Trump’s Unforced Errors
June 16, 2017
BOB SCHIEFFER: I’m Bob Schieffer.
H. ANDREW SCHWARTZ: And I’m Andrew Schwartz.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And these are conversations about the news. We are in the midst of a communications revolution. We have access to more information than any people in history. But are we more informed, or just overwhelmed by so much information we can’t process it?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Our podcast is a collaboration of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at TCU and the CSIS in Washington.
MR. SCHIEFFER: In this first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we’re talking to the reporters who are covering the president the closest, the White House press corps.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Our guest today is George Condon. He is the White House correspondent for National Journal. Joined the Journal at the beginning of the Obama administration. He covered the White House for Congress Daily. Before that, he covered the White House and national politics as Washington Bureau chief for Copley News Service and the San Diego Union. George, welcome to the broadcast. It’s great to see you.
GEORGE CONDON: Thank you.
MR. SCHIEFFER: George and I have known each other for a long time. You have interviewed eight presidents, reported from 88 countries. You led the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2008, coverage of corruption of Representative Randy Duke Cunningham. You’re also a past president of the White House Correspondents Association, and the Gridiron Club, and the past chairman of the National Press Foundation.
I want to talk to you mostly about context for this presidency. I mean, you, like, me, we’ve been around the block a couple of times here in Washington – me more than you, probably. But you’ve interviewed, what, eight presidents and you were the president of the White House Correspondents Association at one point. I would say you are now the dean of the White House correspondents on the job today.
MR. CONDON: A frightening thought. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: So how is this different from the other presidencies?
MR. CONDON: Well, in some ways none of those prior presidents prepared us for this guy. Because he doesn’t know any American history, he doesn’t know any history of the presidency – and, just to digress for a second. I couldn’t believe it in the campaign when he bragged that he had not read a single biography of any American president. I don’t know how you get through school without having read a book on Washington or Lincoln or Kennedy or Roosevelt. But he was proud of it.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I was struck the same way, because what I was thinking of – half the books that have been written in America have been about Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know of any other book except the Bible.
MR. CONDON: Well, and since he got in office, he actually does seem to have tried to read – or, as he said, look at – a book on Jackson. He’s decided that he’s the president that he’s modeling himself after.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I just don’t think he reads.
MR. CONDON: Oh, he doesn’t.
MR. SCHIEFFER: He watches a lot of TV. We know that.
MR. CONDON: And in fact, that’s gotten much worse. He’s now obsessed with it. He is – in the study right off of the Oval Office, there used to be a small TV. And he has changed that to a 60-inch, which is almost bigger than the room itself. But he turns on the TV when he gets up in the morning, which is very early. He used to watch “Morning Joe” but he doesn’t like them anymore. So he watches “Fox and Friends.” And you can see by his tweets, he reacts to something that’s on “Fox and Friends.” And his tweets are often at 6:00 a.m. And then he watches TV when he doesn’t have a scheduled event, you know.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what then is your workday like with this president?
MR. CONDON: Well, you start out by as soon as you get up, look at Twitter. Which I – it’s safe to say, we never had to do for any other president. I mean, President Obama tweeted, but – this is going to sound quaint – but it actually was about policy and the government. He didn’t – now we have tweets – you have one on a government policy, but the one right before it is making fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger for having bad ratings on “The Apprentice,” you know, or – nothing about sports, but a lot about popular culture.
And then there are days where the president isn’t seen at all. So you go over and you talk to people and there the briefings have really changed from what they were in the past. When Sean Spicer does brief, it’s often a 10- or 15-minute preamble, a little commercial, going over the schedule and reminding us what a great administration and what a great president this is. And then he’ll take questions. The other day the questions were only 14 minutes. The day before that it was 19 minutes. As opposed to Josh Earnest, who used to go an hour and a half sometimes. Prior press secretaries waited until the senior wire reporter there thanked them, told them it was over.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I’m wondering. I heard him the other day say something. He said – he was asked a question – Spicer. And he said: Well, I haven’t talked to the president about that. And then there was another question. Well, I haven’t talked to the president about that. Which raises a question in my mind, do you think he is in regular contact with the president? How often do you think he talks to the president?
