The New York Times chief T.V. critic says television is the "main thing" about Donald Trump.
It was 1987 when the “Doonesbury” comic strip first imagined a Donald Trump presidential run. Since then, Trump has been a recurring character in cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s Pulitzer Prize-winning strip. Over the years “Doonesbury” has taken on Trump’s rhetoric, his beliefs about women, Trump University… well before any of this was making front-page campaign news. And the candidate has been less than pleased with Trudeau’s satirical depictions, calling Trudeau a “sleazeball” and a “third-rate talent.” Now the author has compiled all his Trump clips into a new book. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau on satire, politics and thirty years of drawing Donald Trump.
- Garry Trudeau Cartoonist, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Doonesbury comic strip
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When Garry Trudeau accepted the George Polk Career Award in 2015, he said, satire punches up against authority of all kinds. The little guy against the powerful. It's a belief he's held onto over the years in his Doonesbury comic strip known for its satirical take on tough political and social topics. Sprinkled throughout the last 30 years of his strips are appearances by the billionaire businessman now running for president.
MS. DIANE REHMTrudeau has compiled all his satirical Trump cartoons into a new book titled "Yuge." That's yuge with a Y. "Thirty years of Doonesbury on Trump." And Garry Trudeau joins me in the studio. Throughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls, comments, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet.
MS. DIANE REHMWell, Garry Trudeau, welcome.
MR. GARRY TRUDEAUThank you so much, Diane. I'm so happy to be here.
REHMWell, I'm delighted to have you. You know, I think you started focusing on Donald Trump way back at the end of the Reagan years. How come?
TRUDEAUWell, in the fall of 1987, Trump took out three ads in The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and the New York Times stating his world view in full-page ads and how the rest of the world was laughing at us. A lot of the same language, only then it was the Japanese, instead of the Chinese. And it was widely seen as a kind of trial balloon for a possible candidacy. Trump was in his late 30s at the time and as now, had never held any kind of office or shown any kind of interest in civic affairs.
TRUDEAUSo it was pretty widely mocked in New York City. And since he had been kind of a, you know, part of the business plan almost of every comic and commentator in New York City for the last five years -- for the previous five years, it seemed like the time was right to bring him to a national audience. Now, he'd been on a few national magazines, on the covers, and so he had kind of reached that -- the trigger point where I feel comfortable writing about him and somebody in Oregon or somebody in Hawaii or in London might have a chance of knowing who he is.
TRUDEAUYou have to time that properly because otherwise, you're spending -- you're larding up the strip with a lot of exposition. And I was, you know, I really didn't want to do that so I waited until he had that kind of -- the kind of visibility that he wanted.
REHMAnd the kind of visibility that was, for you, created within the comic strip.
TRUDEAUYeah. I mean, he was the perfect edition to the strip because he was a living, breathing toon and, you know, I just took him right out of the box and removed the labels and put him in the strip. And the other -- all the other characters kind of regarded him as a colleague, as a peer. And I'd never done that with any other public figure, but he was so over-the-top and he kind reminded me of Daffy Duck in his self regard and in his strange way of speaking.
TRUDEAUAnd he just seemed like I could just slip him right into the strip and not have to make that many adjustments. Now, in the interest of satire, obviously, I had to reconfigure his speech and his language and that's the art of it. But for the most part, I felt like a stenographer. I was just taking what he was saying and putting it in the strip and having him interact with my characters.
REHMAnd you've got so many of the words and phrases.
TRUDEAUWell, he has the best words and they're -- what -- you're handing me the book and you want me to read...
REHMI'm handing you the book because...
TRUDEAU...from this list?
REHM...I want you to pick out from that list, words that he was using back then and throughout this period that you've been covering him.
