tv Bob Woodward on History and Disinformation CSPAN November 29, 2021 4:00am-5:02am EST
>> good morning everyone and welcome to the new york historical society, near historical president and ceo and it is a great thrill for me to welcome you this morning to our spectacular event in this auditorium whether you joining s here in person, or via lifestream and were so pleased to have you join us for a special day, very special day of the stone unturned distinguished speakers presented with the opening inside of the robert caro symposium archiving the exhibition is on our second floor and this is the first drawn from the archives of
robert caro symposium's award-winning work on robert moses lyndon johnson are regarded as masterpieces of modern biography and history. and this is a good a good time for me to acknowledge the biographer and master of narrative, robert caro and his wife china. [applause] wife china and work also very pleased to have here with us today. in today's panel, history and integrity in an age of misinformation is a special conversation inspired by robert caro's distinguished work and just before introduced our panelists however, would like to thank and recognize a number of
trustees who have joined us this morning. , agnes and andrew, david, dorothy goldman, patricia - and others. i would like to thank all of them but i would also like to thank those joining us via lifestream this morning our chair are vice chair elect, the trustees. many thank you to all of you and everything that you do at this institution really is a great tribute to the dedication and support predict. [applause] [applause] and of course i want to thank the council members who have joined us this addressable unbidden with us for very challenging period of time and we appreciate your encouragement
and your support. and evan, we are also particularly grateful for the republic which is the sponsor of today's symposium and i know an note a number of members are with us in the audience today no one thank you especially for your partnership. the first discussion last one hour and will include a question answer session of the q&a will be conducted via written novartis. it will have your questions on those notecards and you should receive no card and a pencil on your way into the auditorium at this morning and if not my colleagues are going up and down the aisles with notecards and pencils and collect your questions later on in the morning and there will not be a formal book signing today but please find copies of our speakers books will be available in a store on 77th street by
building an okay, now to our speakers we are honored it too well, bob woodward, an associate editor at the washington post, where he's worked since 1971, he has shared into pellets or prices first for coverage of the watergate scandal with carl bernstein and second, a reporter for coverage of the 911 terrorist attacks. bob woodward has written number one best-selling books on the last nine presidents including nixon, ford, carter, reagan, george hw bush, clinton, or w bush, obama, and trust as well as the cia, joint chief, hollywood and the supreme court. his most recent book is carol, which he co-authored with robert costin the moderator for our opening discussion is douglas
brinkley, in humanities and professor of history and bronx university and professor douglas brinkley is a best-selling author the grammy award-winning producer had he served as presidential historian for both new york post new york historical and sandinista a contributor to the new york times, the washington post, the boston globe and the author of numerous books in his most recent new york times bestseller, is american moonshine, john f. kennedy in the great space race. just before we begin i ask you please turn off your cell phones and other electronic devices and remember to keep your mask on. please note with the exception of her house photographer, we are not permitting photography this morning afraid and please join me in welcoming our guests. thank you.
[applause] >> good morning, welcome bob fast, robert caro and as the added attraction, bob woodward and what an honor it is to spend some one-on-one time with you. new york historical society and will then going to open it up for questions and some were putting up cards out for about a 40 minute conversation and with trent his book, just number one in the charts, he done incredibly well and so much news going on. i would be remiss to buy did not ask him the burning question of the moment braided right out of the gate and that is when did you first know robert caro. [laughter] >> i think about 25 years ago. he was in new york with his wife
and we invited them over for dinner in our home and we talked about history and how do you find this or how do you verify it and both my wife and i learned a great deal. when you talk to robert caro, you going to school as you know. and when you look at his achievement lyndon johnson piece and then how you've written bob about the power and the presidents also, what is your reflection lbj in american history and what was the johnson's presidency and the perils of his presidency. >> is easier to describe the creation of the universe. and as robert caro's trump
finding out because there are many times in many many of sort them out and up to date and what is the real, what you and i were talking the other day, you can ask the question of a historian or a journalist, how good is history. and the answer is often, said it's best when it is too late, the words out of the presidency, he is deceased and in this internet age, of impatience and speed, the gift ask the question of how good his history but when his history and when will you be available to people i think the sooner the better, no one can match robert caro this going
back and back and refining his understandings. >> you thank you so the perfect combination for so many journals become a historian particular political reporters covering the presidents for a while but then they switch they start doing biographies and you state paternalism you know me demo from an iv stated as a reporter maybe not try to go back to write a book on eisenhower essay or something. >> because when i enjoy, the contemporary is it you can interview people and you can go and you can take your questions and i always do what is called the premature draft in writing a book and using the holes and you can go back if somebody is alive
and assessable. so i think it is the best job in the world i think you're right, a lot of journalists switch to history thinking their historians are probably better journalists. [laughter] >> to try out pretty. >> i find that to be the case sometimes. >> will we plow our way to doing the phd in history with the things that the general essays they write so well because you have worked part-time in the new york times there able write where a lot of historians, academics, were so just footnote driven so there's room for both. the sweet spot would be honey bring popular history and academics history, will unite them.
