Skip to main content

tv   Book Discussion on Mary Mc Grory  CSPAN  January 11, 2016 7:00am-8:01am EST

7:00 am
my question was repeating all the information, and then i asked my question. i saw him when he ran against coleman. >> i wish he had not done that. >> funny story. he said he didn't remember. >> he's 88 now i think. >> i saw him not too long ago. >> you still getting around. thank you very much for coming. i appreciate it. thank you. how were you? >> didn't we have been here one night? i thought so. i was reading patrick's book and i've gotten involved with
7:01 am
patrick when he was going to meetings and stuff but he was a rabbit to say the least. >> he's in a good place now. >> he seems like it. >> fabulist down. >> is the family upset with him? >> their are some who feel that -- never drink on the job. they didn't want anyone to miss understand. >> but he talks about his mom and she was a global loan a call at -- full-blown alcoholic as i remember. [inaudible] >> my brother, sister and i had a terrible argument that bout me talking but our debt and stuff. it's important to get it out. just for yourself.
7:02 am
[inaudible] >> he did it remarkably well. >> is aching back after the plane crash, broken in 20 places. >> young. yeah. [inaudible] >> i would on the operating table for dinner hours, and it's been a brutal combat. it's going to be another year before its all good. great subject. melody? okay. what are you doing a?
7:03 am
>> i'm retiring after 40 years. i'm trying to archive all my stuff that ended up at the jfk library and penn state library that once material for my career. i'm trying to make sure it all gets correctly -- >> i'm calling you a wonderful legislator because i remember you did most of their work. >> thank you. >> i would love one of your books. >> well, i would love to sell it to you. >> i actually came prepared to buy it. if you mind making it out to henry and -- >> and who are they? >> my parents. >> they watched you on crossfire.
7:04 am
you were one of the people they love to hate. [laughter] >> they would have loved to hear you talk today. [inaudible] >> thank you for coming. >> thank you very much. >> about you to make the book out to my brother. >> your brother? >> yes. >> why do you say it like that? [inaudible] >> i'll tell you what. what's his name? >> peter.
7:05 am
>> i'm going to give you my number. i don't do this are often because so many nuts get hold of my number i could call. whenever there's alcoholic somewhere, i want to make sure they get a number. you've got to please be careful with it when you take it out. anytime he wants to call 24/7. and he may not want to, but keep in mind it takes one, only an alcoholic can handle an alcoholic. i do this for a living.
7:06 am
okay, thank you. yet, please have them call. >> thank you. >> you are watching booktv, television for serious readers. watching the program you see online at >> "usa today" reporter look at the nixon administration. what did you find about the nixon administration others have not? >> the main thing was that he restructured the national security council on his first day in office, funneled everything through the white house and away from the cabinet agencies that usually have a fat. that great a series of resentments and rivalries that the nixon had to keep his hands on and cover up a lot of secrets throughout his entire presidency. >> was this unprecedented? >> yes, it was. these agencies, state department, pentagon, cia used to have a lot of latitude have a lot of authority and a bottle
7:07 am
that up. >> by taking control of the agencies how did it affect the u.s. government? >> it meant those agencies didn't know a lot about what was actually happening in vietnam and in diplomacy and all sorts of matters of foreign affairs your that meant those cabinet officials could not testify before congress and let them exercise their legitimate roles because they did know what was happening. >> which are kurdish consider this a master plan or was this just nixon won control over everything you touch? >> i think it was his master plan and i think that's the gamble in "nixon's gamble" that he could do everything secretly before he got caught. he managed to accomplish many of his goals opening to china détente with the soviet union and ending the vietnam war before everything caught up to him. >> did that set precedents for future administrations because i think every president since has consolidated national security
7:08 am
plan in the white house up to the obama administration. you hear from any cabinet agency that they don't believe they have enough authority, but the white house controls everything that i think that something that doesn't door to the last 45 years. >> why did you pick this store? >> i've long been interested in nixon, up with him as president and have been looking very -- there is facets of his life and administration and found some things that led me to this and fairly significant discoveries i think. >> have learned everything we can learn about richard nixon? >> no. that's the great thing about history, right? so many things that you think of it out get uncovered, get declassified, people learn about them and that can help you understand things that you thought you had known for years. >> what did report on for the u.s.a.? >> i supervise our reporters who cover the white house, the pentagon, money and politics and health care.