TRUDEAUWell, these are not words over a career. These little balloons with words that are in the front matter of the book are all words he's used since last August in describing his opponents and other people that he cared to insult. So, you know, we've heard them too often for me to go through them all, but major sleaze, bottom of the barrel, blowhard, truly weird, nasty with lies. I love things like nasty with lies. I mean, who else says that? That's a perfect -- and then, on the back of the book, there's another very carefully curated group of insults that are all directed to me, towards me over the last, you know, 30 years.
TRUDEAUAnd they start out somewhat ambivalent. He said, people tell me I should be flattered, but then since there was nothing actually flattering I was saying about him, he changed his tune and said, then well, now they're incomprehensible. And then, after a while, as you see, if you get down to the bottom of the list, I'm a total loser and...
REHMIt's too bad he's allowed to write this garbage, he says of you, and then, finally, a third-rate talent trying to get publicity on my back. A third-rate talent who got lucky, a jerk, a total loser.
TRUDEAURight. Well, of course, he created all that publicity. He would call up the columns and give them these comments. He, or one of his imaginary press agents. But in this case, these aren't the imaginary press agents, these are all directly from him.
REHMHe did. Now, his hair. Let's talk about his hair.
TRUDEAUWell, his -- it's a very complicated subject, as the hair is, and it's some mysterious triumph of lacquering and weaving and taxidermy that really cannot be understood and I've been working at it for an awful long time. I've been trying to reverse engineer that hair since 1987 and I go way back to when his hair was brown and, you know, before it became this gilded confection. And when he set it on fire to run for president. So I have made, you know, this long study of it and I've decided that I shouldn't try to arrive at the ultimate depiction of his hair, that it's really a journey, not a destination.
TRUDEAUAnd so every time I sit down and draw it, it's a new experience.
REHMBut Garry, I think what surprises me reading this book and talking to you is that you really did imagine way back then what is happening now. And not only in terms of the way he's running for president, but the kinds of things he says, the kinds of things he does. How did that get into your head?
TRUDEAUWell, he's remarkably consistent in that way. I mean, the language is the same and the underlying personality disorder hasn't -- has been remarkably stable through...
TRUDEAUI would say so. I would say so. And I mean, I'm certainly not alone, but I do see the election as kind of a referendum on mental health. For all the other things it is, I think that's one of the things. And I'm saying that kind of...
REHMNow, you know you're gonna be criticized.
TRUDEAU...I'm not smiling right now. You can say...
REHMYou know you're gonna be criticized. You're not a doctor.
TRUDEAUI'm not a doctor.
REHMYou cannot diagnose from afar, but yet, you believe this.
TRUDEAUNo, but I'm, you know, I'm a professional loudmouth and I have opinions and that's one of them. And that's the great thing about satire is hyperbole is your friend and as Trump knows. And of course, I use hyperbole in a very different way. I use it to shed light on things as opposed to deflect meaning. One of the things that always fascinated me about Trump is his inability to say things that weren't untrue. And it didn't really matter back in the day what the stakes were. It could be utterly -- a matter that's utterly banal and he would still either exaggerate it or misrepresent it or make it up.
TRUDEAUI was once told by a camera man at CNN that he was setting up his equipment in Trump's office and Trump went out into the room -- the other room and was talking to his daughter. And he overheard him say to her, oh, CNN's in the office. They're setting up five cameras. Well, the guy was setting up one camera. He tells his daughter it's five. What are the stakes there? It's -- just doesn't seem capable of -- he just uses facts as just kinds of playthings.
REHMSo where does that lead you in terms of mental health?
TRUDEAUWell, pathological liar? Narcissism? Diane, I don't have to go down the list. It's all the off-the-chart self regard, the complete empathy-free lack of humanity as was brilliantly represented in a single tweet last weekend about the cousin of Dwayne Wade who was killed. He uses an opportunity to congratulate himself and to say why African Americans would vote for him. It's really frightening and I'm perfectly willing to admit that if the shoe were on the other foot and it was a progressive, if it was a Democrat who was -- there was a Democrat who was Donald Trump and it well could've been give the wide variety of positions he's taken, there's no way in hell I would vote for him.
