tv Bryan Burrough on Days of Rage CSPAN October 11, 2015 1:30pm-2:26pm EDT
s. the first two years of the obama white house, you had the house of representatives under her leadership passing a slew of major bills and some of them became law, some did not. some were tough vote ford moderate members of her party, votes on climate change, votes on obamacare, and those members subsequently lost re-election. now, it's not clear if the votes necessarily cost them re-election, but for some of them it may have made the difference, and to the extent it did, it may have cost the democrats the control of the house another representatives. so this is a dilemma that all speaks hear which is do you get major bills passed if it hurt yours member's re-election charges or you protect them in getting re-elect end ted response of getting what you want done? if it cost the control of the house of representatives and hindered president obama agenda, that could be something that would be part of her legacy.
>> so people know where you're coming from, on that dayin' 1949 when the republicans took back the house of representatives, did you have a smile on your face or scowl? ... i teach a course on the u.s. cong, and for part of that course i have the students play a member of congress, and they try to get
a bill enacted through their house of representatives. and that's a great experience for the students and for myself, if for no other reason than at the end i get to play speaker. and then i also teach a course called power in american politics where we learn about different aspects of power in the united states, power of interest groups, power of congress, power of the president, power of people, power of voters. so those are some of the classes that i teach here at catholic. >> host: why don't speakers traditionally vote on legislation? >> guest: speakers traditionally do not vote because it's a legacy of this hybrid position of speaker, as i mentioned before. they are seen as both a partisan leader, but also as a nonpartisan leader. and if you're nonpartisan, it means that you're not supposed to be taking part in the issues of the day that put you on one side of the question or the other. and to the extent the speaker is supposed to be presiding over the house and insuring that everything's done fairly, people
might question their ability to do that if they're also participating in the vote. so traditionally, speakers do not participate in votes. they can. they're not prohibited from doing so. but traditionally, they do not. this also has changed over time, and in the 1970s speakers started participating more and more often, i think culminating in gingrich who voted quite a bit. and nancy pelosi did as well. but boehner, again i mentioned before, has moved back from that partisan role. he votes very, very rarely on the house floor. and i think that is in part a reflection of his belief that the speaker needs to move himself or herself out of these debates and conflicts in order to be seen as someone who really has the whole house and the interests of the whole house at heart. >> host: and we've been talking with catholic university professor matthew green about his book, "the speaker of the house." published by yale university press. here's the cover, you're
watching booktv on cing span 2. on c-span2. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail to email@example.com, tweet us @booktv or post on our wall, facebook.com/booktv. >> "vanity fair" special correspondent bryan burrough appeared at the 2015 chicago tribune printers row lit fest to talk about his history of america's radical underground. that next on booktv. >> welcome to the 31st annual chicago tribune printers row lit fest. my name is tom, and before we start i'd like to give a special
thank you to all the lit fest sponsors. we are broadcasting live on c-span2's booktv. we're going to leave some time at the end of this program for audience questions. we just ask that you step up to the microphone up here and ask your question so that our television audience can hear the question. you can keep the spirit of the lit fest going all year long with a subscription to the tribune's premium book section, fiction serious and membership program. also feel free to download the trib books app. for more information on the lit fest as well as access to our digital bookstore. and finally, the lit fest loves social media, like anyone else, so feel free to take pictures, post messages and upload them to twitter, instagram or facebook using the hashtag prlf15. before we begin, please science
your phone -- silence your phones, turn the flashes off your cameras, and i will introduce our moderator, rick perlstein. [applause] >> i like a short but sweet introduction. [laughter] so i'll give a short one for bryan. although for the indefatigable research in his most recent book, i joke we should call him bryanou burroughs because -- ye, thank you. [laughter] i'm here all week. [laughter] i asked him how he wanted to be introduced, and he said he writes for "vanity fair", and he writes books. and the books for which he's known other than this most recent k one is "barbarians at e gate" which came out in 1990, and the murder of rjr -- the merger of r.j. renadle and that
nabisco, the food company. nabis. his latest book is an accomplishment of research, story telling and moral inquiry. and it is something based on the facts we know and that is domestic terrorism. he takes the story back to 1969 or so. and all the way up through the middle of the 1980's. and one of the striking facts in the book is that the most fatal and interesting year for domestic terrorism prior to first world trade center bombing in the united states was 1981 which really makes you scratch your head and say maybe i should read this book which you should.
