Ignorance and Power (with Jon Meacham)
From cafe welcome to stay tuned. I'm pre-. Ferrara. Donald Trump will be a watch word and a warning. About unchecked power. The threat of demagoguery and to quote James Baldwin Baldwin once wrote that ignorance allied with power is the most dangerous things. That's Jon Meacham he's a Pulitzer Prize winning historian and presidential biographer whose latest book is his truth is marching on John Lewis and the power of hope. MEACHAM has a lot of projects in the works. He's the host of it was said a new podcast from cadence thirteen that breaks down some of the most iconic American speeches. He's also the subject of an upcoming Hbo Documentary The soul of America, which debuts October twenty. Seven. He joins me this week to talk about this historical moment in presidential politics. That's coming up. Stay tuned. Almost one in three people with depression don't get enough relief with antidepressants alone Green Brook Tamas therapy for treatment resistant depression could be the solution timoth stands for Trans Cranial magnetic stimulation and it's a drug-free FDA cleared treatment that uses gentle magnetic pulses to reactivate the parts of the brain responsible for depression Green Brook Tim as no cost consultations to help you determine if tim US therapy is Rafer you. Don't lose another year depression visit Green Brook TM mass dot com slash preet for more information. Let's get to your questions. This question comes in an email from Nora, who writes quote I was wondering if outgoing presidents and their staff have any legally binding obligations to maintain records from their period in office in other words. Is it possible that the putative outgoing trump administration would be able to destroy records of malfeasance in the period between knowing they will need to vacate the White House and their departure in January. If that happens love, your show was saying voice in a very troubled period. Best Regards Nora. Nora thanks for the kind words and thanks for the question. So there is indeed a legally binding obligation for the president and people in the White House to maintain records, and it's aptly named the presidential. Records Act of Nineteen, seventy eight like lots of laws including the law establishing inspectors general in a whole bunch of other reforms. It was passed in reaction to some of the misconduct and bad behavior President Nixon president. Nixon you'll remember tried to get rid of withhold from Congress his infamous white, house tapes. So this is another reform passed in the wake of Nixon's presidency that we worry about having gaps and I'll get to that in a moment. So the Presidential Records Act governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents created at the beginning of the Reagan, administration. According, to the National Archives, the Presidential Records Act changed the legal ownership of the official records of the president from private to public and established a new statutory structure under which presidents in later, the National Archives must manage the records of their administration. But here's the problem as with. So many things that we discussed on this podcast and then I discussed with milligram enforcement is kind of toothless kind of like the Hatch Act, it relies on an honor system. So. There is a legal obligation to preserve all official papers and most presidencies as far as I know have taken allegations seriously in fact quite seriously. So the presidential records act explicitly by its terms requires that administration's quote take all such steps as may be necessary to assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the president's constitional statutory and other officials or ceremonial duties are adequately documented and that such records are preserved and maintained. That's a requirement. But like so many other things it turns out that enforcement may be spotty, and of course, there's a built in kind of ambiguity in the presidential records act itself because it is up to the president in his own discretion to decide what? Steps may be necessary in quote. And he also has discretion to determine what does or does not have quote administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value and quote. Now, issues relating to the non preservation presidential records. Before in this administration, a number of times, you may recall a few episodes where trump was caught hiding trying to destroy records. For example, in June two, thousand eighteen there was a records management analyst who told politico, the trump routinely tears up documents which forces record keepers to tape them back together. Now, the good news about that is it suggests that the people around trump do take the presidential records act seriously even going so far in that example of it's believed if it's to be believed that they, they take documents literally use scotch tape to put them back together again. Going back to your original question of can the president engaged in certain kind of wholesale malfeasance and destruction of records to hide wrongdoing one by the letter of the law he cannot. But of course, he can skirt that there's not a good enforcement mechanism to there was some hope that the people around the president who doesn't keep all the important documents in his own desk and presumably can't destroy them all on his own. It would require a directive to others people not honor that directive because of their ethical obligations and also because of the Presidential Records Act. and. Third presumably, if the purpose of destroying records during that time period was to evade accountability from Alpha's there's an argument depending on what other proceedings may be underway or what Congress communicated to the president that that could be an obstruction of justice. So I think we will have a problem historians especially in trying to piece together everything that went on with access to all the president's records come time for them to be disclosed to the public after some period of years but it is. My is my hope that a wholesale destruction and sort of late night shredding of documents going into what I hope will be the inauguration of Joe Biden on January twentieth. Will Not come to pass. Is next question comes in an email from Brad you asks. Is there a requirement that the president make a pardon public? For example could he give Don Jr. apart pardon that isn't public. So a future prosecution charges him with, for example, tax evasion could just pull it out and make it public at that time. But that's a great and fascinating question. My initial reaction was, of course, it has to be public historically, it's always been public the purpose of the pardon when requested unusually at someone's request is so that that person can prove to another party or maybe an employer that they have been pardoned people don't like to be pardoned in secret. They want the world to know that they had been given this reprieve of some sort by none