BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Jack Germond co-author of the new book, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars" an account of the 1988 Presidential Campaign. Who in your opinion were the most capable and brightest stars of that campaign?
JACK GERMOND, Co-AUTHOR, "WHOSE BROAD STRIPES AND BRIGHT STARS": As candidates?
LAMB: Either one. Either consultants or workers in the campaign.
GERMOND: Well,, I mean the consultants, I think the prize has to go to Roger Ailes because it was his strategy or his execution of the Bush strategy that won the election. I thought all the candidates on both sides made some -- you know showed serious flaws with a couple of exceptions. Jack Kemp never got out of the box but I thought he was running a pretty good campaign. Unfortunately they were already -- Dole and Bush ahead of him and they neither the public nor the press can handle more than two candidates and chew gum at the same time you know.
LAMB: Jules Witcover, can you add to that list?
JULES WITCOVER, Co-AUTHOR, "WHOSE BROAD STRIPES AND BRIGHT STARS": No, I would agree with Jack that Rogers Ailes is probably the star. Because winning doesn't hurt. It's easy to make that appraisal, but the kind of campaign that he put together did really set the agenda and obliged Dukakis to be on the defensive all during his full campaign. That was critical. As far as the candidates, I don't think George Bush ran a particularly good campaign other than in terms of his own his own campaigns under his own direction. I think he was he got good direction and he followed it but I don't think he did himself any good with the kind of campaign that he ran.
LAMB: What's behind title on this book? Name?
WITCOVER: I hope it's obvious but it may not be. We concluded that that this campaign really disintegrated into a tug of war over the flag. That is each candidate tried to out patriotism the other one. Bush particularly challenged Dukakis' patriotism over that whole issue of the pledge of allegiance. The Massachusetts law that would have required teachers to lead students in the pledge of allegiance -- when Dukakis, on the advice of a judicial panel vetoed the bill, Bush seized that as a kind of innuendo that he lacked patriotism. And Dukakis failed to realize that this was a kind of emotional issue that people cared about and didn't sort out the fine print. And as a result he never really responded to it. He kind of just shrugged it off, didn't think it was an important issue and it was part of his undoing.
LAMB: Jack how come "The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988" is a subtitle?
GERMOND: Well, that really says what we think about the campaign. We both covered presidential politics since 1960 and we've never covered a campaign that quite as mindless as this one was mindless. Here you had a fight -- here you had a campaign that was turning on such things as the pledge of allegiance issue, Willy Horton and the furlough question, death penalty. None of these issues that have anything to do with the presidency or what you expect a President to do once he's in office. And we thought it was a you know a bad campaign in that sense.
LAMB: There is in the introduction Jules Witcover a reference to a Paul Witcover who helped with the title of this book. Who's Paul Witcover?
WITCOVER: That's my son.
LAMB: And what role did he play in this?
WITCOVER: Well, we were trying to think about the title and first we went through -- word by word -- the pledge of allegiance and nothing there struck us so then we started on the Star Spangled Banner and this just jumped out at us.
LAMB: Also in the introduction you talk about which of the former candidates -- current President and Vice-President -- talked to you after the campaign was over. Tell us about that.
GERMOND: Well,, this was the fourth of these books that Jules has done and the third that we've done together. And we've never had trouble with Presidential candidates or Vice Presidential candidates before. President Bush agreed only to answer written questions and at the same time he was being interviewed by everybody from Field and Stream to Lord knows who. And Vice President Quayle wouldn't be interviewed at all which we found sort of discouraging and kind of counter productive because Ronald Reagan, after both the '80 and the '84 books, gave us interviews long interviews in the Oval Office -- an hour and a half on one occasion and over an hour on the other. And we quoted him at great length in the books even though the books were critical of him. The same would have been true of Quayle if he had talked to us.
LAMB: At what point in the process did you submit the written questions to President Bush?
WITCOVER: After requesting a personal interview as we had with everybody else. He did incidently talk to us on our books in 1980 and '84 when he was the Vice Presidential candidate. And only after -- and as a matter of fact we saw him personally when he was President Elect and he agreed verbally to do it and then we got the message that he was just backed up with too many important things such as having barbecues with some our journalistic colleagues in the backyard. But we thought for a while whether it was a good idea to take written answers because part of part of the technique that we've used in this and the other books is going to people directly and interrogating them at some length about what happened. And there's of course a great advantage to being able to follow up questions and pursue a line inquiry in person. Whereas when you get a written answer it's that's that and that's all there is to it. By the same token those written answers were kind of frozen and they were in our hands then and we were able to make some use of them as anybody who reads the book will see.
LAMB: Jack I -- tell me if I'm wrong, but the first indication we knew -- general public -- that this book was coming out was a Sunday story in the Washington Post that talked about the Vice President and quoted three of his previous aides with some strong stuff. How did that hit the press early?
GERMOND: It was one of those freak things that the books weren't even in the stores of course. The publisher mailed out bound galleys to 10 or 12 people trying to get blurbs for the jacket as publishers always do and one of them was sent to the Washington Post to David Broder and David was in London and Anne Devereaux a reporter there read the bound galleys and saw that there was a story in what was said about Quayle and she wrote the story and there was no reason not to. We would have rather had the story when the books were already in the store for the obvious reasons but a story is a story.
LAMB: Did you expect that to be the news how this book --
GERMOND: We thought it might be. You know there are a whole series of small things in the book that might have made news stories and that's one of them. But we didn't think it was going to cause us as much of a flap and the reason it did obviously is that the President himself got involved in it flying back from England -- from Europe, pardon me -- and he was asked about it on Air Force 1 and we were hoping he would sort of burn the book on the White House steps or something for us but he didn't do that.
WITCOVER: Well, you know it got the attention it got also because there remains a lot of public concern about Quayle. An uncertainty about whether he's qualified to take over and all these remarks that we quoted in the book from his Republican handlers fed that concern.
LAMB: I just see one here. This is from -- Joe Canzari observes: "You take a guy out of the Golden Gloves and you throw him in the ring with Joe Louis. He took a few big hits. They weren't knock out punches but they were close to it. Then we had to take him back and do the road work and teach him how to box." Were these people who were critical of him did they surprise you? Were you surprised they were as strong as they were?
GERMOND: Well, mildly. But you have to realize that these are also people that -- I mean I've know Joe Canzari for 30 years and Stuart Spencer and Jim Lake and all the people that we talked to about this are people that we've known for many years and dealt with for many years and count on to be relatively straight forward and honest about what they think about you know and their accounting of what happened.
WITCOVER: Also, you know, they weren't people who were dyed in the wool Quayle groupies or anything like that. They were not people whose careers were created by Dan Quayle and whose progress in politics depended on Dan Quayle. They were well established professionals in the party long before Dan Quayle ever thought I think of being in politics. And so they looked upon him as a product that was handed to them to deal with and to get through the campaign. And they didn't have any kind of real personal tie and they were frankly somewhat aghast when he was named and when they first met him and realized how much "handling" was probably going to be required.
When one of the stories we have in the book is that Stuart Spencer and Joe Canzari are in a hotel room in New Orleans watching the arrival of George Bush and his greeting by Dan Quayle in New Orleans right after the announcement was made that Quayle would be the Vice Presidential nominee. Now if you recall that scene, Bush got off the boat and Quayle went over and threw his arms around him. And Spencer and Canzari watching this in the hotel room -- Spencer turned to Canzari and said, "Well,, we've got to fix that." They realized that they had somebody who was moving up into the big leagues and wasn't ready for it.
LAMB: Do you remember seeing that?
LAMB: Did you have the same reaction with it yourself?
GERMOND: Oh yeah, because I'll tell you what it reminded us of. It reminded us of what these Hollywood types do when they get around politicians. It's always sort of off-putting and sort of foreign to politics. Remember Sammy Davis and
WITCOVER: Did we ever mention that in the book about how Sammy Davis threw his arms around Nixon at the -- it was the '72 Convention.
GERMOND: Yeah. But the point was that -- I mean Quayle -- any politician who's suddenly thrown into the Presidential Campaign as a Vice Presidential, Presidential nominee whatever suffers a certain amount of shock, culture shock. All of a sudden you've got hundreds of people baying at you and microphones in your face and every move being watched and every sentence being parsed. And it takes a level of sophistication and discipline particularly discipline to deal with that. And what they were saying essentially, the handlers, is that Quayle didn't have either the experience or the sophistication or the discipline at that point and they had to try to impose it so he wouldn't make mistakes that get him in trouble.
