Politics

In “The Sky Is Falling: How Vampires, Zombies, Androids, and Superheroes Made America Great for Extremism,” cultural journalist Peter Biskind dives headlong into two decades of popular culture, from superhero franchises and series like “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” to thrillers like “Homeland” and “24,” and emerges to argue that these shows are saturated with the values that are currently animating our extreme politics.

Bookstores and libraries have long played a central role in fostering a deeper appreciation of knowledge, and in lifelong learning. Increasingly, these places are also filling another critical need in our communities, by providing a haven for those seeking a communal connection in an ever-more isolated world.

But, how is this all playing out in our current fractured political climate? We have two guests to discuss this with us this morning. Chris Morrow is owner of Northshire Bookstores in Manchester Center, Vermont and Saratoga Springs, New York and he joins us along with the CEO of the American Booksellers Association – Oren Teicher.

In her new biography, “Elizabeth Warren: Her Fight. Her Work. Her Life.,” bestselling author Antonia Felix carries readers from Warren’s hardscrabble roots in Norman, Oklahoma, to her career as one of the nation’s most distinguished legal scholars and experts on the economics of working Americans.

In the book, Felix reveals how Warren brought her expertise to Washington to become a leader in progressive politics in a deeply divided nation and weaves together never-before-told stories from those who have journeyed with Warren from Oklahoma to the halls of power in Washington, DC.

What happened in 1983 to make the Soviet Union so afraid of a potential nuclear strike from the United States that they sent mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles into the field, placing them on a three-minute alert?

In his book, "The Brink: President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983," Marc Ambinder explains the anxious period between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1982 to 1984, with the “Able Archer ’83” war game as the fulcrum of the tension. With astonishing and clarifying new details, he recounts the scary series of the close encounters that tested the limits of ordinary humans and powerful leaders alike. Ambinder explains how political leadership ultimately triumphed over misunderstandings, helping the two countries maintain a fragile peace.

Dan Pfeiffer was one of Barack Obama's first hires when he decided to run for president, and was at his side through two presidential campaigns and six years in the White House.

Using never-before-heard stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Pfeiffer's book, "Yes We (Still) Can," examines how Obama succeeded despite Twitter trolls, Fox News (and their fake news), and a Republican Party that lost its collective mind.

Dan Pfeiffer is a co-host of the popular political podcast "Pod Save America."

The Capitol Steps were founded in December, 1981 when some staffers for Senator Charles Percy were planning entertainment for a Christmas party. Since then, they’ve been putting the “mock” in democracy in Washington, D.C., on tour, on the radio, and – during the summer – in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The musical satirists call The Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort their summer home – performing here every night except Tuesday through August 31.

The CapSteps latest album is “Make America Grin Again.” We are joined this morning by longtime steppers, Bari Biern and Jack Rowles.

James J. Florio is best known as governor of New Jersey from 1990 to 1994. But his career in local, state, and national government is far more varied, and his achievements as a progressive reformer are more substantial than most realize. 

His political memoir, "Standing on Principle: Lessons Learned in Public Life," tells the remarkable story of how Florio, a high school dropout who left to join the Navy as a teenager, went on to become an attorney, a state assemblyman, a congressman, and a governor. A passionate defender of the environment, Florio played a crucial role in the enactment of 1980s-era Superfund laws, which helped to clean up toxic waste sites in New Jersey and around the country.

Hailed as “crackling, resonant, humorous” by NPR and written by Emmy Award-nominated Jason Odell Williams, “Church & State” is a provocative, fast-paced and witty look at the life of a politician, whose belief system gets shaken to the core three days before his bid for re-election.

Directed by Charlotte Cohn founding producer of the New York Music Theatre Festival and Mainstreet Musicals, “Church & State” intends to have you talking and Tweeting long after the curtain closes – which is why all shows feature a talkback following the performance.

“Church & State” runs through June 30th at the Unicorn Theatre and features: Judy Jerome, Keira Naughton, Graham Rowat, and Andy Talen.

We welcome Graham Rowat, Director Charlotte Cohn and playwright Jason Odell Williams.

John T. Shaw has covered Congress for Market News International for nearly twenty-five years, and has also been a contributing writer for the Washington Diplomat and has been a guest on PBS NewsHour and C-SPAN.

In "Rising Star, Setting Sun," John T. Shaw focuses on the intense ten-week transition between JFK’s electoral victory and his inauguration on January 20, 1961. After winning the presidency by a razor-thin victory on November 8, 1960 over Richard Nixon, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s former vice president, John F. Kennedy became the thirty-fifth president of the United States. But beneath the stately veneers of both Ike and JFK, there was a complex and consequential rivalry.

Former Long Island Congressman Steve Israel has traded in a political career for one as an author – but, the politics have not been discarded completely – especially as the issue of guns in America continues with massive demonstrations led by the teens who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland, FL in February.

In his new novel, Big Guns, the gun lobby controls the political direction of the U.S., requiring that every American over the age of four carry a gun. What ensues is a discomfiting, hilarious indictment of the current state of American politics.

