taking orders, what my hero, justice o'connor, called telephone justice. taking orders from the party or are they trying to do the rule of law. and measure that way, i'm very, very, very sorry to say i think democracy is eroding somewhat. i don't think it's necessarily cat -- cataclysmic or can't be reversed. i'm not an expert. but signs after the great spread of democracy, it's sliding back. >> host: well, before we get
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into "ike's bluff," another one of your books, how would you describe the '50s? >> guest: well, confusing because we -- my generation, i grew up in the 1950s. he early 50s was boring. nice time, american prosperity. i think american incomes roughly doubled in the 1950s. the growth of the middle class. america did a spectacular job in the 1950s or creating and growing a middle class, washing machines and cars and houses and people just did great. so that's the sort of positive view of it. but of course it was also a scary time because the soviet union was building nuclear weapons to kill us maybe, and we didn't really know how many or what their strength was and we were building our own weapons, and that was scary stuff, and
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anytime -- and at the same time, in much of the world, colonialism is collapsing the aftermath of colonialism in africa and asia. what had been british mostly or german or french or even american, i is now something else. are greg pains? of course, how can you shift from a system of colonial rule to a simple of self-rule without agonizing growing pains and being exploited and manipulate emt by the communists and moscow and beijing and the-it's messy. >> host: does that world still exist today? are we still feeling the effects of that generation? >> guest: yes. i mean, the world is still essentially a peaceful place with an open trade order i in
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the out tariffses and trumps and all kind of to an older person like me, alarming. having green up under an earlier order but you can get overwrought about this things. we still have an international trade order. we still have convention that bind us. these things may be dated and may be under threat but they still exist. and before we get too upset about this, we need to try to step back and see the broader picture, i which is that world order created after 1945 still exists. it in a perilous process of evolution, bad things may happen. my crystal ball is terrible but the basic sin yous of it exist. >> host: evan thomas, november 1989, the berlin wall falls. did we enter a new chapter in world history. >> guest: we thought the were at the end of historiful i bought into that. wow, we won. democracy won, freedom won, the
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rule of law won. this is great. but some people warned, other forces were afoot, nativism, the darker side of the human nature. tribalism. fearfulness but the other. these things never go away because they're in our nature. whatever political systems we try to -- many try to help us through the terrible human urges but the human urges are there people are tribal, suspicious, don't like the other. they want to stick to their own kind. easily fearful and threatened. i'm describing myself, every human being. that's just the way we and are so we're hoping that we are past all that with the end of the cold war. of course we warn. some smart scholars saw this, huntington wrote about the clash of civilizations and he foresaw it and i'm sure he will be
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attacked because he didn't see exactly right. my point is there were some smart miami who said, hey, don't declare victory too soon. we have some rough stuff. and rough stuff i mean human stuff ahead. i just think it's always with us. it's a twilight struggle. always going to be struggling with ourselves to be better. >> host: what was ike's bluff? >> guest: only i -- only inning could have pulled off was to then the soviet union with nuclear annihilation to keep them from either attacking us or being too aggressive in their own expansion. >> host: how did he pull it off? >> guest: well, pretty cagily. he he let it be nope that we had lot of nuclear weapons and were willing to use them. now, this is not a bluff that anybody can make. it happened in our case -- made by the supreme allied commander
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in world war ii, the five star general who had conquered europe. if you're that man, your bluffs have credibility. not every leader -- not even the guy who followed him, jack kennedy, had that kind of credibility. this is very eisenhower thing to do. i say all this because his foreign policy is a -- not really applicable to others. it worked for him. not shoot sure how well it would work for others. he had a particular credibility and coolness. didn't allow himself to get flapped up because, i think, we hit some great kansas virtues going up. wonderful value. but a soldier. and he was soldier who had seen a lot of war. not ever in combat himself but he had sent thousands of young men off to die. so he had to live with this.
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he's lying in his bunk on the eve of d-day, one man, decided. i think his order was something like, okay. it wasn't that grand, but he had to live with sending not just a few fellas but whole armies off to die and hopefully to win, but that burden, that burden had strength in him. if it done doings don't break you will -- things that don't break you, will make you. he had a weak smart his stomach was shot and was taking sleeping pills when he was president so he paid a high, physical cost for the tremendous pressure he was under, but he handled that pressure, i think, brilliant you. >> host: you write in "ike's bluff" bluff that, like you said, kennedy or johnson could not have done what he did. >> guest: i don't think so. this is now in the realm of
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speculation and counterfactuals. historyons love it. what would johnson or kennedy have been like in these issues? i don't know. but they had -- they certainly hadn't conquered europe. had not ike's experience. don't seem to me to have the same -- did london johnson in vietnam have his coolness? i don't think so. >> host: you spent 45 years as a contemporaneous journalist. how do you make the segway into being an historian as well? at one time was that a side line? >> guest: they're not so easily divided. i work for the "washington post" company and the opener was catherine graham. her husband, phil graham, said the journalism is the rough first draft of history. i was already in the history business somewhat in journalism, and in history, i'm in the journalism business. i'm a journalistic historian. i'm not a great archivist.
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i use archives but i depend on scholars. when i get into a subject issue good try to find out who the great scholars here who have devoted their lives to this, know a lot more about this than i do. so i'm on a -- an historian who goes and finds the deep dive scholars, and i use their work and i find them. talk to them. help me. i'm doing it right now, actually. and so i'm a journalistic historian, as a journalist i was a journalist who tried in the painings of time and "newsweek" to bring some sense of detachment. news magazines which barely exist today, we come in after the weeks. we're not -- we made news occasion lit but more familiar position was to come in right after and try to get perspective
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and say what do we think is going on here? and sometimes we were right and sometimes we were wrong or half wrong but pretty close. was already doing -- you could call it an historians work as a journalist. i'm oversimplifying this, but there is a linkage. >> host: one thing i hearn about icen eisenhower he was opposed d to nagasaki and hiroshima. >> guest: he said something. there is scholarly debate about his. i his son, john, remembers a conversation where ike in potsdam where he said we have this bomb and shouldn't use it. but i think the scholars are skeptical because ike didn't record it elsewhere and it seemed to me he had -- trying tomorrow what the scholarly debate is but i remember reading a journal article that cast doubt on this and made me go,
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huh. did he really? i actually don't know. >> host: heels not the only president you have written but, mr. thomas and i don't know but in c-span's newest book pile the presidents "your chapter on richard nixon is our featured chapter. and he is ranked in this surveys of historians that we do every couple of years as number 28, i believe it is. and would you put him at 28? >> guest: i guess. so it's a hard one because president nixon did some amazingly big stuff, and good stuff, in the foreign realm. i think opening up china was an amazing act of statesmanship, and also he -- president of the united states goes to moscow and negotiates the first ever nuclear arms treaty. how many presidents have done that? and he -- nixon has a world view
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that was -- you can pick at it but it was amazingly robust and working with henry kissinger, his national security adviser, very ambitious and also a very successful domestic politician. he got elected to -- ran five national tickets, elect four times, only franklin roosevelt has done that. won by i think the second largest landslide in history, 1972. they pass a lot of domestic legislation especially environment. he created the epa. much more effective on civil rights than people realize. i say that because he also doomed his own presidency by his unruly emotions. just -- he made foolish decision because he let his emotions carry away with him, and he wrecked his legacy.