i have read it closely and have a review in the nation's magazine coming about next month. first thing i would like bryan to talk about is the scale of violence during this time. my favorite example is a story you told about the evacuation of a movie theater. maybe you can address that. >> this was a small item in the new york times i picked up. may 1970, small puerto rican independence group set off a bomb in the theater in the bronx during the liberation of jones. bombs were so prevalent by that time. and according to the new york city times when the police tried
to cleanup the theater after the bomb no one wanted to leave and wanted to see the rest of the movie. it was like we are new yorkers, it is a bomb already. >> and the box score in the san francisco chronicle. >> san francisco had so many bombs during the 1970's the chronicle ran a box score of how many there were and who was in the lead. but the scope of domestic violence, what we would call domestic terrorism today, i don't call it terrorism because by and large these bombs were not intended to kill indiscriminately. most were protest bombs set off in empty buildings, court houses, exploding press releases. they were not intended to kill they were intended to draw the media and police focus to communicate and that would take to the bottom of the pay phone
or sent to a radio station and this type of thing. the sure scale of it is what stunned me. the senate inquiry in the early '70s counted 2,005 bombings. i remember trying to explain the first bombing in berkeley and we disclose why it was so little noticed and it was because i counted 34 other significant bombings in february around the country most that injured far more people than the half dozen people weather's first attack did. the major thing is not only how widespread it is but how forgotten it is.
there is so little culture in the memory. i lived through the '70s. i remember patty hurst and most thof -- of the rest of it was centered in the bay area and chicago. media capitals. if you grew up like i did in a small town in texas or small town in arkansas this was easy to miss. >> even though i am one day in new york in 1975 following a puerto rican bombing and there so so many threats that 100,000 office workers were evacuated milling around the streets of manhatt manhattan. >> it was the first time they evacuated the world trade center. >> one thing that speaks more of americaness medaling is you talk
about new yorkers saying this is new york but you don't talk about this event in the book. i researched this period, too, and came across a lot of strange stories. but in 1975 a man climbed over the whitehouse fence with a lead pipe. and the secret service doing what they do when there is a physical threat it the grounds of the presidential residents they actually shot him to death. there was a like a three-paragraph story in the new york times that day. and that was it. there was a one sentence written about it. i compare that to what happened when a poor mentally ill woman a few years ago rammed her car into the capital grounds. she had her infant in the car. it was national news for a week
but a hundred or so military and police personal descended on her home with hazardous material suits to make sure she wasn't part of a terrorist cell. >> this type of violence was so deeply woven in the '70s no body expresses outrage. it was so much a part of life in urb urban america it was no big deal. my favorite part is the woman from the new york post who they talked to after a bombing that killed someone at mobile head quarters in new york in 1977 and her quote was another bombing. who is this time? can you imagine saying that today? that is coming after the '60s and watergate and the multitude
of awful things going on in new york and the country i don't think radical violence would have been in the top ten things of what anyone was worried about it. >> do you think it says anything about us as a people or country that we are so scared of our shadow? >> once we forgot this period we were reintroduced to violence. suddenly out of nowhere to a country that didn't remember this we had '93 and then 9/11. and suddenly when i say bombing to people they shutter and call these people terrorist. >> as they write back our own interp interpretation of the past. >> for me to write this book i had to get back to 9/11. less than one percent of these bombs killed anyone. a few of them did. a bomb went off on a wall street
restaurant that killed a four people but the vast majority were not intended it kill. >> there were awful acts. the independence cause of puerto rico was their one groups cause and they had a bombing in 1975 at the location where george washington said good bye to his troops, and they did this during rush hour with propane tanks and killed six people? >> four people. >> four people. >> they were half new york/half chicago. their bombs were 74-81. the story, and i am sure it was the first time i read it, they came from a high school in chicago and most were counselors
and teachers and oscar lopez the one in prison was an activist. >> the interesting thing about that particular bombing to me is also in distinction to violent terrorist today, these folks within the mainstream, even the level and liberal, you may say supporters and apologist. what is striking is the response of the church in new york saying -- they had a puerto rican mainstream social service