LAMB: Come back and talk some more possibly about Vice President Quayle. In the introduction of your book you lead off among other thing talking about the process was so intimate and relatively obscure to the public in fact that when author Theodore S. White produced his classic account of that campaign "The Making of the President 1960" it became an instant and overwhelming best seller. Excuse me for taking this time but I want to set the stage here. "The 1960 campaign, on one level, had taken place in full view but not until after White, in his dramatic fashion, told what it was like inside the Kennedy operation did American journalism really begin to lift the flap and peer into the ten of Presidential elections and Presidential candidates." Is it not true that a lot of people think you picked up this mantel that Theodore White let down, put down a number of years ago and chronicling these campaigns after the fact.
WITCOVER: Well,, I don't know. I mean, it's true that any political writer owes a debt of gratitude to Teddy White for showing how you do this. On the other hand I think his approach was a lot more I would say panoramic than what we'd what we attempt to do. He is -- he was a great setter of scenes and talking about big ebbs and flows in American society. I think we're a little more dirty fingernail reporters who talk more about the hard knuckle politics and what actually happens in the trenches.
GERMOND: In a sense though Brian it's similar in that we try to provide a in this book a comprehensive view of everything that happened on that campaign starting sort of with the last campaign. And the other difference which -- I think that there is another difference between us and Teddy and that is that there is more of a point of view in our books and in this book particularly. I mean, we thought this was a pretty disgusting exercise and say so as a dismaying exercise. And I don't think that Teddy ever really took that view.
WITCOVER: Teddy always had a kind of romance with American politics and with politicians. He love them. He elevated them by the kind of bigger than life writing that he did. He always made everything sound like it was majestic. We didn't find this campaign very majestic and said so.
LAMB: How did you both go about writing this thing?
GERMOND: Well,, this is the third one we've done together so we sit down and we outline the book.
LAMB: At what point?
GERMOND: Right after the election. I mean within a day or two. We've thought about it but we haven't done any of this until after the election. And then we decide which chapters -- within this chapter who has done more reporting on that during the course of the campaign on -- Jules or myself. And whoever's had the most familiarity with this -- for example Jules was the leader -- we both were in Iowa but he was responsible for Iowa more than I was. I was responsible more for New Hampshire.
WITCOVER: In terms of writing our column.
GERMOND: In terms of writing our column. So I wrote the New Hampshire chapters and he wrote the Iowa chapters of the book on both parties. Then we have two computers that are the same. We write on disks and we exchange disks and go through each others copy and add things, subtract things, carp and complain. I put his copy into English. Things like that.
WITCOVER: One chapter was kind of split because of the responsibilities we had in two different states in our column, so in that particular chapter we just split it up.
LAMB: When do you write by the way? Three times a week or five times a week in your column?
LAMB: Five columns a week. How do you split that up? The responsibility?
GERMOND: Whoever has the most timely column that day. This week for example Jules has written four and I've written one. Next week perhaps I'll write four. There's no --
WITCOVER: We don't keep score. We haven't got any idea who has written how many columns or when. It's just a matter -- and we talk it out a lot. We talk about ideas but almost always one person will write the column. It's just easier that way. Particularly when we're writing all the time. Occasionally if we interview the President, which we haven't done with this President and probably won't, we might get together and actually write the column together. But we do that very rarely.
LAMB: Do you think the President may not have talked to either one of you because of you take a rather visible point of view on, say, for instance on the McLaughlin Show and in your column?
GERMOND: No this goes a lot further back than that. When George Bush was running for President the first time in 1980, early in 1979 he had been out there for several months and finally in May of '79 he announced that he was an official candidate. Well,, his campaign had not been going well. And the Washington Star was alive then. And we wrote a column -- which is to say I wrote a column -- with a lead on it saying that George Bush was opening his campaign at a time when many people thought it already peaked. And he has not forgotten that.
LAMB: Is he the kind of a person that doesn't forget things like this?
GERMOND: They're all like that.
WITCOVER: But you know that day he did announce his campaign and I went out with him and of course he assumed that because I was the one of us out with him that I had written the column. So I've been the bad cop. I wouldn't say Jack's been the good cop.
LAMB: Let me go over a couple of housekeeping matters before we continue. Up front you have here a dedication and Mark will get a shot of this. I can't read it backwards so Jack, I don't know whether you can see it either.
GERMOND: It says: "For Tom Utined, greatly missed on the campaign trail by his friends and by the proprietors of countless Italian restaurants."
LAMB: Who is Tom Utined?
GERMOND: Tom Utined is a dear friend of ours who was a political reporter for the St. Louis Dispatch, recently retired, who did not cover this campaign, with whom we covered many campaigns. And although he's quite a small slight figure of a man he eats more pasta than anybody alive. He eats twice as much pasta and weighs half as much as I do.
LAMB: In the past who have you dedicated your books to?
WITCOVER: Well, the last book we dedicated it to another politician Ed Campbell who was at one time the Iowa Democratic Chairman. A very very good friend of ours who had an extremely serious bout with cancer. Fortunately emerged in very good shape as he is today.
LAMB: And his wife -- is that Bonnie Campbell?
WITCOVER: His wife is the state Chairman in Iowa now.
GERMOND: He was the Chairman years ago.
LAMB: Another thing here is on the next flap in the book you say you quote H.L. Mencken as saying "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep populous alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins all of them imaginary." Why did you use this?
GERMOND: Because -- well, actually, "An endless series of hobgoblins" could have been the title of the book. I mean, just by chance I came across that Mencken quote and I called it to Jules attention that this is absolutely perfect because that's what this campaign was about you know. Trying to alarm the populous with this endless series of hobgoblins. It was perfect.
LAMB: You also write in the introduction, "Any reasonable analysis of how American society changed in those 28 years" -- this is the 28 years you've all been writing about this -- "would suggest that higher voter participation should have been expected." And that's from the Kennedy election to now. It's gone from 62% to down below 50%. Do you have any idea why?
WITCOVER: Well, I think -- we think it's pretty obvious that people are turned off by the nature of the campaigns. That they become more and more negative every four years and the whole political community is held in such low regard by people they don't feel it makes that much of a difference and so they just walk away.
GERMOND: There's an interesting conflict here. Because of television campaigns reach more people than they ever did. Certainly more than 1960. Because of television campaigns involve far fewer people than they ever did. I mean what we have now is we have the decisions made by a Roger Ailes and a few people like him who are making decisions that were made -- in which in which dozens, hundreds of people might have been involved in another campaign and then thousands of people might have been involved in campaign work for which now days there is no funding because the money all goes on television.
LAMB: Did you have as much fun with this book as you normally do over the years writing about politics or do you find yourself getting burned out on this because of the atmosphere?
WITCOVER: Well,, I think the time pressure in writing a book like this which we did in about four months after the election takes a lot of the fun out of it. But in terms of a story to tell, this was a very rich story. There were a lot of very interesting subplots. Gary Hart's demise. Joe Biden's demise. And what's happened to most of the candidates. It was a pretty lively interesting campaign. We would have liked it to be closer in terms of telling the story. But it was a grabber I thought.
GERMOND: Yeah -- the '84 campaign -- there was never even an ounce of suspense in that story and it didn't stop us from writing 220,000 words about it. But it was a very difficult story to tell compared to -- because there was something happened here and a lot of things happened in this campaign.
LAMB: As books go this -- how is this book positioned? It's Warner Books. It's $22.95. Is it important in both of your lives from the financial standpoint or is this something you do just a course of you're driven more by the history of it than by
WITCOVER: Well, you don't -- these kinds of books, you don't get rich on them. I think that what it does for us is that we are working in the political vineyards. It gives us a certain entree to people around the country. I mean in writing the column. In off years we travel a lot. We go to State Houses. We like to talk to the Governors and political peoples. State Chairman and so on. And hopefully this book becomes kind of a must for people who are involved in politics. So it does keep the doors open for us.
GERMOND: May I say something about that if I could Brian. Here's another thing. I would never -- Jules had written many books before we became partners and we've written three together now. I never on my own would have written a book about a campaign. I do find it worth doing for another reason. Since we're covering Presidential politics and electoral politics which is really all we do it give you the confidence when you finish the book that you know more about that campaign than any other journalist out there. And it tells you some things that you can write about with some assurance later on and it helps -- it improves the quality of your column and your reporting for the next cycle.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier that you used to be published in the Washington Star. Now in order to see you we've got to go to Baltimore around here. Does that impact your reporting?
