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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Halperin, the encore.

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HH: I’m rejoined now by Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News, author, along with John Harris, of The Way To Win: Taking The White House In 2008. What didn’t we cover after three hours of yesterday? Well, we’ve got to give Mark a chance to slam me, because he didn’t like my characterization of him as a very liberal member of the MSM. And then we’ve got to clarify a couple of things, and then we’re going to talk about exit polls. Mark Halperin, welcome back. The book is great. I want people to read it, but I still think you’re very liberal. You have the floor.

MH: Hugh, you know, I’ve decided you must be kidding, because you don’t have any evidence for it. It’s so unusual for you to be dogmatic about something, and to not pay attention. You don’t really have any evidence for it. So I’m not sure your listeners would be that interested in talking about it, except I’ll say again, the reason you keep calling me very liberal must have something to do with something in your own background. Something bad must have happened to you as a child, I guess. I don’t know. But you have no evidence for it, and you keep saying it. So I’m happy to move on off the point, Hugh, because you’ve just dug in on this, and you couldn’t admit your mistake. And I’m happy to move to other things, because you and I agree about so much, this is something that just for whatever reason, something bad happened to you when you were young, I’m sure. You just won’t give this up.

HH: I want to make sure that the audience who didn’t hear yesterday know that the transcript and the audio are available at My argument is based on the following, that Mark grew up in a liberal family, he went to a liberal college…

MH: Let me stop you there, Hugh.

HH: Well, let me get it out there.

MH: Well, I want to go one by one. You went to a liberal college, and I don’t think you’re a liberal.

HH: That’s right.

MH: Have you ever heard of anyone growing up in a liberal family and not being liberal? Has that ever happened?

HH: Absolutely, but it’s less likely than if they would be liberal.

MH: Hugh, what study are you looking to for that?

HH: Just human experience.

MH: Human experience. Well, I know plenty of people who’ve rebelled against their parents, and don’t have anything to do with their parents’ views. So far…

HH: And then you went to work in the media for how many years now? 20?

MH: Almost 20.

HH: And the media is, by your own admission, overwhelmingly liberal.

MH: Right. And so, someone who acknowledges that, do you think they’re likely to be captive to this phenomena they’re describing?

HH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again…and then…

MH: Hugh, you know what? You’ve not had enough human experience, because the three things you’ve cited, the same three things you cite over and over, are just silly.

HH: And then I asked you a series of questions, none of which you would answer.

MH: Right, but that’s not proof of anything, either, Hugh. You’ve offered four things, none of which are proof of anything.

HH: Now if, and this is a hypothetical. If your mom and dad are Catholic, and you grow up going to Catholic school and Catholic college, and you go to Mass and you work for the Diocese, but you won’t answer the question that you’re a Catholic, does that make it irrational to assume that you are a Catholic?

MH: Well, it sort of does, but that’s not an exact parallel at all, because you have no idea what my life was like growing up.

HH: Okay. We have now…that’s why we disagree, and the other thing is you have any opportunity, at any time, today in this interview, tomorrow in an e-mail…

MH: Right. People can read the transcript, and see why it is I don’t discuss whatever views I might have, because I’m a political reporter who’s trying, in an environment in which you and others, on the left and on the right, use information as we say in The Way To Win, not to try and illuminate, but as a weapon to…that makes it impossible for people and blame my line of work, to do our jobs.

HH: Here’s the kicker. Here’s the kicker. I have an e-mail from a colleague of yours who has discussed politics with you many times. They think very liberal’s not right, but that liberal is, and that you may have even voted for a Republican some time in your life, and that you are less…

MH: Well, they must not know me very well, Hugh, because as you and I discussed yesterday on the show, I don’t vote.

HH: I know. They don’t know you very well…

MH: So why do you care what they say? I’ve got e-mails from people who’ve known me for 20 years who are in politics, who say they don’t believe I’m liberal, they don’t know my views. I did an interview with the book…

HH: You can forward those to me, but I have evidence now from a very…

MH: It’s not evidence, Hugh. It’s not evidence. You don’t know…name the person, Hugh, to see how well they know me.

HH: I don’t…so it’s not evidence if I don’t name the person?

MH: Well, it’s not evidence that I’m liberal or conservative if I don’t name my views.

HH: And so it’s no probative value what this person tells me?

MH: Not if I don’t know who they are. I mean, they might not know me. You don’t know that they know me. Do they prove they know me? They think I vote.