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number 28 from a really a self-inflicted wound there of not dealing with watergate when he could have. >> host: you also have a personal connection to people would run for president. >> guest: i do. >> host: what is that. >> guest: pretty tenuous. my grandfather is normal thomas, a socialist candidate for president six times, 1928 to 1948. and that all sounds impressive. never got american million votes. i'm not even sure it was a million roosevelt beat him something like 22 million to 800,000. so he was not a very successful candidate. unsuccessful politician but did stand for something, it's not something i have personally agreed with. i'm not a socialist. but i loved him, and i admired him. >> host: you remember your father's reaction to his running for -- your father was a book editor no my dad loved -- my
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reaction. got my reaction from my father. he loved his father. he didn't agree with him but he admired him. >> host: was your grandfather socialism similar to today's socialistic movements? >> guest: oh, how do i gave good answer to that. it's certainly involved more government in your social welfare for sure. more medical care. my grandfather's platform in 1932 looks like a standard democratic platform now. any social well anywhere 1932 was new. so, if you just actually looked at the socialist platform of 1932 it would look like not just the far left of the party but the middle left of the party. the general notion of get the government involved in helping people, yes. but this is a different age, different political situation,
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different. >> host: evan thomas, your book, "being nixon," came out in 2015. i think it's fair to say it's not -- it's sympathetic. >> guest: yeah. >> host: not in a -- >> guest: wishes to be. my aim was to be. why did i write it? i think it's the 13th nixon by agoography. what was i going to say that was new? i was -- this is going to sound kind of conceited but -- i represent the east coast establishment press. i'm not -- my politics are actually moderate or nothing. i'm not sure i have any politics. i'm a type. i went to harvard. i'm a type. and the type that nixon hated. he hated people like me. not me permanently but people like me. -- not me personally but people like me. interesting to try to reverse
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engineer this. to -- and it's sympathetic how did he see the establishment? the "washington post" company for which i worked? how did that world look to him and how -- what was it like being system that's why the become is called "being nixon." i made the best effort i could to switch the lens, so instead of me looking at him, in a way it's him looking at me. it's much more than that but that was the impetus of the book and the best parts of the booking sympathetic but moments with the east coast establishment and they treated him terribly. he let the stuff get out of control. he did and got brought down by the "washington post." ironically or maybe suitably. 0 not sure. but i am cinco de |mayo -- i am sim the tick he was created
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badly? why? stupidity, tribalism. there's a scene in the '60 election and they're all in some garden party in georgetown and arthur -- all sucking up to jack kennedy, and there's something vaguely offensive about it. the smugness and a primness and aren't we better looking, better dressed? aren't we just better than nixon, and nixon would know and feel put down and it was -- there's an arrogance to it that nixon was right to be aggrieved but also cleverly played off of some of our politics today is the descend sent of richard nixon figuring out you can get votes by running against these people, this establishment, the
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mainstream -- didn't have that word then but this can work for you. populism, not all the way out there. and he discovered this at whittier college. i'll tell you one story because it's revealing. nixon as a student politician. not likeable, not an easy guy but at whit you're college, the issue was dancing. a quaker school, conservative. no dancing. nixon runs on the pro dancing ticket. nixon himself couldn't dance at all. he runs on it because he realize that the rich kids can go dancing. they can go into clubs in l.a. and country clubs and all that. it's the poor kids who can't. a lot more poor kid than rich kid at whittier college in 193 2. nixon wins in a landslide. it's a rich against poor thing but it's being sensitive to the needs of the needier kids against the rich kids. a senatey fraternity call the
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franklins and nixon has an opposing fraternity. the football halfback in the franklins and the linemen but there were more linemen than half backs. do the math. smart politics. >> host: silent majority. >> guest: the word he coined, richard nixon kind the word. not a speech writer. richard nixon kind the word, the silent majority, and happened to win after the next election he ran and won with more votes than any president in history and a greater percentage of votes than anybody but i think lbj in '64 was a hair better. so it worked. >> host: from your book, "being nixon," nixon refused to cash in as an ex-president by sitting on corporate boards and taking directors or speaking fees. >> guest: it's interesting. it's been disputed. something said like a lot of
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nixon statements it's not 1 100% true. nixon has -- he hated -- i'm a crook, he hated that because he didn't see himself that way at all. he saw himself as somebody who didn't deal and didn't graft and do -- there are endless debates because nixon had some sweet deals from friends so i don't want to get too far into the weeds on whether nixon was or was not a crook but nixon was really offended by this picture of him and to your point, when he retired he wanted to make his money honestly by writing books about great subjects. >> host: little bit more from "being nixon." nixon's relationship to reagan's successor was problematic, nixon told his national hill he thought bush was, quote, the perfect vice president, bush had his own doubts about nixon, which he expressed in a perceptive letter in july 1974,
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quote, this is george h.w. bush, writing to his sons about nixon. enormously complicate. capable of great kindness. i'm not that close to him as a warm personal friend for he holds people off some. but i've been around him enough to see some humor and to feel some kindness and it guess on to say that deep in his heart, richard nixon knew that george h.w. bush or feels he saw not tough enough, not will to do the gut job that hit political instincts taught sometime a very astute letter by george h.w. bush. a very astute judge of character and not an unsympathetic one. the thing you raved is quite sympathetic to nixon but a it's an accurate portrayal of him. >> host: the bard ball nixon never quite went away. the threatened both bush and clinton as going public against them if they've did not follow his advice on russia.
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>> guest: oh, man. nixon was nixon. >> host: but you good on to say that bill clinton left him on hold for an hour or wouldn't take his calls when he first came into office, did not attend pat nixon's funeral. was there ever a resolve to that relationship? >> guest: yeah, yeah, yeah. clinton liked nixon, actually very apropos. initially clinton was kind of a snob to mixon actually. dismissive of him. bit the end of clinton's presidency he was -- nixon truced -- president clinton trusted nixons a advice, nixon was smart about the populist forces going on in the soviet union and read it pretty well as pro yeltsin and clinton listed en. clinton has an amazing ability
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to bond with almost anybody. i'm not sure bond is the word but there was some warmth there. >> host: how many u.s. presidents have you met and interviewed? >> guest: well, count them. i met nixon, of course, i met him at a brief conversation with him. i met clinton, met reagan and interviewed him. george h.w. bush, pretty much all of. the through obama. never midwest donald trump. but the rest i have. >> host: evonne thomas is our guest here on booktv. he is the author of self books. we'll show those to you right now so you can get a sense of what we have been talking about. the wise men was his first, that came out in 1986. the man to see, the life of edward bennett williams, 1992. the very best men, the early years of the cia, came out in 1996.
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robert kennedy, his life, came out in 2000. john paul jones, 2004. sea of thunder, four naval commanders and the last sea war was out in '07. the war lovers, roosevelt, lodge, heart and he rush to emnear 1898 came out nine years ago. ike's bluff in 201. being nixon in 2015, his most recent which we haven't touched on yet, just came out this year, "first" about sandra day o'connor. i want to mention that evan thomas is the historian that c-span has chosen for its chapter on richard nixon, the new book is called "the presidents," rating -- how noted historians rank america's best and worst chief executives. we have different historian for every president. event -- evan thomas' information but richmond nixon is our chapter in that book.
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202 his air code, 748-8200. east and central time zoned. 202-748-8201 for those in the mountain and pacific time seasons. we'll begin taking calls in just a few minutes. also want to mention you can contact us via social media: we'll scroll through those addresses on the screen but the only thing you have to remember for twitter and facebook and instagram is@book tv, e-mail is book tv@. [ horns honking ] >> host: whoes edward bennett. >> guest: a unique washington figure. the name of the book was "the man to see" because in washington if you were in trouble you went to edward bennett williams because he could get you off.