GERMOND: Well,, to some degree but you know we've been around so long we know so many people it's not as much of a problem as it might be. We had many years before we were in Washington outlets too. Jules was with the Washington Post before he came with me to the Star. Before I was at the Star I worked for Ganett for many years. Jules worked for Newhouse and the L.A. Times. This is not a new experience for us not having a Washington audience.
LAMB: When did you two first get together?
WITCOVER: I think it was at birth. No, it just seems that way. But actually Jack and I were friendly competitors covering politics back in the late '60's when he worked for Ganett and I worked for Newhouse. Two then fairly obscure chains. We were not directly competitive so we traveled together a lot and fantasized about someday doing a column together.
LAMB: You open up this book and one of the first chapters -- it may be -- it is the first chapter with a killer question. In fact I remember reading in there where you called a shocking question by Bernard Shaw of CNN. Tell us why you call it a killer question and a shocking question?
GERMOND: Well,, it was a killer question because it really destroyed Dukakis or his handling of it destroyed him. And it was shocking because we're not used to people in this situation talking about the rape and murder of your wife personalizing something that way. And as we point out in the chapter -- the three reporters on the panel with him all in advance of the event tried to talk him out of asking the question that way. In fact, the question gave Dukakis a terrific opportunity which he did not seize. He might have converted that question to a big advantage by if he'd answered it with a little show of emotion and pizazz.
LAMB: You go back also and quote Roger Ailes after the fact as saying that "The question was not very tastefully presented and therefore bordered on the unfair. Bernie obviously wanted Dukakis to win. I think Bernie thought he was serving up a softball."
WITCOVER: Bernie flatly denies that and I believe him because as he described the process in his own mind of putting that question together as well as the question that he asked George Bush -- I think what he had in mind essentially was to draw each of them out and find -- and try to produce some kind of response that would tell the viewers about the man. And I think he certainly succeeded with that question with Dukakis.
LAMB: Do you feel the same way?
GERMOND: Yeah. Dukakis is a very cerebral politician. He doesn't like to use emotion in politics. He doesn't like to play to it. He's emotional sometime on some occasions. He is particularly with Greek audiences with Spanish audiences. When speaking Spanish he gets caught up in their enthusiasms. But he likes this sort of on a relatively cerebral level. And he did this with this question. And it came across as very cold. He's not a cold man but it seemed that way. He had a great opportunity if he had reacted with anger and said, "Of course like any red blooded American man I'd want to kill him myself, you know, but that's not the way you set public policy and so forth." He could have turned the thing around. He didn't do it.
LAMB: Did he talk to you for this book?
GERMOND: He talked to us after the campaign. Yes.
LAMB: How much time did you spend with him?
GERMOND: Hour. Something like that.
LAMB: Was it worth it?
GERMOND: Yes. I mean he didn't want to go back and pick every nit all the way through. But we talk to them all through the campaign for two years frequently so it wasn't as well as interviewing them after the campaign so it wasn't a problem of knowing what he thought at particular times because we'd recorded it. And we both have known him for 15 years or so yeah.
LAMB: Why do you think he has been so low key since the campaign, really doesn't talk to very many people at all. Only has given a couple of speeches that we know of?
WITCOVER: Well, I think obviously he was struck by his defeat and the way he was perceived. I mean he took a hammering not only as s loser but as a guy who wouldn't fight back and who made a lot of mistakes, ran a dumb campaign. And then he went back to Boston and ran into a buzz saw with the financial problems in his own state. And then he had problems with his -- in his -- family problems that also set him back. And so it was not a good year for him. And obviously he was down somewhat. But I had about 40 minutes out in Chicago at the Governor's conference a few weeks ago and he was still kind of down but but he's a gritty guy and he was throwing himself into the job before him which was to try to put the state back on a sound financial basis.
LAMB: Did either on of you ever think he could have won?
GERMOND: Oh sure.
LAMB: At what point?
GERMOND: Well, until the Republican convention I thought he was going to win because Bush's negatives were so high and Dukakis was doing so well up until -- there were storm clouds there. I still think he could have won -- it wasn't likely but he could have won as late as that first question of the second debate. They were at this point 7, 8 points apart in popular vote. I mean there was a landslide in the end. 40 states or whatever for Bush but the popular vote was like 53.6 to whatever 46.4 that is not a landslide in popular vote. There were enough reservations about Bush that were very clear to everyone all along which was not a man people wanted to walk through a wall for. And I think -- but Dukakis ran a very ineffectual campaign. One of the reasons, and I don't want to beat this horse to death, but one of the reasons everybody in Massachusetts came down so hard on him and in the Democratic party afterwards is they really blame somebody who loses an election that they could have won. I mean, earlier they were mad at Mondale for losing '84. I figure we couldn't have won anyway. But they got furious at Jerry Ford on the Republican party then with Jimmy Carter and at Dukakis even more because they thought they had it.
WITCOVER: And I think the Republicans -- by the kind of campaign they ran against him -- indicated that they thought he could win. You've got to remember that Dukakis was 17 percentage points ahead after his own convention and the fact was there -- the Republicans ran a negative campaign against Dukakis because their own guy was not moving. There were very high negatives against George Bush and they tried to raise those negatives. They tried to deal with his own image without too much success and so they finally decided if we're going to win this one we have to knock the other guy down.
LAMB: Let me ask Jack -- you talk about this not being your favorite campaign and pretty disgusted with the whole thing. Is it hard now to make this trip around the country and talk about it?
GERMOND: Well, it's hard when you have time to talk about it. It's hard when you try to capsulize it into a television size sound bite sometimes. But you know we're obviously interested in the subject so it isn't that tough. I mean, the more you sort of think about things the clearer your own thinking becomes I think.
LAMB: You mention in here in you interview with -- or you reflect on your interview with Lee Atwater that he referred to different things -- different events that happened as a defining event. And that seemed to jump right out at me. And one of the things in the chapter that you devote to this is the chapter about the Bush Rather debate. What is a defining event?
WITCOVER: Well, as Atwater describes it and I think it's very accurate -- a defining event is anything that happens in a campaign that focuses the country's attention on what happened to the point where people talk about it when they might not ordinarily talk about anything in politics. For instance, the so-called Rather/Bush debate. It was an event that everybody talked about for days thereafter. And it was also a defining event particularly for George Bush because the reaction was strongly in his favor. Beating up on a on a television anchor man doesn't sound like the best or most convincing way to demonstrate that you're macho, but the fact is that because Bush was was laboring under this wimp image that the aggressive pose he took against Rather was very effective in dealing with that impression. And it was a defining event in that sense that from that point on, Bush labored less under the wimp image than he did before that.
GERMOND: Let me add one thing to that if I could, Brian. Defining events also crystalize things and simplify things. I mean another good defining event was Bob Dole snarling at Tom Brochaw and at Bush about "Stop lying about my record." Because there were these doubts about whether the good Bob Dole was genuine or was the bad Bobby Dole still there. And all of a sudden he comes out of his corner and he's snarling and this brought all that back was a killer.
LAMB: The killer question was a defining event?
GERMOND: Yes. Absolutely. Crystallized every reservation -- crystallized the picture of him as a bloodless as the ice man. Which I don't think is a fair picture at all.
LAMB: Other defining events for other candidates even that you remember come to mind quickly?
WITCOVER: Oh, the Joe Biden business about plagiarism. It was always a feeling that Biden's mouth went faster than any other part of his anatomy and this seemed to confirm that. That he talked without thinking and that --
LAMB: What did he tell you after that when you interviewed him about that event?
WITCOVER: He was very candid about how disjointed his campaign was and how he wasn't ready and that he was getting too much advice from too many people and that they didn't really grasp the significance of of that first use of the Nile Kennick quote. If they had realized what it was and dealt with it more straight forwardly it might have been able to put that fire out. But they didn't and that was a kind of defining event in his campaign.
LAMB: Another defining event?
GERMOND: One of the clearest was Lloyd Benson saying to Dan Quayle "You're no Jack Kennedy." I mean that was -- and the stricken look on Quayle's face. I mean that was a absolute killer.
LAMB: Did you write that Vice President Quayle had rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed that very reference to John Kennedy. Not that specific one but that in the run up to the debate they had talked about that -- and somebody said I remember reading "Don't you dare compare yourself to John Kennedy." Who was that do you remember?
