Political columnist Ron Fournier talks about his new book on raising an autistic son
He also discusses his time covering the Clintons and how Hillary Clinton's campaign secrecy is hurting her
Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.
He has covered Hillary Clinton for three decades, through triumphs and controversies. Now Ron Fournier, senior political columnist for The Atlantic and National Journal, says a continuing lack of candor about her emails could hamper the Democratic presidential frontrunner in the election and beyond.
“She still isn’t being totally honest about what happened and why it happened,” Fournier told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. “I can understand why she doesn’t trust anybody other then her inner-circle, but my point from the beginning of the email scandal was, you’ve got to get over it. If you want to be more than just somebody who wins an election, if you want to be a transformational president, you’ve got to understand that this kind of secrecy… just isn’t going to fly.”
Fournier this week released a new book, “Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent’s Expectations,” on his relationship with his son Tyler, who has Asperger’s syndrome. In the book, Fournier describes an encounter he and Tyler had with President Barack Obama at the White House Christmas party in 2010. As the two of them were waiting in line to meet the First Family, Tyler was rehearsing how to greet Obama.
“For 45 minutes, Tyler is practicing what comes natural to most of us – ‘Hello, Mr. President. Hello, Mr. President.’ And he’s pretending to shake his hand,” Fournier recalled. “The couple in front of us is now being introduced to the President. As you know, it’s a very formal setting. And the Marine Guard is introducing him, and so we’re going to be next, and Tyler does his last practice, ‘Hello, Mr. President,’ and he looks up to me and says, ‘I hope I don’t let you down, Dad.’ Which even now makes me… I mean, what kind of dad raises their son to feel that kind of resentment or embarrassment?”
“I feel guilty to this day that I should have been able to tell him, ‘There’s nothing you’ll say, son, that would ever embarrass me or ever make me not proud of you,’ but instead all I could think about was, ‘Oh my god, he’s going to embarrass himself or embarrass me’… And I walk up and I grab the President’s hand, Tyler is behind me, and President Obama asks me about my basketball game, because we’ve played together, and he knows how terrible I am. And I look out of the corner of my eye and Michelle Obama is wrapping my son in this patented Michelle Obama hug that’s as big as a mountain, and she’s brushing away the hair from his eyes. And I write in the book, as I’m turning around, I’m thinking to myself… ‘You know, the problem here isn’t Tyler, or even the autism, the problem here is me. I need to stop being so worried about how he is being perceived by other people and help him be as good as he can possibly be.’”
To hear the whole interview with Fournier, which also touched on his time as White House correspondent for the Associated Press, his thoughts on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and how President George W. Bush inspired the book’s title at an Oval Office meeting with him and Tyler, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.