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tv   QA David Maraniss  CSPAN  May 13, 2019 5:59am-6:59am EDT

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brian: david david: -- brian: david maraniss, when did you decide to name your book "a good american family." david: it wasn't the first title of the book. for a long time i was calling bottom bottom was where the hearings were conducted in new york. it was early on in the process and i knew i wanted to bring a lot of people in the room, not just my father and my family but the chairman of the committee and the f.b.i. informant and so that was the nexus of the piece. but in the end it really was more -- it's not a home woir in a sense, it's partly that, it's more history but i knew once i came across the quote from charles potter, a congressman
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from michigan, who expressed surprise that someone from a good american family could be a member of the communist party at any point, i said that's it. because i knew my family was a good american family in every possible way so i wanted to serve that attention and juxtaposition to define the book. >> i want to put up on the screen your mother and father and tell us when this picture was taken. and when you look at them, what do you think about? >> that was taken in 1944, my father was on leave. he was in the army. it was during world war ii. i think about how beautiful my mother was, first of all. but also, you know, my dad was already going through a tough me but he didn't show it much. he'd been a radical at the university of michigan.
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the u.s. army had already -- the intelligence division of the u.s. army had already investigated him because he was applying for -- he wanted to be an officer. he made it to become an officer and right after this he went off to camp lee, virginia, to a and an all black unit, salvage we pair unit. so i'm thinking about this is the early part of their lives before they had the four kids and they were idealistic, i would say. >> when did you discover both your mother and father were at one point communists? >> you know, it was always in the background of our lives but never in the forefront because he was called before the committee when i was 2. i wasn't conscious. by the time i would say i was
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aware of the world around me, we'd moved to madison. i was 7 years old. i certainly had memories before hat but nothing really sticking strong about our family unit. he had reinvented himself and so had my mother and wasn't talked about in our family. it was in the background. occasionally might say alluded to it and i tried to interview him about parts of it and he really sort of avoided it. and then i started thinking about it more and i knew i wasn't going to write about it until they were gone. and then i report in the book, i think i say in the early part of my book i spent my career studying strangers until they become familiar to me and here were people very familiar to me and i was worried they became
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more strangers as i went deeper and deeper into their lives. most people, what they they about their families is sort of the family stories and mythology but they don't have a biographer studying deep to what really happened and here i was doing that with my own family. so i would read more and more about their involvement in the communist party as young people as i reported this book. >> what would have been the years they were communists? my mother was a mobe of the young communist league at the university of michigan. my father was not but definitely a leftist. and then after he came back from the war, i would say from 1946-1952. >> you say you're not quite sure in your book what they ever saw in the soviet union.
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>> how can you be? >> did they like the idea of the soviet union and why? >> i think they liked the -- my father once said he was stubborn in his ignorance. i think they liked the ilega atarian idea and i think the economic inacalls that were more obvious in the great depression when the notion of capitalism was questioned more strongly with what had happened with the collapse of that system and i think that the stubbornness and ignorance is not seeing the paranoia and murderous history of the soviet union until later. brian: when did he lose his ?irst job and why david: fired february 29, 1952
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during those hearings when an f.b.i. informant called the grandmother spy, burnese baldwin was called to testify. she'd been a member of the communist party, a paid informant from the f.b.i. until 1943 until 1952 when she came in from the cold. everybody in the party few her. she testified. show named names. the point was really to investigate the united autoworkers and the communists in the union but there were a lot of other people who were collateral damage, you might say and my father was one of those. brian: 1938, the committee abolished in 1975. david: it was part of american history and one of the central confess in my book is what is un-american, what does it mean to be an american?