WITCOVER: Well, that's it. Several of them told him not to use it because they feared that what happened would happen.
LAMB: He wanted to, though.
WITCOVER: Well, I don't know whether he wanted to, but he had been using it in his speeches and he was very uptight I though that night and it came out.
GERMOND: Candidates are always doing this. The other classic case of this is in 1980. President Carter's handlers told him in Cleveland, "Don't get into mentioning your daughter." And he gets up and starts talking about Amy and nuclear weapons. And had specifically been warned not to do that. He had brought that up in one of their preparations for the thing and they warned him not to do that. That was a defining event. It was something people laughed about for days.
LAMB: One of the things that seems to be in common -- maybe it's obvious on these defining events is that they all happen on television and you write a lot of things about television. Here you say, "The growing power and assertiveness of the television networks has not been the only important change in the political press over the last few campaigns." Right before that you've written about the power of television. Talk about that a little bit.
GERMOND: Well, television has got to the point that the Evening News programs of the three networks are where the campaign is essentially waged. And as reporters for example -- and that's where most people get their meat and potatoes about the campaign -- and about three or four presidential elections ago we began to realize that if you're going to cover a campaign, one of the things that you had to do if you possibly could was be in your hotel room to watch the network news. What has changed in the last election or two, and particularly this time, is that now there is more cable coverage than there ever was by far. And also perhaps most important is that local television coverage has become so sophisticated because of the availability of satellite -- you know, instant transmission. So that you have if you are covering an Illinois primary, now those local stations out there, they're going to have five stories a night on that primary and you've got to watch those.
WITCOVER: But you know a defining event does not depend on television. In 1968 there was a defining event and that was when -- actually it happened in late 1967 when George Romney on a radio show said that he had been brainwashed in Vietnam. It was not very widely reported at first and it was finally picked up in a story in the New York Times under a single column head inside the paper near the end of the story. It was then picked up by some other writers in print. And that became a defining event. And as Jack said, it crystallized the public attitude that already existed about Romney and became his undoing. That was a defining event. What television does is immediately transmits these defining events so that the impact comes much more quickly.
LAMB: Of course actually maybe the biggest defining event of the whole campaign was a print event. The Miami Herald's Gary Hart thing.
WITCOVER: Certainly an issue.
LAMB: How important was that?
GERMOND: Well, it changed -- I mean Gary Hart was changed after the Democratic Party -- Gary Hart was a clear front runner at that time. Not only that he was a really good candidate. I mean the irony of this is Hart had put it all together. He had decided right after '84 that he was not going to let anyone else define him again. So he knew exactly where he was on everything and how to talk about these issues in an intelligent way that would communicate what he thought about them. He had got past being so self conscious.
I had been with him just shortly before this period in little towns in Alabama and Georgia and he was able to joke around with people in a relaxed way. Make some human contact, because he's quite a withdrawn and shy person that he had not been able to do as a candidate in '84. In other words he was really on top of the world. And to have this story -- I mean to get himself into this trouble was really self destruction in the worst way because he was in a strong position to win
LAMB: Did he talk to you after the campaign was through?
WITCOVER: Yes he did.
LAMB: What did he tell you?
WITCOVER: Well, we started out in interviews deciding whether was it really worth while or wouldn't be very productive to try to go over all the details of the whole womanizing issue. And so we talked for a long time about what is right and what is wrong about politics. But surprisingly to us near the end of the interview he started to talk about what the impact was of of what had happened to him personally and how the press handled it and he was very forthcoming about it.
GERMOND: We've both known Hart since he was George McGovern's campaign manager in 1971-72 and know him quite well. And I don't think that Hart had ever got ever got to the point and this was true when we talked to him after the election where he really understood that he couldn't do those things and get away with it. He understood that there was a different standard involved when you are running for President that you can't do something like that. And he was impatient with the fact that he was not let alone in his private life and he wasn't as angry in terms of railing at the press the way he had been the day he withdrew but he still blamed the press I think. In fact, he thought that when he came back and he reentered the campaign -- and it was a fiasco; he came back for a few weeks late in the year and then the Miami Herald had another story about some financial problems of his -- and he thought that was what destroyed his comeback. Well, the fact is his comeback never had a chance in the world.
LAMB: Well, you quote Joe Trippey who is an aide to Gary Hart as suggesting that he was lying to his wife right after that whole incident became public. Trippey was with Mrs. Hart at Troublesome Gulch and he was calling her and saying there's no truth to all this and of course all of a sudden that went away. Did that surprise you that Trippey would tell you all that?
WITCOVER: Well, I don't think he he put it quite that bluntly that Hart lied to his wife. I think basically he said that that she believed in him implicitly and so I think we really didn't delve into that. I mean I would think -- he would probably still say that a lot of the things that were printed were misunderstood.
LAMB: Do you think they were misunderstood?
WITCOVER: Not on the whole. No I think there may have been some -- I mean one of the problems with the whole Miami Herald story was that there were some holes in it. The surveillance was not air tight and that enabled Hart at the outset and his people to attempt to turn the discussion into a question of of press credibility and fairness and so I mean it may be that some of the details of what happened that weekend were not accurately reported. But the whole incident against the backdrop of innuendo and fact in Gary Hart's personal life made it a defining event.
GERMOND: You know when the question was asked, "Have you committed adultery?" I didn't think that was a legitimate question to ask. Not because of a sensitivity on this subject. You know about being afraid to ask a politician this question. But it seems to me that what was wrong with that question and this is what we're getting at here in talking about the Hart thing is that it didn't matter what the answer was the story was the same. I mean the impression he had conveyed. The judgement he had shown in spending the weekend with Donna Rice was bad enough so he was going to be destroyed by whether or not he had committed adultery. And that's the point. And it was clearly -- you know the mechanics didn't matter so to speak. And that was the thing I don't think he understood.
LAMB: Let me show the audience what we're talking about here in case they are so moved to go out to the book store and spend $22.95. This is the book published by Warner's. Warner Books. Jack Germond and Jules Witcover. Syndicated columnists. "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988." Why Warner Books? Because they pay the most money?
GERMOND: That's about it. They're also very good people. I mean our agent handled this for us and we were very happy, but it get's down to a question of money.
WITCOVER: But also they promise to do a good job on production of the book and on the promotion. And so far they've done that.
LAMB: Was it just happenstance -- but the two photographs you use on the cover of this book happen to come from Time Magazine. Now Time and Warner are together.
GERMOND: I don't know where in the world they came from. They did the jacket.
WITCOVER: If I'd known that I'd be a rich man today.
LAMB: Inside this book -- I'm going to drop it Mark so that I can read it. You continue to write about the press. You talk about polls and I want to ask you about that in a minute. "Polls aside, the press had become more of a participant in the political process because it had changed its rules about what was legitimate news particularly but exclusively in reporting on the private lives of the politicians." The press has changed their rules. Do you agree with the change?
GERMOND: Yeah, I think I do generally. I think I think people are entitled to know a great deal about Presidential candidates. I don't think that applies so much to people who are not in the position of whether national security is involved. But I think this is legitimate reporting. What I don't think -- one of the changes of the rules that I don't agree with and I don't think is is forgivable is the printing of rumors that are unsubstantiated under some guise of saying you're keeping up with the competition or you're just knocking it down. There were stories about both Bush and Dukakis in that cycle that were grossly unfair and never should have seen the light of day. And that's illegitimate.
LAMB: Do you agree with the rules changes?
WITCOVER: Yes. I think sometimes -- well I think first of all it's largely is a result of public distrust of politicians growing out of Watergate and other scandals we had. People want to know about the character of a candidate. I think the Nixon experience made people want to know more about what made candidates tick. And I think that in the quest to find that out the relationship between the press and politicians has changed not all to the good. When Jack and I first started writing about politics the atmosphere was entirely different. There were certain things that you didn't write about candidates personal lives. Frankly because in a lot of cases because you didn't know about it.
I mean, it amuses me now how people all say -- reporters, our colleagues all talk about how much they knew about John Kennedy's personal life. I didn't know about it and nobody told -- nobody who now says he knew about it told me about it then. But in any event there, was a different attitude about -- even if you knew about it would you write about it. There was a certain advantage to having a less adversarial relationship with candidates. Both Jack and I many times in the '60's would be able to go out with a candidate and at the end of the day spend time with him and he with us in a relaxed manner over a drink or two in the back of an airplane where we would talk for a couple of hours about anything and we would come away from that experience having a really good feel for who this person was.