other than the president of the United States. So it doesn't come up very often. So given tradition in history I've always just assumed that there was a requirement that the pardon be made public because as a natural matter. That's how it works and you want people to know about it. In fact, if you go to the website of the Office of the pardon attorney that resides within the justice. Department it says quite plainly quote presidential grants meaning of pardons are a matter of public record. So immediately after presidential action, the name of each person granted a pardon or commutation along with the district, there were convicted in all sorts of other information is publicly listed on the office of the pardon attorney website. So that seems to suggest both history and tradition and common sense and the Attorney's own guidance seems to suggest the answer to your question is yeah, he's gotTa. Make it public. Within the team did a little bit more research and realized that doesn't quite seem to be a requirement for the pardon to be made public. The pardon is a broad ranging power with very little oversight. In fact, no oversight in virtually no limitation granted to the president in the constitution, and in fact, the greatest proof that there is no absolute requirement to make apart in public is the fact that members of Congress had introduced legislation to force a requirement for any pardon to be made public. You don't do that obviously unless you have a concern that the requirement you asked about doesn't exist. There are two questions implicit in your email with respect to the Don Jr. Hypothetical one is, does it need to be made public in two is can be preemptive in other words be good for future charges that have not yet been brought, and as we've discussed many times in the show, the president can absolve someone in advanced preemptively for misconduct against the United. States. Crimes Against the United States and most famously that was done by president Gerald Ford when he preemptively pardon Richard Nixon. So it's a crazy hypothetical that seemed a little crazy when I read it in your question, but it seems it's a hypothetical has some possibility but representative Roger Crystal Murthy and some others have introduced legislation that potentially can get past although I don't see it happening in the immediate future, and maybe there will be a constitutional challenge as well. Given the broad power of pardon in the constitution but it's an issue that has been highlighted but some others and I appreciate your asking it. Stay tuned. There's more coming up. Right after this. Pandemics protests and Justice Elections Quarantine Natural Disasters Twenty. Twenty is hard enough. But for millions of people treatment resistant depression is making even tougher suffering from symptoms of depression even after trying to medications is all too common. 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Give when you buy a pair and get twenty percents off your first purchase at Bomba Dot com slash prete that's B. O. M. B. A. S. dot com slash pre for twenty percent off your first purchase. Baba's dot com slash preet. Jon Meacham is my guest this week. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning historian. Who's new podcast it was said looks at ten of the most important speeches in American history. We talk about the power of political story and why President Trump's rhetoric has had such a damaging effect on our body politic. Jon Meacham. Welcome to the show. Thank you sir. Good to have you been wine at to talk to you about. So many things for a long time congratulations on your podcast. It's terrific. It was said, which dives into a lot of sort of famous and significant inconsequential political speeches from American history. Before we get to those speeches and your podcast, I want to address speech that you gave fairly recently you spoke at the Democratic National Convention. And endorsed Joe Biden is unusual and you said you spoke beautifully I thought it was a terrific speech and you said among other things quote if we live in hope we open our souls to the power of love you also said. With our voices and our votes. Let us now write the next chapter of the American story. One of hope of love of justice if we do so we might just save our country and our souls. My questions are what the heck were you doing speaking democratic national. And then second. What do we need to save our country and our souls from? Sure I was speaking. At. The Democratic convention because Joe Biden asked me I think this is an existential election I think is the most important election since sixty four. As a clinical historical matter, it's not a partisan point. I voted for Republicans I voted for Democrats I do what? I. Do not least because I found Ronald Reagan to be this extraordinary figure when I was a kid I'm George Bush Senior's Baga for the second George Bush's biographer. So an innocent BC so you figured out. You know So I'm not exactly a socialist but. I believe that as I, think you do there are fundamental American values and practices that are genuinely on the ballot. This year I was not an alarmist about the incumbent president I thought that. The power of our constitutional order and the durability of our political norms would provide guardrails for us as we went through this tumultuous populist period. And I'm worried that I was wrong about that and I think that we need to do all. We can to end this particular experiment and disruption because that's that's what the the president represents a disruptive force disruption can be good. It can also be destructive and I think we have veered into the into the destructive. What we need to save our country from is the triumph of forces that are perennial that are not going away. Depending on a given election or a given piece of legislation or given Supreme Court appointment. Given foreign crisis. Like human nature itself, the country has been shaped from the very beginning whether you date that beginning in sixteen nineteen or seventeen, seventy, six or seventy, eighty, seven, or eighteen, sixty, five, or nineteen, thirty, three nor nineteen, sixty, five wherever you want to start. The Forces of extremism native ISM racism. Greed selfishness reflexive partisanship economic self interest, all of these forces are doing perpetual battle against our better angels Santa as Lincoln said in his first inaugural I don't believe that the soul is all good or all evil my view which is slightly different from Vice President Biden's actually It's an important difference but not dispositive one I believe that the soul is an arena of contention in which our worst instincts do battle with our better instincts and depending on. Who Wins which win in a given period of time that becomes the period that defines the periods in which we live and when you look back. And you look back at the periods of history that we tend to commemorate and celebrate. Those are moments where we reached