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Jonathan Alter On The Center Holds

Friday, June 28, 2013

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HH: You do not want to miss a minute of this hour. Over at Hughhewitt.com right now, here’s what the lead post reads. The title is Obama’s Boswell: Jonathan Alter’s The Center Holds: Obama And His Enemies, and I write, today’s guests include Mark Steyn and Bill Kristol talking marriage and the immigration decisions, and Congressman John Campbell making some news, transcripts as available here. The third hour is devoted to Jonathan Alter, one of my lefty radio pals, who has a fine new book out on the second half of President Obama’s first term and especially on the election of 2012: The Center Holds: Obama And His Enemies. And what I write about it is this. Jonathan had extraordinarily good access and his book is much more nuanced than the “instagrams” that flooded out from various places as soon as the balloting was over. He also has some big blind spots when he examines the right –he still doesn’t get Rush or talk radio, at all– but he does understand how to write a campaign unfolding in real time, and this is a book that every Republican needs to read, especially on how the other side operates and how it understands the GOP and the GOP’s predictable failings in various aspects of campaigns. Really. My team needs to read the other team’s playbook, and Jonathan has it. Jonathan Alter, I hope you liked that description. I didn’t clear it with you.

JA: I love it. Are you kidding me? I know you’re going to rough me up in this interview, but I thought that was very, very nice, and I appreciate it. So I’m ready to go.

HH: Well once again, a very fine book, and absolutely can’t be put down by anyone who loves politics. I want to begin on the first page where you talk about the President on the night of the disastrous 2010 elections for him, the night I was celebrating. “Reaching out didn’t come naturally to this president. His detached and self-contained nature had hampered his presidency.” Do you see any reason why, Jonathan, in term two, which I imagine you will be chronicling, that’s going to change at all?

JA: You know, I don’t mean to kind of take a pass on that question, but the answer is I really don’t’ know. He’s a self-aware guy, and he’s trying to correct that to some extent. He played golf recently with Bob Corker and Saxby Chambliss. He’s had a few dinners with Republicans. He’s trying to reach out more to Democrats. But it doesn’t come naturally to him. And the neediness of other politicians is an abstraction to him. He really, I’ve got a chapter called Missing The Schmooze Gene, and it’s this great paradox that this guy who is the first president since Eisenhower to be elected twice with outright majorities, is really not much of a politician a lot of the time, and he’s not very good a lot of the time at the business he’s chosen. So you know, I think he wants to get better at reaching out, but in some ways, people don’t really change very much.

HH: I think that’s exactly right, and it’ll be interesting to see if he, I hope he reads this book, and I don’t know, have you hear from him, yet? Have you heard from any reaction from the White House?

JA: No, no I did hear from Bill Clinton who read it, and wrote me about it, but I haven’t heard from the President.

HH: Well, I want to go to one page in particular to begin our conversation on Page 268 and read three paragraphs which are so perceptive. “The Obama campaign had a formal hierarchy and a more informal pecking order of commitment. The latter were ranked on how far back they went with Obama. Among those who held special claim to a spirit of the Obama crusade was Alex Okrent, who took a semester off from Wesleyan University to work on Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign. In 2007, he was one of the first to join the presidential campaign where he struck a charming balance between commitment and fun. On the morning of July 13th, Okrent collapsed at his desk. A colleague tried CPR, but he was unresponsive. The last his friends saw of him, the EMT crew was rolling him off the floor on a gurney still pounding on his chest. When word came back that he had died, most likely of a heart attack, heart arrhythmia, everyone on the Floor sobbed. Our brother Alex has passed away, Jim Messina announced, the shock and grief are like that over the loss of a loved one. Everyone went home for the rest of the day. A small shrine to Okrent was set up in a corner of the headquarters where staff and visitors could sit on a cushion and talk about Alex, sip a little of the bourbon he liked to share. Hundreds of people, including the President and Vice President, wrote message to him on post-it notes that were hung in the corner. Friends made buttons depicting his Jew-fro and other quirks. And epitaph emerged – Do It For Alex. It wasn’t long before the cut and thrust of the campaign resumed. But Chicago is different now, closer and more committed to the crusade that had brought them together.” I don’t know how many other writers are going to believe that, Jonathan, but I do. I think that’s the telling detail. And what’s been the reaction to that?

