Bob Woodward: Conservatism in ‘Crisis,’ ‘Does Not Sell’ With Voters

Appearing on Wednesday’s CBS This Morning, Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward declared that the defeat of Ted Cruz in the Republican primary revealed that “Conservatism in America, in the Republican Party, is in a crisis. It just does not sell.” He argued that Cruz lost because “his ideas have not taken hold and they were totally overwhelmed by the Trump campaign.”

Of Trump, Woodward proclaimed: “I mean, it's all about his personality. If you can step back, and this is the hardest thing, he's a revolutionary. This is the Trump revolution now....You talk to people, as we’re doing, and one of them said, ‘One of the things about Trump, there is no governor on his capacity for risk, but he is an exceptional visionary.’”

Moments later, co-host Charlie Rose observed: “We also know that it comes at a time in which there was within the country a sense of frustration with the establishment across the board, Wall Street and Washington.” Woodward interjected: “And the media, too.” Rose agreed: “And the media, absolutely.” Woodward continued: “And I mean, look, we are all out on this. And we’ve got to kind of come clean and say, ‘Okay, let's go back.’”

The veteran reporter went on to promise that the Post would scrutinize both Trump and Hillary Clinton equally in the general election:

You know what's going to determinate the results? How much we find out about them. There is so much more to learn....That we don't know. So we have – I mean, our – the owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, has said we have to describe in multi-part series, in detailed, digging investigations, who these people are. So what's the standard? When people go to vote in November, no one can say, “I couldn't find out the best obtainable version of their biography”....I am overwhelmed, quite frankly, with the amount of work we have to do to discover what has not been discovered....We don't want to learn something about Trump or Hillary 70 years from now.

Rose quipped: “Well, we’re glad you're on the case.” King chimed in: “That’s exactly what I was going to say. Bob Woodward, you know something about finding out things about people, so.”

Tell the Truth 2016

Here is a full transcript of the May 4 segment:

8:04 AM ET

GAYLE KING: Legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward interviewed Donald Trump last month for The Washington Post. He's the paper's associate editor and he joins us once again at the table. Very good to have you here, Bob Woodward.

BOB WOODWARD: Thank you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump’s Trumph [sic]; Bob Woodward on Billionaire’s Path to GOP Victory]

KING: Your interview with him was very revealing, we’ll get to that in just a second. Let's just start with Ted Cruz for just a second. He dropped out. What does it say to you about the Republican Party that his message didn't resonate?

WOODWARD: Conservatism in America, in the Republican Party, is in a crisis. It just does not sell. And Cruz’s – it wasn't just his personality, his ideas have not taken hold and they were totally overwhelmed by the Trump campaign.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Party of Trump; Bob Woodward on GOP Uniting Behind Billionaire]

NORAH O’DONNELL: Meaning that economic populism trumped social issues?

WOODWARD: Well, that Trump trumped everything. I mean, it's all about his personality. If you can step back, and this is the hardest thing, he's a revolutionary. This is the Trump revolution now. And we need to understand why this happened, and we need to understand, in a deeper context, who he is.

CHARLIE ROSE: And so that’s what we want you to tell us – because you have been following him, you have talked to him – who he is.

WOODWARD: Yeah, and you know, we talked about your interview with Putin, when Putin said every – “not a stage of our life passes without a trace.” We need to look at the stage – every stage of Trump's life. I mean, he was here in New York, he brought about a real estate revolution. You talk to people, as we’re doing, and one of them said, “One of the things about Trump, there is no governor on his capacity for risk, but he is an exceptional visionary.”

KING: With guts.

WOODWARD: Now that’s from somebody who doesn’t like him.  

KING: They said he’s a visionary with guts. I think that, that's a very strong term. But why do you think that it's working so well with so many different kinds of people, Bob? That's what’s astounding to many people.

WOODWARD: Yeah. What Trump is – first of all, he overreaches, as we know, in things he says. But he's a subversive in a system where everyone who's a practitioner of politics knows it's not working. And so, here you have this person coming in from the outside who says, “I'm going kick the bejesus out of the system.” You talk to people in the system and they say, “Oh, yeah, we need some change.”

ROSE: We also know that it comes at a time in which there was within the country a sense of frustration with the establishment across the board, Wall Street and Washington.

WOODWARD: And the media, too.

ROSE: And the media, absolutely.  

WOODWARD: And I mean, look, we are all out on this. And we’ve got to kind of come clean and say, “Okay, let's go back.” And everything – look, Hillary Clinton is a revolutionary, if you think about it. First woman running for president. Her eight years as First Lady. We know some about it, not enough. This is a woman who really got about four or five graduate degrees in the presidency being First Lady to her husband Bill Clinton. Some of the triumphs, the agonies. I mean, imagine what she knows? And this needs to be explained.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Woodward’s Notebook; Legendary Journalist on Trump, Politics and DC]

O’DONNELL: Haley Barbour is the former RNC chairman, now a lobbyist, but one of the most astute political strategists I’ve talked to in my years of covering politics, and he says, quoted today, “We're about to nominate two of the most negatively perceived candidates in the history of polling.” So I want to challenge this assumption that either of them have widespread popularity. Do you think there's any facts to show that they have widespread popularity, or are we talking about what are primary contests, where they have managed to turn out what are the most ideological wings of their party to vote for them?

WOODWARD: It's hard to be in politics and not attract lots of negative comment. And that's exactly what's happened here. If you think about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there are not – no two human beings on the planet who have longer biographies, who’ve been in the public eye for so long. And as a reporter –  

O’DONNELL: We have a 70-year-old and 69-year-old that are likely to be the two nominees of the parties.

WOODWARD: That's right. And if you had Barack Obama here, he would say that may be too old to be president.

ROSE: Some will say that this election will be a referendum on one or the other. And if it's a referendum on Trump, she wins. If it's a referendum on Trump – I mean, if it’s a referendum on her, he wins. That, that definition of what the narrative becomes will determine the results.

WOODWARD: You know what's going to determinate the results? How much we find out about them. There is so much more to learn.

KING: That we don't know.

WOODWARD: That we don't know. So we have – I mean, our – the owner of The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, has said we have to describe in multi-part series, in detailed, digging investigations, who these people are. So what's the standard? When people go to vote in November, no one can say, “I couldn't find out the best obtainable version of their biography.”

KING: Or, “I didn't know.” Another part of your interview that I thought was really interesting, at one point he described himself as the lone ranger. But who's his Tanto? He has very specific ideas about who he wants to be – about what he's looking for in a VP candidate.

WOODWARD: Yeah, and that was very interesting because he said he wants a vice presidential running mate, somebody who can walk into the Senate and know those people for 25 years. So he wants a Washington insider of some kind. Now, I mean, look at this, contrast this with Hillary Clinton who was in the Senate, who knows Senate. And again, you've got a juxtaposition of who these people are, what the lessons they have learned in their life, and you know, we – I am overwhelmed, quite frankly, with the amount of work we have to do to discover what has not been discovered. And believe me, it's –

O’DONNELL: Substance. Policy.

WOODWARD: I mean, now on the front page of the paper we're dealing with the question of the Iowa Jima photo in World War II. Now we are, 70 years later, learning something. We don't want to learn something about Trump or Hillary 70 years from now.

ROSE: Well, we’re glad you're on the case.

KING: That’s exactly what I was going to say. Bob Woodward, you know something about finding out things about people, so.

WOODWARD: Well, this is a hard task. Believe me.

KING: You are up to it, no doubt about that. Good to see you again.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: Always good to have you at the table.

Tell the Truth 2016 NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS This Morning Washington Post Video Bob Woodward Charlie Rose Ted Cruz Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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