HH: I know they know you.

MH: Do they know me well enough to know whether I vote or not?

HH: They didn’t know that, but they know you well enough to know your political opinions. And is that probative evidence?

MH: Not at all.

HH: All right. I love that standard. We should talk to Woodward about that standard.

MH: Hugh, who is it? Well, you and I talked about Bob Woodward.

HH: The unnamed source.

MH: You and I talked about Bob Woodward. You tell me, you tell me you don’t like unnamed sources. Now you’re telling me, because someone sent you an e-mail saying they think I voted for a Republican, but I’m liberal…

HH: No, no, no. That’s not what they said. In fact, I’ll find it and read it, and I’ll ask for permission to publish it.

MH: Do you believe in using unnamed sources or not?

HH: I’ll ask…

MH: Do you believe in using unnamed sources or not?

HH: No, I don’t.

MH: So why are you reading me source from someone you won’t identify?

HH: Because I’m using your standard, since you reject mine.

MH: Why don’t you use your own standards and be principled, Hugh?

HH: It’s not about being principled. It’s about illustrating how you’re caught in a box?

MH: There you go…no, no, no. Let’s repeat that line for the transcript. It’s not about being principled.

HH: It’s not about being principled, it’s about illustrating that you’re caught in…

MH: Why don’t you call Grover Norquist and ask him if he thinks I’m liberal, or Karl Rove who did an interview for the book, or Dick Cheney.

HH: Again, you could give me any evidence you want. I do interviews with lefties. That doesn’t make me a conservative.

MH: I don’t know what that means. All I’m telling you is…

HH: It means I talk to liberals all the time.

MH: All I’m telling you is I don’t care who you got an e-mail from. I get e-mails every day from people, saying they think I’m liberal or think I’m conservative, or from people who actually know me, who say I’ve worked alongside of you, or you’ve covered me, and I don’t know if you’re a liberal or a conservative.

HH: And did Thomas Edsall and Helen Thomas and Walter Cronkite all maintain the same sort of detachment or refusal to acknowledge politics until they retired, at which point, the mask came off, and they were all very liberal?

MH: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it’s true of everyone in journalism.

HH: It does mean that there is a pattern of people…

MH: Is everything that’s true about talk radio hosts true about you, as other talk radio hosts?

HH: Again, that’s very facile, but it avoids the point that a lot of people in MSM…

MH: No, it doesn’t avoid the point, Hugh. You’re avoiding the point…

HH: No, because I will answer questions, Mark. The difference is I’ll answer questions.

MH: But that’s your standard, Hugh. You’re not a journalist.

HH: I’ll answer questions.

MH: That’s a standard for you. That’s not the standard that I…

HH: I am a journalist. I’ve been a journalist longer than you have, I think.

MH: Yeah, well you’re not the kind of journalist who believes in the kind of journalism I believe in, which is the debate you and I had yesterday, and which I respect your view on. You believe that journalist should all be opinionated, and put their views out. That’s not what I believe.

HH: And you want me to lie about what I think about your political opinions, because you want me to retract the fact…

MH: No, I just want you to have them based on fact and not fantasy based on some bad childhood experience you had, which allowed you…

HH: What is the bad childhood fantasy thing?

MH: It’s the only thing I can think of that’s causing you to dig in on a bad position.

HH: You really think that it’s irrational for people to conclude that you’re very liberal?

MH: Yes. There’s no evidence for it.

HH: All right. We’ll leave it…

MH: And the evidence…you keep citing the same four things over and over. You’ve now introduced this phantom e-mail from someone who allegedly works with me, but doesn’t know me that well. And that’s it…

HH: They don’t work with you, they just know you. They’ve talked politics with you.

MH: Yeah, well if they have talked politics with me, and they know whether I’m liberal or conservative, they know more than people I talk politics with a thousand times a day.

HH: I’ve got to go find it and read it, and I will during the break. But I won’t tell you the name. Now going to the key thing, which is the exit polls…

MH: Because you’re using my standard on anonymous sources, not your own principled one?

HH: That’s right. My principled source…I don’t need another principled reason, because I already have my opinion grounded in good inference and logic…

MH: Good inference? That’s always…

HH: I’m trying to persuade you that there is a fine, a fine source that meets your standard…

MH: Is it based on evidence or inference?

