Booknotes+ Podcast: Steve Kornacki, Host of “The Revolution” Podcast

By | January 3, 2023

Steve Kornacki, our guest this week, is the national political correspondent for NBC News. You see him often around campaigns and election nights in front of what the network calls the “Big Board.” He recently finished a 7-part podcast series called “The Revolution with Steve Kornacki.” It’s the story of how the Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. That happened in 1994 and was organized and led by former Georgia congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

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Steve kornacki his National political Correspondent for NBC News You see him often around campaigns and Election nights in front of what the Network calls the big board He recently finished a seven-part Podcast series called the revolution With Steve kornacki It's the story of how the Republicans Took over the U.S House of Representatives for the first time in 40 Years That happened in 1994 and was organized And led by former Georgia congressman And Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich Steve kornacki what got you interested In politics Geez it's a it's a good question I don't Know what it was but first time I was Kind of um Kind of exposed to it I was just Interested right away I think I was um I was a kid uh about sixth grade it Would have been and uh it was the Massachusetts I grew up Massachusetts Massachusetts governor's race 1990. Bill Weld was the Republican John Silber was The Democrat Um some said that weld was more liberal Than silver silver was more conservative Than well the roles might have been the Party rolls might have been reversed it Was an interesting race but my class did A uh a mock election and uh they I

Played uh John Silber and um that was my First kind of uh you know threw myself Into it and uh um it's one of those Things where you you don't um you know The whole world of politics that I knew At that point was just that one race That one campaign and I can look back at It now 30 years later and say wow those Were some those were some interesting Characters that was an interesting race And that was a very unique way to get Into it but I think I kind of caught the Bug then and that was that what was the Atmosphere at home when they saw you Getting interested in all this They were um [Music] I don't want to say horrified but the Thing that would happen was uh this is The old days this is you know internet Was basically non-existent and Um when I started to get interested I I Loved to collect campaign literature uh I would write to campaigns and you know Try to get bumper stickers and buttons And things like this and so we got on it Put my family on all of these political Mailing lists Um and my Mom hated that because she she Thought the mailman would get a set she My Mom's View was the politics is our Own business this is not to be talked About outside the family or anything and So she thought you know we were giving

Away Clues to the mailman about our Politics were what uh what was the Political atmosphere in your own home And did you have a brothers and sisters At all that were interested in this Uh so there's I have an older sister About a year year and a half older than Me um she was not particularly Interested um in politics Um I would say it was but my mom was More Um still alive but uh uh more of a Democrat my dad more of a republican so They would they would that was the thing I learned early they would both go and Vote in elections and cancel each other Out what about the tying politics then To journalism when did that happen Um yeah I started um uh I think one kind of flowed naturally From the other because I got interested In politics and found myself just you Know consuming uh you know again Newspapers were still the dominant the Dominant thing back then and so you know Wanted to write for the school newspaper Um you know in high school so you know It was the uh edited that with a friend Of mine Um contributed articles you know to the Local newspaper and got very interested In you know local you know Small Town Massachusetts politics and um So I think it was it was just kind of

Always there Um you know from that point forward Anybody that you admired in journalism At that time that got your attention Um sure yeah no I mean I I um I think Tim Russert Um you know in hindsight this was right Around the time this is you know early 1990s he was just taking over Meet the Press and I think he really kind of Revolutionized the show and and the Genre really the Sunday the Sunday show Genre Um and obviously I'll always associate Him with the with the 2000 election Um the Endless Night the endless you Know 40 nights that followed Um but I thought he was just a great Kind of narrator of that you know that Whole drama Um I I always liked you know again a Formative experience for me was the 92 Presidential campaign Clinton Bush Perot And that was if you remember you know That was sort of a talk show campaign Where they all suddenly started Appearing you know Clinton was on Arsenio Hall's show and Ross Perot was Doing his town halls and uh Larry King Was a was a central figure they all Started going on Larry King's show Um and you know obviously Larry King did More than just politics you'd have you Know old Hollywood stars one night but

But I that became I remember Um I was I was always curious who was Going to be on Larry King's show Um I liked his style I always liked his Style I know he took some some heat Because you know he wasn't prosecutorial With the interviews he gave the the Guest room let them be kind of expansive Um but I actually I did find you would Often learn more just kind of you know Having him let them talk and and Sometimes he would just throw in kind of A random question that no one no one Else would think to ask and I think You'd get some insight When you come in contact with the public Excuse me what's the thing that they say To you about seeing you in front of the Big board watching you on MSNBC asking Questions what is it that the what's the Obvious thing they say to you when you Meet people Um yeah I usually ask where where the Board is try to explain I don't uh I Don't you know lug it around with me Um you know It's it's this weird thing that I still Don't fully understand where I I the the The the pants that I was wearing um you Know during the election in 2020 which I Not an intended thing not a playing Thing it's not even a a khakis uh not Even a thing I always wear but it just It was covid uh there were limited

Options I just I had a pair of khakis on And realized we had 15 minutes to go Before we had to go on air so I just Tucked my shirt in and went on the air And then people started associating me With the pants which it's trust me I'm Still baffled by it but I do get that a Lot and isn't there such a thing as Cornecky khakis now that you can buy at The Gap I think they propose something like that Unfortunately my uh my contractor at NBC Doesn't let me cash in like that but we Got him to make a uh we got him to make A donation so I thought that was good One of the reasons we ask you to chat With us on this podcast was your seven Part series started out as a sex part Series called the Revolution was Steve Kornacki what was it what is it it's Still there Yeah it's a podcast Um that's it's the story of the 1994 Republican Revolution Um you know Republicans take over the House for the first time in 40 years Newt Gingrich becomes speaker of the House Um but really what it is it's it's the Story of the the long uh road to 1994 Which is which is in almost two decade Story where you know Newt Gingrich is The central player Um you know somebody who comes to