MR. CONDON: I think he does talk to the president. And he’s in more contact than, say, when Scott McClellan was press secretary for President Bush you got the sense that he never talked to him. And press secretaries vary on that. And I’d put Sean sort of in the middle. But the thing is, the president doesn’t tell you things. And because he so undercuts his own staff, you can’t give a normal answer. The question you’re talking about there was, does the president have confidence in his attorney general. Now, the normal answer for any press secretary, who probably didn’t ask that question that morning, is: Yes, the president still has confidence in the attorney general. But, because this president undercuts them, they can’t give that normal answer. And so, yes, he’s learned after being burned so many times to be cautious and say, well, I didn’t ask that question.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think that they’re afraid to ask Trump questions about subjects – and I say this because somebody told me that he apparently doesn’t read social media. He’s on social media, he does the Twitters and all this, but the staff actually prints out things that are on social media because he doesn’t like to read it.
MR. CONDON: Yeah, that’s a big trick of trying to get the president to react to anything, is to get the story that you want him to see in front of him. Print it out, make sure it’s in the packet that goes to him. And that includes printing out tweets. Right, he does know how to use his phone to tweet, but he doesn’t apparently know how to call up anything.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And as this person explained it to me, was that the staff sometimes is reluctant to print up the negative things, because the fear he’ll go into a tirade.
MR. CONDON: Oh, that’s absolutely true. They look for the most positive things. And that means sometimes very questionable sources. They’ll pull it from Infowars or Mike Cernovich or places that aren’t at all reliable. And they do that because they – it’s amazing how they talk about him as if he’s a child. We’ve got to have him happy. Or when they were looking ahead to the Comey hearings, they said, oh, we don’t want him tweeting during those hearings, so we’ll have to make him busy. That’s exactly how you talk about a 12-year-old.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, exactly. And this is the part that I find kind of interesting. We’ve had several people tell us, even during these podcasts, well, they’ll quote staff as saying, well, we try to arrange these dinners for him so he won’t be lonesome. And, you know, like, we try to plan out his little activities for him, because they’re fearful if he’s left to his own devices he’ll get himself in trouble.
MR. CONDON: Right. And that’s made much worse by the fact that his wife is not living here with him. So he goes up. He’s not working very hard. And he watches TV. He sees something he doesn’t like. He gets – he gets depressed. And one of the stories was about how he pads around the residence in his bathrobe. And the White House was full of umbrage at that and said: The president doesn’t own a bathrobe. Well, two things on that: His Trump properties sells very nice bathrobes, and I’m sure he could get a discount if he wanted one. And secondly, I don’t like the alternative if he’s not padding around in a bathrobe when he gets out of the shower, what is he wearing? But that’s a whole other issue.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Boxers, briefs? That’s a whole other deal.
MR. CONDON: That’s a mental picture I don’t want.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We’ve been through that, haven’t we?
MR. CONDON: Right, right. (Laughter.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s bring in Andrew Schwartz.
MR. CONDON: Who, let the record show, is not wearing a bathrobe right now.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I am not wearing a bathrobe. And I do not have a Trump bathrobe. But I bet they are nice.
MR. CONDON: Get with it. Get with it.
MR. SCHWARTZ: But, you know, it’s funny, because it doesn’t remind me of keeping a kid busy. It reminds me of, like, trying to keep my father-in-law busy when my mother-in-law is out of town. Like, what are you going to do with him? If you don’t – you know, got to get him onto watch Fox or something, you got to have his dinner ready.
MR. CONDON: You’re going to get yourself in trouble.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I was going to say, we want to make sure he doesn’t hear this podcast.
MR. SCHWARTZ: No, I think he’ll really like it, actually. (Laughter.) But, you know, sometimes I feel sorry for the president, that, you know, he is lonely in the White House, we’ve heard. And he doesn’t have a lot to do, except watch TV. So, I mean, what’s going on there? Aren’t there a lot of people who do want to hang out with him at night?