7:09 am
>> how has the media's relationship changed since the nixon administration? >> i think nixon broke that relationship to the extent that was very strong. now people are much more skeptical. i think in large part because of him and because of the acts of subsequent presidents, and that's pretty relationship much more adversarial than it used to be a mostly that's a good thing because we need to be skeptical of what the white house does. >> ray locker, reporter with "usa today," the author of "nixon's gamble." thank you. >> thanks. appreciate it. >> now let's turn to tonight's event. mr. norris will be interviewed by prescott number dan balz. dan is a chief political correspondent for the "washington post" and author or co-author of four books including two "new york times" bestsellers, collision 2012, the battle for america, 2008.
7:10 am
is a regular panelist on pbs's washington week and a frequent guest on cbs, nbc and cnn. dan is so busy that he will probably have to leave this event in less than an hour to be one of the roasters and posters of gwen ifill is receiving a national press club fourth estate award just a clause -- just across the lobby. at across the lobby. at the point i will handle the questions from audience so i hope you have a bunch. mr. norris will sign copies of his book at the table. by the way, married margaret was the recipient of the fourth estate award in 1998 at a picture from that night is just outside the room on the wall. now ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm national press club welcome to dan balz and john norris. >> larry, thank you very much. thank all of you for coming. we are here to celebrate the life and times of the great
7:11 am
washington institution, mary mcgrory, a former colleague of mine and many others, some of whom are in the room. john has written a wonderful book, very engaging. we will give you a flavor of it tonight and then i hope you all if you haven't bought a copy go out and buy one and get john to autograph it. john is a senior fellow at the center for american progress in washington. he served in a number of senior roles in government and international institutions. nonprofits including the united nations, state department and the international crisis group. he is written for the atlantic, the "washington post," foreign policy and the number of other publications. the book is authored about mary mcgrory is his third book. welcome. before they can the question i want to just read a couple of blurbs from to reduce. one by michael at the "washington post" who describes this said depicted with admiration by writer john
7:12 am
norris. she is what you get when proximity to power key and observation skills, painstaking reporting, a judgmental streak and passionate liberalism coalesced in a singular talented writer. and in the times book review annamarie coxhead mary mcgrory will scratch every nostalgic each with ink stained fingers. so with that but me just ask you, i think what is an obvious question. what prompted you to write a book about mary mcgrory? [inaudible] -- unlike lots of her contemporaries i pretty quickly got -- i got to see mark trust up as santa claus and play on the couch. advocates come in and sing jingle bells to them and increasingly rising redoubles and i woke up and got off the couch and handed out presents.
7:13 am
i had the good fortune to go to some of her parties, see the incredibly eclectic mix. as a young person coming to washington it was absolutely revelatory, you know, be taking drink orders with roger mudd and there will be copy bush running around and guns because unlike anything i'd ever seen before. everybody was expected to pass an issue. everyone was expected of a song or poetry at the end of the evening. the more i got to know mary, it occurred to me it was a fantastic story. a great window into contemporary american history at a great story. mary came from a lower middle-class family in boston. our dad was a postal clerk. she broke into the issues at a time when women reporters were
7:14 am
rare and she had no way she should have succeeded, and she did so. >> how did she manage to do that? how did she manage to succeed in those been a very, very male oriented career and washed in? >> i think she was stubborn. she decided early she wanted to be a reporter. her papers and the library of congress, there were notes in her diaries contemplating either being a schoolteacher or a reporter from the time she was 12 or 13. she was quite enamored with a comic strip at the time of a heroic female reporter. she set her mind to it. she languished in the book review department both the "boston herald" traveler and the washington star for years. she capacity for editors again and again since i want to cover politics, i want to write about politics. her editor said, and those of
7:15 am
you new will find this amusing, that she thought she was too shy to make a good reporter. for those of you who knew mary later, pour reserved mary was afraid to ask people hard questions. so she kept on it and she got her big break through with the mccarthy hearings. >> how did she get that break? she made the most of it. >> i think nuking noise that the old washington star was a good editor. mary was known as one of the sharpest wits on the static or book reviews were always beautifully crafted. he let her loose on the hill to get a few profiles including lyndon baines johnson. i think he saw something. he saw that shut not only a real gift as a writer but a real eye for observation that he thought could be unleashed on politics.