Congress on his third try in 1978 you Know at that point the Republicans are Just absolutely buried in the minority They have been at that point for a Generation Um the culture of the house it is such That you know just about every Republican assumes they will spend their Entire career in the house in the Minority nobody can even conceive of Anything other than Democratic control Of the house and gingrich's idea uh from Day one is to create a republican Majority and he believes there's there Are um uh there are things that Republicans need to learn and do and and The podcast is the story of over a Decade and a half of how he slowly Convinces wins converts brings in new Recruits convinces his party through a Series of sort of a very dramatic Um you know moments and dramas and Spectacles on the house floor Um he slowly wins his party over and it All culminates in you know Um what I try to you know here we are Starting this part this uh this Interview talking about uh me becoming Interested in politics in the early 1990s I mean I can remember the run-up To the 94 midterm and everybody knew it Would be a good midterm for Republicans A bad one for Democrats Bill Clinton's First midterm but I also remember just

Absorbing the media coverage and nobody In the media was talking about Republicans getting control of the house They were saying hey maybe they'll get 20 seats here this would be a really Good night for them and I remember the Shock of uh of that election and when I Talked to finally talked to Gingrich That's the seventh episode Um he likened the 94 election night 94 And the shock that it generated to um Donald Trump winning in 2016. and I Think that's right I think I think the Two were I think the two were just in Terms of blowing everybody's Expectations at least in this remedia Class I think the two are kind of on the Same level Where you talk to him um in that seventh Episode After the original sex were done excuse Me Um why and you tell us all through the Six that he you ask him and he wouldn't Uh sit down for an interview why do you Think he eventually said yes I've Listened to it of course and he says Some nice things about you uh and why do You think he was not participating and Then why did he decide to Yeah he said I mean I I you know we Asked him basically that question he Said you know something you know that They've been interested and there were

Some scheduling issues so maybe it was As simple as that but Um you know I I think I could understand With any you know public figure if you If you say you're setting out to kind of You know tell their story and go really Deep and Gingrich has certainly been a Controversial figure you know through The years Um there might have been some skepticism Of you know what's what's the angle here Uh and I I I I I I think in my sense is He heard the finished product and he Said it I mean in the interview he felt It was fair Um and that's what I that's what you Know I set out to do that's what we set Out to do with this Um to to tell I think what is a really Important and Rich Um and fascinating and in a lot of ways Fun story of of modern political history Um and to do it in a way that that um I Don't think was fawning but was was fair And I you know he he seemed you know When I asked him why afterwards he Wanted to sit down he did say you know He felt it was he felt it was fair and It was accurate and and and then uh he Wanted to uh he wanted to talk and we Were happy to I will say that there was a moment in Your interview with him which was kind Of interesting when he was talking and

He does has done this for years about The elite media and I think you ask him Who are the Elite media and he said you How much do you think though that he Didn't talk to you in the beginning Because you worked for a left of center Organization MSNBC you can't can't say That about the entire NBC operation but Do you think that he was suspicious that Your your politics or the Network's Politics would get in the way I think it's possible yeah you know it Was Um uh yeah that was that was a um uh a Funny moment I thought in the in the Interview with them but yeah and I I Think look he's he's Um we got into it a little bit in the Interview just in terms of you know one Thing I was asking him was about you Know his own attitude attitudes on the Right towards the media you know because It's it's it's been a been around for You know 50 years I mean you had Spiro Agnew you know railing against the media You know in the late 60s early 70s but One thing I asked him in the interview Is is it is it more palpable now on the Right has it has that sense of um uh Hostility toward distrust of you know The mainstream Elite media whatever you Call is it worse now than it was and he Didn't hesitate he said yes absolutely And so yeah I suspect you know whether

It was Ms or whether it was NBC even Um I I suspect that there was you know Suspicion on his part and again once he Heard the final product and maybe it Wasn't what he thought it might be Step back from the for a moment from the Whole project When did you decided you wanted to do This and once you got was it your ideas And then once you got it how did you get This through the NBC programming Operation and especially the kind of Time that you had to use in order to get There So this is I always tell people my Favorite thing about working at NBC is Access to the archives and I'm sitting At my desk right now actually in my Office and I've got you know a Searchable database of NBC News Um it's spotty once you get back before About 1980 but Um you can pull up the NBC Nightly News You can pull up individual reports The Today Show Meet the Press it's just all You know keyword searchable and I can I Can literally get lost in that thing for Days Um you know I'm the kind of person I Mean I tell you about getting interested In politics as a kid in the early 90s You know I would I would take the train Into Boston go to the Boston Public Library go to the micro fish department

And I would just call up a month's worth Of old newspapers and just pour through Them and absorb them and really try to Understand hey you know 1976 Presidential campaign what was it like To experience that in real time so I've Always been interested in trying to kind Of reconstruct history through you know Through media through these types of Sources so I've been you know pitching Folks you know in this building for Years on the idea of doing something That's archive driven Um that's you know a podcast that's That's archive driven so finally Um you know about a year or so ago we Got the green light to do a podcast they Wanted to to release it just before the Midterm elections so there was some Notion of having it midterm related Um and we were talking about it and Trying to talk through okay well you Know could we do a series of uh of Podcasts that explore different pivotal Midterm elections in history and as the Conversation kind of came around I think We realized you know why not pick what I Think is the single most interesting of Modern times and really go deep on it And that's 94 and Um in the Long Road 294 and we got Everybody on board with and yeah it was Um I had never done a podcast like this Before I'd never done this kind of

Serialized you know I've listened to my Share of them but I've never done one Um it was a fascinating process and we It came right down to the wire we taped Our final episode we wanted to get it Out the uh the Monday before the uh the Midterm elections and we um we got done About the Thursday before that How many people were devoted to doing it Uh we had a team of about half dozen People Um and and one of the things I mean Again it's like I I Now I understand the process and it was Um I liken it a little bit to what I Think making a movie must be like Because we would shoot these interviews You know we would talk to folks for an Hour two hours sometimes even more Um dozens you know of interviews and we Had you know probably hundreds of hours Of of just raw material and you know I You know we put the scripts together and You know write rewrite and I have a Sense of what the story arc is going to Be but just seeing it on paper and Remembering all of that raw material When I actually heard the Final Cut of It with the editing with the thing that Really blew me away was the sound that They mixed in the audio that they mixed In Um I really I was surprised how much That

