This week, Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with guest host David Horton about three remarkable moments in American history between administrations. First, the tragedy of Meriwether Lewis, who got caught between the outgoing administration of his mentor Thomas Jefferson and the incoming administration of President James Madison, who was no admirer of Lewis. This gap contributed to the nervous collapse of Lewis and probably his suicide in 1809. Then the burden that fell on the shoulders of Vice President Harry S. Truman in April 1945 when FDR died at Warm Springs and Truman learned about the existence of the atomic bomb and the Manhattan Project for the first time that day. And finally, the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s attempts to fulfill JFK’s agenda on Vietnam, civil rights, and the space program.
This week, Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with fellow Steinbeck scholar Russ Eagle of North Carolina about the relaunch of the Western Flyer, the boat that took Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s wife Carol, and four others to the Sea of Cortez in the spring of 1940. After eighty years the Western Flyer has been completely refurbished and now takes its place as one of the principal attractions at Monterey, California. Ricketts was a marine biologist and one of Steinbeck’s best friends in life. Partly to help Ricketts (who was a mediocre businessman), partly to get away from his sudden celebrity after The Grapes of Wrath went viral, Steinbeck commissioned the boat, gathered the crew, and made his way with his fellow adventures to Baja California to collect specimens for Rickett’s lab in Monterey. Steinbeck’s marriage to his first wife Carol was coming apart at the time. He was completely exhausted after the flurry of concentration that led to the greatness of Grapes of Wrath. It was part science, part escape, part vacation, but it led to two books, The Sea of Cortez in 1941, and The Log of the Sea of Cortez ten years later.
Clay Jenkinson is joined by regular guests Lindsay Chervinsky and David Nicandri to discuss the most overrated and underrated Presidents in American history, present company excluded. We evaluate the 46 presidencies, not the overall character or achievement. Woodrow Wilson does not fare well, but Richard Nixon has considerable support, in spite of Watergate. Lindsay heaps high praise on her man John Adams while David believes John F. Kennedy has additional luster now that our national leaders have become jaded, cynical, and openly opportunistic. We agree that Bill Clinton is one of the most disappointing presidents, given his amazing natural gifts and charisma, and Lindsay pays a moving tribute to Bush 41.
This week, Clay’s conversation with favorite guest Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky about the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. All ratified between December 1865 and February 1870, these three key amendments are in some respects the second founding of the United States. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. The 14th insisted on equal protection of all citizens of the United States, thus applying the Bill of Rights to the people of every state. And the 15th granted Black men 21 years old and older the right to vote. Unfortunately, all three were systematically undermined by the states of the old Confederacy, often with the support of the U.S. Supreme Court. We talk about birthright citizenship today, whether someone convicted of insurrection today would be ineligible to run for president, and whether the current trajectory of the Supreme Court is undermining the plain provisions of these key Constitutional Amendments.