out as opposed to clenching a fist it's where we built a bridge instead of a wall. So who do you? WanNa be do you WANNA be John Lewis or do you want to be Bull Connor? Do you wanna be Margaret Chase Smith or Prescott Bush, or do you want to be Joe McCarthy? Do, you want to be Abraham Lincoln or do you want to be Jefferson? Davis who who are you asking? And The reason I asked who you're asking is in one of the values you speak about an American value that I think is in retreat, and that is very important is is one of decency what percentage of Americans care about decency in other words hasn't there been a strain always in American history in American politics. Of Equating what you might call decency with weakness I? Mean we have someone on the trump team. Who referred with the intention to insult? Biden? Referring to him someone like Mr Rogers who was an iconic? Decent Person. What has been the ups and downs of people in America. Carrying about decency. Perpetual. Look. I mean we? We owned. We defended a system of. Slavery until eighteen, sixty five, and in my native region, we lived under functional apartheid until nineteen, sixty five. So let's not get all sentimental about the American past the questions I was just framing should go to everybody everybody who has a vote because we know that our republic. From Plato through. Aerostat Uil through Machiavelli to James. Madison a republic is the the fullest expression of our individual dispositions of heart and mind. So we all matter in this, a president is in many ways a maker of our manners and morals, but he or she is also a mirror of them. Right. And so the trump people who are going to go down fighting in there about forty one percent of true believers. which is about seven percent higher than my the the watermark I keep in my mind when Joe McCarthy fell in late nineteen, fifty four and was censured by the Senate The Washington Post polled and thirty four percent of the country still supported Joe McCarthy. In nineteen, sixty eight, we always remember Richard Nixon winning narrowly over Hubert Humphrey by about a point. But that doesn't factor in the thirteen point five percent of us who voted for George Wallace for president fifty years ago. So fifty five percent of America in one, thousand, nine, hundred, sixty, eight. Thought. That Richard Nixon or George Wallace was the right person. To lead the country. So I don't think there was ever a once upon a time in America I. Don't think there's ever going to be a happily ever after. In this, I am supported by no less group than the founders you know this, the Constitution was written assuming that human nature was fallen frail infallible. And we would do the wrong thing far more often than we would do the right thing. So what is the rule of law but an effort to manage and Marshall? Are Fallen Nature's and so when I frame these questions about who do you wanna be it's everybody. The question is who will rise up to that. That's exactly right but that's always the question. Eighty percent of the country in one, thousand, nine, hundred, ninety nine didn't want to sell arms to anybody after Hitler invaded Poland eighty percent. The battles over intervention versus isolationism in thirty, nine forty and throughout almost all of nineteen forty one. Or four more divisive than even the battles over Vietnam. Seven hundred fifty thousand Americans had to die. Before, we caught up with the rest of the modern world in abolishing human slavery. So you know our problems are. Difficult defining. Essential. But. That doesn't mean that somehow or another the journey to this point. Was Simpler and easier nobler. So you're obviously. Familiar, with the sweep of American history and you said something very strong. Remarking on the presidential debate, we've had one. I should note for listeners that recording with Jon Meacham on the morning of October nineteenth. This podcast will come out on the morning of the final debate between Biden and trump. But with respect to the first debate, you posted on twitter quote no hyperbole the incumbents behavior. This evening is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency since Andrew Johnson's racist state papers. In quote. So presidents have done some bad things. You've recited some history of bad things. That's not hyperbole. I don't think. So in terms of a public performance, Johnson issued a annual message and sixty seven where he said that black people were. Slightly paraphrasing but only slightly congenitally incapable of self government. Eric Phone or the Great Historian at Columbia calls it the most racist most blatantly racist statement ever made by an American, president. and. Yeah. I mean to to hector to bully to demean a setting in which Americans devoted to and. People who have died so that we could have self government. To behave in a way that makes a mockery. Of the capacity for. Informed. Choice. is to undermine. The very thing that was at stake at Lexington and concord and APP Matic's and in the Second World War and in the. Cold. War. Absolutely. So. We're at a point now on the eve of the election I during the election, we're on the eve of the election ending. Where some folks who our allies of the president. And have been tight-lipped about the president here, and there are beginning to seem like they're separating themselves from him. Some of them may be predicting a loss in the election for the president. You have the example of Senator Ben Sasse saying some things which some people think maybe intentionally wanted leaked to the Public Senator John Cornyn has said some things Do you think that will intensify in the near term and if president trump loses and presumably leaves office. What do you think will be the rhetoric and the posture? Of all sorts of Republicans who didn't cross him when he was in office, what's that GonNa look like you think in historical precedent for that kind of. disassociation. Well, there's a cinematic one I think of this is we're entering the Claude. Rains phase of of the era Where Claude rains played the vichy later in Casablanca who was shocked shocked to discover. There was gambling in the casino as he was swimming handed his winnings shot shocked to find that gambling is going on in have. We thank you very much everybody out at once. So there's going to be a lot of shock shocked You ask a very important question and one of the things about American history is. Americans tend not to look back. It gives me a job. So I'm all for it anyway So it's like lawyers you you you all kind of like people who break the law alright creates A good. Fred. I won't name but you know and I think most. Of Your listeners ninety, nine percent of your listeners would know a public figure who went back to practice law and I called him with a referral for somebody who was in trouble and I said you know I gotTa tell you. I think he might be guilty of this and this person said. Well. If if we excluded the guilty, we have no business. So. We don't look