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New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich Previews His Profile Of Donald Trump

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The audio:


The transcript:

HH: On the Sunday New York Times will feature a great story on Donald Trump by none other than Mark Leibovich, author of This Town and Green Room Tales. And Mark Leibovich comes back to the Hugh Hewitt Show now. Mark, welcome, it’s good to have you back.

ML: Great to be back, Hugh. I don’t think it’s been back since, like, you’ve become, you’ve gone from being big to really, really big.

HH: Don’t worry. I’m falling to ground again.

ML: All right.

HH: It’s like that old David Bowie song.

ML: You and me, both, man.

HH: But I did not get to fly on Air Trump. You got to fly on Air Trump. I want to know, in fact, when I next have Donald Trump, I’m going to chide him a bit that the radio third-rate announcer, I’ve got a Trump tattoo. You haven’t got a Trump tattoo. He hasn’t said anything mean about you, yet.

ML: I was actually, you know, and actually, it’s 5:00 East Coast time as we’re speaking now. Frankly, I’m a little surprised, a little insulted, and I don’t quite know what I’ve done wrong here, but it’s still early. You know, these things have a way, you know, sometimes, they have to marinate a little bit, how the right words, I don’t know. I’m hoping that I’ll have it, but obviously, until then, I stand on the shoulders of giants, or I hope to stand on the shoulders of giants.

HH: You don’t get in the club until you get a Trump tattoo.

ML: Oh, yeah, I know.

HH: And you’ll know it when it’s delivered, right? People can quote it to you afterwards, the third-rate radio announcer. Nevertheless, it’s a great piece, because you really capture the Donald Trump I’ve only talked to or talked to on the debate stage. I haven’t traveled with him. Tell people how that happened, because you did note in the piece, he’s got a wonderful accessibility that most political professionals don’t allow.

ML: Right, I mean, especially someone with, I mean, theoretically, so much to lose, right? I mean, he, when you got from, say, writing about Hillary Clinton to writing about Donald Trump, I mean, it’s like night and day. I mean, Donald Trump is, first of all, very much his own operation. He does not have a lot of handlers hanging around him. Even those he does tend to be pretty deferential to him, and he seems to make all the key decisions. He does a lot of the tweeting himself, almost all the tweeting himself. Either he’ll dictate it or type himself. So look, he reads everything, he watches everything. He’s an extremely close observer of everything written, mostly about him. And he, you know, he watches a lot of TV shows. He reads a lot of things. And he said sure, come on along. And it was really as easy as just asking, and him opening the door, and the rest sort of flowed from there. I mean, obviously I’m pretty lucky, and I don’t think that this would happen for anyone, and I don’t think it’ll happen to me again. But no, I think it was a pretty easy access experience.

HH: You noted the three triumvirs who are not named Trump, two of them, Hope and Corey.

ML: Yeah.

HH: And Hope is the North Star of my associate producer, Marlon’s life, right? And Corey is the deliverer of messages. I’m not going to name the third triumvir, but you got past them and you traveled with him.

ML: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if I got past them. It would seem again to be Trump who was making these decisions. The third, I guess, who is that, Michael Cohen?

HH: Nope, no, no. He’s the consigliore.

ML: Oh, Okay. I didn’t…

HH: It’s his secretary. It’s his longtime assistant, but I’m not going to name her.

ML: OH, yes. No, I mean, I actually did meet, I don’t think, yeah, she wasn’t mentioned in there. But no, so yeah, look, I didn’t have a sense that there was any real screening committee going on. I mean, it’s, I mean, in a way, he kind of views people who are in the media as sort of not unlike himself, which is that look, my life is out there. I mean, they’re Googleable, and everything I have ever written you can Google, pretty much.

HH: But does he know that you’re kind of like the Samuel Pepys of our age? Had he read This Town?

ML: I don’t think he had. He never mentioned it. But if he, you know, I would hope, if he does, I hope he tweets about it.

HH: Oh, gosh. In fact, I’m shameless.

ML: What, Samuel Pepys? Who is that?

HH: He’s the great diarist of London during the London Fire.

ML: Oh, man, it’s like you’re doing this Harvard thing to me, Hugh. I don’t know who that is.

HH: Have you read The Looming Tower, yet?

ML: I knew that was coming. You know, I almost told the producer before I have not read The Looming Tower, yet. But I will.

HH: Was Alger Hiss a communist?

ML: What?

HH: Was Alger Hiss a communist? That’s my other second question.

ML: That’s the other, what’s the other…what’s the standard, I don’t remember.

HH: Yes. The answer is yes. He was a Soviet spy.

ML: The answer is yes. Yes, and I haven’t read it, yet. All right.

