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tv   Frank Bennack Leave Something on the Table  CSPAN  November 23, 2019 8:01am-8:50am EST

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for the full schedule check your program guides or visit our website, now booktv kicks off this weekend with frank bennack, executive vice chairman and former ceo of hearst on his career in the media. >> that is very temporary. >> are you picking a body oh? >> i guess it is working. we will get you gentlemen shortly. good morning, thank you for joining us. i am jordan morley of hearst television and i have the honor introducing a conversation with chris matthews and former ceo of hearst corporation frank bennack. each night millions of viewers tune into msnbc at 7:00 to hear chris deliver his trademark openings to hardball. the roots of his journalism career are with hurst.
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for over 15 years. i thought it was 12. chris was the washington dc bureau chief anderson gravitated columnist with the san francisco chronicle at the san francisco chronicle and he not only watched hardball but successfully offered eight best-selling books. as everyone knows chris returned to the air this week after a brief hiatus to recover from prostate cancer surgery and we couldn't be more grateful for you being here today. i had the pleasure of working with frank bennack for the past 26 years. was a markable is that are present less than half of his tenure with hearst if we had them in the company for 6 decades. the company has expanded exponentially including historic partnerships that lost a&e, the history channel, lifetime and of course our partnership with espn.
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our group expanded from 3 to 33 television stations and our newspaper magazine groups have built upon their great legacies and best in class brands. what my colleagues at hearst and a lot of you here today and i are most proud of is frank's moral compass and his focus on the importance of community service and the role our businesses play to better the lives of our neighbors. true to form his book leave something on the table, highlights the importance of corporate leadership in the communities we serve. frank wonderfully captures the culture of our company with the following passage in the book's prologue and i will summarize. i believe there was one northstar. it isn't what you know or how hard you work or who you know. it is how other people know you. i want to take a page from chris's show. authors, icons and north stars, let's play hardball. very nice, thank you.
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[applause] >> that beats any memorial service i ever attended. >> you get to find out who your friends are. i want to ask first of all, there is a hero of mine here sitting to my right, working at hearst. i want you to clarify or correct, the idea i had about you was, when i came back from the peace corps, this big empty jumbo plane before they deregulated, the plane was empty, it was sort of foreboding. but the thing about it was we -- hurst built a big empire and then the lights began to come out. everybody remembers that picture of the lights going out, the beginning of the empire and i heard about you
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and how when the family needed somebody like you to come in from outside to rebuild it and make it state-of-the-art you did that. >> great time. >> in the book you point that out. [laughter] >> with humility. >> you have one of the hurst grandkids saying where did you get your money, mom and she says from frank bennack. everybody wants to learn from you. how did you see a way through the changes, that print was going to be challenged and there would be new media and you better jump on the board like espn and everybody, i want to know what the headlines should be, the houston chronicle. >> that is where i was yesterday as a matter of fact. >> i always wonder about the losing team, two more to go or
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four to go. >> i say in the book that bill hurst would hit me and colin say have you bought anything today, baby. i was buying things right and left but the short answer is companies like all institutions come to different points of their lives. i happens to come on board at a very pro-business time, a whole generation of leadership was retiring because of their age. many of them had worked with mister hurst, we almost lost the company and it is not in the book but i like to talk about an old classified ad guy, the leadership of classified advertising. got to be one like that in every meeting. >> why did you pick from the sting? we are talking about business. >> i did like it.