It wouldn't be something we'd run out and write that day, but it was often that was tucked away that helped us later on in a critical part of a campaign to know who this person was and to be in a better position to relate that feeling and that knowledge to the readers. Now in the presence of tape recorders, microphone, television cameras, hand held television cameras candidates just won't relax, just don't feel they can afford to relax.
LAMB: Can both of you remember over your lifetime of reporting politicians who you knew privately that were a lot different than they were publicly?
WITCOVER: Oh sure.
GERMOND: Fritz Mondale came across as a guy who was always wearing a blue suit and a red tie even in the shower you know. And was very buttoned up and dry humorless. In fact, Fritz Mondale is great company. He's a great guy to sit around and have a drink with and smoke a cigar and tell stories and he's got a great sense of humor and very sharp, very acute, and got a little bit of mouse in him. He's grand company but his public -- he was never able to relax in front of the television.
LAMB: Have you got Jules?
WITCOVER: Well, Richard Nixon is a perfect example of that. I mean he was -- well, in a sense Nixon was always he was always ill at ease. But he did as we found out in the Watergate have a tremendous vocabulary that he never used in any of his speeches.
LAMB: Talking about the media the two of you writing in this book say the following, "But the television news business itself had come to see its role and that of its featured performers as larger than life." That was in the chapter on the Rather/Bush debate. Expand on that a little bit. Do you think the television networks -- and you work for one periodically, NBC, when you do the Today Show during the campaigns -- do you think they've gone too far with this personality thing?
GERMOND: I don't know how they avoid it, but they certainly have become a lot less self conscious about their muscle than they used to be. One of the things that's changed and changed in this campaign -- some in '84 and a lot in this campaign is that television the networks used to be more hesitant to make sort of judgements about what news was of unila -- excathederal or unilaterally whatever and that is no longer the case. And they decide -- I mean the best example of this was this terrible thing that ABC did the night before the second debate when they spent -- we detailed it in the book it's 12 or 13 minutes of a broadcast just talking about a poll and survey showing that Dukakis essentially had no chance to win based on phoney -- I shouldn't say phoney, but very misleading polling data in the sense that some of it was way out of date and they drew inferences that were not justified. Now this was ABC was deciding that the same data which they handled in a very responsible way by saying where the data needed to be supplemented and how they had supplemented it and so forth and being honest about what their data was. Different thing entirely. Television has a big -- you know it's the 800 pound gorilla.
WITCOVER: Maybe in a more frivolous and amusing way. We have a letter here in this chapter that you are talking about which CBS producer writes to then Vice President Bush inviting him to be the last person in a series of interviews that they've done with the candidates. And the letter says something like Mr. Rather believes that this interview with you is so important that he has decided to do it himself. And he will even come to Washington at your convenience to do this interview.
LAMB: What's the other side of this? What do politicians do when they get these things. Do they react saying Dan Rather's going to interview me so that's a big deal?
GERMOND: Unfortunately they do. Yes. The politician who's willing to stiff the television network is few and far between. Some of them have more perspective about it than others. But it's their bread and butter they bent so they get bent out shape by it.
LAMB: Do you think the President won in that debate or did Mr. Rather win?
GERMOND: I don't know. I mean the --
LAMB: It's a defining event again.
GERMOND: Yes. I think Bush got what he wanted out of it and so he won in that sense.
LAMB: There are several accounts of what happened prior to that whole thing. You go into much greater detail than I think I've seen anywhere. We had Bob Scheiffer and Gary Gates who wrote a book on the Reagan Presidency also write that up. They wrote it mostly from the CBS side. Tell us a little more because our audience probably have seen that interview we did. Who set up who in that deal?
WITCOVER: Well, I think it was a little of each. I think both sides ambushed each side ambushed the other. It was clear in advance of the debate from the promotional stuff that CBS put out over the weekend that the interview was going to deal largely with Iran Contra. The Bush people and Ailes acted as though this came out of the blue and they had gotten bushwhacked. They would have had to be in a cave someplace not to know that Iran Contra was going to be discussed at length. It was interesting to us that a few weeks earlier when Bush was in a debate in Des Moines during the Iowa caucuses he lashed out at the moderator who was the editor of the Des Moines Register for charging him with writing something unfairly about Iran Contra. He went right on the attack. He came right out of the corner. And it seemed to me that the parallels between the two were pretty striking. That Ailes was in the corner pushing his tiger out into the middle of the ring and telling him to slug away.
GERMOND: And if you're a Republican candidate in particular beating up Dan Rather is golden. I mean there's nobody better to beat up. He's sort of the symbol of all eastern establishment liberalism and so forth. He's from Texas actually. And whether he's liberal or not nobody knows but he certainly is seen as the devil incarnate.
LAMB: Would you tell us the relevance of Tom Donlan working as a CBS consultant -- the fellow who worked for I believe the Biden campaign.
WITCOVER: Biden, yes.
LAMB: Working as a consultant for CBS right around the time they were getting ready for that particular interview. Is that something the public ought to worry about? Is there much of this going on behind the scenes?
GERMOND: There's a lot of it going around, as they say. There are more and more people who are going back and forth across this line in television. I mean, there are political consultants who pop up the next day on television working for a television network as advisors and they pop back up the same -- Tom Donalon; he's a very bright guy. He ended up as a debate advisor to Dukakis.
WITCOVER: So in other words he really debated Bush twice. Once through Dan Rather and later through Mike Dukakis. And he's supposed to be a newsman at some point or affiliated with a news organization.
LAMB: Let's go a little bit to what you learned about some of the other candidates during this campaign and who you think will survive and come back and try again. Jack, do you want to try that one?
GERMOND: Well, the --
LAMB: Both sides by the way.
GERMOND: Yes, I would think that -- well Jesse Jackson can run anytime he wants I suppose so that's sort of a given. It seems to me that the two Democrats that will run again and have some substantial reason to do so would be Gore and Gephardt. That -- and the Republicans the only one from that few other than of course Mr. Bush himself is Jack Kemp who I think ran a very good campaign and he leads a very thoughtful campaign and didn't do very well. Those are the ones who I think have some future from that group.
LAMB: Anybody else Jules?
WITCOVER: I think Pat Robertson is like Jesse Jackson. He can do it if he wants to with no assurance of doing any better than he did the last time. But if the bug bits him I suppose he'll try it again.
LAMB: Let me ask you about things that matter and don't matter if you're setting out again to run in say 1992 or 1996. Does it matter that you spend a lot of time like Dick Gephardt did and others in Iowa?
GERMOND: It matters if you're not very well known. And it matters if the campaign schedule isn't changed substantially. One of the things that could change that of course would be to move -- if the California primary moves up into early March as now seems likely then California is going to become big casino and that doesn't mean that Iowa and New Hampshire will not be important but that California is going to be overwhelmingly important. If you're not a very well known candidate then it's very obviously important to deal with Iowa and New Hampshire because you have a manageable universe of voters and it's possible to become known. I don't think we necessarily have to believe that -- expect that the campaign will play out in '92 as it played out in '84, '88, '84, '80. These things do change from time to change.
The early start on campaign business I remember was shocking when Jimmy Carter started running in early '75 for '76. Now they start right away after the previous election. Gore's already doing things for example looking ahead to '92. But I don't think that's necessarily true. I think with candidates who have some kind of a following around the country and a reputation they can come into the campaign quite late. I'm thinking about people like Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley, even George Mitchell. Somebody like that could get into the campaign much later if they can raise the money they need for California.
LAMB: From your observations, both of you, Jules, start with you. What is it that starts to happen once a candidate goes to Iowa? Where you get a sense that they're starting to click and is it the person or is it gimmicks that make the difference?
WITCOVER: Well, it's hard to tell now because everybody goes to Iowa and everybody goes so early.
LAMB: Has somebody been out there already?
WITCOVER: Yeah, Bill Bradley's been out there.
GERMOND: Gore's been out there.
WITCOVER: Not in his candidate suit but he's been out there. Gore now, incidently when he speaks now, introduces himself as the "formerly the next President of the United States." One of his better lines. But as far as being able to gauge whether somebody is going to make it or not it's really hard. I remember in 1984 Gary Hart had a terrible time through '82 and '83 in Iowa. He didn't do well at all and he didn't look like he was going to go anyplace to State Chairman Dave Nagle who's now in Congress from Iowa said that Gary Hart was dead in the water and of course we saw him make a recovery and finish second and took off from there. So it's hard to tell.
