Transcribe your podcast

Welcome, welcome, welcome to armchair expert experts on expert Monica Mouse. What would you feel like if you went to my body? Would you be excited to be small, full of. Yes, there's so many things I would do if we body switched. Yeah, I'd run to the closest mirror and get naked. OK, John doesn't want to be a part of that. Jon Meacham is our guest today. You've probably seen him on Bill Maher. That's where we've seen him at a time.


He's great. He's a writer, a reviewer, a presidential biographer, a former executive editor and executive vice president of Random House. He is a contributing writer to The New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor to Time magazine and a former editor in chief at Newsweek. He also won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House. He also has a new book called The Hope of Glory Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross and an exciting five part documentary podcast series, Hope Through History.


So check out Hope through history and please enjoy historian Jon Meacham. We are supported by Legacy Box Legacy Boxes, a super simple mailing service to have all your home movies and pictures digitally preserved on a thumb drive DVD or the cloud. Do you have home projects that you've been putting off? What's on your list? Cleaning out the garage, digitizing aging tapes and photos. Legacy Box can help you digitally clutter. It's the easiest way to check off this important chore because legacy box takes care of everything.


I had a bunch of this stuff, old photos, some film, some VHS tapes. You got to digitize them because they deteriorate.


Yeah. Every minute you're losing precious material, you really are just getting worse and worse and worse until you pop it in the legacy box, send it off and they do the rest. Now, legacy box is a way for you to easily and affordably, digitally preserve your past. The process from start to finish is so easy you pack and send their team, digitizes everything by hand you enjoy. That's that. And you get that perfectly preserved digital copies on Thumb Drive DVD or the cloud ready to watch, share and enjoy.


That's my favorite part, is once I digitize everything, I could just send it to all my family members and save them. The step to brighten your day legacy boxes currently offering an incredible forty percent off by today to take advantage of this exclusive offer. Send in when you're ready. Go to legacy box dotcom slash tax and save 40 percent off while supplies last. That's legacy box dotcom stocks.


He's in chance. John, hi, how are you doing? Good, where are we joining you? Are you in a study in your home? I am.


I'm in Nashville, Tennessee. I've been socially distancing for half a century. So this is not that different for me. You're nice and practiced. Exactly. Now, are you in the middle of a book tour? No, I'm composing I am writing a little biography of John Lewis, then going back to my magnum opus, which is a biography of Dolly and James Madison. So I toggle between centuries. Yeah. And how is your because you've been at this for a while and I have to imagine the digital revolution for you has saved your car a lot of miles.


You used to drive all around and go to like hidden libraries in small towns and stuff like that. It's interesting. It has made basic infrastructural research easier. It has put a higher premium on those kinds of small libraries, collections that have not reached the digital landscape yet. And one of the tests I always try to meet is can I bring some evidence to the party that hasn't been there before? To my favorite historical guys are McCulloh, of course, always and KERO increasingly.


Did you read Titan? You must of. Oh yeah, sure. Now sure. Yeah. So probably my favorite historical biography ever written. My best Cherno story, which isn't really about Ron, is I was interviewing Dan Rather at a public event in Nashville a couple of years ago and before we went out he said, I want to talk to you about Hamilton. I said, sure, I'm a Jefferson biographer, but I have thoughts. Sure.


And we get out there and we're talking along and about, you know, eight, nine minutes in. He says, well, Ron, the key point here is and I think, oh, you know, all right, slip of the tongue. No problem. And then he did it again and then he did it again. And I thought, Jesus Christ, he thinks I'm a rancher now. And then at that point, you know, it gets so far past where the buses run.


You can't fix it 100 percent. Yeah. So and it was a hometown crowd. And so enough people kind of got it that we were all basically enabling. Damned sure by the end of the evening. Oh, that's that's fantastic. I'm glad that you just went along with it because, you know, we're not whining. What are you going to do? He's been around. He's served his country. It's OK.


Now, I really want to read your Jefferson book, The Art of Power, because I have read so many books where Jefferson is positioned is kind of an asshole, particularly. Right. The John Adams books. I came to dislike Jefferson through those books. Yeah, well, that you were supposed to. So David did the right thing. I wrote that book actually, in part because, I mean, he'd been chased by McCullough for about 800 pages in Adams.


Ron had hit him twice in Hamilton in Washington. And if you're going to be chased by anybody, you don't want to be chased by McCullough and Cherno. Right? Right. Sure. So I thought exactly what you're saying. You know you know, the son of a bitch may have been a son of a bitch, but, you know, he wrote the Declaration of Independence, for Christ's sake. So let's give him some credit. My argument about Jefferson is he's not a hypocrite any more than the country was hypocritical at the time.


And his views were not that far out of the mainstream. And if you denounce him and send him to the cross for our sins, it's actually letting the rest of the country and the rest of us off the hook. Hmm. He was reflecting prevailing opinion. And you can want him to be a saint. But John Adams closed down the press and deported immigrants. Hamilton wanted a British monarchical system. You know, nobody's perfect in this stuff. And if you look back and you think, oh, they all have to be these virtuous rush and figures, you're not doing justice to them and you're not really enabling our own time to learn from them.


Because do you learn more from senators or from saints? You know, you learn more from centers, which is good given the relative proportion of the centers of science in the population.


Yeah, I think increasingly people want their heroes to be flawless and it's getting increasingly frustrating from my point of view, which is like, no, no, these people are shitheads on one day, they're geniuses on the next day, they are people just like all of us. And if your expectations are perfection, then we're not going to have anyone who we study or learn from and you can't learn from them again. There's a reason there's a category of saints.


Those are exemplary stories that are inspiring. But saints themselves by deafen. And are also human, you know, I first came across this or I first started seriously thinking about it as a result of a couple of conversations with Taylor, Branch wrote the definitive really Martin Luther King biography trilogy. If you haven't read it, it's worth it. It's a Parting the Waters, Pillar of Fire and At Canaan's Edge. And he was talking about how in the second volume, he had included the information from the FBI wiretaps that King had had a very vigorous Extra-Curricular extramarital life orgies.


And he was under some pressure. He was under some criticism for why would you reward the FBI's unconstitutional surveillance and sully this man's name? And he made an incredibly resonant point with me, which is if you treat people as monuments, you limit their capacity to teach because who can be that? Yeah, right. So in Jefferson's case, as a young, unmarried guy, he had a crush on a married friend's wife. He had a 40 year connection with the woman he owned, I don't say relationship.


He wrote the most important sentence ever originally rendered in English that we were all created equal, but did almost nothing to bring the specific end of slavery about. But as you say, if you want your figures in the past to be perfect, it's a fool's errand and I don't think it's particularly useful. Yeah, I'm with you in in fact, being sober. The magic of this group, this 12 step group is I'm actually learning from everyone's failures to your point.


I'm not learning from people's accomplishments or successes. And I always say I'm here like if I interview somebody who's won an Academy Award, I don't know how that's applicable to my life. I'm not in root to win one. And that's that story over. But when I read Grant and I go, oh, my God, this is phenomenal. This guy is a military genius and he's as dumb as it gets when it comes to managing money and get rich quick schemes.


He would have been in every multi level marketing scheme available. Yeah, that's so refreshing and encouraging. And I think it helps people go, oh, I could have an area of my life, I'm genius and I could focus on this thing that I'm great at and I can feel, you know, human about it. Well, it goes to my basic point about the country, which sounds very grand, but it's why when people throw up their hands about anything the incumbent president does, as if there were somehow or another five minutes before he became president, we were a perfect country.


Right. Right. And then all of a sudden, we're terrible at our very best. We get things right. Fifty one percent of the time, at our very best, Abraham Lincoln was basically a segregationist. You know, go read the first inaugural. He reassures people in my native land that we have nothing to fear from him because he's not going to touch slavery where it exists. Know then circumstances change. Largely, military necessity is what led to the Emancipation Proclamation, and he becomes Moses.


But he didn't start out as Moses. Mm. And I sometimes get dinged for saying, oh, well, everything's going to be all right because everything has been all right in the past. And I don't mean that, but I do think that if you set an unreasonable standard of judgment, then you're foreclosing the possibility a. of persevering in hope, because if you have to get to 100 percent, you're always going to fall short of that. But the other side of that coin is that our best moments, the moments we celebrate, the moments we commemorate, the moments you want to be associated with historically are about liberation, not captivity.


You know, it's about Appomattox. It's about Selma. It's about Stonewall. Standing here today, if you had been the Congress of the United States in 1964, do you want to have voted for or against the Civil Rights Act? What do you want in your obituary? Right. I just looked this up the other day at the end of the millennium, so in 99, Gallup did a big survey about what did the public think were the most important moments of the 20th century.


The Civil Rights Act was fourth. It was ahead of the Kennedy assassination. It was ahead of the moon landing. It was ahead of World War One. And one of the things that I try to do when I talk to people who are in public life is ask this question. I sometimes I call it the portrait test. What do you want us to think when we look at your portrait on the wall and it actually has some salience and a chance to work because none of them can imagine a world where we're not staring at their portrait, that's.


Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds like a perfectly natural thing. You're asking them a question. They asked himself hourly exactly what I know now. I'm dead curious. What was one, two, three, World War two, the atomic bomb and the McRib?


I think I'll think of three a second. But it was it was big, right? Yeah. So but the civil rights beat the Depression in terms of people. Now, maybe that's liberal guilt. Maybe that's white guilt, but it doesn't really matter, because insofar as we can use how history is going to see you as a cudgel to make you do the right thing now, you know, go for it. Right. That's a great thing. Yeah.


And in fact, I'll bring up like a you know, a more recent example of this. And I'll say that this is a virtue I most admire, which is anyone can have an opinion and then double down on a double down and just refuse to take on new data and to watch a President Obama in real time be on the wrong side of marriage equality and then end up on the right side of it. To me, marriage equality is almost immaterial to the thing that I'm impressed with there, which is, wow, he could publicly acknowledge, oh, I was wrong on that.


And I've changed my mind. I've taken on new info. And that's that's a thing that should be modeled, if I may. There's even a further level of human complexity on that because he didn't really believe that it was wrong in the first place, correcting a cynical decision, which to some extent is even harder than what you just said. It wasn't new data. It was it was public opinion data. And remember, it was Biden who pushed him.


Right? Right. Biden got out ahead. In fact, Obama said and kind of a condescending way, Joe got off a little over his skis there on an issue of human rights.


So, I mean, maybe I'm wrong here. Maybe the Barack Obama I don't think I am. But let's it maybe the Barack Obama of 2008 really believed that same sex marriage, marriage equality was not right. I don't believe that. I think he made a cynical decision for some swing states and then had the guts to undo his cynicism. But as you say, kind of in connection to Jefferson, he was just reflecting the popular opinion at the time.


It felt like a big swing to be like, OK, I'm for this or against this. But I guess the thing that we want I don't think people want perfection, but they want the people who hold a legacy to have taken those risks and been a leader, not just a reflection to thoughts. Exactly right. Remember, Obama, we kind of forget now to some extent that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama succeeded a guy named George Walker Bush.


Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I used to think we would never see a sharper contrast in presidential type and temperament than George W to Obama until Obama to Trump. And now Trump has made Obama, George W, Clinton, everybody look like Cicero. Right. They all look like Roman senators now in comparison. But he was a black guy who needed to normalize himself a little bit in some swing states, and that's what he was. Do we really believe he doesn't believe that having a health insurance mandate is the right public policy?


I don't. But he was against it in the 2008 campaign. Again, perfection isn't the thing. It's Indigo. Exactly. To your point, the president's we remember most warmly tend to be the presidents who challenged their own bases. So Lyndon Johnson from a segregated state on civil rights. What's the one thing we remember about Richard Nixon that's positive? He went to China. So the guy who chases Alger Hiss, then he do the EPA, too.


Yeah, yeah. But but most folks would say, well, that's fine. Yeah. So, yeah, there was a there was a domestic his health care plan, by the way, was to the left of Obama's to show you how how rapidly the country can change Ronald Reagan and the Cold War, George H.W. Bush and taxes. You know, he had given his base what they wanted and then said, you know. What I'm wrong, we've got to do this, and he's been rewarded for that in history, so it's here's a category with no end what the president doesn't understand, which is, you know, how much time you got.


But one of one of the fundamental things is he doesn't see you have to spend some political capital to benefit historically. Yeah. And that's just putting it in vanity terms for forget that it's the right thing to do. Right. And you're right to go to your point, it's a leader, but people do reward those who challenge their basic assumptions. Yeah, OK. I want to walk through your life a little bit because that's what we do here.


I'm sure you listen to all the episodes religiously. Yeah, of course. You're from Chattanooga. I am. And Dad was in the Vietnam War. We was in the Vietnam. I like that phrase. Vietnam. Mom and dad got divorced. They did. And then you went and lived with grandma and grandpa. Grandpa. Yeah. And then he your grandfather or granddaddy, he had daily chats about local politics with all of his pals. And you just kind of hung around and we're absorbing all that.


Right. And you wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan when you were 11 and got invited to his inauguration. OK, so I just want to say I what are you and a handful of seven. It's hard to do something on a planet with seven billion people that puts you in a group of five. And I got to imagine you're just one of five 11 year olds who wrote a letter to Ronald Reagan. Yeah, well, I appreciate that. The letter part is a bit of urban legend.


Oh, it's apocryphal. That's apocryphal. But so the truth is even worse. So the truth is that, yeah, my grandfather was a judge in Chattanooga probably when I was six. He started taking me to court with him and I was most excited because they had a machine downstairs, one of the old pull the lever vending machines. Oh, sure. And you could get peanuts. And so you could pull the thing and you go and you get the peanuts and I get a Coke during the recesses.


So I thought the resources were great. And I still don't quite understand how they did this in terms of a workday. But it is absolutely true that the district attorney, sometimes the mayor, a couple of judges, there was a state Supreme Court justice who was around the sheriff was around a little bit. They would at 10:00 in the morning. So why they weren't working to earn their salary, which we were paying them, they would go to.


We had this old downtown hotel. It's still there called the Reed House. And they would sit around and have a cup of coffee and tell lies. Basically, they sometimes called them in Mendacity Club. And so to me, politics, to me, they were people. And I'm convinced there's a line between what I do now and that experience. The Reagan thing, it was I've never looked at the date of it. But sometime in the fall of 79, Reagan gave 60 Minutes interview and I bet it was with Mike Wallace because Mike Wallace was an old pal of Nancy's family in Chicago.


One of the many weirdnesses about Nancy Reagan is she used to talk about how her father was a doctor and she had doctors hands, but he was her stepfather. Oh, OK. You go to work on the mental peace section of the bingo bingo.


And I was just fascinated by it. I can't imagine it was the substance. I don't think I had a lot to say about the grain embargo of that year. But Reagan communicated this kind of mystique of power and politics. And I was sort of hooked. You know, he had he had studied FDR. He voted for him four times. There's a great scene. In September 1936, FDR comes to the Iowa State Fair, which was late in the summer.


And Reagan is working for HBO. He's doing the Cubs games. It was the year before he went to Hollywood and got his contract. And he actually runs across the studio offices to catch a glimpse of FDR as he goes by in the motorcade. And he learned from Roosevelt how a president should act literally in every sense of that term. So he had a way of communicating that he embodied the state somehow. And so that was appealing to me. And so I volunteered.


I was in the sixth grade, I volunteered at the Hamilton County Republican headquarters, which was next to a dive bar called Leonards, that they had a lot of. Leonard served a hamburger that was basically onions with some meat. I remember that detail very clearly anyway. So I was just around the local politics for about a year or so. And he wins, of course, and I got an invitation to the inauguration and I talked my grandmother into taking me up there, so I was on the lawn of the Capitol on the West Front Tuesday, January 20th, 1981, when really in many ways modern politics began.




And when you were there, did you have fantasies of being a politician or. Oh, yeah, you did. You thought you might be a politician. Oh, yeah. Look, if you were a white Southern Episcopalian child, you thought or you go to law school, then you get out. You run for office. Yeah. Now, the drama of my early 20s was to do everything I could to avoid going to law school. So I did like St.


Paul. I did put away childish things eventually. But when I look back on it, I'm pretty convinced that the tributaries that led me into doing what I'm doing would be going to court with my grandfather being around those local politicians. Then it got nationalized and even internationalized by both the Reagan experience. And then I read Churchill's war memoirs at a weird age. I was a really exciting kid, as you can tell, McCullough's early stuff and all that.


William Manchester, American Caesar and The Last Lion. Those books were hugely important to me. You're clearly a unique boy, right? You're are you are you. And I say that with admiration. Are you also at the high school prom? Are you just completely on your own, pal? No, I was a friend in college. He once had a great line and he sort of captured me as well as I think anybody ever did, which was that I was like Frasier Crane in Cheers.


I would be dismissive and critical of the madness and then go along and do it anyway. And that was a really astute insight. So, no, I was not a big athlete. Obviously, I wasn't quite as weird as I'm making myself sound. You could make a good case that I was like the boy in the bubble meets C-SPAN. But it's a it's a little more complicated because you're roughly the same age as my brother. And I'm wondering, I grew up in a room with KISS murals on the wall that my mother painted for him like his life was kiss.


Where were they on your radar?


They were not they were not high on the list. You didn't go as freely on Halloween. The poster on my wall was and I have it right over here was a George Herbert Walker Bush and Ronald Reagan at the 1980 Detroit convention with the line. The time is now. OK, all right. Well, that so that's really specific now, really. It really tells a lot. So when I was a freshman at school called Suwanee, which I loved, I got an internship to work covering a congressional race, partly because I knew the people who were running back home in Chattanooga.


And the way I think of it now is I walked into that newsroom and that was it. It had everything right you could. Right, which gave you some measure of control. You had a ticket to anything. It was all about all the things I thought about and read about since those days when I was playing with the peanuts. Yeah. You end up working at the Chattanooga Times. I love how you say Chattanooga, by the way. I'm going to practice in New York for Monica all the time.


