Saturday, July 30, 2022

Podcast Episode 45 - The Most Dangerous Man In America, Part IV

Huey Long was the bull in the United States Senate’s china shop.

He stormed into the world’s greatest deliberative body in 1932 after it had already been in session for two months. In a room full of men in dour blue suits, Huey wore “flashy brown tweeds, beautiful white shirts of the finest fabric with his monogram embroidered on one sleeve, a bright red silk necktie, and, according to one chastising reporter, ‘a handkerchief regrettably on the pink side.”

It wasn’t long, pun intended, before the Senate figured out that they had a real problem on their hands.

But soon enough there was another fellow in the capital who was even more worried about the storm from the bayou.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

No one seemed to take Huey very seriously in the Roosevelt camp except for FDR himself. “The people are jumpy and ready to run after strange gods,” he wrote. “It’s all very well for us to laugh over Huey, but actually we have to remember all the time that he really is one of the two most dangerous men in the country. We shall have to do something about him.”

Franklin Roosevelt was certainly a visionary. He knew things for sure long before others came around to his point of view. He saw Huey Long as a self-obsessed man with huge ambitions who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, even if it meant damaging the country. Like challenging Roosevelt for the nomination in 1936 or running as an independent, splitting the Democratic vote, and throwing the country to the Republicans for four years so that Huey could win the White House in 1940.

Which, as it turns out, was exactly what Huey Long was planning to do.


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

U.S. House Archives. “Hattie Wyatt Caraway.” Retrieved from,-Hattie-Wyatt-(C000138)/ on July 29, 2022.

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


Friday, July 8, 2022

Podcast Episode 44 - Ben Franklin In The Cockpit, Part II

The most famous American in the world was about to have one of the worst days of his life, and everyone who was anyone in London wanted to be there to see it.

Benjamin Franklin had been summoned to the Cockpit, a room King Henry VIII had once used for cockfighting, to appear before the King’s Privy Council in late January 1774. His ostensible purpose for being there was to deal with a petition sent by the Massachusetts colony to have their governor removed, but with the colonists getting all uppity and turning Boston Harbor into the world’s biggest teapot, the Council was going to take out all of its pent-up frustration with their cranky subjects on America’s best-known representative.

There’s no way to overstate the effect one hour in the Cockpit had on Benjamin Franklin. Up to that point he had been a strong advocate for peace between England and America, and his fame and reputation for wisdom was helpful in cooling tensions. His innovative way of thinking constantly came up with ways to smooth things over. He believed that the colonists’ notion that England was run by men who wanted to deprive them of liberty was “unduly paranoid.”

But after an hour in the Cockpit, Franklin believed that the King and his ministers could no longer be trusted. Had he not gone through the ordeal, he might have remained in London, working behind the scenes to forestall war and independence. After his trial he had little choice but to go back home. If the powerful Englishmen he had known and got along with could delight in the vicious attacks against Franklin, one of the most esteemed Americans alive, how would they ever see their colonists as equals and partners?

Always a smart fellow, Ben knew the answer to that one. Before the Cockpit, he had been working for both sides in the conflict between England and America. After, he was only working for one.

Isaacson, Walter. “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.” Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Skemp, Sheila L. “The Making of Patriot: Benjamin Franklin at the Cockpit.” Oxford University Press, 2013.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Podcast Episode 43 - I'm Not Allowed To Watch The News

As you surely know by now, I love history. I always have. If you do too, you know that studying history invariably leads to learning about politics.

It’s inescapable. The Greek city-states, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, monarchies and religious wars, the Enlightenment that led to the establishment of constitutional democracies, the growth of superpowers.

Regionalism and factionalism and schisms and wars. If you study history, you’ve seen all this before.

This is one of the 257 reasons I’m not allowed to watch the news. I tend to rant, drawing historical parallels between today’s America and yesterday’s. It scares the dogs.

My wife said no more watching the news.

So the dogs and I started a new podcast, where I get to rant about all the things that bother me about 21st century politics. That’ll teach her.

For all you History’s Trainwrecks listeners, I’m putting out the first episode here. The rest will be available wherever you get your podcasts.

I hope you like it. And I hope we can find a way forward, politically-speaking.

Because if we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that situations like the ones we keep finding ourselves in do not end well.

Check out the first ever episode of I’m Not Allowed To Watch The News, and thanks for listening.