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one of the things that helps our company get through the great depression was they were behind in classified advertising in almost every market. many of them were african newspapers, the world was moving to morning newspapers and everybody knows it today. along came paper rationing which meant all of a sudden we were getting as much paper as the other guy, the big guy and they had to cut back to take care of the rest of what a newspaper does and we were able to pick up the classified advertising so kind of lifted - i started with classified ad sales but to go back to your original question. a group of us came into authority if you will all at once and we had a huge opportunities that created two things that were very important. one was the will which i talk about in the book where mister
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hurst appointed 13 people to be trustees of his company. cannon house office building of whom were members of his family so in effect he made the decision that to have the company survive, put it in the hands of professionals and each of those professionals had a lifetime job so mostly dies but one or 2 have resigned. it must be someone, not a family member to succeed that person and vice versa. why is that important? because we were ready to take advantage of bringing in the best management talent we could. we didn't have somebody, a family member, saying i want that job. the authority resided in the trustees and the second thing was tax reform act of 1968 required any foundation of more than 2% of voting stock or 20% of nonvoting stock, that is how
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we got the houston chronicle, held by a charitable organization. what did that mean? there were two foundations mister hearst found with $136 million, the last obligation we had to fund them and we are able now to use the case load to grow the company and to pay nice dividends to every family so most of those things worked beautifully because the family support would have been there but it was really there because they could see we were making progress, dividends were improving. bill hearst loved every move the we made, every new hire the we made, bringing a guy like jim bellows in, one of the best-known editors from that era. they loved it and they gave us all support. our culture is the answer to it and that is we are a company that cares about the employees, we work with each other, we
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have a single objective, to have the best company we can have and every one of our categories. when people have difficulty performing their jobs we try to help them do that. we don't always assume you changed them up. my own experience on that is 75% chance of success within promotion and 50/50 in recruitment. you need both because if you only put people up in the company from within you miss a lot of knowledge and experience. on the other hand, to rely exclusively on recruiting in, there was a learning curve, very difficult to keep pace with that. those are a few principles i just learned. i had no idea what i was doing. i grew up, those of you who read the book now the great education my father gave me in
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the arts, it was an artist and songwriter and showman. had it not been for the depression and his taking a civil service job his career would have looked more like mine. from 12 on, he created me as an adult and watched everything i did up until his last day he would say are you doing okay with mister hurst? he never would have said i was inside. just couldn't be. it was all false. >> you write in the book how the hearst family which i know was interesting, you said that it works. >> it does. >> so many personalities? >> it works in large measure because the management majority
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would reside and so in a manner of speaking it was mandated to work and once they saw the cooperation and support and we got it in spades and still get it in spades it was not difficult for them to decide this is what the test data wanted, it is working, we are doing fine, you work with will, our chairman. when i was ceo, i talked regularly with him but steve runs a business and i ran a business so you start their. the other issue is everybody thought because their name was hearst they were automatically rich and were part of a different society. it wasn't so until the change, until the company started doing
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well so i have great admiration. i talk about all the chairman, i worked with all of them at a different approach to life, they had great senses of humor and i couldn't say more about them, that family worked and today they unified with us and with management. they have their say but we have the votes. >> some of the decisions you made, you talked about how you bought 20% of espn for $160 million. i did the math, one third of that is 6. >> and 40 billion is 8. [laughter] >> tell me the day you decided there was money in sports. >> it never would have happened if we hadn't build a relationship with the founder of abc as we know it today and
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we were on a board together and we were at a meeting one day and started talking about the phenomenon of cable which changed business, it was a better single of existing entertainment to being a programming source and we should do that, we were going to lose a lot of money so let's do it together so we did and we lost money for 7 years before the combination of what is now lifetime, a&e and history and during that time we were -- despite supporting boards, 7 years is a long time, hope you know what you are doing. ultimately they said we really hit the mark, didn't we, and we did. on the specific, when espn became an opportunity for us our seniormost partner and i
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decided it is surefire and i got a lot of pushback because the main programming was tractor pools at that time as opposed to major league sports which today is a part of it but you just knew, we knew about lifetime and a&e and history, losing money but you could tell it was going to work and that is one of the principles of business and we know this intellivision. when you can see that a program is working even if it is only incrementally you stay with it. the most successful ones, that is what happens. they didn't do great in the early days and we knew this was going to work and when we put espn together it gave us a powerful part of our company that is today the largest single section of our company and plays the role today that magazines play in funding the expansion we had initially. >> we live in a transactional
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society because all president we have without getting into his ego but a transactional sense, everything, show me the money. he has his own problems right now but this idea of leave some money on the table, you have a moment in the book you talk - we should have paid more. you wrote that down. >> i didn't have to write that down. >> i was thinking what was that all about because people go wait, i had an agent, this idea of it isn't a complete - struggle between employer and employee.
