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Al Gore, Reconsidered

Now that we’re faced with Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel, it is tempting to ask, again: What if he’d actually won the Presidential election back in 2000? Remember when the century turned, the chads clung and hung, Florida was in Republican hands, and the Supreme Court ended up deciding the race in favor of the fortunate son of a former president? How many wayward chads would it have taken to give us 4 years of Al Gore, the “beta male” who wore sweaters in heather hues, and spoke calmly about the calamitous state of our global environment? For one thing, I don’t think we’d have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. But what else might have — or not have happened?

I had the chance to interview the Vice President for NHPTV in the autumn of 1999, prior to the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. Little did I know of what was to come, or I might have asked somewhat different questions.
I remember it was colder out than it looked, and Gore nursed a cup of coffee throughout the interview, while attempting to come off as well … approachable, like his two chief Republican opponents: the easygoing George W. Bush and the jubilant John McCain, who at the time was touring the state in his Straight Talk Express. More on that in the next post.
But in the meantime, let me know what you think of Gore, back in the Twentieth Century, before our continuum got torqued!

Posted on August 6, 2017 in a new podcast, Environment, Front Page, Politics
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Revered New York Review editor Robert Silvers, R.I.P.

Note: this interview has been picked up by the public radio station WGBH, in Boston, and its sister stations WCAI and WNAN.

Robert Silvers (credit Melanie Flood)

The venerable New York Review of Books was launched amidst a newspaper strike in the winter of 1963, and has continued unabated ever since. Devoted to intensive and nuanced coverage of politics, the arts, literature, science (and now movies and the Internet!), the paper, as it’s called, is considered to be the premiere journal of the American intellectual elite.
Robert Silvers, its longtime editor, who shared the post with Barbara Epstein until her death in 2006, spoke with ThoughtCast in the WNYC studios in New York.

Click here: to listen (40 minutes).

Note: Scott McLemee, who writes the Intellectual Affairs column each week at Inside Higher Ed, contributed an excellent question to the interview – thanks!

Posted on March 23, 2017 in a new podcast, Front Page, History, Ideas, Literature, Politics
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A Prior Republican Presidential Debate

There was a time when Donald Trump, and the less sensational but still controversial Ted Cruz, did not dominate the discourse and depress the hopes of the Republican Party establishment. Back in 2000, there were 6 candidates to pick from, and none of them prompted calls for a contested convention. Even so, these six seemed like quite an odd bunch at the time, and they took their place on stage in Durham, New Hampshire for an influential Republican Presidential Debate only weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary on February 1st. This was the first time citizens cast their votes in a primary for the future President George W. Bush.
Let’s rewind the tape, and take another look. (NB: click on the link just provided, NOT on the images.)
georgeWbush This January 6th debate was moderated by Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, and featured Arizona Senator John McCain, conservative political activist Alan Keyes, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, publisher Steve Forbes, Christian pro-life spokesman Gary Bauer and George W. Bush. As things turned out, Bush fared poorly in New Hampshire, and lost the primary to the “straight talk express” candidate John McCain, who pushed for campaign finance reform.
jennyrepdebate1 I participated in the debate as a correspondent for New Hampshire Public TV, and was able to ask McCain, who was campaigning to clean up Washington, a question about his influence as chairman of the FCC.
So — let me ask the same questions I posed in my Democratic Presidential Debate post: In taking a look 16 years after the fact, how does it seem to you now? Quaint and out of date? Does it hold hints of what was to come? What should we have done differently that might have made the future a better place?

Posted on March 18, 2016 in a new podcast, History, Politics
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A Prior Presidential Primary

Back in 2000, before we’d ever heard of Al Quaeda, Abu Ghraib or ISIS, we somehow managed to survive a Presidential Primary season with our national dignity relatively intact. Those were however less traumatic times. Do you know what we were worried about back then? Whether or not our computers would implode when their 1s and 0s flipped over to face the new century. Good old Y2K. How innocent we were back then.
But — it could be argued that this same Presidential race and its hotly contested aftermath, oh so indelicately umpired by the Supreme Court, was the spark which lit the fuse that hurtled us down the path to our current predicament.
So let’s rewind the tape, and take another look. (NB: click on the link just provided, NOT on the images.)
AlGore New Hampshire is always the first state to vote in the primaries, and the millennial year was no exception. It was scheduled for February 1st, 2000, and was less than a month away when a Democratic Presidential Primary Debate took place in Durham, New Hampshire, pitting Vice President Al Gore against former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. The January 5th debate was moderated by ABC TV’s Peter Jennings. I too was a participant, as a correspondent for New Hampshire Public TV.

jenny:dems So — in taking a look 16 years after the fact, how does it seem to you now? Quaint and out of date? Does it hold hints of what was to come? What should we have done differently that might have made the future a better place?

Posted on February 25, 2016 in Politics
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Beacon Hill Seminars Writing Workshop

I’ve had the pleasure of leading a Beacon Hill Seminars Writing Workshop this autumn. Sadly it’s almost over, but I wanted to let you all know about this marvelous resource in the Beacon Hill area.

Beacon Hill Seminars Beacon Hill Seminars is described as “a membership organization of people who have a vigorous interest in continuing their intellectual growth.” I like the use of the word vigorous. Just to give you an idea of the kinds of courses that are usually offered, Lyle Miller is currently leading a seminar titled Hemingway’s Wives, Hemingway’s Works.  And Francesca Piana is teaching International News with a Historical Background and Discussion.
There will of course be more programs offered this spring!

Posted on November 29, 2015 in History, Ideas, Literature, Politics
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Arianna Huffington on Picasso and the Clinton White House

Arianna Huffington, the author, journalist and founder of The Huffington Post, spoke with Jenny Attiyeh at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.  This interview was broadcast on WNYE, a public television station in New York City.

Today she is a media mogul, one of Forbes’ 100 most influential people. But back in 1999, when I had the chance to interview her, Huffington was merely a media star. Her book Greetings from the Lincoln Bedroom had recently been released, and not to universal acclaim. It’s a frolic of a book, a fanciful tale of the Clinton (Bill) White House. But I was more interested at the time in her powerful and still shocking biography of Picasso: Creator and Destroyer.  Huffington, of course, could answer all my questions with ease.
This is the final interview that took place at the Fourth Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 1999. The second interview was with KCRW’s Michael Silverblatt, and the first was with the comedian and writer Sandra Tsing Loh.
For an audio version of this interview with Arianna Huffington, click here: to listen.

Posted on August 31, 2015 in a new podcast, Art, Biography, Front Page, Literature, Politics
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