Overheard with Evan Smith

S3 E5 | FULL EPISODE

David Maraniss

David Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist. He's written five bestselling books, including a biography of Bill Clinton, a history of the 1960 Rome Olympics, a biography of Vince Lombardi and a history of the Vietnam era. His latest book is Barack Obama: The Story, which uses hundreds of interviews to chronicle the President's family history and his life before politics.

AIRED: October 31, 2012 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> FUNDING FOR OVERHEARD

WITH EVAN SMITH IS PROVIDED

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VIEWERS LIKE YOU.

THANK YOU.

>> I'M EVAN SMITH.

HE'S A PULITZER PRIZE

WINNING REPORTER AND

BEST-SELLING AUTHOR WHOSE

BIOGRAPHIES OF BILL CLINTON,

ROBERTO CLEMENTE AND VINCE

LOMBARDI ARE COMPELLING.

HIS LATEST IS "BARACK OBAMA,

THE STORY."

HE'S DAVID MARANISS.

THIS IS OVERHEARD.

ΒΆ

>> DAVID MARANISS, WELCOME.

>> THANK YOU, EVAN.

>> GREAT TO SEE YOU.

>> TERRIFIC TO BE HERE.

>> THIS IS A GREAT BOOK AND

THE SUBJECT IS SO BIG, BUT I

WANT TO GO KIND OF AWAY FROM

THE BOOK AND ASK GENERALLY

ABOUT THIS PRESIDENT AND WHY

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS WE

STILL DON'T KNOW WHERE HE'S

FROM, WHO HE IS.

DONALD TRUMP IS ASKING FOR

HIS COLLEGE TRANSCRIPTS.

I MEAN, THERE'S NOT BEEN A

PERSON IN PUBLIC LIFE, I

WOULD SUBMIT TO YOU, ABOUT

WHOM SO MUCH HAS BEEN

WRITTEN, ALTHOUGH OUT IN THE

WORLD SO MUCH APPARENTLY IS

STILL UNKNOWN.

>> WELL, IT'S NOT UNKNOWN.

>> OF COURSE, I'M BEING

FACETIOUS.

>> HE'S THE FIRST

AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT.

THAT'S THE FIRST AND ONLY

REASON FOR ALL OF THIS.

>> THIS IS ALL ABOUT RACE.

>> IT'S ALL ABOUT RACE.

>> AT THE END OF THE DAY

YOU'D NEVER ASK FOR A BIRTH

CERTIFICATE FROM A WHITE

GUY.

>> THERE'S A LOT OF

ANIMOSITY AND HATRED THAT I

SAW DIRECTED TOWARDS BILL

CLINTON, TOO, SO I CAN'T SAY

THAT ALL OF THAT IS ABOUT

RACE, BUT THE REASON THAT

THESE -- THE CONSPIRATORISTS

KEEP JUMPING FROM ONE

HISTORICAL, FICTIONAL,

CONSPIRATORIAL ACCOUNT TO

ANOTHER YOU HAVE TO ASK WHY.

THERE'S ONLY ONE REASON.

>> AS A BIOGRAPHER THAT

SPENT SO MUCH TIME WITH THIS

MAN, LIVING INSIDE HIS WORLD

TO UNDERSTAND WHO HE IS, THE

QUESTION OF HIS BIRTH, THE

QUESTION OF ANY OF THESE

ISSUES THAT HAVE COME UP

HAVE ALL BEEN ASKED AND

ANSWERED LONG AGO.

YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED?

>> LET ME DEAL WITH, FOR

INSTANCE, THE BIRTH.

FOR BARACK OBAMA NOT TO HAVE

BEEN BORN ON AUGUST 4TH,

1961 IN HONOLULU THIS IS THE

CONSPIRACY THAT WOULD HAVE

HAD TO EXIST.

FIRST, THE TWO HONOLULU

PAPERS WOULD HAVE HAVE BEEN

PART OF THE CONSPIRACY

BECAUSE THEY BOTH PRESENT

THE THE BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS.

SECONDLY, THE IMMIGRATION

AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE

WOULD HAVE TO HAVE BEEN PART

OF THE CONSPIRACY BECAUSE

THEY WERE FOLLOWING AND

TRACKING BARACK OBAMA,

SENIOR DURING THAT ENTIRE

PERIOD THAT HE WAS IN HAWAII

AND THEY WERE TRYING TO KICK

HIM OUT OF THE COUNTRY.

IF, AS THE RIGHT WINGERS

LIKE TO SAY, THAT PRESIDENT

OBAMA WAS BORN IN MOMBASA,

IF THEY HAD GONE THERE THEY

WOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN INTO

THIS COUNTRY.

SO THAT'S THE SECOND PART OF

IT.

AND THIRD, BARACK OBAMA'S

MOTHER'S NAME WAS STANLEY M.

DUNHAM.

THE WEEK OF HIS BIRTH A

JOURNALIST TOOK A PROMINENT

DOCTOR FROM THE MEDICAL

CENTER OUT TO LUNCH AT THE

OUTRIGGER CANOE CLUB AND

SAID WHAT INTERESTING

HAPPENED IN YOUR WORLD THIS

WEEK?

HE SAID, WELL, STANLEY HAD A

BABY.

IT'S NOT EVERYDAY THAT

STANLEY HAS A BABY.

EVERY NURSE AND DOCTOR AT

THE HOSPITAL REMEMBERED

STANLEY HAD A BABY.

IT SORT OF WENT AROUND THE

HOSPITAL.

