Skip to main content

tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  April 29, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PDT

4:00 pm
04/29/19 04/29/19 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new yorkrk, this is democracy now! >> i donon't think of my books s biographies. i'm not interested in writing stories of great men. i'm interested in examining local power through the large, great men, in particular, how political power shapes our lives and shapes to lives both of those who wield power, but also shapes the lives of thosese who are powerless.
4:01 pm
i'm interested in examining the lives of the powerless. amy: today we spend the hour with robert caro who has been described as the greatest political biographer of our time. hewon two pulitzer prizes, first for his groundbreaking book on robert moses called "the power broker" and then "the master of the senate" about an a b johnson. you still writing me fit. use out the new book titled " working." all of that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. in san diego, california, funeral services are being held today for lori kaye, a 60-year-old jewish congregant who was shot dead saturday in the latest attack by a white supremacist on a house of worship.
4:02 pm
on saturday morning, a man with an assault rifle entered the chabad of poway synagogue and openeded fire during a service marking the last day of passover. kaye died after she reportedly jumped in front of a hail of gunfire to shield rabbi yisroel goldstein from the onslaught. rabbi goldstein was shot in both hands, losing his right index finger. he spoke to reporters sunday in an emotional news conference. >> walking to the lobby and i see lori laying on the floor unconscious. and heard your husband, dr. howard kaye, who is like a brother to me, is trying to resuscitate her and he faints and he is laying there on the then next to his wife and their daughter hannah comes out screaming. it is the most heart-wrenching sight i could have seen. amy: two other congregants were wounded in the attack. police say the shooter fled the
4:03 pm
scene but was arrested a short time later. they identified him as 19-year-old john earnest, a student at cal state san marcos. prosecutors are investigating the shooting as a hate crime, after the suspect published an anti-semitic manifesto online referencing recent massacres at the tree of life synagagogue in pittsburgh and a pair of mosques in christchurch, new zealand. earnest also claimed responsibility for an arson attack on n a mosque in san dieo county last month. the latest white nationalist killing for comes after the department of homeland security disbanded its domestic terrorism unit last year, reassigning its analysts to other departments.s. dhs is the threat of homegrown extremism has been significantly reduceced. it in a review of 50 murders committed by extxtremists in 20, the anti-defamation league found 49 came at the hands of
4:04 pm
right-wing extremists with white supremacists alone accounting for 39 of the murders. meanwhile, there were more mass shootings around the united states over the weekend. in baltimore, maryland gunman , a fired indiscriminately into crowds gathered for an outdoor cookout sundayay evening, killig one person and injuring seven others. meanwhile, in sumner county, tennessee, police shot 25-year-old michael cummins, who was heavily armed, before taking him into custody saturday. investigators believe he's responsible for seven murders at twtwo homes over the weekend. in indianapolis, president trump told the annual convention of the national rifle association on friday he's seeking to cancel u.s. support for the arms trade treaty, an international agreement that limits weapons sales that fuel destructive conflicts. during his annual address to the nra, trump signed a document asking the senate toto reject ratification o of the trtreaty. pres. trump: this treaty
4:05 pm
- --tened your subject it and you know exactly what is going on h here, your rights. and are constitutional and internatioional roles a and .estrictions and regulations under r my adminisistration, wel never surrender american sovereignty to anyone. amy: trump's appearance at the nra convention came as the organization's president, oliver north, said he wasas stepping dn from the position. north's resignation came amid a power struggle with the nra's long-time chief executive wayne lapierre and after new york's attorney general opened an investigation into the nra's tax-exempt status. oliver north was a central figure in the iran-contra scandal, helping the reagan administration circumvent congress to secretly send arms to iran and use the proceeds to fund thehe u.s.-backed contras n nicaragua.