The novel is set in a fictional town on Long Island that becomes ground zero for a pitched battle over gun rights and gun control.

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of nine previous books of nonfiction, including "In the New World," "Remembering Satan," "The Looming Tower," "Going Clear," "Thirteen Days in September," and "The Terror Years," and one novel, "God's Favorite." His books have received many prizes and honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for "The Looming Tower." He is also a playwright and screenwriter.

His new book, "God Save Texas," is a journey through the most controversial state in America. It is a red state in the heart of Trumpland that hasn't elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than twenty years; but it is also a state in which minorities already form a majority.

Steve Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the New York Times Bestsellers "Candyfreak" and "Against Football." His short stories have been anthologized widely, in the Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Erotica, and Best American Mysteries series.

Like a lot of Americans, Almond spent the weeks after the 2016 election lying awake, in a state of dread and bewilderment. The problem wasn’t just the election, but the fact that nobody could explain, in any sort of coherent way, why America had elected a cruel, corrupt, and incompetent man to the Presidency.

"Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country" is Almond’s effort to make sense of our historical moment.

Big money in politics is nothing new.

In today’s Congressional Corner, New York Representative John Faso, a Republican from the 19th district, wraps up his discussion with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

Nobody expected the vice president, a New York political hack, to be president. And after President James A. Garfield was shot in 1881, nobody expected Chester A. Arthur to become a strong and effective president, a courageous anti-corruption reformer, and an early civil rights advocate.

Despite his promising start as a young man, by his early fifties Chester A. Arthur was known as the crooked crony of New York machine boss Roscoe Conkling. For years Arthur had been perceived as unfit to govern, not only by critics and the vast majority of his fellow citizens but by his own conscience. As President James A. Garfield struggled for his life, Arthur knew better than his detractors that he failed to meet the high standard a president must uphold.

Scott S. Greenberger is a journalist, author and the executive editor of Stateline, the daily news service of The Pew Charitable Trusts. His newest book is "The Unexpected President: The Life and Times of Chester A. Arthur." Greenberger will be at Union College in Schenectady, NY on Thursday, February 22nd - to deliver the college’s Founders Day keynote address.

Joseph Califano, Jr. spent thirty years in Washington at the top of the Pentagon, on the White House staff as chief domestic advisor to the President, and in the Cabinet. He worked as an attorney for The Washington Post during Watergate and has represented clients as varied as the Black Panthers and Coca Cola.

His new book, “Our Damaged Democracy: We the People Must Act,” is a primer on the three branches of government that reveals the political, cultural, constitutional, technological, and institutional changes that he believes render our government completely dysfunctional. He says there is an urgent need to fix our democracy before it’s too late.

Secret societies have fundamentally shaped America’s cultural and political landscapes. In ways that are expected but never explicit, the bonds made through the most elite of secret societies have won members Pulitzer Prizes, governorships, and even presidencies. At the apex of these institutions stands Yale University and its rumored twenty-six secret societies. Tracing a history that has intrigued and enthralled for centuries, alluring the attention of such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Skulls and Keys traces the history of Yale’s societies as they set the foundation for America’s future secret clubs and helped define the modern age of politics.

David Alan Richards, Yale alum and former 'bonesman,' is the author of Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale's Secret Societies. 

The longtime host of Donahue, Phil Donahue established the modern daytime talk show format with his focus on audience participation and hot-button social issues. In 1967 he began hosting The Phil Donahue Show. The show lasted nearly 3-decades and both the host and host won numerous Emmy Awards.

In a WAMC exclusive, Phil Donahue joins us for a special extended interview discussing his long career, politics, the media and even religion.

Lawrence O’Donnell has been a student of American politics for most of his life. A former senior advisor to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, chief of staff of two Senate committees, an Emmy Award-winning executive producer and writer for "The West Wing," and now host of his own MSNBC show "The Last Word," O’Donnell has a front row seat to American democracy in action.

While the 2016 election, still fresh in all our memories, produced many crazy headlines and tumultuous debates, "Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics" recreates an even darker, more chaotic time in our nation’s history, in which one election was literally a “matter of life and death—nothing less”: 1968.

"Playing With Fire" tells the gripping story of 1968 election with a remarkable cast of characters, from the candidates themselves - Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Nelsen Rockefeller - to the staffers whose fame has only grown in retrospect: Henry Kissinger, Alan Greenspan, Pat Buchanan, a young Bill Clinton, and even Roger Ailes.

In the summer of 2015, Scott Adams was in the middle of an unplanned career pivot from “guy who created the Dilbert comic” to a maverick political pundit. A week after Nate Silver put Trump’s odds at 2% in his FiveThirtyEight.com blog, Adams predicted on his own blog that Trump had a 98% chance of winning the presidency based on his persuasion skills.

Now Adams explains how he knew so early that Trump wasn’t simply a lucky clown. In his new book, WIN BIGLY: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, Adams draws upon his background in hypnosis, persuasion and business to reveal the method in Trump's supposed madness, painting him as a “Master Persuader” who intentionally flipped the political narrative on its head.

