« WTF with Marc Maron Podcast

Episode 864 - Lawrence O'Donnell

2017-11-15 | 🔗
Lawrence O'Donnell is on MSNBC every weeknight talking about the chaos and tumult of uncertain times. He's no stranger to historic national turbulence, as he came of age in the Vietnam Era and received his draft notice shortly before the U.S. withdrawal. Lawrence talks with Marc about those times, which are the subject of his new book, but also about his Boston upbringing, his father's career change from cop to defense attorney, his job in the U.S. Senate, and his time writing for The West Wing.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
All I let's do this. How are you at the fuckers what the fuck bodies, what the fuck and ears what the fuck nix what's happening. My name is mark marin. This is my podcast wtf how's it going, lawrence o donnell is on the show today. Lawrence, you may know him from his nightly show in a mess NBC. You yeah, he was here he's. An author he's here to talk about a book is a former senate staff. He was a writer for the west wing. He was an actor and stuff like big love and monk, and he's got a book out playing with fire, the nineteen sixty eight election and the transformation of a in politics. He's going to be here in a minute, I'm going to try to turn this ship around
be some good things. You know I am I'm trying to be optimistic about the future. Trying the practical I swear to god. You know my life right I'm trying to get box stuff up and get stuff together. and I'm throwing out a lot of stuff, and I really just don't give a fuck about it anymore. I never thought that day would come to where I just charge keys and bull shit things that have just been hanging around uk, like I'm like a cat, I'm no different than a cat really. With everything. That's in my rooms, a there's, the I don't have a lot of shit, but in the garage I have a lot of shit, but it's just what comfortable with like, if I remove large swaths of the shit in here I'll be Awkward and uncomfortable- and I I won't know where to to I would know where to sit. I wouldn't know where to to to rest. I am just guy get comfortable with the shapes in my
environment. And now a moving the shapes, I'm throwing stuff out. a moving the shapes de in rooms, it's fuckin, it's weird, but I do not give a fuck and I think, maybe that's a sign of growth. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm old and I don t see any reason to carry the shit around anymore. Sometimes you just want to. Thanks way you just want to an o like the eu, want just a mattress The floor that moment, where you get everything out and it's just you and that lamp and that match if the floor and you're like why didn't I do. This will be very beginning because you have a lifetime of garbage that you amass and collect and for some reason you can't get rid of There's days where I'm just sorta like I want everything I don't want to feed these fucking cats anymore. I don't want any of it, and there's days where I read the news, I'm like I don't know. I just talked to a tunnel hussy coats in here. And we are talking about a job
baldwin quote that he had here said, gave him relief and, dare I guess on some level, it does. But James Baldwin said tat. You should be aware that failure is a disk. possibility. I don't know if we're going to turn a corner, we might not turn a corner, and then what is that look like? Do we just adapt? It's? So it's so like chest, crushing all of it I don't know what to do some days other than think about Lee then- but you know there- there's there's the grown in them. There's the micro. You know I mean, like there's still good It's right: we've we've got some good, and so we have good moments. Folks, few good moments that right, I don't know why. I don't just tell you I'm moving, I'm moving
I'm moving out of this crumbling small adobe? two bedroom cabin. I live in I'm moving somewhere else I should be excited. I am excited. The different house and is very exciting, but I've been here a long time and I'm dug in here and I'm dug into this garage and I'm dug into everything. That's you know in the garage and in my life and in my house, but haven't done any work on the house really rather than- at driveway for years, it's falling down then the idea is sort of like what what do I do. I'm still going to work here. I don't know what to do with the house yet, but I am going to another house. And I don't know why I haven't been telling me about it. I just feel, like you know, a there's, some I was going on the world? What do I get a share. Why should I share anything I'm excited about? I was
for a long time kind of half thinking about doing it, and then I just found a place Do it big thing. I've only bought one house. This was the only house I bought and I've worn it out worn this house out by tat. I can't really starbucks. At the other place for a while? So I'm going to be here in the garage for awhile, and I'll, let you know what happens, but that's why, went through all my stuff, there's water. break. A lot of weirdness in this house is what a ghost is a lot of bits and pieces from several different relationships. There's bits and pieces of you know several different. You know ideas about how should wavering, who I'm living with there's bits and pieces of I've going all the way back to college in this garage. And it's like I don't know what to take out a note to leave, but I'm excited, Maybe I don't feel like. I deserve it or something
Maybe all this work. I just got to the point where I'm MIKE Yeah I'm not married. I don't have children what Am I doing what am I waiting for? Isn't in a new place, one exciting things. People do so. I did, and now I'm overwhelmed anxious terrified. And in chaos I'm excited and it's a good thing and I do I would have just stayed here like a cat, but then I started to think like it. Do I want to die in this house. Is this where it This is where I want that to happen. My dear a dialogue with this house am just going Watch myself crumble as this place crumbles as both
fall out of window hinges. I just get used to it and wait for the drop on the floor and then stick it back in when I close the window as roofs week. Do I just start started watch myself hunched over walk slower in this house nope I'm fuckin moving. the big deal so they're sad, the back, I'm happy about it, I'm nervous about it, I'm overwhelmed, but I feel I worked hard and on go and live in it in a nicer house, okay, there I said it. Why am I ashamed to say that so stupid? Oh yeah, I got this other thing I wanted to share with you a story. I like this or its from an email, but I think tat is touching. My eight year old is in tears over buster's return. That's a subject like how am I not going to pop?
open hello mark. I wanted to let you know that my husband and I are long time fans we often listen in the car. In our eight year old son was with me last week when he discussed bus running away. We have three rescue. Cats all brothers there about eighteen months old and when son heard you say: buster was missing, he burst into tears and said we need to find a way to help. I later found him in his room, making missing buster kitten signs mind we live in the suburbs of chicago, and I told him this gesture was very kind, but I doubt buster would make it this far from home. This morning, while listening to you on the way to school for him and work. For me, we heard buster was back and he cried tears of joy for you and asked that I pass along the message that he is so happy for you to have him back boy? I hope this message finds you well, please never forget that you have fans big and small, all over all my best. That's a that's a sweet one
your guy work. I'm gum glad he's back to seriously so long Donald Lee lawrence O'Donnell, intense guy, if you want you, show em msnbc means business too got his sight. focused on summer. His eeg he's gone for good. He wants to take this fucker, that's no doubt, but he's done a lot of other stuff and lived in christian life and he grew up in Boston and somehow he's he's managed to temper that a little bit, but he comes from boston- so it's I was excited to talk to him. So this is me talking to Lawrence O'Donnell. New book is playing with fire. The nineteen sixty eight election and the transformation of american politics- Alright. Okay, here we go. You life out here to write the house, a car, a house in the car you to show new york. Yes all the time. Yes, it is now
tiring of I do it here, like all of you and do it here, I can do it here like I'll I'll, do it here. You know from here weekend cannot say I'll. Do it here on Monday, If you consider this your home, I do because I don't have another home. I have hotel rooms, so it's my home, so I you know, I I'm going to try not to just engage you on political matters, but but, like I read some of the press for this and I looked through this book and I just talked to KEN burns. oh yeah and win novak, I watch the vietnam war documentary and this this there's back story and that that shows up here in your book because its history and I I found comfort in that it seemed like things were pretty bad, then, like I know things are bad now, but when I watch
because I was too young and too like uninterested or apathetic to really wrap my brain around it. But the country is about to come apart. Yes and that's what this book is, really yet right it heading into that. Yes, so you you think it was worse than oh, yes in almost in Arguably worse and you remember- I lived it. A little older than me I wouldn't allow. I went to vietnam funerals rights, we're in college and seventy. Started in seventy right. Yes, I know There are seventy two because that's when I My draft noticed, when the last ones are going to those ones are just sort of like go die. That's right! Yet we know your royal even know. What's going on there, any more that's rocco die We got one of those dragged one of those, so how what happened? So I
the draft notice, and I had to go to south boston to the south. He said I got down there for my physical here, and so these guys they're, you know who were like dressed as women and trying to get out of it. You know right and pretending to be mentally ill and all this stuff and and by time. You know that they'd seen everything, and so you could not walk in there and address and get out of the draft not anymore covered in payment by like that with lorries out that would work in sixty seven rioted, gonna work. Now you know and sell em. So you know through this whole thing. Are you telling me you're dressed as a woman and nord away? I couldn't think of anything, so I will interest dressed as me, and I passed the physical and and so then the process was you go home and you wait two weeks approximately then you're going to get a letter that says you know be it I'll station saturday morning at five, a m for the bus to fort dicks homeless, crying just like I just like that right. So I