Yeah, because you kind to go. You kind of go, shouldn't, you know? Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga. My 12 year old makes fun of me for this too. So you have that in common, which sounds about right. The parallels will not stop there, by the way, at twelve twelve year old. OK, so you end up working and we're going to fast forward now. You end up working at Newsweek in D.C. and you become the executive editor and the executive vice president, ultimately Random House.


And I'm wondering throughout this time, do you know you're bound to write historical novels or what's your game plan at that point? Didn't really have one. I'm a case of sort of a rat boarding a lot of sinking ships. Right. So daily journalism, weekly journalism, hardback books. I have a real eye for the future. Yeah.


You sold abacuses door to door for a minute. Yeah. Yeah. So pretty soon I'm going to launch this thing called Gutenberg. It's going to be Cantlay. But I was lucky in that everything sort of fed into telling these stories about the foibles of the powerful, both journalism and just the basic reading, getting to know a lot of these people that I just, you know, known from afar, President Bush being the best example, I guess. I guess the other sort of Rosebud moment was in the summer of eighty six.


I think Kiss was on tour, probably. Sure, sure. But I've been to so many shows at that point.


That kind of. And I kind of knew the knew the drill, so I took some time off from from that and read two books.


One was Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, and the other was written by Evan Thomas. And Walter Isaacson called The Wise Men. And it's about Dean Acheson. Avril Harriman. Robert Lovett was about these six friends who were part of the foreign policy establishment under Truman and Eisenhower and Kennedy. And I loved both those books so much that I finished them and then I started reading them again. So I read each twice that summer. So I'm a case of I read these things.


I love them so much. I always had this kind of voice in the back of my head. Could I possibly play in that stadium? Right. And as you start writing these books, you write several before you write Andrew Jackson, American Lion, which won the Pulitzer. Do you see that book is markedly better than the others are. I'm curious what you think you did right in that book. That's a very good question. I have no idea.


I'm a terrible judge of my own work, and it's not false modesty. It's just sometimes I say I'll do something and I'll think, man, this is going to make them better. And, you know, the mailman won't even notice. And then I'll do something without thinking about it and I'll get 40 letters. So I just I'm just not and that's I'm thinking journalistically, they're Jews way between. Some two outcomes are I'm the greatest gift to comedy to ever live and I'm the worst piece of shit how they let me on a show.


There's no middle ground for me. I'm either God or the devil in my assessment. You know, I don't want to in any way harm your sense of self, but I don't think that's a unique view. Right. Well, that's what I'm hoping. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I do. I do, Veer. But I find if you found this, how old are you. 45. OK, have you found that you are easier on yourself to some extent today than you were, say, 10 years ago?


Yeah, a thousand percent. As I've gotten a handle on my ego and I realize that the things that create sustainable kind of self-esteem aren't really related to the results. And I've definitely the thing I now mine for self-esteem and pride is is just diligence and hard work. So I say I'm in I'm in the shop and work business, not the results. Business and egos just results business. Right.


Two quick things come to mind or that I have found I am radically different than I was ten years ago in terms of the emotional swings. And I don't just think it's the medication.


Stay tuned for more armchair expert, if you dare. We are supported by square, you know, square, that little cute card reader that handles all your transactions, well, they do much, much more than that. And with social distancing in place, many small businesses, local businesses have made shifts to adapt, but businesses are stepping up to the challenge. Yasmine's falafel house in Knoxville is a popular family owned Mediterranean restaurant. Now Yasin is bringing his business online.


He is square online store to create an online ordering page so customers can order food from its two locations for curbside pickup. Customers are asked to add a description of their car to their order so they will pull up outside and a team member can come out and safely give them their order. And all of this has helped Yalcin keep his doors open and continue to serve his customers. So if you're a business owner, Square wants you to know it has tools that can help you shift your business like Gessen's is doing.


No matter if you're a restaurant or retailer, whatever, you can start selling online in minutes. You can offer curbside pickup delivery or shipping, and you can create and send emails to your customers to let them know what's up. All these tools work together and they're all in one place. You just need a square account to get started. See all the ways Square can help your business right now by visiting square dotcom go exactly that square dot com slash ghost index.


We are supported by Brooklyn and that's right, Brooke Lenine.


Now, what Brooklyn wants to talk about is some small changes that can really impact your lifestyle. You're doing one right, Meatless Mondays that can turn into vegetarianism for some people or subbing soda with water once a day to cut out soda completely. Now, in life, making small changes can lead to positive lifestyle changes. Towels turn a bathroom into a spa, embedding turns a bed into a retreat. Now you know Brooklyn and as the Internet's favorite sheets, but they're also home to bedding, loungewear, towels and more.


Now, I'm really into the lounge where it's so comfortable. Yeah. And it helps set my mindset into relaxation. Brooklyn was the first direct to consumer bedding company. They worked directly with manufacturers and directly with customers. The towels are super plush, ultra light. The shower curtains, bath mats, robes and candles had an extra lavish touch. You should be spoiling yourself. They even have silk in masks, robes, furniture are and TOTE's Brooklyn and does it all.


Now, Brooklyn and Dotcom is the perfect place to start making small changes to make big differences. Brooklyn and is so confident in their products that all their sheets, comforters, loungewear and towels come with a lifetime warranty. So go on, make yourself comfortable. Get 10 percent off your first order and free shipping when you use promo code armchair only at Brooklyn and Dotcom, that's B-R. OK, I n n dot dotcom, promo code armchair, Brooklyn and everything.


You need to live your most comfortable life.


Are you 51, is that old you be fifty one next week? Yeah, and I really do think it's just a function of age to some extent. I am far more capable of doing something and saying, you know what? This is what I set out to have a great example right now. So I'm writing this book about John Lewis, hero of Selma, a hero of Nashville, arrested 45 times, fractured skull. He's as close to an American saint as anyone I've ever met in the classical sense of that and the way that the early church defined it, which was not necessarily your character, but your willingness to shed blood and suffer for the faith itself.


I met him 30 years ago. Whenever I'm around him, I just think this is the most incredible person who's walking the planet right now and have always thought, you know what, I should write this. And so I was with him, took my family down. We were in Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham right before covid struck was the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. He does an annual trip down there. You walk across the Pettus Bridge with John Lewis.


You know, it's like walking at Normandy with Eisenhower. Sure. Literally. Yeah, right. Because that is a domestic war story, the civil rights movement. And what happened at Selma, what happened at Montgomery, what happened to Birmingham? What happened in Jackson, Mississippi, is as important to the American character and fate as what happened at Normandy or Bunker Hill or Appomattox. So I just decided, you know what? I'm going to write this book.


I'm going to do it. John's sick. He's got cancer. He's fighting it. He's 80 years old. And this may not be a radical reinterpretation of John Lewis. This if you know a lot about him, you may not come away dazzled by new information. But I have an argument I want to make about this man, and I'm lucky enough that I have world enough in time to do it. So I'm just going to write this book.


And if you like it, that's great. And if you don't, well, you know what? We'll move on. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I could no more have said those sentences in that order ten years ago that I could have flown. And I'd love to say that's maturity. I think it's just age. Well, I don't know about for you, but for me, a huge help in that has been two children as far as I had nothing to focus on but myself.


And occasionally I'd give my wife some of my thoughts. I was all important and I was the only measure of how this experience was going. But then once to other humans entered the picture. I had to break out of my own narcissism and everything about me got a little less important in the most healthy way imaginable. Yeah, no, I totally get I wish I could give credit to them, but but I was I was the the old way for a long time while they were of an eighteen year old, a 15 year old and a 12 year old.


Huh. But absolutely. Bill Buckley once said every man should write a book, plant a tree and have a son. So I'm done with my wife. Oh, sure. Well, it's half your transferable credit, my friend. So how do you pick and we're going to get to your new book. How do you pick? So, Andrew Jackson, here's what I know about Andrew Jackson and a lot of it's probably a lie. Well, he was in a duel, right?


He's one of our only presidents, like actually was in a duel. Yep. And did he have a humongous wheel of cheese he put in the White House? He wanted people to be able to grab a piece of cheese when they visited. Well, somebody's actually a guy named Meachem from Vermont, I think sent it down there. And so what are you going to do if you get it's like a it's like a regifting, right? Oh, OK.


OK, OK. So it was like the Statue of Liberty. It just arrived. Yeah. All right, fine.


Put it out there and maybe maybe they'll all eat it. Oh. But what was it about him that that made you on fire? Because I mean you got to I have to imagine you're spending I don't know how long it takes you to write these books. Clearly over a year. Right. Maybe a couple of years.


Jackson to five, Bush took seventeen. So that's a different story.


OK, so this is longer than many, many relationships people have. And so I got to imagine you might get on fire for them for a minute, but you have to really be able to suss out, is this a sustainable interest? It's going to be years.


