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This is one of the chapters of my career that lacks a hero.

But the Greeks discovered in the sixth century


BC that cautionary tales are the most enlightening. The playwrights of Athens gave us “hubris” defined
as excessive pride or self-confidence—a fault that preened into the center spotlight in the election of
2016.
On election day, November 8, I was preparing to anchor CBS News coverage beginning with the CBS
Evening News. An hour before the broadcast, I began to suspect the night was not going the way most
everyone expected. We had reporters in precincts across the country asking voters how they voted and
why. These “exit polls” were the subject of a confidential briefing by our director of elections and
surveys, Anthony Salvanto, PhD. As I started scanning his early exit poll report, my finger stopped cold in
the middle of one column. I thought I was reading it wrong or the poll contained an error. “Anthony, does
this show Trump winning among women?” Trump, after all, was running against a woman and, a month
before, he was caught on video tape bragging about sexual assault. “That’s right,” Salvanto con- firmed.
“He’s ahead with women.” Ten hours later, I would be explaining to our audience how Hillary Clinton
won the election but lost the presidency.
Weeks before, all the polls had the former secretary of state a full lap ahead of Donald Trump. I
believed them. But I began to question my confidence as I listened to voters for a 60 Minutes story we
called “Ask Ohio.” I’m not saying 60 Minutes predicted the election upset, but I will tell you everything
you needed to know to foresee the finale was in our story. Producer Henry Schuster, associate producer,
Dina Zingaro and I went to the “Buckeye State” because Ohio almost always gets the winner right. Since
1944, Ohioans have endorsed the loser only once—Nixon over Kennedy—and that 1960 election was
one of the narrowest squeakers in presidential history.1 Ohio is the ultimate swing state because of its
demographics and because it splits roughly half and half, north and south, between factory cities and
farm towns. The city of Lorain is one of those industrial cities—following the course of the Black River as
it empties into Lake Erie—about thirty miles west of Cleveland. In 1895, the spark of the American
Century ignited a blast furnace.2 And for 121 years, a job at the Lorain steel mill was a birthright. The
plant, two miles long, forged the rails, drill pipe, weapons and wonders of the twentieth century. “Oh my,
it was wonderful. We were making steel. We were making money,” Carlos Hernandez told me as we
walked along the chain link fence that bounded the mill. Making steel was all Hernandez knew for
twenty-eight years. But, seven months before we met, he and 542 steelworkers punched the clock for
the last time. Cheap Chinese steel helped silence the furnace in a new century that the fifty-six-year-old
Hernandez feared would not be America’s. He told me, “It was just a funeral procession coming out the
gate, knowing that you never was coming back. You know, we sacrificed time with our families to try to
make this company succeed. And this is what it’s come to. Just a ghost town. Just a rusted, empty,
meaning- less place.” Across from the plant entrance I could see a shop- ping street of low red-brick
buildings and beckoning plate glass windows. Storefronts that once hawked housewares, clothes and
jewelry displayed only a ref lection of the silent plant. Near the corner, a café appeared to be the sole
survivor. Unemployment checks kept the coffee boiling. The counter seats were taken by the kind of
misery that truly does love company. High on a shelf, in the direction of Heaven and just above the Coco
Puffs, a figure of the Virgin Mary blessed the scene. Behind the counter, a warning reminded patrons
that a certain dignity must be maintained. Pull Up Your Pants, it read. I stepped back outside onto the
vacant sidewalk and noticed a black plastic trash bag covered the stoplight. Apparently, the probability of
a collision had fallen close to zero.
Not all of Lorain was a ghost town. Hard times had not yet pulled in at George’s Family Restaurant,
something of a land- mark. George’s is the kind of place where pancakes are as wide as the plate and
industrial grade coffee steams in white ceramic mugs with Made in China stamped on the bottom. The
mansard roof of George’s displayed the word RESTAURANT, but the painter had to hyphenate the noun
to round a corner. This left “-URANT” across the front. “You rant,” I thought. And inside, did they ever.