>> one of the historian diseases too many, certainly not you with some historians chase obscurity and i visited the presidential library libraries and meet with the team of people who do the interviewing so safely one of the bush presidency's and you will find the labor secretary and interview him or her and when did you first make your question what was it like. that is not history, and event discussions with the people who do these interviews in my view is you need to sit down aggressively and ask yourself, where the key and answered questions in the bush presidency and the clinton presidency, any of the abraham lincoln
presidency and if you approach it that way, you avoid the kind of masking of basically irrelevant information. >> could have you had the story career that you had a few moved out of washington dc, knowing the landscape so well and the government works pretty good if you done what you do if you lived in atlanta or sacramento. >> i suspect not. there underground parking garages. [laughter] in sacramento but it's a long trip and tell, and i find that i can have people over to my house and i can actually invite them again and again naturally simple
tool but also you have to walk that painful road in perspective and am i getting too isolated, the beginning to washington centric in the red when my bush books that i did, 24 books on his wars in afghanistan and iraq and was criticized because the books were to white house centric. i remember wait a minute, that was a decision. you can cover the cia and the fitting you can think, yes the decision of our really made here, important parts of the puzzle but as george w. bush
said, is the decision-maker honey is an even if he doesn't decide, he is made a decision is removed and predict getting to talk to colin powell near the end of his life and taken his pe in the air we hear near the circle society are hoping to do perhaps in spring a program on the career of general powell jiggly is immigrant chris from jamaica came into city college it was american, great american strenuous and the question about it was a spiritual guru for allf the people he met, who lived in the most. >> i hope you guys are bob, on
sq live in the top ten figures that you collect on reflect on pretty. >> easier to describe the creation of the universe printed. >> what you asked general file those questions. >> as i did, this was three months ago and is very open and didn't know he had cancer and parkinson's and he was quite open about it and even third-party sometimes can be humanized no, i'm so sorry. i just let me dennison don't feel sorry for me, i had a great life. what is interesting about powell is he was so open even in this conversation which is being taken he was talking on the phone to me a shout out to his wife alma, on the phone and he comes back and he says, she
doesn't like me talking to you. [laughter] but here we are. but in his answer to the question of who spiller was on the person inspired mostly sonoma just right off the bat, she stuck with him and he understood in his capacity i think as a great leader was interested of the people. in the first job is to understand the spouse and he understood her very well and realized he was off doing all kinds of things we colin powell and she raised the kids and to tamping down but nobody is going
to do, will this is a great story i talked to my publisher about this, they had simon & schuster and i said he's already a great book but we already know everything because it was open and i could call them up and he would call back right away. or he would answer and i remember that when he was getting ready to write his autobiography which is very good i american journey advocate and i had interviewed him tony four times up to the point. i had transcripts of all of the interviews that is coming up and i said i have a christmas present for you. and he said a christmas present from you, is it taking.
[laughter] is in no i would like to bring it over so i brought it over copies of all of the interviews and he said, here's my christmas present. and he looked at me and he smiled and he said i know why you're doing this because i'm going to contradict you or what i told you in my book. and he didn't actually, my label for him and he never coming he just did not, he was different, you know this, up goes the wall. who would be your person and you might want to say family member right now.