REHMGary Trudeau, cartoonist, author of the Pulitzer Prizewinning comic strip, Doonesbury. Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Garry Trudeau is here cartoonist, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip Doonesbury and now with a book titled "Yuge," and that's spelled Y-U-G-E, "30 Years of Doonsbury on Trump by Garry Trudeau." And you know what amazed me seeing this book was really, and I've been reading the strip for all that time, but I mean, sort of the foresight you had in putting him into the strip when you did and then following him along sort of periodically.
REHMI mean, there's a strip, "Trump Princess." You've got to talk about "Trump Princess."
TRUDEAUWell, that was at the very beginning, and that was once I'd introduced him into the strip, I then wanted to build stories around him. And he had just acquired a yacht called the Trump Princess, or he renamed it the Trump Princess, and so I had my -- I devised various ways to get three of my characters onboard in various roles. So Duke becomes the captain, and Honey becomes the purser, and JJ is brought on to paint elaborate Rococo murals in the bathrooms of the Trump Princess.
TRUDEAUSo -- and then there are many other adventures that flow from that. But just to back up a second, I have to -- you know, I probably shouldn't, but I have to protest all the, you know, the insistence of many people, how prescient all this was. It really -- it really wasn't. He was creating the headlines, and I was simply reacting to them. I didn't have any more idea that he would really run for president than anyone else did until 2012.
TRUDEAU2012, he showed up with his single issue, the birther issue, and saw for the first time some -- he got a taste of double-digit favorabilities and numbers in the polls. And I think he thought, okay, this is doable, I've commandeered the public's attention on this one ridiculous issue. What if I come up with a whole bunch of ridiculous issues? And I think he thought then, there's been some reporting that he briefly considered running for governor in the interim, but...
REHMOf New York.
TRUDEAUOf New York, yes, but I think that he, you know, when he -- when he came down that escalator, it was definitely game on. Now he may not have thought he'd do as well as he did. He may well have thought, I'm in it for the brand burnishment, and then I'm out of here at a moment of my choice, you know, once all the promotional value has been extracted from this spectacle.
REHMYou know there are even people who say to me today, he doesn't really want to be president, he's going to step out, he's going to say, well, now that you've elected me I have won, but I don't want it.
TRUDEAUWell, I would be extremely surprised if he did that.
TRUDEAUBut I -- but I will say you're right that I don't think there's anything about actually being president, maybe the jet, maybe, you know, that tear-down on Pennsylvania Avenue, maybe those things are of interest to him.
REHMBut in one strip you have the White House being into...
REHMYeah, improved with a Trump tower on top of it.
TRUDEAUThat was -- that was actually the very first strip I did was drawing what a Trump White House would look like.
TRUDEAUBut I don't think -- he clearly has no real interest in public affairs and in policy. I did one strip earlier this year in which I list 25 important issues on which he has taken both sides of the issue over the course of his public life. And this isn't somebody who has any coherent idea of how he would run the country. He has put together a very toxic brew of issues that seem to have some appeal.
TRUDEAUThe thing that most mystifies me is not that his supporters, the people that love him, don't have issues and don't respond to his populist appeal, the thing that most mystifies me is that for about the people who love Donald Trump is they don't seem to understand that he doesn't love them back. He has said, said standing up on his podium, why should I talk to a couple of people when I can do this.
TRUDEAUSo why should he sit at someone's kitchen table and listen to a few, you know, to a couple people, a couple talk about their struggles, about how they're getting beat up by the new economy, when he could be standing in front of all the -- you know, all his supporters in the aggregate, and 12,000 people. What -- what would be the point? Well, the point would be to learn something. He doesn't seem to have the capacity to learn something or to empathize.
TRUDEAUAnd so what he does as president would seem to me just as random as the way he's running his campaign.
REHMWould you be interested in sitting down and talking with him?
TRUDEAUOh, not in the slightest.
REHMNot in the slightest.
