MetroFocus: May 23, 2017

It’s been just over 24 hours since terror rocked England and took the lives of over 20 innocent victims in Manchester, most of them young. The question for us just across the Atlantic: how vulnerable is New York City considering the number of soft targets and the security measures we have in place? We’re breaking it down. Then, from the war against terror to the war in the White House, PBS FRONTLINE takes a look at one of the president’s closest and most controversial advisors in the new documentary “Bannon’s War.” Finally, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal is back with his take on a certain president under siege. No, it’s not President Trump. Find out more!

 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' TERROR ROCKED ENGLAND YESTERDAY TAKING THE LIVES OF OVER 20 INNOCENT VICTIMS IN MANCHESTER, MOST OF THEM YOUNG WOMEN.

JUST ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, HOW VULNERABLE IS NEW YORK CITY IN MANHATTAN HAS SOME OF THE BEST SECURITY IN THE WORLD.

IT'S AWASH WITH SOFT TARGETS.

WE'RE BREAKING IT DOWN.

FROM THE WAR AGAINST TERROR TO THE WAR IN THE WHITE HOUSE.

STEVE BANNON'S WAR.

FRONT LINE LOOKS AT ONE OF THE PRESIDENT'S CLOSEST AND MOST CONTROVERSIAL ADVISORS.

SIDNEY BLOOMENTHAL IS BACK.

ALL THAT AND MORE AT 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

Announcer: THIS IS 'METROFOCUS.'

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY --

> SO MANY YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL INNOCENT PEOPLE LIVING AND ENJOYING THEIR LIVES MURDERED BY EVIL LOSERS.

I WON'T CALL THEM MONSTERS, BECAUSE THEY WOULD LIKE THAT TERM.

THEY WOULD THINK THAT'S A GREAT NAME.

I WILL CALL THEM FROM NOW ON LOSERS, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE.

THEY'RE LOSERS.

AND WE WILL HAVE MORE OF THEM.

BUT THEY'RE LOSERS, JUST REMEMBER THAT.

THAT WAS PRESIDENT TRUMP REACTING TO THE RECENT ATTACK AT MANCHESTER ARENA.

THERE ARE TENSIONS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC AS THE WORLD WAITS FOR ISIS AND OUR CITY STANDS AS READY.

ON ALERT TO COUNTER IF PROVOKED.

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

MANHATTAN IS AWASH WITH VULNERABLE SOFT TARGETS.

TAKE PENN STATION AND MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.

THESE TWO NEW YORK LANDMARKS SIT ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER.

THAT'S JUST TWO AMONG COUNTLESS OTHERS ACROSS THE CITY.

THE NYPD TERROR UNIT AND DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY REMAIN VIGILANT IN THEIR EFFORTS TO THWART ANY ATTACKS.

JOINING ME TO DISCUSS MANHATTAN'S SOFT TARGETS AND OUR PERSONAL SAFETY IS MICHAEL BALBONI.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU.

FIRST OF ALL, TELL ME, SO MANY PEOPLE COME IN AND OUT OF PENN STATION.

SO MANY PEOPLE GO TO MADISON SQUARE GARDEN FOR MUSICAL, SPORTING EVENTS.

WHAT MAKES THESE TWO SUCH SOFT TARGETS?

THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE YOU CAN'T SCREEN THE INDIVIDUALS THAT COME THROUGH.

I ASSURE YOU, NYPD, COUNTERTERRORISM, HOMELAND SECURITY, THEY HAVE ALL DONE VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENTS ON TARGETS LIKE THIS, BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF THE FACT THAT THERE'S A TRANSPORTATION HUB UNDERNEATH A LARGE VENUE AND AN OFFICE TOWER.

THERE'S WHAT THEY CALL A DESIGN BASIS THREAT THAT LOOKS AT WHAT TYPES OF ATTACKERS COULD OCCUR, HOW DO YOU STOP THEM.

THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU COULD PREVENT EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE ATTACK.

IT'S NOT ABOUT ELIMINATING RISK.

IT'S ABOUT MANAGING IT.