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got off jimmy hoffa. the steamster leader. adam clayton paul who got into trouble. john connellly, the governor of texas. a lot of of people. he also -- a unique figure because he represented both mafia figures, low lives and advised presidents of the united states. and an unusual combination. not well-known today. but he -- maybe he should be because he was such an incredibly good lawyer. it's funny. he would take his young lawyers out for din and are they would be, gee, mr. williams, we want to be like you and he would say, you can't. he was saying they don't have lawyers like that anymore in washington. it's now specialized. you can't be the kind of lawyer who can represent a mafia don
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and the president of the united states and sort of -- and everybody in between. that general practice of law, that's all gone. >> host: would robert kennedy have been elected in 1968? >> guest: i would like to say yes because it's romantic to think so but i'm influenced by his chief adviser, fred buton, he told me, no, because we forget that the democratic party in 1968 was still the party of bosses. union bosses and city machine bosses and those people were pretty pledged to hubert humphrey. so it was going to take quite an earthquake to dislarge hubert humphrey. maybe kennedy would have don it. he won california right before he was shot that night. maybe there would have been a head of steam building up that
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summer and would have won in new york and all that and the -- mythology has been that mayor daley of chicago pledged to him his support and that would be the machine boss. i don't think that's actually true. like lot of midnights in history i don't believe that one. so, my realistic political hat says, no. would not have even won the nomination. if he had won he nomination, nixon might have beaten him because -- this is counterintuitive. bobby kennedy was hot and -- and punishes hotness and nixon might have been cooler. you think of nixon as being terrible on tv but not so sure. you watch old clips of bobby kennedy and he got a little out there and would either overheat or stutter or kind of go off on this surreal thing. wasn't that good on tv. think of the kennedys as loving
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tv and being great on tv. jack kennedy was unbelievably good at tv. the tv made love to him. but bobby kennedy less so. >> host: bobby kennedy was joe -- the godfather to one of joe mccarthy's children. >> guest: yeah. well, joe -- bobby was a young senate staffer on that committee, the internal investigations committee. so actually had a working relationship. more than that, joe mccarthy, senator joe, went out with one of bobby's sisters. i -- eunice, mccarthy kissed really hard. i remember that. weird detail. i think it was eunice or maybe jean. joe mccarthy would show up at the kennedy family place up in hyannis port on the weekend. didn't like to swim, didn't fit in but there he was, and so --
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there was a kind of loyalty, irish catholic bond there. old joe kennedy kind of liked joe mccarthy's anticommunism, was familiar, and the kennedy family supported. so there was some linkage there. >> host: evan thomas, let's take some calls and hear what the viewer have on their mine, this is jim in caliente, california, good morning, jim. >> thank you for taking my call. it's really again fascinating listening to mr. thomas. my question -- common question, you talk but eisenhower, i "ike's bluff" bluff and i'm thinking that the person that would have been pit if i hadn't been eisenhower would have been stephenson which would not have been able to pull off ike's bluff at all. i thought of him as president and he was a brilliant guy, absolutely brilliant, and
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capable, but looking back it's, i grew up during that period. was seven when eisenhower was elected president so i was follow it carefully even then. also, you also talk about -- the thing about ike's bluff. didn't reagan do something similar to that? with gorbachev during the end of the cold war period right before the? yeah. >> host: jim, thank you for the call. let's hear from mr. thomas. >> guest: yeah. i share most of what the viewer said. agree with. i don't think stephenson was as well suited for the era as ike was. stephenson had many qualities, truly intelligent person and had strong followers and might have done good things in other realms. quicker on civil rights. and to be fair, the counterfactuals are hard. hard to imagine what might have
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happened. maybe he would have been better about using the united nations and diplomacy to bring the world to a safer place so maybe, maybe he would have been. i dowling it but maybe. what was the other -- >> host: reagan and -- >> guest: reagan, yes. you can build -- overstate this, reagan won the cold war. i think a lot of things happened. more to do, maybe, with the soviet union collapsing from within. but it's definitely true that reagan, by standing tall and building up our military and -- you know, that was intimidating to the soviets. they realized they didn't have the technology we did. that image of the desk in the kremlin with all the telephones because they couldn't have one telephone. and they were spending themselves on military spending into kind of ruin, and they
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couldn't keep up, and so you could make an argument -- i read an argument that reagan kind of did outbluff the soviet union. also heard that argue. criticized by people saying there are many other factors. this is not a period i'm really well-versed in and i could quickly outrun my supply lines here. >> host: well, evan thomas, given your 40-50 years of being a washingtonian and inside in a sense, what is that one quality that every u.s. president seems to have? >> guest: well, a need is judgment. judgment. but judgment is a broad spectrum of things. they all have am and is have a lust for power because they must. they couldn't get there without that. so it's a necessary thing. i'm not critical of that lust for power. it is a crucial ingredient of becoming president. but it's not enough. once you get there you have to
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govern, and a power urge can help you govern. it can, and a sense of power can help you. helped richmond nixon and everybody i've written but if your judgment is poor and if you're emotional judgment is poor, you'll get yourself into trouble and not just you but the whole country into trouble with you. richard nixon being the extreme example but lyndon johnson, great president in so many ways, was emotionally not suited for it in a way and just kind of melt down over vietnam. >> host: next caller from jonathan in milwaukee. hi, jonathan. >> hello. thank you for taking my call. i've seen event thomas on shows like inside washington with gordon 'peterson, it's an honor to speak with you, sir. >> guest: thank you. >> i want to ask about justice o'connor. >> guest: please. >> in jan crawford's book from a dozen years ago other, she report that justice brennan hand
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intended to rub justice oconnor the wrong way and influenced her to vote more conservative during the '80s but in the '90s justice thomas didn't -- did not get along very well with justice o'connor, and justice o'connor had issues with him and that helped influence her to vote more towards the quote-unquote liberal side. in the '90s in the early 2001s wonder if in your research you found any evidence to corroborate that claim? >> host: jonathan, thank you. >> guest: there's some truth to both those things but let me -- they're important qualifications. in brennan's case, it's true that justice o'connor didn't totally trust brennan. she thought he had a liberal agenda and that he would salt thing interests opinions to further this agenda and justice o'connor instructed her clerks
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to look for the photonotes and the little things that bren nap what up to so she had a somewhat adversarial relationship with brennan but at the same time she liked him. he was warm guy and she liked him so you can oversight that gap. same thing on the thomas side. yes, justice thomas was like justice scalia a pretty doctrinaire conservative, originalist and all that and justice o'connor what pragmatic, middle of the road, different kind of jurisprudence, on the other hand yates thomas told me a story it was justice ocon no who get justice thomas to come to lunch after the -- after his conformation hearings which were thank you. remember the aneat to hail hearings were tough and tough on justice thomas, of course. and justice thomas said i was
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feeling hammered and she was the one who made me come to lunch and he said that changed everything. that -- my life on the court got much better, and so there was some closeness there. when justice thomas brought his famous rv. travel tuesday around the done in his rv. we went to phoenix to buy that and the o'connor family bought it with him. they were personally close and justice -- i won't good on and on here, justice thomas told me that sandra day o'connor was in the glue, the one who made this place civil, who made the court civil. and the supreme court wasn't so civil before she got there, i gather it's not so civil right now but certainly in the '90s, she made it's more civil place. >> host: i get from your book "first" she was not -- she still alive at this point. correct. >> guest: she is. she has alzheimer's. -- she has dementia, probably
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alzheimer's. >> host: i get the idea from your book that she is not been a warm and fuzzy person necessarily, huggy touchy type person. >> guest: that's a complicated question. she canber very intimidating. she can be very scary. when i met her as a journalist she is scary. she has flooring -- flashing eyes and can bet a little severe but -- this is a very important but -- there's a loving side to her that those who get to know her, really feel, her law clerks. my wife and i interviewed 94 of her 100 odd law clerks so we good to know her world, and those law clerks loved her. they found her austere and a little scary, whenty first start but over time, they rafaelizeed how much she cared about them. not every justice cares about his clerks. in fact most of them don't -- not that much. she did. and that meant the world to
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them. she also could be very political, skillful -- i've work her work a room. i saw her hen she had alzheimer's work a room. she had a warmth and could look you'll in the eye. this idea of her severity, you can overstate it. like most people she ick complicate. different sides snow different times and different ways. >> host: you tell a couple of stories. number one, her time in the arizona legislature was a good path to the supreme court. >> guest: it was. in two senses. itself raised her profile. the first ever majority leader of a -- female -- first ever female majority leader in history and at a time. when there just wasn't women generally in the law, and so when her number came up, when president reagan was looking for a woman supreme court justice and let it be known he was
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serious, really did want a woman, there weren't that many. out of the 600 fellow judges there were only eight women judges and almost all liberal democrats, she was pretty much it. wasn't even a federal judge. she was a state court of appeals judge at that time. so, her profile helped her get on the radar screen, but morning that, more importantly than that, being in the legislature helped her learn how to deal with obnoxious men. >> host: she was intimidated. >> guest: she was not. in the 1970s a lot of on knocks shoes men who are hard to deal with the and she learned how to deal with them, usually story sometime biz humoring them, game just walking away. very good about not getting into stupid fights, ego fights. just avoid that stuff. and every once in a while standing up to them.