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>> is the name implies, it means the other guy doesn't have to lose for you to win. you leave something on the table and you get to play another day. you don't leave something you won't get to play another day. i learned with all due respect, i have been waiting for a long time to say this to you, the last thing in the world we believe in@abca11 is hardball. >> hardball has different definitions. >> i understand. i know you are doing it as a joke. anyway. >> the idea of the transaction, when you see if you push too high you get the last nickel in the deal, what does that augur for the future? >> the work gets around. it is a relatively small world and all of us know what other people are doing with
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transactions and all you have to here is i did this deal with so and so and you almost couldn't get it done. they didn't live up to their word and so in a small environment where you are dealing with 2 dozen people you better keep your reputation clean and you better be known as somebody that recognizes they need to have a good outcome in the transaction. that doesn't mean you don't work hard and don't try every way you can to maximize the return you are going to get. you may have noticed the business roundtable, put out a paper recently which was an unbelievably on the mark which is the concept that everything should go to shareholder value is not the right way to approach business. there are communities, employees, a lot of people with
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skin in the game and all of them need to be considered whereas our law and much of business is gone down the road that you are required to be sure the shareholder gets the maximum return but that is not all there is to life. >> let's talk about newspapers, print, you talked about papers make a return. how do you justify somewhat lower return where you can make more money selling eminems or something, how do you do that? >> as you know our newspapers make money. they don't make the money they made. interestingly enough the margins are similar to what they were in our better days but the top line is not what it was. the advertising. the other part of that is the reader has been asked to pay more. the other day at the texas
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business hall of fame which i was inducted to a few years ago but spoke at their breakfast and what we came up with "after words" was i live in austin and i took the name of the newspaper and senate which was news to us which it wasn't sold to us. we tried to buy it and we to succeed but her one point was the price she pays now for the paper to be delivered is double what she has historically paid and she didn't say this. i'm going to stay this. doesn't cover the cost of distribution and what it cost to put the product together. the fleeing of classified advertising was the biggest single event in all of that. it went to the web and it was a big source of income for newspapers.
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in fact it was confirmed to me yesterday there were days in the hay day in houston when there were 115 pages of help-wanted classified advertising in the houston chronicle, 115 pages and all of that, not all of it, it was a reasonable business of classified but that was the big change. shorter answer to your questions and that is it is in our dna. we have made it work, they are profitable businesses, we keep close tabs on this, they pay for themselves several times over. so we look at this as a lot of that is gravy. we pay for it, we got a good return and we are doing something that is good for the community and the nation. and so president obama asked me at the gridiron, if you only broke even with your newspaper what you continue to publish it
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and i said we might not be the right people to ask that because we have a strong organization. otherwise we wouldn't stay in business, we would be losing a lot of money which wouldn't get the same answer from an independent publisher who needs capital and has to attract money to stay in business and of course we are down in the market except for a few places but i feel better about it because there are several things that are working that will strengthen and extend the life as far as i can see. what is we are doing more and more digital advertising and it is more effective. we are doing that in all our business but the combination of getting the reader to pay a correct price, something that is reasonable, today that is about $12-$15 a week and holding on enough advertising and building enough advertising is the formula for today whereas when i was a local publisher we had 90% advertising.