That's exactly the way to put it, is it cannot be a single date because you do live with them through thick and thin. They also I found that answer your question directly. The reason I did Jackson when I did it was we were coming out of founders' chic. McCullough had done John Adams. Joe Ellis had done several really good books. Walter Isaacson had done Benjamin Franklin. Everybody was walking around in frock coats with with powdered wigs. And then in sort of the march of time, popular mind you really go from the founding era to Lincoln, right?


Yeah. Yeah. And then it's and then it's D-Day and then we're done. So I thought, you know, who's the most important American between the founding and Lincoln? And that's Jackson. He's a fantastic character. I sometimes think I should have saved Jackson from my retirement because he was again, I mean, the incumbent president makes him look like, you know, sinica. But he was temperamental. He was self-made. He came from the lowest rung of white society.


Never knew his father.


Was he the only redheaded president we've had?


No. Jefferson was kind of red headed. Jackson he had a good head of hair, actually. John Kerry kind of hair guy. Yeah. My gosh.


Do you collect lots of presidential hair? We had someone on here who did that.


I don't I don't we don't really have anything to add. OK, OK. So my simple denial. That's OK. I have a lot of I have a lot of weird stuff.


Bob Dole once gave me one of his button hooks. One of the things, you know, because of his arm is injury. So so that's that's about as weird as it gets. Bob Dole is a great American and still going. We ran into him. My son was with me. And Dole called up a couple of days later to say thank you for something that Bob Dole here said, Senator, we'd love to come see you sometimes not hard to get on the calendar when you're 94.


That's my Bob Dole impression. I know you're pleased. Is there ever been someone who refer to themselves in the third person as much as Bob Dole? I really don't think so. I love it. He made it so charming. He's so great because I was a big lefty. I was young and a big lefty. And even I was like, I like this guy a lot. I like, you know, this guy would you know why? You liked him?


If I may presumptuously. In a different life, in an alternative universe, he could have been Letterman. Yeah, I totally agree. He's ironic. And it was all it was all shield and sword. Right, because he needed to distract from the arm. So I don't know I don't know if he was quite as ironic as a kid. But when he came back, the sense of humor was about, if you're laughing, you're not staring.


Interesting. Yeah, that's a comedian's right of me. Yeah.


Yeah, it's interesting. So Jackson was immensely important Native Americans. He defended African-American slavery. He was an architect of the perpetuation of the two original American sins. But to circle back to what we were talking about, he was never outside the mainstream. And so what I dislike about the not the revisionism that's great is that let's debate it all you want. But when you try to exile him to a corner somewhere and I don't care who's on the twenty dollar bill, by the way, that talk about a Pyrrhic fight.


Yeah, but if you think that you can put him in a historical time out. And that somehow absolves the nation of its enduring. Tradition of injustice. Then you're kidding yourself. And I think there's a lot of elective self-righteousness when it comes to Jackson and the founders, my theory, which no one pays any attention to, but I will launch it here again. People ask me a lot about Confederate monuments and stuff. Yeah, yeah. My view is, if you were devoted to the American experiment of a journey toward a more perfect union, however imperfect you may have been, then you should be commemorated if you decide on the merits in public places.


But if you were taking up arms against the order that actually produced the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, that produced the Civil Rights Act, that produced the country, that we still, for all of our unhappiness we want to defend, then you shouldn't. So if Robert E. Lee had had his way, there would not have been a 13th, 14th and 15th Amendment. Mm hmm. And so you want to put him on a courthouse lawn? I don't quite see that.


You know, there was a fairly reasonable constitution in Alabama from 1866 to 1901, 1991. They got back together. They re legislated white supremacy and really nineteen hundred to about 1929. I think is the period that's most like ours in that sense, a lot of immigration, a lot of reaction to immigration, the refounding of the clan, the founding of the NAACP to try to fight back against Jim Crow, the narrow victory for suffrage in 1920, Wilson outlawing civil dissent during the First World War.


There's a lot in that period that I think is. Unfolding and echoing even now, hmm? Now your fascination with George Herbert Walker Bush, it makes sense because now I know you had a poster of him at a young age.


I'll tell you one thing here. Ellen Post is a picture with George W. Bush. Yeah. And people go crazy and they're saying he's guilty of war crimes and everything. Here's my limited experience. I went to a resort in Africa. We went during the rainy season. It was completely closed down. This wonderful place, Sangeeta, my wife and I, and we got to hang with all the people that worked there because there was no other people. And they were telling us about all these amazing people that had come through, like Bill Gates had been there a couple of months before and rented out the whole place.


And they're just going through list after list. And these guys independently, six or seven guys told me, they said, you know, the coolest guests we ever had was was George Bush. He sat with us every night and chatted till late at night. He was just the most friendly, likeable guests we've ever had. And of course, I was politically opposed to him. This is the father of the son, the son, the son. And I just thought, oh, yeah, you know what?


The guy's a nice guy. You want to know someone really has to talk to the staff at a hotel. If you're their favorite person that's ever come through, that says something about you. Absolutely right. You know, I met the senior President Bush in ninety eight, so I was in college through most senior President Bush's term. And like you, I think my roommate was a guy from Lynchburg, Tennessee, named Jack Daniels. So I was a little fuzzy on the Gulf War.


I had this very 1992 vision of Bush as Dana Carvey. Yeah. And Aditya's. I'd been around him for about twenty minutes when I thought, oh, this is why he became president, because in a tumultuous, turbulent and fallen world, he communicated this kind of ineffable sense that, you know what, if there are tough decisions to be made about war and peace, I'm a pretty good bet. Yeah. That he communicated that sense. Now, this is the father.


And one of the things that fascinated me was how in a popular government, in a media saturated age, there could be such a gulf between the way he was and the way even someone like me who spends a lot of time thinking and reading about this stuff could have such a different view. So one of the reasons I wanted to do the book was to try to explain that George W. Bush I met him, I was running for president, but I got to know him really at the end, right when he left office and I was in the homestretch of the book about his dad.


And he was very generous. He was you know, he was skeptical. I'd been at the magazine that had called his father a wimp. Famously in nineteen eighty eight, they saw me as this left lefty media figure, but he he answered every question. What you saw was what you got and maybe you wanted to see something else and maybe you wanted to get something else. But he has this capacity. Better than almost anyone I've ever known, including real people, to ask the hard question to address the elephant in the room.


Well, he's got a charm about him, right? That was kind of made him Teflon in that way.


Yeah, well, it's tricky to say it's Teflon, though, because he left with a twenty one percent approval rating. Right.


So 79 percent of the country we forget now because now everyone looks back at him and is like, oh, he was great. But no one.


Oh, no, he gave rise to the first black president. He was the universe. Yeah, people were disappointed.


But this is why there's a difference between journalism and history, because I published the book about his father 20 years after he became president, because that's about the earliest that you can make a considered judgment. So here's a great example ripped from the headlines of this. If you were writing a book about George W. Bush and let's say you had published it in the fall of twenty nineteen, I bet you a box of cigars that the word pandemic would not have been in the index today.


He looks far seeing he pulled together a response manual, we didn't pay any attention to it, but it's what makes what I do to me fascinating is things that you might not have even taken note of in one moment loom incredibly large the next. It's one sign of how complicated the presidency is. Arguably, the most important thing Bush 41 did domestically was something that passed by with very little debate, which was the Americans with Disabilities Act. Almost every building in America has.


George Herbert Walker Bush is thumbprint on it because a Republican president in our lifetimes signed a big government bill that ordered every building in America to be different. And it was signed in the fall of 1990, which is right after Saddam had invaded Kuwait. Nobody paid much attention to it. In his mind, it was about fair play. And part of what the presidency does is it touches on all these aspects of life. And in some ages you notice that in some pages you don't.


And the point of these debates is to go to your point. I mean, W. looks very, very good right now. Harry Truman, the same thing happened to Truman. They all want what happened to Truman to happen to them. Truman left Washington in January of 1953 with about a 25 percent approval rating. All because of some scandals, nobody even I can't remember, even the dogs can't remember. But as the decades went by, couple of things happened.


It turned out that containment worked. NATO was important. The Marshall Plan paid off. And through Vietnam and into Watergate, it turned out we kind of liked presidents who were really blunt. OK, I want to talk about your new book, The Hope of Glory, Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Now, before we even launch into that, what I'm trying to as I try to do, which is a bad habit, but I do it as I'm trying to draw a conclusion.


It seems to me that you straddle a little bit of left and right. And I don't think it's an accident. You live in Nashville, which I always get a good vibe down there. I also do in Austin, I always say about Austin, that's my city, it's liberal hillbillies. So it's like you're still in a truck. But, you know, you want gay folks to get married. That's that's basically me in a nutshell. And I get that vibe in Tennessee a bit.


There's like a nice contingent of kind of some straddle. You wear tattoos to the gay wedding. Yeah, I got it. Right, right, right, right. So are you astraddle at all or do you find that you're not fitting neatly into a box or are you one or the other?


I don't fit in. I don't know. I have voted for presidents of both parties. I plan to continue to maybe because of the way I spend my days. I just don't believe any one or any side has a monopoly on insight. Yeah, I agree. And that's not to say that somehow or another, because I'm not a partisan. I the I therefore know more than parties. I don't I don't mean that the system doesn't work if you don't have.