I think affected the drama affected the Pacing the sense of suspense and it just Added another layer to it that I hadn't Even conceived of I didn't even know There was going to be sort of a musical You know background to it but once I Heard it I was I was kind of Blown Away By it Um so we had you know we had one person Devoted just to the music and I wrote Him a note after it too just telling him Like great job I I you know had Something I had not even thought about At all and it added just so much to it After it ran initially how could you Tell if it was a success Um well there's I guess there's two There's do my Um do my bosses think it was a success And does it meet their metrics and I Wanna I'm trying to uh I'll try to sit Down I mean they everybody's here has Been very kind and supportive about it But um hopefully that will also mean we Could do another one so we'll see about That Um but I I I I wanted Um I wanted people Whatever side they were on to listen to It and say that it was interesting and That it was fair and that's some Combination of that is the is the Feedback that I've gotten Um I feel like I've gotten that from

Folks on the left and I feel like I've Gotten that from folks on the right and I know it's it's a dangerous thing to do You're never supposed to do it never Read the comments section they always You know but I did I did find myself Reading through the um the reviews on uh I guess would be apple podcasts and Um I I was it seemed to me that there Was Fairly equal number just based on what These folks were saying a fairly equal Number of people from the right and from The left and generally positive and so I Just again that's that's what I had set Out to do I wanted something that that Um you know I just feel too much of Media is is is one side talking to Itself and ignoring the and it's I Wanted to create something that was Accessible to both sides I have a list of six clips I'm gonna I'm Just talking to our producers I'm going To jump to the second one because we Covered the first one talking about your Past when we started and the second one Was from episode three talking about the Cambridge tapes and Rush Limbaugh's Impact let's go to that and we'll get Your follow-up This is Congressman Newt Gingrich as a Candidate you've probably been listening To tapes from GoPack all year each one Of you personally brushes the teeth

Every morning Of the human being who is morally Responsible for whether this country is Free and prosperous and safe [Music] In some respects it was kind of an Intimate relationship because it was Just Newton eye in the car and we had an Hour and a half together and he talked About issues that ranged from taxes to Spending welfare to work Fair uh foreign Policy issues this is Gil gutnikt a Republican from Minnesota And the tapes have become the stuff of Conservative Legend Gilgunich would ultimately decide to run For Congress in 1994 and as he recalls The tapes were key to that decision but He stresses They were only part of it I think it was It was a lot of things there was a Confluence there was Rush Limbaugh on The radio there were the the go pack Tapes Um it was almost like the German word Zeitgeist the spirit of the times that's Right Rush Limbaugh on the radio I say On the radio I'm not trying to persuade Anybody don't worry about me hell no I'm I'm just guy on the radio having fun Am I trying to get anybody elected no Already did already did is what he said Gingrich and allies like Rush Limbaugh Would eventually get a lot of people

Into office It almost sounded like Carlin with that Humor uh Steve Bernanke The tapes what what are you talking what Is he talking about there the Gil gutnik List and listened to the tapes Yeah for for you know folks who are a Little younger than me maybe and and Don't remember the audio cassette but That was you know the 1980s early 1990s Um you're driving around in your car you Had AM FM radio and you had a cassette Player Um and then maybe in a newer model car You could put a CD in or something that Was that was revolutionary and Gingrich What he was trying to do was he was Trying to sort of Um he was trying to bring like-minded Folks to the house to Congress from all Over the country and this was part of His strategy of of kind of reaching out To to recruits he had an organization Called go pack Um it started I think in the 1970s Pete Dupont we've been the governor of Delaware ran for president in 1988 he Had originally been running it he Stepped down to run for president in 88. In Gingrich then a rising kind of Congressman from Georgia Um took it over And Gingrich would record these these

Audio tapes that were Um sometimes they'd be you know just Speeches that he delivered sometimes They'd be explicit sort of instructions To or you know kind of um a tutorial for Would-be candidates on how to talk about The issues Um the idea that getting rich had and The thing we that we really try to get Across to folks with this podcast who Don't remember it or didn't live through It you know was that the Republican Party in the late 70s and into the 80s In in the house and nationally was a lot More ideologically diverse Um I think than it is now true of the Democratic party as well the parties Weren't sorted out the way they now are And Gingrich wanted the Republican party To be defined as the conservative party And he wanted that to be infused with a Little bit of populism but he wanted it To be the anti-tax party he wanted it to Be the anti-elite party he wanted it to Be the party that was opposed to big Government that wanted you know Dramatically cut the size and scope of Government and he wanted to create a Contrast between that in a Democratic Party that he wanted people to identify With you know big government and a Welfare state and high taxes and big Spending and and things like that and The the idea of the tapes was to teach

People to teach Republican would be Republican candidates how to communicate On those terms how to stress what what What what a Gingrich type of Republican Believed in and how to make that Contrast to what Democrats believed in Because ultimately what he was trying to Do what Gingrich was trying to do the Strategy to win the house was to Nationalize politics because he felt if He felt that that basic contrast I just Described was a winner it was a winner For Republicans nationally it's why Reagan was able to win two landslides That's why Bush was able to crush Dukakis in 88 that's why Nixon was able To win over George McGovern in 72 by Such a landslide and he felt if if Voters took that same sense of contrast Into the voting booth in every Individual house district around the Country there'd be a republican majority So that these tapes were newt's way and They were just gilgutnik's a great Example state legislator in Minnesota Gets the tapes he's listening to him to And from his commute to uh to Saint Paul And he's learning to communicate like New and you got to imagine for these These guys who were you know young 20s 30s whatever it was you know starting Out in Republican politics with big Aspirations of of getting to Washington It was kind of exciting stuff because I