back very well it's one of our besetting problems because for instance, I think one of the reasons we are so shaped by both structural racism structural partisanship is that our collective disposition the majoritarian disposition. Both after the civil war and after the civil rights movement was okay. We took care of that. Let's move on right. Everybody wants to be Huck Finn WE WANNA light out for the territories were not as interested in when I say we again I mean kind of majoritarian prevailing position. You know unlike Germany unlike South Africa, we have not looked at. Our past in a collective and critical way, and you can see how uncomfortable that is for people in these very intense though somewhat Sideline debates over say sixteen, nineteen versus seventeen, seventy six. All right. So there's this intense debate in my world about the validity of dating the American founding from Sixteen nineteen and was raised the Central Force There are people who fight back against that ferociously who are not trump people and in the trump people who try to obliterate it. I'm too much of an Episcopalian to to say, one side of the others is absolutely right I. Think it's a continuum and a conversation that we should have and I wish. parenthetically that people wouldn't go after each other quite. So viciously when. The historical sensibility which I do believe has utility not just as an intellectual exercise, but as a cultural one and that utility is. If, we could fully examine what happened in the last five years I think that would be of benefit. If it's over and it may not be over right I wouldn't bet the mortgage payment one way or the other about nobody you. Certainly not You know I think the numbers are such that it's probably going to be. Okay. But we don't know. Who you know if it's close in a couple of places that had a significant number of absentee or pandemic balloting as I call it, you know people like the two of us who misspent our youths reading the Twelfth and Twentieth and Twenty second and twenty fifth amendments. You know will have a moment So we don't know we don't know what's going to happen but. If Vice President Biden were to win decisively, and my view is if he wins fifty three to fifty, five percent of the popular vote that's like Lyndon, Johnson or Nixon and seventy two or Reagan in eighty four given our structural partisanship, right? That's like the old sixty to sixty three percent. If that happens and and the president grumbles but accepts the result. Then, to go to your question. I think there won't be a lot of Republicans who will say as corn and apparently did over the weekend you know I I thought I could change him I had to stay in the arena. It could have been worse right? Never liked that guy that. I tried I tried a and the problem with that, and it's to be totally blunt I I'm I'm torn on it because you know i Winston Churchill made a vital decision. In May of nineteen forty, he became prime minister on the Friday, the the tenth of May and. People wanted to string up the men of Munich they wanted Chamberlain punished. They wanted Halifax. Driven out. and Churchill said, no. And the quote, the great line he was in the capital on December twenty are capital on December twenty, six, nine, hundred, forty one, and he was asked is day he gave that great speech about if my mother had been. English. In my father American I might have got here on my own marvelous speech. Is someone said to him in the hallways there? What are you? GonNa do about the men of Munich and Churchill said quoted in The Washington Post that day. If we open up a quarrel with the past, we shall surely lose the future. Western Churchill knew a lot and he knew more than I did. So I part of me wants to move on but Again you and I know a lot of people who recoil at that and. I think big problem. Yeah. People want accountability into as one that you're speaking about, which is some universe of claims of misconduct and malfeasance whether it was relating to what the report found or other things that we may not even know about or things that might happen during transition if Biden wins and those people talk. Very. Evocative Lee about criminal prosecution criminal liability as a debate that's probably raging a lot of places and then the other is political accountability for these Republicans who claim they never had any kinship with trump. Should. They be forgiven their trespasses also so that we move on. Or do we have a long memory? That's it's a wonderful way to put it I. Guess I'd argue a kind of Anglican approach One is demonstrable and this is your bailiwick far more than mine demonstrable violations or strong suspicion probable cause of violations of law. That's different. It seems to me than something like the corn and Sas Business or Lindsey Graham right? They were shameless and they've changed their obituaries. By their seemingly mindless support? cynical support of a president who was polling so strongly in their states. The reason for this is fairly straightforward and I know this from. Republican politicians in the south. You know they get presented polling data all the time and the polling data they're presented shows. That eighty eighty, five, ninety percent of self identified Republicans don't just support the president. They strongly support the president and that's a number. The strongly support category is something that George W. Bush only hit the last Republican president only hit in the weeks after September eleventh no one's ever seen a number like that. and. So if you're wondering why these senators you know in Casey, Hunter the Capitol Hill Reporters Stop Them. And why they sound. So horribly unthinkingly supportive of the president is because they've just come from reading those polls. So. That's one thing the mindless political support. Of someone who was self evidently damaging the experiment to which they had at least given a portion of their lives to being part of and so that that's one question. The, question of ongoing or collusion whatever the term would be with foreign powers to undermine the country I think that's a totally legitimate Of Investigation and potential prosecution and I don't think I mean correct me if I'm wrong. I can't remember a case where there have been ongoing post-facto investigations. Of An administration. The closest thing I can think of is there was a special prosecutor remember in ninety, two, ninety, three. Appointed Joe Digenova I think to investigate whether the Bush administration had improperly or illegally search the passport files the State Department. in an effort to prove that Bill Clinton had gone to Moscow as a as a student. He the only one I can think of from my experience is after Bill Clinton mark rich on the leaving the presidency right? That mild office in which I was junior prosecutor with time southern district of new. York lead by Mary Jo White did conduct a criminal investigation of the nature of that pardon and what was the result remember no charges