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tv   After Words Cindy Mc Cain Stronger - Courage Hope and Humor in My Life...  CSPAN  May 2, 2021 1:00am-2:01am EDT

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>> welcome everybody. a great pleasure for me to have been asked to have this conversation with cindy mccain about her new book "stronger" and full disclosure i am not an interviewer.
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john mccain is one of the blessings of our lives. i love this book and ask a read it. but i did read it and i loved it. it's a remarkable story in which you tell a lot of stories and portrays sides of john mccain that the difficult times in your life because of illness where he was not only very -- but he was very caring and we see a lot of examples of physics dirt city and humor.
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this is really a a story in the book about you. it's your book and you pay great tribute to john mccain but i look at the title "stronger" and it didn't sink in and when i finished the book i said whoa this book shows how one person, cindy mccain got stronger over her life read she was tested and she had opportunities that people never have richie came from strength in her own family and she just got stronger and now in this very difficult period after john's death she has dropped -- understrength and her capacity to carry on so to me this is a wonderful book and it was fun to read. it was great to be with john and
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hear about him through your eyes but it was also inspirational so i hope people will buy it. let me start my neutral questioning now. you know for a lot of people they will learn more than they knew before and maybe some people in arizona don't but talk about your family about your mom and dad and the influence that they had on you growing up as their child. >> guest: thank you for having me and i'm grateful that you are the interviewer today and i'm grateful for c-span for having us on. to begin with first of all i love the lieberman family and have been such good friends for us and i'm grateful for their friendship i really am. my mom and dad in those days
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they came from absolute nothing. they were dirt poor both of them. my dad became a pilot during world war ii and was a bomber on a b-17. it was an amazing time and he was actually lucky to live through. a lot of them did not live through it so with that said and the reason i bring it up is because he began his? when he came to arizona. he went to school in arizona so when he came back from the war and began to build this business with my mother they were such strong people and what he said to me was the greatest thing he ever did was to serve his
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country and he is corporation is huge now but to him the finest thing he ever did was serve. says a lot about the man and a lot about the lessons he tried to teach me. my mother was a southern belle and my dad router to arizona in the 40s. it was pretty terrifying when she got off the train but they were not just to people that's an understatement but very strong and thoughtful in how they lived which was lovely. >> host: sounds great. am i right and i know i am you are an only child? the do you have any reflections on that? >> at the time i didn't know any different. i know now. i have friends and i have no complaints in my life with my parents at all but i knew when i
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got married i loved the commotion and everything that surrounds a large family and i remember my mother coming into my kitchen to our house and therefore of them in its complete chaos and she'd stand up against against the one she would say i don't know how you do this come i don't know how you do this. so she was the mother of one because that was what she wanted and she had a very shy daughter who is very quiet at home so i didn't make much noise. >> host: in our youngest child has five little boys one through 10. and when we go there we say, i don't know how you do it. we are blessed to be
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grandparents we go when we can come back you know. cindy we are talking about your father and the way he started his business and i didn't know you and john -- he first ran for office in arizona. but you were at your heiress ate bier erez and this was a business and your dad who had nothing started with his own ability and drive and focus. >> my parents like the stories of so many people of that day as you know my parents sold everything they had borrowed money and everything you do and
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the guy that sold a line to my dad which was anheuser-busch they didn't think it would go anywhere and they sold as my dad for $10,000. let's go to great story. on one of our trips with john and lindsey graham and they told us we were joking about the fact that they owned a saloon in a liquor store together. my dad owned a liquor store and he dressed it up and call that a package store. [laughter] i said john it's a good thing you married cindy because in your own background you have no connection with business. and it's a story about the initial investment. my dad worked in a factory.