Mean you heard it in the language that Newt's using there Um I mean he said in extremely high Dramatic Stakes this could be the role You play in history and here's how to do It and that was something new that was Being offered you know to Republicans it Wasn't come to Washington be in the Minority and maybe after 20 years he Could become the ranking member on Appropriations I mean you know Um it was something much more exciting Than that and I think that's how he Ultimately built his uh his power did You listen to any of the tapes and are They available for people to hear today Yeah they're um they're tougher to find Than I thought although I did hear from Somebody after Um Um after the podcast came out it was a Complete set so I want to try to uh I Want to try to listen uh uh to those but There are some in in the archives down At in Georgia Um Gil gutnikt was nice enough to to Share some with us too Um but it was um you know what I mean What it really was you have limbo in There too Um I mean it was a version of of The Rush Limbaugh Show you know limbo was Was doing was much more entertaining he Had a an Entertainer's Flair to how he

Was presenting it but but Limbaugh was Was You know kind of pushing the same basic Message on the radio three hours a day As Newt was in the tapes as Newt was he Limbo was pushing that same contrast of Republicans versus Democrats Conservatives opportunity you know uh uh Uh versus liberals and welfare state That sort of thing I mean that was what Limbaugh was basically trying to push Every day too so there was that merger Kind of in the late 80s of of nude on The inside in in Congress in Limbaugh on The outside reaching 20 million people On the airwaves every day and and that Was a that was a big ingredient you Talked to former Congressman Bob Walker And Ben Weber and others were there any Of the participants back in those days With Newt Gingrich that wouldn't talk to You Um In terms of his core allies uh I know I Think we got we we kind of what we Wanted Walker and we wanted uh Weber I Think they were probably the the two Closest uh we did reach out I believe Um Trent lot Trent law had been in the House he left for the senate in 1988. Um and I you know that that Unfortunately I don't think that one Worked out but I thought Walker and Walker and Weber were two of the uh the

Very first you know to to line up with Newt in the you know late 70s early 80s Um and and a big part of this is you Know it's almost like guerrilla warfare On the house floor that that they were Kind of staging in in 1982 83 84. Um it's one of one of my favorite Episodes we did involves a confrontation Between Newt and Tip O'Neill and Walker And Weber were very Central to that and Wanted to make sure to get them both is There any way to quantify the amount of Time you personally put in researching To be ready to do the podcast Um it's tough to because there was I put A lot in for this podcast but it was Also the culmination of I mean I've been fascinated by this Stuff for years so I've you know I I a Lot of the you know Source material Um I knew where to look for it because I'd already heard it or I'd already seen It Um wrote a book a couple years ago Called the uh the red and the blue and It's sort of the story of Politics in the 90s it's a lot of Clinton it's a lot of Newton so some of This is also is also in that so I I I Got a lot from that uh from that Research as well but it really was it's It's Um uh you know something I've I've I've I've I've just kind of I've absorbed a

Lot of material about it through I can Remember Again in that early years of my Political uh uh uh uh interest uh one of The first books I read again from Massachusetts Tip O'Neill was this Towering figure in Massachusetts and um His Memoir was man of the house and um I Mean I remember reading uh this early 90s reading him uh his section on Newt Gingrich and uh and that knowing about That confrontation that we get into in The podcast that big on house floor Confrontation between Tip O'Neill and Newt Gingrich Um that's my first memory of it so That's 30 years ago how many politicians Had you met before you got into the Journalism side of this and did you work In any campaigns Um I worked on it uh Yes my um 19 1994 interestingly enough Um it was a volunteer and a local Um campaign for state representative in Um in Massachusetts Bob Hargraves uh was His name the first uh Middlesex District Of Massachusetts Um he was Republican and he it was an Interesting campaign because Um he uh this is way more than anyone Wants to know about the first Middlesex District of Massachusetts but the the Incumbent actually passed away right Before the primary and there was one

Other name on the ballot and none of the Local Republicans wanted that that Person to have nomination so Hargraves Ran a write-in campaign in the primary And I remember we we had to send Stickers out ballot the big thing to do Was we sat in somebody's basement Mailing stickers out to every voter in The district you could put the sticker On the ballot and they would count it as A vote and he won the nomination and Then he won the general election and Then he um is a very you know gracious Thing for him to do I still remember to This day he invited me to the um to his Swearing-in Um in January 95 so it was I got to be On the floor of the State House in Massachusetts uh for his swearing-in and It was also the swearing-in of uh Bill Weld for his uh for his second term as Governor and got to see all these uh if Anyone a name people might know Nationally Billy Bulger who was the the Longtime State Senate President in Massachusetts Um among other things so got to see him And and uh um I was a uh I was that's a Very memorable experience Here's another clip from episode three It gets into the real meat of um Of uh the gang-reach relationship with Speaker right let's listen to that and Get your feedback from it

And the opinion of the chair [Music] That's right presiding he's trying to Pass the Bill The Voice vote is Ceremonial now there will be a recorded Vote to put each member on the record if You've watched C-SPAN over the years you Know how this looks on TV the sound of The house floor is muted classical music Plays and members cast their votes by Electronic device and then Mill about And watch the tally board Foreign Stick with me here because the Procedural Details Matter if you watch The C-SPAN footage from this particular Vote in November 1987 what you'll see on The screen is the usual vote tally and Countdown clock set for the usual 15 Minutes And when the time runs out the vote Tally stops at 205 yays and 206 Nays That means the Democrats and speaker Right have lost by one vote Gingrich is In the camera shot here he's smiling He's standing behind Bob Michael and it Looks like he reaches over to shake Somebody's hand this is a big moment for The Republicans they are the minority Party right is a powerful speaker but They've won this vote they've convinced Just enough Democrats to join them in Opposing rights tax bill they're ready To celebrate but when the sound of the

Chamber comes back on the speaker Doesn't confirm the numbers that were Just on screen any other members in the Chamber who desire to vote And so now suddenly there are 206 yeses And only 205 knows There are no other members On this vote [Applause] And then Newt Gingrich it's on the mic Once this Boat is closed And all time has expired And that is on this tape we have it on The videotape once that has been done How can it be reopened What do you think I really wanted to Make sure we included that full story in This podcast because The the single thing that made Newt Gingrich among Republicans in this long Rise to power I think more than anything Else was taking down Jim Wright as the House speaker in 1989 forcing Jim Wright To resign and I think this moment that You're hearing there from November 1987 Is foundational to that because we try To get across here in the podcast is People are always talking about how Congress has changed and you know the Sort of the Norms have changed and it The idea of a back bencher and that's