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>> think about the history of the morning paper. in philadelphia when i grew up i used to deliver, had the biggest -- 114 papers. everybody read the bulletin but then the market closed at 3:00 or 4:00 in the paper has to leave, right? >> it was more than that. >> the traffic was the traffic. >> the evening news and a change in society because the blue-collar worker in much of that era went to work early in the morning and came home early in the afternoon and wanted the paper in the driveway when they came home. now their hours are more like their bosses and they moved over to morning papers. it is a change in society. it is traffic, inability to get paper that has anything new over the morning paper delivered and the evening news
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and today it is punctuated by what you do and the huge numbers are not helping. >> we are in the op-ed page right now. go read james patrick or whatever or somebody. or some of the other people out there. what i find out, this is an editorial part, this is in the business end but all tv now depends on print. all the news is being done by prince. it is a roaring, the number of tough young reporters in 30s and 40s, breaking all the stories for us. we go to bed - 6:30 at night these papers go to press and they put the stories and post them. we are getting the hottest news in the world and the best reporters in the country but we are not paying for it. we are not paying -- the new
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york times is paying for it. the other newspapers are paying for it. how is that going to work economically in the long run? >> as long as we can make the business model that i described continue to work, it turns more on the digital side than any of the others. if we can continue to grow digital advertising and particularly digital advertising that has video connected with it because cpms are a lot more attractive than just text. i am very well aware of what you say and i don't think except for the rare individual, that people really recognize what would be lost in the absence of these great daily newspapers that we all rely on. if i haven't read the new york times or the wall street journal i get embarrassed by noon because somebody will bring something up as relevant and people forget, this is the big difference. random access device, you don't know when you open it up what
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you are going to learn whereas most online activity is in pursuit of something specific. where else would you get that, where else do you get something on your doorstep? >> is going to read about pakistan, really? and you need peripheral vision to pick up the newspaper, let me look at that. or you race through it. what do you read first in the morning? >> i usually start with the new york times. we get three or four, my wife is an even better newspaper reader than i am. she has a little more time to do it, not a lot more but i usually get sometimes but i will say that in my view the journal has made good progress. you see the washington post which is a big part of it. we looked at that this morning
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and i don't see it every day. we get usa today interestingly enough for a number of reasons, watching it from a professional point of view plus the entertainment stuff, we are a big entertainment company, they do a good job there and i worry about the future of that. larry kramer was the publisher for a while there. >> what are the economics of that? >> it is very tough. in the early days a lot of people thought it would never work because it didn't have the benefit of the local news budget. local news, that is also the future of our television stations. if we win in the news we win in the marketplace. notwithstanding how the networks may fall down but if you are the leading station in the market with news, number one you get the advertising which this days is very important because they want
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people who are well informed and that is the way they are but they too, with all due respect to my colleagues, the stories are abbreviated compared to what you learn in the newspaper about a given thing. i think it is a tough fight but not only i but rising as it relates to our print products because we are breaking the code on digital. we are getting there. that is number one. number 2, we have bought into the fact that you have got to keep that print product at the highest quality. whether it is a magazine cutting the size of the magazine and quality of the paper and the beauty of printing, that is a formula for going out of business. it may save a few bucks a day but if you have a strong prince product, you have a big and
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growing digital product i think the outlook is not as dire as some people think. >> you said in your book that you think print is going to live? >> absolutely do. >> the tricky part is the 20-year-old. i get kids, my son knows more than i know about what is going on then never picks up the paper. >> but he reads online, another challenge that we have. a lot of what he is reading originated in a daily newspaper so our answer to that is the digital side, being a player and in many of our markets and this is true of newspapers all over the country, many of our markets, our websites are the leading websites, television stations drive to that as well and if you can do that and have a local staff with
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entrepreneuring tendencies and is willing to step up to these tough stories there is a place. the numbers of people who reading con paper define materially. ..