FROM WHAT YOU SEE IN FRONT OF THE BUILDING WHICH WOULD PREVENT A VEHICLE TO COME INTO THE -- WHAT THEY CALL THE BUILDING PENETRATION, DOWN THE STEPS, THAT'S PREVENTED.

THERE'S SCREENING, LOTS OF SCREENING DONE PRIOR TO ANY TYPE OF EVENT THAT YOU WOULD HAVE INSIDE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.

THERE'S SECURITY PERSONNEL BOTH SEEN AND UNSEEN.

IF YOU HAVE A HIGH PROFILE EVENT -- A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE LOTS OF CAMERAS.

CAMERAS RIGHT THERE ON THE POLE.

YOU HAVE UNDERCOVER OFFICERS, PEOPLE STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.

PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE CROWD.

WE'RE TALKING INSIDE PENN STATION AND MADISON SQUARE STATION?

AND MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.

IN ADDITION TO THE HEAVY POLICE PRESENCE, WHICH IS A DETERRENT.

BY HAVING NATIONAL GUARDSMEN AND STATE TROOPERS IN ADDITION TO THE POLICE AND NYPD, YOU PROVIDE A REALLY ROBUST VISUAL DEFENSE.

OF COURSE, A RESPONSE CAPABILITY THAT'S UNPARALLELED.

USUALLY WHEN WE HAVE AN EVENT IN A TERRORIST ATTACK, ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT HAPPENS IS THE REACTION, WHAT IS IT WE CAN DO TO BEEF UP SECURITY TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE GONE THAT EXTRA STEP?

IS IT POSSIBLE TO PREVENT SOMETHING LIKE WHAT HAPPENED AT THE MANCHESTER ARENA, OR IS IT SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND, WE HAVE TO BE VIGILANT BUT WE CAN'T ALWAYS BE 100% INSULATED?

YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GUARANTEE PEOPLE'S SAFETY.

IT'S THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.

IT'S NOT ABOUT ELIMINATING RISK.

IT'S ABOUT MANAGING IT.

IN A HIGH PROFILE VENUE LIKE THIS, LIKE BARKLEY CENTER IN BROOKLYN, YOU HAVE A CONSTANT ARRAY OF EVENTS AND HIGH PROFILE PERSONNEL COMING IN AND OUT OF THERE.

THE SECURITY TEMPO IS VERY HIGH AT THOSE VENUES.

I THINK NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT IS ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD AT PROTECTING NEW YORKERS AND VENUES.

HAVING SAID THAT, WHAT MADE MANCHESTER SUCH A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT WAS THEY PICKED A SITE THAT WASN'T IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY.

THERE WAS SECURITY THERE, BUT IT DIDN'T HAVE ANYWHERE NEAR THE PROFILE OF A VENUE LIKE THIS.

THEY CHOSE WHEN FOLKS WERE LEAVING, NOT ENTERING THE FACILITY.

SO OFTEN TIMES WHAT WE DO IN TERMS OF SECURITY IS WE REACT IN A WAY THAT WE TRY TO -- WE TRY TO PREVENT PEOPLE FROM TARGETING THE EVENT WHEN WE DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO OTHER THREATS THAT CAN HAPPEN OUTSIDE OF THE EVENT.

THAT ACTUALLY KIND OF LEADS ME INTO MY POINT.

THERE ARE SOFT TARGETS ALL AROUND THE CITY, SMALLER VENUES WHERE YOU HAVE ARTS OR CULTURAL EVENTS, SPORTING EVENTS.

IS THIS A CHANCE WHERE SOME OF THE SAME SECURITY MEASURES THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT HERE SHOWING UP IN SOME OF THE OTHER FACILITIES?

I THINK -- THESE EVENTS THAT DRAW THE WORLD'S VIEW OF THIS -- EVERYONE WILL ANSWER THE SAME QUESTION.

HOW CAN WE PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING AT ANOTHER VENUE.

SHOULD YOU TAKE THE PERIMETER, THAT IS THE SECURITY CORE DONE YOU PUT AROUND A FACILITY AND EXPAND IT OUT?

THAT WOULD DO TWO THINGS.