7:16 am
>> i learned from a book that shows the purely irish, that shed some german on one side of her family but when she came to washington she was very much irish. i wanted to talk a little bit about the relationship she had with the three kennedys who were in politics, president kennedy, bobby kennedy and senator kennedy. start with jfk. how did she get to know him? what was that relationship like? >> relationship with the kennedys is more complicated than issues within portrayed. people have seen this kind of uniform cheerleader for the kennedys. she got to know jack when he was a young single guardsman in washington. jfk asked her out on a date, and it did so in perhaps the most kennedyesque fashion to the astra on a date through a proxy, which mary took considerable umbrage with that said if the te
7:17 am
congressman elect as the candidate he will have to do it himself. showing that she wasn't too shy to be a good reporter. he went on a date with her, never went anywhere. she wrote one of her girlfriends that absolutely had to do something about that unkempt mess up his hair. but they became good friends, but for the initial. he was in washington and considering a run for office. mary thought jack was too green, too untested for the presidency. she was an ardent at least evenson supporter, and she thought that kennedy might get there but she thought it was perhaps too soon to fast but by the time he actually did announce a run, she became quite a solid supporter. he was the kind of politician that her father growing up in boston had always hoped to see, boston politicians when mary was growing up were florid to say the least. mayor curley soared one of his
7:18 am
terms while doing some time in a boston jail. this was the politics that mary had kind of got to know and loved. jack kennedy was articulate, quick honesty, incredibly literate. he mixed that kind of hard-nosed, backroom austin politics with a sense of higher calling, and she really saw that as an enormous accomplishment. accomplishment. >> was at the 1960 campaign that won her over or was it after that? >> it was a 60 campaign and i think was in the run up to the 60 campaign when they had a lot of back and forth. i think very appreciated that not only was he a person who had soaring language and could inspire people, but is also willing to engage in real politicking. i think as much as mary like adlai stevenson, the fact he was always late come he was never very good at shaking hands, he did like to do and the sun. he was kind of a disaster as retail politician. i think she was quite pleased by
7:19 am
that point. it was a very exciting time for. >> be right in the book that at the time of the assassination, her writings during that period were some of the most, the best of her career. walk us through, i mean, she was emotionally rocked as the whole country was. the first asia to write a column and an editorial. she had to go through the entire weekend. tell us a little bit about what struck you about what she wrote? >> it was i think one of the most extraordinary periods of production by a modern american journalist. this is somebody that she cared about deeply, somebody who's a friend, somebody would been killed in tragic circumstances. she managed to write through it. as you say, given two assignments kind of on the night of the assassination a lot. people forget how much mary wrote. for a good chunk of her career. she was doing for columns and
7:20 am
there's lots of colonists serving in this tent in new york, unbearable burden of churning out once a week. and to do for an injury and eventually to for the better part of a court is great prodigious production. after the day day's kennedy wast she worked through her grief on the printed page. and it didn't come easy. i think that's one of things that really striking, but the board about america's she was an extraordinary gifted writer but she was never an easy ride a picture would crumple up 30 drafts of a column, often leading to and little balls around her desk. she worked, reworked, fretted over everything. particularly the column about jfk's funeral that is probably the column mary is best known for. she struggled to do it. she wrote long, morose sentences draped in black crepe as she described it. and four it took her back,
7:21 am
finally in frustration, to her education at a girls latin school in boston. she decided that mom was a great grief, you need to write short, simply, as she produced a column that is still a homework. >> i remember years ago at the post we had kind of an in house university and to estimate to do a clas class and deadline rightp there with around the nation to talk to really good headline writers and asked them their secrets. mary was one because she was churning out so much as you say on very short turnaround. she told me the story about that day. she said i have absolute rights block that day. i did not write a column and finally did, and it was brilliant. she had a much different kind of relationship with robert kennedy and was resentful and 68 in particular because of the way they got into the presidential race. talk about the. >> a relationship with bobby is
7:22 am
fascinating, and in some ways i think bobby appreciated that he could never be jack, in mary's eyes. and politicians and people like bobby and lyndon johnson care a lot about how to look in mary's eyes because it could shape the columns and it's a great deal. for mary, bobby was always a little too hot, although to aggressive. he was always a little bit too much of the enforcer. but in some ways they were an awful lot alike. they were both deeply devout. certainly after jack's death lobby became much more interested in social justice issues than his late brother had been. they had a real affinity as far as those issues go. but by 1967 and 1968, for mary to what issue in american politics was the vietnam war. she objected to an early. she objected to open. she got lots of letters from readers who said your column is no fun anymore because you're
7:23 am
complaining about vietnam. she made it a cause. she bonded with young people, and she blew by pretty much every journalistic boundary you probably showed in the process. she sat down with bobby kennedy in his senate office at the tail end of 1967, and her notes from that interview are in the library of congress and they are still a fascinating read. she said bobby, you've got to run, which is perhaps not the best ideal from an objective reporter. the president can only appear on military bases at this point. this is a stand on the national conscience. it was a very rough back and forth. he was reluctant to get in, as when oh, into later on. that's the reason mary really threw her weight and her passion behind gina mccarthy, because he was willing to pick up the antiwar medal at a time when nobody else was. and the fact that he did so well
7:24 am
in new hampshire in the primary. for mary was -- but to understand mary and relationship with bobby, my favorite moments in the book in her life was bobby came out and said that there was, made a rather sherman -esque statement that he would not want for president in 1968. through incredibly bad timing he made the statement that same morning as the tet offensive was launched in saigon. because people didn't have cell phones and everything else, it looked like bobby had come out and said after the news of the tet offensive that broke that he wasn't going to run. mary was not amused and voting for cable, sent him a cable from western union that said, in its full, apparently saint patrick did not drive all the snakes out of ireland.