4:06 pm
president trump has once again defended the white supremacists behind deadly violence in charlottesville, virginia, in august of 2017. the unite the right rally saw several hundred white nationalists carrying torches march on a statue of confederate general robert e. lee chanting "jews will not replace us," and the next day self-described neo-nazi james alex fields plowed his car into a crowd of antiracist protesters, murdering heather heyer and injuring 28 others. in the wake of the killing, president trump said there were "very fine people on both sides." on friday, reporter asked him about t the remark. pres. trump: i was talking about people that went because they felt very y strongly about the monument to robert e. lelee, grt general, whether you like it or not. he was one of the great generals. amy: in response, democratic house majority whip james clyburn accused trump of praising a loser. this is the congressmember
4:07 pm
."eaking on abc "this week >> robert e. lee was a brutal slave master. .hankfully, he lost that war i kind of fight it interesting the president did -- is glorifying a loser. he said he'll was hated losers. in spain, incumbent prime amy: minister pedro sanchez will retain his position after a general elecection on sunday tht also saw a far-right party make big gains. sanchez's socialist workers' party won 123 seats, an increase over the last election, but fell short of winning an outright parliamentary majority. the anti-immigrant vox party, which vowed to "make spain great again" won 24 seats. it's the first time since the franco fascist dictatorship that a fascist party won more than one seat in spain's parliament. in mozambique, at least five people were killeded and thousas more feared trapped after the second major cyclone to hit
4:08 pm
southeastern africa within weeks roared ashore as a category-4 storm with winds of over35 miles per hour. cyclone kenneth was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in mozambique. officials are wawarning the dedh toll is likelylyo rise aftfter e storm flattened whole villages, bringing heavy r rains that left some towns in northern mozambique cut off by raging floodwaters. officials are warning of a looming humanitarian disasastern a region that's still reeling from cyclone idai which struck in march, leleaving nearly 600 dead, while sparking a cholera epidemic and shortages of drinking water and food. in britain, labour party leader jeremy corbyn says he'll force a parliamentary vote this week on whether to declare a national climate change emergency. corbyn's call for more urgent action on climate changege comes after more t than a thousand activists were arrested around london in the past two weeks in a wave of nonviolent protests known as extinction rebellion.
4:09 pm
in west virginia, a 22-year-old protester is facing a felony terrorism charge and other misdemeanors after he was arrested in a nonvioiolent civil disobedidience action aimed at stopping the mountain valley pipeline. holden dometrius was arrested thursday about five hours after he chained himself to welding equipment, slowing construction of the fracked gas pipeline. since february, activists have been occupying trees in the path of the pipeline route in west virginia's jefferson national forest, where the mountain valley pipeline company hopes to drill through a mountain directly underneath the appalachian trail. sri lanka has banned face coverings in public following the eastster sunday attatacks tt leleft more than 250 people dead lalast week. the e untry's presidentt maitithripala sirisena said hehs using an emergency law to enact the ban monday, citing public safety to outlaw "all forms of clothing t that cover a person's
4:10 pm
facece and prevents th frorom beinididentified." muslim leaders are criticizing the move, which is thought to target the niqab and burka worn by some muslim women. executive director of human rights watch tweeted "no indication that recent sri lanka bombers cover their faces, but the president bans face covering. that means that muslim women whose practice lead some to cover up now won't be able to leave home." this comes as 15 people, including six children, died friday in a raid on a suspected hideout of militants connected to the attack. three men set off explosives as troops attempted to raid the house, killing the children and three women. in hong kong, tens of thousands of people marched peacefully sunday against a proposal that would allow people to be extradited to mainland china for trial, where they would face far
4:11 pm
fewer protections than afforded under hong kong's policy known as "one country, two systems." many of the protesters held umbrellas, recalling the 2014 umbrella movement pro-democracy protests. this is jayson shing, one of the marchers. >> once this law has been passed, you won't matter if you are an average person are or foreigner. there will be a real p possibily will be taken and sent off to the mainlandnd. amy: back in the united states and a major ruling for women's rupert i can rights, the supreme court of kansas ruled friday that women have a right to safe and legal abortion under the state constitution. in a 6-1 decision, the court ruled kansas's constitution "affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one's own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination." the ruling overturns a 2015 kansas law bannining the most
4:12 pm
common abortion procedure after about 15 weeks of pregnancy. this comes as abortion rights are under threat across the u.s., with 28 states currently considering legislation to ban or restrict abortion in various ways. three prominent women's rights activists are launching a new political action group today called supermajority, aimed at training a new generation of women activists to take on grassroots campaigns and electoral politics. alicia garza, co-founder of black lives matter, former planned parenthood president cecile richards, and ai-jen poo, executive director of the national domestic workers alliance, say they'll focus on mobilizing voters for the 2020 primary and general elections. speaking to the website refinery29, cecile richards said -- "women are the majority of voters and the majority of activists. and yet they continue to be treated as a side issue and a special interest group. it's time that women get the credit and the encouragement -- and we begin to amplify the extraordinary work that women