HH: It’s beyond doubt. You just forgot that. Come on, Leibovich, I’m covering for you now. Now I’ve got to play for you when Donald Trump first came on the show, I was shameless, and I had a new book coming out. Play him my Donald Trump endorsement.

DT: The Queen – buy it, get it. It’s got to be good.

ML: (laughing)

HH: Now you see, he is so aware of media.

ML: He is.

HH: He is willing to do stuff like that.

ML: Oh, absolutely.

HH: And he’s got this…

ML: I mean, you sort of go into these huge mob scenes of candidates in the middle of media. Trump is so good about this. I mean, one, he will, he’ll just let people get really close to him. If there’s a TV person around, like a TV reporter, he could be from Japan, could be from China, could be from wherever. He will immediately look at them and say where’s your camera, and then he will square up to the camera. I’ve never seen any other politician who has the presence of mind to do that, but he will just look at you and say where is your camera, I want to face the camera. And yeah, I mean, there was this rally that he really headlined against the Iran deal on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago. And you know, a lot of headliners were there. I mean, Ted Cruz was there, Sarah Palin was there, a bunch of other people. And Trump comes in and just obviously everyone just sort of coalesces around him. And yet he just sort of, he didn’t run from it. He just sort of allowed himself to be engulfed, and he talked to as many people as he could. And he just welcomed it. And so, in some ways, I think it’s his oxygen. But on the other hand, I think it’s obviously a very smart strategy on his part. He has a sort of sense on…

HH: This gets me in trouble. This gets me in trouble with my Reagan lovers, but…

ML: Yeah.

HH: But I point out that Donald Trump has more television experience than any candidate ever, and people point to the old, he just, he’s a reality television star. He knows timing, expression and punchlines.

ML: Absolutely. That is absolutely true, and again, Ronald Reagan, I mean, his experience in the media as a film actor was so almost completely irrelevant, I mean, not completely irrelevant, but it obviously was just so small compared to the many facets of media savviness and media experience, and media exposure, and frankly, just celebrity that Donald Trump was able to avail himself today. I mean, you just see people everywhere who know who he is, whether from The Apprentice, whether from just knowing that he’s Donald Trump, but he’s been Donald Trump as a very, very public figure for about three or four decades now.

HH: The Art Of The Deal, of course, big, big, big, big bestseller. He always brings that up. He’s very proud of that…

ML: Yeah.

HH: …and I think justifiably so, because it did sell and sell and sell. But he’s also, I’ve tried a couple of times to probe the personal side, and he deflects it about his mom, about his dad. He mentioned he doesn’t drink, because his brother died of alcoholism.

ML: Right, right.

HH: But did you find that he was willing to talk about family at all?

ML: I didn’t look that hard, to be honest with you. I haven’t seen much, though. I mean, there was a time when, I mean, I got a little Barbara Walters on him, and I said do you have any self-doubt at all? And he did sort of catch a little bit. I mean, there was a bit of a pause. I wouldn’t say that it was vulnerability, but he sort of said well, probably more than people think. And I said like when, how, and he just said I won’t talk about that. So I mean, I thought that itself was pretty revealing.

HH: That was in the piece, but I didn’t know that he had a catch, that there was…

ML: He did. It was a moment. I mean, they’re also, I mean, he’s obviously so unabashedly full of himself, at a certain point I said you know, don’t we want a more humble president? Don’t Americans look for a more humble brand of leader? I mean, that’s what George Washington, Abe Lincoln embodied. And he said no, absolutely not, and then he sort of, talking about Jimmy Carter carrying his own suitcase, and how he doesn’t want a president who carries suitcases. And the president should be just a sort of grander throne. And I was pretty surprised at how, again, how up front he was about that, because he doesn’t really bother playing that whole, oh, I’m just like one of you and I take…

HH: Yeah, and I’m coming right back with Mark Leibovich of the New York Times. He is obviously Trump’s theory of the case is working, because he leads in all the polls. But I’ll be right back with Leibovich.

— – – —

HH: Here’s a loaded question, Mark Leibovich.

ML: uh-oh.

HH: If you could profile and have the same amount of access as you have with Donald Trump anyone else in the Republican field, who would be choice two, three and four?

ML: In the Republican field, current Republican field?

HH: Yeah.

ML: Jeb, definitely, just because I think he’s a fascinating study at this moment. Oh, I guess Rubio. I mean, I think Rubio seems to be getting some traction. I think he’s going to hang around. Three, let’s see, I don’t know.

HH: I’m not helping you. I’m not throwing you a lifeline here.