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and my mother her brothers-in-law were in a liquor store and the family said $25 a week before they would let him marry my mother. buy a case of beer in the case of liquor and sell them to cases. and that's how they ended up being successful. guess that's a great american story is what it is. it's an only in america kind of thing. let's go amen. let's jump forward a little bit and i love the story that you tell and a lot of people watching probably don't know about how you met john mccain. >> guest: yeah you know they'd reached the point of my life that i had finished graduate school and i was teaching
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special ed and i had had enough of the dating and all they college stuff and i was tired of it and didn't like it. i decided i wasn't going to date or get married or that was it. literally two months later i was with my parents and we were in hawaii on spring break and i was teaching. we were invited to a party held by the admiral and my dad knew the admiral. i saw this guy across the room and thought oh no and evidently according to joe biden he said the same thing about me. we met suddenly in hawaii and it
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was the uniform. uniform did it all for me. >> host: i love the way you said at this point that you weren't interested in dating and they were serious. >> guest: i was just not interested and john among other things i didn't know anything about him and i didn't know who he was. he was home from being a p.o.w. but he was so interesting to talk to and he was so smart and well read and it was like oh i really can't talk about things with this gentleman that are really important things and it was so fascinating. i went back to my word and i married him.
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>> host: it was great for him and i think for you two. tell me about when you dated or earlier in your marriage did he talk to you about hoping to go into public service? >> you know when i met him and married him he was a captain in the navy so we had assumed that he would go on to a command of some kind and that was where my head was. i married a naval officer and that is where it was and he was unable to command because of his injuries from vietnam so he decided to get out. that was when a year after we got married was then he thought i may want to do this. how do we go about this and i said we are going to arizona and i didn't give them an opportunity.
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that's where it began. but like my dad with his business john's campaign started with nothing. >> host: that's a great comparison also john's family had moved around. when they challenge him in arizona he was part of the navy family and moved around in the longest place he lived in was that the hanoi hilton. >> guest: hanoi. i think it was as comfortable for him obviously because was your home in arizona and he ran from there. first he was elected to the house of representatives and you
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made an interesting decision which a little bit later you say in your own way you are as independent minded and unconventional as john and the sense that while a lot of the spouses and there were wives and members of congress were living in washington and you started in arizona. tell us how you made it and how it worked out. >> guest: when john first ran we had no children. during that time when he was running for his second term we had meghan and both of us knew and what little experience i had in washington but he had much
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more than i did he knew it was not a good place to raise a family and this is what we would be doing at this point he was in the house of representatives. we both wanted their kids to be a priority. i stayed out west and he would come home every weekend and that's exactly what he did. the only time he ever missed coming home while the kids were growing up was to perhaps go on a trip or something. he was always home and i don't think the kids ever felt like you neglected them or anything like that. i would stage it like your dad is deployed in that is how i would put it. he's serving our country and you will see him so was actually the best decision he ever made a cousin our kids all turned out normal and they are all great kids and very diverse and we are very fortunate to have a great family.
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>> host: you are fortunate that you made it happen and you do have great kids. it was very clear to me always how devoted they were to you and john and how grateful they were because you are always there but john made them feel that he was there to and i know you travel a lot together but he would call you but it also call the kids. >> oh yeah. he wasn't much of an e-mailer, john mccain but the cell phone was invented for him really. so great kids and they carry on now each in their own way.
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with what you and john taught them. in 1986 i believe the famous barry goldwater decided not to run again and john decides to seek that seat and you go to washington and maybe john told me this once but i must have forgotten or maybe didn't but the first couple in congress and the senate to invite you to their home with jill and joe biden. why do you talk about that a little bit. >> guest: it was actually in the house because john had travel with joe on trips as his liaison and yes they were the first couple to invite us in and that meant a lot to me because i was very shy and it was a bit
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like drinking from a fire hose to live in washington d.c.. it was a steep running curve and i was grateful for their friendship and they were very nice and very kind to me. it was the kind of thing you don't forget because you become great friends. as you know this town is a company town and in this important that you make friends and keep friends especially the same town you're working in and hopefully our readers will figure out the senate family is how i would consider it our very close-knit family so to be able to not have just them as friends but you all has been such a blessing for us and for me especially. >> that such an important point and two things one is among all the headlines a great debate in
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one way the senate is 100 people going to work at the same place every day and the extent to which you get on with each other they like you and they trust you really affects how successful you can be as a senator. in the old days as you know as it was coexisting in the mid-80s but it is sure change. members of congress would stay there to socialize with each other. that changed and that was something. let me jump ahead a little bit cindy but the comment -- you comment, and the book about the way in which the washington and relations among members of congress and the senate in particular changed over the many years when john was a member.