TRUDEAUI've talked to very few of the people that I've -- you know, public figures that I've write about, and I think it's better for me to have the same perspective as everyone else when I write about them, to share that -- to share what public people show -- care to show in public.
REHMI cannot tell you how many people we've already heard from, who said will Mr. Trudeau be resuming original daily strips soon, I miss his take on things.
TRUDEAUWell that's lovely to hear from, and it has created problems for me. It's very hard for me to advance stories just doing the Sunday section. The reason behind my stepping away from the dailies was that I started work in television. I did a show called "Alpha House" for Amazon. And it just was too overwhelming to have two jobs. I had thought I could because in fact I had. Some years back I did a show called "Tanner 88," which I managed to write while still doing the strip.
TRUDEAUBut being the show runner on "Alpha House" was just too overwhelming, and so I called my boss, yes, I have a boss, and the same guy who recruited me, you know, 45 years ago.
TRUDEAUYeah, right. And I said I just can't do both, and I'm at -- frankly, I'm having a blast. I love the show. I love all the people who are working on it. And it's something I've wanted to do my whole life. And so I'm going to split the difference, if it's okay with you, and just do the Sunday. And he completely understood. I mean, I'd been in the saddle for a long time. At that time I'd been doing the strip for 43 years.
TRUDEAUSo he was very understanding, and I'm still in that world. I can't give you any details until it's real, but I'm still, you know, working in television. And so the dailies aren't -- and the future, certainly for this election they're not.
REHMSo we shall wait and see what happens. Garry, how many other public figures have taken your attention and your interest the way Donald Trump has?
TRUDEAUWell, I've never actually folded one into the strip as a character, although I did find a way of representing politicians without actually drawing caricatures of them. Caricatures give away too much, and with Trump I just can't resist, it's just too hard to stay away from him as a caricatured figure, but with public figures it seemed to be more effective in the yearly years to have them offstage because then people fill in the blanks. People kind of imagine what they look like standing behind their desk or in the White House.
TRUDEAUAnd so I had bubbles coming out of buildings and, you know, coming from stage left and stage right and -- or from behind. And I never actually showed them. It was kind of like Seinfeld did with George Steinbrenner in the "Seinfeld" show.
REHMAnd George Bush.
TRUDEAUGeorge Bush was a centurion's helmet, that was the symbol I chose for him, which began to fall apart over the course of the eight years. So at the end there's just a little tuft of horsehair that's on a little piece of brass hovering in the air. The -- inside the helmet was an asterisk to remind people just how he came to be president. And so at the end there was an asterisk and a couple of feathers.
REHMAll right, we've got lots of callers who'd like to talk with you. So if you'll put those headphones on, let's open the phones and go to Bonard in Washington, D.C., you're on the air.
BONARDWe've been talking a lot about Trump and his pathologies, and of course that's great fun and lots of observations there to be had by a satirist's eye. But I guess I wanted to hear a little bit more about what you think, Garry, about us. He's famous because we keep staring at him like a car wreck. What do you -- as he's risen to where he is now, what's your take on where we are and where we're going?
TRUDEAUWe're -- we're in a very difficult place. I've heard it referred to as Trump Derangement Syndrome. I have a close friend who's working on a serious academic book, and he was talking to me yesterday and said I can't do it, I've done 100 interviews, and I'm deeply involved in this project, it's taken me three years, it's a serious book, and all I can think about is Trump.
TRUDEAUAnd there's a little bit of that, I think, for all of us. He's taking up so much bandwidth that it's just kind of difficult to avoid him. I find myself coming up with Trump ideas every minute. They're lined up like boxcars. And it sort of distresses me because I have, you know, almost 70 characters in the strip, and I'm ignoring them. It's hard enough not having the dailies to tell their stories, but it's hard for me to walk back to the characters right now when Trump is so on all of our minds.
REHMSo what does it say about us that we have enjoyed him and flocked to him?