4:13 pm
are doing." top pentagon officials are backing a department of homeland security request to allow members of the u.s. military to come in contact with migrants along the u.s.-mexico border. if approved, the plan would provide waivers for about 300 troops to work as cooks and drivers for immigration agencies. the plan would also bring in military lawyers to work on immigration cases in civilian courts. in massachusetts, federal prosecutors have charged a state judge and a former court officer with obstruction of justice for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant evadedece agents at a district courthouse in the city of newton. judge shelley richmond joseph and officecer wesley macgregegor helped an undocumented man sneak out of the court house through the basement back door, knowing ice agents were looking for him in the front lobby. both joseph and macgregor pleaded not guilty. a lawyer for macgregor called the charges factually wrong and legally questionable and
4:14 pm
"federal immigration enforcement run amok." in los angeles, health officials have ordered a quarantine for over 1000 students and staff at two colleges amid the largest measles outbreak to hit the u.s. in decades. the order came after a student at ucla and another at cal state los angeles came down with measles, potentially exposing hundreds of others on each campus. this is l.a. county public health director barbara ferrer. >> the department of public health has asked people 11 issued a quarantine order to it here to the following, to remain at home or in a designated setting and not to attend school or workk outside of the designated setting. if they have medical appointments or some other urgent matter that requires that they leave the home, they need to notify the public health
4:15 pm
department before they do thaha. they have a number to call so they can get assistance in making sure as they travel, they don't inadvertently risk exposing others to measles. they're not allowed to use public or commercial transportation. that includes buses, subways, trains, taxis, or airplanes. amy: measles is a highly contagious infection that kills 100,000 people worldwide each year, most of them children. public health officials say the disease is resurgent in the united states due to declining vaccination rates, spawned by a widely discredited theory that the mmr vaccine causes autism. and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we turn now to one of the nation's most celebrated writers, the two-time pulitzer prize winner robert caro. he is out with a new book titled "working" that gives an inside look at his remarkable research
4:16 pm
and writing process. and it does appear that robert caro is always working. 45 years ago, he published his first book, "the power broker: robert moses and the fall of new york." over a seven-year-period, he conducted over 500 interviews for what turned out to be a 1200 page book looking at how robert moses reshaped the nation's largest city. the modern library would later name "the power broker" as one of the top 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century, along such works as rachel carson's "silent spring" and w.e.b. dubois's "the souls of black folk." and caro hasn't paused working since. for the past 45 years, robert caro, with much help from wife ina, has b been researching g te life a and times o of presidenet lyndndon b. johnhnson from h his chilildhood in h hill countrtrys to his t time in thehe white ho. fofour volumeses have beenen pud so farar -- "the p path to powo"
4:17 pm
"meansns of ascentnt," "masteref the e senate," a and "the papasf power." theyey total morore than 300000d robert caro is now writing the fifth volume looking at vietnam, the great society and johnson's decision not to seek re-election in 1968. robert caro has been described as "the greatest political biographer of our times" and america's biographer-in-chief. but to reduce caro's work as simply biographies of great men misses the point. caro uses both moses and johnson to show how political power works. caro writes that by focusing on robert moses, he was able to explore "the realities oururban political power,owower i citiesnonot ju in n neyork but in allhehe cits ofof arica i i the midd of the twentiet century." with lbj, caroelelped posese h nation power wks in th sena and theresidenc robertaro onceold kurt
4:18 pm
voegut -- "what'm ying to , isis t show notnly how wer work but the fect of wer on tse thout por. how polical poweaffects l our lis, everyingle dain wayse never ink abou" th my coost juanonzalez, o is joing us fr rutgers universi, we spendhe hour with robert caro. welcome to democracy now! it is great to have you with us. >> nice to be with you. amy: i want to go back to 55 years ago. in fact, it would be 55 years ago in july that president johnson signed the civil rights act of 1964. go back a few months before that when lyndon johnson, standing next to a blood spattered jackie
4:19 pm
kennedy, would be sworn in as president. he could have taken on any issue at that point, becoming presesident. warned by many in his inner circle, don't do the civil rights act, don't lose the south, he moved forward. describe for us -- set the stage and the place. talk about lbj's decision to go this route. >> four days after the assassination, he has to give an address to the joint session of congress. he is not even in the oval office yet. he is still working out of his private home in washington. three or four of his speechwriters are sitting around draft ahen table try to speech. at some point, johnson comes down wearing a bathrobe and asks how they're doing. they say, billy thing we're all sure of is don't make civil rights a priority. you anger the southerners who control congress, they're going to dock your whole legislative program like they did kennedy. it is a noble cause, but it is a lost cause.