JA: Well, I think there, among those who worked on this campaign, including a lot of people in the field, there was a surprise that they were able eventually, not at first, but eventually to get back a lot of that esprit de corps that they had in 2008, and the intensity that they had. And some of it was out of disdain for your side. You know, it wasn’t all because they, well, the true believers love this president without questioning him at all. But there are a lot of other people, you know, who were powered in part by anger. Just to give you a quick example, I interviewed Al Sharpton. I have a lot in the book on Obama’s relationship with black leaders behind the scenes.

HH: That’s fascinating, by the way, the relationship with Sharpton and education reform. That’s fascinating. I didn’t know any of that.

JA: Yeah, well Sharpton and Newt Gingrich came to the White House together at the President’s invitation, because before the 2012 campaign, they were working together in New York on education reform, which Sharpton, who’s changed a lot over the years, is now a big believer of and talks about a lot. But Sharpton told me, excuse me, at one point, that blacks vote for two reasons – out of hope and out of anger. And in 2008, they voted out of hope, and in 2012, they voted out of anger. And so you had this extraordinary situation where in Ohio, for instance, more African-Americans turned out in 2012 than in 2008, and a lot of that was a backlash against what they saw as voter suppression, efforts to discourage them from voting, make it harder for them to vote early, make it harder for little old black lady taking the bus who had a photo ID bus card but no state –issued driver’s license, making it harder for her to vote. And they saw that as a civil rights issue. And it helped to power Obama’s campaign at the end.

HH: Well, I’ve got to tell you, I have no anger towards the President. I think he’s a disaster and is becoming, in fact, this weekend, when Egypt explodes, we’ll see that. But I’ve got to tell you what your book confirmed for me. I think he’s an actor. I think he is subject to the direction of some very talented people in the form of Axelrod, some less talented people in the form of Valerie Jarrett and others, but that he’s an actor who takes direction, and that there’s no there there, and that he remains essentially without substance, Jonathan. And throughout the book, he knows how to run elections just like actors know how to turn in great performances. But I think you’re going to find at the end of your long labors ahead of anyone else that you look at him, and you compare him to any of the great, the other people you’ve written about, FDR, who was a man of action and substance, and you’re going to say he didn’t, he could have done any job. He could have gone to Hollywood, he could have been a hedge fund manager. If anyone told him what to do, he could do it. He’s got talent sets, but there’s nothing there.

JA: Well you know, this is something that we’re going to have to see. I mean, if, you know the way it works. Like if he gets immigration reform, even though this is being done on Capitol Hill and not from the White House, it’ll go on his ledger, right? That’s just the way it works in the same way that presidents get blamed when things go badly. So if the economy is struggling when he leaves office, he will be seen as an unsuccessful president. If the economy has come back significantly, and people are feeling a little bit better about the future, and he’s put a few more points on the board legislatively, he’ll be seen as a successful president. I agree with you that he’s not on track now to be seen as a great president. But you know, stuff happens around the world, so you know, we have to see. And what I wanted to do was give a sense of some of his limitations in the way he relates to people, and his failure to develop personal relationships for him to fall back on when things are tough, the way they are right now. And I think this has really hampered him, that he doesn’t have those relationships. And so I’ve got him playing poker, for instance. He’s playing poker with his buddies nobody’s ever heard of. He’s not playing poker with major players in Washington the way Truman and FDR did. And it’s just not smart of him in terms of building a better legacy for himself.

HH: But I will salute one thing. He knows how to run a campaign.

JA: Yes.

— – –

HH: As I said at the beginning of the hour, I have posted over at Hughhewitt.com, Republicans have to read this, because it’s the other team’s playbook. It’s like Jonathan went in and got complete access to how and what they did on the other side, and how they think of us, and how they run campaigns, and we just have to learn from this. Let’s begin in Chapter 20, Jonathan. The month of May, 2012, Romney outraised Obama $76 million to $60 million, and that didn’t even include the superPACs. No panic, but certainly a wakeup call at the Chicago headquarters.

JA: Huge wakeup call. So Jim Messina, who’s the campaign manager, walks across the long floor to the office of Teddy Goff, 28 years old, in charge of digital, which is only one of three tech sections of the campaign, and he has 200 people working for him. And at that point, a year ago, in June, he was raising about $15 million dollars a month online. And Messina said if you can’t get it up to $70 million dollars a month online, we are going to not have enough money to compete. And we may very possibly lose to Romney in the fall. So…

HH: That’s such an amazing…who…by the way, how did you get that detail? That’s so incredible.