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that is interesting. hymn you know the senate in the early years and i was witness to so many incredible things that occurred but many of them had to do with bipartisanship and i would watch not just john but other members as well across the aisle for the good of the country. there is a famous by the johnny's to have ted kennedy which are infamous but it was never personal. so as the years way and on i know you saw this well they became kind of in my view kind of a deep divide in the senate that was not healthy and also not civil and kind and they think the thing that we all stood for in the members ousted for, it was hard to watch
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really especially since john's death. it was certainly made very clear but i think the one thing i would like to remind readers is that i believe in american this pendulum that we are in right now is going to swing back the correct way. that's what americans do. so i just hope that as people read the book that they understand that did i tell the stories of days gone by and the truth of the matter is i believe america will swing back to a more civil society. >> host: that comes through in your books and it's a really important message and of course i agree with you and i love what you said about john and ted
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kennedy. they would fight like well like. [laughter] and i was just saying to people we need more centrism in american politics. and i don't mean moderation. but when i say census democrat and republican, left and right and the critical question today is are you willing to come to the center negotiate and i'm going to use the word you used to support in a civil and respectful way with their colleagues on the other side and get some things done and ted kennedy was a liberal democrat and john mccain was a conservative republican but they were both centrist when they wanted to be. probably john more than teddy but kennedy was really amazing. if you wanted to come to the
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center get something done he they started with the people on this committee like mike enzi and all conservative republicans he would figure it out and they'd negotiate compromises. they did a little bit better although no site that 100% of what they wanted. john was wonderful at that and that's partly how we developed a friendship that started and i think we first met each other knew each other work together ring to debate over the gulf war of 1991. president bush in a vote on party lines the democrats and republicans worked together in the story that i tell people about john and real quickly to his president to campaign he
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said you know people ask me about climate change and i wasn't giving a good answer. i don't know much about the subject and i know you're interested in this. maybe we can work together on it. we worked together and put out a climate change bill that didn't get 60 votes that we got about 55 or 56 but john would say let's go back. you were very personal in this book about challenges you had along the way and with human nature the way it is and the like had some tough problems with that surgery. really i think the hard part for you was to talk clearly in this book about period of time where you are addicted to opioids and
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how you ultimately broke away from it and to use the colloquial term culture but the reason i admire you cindy for telling us they didn't have too because it probably has been very helpful to people. we all know people in our family or friends who have been addicted to one thing or another and to deal with this and it's human nature in a way and to figure out how to break away from it. when you look back how do you explain how you were so disciplined and healthy minded and you became addicted and how did you break out of it and who
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helps you to break away from the opioids? >> guest: for me and for millions of other people that have suffered or are suffering right now it's a very cunning enemy. it takes you down before you know what has happened and in those days especially the beginning i had a couple of surgeries and some other stuff. pain pills are easy and doctors would hand them out like candy. and i'm not talking about doctors right now so please understand me but it's too easy and a lot of times in those days positions would talk to a woman and say oh you or just neurotic. i would say i'm going to go home and have a drink or take these
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pills and it will be better. so that's exactly what happened to me. before i knew it i was completely down the spiral and right in the middle of it. there was a complication and two others it may not be put in their own lives shame is the worst part of it. when you're addicted to something like this and you know it's wrong and you know you were sick and you know you've got to stop shame is the worst thing you can do to someone is suffering in my case it happened all over the worldwide news when it broke and that was hard because not in my case but it can drive someone back the shame