PROVIDE FOR GREATER STAND OFF DISTANCE, MAYBE YOU COULD SEE THE THREAT COMING BEFORE IT HAPPENS.

IT MEANS THAT YOU COULD PERHAPS DISBURSE THE POPULATION.

WHAT THEY WANTED WAS A BODY COUNT.

MAYBE IF YOU DISBURSE PEOPLE THROUGHOUT AT A BIGGER PERIMETER, YOU COULD PROVIDE LESS OF A TARGET FOR THEM.

THOSE ARE THINGS THAT SMALL VENUES, LESS PROFILE VENUES WILL LOOK AT.

THE QUESTION ABOUT BOMB DOGS.

WHAT TYPE OF DETECTION CAPABILITIES CAN YOU HAVE?

WHAT TYPES OF THINGS CAN YOU SUSTAIN?

WHENEVER YOU HAVE A TRANSPORTATION HUB CONNECTED TO A FACILITY LIKE THIS, THERE'S ALWAYS THAT THREAT OF SOMEONE GETTING ON A TRAIN AND COMING IN.

IF THEY ARE A DETERMINED SUICIDE BOMBER, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO PICK THEM UP AHEAD OF TIME.

THAT'S WHY INTELLIGENCE, INFORMATION SHARING, ALL THE THINGS WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, EVER SINCE 9/11, MATTER FROM AN OPERATIONAL PERSPECTIVE.

I WANT TO PIVOT A LITTLE BIT FOR A QUICK MOMENT AND TALK ABOUT THE NATURE OF AN ATTACK LIKE THIS AT THIS PARTICULAR CONCERT.

THIS WAS AN EVENT, ARIANA GRANDE.

SHE'S BIG WITH YOUNG TEENAGE GIRLS.

WE HAVE SEEN ATTACKS WHERE MAYBE IT'S NOT THE YOUTH FACTOR BUT CULTURAL EVENTS, WHERE PEOPLE ARE GATHERED FOR CULTURAL REASONS.

IS THAT INTENTIONAL ON THE PART OF TERRORISTS?

PART OF WHAT TERRORISM WANTS TO DO IS TO SCARE, BUT ALSO SHOCK.

THE THOUGHT OF THIS COMING TO YOUR CITY WOULD POSSIBLY MAKE YOU CAPITULATE TO WHATEVER LUNATIC DEMANDS THEY WOULD HAVE.

HAVING SAID THAT, THEY ARE TARGETING -- IN AND OF ITSELF, THEY HAVE GONE TO AN EVENT, THEY HAVE GONE TO WORK AND THEY ARE MAKING IT ABOUT CHILDREN, THAT IS -- THAT'S MEANT TO SHOCK THE CONSCIENCE OF THE TARGET AND TO MAKE PEOPLE SIT BACK AND SAY, WE CAN'T -- THEY'RE CRAZY.

ALMOST LIKE THE KAMIKAZE FIGHTERS IN WORLD WAR II.

THEY WOULD LOSE THEIR LIVES.

IT'S AT A HUGE CHALLENGE FOR SECURITY.

TO PICK UP AND STOP A DETERMINED ATTACKER, IT JUST ADDS TO THE COMPLEXITY AND DIFFICULTY OF THAT MISSION.

ONE LAST QUESTION BEFORE I LET YOU GO.

WHAT IS IT THE AVERAGE NEW YORKER CAN DO?

YOU ARE MORE AWARE.

SAY YOU ARE GOING TO A CONCERT AT GOVERNOR'S ISLAND OR GOING TO ROCKEFELLER CENTER OR SOMETHING SMALLER, YOU ARE MORE AWARE AND YOU WANT TO BE CONSCIOUS OF THE AREA AROUND YOURSELF.

THE GREATEST THREAT TO PEOPLE AND THEIR PERSONAL SAFETY IS THEIR CELL PHONE.

PEOPLE ARE ON THEIR CELL PHONE.

THEY ARE IN THEIR OWN BUBBLE.

I HAVE WITNESSED PERSONALLY IN THE CITY PEOPLE STEPPING OFF A CURB ALMOST CREAMED BY A BUS BECAUSE THEY'RE ON THE CELL PHONE.