What Newt Gingrich still was in in November 1987 he was he was gaining a Name for himself but he was not yet in Leadership the idea of a back bench or Going after a sitting house speaker on Ethics charges filing ethics charges Against a sitting house speaker was for Most Republicans even those who didn't Like Jim Wright that much A Bridge Too Far it just wasn't done Um and that that vote took you through Where this was you know right had a Vision of the speakership he had just Taken over at the start of that year From Tip O'Neill who had retired and Wright wanted a much more centralized Speakership he wanted to be a more Singular figure Um and he wanted that tax vote to go Through as leverage for dealing with the Reagan Administration [Music] You know this is this is something that Tom DeLay would do years later and drive Democrats nuts but Um he held the vote open knowing that There's this ex there's this congressman From Texas who owes his seat and house To Jim Wright and has told Jim Wright I'm for you if you absolutely need me And you know when the vote originally Fails Wright holds the vote open calls In the favor gets the guy to the house Floor changes his vote you know and and

It's the Republicans the reaction from Republicans you hear Gingrich there he's Irate but it's not just Gingrich I mean This is you know Bob Michael who's the Republican leader who represents a very Different style politics conservative But he represents a very different style Of politics than Newt Gingrich Um and Bob Michael's just as I read his New Gingrich when this happens and I Think it's no coincidence that it's it's Pretty much in the immediate wake of That episode that Gingrich goes forward With the f campaign the formal ethics Complaint and the ethics campaign Against Jim Wright and I think I think had it not been I wonder and I Suspect if it had not been for that and That kind of you know those kind of Actions from right I think somebody like Michael would have tried to reign in Gingrich in taking that step Um and if it had been if Tip O'Neill had Still been speaker in in Newt Gingrich Had decided to wage an Ethics campaign Against him this is something I asked Gingrich we sat down and talked I said Could you have done something like that Against Tip O'Neill and he said that no Absolutely not you know just O'Neill Even even among Republicans who didn't Like his politics they liked him Personally generally they didn't really Republicans didn't like right in an

Episode like that they felt right was Trampling all over them and then so Suddenly here's Newt Gingrich offering Them a way to to fight back even the Ones who would have been queasy before Suddenly They weren't going to stop them When you and a lot of what I want to ask You is about how you put this together Because people certainly can go and Listen to your seven part series when You got down to having to produce it Itself how much time did that take you Because of the music and how did you Work that out among your six people Yeah the the music I I literally I Didn't hear until until I heard the Final Cut and like I said it was just Like oh there's music in this and then Oh it's good it's it's great it really It I can't believe how much it helps Um but Um yeah we we would get a um we would Hammer out a script and and each episode Was about 35 to 40 pages Um there was a lot of writing rewriting Back and forth just just kind of Hammering out the script and then you Know you think that's the hard part I'm Used to just from writing you know once Once you get everybody on the same page With the script you're done then you got To go record and the recording is read This line now read it again now

Emphasize this word now emphasize that Word try it one more time you know so Um each each episode again 35 to 40 Pages of script Um we would take a first pass through That would take about two hours then We'd come back about a day or two later And there'd be notes you know uh each Line was numbered you know there'd be Hundreds and there'd be notes about a Few dozen of them so we'd have to redo Those and then we'd redo another set of Them so it ended up being three or four Days of uh taping a couple hours each Day Um for each episode just to try to get The right what they wanted I could see In hindsight was you to have a number of Different options for these Reeds Different tones Landing different ways And then um you know we we had you know Our um Or audio engineer just who kind of Figured out I think kind of brilliantly Exactly the right one for the right spot And put it all together how did you Determine the optimum length for each of The episodes Um I I think they felt you know 40 45 Minutes or so is is about the right time On these um you guys working with a team That's done a number of of different Podcasts before and I think that was Just kind of their sense from

Um from having done them before because Believe me the um The the scripts that I would kind of Send over to them definitely ran longer Than 45 minutes and it's it's I had this Experience writing the writing that book A few years ago I remember I turned in 170 000 words and the editor cut it down To 140 000 and I remember just seeing Page after page of red lines crossing Stuff out it was painful because I'm I'm Thinking to myself oh we're losing this Essential story we're losing that Essential point and now a couple years Later I honestly couldn't even tell you What the stuff was that was taken out And I kind of it was kind of the same With this podcast you know I would see All these Cuts made from the scripts and I'd wince and I said uh oh it's not Going to make any sense but once I heard It I I forgot most of the stuff that That we had taken out what podcasts do You listen to now Uh that mostly are about politics that You uh respect Um What God I'll tell you what what got me Really interested in this genre Um was Um series from Leon naphock Um and he started Slow Burn he's I don't Think they're called celebrity anymore I Think he's switched kind of you know

Places Um but his first one was about Watergate His second one was about the um Clinton Lewinsky Um he did one on the the 2000 election He was taking you know and I he's a Former colleague of mine I used to write For the New York Observer um Once Upon a Time and um I I just remember sending Him you know a note when I first heard It and just saying this this is Fantastic like this is you know to be Honest I'm kind of a little bit jealousy I wish this is you know stuff I was Doing Um but I thought he did he did some Terrific stuff there and it was I the The Um Clinton Lewinsky one in fact he um Um I never actually asked him how but I I think he struck some kind of deal with NBC because the the main Um source for for the you know news Nightly News the news footage that was Used was NBC Um you know for that podcast so it was One of those where I was just I'm Listening to it I'm saying but I've Always been interested in doing Something like this and now I'm hearing Somebody Kind of do exactly that I was like I got To be able to get this place interested In this um in this and that was that was