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factor. it possibly could hurt them worse. so what i had to learn was number one i can do it but i can stop this. i have the power and a new i had to but i had four children. i just had too much going on and i went in the book it was also hard because john never knew and i don't want anyone to think john was inattentive or didn't care. that was not the case. you become very good at hiding it when you are addicted. i was a master at hiding it. so it's tough. it's a very tough problem and it's something that americans have got to deal with directly and more importantly making sure
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that women are perceived and talk to and dealt with from a medical standpoint in a fashion that's helpful to them. >> host: good for you and two things. one is i was quite taken with the story that your parents really were the ones -- >> guest: my mom and dad. >> host: tell that story. >> my mom more than my dad but they both sensed something was wrong with me that i wasn't right one where another and they came to megan fronted band that night the evening that they confronted me i never picked up another pill nothing and i began going to rehab after that as a result of it. i was so grateful for them
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talking to me and making me see myself what was going on. sometimes you have to be confronted by other people. my parents were very good at that. >> host: it took her medicine strength to do what you did to break the addiction. i wanted you to tell that story because it's very important that family members like your parents if they are worried about someone in their family who they think may be addicted to something it's really important. i remember years ago i had somebody i worked with who i believed had become alcoholic. he would sometimes not show up for meetings and he'd come up
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with the skus and i began to see his handshake and i just did want to say it to him and that was wrong. somebody else who worked with him said to him, worked with us really hey you if you are becoming an alcohol if you are going to kill yourself anyway today a and he really was fine but somebody else did that and that is the kind of shame, not like public shame. guess who it's shame. >> host: you were goodchild and you wanted to make them proud. you felt you had let them down and embarrass them. >> guest: in my case and excuse me for a trip to things but in my case especially i wanted to because i had been told through the media and books
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and society in general that as has a wife you had to be perfect. then i put such pressure on myself to make sure i was perfect. to entertain correctly and you got your career and your kids have to be perfect in all the things as a wife and a mother and a woman. that was all part of me trying to be perfect and realizing that no one is perfect. no one is perfect. >> host: and it's more important for people to hear it from the book that. i was very touched when he described john's reaction both when he found out and you told him about the open rates but later on you suffered a stroke and when i use the word tender at the outset also loyal and
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devoted. it completes the picture of john mccain that people were watching publicly that they probably didn't know. >> guest: john was the kind of guy that like you said his outward persona was strong and he's the guy that's going to help us win or whatever the issue may be and he was a wonderful husband. in those moments where i felt like i had totally let him down and i was in the deepest darkest time of my life at that point. john was very tender but he said we are going to get through this together. we are a team and we are going to fix this in whatever way it was. he never left my side. for me to come to the
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realization that it was okay to bother him and he was a sitting u.s. senator and i didn't want to bother him. of course i should bother him. he is my husband but you know i was wrapped up in this perfection in this persona that i didn't see what was really going on. >> host: it's a great story and it ended happily. he rose to the challenge. let's talk about the sillier side of john priddy love to tell jokes. you and i both know and we were fellow sufferers. when john had a joke he told it over and over. >> guest: and over and over. >> host: you have some favorites of his.
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>> guest: i loved his irish jokes in the irish twins and all that stuff. he was so funny. i always remembers the press made t-shirts that had all these jokes on the back. it was the funniest thing i have ever seen frankly. john was so good at using humor and believing in humor. of all the people who had the right to be cranky at the world he wasn't. he was someone of great strength and great humility and his humor came into this. i believe in his p.o.w. years and as you know during a tough time he will pop in with a joke and everything is better again.
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>> host: it's interesting what you just said about the p.o.w.s. i will bet you are right to cause the one time i went to him he was looking out the airplane window and he said to me i want to prepare you if they recognize me on the streets there will be an unusual reaction. sure enough there we are at the hilton and they are a group of college students vietnamese and they recognized him and they start to chant. they want photographs and autographs and after they left we got in the car to go to the next event in i said what the hell was that? the he said well there are two reasons.