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one story i have to tell which is my favorite on this. there was a house appropriations committee chairman, named tom goodwin and he was a drink. a real drunk. a drunk by 10:00 a.m. drunk. she called him on his drinking. and he looked at her and said if you were a man i'd punch you in the nose me and look him back and said if you were a man, could. ouch. that is a fun story but it's kind of a one off. she picked her shifts. she didn't go around getting into fights. most level she would disarm the adversary. without ceding any dignity. she could avoid. >> host: get her to the court you talk about her coming down the hall, and one of her clerks hiding something in the drawer very quickly. >> guest: she -- >> host: out of fear. >> guest: she believed -- she was a very athletic woman herself, not a scratch golfer but 14 handicap golfer, fly
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mischerman, horseman. she wanted her clerks to bev in good physical shape so the women had to take an aerobics class with her on the supreme court and the supreme court basketball court, every 8 al. they're do alone picks with the justice. the men were not required. however one of the male clerks wars eating an ice cream cope and he putteds pit in a drawer when he comes around the corner so she won't see him. >> host: how didout get access to heir husband's driry. >> guest: they were in her papers. we got access to her papers. this is a book written with the family's cooperation. we had -- her papered in library of congress. they're closed and they opened the papers for us and there were the diaries. >> you say we. >> guest: any wife and i was deeply involved in this. my wife who is a lawyer. i met elsie in civil procedure class at the university of virginia lawsuit and she had a long career in the law.
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i didn't. if never practiced law. so is a real lawyer and i'm not. and she carefully read the cases and more than that she went on my interviews with hem, almost all of them and has jettedded all of my books for years but this one was different. i had never written but a woman before and she -- also, she's from the west, grew up in california, went to stanford, liked justice o'connor and just helped me understand justice o'connor better. >> host: next call for evan thomas from karen in detroit, thank you for holding. >> thank you for taking my call. i've been enjoying the conversation but sandra day o'connor but i want to go back for a moment to richard nixon and i wonder if evan thomas in his research of nixon and being a journalist was aware that nixon paved the path for the first black owned and operated tv station in the united states, when he granted a broadcast
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license to william v. banks that opened the path for -- dr. banks to start the first black opened station in the out. >> host: what station is that? >> the station went on the anywhere 1975, wgpr tv 62. the state went on the air, made national headlines but a i was the pioneer in butting. today there is a museum in the original studios of the station devoted to that history, and we talk -- william banks was invite ed to the white house tom and nixon told him that he would work to help establish and get him a broadcast license, which ultimately did happen. and so mr. thomas was a journalist. thought might have been interested. >> guest: really interested. >> as a footnote in detroit history, because the city is
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widely known as the auto capital, motown, but this was an important piece of history, and i was just curious if mr. thomas was ware of it. >> host: karen, you seem to have a pretty intimate knowledge. are you part of the banks family? did you work there? >> well, it was my first job out of college. i did work at the station as an intern. left as news director. i know i -- i new william banks at the time. his granddaughter, who has written a book about him, and i'm executive director of the william v. banks broadcast museum, which as i said is in detroit, and tells the story of nixon -- well, really, of the station's history. there's another republican president has a footprint at the
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museum gerald ford, sent a broadcast message that was aired on the station, a video that people can see the museum, congratulating the station on being the first black opened and operated television station in the united states. >> host: all right, karen, thank you for that. evan thomas. >> guest: i'm fascinated to hear that. i knew that mix -- didn't know about that but i knew that mixon had a much better civil rights record than people think. politically nixon is known for the southern strategy and for trying to stir up a white votes in the south in unattractive ways and that's true. but at the same time, nixon is such a contradictory figure you always have to look at the "but" in his case. he was a guy who actually made integration happen in the south. even though the supreme court ordered in 1954 it hadn't happened by 1968. nixon made it happen and you can say he did that because the courts ordered it. well other, presidents hadn't
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done it. nixon did. and interestingly to the point of our viewer here, in the '50s, nixon really reached out of to the black community, republicans in the 1950s, the party of lincoln, had some ties to black community that the democrats didn't have. the democrat -- we forget all this, the democratic party base what the south. the white south, and nixon, partly for political reasons, made a play for african-american vote but not just for political reasons. for instance, when nixon was in college, he made sure that his fraternity took in a black athlete and i think maybe two. there's a record of nixon being pretty progressive on race as a young person, all forgotten, all
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overlooked because nixon's later politics made people -- rightly made people uncomfortable, but nixon, i can't say enough what a complicated guy he was, and i know, to the last point, nixon understood that it was really important for african-americans in this country to have some economic benefit. they had -- not to put too fine a opinion -- been cut out. couldn't get mortgages and just didn't have a chance to accumulate wealth, and nixon understood this. and cared about -- he was an early affirmative action guy. cared about making sure that the wealth was spread around a little bit so it wasn't just something that whites had and blacks did not. all been sort of lost in the dust of history but nixon was record on this was actually pretty good. >> host: that goes to your point about the election at whittier, "the oregonians" versus the majority, the silent majority.
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gerald ford had that early connection with equal right is, didn't he? >> guest: i know less but ford than i do about nixon but the republican party got branded -- the democrats became the parties of african-americans and the republicans not. that's not the way it was in the 1950s. if anything it was the reverse in 1960 election flipped that. the kens were better but openly playing to martin luther king, nixon sort of blew it in that campaign. but as usual history is murkier and more kick indicated than we think its -- complicated than we think it and that's true, and that's true in nixon and race. >> host: speaking of murky you have written beth pout dwight ions hour and richmond nixon, what was their relationship in your view? what's your take on that. >> guest: murky.
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because -- look, nixon ended up marrying -- nixon's daughter married eisenhower's grandson and still married. >> guest: happily married so there's a real bond there eisenhower endures nixon in '68 but when nixon was eisenhower's vice president, talk but cold people. ike could be cold. and he was pretty cold with nixon. he didn't know nixon. nixon was put on the ticket for political reasons to -- younger voters, western voters, and not trying to dump nixon a couple of times from the ticket. and eisenhower's idea for nixons own good so he could be secretary of defense in the sect term. method sense to eisenhower, but to nixon, it just looked like he was getting dumped and it was very hurtful to him. so, i'm not sure eisenhower liked nixon.