These forces encounter forces pulling on each other. I'm very much in the Reinhold Niebuhr history is tragic. Best we can do is 51 percent Theodore Parker Gooch's, a line that King used and Obama use. The arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. If you don't have people who are insisting that history swerve, we're not going to make it bend at all. Right. So if you don't have Bernie Sanders and John Lewis and dare I say it, the folks on the right as well, then the dialectic doesn't work.


My own view is I try to be data driven. I think that there's a totally understandable but a largely irresponsible shorthand that people fall into that, you know, one party's virtuous, the other party's not. And I just don't I don't think the facts support that. Yeah, well, I got to say, like, you watch the McCain documentary. Yeah, but but I was like, my God, here's a guy who I didn't agree with on a single thing.


And I can see and feel viscerally the integrity. And I admire it in the times where he's stood up against his own group. You know, you can't deny that Senator McCain is a great example of this. I think President Bush, senior President Bush's you know, he gave up his presidency because of an economic decision he made in the fall of 1990 when he decided to break the no new taxes pledge. He told his diary, he said, I'm going to be dead meat.


Mhm. But it's the right thing to do. And he had Gingrich and all these people pounding on him, but he really believed if he did the right thing, people like us in the fullness of time would come to appreciate it. And I'm delighted, you know, he sort of lived to see that. Yeah. Yeah. OK, so I bring up the straddling point because there is a stereotype where if you've written a book about Jesus and you're you're living in Tennessee, I'm thinking one thing, but then I know how interested you are in the civil rights movement.


And then I go, OK, that's interesting. So what what drew you to the hope of glory? Well, I'm a I was educated entirely in religious schools, so I went to an Episcopal Montessori, which is kind of redundant. And I guess when you think about a nominally Protestant secondary school and an Episcopal college, I think that and this is speaking both from a faith and a historical perspective. I think if you're making a list to go back to our list, most of the most important things that have happened in recorded history, what happened in Jerusalem around the year 2003, is as important, if not more so than almost anything else, including Gutenberg, including the Enlightenment, including World War Two, including the splitting of the atom, the weaponization of science.


It determines how we tell time and you can believe what you want to believe. But we know more about Jesus historically than we know about Socrates. The Gospels are not biographies. It's not like McCullogh was got the interview. They were written for evangelistic purposes. But that doesn't mean they're not useful historically. And in the very practical reason I did it is years ago, seven, eight years ago when we lived in New York, went to a wonderful parish, St.


Thomas Fifth Avenue, and we were regulars and the rector asked me to do it's a three hour service on Good Friday where you you give seven sermons in one thing. So it's like Guantanamo for believers. Yeah. This is you pound them over the head.


I was going to compare it to Navy SEAL Week. Yeah, exactly. Parris Island. So I deliver them. And it's funny talk about astraddle, so my view, and this very much goes what we were talking about, about if I produce something that I think has integrity, you take it or you leave it. This is fully within that zone. I believe that the Christian story continues to shape us in fundamental ways. It has a greater capacity to do good than evil if we do it right.


And if you concede the story, if you see the story to what we think of broadly as the religious right in this country, then you are unilaterally disarming and handing this great tradition over to people who actually are not about the Sermon on the Mount, but are really just about the Supreme Court. And so as someone who would call myself basically a kind of progressive believer, I decline to hand Jesus over. To Franklin Graham and the rest of them, you know, what's funny is we're very critical, myself included, on these, quote, moderate Muslims.


We want them to be very vocal against the extremist. Right. We're expecting them to stand up and say, no, no, no, no. They do not represent us yet. There doesn't seem to be a ton of responsibility laid on Christians to stand up. And I'm not a Christian, but I am aware of the messaging and doesn't seem to sync up neatly with any of the messaging that I feel like is what made the book sustainable for two thousand years to begin with.


Amen, brother. Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. There's a fourth century Roman writer, noted Christians who had just come to power when Constantine converted and the writer said, But surely there's not simply one path to so greater truth. And I totally believe that this is my path. Yeah, it it self evidently is politically, historically, culturally important to our allocation of resources and our dispositions of heart and mind in this country. And so the reason I did this was to say.


I think you can accept the truth of this story without joining blindly one temporal political faction or another, all the mysticism and supernatural elements aside, I'll go, OK, I have to acknowledge there was this guy, Jesus Christ or Jesus Christo's or whatever. He was killed. Pontius Pilate did order that God, this guy is famous. I mean, for two thousand years. If I just look at the fact like, could there ever be a figure like that?


I mean, I don't think for any number of reasons there couldn't be ever again. It is astounding that one human being, regardless, is being talked about today on a computer. What do you think it is about the timing of it, the context that created this kind of indelible story? This will be a countercultural answer. OK, good. The reason we are talking about him is because that handful of believers were willing to die because they actually believed he got backup.


If he had simply been another rabbi or prophet who had been martyred and left in a tomb, both literally and figuratively, we wouldn't be having this conversation, the radical nature of the resurrection story, which was so real to them. That they were willing to be persecuted, chased out of Jerusalem, stoned, changed the trajectory of that religious narrative and made it both a cultural and a historical one. The reason I think it's better than even that it really happened is because why on God's earth, so to speak, would you make up something so stupid?


Well, it well, you know, no, no, no. First of all, they tell the story in the weakest possible way, the women come and tell them women couldn't testify. The last person is mouth. You would put testimony in that you wanted to be accepted to the broader world would be a woman in the Middle East of the first century. They dismissed it as an idle tale. And I just think, why on earth would you, as a believer, would you tell the story in a way that so openly undermines your authority if there weren't some historical basis?


Because that's the way it really happened? Well, I can easily come up with a motive. So I've got this group of people. They followed this man. The man said he was God. If the God is just ordered to be killed by Pontius Pilate and he just sits there and he's dead, it didn't prove to be a God. So it's a very simple conspiracy for me to launch, to go like, hey, we know he was God now.


It didn't shake out. He doesn't seem very God like he was just killed by man. Now, if he had risen, that would confirm I mean. Right. You can see the motive for constructing that. He did something that only a God, but nobody. I see what you're saying. But if you there's some terrific scholarship on this and my mind is not terrific scholarship on it, but I've read the terrific scholarship. It's like watching an exercise video, but not exercising.


Yeah. So it just nobody was looking for a human atoning resurrected sacrifice. So they weren't speaking in any vernacular that would have been plausible. Sure. It was a one off. Yeah, it was a total one off.


Stay tuned for more armchair expert if you dare. We are supported by liquid ivy, I love liquid what I've I've been using it more than ever because, as you know, I've been jogging. I'm free today at five miles. I have the goal of a 10K. I know. I love that six point two miles.


And you really got to stay on top of your hydration when you're running like that big time. I get nervous about you. Yes. So I've been doing liquid ivy and it really helps with my jog. Believe it or not, dehydration occurs daily in three out of four people. Now to stay hydrated with water alone, you'd have to drink eight full eight ounce glasses of water a day. One stick of liquid I.V. in 16 ounces of water hydrate you faster and more efficiently than water alone.


Each serving provides as much hydration as two to three bottles of water, plus vitamin C, B3, Biffy B6 and B 12.


We had a stomach bug and we were pounding liquid I.V. and it really helped and it really, really did.


I never got cramp or headache. It's the perfect balance to help you hydrate more effectively and quickly and water alone. Liquid I.V. is available nationwide at Target, Whole Foods and Costco. Or you can get twenty five percent off when you go to liquid I.V. dotcom and use Kodak's at checkout. That's twenty five percent of anything you order when you use promo code decks at Liquid IV dotcom get better hydration today at Liquid IV Dotcom Promo Codecs. You can also find them nationwide at Target, Whole Foods and Costco.


We are supported by legal zoom. Health and safety is on the top of everyone's mind right now. No matter what happens, you want to make sure your loved ones are protected. That's why Legal Zoom continues to provide a reliable way for everyone to set up the right estate plan without leaving home. As you know, I've told you, I did an estate plan years ago on legal some. I actually use this product and it's so simple and it by God, it stands up under the scrutiny of law.


I need to do it. You've got to do it. It starts with finding the answers to your questions. Do you need a last will and testament or a living trust? What about an advanced health care directive and what's a power of attorney? You don't even know that, but you could find that out if you go to legal zoom. Thankfully, you don't have to figure everything out on your own. Legal Zoom's online resources make it easy to get started.


And if you need to speak to an attorney or independent attorney, network is there to guide and advise you. Legal Zoom isn't a law firm, so you won't have to worry about expensive billable hours adding up. Take an important step for your family today. Go to to get started on a Laswell Living Trust and more, or find out how you can speak to an attorney for advice on the right estate plan. Legal Zoom or life meets legal.


There was a big book in the mid mid century, mid 20th century, about Jesus, the salesman, they argue was the best salesman ever was.