MR. CONDON: Oh, I mean, there’s always sycophants who want to spend as much time as they can with any president. And he occasionally invites people for dinner. He loves the perks of office. He loves the Oval Office and showing off things. The other thing that he loves – not directly on your question – but he loves these faux – these phony signing ceremonies. You know, he’s always signing things that he says are executive orders and makes I look like bill signings. You know, just this week he had a signing and he – and he signed his name with two pens and handed them out to members of Congress. It wasn’t a bill. It wasn’t an executive order. It was just some principles about infrastructure. You know, no president – Mike Deaver with Reagan never thought of such phony stagecraft.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just add one thing, getting back to the meals and all of that. This is my own reporting. I really worked hard to get this story. I was having lunch with a guy and he – (laughs) – just told me. He brought it up. (Laughter.) But apparently, when Trump has these members of Congress over, he doesn’t serve alcohol because he doesn’t drink.
MR. SCHWARTZ: He doesn’t drink, right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And, well, I don’t drink. But when we have people over, we do offer them a glass of wine, if they care for one. But apparently he serves – it’s diet coke or water.
MR. SCHWARTZ: See, I would do well there. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: It’s fine with me, but I mean, I just find that interesting. I mean, Jimmy Carter was the greatest teetotaler of all time, as we all know. Well, they served alcohol. And there was a real question about it.
MR. CONDON: Well, but he compensates for that by there’s always dessert. Sometimes it’s that most beautiful piece of chocolate cake. But it’s usually ice cream and so on. He loves his desserts.
MR. SCHWARTZ: He wants people to have what he likes, I think is the point, right?
MR. CONDON: But, you know, he is different from other presidents. President Clinton didn’t like being alone. And I remember, we were on a trip to –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Definitely didn’t like being alone. (Laughs.)
MR. CONDON: Well, no.
MR. SCHIEFFER: That’s true.
MR. CONDON: We were in Cologne, Germany. And I was the pool. And the president didn’t have anybody to go to dinner with, so he asked if the pool wanted to have dinner with him. So I found myself sitting next to the president at a German beer hall, you know, having a great evening.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I bet.
MR. CONDON: But he didn’t want to just be alone in the hotel.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, Lyndon Johnson, he didn’t like to be alone. I mean, he worked from the time he got up in the morning. He was either on the phone or talking to somebody. So I don’t think you can hold that against somebody. That maybe they don’t like to be alone.
MR. CONDON: Oh, no, it’s just that Trump has a different way of handling it. Instead of inviting somebody, you know, and going out with them, he mopes, feels sorry for himself. And he very much feels that he’s the victim. When he’s watching cable TV – and every other president since cable came in has boasted, we don’t watch cable TV, we’re not going to – even if they were lying about it they didn’t watch –
MR. SCHWARTZ: They don’t read newspapers, they don’t watch TV, they don’t read magazines, right.
MR. CONDON: No, they would read the stuff, but they found that cable – when there wasn’t something breaking and you just had these panels talking about things endlessly, that they didn’t find a very productive use of their time. President Obama very much – he would do his work at night in the study, but he would ESPN or a game on. He liked sports to relax.
MR. SCHIEFFER: George Bush, for example – George W. Bush was a voracious reader, though.
MR. CONDON: Baseball. Yes.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Oh, he watched a lot of sports. But he also was a voracious reader of all things presidential biographies. And was quite conversant about it. I mean, you talked to him a little bit and you knew he had been –
MR. CONDON: Reagan was too. I’ve never – I’ve always been amazed at presidents, as busy as they are, where they find the time to read so much.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Especially when you hear in this town – all you hear in this town is nobody has any time to read anything.
MR. CONDON: Right. So I always feel guilty, because they’re president and they’re reading more than I am in a week.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I hear you. Well, talk about reading for a second. What do you think about the president’s tweets? There’s a whole thing going on right now, should reporters report on these tweets as if they were presidential statements?