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the chairman of the committee in 1952 was a georgian, john stephens wood who had voted on every civil rights bill that came through congress and briefly had been a member of calling my klan and father who had been the commander in world war ii of an all black unit un-american. brian: where is he from? david: northern georgia and grew up on a farm and became a wyer in canton, georgia, and briefly worked the north georgia circuit as a judge and was a lawyer and then got elected from congress from that congressional district up there. brian: you highlight a fellow named cavener? david: frank was an interesting guy and was the committee council for the house american activities community in 1952
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and had been a counsel earlier in the period when the more famous investigation of communists in hollywood was conducted. he came from woodstock, virginia, out in the shenandoah valley. he was sort of a product of the bird machine out there. and right after world war ii served as the acting general counsel for the u.s. mission at -- war o war trials crimes try bunal and trying the chinese that were responsible. brian: talking about the idea of having a counsel interview somebody and in this case he was counsel and asked your father -- david: he did all the questioning. the committee members would participate as well but most of the tough questioning was done
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by the committee counsel and the way it worked. brian: fifth amendment. david: you invoke the fifth amendment to not testify against yourself. it's written into the constitution of the united yet historically, people have used the fifth amendment or they define by saying that means you're guilty. the point is not whether you're guilty or innocence but not having the right to be browbeaten into confessing. brian: how often did your father use that? david: i didn't count the number of times but most -- not all the questions but he certainly used it to not testify not only against himself but to name other names or to testify against anyone else as he was interrogated. brian: when you started this
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project, where did you go to find the things you needed to write this book? david: i went so many places. but one of the first places i went was the national archives right down the street. and the people there were terrific. and all of the house committee records are open now. it's a congressional committee. the assistant helped me find what i needed and there was one file for elliot mariness, my father. and because there was a public hearing in detroit, i had long known about the transcript and in the transcript my father says, i have a statement i'd like to read. and the chairman wood does not allow him to read the statement. he might have let him -- he probably would have let him
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read it if my father had confessed to his sins and sought absolution and named names but he didn't and therefore he was not allowed to read that statement. so i thought well, you know, where is that statement? i'd love to see it. what did he say? and the moment that i found it in his file was one of the most powerful -- was the most powerful moment of my experiences in reporting this book. and it just washed over me for the first time. here i was in my mid 60's, this was a central part of my family's sort of back story. i'd never really allowed myself -- "allowed" is the wrong word. i never had focused before that moment on what my father had endured. and seeing that statement and
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one particular part of it which saying starts by mariness. f elliot and the s jumps up a half space and those who remember the era of typewriters the keys would stick and would move up a half space and at that moment of seeing it, the thought made it real to me because i knew my dad. i'd seen him type for years and years and i knew he typed really hard and keys would stick and that was it. that was finally putting myself in my father's place at that moment. brian: specifically, and i'm open to page 288 where you print this statement. specifically where did you find it and how long did it take you to find it? david: i wish i could say the exact box number and file number. it's in the book. but it was in the files of the
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hearing in detroit at the national archives up in their research room and it was right there. brian: at the national archives in detroit or here? david: downtown washington, d.c. archives as all the congressional uac files and one of the first things i found among all of the documents that i uncovered doing this. brian: he was 34 years old the day he testified and wanted to read this statement and the chairman said no. where was the family and how big was the family at that time and did he have a job? david: he had just been fired a week earlier from the detroit times, the hearst newspaper in detroit where he was the lead rewrite man on the copy desk which was a different job in that era than it is today where he'd take all the feeds from the reporters and put it in
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english and write the stories. so he didn't have a job. the family was -- i was 2 1/2, my older sister jeanie was 5 and jim was almost 7, my older brother. and of course my mother. so it was a family of five at that point. and we were living in detroit i flat in detroit and don't remember it. the first thing i say in this book is i have no memory of that day. brian: does your brother jim remember? david: very much so. first of all, jim -- both my brother and sister are two of the smartest people i've ever known in my life. and jim has not a photographic memory but a very sharp memory of certain things. he can recite any poem he's ever read, that sort of stuff.
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but he was traumatized by this period. much more so than i. he and jeanie, my sister, were in school so the five years that followed this event they were bouncing from one school to another as my father was trying to find -- get his life back together. so yeah, jim remembers. he even remembers going to the headquarters of the communist party, the newspaper where my father also was working as an editor, the michigan herald and then the michigan worker. he remembers some of of that, much more so than i do. there's one scene, also, he remembers after -- immediately after my father was called to testify there were stories in the newspapers there and one of his friend's mothers said, you know, jim's dad is a communist and that was sort of trauma --
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brian: back up to 1952. how did he find himself in the united states military and what year did he go in and was he a communist then? david: he went in right after pearl harbor. he enlisted. he wasn't a member of the communist party. he definitely was a leftist, i would say. my mother's brother, robert cummins, was a member of the communist party. so he wanted to fight against hitler and must leaney and joined the war effort. and you know, one of the wonderful -- or important, illuminating parts of my book in terms of understanding my dad were that he wrote all
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these letters home to my mother during that whole period from 1941-1945. hundreds of letters. and of course they have some typical romance and other things in them but they're also very illuminating in terms of the way he viewed the world and particularly once he was able to show what his leadership skills as a commander of that all black unit. and you see in those letters -- and i would argue you also see in the many essays i would get to later and many of the editorials he wrote as a michigan student and i think you see his love for america throughout that period, and his belief not in destroying america but in making it better. brian: what would it have meant to be a communist in 1939 versus a communist in 1952? david: that's an excellent question. i think it meant different things.