group that was a front for a terrorist group and proved to the church's leadership the communicator was written from a typewriter and the woman running the group bought the plane ticket and the response of the archbishop of new york was there. >> the diocese, the government split into two halves with those who were freaked out and concerned and progressives who attacked the fbi for overreaching. in chicago, there were -- >> you have a quote about someone saying going after politically active hispanics. >> right. but it was difficult for anybody to imagine then or prove until now a revolutionary/terrorist bombing group was using the national head quarters of the church work out of the basement as a front and we can prove it with the woman's lawyer admitting it in the book. there are stories like this from
the '70s that the have been forgotten. we remember patty hurst and when weather blew up the court house but there are so many other stories like that. >> let's talk about what these folks believed themselves to be accomplishing. let's center the discussion around a group that has profound connection to chicago and that is fdf, in the weather man, in the weather underground that started in 1968 or 1969. >> there is weather, the black liberation army and others but the one thing all of these groups for the different causes had in common was they were born from the '60s. the underground in the '70s is a forgotten last chapter of all
that happened in the '60s. obviously what happened is, i always say most of these people were unable to shake the dream of 1968. the dream of 1968 was a worldwide revolution was sweeping the global, it was in evitable it was coming to the united states, the government would fall and literally a new world order was upon us. in 1969, it didn't happen, nixon came in and started cracking heads literally as seen by the storm troopers here in chicago. and the hardest core of the
>> and they all ended up in control of the countries. and weather was the largest, the most influential of the groups that sought to make that happen in america. there's a great untold story about how they failed utterly to do so. >> right. and to connect it with chicago, one of the leaders who was the leader of this, bill ayers, whose name surfaced during the 2008 campaign, you know, kind of still goes around giving speeches at high schools and stuff, you know, talking about this great anti-war movement. and i point out in my review of
your book that bill ayers was not an anti-war activist, he was a war activist. you know, he declared war on the united states. and i tell the story in my review about a great socialist friend of mine, jamie weinstein, who was a publisher of america's first socialist newspaper in decades in these times, now ath great left-wing magazine. and his cousin was in the w weathermen. and i said what would you do if your cousin, whose name is j.j. and was an absolute, very, very, very vociferous, basically advocate of murderous revolutionary violence, what would you do if he knocked on your door today? i would turn him in to the fbi i because they destroyed the left. favors. >> right. one of the interventions you
make to this story is that you demonstrate that yes after this terrible accident that happened in a town house in lower manhattan in march of 1970 that pretty much several members of the weather underground blew themselves up accidently you point out that that move to a policy of only undertaking bombs that would only damage property not people. but prior to that they had a different idea in mind. >> that has been the central myth of the weather underground is they never intended to hurt a soul. after the townhouse that is the path they embarked on for six years. they did fairly conventional protest bombings in bathrooms. the fbi after a while began to
take them less seriously and called them the terrible toilet bombers because the bath plea room is where most of them were placed because in a public building you are given privacy, you can close the door and do there wiring you need to do. but the important thing and one of the more important points in the book is what is forgotten by appall gist by bill airs and weather alumni is what they want to cover up. and there were two. for the first 90 days they tried to set off bombs to kill police officers and military worker. they did so in berkeley seriously injuring one officer and lightly injuring a bunch of others. there was an action in detroit in which bill airs group set off to bombs in a hall but they were
found first. and the third was in the townhouse where the new york collective led by a young man named terry robins was building a series of large bombs they were going to set off at an officer's dance that night. as luck, or however you look at it, terry knew a lot about politics and poetry about not enough about building bombs and the bomb went off in his hands and killed him and two others and brought down the entire townhouse upon them and convinced the best of the leadership they had to stop murderous violence. other groups went on to do it but from there on the principle leaders and bill ayres called it
responsible terrorism and that was protest bombing. bombs not intended to kill. >> bill said he never tried to kill cops. how did you get the story and how confidant are you they are behind this berkeley bombing? sgr >> my source is the man who built and put the bomb there and others there that night. but there is a large segment of the radical left out there who bill ayres is not poplar. a lot came forward in the book because they felt like why is he the only on the ground figure most of america has ever heard of. the young man who built 98% of the weather underground bombings comes out in our books and he is identified and tell his story.