That was what got me really pushing them And it did take a few years but but we Got there I remember finding his serial Uh series on on Watergate on television On the ethics Channel and I think it's Probably still there uh it's a long Series Uh it was Yeah I I maybe it's made me wonder if There's a uh if there's a video version Of the uh of the uh of the Revolution But we haven't had any talks what what What's your sense of doing a podcast Versus doing video You know it's um I don't think I don't think anything was lost not Having the video for all of these clips Um and it's Um I was wondering when we started if it If it would be and when I heard it back It I I don't think so Um The only thing I can I can think of that Might be that's that's a little bit Missing is for folks who know What Newt Gingrich looks like or what Rush Limbaugh looked like or you know These major players See when you get the video you're seeing Them 30 years ago you've seen him 35 Years ago you're seeing what the Graphics on TV looked like 30 35 years Ago and there's a little bit I I think

That's that there's there's a funness to That I think and and and you don't you Don't get that when you make it a Podcast but I think in terms of Understanding the story Um Uh I I I I think you can picture it you know You could it was that scene you just Played from the you know the house floor At the gym right you know Newt Gingrich Uh battle a lot of I imagine a lot of Folks who listen to this do not know What Jim Wright looks like so they got To create but I think there's a there's A little bit of a fun in that too where It's Um we describe them we describe his Style you know he's a Texan you can hear That in his voice you know he's from the Older generation and and I think you can It's kind of like reading a you know Reading fiction you got to create you Know your own picture in your head and I Think I think there's a little fun in That In your interview with Newt Gingrich That happened after you did the first Six Podcasts uh there's a story that came up That you all talked about the CNN debate In 2012 That's what's that story with John King From CNN and also the impact that it

Might have had on Donald Trump Yeah I wanted to to ask him about this Because Um I had been uh on Hugh Hewitt the Conservative radio host I had been on a Show Um at some point in the last year and And he said that I forgot the context But he said that the if you wanted to Understand Donald Trump's rise among Republicans in 2016 the origin story is Newt gingrich's South Carolina debate up Uh in 2012 when Gingrich was running for President and and the context of that Was Um you know Gingrich was heading into The South Carolina primary Romney was The front runner Um and Gingrich was probably at 10 Percent in the polls in South Carolina It looked like it was pretty much over And there's a debate a couple days Before the primary and gingrich's second Wife Um who'd been his wife when he was house Speaker gives an interview to ABC News Nightline and says essentially that um He had he had asked for in open marriage And word that ABC was going to air this Interview and excerpts from the Interview leaked leaked out right before The debate the actual segment didn't air Until after the debate was on Nightline That night and so CNN was hosting the

Debate John King was moderating and he Started the debate by saying this was You know this is being reported by ABC News Um you know Mr Gingrich do you have a Comment on it and Gingrich just Um pour into the Um Paraphrasing this is this is the kind of Garbage that turns everybody off to Politics the fact that you would start a Debate for president of the United States not on a substantive issue of Concern to Americans but on some cheap Tawdry you know on and on like that and It is When heward had told me that it stuck in My head and when I was going to Interview Gingrich I re-watched it and It's it's very easy to find on YouTube And it is striking because it's there's A live audience for the debate there Must be a thousand people in the Convention hall and I I am sure most of Them did not show up that night as Gingrich supporters because like I said He was probably at 10 percent of the Polls Within 20 seconds of of this of Gingrich Laying in the king the crowd isn't just Clapping they're standing they're giving A standing ovation And and he goes on for two or three Minutes he takes two or three passes at

It and you just you watch that clip and You just feel this this energy this this This power in the room I mean whatever You think of gingrich's answer I'm just I'm just saying he's clearly has tapped Into something Profound here and of course he did over In in three or four days he jumped 30 Points in the polls he won the South Carolina primary by double digits over Romney Um didn't end up getting the nomination But it was one of those moments where You know I think Hewitt believes and I've talked to other people since who Kind of believe That's something Trump saw and saw the Power of and sought to channel that in In 2016 and that's that's what I wanted To ask Gingrich was you know did he Think that that Trump had watched his Performance in 2012 and and did that Shape how he ran his rhetoric toward the Media just the sort of you know that Trump made so much of his campaign in 2016 a drama of Trump versus the media And and trying to understand I wanted to Understand that I wanted to understand From Gingrich What it was that he was tapping into Because it's there's no question it was Powerful I want to understand what he Thinks it was and and he talked about You know the the it's an it's an old I

Think we all know I mean you could think Of you know as I said do you think it's Spiro Agnew 50 years ago you could think Of I know you know Dan Rather Conservatives didn't like him much in The 70s it's an old story of Conservative distrusting National Television media but I but what I want To know is is it is it deeper now is it Is it more deeply felt now and he didn't Hesitate to say yes absolutely and That's one of the things I explored with An interview is why that is what do you Think what's your own view of and and a Matter of fact I'll throw in this uh if You were advising a politician and I Know you might advise the Republicans Want to wearing the Democrats the other What would you say about this whole Issue that uh of uh challenging uh the Journalists Yeah it fascinates me because I like I Said I think it's just so I I've become Very interested in trying to understand The the evolution of media I mean I Guess to backtrack The big picture story we're telling with This podcast isn't just the Republican Takeover of Congress it's the Nationalization of our politics and and That's something that Newt understood he Understood that media was changing Um in a way that was going to make it a Lot easier to nationalize politics and

Then he wanted again that that contrast I was describing he wanted folks seeing It in every in every corner of the Country and that's something that's That's just happened I mean more and More than ever people vote straight Ticket Democratic straight ticket Republican and I think something that's Really you know kind of moved that Process along accelerated that process Is the evolution of media in the last I'd say generation or so Um where you you once you identify with Team blue or team red you can just You know live in the team blue Information bubble or live in the team Red information bubble and so when Gingrich describes what he's tapping Into in a moment like that in the debate Um or Hugh Hewitt says this is this is What Trump took and brought to a new Level in 2016. What I see is Um Yeah why would that be more palpable now Because if you're on the right there are All sorts of sort of alternative media Sources that you can that can um It's not like the 1970s where it was ABC CBS NBC with the Nightly News and your Daily newspaper and basically that was It you know unless you were one of those People who subscribed to these you know Political newsletters or something now