You know, I think it's riveting. I think it's you know, we could spend the next three years talking about this. I think that the durability of the Christian story A owes an immense amount to the durability and power of the story of Israel, which is entirely about tragedy and endurance. But it also requires a kind of ascent to tragedy because so of all this is true, why pick this guy on the edge of an empire? And then go deep again, so he goes deep for in biblical terms, six thousand years and now he's been deep again for 2000 Mahat.


So, you know what is it pulls him up. Yeah. It's like, you know, it's Jesus is Bigfoot, you know. Yeah. Now, here's my issue with it. It's like the messaging is so profound. I do think what he was saying, love your enemy, turn the other cheek. These are incredibly beautiful and profound sentiments that he should be celebrated for. Do we even need the mystical aspect of it for him to just be an incredible philosopher that once lived like Socrates or Plato?


I mean, could his messages be that profound, that that was worthy of being passed along generation to generation? Yes, intellectually, clinically. What you just said, of course. But the reason we're talking about his articulation of what is not a particularly original message is because of the because because of this extraordinary story. Right. And so your book is really it's about the last thing he said. It's a it's a spiritual exercise. There are seven started in the Middle Ages.


There are seven sentences that the church believes that he spoke from the cross. You know, if you want to be absolutely historically rigorous, very hard to talk when you're being crucified, I would imagine. Yeah, particularly in good King James English. You know, I don't know how you say, oh, shit, how can this be over in Elizabethan tones? But yeah, it's father. Forgive them for they know what they do. So I immediately that's the first one.


I immediately take issue with it because that doesn't make any sense because they know what they did. Right. They know what they did. And if it's part of a salvation history that this has to happen, everybody should be happy about what they're doing. Right. So the first chapter of this book is we're starting with a problem. Mm hmm.


Everything you and I have said the last seven minutes, the gospels are problematic. The story is problematic. This is not a Jesus loves me. Yes, I know. For the Bible tells me so. But it is at the heart of Western history. It is the story that has affected, shaped, changed more lives than any other, I think. And so my message in this is a lot of people are going to gather at the foot of the cross no matter what.


So let's take advantage of that. Yeah, try to understand what happened, why we think what happened may or may not have happened and apply those lessons as well as we can. But I think that the secular tendency to try to move religion out of the public square is, again, a kind of fool's errand. At the same time, I think the Fox News thing about Christianity is under assault is genuinely insane. Right. There's no denying the impact of this faith on Western civilization.


And then, you know, collaterally there. My argument is. Let's understand it. Yeah, understand it. Now, here's my question. And this is where we go all the way back to you having a twelve year old daughter. So I was in a meeting recently. I just became aware out of nowhere because I don't spend a lot of time in churches how little role there is for women in the religion. And I would see that as a real hurdle going forward where, you know, God's a man and God created a son.


He didn't send a daughter back. And then all the apostles are male. I mean, you really have his mom and then you have the hooker, Mary Magdalene. How does a young girl. Well, e but she fucked everything up. Ruth, she she was born from his rib and then tempted him. You know, I'm curious how how Christianity incorporates women, you know, do you see that is an issue like if I was a young girl, I'm sitting there being explained this whole religion, I'm kind of like, well, what what the hell did we do?


And what's my role in this? And why why would I join something that seems to have ignored my existence? Right. One fact check just for Mary Magdalene actually was not the prostitute. The woman at the well was a prostitute. Mary Magdalene was basically bankrolling Jesus. Oh, OK. OK, I'm sorry. I'm here to I'm here I'm here to defend the very few women there are.


I come from a part of the forest that actually is the antidote to what a very reasonable question. You raise the Episcopal Church now. I don't know what percentage it is, but a huge percentage of the clergy is female. We were earlyish on that. In terms of from the 70s forward, I don't think my daughters feel gender alienated, but that's probably because of our. Tradition. Well, I can just can I own my own site, so I work in Hollywood, if you look at all of our movies, all of our movies up until 20 years ago are written by men.


And lo and behold, males are the leads. And even if you look at like the days of wine and roses, I mean, it's ostensibly about a woman dealing with alcoholism. But no, it's really about Jack Lemmon having to deal with his wife with alcoholism. And so it just it illustrates the nature of people write what they know. And if the only people writing are men, these are the stories you get.


Yeah. Yeah. I think that's the energy behind. Your question is widely shared. I think it's you know, I go back to the political realm on this. My girls go to a girls school and I was the post-election day speaker in 2016.


So you can imagine, oh, geez, the draft draft had to be redone with like, oh, last minute, I would imagine. So I wish I was going to show up and declare I was going to wear a white suit. It was going to be your land.


And of course, and the iconography of power is where I land on this. We do not know even now 13 years in the significance of Barack Obama in the White House for the iconography of power. As soon as we can get a woman there. Yeah. And I don't want to say this. I almost don't care who it is. Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. We have a caveat. Caveat. Yeah. By and large, not the gal from Alaska, but.


Yeah. Yeah, exactly. John McCain's only big mistake. I've often thought that by late October he wished he'd been back in Hanoi because they were they were nicer to him. So yeah, you're right.


It requires a deeply conscious thing. I find myself so my son is says a lot of the same interests I do. And he's the oldest. And I have to watch, you know, when we're at dinner that he and I don't just, you know, run off talking about, you know, the future of NATO, a, because no one cares. But but you know that you that you don't somehow or another is the right word, gender wise conversation and topics.


Yeah. And thus power. Yeah. Yeah. And so it's a matter of it's just vigilance. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Out of just curiosity and having to see oneself in a story, I think of it not even like I'm judging everyone in the past, you know, I have no accent right. I just more like in a very selfishly motivated incentivize y you know, how do you incorporate gals into something that is so historic and is what it is?


Well, I'm dealing with this right now in early American history because I am writing half a biography about Dolly Madison, who was the highest ranking woman in American public life for sixteen years. Really, I know nothing about Dolly Madison. I will take care of that. You may not be interested, but it will be available like Cal. I see it. My bridge. I know. That's right. That's right. The literature of early feminist thought you can master it, right?


It's not huge. It's the vindication of the rights of women. It's a woman named Judith Sergeant Murray, who is an American journalist. So the issues you're raising are very much on my mind because I'm trying to without making her into Betty Friedan in a hoop skirt. I am trying to try to understand, if you were an educated woman in elite circles at the beginning of this continental national experience, what would you have seen as your role and what would you have seen as the possibilities of transcending it?


And I know the question. I don't have the answer yet. Let's talk in six months. I love it. I love it. I will. Listen, we enjoy you so much on Bill Maher.


Well, I can't wait for you to talk about that book with Bill. Oh, yeah.


Yeah. Oh, yeah. No, he loves he really appreciates the nicest thing. A passive aggressive way anyone's ever said to me was I think it was on game. He was on the air or not. He was he made some offhand comment about how idiotic religious people were. And I said, well, you know, I'm religious. He said, yes, but I can't figure out because otherwise you seem fine. You know where that you know where that show is shot, don't you?


It's in the prices, right. Studio, is it? Oh, I didn't know. It's got that big wheel and all that is all crammed up against the wall. I call the gall. It's really. Hard to spin, Eric Holder and I tried to spin it once, it might have been locked there. Maybe that was it. So I host a game show called Spin the Wheel. And the Wheel is five stories and it weighs 40 tons.


So obviously no one can actually spin it, which became this whole thing once we started filming. There's nothing rewarding about someone just touching it and then it takes off. So they have to kind of act like they're moving it with no human could. And then when it spins, it's directly behind me. A five story. It's like the fucking Chicago World's Fair. And I'm waiting for it to fall on me. And I'm like, will it be Buster Keaton?


And I'll look like a comedic genius. Land perfectly between a spoke or will it be I will just disappear under it. Yeah, I think it's probably the latter. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I've, I've done the math on the wheel. There's more surface area than not surface area. Well, Jon. Yeah. Jon, what a pleasure talking to you. And please keep going on Bill Maher and keep writing and keep driving down there. Nashville, next time you're here, let me know.


All right. Great talking to you, John.


You do well.


And now my favorite part of the show, the fact check with my soul mate, Monica Padman, we were just again, going over the whole phenomena with the period can just rehashing a long standing three to one in my car that had Flemyng it and then took a sip of it and I screaming and I thought, there must be booze in here.


That's why she screams so I don't get it in my mouth. Yeah. What's really funny is all those thoughts that we've now talked about for hours. Yeah. They all happened in two seconds because it was all straightened out so really quickly. It's true. But in that microsecond I had like a whole world fantasy about your life as someone who drinks in the morning and hides it in Perrier. And then I, of course, like, how do I feel about that?


Yeah, that was evaluated all in like a nanosecond, which is crazy.


Do you think your nanosecond evaluation is accurate to how you really feel? Because real feelings take some time to process.


Well, certainly, and they can evolve. But yeah, you've never liked my feelings on it, which is so interesting because it's basically the feelings I would desire for you to have for me. Yeah, no. Yeah, it's like opposite, it's opposite days. You said you wouldn't care. I said I thought, well that's what she's been doing and she's completely normal and seems to have no wreckage or unmanageability. So who am I to say what is the right amount of alcohol when you should drink it.