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john eisenhower, his son, told me this. he said that my father told me that he said he gave himself an order to like dick nixon. he may have been make -- exaggerating here but nixon was not always the most likeable guy. and so there was some coolness there yes, but at the end of eisenhower's life i think they got along fine. >> host: next call. ... >> my question is, what was the
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relationship between nixon and johnson? they had similar backgrounds and they weren't that different in terms of how they governed. >> thank you, paul. the relationship was surprisingly good. they were both tough politicians. i think a 1968, you could say that lbj was in a way more for nixon than he was for humphrey. his own vice president. because humphrey was being seduced by the peace party and the democratic party to end the vietnam war by retreating. and johnson wanted to stay the course and he felt nixon would be a smarter, tougher, prosecutor of his policies in vietnam. then humphrey. so, right there, the democratic president is in some ways more sympathetic to the republican challenger to his own vice president.
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we have to stop and think, how these pieces fit together. but i think that's true and there's historical evidence. i know my friend luke nichter at texas a&m believes that and is working to show that. so there's that. but there is an affinity of being tough, smart politicians. the club of very practical, very hardball politicians. and i think lbj and nixon had a bond of, let's do the hard thing in politics but let's be tough. let's not be soft. they overdid that. but they - - i think there was mutual respect. >> evan thomas, could you have written "being nixon" and called it being johnson? the same type of approach to the book? >> certainly johnson's resentment against - - a
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love-hate relationship and he likes being surrounded by them but he wanted to own them. the famous example is when he summons george bundy, the former dean of harvard into his bathroom while he's going to the bathroom. in a way to control him, shame him, gross amount. it's a very crude image. so i apologize for even mentioning it. it's a stark one. that shows johnson's, almost weird relationship to the east coast establishment. presenting them, fearing them but also wanting to control them and use them. at the same time. located. people are complicated. >> mike, san diego. please go ahead with your question or comment for evan thomas. >> hi. you mentioned a minute ago about tv being the cold medium. i wonder if that's true anymore with the way - - trump is anything but cool on tv.
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or is tv just secondary for him to rallies and social media as his media strategy? >> that's a pretty good point. >> what's your take? where do you put him in history? >> it's way too early. >> i know. but when he appears on tv, who do you compare him to? >> he's an effective communicator. it doesn't fit neatly into our notions of the presidency. i was fascinated when this all began. people kept writing, president trump needs to become presidential bid when he was a candidate.>> did you ever write those words? >> no. i didn't think that's what he was bringing to the table.
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i might have wished it but i didn't write it. he was clearly selling something else that wasn't presidential. you can use different adjectives. he's changed the game. for that alone, he will be remembered. and he's an extremely effective communicator. that's confounding - - trump is not cool but he's an effective communicator. but that's the point that he has broken the norms. we can get hot and bothered about how he broke the norms but the fact is, he's broken the norms. that's just an example of it. >> evan thomas, you have two semi-contemporaneous histories of the presidency that i want to make sure that we mentioned that includes a long time coming, barack obama and back from the dead about bill clinton. >> i work for newsweek. every election year, newsweek, much to its credit. this shows you how time has passed. would dedicate an enormous team of reporters to just doing a single article.
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one article that could appear on election day. and it would be a chronicle of the campaign. we would have maybe 4-5 reporters fit my role on that was to be the person who takes of their reporting and puts it into a 50,000 word article. the reason my name is on those - - that was just the magazine article printed as a book. i think we added a tiny bit but essentially, a magazine article printed as a book. my name is on it but it should be, i'm the rewrite guy. taking other people's reporting. and i'm very proud of those things. i think newsweek spent at least $1 million on each one of those. that's a big journalistic commitment to one-story. >> tweet for you from marshall.
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mr. thomas, please speak about your writing process and do you have any advice for authors? marshals in houston, texas. >> my writing process. has it changed over the years also. >> i will add that to his question. >> i'm not going to be helpful on this. i don't suffer from writers block. i just don't. i just, i don't have trouble writing. so i don't have an elaborate process. i wrote so much for newsmagazines. thousands of words of newsmagazines on deadline. whatever writers block i had went away because i just did it so often it so much. that i just don't suffer from that. that's not to say the first are any good. but i don't have any problem. i'm not that helpful in getting
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people advice because it something i do naturally. i'm not good at golf, but i am good at writing. >> to take a you do it on a computer? typewriter, etc.? >> with books, i spend time putting together these chronologies. but really they are chronological finding aids. where to find stuff. when you're writing a book, you amassed tons of books, notes, interviews. where is that in my study? where is it? if i remember, where did i find it. it's really to help me when i go back to write, to know where did i find this so i can go back and look at it. and i write in chronology. so that is the one device i would recommend. i think it's good to write in chronology and you're as good as your organized material.>>
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how do you avoid thinking with your fingers if your typing? >> i'm not sure what you mean. >> because your typing and thinking at the same time. does that work for you? sometimes if i'm writing, i have to sit and think about it at first before i start to type. otherwise - - >> oem. sometimes i type before i think and that's a mistake because i've written so many stupid things. but i tried to slow down and think. that's a good idea. think before you write. when i'm getting ready to write something difficult. an op-ed or a beginning chapter, i will walk around wander around. i will play lonely, bad golf. i go walk on the beach. and just marinate. walk around. it's a confusing cloud in my
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head. it's like white noise. after a wild, it will settle and i will see some order. some pattern. it's not always a correct order. just as important as that walking around. i will write stuff that's wron . and then, my wife gets involved. >> this is an email from marcia. i am 74 years old and thinking about what might come next. after listening to evan thomas, david mccullough and many others, i decided i want to come back as michael hill. please tell us more about mr. hill. >> i'd love to hear mike hill,. he's the most wonderful human being ever. he just is. the reason why he's, pier is
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he's the researcher, primarily for david mccullough but many other historians. including i'm happy to say, me. he's worked on a number of books. is a genius at finding stuff. particularly in upscale libraries. librarians like him. we sometimes joke that librarians like book so much, they don't want anyone to read them. and mike is really great. because he is such a decent person and he is such as mark guy. he can find stuff and get to know the archivist. so a popular story, primarily david mccullough, but also - - and john me john and evan thomas. i've used them a lot over the years. and i hope to use them in the future. because he's just a wonderful, wonderful resource. he's a gem.
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>> next call for evan thomas comes from carl in highlands, new jersey. i carl. >> good afternoon. my question is about nixon. you mentioned he was brought down by woodward and bernstein. don't we know it was mark fells and the fbi who fed them the information. [indiscernible] >> like what the fbi has tried to do to trump wax certainly true - - >> that mark felt was dubbed deep throat by mark woodward. woodward and bernstein went around and they talked to a
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whole lot of people. mark also talked to sandy smith of "time magazine" primarily. but woodward and bernstein were knocking on a lot of doors. multiple sources. so this is not by any means, purely an fbi thing. the best book on this is called, leak. by max call him. he wrote the book about felt. he really got into this question. i would recommend, if you want to know kind of what really happens, i found that to be the most useful book.
