Exclusive - Dana Bash Extended Interview

October 25, 2016 - Dana Bash 10/25/2016 Views: 23,018

CNN's Dana Bash discusses the challenges of covering Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and breaks down how Hillary Clinton has become a polarizing figure for women. (13:55)

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Please welcome Dana Bash.

(applause and cheering)

Hi.

Welcome to the show.

-It's so good to be here. -Thankyou very much for being here.

-It's great to meet you today.-No, it's an honor to meet you.

We watch you all the time,

and the fact that you can keepa straight face....

-(laughter)-Right now?

...when you are reportingsome of these stories.

-Yeah. No, now you can letloose. -Okay. All right, good.

You can say everythingyou've wanted to say now.

-This is the time... this is...-I still need to work tomorrow,

-so I'm gonna bea little careful. -(laughter)

You-You...Let's talk about that.

You have been with CNNfor 23 years now.

-I have. -You've been working...I mean, yeah.

-(applause and cheering) -You'vebeen doing an amazing job...

working, covering everythingfrom Congress.

This is your sixth presidentialrace that you are covering.

Is this the craziest thingyou've ever seen?

-Yes.-(laughter)

I mean, there's is,

and there's everything elseon the planet ever.

-Yes.-Um, no question.

There must be a pointwhen you are covering this

-and you are looking at thisas a journalist... -Mm-hmm.

And you... at some point,do you not go,

"There's just... there's toomuch."? There's no story

that builds,there's no story that unfolds.

It just comes, it's done,and then you have to move on.

It's really...Every single day, you think,

"Okay, this is gonna be

"the craziest thingI'm talking about.

"I'm gonna find another wordfor 'stunning,'

and 'unbelievable'and 'unprecedented.'"

And I try to find them,but it doesn't happen.

I mean, just one example.

During the primaries,

Donald Trump was on the stagegoing at it with Marco Rubio.

And it was at the time

when they were talkingabout the size of his hands.

-Oh, yeah, yeah, but we... yeah.-Hands.

-Hands, but you know what. Yeah.-Hands.

-Yeah, hands.-Yeah, hands. Okay, hands.

-(laughter) -Uh, and, uh...-Dicks, but we'll say "hands."

-(laughter)-Hands. Yes, hands.

So, he comes outto the spin room,

and I'm doing a live interviewwith him

with Melania standing nextto him.

And I say,"You know, I can't believe

"I'm saying this to youout loud on live TV,

"but I thinkyou were the first person

"in the history of debates

"in any country on the planet

to talk about the sizeof your... hands."

-Yes.-(laughter)

To which he continuedto talk about

-how his hands are just fine,and-and... -(laughter)

No, but that's the pointfor him.

"Uh, point your hand up here,Dana." -Exactly.

"Put your hand up."

And then, becausehis wife was standing there,

I just... I felt compelledas a journalist

-to get a fact check.-(laughter)

I didn't have a choice.

But my question was simply,

"And what did you thinkof that?"

And her response was,"It was a great moment."

-(laughter)-I...

And that was the highlightof my political career.

-I feel like that should be.-(laughter, clapping)

I genuinely feel likethat should be.

-Hard-hitting journalism.-That should be.

At some point,you must feel like

you should just join inon the jokes.

-I saw you interviewingKellyanne Conway. -Mm-hmm.

And this was after Trump hadbasically refused

to accept the resultsof the election.

And Kellyanne isin the strange position

where she's got that smileplastered on her face,

but she... You can seeher eyes are going,

-"This guy is bat (bleep)crazy." -(laughter)

And she justwalked away from you

in the middle of the interview.

She did. Now, I will say

that I don't think she realizedwhat was happening,

'cause somebody pulled her away,that she was walking away.

But I was mid-sentencewhen she walked away.

Usually she will say,"I'm sorry. I got to go.

-Thank you very much."-Yes.

I was completelymid-sentence, so,

there's no questionthat she walked away,

and she apologized afterwards.

She said she didn't realizethat she did it.

But the fact is,that part of why

I think it was sort of jarringwas because

she came out and realizedthat the line

that they had practicedwith their candidate--

-which is the obvious questionhe was gonna get... -Yes. Yes.

...'cause he was talking abouthow the election is rigged.

The obvious question was,that Chris Wallace asked,

"Will you accept the electionresults?" And he didn't...

You know, by the timethey got to that question,

it was like an hour in,

and he had completelygone off the rails...

-Now, and... -...and outof their practice zone.

And so he didn't answer itthe way he was supposed to.

It's interestingthat you say "practice."

Are you implying that whatwe watched at the debate...

-Yes.-...that was polished Donald?

-Correct.-So...

That was... that...The third...