7:25 am
[laughter] which, you know, how many male reporters do you know that the tough enough to send that to bobby kennedy? >> bobbies colleague said you lost me. bobby said no, this is an irish thing. we've got to sort it out. >> but did they sort it out the? >> you know, i think by the time body was shot, certainly mary was pretty disaffected with eugene mccarthy as a politician, i think it is a person on a lot of levels. i think she recognized that bobby, as she admitted all of all, was the only one who could get in and end the war and ultimately win the presidency. i think those contentions were still there. mary was a person who held a grudge. i've run into any number of people, not just one or two, folks have moved over to the "washington post" from the washington start some point in their career, and as result mary didn't talk to them for a year
7:26 am
or two years or got mad at them at a cocktail party and donna, leaving the star was an unforgivable sin in mary's eyes. so she held a grudge. one of the really interesting things about me recent columns about bobby after he died was they were not sentimental. they were not nostalgic. they were very honest about the very difficult place that bobby had been in as a person even with his brother's death, even with vietnam, even with his family. >> and briefly on teddy kennedy. i was also a different kind of relationship. >> absolutely. i think that they were very close, and mary would go up there and sit in teddy's office and to have a scotch and talk politics. i think but also disapproved of taking on some levels. that his personal life had been at times messy as a but in this town knows. she did like the drinking and
7:27 am
carousing. mary like a good, stiff drink a lot of we should still quite primitive came to social behavior. she didn't approve of gambling or womanizing. so i think that she enormously respected teddy and teddy had enormous affection for her but there was still the great. >> you had a line in the book that quoted from are called at the end of the 1980 convention where kennedy in essence upstaged jimmy carter, which she wrote that carter left the convention looking like an airline pilot whose passengers had defected to the hijacker. [laughter] and it was a reminder to me of her ability to, and just daft ways, some of the scene or an event. the book is replete. if for no other reason to read the book, and to many good reasons to read it, just to be reminded of her skill as a
7:28 am
writer, to encapsulate the events. what was rephrase on bush and gore, the unlikable versus -- >> it was the -- yeah. you know, and you're s so right. it was her inability to turn a phrase, you know, that really made things in washington much more enjoyable for the average reader than they offer the people who actually have to live through giving with washington. she could go to a congressional hearing which could be dry as sand and bring it to life. she could look at the senate floor in the middle of a long procedure process, and as she did at one point described to senators would like a pair of elderly polar bears, dancing swan lake as they navigated a cloture vote. they are stuff that many people that can find magic in poetry in a cloture vote in this town. one of my favorites was during the watergate hearings she
7:29 am
described the goings on in the white house, kind of the mix of evil and ineptitude as the equivalent of a marx brothers movie as retold by the german general staff. [laughter] it was those kind of things that made mary's called a must read and made it so the politicians wanted to appear in mary's college and absolutely dreaded it. >> you know lbj, as an offhand comment, try to proposition are ones which are described in the book. but he said, mary mcgrory gets better and better at my expense. >> absolutely. >> you mentioned watergate. at the end of the 1972 campaign, she was the are less convinced that mcgovern had a real chance of winning. proved to be slightly off base with that prediction. and she said or wrote later, i hit the pits and 72. but as you write, it set up was in many ways a pinnacle of her career during the watergate
7:30 am
years. her relationship with nixon, the nixon administration and particularly what she' she was writing and watergate which is so dead on. >> mary arrived with good enemies, things to write about. again providing plenty of them was exceptional. and nixon and mary were just perfectly cast do not get along. they were the best of enemies. if you think about two people, it would be hard to design to individuals who were more dissimilar than mary and nixon. one of my favorite things about the nixon-merry passages, the one put nixon decided after having put mary on the enemies list to unleash the irs on mary. and she got audited a number of years in a row. mary took a very socially. her mom had been an accountant after anthony an account the she saved receipts. she was that one of the most organized people so full weight of the irs comes down on mary.