MR. CONDON: Absolutely. He’s the president of the United States. They’re his words. If anything, they mean more because they’re not vetted by staff, they’re not put through a committee. This is the unfiltered view of the leader of the free world, the president of the United States.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Which he proudly – he proudly says that, but then the staff says, well, don’t pay any attention to it.
MR. CONDON: Well, because he undercuts them with every one. They plan a strategy for how we’re going to handle something. For example, when the special counsel was announced, they – the staff saw this as a wonderful opportunity to say, OK, we’re going to focus on our issues, our agenda, the work of the American people. We’re not going to be answering questions about the special counsel. That lasted 12 hours before the president totally undercut them in his tweets. He undercut foreign policy on Qatar. He undercut the staff on – his lawyers, arguing before the Supreme Court, this is not a travel ban. Whatever you do, don’t call it a travel ban. So what does he do? He mocks them – mocks his own lawyers and his own staff and says, ah, politically correct. It’s a travel ban.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You put out your own list of his top-ten unforced errors. (Laughter.)
MR. CONDON: Well, and keep in mind, that’s after 4 ½ months in office. I was mentioning before, the – I could not have put out a top ten list like that after most two-term presidents. It was easy to do after 4 ½ months or this guy.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Could you have done a top 20?
MR. CONDON: Yeah, I would have had to stretch some. It would have been unfair.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Tell us the top five.
MR. CONDON: Well, just in reverse chronology, the Qatar tweet yesterday that undercut all American foreign policy. The day before it was the travel ban. Picking a fight with the mayor of London – not exactly presidential in favor. At a time when the White House was trying to focus on their agenda, raising the question of whether or not you had taped secret tapes of James Comey in his meetings. Another one, when the White House had built this entire rationale of why you fired James Comey because the Justice Department recommended it. And the president totally blew that up by saying, oh, no, it was because of Russia.
The biggest one was accusing the president – President Obama – of wiretapping him. And remember the context on that, that was three days after probably his best moment as president, his address to Congress, where everybody gushed because he didn’t stumble over anything. The voter fraud. And the most well-known one, the first one, was destroying his first few days by having to talk about whether his crowds at the inauguration were the biggest in –
MR. SCHIEFFER: Were bigger than Obamas.
MR. CONDON: Well, forget that. Bigger than anything Jesus ever drew. I mean, you know, biggest in history. (Laughter.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: The Sermon on the Mount.
MR. CONDON: Oh, well, the Sermon on the Mount was nothing – no TV coverage of that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s John Lennon territory.
MR. CONDON: Did Jesus ever tweet? I don’t think so. (Laughter.) How many followers did he have on Twitter?
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, it’s interesting isn’t it? I’ve thought about that many times. They didn’t have any kind of social media, you didn’t have any kind of digital, and it went around the world and back, and it’s still going around the world and back. But that was then.
Let’s talk about, in a serious way, what has this president accounted so far, would you say?
MR. CONDON: He’s accomplished one thing so far that he can boast of. And it’s the thing that allows his strongest followers to put up with all the other stuff. He had a Supreme Court appointment confirmed. You can’t take that away from him. You know, nobody since James Garfield has gotten one in the first – (laughs) – you know, in the first few months. Now, you need a vacancy to do that. But that’s a legitimate accomplishment.
Almost everything else has been, you know, incomplete. Most of the things that he said were executive orders. They were – they were the standard things. Republicans always – and Democrats always match executive orders about abortion and international health programs. But most of the other things that he signed were just advisory, asking for studies of things. And what have they passed in Congress?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, the Comey hearing’s about to come up too. And so we’re all waiting for that. I mean, people are planning parties. It’s wall-to-wall coverage. What do you think about this?
MR. CONDON: That does tell you something about Washington that is a little sobering, that as somebody said this is our Super Bowl. And I hope not.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah. This isn’t a Super Bowl. This is real.