[laughter] >> there you go, i just saved you pretty. >> bullet is true, she's ended the last 18 books that done and is incredibly and she was a reporter for the post and staff writer for the new york. she is tough any type of page, 250 words baby and you give it to elsa and her edits will be 350 words. [laughter] is disheartening but then she is right. [laughter] and it so you want to learn about and i would also say that the editor of the coast and watergate can and a friend in somebody who was a great newspaper editorial.
>> more than 84 years for five years, when you're in the navy was or somebody that you looked up to as a military hero of world war two generation for the korean war generation and you know when you're setting military history. >> this was during vietnam and it was at the end not the age of heroes as we know. so there is not a military person such printed and obviously one who became most famous secretary of state what he did with the marshall plan and so forth. but no, i remember interviewing atkinson when i was in the navy and was taken graduate courses that george washington to kind of give me something to keep my mind active. he was tough, he was really
tough. i wrote him, wrote a biography on him and wanted to call an intimidating scene and seniority. [laughter] yes he was kind of which you could call the hard . t-mac kenny was kind of opening and the graduate student and he was in his law firm and you know, i am not sure and this again is one of the lessons for the graduate student coming in and talking to somebody, didn't know enough and i read his autobiography which was very strong on a pulitzer prize.
present at the creation that is a very humble thing. [laughter] >> so man turntable, what you're looking on and why. one thing and just on atkinson's, his favorite quote that he uses like his motto that it was my kids would say but complaints aboard a nuisance to all and undermines the serenity essential for endurance. every time about to complain about something nothing of initiatives wallet that comes into my mind when writing a book right now called senate spring revolution, john f. kennedy and rachel carson and lyndon johnson when environmental awakening, a
history of the 60s and early 70s which he called the war on 60s from then until 74 safe and in my book is a figure because as a reporter is on to the ddt sprain on problem because, violent, they would spray gp, and counting the work people started sewing the sister of doctor benjamin spock of the pediatrician is it with others and get i am an organic farmer you are spraying ddt over my car that i have have a right to be an organic armor and you get spray that stuff and the supreme court justice factor but lo and behold rachel carson's book came out in 1962 about carol was the
first person of met with rachel carson at the hotel and wrote this incredible investigating series about rachel carson's book and it coincided almost exactly to carol stories were coming out in the new yorker do next or person and john f. kennedy dinner press conference and said are looking at carson's research and kennedy created a counsel and found out that indeed a lot of these insecticides and pesticides are developed in multiplied during world war ii were certainly dispersion she was connecting it to humans. ♪ thank you for that. [applause] >> was a catalyst for this
environmental awakening. >> i think rachel carson, carson's big but before that from 1945 - 1962, her book insight nuclear testing movement grew in the united states and there was internet or john hershey wrote his book were you talking about people skin, nothing in the horrors of it remember his own image john f. kennedy the big hero in an essay. he became an older, kennedy was against - and douglas was against it and norman was against it had a name that nobody talks about anymore, we went to nobel prizes, albert schweitzer from africa he won to a started denouncing nuclear testing using the willy-nilly
and the chemicals and of course you know what's interesting is for historians and journalists is that you said that he made jfk the pt 109 hero. now kennedy if he were here, i actually do that myself. [laughter] honey say that article came out, joe kennedy bought it and then told in strong-armed the readers digest to be in an addition that already ran in the new yorker and they made booklets then lick us a lot of money where he went and out to hershey 20 ran in 1952. >> this was the journalistic problem and historical problem of the tree falling in the forest and nobody hears that until somebody comes along and says see, look at this, and this
is what makes that last really great and i always say, somebody came from mars and he spent a year in the united states and they went back they said okay who has the best job in the united states, they reject journalists. because we do, i mean think of this, we get to make momentary interviews into the people's lives rather interesting in the we get the heck out when they cease to be interesting. >> we have it made his presidential historians because once a politician decide to hate reporters, you're a historian, we will talk to you predict will capitalize on that enough when you look at the polling in america, you probably have an 8d then a journalism will be much lower.