i feel certain part of is ron realizing he had a part in this history, too. and many of them, including howard, the one who talked about building and placing the bomb that night feel like bill is not telling the true story. the true story is uglier than they want people to remember. >> how did they get away with it? >> i love the fbi today and i love the loyalty and professionalism. i have come to know a lot of people there but the 1970's isn't their finest hour. there are funny memos you can get back in the old files about how these people leave like dirty hair and live like they do
andrewi drugs. no one in the movement would talk to the fbi. so hoover, and many on the left don't want to remember, hoover eliminated black bag jobs and by and large i think that was moved away from. the weather squad, especially squad 47 in new york, brought jobs and illegal mail opening and everything you can do in space to going after weather. and long story short, one of the great ironies of the era is in the end one weatherman of the primary group, exactly one, one of the two young women who crawled out of the rubble that morning was convicted and the top three officials of the fbi were indicted for these
break-ins. one had the charges drop, two convicted and ronald reagan pardon them. >> the fbi cheated and also lost. >> and not only that one of the most frustrating things is i thought i would go in and tell this with documentary files. but on weather, and most of these groups, what they did is junk. i talked to half a dozen investigations and after the inveigations and scandals started they were taken all of the files home and burning them in the fire place. there is nothing there. as a result, i kind of had to take off my historian hat and put on my old newspaper reporter hat and start tracking them down. and hi, i am bryan burrough, you don't know me, i don't happen to
be radical but would you tell me about the building you bombed in 1970. >> it is so cinematic. you see stuff ripped from the headlines. we are talking about a member of a black revolutionary cell goes into an after hours joint where bad things that are bad for the people are going on and make everyone strip down naked and steal their money, the cops come saying what are all these people doing naked and some guy is like some guy ripped us off but they are gone and another says no, he is over there. and a lot of these stories end -- one thing i learned is if you are going to be a member of a violent reblutionary army and you get pulled over by the cops -- revolutionary -- the
first thing you want to do is roll down the window. >> that is what the black liberation taught the members. >> when the cop came, some would just start shooting at the cop and the glass would be flying and you don't want to get hurt. >> and these guys all had medium to large afros and there is a story about myers and people like the last quote on the shootout was women were picking glass out of his hair all night. >> how many round of ammunition were involved in that final round? >> i don't know but he was c pieces. the black libation army wasn't prone to peaceful bombings. they fascinated police and were a spin off of the black panthers. >> run at least nominally from
the algerian head quarters, their world embassy, cleaver who believed himself to be running the government in exile of black america from a room in algeria where he had a map with lights having all of the revolutionary cells including the one in china whose chairman was a guy now mow. >> he thought it was going to be a gorilla army and all of the groups believed once they started attacking with violence people will rise up >> the head of the liberation army on the run in los angeles and i think the fbi might be on to us let's find another black person and knock on their door
to see if they will harbor us. when the fbi was closing in, the leader decided they needed to move to a new place and didn't know a new place and started going door to door in their building say i am the commander here of the liberation army, could we move in. >> and no one said yes amazingly but no one turned him in. >> and it was someone was strange and the man was as we know in chicago from fred hampton cutting down black leaders in cold blood. so it made sense. >> it was a time when government, because of the '60s and corruption of nixon administration and the war and watergate, the reputation of the fbi and the national government was i have not lived long enough to say an all-time low but i don't know how many times it was