There's ABC there's CBS there's NBC There's also cable news channels there's Also internet Facebook Twitter social Media there's talk radio there's a Podcast so if you're on the right and You the elite media to take Newt Gingrich's term Um is reporting something Um You can turn to an endless number of Sources for a rebuttal And for a different perspective and for A a a different way of understanding an Event potentially and I I I just I think That's brought that's just ratcheted up That tension Um in a way that just when there were Far fewer media sources it just couldn't Be When you want to listen to the right Wing on media where do you go Um I think it depends I um I try to listen To the to Hugh Hewitt's show Um you know when I can I think I think He's a that's a pretty good um Um it's not just Hewitt himself he Brings on a lot of guests who I think You can kind of take the temperature Um I'll listen to Um National Review Um has a uh a podcast the editors that Um that I listen to it's um One of the challenges I think

In trying to understand Republican Politics right now is that there's still Um this this sort of Disconnect between A lot of the Um the the like you talk about like a National Review or something you'll hear A lot more skepticism about Donald Trump Um there than I think maybe exists among The average Republican voter I think That was a major theme in the 2016 Campaign Um I think that was I think there was a Lot of conservative you know Right-leaning Outlets made efforts to Really understand the Trump voters and And and to incorporate a lot of their um That understanding into their coverage But I think there's still I I'm I'm Aware that there's There there can still be a bit of a gap There in fact I think that's the biggest Question I have right now so I'm just Looking forward to 2024 and everybody's Trying to figure out Trump DeSantis maybe someone else but It's it's I really don't know I'm Picking up from a lot of these Right-leaning media sources in eagerness For DeSantis to emerge into Eclipse Trump but I'm remembering the these Folks also had an eagerness for anybody But Trump to emerge and Eclipse Trump in 2015 to 2016 and it didn't end up Happening back then and so I'm I I'm

Trying to keep that in mind as I as I Hear this chorus right now heading into 2024 that just because you're hearing More people uh in right-leaning media Say it doesn't mean it'll happen here is A final excerpt from your Uh Podcast this is the uh I believe we're Not absolutely sure you can tell I Believe this is the Gingrich interview You used a lot of games it wasn't your Interview but let's listen to this Because it brings up a very interesting Story about uh the Indiana eighth is I'm Sure you're prepared for let's listen to This Panetta says there were a lot of factors At play here but I think the thing that Really kind of sent the house in the Wrong direction was the fact that Newton Some of the other Republicans at that Time decided that with television in the House the best thing to do is to really Try to undermine the faith of the American people in the institution of The house and I think that hurt the House and it frankly hurt both Republicans and Democrats it was a Strategy that basically said we are Going to undermine faith in the house Even if it hurts Republicans because It's about this larger mission of Tearing the place down in order to get Power that that argument that

You torch the place and that's What got you the power but also Permanently wrecked Congress essentially What do you say to critics who say that Well I mean first of all I I'd like Leon And I marry him and we've been friends Uh but remember the Leon is the Democrat Who chaired the Committee which stole the seat in Indiana And when it came down to it in the end He did what Tony cuello told him to Which was still the seat Look somebody wrote a book the other Week I haven't had time to really Critique what I'd like to because about The destructionist Well they're right I set out with three goals Change the welfare state defeat the Democrats in Congress and defeat the Soviet Empire Well you could argue if you were a good Soviet that I was a destructionist You Could argue if you're a good Democrat That I was a destructionist and you Could argue if you were a liberal who Believed in the original welfare state That I was a destruction my that's what That's why I was elected Mr kornacky That's another it you know the bloody Eighth Um in Indiana

Um you know this District this this this Gets back to um night was it came after 1984 election and Um the Democratic incumbent appeared to Have been defeated by the Republican Challenger Reagan landslide in 84 this Is a district that had changed hands Countless times over the previous two Decades and the the Democrat Frank McCloskey the incumbent Um you know contested the election and You know the house has the ultimate it Is the ultimate Authority Um on elections to the house they can The house can choose whether to seat Somebody or not to seat somebody or who To see and so it's basically this whole Drama from the 84 election into the Spring late spring of 1985 where the Democratic controlled house refused to Seat the Republican and twice got Certifications from the Secretary of State in Indiana a republican Secretary Of State and and set up this Committee Of of three people two Democrats one Republican the the chair of the Committee was Leon Panetta from California and a special task force and They basically you know it was a it was A precursor in some ways if anybody Remembers the uh the 2000 election in Florida and the folks holding up the Ballots the punch card ballots and Trying to decide you know is this one

Punched all the way through is this a Gore ballot is this a bush bout that's What they were doing in Indiana's eighth District in the spring of of 1985 and You know it ends up being a situation Where he votes all go two to one two Democrats one way one Republican the Other way and they end up declaring the Democrat the task force task force does The winner uh by a four vote margin And they seat Frank McCloskey I think It's the very end of May of 1985 Um and again it's just one of these Moments where where Newt has been trying To convince the Republicans for years That they're being you know the Democrats are abusing their power Trampling all over them taking it for Granted and that they have to fight back They have to be much more aggressive and Much more united in fighting back Against Democrats and this is one of Those moments I think that that really Wins him A batch of new converts because the Republicans in real time see this as Just what Gingrich is saying in the Interview they see this as the Democrats Abusing their power to steal an election That they didn't win and it's a it's a An amazing Um scene I think we we have some of the Audio from it uh in the uh in the Podcast but the the the the part that

Really sticks out most to me is Tip O'Neill is still the speaker of the House and Bob Michael's the Republican Leader in Tip O'Neill and Bob Michael Had a very unique and special Relationship they were truly good Friends they enjoyed each other's Company they liked each other enormously Um and Tip O'Neill uh moves to swear in Frank McCloskey after this vote is taken And the Republicans stage will walk out In the house in O'Neill calls out to Bob Michael his friend and says with the Gentleman please stay You know out of respect to the new Member and Michael says no and leaves And with Gingrich and I I think it was Symbolically it was that's Michael and Gingrich were always two very different People and you know my one regret is Unfortunately Michael passed a few years Ago I would love to have been able to to Talk to him for this podcast and and get His his perspective on it but I think You know it's it's such a powerful Moment in the rise of Gingrich the rise Of his style of politics and ultimately The creation of that majority in 1994 Such a big moment when some even Bob Michael Burns his friend Tip O'Neill and spurns The idea of welcoming the member being Sworn in and joins Gingrich in the Walkout