SO FOR ALL OF THOSE REASONS

IT'S JUST PREPOSTEROUS, AND

IT CONTINUES.

AND YOU KNOW, PART OF IT I

BLAME -- I BLAME MOST OF IT

ON RACISM, BUT IT'S ENHANCED

BY THE MODERN TECHNOLOGIES.

IN OTHER WORDS, THEY CAN NOW

PHOTOSHOP A SO-CALLED BIRTH

CERTIFICATE FROM COASTAL

HOSPITAL IN MOMBASA AND IT'S

GOING AROUND THE INTERNET.

>> AND PEOPLE BELIEVE IT.

>> PEOPLE BELIEVE IT, BUT

THEY MADE ONE MISTAKE.

MOST OF THE EARLY

BIOGRAPHIES SAID THAT BARACK

OBAMA, SENIOR WAS BORN IN

1936.

AND SO THIS BIRTH

CERTIFICATE SAYS FATHER'S

BIRTH 1936.

BUT I DISCOVERED THE

REALITY, THAT HE WAS BORN IN

1934.

SO THEY --

>> THEY CAN'T EVEN GET THEIR

FRAUD RIGHT.

>> RIGHT.

>> THERE'S A FACT THAT OBAMA

HAS BEEN SUCH A

CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE FREEING

INTO MANY OF THE

CONSPIRACIES YOU ALLUDE TO.

IS THAT WHAT MADE HIM A GOOD

SUBJECT FOR THIS BOOK?

WOULD ANY PRESIDENT HAVE

INTERESTED YOU OR WAS THERE

SOMETHING ABOUT THIS

PARTICULAR PRESIDENT?

>> WELL, EVERY BOOK I DO I

HAVE TO BE OBSESSED ABOUT

SOME ASPECT OF IT.

>> RIGHT.

>> AND FOR THIS BOOK

HONESTLY, EVAN, I DEBATED

LONGER ABOUT WHETHER I

WANTED TO DO THIS BOOK THAN

ANY I'VE DONE BEFORE.

>> WHY?

>> BECAUSE OF WHAT I

CONSIDERED TO BE THE TOXIC

POLITICAL CULTURE OF AMERICA

TODAY.

AND I KNEW THAT TRYING TO DO

A SERIOUS HISTORICAL

BIOGRAPHY AND THROWING IT

INTO THIS CULTURE WOULD BE

DIFFICULT.

THE PEOPLE -- HISTORIANS'S

DUTY IS THE FACTS, BUT

PUTTING THEM IN CONTEXT.

AND THEN PEOPLE RIP THINGS

OUT OF A BOOK AND TAKE THEM

OUT OF CONTEXT.

I WASN'T SURE I WANTED TO GO

THROUGH THAT AGAIN.

BUT TWO THINGS OBSESSED ME

ABOUT THIS BOOK THAT MADE ME

WANT TO DO IT.

THE FIRST WAS THE UTTER

RANDOMNESS OF HIS EXISTENCE.

WE'RE ALL RANDOM CREATURES,

BUT HIS STORY IS MORE

UNLIKELY.

AND I SAW IN THE CHANCE TO

WRITE ABOUT HIS FAMILY

HISTORY, TO WRITE ABOUT THE

MODERN WORLD AND MODERN

AMERICAN.

TAKING YOU ALL AROUND THE

WORLD AND ALL THE DIFFERENT

ISSUES THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO

ALL OF US.

AND SECONDLY, GIVEN THE

CONTRADICTIONS INTO WHICH

BARACK OBAMA WAS BORN, THE

BIRACIAL AND DIFFERENT

THINGS THAT HE HAD TO DEAL

WITH, HOW DID HE FIGURE IT

OUT?

HOW DID HE RECREATE HIMSELF?

AND THAT'S WHAT THIS BOOK

IS.

THAT'S ALL I EVER INTENDED

IT TO BE, THE WORLD THAT

CREATED BARACK OBAMA AND HOW

HE RECREATED HIMSELF.

>> AND YOU KNEW, I'M SURE,

DAVID, THAT WRITING THIS

DUKE, IF THE BOOK WAS NOT

CRITICAL OF THE PRESIDENT IN

SOME WAY OR SUPPORTED RATHER

THAN REFUTED MANY OF THE

CONSPIRACIES WE'VE TALKED

ABOUT, THE HATERS WOULD HATE

BASICALLY.

PEOPLE WOULD SAY MARANISS IS

NOW PART OF THE CONSPIRACY

BECAUSE HE'S NOT BUYING INTO

THE NEGATIVE VIEW OF THIS

PRESIDENT'S BIOGRAPHY OR THE

HOLD WE HAVE ON THEM.

>> I KNEW TWO THINGS WOULD

HAPPEN, THEY WOULD DISMISS

IT AND CHERRY-PICK THINGS

OUT OF IT.

>> AND THAT DID HAPPEN.

>> AND IT DID HAPPEN.

I KNEW IT WOULD HAPPEN AND I

HAD TO DEAL WITH THAT.

I MEAN, HOW DO YOU DEAL

RATIONALLY WITH IRRATIONAL

THOUGHT?

SOMETIMES I JUST TRY TO

IGNORE T.

>> AS A JOURNALIST YOU DEAL

WITH IT ALL THE TIME, NOT

JUST AS THE AUTHOR OF A

BOOK.

>> YES.

>> EVERY SINGLE COMMENTER ON

A STORY ON THE INTERNET IS

SOMEONE WHO IS PURVEYOR OF

IRRATIONAL THOUGHT ALMOST,

RIGHT?