IT'S ABOUT AWARENESS.

IF YOU ARE IN A PUBLIC VENUE, YOU GOTTA PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND YOU.

I PROMISE YOU, GOD FORBID THERE WAS A VIOLENT ACT, IF YOU PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON, YOU WILL PICK IT UP IMMEDIATELY.

YOU KNOW WHERE THE EXISTS ARE.

DON'TPARANOID.

BE AWARE.

THIS IS A TOUGH, RESILIENT CITY.

PEOPLE WHO COME THROUGH THE WORST TERRORIST ATTACK, BUT IT'S ABOUT THE DAY TO DAY LIVING, PROTECT YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES BY BEING AWARE.

LISTEN, DON'T BE PARANOID, BE VIGILANT IS A GREAT LINE TO LEAVE WITH OUR AUDIENCE.

SOMETHING WE CAN ALL TAKE WITH US INTO OUR PERSONAL LIVES.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

MY PLEASURE.

> TONIGHT, AN INSIDER LOOK FROM OUR FRIENDS AT FRONT LINE AT ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MEN IN THE WORLD.

STEVE BANNON'S RISE FROM POLITICAL OUTSIDER TO THE WHITE HOUSE'S CHIEF STRATEGIST WAS NOTHING SHORT OF STUNNING.

ONCE A U.S. NAVY OFFICER, A GOLDMAN SACHS BANKER AND A DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER AND NOW CHARGED WITH SHAPING MOST IMPORTANT POLICIES IN THIS COUNTRY, NONE MORE SO THAN THE IMMIGRATION BAN ORDERED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP EARLIER THIS YEAR.

THE SCENE OF OUTRAGE AT JFK AIRPORT IN NEW YORK.

PROTESTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

REACTION FROM AROUND THE WORLD AFTER THE PRESIDENT SIGNED THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER.

THEY KNEW THAT THE PROTESTS WOULD COME.

THEY KNEW THE MEDIA WOULD ERUPT.

IT'S WHAT THEY WANTED.

WITH THE REACTION FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY.

PROTESTS, OUTRAGE AND BACKLASH.

ONE SENIOR TRUMP OFFICIAL SAID THE FACT THAT IT CAME OUT ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON WITH NO WARNING WAS NO ACCIDENT.

BANNON KNEW THE PEOPLE WHO WERE OPPOSED TO THIS POLICY WOULD BE ENRAGED.

MOST WOULD HAVE SATURDAY AND SUNDAY OFF FROM WORK.

THEY COULD GET OUT THERE AND PROTEST AND GET ANGRY.

TV CAMERAS WOULD COME AND FILM THESE PROTESTS.

IT WOULD BE ALL OVER THE NEWS.

SEATTLE POLICE ACTUALLY DISBURSED SOME CROWDS WITH PEPPER SPRAY.

IT WOULD SEND THE MESSAGE TO TRUMP'S VOTERS THAT TRUMP WAS KEEPING THE PROMISES THAT HE MADE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL.

IT HAD BEEN A STEVE BANNON PRODUCTION.

BANNON THINKS THIS WE'RE KILLING IT.

WE ARE BEATING DOWN THE ESTABLISHMENT AND LIBERALS INTO SUBMISSION.

WE ARE LITERALLY MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

I'M PLEASED TO WELCOME FRONT LINE PRODUCER AND REPORTER GABRIELLE SHAUNDER TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU.

THIS WAS AN EYE OPENING PIECE ABOUT A MAN WHO IS VERY MUCH SHROUDED IN SECRECY FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE.

FIRST WHAT I'M MOST INTERESTED IN IS COULD ANY OF THIS HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF STEVE BANNON?

THAT'S A EXCELLENT QUESTION.

OUR QUESTION WAS WE WANT TO GET TO UNDERSTAND THROUGH THE INFLUENCING FACTORS WITHIN THIS ADMINISTRATION, WITHIN THIS WHITE HOUSE, THE WEST WING, VERY QUICKLY INTO BEGINNING OUR RESEARCH INTO THIS FILM, WE REALIZED THERE WAS ONE PERSON TO LOOK AT.