at home in and you know what I'm trying to figure out what to do and the deal with this and in the one thing I was sure of was I'm not going to go that I'm not going to do and real I'm going to you decide. Yeah revolved around yeah and it was I'm going to go. I'm going I'm going to you know end up in federal court like muhammad ali and go to pray, I'm glad you had a precedent for yeah and more and more of our am I going to go to canada. Am I going to sweden, but I'm not going to sell station in two weeks and you know my father was a lawyer by then you and who is a cop and he went to law school. Nice is lower by then and, and he had represented some of the very first mafia people who ever gone to trial and error an impasse in Boston, the irish elaborate and not tell him, though he knew people like a few. If you go to danbury, you will eat well here and cause you know jerry, in lowell, take care of you, and so is that
this stuff was gone, odin, easy favour and then bang like ten days into this nixon ends. The draft that day over dollar out man in your just to widen we hope you're going to have to go meet with the mobsters right and then, but there's all these people. You know who are alive today, yeah those guys that I was over at the induction center with in south. All of them yet lived, and they all You know none of them joined the army cuz, they wouldn't have been there get drafted if they want to join the army. Many of them went on to have grandchildren who don't know yeah well that I welcome you. They are out and we have personal lived and, and now they live in after watching evian on doc, knowing that at that point that there was a when everyone knew that there was no point. Young people still dying and still being drafted, for it was a lost cause? Well, and the worst thing of it all
no point included the presidents who did this In l b, J from the new getting like even Kennedy ever like at nets and nixon and Kissinger they knew and you don't remember the crime Nixon commits here, is to continue the war, the cry. he commit says is to for me to get elected. There can't be any breakthrough for peace. I won't win if lbj has a breakthrough for peace there. I therefore I want, this war goes behind lbj's back right, but yeah but went but to say want the war to extend the amber is to say I thousands more american soldiers decades so that I can win the presidency yet kids, so, okay, so that in itself that level of of moral bankruptcy. You think you think that so far transcends trump's level bank. Well, I think trump has shown himself to be a person who would do exactly the same thing right.
say you give him that setting and it could be worse shirt raw at it absolutely could be worse and and so it but what we saw was? What we now know is the president was elected in nineteen sixty eight in the middle of a war. Thanks to collusion with a foreign power how he was elected. The south vietnamese here yeah and the north sea, communicated to but specifically really the best of the best line of communication was to the south, but this be judging want to make it even want to make hey about it for the sake of the country, the good of the country, and that I am right now so wait. Now. Your dad was a cop work it a boston cop and what years, though, when did you know didn't know after the war, so you know the late forties early fifties. He was a boston cop, and so I was when I was born in the early fifties, who was a boston cop and so no yeah and he was watching you grow. I grew up in
which is going on way above where my father grew up, my father up and roxbury. Actually, my final act very! No! No! No! That's that's like Honan, o brien neighbourhood, that's like the classic people, went to college and western. in baghdad and roxbury, but roxbury as a whole other thing and an, and so he a very poor cause. You know his father died when in my foes, but eleven years, and so he and where they were, when they first generation you're. No, no, no, my my my grandfather, my father father came over here when he was a year old, so so let s face it born in iron yeah, and so my father had a really really tough life and and ended up luckily becoming for him beyond the boston cop, because you know they never fired cops. So now you have a paycheck for the rest of your life.
right and air and end, but he's a wise guy cause. You know he's that's what we are and and so so he's the one donald's are the the boston area. There's a lot! There's just there's your you know: it's it's a culture, that's a clenched fist! I lived there for years and I was terrified. I don't have to convince you to ice terrified parents and so and so so he's a wise guy and he's sitting there in the witness stand as a boston, police, patrolmen, right and he's getting crossings anyway for what as for anything and he's getting cross examined by these lawyers and he's sitting there thinking I could do that. I couldn't do that If I could do that, make money he's barely a high school graduate, he did ass, he didn't terrible and I swear he sittin there thinking he smarter than every lawyer in the court right and it turns out. He is
and so he is the first boston cop. Ever who goes to a college in law, school knights and back then he didn't even finished college. He went to an unexpected college suffered university. He went for two years. That was enough for the unaccredited law school at suffolk university to let him into the law school. So he then, you gets through a school and and becomes a lawyer, so really fer. You know my functional memory in. Oh, my old man was a lawyer which was a giant giant difference in my neighborhood, where everybody else While there was a cop guys come like it that the neighbourhood lawyer, no no, I mean I'm a big time. Boston, criminal law like that, like he's the guy you go tune, but nobody I he became vigour. It was fascinating. You know because he, when I was a kid, you could never get the slightest hint that anyone was representing, might have done it. Like that's out of the question
now and disturbing number of them. You know, went to jail unjustly as far as our right you're afraid I m not so yes, and then there was a lot of you knows a lot of adventure in it. way. He did it. You know and he he went much more with guts than scholars I'm just amazing things that you pay of that. I watched him politely, but that was the period where whitey bolder was running everything right now. What here here here? Ok, here's the illusion avoidable! Can you drew up and down chester, whitey bulger was the next place over in south boston. right- and you know my oldest brothers, Why did life once had a date with whitey, but really how Emily grew up the same? How many? How many I have three older brothers? That's it yeah and a younger sister and you did the catholic thing they did what they, but my mother underpopulated. We only had five kids.
each of our sisters had. Nine ok my mother was lazy. What did you mean she had a job? Probably now she did she hadn't most of the time she ended up working in my father's offices and bringing some sense to that end some much needed calm, I might say, was chaos guy? he was very chaotic and he was filled with all kinds of rage that would come out. You know almost every other day and I was about twelve. I think when I discovered the force of that which I wrote about my first book, but he was eleven years old yeah and his father was a boxer his father killed himself and the kids his is twin brother and his older brother saw this happen, and it was a
It's one of those things you know where they they his older brother Patrick, tried to take the gun away from his father's patrick was like twelve and they chased. You know he chased the kids into the park and grabbed the gun away, and so they they witnessed this right and I'd discover this one, I'm twelve years old and I go oh now I get it now. I get why he's yelling about where the grey socks in like like like because his behavior in many instances was just mysterious like what is that rage about cause? It isn't about the subject with that story, like were like borderline personality disorder comes from a sense of abandonment, netlike, just like how why wouldn't everybody kill themselves, what right and and and and the and- and you know he he's he forever at the after that point for me- became in many ways whenever he entered the kind of you know the difficult behavioral zones,
just this little boy- he was this. I was watching a lost little boy who was austin the worst way and who was filled by the way with shame for life because he couldn't can stop him? No, no! No because of the harm that there's that the bigger part of it was the cultural shame I love having a first of all within within the religion. That is a mortal sin right. His father could not be buried in the catholic church because he committed suicide. So this is. This. Is a kind of cultural shame? It can never be and you know what and when I real is that I was gonna have to write about it until let stories in my first book. My my brothers were very worried about this because it had never been to school in the in the family. Riding in wet sweeping grandpas was an urban development in they said, and they just kept. My brother marcus in the old man's going to go crazy is going to go ahead. He sees that in this book, store around jojo
and so and so they're all terrified as well, I wasn't because I I wasn't at that point. I certainly was when I was ten. You know absolutely. It was like you know like. would come home and you just have to wait till you see on fire or no k good. I don't. Let's eat fattened slow, but but my father was the first one to read that book and he read it in a night and he kind of woke me up in the middle of the night and just said he loved ah, and he completely stood since he's a big character in the book. Why you that had to be explained to understand him? because he always did. He know it would it was something surprising. him that you put a yes, yes, it was surprising to him that it was in their great, but I think in the flow of the book, it probably wasn't surprising when that paragraph started coming up cause. I was splaining him and I was explaining. a vague ends and I was explaining choices mad- and I think in here such he was such a smart. He was very ill used
centrally. You know on schools, but he had a great head for writing and firm literature effort, and so I think he understood the flow of a story, and I think he understood why this is happening on page one hundred and eighty nature what did he did? Do you think you made cycle I'm goin emotional connection that he hadn't made so him reading your book was sort of a revelation. I think it must have been that it must have been the cause they tough Y know one thing you're discovering at o this kid of my whose now I don't know thirty or something of that his observations of me. You know, and as I sit here, I I have no idea if, if, if my daughter at thirty were to write, book a clue to me yeah. I don't have any idea what adjectives would be right or I mean I know what facts could be told and what's what c?