TRUDEAUI -- you know, I'm still trying to get to the bottom of it. It's a mystery to me. I hold a mirror up to the car wreck, but I can't explain how it happened.
REHMAll right, let's go to Front Royal, Virginia, hi Corey, you're on the air.
COREYOh, hello Diane, and Garry, thank you all so much for your program.
COREYAnd I've had a hard time laughing about Donald Trump at all. I mean, I'm a 64-year-old white male that had six daughters, and the stuff that I've heard him say is, like, first I thought I would never want my daughters around this guy or even working for him, and then -- and then -- oh, and this is for Mr. Trudeau. Anything bad Donald Trump says about me or you would be a compliment from who it's coming from. I don't want to be like that gentleman. I don't -- he doesn't have anything I want, and he -- and it is scary to think where we've come and where he's got to.
COREYBut I have to laugh. It's like when you said it was a mental health kind of a referendum on it, I'm like, exactly. This guy is nuts. And I can't believe -- I cannot believe people could -- you know, if I was in -- I'm scared of this guy. I am scared. And...
REHMWhat do you think?
TRUDEAUWell, I am, too, and I -- and I do, I do wonder why his supporters seem to have given so little thought to what the presidency is and what a president does and what a president must know. It -- because Trump is kind of sui generis. We've never had anyone quite like this, an entertainer moved so closely to a position of power.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Which brings us to Arnold Schwarzenegger and how you depicted him.
TRUDEAUWell, I think it might -- the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor might be different had it taken place 10 years later. At the time that he was running, the two weeks that he was running prior, the LA Times broke a story in which multiple women said that -- had accused him of sexual harassment and sexual groping. And so I renamed him the Gropenfuhrer, and instead of small symbol I created enormous groping hand to depict him.
TRUDEAUI was outraged by it. I mean, the gentleman who just called in, who has all the daughters, I have a daughter, I have a wife. I -- the stories that were coming out about Arnold were just unbelievable, and so I wrote about that a great deal. Now you may remember he said he was going to send up a -- set up a commission to invest himself and apparent -- kind of like O.J. did. He was going to get to the bottom of it after the election, and then of course that was the last -- last we heard of it.
TRUDEAUBut I stayed after him, and, you know, throughout his governor's...
REHMHow much political clout do you think you have?
TRUDEAUOh, I don't have any political clout. I'm happy to be, you know, a sidebar to the national conversation, and my highest priority is entertainment. I don't really shoot for influence. It's kind of fun to brings things to people's attention if they didn't know about it before. So there is a different kind of strip that I will write about unknown subjects or unknown people, just to bring it to people's attention.
REHMAnd that's why we wanted to do program today on the alt-right, to bring to the public's attention.
TRUDEAURight, it's fun to be just led by your curiosity, and you say wait a minute, I should know about that.
TRUDEAUOr I could know about it. And so I've found myself falling into the rabbit hole many times. I got into voodoo at one point because there was no research that...
REHMI remember, yeah.
TRUDEAUThat had surfaced in Haiti about the nature of voodoo. When BD loses his leg in battle in the second battle of Fallujah, it was a -- it wasn't just a week storyline. And once I committed myself to that, and I said okay, unlike all the other stories you've written about for years and years, you can't sum this one up by Saturday, you can't get through this one by Saturday, this is a major commitment. You're going to have to follow his story downstream as he goes through the various stages of healing.
TRUDEAUAnd fortunately I'd made a number of friends in the Department of Defense during the Gulf War, and they reached out to me and said, okay, we see where you're going with this, and it might be better if you got it right, at least that was the subtext. So I was invited to Walter Reed, and I went in under a USO protocol because I'm kind of this strange beast. I'm not really a journalist, and I'm not really an entertainer, but they wanted -- what that means is that they would vet, you know -- each room you went into, they wanted to make sure that you'd be welcome.