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>> i know our producer nick is checking to see if booktv covered that book and we will let you know and then you can watch leaked on our website at you talked about that being the best book in your view on that topic.some of your favorite books include - - just passed. 101 years old. robert warren, all the kings men. john meacham. is he a friend of yours? >> he's a close friend of mine. he inhabited george h.w. bush. more biographers wish to do this to get into the head of or the whole heart of our subject. it's hard to do. we do our best but we fall short. john meacham actually succeeded. it may be the singular book where the author inhabited the
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person he was writing about. not uncritically. but the heart and soul and mind of george h.w. bush. you want to know what it was? read that book. >> going back to your book, you write that georgeh.w. bush his wife , barbara bush and sandra day o'connor were good friends. >> they were. they played tennis together. they both had a strong personality which they would use on occasion i think. i think maybe sandra o'connor was more politic than barbara bush was. barbara bush was more outspoken. they were smart, tough, able, strong women. >> mr. thomas, after an appointment and confirmation of the supreme court justice, do they ever see their patron again? did sandra day o'connor know ronald reagan? socially or in any way?
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and for all the justices. >> a little bit. she danced with them on new year's eve at the enberg estate the first year. she went to the white house a couple times. they were talking about ranching. there was a natural affinity there. but, no. the obvious reason. and this is what's wonderful about our country. to stop and think about this for a second. justices do not spend the time hanging around with the present. why? they have to keep their distance is they are a third branch of government. they may have to make rulings that affect the person in the white house. so they need to keep their distance a little bit. i remember - - while he was justice had a telephone that connected him to lbj in the white house. that was a mistake for that was
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wrong. it was unusual. it was a one-off. that's the exception that proves the rule. >> peter. richmond, virginia. hi peter. >> good afternoon. thank you for taking my call. i read your books about edward bennett williams when it first came out. i remember being so impressed with the wide variety of cases that he handled. i guess after about 25 years, i finally get to ask you. are there any publicly available transcripts of those trials? if someone wanted to read them and see how we handle them and that sort of thing. >> yes, i'm sure there are. this is a copy to the question because i had access to his papers. you're asking where would you find them today? there are court transcripts for
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sure. and i think - - i'm doing this off the top of my head. if you google the case, i bet you can find transcripts through the internet. in my case, i'm doing this pre-internet. this is 1988-89. i'm working from files of williams own files. those are not available to you. but the op-ed through the internet, you can find transcripts, certainly in fellow courts just by googling it. >> - - to go back to leaked. if you go to, you will be able to watch, type in the search function. max holland. you'll be able to watch at your leisure online for call for mr. thomas 's norm in washington. you are on booktv. >> it's - -, an indian name.
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>> i get it wrong every time. >> evan, you are obviously an expert on the legal system. i've heard two sayings. i would like to get your feedback if you feel there's any truthfulness. the legal system is a spider web through which the big flies past and the little flies get caught.another one is, if you can't find a lawyer who knows the law. find a lawyer that knows the judge. do you think there's any accuracy at all to those old sayings? >> of course there's accuracy because all old sayings have a kernel of truth. but the important thing here is how they are wrong. those statements are actually, in a large sense, wrong. more than any system in the
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history of mankind from our legal system is fair and it does catch the big flies. not all of them. they get away with stuff, that's's true that after the 2008 financial crisis, none of the big investment bankers - - i can give you examples of people escaping justice. but if you step way back, it's remarkably effective and it has worked in ways that no other system has. the history of mankind's power. his people who have power and they use their power to reward their friends and punish their enemies. our system more than any other has been able to mitigate that power by the rule of law. we are a government of laws and not men. i know that sounds like a clichc and there are exceptions. but by and large, more than any system in history, we have a system where it's the law that
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matters. not always but more often. it's the rule of law, i think, the greatest creation of democracy. >> to you after doing your book 1st on him sandra day o'connor give any opinions on supreme court judges in general? >> i can see the drawbacks of course because there are these stories of people. it's a lot of power and all that. those stories give me pause of aging justices. we live in an age where medical science can keep you going forever. on the other hand, i want to depoliticize the court as much
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as possible. i like its remoteness. i like the idea of keeping these people free. i'm not for expanding the court. i don't think that's such a great idea. my goal, how will you get there? my goal is to preserve the independence of the judiciary so it can form. however we do that, that's the goal here. if retiring the justices earlier would help that, i'm for that. but that's the question we have to ask. how will we preserve the rule of law? >> - - if you have a question for historian and journalist, evan thomas.202-748, 8801 for those in mountain for pacific time zone. if you can't get through on the phone line. we have about 40 minutes left. you can get through via social
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media and we've had great emails and tweets coming in via social media. that's a second avenue for you. this will fit right into our conversation the last 10 minutes or so. this is for gary. he emails in general, are you component of the great man theory or that the times make the leader? >> one of the questions historians have. as a biographer, i tend to be - - just to take a step back. it got popular by - - a great man. and they were men. great men make history. ever since then, scholars have rightly said, wait a second. it's disease. it's revolution. it's 1 million little things. and slaves americans rising up. it's everything but great men
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that make history. so there has been this - - among the academy and certainly among academic people that they have long since discarded the great man of history theory. popular historians like me, we kind of go with the great man theory in this sense. they're lots of times in history where personality and the character of a man or woman in justice o'connor's case. do make a difference. - - rising seas or patterns of herding cattle but all the things √£it's not bad. it's the personality of the person in the chair who made the decision to integrate the schools or to declare war or to do this or that. so personality does make a
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difference. but the true answer is, it's all of the above. sometimes it is the person, sometimes it some broad social. >> many people have come to office, congress, presidency and have wanted to drain the so-called swap. is it trainable? >> no, of course not. i don't mean to be flip about this. >> and you are a washingtonian wax there- - >> let's take 1880s, 1890s, it was too easy for big money to buy congress. a railroad to buy a senator. so they put in bribery laws. they tried to drain the swamp. teddy roosevelt and forcing - -
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the progressive era where they tried to make government cleaner. did it succeed? partly. for a time. then things backslide and you've got to do it again. that's american history. cycles of history where you try to clean things up. you have partial success. never total success. but the old motivations never go away. you have partial success. and that's important. because you've got to try. if we just gave up and said forget it, washington is corrupt. people are evil. let it be. that wouldn't work either because it would get more corrupt. if you think it's corrupt now, get rid of the free press, you'll see real corruption. every country in the history of the world that did not have a free press had tremendous corruption.
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corruption power. corruption money. even as distasteful as the press can be. it can be pretty distasteful. it forms of this important function. this impetus to drain the swamp, that's an important movement. it's not going to work in a pure sense. but it's important not to be too disappointed when it doesn't work. i give up. it's hopeless. no it isn't. it's not hopeless. you have to be engage specifically engaged. keep working at it. keep trying. over time, great things to happen. in our country's history, sometimes over a very long time. it took 100 years to free the slaves. way too long. another hundred years before african-americans were given the rights they deserve or are entitled to. so man, you have to wait generations sometimes. but, as martin luther king
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would like to say, the arc of history does bend toward justice. things to get better. ab very slowly. but i have a week theory of history which is that, it does get better. slowly. two steps forward and one step back. but it does get better. >> but not on its own. >> no. it takes people. it takes human beings, sometimes very brave human beings. john meacham wrote a book about going back and looking at. in our history that looks really bad. this goes to the great men of history question. where a president was able to do very brave things. on civil rights. in other areas as well. when things look really dark, one man or one woman was able to make a difference. and that's the history of our country.
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>> you know, let's go back to your favorite books. we looked at three of them you sent us. we discussed those three. we didn't look at the fourth one. this was a book by john urschel and a woman named luisa thomas. >> lisa thomas happens to be my daughter. john urschel is really a fascinating guy. he was a professional football player, nfl football player. a lineman for the baltimore ravens. he started - - mostly a backup lineman but he started 4-5 games a season. so he's a real football player. but at the same time, he's getting his phd in mathematics at mit. he's a fourth-year student now. he's a math genius. certified math genius.