THAT WAS EXAMINING STEVE BANNON.

WHERE HIS WORLD VIEW WAS DEVELOPED, WHAT WERE THE INFLUENCES ON HIM, HOW DID HE ENTER POLITICS, HOW DID HE HAVE A RISE IN THE POLITICAL ARENA?

STEVE BANNON HAS NOT BEEN IN POLITICS THAT LONG.

GOODNESS, WE REALIZE VERY PLUSHACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH.

TELL ME HOW HE HELPED SHAPE THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN'S MESSAGE.

ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING LINES THAT WE JUST HEARD IN THE CLIP WAS THIS WAS A STEVE BANNON PRODUCTION.

I FEEL LIKE THAT WOULD BE THE TAG LINE FOR THIS ADMINISTRATION AT THIS POINT.

I THINK THAT'S FAIR.

WHAT WE HAVE COME TO FIND IN OUR RESEARCH IS THAT STEVE BANNON UNDERSTANDS THIS BASE BETTER THAN THE PRESIDENT DOES.

STEVE BANNON HAS HARNESSED THIS BASE AND MESSAGING BEHIND THIS CAMPAIGN AND THEN ULTIMATELY THIS PRESIDENCY IN A WAY THAT I THINK ONLY STEVE BANNON CAN.

HE IS A MASTERFUL COMMUNICATOR.

WE SORT OF GO INTO HIS HISTORY AT BREITBART NEWS AND REALLY THE TRANSFORMATION OF BREITBART NEWS UNDER STEVE'S WATCH.

IT'S CLEAR THAT STEVE IS VERY MUCH THE MESSENGER.

HE IS VERY MUCH SOMEBODY THAT CERTAINLY HAS DEVELOPED THIS BASE FOR THIS PRESIDENT.

TAKE ME BACK A LITTLE BIT TO THE BEGINNINGS OF STEVE BANNON.

HE GREW UP IN A WORKING CLASS HOUSEHOLD, I UNDERSTAND, IN VIRGINIA.

EVEN HIS FATHER WAS A BIG SUPPORTER OF JFK.

THAT'S RIGHT.

HE WAS VERY MUCH AN IRISH CATHOLIC, KENNEDY FAMILY.

HIS FATHER KNOCKED ON DOORS ON BEHALF OF THE KENNEDY CAMPAIGN.

REALLY THERE WAS THIS INCREDIBLE TRANSFORMATION OF STEVE WHO COMES FROM RICHMOND, REALLY EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIM YOU CAN SORT OF GO BACK TO THE ORIGIN OF HIS STORY IN VIRGINIA.

HE WAGED HIS JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE A REALLY UNLIKELY STUDENT GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGN.

HE WAS AN INSURGENT CANDIDATE.

HE WON.

HE RAN'S AN ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT FIGURE.

THEN SORT OF GOES ON TO JOIN THE NAVY.

IT'S THERE WHEN HE IS SERVING IN THE GULF THAT HE IS REALLY SORT OF TAKEN BY THE IRAN HOSTAGE CRISIS AND THE CARTER ADMINISTRATION HANDLING OF THE CRISIS.

IT'S WHERE THERE'S SORT OF -- HE IS SORT OF AWOKEN TO SORT OF POLITICAL FAILURE.

AND HE BECOMES INCREDIBLY ENGAGED IN POLITICS.

PEOPLE SUSPECT HE HAS RACIST LEANINGS.

HE HAS XENOPHOBIC LEANINGS.

HE HAS BEEN CALLED ALL SORTS OF NAMES.

THE FILM TALKS ABOUT HOW ONCE HE GOT AHOLD OF BREITBART, THAT HE WAS ABLE TO DABBLE AND MANIPULATE THOSE FORCES.

CAN YOU TELL ME HOW HE FOUND THAT TO BE USEFUL AT LEAST IN PROMOTING BREITBART?

YEAH.

CERTAINLY FROM OUR UNDERSTANDING, IT JUST SEEMS BREITBART -- I THINK THIS IS UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED.