JA: Well, you know, I can’t talk to you about all the interviews I did, but let’s just say that I did more than 200 interviews, and I interviewed the people there as well as in Boston in the Romney campaign. You know…

HH: Oh, yeah, you got good stuff. You’ve got good stuff.

JA: Yeah, Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist and I go back more than 20 years, and I have a lot from Stuart in the book about Boston. But I think you’re right that especially for Republicans, in some ways, the Obama chapters are maybe more useful than how Romney operated. So what they managed to do was they did so many tests on their emails that they were able not just to get it up from $15 million a month online to $70 million, as Messina said they needed, but they got it up to over $150 million dollars a month online by the fall. In fact, in September, they raised $168 million dollars online.

HH: That’s just incredible. Teddy Goff is only one…

JA: Tenfold increase.

HH: Let me read the next paragraph. “Around the same time, Dan Wagner made a presentation to senior campaign officials about the cave state prioritization algorithm, which placed a monetary value on each electoral vote so that the campaign could allocate resources with unprecedented precision. Hundreds of millions of dollars in media buys, staff deployments, candidate travel, and other expenses depended upon the modeling being accurate. “If you’re wrong about this, we’re going to lose,” Axelrod told Wagner with his usual mixture of wry humor and seriousness, “And a lot of this will be on you. A pair of nerds in their 20s,” Jonathan Alter concluded, “were on the hook for reelecting the President.” That’s astonishing.

JA: Well, so Dan Wager ran the Cave, which I have a whole lot about in the book, and I think people are starting to understand what that was. It was a semi-secret, or in many cases, completely secret annex that was not on the main floor, the open floor plan of the Obama campaign in Chicago. And inside the Cave, they had these data scientists who were not just the usual people that you would hire, but they had a biophysicist, a child prodigy, three professional poker players, and they were hired on the basis of these unbelievably difficult online exams that Wagner made them take in order to get hired. And then he said to them before they were hired, we aren’t selling popsicles here. We’re trying to reelect the president of the United States. You will work here every night past Midnight, or don’t bother to come. And some of the people in the tech section, the people supposed to be building tools and products for them, which were often delivered months late, and this caused tremendous tension in the campaign, some of the tech people who had come in from big companies like Google and Facebook, they were leaving at 6pm and pissing everybody off. And so the Cave operated under much more intense rules, much more stringent rules. And it powered a series of analytical tools, algorithms and models that at the beginning, Hugh, when I was first reporting on this during the campaign, I kind of thought was hype.

HH: I’m amazed. I thought it was all kind of crap until I read quick, donate, dashboard, the call tool, drunk donating.

JA: Yeah.

HH: Anyone who’s ever heard of drunk dialing immediately knows what that is. But I’d never seen it written about before.

JA: Yeah, it was a one click, so when Obama like blew the first debate, or when he got, when he had a bad day, said something stupid and went down in the polls, his supporters would be having beers and complaining about Romney being president, and with one click, they could donate more money. And these very annoying emails worked. They figured, they found out that the more emails they sent out, if they had been properly tested, 15, 20 times, the more money came back in.

HH: I’m telling you, I’m sending a copy of this to Reince Priebus. I really am. I am sending a copy, because whatever they do, and you juxtaposed it. I think Peggy Noonan’s a fine writer and a find analyst. But to a certain extent, you gave her the dinosaur alert, because she writes a wonderful column about how brutally ineffective the President’s rhetoric was, and she was right, and then you conclude, “But maybe the words the President used on the stump weren’t so important in 2012. At the time Noonan wrote this column, Obama was all but sewing up the election.” And it almost renders Republicans powerless except for the fact that these are simple tools. They are replicable on the other side.

JA: Yes, they are. So here, just to give you a quick sense of how the GOP blew it on this front, so there’s a guy named Alex Gage, who’s been involved in Republican politics doing opinion survey research going back to Gerald Ford, almost 40 years ago, and he runs a company called Target Point, and he, his wife, Katie Packer Gage, was Romney’s deputy campaign manager. So he was extremely well connected. And in early 2011, he reads that Obama is hiring all these data scientists. And Gage actually originated the term microtargeting. He invented it on the Republican side. And he borrowed it from the medical profession, laser surgery. And so he knew what he was talking about. And he went to the high command, and he made a proposal to them for what he called Romney abacus, which was a big data project. It cost a couple million dollars, and they ended up raising $800 million. But at that time, they would not spend two million to build their own big data project. Gage told me that he realized immediately when he walked into the room the meeting with the Romney high command, they were all on their Blackberries and iPhones, and weren’t paying any attention to him, he knew that they weren’t going to buy this. They wasted a lot of money on other consultants, but they didn’t do this kind of work. And Stuart Stevens later told me that well, the quants couldn’t, they weren’t able to predict the subprime mortgage crisis, so how could we expect them to predict the presidential election?