TRUDEAUAnd so I went over there and my first day, I walked in, the first room I walked into, on the amputee ward, the Ward 57 at Walter Reed, there was a young woman sitting on a -- on her bed, and she was talking to her mother on the phone, and she said, oh mom, guess who just walked in and, you know, introduced me, and I talked to her on the phone. And then she told me this story of her losing her hand in battle.
REHMAll right, I want you to hold that story until we come back. Garry Trudeau cartoonist, his new book is titled "Yuge." Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Garry Trudeau is here with me. He's got a new book. It's titled, "Yuge," with a Y. And guess who's on the cover. It is Donald Trump, hair in place, lips puckered, microphone in front. And the subtitle, "30 Years of 'Doonesbury' on Trump" by Garry Trudeau. You were in the middle of talking about your visit to Walter Reid, where you came to a woman who had lost her hand.
TRUDEAURight. She was an M.P. in the Army. And she had been a basketball star at Notre Dame. And when she was first sent over to Iraq, they were sent to protect police stations, the M.P.s were sent to protect Iraqi police stations. And she was sent up on the roof and -- where there were sandbags all about. And she got down behind one of them. And a rocket, an RPG, went over her shoulder and blew up the wall behind her.
TRUDEAUSo her training kicked in and she flicked off the safety and she raised her rifle. Because first thing you want to do with your weapon is return fire so the other person is receiving fire and not just sending it. As she threw her arms up another rocket came through her position and tore off her forearm and her hand and buried her in sand.
TRUDEAUAnd her teammates rushed up to the top of the roof, brought her back down, put her on the hood of a Humvee and started to tie off the wound. And her sergeant, against orders, ran back up on the roof, dug through the sand, pulled out her hand, removed her engagement ring from it and took it back downstairs and put it in this soldiers remaining hand. And she looked at me and said, "You know, he didn't have to do that. It's just a thing.
TRUDEAU"But it meant the world to me." And that's when I first came to understand soldier love. You know, the bond that exists between these people that fight shoulder-to-shoulder. And it was the beginning of a very long journey to discover what happens to a soldier as they heal and reintegrate into society. And I had so much help along the way. There were so many doctors and psychiatrists and soldiers who shared their stories with me to help me try to get it right. I don't know if I ever really did. But I…
REHMThere was a cover story on this week's Washington Post Magazine of a young man with two artificial legs. I mean the -- what these people go through we cannot truly imagine.
TRUDEAURight. And they go through it in our name. And I think that…
TRUDEAU…was the importance of having a, you know, I wrote many, many weeks on this topic. So I think that was, you know, a way of recognizing that these folks are among us and we owe them a great deal. And society has a responsibility to bring them home, to bring them all the way home.
REHMExactly. Let's go to David in Hot Springs, Ark. Hi there.
DAVIDHello, Diane. How are you doing?
REHMI'm good. How are you?
DAVIDI'm doing fine. I'm sitting here in Hot Springs, the boyhood home of Bill Clinton. I didn't want to get political, but since we're up against Trump here I endorse everything you say, everything Garry says. Diane, thank you very much. Garry, thank you very much. And to lighten it up a little bit, whatever happened to Phred?
TRUDEAUOkay. For the -- for -- I'm sure many listeners who have no idea who Phred is, Phred is spelled, P-H-R-E-D. And he was B.D.'s original antagonist back during his first war, which was as a grunt in Vietnam. And he was really the figment of a 22-year-old's hippie-dippy imagination of why can't we all get along together. And it's -- he's the Viet Cong fighter who gets lost in the jungle, having taken B.D. captive. And they become friends in the process.
TRUDEAUAnd the fact that I have any admirers from that era astonishes me. But I've -- I have had troops come up to me -- veterans come up to me and say, you know, you didn't quite get it right, but you were paying attention to us.
TRUDEAUAnd that counted for something.