By the third debate,he became convinced

by Chris Christie,the governor of New Jersey,

who is oneof his informal advisors...

-The guy who closes the bridges,that guy? -(laughter)

-...the governorof New Jersey... -Yeah.

Uh, and the, uh...

and the RNC chair,Reince Priebus,

that he needed to dosort of real debate prep.

So they were doing mock,sort of, trials.

And Chris Christiewas playing Hillary Clinton,

-Reince Priebus was playingChris... -(audience laughs)

-It happened. It happened.-Now I've got this image...

I've got this image of Christie,like, coming out...

-Are you ever gonna unsee that?-No. I've got him coming out.

And it's like, "Christie,you didn't have to dress up."

"Oh, I'm into it.I'm into it.

I'm going all the way.I'm into it."

But they were asking questionsand they did practice...

They didn't practice the wayHillary Clinton did, obviously.

-Yes. -Um, because she's...That's her thing. I mean,

she's all about practicing,practicing, practicing.

And-and Donald Trumpdidn't want to have any of it

for the first two debates. Atleast for the third one he did.

So, he-he practices,but then, when it comes to it,

-you don't know what DonaldTrump is gonna do. -Correct.

Like, his people don't...I bet Donald Trump doesn't know

what Donald Trump is gonna do.

He seems likethat kind of person.

Uh, wh-when you-when you lookat what you've been covering,

how you've beencovering these stories,

you look at the evolution of therace, two things interest me,

uh, particularlywhen it comes to Trump's world.

One, how you get treatedas a journalist

on the campaign trail.When you are standing...

We always watch that at home.

Trump goes,"Look at these people, folks.

"Look at them at the back.

-They're liars, they're cheats."-Scumbags.

"They're scumbags.Look at them, folks."

-And that's you that they'relooking at. -Mm-hmm.

What are those peoplesaying to you?

Are they like, "Hey, can I haveyour autograph? Hey..."

Yeah. "Can I have a selfie?"Yeah.

I mean, no, i-in all honesty, atthe beginning of the campaign,

there was a lot of that.A lot of "thank you

for your coverage,your coverage is fair,

thank you, thank you,thank you."

Uh, but thenthe more the candidate

started to egg on the crowd,the less we felt that.

And there is nothing as jarringas being in the pen--

-because the presshas to be in a pen... -Yes.

uh, at-at these rallies-- forsecurity and for other reasons.

Uh, and there arethousands of people

between youand the candidate.

And it's a huge crowd,

and so Donald Trump will say,"Look at those people,

"they're horrible,they're scumbags,

they're the worst people,they're so dishonest."

And all of a sudden, in unison,

every single one of the peoplewill turn around

and stare at us.

And it's-it's very creepyand scary. It really is.

Do you ever feel like,in that moment,

some of those peoplewant to hurt you?

Um, I... No, I really don't.

I mean, there have been timeswhere, uh, you know,

security has-has been an issue.

I have not been thereat-at the time.

Uh, but there issecurity around.

-Obviously, Donald Trump himselfhas Secret Service. -Yes.

Uh, but just on principle,

to have somebody who wants to bepresident of the United States

to talk aboutthe free press that way...

I mean, I'm sticking upfor the-for the press.

This is not-this is not...

-This is sort objectivelyfor the press. -Yes.

It's terrible. It's horrible.It's a horrible feeling,

and it's... by the way,it's just not right.

When he talks about the peoplefollowing him around

as dishonest scum of the earth,terrible people.

They're people who really wantto do their job

and fill the role of the...

their important roleof the fourth estate.

-(cheering, applause)-Reporting on that...

Reporting on that is crucial,

um, to informing the electorate.

When you talk to voters...

I found somethingreally interesting.

I watch what you'redoing out there,

and I have been fascinated

by how many women voters say,

"We're not voting for Hillary,

"we're still voting for Trump.

"In fact, Hillary disgusts us

"and we, despitewhat everyone is saying,

we're going to go withDonald Trump."

You spend more timetalking to these people--

could you try and put usinto the mind

of a female Trump voter?

They're both polarizing figures.

And for Hillary Clinton,

because she hasbeen around for so long,

uh, she is somebodywho is loved or hated.

And for Republican women,

particularly in the suburbsof Philadelphia,

where I wasa couple of weeks ago,

the-the women therewho are pro-Trump

are not just pro-Trump,

they're adamantly, vehementlyanti-Hillary Clinton.

They-they... All the wordsthat you hear Donald Trump use,

they use. They say she'scorrupt, they say she's a liar,

she's been there too long.And when I ask the question,

"Well, what aboutthe idea that she

could be the first femalepresident?" They don't care.

They say the feminist thingto do, from their perspective--

to a person, these votershave said this to me--

is to vote forthe best person for the job,

regardless of their gender.

