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Many Things Considered
34 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 15: Mr. Speaker
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is quitting, not forced out by scandal or defeated for re-election, but quitting after only a little more than two years in office. In historical terms that is very unusual. In this episode Marc Johnson explores what has happened to the job of Speaker of the House, assesses Paul Ryan’s tenure and looks back at the last Speaker who tried to run “the people’s house” in a different way – Tom Foley of Washington. Guests are Charles Franklin, the respected head of the Marquette Law School poll and a close watcher of Wisconsin politics; Professor Josh Ryan of Utah State University, an expert on the job of Speaker; Jeff Biggs, who served as Foley’s press secretary and Seattle journalist Joel Connelly who covered Foley as Speaker and discusses his legacy. We’re all in the House on this one.
29 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 14: When Intelligence Was Bipartisan
More than 40 years ago Congress undertook two major investigations into the nation’s intelligence agencies – the House investigation became a political train wreck, while the Senate investigation, led by Idaho Democrat Frank Church, helped create the modern system of intelligence oversight. “When Intelligence was Bipartisan” revisits the Church Committee investigation with some of those involved, with Church’s biographer, Rod Gramer, and with Professor Jennifer Kibbe, an expert on Congressional oversight of the nation’s intelligence services. Representatives Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff may want to download this episode.
50 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 13: The Klan
Since the 2016 presidential election various groups that keep track of white supremacist political activity – the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for example – have reported a sharp increase in such activity. Some have suggested we have entered a new phase where white nationalism, a rejection of a racial diverse society and opposition to immigrants has again risen to the surface of American life. A similar period occurred in 1920s America. The Ku Klux Klan in the 20s enjoyed a revival that saw upwards of 4 million Americans embracing the Klan as a kind of fraternal order driven by white supremacy and disdain for Catholics, Jews, immigrants and people of color. I’ll talk with an official from the SPLC and with historians – David A. Horowitz, Tom Pegram and Darrell Millner – who have studied the KKK during the Jazz Age, particularly in the state of Oregon. It’s a history lesson from the 1920s that resonates in our time.
51 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 12: Big Oil and American Politics
American foreign and domestic policy is shaped by many factors, but perhaps none is more important or more pervasive than oil – Big Oil. In this episode three political stories from the past – Teapot Dome in the 1920s, Texaco’s role in supporting the winning side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the oil crisis of the 1970s – that help shed light on the current state of Big Oil and American Politics. Marc Johnson talks with award winning author Adam Hochschild (Spain in Our Hearts), historians Brian Black (Crude Reality) and Meg Jacobs (Panic at the Pump) and with journalists Robbie Gramer and Mark Trahant. This is a slippery subject, but the historical perspective may help explain why an oil company CEO is now Secretary of State.
44 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 11: A Short History of Leaks
The business of leaking government secrets has a long, long history and the whole subject of leaking and leaks is complicated. Why do leaks happen? What motivates the leaker? Are leaks good or bad or sometimes vital? In this episode we consider two leaks from history – a pre-World War II leak of U.S. war planning and the celebrated leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Marc Johnson interviews historian Lynne Olson, Daniel Ellsberg biographer Tom Wells, Fredrick Schwartz of the Brennan Center and the Columbia Journalism Review’s David Uberti. Oh, yes, we offer a little current perspective, too. Leaking…a short history.
43 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 10: Fear Itself
Seventy-five years ago a president signed an Executive Order that resulted in the relocation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them American citizens. The decision was justified by national security concerns, but we now know it was largely driven by racial animus and fear. Now another president promulgates Executive Orders that are also stoked by fear of others. This episode explores how the two events – 75 years apart – are connected and how they have intersected in a remote part of the American West.
39 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 9: Richard Milhous Trump
Despite what they say almost every politician dislikes the press – too many pesky, probing questions and that constant effort to check real facts and dispute alternative facts. Richard Nixon had perhaps the most contentious relationship with the press in modern times... until Donald J. Trump. In this episode an exploration of presidents and the press and the striking parallels between Nixon and Trump. Lights, camera, roll the presses. History repeats.
39 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 8: Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8
It is not likely that many of us have dropped a reference to the Constitution’s emoluments clause into casual conversation. But the once obscure clause is now just one more thing Donald J. Trump has brought to the center of American politics. The founding fathers wrote the prohibition against “emoluments” – gifts, advantages, benefits – into the Constitution because they were profoundly concerned about foreign influence damaging the nation. That old concern is new again.
40 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 7: In the Great American Tradition - Dissent
The founders of the great American experiment so valued dissent that they wrote the idea into the First Amendment to the Constitution. But while dissent has always been an American tradition it has also often created great controversy and much trouble for the dissenters. Three esteemed historians help tell the story of American dissent, including opposition to war, fights for civil rights, battles against Wall Street and, yes, opposition to Donald J. Trump.
42 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 6: A Christmas Like No Other
Imagine Winston Churchill as a houseguest. Then imagine him as a houseguest at Christmas…in the White House…while the world is at war. In late December 1941, three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the British prime minister and the American president spent days plotting war strategy, made critical military and political decisions and celebrated Christmas at the White House. Nothing quite like it had happened before or has happened since. It was a pivotal moment in the history of World War II.
51 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 5: All the News - Fake and Otherwise
The election is over, but the debate about journalism, politics, facts and fakes roars on. So just what is the state of political journalism in The Age of Trump? And what does our history tell us about how the Internet is remaking news for reporters, consumers and fakers. William Randolph Hearst’s biographer David Nasaw provides a historical perspective as we consider many things – many things – all in the news.
50 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 4: The Leader
Why has the U.S. Senate gone from the world’s greatest deliberative body to the country’s most dysfunctional political institution? The answer is complicated – perpetual campaigns, vast money, excess partisanship – but Senate history points a way to a more productive Senate. Historians of the Senate Richard Baker and Ira Shapiro consider the Senate of the 1960s and 1970s when things worked much better, former leader Trent Lott offers advice to the Senate leadership and former Montana Congressman Pat Williams remembers the Senate’s greatest majority leader – Mike Mansfield.
37 minutes | 4 years ago
Episode 3: Lame Ducks
How do we usher out “lame duck” presidents and bring on the victors? Often with stumbles and mistakes. The interval between lame duck Herbert Hoover and president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 was chaotic as Hoover biographer Charles Rappleye will explain in this episode. We’ll also talk to Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution who was there when Dwight Eisenhower turned over the reins to John Kennedy and check in on a new non-partisan effort to make our presidential transitions work better.
52 minutes | 5 years ago
Episdoe 2: Making a Judge
Appointing judges has always been an overtly political process, after all politicians are involved, but the process has not always been as contentious and hyper-partisan as it has become over the last two decades. From the days of Alexander Hamilton to the 1980s a broad bipartisan consensus existed that generally respected the president’s power to appoint judges who were qualified and within the political mainstream. But now a Supreme Court vacancy has gone unfilled for months, more 100 other judicial positions remain unfilled and the once routine confirmation process can take months or even longer. What’s happened to how we make judges and what can history tell us about how things might be done differently?
52 minutes | 5 years ago
Episode 1: The Most Consequential Loser
Barry Goldwater, the conservative Republican senator from Arizona, lost the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon Johnson in one of great landslides of the 20th Century. At the time many thought Goldwater’s brand of fiery conservatism had been relegated to the dustbin of political history, but instead it became the foundation of the modern Republican Party – the party that won five of the next six presidential elections. The 1964 election also established negative television advertising as a reoccurring feature in politics, give LBJ the huge congressional majorities he needed to create “The Great Society” and brought about the political realignment of the American South.
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