were brought. There was investigation done it was closed so that I think that's a totally legitimate rule of law driven thing and I and I not that it would matter I would support. I'll tell you this I think that the character of the forty sixth president if the forty six president is Joe Biden. Is such that. I'm just guessing here but I think I'm right. He's not going to be wildly interested in that. He's GonNa WanNa get to pandemic under control get the economy growing again. And address these these longer term issues I don't think he's going to be. Terribly interested in that I could be wrong and the national security elements with with Russia and disinformation and everything else that may change. That Calculus. But, I, do think there is this American streak in our character, which is move on move on. And I understand why the anti-trump forces will be driven to stand against that right. But I think I think it's a deep cultural thing. A couple of things you said. Have, raised a question in my mind that I'd like to ask you before we get to your podcast speeches. New cited a figure of thirty, four, percent three or four percent for Joe McCarthy. At the moment I guess when he was censured by the Senate to show that. Significant percentage of Americans still supported this person. Who is being rebuked by his colleagues? I don't know what the number is today that would venture to guess because history is not been kind of Joe McCarthy. The percentage of support whatever figure whether it's a meaningless figuring out would be very low today. But he was not the president and he didn't give rise to. An entire philosophy of governing whether you want to call it nihilism or something else. Like trump has. If trump loses decisively and fades from the political scene at least he himself does. Even, though will have gained forty seven percent of the vote. Do you think do you think he will have a similar fate in terms of history's judgment in the longer term or because of something about his politics and or the fact that he became president will render his fate different Oh, I think Donald Trump will be a watch word and a warning about unchecked power. The threat of demagoguery and to quote James Baldwin. Baldwin once wrote that it allied with power is the most dangerous things. And trump prove that ignorance allied with power would put kids in cages ignorance allied with power would invite our rivals and foes into our political process ignorance allied with power. coarsened the political conversation beyond a point where a lot of us thought that it was couldn't anymore corroded, right? Trump's of a different magnitude than McCarthy, because he became President I actually think the right analogy here is this is George Wallace had become president. And when you read Wallace's speeches and sixty, four and sixty eight. Wiltrud, which were his two big national races Iran in seventy two but was was shot. You see these white demagogue forces unleashed and wallace kind of predict. It was kind of a forerunner of trump. Remember trump is fundamentally a figure of of sial. Unease in the country. He's either the last gasp or a penultimate. GASP. Of, anxiety on the behalf on the part of people who look like me, I'm a white southern mail episcopate. Who feel that are hegemonic. Power. Is. Fading. and to some extent argued in the past that trump's victory is in an odd and. Unsatisfactory way fundamentally proof that the demographic changes that are unfolding in the country are inevitable. That the ferocity of the reaction against it. Affirms the Basic Reality of the shifts that are unfolding. Gas is a last gasp or is it something that will last longer I mean I I it could be a last-gasp i. hope it is. It could also be one of a series right? We could be sure we could be entering into. An era of what I would think of as guardrail politics where we bounce from guardrail, the guardrail which we tend to do anyway. Right I. Mean when you think about it, it's kind of remarkable. I mean, think of the different people we have sent to the pinnacle of power even the last thirty years. George. W. Bush to Bill Clinton hard to imagine a stronger generational shift Clinton George W Bush two very different baby boomers. I didn't think I would live to see a sharper contrast from an incumbent is successor from George, W Bush. Barack Obama until in the space of. You know the twenty seconds or less. It takes to say the oath Donald Trump took over from Barack Obama. Right this is that's a sign of a big complicated country. That is true. Right I mean. We are complicated. We're big and we're complicated and. And Barack Obama was president. Four years ago today. That's a lie. I mean. I, think I think you're you don't understand the space time can ruth Bader Ginsburg died four years ago. I know isn't it? Amazing? Of course I don't want to ask you off topic a little bit is, is it the case that there has been that there have been more events as more eventful presidency than others or is that an illusion and if it's not an illusion is this period spawned more books by historians and any other presidential term I think. So the thing about the I think what you're getting at is every other American President I mean this every other American President Has had vision of the office where they marshaled their capital right they they knew they had a limited amount of. Limited productive claim on the public mindshare. President. Trump is the mind. Share. And so we've had incredibly tumultuous periods before me I think about nineteen, Sixty, eight just the year itself. Right you start with Tet MacArthur gene McCarthy surprises Johnson in New Hampshire with a strong showing Johnson gets out of the race that same week Dr King Killed Senator. Kennedy's killed in June Chicago Democratic National Convention forty-six Americans on average died in combat in Vietnam, in nineteen, sixty eight, and it ends when with US orbiting the Moon Right Frank Borman in those guys reading from Genesis yes. Oh, that's a hell of a year. But that feels like about two weeks in the age of trump and I think part of it, and it's a better social sciences glide will or somebody could could speak to this better than I could but. There is something. It's Heisenberg principle or something. It is true that because the events of the external reality beyond our consciousness because those events are chronicled. On a device that we keep in front of our faces all day long. I. Do think forces us to a level of engagement Or awareness with the broader world that is probably not. helpful the counter argument would be that that to fight it a demagogue like trump requires constant vigilance, right? The the old trope eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. And constant tweeting. That's helped although I I'm fascinated by I. Think one most important stories of the year and I guess it was this year to go to your point was the time doing an analysis of democratic twitter versus the Democratic Party remember this and how if you follow democratic twitter? You Know Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren was was the center of gravity. But if you've got off twitter, you realize that that Biden was was the answer. Hiring can be challenging, but ziprecruiter makes it fast and easy. One, CEO Ali, needed to hire for a multifaceted role it his wallpaper company walls need love. He was looking for someone who was the right fit for his team and culture, but his search was slow going. So he turned to Ziprecruiter ziprecruiter's powerful matching technology identifies the right people for your job and actively invites them to apply which is why you should try ziprecruiter for free at Ziprecruiter DOT com slash preet. That's how Ali found. 