Now if you had like wreckage in problems, then that's a different conversation entirely. Yeah, but I know you and you don't have problems. Yeah. And wreckage and unmanageability. So I was just like, oh my goodness, she drinks in the morning and none of that stuff. But obviously I have unmanageability if I'm drinking in the morning, like maybe you aren't seeing it, but that means there's something going. I mean you say addiction is just regulating your emotions.


Yeah. So obviously I'm doing that if I'm drinking in the morning. Yeah. Out of a it. But I got to be honest, I don't know that I am unilaterally against addiction. Well I think I'm unilaterally against people being unhappy, being miserable and demoralized in shame ridden. I'm against all of those things. But if you're some anomaly that I guess Frank Sinatra, right. That guy just woke up and he drank and he was drunk all the time and he loved it and he didn't care.


And it didn't seem to bother anyone. I wasn't married to him, mind you.


Yeah, I'm sure it bothered people. And I'm sure I'm sure he was not happy. I have no clue. I, I would guess. Yeah. You don't think Frank Sinatra was happy? He seemed very happy. He's good at pretending he was happy. Most people in the public eye are good at pretending. Now, what's interesting about that group is like Dean Martin, you could see was an alcoholic, like he had wreckage. He was sloppy.


It really was affecting him. And he looked demoralized in shame. Right. It looked like it was hurting his life. Right. But I'm not ready to give that evaluation to Sinatra's life. I'm like, I'm open to those anomalies. Yeah. I'm not the type of wagging my finger, like, oh, you drink X amount. It's this. You don't have to I mean, you don't know them, so who cares. But I think you should care.


I mean, this was my whole point. It's someone in your life who you love. Yeah. You should care about their well-being. That's a big red flag to their well-being. It definitely deserves some follow up questions. But I was open to the notion that. Impacting you negatively in any way. And what a weird anomaly I was witnessing, because I've not met anyone who drinks in the morning out of a period can know who's happy and productive and not addled with shame.


There is shame if you're drinking out of a period. Can't well, you would just be drinking out of it. Well, that's a good point. You're clearly hiding, but are you, like, hiding it? Going like these people are squares they don't understand. I drink in the morning and it's fine. Or, you know, it's like what version of it? So just first, I mean, I was driving your children around. So you have that.


That's a big deal breaker. Yeah. Someone someone being drunk while driving my children. That's I don't really care if you have shame or demoralized or any of that. That's nice. That's a no go for me. Luckily, it was just for some good old fashioned form. I want to add one more light to it. What's funny is because this scenario is so extreme, right. I've discovered alcohol in your period at 9:00 in the morning. Yeah.


I think part of you then fills out all this other stuff because that's so crazy. But in my world, everything's the same. I know you I know all about you and your routine and your general well-being and your mental health. I'm aware of all that. Yeah. I think when you do the fantasy, well, that was alcohol. There's a whole different Monica. Well, there is, but that's my point is I was living real time. There wasn't another Monica.


I was with her. So if the places were switched and I found something odd that you were hiding and you're still you. Right. I don't think like, oh, he just has this extra thing. I'm like, oh, there's this whole area of his life that he's keeping secret. That's a problem. People don't keep secrets about. Things are fine about. Well, I'd say yes and no. People have secrets are like about how much money they make because they're aware of what it does to other people.


But that's a secret. That's just keeping something like if someone asked, how much money do you have, you'd probably answer, right? Like, I don't do this. But if I was someone who took like I read Michael Palin's book and I loved it and I did and Carrados of mushrooms once a week, I might be clever enough not to share that info with people that that would scare. But that doesn't mean that I feel shame about it.


The people that it would scare, the people that care about you the most. So the idea that you're keeping that from them so that you can do this thing private by yourself or have this thing is is not good with secrets that give you shame is not good.


I think we can agree on that part we could build from. Well, sure. That seems obvious. Yeah. But I think there's secrets that don't give you shame. There's just stuff that's not public knowledge that doesn't give you shame. I don't know that I agree. Oh, really? And also, I'm surprised that you feel that because you where honesty is like such a cloak. But I guess I'm giving you an example and you don't agree with that example.


But for me, it's a real example, which is I wouldn't want to tell someone how much money I make. Yeah, sure. There's a bunch of stuff I may choose to not share with people because I'm aware of the other person. I know that they're a variable in the equation. So I have to consider that other variable because there's a lot of things that like I don't have dream about. I'm happy to let ten people know, but I don't want to tell it ten percent.


It's going to let a thousand people know. I might not want a thousand people to know, but I might be very comfortable. Ten people knowing. Yeah, yeah, that's fine. And I think everybody should know everything about everyone. Right. But like I don't think the money thing is the same as the shrooms because the money thing, there's this whole like societal layer on top. Like you shouldn't talk about money and everyone's comparing money, like you are thinking about the other person in the shrooms when you're thinking about the other person.


But in relation to you, well, I'm going, oh, this person, let's say, was, you know, Kristen's mother. Uh huh. Who's traditional in many ways. Yeah. And I would go, there's no way I'm going to make her understand the value of mushrooms. Right. So I'm only putting something in front of her that she's only going to be judgmental of. So why would I do that? I don't need to tell her that.


I don't need to make her worry. And I have a different opinion and I recognize have different opinions than people in the world. Like some some activities scare people and some don't like I ride motorcycles. There are many women that text me like I can't believe Kristen let you do that. Like, that's very scary to them. They would that would be unacceptable that their husbands did it. I totally get it. That's their prerogative. But, you know, we'll just never see the same.


Yeah, but you wouldn't keep it a secret from them that you you like you feel totally fine and good about yourself, that you ride motorcycles. You wouldn't be like, I'm going to keep that a secret. Yes, you're right about that. But I'm saying if I establish that there's these things that, like, people will never see eye to eye on. Yeah. So then as you just you explore different things along those lines. And for me, there can be gains of like, oh, five people.


No. Twenty people. No, a thousand people. No, the world can. No. Yeah.


I mean I think you have you just have to be careful. You have to really be policing yourself if you do that, because you have to start thinking like, OK, the five people who I told about shrooms, are they the people who are giving me the shrooms, the people who are doing them with me, people who don't care. And I know exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If the people you're specifically leaving out are ones you're leaving out because they might say to you, that's a slippery slope, I don't think you should do it and you just don't want to hear that.


Sure. That well, that's a very specific thing and I think that's a big problem. What if you were hiding it because you thought people might contradict what your opinion was on it and you didn't want to be challenged on it? Right. Right. Yeah, I think that's like a specific thing. Yeah, but but I can think of so many things. Let's say I started acting fifteen years earlier and I like to wear women's clothes now. I might not have any shame about that.


Yeah. And I might have told five people. Yeah. And I also might not have wanted the whole world to know because it would have affected my career. And so there would be a secret that is this secret and yet it doesn't create shame. I'm comfortable with it. And yet I don't need everyone to lobar. Yeah, it's all specific to the example because it's the history of the thing. Right. Like for shrooms with you. Yeah.


There's some fear around that. Sure. Of course. And for you wearing women's clothes, there's no fear. Right. You know, and so it depends, I guess, on each circumstance. And what that paria I just think when something so secretive, it generally means there's a reason why there is a reason for the clothes, because because society is not there, it would ruin your career. That's the reason that makes total sense. Yeah. So what's the reason about me drinking alcohol in a period camp?


Like we'd have to find out what that reason is and then decide whether that was healthy or not healthy. Yeah, I really think it boils down to Dr. Alex, which is like, does it give you shame? Is that, you know, is it secret and you feel shame about it? I think that has to be the thing we're evaluating. So, like, if I find out you were drinking and then you didn't feel shame and you're like, OK, I drink every morning.


And I was like, you didn't tell me that. You didn't ask me that. Right. And then you were completely fine with it. You didn't care. Yeah. And then your life was exactly how you wanted it to be. Yeah. I just I'm hesitant to say that one thing's like any one thing is bad. Some people can go do cocaine on their birthday weekend. Yeah. I can't know. But that person that can do that and does that 15 times in their life that, you know, it's I don't find that implicitly bad and I don't think anything's implicitly bad.


It's all in context and it's all about the I think the the the consequences of the behavior. Do you feel shitty? Are you miserable? Are you depressed? Are you unaccountable? You know, all these things we'd have to use to evaluate whether someone's thriving or not. Yeah. And you were thriving on all those things. Yeah, I guess it's tricky because. Yeah, there's just this conversation just gets so loopy because if I was drinking in the morning, there would be consequences.


There just would be. You're right. Yeah. Like the what I had observed was there were no houses in here was this. I just discovered that there's been alcohol this whole time and no consequences. So it was just curious to me. Yes. Yes, yeah.


Well anyway, good debate. OK, Jon Meacham. Mm hmm. So he talks about the Gallup survey that that survey the public about what was most important moments in the twentieth century. He said civil rights was fourth and then he said one was World War Two saying was atomic bomb. He couldn't remember three. So I looked it up. OK, so one is World War Two. Two is women gaining the right to vote in 1920. Women's suffrage three is the atomic bomb.