7:31 am
and after numerous audits she gets a larger refund because she's underreported or charitable contributions to saint ann's orphanage. and for me that was kind of a perfect example of how badly nixon misunderstood what made somebody like mary kate. this idea that she's going to be fast and loose with the money, or she's cheating honor taxes. know, she's helping out little kids that don't have much in buying christmas presents. >> you also described in the book two different occasions i recall, one where nixon came to washington start for a lunch that she made her way into that lunch over the objections i take it as a people but found him in engaging politician and then was in the pew with him at martin luther king's funeral sharing a hymnal, which the juxtaposition of those events with what later happened is quite striking. >> and mary said that, she wrote a little bit about sharing a
7:32 am
hymnal with him at mlk's funeral ceremony, and she said that you was as gracious to be, that he waited to make sure that she was ready when he turned the page. he knew all the words, which, knowing your hands, and that was that part of nixon that kind of mary appreciate. but she also thought that he was just incredibly poorly cast as a politician because he wasn't that comfortable with people. at that the idea of kind of engaging a natural back and forth was so hard for him. and one of his appearances when it was invited to it, and editors luncheon at the washington star, the press secretary at the time asked that the lunch be made stag with only no reporters allowed to attend. the washington star said yes, initially, and there was an outdoor over this fact that when reporters were being excluded. it was third designed to keep mary specific out of the room.
7:33 am
so merit eight or brown bag in her office, and nixon came to advance of awkward small talk, but usually telling that somebody from mary's position of having a column, being very earnest in their belief was seen by nixon as an enemy of the state, somebody tried to bring the full force of government to bear. >> she said when she got the fourth estate award in 1990 a great mental call me. people who are losers, people of causes and he thinks tommy. and get she existed in a world unlike any reporter or columnist i can think of in the relationships she had. as you say, and aligned she crossed. this wasn't just such operated in a different era. she operator differently than most people in a different era. how did she balance that? >> and i think -- >> or did she? >> that are time shifted take some of it with a grain of salt or to talk about being an outsider, not having access, the great and the good never return
7:34 am
my calls. not return a call quickly enough, clearly landed you on the list with mary no matter what your stand or position. for somebody who claim to be an outsider, you'd go to her 40s and there would be supreme court justices and senators and vice president, and she did have rather extraordinary access. but she never really used that access for kind of quick or easy scoop. she wanted to understand politicians as people. she wanted that proximity to see how they behaved, to see what drove them, to see how they thought, what they would thing. one of the interesting things about mary is that she was an anachronism throughout her career. that when she got into the industry she was really one of only one or two women on the campaign bus. by the time she finished her career, when we were getting maternity leave, that they were
7:35 am
able to balance home life and work life to a certain extent. whereas with her career she was given a very stark choice. you could have a family or you could be a reporter. it was not acceptable embrace both. i think she created her own world and really through force of will was able to carry it off, and something we don't see today. >> she moved to the post when the washington star folded under heart never left the stark, angers later she still seemed uncomfortable as they post new be. explain why that was. what was it about the star that had so much grip honor? >> i don't think it was just mary. almost everyone i've met who did a shift of the washington star fell in love with the place. it was eclectic and freewheeling and fun and disorganized and a poorly run family empire, and it
7:36 am
has a lot in terms of deal with kind of the front page, that it was pioneering journalism in a lot of ways, and it was a family. people stayed for a long time. i think mary, though she may that's a false, loyalty and lack of loyalty was not one of them. she was enormously loyal to her longtime editor at the star. she called him by his last name for most of her professional career. in a very old school way of doing business. she loved everything about the star. almost had to be dragged out of the building and it closed down. i think the post was a real, very jarring transition for her. >> explain the role of paris -- >> should always compared, and this was always quite shrewd of mary because she realized nobody could object to loyalty to being
7:37 am
compared to paris. so even though it was kind of a backhanded comfort for the post, she knew how can you complain what you were being compared to paris. she thought the star was wrong, that it was beautiful and messy and disorganized. and that the post was paris because it was aloof with a little distance and a little imperial. to know mary was also to know that you absolutely love everything italian. she vacationed their every single year for 50 years in a row. so anything that i compared to rome was being praised about as highly as possible. >> tell me a little bit about the source material you were able to plumb for this. just some remarkably intimate details about her life as you're able to find. how did you get that? >> mary was a safer. she answered all her male. mail. she answered every single letter