HH: Oh, boy, that was so wrong.

— – –

HH: Jonathan, I’ve been asked to talk quite a lot about what happened in my analysis, and up until now, until I read The Center Holds, it’s been very short. Sandy, Candy and Orca. And I explained that the storm changed everything, and Candy’s intervention, and she’s a friend of this show, and I think she’s a fine journalist, but it truly was a remarkable intrusion by a journalist into a critical moment in American history, and the failure of Orca was the collapse of the quantitative effort to get out the vote by Romney. I have to add now Axelrod. I’m very slow to say this. The man annoys the hell out of me, but he really did, he was the Branch Rickey of politics. He brought in people no one would have brought into politics. He built a team which is extraordinary in its abilities and meshing nature. And he’s just a journalist. I don’t know where he learned this.

JA: Well you know, I’m not sure I would give Axelrod all the credit for what we’ve been talking about. There were actually other people who made key decisions. There’s a woman named Jen O’Malley Dillon…

HH: Yeah.

JA: …who never likes to talk to the press, and she was at the DNC after the 2010 campaign, and she made a critical decision to keep Dan Wagner and these other geeks on the DNC payroll, because they had predicted the blowout, the Republican blowout of 2010. And she recognized that they had these big data tools that were going to change the whole game. And so she kept them, and then she made sure that Messina brought them aboard in Chicago. So they had a whole unit that moved from the DNC to Chicago that proved very important. Axelrod also made a lot of smart decisions, but this was, there were several very, very shrewd people involved in this. And they may have problems governing, but they do understand politics.

HH: That is absolutely my summary. I also, earlier today when I was talking to Bill Kristol about the immigration bill, which will pass the Senate and it will die in the House, it’s not going to pass for a variety of reasons, Jonathan, different discussion, different day. But I quoted to Bill from Page 278 of The Center Holds. “For the Latino market, the messenger is often more important than the message. The surrogate Chicago chose was Christina Saralegui, known as the Latina Oprah.” And then you go on to write, “The big difference? Romney ads were far less visible on Spanish language television.” And this is a stunner. “Obama ran 13,232 spots, Romney ran 3,435 spots.” That’s just such an incredible telling fact.

JA: And it wasn’t for a lack of money.

HH: No.

JA: You know, Romney did have the resources to do that. Nobody in the Anglo world knows who the Latina Oprah is. She cut these ads with Michelle Obama that were very powerful. So at some book parties that I’ve held recently, Hugh, I asked people, very well informed people in Washington, at my Washington book party, anybody here heard of the Latina Oprah? Nobody had. In the kitchen, I asked the people in the kitchen, the caterers, anybody here heard of the Latina Oprah, Christina Saralegui? Everybody had their faces lit up, right? So they were just playing the game on the Obama side at a different level of sophistication. And they just got how to do it. And they ended up getting 73% of the Latino vote. Now Messina told me in 2011, in Chicago, that if Obama dipped below 58% of the Latino vote, it wouldn’t matter what else he did, he could not be reelected president.

HH: Yeah.

JA: And if he had gotten, say, 65%? He still would have won this election, but immigration reform would not be on the table. So these things that they did in 2012 were very critical for our politics now.

HH: You know, it’s so interesting. I tell people out here, Jonathan, that Ricardo Sanchez, El Mandril from KLAX 97.9, is the number one morning drive guy, relentlessly anti-Republican, very left, but all day, every day, driving the news cycle with his humor every day. And most Republicans have never heard of him. All day, every day, he drives California politics.

JA: Right.

HH: They’ve never heard of him.

JA: Right, so they have to get, so here’s what I think, and I’m really glad to hear that the Candy, Sandy and Orca explanation is being a little bit amended, you know, those three things, well, the first two were important. Orca was a disaster, but it was more symbolic of bigger problems on the digital front in the Romney campaign. I don’t think it actually cost Romney a huge number of votes. But the reason that the explanation is a little bit insufficient is that all along, there was this overreliance on white voters.