BREITBART IS A HOSTING GROUP FOR THESE TYPES OF FRINGE VOICES, THESE OUTLIARS IN THE FAR RIGHT CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT.

STEVE SEEMS TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

HE SEEMS TO ISOLATE THOSE TYPES OF VIEWPOINTS AND CERTAINLY THEY WERE WELCOME AT BREITBART.

IN FACT, IT WAS REALLY A COMMUNITY OF LIKE ALTERNATIVE THINKERS.

WE GET INTO THAT QUITE A BIT IN THE FILM.

SOME OF THE LANGUAGE, SOME OF THE HEADLINES, SOME OF THE STORIES ARE JUST REALLY QUITE DISTURBING.

AND BREITBART REALLY BECOMES KNOWN FOR THESE TYPES OF NARRATIVES.

VERY QUICKLY, TELL ME HOW DOES STEVE BANNON'S ROLE PLAY RIGHT NOW?

THERE WAS A POINT WHEN WE THOUGHT THAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MIGHT ACTUALLY DISMISS HIM.

YET, SOON AFTER WE SEE HIM ALONGSIDE THE PRESIDENT ADVISING HIM ON POLICY AND OTHER THINGS.

YEAH.

LOOK, I THINK THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT OUR FILM GETS TO THE HEART OF.

STEVE BANNON HAS NOT GONE ANYWHERE.

HIS INFLUENCE REMAINS.

WHILE HE HAS NO LONGER GOT A SEAT AT THE TABLE AT COMMITTEE MEETINGS, HE IS STILL ABLE TO ATTEND.

WE SEE HIM CURRENTLY ON THE ROAD WITH THE PRESIDENT AND CERTAINLY OUR FILM HELPS UNDERSTAND THAT, IN FACT, PRESIDENT TRUMP NEEDS STEVE BANNON TO SUCCEED.

THERE'S CERTAINLY NO DOUBT ABOUT HIS CONTINUED INFLUENCE.

FRANKLY, JOB SECURITY AT THIS MOMENT.

LISTEN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SPEAK WITH US ABOUT THIS FRONT LINE DOCUMENTARY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

BANNON'S WAR AIRS TONIGHT AT 10:00 ON 13.

> HIS IS REVERED AS THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR.

152 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, ABRAHAM LINCOLN CONTINUES TO INSPIRE NEAR DEVOTION FROM AMERICANS OF EVERY POLITICAL PERSUASION.

THE MAN WHO PAVED THE WAY FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY AND HELPED FOUND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS VIEWED BY MOST AS THE GREATEST PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

WHAT ABOUT THE PERIOD IN LINCOLN'S LIFE BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY?

WHAT FORCES DEFINE AND SHAPED HIS VISION DURING THOSE YEARS THAT SET HIM ON A PATH TO GREATNESS?

THE ANSWER TO THOSE QUESTIONS CAN BE FOUND IN THE NEW BOOK, WRESTLING WITH HIS ANGLE, THE SECOND INSTALLMENT IN THE FOUR VOLUME POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF LINCOLN.

THE BOOK COVERS THELINCOLN'S DISAPPOINTING ONE TERM IN CONGRESS UP TO THE FOUNDING OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

JOINING ME IS THE AUTHOR, SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL.

THANK YOU.

THIS IS AN INTERESTING PERIOD IN LINCOLN'S LIFE.

PIVOTAL PERIOD.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS THAT YOU TRY TO SET STRAIGHT?

WELL, IT'S ALMOST AN UNKNOWN PERIOD WHEN LINCOLN ENTERS HIS POLITICAL WILDERNESS AFTER ONE TERM IN CONGRESS.

HE RETURNS TO OBSCURITY IN SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS.

HE EMERGES YEARS LATER IN THE MIDDLE 1850s AS THE LINCOLN WE RECOGNIZE.

HE HAS GAINED HIS VOICE.

HOW THAT HAPPENED IS VERY LITTLE KNOWN.

WE THINK OF GREAT FIGURES OF THE PAST ROAMING AROUND SOMEHOW GREATER THAN THE FIGURES THAT ARE AMONG US TODAY.