HH: Mine is based on evidence, and now I have evidence from your standard that I ought to be able to use, but which you’re rejecting, because you don’t want me to use unnamed sources, even though your news division uses unnamed sources every day.

MH: Well, that…I just want you to live up to your own high standard.

HH: No, I have. I have reached my conclusion on my own standards. But then, because you weren’t satisfied, I’ve given you additional standards from your world.

MH: An e-mail that you claim to have from somebody who claims to know me, who there’s no reason to believe knows me, is not any better than the other things you’ve offered, which are beneath the man of your intellect. But, as I said, we should just go on…

HH: I will ask my correspondent to correspond with you.

MH: Great.

HH: And now…and then, if, in fact, you receive that e-mail, will you acknowledge that it was a very good source?

MH: It depends on who it is and how well they know me.

HH: Okay, very good.

MH: But what I’d like you to do is tell the listeners what bad childhood experience you had.

HH: Again, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about there, but we’ll just move on to exit polls.

MH: All right. I’ll get you an e-mail on that.

HH: In The Note today…

MH: Yes,

HH: It publishes news to me that all exit polls will be sequestered with a handful of staffers until 5PM Eastern time. Is that correct?

MH: That is correct. I’m trying to educate people on this, because I’ll tell you, as we write in The Way To Win, this is a freak show environment in which people on the left believe the press is timid and weak, and doesn’t stand up to the Bush administration, and people on the right thinks the press is liberally biased, and will use Election Day to help Democrats secure a majority in Congress. There may be some places where those things are going on. ABC News is going to do our best to try to use this process, amongst other things, besides covering the election, to restore people’s confidence that we can do a good job.

HH: Did Jimmy Carter’s early declaration of defeat in 1980 affect the outcome of the election for down-ticket races in the West?

MH: I have no idea. I know there’s been testimony about it, and discussion about it. To me, when I’ve reviewed the evidence, it’s inconclusive.

HH: I think most people who have reviewed that evidence have concluded that he did have an impact, and certainly Democrats thought that he did.

MH: Well they think, just like Republicans think, that voters didn’t vote in 2000, because of the projection in Florida.

HH: Are you familiar with John Lott’s work with regards to the projection in Florida?

MH: I’ve seen e-mail traffic on it, but I’ve not studied it.

HH: He wrote me today…this is not the source about you, by the way.

MH: I hope not.

HH: “Halperin wanted you to point out one person in the Western Panhandle of Florida whose decision to vote was altered by the early call. While I can’t provide the name of a particular person, there are two polls that were done shortly after the election, McLaughlin and Bob Beckel, and both use statements from some people who claim that their decision was affected to find that the early call cost Bush 8,000 or so votes.

MH: Right. I’m familiar…this sounds familiar. Show me the name of one human.

HH: And I provided today at…did you read the e-mail from the one human who was a GOTV worker who relayed her experience…

MH: I printed it, but I didn’t have time to read it.

HH: Okay. There’s your one person. Now are you going to make your…

MH: Well, maybe. I’ve got to read it first.

HH: But are you going to call her up and interview her?

MH: If I read it…

HH: Are you open to be persuaded on this matter?

MH: Oh, as I told you yesterday, I’m totally open to being persuaded. I’m anxious for that information.

HH: And then, if John Lott sends you the paper that talks about the statistical turnout in the Western Panhandle, you’ll read it and consider it?

MH: Without question, but I’m most interested in actual human beings, rather than theoretical studies.

HH: And of course, there are reasons why those human beings wouldn’t be forthcoming now, but we’ll get back to that, and…

MH: Well, I disagree with that.

HH: …and the great danger that is posed by the exit polls, which the media elite are going to decide when to release. If you trust them, I guess you’re not going to lose any sleep over that. If you don’t, if you think they’re very liberal, you might.

– – – –

HH: Mark Halperin, how did ABC handle the John Kerry story today? How ought it handle it tomorrow in the morning show, and in the evening news?

MH: We led with it, as did the other networks. It’s an interesting story. Sometimes in politics, interesting trumps everything else. But it’s also a complicated story, because you’ve got to decide what standards do you use to decide what matters about John Kerry says, something we don’t normally care about much in the evening news these days, and also about whether or not what he said is being mischaracterized, how it’s being used by you and other conservatives. So we did lead with it. I suspect it’ll play very big on the news tomorrow. I’m not sure about after that, how much shelf life it will have, or should have.