MR. CONDON: Actually, we’re always guilty of overstating what’s going to happen. There was a hearing with the intelligence directors. And none of them were willing to say what people thought they were going to say. They were all more cautious. And Comey, I’m sure, will be more cautious in some regards.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, we’ve seen the transcript of his opening statement. Talk a little bit about Comey’s statement.
MR. CONDON: Well, it certainly will be embarrassing to the White House. You know, the president’s sort of clawing demands for loyalty and total understanding – misunderstanding of separation of powers and what the job of the FBI director is and why he’s supposed to be independent. What the White House will be very happy about is that he did confirm what the president has said, that three times in different meetings Comey did assure him that you are not the subject of the investigation currently. So he’ll be happy on that. But it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the president trying to badger people to stop the investigation.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Will Donald Trump get past this? I mean, I see this as kind of a crossroads – a very early crossroads in this presidency. Either he gets past it or he doesn’t. And I don’t see – if he doesn’t get past this, I don’t see where he goes after that.
MR. CONDON: If he had a hostile Congress, I would entertain the thought that he doesn’t get past it. But I have seen absolutely – maybe I’m cynical, but I see absolutely nothing in the Republican Congress to suggest that there is anything that they would not put up with. They have tolerated every single thing that he does. There are things that have come out on this that if it were a Democratic president they would be starting impeachment, or if it was a Democratic Congress they’d be starting it. But I go back to the tradeoff. They have all agreed to a tradeoff: You give us the tax cut that we want and you give us the conservative justices and judges that we want, and we’ll put up with all your nonsense.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And you really think that’s enough for them?
MR. CONDON: I see nothing to say that it’s not.
MR. SCHWARTZ: You know, I have a – I have a friend in Congress, very, very conservative. And I always, when I think about the future of this presidency, I think about what would it – what would have to happen for him to vote for impeachment. And I haven’t seen that yet.
MR. CONDON: Right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And I think you and I are probably saying about the same thing. Still, can he get anything done? I mean, can he really get a budget through? Can he really get a tax cut?
MR. CONDON: It depends. You know, Mitch McConnell, he seems – I mean, you’re hearing reports now that he actually is twisting arms and coming up with some kind of health care bill. Senator Cassidy of Louisiana, who had insisted he was going to oppose anything, seems to be caving. And if he’s caving others are caving. And so I’m not ready to say that they can’t. Anything that needs more than 51 votes, they are going to have a very tough time doing.
MR. SCHIEFFER: What about tax reform?
MR. CONDON: Oh, I – it’s ludicrous how they think that’s going to be so easy. I mean, we remember 1986, when Ronald Reagan pushed it through. There is nothing tougher than tax reform, because as soon as you say you’re going to give to this group, you got to take away from that group. You know, you’re going to tell people that they’re not going to get their home mortgage deductions. They’re already running into problems because they don’t want to have state and local taxes deductible. And New Jersey and New York don’t like that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Let’s talk about this for a second. This White House hasn’t yet faced an external crisis, but there’s been so much drama. How do you expect the White House to react to a real crisis?
MR. CONDON: Not very nobly. I mean, the – one of the problems with their lack of credibility – and they don’t have any credibility right now – is that will the American people believe this president and his team when there’s an attack here and he talks to them? And the answer right now is, I think, no. He has not handled the foreign crises well. His response to the London attacks was not very inspiring.
MR. SCHWARTZ: What do you think’s wrong with this White House staff and the whole dynamic between the president and his staff? It seems every day there’s a new big of chaos we’re hearing about. We’re hearing about, you know, independent channels, people who have – there’s multiple press secretaries for multiple people. What’s going on there?
MR. CONDON: Oh, I don’t blame staff in the slightest on that. That’s the president. The president’s responsible. The president’s got the staff that they want. He wants that kind of chaos. He’s not loyal to them. I mean, you know, I know this embarrasses Sean Spicer, but there was no example of disloyalty to your own staff than when they were in Rome at the Vatican, and Sean Spicer is, you know, by all accounts the most devote Catholic on that staff. He so was looking forward to meeting the pope. That’s a big deal. Ari Fleischer, growing up Jewish in New York, said he didn’t think about meeting the pope, but that’s one of his greatest memories from serving President Bush.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MR. CONDON: And the morning of the meeting with the pope, Sean is told: No. No, the president’s got other people that’s going to meet him.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So, did he do that just to be mean, or?