BUT THEY WERE VERY ORDINARY POLITICIANS WHO HAD THEIR OWN GREAT AMBITIONS THAT WERE THWARTED.

THEIR OWN CALCULATIONS, THEIR OWN SCHEMES.

AND THEIR OWN FAILURES.

THE MYTH OF LINCOLN DURING THIS PERIOD -- IT LIVES ON -- IS THAT HE RETIRED.

HE WAS PERFECTLY HAPPY IN HIS LAW PRACTICE.

HE WAS FORCED BACK AGAINST HIS WILL TO COME BACK TO HELP THE NATION IN A MOMENT OF NEED.

LIKE THE ROMAN GENERAL WHO WAS PULLED FROM HIS PLOW TO SAVE ROME IN A PERIOD OF DIFFICULT THERE.

THAT WASN'T THE CASE?

LINCOLN PUT THIS OUT.

HE HAD TWO AUTOBIOGRAPHIES FOR HIS 1860 CAMPAIGN.

THERE WAS A CAMPAIGN BIOGRAPHY.

LINCOLN WAS THE CREATOR OF HIS OWN MYTH THAT HE HAD ALMOST GIVEN UP ON POLITICS AND HAD ALMOST FORGOTTEN ABOUT IT, WAS IMMERSED IN HIS LAW PRACTICE.

THEN HE WAS PULLED BACK BIT KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT.

THE TRUTH IS, LINCOLN WAS ALWAYS POLITICAL.

HE WAS THE LEADING WIG, THE PARTY OF LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS, THE WIG PARTY.

HE HAD BEEN RUNNING FOR OFFICE CONTINUALLY SINCE THE AGE OF 23.

HE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST PRACTICAL POLITICIANS IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, WHICH WAS A VERY POLITICAL PLACE.

YOU KNOW, THIS BOOK IS ALMOST AS MUCH ABOUT THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE YEARS, POLITICAL HISTORY OF AMERICA IN THESE YEARS, AS ABOUT THE POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY OF LINCOLN.

THEY ARE INTERTWINED.

GIVE US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THAT PERIOD LEADING UP TO THE WAR DETERMINING THE WAR AND SOME OF THE PIVOTAL MOMENTS OF IT.

THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO THINK ABOUT TODAY.

WE CAN ALWAYS LEARN LESSONS FROM HISTORY.

THERE'S NEVER ANYTHING EXACT.

HERE IS LINCOLN.

HE IS OBSCURE.

HE IS A LAWYER LIVING IN ILLINOIS.

BUT HE IS A COMPLETELY POLITICAL PERSON.

AND THE ENTIRE POLITICAL SYSTEM DISINTEGRATES BENEATH HIM AND AROUND HIM.

THE PARTIES FALL INTO CHAOS.

THEY SPLIT.

THEY DIVIDE.

THEY -- HIS OWN PARTY CEASES TO EXIST, THE WIG PARTY.

AFTER 1852, IT NEVER RUNS A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AGAIN.

HE HAD COME TO IT.

BUT IT DISINTEGRATED.

THAT'S BECAUSE THERE WAS AN ISSUE IN THE COUNTRY THAT DIVIDED IT.

IRREPARABLY.

THAT ISSUE WAS THE EXTENSION OF SLAVERY TO THE WEST.

LINCOLN EMERGES IN RESPONSE TO THAT AND IN RESPONSE TO HIS PERENNIAL RIVAL STEVEN A.

DOUGLAS, THE OTHER SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS WHO SPONSORED THE BILL THAT OPENED THAT EXTENSION OF SLAVERY, THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT.

LINCOLN THINKS LONG AND HARD.

THAT'S WHY HE EMERGES.

HE HAS PAID CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE EVENTS AND HE REDEFINES THE POLITICS.

STEVEN DOUGLAS, YOU CALLED HIM THE ETERNAL RIVAL OF LINCOLN.

YOU SAY IN THE BOOK THAT DOUGLAS FATAL MISTAKE WAS IN UNDERESTIMATING THE FEROCIOUSNESS OF SOUTHERN NATIONALISM, A MISTAKE LINCOLN DID NOT MAKE.