REHMExactly. So Phred seemed powerful -- strong enough character to bring him back. And so he came back on several occasions. When B.D. returns as a veteran to Vietnam. And he shows him the tunnels in Cu Chi. And Phred turns into something of an opportunistic businessman. And that's where we last saw him. Now, when you say what happened to him, I have no idea because I have to imagination that first. I have to -- I don't think what is happening to these 70 odd characters on a day-to-day basis or as they move forward.
TRUDEAUI don't even know if they're all still alive. I, you know, I just take it one step at a time. And say okay, what Mike might be doing this week? And then I'll write, you know, a Sunday based on that. But, no, who knows where Phred is.
REHMAnd by the way…
TRUDEAUPhred may no longer be with us, he -- quite a few characters have actually passed away in the -- in Doonesbury.
REHMAnd, David, in Hot Springs, Ark., is indeed a Vietnam vet. And I think you, David, for your service. Here's an email from another Fred, spelled the usual way. "Would Mr. Trudeau care to name a recent POTUS who met his standard of presidential? It's my opinion that this train wreck has been coming for several decades."
TRUDEAUWell, there I would have to disagree. Not that I think it was the most important presidency, but in my lifetime I like the one that's going on right now. I think that in terms of the qualities that Trump is utterly lacking in, seriousness, intellectual seriousness, a sense of civic responsibility, a thoughtfulness, reflectiveness, an absolute devotion to his countrymen, when he goes about the country to our ever escalating scenes of violence and speaks, I never fail to be moved.
TRUDEAUIt feels heartfelt and I think he suffers over when his countrymen suffer. Now, whether he's been a successful presidency -- president, you know, that's debatable. I think we made a pretty good start on some sort of universal healthcare. Certainly presidents have been trying to do that for over 100 years and he's the first to have succeeded. But, you know, I'm perfectly willing to be quiet and listen to arguments as to why he was not a good president. But I think the question was about the qualities that he has brought to being, you know, what president do I admire for qualities that a president should have.
REHMOf course he was criticized for not going down to see details of the latest flood. And he was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. The governor of Louisiana said to him, please do not come. And yet, he was criticized because your friend Donald Trump did go down.
TRUDEAUNo one ever looked more unhappy at a site of tragedy than Donald Trump did as he handed those crates of Play-Doh to his vice presidential running mate. He wanted to get out as soon as that footage was, you know, in the can, he was out of there. I did not see a caring individual show up. I saw somebody who was told to show up.
REHMHere is Ed in Kalamazoo, Mich. You're on the air.
EDYeah, I wonder if Garry wanted to tell a little story about Trump's enormous, huge yacht, The Princess. I think I read somewhere that it's something like 85 meters long. And I thought, my God, you'd have to have a crew and tugboats and what kind of fixtures has -- have you seen the yacht? I mean, I just am amazed at the ostentatious display of wealth. And I think you said something about it could be used for public housing. You could house thousands of families just on that yacht.
TRUDEAUI find it hard to believe he had the wit to say that. But maybe he did, you never know. He doesn't actually have the yacht. He hasn't had it for a long time. When his first bankruptcies took place he had to get rid of the airline, he got rid of the yacht. He was put on an allowance by the banks. This is not commonly remembered. But he was put on -- he had a spending -- he had a month's spending money of $450,000, I think was the figure.
TRUDEAUAnd I don't know how long that lasted, but at that time he had to get rid of the yacht. The yacht, he never really used as a yacht. I think -- I believe he took one sea voyage and really didn't like it. And so it was anchored off of the casinos and used as kind of a play pen for gamblers. It was a perk for people to come out and look at it.
REHMDid it really have, as you depicted, solid gold fixtures?
TRUDEAUI think so. My memory is that that was the case. He certainly does in his apartments.
REHMAll right. And to Gloria in Raleigh, N.C. You're on the air.
GLORIAThank you for taking my call, Diane.
GLORIAI really enjoy your show.
GLORIAAnd I am familiar with Garry Trudeau and his writing. My question would be would the nation survive or even the world survive a Trump presidency? And with a follow-up statement. And I believe it -- the nation has been on a decline for many years. And the public has really not gotten much information from the establishment for many years. And I believe that's what's happening now is a culmination of decades of corruption within our government.