I think if a candidate is -- it's a matter of expectations. It's always a matter of expectations in Iowa. If a candidate comes in there with high expectations and he doesn't meet those expectations he gets hurt. There's an advantage to a candidate to come in as Gary Hart did in '84 people not taking him very seriously or Jimmy Carter in '76 and it's a kind of a place where relatively small amount of money but a lot of shoe leather can do it for you.
GERMOND: You also have to look at something else. The early polls for example in Iowa, just forget them because they tell you almost nothing. Iowa has become so important that that getting credibility on on the networks again as a national figure becomes important in Iowa. And to get this one of the things you need is you need a a chunk of that Iowa or New Hampshire electoral that you can count on that is particularly yours. I mean one of the -- we get a lot of things wrong it 1987 and 1988 as do in any cycle. One of the few things that we got right consistently was we never underestimated Dick Gephardt in Iowa because you knew that he had a connection with some people there. He worked hard there and he had a connection with some people there that was going to give him this base that made him a player, but you can't really tell about this until till quite late.
LAMB: What was it in 1980 Ronald Reagan help me on this lost Iowa?
GERMOND: He lost Iowa and then he came back in New Hampshire. There was a month between them in those days rather than eight days.
LAMB: But in 1988 George Bush lost Iowa.
LAMB: Went on to win New Hampshire.
LAMB: The person Michael Dukakis came in third in Iowa went on to win New Hampshire and on to get the -- is Iowa kind of a throw away. Is it a testing ground? Do you think it will change? You mentioned California. Do you think people have learned out of this last experience that they will definitely change the way they operate and maybe even bypass Iowa?
GERMOND: No. I don't think you can do that because it is the -- Gore tried that last time. You can't do it assuming they're first on the schedule. As long as that is true, Iowa is going to get attention because it's the first time real voters vote. And you can do all the polls in the world but real voters impress other politicians and they impress the press. And real voters vote against something -- even if Iowa's delegates were not going to be seated and if the party tried to cut them off they could hold an advisory instead of precinct caucus and the candidates would go and if they went we'd cover them and so would the networks more importantly and it'd be important.
LAMB: Let's go back to when we started this conversation. I asked you both to name people that you thought were outstanding in the campaigns either candidates or consultants or managers and you both mentioned Roger Ailes. What did Roger Ailes have that no one else had?
WITCOVER: Well, he's got terrific imagination. I mean some of his ads are really good. Whether you liked them or not, that revolving gate ad -- which incidently, he has in kind of a cute way tried to say that the Willy Horton business he had nothing to do with using that. The fact is that his ads did not show a picture of Willy Horton that's true but his ads were based on the whole Willy Horton episode. The prison furlough episode. And that ad was a dynamite ad. The ad of the prisoners coming out of the prison through a revolving gate. He knows how to see a vulnerability and how to exploit it about as well as anybody in politics.
GERMOND: The tank ad.
WITCOVER: There was also the tank ad of Michael Dukakis riding around in a tank looking kind of ridiculous.
LAMB: Could you go back both of you to the Willy Horton ad. Did you find in your research after the campaign that there was any evidence at all that Lee Atwater and the national campaign had anything to do with generating what was it an Illinois ad or a Maryland ad that came up and showed the picture of Willy Horton.
GERMOND: There were no fingerprints but there was an independent expenditure operation in California run by a bunch of Republicans of close association with these people. There were these pamphlets put out in Maryland and Illinois and a couple of other places. You are never going to establish that Lee Attwater or Roger Ailes or any of these people were responsible for those but you'd be pitiably naive if you didn't think they couldn't have stopped them right away. And in fact no one would be surprised if they encouraged them. We don't know that.
WITCOVER: But you know if a certain climate is established by the leaders of a national campaign and then others follow that climate and take their lead from that climate I don't think you need to have a direct tie and provable tie to say that there was some responsibility there on the part of the national campaign managers who set the tone.
GERMOND: Ailes says we never used Willy Horton in this picture. They didn't have to. I mean, the fact is that these ads run by the independent group were on all the networks. Everybody in the country knew this was a black guy who committed a terrible crime against a white couple. It wasn't necessary for them to use Willy Horton. It was out there and did they drop the frillowisher. No. Did they drop the flag issue. No.
LAMB: By the way, in the beginning you acknowledge who talked to you and who didn't as we mentioned earlier. Anybody in the press that you went to and wanted to talk to about any incident not talk to you?
WITCOVER: Yes. Dan Rather. I called him early in anticipation of doing this chapter. He said that it was a touchy subject with him. He didn't think it was going to be very helpful but of course he would talk to me. Gave me the name of an aide to call. I called it several times and I never got a response. I did talk to people on the show who were very helpful. But he didn't call. He probably didn't get my call.
LAMB: Does that surprise you that he wouldn't talk to you?
WITCOVER: Well, I'll tell you it surprises me a little bit because on other matters that we've written columns occasionally about television coverage he's been cooperative.
LAMB: You two have written three books now together. After this book was finished and you shipped her off to the printer, and you knew that the book was finished, what were your reactions as you sat around talking about when you compared this book with others? Was there something special about this book?
GERMOND: Well, no. We hoped that it would sell more. It seemed like it was a better story. But I'll tell you the truth. By the time you finish one of these -- we sent the last of the manuscripts to Bob March 9th or 10th and we'd been sending him dribs and drabs. And I was the tardy one writing the last part of a couple of chapters and we shipped off. By the time we got rid of it I immediately ran for the race track and I don't know what Jules did. We didn't want to talk about it for a couple of weeks.
WITCOVER: I'll tell you we did have something distinctly in mind about this book different than the others that we'd written in the past. There are other book are going to be written -- are being written now probably on the way to printers right now about this campaign. We've had to think for ourselves what what kind a book could we write that others might not be able to write. And so we put this book in the framework of the last 28 years that we've covered politics. Remember that repeatedly Dukakis would draw the parallel between 1960 and 1988. A son of Massachusetts running against the incumbent Vice President who picked a Texan as his running mate. And so that made us think ourselves about changes that had occurred between 1960 and 1988 as we cast the book a lot in terms of what was it like then and what is it like now and what has happened in that time and why.
LAMB: Anything else that you can remember that you did differently in this book? Chapter -- you know the way you set your chapters up or the way you divided the work between the two of you?
GERMOND: No, I don't think so. As you work along on the thing you find you do more about some things than you intended to do. For example on the Biden business, originally I thought I could sort of deal with the whole Biden thing in just part of a chapter. But the more we got into it and then we talked to Biden at great length about it and other people there were dimensions of the Biden story that had never come out and they were interesting and were telling little things. And that was sort of -- well, no matter how well a campaign is covered and the campaigns are covered pretty well by a lot of people, there are always stories that aren't told fully and there are interesting -- you know that are interesting aspects of.
LAMB: One of the things --and I don't know if this is what you are eluding to on the Joe Biden story -- that I don't know that I've ever read this was that incident where he was having the headaches. It talks about him taking and shoving that Tylenol -- Extra Strength Tylenol and then at one point you say he went out and --
GERMOND: Had to lay down.
LAMB: -- laid down for 15 minutes and people kept saying it's just headaches and all that. Was that new to you?
GERMOND: Yeah, it was new. A real odd -- ironic I guess is the right word. I don't know. It's not ironic, it's fortunate. The fact is if Joe Biden had not been forced out of the campaign and this thing had not been diagnosed he might have been killed.
LAMB: He's says definitively and he said it right where you're sitting Jack, and I know you've seen it other places -- you may written it yourself, but he's definitely not running in 1992 an that he'll run again for the Senate. Do you think he'll ever run for President again and does he have a shot at it?
WITCOVER: Well, he indicated to us when we talked to him that he still thinks about it.
GERMOND: Serious health problem.
LAMB: Continuing health problem.
GERMOND: Yes. I don't know how you persuade people that this is a safe thing for a President to have. I don't know.
WITCOVER: By the same token though in terms of his his desire and motivation he talked at great length about all the mistakes he's made and I sensed a real frustration on his part of "How could I possibly run such a bad campaign. I could certainly do a lot better the next time."
LAMB: Let me ask you about books in general and you've all written a lot of books over the years. What makes this book sell? Has it been selected as a book of the month club?