ML: Wait, but is there actually, but is there a right Hugh Hewitt answer here, because I…

HH: No, there isn’t.

ML: Okay, I would…

HH: It’s actually, who do you…because you pick people who interest you.

ML: Yeah.

HH: So those two are interesting. They’ve got a lot of different facets to it. And I think probably there’s a correlation between durability in the race and interest factor that Donald Trump is exploiting.

ML: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I think that that’s absolutely true. I mean, I think Donald Trump is proving that, and frankly, I think he is sort of stoking that. Let’s see. I mean…

HH: You have not mentioned Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina.

ML: I haven’t.

HH: You have not mentioned Chris Christie. You have not mentioned Ted Cruz. You have not mentioned, I mean, Rand Paul.

ML: All true.

HH: You haven’t mentioned a lot of people.

ML: Well first of all, I’ve already done a lot of them. I wrote a big thing about Christie about a year ago. But I think yeah, I mean, part of it is I either am not, I feel like I know plenty about a lot of these folks, or I don’t really relish the thought of really just going that deep into them. And part of it…

HH: Has Kasich not attracted your attention?

ML: I would say Kasich would be my third. Kasich would be third.

HH: Okay, that’s what, I was fishing for that, because I think he’s just fundamentally fascinating.

ML: Yeah, agree with you, and I don’t, I’ve never met him, and don’t have any experience with him. I’m actually, I think he has some real growth potential in the field. I think he’s got to do something pretty quickly. But yeah, he’d be my third.

HH: All right, now I’ve got to play for you a little audio from Lindsey Graham, who came on just before you, and get your reaction to this. This is high policy from a low-ranked political presidential candidate right now. Here’s, play the segment from the first segment.

HH: But doesn’t that regional force risk a confrontation with Russia now? Isn’t that like a regional force in Ukraine?

LG: They’re welcome, they are welcome to fight for Assad if they’d like. I would just lay that on the table.

HH: How, so you…that’s big, actually. I’ll leave it there.

LG: Yeah, you’re welcome to fight for this guy if that’s what you want. If you want to engage on behalf of Bashar Assad, you’re welcome to do so. I’d advise you not, because his presence in Syria is beyond destabilizing. He cannot be allowed to stay. Syria will never repair itself. And Syria needs to come to an end on our terms, not Russia’s terms. The Syrian people decide if Russia can stay. I’m not telling Russia they don’t have a place in Syria. I would tell Russia the Syrian people determine what that place is, not the force of arms.

HH: Do you think a regional force would be willing to run the risk of engaging Russian advisors?

LG: If they had an American president they could rely upon.

HH: And so Mark Leibovich, Lindsey Graham just said he’s willing to go Cuban Missile Crisis, you know, full frontal with Vlad. And no one’s going to notice that, and I don’t know that Donald Trump thinks in those terms, does he?

ML: You know, I haven’t seen any evidence of it. I mean, I don’t know if he would be able to speak, you know, with a level of sophistication on the issue. I mean, he would actually be fairly defiant about him not wanting to show his hand and to sort of, what he’s learned as a negotiator would be to not tip his hand to the opposition, to the enemy. So no, I mean, I think he would probably answer that question in a much more dismissive way.

HH: That’s what he’s done with me many times. He always now goes to I’m not telling people. It’s very Nixonian.

ML: Absolutely.

HH: And so does that wear well with people when we’ve got Russia basically putting up a fort system in Syria?

ML: Well, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt him so far in the Republican primaries. I have not, I mean, look at the all the rallies I went to, and I didn’t talk to many voters who said well, I would hope he would get more into specifics, and I want him to lay out his foreign policy. I mean, the appetite, at least for people who are extremely enthusiastic about him, does not seem to be that they’re going to get the 20 point policy position on Syria, on whatever. So I think that that doesn’t seem to be where his marketplace is right now.

HH: And how were the collectables on Trump One? Did you like get some cigarettes or M&Ms or anything like Air Force One?

ML: Collectables? Interesting question. I didn’t really collect any of them. See, that’s the kind of thing where if I’m seen actually putting something in my pocket, it’s like a career ender right there, right?

HH: Oh, no, not if you do it boldly, if you hang a lantern on it and say I’m taking this china with me.

ML: Interesting.

HH: Then, it doesn’t matter.

ML: Yeah, but then you have so many security guards on that plane. That could have gotten ugly real, real, real quickly. And then of course, the New York Times would have insisted that I pay for the china. And actually, I don’t know, like china is a problematic word for him as far as his dishware, right?

HH: That’s it. Mark Leibovich from the New York Times, great profile of Donald Trump, thanks for joining me, always a pleasure, Mark. Be well.

End of interview.


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