AM: If you’re on the print side you think everything’s done for TV, and TV people think print people get all the respect … Eighty percent of people get their news from TV and politicians know that and so much of what goes on in a national campaign is picture-making, image-making … The Bush people are masters at this, how they frame his pictures, where they put him.
There’s been some good TV reporting. It’s the kind of detail that you’re able to get into in print, in terms of — say this [Bush campaign] ad about Kerry wanting to raise the gas tax 50 cents. It’s a really funny ad but it’s not quite true. You can get into that, all the nuances, in print. If you’re doing a one-minute-forty-second package for the nightly news you can touch on that but it won’t have the same impact as someone reading it. Television can be great for politicians but I don’t think it’s very good for politics in this country.
LCB: You’ve profiled Carol Moseley Braun, Al Sharpton, Joe Lieberman. How do you prepare for a political profile? With political campaigns so controlled these days is it possible to get past the carefully packaged, cautious candidate spewing soundbytes?
AM: You just read everything that you can about them and then you spend as much time as you can with them, following them around. The benefit of doing it early on [in the election season] is that you do get access. Carol Moseley Braun and I sat down and had a cup of tea, I had breakfast with Al Sharpton. You’re able to be — it’s the cliché — a fly on the wall, you get to watch them. And you get to watch them at some of their less laudatory moments because they’re human. And you learn things about them as people that no matter how hard they try to say on their soundbyte when you watch someone in action, the truth of who they are ultimately resonates, it begins to emerge …
I also did the reporting for a John Kerry profile — even I was a little uncomfortable with that, even if it was ten years [ago that I worked with him]. But I got great access. This was after it was pretty clear he was going to be the nominee, and in that case you do a lot more talking to people who know him and are close to him. The closer the election, and the more that’s at stake, the further away [candidates] get from reporters.
LCB: If you were Donald Trump and all the Democratic primary candidates were vying to be your apprentice, who would you fire first and why?
AM: Yikes … I’ve got to say Joe Lieberman. I truly felt that he was out of step, particularly with Democratic primary voters. The more he opened his mouth the more clear it became. I felt bad for the guy, he’s a very nice person but right from the start I was like, “What country are you living in?”
Of course I’d love to have fired Al Sharpton because he was not taking it seriously, he was along for a great ego ride, although I had great respect for some of the things he was doing on the campaign trail. He was doing some really good stuff for kids.