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pretty unusual combination. so he's written a book with my daughter luisa called, mind and's two stories. his discovery of math and his life in football. it's alternating chapters. math and football, math and football. there is a commonality because his fascination with these things. why he was drawn to them how he managed to do both at once. there were a couple years where he was playing in the nfl and going to mit getting his doctorate. i don't quite know how he did that, but he it's a great story. >> we will ask the producer, did recover mind and matter in case people want to see it because i can't remember. >> the book is just out. i don't think you did. he's got a lot of publicity. but the book is just out. >> we will certainly look at it. bob in oklahoma city, you are on with author and historian evan thomas.
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>> good afternoon. first let me say how much i enjoy booktv. how much i enjoy his books and listening to him speak. along those lines, i was wondering if you had thoughts on the passing of tony horwitz this past week. thank you. >> i knew tony horwitz a little bit. a wonderful man just full of life. there is an expression that journalists use about walking the battlefield.going to the place where it happened. tony horwitz really did that. i guess it was cook, maybe through the pacific. his most recent book which is just out if i remember this right. he's from homestead.
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[multiple speakers] he was a new york times correspondent going into the south, civil war. as kind of a spy. what tony horwitz did was to retrace those steps and get to know people in ways that journalists often don't. sometimes we kind of sit up in our palaces in new york. tony horwitz actually talk to the people. god love him for that. he had this tremendous personal warmth and nonjudgmental. . but he could talk to anybody in a way that didn't judge. was
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such a tragic loss, my god. >> and it happened here in washington. at the bookstore here. >> he was just walking around bethesda. his wife is a great writer. >> pulitzer prize winner. >> she writes historical fiction and i love her books. >> booktv covered him there and we aired it as we can. if you want to see horwitz one of his last appearances. you can go to and type in his name. and you'll be able to watch online. - - told us she resigned
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herself she would finally get out of the car and go on his tour. randy is in indiana. go ahead with a question or comment for evan thomas. >> yes. i just want to make a,. i think richard nixon did quite well. noel. >> he confronted kirchhoff, the head of the soviet union and the debate of the cold war and helped nixon's political position so americans can see him as a forceful guy that stand up to kindness. it was an important moment for
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him and that only charged area of the cold war. 1959. the two leaders actually talked to each other. that didn't happen in the 1950s. we were in our separate camps. at least they were talking. >> your father at harpercollins, or at harper at the time. did something very unusual for the day. he gave somebody a million-dollar advance for a book. >> i'd forgotten that. who got the advance? >> stones book. >> my dad was the number two guy point i don't think he wrote that check. he was the editor of the book. i forgot that. believe it or not, i was the
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first american boy stalin's daughter ever met. she had just got off the plane and i was a 16-year-old boy my way back to boarding school and i went to patricia mcmillan's house on longisland . stalin's daughter pinched me on the cheek and said american bo . [laughter] but i'd forgotten they pay that much money. >> did harper learn its money back? >> i doubt it. that was a heckuva lot of money in the 1960s. i don't know. >> william is in california. >> good morning point how are you? my question is about the problem nowadays. [indiscernible].
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[indiscernible] >> thank you william. we've got it. this is a contentious issue that evolved over time. >> i can member when i was starting in journalism, the new york times did not want to their journalists to go on tv. there was a vote against it. if i remember this right, the great hendrix smith who was their political correspondent. he was forced to make a choice. either the times are going on tv. of course that's all changed.
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>> - - roberts. pokey roberts husband. >> as time went on and cable comes into existence. the newspapers change their mind and they want you to go on tv because it's a way of getting the story out and it's good for business and the egos of the person doing it. journalists now get paid. some of them have contracts with msnbc or cnn or fox or whatever. have contracts. and their publications are for it. i just read the times as may be pulling back but if i remember this right, i saw a story within the last two days. the new york times stop somebody from going on rachel maddow. >> was it ms. weiss? >> my only point is these pendulum swing. it is a bit of, katie question
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because the old idea were journalists were so objective. that they wouldn't give their opinions. you want tv and you start giving your opinion. you are violating the old journalistic - - now, as journalism changed. it became less self-consciously objective and more analytical. and laos is the √£analysis gets you toward opinion and it all kind of gets messy. i don't know what i think of all this. i did this for 20 years.i would go talk on a panel with other journalists. this was not a big deal. the show is not a huge success but it was fun to do. >> you also appeared on all the cable channels but you've certainly been on c-span many times over the years as well. >> yeah. i think it's an issue to talk about and i've been in
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newsrooms where they've talked about it. i don't know exactly where i come out. i guess the credibility of the news organization is important. if people don't believe you, that's not good. but, going on tv doesn't make you unbelievable. it can make you more credible. if the journalistic is why they did xyz, that can actually add to the credibility. the new york times itself just started a new show called, the weekly. were they put reporters in front of the camera to explain why they did what they did. i think that transparency is good for journalists. that's a positive thing. but i can see at the same time that if a journalist covers the white house got on a tv show and he started denouncing the president or whatever. that would make his editors uncomfortable.
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it's hard to have a hard fast rule for these things and i'm trying to think this through as we talk because i'm not sure what i believe about this. >> let's take a look at the turn of the 19th century. the rivalry or relationship between teddy rizzo - - teddy roosevelt and - - [indiscernible] >> hurst made a lot of money by selling two things. sex and crime. he realized he could make even more money by selling a third thing, war. so he actively wanted to get the united states into a war. the spanish-american war. he claimed it. teddy roosevelt also wanted to get us into war for different he thought the american empire needed to grow. they hated each other. i think roosevelt looked down
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on hurst. hurst felt patronized by roosevelt. a little bit like richard nixon actually. so they didn't have a cozy relationship to put it mildly. but, you know, this is a great question and the press uses politicians and the politicians use the press. i guess they used each other. >> janice, new york. you have been very patient. >> thanks for having me on. i have a question, comment and just by way of grounding. ordinarily i wouldn't introduce myself this way but i am a former c-span guest as an author and historian. ironically, i co-anchored watergate. which brings us to my questions regarding your comments about nixon. i am a little bit concerned honestly mr. thomas about the way you kind of use the phrase
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tribalism to be a little bit dismissive of some of the serious flaws. not only in the country but in our understanding of what this country has historically done and is still doing. nixon, by way of example, nixon wasn't responsible for being the lead president on civil rights. if anybody, it would have been johnson.but in truth, it was the people whose dead bodies were being washed up by the backlash of the - - that nixon helped fuel. >> very quickly. if you can turn off your tv. it's a little difficult to hear you and the tv at the same time. just talked to mr. thomas
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without the tv in the background. and can you give an example of what you mean by the use of tribalism?>> earlier evan had said, essentially, he knew it was a bit of tribalism. and in a way, what he was referring to, i can't be absolutely specific. but i will tell you that when i heard it in context, i said. that's white male supremacy. it's the old school. the so-called elites. it was in that context that it was mentioned. >> thank you for calling in. let's see if mr. thomas has anything he'd like to add. >> if i sounded like i'm guilty of white supremacy, please. that's not me. that's not what i'm saying. nixon was not the lead for us on civil rights.
