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Plain Talk: Bob Woodward, Eric Holder and more round out the 2020 Cap Times Idea Fest

Plain Talk: Bob Woodward, Eric Holder and more round out the 2020 Cap Times Idea Fest

Woodward defends decision to withhold Trump's virus comments (copy)

FILE - In this April 29, 2017, file photo journalist Bob Woodward sits at the head table during the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington. Woodward, facing widespread criticism for only now revealing President Donald Trump's early concerns about the severity of the coronavirus, told The Associated Press that he needed time to be sure that Trump's private comments from February were accurate. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

That premier investigative journalist Bob Woodward's new book "Rage" was going to be a blockbuster was underscored this week with the release of excerpts and tape recordings of on-the-record interviews the reporter had with Donald Trump during the past year.

The first reports on the book, which won't be officially released until next week, focused on the on-the-record interviews Woodward conducted with Trump — in which the president admitted he understood the seriousness of the coronavirus at the very beginning of the pandemic, but purposely misled the American people, insisting it was just another flu and would be quickly brought under control.

But, there are many more behind-the-scenes revelations in Woodward's latest chronicle of political intrigue, including the president calling his military generals weak in front of others and insisting they were "suckers" for spending huge sums of military dollars to defend South Korea.

And it all makes Bob Woodward's participation in this year's Cap Times Idea Fest all the more exciting.

The Washington Post's Woodward will close out the 2020 edition of Idea Fest with a special discussion of his new book, in the evening on Oct 10. He will be interviewed by another Pulitzer Prize winning author, Washington Post colleague David Maraniss, to cap off a full two weeks of stimulating panel discussions embracing a myriad of current topics.

This year's event is virtual for obvious reasons (even if the president assured us the virus would quickly disappear) but Cap Times editor and publisher Paul Fanlund and managing editor Chris Murphy have fashioned an amazing array of panelists who will inform, debate and entertain participants in daily sessions running from Sept. 26, to Woodward's session on Oct. 10.

The opening session on Sept. 26 will feature former Attorney General Eric Holder. Now a national advocate for redistricting reform, Holder will be interviewed by Cap Times opinion editor Jessie Opoien at 7 p.m. that evening, discussing whether Wisconsin can end the extreme gerrymandering of its legislative and congressional districts.

Throughout the following two weeks, viewers will be treated to a couple dozen discussions, ranging from the challenges facing local restaurants to the future of Madison policing, from the challenges of COVID-19 to Madison's and Wisconsin's racial inequities, including representatives from the Black Lives Matter movement.

A panel of pollsters will try to answer what will happen on Nov. 3, while another panel of environmentalists will tackle climate change.

Minnesota's Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar will be interviewed by our own associate editor, John Nichols. Former Milwaukee conservative radio talk show host Charlie Sykes — who is now an MSNBC pundit and has endorsed Joe Biden — will participate, as will Wisconsin conservatives ranging from the Bradley Foundation's Rick Graber to GOP operative Brian Reisinger.

The Post's Maraniss will also hold a conversation with Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, the co-authors of "A Very Stable Genius," and another with Ruth Marcus, the celebrated Washington Post columnist and political analyst.

And it all can be accessed at from whatever device you have — smartphone, tablet, computer, and even on your big screen smart TV.

Final program details, dates, times, and participants will be published in upcoming Capital Times print editions, with a full program in the Sept. 23 edition. Details will also be available at

No, it won't have the ambiance of Idea Fest's in-person events of the past three years, but this will be an exciting, informative and fun event.

Join us.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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