Jeff Schechtman talks with authors, journalists, newsmakers and opinion shapers, and sheds light on the issues of the day, from local stories to national and international headlines and ideas.
David Gergen on How Great Leaders are Made
We often look at leadership today as about celebrity or attention. In a time when we have elected a reality show star as President, when celebrity politics is the lifeblood of the American political class, it’s hard to imagine world class a politician or global leader emerging today
It makes you wonder, Is there something in our culture that has become antithetical to leadership? We watch Valdamer Zalinsky in wartime, and we’ve seen the leadership qualities that are possible. We even see it in some of our military leaders…but why the seemingly dearth of political leaders today.
David Gergen, who has devoted more than half a century of public service, and has served as a White House adviser to four US presidents of both parties: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton, examines the perils of leadership in his new book Hearts Touched with Fire: How Great Leaders are Made .
My conversation with David Gergen:
Why Anxiety is Good for You!
It seems we live in a society where everyone wants to be protected. We don’t want to hear views we disagree with for fear that it might upset us, we don't’ want to go back to the office because we get stressed by a commute. We are afraid to let our kids go out and play unless they are supervised. We are anxious about money, about politics, about family…it’s no wonder there is an entire drug industry with provides for our every anxious moment.
We live emerged in first world problems that pale compared to the Greatest Generation, that fought a World War, lived through a Depression and did duck-and-cover drills in fear of nuclear annihilation.
Just maybe the fault is not in our society but in ourselves. Maybe instead of trying to eliminate all that might make us anxious, suppose we just got better at dealing with it. Just Maybe coping has fewer side effects than medication? Maybe that is what we were trained to do, as man first stepped onto the savannah, and the lion came after him. He learned very quickly to cope with anxiety. That coping is still buried somewhere in our DNA
This is where Tracy Dennis-Tiwary takes us in her new book Future Tense - Why Anxiety Is Good for You .
My conversation with Tracy Dennis-Tiwary:
Has Mitch McConnell Destroyed the US Senate?
In our lifetime and in the 246-year history of the republic, there was a time when great men walked astride the United States Senate. It was the crucible of democracy. Once referred to as the greatest deliberative body, and a cooling saucer to modulate the nation's passions, it now fails on all counts.
Today it’s filled with small-minded men and women, whose desire for reelection, money, and partisan advancement over the interests of the people, rules the day. And while there may be more crazies and corruption on one side, the other side has proven itself to be weak freckles and lacking in imagination. All of which makes them just bad at politics.
Certainly, the “how we got here” is a complicated story. There is plenty of blame to go around. However, since 2006, when he became minority leader, Mitch McConnell has sucked dry any moral compass the Senate might have. McConnell's actions during the Obama and Trump presidency may mark the end of the Senate as we know it. Whether it also marks the end of democracy is for today at least, an open question.
That's the question that Senate historian Ira Shapiro takes up in his new look at McConnell Betrayal How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America.
My conversation with Ira Shapiro:
Another Way Forward for Democrats
Back in 2002 in the wake of the George W. Bush election political demographer Ruy Teixeira, along with journalist John Judas, wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority. It spoke of the changing demographics of America. It looked at ethic diversity and how it was destined to forever shape Democratic success in the 21st century. This has not worked out so well for a multitude of reasons.
It turns out that the feature, not the bug, was the way our constitution was written. Rural voters matter.
Books like Hillbilly Elegy, What’s The Matter with Kansas and Kevin Phillips’ Emerging Republican Majority, painted a different picture than Teixeira and Judas. One where rural votes would succumb to the seduction of populism, culture wars and the power of the evangelical right. Enter Donald Trump and his collection of populist crazies.
But is this a permanent condition? Is this the real 21st century political future? Main State Senator Chloe Maxmin and her campaign manager Canyon Woodward think there is another way forward for the Democratic Party. They detail it in their book Dirt Road Revival.
My conversation with Sen. Chloe Maxmin and Canyon Woodward:
How Wars End: A conversation with Gideon Rose
Gabriel Garcia Marquez famously said that it’s much easier to start a war than it is to end it. Certainly, we’ve seen this up close and personal in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even, if we look more closely at the history, both world wars. It’s difficult to lose a war, but just as difficult to win, since winning a war is certainly not the same as winning the peace.
We see often in the corporate world that the founders of companies may be great at startups, but not so good at running mature companies. War is not that different. Those that start them, that direct them, and sometimes even win them may not be so good at ending them in a way that cements or makes worthwhile any victory. All these are important things to think about in the crucible of Ukraine, because someday this war will also end and whether it will be worth the loss of lives and treasure for the Ukrainian people or for Russia is certainly an open question.
It’s hard to imagine that either side is thinking about that end game at this point, but certainly, they should be according to my guest on the WhoWhatWhy podcast former Foreign Affairs editor and CFR fellow Gideon Rose.
My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Gideon Rose:
The Misinformation, Censorship and Noise That The Pandemic Gave Us: A Conversation with Joel Simon
While everyone is busy opining on the unknown and probably minor impact of a change of ownership of Twitter, we have literally ignored the chilling and perhaps long-term impact that the pandemic has had in enhancing government misinformation, curtailing free speech, and giving more powers to government. All while censuring information that actually might have helped people. And not just in China…but in the U.S. and around the world.
It was Churchill who originally said, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Certainly, governments of the world did not. In China, Israel, Brazil, Egypt India, and int the US Covid-19 gave carte balance to leaders to misinform, misdirect and take political advantage.
Joel Simon writes in The Infodemic that throughout the pandemic many people felt as if they were drowning in information, yet in fact, they were being censored.
My conversation with Joel Simon: