Saturday, November 27, 2021

Podcast Episode 24 - The Most Dangerous Man In America, Part II

Lousiana governor Huey Long had learned a lot from his impeachment trial, and it was no more Mr. Nice Governor down in the bayou.

He wanted to expand a road-building program and build a new massive state capitol building as a lasting monument to his reign. The legislature (and Huey's own brother) opposed the plan, so Huey had to come up with a way to persuade them, and make sure he retained power.

His answer: he was going to run for the United States Senate.

But there were two men who had damaging secrets about the governor, and something had to be done about them before the election.

So Huey had them kidnapped.




He had the Louisiana Bureau of Criminal Identification, which was essentially his private police force, arrest the two men in the middle of the night and hide them away from the press, as well as the Federal agents called in to investigate.



Huey kept them under wraps until after the Senate race was over, which he won, using a number of electoral shenanigans like ballot box stuffing and registering trees to vote.

After the election, Huey began signing his name ‘Huey P. Long, Governor and Senator-Elect.

Check out this episode of the History's Trainwrecks Podcast:




Sources

Long, Huey P. “My First Days In The White House.” Pickle Partners Publishing, 2016.


White, Richard D. “Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long.” Random House, 2009.


Wikipedia, “Paul N. Cyr.” Retrieved November 27, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_N._Cyr

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Podcast Episode 23 - Tractors For Fidel Castro

The Bay of Pigs invasion was, to coin a phrase, a train wreck.

Fidel Castro had come to power in Cuba in 1959, planting a Communist country right on America’s back porch. Having a Soviet satellite ninety miles away from American soil was, shall we say, troubling.

The Eisenhower Administration approved a CIA plan to train Cuban exiles and provide them with weapons and air support for an invasion of the island. The expectation was that the Cuban people would rise up in rebellion and topple the Castro regime.

The train went off the tracks pretty early. Despite efforts to keep the mission a secret, the invasion plan was widely known among the Cuban community in Miami. Castro’s intelligence service found out about the training camps the CIA had set up in Guatemala, and some of the details of the plans made it into the press.

Fidel Castro was not going to be surprised.


The invasion failed, and Castro took 1200 prisoners. In return, he wanted a bunch of tractors. 

This was going to get interesting. 

Check out this episode of the History's Trainwrecks Podcast. 








Sources

Michaelis, David. “Eleanor.” Simon & Schuster, 2020.

No Writer Attributed. “Tractors for Castro.” The Harvard Crimson, 1961. Retrieved September 8, 2020 from https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1961/5/31/tractors-for-cuba-pfidel-castros-offer/

SMITH, THOMAS G. “Negotiating with Fidel Castro: The Bay of Pigs Prisoners and a Lost Opportunity.” Diplomatic History, vol. 19, no. 1, 1995, pp. 59–86. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24912438. Accessed 8 Sept. 2021.

“The Bay of Pigs.” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.


Saturday, November 13, 2021

Podcast Episode 22 - Teddy Roosevelt's Third Term, Part IX

 


Former President Theodore Roosevelt was in a weird mood.

He had come in second in the presidential election of 1912, which meant he had nothing to do on March 4th of the following year while Woodrow Wilson was being sworn in.

So he went to an art exhibition.

This is probably a good time to mention that he was mostly blind in one eye.





As had become his practice after, shall we say, NOT winning a presidential election, Teddy left the country. He didn’t trust himself to stay quiet while Woodrow Wilson did things he didn’t approve of: removing African-Americans from the federal bureaucracy, passing a pro-business tariff, and developing an isolationist and pacifist foreign policy.


He warned his cousin Franklin to keep the fleet together in case of the war he could see coming, and then went to South America.

Like his African trip in 1909, Teddy’s journey to South America had a number of items on the agenda: scientific study of flora and fauna, the usual slaughter of native beasts for sport, and a way for him to make some money. He told his wife that he “expected to clear $20,000 over the next six months.”

And, like his African trip, Teddy was putting himself firmly in harm’s way. It’s not inconceivable that somewhere in his subconscious was the notion that he might end his life, which now seemed without purpose, in the midst of the kind of action that made him feel most alive.

Theodore Roosevelt did not think he should die in his sleep.

He nearly got his wish on this post-election trip south of the equator.

Check out the episode to find out what happens to Teddy while on the River of Doubt. 




Sources

Morris, Edmund. “Colonel Roosevelt.” Random House, 2010.

Morris, Edmund. “Theodore Rex.” Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Roosevelt, Theodore. “Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt.”

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Podcast Episode 21 - Stubborn Nags of Ancient Rome, Part III

It's 81 BC, and ancient Rome is under the control of the drunken bloodthirsty dictatorship of Cornelius Sulla. 

There were three things you could do - be on Sulla's side and live, oppose him and get exiled, or oppose him and get your head stuck on a pike in the Forum. 

Cato the Younger, fourteen years old, was taken under Sulla's wing for a front-row seat to the bloodbath. 




Rome's problems didn't end when the dictator drank himself to death. 

Spartacus, a former slave and legionnaire, raised a huge rebel army in the city's back yard, the renegade general Sertorius had essentially taken over Spain, and annoying old Mithridates was taking a third swing at the Roman pinata. 

Cato the Younger found plenty of opportunity for career advancement in these tense times. 

But so did Julius Caesar. The two of them were now on a collision course. 

Take a listen to this episode of the History's Trainwrecks Podcast:




For more stories like this check out The History’s Trainwrecks Podcast at the links below:
Beard, Mary. “SPQR.” Profile Books, 2015.

Duncan, Mike. “The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic.” Public Affairs, 2017.

Goodman, Rob and Soni, Jimmy. “Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar.” St. Martin’s Press, 2012.

Wikipedia, “Cato the Elder.” Retrieved September 14, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_the_Elder.

Wikipedia, “Gaius Marius.” Retrieved September 14, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Marius

Wikipedia, “Stoicism.” Retrieved November 4, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

Wikipedia, “Sulla.” Retrieved September 14, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulla


















Friday, October 29, 2021

Podcast Episode 20 - The Most Dangerous Man in America, Part I: The Impeachment of Huey Long

The governor of Louisiana was in serious trouble, but he didn’t really know how bad it was.

Until it was almost too late.




Huey Long was far more than just a guy who told the people what they wanted to hear. “There are smarter guys than I am,” he said, “but not in Louisiana.” By the end of his riotous reign, he had seized more personal control of the state than any other governor in its history.

 

He “orchestrated elections, padded voting lists, and directed the counting of ballots.” He assaulted the press with gag laws and oppressive tax increases. He used the state militia as his personal bodyguard and goon squad. He packed the courts, local governments, and state regulatory boards with his people.

 

He was untouchable. 

Or so he thought. 



Sources

Long, Huey P. “Every Man a King: The Autobiography of Huey P. Long.” Hachette, 2008.

White, Richard D. “Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long.” Random House, 2009.

Wikipedia, “Huey Long.” Retrieved October 17, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huey_Long

 

 


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Talking Historical Trainwrecks on The Open Highway Podcast

I've been listening to The Open Highway Podcast with Eric Erickson.

He's got an incredible talent for interviewing people, and he needed every bit of it today.
Because he interviewed me.



Some highlights:

1. That time I told him patriotism should be more like Tylenol and less like heroin.

2. The awkward moment when I used my history degree to compare the Founding Fathers to the Avengers.

3. And when I suggested we elect people to Congress the same way we get juries - just pick 12 names out of a hat in each district. We can't do worse...

I'm inclined to tell you to ignore my episode and work your way through his back catalog where he covers issues of real substance like America's recent wars and the effect on our veterans, or how cancel culture took out an innocent chicken farmer.