7:38 am
she ever got as a journalist, unless it was profane, throughout her entire crew. it's about a piece. she donated 184 boxes of her letters and notebooks in shorthand in longhand to the library of congress. her family was quite generous in sharing some papers, letters that had not been turned over to the library. she wrote a thousand columns or so during her career, just an enormous written trail. she appears innumerable times in other people's books and speeches and stories. and i sat down with scores of journalists and friends and colleagues and family members, and after to say that was one of, for me, the most fun part of the entire project. as mary said, when reporters are approached not competitively, they are incredibly gracious,
7:39 am
incredibly thoughtful. they know what makes for a good interview, if he was a great pleasure getting to talk to a lot of giants in the field, sitting down with haynes johnson who i know was such a good friend and colleague, ben bradlee, doctor mann, folks like roger mudd. people were just so excited to see that this project was happening, wanted to participate, were just a blast. >> jack at some tough things to say that better. they must've had a competitive relationship. >> they were a bit, you know, their comments and views were a bit like a cranky old couple in some ways. >> that's the way it came off in the book. >> yeah, you know, jack was messy, isherwood spent out was messy, isherwood spent out and you like to bet the ponies which i'm sure mary disapproved of. he didn't want to carry her bags. i've got my own bag to carry. you know, you been an editor for
7:40 am
a period of time at the start, you know, and i think like many of mary's editors over time that, you know, mary approached editors with a good help is hard to get attitude, kind of you got the pleasure of editing my column, please don't mess around with it very much, thank you very much. >> at least one of her former editors to send this room tonight. >> jack and mary jousted a little bit but there are also some very poignant efforts is together late both in their careers where they were talking about how the entity change. neither one was assaulted but the '50s or '60s were a golden era of american political life or politics, the mccarthy era when nixon. what really came through was a loved politics. they loved it. they could sit there at the bar talking about who is up, who's
7:41 am
down, chatting with campaign managers, handicapping the race until four in the morning. the thing that bothered the most about the industry and a political reporting was changing wasn't the technology even though that drove them both crazy, it was the fact that there were more and more journalists were just kind of cycling through, punching their ticket, hoping to going to cover a different baker beat, were not just there because that's what they wanted to live, breathe and eat. >> she did eat, sleep and breathe politics were whole life, but he was other columns and other kinds of writing to capture the imagination of a lot of readers. she griped about gardening and squirrels and her trips to new hampshire. she seemed to have an issue abouabout jane austen it shoulde about writing about things that people who were not political junkies could attach to and find something in them. there was a remarkable talent. >> and it's interesting that are gardening columns and columns
7:42 am
about the more offbeat topics really came out after the '60s. it was kind of into the mid '70s when they really started to appear. i think part of it was, 68 have been such a wrenching period for mary personally, professionally. just a year when everything went wrong. i think she understood the charge 11 for bread to keep people's attention and keep focused as a writer. she loved are gardening column. she turned a little straggly plot of land under apartment off of connecticut avenue and into this place of mystery and wonder. she had a horrible black am. the squirrels were always digging up her bulbs and things were dying on the fun. it was only the sturdy impatience that always rescued her garden. those in the jane austen call impose such an amazing response. the letters i read a lot of them come on the squirrels were
7:43 am
amazing. people would send in these three page diagrams with flyers and plastic tubing, do this. i throw potatoes at them. you know, she asked sandy berger was at the time the national security advisor of the united states of america, who i assume had a fair amount going on his day job to see if they could perhaps get laying down from the national zoo because someone told her that was helpful in keeping squirrels away. satish at the because they are an endangered species, they were not allowed to take the dung from the national zoo. people actually responded to those columns. and i think it really went to the fact that they were funny, self-replicating and they were just beautifully crafted. >> she wrote one called at the time of the invasion of iraq that juxtaposed the coming of spring in washington with the invasion. and the way she wrestled with
7:44 am
the iraq war, taken as it was about to happen, was one of the more remarkable periods of her career. and that drew incredible response from her readers. >> the tail end of mary's career, you know, she was faced with seismic events at the end of her career as she was at the beginning. if you look at the mccarthy hearings as kind of the first book in of the beginning of her career as a political reporter. september 11 and iraq war, were detailed in. they were really tough. after september 11 she wrote the column. if you read it today you will find absolutely uncontroversial and unspectacular. she said that george w. bush on september 11 was indecisive. he wasn't particularly presidential. he was seen being kind of escort of a military base to military base. he just wasn't a very commanding presence as president, which in