LAMB: You know in the past which one of all your books have sold the most?
GERMOND: One Jules wrote. Jules wrote -- Jules wrote books before we were partners that sold better than any we've written together which may tell you something.
WITCOVER: Marathon -- Marathon the book about the 1976 book was the best -- book of the month club main selection and of course that makes a tremendous difference in terms of the sales.
GERMOND: Yes. Political books are a hard sell except that there's a certain number of people that you know who are really interested inside baseball politics. And that's what your books are aimed at essentially.
LAMB: Have there been enough time for people to react to this book yet that are -- I mean a lot of people gotten into this book and look at the index to see if their names are -- anything yet Jules?
WITCOVER: There hasn't been a single review yet. It's just been all the stories about Dan Quayle. I think one of the problems is that it's great to get this publicity but it risks the possibility that people think that that's all that's in the book. Another thing: campaigns are so widely covered -- not necessarily well-covered but widely covered -- that people believe after a campaign that there's nothing left for them to know. And a book like this and others that will be written will have a lot of things in it that were not out there and essentially they are books for people who really want to take the time. We've been criticized sometimes for writing about more than was really there or writing books too long. And my response to that is that people are not required to read books. It's a certain effort. You have to go out and plunk down 20 bucks or whatever and in addition to that spend a fair amount of time reading the book. You have to have that frame of mind to read a book of this length and that's the kind of people that we're writing for. People who really want to know the ins and outs.
LAMB: In your planning for the book did you both sit down and say well we're going to have to come up with some things that are going to tweak peoples interest tweak the news peoples interests make a story here?
GERMOND: No. No. You hope -- we did 80 some interviews for this book after the election in here and of course God knows how many during the campaign and you hope that you're going to get some some interesting stories to tell that will make some news or I'll put it frankly will help you sell the book. But you can't count on that and you can't reach for it. And although we knew the things that were said about Quayle were interesting we didn't expect them to get as much attention as they did.
LAMB: What else did you think would get attention that hasn't as of yet?
WITCOVER: Well, the matter about Dukakis rehearsing an answer to a soft on crime question 13 times and having it played back to him and then not being able to respond any better than he did.
LAMB: And that was before that -- which debate was it the second or --
WITCOVER: Before the second debate.
LAMB: Thirteen times he rehearsed it?
WITCOVER: Yes. Another thing that amused us and we thought might be picked up was that this story in the Miami Herald that triggered the whole Donna Rice story was in response to a story written in the Miami Herald by the political editor Tom Fiedler after being out with Hart for a few days the first week when all the womanizing rumors were kicking around. He wrote a long story that basically said this is not fair to Gary Hart and what's happening in the press when we write in these kinds of rumors that we shouldn't be writing this sort of thing unless we can prove it. One of the readers of that story called Fiedler and said these aren't rumors. And she was the tipster who told him about Donna Rice's plans to go to Washington. So it was rather ironic that it was a defense of Gary Hart that set the whole thing in motion.
LAMB: Did you get any sense of who that tipster was from talking to Tom Fiedler?
WITCOVER: Well, he says he knows but he didn't want to share it with us.
LAMB: All right, you two observe as much as anybody coverage of the campaigns from other sources besides your own reporting. Jack, whose reporting do you think was the most accurate and the most interesting and had the most impact during the campaign? Both television and print.
GERMOND: Well, in television in terms of impact there's no question the networks. Of the people who were traveling with the candidates everyday I thought the best political reporter on then campaign was my former colleague at NBC Ken Bodey who is a marvelous political reporter.
LAMB: Now teaching at Wabash --
LAMB: DePaw, yes.
GERMOND: But of the reporters covering the campaigns on the plain so to speak and I went through six weeks of newscasts for every night and for all three networks as in preparing the book -- I was reading a press by Sam Donaldson work more than anybody else. On the print side because you don't see everybody's stuff but I think we both think that overall the Washington Post did an extraordinary job. They have a real stable of very good people and they use them very effectively I think.
LAMB: Jules do you have any to add to that list?
WITCOVER: Well, there's some reporters who you know aren't in the national eye but did a very good job on the campaign. One of them I can think of immediately is Curtis Wilkey of the Boston Globe.
GERMOND: That's right.
WITCOVER: But --
GERMOND: Larry Ike of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
WITCOVER: Generally I would I would echo what Jack said about the Washington Post. They had an army out there and did a very very good job.
GERMOND: And that's not always true. I mean it's not that the Post -- they're not always the best in these things but they sure were this time out.
LAMB: What advice would you have for either people who follow campaigns or young people who are thinking about the future and how to get involved? What should you read on a daily basis if you don't live in one of the major centers to keep up? How should you try to get a sense of what's going on out there and be as accurate as possible?
GERMOND: You're talking about during a campaign?
LAMB: During a campaign, yes.
GERMOND: Well, I must say during a campaign the easiest way to keep up would be to subscribe to Hotline this computer service which became -- we all became junkies of Hotline when we could see it. I think what you've got to do to follow a campaign -- the first thing you have to do is you have to watch the network news at night whether you like it or not. And the other thing you've got to do is you've got to read two or three papers that have good political staffs. The two I would read ahead of any others is the Post and the Boston Globe because the Globe has several good political people. The Post has six or eight really good political people and the Post is so comprehensive. And the Times. Last year the Times had several good political reporters but the Times never gives the story as much of the kind of thing a junkie would as the Post as a Washington paper does.
LAMB: Can I repeat back to you something you that you wrote in this book that I wrote down about the New York Times and I wanted to ask you about it and you just triggered my memory. "The New York Times always remembering its self assigned role as guardian of journalistic taste and ethics ..."
LAMB: "... relegated this story to page 12 under the headline Hart and Paper in Dispute over article." -- Meaning the whole thing we were talking about.
LAMB: Was that a little jab there at the New York Times?
WITCOVER: Oh no, of course not.
LAMB: Does the New York Times have a reputation of assigning itself the role as guardian of journalistic taste.
WITCOVER: I think only with us.
GERMOND: The Times can be pretty stuffy. It was a funny thing happened though. The Times was very stuffy on this occasion. On the other hand when Michael Dukakis was accused by the LaRouches of having had mental illness and had been treated for mental illness, depression, without a bit of fact in it the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun and a lot of other newspapers most newspapers refused to let that get into print -- this rumor, until the President Reagan made a comment about it if you'll recall. They were very careful not to let that happen. The New York Times did let it happen. They had a little story the two column heading inside something to do about Health of Candidate Questioned -- some headline that told you nothing which I thought was sort of -- because they were going to something that would be half way pregnant on that story.
LAMB: While you all are out there on the campaign trail -- check me if I'm wrong about this -- you can buy almost everywhere the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Do you have a sense that those three papers because they are national in scope have an undue amount of influence because all the reporters that are on the campaign trail can buy them too?
GERMOND: Well, the Times has tremendous influence.
WITCOVER: I think they have influence in that sense that particularly and the New York Times has influence because the networks are located in New York and executives read the New York Times and quite often take their lead from what is in the Times. The Times itself is is very cautious as is indicated in that example that you gave about the Gary Hart story. That sometimes they're afraid to get out there because something might be a little bit too sensational. I've always had the feeling the Times treats politics almost like sports and maybe it should be on some inside page all to itself.
GERMOND: The Wall Street Journal you mentioned -- by the way Brian, which we have not mentioned this conversation, the fact is -- this has just slipped my mind -- the fact is the Wall Street Journal did some terrific stuff last year. I mean, those back of the front sections --
LAMB: Devoting every day to magnum con session.
GERMOND: Yes. They had a lot of really good stuff on that.
LAMB: We've got about 10 minutes left and you all have been generous with your time. I want to go through some personalities and another thing that kind of stuck out as I was reading the book was the story about from Iowa to New Hampshire and that Lee Attwater was depressed and riding in his plane out there to New Hampshire and when he got off the plane Governor Sununu (R-NH) was there to meet him and said, "Don't worry about it. I'm going to give you a nine-point win here." Did he deliver and is that how he got his job as Chief of Staff?
WITCOVER: Well, he delivered. He wasn't the only one who contributed to that. The whole team went up there and spent a week just crashing that primary. They had a speech writer in a hotel room who was grinding out new speeches every day pinpointed to to what the survey material told them and what they needed to do. But Sununu knows that state and he played a major role in deciding where Bush went and what he said when he got there. And I think it's a fair guess that it had something to do with him getting the job that he has.