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one is they have been told that i was treated a lot better as a prisoner of war and i'm sure that was true. the second was that he became the leader in reconciling it then they remembered it. everybody always called him a hero except for some people only won't mention who. he would always say what kind of hero and my? i flew my plane into a missile. but he was a hero and in that way militarily and also just in his daily life. guess who you bring up something
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to read the were walking with him are traveling with him it was very surreal because his monument on westway there were huge crowds and people chanting. he took the family to vietnam several times on more than one family trip and was like being with a rock band on a bus tour. it was great. >> host: we were at that monument and classic john p. said hey joey don't you think it's really small here and of course he inspired me to be outrageous. a vietnamese official we went to
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the monument and i said you know john mccain deserve something much bigger. anyway he laughed. in addition to supporting john and traveling with him etc. round the world you also develop some real public is just service passions of your own such as human trafficking and human rights and you talk about them in the book which is very important. talk about how you got into human trafficking and human rights and maybe what you are doing now to advance those. >> a story i tell in the book about how his cognitive about human trafficking when i had
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just visited mother theresa and i was in my kiosk. i was getting ready to pay and it was just a crazy place with noise and everything going on. and i looked down and just kind of looked down and i heard some rumbling and people moving around and i asked the manager there that kiosk man and he said that's my family that lives below. that's something that could be happening and i looked at him before we left and they were all these eyes looking at me. they were children and something told me it was wrong for
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something bad was going on and i didn't know what it was. i tried to understand what was going on what to do about it and its worldwide in its epidemic. human trafficking is the tough tough issue and it goes on right under our noses and people don't really know what to look for and they don't understand it. that's what i tried to do was to bring awareness and understanding and need to be dealt with in that way. >> host: it's really important. if people want to get involved with trying to work against human trafficking what do you say to them and what should they do? >> guest: i tell them first and foremost you need to look within your own community.
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at the beginning of all this everyone thinks that happens in and year vietnam or something like that. we are american. it happens in every neighborhood. you have seen it but you just didn't know what you were looking out to what i tried to do is bring awareness to the mccain institute is how people look with better eyes to see what's going on in your own community and then i tell them to get involved locally. you have to take care of your own house first. there were and jails and people working out their bank urged everyone to stay local first. because we have to stop it and it's something that's happening in your own neighborhood or you just don't know. >> host: that's a great answer. it's not just over there it's
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right here and right here is where the book has the most impact. you mention the mccain institute and i was going to ask you about that. i was really grateful when you agreed to be on the board. somewhere i don't know where a theologian said the best thing that somebody can do in life is to create an institution that carries on what you an ear case you you and john treaded jr. lives of tell us about your university affiliation and what it's up to. >> the mccain institute was founded by john in may just after the 2010 -- we began john
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wanted to think about his legacy and how he we could get back to arizona and the nation and all the things that come into play with this. we are affiliated with the university we have a relationship with them but it's about john's legacy and about his ideals and the things that meant the most to john and timmy but from the standpoint the next generation of leadership. they were ours import to john and he always mentored young people and that's what institute does. we work on human rights freedom of the press rule of law and human trafficking which is a large part of institute and the issue that i could john with social justice. we are doing very well. it's a strong independent
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organization. we are not a think tank. we get there and implement what we are working on and that's what john wanted her he wanted action. don't sit around and talk about it lets do it so we are making sure we do that. >> host: you've done really well with it and it survived all the pressures of a pandemic. >> guest: yeah it did. >> host: like their country is going to come out stronger than ever. we have a little more time, not a lot. step back a little bit and while we are talking about john and then i will get to you, what do you think and hope his legacy will be from his life? >> i think his honesty, his
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honor. he lived by the code in the way he led his life is what he will be remembered for and the ideals that he believed in and stood for and worked on in this public service either within the navy or the united states senate. he is remembered for many good things and many great things but most importantly he wanted to be remembered as someone who really tried to do right and boy did he. i think he did more than just right. >> host: he did. he was in the love so many important things. i was speaking the other day about and just talk now about having an independent non-partisan commission in the events of the capitol capital and i'll never forget after 9/11 you know it was very similar and obviously was a different kind
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of an attack on america that in washington the administration was talking about doing its own investigation in congress was beginning to break up and party lines and john on "meet the press" at nbc studios one sunday morning was with tim russert and he said hey why do we put a bill to create an independent nonpartisan commission. a week or two later we put in and became the 9/11 commission and it took a while to get it passed the administration. when i finally realized it and they adopted it and most of its