MR. CONDON: No, he doesn’t think of other people. I don’t think he – I have no proof that sat down and he said, I’m going to really stick it to Sean. But he doesn’t show loyalty to his staff the way other presidents we’ve covered.
MR. SCHWARTZ: What about loyalty to his staff who happens to also be related to him, even if by marriage?
MR. CONDON: Although, I don’t know, he said to Jared Kushner this week, you know, you’re getting more famous than I am. The last time he said that was to –
MR. SCHWARTZ: James Come.
MR. CONDON: – to Jim Comey. And that didn’t – that didn’t work out well. He doesn’t want anybody to have more fame.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah, when Bannon started getting a little more publicity –
MR. CONDON: Cover of TIME Magazine.
MR. SCHIEFFER: – you began to hear a little rumblings about we don’t need any puppet masters around here.
MR. CONDON: Right, right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I guess that’s the ultimate you’re getting on TV more than the boss.
MR. CONDON: Right. I mean, no president likes his staff being portrayed as puppet masters. President George W. Bush – or, I’m sorry – George H. W. Bush used to say to staffers that got too big, said, you know, when were you sheriff? You know, what have you run for? You know, reminding them, I was the one elected not you.
MR. SCHWARTZ: And I don’t think Jimmy Carter liked it when Jody Powell and Hamilton Jordon were on the cover of Rolling Stone. (Laughter.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: You remember that? I had forgotten all about it. But, you know, talking about staff, now there’s a good example. And you know about this, George. When Jody Powell came out and told you something, you knew exactly where it came from. It came directly from Jimmy Carter. You know, maybe it was right, maybe it was wrong, but you knew who was telling you that. And I don’t get the sense – when somebody comes and tells you something at the White House, when do you know to believe it – in this White House?
MR. CONDON: Oh, I know. And you don’t, because the president himself changes. And I always recall the – Lyndon Johnson wanted to remind reporters who the boss was. And he once personally called a reporter and told him: I’m going to fire J. Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI. And the reporter, assuming it was a pretty good source when the president tells you that, reported that. The next day Johnson, in effect, named Hoover as FBI director for life. And it was just his way of sticking it to that reporter.
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s pretty incredible. That’s masterful. I mean, there’s a – that’s a whole different level of mastering the press. But you’re in that press room every day. And this press room’s different than any press room you’ve been in, just because, I mean, there’s different reporters there all of a sudden, different news organizations. What’s that’s been like?
MR. CONDON: Well, I mean, you know, our position at the Correspondents Association is, you know, the more the merrier.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MR. CONDON: We have no problem at all with them expanding it. Now, we do wish that Sean would call on some of the more traditional news organizations sometimes. The other day, his first three questions went to Fox Business, Fox News, and Fox Radio. And then later on, he had another Fox. And that was in only, I think, 18 minutes of questioning. And he does call on a lot of the nontraditional. But, you know, we have no problem with them being in there.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Why is the White House press briefing such entertainment these days? It’s like it is must-see TV.
MR. CONDON: Well, I’ll give an example on that. I asked a question the other day and within five minutes I had an email from my nephew, who is a naval officer based in Djibouti. And he just emailed: Nice question.
MR. SCHWARTZ: That’s incredible.
MR. CONDON: He was watching the White House briefing live in Djibouti. Now, I agree, there’s not a whole lot to do in Djibouti, and he’s not allowed to leave the base. But still, it’s remarkable. And the president –
MR. SCHWARTZ: He could have been watching ESPN.