don't exist because I've never done that. You know but sure I don't. I don't you have? No, you don't know how you, no matter how empathetic you are. You can I know what her experience of you is you don't know what they isolate. You don't know what isolated camera is on. What's the repeated yang at one thing, and you and and and look I found out one fact about my father's history and I used it to explain a lot. Almost everything- and I don't know if, if my daughter has a factor, a set of facts or something about me- that she then uses to explain stuff nightmare, which you just should disagree with you politically yeah much my father's, a commie now she's with me on your data with anyone that got her there. You made sure you learn the right way right, but I am. I am related to trump voters. You don't you can't come from Boston, will not be you
I call my part in either eye and as me, like you're, coming from narcissism. I you know, I emotionally understand some of it. You know and I think anybody who is has a big ego finally understands the relief of being a dick. Yes, it doesn't mean. I asked why most of us have shown. About it right, but there is that moment where you're like fuck you, life and you're, like that he deserved it right and then a year or so later, a week later, David Yancey. I was at a line, now. You know he's not never adeline after the difference by the way, culturally about that in Boston is that here are the things I'd never heard in my entire. never heard any of these words sluggish colleagues, please never heard that. Never word. Thank you and I never heard the words I'm sorry ever we were just uncouth, but no one was confused. Like no one was confused whether you were grateful for this thing. If you didn't say thank you, there was a basic,
and of soul level. Communication that, where those words seemed unnecessary. How do you track that, though? I with because, like I'll a I and I've talked about it Before when I was going to college in Boston, there was a. there were was just a sensitive issue. Kid in the middle of just just, you know irish, these everywhere and I got so sorry I grew to like, like I go back now in there's nothing more unique, then you, like the indigenous population of Boston. You know you're, not true there there's not nothing like it if, for while there was terrifying now I kind of romanticize it, but you I go to ireland and have any of you, I feel so comfortable in ireland, I'm a jew and in a way this is the greatest place it so green. These people are so humbled history and an incentive sweet
that melancholy, but not nasty. How do you, how do you or you know, explain that the the the gap I have pondered it my life and by the way when I was a kid, the mayor of Dublin was a jew benjamin Briscoe yeah. It is inconceivable that in my lifetime there would be a mayor of Boston It was a joke that was unimaginable. I think it could happen now because Boston's changed dramatically and that's wonderful. What did you think, but it wasn't because I didn't here's the weird thing and I didn't mean to interrupt you, but someone asked me the other day I was on a as asked me about the yo. so the new york guys the guy they treat the guys you associate with tromp from me. These guys are like hey. What's up, you know like the assholes like like in in there there's the Boston version, but, like I don't did you do you think they're, fundamentally anti semitic or just well who are deeply? But here but here's. What's so interesting about it. It was a purely theoretical thing, because
we had never met one. We wouldn't know what direction to go to find warrior, and so I think I am about a newton. We didn't know where that was okay, it no direct subway line, but so so so yes My neighborhood, you was a verb, okay and, and So the prejudice, though I really as to when I was in high school was completely theoretical, and and I realized I at the same time that mow the pharmacist on Adams street master right no one knew that you know cause. He had some non jewish last name right, never crossed anyone's mine, and so now I am engaged and more was beloved more and he let people you know, take the prescriptions without paying and came up with, when all is most phenomenally wonderful man and and so everybody loved him, and I know that if I could-
make an announcement by the way everybody most jewish. They go, oh and it would really be a pause because there, anti semitism, which was universal as far as I could tell, was theoretical. It was right, but I find now that what we're finding is in what I find that scary about you. You know what the the remnants and the the the never ending sort of legacy of of any type of racism is that yeah, you could have done that and they wouldn't want all right now he's a good want, the good one. Yes, yes, that's probably what they would have done but- and I was unique lag- was so lucky above because my father did was a wise guy. Who decided I'm not going to be a cop, I'm going to be a lawyer, because what that meant was at suffolk law school. He connect with a fellow students, SAM cinnamon who was jewish, and I had this wonderful job man in your home, when I was a little boy in a just just kind of learning, to speak english and
and and and also within my home. There was an absolute ban, it never had to be set up, it was, never said, but there was a ban on the racial slurs and all of that labeling and I only realized there was a band when I was in someone else's house and his father was a boston cop and were sitting there in the kitchen and he's in he's talking to the so. The two parents are over there at the sink and they're talking, and I hear him go. I hear him say this n word mia and I thought he had just said fuck. I thought it was like. Oh you can't say I was like iso, stunned by it and and and it was that moment when I realized. Oh, my houses exceptional. Yet there's nothing worse than hearing that used casually there to be in a moment with somebody who feels comfortable enough.
Just dug in or that it's just what they say to hear that that word used casually or any sort of racist word. There's that moment like what? What do I do now Would you like a lady in that now couplet with he's talking about someone who arrested Oh right away, like that's that's where I first learned the disparate treatment that black people suffer at the helm. of police that, where does it turn for you like so year, your own? But your old man wasn't a drinker norma. My father never had a drink in his line. Did you ever find out why why I've always suspected that his father was a priori bad drunk? Is that what? But? What did you ever get and or get any closure any explanation of where His grandfather was that when he did that and why don't get it now might the only way my father would ever talk about his father was in the most heroic praise, just what a heroic.