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1939 there was already vast evidence of the eagles of the soviet union. different a lot of factors involved. one was the spanish civil war we also can talk about which had just ended where the united states and france and great britain were neutral and it was really the communist party was part of the effort to defeat franco and hitler and mussolini in spain in this important precussor to world war ii so there was that. there is also during the war itself, the soviet union and the united states were allies.
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so take was a different matter. and i think that the members of the communist party in the united states, the membership had shrunk considerably from 1939 to 1952. ny leftist has turned away from the party by then. there were people who continued after that. my parents did not but did longer than i would have thought. brian: you mentioned charles potter who is a republican, a member of the huac committee and most of those years the committee was run by democrats although a couple years were republicans. what's his story because i write him up in here? david: i find charles potter to be a very interesting study. i he was a classic midwesterner
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from the northern part of michigan and went off to fight in world war ii, fought as an officer through the battle of the bulge and then the comar pocket where he was severely wounded and ended up losing both legs and one of his -- icles and trying to work stop a pocket of germans there and stepped on a land mine. so he came back like so many veterans to their home states and towns and got involved in politics as one of those young veterans, was elected to congress, put on the house un-american activities committee much like richard nixon or a lot of the other young veteran congressmen, they
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sort of made their name fighting communist. there were staunch anti-communists during the period of 1952 and the hearings were held in detroit. he was starting to run for the senate. otter was. and was elected and served one term but in the senate he was put on the subcommittee with joe mccarthy. and that's where he started to see sort of the different machinations and manipulations of mccarthy and the complexity of a lot of issues that before him had seen pretty black and white. so jump forward to the 1960's he wrote a book called "days of shame" where he ago noled a lot of the mistakes that the republicans made during that period allowing mccarthy to go as far as he did.
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even writes a section where he defends the fifth amendment and regrets that it was used as a way of saying people were uilty when it's an important right. so, you know, i'm not going to -- this is the only time i'll jump forward unless you ask me about it again. but it was the republicans, margaret chase smith, several other republicans including president eisenhower who saw the excesses of what was going on and they stopped it. "days of shame" will a republican 10 years from now write a book like that? brian: when you write back, hard to believe joe mccarthy was 48 when he died. buried in -- david: appleton, wisconsin.
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he died right before our family was saved when we got to wisconsin. brian: this is video of harry truman speaking, only 20 seconds and get to an issue you talked about in your book and harry truman in 1950. [video clip] harry: i'm going to tell you how we're not fighting communist. we're not forming our fine f.b.i. into a gestapo secret police. that's what some people would like to do. we're not going to try to control what our people say and read and think. [end of video clip] brian: that was 1950. executive order 9835 from march 1, 1947, harry truman as president and issues the executive order whereas it's a vital importance that persons employed in the federal service to be complete and unwavering loyalty to the united states and jump to part 1. one, there should be a loyalty
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investigation of every person entering the civilian department and agency of the executive branch of the federal government. it goes on and on. but what was this about, put this in context. david: it wasn't just the federal government, there were loyalties going down through the state governments, that the boards of education, teachers in states were ordered to sign loyalty oaths and many were refused and were fired. but it was the tense hysteria, you might say, at least fear of the cold war and of an internal threat to the united states that just washed over this country in that period. and harry truman and the democrats were caught in a place that they basically had been dealing with in various ways ever since, which is the conundrum of how do you uphold
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the civil liberties which are at the heart of the american democracy and yet not be accused of being soft on whatever, communism or the enemies within or without and so on. so in that period -- i hadn't seen that statement before, thanks for showing it. he made that and he also went the other way. they were trying to find their way through this difficult eriod. brian: i want to ask you on in this executive order, this is one of his further points. what would happen with this today, the head of each department and agency shall appoint one or more loyalty boards. each composed of not less than three representatives of the department of agency concerned for the purpose of hearing loyalty cases arising within such department or agency and making recommendations with respect to the removal of any officer, an employee of such department or agency on the ground relating to loyalty. david: that's chilling, isn't