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recommendations were adopted in part of the reason -- in a way that was john. action and that is you. after we finally at top of the 9/11 commission the senate basic way gone into that last week and most people had gone home. people hung around and made speeches on the floor and john and i were involved in the colloquy but it has to have agreement by everybody in the house and the senate and most people were going home. our staff had asked someone in the house republican leadership was holding up funding for the
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9/11 commission. so you know john i'm going to take care of this. come with me joey. we go into the republican cloakroom and clerk hastert. he said dan anderson and you are holding up the buildup funding the 9/11 commission and i just want you to know and remind you you have a lot of bills to send over the senate that will only pass if nobody objected and i want you to know joe lieberman and i are going to be on the floor 24 hours a day and unless you pass that hunting bill we are going to object one of us did every one. [laughter] i gave the guy a hug and laugh
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and hastert had passed the funding bill in the house. and john and i went home. so that was great. let's go back to the book because it is your book and it's about you when you first met johnny said at some point you wondered how he could be interested in you the coffee at done and all that. it's very clear that he was interested in you and i can tell you because i was don't so much time with them but he loves you but how dependent he was upon you and sort of a raw uncovered we in this final month and year of illness because you are so close to him. this is in some ways it's about
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john but it's a woman's book and a story of a strong great woman who gets stronger and in some ways i'm answering my question i may not be right. why can people take away from reading your look, "stronger"? >> guest: i hope people see that i'm a very normal person. just because i was married to a very famous man i separate from the same issues that everyone else does and i'm imperfect in many ways but you discover as you grow and get older you discover that you are imperfect and you can make mistakes and it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them and all those kinds of things are what it's about so i'm hoping people can take away from this that just
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keep trying and keep going. there are lots of people around us that can do all the work that they need to do and that's okay. it was tossed on women early on in the started in the 70s in my opinion about perfection you had to be perfect and you had to do everything. i think for those of us who had tried to live our way lives the best way we can it's -- i hope people enjoy it and i hope they laugh and i hope they love it and also i hope they know that their friends out there and for me in the case was being able to have friends and open up to people. i would never do that before and
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now i have great friendships and it girlfriend and boyfriend, but male friends, friends of mine and i decided it's okay to be me. >> it's better than okay. it was great for john mccain and great for a lot of other people and obviously great for your children and family but it's going to be great for everybody to really accomplish what you just described is your goals. you are an extraordinary person but in a way everybody is capable of reading extraordinary and you just rose to every challenge in your life and continued on which is really great. i thank you for writing the book is not easy to write a book. >> guest: no, it's not in the
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hard part is the -- portion. >> host: i once read it and i forget which great writer said this but he said i do not enjoy writing, i enjoy having written. [laughter] >> guest: i agree with him. >> host: and several years ago when prime minister netanyahu's father dies and he was in the period of mourning. his father was a great hero and academic so i naturally complemented him by saying what a dream that must have been for your father when you became prime minister. what a legacy you gave him and
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he raised his hand across the coffee table saying this is my father's legacy. on the coffee table where the books that his father had written and you have the legacy. >> guest: thank you. >> host: it's a strong one of the great one so a wonderful conversation. see you soon.
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>> as i argue in the book essentially the parallels we see with both the south perpetuating the narrative of victimhood as well as the demonization of the other comment that essentially justifies the use of violence. both in the united states and trends nationally so round the world part of this victimhood in order to -- violence against the other and it's interesting in terms of the different components in which they do that
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either through political beliefs and the sense of victimhood has cropped up -- propped up by domestic politics as well as international politics. domestic politics in the u.s. and other states. for example white nationalism is enslaved victimhood that white identity is being attacked and not that white identity is on the offensive but the white identity and white culture is being attacked by the rise of people of color generally as well as domestic policies that are used to suppress white culture. such is what we have with gun control. that's what president biden spoke on today and as far as islam is and there's a sense of victimhood by the interpretation
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of american foreign-policy as well as the foreign-policy of asian countries that are essentially perceived as targeting and attacking specific islam's by virtue of a majority nation. it's an interesting dynamic because many islamists don't necessarily see their fellow citizens with the northern western you're paying countries but rather they are viewed as apostates and viewed as righteous muslims.
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