[laughter] >> i sabi a former president clinton talking about obama and how much she loved him and how great he was and is genuine it any means it from the back of his dear active mind is geo glad it was not around during the monica lewinsky thing. [laughter] >> let me ask you a couple of questions but i cannot do all of this, while we mentioned bill clinton, the stones out now, we are far enough away from his presidency, we did have a balance rate years as her class and nato expansion and in the '90s from today's perspective like an even better, we have two
things during the clinton years. we had peace and prosperity and i wrote a book about him which is one of the first books and had a lot of screaming and chatting in chaos which was true but again you have to even as a journalist look back on it and say, what he did for the economy, his economic plan was joe biden unfulfilled dream. and that gets we are going to cut the spending but we are going to increase revenue within or we are going to put ourselves on the road to balancing the budget. it actually makes sense pretty and of course the problem always with clinton was getting there d there was a lot of uncertainty
and a lot of doubt but you look in retrospect, at least i do at the outcome and not so bad. >> what about richard nixon's legacy. [laughter] is there anything you look back on now and extended and realize that for anything positive pretty. >> will certainly, but you cannot you know, you cannot have been passenger on this titanic is a will you know, the table tennis was really great. [laughter] >> and nixon is revealed in his tapes, is not only the criminality but a mean in this again and s.w.a.t. is fascinating about nixon, that
the most potent evaluation of of nixon was by nixon in his farewl address. on the day that he resigned in august 1974, he is up there talking and his wife is there and his daughter, two daughters and son-in-law's and everyone is in the east room in the audience and is going along in any kind of like what this is why call you here and he says, always remember others may hate you but those who hate you, don't when unless you hate them and then you destroy yourself and then think of the wisdom not just for politicians, the hating destroys you.
and you look at and listen to his tapes. and if hate was a piston that drove him, and he never let go of that hate. nixon's gift to history thank you so that lesson of you know the hardest thing to do is to cricket packages, say, you know, and he was an active hater and so is there something positive there, sure, environment. what he did with china and so forth but you cannot have that added to in fact politics and culture the way did and feel good about it.
>> one more question because we could do them all but then i will turn over to president trump which is another story but i just think that george herbert walker bush, when he died the country generally more him as a one term president committed to see bush in the light during your time of covering him. >> it would never let me talk to him and because he did not like me. [laughter] >> he did not like what i did and he was chairman of the republican national committee during watergate anyone around the country, nixon is innocent and absolutely and when the truth came out, it was really those are duty being republican national committee at that time
but also, when i was doing one of my books, i really want to talk to you and hero be a very angry letter about he said you in the didn't have much of a relationship, we had actually no relationship rated and you know, you are part of the press in i see all of these thank you's in the articles that you know, i claim that didn't say and so forth and i thought, and he never made will you need to make peace with people you disagreed with and he was just not able to do that read and i think it or s reputation in as perhaps a human being, and strong as a president, not as strong as it
could've been read and he would've just got over, again in this what we have seen now, the coverage of trump and so many people in my district are just o angry at him and you know, everything three books about trump and out of the last three or 45 is years of my levees fielded on the angry about you want to understand his hand in anger is really interrupts the ability to find out what happened and so - >> you been able to interview donald trump and are you surprised that he was willing to do that is a part of his persona. >> well it's a long and complicated for the second book rage, i did it ten hours of interviews with him and, i mean,
he would, what you call them and he had his number and this was for a month or so call and you know, on a set date and elsa would answer the phone and he would say, is bought there and she would say, the first time she said may i say or ask who is calling. [laughter] and he said, donald trump and you know, he was that way and you know at the end i told them not going to like the book at all and he said, maybe i'll get you in the next book. [laughter] which he did not. [laughter] but you know i've always we like to talk to him. >> that's a good segue from your bob and i'm sorry i can't pass this around to the audience but
is september 23rd, 2021, so this is very recent document and it said to mr. brandon and sustain you for him telling you to produce documents that you know, on and on and on and it's in the news right now and i noticed in the footnote, the bottom that i had bob woodward and robert caro so now your book parallels is part of history on dealing with the subpoenas going on now and trying to get documents out on mr. bannon which is probably back story to that. tell me read. >> we worked in the book and we got lots of new information about this and i don't want to dependent be labor this but it is the catalyst for the whole