>> YOU KNOW, I DON'T READ

THOSE COMMENTS ANYMORE.

>> THAT'S PROBABLY SMART.

>> IT WILL TAKE YEARS OFF

YOUR LIFE.

>> IT'S A VERY SICK WORLD.

ON THE ONE HAND YOU PRAISE

IT AS SORT OF PART OF THE

DEMOCRATIC PROCESS, OPENING

IT UP, BUT IT'S LIKE

EVERYBODY IS WRITING ON THE

BATHROOM WALL.

THAT'S REALLY WHAT IT IS

BECAUSE IT'S ANONYMOUS.

>> AND THEY'RE COWARDS.

THEY HAVE THE ANONYMITY.

>> AND I OBVIOUSLY GET A LOT

OF EMAILS FROM OBAMA HATERS.

AND ONCE IN AWHILE, ONCE IN

AWHILE THEY HAVE THEIR

ACTUAL NAME ON IT.

AND WHENEVER THEY DO I WRITE

THEM RIGHT BACK.

AND THEN THEY BACK AWAY.

I MEAN, THEY'RE SO USED TO

THROWING ALL THIS FEED

ANONYMOUSLY THAT WHEN YOU

ACTUALLY CONFRONT THEM AS A

HUMAN BEING THEY'RE

EMBARRASSED BY IT.

>> THEY COLLAPSE.

YOU SAID HOW UNLUKELY

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STORY IS

IS WHAT DRUG YOU TO IT.

HE IS GENERATIONALLY THE

FIRST OF HIS KIND.

IN MANY WAYS HE AND

PRESIDENT CLINTON ARE OF

DIFFERENT GENERATIONS AND

THE IMPERFECTION OF THIS

GENERATION, THE GREATER

LIKELIHOOD THAT SOMEBODY WHO

GOES INTO PUBLIC OFFICE OR

SEEKS THE PRESIDENCY WILL

COME FROM A SINGLE-PARENT

FAMILY OR MIGHT BE BIRACIAL

OR MIGHT BE GAY OR HAVE A

NON-TRADITIONAL BACKGROUND.

WE'VE HAD SO MANY

TRADITIONAL BACKGROUNDS IN

THE PEOPLE WE ELECT TO

PUBLIC OFFICE THAT WE'RE

PROBABLY ENTERING AN ERA

THAT PEOPLE WITH MORE NO

TRADITIONAL BACKGROUNDS WILL

BE THERE.

IT'S A PATH BREAKER IN THAT

WAY, TOO.

>> BORN IN 1961, HE'S AT THE

VERY TAIL END OF THE BABY

BOOM GENERATION.

THAT'S SORT OF THE EDGE

RIGHT THERE, '61, '62.

AND IN ONE SENSE AS I

WATCHED -- THE SECOND HALF

OF THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HIS

SEARCH FOR IDENTITY.

AND YOU WATCH THAT, SEARCH

THROUGH HIS LETTERS AND

JOURNALS THAT HIS

GIRLFRIENDS KEPT IN SO MANY

DIFFERENT WAYS, YOU SEE

THIS -- THAT HE'S SEARCHING

FOR A HOME.

AND HE HAS TO FIND THAT HOME

IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN

COMMUNITY.

AND HE REALLY IS PROBABLY, I

THINK -- AND I HOPE I'M NOT

BEING NAIVE ABOUT THIS, BUT

I THINK HE'S SORT OF THE

LAST OF THE GENERATION THAT

HAS TO MAKE THAT CHOICE.

PEOPLE SAY, WELL, HE'S HALF

BLACK AND HALF WHITE.

WHY DID HE CALL HIMSELF

BLACK?

IT'S SUCH A NAIVE QUESTION.

SOCIETY DEFINES HIM AS

BLACK.

BUT IF YOU TALK TO KIDS

TODAY WHO ARE IN COLLEGE AND

THERE ARE SO MANY THAT ARE

BIRACIAL, JUST ALL DIFFERENT

SORTS OF VARIETIES, BUT

THEY'RE MORE COMFORTABLE

JUST BEING WHO THEY ARE.

>> YOU DON'T THINK THAT

PRESIDENT OBAMA IS AN

EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE WHO HAS

ALMOST GOTTEN PAST IN HIS

OWN MIND THE QUESTION OF HIS

RACE.

HE WOULD PROBABLY SAY -- I'M

GOING TO ASSERT THIS.

YOU TELL ME IF I'LL WRONG --

THAT HE'S A PRESIDENT WHO

HAPPENS TO BE BLACK AS

OPPOSED TO A BLACK

PRESIDENT.

>> HE CERTAINLY HAD TO DEAL

WITH THAT AS PRESIDENT VERY

CAREFULLY.

IT'S A REAL INTERESTING

ISSUE ON HOW HE HAS DEALT

WITH THE FACT THAT HE'S

AFRICAN-AMERICAN AS

PRESIDENT.

YOU NEVER HEAR HIM TALK

ABOUT IT.

THE ONLY TIME HE REALLY DID

WAS RATHER BRILLIANTLY

DURING THE CAMPAIGN --

>> THE PHILADELPHIA SPEECH.

>> ABOUT DEALING WITH

REVEREND WRIGHT.

BUT SINCE THEN IT WOULD BE

SUICIDE FOR HIM TO TALK

ABOUT IT TOO MUCH.

>> DOES THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN

COMMUNITY VIEW HIM AS HAVING

ADEQUATELY LIVED UP TO HIS

BLACKNESS IN THE LAST FOUR

YEARS?

>> THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE

YOU'LL SEE THAT THERE'S

ALWAYS BEEN A QUESTION --

YOU CAN'T SAY

AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY,

BUT YOU CAN SAY SOME

AFRICAN-AMERICANS HAVE

ALWAYS QUESTIONED WHETHER

HE'S BLACK ENOUGH?

>> IT'S NOT MONOLITHIC.

>> WHEN HE GOT TO COLLEGE

SOME OF HIS PEERS IN --

BLACK PEERS SAID HE'S AN

INTERNATIONAL GUY.

HE'S NOT REALLY ONE OF US.

WHEN HE WAS IN CHICAGO, YOU

KNOW, RUNNING FOR OFFICE,

SOME OF HIS OPPONENTS,

WHETHER IT WAS BOBBY RUSH IN

2000 WHEN HE RAN IN

CONGRESSIONAL RACE AGAINST A

FORMER BLACK PANTHER, THAT

WHOLE RACE WAS HIM SAYING

YOU'RE NOT --

>> HE HE GOT BEAT TWO TO

ONE.

>> SO HE'S ALWAYS HAD TO

DEAL WITH THAT TO SOME

DEGREE.

I FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE

SAYING THE BLACK COMMUNITY

THINKS THIS.

YOU CAN SAY THAT ABOUT

ANYBODY.

BUT MY ESTIMATION IS THAT WE

DON'T COMPREHEND YET, AND

THIS MIGHT -- PROBABLY WON'T

HAPPEN, BUT IF HE'S

DEFEATED, THE SENSIBILITY OF

THE BLACK COMMUNITY WILL BE

SOMEWHAT LIKE

RECONSTRUCTION.

YOU KNOW, HERE WE GO AGAIN.

I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE

VERY DIFFICULT PERIOD.

>> BUT THE PEOPLE WHO OPPOSE

HIM OFTEN SAY THAT ANYBODY

WHO SUPPORTS HIM IS

SUPPORTING HIM ONLY BECAUSE

OF IT.

LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENS --

COLIN POWELL COMES OUT AND

SUPPORTS PRESIDENT OBAMA

AGAIN.

COLIN POWELL SELF-IDENTIFIES

AS A REPUBLICAN -- A

MODERATE, BUT A REPUBLICAN.

COMES OUT AND SUPPORTS THE

PRESIDENT AGAIN, AND

JOHNSON, THE FORMER GOVERNOR

OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, THE FORMER

CHIEF OF STAFF TO GEORGE

H.W. BUSH, IS SAYING HE'S

JUST SUPPORTING HIM BECAUSE

HE'S BLACK.

>> ISN'T THAT STUPID?

>> AND HE'S NOT THE ONLY ONE

WHO SAYS THAT.

HE'S THE MOST PUBLIC AND

MOST VISIBLE, BUT YOU KNOW,

THAT BELOW THE SURFACE

PEOPLE ARE SAYING THE SAME

THING.

>> RACE IS STILL VERY MUCH

BELOW OR ABOVE THE SURFACE,

THE CENTRAL ASPECT OF

AMERICAN LIFE IN POLITICS.

>> I'M CURIOUS AS YOU GOT TO

KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM AND THE

FORMULATION OF HIM AS HIM,

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT'S

FASCINATED ME WATCHING IN

LAST FOUR YEARS IS HOW

UNCOMFORTABLE HE SEEMS TO BE

WITH PEOPLE AND HOW

UNCOMFORTABLE HE SEEMS TO BE

WITH EVEN TALKING ABOUT WHAT

HE'S ACCOMPLISHED.

YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT WE

ELECTED, MANY OF US THOUGHT

WE ELECTED, WHETHER FOR HIM

OR AGAINST HIM, THE MOST

GIFTED ORATOR, THE MOST --

THE GUY WHO MADE THE MOST

EASY CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE.

AND YET THESE LAST FOUR

YEARS HAVE BEEN AN EFFORT

FOR HIM ALMOST TO PERSUADE

US OTHERWISE.

>> WELL, HE'S A VERY

UNLIKELY POLITICIAN.

AND HERE'S THE REASON.

HE'S ESSENTIALLY VERY

COMPETITIVE.

HE WANTS TO WIN.

HE WANTS TO BE PRESIDENT AND

CHANGE THE WORLD AS MUCH AS

HE CAN.

BUT HE'S INCREDIBLY

AMBIVALENT ABOUT THE

POLITICAL -- THE NATURE OF

POLITICS.

>> IT'S A NECESSARY EVIL.

>> AND THAT SHOWS UP.

I MEAN, THAT FIRST DEBATE

WAS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF

THAT.

I SAY, AND IN THE BOOK YOU

WILL SEE, HE HAS MORE OF A

WRITER'S SENSIBILITY THAN A

POLITICIAN'S SENSIBILITY.

HE IS BOTH A PARTICIPANT AND

AN OBSERVER OF THE PROCESS.

AND SO AS HE'S PARTICIPATING

HE'S OBSERVING HIMSELF AND

SEEING THE SURREAL ASPECTS

OF WHAT HE HAS TO DO.

THAT'S NOT -- THAT MIGHT BE

A GOOD QUALITY IN A PERSON.

IT'S NOT A GOOD QUALITY

NECESSARILY IN A POLITICIAN

OR A PRESIDENT.

BILL CLINTON WAS INCREDIBLE

AT TRANSACTIONAL POLITICS.

I CALL HIM THE MOST

BRILLIANT, AUTHENTIC PHONY

I'VE EVER SEEN.