TRUDEAUWell, the first question, would we survive a Trump presidency, I still have faith in the sturdiness of our institutions that I think we would. We, as you know, we have a trapdoor. If the presidency became something that was -- or the president took actions that became impeachable then that's what would happen. However, I think the Hillary ads that -- about Trump being in charge of the nuclear code are on point. That it is possible for a president in an impulsive moment to do things that could create extraordinary damage around the world.
TRUDEAUSo yeah, I think we'll survive it if it happens. As far as being on a downward slope, I tend not to look at the world that way. I -- you said that you didn't feel that the establishment is forthcoming in information. I feel there's a flood of information coming from every quarter. I have a problem sorting through it, there's so much. I mean, I used to get up in the morning and read the Times and the -- a couple of other newspapers and feel -- and a couple periodicals and I felt well-informed. I couldn't, you know, I feel selectably informed now. And…
REHMBecause there's so much out there. Yeah.
TRUDEAUYeah, there's so much out there. And could there be more transparency? Sure. Obviously, people would have wanted that from Hillary Clinton, in terms of her email. But -- and certainly in cases like that we would want more transparency.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Garry, what about the other side of that, the secrecy disclosed by the likes of Julian Assange? What do you think that does to our feelings of vulnerability of being talked down to, of not knowing what's going on?
TRUDEAUWell, with a huge national security establishment that hires literally millions of people this is a creation that just never existed in our history. And so there's going to be a tremendous amount of data and intelligence that are in the hands of our leaders and various agencies. Are we entitled to know everything that they have?
TRUDEAUYou know, the problem for me is that I come from the Pentagon Papers generation. And I thought that was an enormous public service that Daniel Ellsberg did in revealing the inner workings of the defense establishment and all the lies that -- we learned of all the lies that they were telling the American people in terms of how the Vietnam War was going.
TRUDEAUSo my views are sort of colored by that. I tend to think of more information as being better. But in that particular case I do think that the wholesale dumping of raw intelligence into the, you know, into the world was not in our national interest.
REHMI wonder if more is coming. He has in fact threatened to put out more that's derogatory in regard to Hillary Clinton.
TRUDEAUWell, it's possible.
REHMPossible and you know, would you, if you were doing a daily column now, would Hillary Clinton be part of it?
TRUDEAUWell, as I indicated earlier, I'm suffering from Trump derangements and drama as much as everybody else. And so it's very hard for me to pivot back to Hillary. Hillary feels like homework to me right now. That yes, she's flawed. Yes, there are weaknesses. Yes, there are things that I could be pointing out. But when there's this three-ring circus next door, it's just so hard to take that seriously. I see Donald Trump as an enormous threat. And to turn to…
REHMBut why is he such a threat?
TRUDEAUBecause he is so unbalanced and so ignorant. And Hillary is neither of those things. And so regardless of what you think of her policy, she is the sane vote to cast in my opinion.
REHMDo you think the debates coming up will indicate that clearly?
TRUDEAUI hope so. I hope so.
REHMDo you think that he will be so well versed as to come across as someone who has all the qualities of what we need in a president?
TRUDEAUI think it unlikely in that there's no indication that he'll be preparing. And even our…
REHMThat's what he's already said.
TRUDEAUEven our most policy-wonkish candidates have always prepared. And I think he's gonna try to live by his wits, as he did during the debates and through use of destabilizing insults or whatever he can do to throw her off-balance.
REHMIt's really an extraordinary thing that a man running for president would not prepare for debates. But we'll leave it at that. Garry Trudeau, this book filled with the comic strips he's written for the last 30 years, that focus 30 years of Doonesbury on Trump. The book it titled, "Yuge," with a Y. Thanks for being here.
TRUDEAUOh, it was my great pleasure.
REHMThank you. And thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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