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lyndon johnson did way more than richard nixon ever did. but nixon is relegated to be considered to be a racist and a bad guy. and nixon made racist comments on those tapes.he did. and nixon was not blameless in this area. so did lbj. my only point is that nixon did more than we realize in the cause of civil rights. in the 50s, he certainly did. in the 50s, nixon was the british i would say he was an activist for civil rights but he was not unfriendly to the causes. when he became president, he made sure that the schools in the south were integrated. when he came in, a tiny percentage of blacks or in
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integrated schools. removed the numbers. that has been overlooked and - - still talks about this. so i think nixon deserves credit for that. when i use the word tribalism, i mean there's a stream in american politics where people naturally want to be part of their own gang. they look at their tribe as their group and they look down at the other. the other can be white. or they can be black. or whatever color you want. i've got my group and there's that group and we are not the same. sometimes there is interesting mixing. but when i use the word tribalism, that's what i'm referring to. it's the fear of the other. looking down on the other.
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we had hoped at the end of the cold war that we would go to a new era that was beyond tribalism. that didn't happen. >> with the nixon example you were using, we were talking mini about the eastern establishment. >> i'm loosely referring to tribalism. nixon regarded the establishment as this other group. and he was fearful of them. it is not wrong about that. that group looked down on nixon. i worked for a "washington post" company. believe me, i was there. >> did you have that feeling inside you as well? >> yes. i was condescending to nixon and i don't think that was right.
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one reason i wrote the book was to explore those feelings and understand that and to try to understand that better. i'm guilty i'm sure of all sorts of assumptions, prejudices, what ever you want to call them. as is everyone. they just go without saying. we may not like to admit them, but we've all got them. as a journalist, i want to understand that better and get to the roots of it. so that's my context. if i miscommunicated that, i apologize. but that's what i'm trying to communicate. >> evan thomas is currently reading a book by rick - - >> i just aren't listening to it on audible. rick atkinson is the great military historian. he can really bring it.
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he's not just giving you military history. there's a literary quality and a depth of vision and are right there. as i was driving here this morning, i was marching back from lexington and concorde with these beleaguered redcoats. british soldiers as the minutemen are taking pot shots at the bit and i'm right there. i felt like i was marching down that road from lexington back to boston. taking cover. so i was literally in the thing of rick atkinson just a couple hours ago. it's a gift he has been i know i will love this book. i'm early in it but i know i will love all three volumes. >> did rick read his own book, do you know? >> he reads the forward but has
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a professional actor reading the rest. >> to you find that more and more? doing the audible version. >> my wife and i listen to a lot of books as we travel. my daughter sends us novels that she thinks will like. i generally don't do nonfiction but i'm doing in this case because atkinson is so good. it's like fiction. it's so memorable. and so immediate and gripping. we ask friends. >> and this is rick atkinson, the first in his trilogy on the revolutionary war. jason. the salem, oregon, you are on with historian and journalist evan thomas. >> thank you for having me on that i have several questions for you. a few moments ago, you were speaking about the - - between nixon and crew - - in 1979.
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you thought it was a groundbreakingmeeting . i'm wondering if you see a certain correlation between what president trump has done with meeting kim jong-un. that's my first question. my second question would be, you find yourself correlating things that happened today with certain experiences you had in your long career and may be making conclusions about that? >> to answer both questions at once, there are always patterns. but you can overstate number it's a problem for people like me. journalist historians. you can overdo this. this was just like the cuban missile crisis. no it's not. a little bit other
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circumstances to change. generally speaking, it's good when leaders meet. but there's a whole school of thought that says it's also dangerous that a summit meeting that's not precooked, rehearsed where everything is worked out can do more harm than good. they can get into areas that will cause trouble. particularly a state department view everything should be frequent. and president trump is more of a winged kind of guy. i am torn about this. i have a foot in both camps. i generally believe as i said of nixon and - - it was good that these leaders met. that was not preplanned. but i think it was a good thing. i also understand that the that negotiations can go south if
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the leaders haven't clearly figured out what it is they're trying to do. reagan and gorbachev almost ended nuclear weapons. they didn't. but it was an interesting moment. i think it was great that went to moscow and negotiated the treaty. in the current day, i don't know what to make of president trump doing this. i would like to end the north korean nuclear threat. aimed at me. i would like to end of that. how do you do that, it's a heart problem. administration after administration have gone
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nowhere. president trump has gone ridiculed by some camps for doing.i don't know what's going to work. i think it's a good thing to try. i hope it doesn't make a mistake. but this is a hard problem. >> evan thomas, eisenhower was dealing with the north koreans. happily over the years had a pretty sturdy back channel into north korea? >> no. we have not. we've had to go through - - the story was he threatened to use nuclear weapons to and the korean war. he send those messages through diplomatic channels really aimed that moscow and beijing that were backing north korea in the war. there's a huge dispute amongst scholars whether this got
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through and what it really meant. we could go on for hours confusing everybody about that. but that shows you the difficulty of this diplomacy. it's not easy! like i said was a master. but even in his case, i'm not sure what happened. international diplomacy, especially when nuclear weapons is involved. it's a critically important and really hard to do. >> was one of your favorite journalistic stories as we take this call from tucson. hi rachel. >> good morning. thank you for taking my call. i was wondering, what does mr. thomas think about historians going on tv and voicing their opinions. and that we have to buy their books hoping they're giving us an objective opinion or read on the person they're writing about.
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also, what influence did our grandfather have on him? i think mr. thomas was a young man. he was a socialist at the time. and also, has he read mark levin's book on freedom of the press? and that's it. >> rachel, do you think it's improper for mr. thomas to be here taking calls and chatting about his work and history and things like that? >> absolutely not. i'm talking about - - [indiscernible]. when i asked about historians going on tv and voicing their opinions. particularly about president trump. i'm mainly when they go on an msnbc, cnn and many other venues for people to see them.
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i'm glad he's here. i love listening to him. >> thank you so much for calling in rachel. >> when i publish a book, i go on any tv show that will have me as i want to sell a book. but she does put her finger on something that can be tricky. that's what cable tv is selling, political arguments. so you can get drawn into those things. it can make me, to tell you the truth, make me uncomfortable. i'm trying not to get drawn into the argument. i don't know enough. i'm not a journalist anymore. i retired from newsweek in 2010. that was nine years ago. i'm not in the loop the way used to be. my opinions now are all about my book. not about donald trump.
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i'm not sure what to think about donald trump. >> - - book. have you read that? >> tell me what it's about. >> we are about to cover and i can't think of the name offhand. i'm sure my producer will type that in quickly. the unfree press or something like that. and your grandfather. any influence that your grandfather had on you? >> well, he didn't make me a socialist. i'm not sure that he wanted to. >> what is the crazy uncle in the attic? >> no. absolutely not. if i've implied that, that was wrong. >> you have not. at all. >> it was wonderful grandfather. >> what did he do for living? >> this is humorous. the great socialist lived off,
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i think, checks from his wife. his grandfather found in u.s. trust company. so his career was supported by, i think dividend checks from u.s. trust company. he sold some books. they weren't rich. but they had a comfortable upper-middle-class life and i think that's where the money came from. it's ironic or amusing i guess. my grandfather was a wonderful man, to me, as a little boy growing up. he was a loving grandfather. >> what's the story that you wouldn't share with us. >> 9/11. i didn't see the plane hit the pentagon but i saw the orange fireball at my window. i overlooked the potomac river. it was a horrible - - but to be
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a journalist, unbelievable time. we produced like three magazines in four days or something like that. and we just worked around the clock and it was incredibly vital and excited. i'm overthinking i was getting bored as a journalist that summer. thinking i'm bored and maybe i should teach it never bored after 9/11. >> what's your next book? >> it's about dropping the atomic bomb on japan. i'm really interested in this question of moral men doing things that were arguably not so moral. how does that work? what's it like? from the american side but also from the japanese side. >>. >> evan thomas. his most recent
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