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it, especially when you think about how that could be -- how not only it was misused during of that d, and parts aren't in my book with the lavender scare how they went after gay and lesbian people in that same period in the same ways in the federal government. but loyalty to what and to whom? who defines it? and how that can be -- how it was defined then in terms of loyalty to america versus the soviet union, what were the -- loyalty in your mind, in your writing or loyalty in your actions which are two very different things. and the ways that that was in sed and can be misused
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the present is chilling. brian: the reaction of jamie and jim, your brother and sister to when they knew you were doing this and what you found. david: that was really interesting and important process. so for the whole period that my parents were alive, i was not going to write this book and it was not something my father or mother really talked about uch. and when i really started to become obsessed with it, i was talking to my sister and supportive ie was in the beginning and might have qualms about what i might find but is not the type of person -- she's just very supportive of me always. jim, it was a little more complicated. he think in part because was conscious during this
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period and felt maybe more of his story than mine, i was just 2, what did i know? i think he underestimated my research capacity to find -- he would say what can you really know about what my parents were thinking? well, after you read 200 letters from my father and 200 editorials and essays in stories that he wrote for the michigan daily, you start to get a pretty good sense what he was thinking. not entirely, of course, because no biographer ever knows the internal thoughts of another human being. you don't know what i'm thinking at this moment, you know, nor do i know what you're thinking because there are contradictory thoughts that flow through people. in any case, jim was pretty much -- he'll now say he didn't try to talk me out of it but i felt he was trying to talk me out of it. brian: where are those two today? david: jim lives in western massachusetts. he was a professor for decades at amherst university,
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professor of spanish, including the spanish civil war. spanish literature, was a calderon specialist and he just retired. my sister lives in pittsburgh and was the chief research librarian at carnegie melon university. brian: we need to talk about that spanish war because your uncle fought in it and you spent time telling us about it. bob cummins? david: my mother's oldest brother. and he was radicalized at the university of michigan and the day he graduated in 1937, he d two of his friends ralph efhus and alvin service took a boat across france, a train to france to the spanish border
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and climbed over the push he's to fight in the international brigade against franco in the spanish civil war. brian: what was motivating him? david: ideology, politics, hatred of facism. most of the americans and canadiens who went over there had some -- or 2/3 of them had some affiliation with the young communist league. and so you can say that that was financially what brought -- they didn't make money off this, of course, but that's how they got there, and what was driving them was a belief in a and r egataliaran world hatred of facism. brian: what happened to him after that? david: he was there from 1937 until the americans were sent home a little bit before the war ended with franco defeating he loyalists, the republicans.
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and he came back to ann arbor with elvin service and the third member, ralph nephus was captured by frank to's troops and executed. and if you don't mind, when my wife and i were in spain, one of the most powerful moments where he s aware of was captured and the cathedral where he and some other american soldiers were held in the cathedral in the top of the town. and to go there into that church, all these 70-plus years a er, and it still felt like dungeon of death. it was a very moving experience to do that. and to trace his root all the way through spain.
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after he came home he was haileded at the university of michigan for surviving the war and what they had done and 500 people came to the event at the michigan union. his little sister, mary cummins, my mother was there. a reporter for the michigan daily, elliot mariness covered that event and that's where my parents met. brian: that day? david: yes. brian: let's go back and look at your mother and father. i want to ask you, both of them had the philosophy of the communist party at that time. where did they get it from? in other words, what were their parents like? did they -- was that where the atmosphere they grew up in? david: you know, they were -- my mother was a member of the uncommunist league but to say they had the philosophy of the communist party is a also narrowing on what their philosophy of life was.