Oppenheimer four is the Holocaust Nazis and five is the Civil Rights Act. So he was wrong. KKK oh boy.


Oh, sure. We were naming the the the antagonism is OK. Civil rights, civil rights was five five. OK, OK. Six was World War One. OK, seven landing a man on the moon. Sure. Eight assassination of President Kennedy. Nine the fall of the Berlin Wall. There's eighteen but my got car weird. No let's do the eighteen. I know it doesn't make any sense. At least if they did nineteen it was the nineteen hundreds.


If they did twenty it was the twentieth century. You're right. Eighteen makes zero sense actually.


Maybe. Let me make sure there's not much. I'm sorry. No eighteen. OK I'll keep going. Allow me to. Yes of course. OK so nine was the Berlin Wall. Ten is the depression. Eleven the breakup of the Soviet Union. Well the Vietnam War. Thirteen Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight or eighteen. The launching of the Russian Sputnik satellites. Fifteen the Korean War. Sixteen the Persian Gulf War. Seventeen. The impeachment of Bill Clinton wound an eighteen.


The Watergate scandal involving Nixon. So this was pre 9/11. Clearly, there's no way 9/11 to me. Yeah, this is this is up until the year 2000.


OK, OK. Yeah. What do you think your number one would be most memorable event, I guess. Is it most memorable or most important. So that's I don't even like this question. There's too much pressure because you got to get it right because like it let's say I say the advent of the internal combustion and it's going to quickly go like really more important civil rights.


And then I'll feel like an asshole. Like there's got to be some I'm sure that I'll miss a bunch of humanitarian ones that I'll just feel like an asshole about. All right. Yeah, but most memorable.


Memorable events is much easier for me, not important, just memorable, probably 9/11 and then and then Space Shuttle Challenger, which you weren't born yet now, but I know about it. You know about it. And every kid my age was watching it. I know it's but I think memorable because they were tragedies. Oh, yeah. You know, these are very memorable as opposed to like the victories. Like I like that these many, many are bad, but many are positive, like the women's right to vote and civil rights.


You know, the Berlin Wall. Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Landing a man on the moon. That's nice. That's pretty high. That's seven. I would have thought I was higher. Really?


Yeah, because it's the way have someone left Earth our home. I know they literally went to this object that mankind has been looking at for one hundred and fifty thousand years. I'd argue that's even more impressive than the Berlin Wall and more impressive than women's suffrage. I got to say no. I mean, we should just have women's suffrage as an accomplishment. Exiting Earth, your host planet, I think what's very sad is it's it's not as impressive, it's not as hard to leave Earth than it is to change the minds of a whole country about a group of people.


That's true. That's true. I want to leave Earth for a sec, do regroup. Do I mean, the idea of going in a shuttle and stuff sounds awful, like I have no desire to go into space, really. But I just wonder what it would be like if I could just teleport up there.


Now, I wrote this movie, my friend Steve Brill, and I wrote for Paramount called Space Race, and I had to learn a lot about space space.


And then I read all these accounts from astronauts and there's a high suicide rate among guys who have been up for a while. Do you think it's chemical? It could be. It does. I think something nihilistic happens when you. Yeah. Exit and look back at that little rock that everyone's so busy acting like everything's important. I know it's you become literally the alien looking at the monkeys, but why couldn't it be the opposite?


Why couldn't you come back and just be like, well, here's the positive thing I want to add is that every one of those guys and gals who've been up there, almost all of them will say. Every time they had free time, like they have all these chores up there, clearly, yeah, but on all the off hours, they all just stare at Earth like it's supposed to be the most mesmerizing thing to watch in it. They never tire of it because you can watch it because the earth spinning at a thousand miles an hour and you're traveling at seventeen and a half thousand miles an hour in orbit.


You're watching like, oh, there's Egypt. Oh, there's this. Oh, there's. And you're just watching. You know, it's like, oh yeah. And you can see the lights.


Wow. You can see urban areas.


You can they say you can see the wall, the Great Wall of China from like I can barely see it, I can barely see it in an airplane. How can we see it from Mars or the moon or orbit.


Well when you orbit you're only I don't know how many miles you are up, I should remember. But, you know, you're not that far away from Earth. Yeah, but even to get to the tip of earth, the edge of Earth, the flat earth, you dive off. Jump off. Wow.


Mm hmm. Wow. Yeah. Definitely memorable. 9/11 would be number one for me for memorability. But you know, what's so crazy and cool is just and he mentioned this about presidents. You can't really even begin to write biographies until, like you say, like 15 years after minimally. Yeah. Because you can't see the full scope yet and you don't see the things that they've planted that then come back around and using the coronavirus as an example.


Nixon in the EPA, it is so crazy to think like this. Time is a very huge historical moment like this is going to go down as the biggest moment in history, totally unknown what the outcome is. Yeah. And will not be fully visible for 15 years.


Minimally, it's cool. Go, go, go, go. I mean, I bet also one that would make the list w would make the list in my book and I think in general would be Michael Jackson's Thriller video.


I don't think that's going to make your list. You weren't born, you know, is Obama becoming president? Yeah, I can remember exactly where I was standing and shit, but I was the first time I voted. Oh yeah. Was Obama fun? Yeah, it was exciting. It was in Athens. I was in I was in Bora Bora. Oh, we were out of the country. We'll hear the results. Did you do a Meilin?


Yeah. Oh, wow. Yeah.


Maylin, what was amazing is that there was some cast members who did not want him to be voted and there were many who did.


Yeah. So it was a quiet three days after what. Yeah. It's kind of like me getting the negative results back from my covid test because everyone's just kind of quiet. Oh yeah.


I mean that also specifically that election and then this one coming up is going to be the same. And this past one was or like it feels so intense like your side, although maybe although I think it always does.


Really. Yeah. I don't, I don't I think it's newish that there's this really extreme division. I will. Yeah. The divisions are much more extreme. So it feels so much more intense when somebody wins and somebody loses. But the first time I got to vote was for Clinton. Yeah. And I was just like so excited. I was so excited. Bernie and I were so excited. We called him our king. Yeah. He was King Clinton.


We wanted to worship him and make him the king. And then we were. So to Hillary Rodham Clinton and we call each other and we say, this is the the Hillary, the Rodman, the Clinton talk. We had like all these names for her. Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's just fascinating to look back. It is. OK, so you said that you imagine he's one in five eleven year olds who have written a letter to Ronald Reagan.


OK, so I can't check that. Yeah, there's no way for me to know. Yeah, OK. He said he couldn't remember the day, but Reagan did an interview in the fall of seventy nine, a 60 Minutes interview. And I looked I couldn't find a 60 Minutes interview in 79, he did one in 75. That was like a big deal, OK? And then he did another one later. He did a few, I think.


But I didn't see a 70.


Oh, all right. But maybe I'm wrong. So he also used the quote, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. That's my favorite moment of all time. It's really good. I love it. And, you know, Obama had it on his floor in the Oval Office. He did get it into the carpet. Really? Oh, my God.


That's cool. I know. I like you. If you're a Republican, you're like throwing up at this last ten minutes. We're just, like, jerking off talking. I'm going to Obama.


And then he had this thing on the surface.


But I'm going to give credit to Republicans. I hope I hope I can appreciate that quote. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, you should hope that there's justice regardless. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you don't, I'm sorry. I don't like you. You can be a Republican and have that same ideal. Oh, God. Yeah, I'm sure most of them probably do. I'm sure they all do. So he said the Episcopal Church, which he's a part of, has more women, 12 percent of 11000 Episcopal priest are female.


That's horrible. No, it's not horrible. I wonder how many firefighters are women. Can you please I mean, let's compare the Episcopalian church to firefighting. That's a good question. I almost typed in firemen. Well, of course, that's what they're called. No, even when they're women, we call our fire lady.


That's a great name. Well, sounds like a like a superhero.


Eight percent.


So civilian church is blowing the firefighters out of the water. OK, good. By the way, though, I don't I don't think that answers my question. So great. So there's there's a lot of humans involved, but there's no Didi's. There's no supernatural. There's no role for women in that religion. I'm sorry. I totally agree. I got to do a little caveat about this. Eight percent. Firefighters in twenty eighteen ninety three thousand seven hundred eight percent of the firefighters were female.


Of the career firefighters, four percent were female. There were seventy eight thousand five hundred volunteer firefighters who were female, which was 11 percent of the total number of volunteer firefighters.


Well, that's a different category altogether. Yeah, yeah. You know, volunteer firefighters are right. They were in my town. You could volunteer. They give you a little light. And if all hell broke loose in exceeded the capacity of the fire department, they'd call up the volunteers that you're like, my neighbor was a volunteer. And then you get to put that light on his dash and spot there and then help. But he's not an employee.


Oh, yeah. Oh, he did. Yeah. Well, you have to go through some training. They don't just give you the light show. I got a little nervous panicking that actually come here. I don't know. What did this whole. You are the fire department. Oh, boy. Well, that was fun. I always love when we have historians on. Yeah, it's different. It's different.


Yeah, it was fine. Yeah. I love you. I love you.