subpoena the whole mr. bannon holding in contempt and so forth and we found out that he did kinds of things with trump, a week before january 6, the instruction and in conversations with trump and he said you know you have to return to washington it very dramatically and you've got a call pence off the ski slopes and it's a crisis, january 6 is going to be a moment of reckoning. and then he said we will cast a shadow on the biden presidency and were going to strangle it in the crib. i mean,, that is not nice. [laughter] and i to people who work legal
experts and ran the criminal division it in the justice department and there was a cold case to investigate and perhaps prosecute mr. bannon and trump and was call u.s. code 18, and section 371 work it is against the law to conspire and to conspire against the federal government and its legitimate activities and the idea that people are working, i mean, this is astonishing and we were going to end the end when you look at this steve bannon interim, they knew they could not get his certification for donald trump but what they wanted to do is
strangle the biden presidency and you know, that's against the law. because there is a process and get into the weeds here, and donald trump and steve bannon's efforts to get pants to not do with the constitution and the 12 amendment requires to stand up there and take a certificate from 50 states. and in the end of pence did but that was a wobbly course to get there pretty so this can be an interesting issue for the justice department because politically, i'm sure that biden would be seen going after the former president but if there was ever an obstruction of the
process in government, this is it ready. >> and everybody must read this and it really takes us over out today and so many ways but are you continuing to follow the narrative thread are you taking a break or is bob woodward always in motion. >> would you ask elsa that question i mean, yes and no i mean, the whole question of an this is for you, what is the trump residency going to be known for in history and we need the evidence and the testimony of the steve bannon's in these other lawyers that we talked about and we talked about the meeting the day before the hotel
in washington and all the republican say that we have to stop certification of biden when and we looked that there is no evidence that this was a stolen election in fact, the people investigated senators lindsey graham and another in utah, big trump supporters and they came up and discovered that all of these claims are false. and that one of the lawyers for trump actually wrote a blueprint for a coup which we have the book and this is so where does the sand. and history was going to be over
right in the opportunity to find out more and to define this pretty. >> were you surprised doing research in peril with that bull always president trump still has a much you know, fuel and mistake me when you watch january 6, 1 would of thought that was the end of donald trump and he seemed to have been beyond of being alive and well, he is really, the heart and soul the republican party. >> ses and tens of millions of people believe the election was stolen. and we are looking and we looked without documentation and we show that you know, there is nothing fair. so here we are, and it's a big
not just journalistic historical problem, i think that is a moral problem to the country and that the people do not listen to the other side. the great british novelist said do not despise your enemies or the people on the other side, the case that got to understand that case. >> where are you in january 6, what was your take in the circumstances, we're consuming it on television it. for watching a blow-by-blow pretty. >> let's see, we were working hard the book pretty and so that was where my head was buried. >> you are embedded with the washington posted not really
pretty. >> i really, we were off, we had the luxury of time working on this and robert caro is the best young reporter i've ever encountered he does eight hour interviews and how often do you do eight hour interviews, never. >> and robert caro will spend hours and hours looking at things and it was a good lesson for me, just to spend time. >> and one an honor for him to collaborate with you at this point. >> listen, i learned how much out of touch i was with what was going on the republican in the democratic party and on the hill and so, lesson for me. >> messes we have talked about
bob costa, when were great journalistic fits in the questions here in addition, are there any contemporary journalist that you think that are doing exceptional work with the understanding was american you didn't name a bunch of people was or someone else that really keep an eye on and a miniature the bulk of the simple way that's a reporter that is going somewhere predict. >> it is a good question ed i have a bond of respect for the daily reporters in the washington post in the newspaper in the wall street journal, new york times and cnn really digs into stories. dig into that we did in a can't single out but i did single out because in 2016, and he said you
know, there's this guy donald trump running for president and were not taking him seriously enough. and in his fine and so, we went and interviewed trump for 90 minutes record asking for the news of the day question. talk to him about the presidency and have two titles and of that interview and we said what was real power and he said, real power, and then real power is fear. the second one, outraging in people. and he was proud of that and so,
it was rage. >> one was to help this other question, are you and bernstein, are you trying hips and history of personal friends. >> is we are and we talk all of the time in a red his memoir and it is coming out chasing history about his time at the evening star and how, it is a great book about self-education and a reporter we just talked the other day about it. and what is going on pretty. >> is 100) it would you do a memoir, would you consider with him doing the bob woodward story pretty.
