Former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) believes we can all do better, namely CBS, which booked him in a joint appearance alongside WSJ’s Peggy Noonan Monday morning. That wasn’t the deal he struck with them, he told FishbowlDC in a phone interview, sounding blunt and irked. His new book, We Can All Do Better, hits bookshelves today. In it, he describes how everyone can do everything better, citing job creation, deficit reduction, education and immigration. We caught up with him about the Noonan incident, his thoughts on the media, including his SiriusXM radio show, American Voices.
So, you write that we can all do better. Can journalists? Absolutely I think journalists can do better. I‘d like to see journalists focus on the substance of issues and less entertainment. I think journalists share a fundamental responsibility in building America and making it a better. I think the structure of the media has changed. It’s fragmented audiences. They’re not watching general issues. That fragmented audience is matched by the fragmentation in Washington, the cable channels that are so narrow. That is fracturing our unity. You find people playing to the subscriber bases.
Have you ever been badly burned by a member of the media? I was burned this morning. Well, I was told I was going to be on eight minutes on the [CBS] morning show. Last night they said there was supposed to be someone else, Peggy Noonan. I don’t not like Peggy Noonan, but it was not the deal we cut.
What do you want people to take away from your book? I want them to realize that hope is still alive. I’d like them to know that we’ve had difficult problems in this country, depressions, wars, flaws in our democracy and we’ve overcome them all. I wanted to remind people that the American people are mostly good…our political system is flexible enough to solve our problems.. The key is having politicians who put country above party.
In general do you trust the press? The better question is does the press trust politicians? Too often there is an assumption that the politician isn’t telling the truth. There has to be the benefit of the doubt and deep investigative analysis of big things. There’s a Pulitzer in every tax bill and Appropriations bill if you look for it. There’s an opportunity here for a lot of improvement.
Which cable networks do you watch? I watch CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. I love [ABC] Nightline still, and the Sunday shows. I watch them sometimes, not all the time.
Can you name some specific nationally known journalists whom you trust? Well, I think Gretchen Morgenson at the New York Times, her coverage of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was absolutely wonderful. [Contributing Vanity Fair Editor, author of Moneyball and The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game] Michael Lewis is a great writer who covers important subjects in depth.
Your radio show involves featuring remarkable people…Who has been most remarkable to you? How has the program personally affected you? In the book, in a chapter on celebrating selflessness, I write about five people. For example, a guy who washes windows in New York, about the dignity of work. There’s a woman named Molly Barker who teaches young girls who are running to find their deeper powerful selves. When I left politics there were voids — one was not doing public policy 24 hours a day, the other was being in touch with people. This show allows me to do that.