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That can be good because you look forward forward is hopeful men and women in politics and otherwise can remake themselves. You know because we don't look back Joe. Biden by the way was a dead presidential candidate multiple times going back. To I'm fifty, two year old man. Now I was in college when he ran and so that can be good and befits you know something that we think about in America, which is anybody can have a new beginning and a rebirth. That's all terrific on the other hand it does allow us to excuse bad things. One thing I know we get into hydrogen about at least commentators, historians and others. Is Hypocrisy and inconsistency and I wonder particularly in the context of this Supreme Court fight. You know so many people on the progressive side I think are understandably angry. That the very clear president lay down in two thousand, sixteen by Lindsey, Graham and Mitch. McConnell and others is being flouted, but they're getting away with it. How much of this idea that we don't look back well. Causes, US generally speaking in a way that maybe some people don't fully appreciate the American public doesn't care that much about consistency or policy does it Great Question. Apparently not. Not right I mean they're only you know. So we're talking about history and social science. So our data set the data can be murky, but we're, GONNA know allot in sixteen seventeen eighteen days. Right? We'll know whether the voters of South Carolina. End The voters of Kentucky find that hypocrisy to be disqualifying we will find out whether. The country genuinely believes that the presidency has come to. Be a force of distraction and disruption in a world that calls out for rationality and decency So we'll know. You're exactly right I mean a a apparently. Being consistent is not a it's not a huge thing and let me say this. And I don't know yet. So to be responsible you you. You can't be Glib about this someone like me can't be love about it. I'm willing to forgive a lot of sense in public life because. It's public life. It's life. You know these are not with the exception of John Lewis These are not saints right there centers who seek office. A man I admire almost above all others in American political history George Herbert Walker, Bush. Did things that were terrible in the pursuit of. He opposed the nineteen sixty, four civil rights act when he was running for the Senate in Texas, we don't talk about that much. He ran a brutal campaign against Michael. Dukakis, we can debate that for the next six days about how much of it was legitimate. I think more most people but that's a legitimate debate. So I'm not looking for perfection. What I am looking for and what I think citizens should look for is. Not Perfection in pursuit of power. But. You should assess how that power was ultimately deployed once it was amassed. And by that standard George H W Bush. For. Instance. Is An exemplar because once he was president, he made a series of decisions that he believed were in the national interest and he knew be. Doing harm to his political self interest. And I know this because. I've got the diary right I've heard him talking about it. He did tape recorded diary he raised taxes and nineteen ninety exchange for spending caps that helped create the infrastructure for the prosperity in addition to the tech boom of the nineteen nineties and he said as he was doing it, I'm probably dead meat, but it's the right thing to do. And so the You judge these folks on what they do with power by that standard the people you just mentioned have failed the test. Because the way, you know they got their seat, they did Obama in. And Mitch McConnell whatever you WanNa say about him in the raw exercise of power. People will be studying him forever. About how he did it. That will make him very happy. Make him very pleased. Well, it'll make them even happier is to is to defeat McGrath. And I just I just don't think we know I. Don't think we know. So I, want to talk about your podcast it was said. I will disclose to folks that I am student political speeches and obsessed with them from the time I was in high school when I would deliver them speech competitions at some of the listeners know. Though my first question you by way of background on the issue political speeches is this. Why do they matter so much and I know you say? Great speeches are not actually the norm, but it is true. And maybe this is throughout the world but I'll speak about. America for a moment. Someone comes on the scene. And they give an amazing eloquent. Speech. And American swoon and they say immediately I wanNA vote for that person I had a guest on the podcast. You may know him Cyrus be tenant governor in Washington that he made the point wants to say, which is unusual for a politician to say, he gave a speech wants to a group of folks who are not familiar with him. After which you know they were Waxing Reps. And said, we would vote for you should run for President Governor and his response to them was why I just gave a speech. Know anything about me. Because because I talked good for a little bit of time, you want to elect me to something that's happened to me on occasion What's the power of a political speech? Politics is fundamentally about seduction. Right. And so you were seduce the folks who were talking to to him. Were seduced in that moment. And what he was maybe he wasn't consciously pursuing it but they surrendered the one thing they gave him the one thing they could think of, which was their vote and their loyalty. There's a great scene and if you haven't read him, you would love him a ward just dino just fiction. No. Oh Lord This was worth your time just for this go by a book called Twenty One by War just J. T. and your listeners don't know him. He's probably the best Washington novelist novelist of power since Henry Adams wrote for Newsweek or The Washington Post left to write fiction in late sixties had been in. Saigon Vietnam. His books have Short stories they've titles like the congressman who loved Flaubert. It should have. Perfect. But there's a there's a story. It's the lead story in this collection twenty, one stories published probably ninety ninety, one called