HH: Yeah, hold on. Hold on to that. I’ll be right back. He’s right.

— – –

HH: I’ve got to cover at least three things in our two short segments left, Jonathan. Number one, Team Romney’s overreliance on white voters, as we exited last segment, we can’t get higher than Reagan got, and yet that’s what Romney would have needed to do in order to win with this electorate.

JA: Exactly right. So Karl Rove made this point in the Wall Street Journal, and he was spot on, on this, even though he wasn’t spot on, on election night. But Reagan won 49 states. So to expect Republicans to get that level of the white support is unrealistic. And the white electorate is down from being 88% of the American electorate in the early 1980s. Now, in this most recent election, it was 72%. So every four years, it goes down by two or three points. And I know people in the Romney campaign like to say well, you know, it was just that they didn’t show up as much as they needed to in Ohio. And that’s all true, but the five million vote margin that Obama had is, you know, it’s pretty healthy. It’s not a landslide, but it’s healthy, and it’s reflecting deeper problems in the kinds of Americans that…

HH: Oh, in moving forward, the Republicans just have to expand outside of the white vote. There are reasons I believe they can do that.

JA: They have to. I think they can, too.

HH: But let me go to the other thing.

JA: And by the way, I think it’s all very doable. I think they can close the tech gap, the geek gap, as I call it, by the next election. That is something that is doable.

HH: But what they can’t, they’ve got to learn some discipline. I want to ask you about the morality. Interesting analysis of Scott Prouty. Am I saying his name right?

JA: Yeah.

HH: This is the man who secretly recorded Romney’s 47% remarks. And I think it’s worth an entire show someday, Jonathan, because as you and I both know, I now go into any room assuming everything I say is going to be recorded and manipulated, and used possibly to injure me and my family, as you must. And we’re just media types. Politico people are always on. They can’t ever relax. I mean, they really cannot ever relax unless the President is inside of the bubble of the White House. What do you think of the morality of what Scott Prouty did, because I think it was a bad thing that he did. He tricked a man who was paying him, a man who was paying him, he might not have liked him, but a man who was paying him. He betrayed him. He did something he wasn’t supposed to do. He recorded it, and he made himself a name. I think it was bad.

JA: Well, the catering company was paying him, and you could argue that Marc Leder, whose fundraiser this was, it was at his home in Boca Raton, that he was the one who was paying the catering company with the campaign. So indirectly, I guess, you could say that the Romney campaign was paying him. Scott Prouty understood that he was going to have to leave his job at the catering company once he posted this…

HH: Sure, different question, though. What do you, Jonathan Alter, think of the morality of what he did?

JA: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it, but you know, this kind of…I do think that, and what I learned from spending hours interviewing this guy, this bartender who arguably helped change history, was that he did operate from what he saw as an act of conscience, and it was related to what Romney was saying about China. Now I didn’t happen to agree with the analysis of the Chinese factory that he made. But I do believe it was in good conscience. And then he wasn’t, you have to say in this guy’s defense, he was not doing this to get famous. This year, he went on the Ed Show once, and that was the only…

HH: I don’t have to say that in his defense. I don’t have to defend him at all. I think he did a very, I think he did a reprehensible thing that changes…

JA: Well, it certainly changed history.

HH: It changed history, and it changes the ability of people to trust and to have conversation.

JA: That’s been…I mean, as you just said, Hugh, you know, if you go to a fundraiser, and there’s, you know, a hundred people there, and Obama, you know, said that ridiculous thing about clinging to guns and religion, he should have known in 2008 that there could be somebody there with a camera. And that, you know, as…this is the business they’ve chosen. They know this is what it’s about…

HH: Oh, the Godfather.

JA: And so you’ve got to blame Romney…

HH: Oh, I know. I love that Godfather quote.

JA: And by the way, Romney blamed himself.

HH: I agree. Yup, he did.

JA: To his staff, he said this one’s on me. You didn’t do this, Stuart, you didn’t do this, Matt, he said to his people. I…

HH: Oh, he’s an honorable man. At the end of this…

JA: And he is.

HH: I hope you…

JA: And I say that in the book.

HH: Yeah.

JA: I say he’s honorable, and people liked his decency, even for all the criticism I have of him at the end of the book, on election night, it’s clear that the people who actually know Mitt Romney, the real Mitt Romney, find him to be an honorable and decent man.