[LAUGHTER] BECAUSE HE COULD

BE WHATEVER HE HAD TO BE.

AND BARACK OBAMA HAS A MORE

DIFFICULT TIME WITH THAT.

AND IF HE WERE JUST IN

ANOTHER SETTING DEALING WITH

YOU, YOU WOULDN'T SAY THAT

HE'S ALOOF OR COOL OR

ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

>> SO FOR YOU THE OBAMA WHO

IS VISIBLE IN THE FIRST

DEBATE -- BY WAY, REMINDED

MANY OF US IN TEXAS OF ANN

RICHARDS RUNNING FOR

REELECTION IN '94, PERHAPS

NOT ENTIRELY IN RETROSPECT

THAT FIGHT TO BE GOVERNOR

AGAIN, YOU KNOW?

BUT THE OBAMA WHO WE SAW IN

THAT DEBATE DID NOT SURPRISE

YOU BASED ON YOUR KNOWLEDGE

OF HIM?

>> NO.

>> BECAUSE HE SEEMED TO BE

ANYTHING OTHER THAN

INTERESTED IN BEING

PRESIDENT AGAIN.

>> IT DIDN'T SURPRISE ME.

I THOUGHT HE WAS

OVERCONFIDENT, WHICH IS A

TENDENCY THAT HE HAS.

I THOUGHT THAT HE WAS -- HIS

NATURAL INSTINCT IS TO NOT

BE CONFRONTATIONAL, WHICH

GOES THROUGH HIS WHOLE

PERSONALITY AS LEARNING HOW

TO NEGOTIATE DIFFERENT

CULTURES.

EVEN WHEN HE WAS A COMMUNITY

ORGANIZER IN CHICAGO, IT

DROVE THE OTHER ORGANIZERS

CRAZY THAT BARACK OBAMA

WOULDN'T CONFRONT PEOPLE IN

THE WAY THAT THEY DID.

HE FOUND OTHER WAYS AROUND

TO GET WHAT HE WANTED, BUT

IT WASN'T CONFRONTATION.

AND THIRDLY, BECAUSE THAT

AMBIVALENCE SHOWED UP.

AND FOURTH, FOR THAT DEBATE,

HIS CAMPAIGN WAS IN A

DEFENSIVE MODE.

WE'RE GOING TO WIN THIS,

JUST DON'T BLOW IT.

SO FOR ALL OF THOSE REASONS

THAT FED INTO THE

DIFFICULTIES OF THAT DEBATE,

WHICH FOR THE MOST PART WERE

STYLISTIC AS OPPOSED TO

SUBSTANTIVE PROBLEMS.

>> BUT THE PROBLEMS FROM

THIS VANTAGE POINT.

>> REALLY DAMAGING.

>> THE DEFENSE VIEWPOINT

RARELY WORKS.

>> IT DOESN'T IN SPORTS.

>> I WONDER ABOUT THE

PROCESS OF WRITING THIS BOOK

AS MUCH AS THE SUBSTANCE OF

IT.

YOU'VE WRITTEN AGAIN AMAZING

BIOGRAPHIES, I'M A HUGE NAN

OF THE CLEMENTE BOOK, THE

LOMBARDI IS FANTASTIC, BUT

THOSE WERE WRITTEN AT A TIME

WHEN THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE

TO YOU THROUGH TECHNOLOGY TO

GATHER MATERIAL AND PROCESS

MATERIAL WERE MAYBE NOT THE

SAME AS THEY ARE NOW.

THE LIFE OF THE A

BIOGRAPHER, THE PROCESS HAS

BEEN IMPACTED BY ACCESS TO

RECORDS, TECHNOLOGY AND ALL

THAT, I WOULD IMAGINE

SIGNIFICANTLY.

>> WELL, THERE'S SO MUCH I

COULD TALK ABOUT THERE.

I WAS AFRAID AND I'M

THINKING ABOUT FUTURE

BIOGRAPHERS WHAT WILL BE ON

THE RECORD -- IS IT ALL

GOING TO BE EMAIL AND TWEETS

AND SO ON.

>> RIGHT.

>> LUCKILY BARACK OBAMA DID

WRITE LETTERS AND HE DID

KEEP A JOURNAL AND HE WAS A

WRITER.

SO THAT HELPED IN TERMS OF

THAT.

AND HE WAS -- EVERYBODY HAD

TO DEAL WITH FOR THE MOST

PART WAS ALIVE AND HIS

PARENTS WERE AND HIS

GRANDPARENTS AND THE

HUNDREDS OF INTERVIEWS THAT

GO INTO THIS BOOK.

I WENT TO 16 LIBRARIES AND

ARCHIVES AROUND THE WORLD

FOR THIS BOOK.

AND EVERYTHING I DO IS SORT

OF THREE THINGS.

I BELIEVE IN GOING THERE,

WHEREVER THERE IS --

>> YEP.

>> SO FOR THE LOMBARDI BOOK

AND TURNING TO MY WIFE AND

UTTERING THE LOVING WORDS

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO MOVE

TO GREEN BAY FOR THE WINTER?

[LAUGHTER]

>> YOU'VE GOT TO BE A

DIEHARD TO WANT TO DO THAT.

>> A LOT EASIER TO SAY DO

YOU WANT TO GO TO SAN JUAN,

PUERTO RICO TO DO CLEMENTE

OR TO ROME FOR THE ROME

BOOK.

AND THIS BOOK WE WENT ALL

OVER THE WORLD AND THAT WAS

REALLY A GREAT EXPERIENCE.