therefore you know just just pure revenge aid to before he picked up that gun that, while his I dont believe it. I don't believe you know it's a it's it's his rewriting of who his father, who wanted to speak about it. I'll never know the axe, follow the box or I'll never know I'll never know really are out on the gun. Member gonna have some view of his father because he would by far was the access to that, what about your uncle's don't have uncles? Are there they're all gone and no one talk to them about it either? My my life, his sister is still with us, but no one's ever talked to them about it. It's just within one year the journalist I can go to my father's sister and say: hey, let's talk about that day in one, oh, by the way she was an infant. So she didn't she didn't. She wasn't a witness, alright, so what You two were to get involved with It takes me who were you, you know
where you started to realize, I guess is a thing that that you could do it was pure accident. I had no interest in it. I wasn't drawn to it in any way. We protesting in the 60s high school. I was going to the anti war demonstrations. You know any. And I had this weird this weird freshman year in college, where I was on, the baseball team has arbored yeah cause. I was. I was okay, baseball and and I'd be going down to practice- and it's like I am missing the peace demonstration on the boston common today. What what am I doing, what an a childish shit is, yeah and and those there's, this wonderful throw line where he Henry David thoreau says something about. you know when you become a man, you put away the things of a child, atlanta put away the things of a child, and working you known across knit I gotta face,
glad my hand that I'm comin, what do I do? It was so and that's the way it was you know and What were you awake and aware, as a freshman, totally you while in high school, I was in high school That's everybody was you couldn't be a sophomore in high school in america and not be worried about this, because, in my case, old brothers all had draft cards in their pocket. Ivan went my oldest brother joined because he was advised that if you get after you have no control over it. If you join in and he was I would graduate by the time he joined. You might be able to get a soft assignment which he did and never left the united states you don't joining was part of the strategy of avoiding the war. Actually joining trying to get a cushy assignment in germany or something where I was part of it. Isn't that interesting, though, that that what made everyone so aware, an aside from the media environment being much more intimate yeah,
in terms of much less expansive is that there? Is this real risk that you were going to get called up to go, get killed or you either you are going to die or your boyfriend was going to die your cousin, all my brother's older than me and I never heard of word when they were in college and I was still in high school. I never heard one word about career planning or are going to do not a single word from anybody who was that age in my neighborhood it was one percent about. How do I avoid vietnam and the were a tiny handful who just went they didn't want to, but they would join the marines. You know they just they just kind. Bade the older rule, but it seems to me that, as the sixties went on and into the seventies that you know, even if thought it was the right thing to do in this really cuz. They believed the government that that's that, what really defines
culture that we're still living in is that that broke down, because of roseburg because of a hangouts information getting out that the belief the government doing the right thing did just wrote it The belief in the government during the right thing was gone by nineteen. Sixty eight by the end of night, all really yoga unites ex ante gaudy end in this book. He still positive yacht anybody who enlists at that point is, thing, because they think they have no choice or their enlisting because they think it is the right thing to do. Even if this is. mass. So ok, so you give you got your mitten your hand, get your glove and need any do If so, what are you study, eyes and through a process of elimination study. Economics- and I had a simple rule for myself, which was I want I want to take you in or out when I opened the college course book near. There were thousands, of course, as they are at my first week freshman year, and there were languages I did not know existed. I saw the word urdu in this
book, as a language for the very first time must be it's harvard you dad must have been kind of blown away with a normal thing. Knowing that a gigantic gigantic cultural, for us in my neighborhood. Have it was punch line of a joker right friend of mine would but would always saying this was true bay. I my father works in hobbit station and he was the guy who was making change. Tokens and it was. It was like it was. It was a really weird thing I have to say like when I got the admission there and I got this form of early admission that they had for the local kids. Basically local. It's only and boston kids only and the kids from the rich prep schools. and they would tell you really early like around thanksgiving. You know your aunt and so actually applied to one college and replied anywhere else. Just harvard did you gotta press? well no. I had big problems in high school and has gonna three high schools got kicked out of one over the problem, a discipline
it was a wise guys go to high school in air. I mean in our first high school and I went to all my brother's went to this high school and in west roxbury kind of a higher class neighbourhood, a catholic high school, and it was kind of It was the new high school on air and they were competing with a Boston college, high school, which was the prestigious jesuit school, and this was run by the irish christian brothers and the way they competed with Boston college high school was to sit the parents down brand new. My by Michael, I think, was unlike their first class and sit the parents down and say in effect, in a polite in o, clerical language we will beat the fucking shit out of your kid more than any other teacher, any where I was like. We will beat them better,
sign it so the kind of the fire fighters, and although there are signs of so we're all there and these guys were famous air like their torture tools and like these these means they would use to spank? You now has an oh yeah yeah and it was. It was and they had literally an literally an in the down staircase and and so my brother, and I were not particularly terrible ere I mean we didn't get and fights and stuff like some of the other guys, but at the end of of like halfway through like sophomore year, they wrote a letter in the middle the summer. Like august, they just wrote a letter to about twenty five of us and said you know what don't come back we've thought about it. We've had some time at the beach. We can't stand the idea of you guys walking back in here, and so we in the middle of a summer had to scramble you don't find another. I say smart ass, just disruptive yeah
I mean just smart ass, actually just cut, oh, I mean like we would just skip school and go play, pool europe with a here. You know and I one time. Oh you two were getting shitty great. No, I was doing pretty good. You know I was done out. I was doing reasonably well, but here's the funny thing about that expectation and guidance. So I have what, by the time I'm a freshman in high school I've got three older rose. the same school in the same freshman year. They say the following to me: you I understand the math. You want down the science stand, the latin the english. The history. That's just written you'll, understand that, like all okay, so and I'm telling you this is the big that's my but take so here's the strange thing, I'm in the second week of latin class, and I still understand everything- and I think this
last right this, this all out of satellite. That can happen and I'm in this third week of math class. I understand it all is honestly not gonna continue right, but I understand that they are so it's like. If I had just had one per somewhere in my life. Is that you're gonna do very well. You know, like I wonder what would I have gotten even matter grades. I don't know I was gonna, be it at zero. Zero men wasn't. Now he you know he was a terrible student. It he just was hoping. I just was no good you can. He didn't know he would have no idea how I helped me with a map russell. It was just and I ended up the cultural thing there too, which which was summarized for me flawlessly by caroline O'Connor, merv griffin show. When I was about thirteen okay yeah,
is the biggest show in the world and carol? O'connor has finished season one and he went off to the abbey theatre in dublin after the hiatus right now he's back shooting set season. Two he's the biggest tv star in the world me sitting down with merv griffin. Who's also agree to these two hours rise. Okay merv, says to Carroll O'Connor when you want to cuz carol Kahn had trained at the abbey theatre in oh, when you went back to the abbey theatre, must have been the return of the conquering hero had been so wonder, well little pause and a breath and carroll counties. As of you know, The irish would always prefer you come home, a failure, when, oh my god, it's my whole culture in a sentence. It's the whole thing right there, and so so what my brothers were telling me is: don't feel bad when you want lad. silent. Europe can understand chemistry, no one ever had already you make. That will you what is that? What
what why the cultural impetus? Why is it that way? If it's, if it's a joke, I know that there are hardened people and the irish are you know: they've had they've taken their share of shots and that they're there like a I I just, but what is it about the culturally that the Would be, is it a catholic because success was a new experiment? This was new to them. Just think about it. In my own, my own family, I mean my father's our comfort it into its own, standing yeah values? Understand excesses like what do we do with ass? I am. I am first generation college graduate in my family. My mother did go to college my followed in graduate from couch I'm first generation, my my brother, Michael cavern, the billy there there first ones, and in my neighborhood the time we were graduating from high school approximately.
Maximum of half of the kids were headed to college, and maybe half of them were going to finish, and so we didn't have two generations of experience with the full run of education was no physician in our family history. No lawyer, there was nobody right who made a living in a net dry yet in, and so it takes a while. You know you you, don't you, don't, admittedly, adopt the values and the framework of this the academically successful world just because, okay, now you kids get to go to high school, but think that it came down through years of you know the the politics of of british empire, and then you know just this sort of idea that ingrained in the culture that life is isn't fair. Oh, yes, that's and that you know you just accept it and Even if you get lucky, it's not going to well in all The other thing that care. Connor saying there is. They will know how to talk to me. If I'm a failure, then
they won't talk to me. If I'm not bright, they have every word to say to the failure name we have only tell em joe, have rank they'll be every year. They have everything right. They have no vocabulary, iver success, optimal because they have no experience right and these so called successful person is suspect to them. How did that have do you have that in you, like you do you have an insecure. Like is your anything inside of you that you you, you are not comfortable with success oh, no, not at all, not a you can. If you want to. If anyone wants to give me any more, I will I will take whatever Get me you always like their yeah, because because this is an evolution. You know I have no idea what I would be. I really don't have the vaguest idea. What I would be if my father had remained a boston cop. I don't have any idea what I would have thought the horizon was, I don't know but I've got a lot of. I got a lot of
dna and man stuff and a lot of a lot of stuff. You know from my neighborhood that I use now as an excuse for the way I you know I I kind of yeah you gotta you gotta lotta, fuck you and you yeah and and and then sometimes when I watch him watch it rachael gets into I'm like how fuck you night. Well, I truly what you're watching as someone who's trying to suppress that twenty four hours a day I mean I mean. I know ITALY in my neighborhood. If you stopped at a traffic light and in nineteen sixty seven and my people, didn't know you. There was a very strong chance that there would be punching on your driver's window of your car and they were punched their way through the window of your car it'd, be sitting there so shocked that it would take you a while to realize. I should drive away
because this is what can happen again because there's this drunk irish, seventeen year old, who's going bang and he doesn't care that his hand is getting long written down. So I I was watching that as a as a little kid and I and I I Didn'T- I never liked I never liked it, and, and everybody in my neighborhood was ranked on how tough you are, and so literally like who's. That I was given the second grade at lawrence O'Donnell, who is the toughest kid in the third grade, Billy O'Donnell who's that you know so, and my brother Michael, was the toughest kid in his grade. So we kind of inherited those titles by the time, I'm in fourth grade and tumble, comes in as a transfer from south boston and is bigger than me. I'm thinking fighting over rated. I shouldn't have to prove myself that, because I immediately started to see I could lose then as soon as I understood, I could lose in fighting and I could lose teeth and stuff. I basically became a passive. So like in my neighborhood
nobody there. Nobody in my neighborhood thinks of me as the slightest tough guy in the world, because I didn't get in a single fight after like without my fifth grade that might have been the beginning of politics. I. How do I win without getting hurt? charm, how do I be a diplomat? How do I do this? Now? I was really I was trying. I was trying to transcend the things in my culture that I did not lear, and I saw a lot of stuff in my culture that I didn't like and I I knew I'm going to have to work at this for yourself personal self personally it philosophically and intellectually it was really really easy. I was in high school and I read dick Gregory's autobiography and dick rigorous lines in a. Why he's a pacifist bang that day, I'm a pacifist forever and now I know why and dick Gregory explains a gandhi to me on this page. I get it a hundred percent decrease explains a few pages down. Why he's a vegetarian? I walk
I tell my mother, I'm a vegetarian and I become a vegetarian for the next twenty five years or twenty years, so intellectually adopting a new framework that was not available within my neighborhood was the easiest possible part of it in a relief yes and a relief. When I saw that's the correct way to thinking and and I'm not even slightly tempted to throw a punch or it's not that I don't have any of that, I'm luckily, luckily that stuff got flushed automate all that stuff about. You know throwing punches and gripe and all that stuff and a lot of it had to do with that I just never drank. I was now I literally never drunk ever not once fell in a year and it was a. It was a miscalculation because so I wanted to let you really ass ever. kid. My age was totally shit faced Saturday night when they were ten years old and ten years old. If by twelve, getting ship face on friday and saturday night people were looking at you. Let's go on thursday
and so I tasted it and I hated it. I drank the beer, was the most foul thing. I'd ever tasted and I was a very cold logician I don't want something in my mouth that I don't like the taste of I'm not having any more and I didn't give a shit about peer pressure. I should get sick with it, yeah one told I didn't but I didn't care cuz. I wasn't going to stick with you no commitment, and then I made the mistake and calculation that you know this could work. This could really work with the girls because I'll, be the one who's not puking like that is going to my stocks going to soar. I won't be puke air. You know, I'm the only one here: who's, not leaning against a lamp post puke like that they do not know, because it turns out they like that. I had to be drunk too and I wasn't going to get them drunk, so they like to take care of the puke years. There yeah the very motherly yeah yeah. So so after college he did the rope for the lampoon yeah. I was putin that was just a lucky, a really lucky thing for me. It was.