>> the only possible interesting things armymy sources unless they are deceased. >> keep it on your old-fashioned rolodex or online. >> had a mix well you know, there are signals, the historian is the secure. [inaudible]. >> they e-mail. and it then there is the vpn or internet security and nothing is secure. >> if you felt in recent years, have you felt threatened when you do a book like this pretty
find ways to protect you and you don't hear about somebody's after bob woodward top of think predict. >> it is very interesting pretty but you know sometimes, hateful things, i don't think that peopk at me because you know i spent a lot of time with trump interviewing him and you know, this was just last year. i spent all the time so i don't think though he doesn't like the books, but, i mean, here's the problem, and the problem with lyndon johnson come you never get in his at all you can do is ascribe behavior and he can lay out all of the facts and with
trump, what is he think. does he think. [laughter] must seriously. fred says, we define ourselves by our impulses. and i think that is absolutely true. i asked him what books he reads a senator read books nicety must read a book when you were younger and he said no a disk with my god. got pretty. >> and on the television and you know bragging about not reading books and most people exaggerate with reading these bragging that i don't read, that is for losers braided, i mean, think of that,
should that not be disqualifying or at least disqualifying for somebody speaking or seeking the presidency. i've often thought people with who would want to run presidency should go to president school pretty. >> i like this idea. or recent military service or at least good workout some of the kinks the leadership in the skills and the army or navy and stuff there anymore. >> list to a brief on what recommendations do you have for everyday citizens are audience to avoid misinformation. >> oh wow, staff twitter.
[laughter] though there are some good things on twitter. it is really hard but look, i'm prejudiced but if you read the washington post online in the wall street journal the new york times follow the networks and you listen to cnn and fox and when i exercise, listen to fox because you need to know what is going on pretty you can always get an idea of what is going on and serious interpretation. >> you're saying things before i can even ask the question, this about the 24 hour news cycle, is there a problem with 24 hour news and is that causing public
mistrust read i say the impatience in the speed, you can defeat it and what we tried to do in this book is somewhere between journalism and you know history and you have to get it fast and you have to do it in authoritative way and people who subpoena steve bannon, and people with trump they know that when we put something in the book, we have a solid basis for it. it is from participants or witnesses or documents or notes and so they can use it and
people can look at the bottom line is that the book ends with this peril remains, the democracy is on trial here. people better take it seriously and thank you for your books in your public. being a public intellectual which you are on farms like this helps us because you're always, you must become the most trusted person in america. mr. that you're the most trusted like cronkite we are almost an institution in yourself, we are counting on bob woodward and costa and you know, delivering goods a year from now what is going on, is a pressure. people need you. >> you're just talking about longevity, stay around for 50 years of mac and don't get hit
by a bus and you're still in the game. but you need to think about what you are doing and thinking about and we talked a little bit about this the other day, what happens in journalism, is while some people don't pick hard - and second watergate, remember say nixon probably did but you'll never find out pretty he can't went up who goes on in the supreme court and you can't find out who goes on in the cia and you can't what you can't and will but between journalism and the final industry. >> for winding down to the last couple of questions, and we
mentioned a steve bannon and here's a buddy who was no, do you feel that investigation it is on stage, that was an abuse of power. >> he was one of the trump people. i don't know enough about it. all russia investigation and off the rails little bit and that is why did not see the mueller report which was kind of a bust and a lot of focus on. >> twenty ability and answered questions of the obama administration. >> well i did two books on him and one on afghanistan and one
negotiations the budgets. i critiqued which is in the second obama book which he did not like at all is obama did not find a way to work this and presidents need to find a way to work that well and lyndon johnson as the prime, he got away to work his way and i think that it supported that the president is elected, do certain thanks. and we now see biden, where is that going and as he fell of his experience, and so forth, said a hindrance or been something that is benefited him because he's not found a way to work his will
and presidents need to know, i've been elected for reasons and let's work those reasons. >> this is been a tremendous talk bob. [applause] [applause] >> thank you so much. >> thank you doug and for those of you who don't me, vice president for the public programs, and we thank you all so much for joining us on zoom in person and this was very special and thank you so much