Posts by Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
For as long as there has been politics, there have been sex scandals.
But what is new, Yahoo political columnist Matt Bai writes in a new book “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid,” is the media’s tabloid-style obsession with the personal lives of our political leaders — an obsession that he argues has resulted in the corruption of modern political reporting.
Bai traces the beginning of the tabloid-style era of political reporting to 1987, when the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, whom Bai describes as the “Hillary Clinton of his moment,” fell apart after reports surfaced that he was having an extramarital affair.
“It unravels in the kind of scandal and sensationalism that had never existed in presidential politics before that moment,” Bai told “Politics Confidential” in an interview.
“Because all of these things churning in the culture — from the effects of Watergate to the birth of satellite television to the changing attitudes of feminism toward adultery — all of this coming together to create this detonation in our politics,” Bai said.
Within a matter of days, Hart withdrew from the presidential contest.
Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy has pulled off a minor miracle: She has found something new and compelling to say about the Vietnam War, a spellbinding story of heroism and heartbreak during one of America’s darkest hours.
Using a trove of never-before-seen footage of the United States’ 1975 military withdrawal, Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” tells the story of the U.S. soldiers and diplomats who defied orders from Washington to orchestrate an ad hoc evacuation of our allies in the final moments before Saigon fell.
“How we got to that point where people the Vietnamese were so desperately trying to get out of the country … we think then very few people knew that story and it's an extraordinary story,” Kennedy told “Politics Confidential” in an interview at Edgar Bar and Kitchen in Washington, D.C.
“The [U.S.] government said we just got to get the Americans out, it's falling too fast,” Kennedy said. “And a handful of Americans on the ground said not so fast. If we leave our Vietnamese friends and allies, our comrades, behind, they're going to be killed. They're going to be tortured.”
The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet has over 8 million Twitter followers, but he confesses he has never personally tweeted, explaining with his characteristic laugh that his fingers aren’t well-equipped for such modern technology. But he has no problem summing up the answer to happiness in 140 characters or less.
“More compassionate mind, more sense of concern for other's well-being, is source of happiness,” he said during a rare interview with “Politics Confidential” when asked how to sum up his philosophy for happiness in the form of a tweet.
Self-centered attitudes, he said, are at the root of unhappiness and human suffering.
“Too much self-centered attitude, you see, brings, you see, isolation,” he said. “Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.”
Some officials in the Chinese government have characterized the Dalai Lama as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and one even called him a “demon.” But he merely laughs off such remarks: “Let them say whatever they like; the reality is reality.”
The Dalai Lama, who is now 78 years old and still appears to be in good health, has a different plan for succession.
The State of the Union is one of the most hyped, most watched speeches a president delivers all year, and for the speechwriters who help the presidents craft their address to the nation, it’s one of the most dreaded assignments.
In interviews with “Politics Confidential,” four presidential speechwriters spanning the last four administrations recounted the process and the days spent toiling over the State of the Union address. Jon Favreau, former speechwriter to President Obama, called the State of the Union one of the “least gratifying” speeches to write, while Mary Kate Cary, a former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, summed up the task as “the prize nobody wants.”
“The speech is an exercise in ego management as much as it's an exercise in writing,” Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, said. “Suddenly, speechwriters become very popular. Suddenly, the phone starts lighting up with calls from cabinet secretaries. ...This is actually an exercise not just for the president, but for the entire administration in setting the priorities for the new year."
Seven-time NBA All-Star and Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh has heard plenty of analysis of his game from sports commentators, but in an exclusive interview at the White House, Bosh offered his own expert critique of President Obama’s jumpshot.
Asked to give the president some pointers during a visit to the White House, Bosh said the president’s problem doesn’t have to do with his shooting form.
“Looks like he's just missing it,” Bosh told “Politics Confidential” after watching a video of the president missing shot after shot at last year’s White House Easter Egg Roll, when the president famously went 2 for 22 during a basketball match-up with some kid-size basketballers.
But Bosh gave Obama credit for being left handed.
“I'm a leftie too, so I got to stand up for the left handed guys,” he said. “The form looks pretty good but you know, sometimes you just go 2 for 22.”
Bosh said Obama spent some time to talk with him and his teammates privately on Tuesday, and that he even “poked fun” at some of his teammates.