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i'm not trying to deny it in any way but there is more to it than that. brian: i'm more interested where their philosophy came from? david: to some extent my mother was influenced by her older brother bob who was already active in michigan and then went off to fight in the spanish civil war. brian: where did he get it? david: good question. i think from the times partly. my grandparents, my mother and bob cummins' father, andrew ad are cummins was born on the side of a hill in northwestern kansas. went through the whole struggle of depression as a young engineer, bounced from city to city trying to get work. he started as a modest country club republican and not radicalized but became an f.d.r. supporter during the new
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deal and all of that. i would say where my uncle got it was from the times. i think you can compare somewhat the period from 1934 to 1939 to the period from 1964-1969. a lot of young people were being radical "ed by events of that era. no everybody, obviously. but both then and in the 1960's there were more young republicans than radicals but it was the radicalization process of a lot of people. brian: if we can do this quickly, for context purposes. at one point in the book you say seven moves, four kids and the blacklist. where were the seven moves? david: from the time he was fire in detroit, our first move was to coney island, brooklyn,
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where my grandparents, my father's parents lived. we lived in a small apartment on near sea f -- gate and coney island which was a little more exclusive. back to ann oved arbor and moved with my mother's parents briefly. then we moved to cleveland, ohio, where he very briefly had a job with the cleveland plains dealer until the publisher of that paper found out about his -- what had happened in detroit, which my father readily acknowledged. he was fired from the plain dealer. we moved back to detroit. he'd worked outside of the newspaper industry for a few years selling party favors for a labor organizational place. we moved twice in detroit. then in 1956, he was hired to
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be an editor at the local edition of labors daily in bettendorf, iowa, the typographical union was on strike against the newspapers in that area and my father got back in the newspapers there. we were there from a little over a year and then got to madison and the madison capital times hired him in 1957. joe mccarthy had just died and the milwaukee braves were on their way to winning a world series and was 7 turning 8 and life seemed good. brian: the consequences of that hearing, did they find him to be in contempt or what happened as a result of the huac hearings? david: no. for many people over the course of the years who did not take the fifth amendment but took the first amendment, cites their first amendment rights
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and were cited for contempt. you can't cite someone for taking the fifth amendment, that's a constitutional right. but if you try to claim the first apartment, you're not -- first amendment, you're not covered. people ranging from arthur miller we haven't talked about, the great playwright who coincidentally went to avery lincoln high school in brooklyn before my father and then went to the university of michigan before my father and was a friend of bob cummins and very close friends of ralph who was killed in the war. years later, arthur miller was called before huac because he had a communist past and he didn't take the fifth amendment but he refused to answer we we he didn't companies answer but asked a question and the subject turned away from that. he would not name names and talked only about himself and
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he was cited for tennessee tempt. times, be ollywood they stood up and said they had the right to freedom of speech and were cited for contempt and imprisoned. brian: your father's lawyer george crockett, congressman. david: yeah. i didn't know any of that. george crockett later became a congressman from detroit. e was part of a integrated law firm in detroit before there were really anywhere else. and he was a leftist but not a communist ever. but he believed deeply in protecting the rights of controversial minority groups. the same rights are due to members of the communist party have been denied to african-americans so he saw a
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connection between the two. he wrote a statement called "freedom is everyone's business." that was his strong sort of manifesto defense of why he was defending communists even if he didn't agree with them because he saw the same dangers that could go against anyone else. brian: the former mayor of detroit, coleman young. david: you could write a entire book but he was called before the committee in those same hearings in 1952 as my father. he had the same lawyer, george crockett and coleman young turned those hearings on end. he was not a member of the communist party, he was from a lot of communists as part of the radical movement early in the united autoworkers. but when they called him, he really didn't know how to deal with somebody who was not afraid of him like that.
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so both chairman wood and frank tavener, tavener from virginia and wood from georgia, both had southern accents and southern sensibilities and had both come out of racist backgrounds. so when they said or tried to say negro, which is what blacks were called then whether consciously or subconsciously would come out negra. coleman young went nuts about that and said that's not how you pronounce it. it's negro, not negra. and then from then on sort of developed more and more control over the questioning. so that he wasn't taking anything from them about any of those issue. about what it meant to be an american when millions of
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african-americans were second class citizens and denied the righto to vote. he talked about his experiences in world war ii when he was kicked out of the officer's club even though he was an officer though he was black. he made a powerful argument against them and when it was over, he told this to someone who interviewed him. walking you through the streets of detroit, like he was coming home from detroit, barbara shops walking down the street, everyone was patting him on the back saying you stood up to those southern racists. brian: here he is, a 38-second clip talking about john wood and others. [video clip] >> i took the trouble to look at the record of all of the americans on that committee and none of them had anything to be proud of. i'd forgotten the chairman who as from georgia.