A day where merit was not what got you on it was I mean it was merit or good guy. I got on the I category like people, don't just wanted me hanging around you're funny guy. Who's, the funny guy to sit around and talk right by the standards of the place, and possibly at least fifty percent of that with my ex so how'd you get rid of that action. I had to study and learn to speak american and it was that we are the hardest thing coming out. Thirty, not like going to give its excites show of intimacy more at the more intimate I get. The more comes out clean doors fortunate, because it's the ugly Assad jazz that comes out, but but no, I I I drove cross country between high school and college, be there at that summer and I get is as far as new jersey am. I need gas and I have to talk to a gas station attendant.
New jersey, you can't pump your own gas on stuff. I don't understand a word. He saying he doesn't understand a word, I'm saying, unlike pointing it's like I'm in yugoslavia, pointing to a gas tank as I get back in the cargo, I had to learn this. So I turn on like a seizure medicine like CBS news, radio and I just sit in the car driving as if I'm in the language lab listening to french or spanish tapes. I just listen in it and it's you know it's taken forever, but it's right there and it cracks like it'll crack on my show too and like I feel it cracking, and I try to While the word on the show you know, and then I feel like- oh everybody sees this, you know and then of course, flies by and no one quite catches. What that was. I turned into a for something that was it a shame thing we are. You sure now came to the anger and is it's a weird thing: I know how weird the sound and- and it's also it there's a but the label of that sound is stupid, like that is the label
right and southerners. Have this feeling too. You know I I know southerners who they would when they were kids, they would, if they were, you know, had the means they would go to new york with their parents or something and they would notice. You know that the hotel treated their their father differently cause. He had this accent that treated him like it's dump, yeah, I and and the bad thing when I was in my twenties about the Boston accent, is that people didn't know what it was, so they knew the brooklyn accent, that had been in the movies near the boston. Accent had not turned just sounded stew No one knew where that was from the didn't care and just plain sounded stupid and literally though, to actually be understood, are you actually have to learn these words in other parts of the country, at all, say the words properly yeah felling. you can say I can say to you my brothers say car and they say kind and they think they said exactly what you just said. once again, because we couldn't hear you know Bob
People couldn't hear the accent we didn't know. We had max it's body so so, happens after harvard. Did you graduate with the honours and not nothing special? I mean everybody does like to well no there's like at that time and still, but two thirds of a class gets you at least cum laude a like. If you don't have come, I had the that, lowest one. You got an undergraduate degree in economics, yeah yeah and my my principal was. I wanted to take is where someone had to teach me. So, for example, you didn't, kill ya know. I could you need a teacher for that right. You can't just pick up economics books, so I didn't take history courses cause. I thought I can just read the history myself I don't have to. I use my course time for that I didn't take literature courses because I thought I'll read all that when I finish college Oh, I know no history and no literature. I never did the homework. I never read, you wrote a history book, so these things happen
but but economics. I thought I just it's just a understand the world, and I thought it was the most interesting way to understand the world and I never thought it had. It would have anything to do with anything. I would do occupationally my life, because I had absolutely no occupational ambition whatsoever. None. I had no plan, nothing. I was a I was a pack in attendance in Boston when I was a college student, that's how I was making money and where down combats known as they call them. We wear parking for what were for the theatre to react. Fear district of company had a bunch a lot, so the will lots down the boston got in a new and or on time. But now it was that was on the level business and so When I graduated at ij it was a cash business, denmark, market, completely cash business and so on, and so when I, when I graduated, I was a parkinson and I went from graduation to the lot harder. the next night educated on the, and it was my
are actually who said to me. You know I've got this amazing case this new case. You should write a book about it. This is a very peculiar thing to say, because there was no evidence that I wanted to at all. Have you read and know how I would avoid college classes if they said you have to read the paper? I hated writing like I said I hated it hated it, but he had amazing case. The civil rights case of this guy who'd been killed by the boston, police and, and he took on the case for the widow and he had this amazing evidence that he had he had built a and he should he was he had. He was convinced that he was proving the cover up and that they find that again and all the stuff in its reverently drum experiencia. I went into his office and I stared out at my read the police reports in about three hours, and I went oh my god there's a book here and so that's the first book and- and I bet I fourth delhi force- that's why he so big in the book, and it was the first book about police killing black americans and the the particular.
nature of the way. That's done the way that's covered up and and everything we don't know about, and everything we need to know about it. I came, you know in the middle of the nineteen eighties in a country that, outside the black community, didn't care about this at all. It was impossible to was attention to it, wrote that what year it came out in nineteen? Eighty four, really and that was the first time you ever wrote- yeah you, join couch line, seventy six okay, so you were just really just hanging around yeah. I was I know this is the sections of my resume that looked like prison time, because it's just these big blanks and I was like what was he doing. He was on the sofa watching tv. What do you think he was doing, I think the scotch now, but the book took seven years to write. Did so because I for a couple reasons- I didn't know how to write. And so I'm going, I literally wrote an entire version of it that the publisher rejected said this is awful
right it on a deal. Did you yeah? Guy, miraculously I got a nine thousand dollar advance to write the book like you, nuts, in nineteen. Seventy seven right, you tell me if they like for a first book the events much more than that it was the biggest I'd. Never I didn't know those money like that in the world and then you know we sold it. The book came out, we sold it to hollywood and suddenly, in one day in century city, they hand me a check for one hundred thousand dollars and, like oh cause like realise know about As for the book rights, you know just an engineer. You know, then there was the money for the script and all that stuff. For me, I like a napkin that might not have gone anywhere, but grats couldn't write beneath a lot of trouble. So I really liked this business a lot better real fast, and the book was a bestseller boston only it was it. It did. Okay,
it's like, I didn't read it, but so the the the sort of story, your father, is integrated throughout the story of this chaos because he's the lawyer you're following him as the guy who takes on this case and proves for the first time in this case, goes to the united states supreme court and back. He went to what was the. What was it that or to decide where the was, though, that there was all sorts of evidentiary firsts in this case and procedural first that that the judges just weren't accustomed to you know that you're you're, accusing the police department of covering this up and what so so, whatever is relevant to that was something they had to feel their way through. You know something never been seen before, but had been happening for you. Yes, of course, around the the this was the stuff that was being discussed around kitchen tables. in black communities and nowhere else in america and and I wrote the first
good piece for the new york times about this issue in nineteen. Seventy, nine. I think it was Heaven I the mere times had never covered the subject. At that point, it didn't exist as a subject that was no Research on, I had to do my own social sciences that so not long ago. No, it's it's it's crazy, it's it it. It was, and you know- and You know the people, the other people who knew about it were cops. Okay, that's who that's for about it right, and so and here's, I'm gonna tell you. One story from that thing which is at an insight into the world is not as you know it doesn't have mentions you think it does all the time and there is something to be said, forgotten experience, so jury selection on the case in the courtroom. As like an assistant, you know, then my brother Michael, is my father's co counsel on that by this time right and there's a woman whose husband is a revere police officer. Revere revere
next door, a me and my fi, it doesn't challenge her. He lets her go. And we are sure, he's going to use one of his challengers for the wife of a cop. You can't let the wife of a cop on this deciding whether these cops murdered a guy. You can't do that and we think he's nuts he's an end and he lets it happen. Bank, she's on the jury and then they break for recess. I jump up out of my seat in the audience. My brother, Michael was right to him what what are you doing, letting the wife of the cop, the wife of the revere cop and the jury, my man like totally one herpes, confident as if this is absolute fact and not there's no guesswork involved. He says nobody hates Boston cops like reveal cops. Nobody! and nobody knows what cops are capable of better than their wives. Instantaneously, Michael and I both realize he's
one hundred per cent right, easy jamie it up, and this woman was with him one hundred percent of the way as a juror. She never had one minute of being on the cop side of that case. You know and there's there's nobody at harvard law school. Who can teach you that snow, that's a good story. Is that in the movie I think it's in the movie. I was that it was a CBS tv movie back in the day of movie of the week. Is that what again I see you sold the book rights and then you got a script deal yeah. So then, I'm in this business and then showbusiness and then in nineteen eighty eight there is a writers guild strike that lasts six months and at that point you just got in. I just am I just scrounging around just getting a rewrite deal. You know all this stuff right. I got a ray stark rewrite deal, I'm going to get a fifteen thousand dollars so exciting and is this strike that that happens, and senator moynahan, who I ended up getting to know through his door hunter. Who was a friend of mine
You dated is no no. She she knew friends of mine. She went to harvard few years after media and social. She knew people in new york and we didn't which other and some point we knew. Each other yeah and at some point she invited me to with thing this dinner thing, that of her father was doing well. Yeah. Sure go to that path and and mrs Moore dance from Boston from the boston area, she still has a Boston accent. So we want to each other right away. It comes back right when you talk to some alter and I get it I never from the right and so in nineteen. Eighty eight exactly when the writers guild event. Today, seven as when the strike started, sunday morning, asked me to come into his re election campaign after he realized that my union was on strike, and I think that was an act of charity. It was like this kid needs it
Iraq or something right cause he's. You know you knew that and I go okay, you know and and and but he wouldn't be a scab, and I want no one in hollywood to know this, because you work so hard to get defined as a writer here here. Read it so hard to do and my agent now sees me as a writer- I don't want my agent and on doing this they'll think I quit the business or I could gotta be a secret ripe, and I it's a secret as long as I can, because I work for him in the nineteen eighty eight campaign, which means I sit there and watch cause. I know nothing. I know absolutely. Nothing He wins with sixty eight percent of the vote didn't matter whether I was yeah. How long have you been there that we, those this is third term he was running for you know he he was no new york thou Hillary Clinton, see why, yes, when he left Hillary ran for his seat right and- and he would spend you know three million to get re elected to that seat. Basically,
I saw a guy who are you and your loved him yeah and and a former harvard professor and so every day was like this private. You know harvard tutorial at the highest level, he's just an extraordinary person just an extraordinary. I know that you know how you see somebody on stage and then the backstage version isn't as big as the onstage version. Yet the backstage version of pat moynihan is way bigger than the onstage version, because there's so much more. that, he knows and has to start with your job. I made up a title, in the in the eighty eight campaign? I didn't have one for a time, and I saw I read an article about the Dukakis campaign and I saw the title director of communications and I went because mrs Doyle campaign manager and the other guy. That's the whole campaign, and I go
ok, I'm director of communications out there. I didn't do anything you needed, but not. You must have learned something, though, that that seriously, I learned. I mostly I learned about the state of new york travelling upstate, all over the place, waiting our seas and our politics. I learned I learned certain amount about politics, but not not very much, not then, but but politics what I didn't know was how much I knew about politics, because politics is if you're going to get a generic It is simply the anticipation of human beings, okay and so that clouds, understanding that revere, cops, hate, boston, cops and their wives know how bad cop can be in all this. So the end, a patient of human beings is a generic. kill, and I find that most people in politics, don't have it and it's the understanding, were applied to a means to an end. Yes, yes, and and so so I I knew more in my gut. Then I realized you know, and
I was developing more, but I relied entirely on the moon and senate staff in washington and to tell me you know something what happened and I go. What does this mean? I don't want. This is they're talking about the social security thing. What is that an dan crane- and these are people working it now- Just call me up here's what you need to know this. This is what happened to me where brendan yeah yeah. When I went to air america, I'm like what is what's going on right and then we'll break it down for you right and then you get it right because is different than government different links. Yet they have not, though they are unrelated. I've the eyes never of the very few people who are good at the politics of campaigning and the government, that is the rarest possible combination- obama might be the only one I've seen it combines them. Both Bob dole was great at the politics of We saw what he was at the politics of campaigning for president stare right yeah, I'm in
I think an example. You know that there's a lot of them bill bradley was great at the politics of governing, not so good at the politics of campaigning. So that's why he was never president. So so you get this little tutorial on your ears, sort of young in it and then like could. But that's right. Beginning it kind of together, you two worlds of writing and pilot but I never write a word for pat morning, because no one does because- unique when you're still learning it just so happens. There's this weird, I think as it while you are, I respected political pandit and you know we'll get to the west wing, but at that juncture, when used in when you, after you, whatever you learned about the legal system in this stuff investigative lee about your father in Boston, everything else does not it that's part of the education of politics so it all starts to add up well Other thing, though, about about the my entry into poverty was I went in there as a writer at that point, I'm a writer and I'm saying to myself yeah I'll go,
we are all going to a campaign cause. I want to see if I find something to write about. I have this very plump, tony and inclination, which is to do things that I am invited to do that. I do not know how to do so. I didn't ask to work in the political campaign. You know, pat one animal is one and asked me to join their chemical. That's right! That's! So! That's why I put, in that he used to come a boxer of both joy. There would rain with their choice lyonnaise at so that he could run one play in in like an exhibition game and he would write a beautiful book about that whole experience here. The paper line and is wonderful, and so my I life is a set of chapters of plutonium. Next, yes, that I did not set out to do. I ride not asked to do, except for The writer part of my life, which at a certain point I it was my father's idea and then I did it and then at that point this is what I know how to do so
I'm going forward as a writer, and so yes, I wanted to write for west wing and I, wanted to write in show business- and I wanted to get script deals. That's all stuff that I wanted to do and put myself out for an every the thing that I've done as an accident just an the working in the senate? I ended up working in the senate for certain one inferred, like seven eight years, some like that you did ya. I like the area campaign was over. He said what do you want? once she said. What do you want and I thought like will I'll have the omelet and he meant what job do you want to know, and he he make me a federal judge, cause I'm not a lawyer. So it's like what job do you and he said well, come into the to the senate office. In the end, we will call you my senior adviser and while you're this for the guy, who needs no advice and and then that the Senate job got increasingly important because he moved into these chairmanships and
It surely became the chairman of a set of finance committee, and so I had to run the staff of the senate. Finance committee had to run that come which is taxation, international trade, medicare, medical health care welfare. So we had to do a big tax bill for four clinton. We had to do nafta had to pass through the committee. The world trade agreement had to pass through the committee. Hilary healthcare bill tried to get made it through that committee, but did not make it through the senate welfare reform had to go through that committee, so it was real. Governance in this was no longer plimpton. Because I literally am a my hands. Are on the way I am flying this point, may I ought but the point and I never was always there. I was always observing it while doing it, but it was intensely real. When I was running Senate committees asked the real thing: and you're in the oval office and you are making the deal on exactly what this tax rates going to be and and that's the real thing
and that that is the nuts and bolts like you described it with a certain excitement, but that is exact. we were the most americans' eyes glaze over. Yes, yes toe I, if someone started talking like this to me before I worked in the center, I just would have get me out of here. I can't believe it by the time, I'm two years and working in the sun, I am sitting on the senate floor and I am hearing a speech about social security, taxation and I'm on the verge of tyranny. It's it's! I can't it's amazing weight to it. There should be you know when you're in that chamber. You should feel that the history of it yeah and I feel sorry for the people who are there now, because you can't, you can't feel it now. It's it's become a it's a it's a nonsense. Place since I, like my of like my job, doesn't exist, the title exists, but the people who have the job that I had they haven't past us single bill through their committee. They have done nothing, and
and they don't do anything and they never would so how did west wing happen so on I, when I left working in the senate, basically kind of consolidated to l, a and and was I was actually writing a book, then that I that I failed I supposed to I was. I got a deal to write my version of my senate memoirs and I did such a bad job with that. The publisher cancelled the book like a couple years in, and I was on the verge of bankruptcy and and and there was horrible via an amazon bc, came along and said: hey. Would you like to talk on tv about politics for money? and I said how much and I said, yeah- and I said yes and- and so I had that- like okay- but now I'm sending off bankruptcy and then west wing started up in basically in the year one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine aaron aaron Sorkin got the pilot made and then the network ordered
odin and but actually know NBC rejected. That pilot. When it was first were written, they got, they got the pilot, they read it. They rejected the hour. I because there's no baby dying in the emergency room, no one pulls again. No ones facing the death penalty. Houses govern is no car chases its guys and neckties ma generally disagree. and then in the end, getting along and such like. There's no show I understand and why I rejected it so. I was sent that pilot script as soon as wrote wrote it because my agent saw that and said wow. If this thing goes to series, if they make this thing there, need right. The writer failure- and I didn't know Aaron or anyone involved, but that he knew they're gonna need me and so then, a year later and b c makes the pilot, because John wells, who had who is running iii, are used his muscle cause. He was also an executive producer on western useless muscle to get and be seen to make. The pilot did not wanted
and then the same thing happened with episodes in an and they got episodes or so that the minute they order episodes. I get the call saying in ok and would like to meet you cause here and they hire writers. so the fascinating thing for me was. I had read the script a year before it was shot, They then send me a video cassette of the pilot that they've shot and as far as I can tell in a year to think about it, Aaron has not One word was owing to highlight and I'm looking at this thing and the script was great and the thing I'm looking at is even greater because now there's alison Janni in the more she s richard shift and bread, whitford and tommy salami. Has this camera fly going through these corridors and bring this thing to life in ways that I didn't see when I was reading the patria, and so I went in Aaron, and I was as the only member of the writers guild in l, a who'd ever worked in washington with the time you know,
in the oval office and an actual business meeting, and so I was an easy iron, well what was your impression of him immediately. Oh, I loved them. He he's he was great and in the first year our offices were kind of like right beside each other. We were in this little bungalow, where errands there and I'm there and what was it a lot? What lot, where you're on warner, bros, yeah and- and so I and I said at the time to a screenwriter friend of mine, I'm going to quit this MSNBC thing cause I'm full time at the west wing. I'm a writer at the western europe fulltime and this old screenwriter said to me. Oh no! No! Don't do that if you quit the MSNBC thing then you'll be another schmuck rider when you walk in the door now they all think you know something that I don't know. You know, and you do know they're impressed with you being on MSNBC so
we'd be in the middle of a writer's me three hour, riders meeting or something at warner, brothers- and I would get a call about you know. Can I do hardball at mia and forklift are gone, yeah, okay, and so I would get up and it would look like if only the men's room, yeah and I'd come back and- and you know warner brothers is here- NBC is next door. I know where Johnny Carson, studio, utopia, J, studio and right above that is where they shoot these MSNBC shots easy four minutes away, so I would disappear from the table for like twenty five minutes, which is a long men's room thing, but it's not unheard of okay. How many writers are in there there's another there's, like you know, eight or nine writers, and I would come back a little orange make makeup thing you know and and resume where we work has its easy for in a drama room. It's easy to be stuck for twenty five minutes. We so you come back in their right where they weren't you.
In spite of this, the great I did it. I think that a board just right at the same place right revenge. You guys can sit around right. but you still did both jobs with all those years yeah, but the emerson be was nothing. It was clearly I had never never gave it a thought. West wing was beyond chibi riding with my job. That was my real life. That was full time job and I did it for like four years yeah I did. I did the first two years of west and then and then I left and created my own show for NBC. Not- ass long ass, I had a moment jasper had Josh braun playing a senator, an appointed senator good acted like he. So great a love him. So much of working with him was just a dream. Basically they want we didn't. We did it. We got half way through a sees that was, they pulled the plug. They could see. My show was sinking and they asked me to come back if the, if that, if your show gets cancelled, would you please come back
Oh yes, yes, I will, because I will be desperate. I will come back right in all this. We still sudanese MSNBC show every day now little guest shots and not every day was whenever I wasn't a regular show others day those days when I'd say no, when we're just on the payroll as a guy, you be a guest on our bolter. I know I can I get my deal was I can always say no. I would go weeks at a time without being on right, because my deal was, I can say no every time you call and at some point you got married and had children durian before yeah when I was working in the senate. Actually, my daughter was born in the year before I left the son married an actress. Yes Kathryn herold, who where'd you meet her In the ark and there in the world of new york he's funny she's the greatest josh guys get along yeah. Let's gives fantastic are good I loved her and now, oh, that modern romance was she in modern roma Mary harvard in modern romance? And what I love about. That name is that's albert albert brushed trying to come up with a wasps name
united second area in my life, I ve never met anyone named harvard ray. I think they'd like there. If they went extinct right after I, you know what it's like albert of Mary, harvard yachting cooked came, was she with which whence he him, when the garish annulling show? Yes, she played gary's ex wife in my thing was season two I was very sorry. I was at lurk. Larry sanders, yes was the greatest just the greatest thing to want. and you know no one No one wanted her do it. I remember you when they were asking her to do it. I was still in washington, remember coming out of the white house on a cell phone like the size of in hawaii, toaster and she's. Telling me you know I love The shock has we'd seen season. Why allows grossly are an and they're going now it's hbo. In those days. You know she could get twenty two episodes and c or cbs in an and plus the second payment. The gonna run away. I know said the money was gigantically higher on the on CBS. What about
on each be also none of her representatives wandered do what we think is the best show on television I watched her, and so she knows she did it when you guys split up and not I dunno, I dunno mid nineties somewhere. I dunno, where you're from you're right in your view, how parenting the ass the parenting thing parenting thing should mean that you are friends and partners for life. It should mean that yeah and and if it doesn't you better figure out how to make it mean that I think that's true. Sometimes it's a rough, maybe couple years transition yeah, we didn't have a rough time. get over? It really never had a rough time. We could people. I know I always understood what rightly workmen yet saw its heartbreaking when she gets back, and here I Don'T- I never had that. So I that understand that so They do all the west wing and then you get your own show on MSNBC and that's your thing now. That's what I yeah, I guess it's my thing.