-Wow. -And, you know,you don't hear that

from a lot of Democratic women

who just like Hillary Clintonno matter her gender,

but it's becauseshe is also so polarizing

that makes even the womenwho, um,

-the-the Clinton campaignwant to bring on -Right.

not-not buyable, not getable.

Let's discuss this candidly.

I'm mean, I'm in the media,you're in the media.

I know the answer to thisquestion from my side,

but what are you doingto rig the election?

(laughter)

(applause)

I-I know my answer.

If I told you,I might have to kill you, so...

(laughter)

But let's talk a little bitabout that.

You hear not just Trump,but let's say,

-let's talk about WikiLeaks,for instance. -Mm-hmm.

There has been a questionin and around, uh,

-conflicts of interest.-Mm-hmm.

-You know, like, for instance,Donna Brazile. -Mm-hmm.

The whole thing came outwhere they said

she may have received questions

that CNN then askedin a-in a town hall.

Um... you know, you see peoplelike Corey Lewandowski...

Forgive me,I still don't understand

why someone who is being paidby Donald Trump

is asked to commentas a-as a commentator on CNN.

How does that work out?All the networks do it.

You, you're here from CNN,that's why I'm asking you

about CNN,but why and how does that work?

Why is that necessaryor is that necessary?

Uh, to have the paid surrogateson both sides of the aisle?

-Yeah.-Is it necessary?

You know, it is becausethere's a competition

among the networks,the television networks,

to have the best representativesof each party

-or each candidate.-Yeah.

And the people who either knowthe candidates the best

or know the system the best.

Corey Lewandowski happens to be,for example,

'cause you brought him up,

um, really the only personon the planet,

maybe now thereare a few since now

-it's the thirdcampaign manager, -Yes.

but at the time, he wasthe only person on the planet

who had worked in politicswith Donald Trump.

There was no stable of people

like there isfor Hillary Clinton.

And so he broughtthat perspective.

Uh, and that is a competitivething to ask somebody like that

to come and say,"You know what,

"I was just with himtwo months ago in the primaries

"and I know he's thinkingX, Y and Z

because I was thereand I've been in the room."

Uh, and, you know, the thingwith Donna Brazile,

it-it's... she's a friend, um,

we've worked togetherfor a long time,

and it just...that just made me really sad.

When you talk about thecompetitive nature of news,

I wonder, as someone,who in my opinion

is a stalwart of the news,you are a bona fide journalist,

have you seenthat change happen?

Have you seen a transitionfrom it being news first

to ratings first/competitionfirst?

Because when I read aboutAmerican news,

I go, there was a timewhen it was allocated

the news had to come outat a certain time

-and it served a purpose.-Mm-hmm.

And once profit was allowedto be generated,

it seems thatthat sort of shifted

and for a journalist,you're in an unfair position

because you have to getthe ratings

but at the same time, you haveto tell the story. -Mm-hmm.

How do you find that balance

and do you maybe wishyou could go back to a time

where that wasn't partof the equation?

Um, yes and yes.

I actually... You said I've beenat CNN for 23 years.

I started at CNNwhen it was Ted Turner's CNN.

There was no competition.

There was no Fox News,there was no MSNBC

and his-his, um, theme was,"The news is the star."

And so, you know,that's what we did.

Now, if you look back, it wasn'tvery exciting to watch.

-Yeah, yeah.-It really, it wasn't that...

There was no, uh, we weren'tcompelled to make it interesting

-because there wasno competition. -Yes.

Uh, now, I think thatthere's a lot of good

in having competitionbecause you up your game.

Uh, there's no questionabout it. But the...

But what part of the gamedo you up, though?

Well, for me, here, look,I'm speaking as a journalist...

-I'm shielded...-And you honestly are, yeah.

Well, no, but also the thing is,is that I-I feel lucky

that I'm sort of shieldedfrom the ratings part of it

because I go out, I do my job,I do the interviews,

-I do my stories,I produce my best work, -Yeah.

but others at my networkare not.

I mean, there's no question.

And at every network, they'renot shielded from the ratings,

and it is a businessand it has changed.

I mean, I would be BSing you

-to tell youthat's any different. -Mm-hmm.

And I've seen the change, evenin the years I've been at CNN,

primarily becausethere is competition.

Now, uh, final questionbefore I let you go.

Uh, if by some horrible miracle,uh...

'cause I don't know whatthe anti-miracle is,

Donald Trump wins the election,

what job would you go into...

because there will beno more journalism?

(laughter)

What is the one thingyou would do?

How do you like your coffee?

(laughter, applause)

Served with thanks.

-Thank you so much, Dana.-Thank you.