I don't know why I looked this up but I Looked up both Frank McCloskey and Rick McIntyre and where they are today it Turns out that McCluskey died in 2003 at 864 of cancer and Rick McIntyre died in 2007 at age 51 of an apparent suicide And it's always interesting when you Look back at where some of these people Are that you're talking about in your Podcast Um yeah go ahead no I I did the same Actually because I I actually this I had The thought that I knew McCloskey had Passed um but I remember McIntyre was an Up-and-comer yeah I think he was like 28 Years old or something in 84. Um he actually ran a rematch against McCloskey in 86 and and got beat but I Had the same thought I was like let's Get him for the podcast and then yeah it Turns out his his I think his life had Kind of taken a turn there and um ends Up being just a tragic story I wanted to Ask you in your interview with uh Newt Gingrich there were a number of times Where he said something like he just we Just heard him say I like Leon and we've Been friends How is that possible in a town like this Now with the bitter especially around Newt Gingrich who a lot of Democrats I I Think I could say hated Yeah it's it well it was interesting With uh with some of these interviews

And talking to Gingrich Um I think one person he clearly had Um one Democrat he had respect for and I Think there was mutual respect because We interviewed him for this podcast was Tony cuello Um and Tony cuello was in his own way Um trying to change the Democratic party The house Democrats in the 1980s in in a Way kind of analogous to what what Newt Was doing he was also trying to Nationalize things Tony cuello was Really trying to connect the Democrats With with big dollar donors trying to Make more of an alliance between Business and Democrats and you know to His vehicle for that was the D Triple C And really trying to turn that into Something huge Um and I think he and Gingrich kind of Enjoyed just going at each other in the 80s and there was kind of a mutual Respect Um I I was we talked to steny Hoyer Um you know obviously who was there for All this and is still there Um did not get a sense there's any Lingering affection on hoyer's part for Gingrich but we talked to Dick Gephart Too Gephart was the you know was the Minority leader while Newt was uh was Speaker and I Deep deep disagreements

Um but I I did pick up on a respect There Um a mutual one and I and I and I and I You know get part I was I went into the Get part interview not sure what to Expect and if I had to guess expecting That um It was going to be you know very very Negative toward new and there was a lot That he said about Newton his role in The housing there's a lot he does not Like about what Newt did and what Newt Represented but I think there was there Was and it comes through in some of the Interviews with him I think I think There was a deeper Um there was a bit of a respect there Um that I um you know that surprised me I listened to all seven of your podcasts I've listened to you for the last hour Here and um from my perspective and I Watched a lot of Television listen to a Lot of radio I have no idea how you Really feel about any of these people How do you do it I think the stories I I love telling These stories I love immersing myself in These stories I'm fascinated by the Characters Um I love political history because of The what ifs Um I love being able to go back and I Can I the the fun part about research When I say I can spend all day in the

Archives is I really feel when I dive Back into the Indiana eighth and it's I'm I'm watching an NBC newscast from February of 1985. I really feel like in That moment that I'm back in February of 1985 and even though on one level I know Where the story ends in that moment I Don't and all I can see are the all of The different possibilities and I I like To put myself back into those moments Because I think you can understand the Motivations of everybody who was Involved they make sense when you when You're able to do that I think it's fun Just to to kind of ponder all of the Different you know different courses the Different routes that history could have Taken I think it's fun to ponder and I Think you can kind of learn lessons from Um from from what did happen and just Try to understand why why was this Ultimately the thing that happened but But I wanted to tell a um I I just I Think this is a what we have here with Gingrich with the the long you know rise To power and everything we've been Talking about for the last hour I just Think it's a rich story with fascinating Characters Um with with a lot of implications for For where American politics are today And my interest was in in telling that Story and telling it away telling it in A way where whatever side you were on

During it you can listen to it and say That is the story you know that is the Basic story and and if if I can get People from the Democratic side and the Republican side to say that then then That's a success I I know you probably Don't want to give it away but have you Got an inkling as to what you would like To do next in podcast land Um yeah I do I I I I I have a list of Five or six that that I would love to Dive into Um I'm not sure yet whether we'll uh uh Whether we'll be able to I very much Hope we'll be able to and um Um and and hopefully um hopefully I'd be Able to uh to come back and talk to you About it and I do want to just say Before before this ends it is the you Asked me what the the thing is that People say to me the most and I've Noticed through the years the thing that At least the callers say to you the most Is thank you for C-SPAN but this this Podcast thank you for C-SPAN because the C-SPAN archive Played a huge role in in this podcast Um your interviews you had a series of Exit interviews with with Gingrich in 1999 when he stepped down his speaker Um that was a before he would talk to us That was a rich source of material for Us but Um this this is Newt Gingrich arrived in

Congress in early 1979 the C-SPAN Cameras went live about two months later And so many of the stories that we tell In this podcast we've got plenty of NBC News footage but we've got even more C-SPAN footage I think in here and so Truly truly um for this podcast and for For for the last few Decades of my life Thank you for cease If people want to listen to all seven Where do they find what's the easiest Way to tell them where to go to find Your podcast The revolution Yeah I would say go to Apple podcasts or Spotify and and search for the Revolution with Steve kornacki and I Think if you just type in the revolution That'll probably get you close enough Steve kornacki thank you so much for Giving us some background on them from And some inside information on how you Put this together Ryan thanks for having me this is great Fun Thanks for listening to the book notes Plus podcast please rate and review book Notes plus and don't forget to follow so You never miss an episode Questions or comments we would love to Hear from you you can email us at Podcasts at C hyphenspan.org [Music]