Podcast / The Time of Monsters / Nov 26, 2023

Garry Wills and the Real Kennedy Curse

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, talking with Sam Adler-Bell and Matt Sitman about the toxic legacy of a famous family.

The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer
The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer

The Time of Monsters podcast features Nation national-affairs correspondent Jeet Heer’s signature blend of political culture and cultural politics. Each week, he’ll host in-depth conversations with urgent voices on the most pressing issues of our time.

Garry Wills and the Real Kennedy Curse
byThe Nation Company LLC

For this week's episode of The Time of Monsters, I’m doing a joint podcast with the crew from Know York Enemy (Sam Adler-Bell and Matt Sitman) talking about the legacy of the Kennedy family.

Our talk is based on our shared love for Garry Wills’ The Kennedy Imprisonment, a revelatory book about not just the Kennedy family but the nature of 'great man politics.'

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American financier and ambassador Joseph Kennedy (right) sits on a couch with his son, future American President John F. Kennedy in 1938.

(Pictorial Parade / Getty Images)

For this week’s episode of The Time of Monsters, I’m doing a joint podcast with the crew from Know Your Enemy (Sam Adler-Bell and Matt Sitman) talking about the legacy of the Kennedy family.

Our talk is based on our shared love for Garry Wills’s The Kennedy Imprisonment, a revelatory book about not just the Kennedy family but also the nature of “great-man politics.”

This is an in-depth discussion that touches on many topics including the mainstreaming of Catholicism in the 1950s, the appeasement policies of the British ruling class in the 1930s, Cold War liberalism’s embrace of elitism, macho culture and misogyny, and mass movements as an alternative to great-man politics. 

Know Your Enemy is one of my favorite podcasts. I very much admire its mixture of scholarly knowledge and political urgency. It was a pleasure to join Sam and Matt for this discussion.

The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer
The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer

The Time of Monsters podcast features Nation national-affairs correspondent Jeet Heer’s signature blend of political culture and cultural politics. Each week, he’ll host in-depth conversations with urgent voices on the most pressing issues of our time.

From McCarthyism to Citizens United
byThe Nation Company LLC

The mathematician Chandler Davis, who died in 2002 at age 96, was one of the notable victims of the second Red Scare. In 1960, Davis was sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to answer questions about his membership in the Communist Party. Davis’s lawyers defended him with the innovative legal argument that the First Amendment barred such questioning. While Davis lost in the courts, his legal battles were still an important effort in a larger battle to extend the parameters on political speech. Davis’s story is told in a new book, The Prosecution of Professor Chandler Davis by Steve Batterson. Siobhan Robert’s obituary for Davis ran in The Nation.

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, I talked to journalist Doug Bell, who knew Chandler Davis, about this book and Davis’s larger place in history. We take up the history of anti-communism and how it has limited free speech, the legal philosophy of Alexander Meiklejohn, and the reactionary Supreme Court's use of the First Amendment to expand corporate power.  

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Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation and host of the weekly Nation podcast, The Time of Monsters. He also pens the monthly column “Morbid Symptoms.” The author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014), Heer has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Prospect, The GuardianThe New Republic, and The Boston Globe.

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