>> AND I GUESS IT MUST BE

EASIER IN SOME WAYS IN THAT

YOU HAVE MORE READY ACCESS

TO THE ARCHIVES OF LIBRARIES

AND THEN HARDER THE STUFF

THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

WHEN THE RYAN PRESIDENCY OR

THE JULIAN CASTRO PRESIDENCY

OF YEARS TO COME, A LOT OF

THAT MATERIAL WILL NOT BE IN

THE FORM OF LETTERS AND

JOURNALS ONE IMAGINES, BUT

IT WILL BE MORE IN THE FORM

OF FACEBOOK POSTINGS AND

TWEETS.

YOU'RE EXACTLY RIGHT ABOUT

THAT.

>> AND THAT'S A CONCERN.

VERY MUCH SO.

WHAT THE RECORDS WILL BE.

MOST OF MY BIOGRAPHIES DEAL

WITH THE RECENT PAST WHERE I

HAVE ALL OF THE -- ALL OF

THE POSSIBILITIES FOR

ARCHIVAL MATERIALS.

SO I'M NOT TOO CONCERNED

ABOUT FROM MY BOOKS, BUT I

THINK FOR FUTURE HISTORIANS

IT WILL BE A PROBLEM.

>> WHAT ABOUT A LIVING

PERSON VERSUS A NON-LIVING

PERSON?

HARDER OR EASIER?

>> OH, IT'S MUCH HARDER.

AND WHAT I TRY TO DO --

>> HARDER TO DO A LIVING

PERSON?

>> LIVING PERSON.

AND WHAT I TRY TO DO, AND I

DON'T MEAN THIS IN A

GHOULISH WAY, IS I HAVE TO

SORT OF PRETEND THEY'RE NOT

THERE, THAT THEY'RE GONE,

BECAUSE IF YOU AS A WRITER

REACT TO THE -- WHAT'S

POPULAR AT THE MOMENT, YOU

KNOW, IT'S REALLY, REALLY

DANGEROUS.

>> YEP.

>> SO I HAVE TO TRY TO AS

MUCH AS I CAN WIPE AWAY

WHAT'S GOING ON AT THE

MOMENT BECAUSE THEN YOU'RE

WRITING -- WHAT I WANT -- I

WANT MY BOOKS TO LAST SO I'M

TRYING TO FIND THE ASPECTS

OF A PERSONALITY THAT ARE

DEEPLY ROOTED IN THAT PERSON

AND THAT CAN EXPLAIN WHAT HE

DOES WHATEVER HE'S DOING IN

THE FUTURE.

BUT IF YOU JUST RESPOND TO

WHETHER SOMEBODY IS UP OR

DOWN AT THE MOMENT AND TRY

TO WRITE A BOOK TO THAT, IT

BECOMES WORTHLESS IN A YEAR.

>> BY THE TIME THE BOOK

COMES OUT YOU'RE FIGHTING

THE LAST WAR.

HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY

ATTENTION TO PEOPLE WRITING

ON THE SAME SUBJECT?

THIS IS SOMEONE, PRESIDENT

OBAMA HAS BEEN COVERED --

OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD,

JONATHAN ALTER WROTE A BOOK

ABOUT THE FIRST YEAR OF THE

OBAMA PRESIDENT.

ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT THE

PRESIDENT.

THOSE ARE THE -- IN ESSENCE

THE NONPARTISAN OR MOSTLY

NONPARTISAN BOOKS.

ON EITHER SIDE THERE ARE THE

BOOKS THAT ARE LOVING OR

PASSIONATE SUPPORTERS OF AND

HATERS, ED KLEIN.

THERE ARE A LOT OF DIFFERENT

BOOKS ABOUT THIS PRESIDENT.

DO YOU JUST IGNORE THAT?

>> WELL, THE DAILY BEAST HAD

A STORY, SOME GUY SAID THAT

THERE ARE 89 OBAMA HATE

BOOKS OUT THERE.

>> JUST HATE BOOKS.

>> JUST HATE BOOKS.

89 OF THEM.

AND THOSE I IGNORE.

>> THERE WAS A POINT THAT

THERE WERE THREE ON THE BEST

SELLER LIST.

>> IT'S REALLY DEPRESSING.

EVEN TODAY HALF THE BEST

SELLER LIST --

>> WHAT DO YOU DO ABOUT

PEOPLE SWIMMING IN THE SAME

POOL AS YOU ON THIS?

>> WHAT I DO IS I PICK AND

CHOOSE WHO I RESPECT.

AND --

>> DID YOU READ THE REMNICK

BOOK?

>> YES, ABSOLUTELY.

>> WHILE YOU WERE WRITING

THIS BOOK.

>> BEFORE I STARTED.

REMNICK, SALLY JACOBS WROTE

A BOOK ON OBAMA'S FATHER.

THERE WAS A --

>> ON OBAMA'S MOTHER.

>> ON OBAMA'S MOTHER, WHICH

IS VERY GOOD.

AND THOSE I'VE READ.

>> YEAH.

>> BUT THEN ONCE I STARTED

MY BOOK I PUT THEM ASIDE.

I WANTED TING INTO A BOOK

WITH NO PRESUPPOSITION.

SO I READ THEM AND SAW WHERE

THEY COULD -- YOU KNOW,

LOOKED FOR PLACES THEY COULD

TAKE ME IN TERMS OF

RESEARCH.

BUT NO OTHER PURPOSE.

AND ACTUALLY, TWO OF THOSE

BOOKS CAME OUT WHILE I WAS

DOING MY -- YOU KNOW, THEY

WEREN'T REALLY OF ANY USE IN

THAT SENSE EITHER.