honor power fame riches, and the love of women, and those are the five great constellations that Freud lists I think in the twenty-third lecture in the general introduction to psychoanalysis. Maybe the twenty fourth, but it's one of those two. And those are the things that Freud said all men pursue honor power, fame riches, and the love of women, and it's a story about a candidate and upstate New York Congressman I. Think. and. Bobby Kennedy. WHO's in the Senate is a character in the story. And Kennedy gives a marvelous speech up in buffalo or someplace and gets back in the car and the congressman says my God. That was just electric. And Kennedy in the story turns to him and says, it's not electricity. It's sex. And so there's something to that right it. It's an elemental exchange. It is about both mind and heart so I think about Obama in Oh four. I. Guess since the Cross of gold or Reagan and sixty four, right? I mean that that's and go back and I love President Obama Right? He served his nation well is your patron I. Guess Ultimately Right you're commissioned officer weren't you of of I was appointed by Barack Obama. Correct. Okay. And so we love him but read that speech and it's not particularly profound. Force speech. We're. Not, GonNa marry I and I think That's one of the great orders and has other speeches. That were better. There was something about the timing of that speech that moment Sir and him right and him it's it's a more pedestrian speech. People remember right and the other great one to go watch is, which is also a debut speech is October twenty seventh nineteen, sixty four when Ronald Reagan bought a half hour about half hour forum for the Goldwater campaign. And it's he's impossibly on right. So in nineteen sixty, four Reagan was what fifty three was born in nineteen eleven and it sort of made Reagan's four years. Later, he almost beats Nixon for two years. Later he's governor of the largest state in the country and four years. Later, he almost stops Nixon at the sixty eight convention. It's a more interesting speech because it is pure Reagan. All right. It's as Cold War free market views Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be. He has told them that we're retreating under the pressure of the Cold War and some day when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum surrender will be voluntary because by that time, we will have been weakened from within spiritually morally and economically anyway. Dancer your question I think they are in fact about the moment where you just said about Obama, they are written for. That point, in? Time. And it's vanishingly rare for either that point in time to endure or that point in time plus that speech it becomes even rarer for it to endure, and so the the ones we went over on the podcast with Chris Corcoran and his amazing folks at at cadence thirteen, which was their idea, right? I'm just I'm just as John Stewart wants sweetly called me I'm. Adore we compete. That's all I do. So I just wrote them but but they were with the idea you know John Lewis at the march on Washington Barbara Jordan at the seventy six conventions beach I remember Hillary Clinton in in Beijing Ed Murrow speaking out against McCarthy Meghan McCain's amazing. Eulogy, for Her Dad at the at the Cathedral, which is artifact you ask about books about the trump era Meghan Zyuganov and john the the two deaths the two. Three I guess big public deaths of the trump administration. John McCain George H. W Bush and John Lewis you could write a pretty good monograph. About what the public reaction to those fallen figures told you about what people were missing in their daily political lives? And so oh, absolutely I mean the the McCain funeral was fascinating to me in. So far as I don't think the president was ever mentioned and what was discussed were things like honor and decency. which were taken to be insults against the president. What does that say about what people think about the does that say about even the allies of the President La-. I'M GONNA. Tell you something I. Don't I've never publicly said and I think it's okay. So I was honored to President. Bush asked me to deliver one of his eulogies at the National Cathedral. And So that was that was the first week of December two, thousand eighteen. I had probably written it. A. Year before. Because he was sick for a long time. I had a a riff in the speech and the and the eulogy about. How a thousand points of light. was like Lincoln's better angels of our nature or FDR's nothing to fear fear itself. That these were companion verses in America's national him. Of. Choosing the right over the convenient the hard over the easy the the common good over individual gain something like that. I wrote that a year before. In the ensuing year. Donald Trump like Mr Magoo runs his car into a thousand points of light and start attacking thousand points of light. And if you remember this, he said. To me, I don't get it. Well. I was worried. That people would think I was trolling him. On. What was a state occasion about? A man I loved. And I wasn't trying. BE AN MSNBC Guy. I wasn't trying to contrast. Donald Trump with Georgia media just what it is. I have evidence it had been written before any of this had happened. And I consult a you know I asked the opinion of I won't name him but a a relative George H W Bush's who also served at President Nathan. Go Go ahead and say it if you wrote it. So I, I. Did it Abraham Lincoln's better angels of our nature. And George H. W.. Bush's thousand points of light. Are Companion versus in. America's national him. For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient. The hope rather than to fear. And did he not worse impulses but our best instincts and the New York Times I think Maybe, the pose somebody wrote in their lead story that I seem to be lecturing Mr Trump. About what thousand points of light met But I kinda wasn't. A i. was lecturing the couch trying to help a country something and so this is I tell this long winded story. Partly because. It's evidence. Of how he has taken over Every aspect of our national life even when we're trying not to let him in right, we discussed earlier someone casting aspersions on Joe Biden by comparing him to Mr Rogers is a great documentary that I saw your that many people saw Yup and the reason I think it had the points that had. was because trump is president and it was such a contrast to the rhetoric and bombastic his president to be just decent an honorable and that you know I I had a similar speech experience myself. I gave a commencement address. That borrowed themes that I had written some years earlier when Obama was president about public discourse and about how we should speak to each other in America and multiple students came up to me afterwards. I. Really appreciated that indirect attack on Donald Trump I also have physical. That that, those sentences were written before Donald Trump announced for the presidency but you're right. That's