LAMB: Did he talk to you after the campaign was over?
GERMOND: No. No.
LAMB: Did you try to get to him?
GERMOND: Yes, sure. And we know Sununu too. We know him from his days as governor. He was marvelously confident. I remember the Sunday before the New Hampshire primary, talking to him that he had a little do up in Concord and I went up there and talked to him for a few minutes and he really was very confident about how the thing was shaping up and he had a very good picture of it. And you know he may have been guessing but he sure guessed right.
LAMB: Personalities. John Sasso? What do you remember most about John Sasso?
GERMOND: Well, the catastrophe involving the Biden tapes that were destroyed. Sasso is an extraordinarily effective political manager and his particular -- they missed him very badly on that campaign - the Dukakis campaign because his special thing was that he was the one guy who could make Dukakis always listen in political matters.
LAMB: Susan Estridge?
WITCOVER: Competent and thrown into a situation that was very difficult because everybody in the Dukakis campaign knew the special relationship between Dukakis and Sasso. She could never fill that really fill that role on a personal level and I think that inhibited what she could do in the campaign.
GERMOND: And after -- when things went bad, all the jackals went after her and a lot of people think and I think correctly because she was a woman.
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like. I want to make sure that our audience keeps seeing this. It's Warner Books. It's in your book stores. "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988." Jules Witcover and Jack Germond. Another aide -- Paul Brontus?
GERMOND: Well, Paul is a lawyer. A law school classmate of Michael Dukakis. Well, one of Michael's closest friends over the years. Over 30 years of friendship now and didn't know an awful lot about politics. Knew something about it. He had a lot of influence on Dukakis and trusted his judgement a lot on people. You know they were friends and he could say things. He was a contemporary and a peer. He could say things to Dukakis in some ways that other people couldn't I think.
LAMB: Looking back now would you say that Michael Dukakis lost it or the staff lost it or combined? Would it have made any difference if the staff had been stronger?
GERMOND: The candidates win it or lose it. You get to a certain point -- the staff can take you so far but you win it or lose it yourself. His staff wasn't bad. There are a lot of complaints. There always are and there were flaws. But that wasn't what cost him the election.
WITCOVER: The same complaints that were aired in the press were being aired by Dukakis' staff about the kind of candidate he was. About particularly his unwillingness to to fight back and to combat out front and aggressively the attacks on his patriotism. So I mean the staff certainly not culpable in that regard.
LAMB: A little editorial comment on my part. Paul Tulley is quoted through there and it's some of the stuff you got from him is fairly interesting. Who is he? And why was he so talkative to you after the campaign was over?
GERMOND: Well, he's a political professional. He was involved in that campaign with Saso. We've known him for many campaigns. And he thinks a lot about about the process and what needs to -- we quote him at length in some very colorful ways in some places about the relationship between politicians and the press these days.
LAMB: Let me read a little bit of this. It says, "Quantity changes quality. There are now so many outlets, so much coverage and so much inquiry you are doing your work around the beast. The problem used to be how to feed it and feed it in a way that conveying information that you want your message right. It's a delivery mechanism. Got a big mouth in power but how to feed it. Well, now it's developed taste, standard and spits stuff back at you." What's he talking about?
WITCOVER: Well, he's saying basically that now the press is really an adversary kind of getting into all this business about character quoting things that may be -- years ago would not have been quoted that it puts the politician on guard. He's not going to have that kind of free relationship with the press anymore because the press can kill him.
LAMB: He also goes on -- he says, "It's not just the size of the thing. It's the new player that's got a very specific kind of appetite. It's got even more demands and it's got its new evolved self defined role." Then he goes into a quote. He says, "We got the standards and if that little "expletive deleted" Quayle don't make the standards we're going to rip his head off." And I assume he's talking about the press.
GERMOND: Yeah. Well, I mean we quoted a great deal of this because Paul has a very colorful way of speaking. But also he is a very thoughtful guy. And and I think he's right about how the press --
WITCOVER: It does reflect an attitude that we see with politicians. That they are a lot more guarded than they used to be and I think for good reason.
LAMB: Another name is Gerald Austin. Worked for Jesse Jackson. You have some colorful moments in here about that relationship. Tell us more about it Jack.
GERMOND: Well, Jules spent more time with Gerry than I did but he is a colorful figure.
WITCOVER: Well, he's very much like Jesse Jackson in the sense that he's he's a hard knuckle politician. In a lot of ways it was an interesting mix to see him. A New Yorker Jewish liberal democrat dealing with the black candidate who had a lot of trouble with Jews for things that he said in the 1984 campaign. And it was just one of those interesting pieces of chemistry where two very very independent people clashing with each other.
LAMB: They got into it in New York over what Mayor [Edward] Koch has said.
WITCOVER: No actually that was what -- Koch did say something about -- oh, he said that Jews would be crazy to vote for Jackson. And Austin called called Koch to a reporter said he was an idiot. And Jackson got very upset about that because he was trying not to get into that kind of a personal thing and also he likes to be the spokesman for his own campaign. So he called Austin aside and he said, "Did you call Ed Koch an idiot?" He said, "No I called him a moron."
LAMB: Before I forget -- I've got more people I want to ask you about. There was another little aside from the Germond Witcover team that I wanted to ask you about. Talking about the League of Women Voters. Do you remember this quote? You said the press corps, after the League refused to conduct the third debate, said it was good riddance. In the past the League had been officious and irritatingly self important.
GERMOND: That's absolutely right. That is our opinion and it is one widely shared by political reporters and the politicians. Politicians don't dare say that to the League of Women Voters but we don't feel any such hesitancy.
LAMB: Why do you think they -- if you're right, why do you think they're that way?
GERMOND: I don't know. There's something about the League of Women Voters that inherently are saying there's something dirty about party politics so we have to have this separate little group where we examine issues separately from the campaign. We thought what's wrong with having the party's do this? There's nothing dirty about a political party inherently. Why can't the parties do the debates. And they were saying you couldn't do this because the implication was they were not pure enough. My theory has always been that the League of Women Voters is a subversive organization because if those people put all that effort and I know a lot probably watch your program, Brian, but if they put that effort into one party the parties would be much better than they are now. I shouldn't have said that I guess.
LAMB: Back to personalities. Why didn't Craig Fuller get the job as Chief of Staff and what kind of job did he do for candidate Bush?
WITCOVER: I really don't know why he didn't get the job. I would think that somebody who was a loyal to Bush as he was -- I think maybe Bush felt that he was always a staff person. He was regarded on the Hill as a staff person and that to be an effective Chief of Staff he had to have somebody who had some prestige or reputation on his own. So he picked a governor from admittedly a small state but a governor who was pretty brassy and aggressive --
WITCOVER: -- and smart.
LAMB: Lee Attwater.
GERMOND: Oh Lee is as tough nails. He --
LAMB: You mean when he gets banged around the press that it doesn't hurt him.
GERMOND: Well, I mean it hurts him only to the extent that if George Bush has questions about him. I mean he understands where his constituency is and it's in the White House and sits in the Oval Office. But Attwater's a very effective effective guy. And he is truly a no holds barred politician and he showed it in this campaign. And we've known Lee ever since he came along and if he has second thoughts about any of these things they are never apparent.
LAMB: We only have two minutes and as a final question to both of you to kind of wrap things up. Are you at all surprised as to how George Bush has done as President? And what you saw him do in the campaign, did that give you some hint as to what kind of President he'll be?
WITCOVER: Well, on the one way we're not surprised because we've known Bush for a long time even before he was a candidate. But I think that and what is one of the points we make in the book is that the campaign was not a good gauge or a good indicator of what kind of President he would be. He ran a very low campaign, a gutter campaign, in a lot of ways accusing his opponent of a lack of patriotism and so on and then a few months later and says he wants a gentler kinder America. I think it would have been more helpful for the country if we would have had a gentler kind of candidate who then became a gentler kind of President.
LAMB: Comment, Jack?
GERMOND: Yeah. Now it's entirely too soon to tell anything at all, but Bush has been able to get by in this first few months with essentially media events and rhetoric. We will see when he has to deal with real problems which is still down the road.
LAMB: This is what the book looks like and our two guests have been with us for the last 90 minutes. Jack Germond and Jules Witcover. The book titled, "Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars: The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency 1988." Gentlemen thank you for spending this time.
GERMOND: Thank you Brian.
WITCOVER: Thank you Brian. It was fun.
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