How would you describe your book 15 YEARS A DEPLORABLE: A WHITE HOUSE MEMOIR to a reader who is not familiar with how the White House depends upon support staff?
My job as a member of a stenographer team assigned the the press secretary gave me intimate eyes-on, ears-on exposure to all interactions between the presidents, vice presidents, and senior staffers and the journalists who reported on them for television networks, newspapers, news magazines, websites, and wire services.
Each of those interactions — whether it was a one-on-one interview with the president in the Oval Office, a daily briefing by the press secretary, a campaign speech to a cheering throng, or a discreet discussion between a vice president and a handful of reporters in a combat zone had to have an official transcript, which was recorded and transcribed by me and members of our office. I was at the edge of my seat, and the edge of history, literally, for 15 years.
Our office was charged with the responsibility of rendering the public words of our presidents and those speaking on their behalf into the official record — the word of the president— for history, for clarity, and for the continued progress all Americans expect toward our “more perfect union.” It was the honor of my life.
What was the most interesting part of your experience at the White House that you included in your book?
Absorbing the history unfolding in front of me for a span of 15 years is where I’d start to answer that question.
Working for Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump — in their Oval Offices, in their White Houses, on their airplanes and gaining insights into what motivated their actions as they answered to the will of the people was fascinating.
Certainly, traveling to the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq with Vice President Cheney and seeing the heroism of our service members worldwide deepened my respect for their commitment to the freedom we all cherish.
I’d like to say my exhaustive support of Vice President Biden reassured me about his foreign policy expertise, but that was not the case. Instead, I grew ever more concerned that the effectiveness he so loudly trumpeted was offset by weakness and blunders, which were largely unreported by an over-lenient press.
But of all my experiences, watching — and silently cheering for — the historically transformative presidential campaign of Donald Trump, all while working in Barack Obama’s White House, was the most exquisitely unforgettable event I witnessed. It is still shocking to me that so many “prominent, well-informed” Americans literally had no idea what was happening in their country.
And then to be part of President Trump’s rough and tumble White House for a year and to be able to write this book about it — truly an honor.
Who were the most difficult people in your book to write about?
It is not easy for a me as a former White House stenographer to lift the veil of discretion I long cherished, but I did in this book and I will in future books.
Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump; Vice Presidents Cheney, Biden, and Pence; prominent members of the press and senior administration officials — I wrote and will write the truth about what I saw and heard. Some will not like these truths revealed. But I will express them and my opinions with enthusiasm and disdain where I think it is warranted. I am an author writing my truth about the White House of three presidents. There is no witness protection for me but that truth.
In your book you give close and personal anecdotes of how the White House and the reporters / media interact. Over the length of your years at the White House, what is the biggest change you have seen in that relationship?
Quite frankly, the news media covering the White House has by and large surrendered their integrity. There are still many credible journalists and news organizations, but the list is shrinking annually.
When I first started there in 2002, CNN was the international network of note, towering above all others. Now they are below grade.
The White House Correspondents Dinner has pathetically become a proving ground for demeaning comedy.
The overt politicization of the entertainment media has also contributed to our deepening political divide.
And yet President Trump is running rings around them, singlehandedly outsmarting the lot.
Your story mainly happens in Washington DC. How would explain or describe that city to the rest of America?
Tough question, but fortunately I grew up here so I’m good answering it.
Washington likes to think of itself as the city of the governing class. But I’m a Jeffersonian conservative. I believe a small and nimble central government, buttressed by vigorous local governments is our best way forward. I never bought the myth of all-powerful Washington.
Still, with so many advocates for the governing class concept, there are many in DC who insist they are powerful but aren’t; even more who reach for power only to fall short; and then a few who are actually quite powerful and do it well, essentially for the betterment of us all.
This would be the Washington inhabited by “power brokers” and “king makers” and “power couples”. Not my city.
The Washington I live in is an old and elemental place. We take our kids on a hike to see an ancient Indian rock carving near our house. I kayak on the Potomac River in the wilderness setting of Great Falls, where the best fishermen catch muskies in the deepest pools. The fish, the river, the rocks were here long, long before anyone worried about a governing class.
Power in Washington is wherever you need it to be.
Did you experience any change in perspective about your years at the White House after you started putting your thoughts down into 15 YEARS A DEPLORABLE?
I haven’t been back to the White House (nor can I go back) since I wrote the book. The reasons for that are in the chapter: A YEAR WITH TRUMP.
Yes, thankfully, leaving the White House gave me the impetus to write the book. Being an author is a lifelong dream. And now, looking back, I’d say it was a good run, and I was fortunate. But the real story is just getting started.
What was the easiest, and what was the most difficult, part of writing this book?
The easiest was singing the praises of our great military folks and their families to whom we owe so much.
The difficult part was revisiting the ugliness of being blacklisted in my White House job by young anti-Trump colleagues who hated me because I think Donald Trump is the best president I’ve ever seen.
The fact that their “resistance” is being replicated in ways large and small across our country because people can’t accept the results of our free and fair election is frightening.
Citizens targeting their fellow citizens for their support of a lawfully elected president is the real threat to our democracy. And it’s why I had to tell my story.
Hopefully you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.