how we look at everything. Yeah, and they do they look their. Speeches reveal the passions of the moment day at their best they illuminate the mind and motives and hopes and fears and dreams and concerns of the speaker and of the audience. And if that rhetoric endures, it endures because. It intersects with. Unfolding dramas certainly in the American experience yeah. Johnny, meacham thanks again for joining us the PODCAST IT WAS Wonderful and your book his truth is marching on John Lewis in the power of hope, we've been doing a lot of talking about hope today for good reason. Thanks and hope you'll join us against him. My pleasure. If I need a lawyer, you're my first call. All right I'm in. My conversation with Jon Meacham continues from members of the cafe insider community to try out the membership free for two weeks had to Catholic dot com slash insider. Again. That's CAFE DOT COM slash insider? Folks to end the show I wanNA talk once again about voting and the importance of voting. As you listen to this world twelve eleven, ten days depending on when you listen away from the close of the election, tens of millions of Americans have already voted. They've already cast their ballot for next president of the United States or senator or congressman but this year voting holes a certain special. Urgency, for many people and the signed so far about dispiriting and also uplifting on the one hand. It's terrible that people have to wait in long lines in the year twenty twenty to cast their ballot. But it's also uplifting and heartening to see records being broken. All time records being broken for early voting and people wanted to make sure that their vote counts that they can have some effect and influence on the future of the country. And it's hard for a lot of people. There's one story I wanNA highlight of how difficult it can be to have your vote count. You may have seen it in the Washington. Post, the story I want to relate is the story of James. Wendell Williams at Birmingham Michigan James at the age of seventy seven was determined to cast his ballot for vice. President Biden. When early voting started fairly early on September twenty fourth in his home state of Michigan. But his concern was he wouldn't live long enough to do so. You See James was battling a cancer that he believed would soon take his life. And he in fact, wasn't expected to live until election day November third. According to the story in The Washington Post quote. James. Felt the trump was toxic. He was especially angry over the president's suggestion that he would not accept the results of an election if you lost and quote and so James wanted to long enough to do something about it. The Very Day early voting started James's son and daughter-in-law brought him to city hall where they had coordinated in advance having his ballot waiting for him according to the post quote he moved slowly his face straining from the effort. His son David hovered close in that tentative way sons of elderly parents do to keep him from falling. Williams. Flashed a smile after the ballot fell in a triumph an quote. David has son remembered. He was really happy to tell people he had lived long enough to vote. James died eight days later. Here's more from the post quote after he was gone Williams's family learned his final vote would not be counted under Michigan. Law. Votes are tallied on election day in the state not as they arrive. Because Williams died before Election Day, his vote would be invalidated. About eight hundred fifty such ballots had been rejected for the same reason during Michigan's primary election in August according to the Secretary of State's office. So whether or not vote is counted in a particular state. Dies is determined by the election laws of that state. Some states like Massachusetts. Trying to ensure every voices counted in this unusual election if they vote even if they don't make it to election day to see the results. In early October, the Massachusetts legislature pass a temporary law to count votes from those who died after casting ballots in this election. To, strain so hard to vote at the end of your life, and then for that vote, not to count is heartbreaking. James's son had to say quote here's the thing. It pisses me off that doesn't count, but it really doesn't diminish what it meant to him or to us it's not that he thought his vote was going to change the election. He believed it was important as an example to his children and grandchildren. And he went on to say the way you use your energy. Particularly when you don't have much left, that is very true reflection of what you really cared about. In. Quote. Think about that. The way you use your energy. Particularly when you don't have much left. That is a very true reflection of what you really care about and that can be a message in the lesson to all of us. It is impossible to overstate what is at stake in this election. I believe it's not only the most important election of my lifetime, but maybe the most important election in American history. And James's story even though it has a heartbreaking conclusion. In more than one way. Shows US how much the American people care about seeing change in our country And look you know I. I haven't thought deeply about the policy considerations on both sides of the question of whether or not you have to live to election day for your vote account and have to think about that a little bit more. But I blush it is heartbreaking for someone who wanted so badly for his vote to count and tried so hard and straight so much to cast a ballot in this most important of elections. But what struck me most about the story is the dedication and drive to vote and to have your vote count. So I will never tire of saying if you haven't registered to vote and you still can in your state. Do So. If you haven't voted yet and you can vote early in your state do so. If you can request a valid in your state by mail and you haven't done so. Please do so. Not that you should need anymore inspiration to vote in this election. But if you do. Let the story of James Wendell Williams Birmingham Michigan Inspire you to. Well, that's it for this episode of state-owned. Thanks again to my guest. Jon Meacham. If you like what we do rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news politics injustice tweet them to me at pre Perahera with the Hashtag pre or you can call and leave me a message at six, six, nine, two, four, seven, seven, three, eight that's six, nine, two, four, preet or you can send an email to stay tuned a cafe dot com. Stay tuned is presented by Cafe Studios. Your host is pre Harare. The executive producer is tomorrow supper. The senior producer is Adam Waller. Senior. Audio producer is David, Tattoo shore and the Cafe Team Does Matthew Billy. David. Curl Lander Sam Oser statement know ally Net Weiner, Jake Kaplan. Calvin. Lord Jeff Eisenman Chris Boylan, Sean Walsh, and Margot Molly. Our Music is by Andrew Dost. I'm pre- Perahera. Stay tuned.