7:45 am
retrospect is not even that harsh a judgment on the bush presidency. at the time that elicited more hate mail and mary had ever done in her career. hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters, often in the most vile terms imaginable, that anyone would dare to be critical at such a moment in american history. and for mary, being critical at high moment and abort moments was the thing you do as the reporter. that's part of the national fabric. that's part of why democracy works. she didn't shy away from that. the iraq war columns i think were quite tough because after colin powell appeared at the u.n. making a case for the iraq invasion with this kind of bag of flour or sugar, i forget what it was, saying that this amount of chemical weapons were destroyed an american city, mary was persuaded by that, as were a
7:46 am
lot of america's. and wrote a column saying that her mind had been changed on the merits of the. she got a furious response from reader on the other side of the aisle in that respect. though she said the letter some democrats were much more gracious and had much better punctuation. an issue for a different day. and then she flipped back to opposing the war. the column you mentioned contrasting the onset of spring in washington which absolutely loved with a bulbs starting to peak the heads up along the slopes of rock creek park as she made her way in and out of work with the military positioning themselves to go into iraq, was her last column. she had a stroke as she was trying to craft that column, and eikenberry to the last little piece of the column. as bittersweet as it was to have come it seems a very fitting --
7:47 am
>> and your description of those last years, so poignant, a woman so gifted with words unable to speak or write could understand. i know various friends, people would go see her and she would struggle with it. just couldn't make it work. i say your description of it is so touching and poignant, but what a tragic ending to such a great life that that was. >> yeah. it was incredibly fortunate. she had been robbed of her ability to communicate. she couldn't make an intelligible since most of the time. should get out a few words. every once in a while she could string together a sentence or two, but for somebody who was as good with language as anybody we've had the pleasure to know, it felt so mean for her final days to be that way.
7:48 am
in a lot of ways it was also quite touching, the outpouring of help and support from her friends in those final days. one of my favorites was a al-qaeda and the just wrapped up a very notable career -- he would go to house and realized how difficult it was to communicate with her -- al cayman. he would've trouble her into his convertible, but classical music on, put the top down and they would go for a drive on rock creek park and around. i think those things, and the kennedys would stop by with a casserole. i think it was those things that really showed how many lives that mary had touched. a number of letters that mary got from readers wishing her well and saying that it feels a little forward, but i really need to call you mary because you've been such a part of my life for cell long. i think was touching.
7:49 am
spend john. thank you. it's a wonderful book. congratulations. i'm going to turn children into all of you. i'm going to slip away to thank you again for coming. [applause] >> let's have a hand for dan to get a great job in giving. if you have questions please come up to the microphone. with one microphone over here. so please come by a pastor question while people are making their way to the microphone. i'll tell you my mary mcgrory story. it will take 30 seconds. at the democratic national convention in 1968, i was in college students, was after working for the maryland news covering the montgomery county delegates, adequate to a breakfast one morning with the maryland delegation and some presidential candidates came by. i forget which one it was that had spoke, and after he was finished the delegates applauded
7:50 am
and i was sitting a there at the press table and i applauded. mary looked at me, gave me the hairy eyeball and said, we are the press, we don't applaud. and i never made that mistake again. >> i've wondered about mary's personal life. i think she never married or had children? other than -- [inaudible] >> i just wondered other than a calm and, of course, her green thumb and her fondness for squirrels, what else t did she have going on in her life? >> you're right. she never had kids. she had an incredibly private view toward her private life. one of the things that really struck me as a made the rounds in and is talking to people was friends, family, people didn't know what went on.
7:51 am
and after a lot of digging and letters and series of interviews, the great love of mary's life was blair clark who has been reported that cbs. it never worked out for a bunch of different reasons. there were sometimes i thought that mary had been so conditioned to thinking that a romance would end her career in the '50s and '60s, and this was a time when getting married was a fireable offense in a lot of papers in the 60. there were women reporters who hid their managers so they wouldn't get fired, including at the "new york times." she was given a very stark choice. there were times i thought mayors approach to romance was to gravitate towards them that in some ways were unattainable. whether she was kind of softly sabotaging her chances we're just thought she would have to make a choice.
7:52 am
for somebody to love jane austen and loved good romance, romantic life was hard, frustrating and incredibly private. >> i'm going to invite people to come to the mic but she did have a whole life with children so tell us about the role of children in her life. spinning mary volunteered at saint anne's orphanage when she first came to washington. it was, just off dupont circle. she just moved here. she showed up at the orphanage and said i'm mary mcgrory and i'm here to volunteer. they never had a volunteer and the nuns were trying to find a very polite way to tell this strange rather interested young woman that when he kicked him off the playground sat in a contest to choose going to stay the night, and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. mary volunteered at saint anne's
7:53 am
almost every week for five decades. she helped out. she threw parties for the kids. she read to them. she helped pay school fees. she was just incredibly committed and connected to kids that really didn't have a lot going for them. one of the really rewarding things about the book was had a chance to reach out and talk to a couple of people that go up as kids at saint anne's and still remembered her influence and were still incredibly touched by it years after the fact it wasn't just mary. it was literally scores of friends, colleagues and others that she dragged along sometimes willingly to help out at the orphanage. >> i don't think most people know that, or did it at the time? >> no. mary didn't advertise it. mary state socialism bore into her. her volunteer work was incredibly important to her. she very rarely talked about it.
7:54 am
>> i wonder if you are comparing contrast mary mcgregor with maureen dowd? >> you know, that's a dangerous comparison to make. maureen dowd got her start of the washington star when mary was there. one of my favorite little bits about very long relation between mary mcgrory and the dowd family, maureen dowd's father was a capitol hill policeman adult escort mary to a front row seat at the mccarthy hearings on the first day, what's a nice irish go get ahead. i think mary and maureen were very good friends, close friends. i don't think mary was a mentor to writers and two women. i think her style was to show how it can be done. she wasn't necessary somebody who can pull people under her
7:55 am
wing. she was somebody who was going to send nice nose, people who did good work, people state after it and was there to support people who are doing good work. obviously, mary recognized maureen's considerable talent. i think both made all of our lives richer. >> you mentioned her, talked quite a bit better relationship with the kennedys and with nixon. what about lbj? >> you know, it's a very coveted relationship in that lbj could never be jack kennedy. i think that lbj, for all histories and it is, really recognized back very immediately. and refer to it as the thing that he thought for and craved and really led his adult life to
7:56 am
become president was suddenly a poison chalice because the president had been assassinated in dallas. and he recognized that. he desperate wanted to move there as a columnist and as a person. he made an incredibly clunky pass one night after at her apartment. showed up with secret service kind of after hours announced a the secret service said he was appearing and they thought it was one of our colleagues pulling her leg. lbj came, sat down, had a couple of drinks. what i've pieced together, lbj basically said i know you loved the kennedys and now you should love me, and i'm crazy about you. and i can't think of a more awful pickup line. [laughter] debuts on anybody, and particularly to be used on mary. and so certainly lbj tried to woo her. there were numerous examples from the white house and his
7:57 am
administration were he would yell at his press secretary to get things right with mary. you've got to fix this. i'm tired of this. but increasingly as the vietnam war picked up steam, that was an absolute dealbreaker for mary. and i think that mary had always been an astute observer of human nature recognize how just incredibly needy lbj was as a person, and thought it was just a fairly damning quality in a president. >> you mentioned that she not only wrote about politics but she in some ways was sort of an advisor to some politicians. how do we square that with the role of a journalist's? >> you know, it's certainly not a hanging offense in this town. and i think one of the things that stand out as you go back and look at the peak of the '50s, '60s, 70s come into the '80s, a much lesser extent
7:58 am
today, you know, reporters lived with campaigns. they travel within. they are in hotel rooms. they are on the bus, on the plane. it's a lot of time to spend with someone and not have an opinion about them, their policies or the approach to policies. in some ways it strikes me as almost naïve that we turn out students from journalism schools hoping that they will all be perfectly neutral and not have an opinion. if you sit down to play a game of poker with a bunch of journalists, they have opinions. i think in a lot of ways mary's approach, particularly probably in 68 when she pushed bobby ticket income when she was part of the kitchen cabinet, that breaks all the rules of journalism and probably should have recused herself from covering the campaign. there was also an arab were almost every senior editorial
7:59 am
writer and senior reporter was aligned with the campaign in some way or another, with offering advice. and i think as every politician imagines that they're secretly a hollywood star, every reporter imagined that there are brilliant campaign manager and that the campaign would work much better if they would just listen to mary's sage advice. >> let me ask if there's anyone else would like to ask the question. now is the time to come to the mic. seen none, john, it is now my pleasure to present you with the highly coveted national press club mug. congratulations. >> thank you. >> thank you for being here. [applause] and if you would go to the table, i would have people like that but first i would like to thank ruth and chilled at the national press club journalism visited for helping us arrange
8:00 am
tonight's book draft, and we are a jerk. so go to the table and sign the books. >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors at the weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. ..


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on