“Trump? I don’t trust him. Can you imagine if he’s the president of the United States, what’s he’s gonna
do behind closed doors with women, with his secretaries?” This was the view of Aury Hernandez,
Carlos’s wife who joined us for coffee. Aury was stubbornly for Clinton. Carlos was voting Trump. Given
the family’s Hispanic heritage, Aury was repelled by Trump’s immigration proposals. Carlos, on the other
hand, was a single- issue voter; jobs, specifically, his job. They had been married thirty-six years. I was
hoping they’d get to thirty-seven. I said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you two sat down together to
watch the first debate.”
“Oh! We couldn’t sit together,” Aury said. “No, he sits in the bedroom, I sit in front of the living room
TV.” Carlos jumped in, “And then we come back and forth and argue.” The Hernandezes were raising two
grandchildren whom their daughter was unable to support. Carlos drew unemployment benefits. They
also relied on a government child support program but were unaware the program had been created
with the support of Senator Hillary Clinton. Aury was working, but fast-food wages left them going broke
fast. Carlos told me, “It just shows how we’re losing our jobs. How things are moving away. Everybody’s
saying how illegal aliens are coming in and takin’ our jobs. Well, the jobs are moving. Immigrants don’t
need to come here anymore; jobs are going to them.” It seemed to me Carlos had to be an outlier. I
would expect a lifelong union man to be campaigning for the Democrat. So I went to the union hall of
United Steel Workers Local 1104 and, as I expected, the front door featured a bright blue Hillary Clinton
poster. But inside, the poster couldn’t paper over the outrage of laid-off men. “So, show of hands,” I said
to a group of former mill workers. “How many Trump voters do we have?” All hands but one reached for
the ceiling. The one was undecided. Greg Sedar told me, “We need jobs and we’re desperate enough
we’ll take ’em from whoever is gonna give ’em.” Wayne Townsend chimed in, “The idea of getting a good
job like we had and working it for thirty years and getting the American dream of a house, a car, a child
and a family and then retiring at a decent age before you’re too old and too crippled to enjoy it—that’s
gone because of trade deals.” I noticed in Local 1104 there were only two portraits on the wall: Philip
Murray, who oversaw the bloody founding of the United Steel Workers in Cleveland in 1942, and Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, the president who defined what it meant to be a Democrat in the twentieth century. It
was the union leadership that Scotch Taped the Hillary Clinton poster to the door. The rank and file were
lining up for Trump. For the first time in my career, I was in a Republican union hall.

The struggles of unemployed steelworkers seemed far removed from Donald Trump’s 5th Avenue
apartment in Manhattan. In September 2015, I was waiting for the candidate in his living room admiring
the high-rise view of Central Park but not so much his taste in decorating. The ceiling was frescoed. Most
everything was gilded. The living room reminded me of the absurdly pretentious palaces occupied by our
troops in Iraq. Mentally, I labeled the style of the Trump apartment, “Late Saddam.” This was my first
interview with Donald Trump for 60 Minutes. The gold on the furniture paled in comparison to the
candidate’s gilding of the facts. Trump swept into the room in an affable mood. He introduced his wife,
Melania, who had declined an interview but still wanted to welcome her visitors. Trump and I sat down
in an arena of light set up by our cameramen. 60 Minutes Executive Editor Bill Owens and Producer
Robert Anderson watched, a few feet away, on a bank of monitors connected to four cameras. Once we
began, I was immediately surprised by Trump’s lack of information. His blundering through the issues
was unlike any presidential candidate I had ever met. That’s not a partisan rebuke. At 60 Minutes, I’ve
inter- viewed Republican nominees George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. I’ve done multiple
interviews with Republican congressional leaders including John Boehner, Mitch Mc- Connell and Paul
Ryan. Each of them knew the issues cold. You could agree or disagree with their policies but their pro-
posed solutions to America’s challenges were at least thoughtful and plausible. Trump, on the other
hand, had no idea what he was talking about. He seemed confident his audience wouldn’t know the
difference.
I asked Trump how a tycoon could understand the frustrations of the unemployed. He said, “You look
at the real unemployment rate is [sic] through the roof because all of these people, ninety-three million,
they can’t get jobs, people can’t get jobs. And I will change that around very quickly.”
Ninety-three million? I thought. Did I hear him right? The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (bear with me
here) reports that in October 2016, the number of people in the entire US labor force was 159,712,000.8
Those were people who were working or recently seeking a job. So, if ninety-three million of them “can’t
get jobs,” that would mean the unemployment rate was 58 percent. For perspective, the estimated
unemployment rate in the 1930s during the Great Depression, peaked at just under 25 percent.9 As
Trump and I spoke, the unemployment rate was actually 5 percent—not 58 percent. And 5 percent was
half of what President Obama faced in his first year. The number of jobless Americans looking for work
was fewer than eight mil- lion, not ninety-three million. In a twisted way, Trump’s figure was accurate,
but it wasn’t true. There were ninety-three million Americans who were not working, but they were re-
tired, in school, disabled or dealing with childcare—in other words—Americans who had no intention of
looking for a job. Trump’s version of what he called “the real unemployment rate” left me with an image
of my ninety-five-year-old mother-in- law, marching into a factory with a lunch pail and a timecard. If the
unemployment rate were 58 percent, there would be a mob waving pitchforks and torches, pushing
down the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps this is what Trump understood. He needed
outrage to get his voters to the polls, so he trumped up an outrageous America.
About Obamacare, he said in our interview, “Unless you die, you get nothing.” When we turned to the
nation’s infrastructure, Trump said, “You know, we have to do something. We have to fix our country.
Sixty percent of the bridges are unsafe.” Fortunately for our country, that was another crazy
exaggeration. In 2017, The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card, said the
number of “structurally deficient” bridges amounted to 9.1 percent—not 60 percent.10 The ASCE report
noted that the number of deficient bridges was decreasing in 2016. Finally, on foreign policy, Trump
offered me this appraisal: “Let me tell you, we don’t get along with anybody, our country. We have bad
relationships with everybody.”
In our interview and in his campaign, Trump created a wholly imaginary dystopian horror where
unemployment is more than double what it was in the Great Depression; health insurance pays nothing
until you die, most bridges are near collapse and, overseas, America has not one friend in the world.
Then he offered miraculous solutions. On drug smuggling, Trump told me simply, “It’s not going to
happen anymore.” He explained he would deport all of the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants,
but he said, “We’re rounding ’em up in a very humane way, in a very nice way. And they’re gonna be
happy because they wanna be legalized.”
I got the impression Trump had little understanding of the challenges facing the country and not a clue
about how government worked. It seemed to me he was a real estate huckster who believed his own
advertising. In real estate “real” is what you say it is—all kitchens are “gourmet,” all living rooms are
“flooded with light” and all neighborhood schools are “superior.” This is why he embraced the phrase
“fake news.” He had to come up with an alternative explanation because if what America heard on the
news was real, then Donald Trump was a liar.
“You know,” I said to Trump. “The problem with a lot of these ideas is that the president of the United
States is not the CEO of America.”
“That’s right,” he acknowledged.
“The Constitution is gonna tell you, ‘no,’” I said. “We’ll see,” he replied.
“The Congress is gonna tell you ‘no.’” “We’ll see.”
“The Supreme Court is gonna tell you ‘no.’” “Well, we’ll see.”
As we wrapped up the interview, I concluded Trump wasn’t serious about being president and the
Republicans would never nominate him anyway. I believe I was right about Trump, but I was dead wrong
about the Republican Party which was willing to mortgage its conservative credentials to the flamboyant,
womanizing, flimflam man. On July 21, 2016, I was in Cleve- land’s Quicken Loans Arena anchoring CBS
News coverage of the Republican National Convention. Among those who were not there was the host
governor, Republican John Kasich, who refused to support the nominee. During his acceptance speech,
Trump laid out his proprietary litany of America’s woes and then delivered words that sent me lunging
for my notebook, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”
That’s as good a definition of hubris as you are likely to find. The Greeks had a solution for excessive
pride. The goddess Nemesis took revenge in many creative ways. She famously lured the young man
Narcissus to a pool where he fell in love with his ref lection and obsessed until he died.
In our interview I said to Trump, “You love hearing about yourself.” His answer was, for once, insightful,
informed and concise. “I do,” he told me.