HH: Do you believe he was making a joke?

MH: I do believe he was making a joke.

HH: And now, I have had…and have you talked to any military active duty about that conclusion?

MH: Not active duty, but retired. But I don’t know that…but that was almost a fluke. I don’t know that someone in the military would have more insight into what John Kerry’s brand of humor is like than someone not in the military.

HH: Does it matter at all how they, to your reporting, how the military is reacting to this statement by Kerry, and his explanation?

MH: Sure.

HH: And given that I’ve done an hour of radio tonight, I probably had fifteen calls from veterans and active duty, including one non-com just got back from a second tour there, a medic, a combat medic, seething with outrage. They’re not buying the apology. They believe it was premeditated. Should their point of view find a prominent place in your news coverage?

MH: The point of view should find a prominent…or a place in all news coverage. But again, as important and valuable as the troops are, as much as all Americans, and we respect them, that’s not always…they’re not necessarily the best arbiters of Senator Kerry’s sense of humor.

HH: And so, how are you going to figure that out? Because obviously, it’s convenient for him, Mark Halperin, to say he was making a joke. I find it astonishing. I can’t imagine anyone making that joke, or trying to make that joke to college students facing a choice of careers, talking about stuck in Iraq where there are hundreds of thousands of their fellow aged Americans are, or have passed through. I just can’t imagine it as a joke. But you think it was.

MH: Well, Hugh, you’ve got greater faith in John Kerry’s sense of humor than I do, I guess.

HH: I don’t understand.

MH: Well, I mean, you can’t believe he’d be making a joke about President Bush’s intelligence? He’s done it in the past.

HH: But he always has been willing to use President Bush’s name. And if he wanted to make that joke, if you don’t study and do your homework, you’ll end up as President of the United States, and you’ll get us stuck in a war? As opposed to indulging a stereotype that he once testified to about…in 1971, the Genghis Khan testimony, that he might really have severe and significant contempt for America’s fighting men…

MH: Hugh, let me make a broader point, which is as John Harris and I write about in our book, The Way To Win, the freak show environment in which politics currently is played, the Republican Party is excellent at it. And as just a matter of professional observation, as someone who covers excellent politicians like Karl Rove and Bill Clinton and George Bush and others, today has been a textbook case of the door opened by John Kerry, not an excellent politician, to using this to put the party in a position, I think, to save some of the House seats that were in danger of being lost. I’m not talking about the merits of Senator Kerry, the merits of George Bush. I’m talking just about as a matter of politics, you’ve been excellent as part of that effort, but so have many others, including a lot of Republican officeholders. And again, if you want to understand the way to win the White House in 2008, today would be an excellent little case study about the asymmetry between the two sides.

HH: If he meant it, as it was sounding to me and others, and to the troops, as he said he…

MH: But not everyone, and not the way he necessarily meant it.

HH: But if he meant it that way…

MH: If he meant is that way, yeah…

HH: Would it be an outrageous statement that ought to affect how people vote?

MH: 100%.

HH: That’s all I needed to know.

MH: But I will tell you that I find it a little bit hard to believe that that’s how he meant it.

HH: We radically disagree, but we can close that.

MH: No, I just said I find it hard to believe. I don’t know.

HH: I do know. I know that man, I know what he said in ’71, I know what the military is saying. I’ve got a father-in-law and a brother-in-law who served their entire lives in the military. They know this crap.

MH: You know he was in the military, right?

HH: What’s that?

MH: You know he was in the military, right?

HH: Yes, I do.

MH: Just for a couple of months.

HH: And I know what the people in the military think about him making a statement like this.

MH: Remind me where and when you served?

HH: I did not. Obviously, I’m a civilian.

MH: Is that a lifetime regret of yours?

HH: No, it’s not.

MH: How come?

HH: Because it’s just not. When I came out of college in 1978, you didn’t go into the military.

MH: Did members of your family serve?

HH: I married into a military family of five generations.

MH: What about members of your birth family?

HH: My father served, both of my uncles served.

MH: And did they…

HH: Mark, Mark, I’ve got to get to the exit polls.

MH: Does that make you feel bad?

HH: I think that’s…no, it doesn’t make me feel bad at all, although I do believe…

MH: Are you anti-military because of that? Or pro-military?

HH: I’m very pro-military.

MH: Got it. Okay, sorry. Go ahead.