WHY WAS THE SAVVY POLITICIAN SO NAIVE AND WHY WAS LINCOLN SO CLEAR EYED ABOUT IT?

IT'S A VERY INTERESTING CONTRAST.

DOUGLAS WAS ENORMOUSLY AMBITIOUS AND HAD ALREADY SOUGHT THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION IN 1852 AND FAILED.

HE WAS GOING FOR IT IN 1956.

HE NEEDED A GREAT GESTURE IN ORDER TO GET IT.

THAT'S WHY HE SPONSORED THIS ACT, THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT.

HE ALSO WANTED SOUTHERN SUPPORT.

HE NEEDED IT.

HE WAS FROM ILLINOIS.

HE THOUGHT HE COULD MAKE A DEAL.

HE WAS A VERY SKILLFUL MAN.

HE WAS ALSO A GREAT DEMAGOGUE, THE LITTLE GIANT.

THIS SHOWS THE LIMITS OF DEAL MAKING WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE OTHER AGENDAS.

HE DIDN'T FULLY RECKON ON THE SOUTHERN RIGHTS, ULTRA SOUTHERN AGENDA OF TILTING THE BALANCE OF POWER, GAINING TERRITORY FOR SLAVERY BY CONTRAST LINCOLN UNDERSTOOD IT.

EVEN WHEN HE IS NOT ON THE PUBLIC STAGE.

EVEN WHEN HE IS THIS LAWYER WORKING ON THE SECOND STORY OF A BUILDING IN SPRINGFIELD WITH A TWO-MAN LAW OFFICE.

HE UNDERSTOOD IT.

HE UNDERSTOOD IT BECAUSE HE HAD BEEN IN WASHINGTON AS A CONGRESSMAN AND HAD SEEN WHAT WAS CALLED THE SLAVE POWER.

BUT HE ALSO UNDERSTOOD IT BECAUSE HE AND HIS WIFE WERE ORIGINALLY FROM KENTUCKY.

HIS WIFE SENT HIM TO KEN CONE FOR AN EXTRAORDINARY CASE TO REGAIN HER FAMILY FORTUNE.

HE LOST THE CASE.

HE SAW THE PRO-SLAVERY FORCES IN FULL OPERATION.

THEIR VICIOUSNESS.

AND THEIR GRASP FOR POWER.

I HAVE TO ASK THIS ONE QUESTION.

CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR DENNIS BRAGER SAID WE HAVE -- THIS COUNTRY HAS NOT BEEN AS DIVIDED SINCE THE CIVIL WAR.

IN FACT, WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF A COLD CIVIL WAR.

OTHERS OF DIFFERENT POLITICAL PERSUASIONS HAVE SAID SIMILAR THINGS.

YOU KNOW ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR.

ARE THEY RIGHT?

LINCOLN SAID, YOU KNOW, THE NATION CAN'T SURVIVE HALF SLAVE AND HALF FREE.

I THINK THAT WE HAVE A GREAT DIVISION HERE.

WHEN ALL OF ONE PARTY GENERALLY SUPPORT DONALD TRUMP AND ALL OF THE OTHER PARTY DO NOT, WE HAVE A VERY POLARIZED SITUATION WITH A VERY UNPREDICTABLE LEADER LEADING TO A PLACE WE DON'T KNOW.

SO I THINK WE'RE ON A WILD RIDE HERE.

OBVIOUSLY, I DON'T FORESEE A CIVIL WAR.

BUT WHAT LINCOLN ALSO SAID, I DON'T FORESEE THE UNION ENDING, BUT I DO FORESEE IT BECOMING ALL ONE THING OR ALL THE OTHER.

I DON'T FORESEE THAT SOON.

BUT I THINK THAT THERE IS A GRADUAL BUT GREAT RECKONING THAT'S GOING TO TAKE PLACE.

ALL RIGHT.

THE BOOK IS WRESTLING WITH HIS ANGELS, LINCOLN'S POLITICAL LIFE FROM 1849 TO 1856.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

> FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY --

> CORPORATE FUNDING FOR 'METROFOCUS' WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE & G, SERVING CUSTOMERS, STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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