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular comic strips of all time. He has been a full-time cartoonist since 1995, after 16 years working in the technology realm at a major bank and later a phone company. His new book is: WIN BIGLY: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. 

In his new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, NYT bestselling author and co-creator of the Peabody-Award winning public radio show Studio 360, Kurt Andersen, provides a new and comprehensive understanding of our post-truth world and the American instinct in make- believe.

This interview was recorded at UAlbany as part of the New York State Writers Institute symposium: Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World.

Susan Page
Susan Page

In the fast-paced political wars of the Trump era, it’s easy to forget the hyperpartisanship that marked the past two administrations. Two veterans of the White House will discuss the current political landscape on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove and Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod will speak in what the college calls an attempt at “respectful dialogue.” Moderating the discussion is Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief.

Chris Gibson is a decorated Army combat veteran and former US Congressman – a self-term-limiting one. He has now written a book to examine the troubled state of American politics and present a plan for what needs to be done to rediscover the principles needed to unite the country.

Raised in a working-class family in upstate New York, the first in his family to go to college, paid for in part by his service in the National Guard, Chris Gibson rose from Private to Colonel in the Army, including combat command in the storied 82nd Airborne Division. Rally Point is his story: what he's learned and how he's applied those life lessons during his service in Iraq and in Congress.

Chris Gibson spent the last six years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (NY-19). He also spent twenty-nine years in the U.S. Army, where he served four combat tours in Iraq and was awarded four Bronze Star Medals and the Purple Heart. His new book is Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream.

Salman Rushdie’s is best known for his novels Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses, among others.

While those take place in India and the United Kingdom, his latest, The Golden House, is set in New York City against the backdrop of modern politics from Obama to Trump. 

Alan Chartock

WAMC's Dr. Alan Chartock discusses yesterday's fund drive for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, differing opinions on Trump's ban on transgender military, and Congressional Republicans tax reform plans. 

The Capitol Steps were founded in December, 1981 when some staffers for Senator Charles Percy were planning entertainment for a Christmas party. Since then, they’ve been putting the “mock” in democracy in Washington, D.C., on tour, on the radio, and – during the summer – here in Lenox, MA.

The musical satirists call The Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort their summer home – performing here every night except Tuesday through September 1.

CapSteppers Brad Van Grack and Delores Williams join us.

Nancy MacLean is the award-winning author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry and Freedom is Not Enough She is the William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. Behind today’s headlines of billionaires taking over our government is a secretive political establishment with long, deep, and troubling roots. The capitalist radical right has been working not simply to change who rules, but to fundamentally alter the rules of democratic governance. But billionaires did not launch this movement; a white intellectual in the embattled Jim Crow South did.

Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains names its true architect: Nobel Prize-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan — and dissects the operation he and his colleagues designed over six decades to alter every branch of government to disempower the majority.

In The Revolution of Robert Kennedy, journalist John R. Bohrer focuses in intimate and revealing detail on Bobby Kennedy's life during the three years following JFK's assassination. Torn between mourning the past and plotting his future, Bobby was placed in a sudden competition with his political enemy, Lyndon Johnson, for control of the Democratic Party.

No longer the president's closest advisor, Bobby struggled to find his place within the Johnson administration, eventually deciding to leave his Cabinet post to run for the U.S. Senate, and establish an independent identity. Those overlooked years of change, from hardline Attorney General to champion of the common man, helped him develop the themes of his eventual presidential campaign.

Reality. It used to seem so simple—reality just was, like the weather. Why question it, let alone disagree about it? And then came the assault, an unending stream of “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and lies disguised as truths that is overwhelming our notions of reality. Now we can’t even agree on what a fact is, let alone what is real. How on earth did we get here?
         
Every week, the award-winning journalist Brooke Gladstone, along with her co-host Bob Garfield, reaches 1.2 million listeners through more than 420 NPR affiliate stations with WNYC Studios' On the Media, a shrewd and witty newsmagazine that analyzes media and how it shapes our perceptions of the world.

Her new book is The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time.

For more than a decade, Daniel Connolly has reported on Mexican immigration to the U.S. South for news organizations including The Associated Press in Little Rock, and The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. The winner of numerous journalism prizes, he has received grants and fellowships from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the International Center for Journalists and the Fulbright program.

In his new book, The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America 18-year-old high school senior Isaias Ramos plays in a punk rock group called Los Psychosis and likes to sing along to songs by Björk and her old band, the Sugarcubes. He’s so bright that when his school’s quiz bowl goes on local TV, he acts as captain. The counselors at school want him to apply to Harvard. But Isaias isn’t so sure. He's thinking about going to work painting houses with his parents, who crossed the Arizona desert illegally from Mexico.

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton is an answer to the question many have been asking: How did an extraordinarily well-qualified, experienced, and admired candidate -- whose victory would have been as historic as Barack Obama's -- come to be seen as a tool of the establishment, a chronic liar, and a talentless politician?

Susan Bordo is a media critic, cultural historian, and feminist scholar. Her books include Unbearable Weight, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and, most recently, The Creation of Anne Boleyn. She is Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky.

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