HH: I’m very pro-military. Are you?

MH: I’m trying to put some levity in here, Hugh.

HH: Are you? Do you want us to win this war, Mark Halperin?

MH: Of course. Both wars.

HH: Okay, just checking.

MH: I want to make sure you remember, Hugh, at all times, we’re in two wars.

HH: No, we’re not. We’re in one war with two fronts. Was World War II two wars? Or was it one war, Mark Halperin?

MH: Well, it was probably more than two.

HH: (pause)

MH: It might have been more than two fronts. I think it’s two wars. But it’s really a semantic thing. I wouldn’t waste a second of this precious show’s airtime on that.

HH: Let’s go to the exit polls.

MH: Yes, sir. Very important.

HH: You’re going to release them at 5PM. Why not wait until all the polls across…

MH: Well, no, let me be clear, though. We’re not going to release at 5PM. At 5PM, it’s when, and again, this is a big change, 5PM is when all but the very small group of representatives sequestered away from the consortium, which includes the Rupert Murdoch owned Fox Network, when those people are free to leave the sequestered room, and to e-mail out what they want to e-mail out. But that doesn’t take off our normal strictures about what kind of things we release.

HH: But that’s going to dirty up the information flow with backroom data at 2PM, West Coast time, where Washington State is still eight hours away…

MH: Well, no, because again, unless it’s improperly leaked by one of the networks…

HH: But it will be improperly leaked. That’s like saying unless there’s an accident on the 405 today.

MH: Let’s hope it’s not.

HH: Mark, it’s going to happen, right? It’s going to be on Drudge within a matter of minutes.

MH: I mean…I’ve certainly made jokes about that, but I hope it doesn’t happen. But if it does…

HH: But is it probable?

MH: Here’s the thing.

HH: Is it probable that it will happen?

MH: I’d say that’s a good way to describe it.

HH: And therefore, you guys are probably going to screw with the elections again.

MH: Well, the fact that it leaks to Drudge doesn’t mean we’re screwing with the election.

HH: Certainly, it does. Information is…

MH: Should we not do the exit poll?

HH: You should not release the exit poll to anyone who could possibly give it to the media until the last poll in America closes.

MH: We are the media, Hugh. Or at least part of the media. I agree, and there are really stringent efforts to keep it from leaking. ABC is second to none in our real concern about the numbers getting out, and we take steps internally that I think sometimes might even put us at a competitive disadvantage. I hope you would issue that same warning. I’m sure you are through the broad reach of the show to people at Fox and NBC and CBS and the AP. If it leaks, people should just disregard it, knowing full well that…

HH: Oh…

MH: …the first and second wave data is not necessarily determinative by any means.

HH: People never disregard it, do they?

MH: But they…well, I mean, who does it…

HH: It affects the way we act.

MH: Well, it affects pundits, maybe, and Matt Drudge.

HH: No, it affects voters in Get Out The Vote. It affects…

MH: Find me one.

HH: Again, if you want to deny the reality of that…I sent you one. I posted one. You haven’t read it.

MH: I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I plan to find that one person. Here’s the thing, Hugh. I have been someone who’s said we really need to reconsider whether we need to do the exit poll. Remember, the exit poll, though, has two purposes, right? One is to help the networks in a timely fashion.

HH: It’s to get you ratings. It has one purpose, to get you guys ratings and advertising revenue.

MH: No, no. Hugh, I can tell you this. I can tell you this. Given what it costs us, it is not a big money maker.

HH: But it’s about ratings in the long term.

MH: No, it’s not about that.

HH: Then don’t do it. It doesn’t get you anything. It’s not real information.

MH: Hugh, listen to me. It does two things if it’s done well. One is, it helps you project winners, not in House races, that’s an important thing for your listeners to know. There will be no exit polls with the exception of the Vermont at large race, which has sort of fallen off the competitive list for most people. There are no competitive House races where there will be exit polls.

HH: Quick question. I’ve got an e-mail. Did you once ask Adam Nigourney what went wrong in his childhood?

MH: Did I once ask him that?

HH: Yeah.

MH: I don’t remember.

HH: You don’t remember using that…

MH: I mean, it does sound familiar.

HH: It does sound familiar, Mark Halperin?

MH: No, it doesn’t sound familiar.

HH: Would you send me an e-mail on that? Mark Halperin from ABC’s The Note.

End of interview.


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