4:20 pm
don't fight for it. and lyndon johnson says to them, what the hell is the presidency for then? of thespeech, with all southern senators sitting in a row in front of them, "our first priority has to be the passage of the civil rights bill." battle thatout the ensued? you particularly focus on richard russell and you pit pittedwo -- well, they themselves against each other. >> for 20 years before 1964, every vote that russell made was on the side of the south. he not only supported every southern bill and opposed every civil rights bill, but he was a southern strategistst. and russell took him under his wing. richard wassail was the most powerful.
4:21 pm
he was the head of t the mighty southern caucus. in that year, i may have the numbers wrong, but proximally right, of the 16 great standing committees in the senate, 11 were chaired by southerners or their allies. they had all of the power in the senate. russell raised lyndon johnson up to the position a majority leader. it was him who really put johnson in. so i would speak to some of the southern senators. and i asked one of them, remember, her mentor how much, who was actually dying when i finally got to talk to him, a senator from georgia. he finally talked to me and i'm asking him about -- i said, what did lyndon johnson convince you should b be the relationship between white men and black men? what did you believe? talmage said, master and servant. and i said, so how didid he make you believe that? tell mitch, who was a sharp man
4:22 pm
said, he talked to me all the time. i thought we were friends. i thought i knew what he really believed. i saidid, how did you fefeel whn johnso gave this speech saying our first priority must be the civil rights bill? how did you feel sititting there as he stand saying this? talmage said, after a long pause, sick. i felt sick. juan: robert caro, what then changed johnson and made him such a proponent of the civil rights movement? >> well, i'm not sure that anything changed johnson. you see, it may be that he believed the same thing all along. but he concealed it for 20 years. why do i think lyndon johnson truly believed in civil rights,
4:23 pm
that it was a political thing? because when he was 20 and 21 years old, he went to college. he did not have enough money to continue had to drop out between his sophomore and junior year and teach school. he taught in the school in a little town down to the mexican border and texas and what they called the mexican school. i wrote about that. no teacher had ever cared if these kids learned or not. this teacher cared. he was so insistent that they learn english, he thought that was the crucial thing. at recess, he heard boys shouting and excitement on the baseball diamond in spanish, he would run out and spank them on the spot. girls he gave a time lashing too. now all of this time later, he has concealed this. nephew becomes present -- now he becomes president. now yes the power.
4:24 pm
learned "all power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." i am not sure as a result of my work i believe that. what i really believe -- i believe that power does not always corrupt. sometimes it cleananses. what power always does is reveal. when you get enough power s so u can do it youu w want, then n pe see what you wanted to do all along. your i was interested in new book "working" and obviously, some of the stuff you haven't here is a distillation not only of what you learned in the bigger books you wrote but also the process by which you learn them. you talk about the rise of power of lyndon johnson. you center on this moment in october 1940 when it appeared to be that johnson really, as a young member of congress, begins andain mumuch more infnfluence
4:25 pm
power. you are fascinated to try to understand what had happened in october 1940 that suddenly catapulted johnson into a key figure. you end up discovering this whole connection that he developed to the oil barons of funding of the democratic party. i'm wondering if you could talk about that? has been in congress only three years. he is 32 years old. he has no power. then all of a sudden, after the month of october 1940, just before the election, he is the files seniorn the congressman asksking for five minutes of his time. i said, what happened during that five months? at that time i was talking to notable washington six or, a -- verio went wheeler and dealer. he's to call me "kid." i said, what happened in 1940?
4:26 pm
member who said, money, kid. money. but you're never going to be able to write about that, kid. i said, why not? he said, because lyndon johnson never put anything in writing. well, corcoran was only partly right. johnson hardly ever put anything in writing. as i'm going through the papers in the johnson library, there are two amazing documents. one is a telegram from a huge texas oil contracting anddam building firm and johnson is getting a federal contract saying to lyndon johnson at the beginning of october, lyndon, the checks are on the way. money that is being sent to him, unprecedented amount of money, is for him to be disturbing to congressman. lyndon johnson is a genius. he does that have any power, , t he realizes therere is one thing he has that no other congressman has. groups of people.
4:27 pm
he knows thehe texas oilman and contractors who need favors from the federal government and he -- and are willing to pay to get it to give campaign contributions, and he knows the northern liberaral congressman who need money for their campaigns. he arranges that all this s mony be given through him, and that creates powerful stuff and there is a list that i found in the johnson library that was just remarkable. we wonder, how do you prove that economic power has such an effect on political power? economic power creates political power sometimes. list.e it all in this the list is typed by one of johnson secretaries. there are two typed columns. on the left of the name of the congressman asking for money. messenger column is how much money he is asking for. small amounts, tiny amounts by our standard.
4:28 pm
but in the left-hand column, left-hand margin next to the congressman's name, by each name there is something in johnson's handwriting also sometimes he writes if he's giving the congressman all of the money the guys have asked for any rights, ok. sometimes if you giving them part of it, he writes in ok in the amount. writes "none."e and sometimes he writes "non out." i asked his longtime assistant, what did it mean when he out.""none that man was never going to get from lyndon johnson. you never forget and he never forgot. amy: we are talking to robert
4:29 pm
caro, pulitzer prize winning author of "the power broker: robert moses and the fall of new york" and "the years of lyndon johnson." his most recent best-selling book is titled "working." we are speaking with robert caro for the hour. stay with us. ♪ [ [music break]
4:30 pm
amy: "we shall overcome" live recording of the late folk legend pete seeger singing at carnegie hall in 1963. pete seeger was born 100 years 3, 1919.friday, may this is democracy now!, i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. our guest for the hour is the pulitzer prize winning authorr. -- winning author robert caro.
4:31 pm
his new book out is called "working" as we listen to that break, p seeger singing "we shall overcome. talk about lyndon johnson hearing that song outside the white house. >> in those days, we had martin luther king marching in selma. the marchers on the pickets, the civil rights movement, believed lyndon johnson was a their side. they heard a southern accent. they are singing it on pennsylvania avenue outside -- you can hear it in the family dining room at the white house. on the night he goes to congress to delivervong righthts act, asr turns out of the white house under pennsylvania, the pickets are there, just present almost up to the car will stop and
4:32 pm
among the things they're chanting, "hey, hey, lbj, just you wait and see what happens in 1968." they are singing "we shall overcomeme." sitting in the e back of the car. he doesn't even look up. i asked one of the aides who knew johnson i said, did he hear them? he said, he heard. he goes to congress and gives this speech in which he adopts the key line, the anthem of the civil rights movement "we shall overcome" as "our" anthem. he said it is not just new gross to have to overcome, we have to prejudice.r present to thi when johnson's car comes by, i wrote, "the pickets were gone." amy: over to turn to audio recording of a phone call between president lyndon johnson and the revererend martin luther king jr.. this is from january 15, 1965, as they're discussing voting
4:33 pm
rights act that would be johnson to sign off on. upthen we have got to come with the qualification of the voters. that will answer 70% of your problems, if you just cleared out everywhere and make it age, read, and write. said r on what chaucer brownings poetry were constitutions or memorize or anything else. they may have to put them in the post office and let the postmaster from a federal employee that i control, who they can say is local, a proven by the senator. if use of registered, but he a company when in. it is a local man. i haven't thought this through,
4:34 pm
but that is my general feeling. i talked to the attorney general. i have been working on it. i don't want to start off with them because it would not get anything else. i don't want to publicize it. i wanted you to know the outline of what i had in mind. what i remember [inaudible] >> your statement was perfect about the vote is important, very important. i think it is good to talk about that. i just don't see how anybody can say a man can fight vietnam but he can't vote at the post office. amy: that was, by the way, that was on dr.n in 1965, king's birthday at the time. the voting rights act would be in 1960 five.
4:35 pm
that was johnson speaking to dr. martin luther king. i wanted you to comment on their relationship. i once was begin to harry belafonte and said, when you get on in years and can't remember your almost daily conversations with dr. king, you can just apply under the freedom of information act to the fbi to get the transcript of all of the conversations you had lost up robert kennedy, johnson's attorney general, had king wiretapped. talk about that relationship and did inndon johnson signing by the civil rights act in one year later, the voting rights act. >> in the case you just played, the most significant line was the first two lines that johnson said. he says, basically, if you make it easier for negroes to register, 70% of your problems are self. johnson believed if black people were given the right to vote,
4:36 pm
they could take care of a lot themseselves. they would start electing their own officials. they would s start to chanange america. so he is saying taking, the thing i'm concentrating on is ththat you can register just as easy as going into a post o offe . if we e give them m the power to vote, theyey will haveve the p r -- martitin luther king for a ag time didid not trustst lyndon jojohnson. he did n not believeve he fullyy beeved i i when johnson gives his s speechh and says, , we shall overcome, mamartin l luther king is down onelma listening to it televisi i in the living room of onone of his s supports. when johohnson says, " "and we l overercome, theyey turn around d looked at t dr. king, , the only titime theyy say thehey ever sam cry. back tobert caro, to go your approach to writing and
4:37 pm
researching, especially in this age when everyone were most of the and people get their information and their news from twitter and facebook posts and relatively short articles they might read online, you actually moved with your wife to texas to be able to really get into the subjbject matter of lbj and his role in history and where he came from. could you talk about your approach to spending years often just writing one book? >> well, on the research, you know, i write pretty fast, although no one believes that. it is the research that takes the time. the particular thing your talking about, moving to the hill country, i thought we would not have to do that. there were a pretty seven published biographies. they all had chapters on his
4:38 pm
youth that depicted him a certain way. but i'm trying to get a little more detail so i can write a better couple of chapters myself. -- forealize i'm talking people and help country then, it was a land of such loneliness, such poverty. for me, coming from new york, i said to ina, i'm not understanding these people. i'm not understanding the hill country. therefore, i'm not understanding lyndon johnson because this is what he came out of. i said, we're going to have to move down there and get to know these people. said, whyoves paris can you do a biography of napoleon? but we moved down there. when you talk about why this hard to get these people to talk to you, they mistrusted journalists because when johnson was president, journalists would come down for three or four days
4:39 pm
or maybe a week and go back and write the series of articles on what the hill country was really like. i will take what it was like. you go to interview some person who is alive t that new lyndon johnson in high school, and the directions would be something like you drive out of austin for 47 miles, watch for the cattle guard on your left, turn left and go on this unpaved road for like 30 miles. at the end of it is a house with a person with the information you need. you say, i have not passed the house e for 30 miles. who does this person talk to? does she have any friends? strangers.y wary of and i wasn't getting people to talk to me at all. so as soon as we moved down there, as it happens, as soon as they realized someone had come to stay in trying to understand them, theyey would tell me whatt lyndon johnson was really like as a young man, which was very
4:40 pm
different from anything that have been depicted before. amy: you talked about moving there with your wife ina. i want to talk about her role, would you have extolled. her role in your work. everything from the name of the hill country, how she gets to befriend this taciturn woman who is an important source for you, turning up with homemade fig jam that opens up the people to speak. but it is more than the jam. it is the research. it is your trusted fellow researcher partner in all of this. --you look at other biographies and at t the end of the acknowledgments, you might name three or four or more researchers who helped them. i found that there's only one person besides myself that i
4:41 pm
ever have been able to trust to do my research, and it is ina. she is a wonderful researcher. she is also a historian in her own right. in her high school yearbook, etc. ambition is to be historical researcheher. andpepent a lot of months the lyndonr lives in johnson library going through papers. amy: we are going to go to break for a moment and then we're going to come back to continue this discussion and also talk whot robert moses, the man you wrote the book about, "the power broker." most recent best-selling book "working." back in a minute. ♪ [music break]k]
4:42 pm
4:43 pm
amy: "waist deep in the big muddy." in 1967.er the song was initially censored from the original broadcast but then under enormous pressure, cbs gave in. this is dedemocracy now!, democracynow.org, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with juan gonzalez. we are spending the hour with a pulitzer prize winning author robert caro, who is out with a new book called "working." foron the pulitzer prize the mass of the senate about lyndon johnson before that, he wrote -- he won the prize for "the power broker: robert moses and the fall of new york." , i want tot caro turn to "the power broker." i have often said over the years to my friends and students i've
4:44 pm
taught that you really cannot understand the modern urban america without having read it. it is really "the moby dick" of nonfiction writing interns of its epic approach and analysis of how power is wielded and how cities are shaped. could you talk about how you first decided to write about robert moses, perhaps the most powerful, unelected official, never elected to any office, in history -- modern history of new york and had an influence inin cities across the country? >> i was reporter for newsday and an investigative reporter. won a couple of really minor journalistic awards. but when you are young and when anything, you think you know everything. i thought i really understood political power. robert moses wanted to build this -- he built these bridges
4:45 pm
across long island sound. -- newsdays to build assigns me to look into it. this really terrible idea. it would have generated so much traffic on the long island expressway, would have needed 12 more lanes just a hold the cars. thiss bridgeof were so big it would have caused title pollution. i went up to albany. i saw the governor rockefeller, his a council. everyone understood this was a terrible idea. i went on to something else after writing about it. i have a friend who calls me says, bob, you're to come back up your, robert moses was sick yesterday. i said, i don't think so. i took of the bridge. he said, robert moses was up here yesterday. i think you ought to come back.
4:46 pm
i come back and speak to the same people, the governor, the us and was eager, etc. they all think this is now the greatest idea in the world. in fact, the state is going to pay for the initial stages. i'm driving back to long island and i remember it was 163 miles. i am thinking, you think you know what political power is. you don't have the famous idea. -- faintest idea. using political power comes from being elected. here's a guy who's never elected to anything and he had more power than anyone who was, more powewer than any mayor or goverr or mayor and governor combinine. he h held his power for 44 year. he shaped all of new yorcicity. anand yo robobercaro, don't have any eaea whe thihis wer cocos frfr. and i also realized, neither does anyone else. that is en i deced to do
4:47 pm
"the pow bror." an:n wking, yotalk abo te impact at moses h o neighborods of t city and ally redigning my new rk city's neigorhoods. you sa aone poin hehaped the cit physicay, not oy by at he but, but bwhat he deroyed to build his express was prohibited from their homes, 250,000 persons in the process, ripping out the centers of a score of neighborhoods, many of them friendly, vibrant community's that have been made .he city a home to its people and to build his don't have a public works, he victim perhaps .50,000 more perhaps half a million people were displaced by the public works of robert moses. many people don't think about the impact from the destruction of communities in the 1950's and
4:48 pm
60's that led to the rise of 80's in the 70's and many of these same neighborhoods. >> what you're talking about when i decided my books have to be different than what i thought it would be at the beginning. icame to realize that if wanted to write about political power the way i wanted to write about it, i would have to show the effective power not just on those who wield power, but on those on whom it is wielded. on the powerless. show a government can do for people for good, but also to .eople who are not good and what i did was i decided to 600 27e-mile of the miles of expressways and parkways that robert moses else and show the human cost of that one-mile. to do that, i think he had
4:49 pm
affected 50,000 people for this , and find the people who lived there before. before this was a lower middle-class community, largely jewish, but a lot of irish and there.in their i --n these. people were not well off but as long as they had a community and neighborhood where they knew had all of their friends and neighbors, they had something. i had to find them. finding that wasn't easy because they were scattered all over the four winds. i think of the town every time i see "fiddler on the roof." andund them in co-op city housing projects living with their families. when i would come back and write my interviews, i saw was writing one word over and over again, "lonely."
4:50 pm
i was asking people, what is life like now? over and over again that would say, lonely. they had lost their sense of community. this is the human cost -- part of the human cost -- of what robert moses did. amy: i want to go back to 1953 comes a tv program interviewed robert moses. this is the anch w william bradrd h hui questioning him folks build tsese roa, you ha to o mo a lototf people' hos, d do't t u? >> ye escialallyn urban mmunitits. that is one of the b problem >> canou give us any indication how many homes would haveo bebe moved in buding the thruy?y? say three quarters of it is o open territo where there n no prlem.m. the otother one fourth i would t know how many. amy: that is robert moses in 1953. i was wondering if you could comment on what he is saying and
4:51 pm
also the building of jones beach, the access to jones beach . what robert moses intended. people of color, or people not being able to get there. >> i talk about the jones beach first. , the wonderful side of robert moses, he creates the world's greatest bathing beach in long island. there was no place for the masses of new york city by which was meant than from a white, middle-class people. the automobile age was just flowering. it was the 1 1920's. he is greeting jones beach, great inspiration. he does not want poor people and in particular, poor people of color, to use jones beach. so what he does, poor people in 1930's don't have
4:52 pm
automobiles. so the only way they can get to jones beach is by mass transportation. so he takes care of the railroad side of that are easily. the long island railroad wants to build a spur to jones beach and he says no. if they could also get there by bus. he does not want t to take any chchances of that am a so the parkways out there -- first, he has legislation passed that buses cannot use the parkways, which are the only way to jones beach. but then as his chief once said to me, the commissioner, called in the commissioner, the commissioner of new legislation can always be changed. you can't change their bridge when it is up. so if you drive out to jones beach, you see along the southern state and the meadowbrook parkways him and the 173 ofo jones beach -- these bridges. clearance 13 inch nine inches.
4:53 pm
plant 10 feet because buses needed 14 feet of clearance. some people could not get the buses. one of the relevant tory moments of my life and my wife's life, i wanted to see how this affected over the decades. so now i'm doing the power broker. it is not 1930 more when he opened it. now it is let's a 1970, 40 years later. there's one big parking lot in jones beach with four underpasses that people use to get to the beach. we stood there. latinos, blacks. of thethis day, one moments that shaped my career as a biographer was the rage, really, that kept building in me as you had all of these things for the white people, hardly any for the latinos, and even less for the blacks.
4:54 pm
works, what public public policy does to the powerless, to the poor people, and how long the effect of it last. you mentionedaro, many people called him the commissioner. i want to get back to this issue of how he was able to affect so much dramatic change in new york city through basically the skillful use of what is known as the public authority to circumvent the elected bodies of government. he was basically the chair or the sole member of so many little-known public authorities, how he wielded that power, if you could talk about that? >> robert moses was a political genius them as i said. looking into him, i realized how little i knew about how political power works. how he knew everything. he thinks he is going to get elected to something. he runs for gogovernor of neww k
4:55 pm
state and people don't like him and he loses by what i think is still the largest majority anyone ever lost by a state election in new york. he thinks he's one of the mayor of new york. he is not. he realizes he has to get power to build these huge public works somewhere. he takes a yellow legal pad and goes into a little room next to his office and since there by himself and draft legislation, which basically create public authorities in the modern form. before that, they were just entities that sold bonds to build a bridge or a tunnel, collected tolls until the bonds were paid off, then went out of existence. he created legislation is that gose authorities will never out of existence. and as long as he is head of the authorities, he is going to have the power of the authorities. and these authorities, of course -- for about 30 years, if you are paying a tolll and any bride
4:56 pm
or tunnel in new york city, you are basically paying it directly to robert moses. he had more money to build things than the city did. amy: if you could talk about the building of lincoln center, this cultural mecdca, and what he destroyed and talk about the communities of color that lived in that area. -- this is look at why the powerbrokers are very complicated, was a complicated book to write. because there are these two vividly different sides of robert moses. one is this genius that can conceive of huge public works. the other is this absolute disregard to what happens to the human beings who lived there before. and also, the shape in which they are built.
4:57 pm
when you look at lincoln center today, you said before it was low income, but not a slum, but a thriving low income neighborhood. forh was simply wiped out lincoln center. but what got me that lincoln center was that part of this -- the front part of lincoln center is wonderful. go to the back wall of lincoln center. that is low w wall that looks at -- that is the wall of what looks out of the neighborhood that have been a before, the poor neighborhood. it is blank. there almost no entrance is to lincoln center. its back on new york city, on the poor people of new york city. juan: i want to ask in the little time we have left about your writing style. vivid and are always descriptive but somof your sentences go on for pages. can you talk about whether you
4:58 pm
consciously write these amazingly long sentences? >> well, i don't do that consciously.y. the answer to your question is a quick one, no, they just sometimes seem to come out that way. some people say i write too many very short sentences. i would like to think that means i write contrasting sentences. amy: and you write longhand and then type? i don't mean into a computer, but a typewriter? >> yes, i write my first few drafts and longhand on a legal pad and then i use an slowric typewriter to myself down. i think our right to pass. i want to make myself think things through. i find if i write it in hand, it is a little bit slower so i think the low bit more. amy: you are a testament to the need for journalists at newspapers when we see staffs
4:59 pm
being cut, the level of investigation that you need to investigate power and give voice to the powerless. we want to thank you for being with us. we will do part two and post it online at democracynow.org. amy: robert caro. thank you for joining us.
5:00 pm

31 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on