MR. CONDON: I don’t know. Who knows what Djibouti ESPN is. But the president has taken note of that. Even when he is talking about firing Sean, he does say, oh, he gets great ratings. Great ratings.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Someone explained to me the other day that Trump’s idea of leadership is really part of his view of how you make a deal. It’s all about making a deal. And so he never really does fire anybody – very seldom fires anybody. He just puts them way out to the outside there, because he figures he might need them again sometime.
MR. CONDON: Well, and he’s still unhappy that he had to fire Flynn. He didn’t want to do that.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah. What do you think that’s all about?
MR. CONDON: Well, number one, I don’t think he makes very good deals. We have seen no indication of that as president, where he is a deal maker. A lot of the deals that he boasts about, like in Cincinnati he ratcheted up what he said the deals that he struck in Saudi Arabia were worth. Now it’s millions of American jobs. When in fact, as people have pointed out, there may be nothing. There may be no jobs. It’s just how he operates. He’s a marketer more than anything else.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Where do you see – what is the future of Jared Kushner?
MR. CONDON: Oh, as long as he’s married to the president’s daughter, it’s –
MR. SCHIEFFER: He’s still OK?
MR. CONDON: I would think so, yeah.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Could he get in trouble because of these meetings with the Russians, as you see it right now?
MR. CONDON: Oh, I think any of these people can get in trouble. He did get – the thing that had the president angry at him was Jared’s sister was overseas and seemed to be talking about my clout with the White House will help you on these visas. And the president didn’t like that and gave him a hard time.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, George, I wanted to ask you, while we’ve got you, you know some of the White House terminology that outsiders wouldn’t understand. Let me ask you a few questions: What is the White House pool? What does it do?
MR. CONDON: If I tell you, I’d have to kill you. I’m sorry. (Laughter.) No, it’s a – the White House pool is simple. It actually started when James Garfield was shot and, you know, they let a reporter from AP sit in the bedroom – in the hallway outside the president’s bedroom overnight to basically listen to hear if the president was still breathing.
MR. SCHWARTZ: No kidding?
MR. CONDON: You obviously couldn’t have all reporters do that. And FDR would use small pools sometimes when – it’s basically just a question of if you’re at an event where everybody can’t go in. You can’t have 200 reporters going into the Oval Office or flying on Air Force One. So you have a rotating pool which is made up of one representative of print, the newspapers, one of radio, one TV crew, one radio crew, wire reporters and photographers from the wires.
MR. SCHWARTZ: What’s the difference between a press gaggle and a press briefing?
MR. CONDON: Press gaggle is usually not on camera and it’s smaller. It started – actually, the phase came from when President Reagan was in Canada and he used the Canadians using the phrase gaggle. And they sort of brought that back. And it started with in the morning, especially the wire reporters needed some kind of heads-up for what’s going on that day. So they would gather around the desk of the press secretary. And it came to be called a gaggle. They sort of outgrew that in the too many people that couldn’t fit in, and they tried moving it to the briefing room. And it doesn’t work real well now because of the size.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Finally, what’s a lid?
MR. CONDON: A lid? There are different types of lid. But basically when the White House gives you a full lid, you’re safe. Nothing’s going to happen. They’re not going to announce anything.
MR. SCHWARTZ: The president’s not going to go anywhere?
MR. CONDON: Now, sometimes that’s dangerous. I was in Kennebunkport with President – the first President Bush. And they announced a lid. And then after half the press corps left, they announced that there would be a superpower summit with Yeltsin. And a lot of people missed it because they had named the lid.
MR. SCHWARTZ: That is a breaking of the lid.
MR. CONDON: Yes.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, Andrew – or is it time to put our lid on here?
MR. SCHWARTZ: It’s our lid.
MR. SCHIEFFER: George, this was great.
MR. CONDON: It was fun.
MR. SCHIEFFER: It was fun. You know, you had some great stories. And I really look forward to seeing your stuff. And I’m glad you’re over there.
MR. CONDON: Thank you. Absolutely. Thank you.
MR. SCHIEFFER: For Andrew Schwartz, this is Bob Schieffer. Thanks for listening.