And if there every night and all I know, I know you're right no but see this is, and this is a thing I've only ever realized recently. Is that? I've? Never because I didn't ask for it. I never asked for I never asked, be a pundit on MSNBC. I never asked for a show on MSNBC never and and as I would go on as a substitute and the rating. Would be very strong, sometimes, though, or who at the biggest the the reason they said we need you to do. A show is that I went in for Keith Olbermann right when it was the number one show right and I held his rating is the same as reading was just the same. No, and I didn't know that they told me that, and- and so they shouldn't have told me that cause. I wouldn't have understood my negotiating position, and so they just saw that and they went oh, we really need you to do a show, which is exactly the way rachel became a host rachel maddow substitute for Keith. She did very well. She held the rating, they said hey, let's run right after kate? I was on our america with her. They bright air america. She got hired to be a news reader and then she d,
It became clear like sheep, like the liver, what you're doing research I mean I yes, yes would you like for like she would do this to our show hour on on radio which, if you break it down, is not not increase we want, but she would like ten hours, all my yes with papers, IRAN, where she still do that rapid, yes as everyone. So as I have finally like agree like ok al out, and I didn't want to do it because my daughter was still in high school and I didn't want to be in the york that much and and you know you don't want to do something that it means. If they really want to do it, then it just gets more and more. advantageous. Take the waiters. If you don't give a fuck. an end? So so Finally, you know agreed to it and I and I see the way rachel does for her work, and I look at that and I go okay So so that's what it takes to be number one on a minimum of twelve hours of preparation.
How many hours do you have to do to be number two it turns out it's nowhere near what you have to do to be number one area like no work close and by the way yeah. That's the irish sure, yeah I'd say: there's the irish yeah number two- is perfectly fine with me fine with me man- well good job on the book, good job on the show I dunno what I'm doing Well, you know it. I got to bring it up, enabling because I saw it. I watched the the video pious, but you know what is right, surprise me and you got a video of you talking to you know that, yes, I do because I'm a guy, I'm hot, headed and I've been in that seat before, and you have bad days Sometimes there's a hammer The truth of the matter is, is that we didn't like it surprise me and it wasn't that bad
Let me just say that I have not talked about a programme on a hot, but let me just say this that I What I saw on the video I hate what it looks like cause. What it looks like to most people is different from what it was, but I still hated- and I no. The things look different to people, so I wanted to look like it looks like well people characterized as look at him by rating the employs. No, this is, and over borg went when you're yelling a man overboard on a boat you're, not yelling at the crew you're going hey met. This is a crisis right and I have higher and I ran out our work here. I am no one's boss in that place. They tell me was way more yelling in the control room at each other. Try that switch, try, that's where you're at and they yelled down to the control rooms and the part of it is, and I and I hate trying to like be defensive and get myself out of the box. I deserve
but I'm in a glass, enclosed, sound prayer studio. I can see through the glass out there that there is some guys out there who are available to go, try to find the guy who's hammering somewhere appear on top. My and yeah. So when I'm yelling to them, I'm trying to yell through sound proof sure ask her. They know me, I know them they're, not even looking in my direction. Then they are no one control room can talk to them because they don't have headsets on they finally figure it out. So so that was not what it was. Was this man overboard kind of do we fix this? Don't the things going on and once you get the problem in your ear at, and there's a moment on the tape there and by without eight minutes less than that covers the entire, our So there's a lot of quiet com stuff into like its ongoing as a moment in the tape where this new at this point-
It keeps talking in my ear it's as if, right now, if someone, if we started picking up someone's phone call right now, you know you'd go so so. There's someone in my ear- and I and I say, oh so now I know this can happen. I've been doing this for six years, seven years. I didn't know that could happen like I now. I know this can happen, and so I you know I mean it's alive, right, you're, inexact lights, all live and, and I come from the worst possible training for life because filmmaking you know, I mean a west wing episode as it is we shot at and thirty five million to film. We took six weeks to come up with a script. You take six weeks of production and you know you ve done a series, You go into post production, you can. I redo things even in postproduction, if you have to, because what you are going for in any episode of television, a matter what it you're going for is, for action. Now someone might say I didn't like that scene, you're talkin, about the writing, about that's our fault, but no one saying boy the lighting was really dumb and that scene or the what was the hammering,
Why? Wouldn't one mark was doing that? Syria was the hammering yet because we took that out and we have complete control over that. So I came from a world where the thing that appears within the television screen has been worked too. It's perfect you're here and now I'm an. I didn't realize that I'm in exactly the opposite, arena, and this is how dumb I am. I didn't realize it until now. I didn't realize it until I saw that I am, and I went well. Okay, no one told you that that could happen, but you never fully embraced the work of this job to investigate everything that could happen. So that you personally, when you go out there know what this thing is that you're stepping into right. and I never really does so now- I know like if I go out there, that could be anything and my job is to deal with that. You know like I want you. Cooper, those guys standing out in the rain alive, they're fine. I could never a second of standing in the
can getting rain of my face dry. Talking to. I couldn't do one second, yet not a real anchor anchorman, but I still have an obligation to get my readiness up to the right where, if suddenly there's a rainstorm in this protected studio, I somehow keep going yeah, but it wasn't. It wasn't. One of the because you can handle breaking news, you can handle changing the trajectory of history quite like when you were there like, and I've been in those situations where, whatever anyone thinks about the job when you're on tv- or you know you have this downtime and shit isn't working out it just sort of like. Can we just get? these working Didn't I wait. You know right, but you know what yelling things like you know, call phil Griffin! add a person, no, no one! You fill griffin doesn't think I'm your and so in my neighborhood. By the way, if you are talking many volume less than that? No one thought you were serious.
so. I imagine from talking to you that the thing that is the most horrifying was you saw your neighborhood come exactly. Am I spent my entire life trying to suppress the stuff in that video, anna and people have known me. Twenty year, twenty years ass, a male female nor I wanna yours, they would go so you have a time I did a more really almighty, horribly piece of care, the only people who ve ever seen your man. If the aim is only people have ever seen anything. That's like that are my brothers and I will ya at them. They will yell back right me I'll, go. I you crazy. That would be stupid that mortgage and- and I have to say that in order for him to think I'm serious, like if I don't want to talk about it out, I don't yell him about what a mistake that mortgages. He won't think I really wiping theirs, opportunity here lawrence to maybe do a whole show in the tone that but folks,
The book is in the right place. there's a west wing writer who is now an oscar winner, Josh singer and he had this idea for a show. Wheat when he and I were reading at the west wing- and it was to be it was online. Did you couldn't do anywhere else and was called you stupid? Fuck I would be the host of the show and he would be. The guest could be permanent cast and would say something to me like, so why doesn't obama tried to get the republicans to agree to the to go to the healthcare bill and, and every answer and it's it's the guest questions, the holster, I'm sitting at the johnny, Carson duskily out and every one of my answers, which was to begin with you stupid fuck the reason because,
As you know, Josh singer went to yale and harvard law school. He was the only person at the western because he went to yale and harvard law school that when the door was closed and we were talking about story, I could say to him anytime. I want you stupid fuck, because the one thing we were both sure of is he's not a stupid fuck, but you could just like yeah. You could use that as your opening reaction to his idea, why we should not do an episode and everybody relates to that cause. That's why we have the president. We had to correct this exactly that anger that you've been hiding driven sky and office. No, I I've. I it's it's you it's this thing that anthropology see it's like a residual piece of dna that still left has been bread out, though it dies with me. Are you the archives, its Okay, okay, let's see well, they will talk to your daughter in ten years. Scott got promise you it's gone, it's gone, ok
alright, I believe thanks for talking this is one I waited till the end, but I brought I brought up a little thing and I think he held it. Well, I think you have that all right, don't forget. If you haven't gotten a copy of waiting for the punch, yet you want one signed by me, you can get it at pots. dot com, swash punch that p o d s. W h. dot com. So ass punch dig it. I want to I think all the people that came out to third place books- where, in seattle book signing brendan- and I had a great time- was great meeting everybody It's a really amazing bookstore up there that place. nice to be in such a well stocked and crowded independent books, and as always again great to see all fans of the show great can meet everybody. Thank you for coming out. I wish
more time to spend in seattle, but I did not this time. I love it up there every time I'm up there. I just want to keep moving north keep going, keep going. under the islands? on the islands maybe one day. maybe one day I will be in those islands, maybe that's where I'll end up. I can only hope
Transcript generated on 2022-07-30.