Always an option. And you should definitely follow this thought-provoking podcast. Like the open highway itself, the journey will refresh your soul, and you never know where you'll end up.

For today, though, you might just have a little fun with my considered historical assessment of Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"Wow. What a douchebag."

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Podcast Special Episode - The Roosevelt Tragedies

I’ve done quite a lot of research into the Roosevelts – Theodore, Franklin, Eleanor, and Alice, Teddy’s oldest daughter.

In the course of which I found something they all had in common – tragedy. Each of these four experienced tragedies early in life that I think helped pave the way for their eventual greatness.



Theodore Roosevelt was planning to make science his life’s work in the late 1870’s. His father told him that if he was going to do that, he had to take it seriously and do the very best work he could. Teddy switched two of his classes to science.

Within a few years he had been elected to the New York State Assembly.

Teddy was definitely an atypical politician. He was the “dude” of Albany politics, bucking the wishes of his party for the sake of legislation he believed in. He was, as always, the kind of guy you either loved or hated. He took on the corrupt “machine” politicians of his party as if he held some kind of grudge. He sought newspaper headlines for himself as if he was trying to make sure everyone knew his name.

So what changed?

In the mid-1880’s he was alone in the Dakota Territory, slaughtering his way through game and making the connections that prompted his investment in cattle ranching. It was here that he became the cowboy of later legend. He said that had it not been for his experiences in the Dakotas, he never would have become President.

What sent him into the Badlands?

***

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920. Even though the ticket didn’t win, he was widely considered to be the front-runner for the Presidential nomination in 1924.

FDR went to the Democratic Convention in 1924, but it wasn’t to accept the nomination.

Historians generally agree that if Franklin had been the nominee in 1924 he would have lost and likely never been heard from again.

Where had he been?

***

Eleanor Roosevelt had always faded into the background. The niece of Teddy Roosevelt, her shy and retiring ways kept her out of the bright light her uncle and cousins bathed in.

She kept to herself and avoided involvement in the wider world, preferring to support her ambitious husband from the sidelines, while trying to keep the peace with her domineering mother-in-law.

Long before her husband became governor and then President, Eleanor had formed a group of politically-engaged women, was giving speeches statewide, and achieved national prominence.

Wonder what changed…

***

Alice Roosevelt was a handful. She was seventeen when an assassin’s bullet elevated her father to the Presidency. She was outspoken and wild, garnering headlines the same way her famous father did.

He once said, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”

She jumped into swimming pools with her clothes barely on, surrounded by Congressmen (one of whom she later married). She cut her wedding cake with a sword. She campaigned against her own husband and carried on affairs. She had a child with Senator William Borah while still married to Nicholas Longworth (the child was known in the family as ‘Aurora Borah Alice’).

When the Roosevelts had to leave the White House, she buried a voodoo doll of the next First Lady, Nellie Taft, in the front yard. Woodrow Wilson banned her from the White House in response to a ribald joke at his expense.

She stated she would oppose her own father’s candidacy if he had decided to run in 1916. She opposed her cousin Franklin’s presidential candidacy in 1932, but attacked his opponent, Thomas Dewey, in subsequent elections.

Always contrary, she developed friendships with both the Kennedys and the Nixons. She had a pillow embroidered with her famous quote, “if you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” She told Lyndon Johnson she wore wide-brimmed hats so he couldn’t kiss her.

Jimmy Carter said he couldn’t decide which was worse in Washington—being “skewered by her wit or to be ignored by her.” Richard Nixon said. “No one, no matter how famous, could be outshined by her.”

What made Alice Alice?

***

Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "Only if you've been to the lowest valley can you know how great it is to be on the highest mountain top."

It was precisely the valleys these four Roosevelts inhabited in their early lives that propelled them to the highest peaks. The things they suffered early on are a big part of the reason their names echo through history.

In this series, I delve into the Roosevelt tragedies, and how they became fuel to the fire of this famous family’s greatest members.

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