I WAS ALREADY --

>> YOU'RE SO FAR DOWN THE

PATH AT THAT POINT.

DID YOU GET ANY FEEDBACK

FROM THE BIG GUY ON THIS

BOOK?

>> THAT'S CLINTON.

CLINTON IS THE BIG GUY.

>> I'M SORRY.

I THOUGHT HE WAS THE BIG

DOG.

I THOUGHT -- I'VE GOT TO GET

THIS EXACTLY RIGHT.

>> I WOULDN'T WANT DIRECT

FEEDBACK, BUT I KNOW -- I

MEAN, HE KNOWS THAT IT'S THE

REAL DEAL AND HE'S TOLD

PEOPLE TO READ IT.

>> SO YOU'RE A WASHINGTON

POST REPORTER FOR SO MANY

YEARS.

HOW DOES THE ASSOCIATION

WITH THE POST WHEN YOU'RE

WRITING A BOOK LIKE THIS

HELP OR HURT OR IS IT

NEUTRAL?

>> WELL, I HAVE A RACKET

GOING.

I MEAN, I'M CALLED AN

ASSOCIATE EDITOR AT THE

POST, WHICH MEANS I DON'T

HAVE TO ASSOCIATE WITH

EDITORS.

[LAUGHTER]

>> THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS.

I ALWAYS WONDERED.

OKAY.

GREAT.

GOOD DEAL.

>> I LOVE THE PAPER.

I'VE BEEN THERE FOR 35

YEARS.

AND THEY LET ME DO MY THING.

IT'S SORT OF LIKE A

PROFESSOR EMERITUS.

SO I DO SOME EDITING OF

MAJOR PROJECTS.

I WRITE WHEN I -- WHEN I'M

AVAILABLE.

AND I DO BOOKS THE REST OF

THE TIME.

>> IS THAT STILL A CALLING

CARD?

I GUESS I'M THINKING BACK TO

THE STORIES ABOUT WOODWARD

AND BERNSTEIN DURING

WATERGATE SAYING THIS IS

CARL BERNSTEIN FROM THE

WASHINGTON POST OR WOODWARD

AND HAVING THAT BE A WAY TO

PRY A DOOR OPEN.

>> WHEN THEY WERE IN

WATERGATE I DON'T KNOW

WHETHER IT WAS.

IT WAS THEIR HARD WORK, IT

WASN'T THE NEWSPAPER.

AND AFTER THAT JUST WHAT

WOODWARD DOES.

>> BUT IT ALLOWED THEM TO

CALL UP SOMEONE WHO THEY

DIDN'T KNOW AND DIDN'T THEY

KNOW AND IT GAVE THEM GREAT

CREDIBILITY, I WOULD

IMAGINE.

>> I WOULD IMAGINE SO, EVAN.

I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT

THE -- YOU KNOW, I BENEFIT

FROM THE POST AND THE POST

BENEFITS FROM ME.

>> I'M SURE THE LATTER.

>> SO I MEAN, I THINK IT'S

AN EVEN TRADE.

I LOVE BEING ASSOCIATED WITH

THE WASHINGTON POST.

BUT NOT BECAUSE OF THAT

INFLUENCE, BUT BECAUSE OF

THE ETHICAL STANDARDS THAT

IT REPRESENTS.

>> THE BRAND IS STILL A

PRETTY POWERFUL BRAND.

>> IT REPRESENTS TRYING TO

FIND THE TRUTH WHEREVER IT

IS.

>> IS THAT THE CASE WITH THE

NEWS BUSINESS GENERALLY?

>> NO.

>> I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT

THE STATE OF THE BUSINESS.

DON'T BUM ME OUT, NOW.

[LAUGHTER]

WE'VE GOT ABOUT THREE

MINUTES LEFT.

BEING IN THE NEWSPAPER

BUSINESS THESE DAYS IS A

CHOICE OR AN OBLIGATION OR A

GOOD THING, BAD THING AND

HOW ARE WE DOING?

>> IT'S DIFFICULT.

I MEAN, IT'S A STRUGGLE.

BUT -- AND I THINK SOME

NEWSPAPERS WILL SURVIVE AND

SOME WON'T.

WHETHER 10 YEARS FROM NOW

THERE WILL ACTUALLY BE

PRINTED, OR 20 YEARS FROM

NOW THERE WILL BE PRINTED

DAILY NEWSPAPERS OR IT WILL

ALL BE SOMEWHERE IN THE

ETHER, I'M NOT SURE.

>> THE PEOPLE WHO SUGGEST

THAT WE MAY ACTUALLY SEE AN

ERA OF NEWSPAPERS IN CITIES

JUST COMPLETELY

DISAPPEARING, YOU DON'T

THINK THAT'S HYPERBOLE?

>> DO 20-YEAR-OLDS READ

NEWSPAPERS OR READ THEM

ONLINE?

I DON'T KNOW.

MOSTLY NOT.

>> YEP.

>> BUT ON THE OTHER HAND,

WHEN YOU GO TO A JOURNALISM

SCHOOL LIKE U.T. WHERE I

SPOKE IN MAY, THERE ARE

PLENTY OF KIDS WHO LOVE

OLD-FASHIONED JOURNALISM,

WHICH IS REALLY ENCOURAGING.

>> WELL, IT'S ROMANTIC.

THE QUESTION IS IS IT

PRACTICAL?

>> WELL, OF COURSE.

THAT'S THE QUESTION.

BUT -- AND NOBODY EVEN HAS

FIGURED OUT PRACTICAL WAYS

TO MAKE MONEY OFF, YOU KNOW,

WEB VERSIONS OF NEWSPAPERS

REALLY.

NOT YET.

>> YEAH.

>> BUT HERE'S WHAT MY

ESSENTIAL SENSIBILITY IS

THAT THE PLATFORM IS LESS

IMPORTANT THAN TWO OTHER

THINGS.

ONE IS THAT HUMAN BEINGS

HAVE A NEED FOR STORY.

THAT STORY HELPS SORT OF

EXPLAIN AND DEFINE AND IT'S

JUST -- IT'S THE ESSENCE OF

WHAT WE ARE.

AND SO AS LONG AS THERE'S A

NEED FOR STORY AND THERE ARE

PEOPLE WHO GO OUT AND TRY TO

ACTUALLY FIND THE TRUTH AND

DO THE REAL REPORTING,

WHATEVER PLATFORM THOSE TWO

THINGS COME IN IS NOT AS

IMPORTANT AS THOSE TWO

THINGS EXISTING.

AND IN SOME WAYS THE

QUESTION NOW IS CAN WE HAVE

ENOUGH PEOPLE WANTING TO GO

OUT AND ACTUALLY DO THE REAL

REPORTING AS OPPOSED TO

TWEET AND JUST BLOG THINGS

THAT THEY HAVEN'T REPORTED

THROUGH THESE NEW PLATFORMS.

THAT'S THE REAL QUESTION.

>> THE NEED FOR STORY IS

FREE, BUT GETTING PEOPLE WHO

ARE WILLING TO GO OUT TO DO

ALL THAT COSTS.

AND THE PROBLEM IS REALLY

THAT THE RESOURCES THAT ARE

NECESSARY TO ENABLE THE

SECOND TO MEET THE DEMAND OF

THE FIRST ARE NOT AS

AVAILABLE AS THEY WERE EVEN

FIVE YEARS AGO.

>> I AGREE.

I HAVE NO ANSWER.

>> YOU DON'T HAVE AN ANSWER?

>> I'M SORRY, I DON'T.

>> I THOUGHT YOU WOULD HAVE

AN ANSWER.

>> I JUST DO WHAT I CAN DO.

THAT'S ALL ANY JOURNALIST

SHOULD DO, I MEAN REALLY.

I MEAN, THE BEST WAY I CAN

MAKE THAT HAPPEN IS BY JUST

GOING OUT AND DOING THE BEST

STORIES I CAN.

>> AND HAVE THEM BE THEIR

OWN CALLING CARD.

>> RIGHT.

>> THIS BOOK IS SO GREAT,

BUT YOU KNOW I THINK ALL

YOUR BOOKS ARE SO GREAT.

DAVID, IT'S RARE TO SEE

AMONG PEOPLE IN OUR BUSINESS

THAT YOU CONTINUE TO KNOCK

THE COVER OFF THE BALL EVERY

TIME.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR

BEING HERE.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

CONGRATULATIONS.

DAVID MARANISS, THANK YOU SO

MUCH.

[APPLAUSE]

>> WE'D LOVE TO HAVE YOU

JOIN US IN THE STUDIO.

VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT

KLRU.ORG/OVERHEARD TO FIND

INVITATIONS TO INTERVIEWS, Q

AND A'S WITH OUR AUDIENCE

AND GUESTS AND AN ARCHIVE OF

PAST EPISODES.

>> WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO

DISPROVE SOMETHING THAT ON

ITS FACE MAKES NO SENSE?

WHEN I LOOK AT IT AS WITH

ANYTHING ELSE I TRY TO LOOK

AT THE MOST SERIOUS, FACTUAL

WAYS TO DETERMINE SOMETHING.

THERE'S NO RATIONAL REASON

TO DOUBT THAT HE WAS BORN

THERE ON THAT DAY.

>> FUNDING FOR OVERHEARD

WITH EVAN SMITH IS PROVIDED

IN PART BY... THE MATSON

McHAIL FOUNDATION IN

SUPPORT OF PUBLIC

TELEVISION.

ALSO BY MFI FOUNDATION,

IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF

LIFE WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY.

AND FROM THE TEXAS BOARD OF

LEGAL SPECIALIZATION, BOARD

CERTIFIED ATTORNEYS IN YOUR

COMMUNITY, EXPERIENCED,

RESPECTED AND TESTED.

ALSO BY HILLCO PARTNERS,

TEXAS GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS

CONSULTANCY, AND ITS GLOBAL

HEALTH CARE CONSULTING

BUSINESS UNIT, HILLCO

HEALTH.

AND BY THE ALICE KLEBERG

REYNOLDS FOUNDATION, AND

VIEWERS LIKE YOU.

THANK YOU.

>> NEXT TIME ON OVERHEARD...

>> EVEN WHEN HE WAS A

COMMUNITY ORGANIZER IN

CHICAGO, IT DROVE THE OTHER

ORGANIZERS CRAZY THAT BARACK

OBAMA WOULDN'T CONFRONT

PEOPLE IN THE WAY THAT THEY

DID.

HE FOUND OTHER WAYS AROUND

TO GET WHAT HE WANTED, BUT

IT WASN'T CONFRONTATION.

BILL CLINTON WAS INCREDIBLE

AT TRANSACTIONAL POLITICS.

I CALL HIM THE MOST

BRILLIANT, AUTHENTIC PHONY

I'VE EVER SEEN.

>> RIGHT.

>> BECAUSE HE COULD BE

WHATEVER HE HAD TO BE.


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