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that our government would have allowed those two or three firms to get to the size that they have with zero interference. when we couldn't even buy if a competing newspaper -- buy a competing newspaper that was losing money without spending
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time in hearings and so on. so the system hasn't protected the people. and i think washington knows that. now, what the end game is there the all powerful and, importantly, as users we all like them. we all find they are, there is a utility, at least a certain portion of it. i'm not living on social media, but a lot of people are. if -- someone said the other day a little different than i've ever heard, we may come to look at this era and those businesses the way we look at cigarette smoking. which is a pretty powerful -- >> yeah. well, the one thing about working for papers is what you love is friday night, 6:30, and your editor says just two questions. and you go, okay. and otherwise pretty good. can i go get dinner. but both the social media -- in fact, all of it has nobody
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editing, and there's nobody saying that's a fact or check this out. who's that aide, how high up are they, is this real. i mean, you had to go through that, and it's a wonderful process. it's like concession. i mean, you're done after it's over. but there's no process like that. people just say, you know, i hear crap, and -- you know? somebody's got to live with it. how do you put editing into this digital world? >> well, you know, i don't know anybody in whatever they do that doesn't need an editor -- >> yeah. >> let alone -- [inaudible conversations] >> ayn rand needed an editor, by the way. [laughter] the objectivist. >> there's another point in the book, the name of the book is account leave manager on the table -- leave something on the table, available where everyone buys books -- [laughter] but one of the messages i thought urgently delivered was the role that local newspapers and local television stations have played in building
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communities and cities. and i use several examples in there. eamon carter in fort worth, texas, indisputable that that city in west texas and at one time the largest circulation in the south, i mean, everything from texas tech university to businesses that came to that community were influenced by that individual. and so that's also a story of america, is it how the great -- a little different from citizen kane's message. i always remember because bill hurst, you know, william randolph hurst jr., very funny guy, and i remember him telling me, we were talking about citizen kane. he said there there are a lot od movies haven't seen, i've seen that one. , well -- [laughter] you believe that one, i've got a bridge to sell you. [laughter] >> about these things, about sin
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jersey -- synergy. people tell me the sox save the globe. people are on'sed with that -- obsessed with that up there. the sox. and the data apparently drives people, they've got to get up and read "the globe" every morning to get the latest about the baseball team. i mean, it's -- i wonder about these things. there's nothing like that anywhere else. >> well, look, our broadcast people would tell owe -- tell you we do a weekly rundown of the highest rated shows on television and on cable, and over the course of a year dominated by the nfl games in terms of the academy awards and nfl games. i mean, it's just incredible consistent i. consistency. similarly on television. now today, interestingly of
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enough, hannity is there the, and rachel maddow is there in terms of the highest rated shows of the week on cable. but sports is powerful. and i think people learn from sports, you've undoubtedly participated in sports in your youth. you learn something about teamwork, and you learn something about honesty. i think it's valuable. plus our lives can be pretty complicated. it's a lot of fun more me to come -- for me to come home and watch my spurs or watch the dallas cowboys who drive me crazy about two-thirds of the time, which i love to do. it's a way of letting off steam. and, you know, some people, as you say, it's a religion. >> okay. frank? >> some of our television colleagues are here today, and can you share with the group the fact of the matter is that the company got in the television business in 1948, but in the mid '80s you made some transformative decisions to make the group bigger particularly
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with acquisitions in kansas city and boston, and i think if you could share that, it would being terrific. >> well, if there was a single thought i had when i got the corner office, it was we needed to be electronic. that mentality. and we had three stations, one from each of the then-networks. and so i immediately started scouring the country to see where i might buy digital stations x. for a time you couldn't own but five vhf stations and go uhf stations. but we moved to the limits quickly and then began, of course, as they changed to acquire the properties. the biggest, of course, was the boston wceb, the abc affiliate which i guess is probably still the biggest non-network-owned affiliated station or certainly among them. it used to be, and it's not the same as it once was.
