McCarthy to Cohn to Trump: A conversation with Larry Tye

August 27th, 2020

Roy_Cohn_Joeseph_McCarthy_Hearings_Huddle_1088x725-700x470.jpgMost of you know or have lived in cities with long streets or boulevards and you know that some of the same stores repeat themselves over and over again. Starbucks, CVS, etc. The neighborhoods change, but some of the retail landmarks remain the same.

In a way, history is like that. It goes on and on. And while the neighborhoods often change, there are things along the way that repeat themselves over and over again. In American history, one of them is certainly racism and discrimination, but also our ongoing flirtation with authoritarianism. Our fascination with bullies, the appeal of strength that sometimes proves to be more than just meanness.... it’s really evil.

Whether it was Father Coughlin on radio, Joe Pyne on television, Huey Long in politics, or in the contemporary era, Joe McCarthy and Donald Trump.

The added reality is that each episode pushes the envelope of what’s acceptable. The predicate for new norms is laid out and the next would-be talk show host or political demagogue has to go further.

Perhaps no one pushed the envelope further than Joe McCarthy. So much so that the idea of McCarthyism became baked into our lexicon. Needless to say, now in the midst of one of those flirtations, it seems the perfect time to go back and look at Joe McCarthy with journalist and author Larry Tye, whose new book is Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.

My conversation with Larry Tye:

Gail Sheehy: In Memoriam

August 25th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-08-25%2Bat%2B10.36.19%2BAM.pngI guess it’s just that we are all getting older, but these In Memoriam programs are coming much too frequently lately…...Over the years I had the opportunity to do five interviews with Gail Sheehy. Beginning in May of 1998 we talked about everything from Men's Passages, to older women, Hillary Clinton, and the changes in middle America.  Our last conversation was in the fall of 2014 upon the publication of her memoir Daring: My Passages: A Memoir.

My conversation with Gail Sheehy from October of 2014:

Only The Best People: Why The Best and The Brightest Sometimes Aren’t

August 23rd, 2020

draperbook3000.jpgDonald Trump came to power on a wave of distrust. Americans had lost faith in government, it’s institutions, and the ability of their government to be honest with them.

It’s a through-line that begins perhaps with the assassination of John Kennedy, runs through the endless lies Americans endured about the Vietnam war, and continues through to the Iraq war; the lies about weapons of mass destruction.

And while Americans often want simple answers, the reality of policy, particularly foreign policy is far more nuanced and complex.

I have said over and over again of late, that I wish I could get into the time machine to read, 50 years from now, what historians will say about this period we are living through.

So it’s equally important that now, almost 20 years after 9/11 and 17 years after the start of the Iraq war that we can look with some perspective at the distrust that got us where we are today.

Again, the reality is nuanced, complicated and shaped by the foibles of human beings. Robert Draper tells that story in his new book To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq

My conversation with Robert Draper:

Why Are Millennials Feeling Left Behind?

August 17th, 2020

73444-v1-600x.jpegEvery generation faces the challenges thrust upon it by the generation that came before. Today the millennials face the challenge of how they pick up the baton and carry it forward Their contribution, their imprimatur is still being written. Will, it simply be too scold those that came before, or as we see millennials doing in silicon valley redefining the very nature of society.

This is what Jill Filipovic bring to the fore in OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind.

My conversation with Jill Filipovic:

Nixon and The Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution

August 12th, 2020

9780190064716.jpgOver the 200 plus year history of political parties in the US, something our founders advised against, the same parties have, at different times, stood for different sets of ideas. The Federalists, the Whigs, the national Republican Party, the Democrats and others all have been made up of different coalitions at different times

We all know for example that Lincoln and his Republicans were once the anti-slavery party. Oh how that’s changed.

The modern Democratic party really emerged with the New Deal coalition beginning with FDR in 1933. It was an amalgam that was considered the core of American liberalism. It was anchored in ethno-religious constituencies (Catholics, Jews, African Americans,) white Southerners, well-organized labor unions, urban machines, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups.

However, like all previous party coalitions, it would begin to splinter. Elements of the once liberal base of the new deal coalition would become part of the Republican party of Nixon and Reagan and Trump.

The story of how this happened is really the story of our modern politics that begins in 1970 and it’s the story that David Paul Kuhn tells in The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution.

My conversation with David Paul Kuhn: 

Pete Hamill in His Own Words…and Voice

August 8th, 2020

Pete_Hamill_Brooklyn_2007_1088x725-700x470.jpgI had the distinct pleasure of speaking with and interviewing Pete Hamill six times since 1997. There was no subject that he could not hold forth on. Our discussions involved subjects ranging from immigration to tabloids, the lexicon of news to urban America, and even Frank Sinatra.  

This podcast includes some lengthy excerpts from three of those conversations. First, in a conversation from June 2011, we talked about tabloids, the state of news today, and the way in which tabloids stitched communities together.

Our next conversation is great fun as Hamill talks about his book Why Sinatra Matters. Hamill argued that it’s not possible to understand the country without fully understanding the music and personality of Sinatra. He explains how he transformed the image of Italians and was the first example of American pop culture transported to the world. It was also a powerful way to learn more about both Prohibition and the Depression.

Last but not least, is my first conversation with Hamill from May 1997, just after the publication of his book Snow in August. It’s a look at immigration, the misguided power of television, and the story of a boy growing up in New York in the late 1940s. Because of the age of this conversation, the audiotape had not held up as well as I might have hoped, and I ask that you bear with a little 23-year decay of audio quality. However, I think it’s worth it.  

Enjoy this reminiscence of the life and words of Pete Hamill. 


August 5th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-08-05%2Bat%2B7.22.19%2BAM.png58 years ago today, the world awoke to the death of Marilyn Monroe. At her death, she was already one of the most well known Americans of the twentieth century. In death she would become even more famous, steeped in mythology and contradiction, she would become a symbol of her times. The lens of her own dysfunction gave her a unique ken on post-war American. Today, looking at her life gives each of us a unique perspective on how far we’ve traveled in those 58 years.

This is the story that Charles Casillo tells in Marilyn Monroe: The Private Life of a Public Icon

My conversation with Charles Casillo:

Why Are White Evangelicals Primed For Trump’s Fear-Mongering?

August 4th, 2020

Trump-Christianity-Masculinity-and-the-1950s-1088x725-1-700x470.jpgWhy do self-described evangelicals overwhelmingly support an irreligious commander-in-chief?  Why do megachurches demand to stay open in a pandemic, and why is the pro-life act of wearing a mask seen as antithetical to masculinity? 

In this WhoWhatWhy podcast I talk with Calvin University scholar Kristin Du Mez, who sheds light on how white evangelicals gave America Donald Trump (81 percent voted for him in 2016).  

Du Mez, the author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, argues that it is not the intellectual forebearers of Christianity who mobilize the faith today, but muscular, mythical artificial heroes like Mel Gibson or John Wayne, idealized cowboys or soldiers. The toughness and swagger they embody conjures up a nostalgia for a simpler time, a nation unencumbered by activism for racial equality, women’s rights, and same-sex marriage. 

An in-depth look at why evangelicals are Trump’s most unwavering supporters, and their plans for making Christianity great again.

My conversation with Kristin Du Mez: 

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