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but i checked him out and his district consisted of 80% blacks and yet only 5% of the blacks in his district voted in the election in which he was elected. so i decided the best way -- you either could run from these guys and cringe or you attack. brian: 1988. what's happened do you think since then to this day? about voting in places like georgia? david: different context but there's still voter suppression in states all over this country now. it's one thing i've never quite -- i understand it in terms of power politics but in terms of a reverence for democracy, why does this country that upholds itself to a beacon of liberty throughout the world, end of democracy, repress the democratic process and the ability to vote? it's not like them when
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there were pull taxes but getting close. but people that write in the book, here martin dies and tell us about him. david: he was the first chairman of the committee from elateant -- i don't want to say more. but the early members of that committee were dominated by southern racists. brian: like a john rankin. david: from mississippi. and he even was more blatant. in the congressional record you see him calling jews kites and blacks niggers. brian: did you know this before you got in the research? david: i knew vaguely about that history. i didn't really know it, no.
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brian: jay parnell thomas? david: he was a republican chairman of the committee who was the chairman of the committee during the hollywood 10 hearings upholding what it means to be an american and calling these screen writers and others un-american and shortly after that he was convicted of some embezzling in his new jersey congressional office. and he ended up in the same one of the hollywood 10. brian: john wood? david: john stevens wood is a major character in the figure of this book. the chairman -- congressman from north georgia who after world war i had briefly joipped the ku klux klan and in another incident that i only came
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across during the research, although there's a wonderful book about the lynching of leo frank but my friend steve oney. leo frank was a atlanta industrialist and ran a pencil factory and was accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in his pencil factory. accounts a l record frame-up and waups innocent but convicted and then the governor of georgia after a lot of pressure, a lot of coverage of it in "the new york times" and elsewhere -- this was 1913. he commuted the death sentence and the people of marietta, georgia, took it upon themselves to break him out of prison and then lynch him. the leader of that effort was a local judge named nute morris. and his chief disciple who
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drove the car that carried leo francs' lynched body after the lynching was john stephens wood, the future chairman of the house un-american activities community. brian: your parents lived for how long? david: my father lived to age 86 and lived to 2004 and my mother lived to age 84 and died to 2006. only lived a year and a half after she was gone. brian: what was their life like in, say, the last 20 years? david: i think their life from 1957 on when they got to madison was -- i don't want to be simplistic but the life of a good american family. they are wonderful parents. our house was full of music and books and friendship and were open to the world. as i write in my book, my
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father by the time i was conscious told me not to fall for any rigid ideology and be open to humans and hate the message not the person, racism or whatever. and he succeeded as a journalist in madison, eventually became the editor of "the capital times" the progressive paper in that city. my mother went back to school, was phi beta kappa at the university of wisconsin and became a book editor. jump forward to the last 20 years of their lives. my father retired at age 65. my mother would go on to teach literacy to immigrants and poor people. they moved from milwaukee to madison. my dad said, so half jokingly, he didn't want to wake up every day after he retired and reedit the newspaper so he moved a little bit away. and you know, i'd go visit them
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in milwaukee and there be would be a stack of 20 books on the house my father had checked out of the library he was reading. they had nine grandchildren along with their kids and that was their life. a good american family life. brian: we have a book out called "the presidents" and in your interview we did years ago on your book on bill clinton is in there. but it was before he became president. david: yes. brian: how did it stand up, in your opinion, to this day? david: i think the central threads of that book hold up. and i would say there were two central themes of the book. one was that with bill clinton, you can't separate the good from the bad. they're all part of the same human being. and the same sort of motivations that drive him in a better sense, drive him into
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difficulty as well. complimented -- complicated in that sense and maybe an exaggeration of all of us. sometimes obvious for the worse, sometimes for the better. is loss her thread and recovery, when he's down, he'd find his way up and when he was up would find himself down. a cycle again and again. i think when i talked to you probably in 1995 was before monica lunse and before -- monica lewin ski and before the impeachment and i think i talk about the cycle and recovery and you see it time and time again through his presidency and post presidency. i think in the current era of 2018, 2019 of the me, too, movement, there's sbha of --
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somewhat of his behavior towards women and is totally achilles nd was the heel of bill clinton. brian: you did a book on barack obama, when did the text end, at what point in his life? david: my book on clinton, i'm fascinated by people's formations, what shapes them and why they are the way they are and i go back to look at that. so with bill clinton it ended the day he announced for president in little rock, arkansas, in 1991. the last i didn't even get close to that. i hope to write a second volume long after his book comes out and long after there are archives at his presidential library. the first book was an attempt to do two things. one, really study the world that shaped him and how he reshaped himself and how he found his way.