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but we absolutely had to go there, and we hired booz allen to come and work with us and help us decide was this a good move, was it a good place to spend our money, and you can imagine i got some looks askance from the print establishment in our company as we started buying television stations. and then when we dared go into cable, if you don't take the broadcasters were ready to lynch me -- [laughter] but it all worked. and now we're all on the same page. but that succession, dayton, kansas city, boston and then, of course, on and on after that. and we even in a couple of instances had to divest because we were buying stations close enough that they overlapped from a technical standpoint, and we had -- dayton was one of those that we had to divest of. but i loved doing that, the
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incidentally. going to those markets and deciding that you could buy that television station and then watching them. i think that palm beach is one of the great stories that we had. the station was nowhere when we bought it. you guys made if -- made it. >> well, this has been great, and and i'm a believer. >> thank you, pal. >> and -- >> you're a good friend. >> and i will sort of jam you on my show one of these days. [laughter] >> well -- >> you wouldn't believe the pressure. it's like in our business now, cnn is like, you know, with jeff zucker, they get -- there's some carnival line cruise ship down in the gulf of mexico that the toilets are overflowing, and that's what they ride with, you know? they don't ever get off that story. [laughter] and now they're on to impeachment, we're on to impeachment. every night it's like this not only just one or two news
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sources, there's only one or two bits of news that you talk about. and it's driven -- but people, i've got to tell you, they can't get enough, they can't get enough. they want the fire hydrant in their mouth. >> yeah. [laughter] yeah. we actually, we actually thought that that would calm down some at the election. we knew this was going to go on with kind of the character donald trump is and the nature of that election. and, of course, it isn't lost on us that this has eroded ratings for everybody else because of the number of people that are watching this. >> yeah. >> and i'm guilty. i'm guilty. she leaves the room because if she stays, he hollers at the television is set -- [laughter] >> i used to tell young press secretaries, i'd say do radio because it's hard to get on television in a big city. but radio they have to refresh every two hours. and they always wanted an actuality or, you know, some sort of -- at least they call
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them, i forget the name. tape something, they'll put it on in the next two hours x. now it's every second. it's unlike anything i've ever seen. it's all trump, and trump -- he belongs there. that's where he is. and this election's going to be crazy again. i just hope we're not as divided next year. whoever wins, we're going to be more divided. whoever wins. because -- >> well, i hate to -- perish the thought, but i do remember at least one governor and maybe there were more who either he or his wife wouldn't leave the governor's mansion after losing the election. [laughter] i hope, hopefully we're not fighting something like that where we -- [laughter] have a change of government and they won't leave. >> well -- [laughter] what happens if we have a couple states where the results aren't clear in. >> yeah, well, that too. >> frank bennack, thank you. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> booktv has live weekend coverage of the miami book fair. starting today and sunday, featuring author discussions and interactive viewer call-in segments. today at 11 is a.m. eastern republican senator tom cotton talks about arlington national cemetery. susan rice discusses her life and career. megan phelps roper on the westboro baptist church. patrick demean, university of notre dame, on liberalism. and wired magazine's andy greenberg discusses russian hackers. on sunday at 10:30 a.m. eastern, our live coverage continues with former undersecretary of state in the obama administration richard stengel on
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disinformation in international politics. journalist david maraniss on the 1950s' red scare. journalist eleanor randolph discusses former new york city mayor michael bloomberg. former deputy director of the cia's counterterrorism center phillip mudd talks about the state of cia detention centers. 9 and former professional football player don mcpherson. watch live coverage of the miami book fair today and sunday on c-span2's booktv. >> on "after words," our weekly author interview program, republican congressman matt gaetz interviewed republican rand paul of kentucky about his new book, "the case against socialism." here's some of their discussion. >> if i'm going to be a successful capitalist and i sell something, i'm not caring at r about my desires. i have to care about everything you want if you're a consumer,
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so everything's focused outwards towards trying to get you to accept to buy either my services or my product. but if i'm a socialist, i really am not caring too much about popular opinion or pleasing a consumer. in fact, you know, when we socialize things like health care, they just say, well, yeah, everybody's going to get it, you'll no longer be bankrupt, no longer have to worry about your bills, but you'll have to have rationing. it's directed more towards their ideological concerns of how -- >> so how does that drive selfishness? it seems as though you're making the argument that a country that is more socialist becomes more selfish. >> yes. i think that is true, and i think it's an irony in a way because they would profess to be, you know, it's for the other man, everything's for someone else, and yet in the end it is driven by selfishness and this ends up being an elite in their society, and, you know, they consume and accumulate
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power money and homes and everything else all based on the cronyism of their system. >> to watch the rest of this interview and to find more episodes of "after words," visit our web site,, and click on the "after words" tab at the top of the page. >> tonight on booktv in prime time, the national review's rich lowry makes his case for the positive contributions of national 'em. history professor david civil veryman -- silverman. former ohio governor and republican presidential candidate john kasich offers his thoughts on how to bring about political change in local communities. a group of journalists discuss the anonymously-authored book a warning which provides a behind the scenes look at the trump administration. and ryan manion and heather kelly talk about the experience of losing a family member in a


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