HH: Oh, we esteem him very, very highly, and think him an excellent man. But let me ask you about, Ryan Lizza just this week, a friend of yours, friend of mine, was Tweeting out a conversation he overheard of a congressman dialing for dollars. And he wouldn’t put the congressman’s name out, and I respected him for that, because you know, even though the congressman was in a public place, we’re working out the rules on this. The society is going to be, it’s not going to have any privacy at all if everything is eavesdroppable, Jonathan.

JA: It’s a problem, and this goes way beyond politics. And you know, I don’t have any easy answer on it. And there is something sad about it.

HH: All right, let me get to the last issue, which is Benghazi, on which we’re going to spark. And people need to read the book, but we’re going to spark on this, because I thought it was a horrible thing that the President did or didn’t do, which was not lead. But more than that, Secretary of State Clinton talks at 2:00 in the morning with the acting ambassador, because Chris Stevens is missing. He’s in Tripoli, he’s under siege, he’s about to retreat to a safe house, the ambassador is missing, there’s a terrorist attack underway in Benghazi. She talks to him at 2am. She never calls him back, Jonathan Alter. Do you find that amazing?

JA: You know, I know this is going to be unsatisfactory for you, but at the time I finished the book, we didn’t know very much about any of this. And so I have not, it just hadn’t come out, a lot of the details. There were a lot of charges during the campaign, but they were almost completely unsubstantiated. There hadn’t been any investigation. And so I, you know, I was very struck by the testimony on the Hill. Obviously, the U.S. government did not cover itself in glory on this. I don’t think that there was an intentional stand down order so that people could be killed. It was untrue that the President was not focused on this and concerned about it. But were there huge mistakes at the State Department, and especially at the CIA?

HH: All right, I’ll be right back. One more segment with Jonathan Alter.

— – – –

HH: Wonderful book, wonderful interview, and Jonathan Alter, I appreciate it. It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com, The Center Holds. But I want to go back. Are you amazed that Hillary Clinton, knowing now, I know it’s not in the book, that she didn’t call back her number two in the middle of a crisis after talking to him? She went immediately into damage control.

JA: Well, if that is substantiated, and I don’t know that it has been, obviously that would be a big mistake.

HH: Now let me ask you about second termitis. The IRS scandal, we’ve got the Arab Spring exploding around us. As we speak Egypt may be coming unglued this weekend. By the time this weekend is over, Egypt may have convulsed in a way that none of us could have imagined. Syria is a bloody genocide. Russia and China both are just taunting President Obama for his weakness.

JA: True.

HH: I mean, it looks like, and we haven’t even gotten to the hurricane season. He hasn’t had his Katrina, yet. And I mean he had his Sandy, and nothing’s happened, there, either.

JA: Yeah.

HH: But aren’t you completely pessimistic?

JA: Well, it ain’t going well for him in his second term. There’s no arguing with that. I mean, he’s had a brutal couple of months, and there’s not a lot of signs of it getting better. It looked for a time that the economy would be a sort of silver lining for him, but now the latest numbers are not good on the American economy. So he could have a very rough four years. But the one thing to keep in mind is that the media doesn’t like a narrative that’s all moving one direction, and at a certain point, they’ll be hungering, especially the more liberal media, for a he’s coming back kind of narrative. But I agree with you that I think he’s under siege right now, and he’s got an awful lot of problems in different places that are circling around him. I don’t think he has a strong enough senior staff right now. I think he needs more people who are of his stature. It feels like he’s kind of got an infantilized staff a little bit.

HH: Jonathan, I couldn’t agree…he’s a great actor, but great actors with terrible directors end up ruining their careers, and that’s what’s happening. Hey, once again, congratulations, Jonathan. I hope the book continues to sell, especially to Republicans, and that they read it with great, great detail. And I assume the next one’s underway?

JA: No, I don’t think I’m going to, I’m going to do a history book next, go back. I’m not sure about what, but listen, I’m so grateful to you for telling people this. It’s very hard to get that message out to conservative audiences, because they go, oh, Alter, he’s a liberal, and I just want them to give the book a chance.

HH: Oh, you are a liberal, but it’s a good book.

JA: Yeah, I promise them they’ll learn stuff from it.

HH: Oh, they will. They’ll learn a lot, and they’d better memorize lots of it. Jonathan Alter, thank you, friend.

End of interview.

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