Chef John Moeller has built his career on cooking food fit for presidents.
Moeller worked as a White House chef for three presidents – George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush – and has now published a book, “Dining at the White House,” that weaves together his stories of working for the first families with the recipes of some of his standout White House dishes.
Cooking chocolate tortes during an interview with “Politics Confidential,” Moeller recalled arriving at the White House for his first day on the job under President George H.W. Bush.
“I had a big tool box loaded up there, and when I came in the guys opened it up -- I didn't have my chef uniform on -- and they go 'wow, lots of knives here,’ the Secret Service guys,” Moeller said. “And they go, ‘Oh, we knew you were coming.’”
Moeller worked in the first Bush White House for only a matter of months, but during that time, he said he developed a strong rapport with the president and that it was hard to say goodbye as they prepared to welcome the Clintons as the next first family.
And he said it wasn’t hard to gauge when the president was having a bad day.
Gov. Scott Walker has a simple idea for how to create the GOP's “perfect ticket” in the 2016 presidential election -- and Republican stars like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz don’t make the list.
The Wisconsin Republican, who first gained national attention in 2011 for passing a controversial budget bill that stripped Wisconsin public employees of collective bargaining rights, told “Politics Confidential” that only governors and former governors should be in the running for the party’s presidential nomination -- and not members of Congress.
“I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should either be a former or current governor,” he said. “Somebody has got to come in who's got a proven record of success of turning things around and bring that record to Washington and take on everything, not just one party or the other, but take on the entire establishment.”
Though Walker says he’d be the president of Paul Ryan’s fan club, if one existed, and calls Rubio, Paul, and Cruz good guys, they don’t meet his criteria of being “exceptionally removed from Washington.”
Could Washington’s dysfunction be solved by golfing? Former Florida governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush says it might just do the trick.
In an interview with “Politics Confidential,” Bush recommended that President Obama could break though the current political logjam by golfing with Speaker of the House John Boehner.
“It would be good for our country if political leaders actually took that to heart,” Bush said. “I'd like Barack Obama, who seems to be an avid golfer, to quietly invite John Boehner out to hit them up.“
Obama and Boehner did play one round of golf together in 2011, but the pair has not played together again since then.
Personal interaction between political rivals, Bush said, is a missing ingredient in the current political landscape – and one that has been historically significant.
Although Bush said the current state of affairs in Washington troubles him, he is considering running for president in 2016.
Bush recently made headlines for sharing the stage with another rumored 2016 candidate: Hillary Clinton. He described his meeting with the former secretary of state as “very friendly.”
The Texas Republican, who many Republicans and Democrats alike blame for triggering the confrontation that led to the shutdown, told “Politics Confidential” that the agreement that allowed the government to reopen late last week is “lousy.”
“The deal we got ... was a lousy deal,” Cruz said. “The Washington establishment sold the American people down the river. It provided no relief for the millions of people who were hurting because of Obamacare.”
Cruz faulted Senate Republicans for accepting the last-minute compromise that was struck between Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“The reason this deal -- the lousy deal -- was reached ... is because unfortunately Senate Republicans made the choice not to support House Republicans,” he said.
With another possible government shutdown looming on Jan. 15, 2014, if Republicans and Democrats fail to reach a long-term compromise on the budget, Cruz would not rule out the possibility of once again threatening a shutdown unless the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
Still, Cruz insisted that he never wanted a shutdown in the first place.
There was a time when politics worked, rivals compromised and grand bargains were achievable.
So says Chris Matthews, who was a trusted top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, D – Mass, during the Reagan years.
“The old days, there was a pattern,” Matthews said. “You argued in politics, you would have an agreement, you would have a signing ceremony where they would be smiling at each other … and everybody would be happy. They would move on to the next topic.”
Matthews sat down with “Politics Confidential” to talk about his new book, "Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked," in which he offers a personal history of the Reagan years and his time working under O’Neill.
Reagan and O’Neill had a publicly contentious relationship – with O’Neill even calling Reagan “the worst president ever" on one occasion – but Matthews makes the case that the two would ultimately come together for the sake of compromise and progress.
But times have changed, Matthews said.
“Now, you just sort of accumulate things to fight about, and they never really get behind us," Matthews said. "It makes politics very depressing.”