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that book ends the day he drives off to harvard to go to law school. you can see his political future forming. brian: i want to show you some video of an earlier interview, -- by you and is the moment see if you can get some more response out of you. let's watch this and it will all make sense to you. [video clip] brian: this is a tweet from david maraniss. we'll put it on the screen. david garro, author of a new was a ught biography oble was a vile, undercutting, ignoble competitor unhike any i've encountered. >> i've never spoken with david maraniss, no reaction whatsoever. people of like trump
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getting angry on twitter on someone you don't know. brian: david wrote a book on barack obama and is a tweet, can you tell us. david: i only said it once and won't say those word again and have respect for david, what he does and not the way he behaved as a researcher or writer. i have spent my whole year competing against reporters at "the new york times," "the wall street journal," the "los angeles times" and even doing books other writers are doing and never before had i encountered someone who went out of his way to tell sources not to talk to me because i wouldn't get it right and only he would. he did that time and again, undercutting not just me but also david remnick who was doing a biography of obama at the same time.
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it was mind boggling, not only does he do this ten but in his n book he criticized remnick and my book once again. for what reason? i used those words and don't regret them. again, i -- he says we never encountered each other. i certainly encountered him through the sources i was dealing with and who would contact me or write me, this garro guy said this about you. and that never happened before. brian: what would be your approach if you went back and wrote another book on barack obama? what aspect of his life would you like to write about specifically? david: i think i would take it where i left off. the first book was not just about barack obama, it was out his father, miss mother,
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, indonesia, i'm satisfied with all that. but to take it through from that point through the illinois legislature to his presidency and looking at both the choices kathy had ises and to follow would be all the way to presidency would be my next book. brian: the title of this book instead of "good american family" would have been "judgment in room 740." is that room still there? david: i've been to that building and parts of it were moved to a new building. that room is not there anymore, no. brian: have you had any reaction from your siblings about this book yet? david: my brother who had
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questions about it had been very positive. he's read it several times. and they're both rooting for me. and a lot of -- their cousins in the book, too, were very important. bob cummins' daughters, other cousins. i sent it to all of them and told them this is coming. this is a family history that really hadn't been told before. it also was important for madison to know this story, madison, wisconsin, where my father was well known. a lot of people there didn't know this part of his story. we'll see what happens. the reception so far has been really warm. brian: let's look at the cover the book and i want to you tell me where the picture was taken and i assume that's -- david: it's interesting to see the house in the background. when i first saw it, i said is that a phony photo and then i arted studying the statue of
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liberty photos. this house is further than it looks but it on the island. we're visiting the statue of liberty shortly after we left droid after my father was called before the committee and it's my parents, my dad with his arm around jim, my older brother. i'm the little guy in the shorts brinking into the sun goofily and jeanie and my mother and the statue of liberty, lifesaver there and it is just -- that's a family picture we've just always had. was like waiting for this book. brian: other than the document you found, we only have 30 second, at the archives, what was the other big find for you? david: my father's f.b.i. records, including the military intelligence report where he discovered that one of my
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colleagues at "the washington post," morton mince had been investigated -- i mean interviewed by the military intelligence and asked whether my father should be a member of an officer in the military. and mort says it's the biggest shame in his life but basically said negative things about my dad. brian: title of the book, as i said, "a good american family." and our author has been david maraniss. and i thank you very much for your time. david: thank you, brian. always a pleasure to be interviewed by you. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp.2019] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> all books on podcast at >> next sunday on "q&a" david mcculla discusses "the pioneers" the historic story of the settlers who came out west. that's sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern and pacific time on c-span. >> c-span's newest book "the presidents" noted historians rank the best and worst chief executive, provides insight to the lives of the 44 presidents. true stories gathered in interviews by motored presidential historians. discover the life events that shaped our leaders, the challenges they faced and the legacies they left behind. order your copy today. c-span's "the presidents" is available as hard cover or ebook


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