lower. >> if you are in the bronx and the heroin trade is run by the police joining things like the black liberation seems like a better change than voting for hu humphry. >> it was the perfect outlet for the black rights and after ten years with five intense years of blacks calling for black power and black revolutionary and off the pig finally somebody tried to do it. by and large they got cut to pieces but managed to attack a significant number of police to. >> there was a movement where one of the dla soldiers said don't you understand copper we are at war. and he said no, if we were at
war, i would have shot you already. you would not be handcuffed in the back of this car. let me ask you one more thing before we take questions. getting the story, i say this is cinematic because if i were writing the screenplay about "days of rage" it would be about a guy living in texas or new jersey getting the story and tracking down all of these gray beards. but i get a sense from the pr preface it was difficult and you were at the end of the rope a couple times >> a couple times. this was the most difficult thing i have ever done. it was almost 16 years and for the first 18 months it was getting a lot of doors slammed in my face. people are not going to tell you about the building they bombed in 1972. it was only until i reached out
for the defense attorneys and found the bar of radical attorneys was small, maybe a dozen or 15 that mattered, and i made the argument my politics don't matter. i have a track record telling it accurately and the fact is look behind me. there are not a half dozen reporters and lining up outside of this door. you are 75 years old. if you don't tell me these story they will never come out. >> when was the movement in which you realized you might have a book that was successful on your own terms? >> the first time i started hearing stories that kind of were what they used to tell us in school that were bombs in your corn flake stories. the first time a bla guy told me about murdering a cop. the first time ron told me about building the weatherman bombs. the first time i was told about breaking chez out of prison and
smuggling her to cuba. once i got a couple of those stories i realized -- i thought the book was uneven. i knew i had amazing stuff but it is not amazing everywhere. there were a couple groups i never talked to any of their people. i had to tell the story through the eyes of the fbi agents who pursued them. once i got a couple early stories i realized this is amazing stuff and i had the bock. >> the joan of arc of the black left tried to shoot a cop at point-blank range. >> she tried to do it many times but we know of the one she was convicted of. she is the most prominent fugitive still living in cuba. >> what would you tell the
students that want to name a building after her in berkeley? >> i did my best to play it down the middle and not make political judgments. i have had people on the right say i am glamourizi -- glam oro them and the others saying i am not telling it right. but it is hard when you get students who want to name a building after these people and understand they are potent symbols but they tried to kill people. and they tried to kill police officers and families. look, if you want to name your community center with private funds after anybody you want to, fine. but it sticks in my craw when people do it with public money.
>> so, a guy blows up his fingers -- >> he blew off nine fingers and half his face. >> and escaped from the cops. what is the story? he has one finger. >> pipe bomb goes off in his hand in july of 1968. nine of his fingers, half of his face, and somehow he managers with the stubs of his hand to flush most of the documents from this apartment down the toilet. we know that because the door closed behind him and there were scuff marks. by the time the cops came his head was the size of balloon and he was passed out and put in bellevue at the hospital ward and after several trips from a helpful defense attorney he suddenly came into the possession of wire clippers and
somehow with no hands and one remaining finger his attorneys sued the city of new york saying that they wanted possession of the fingers back saying he wanted to sew them on. somehow willy moralis managed to tie a rope outside of his window and clip it and put down the rope ladder. it appears -- he was on the third floor and got ten feet and then fell because there was a massive dent on an air conditioner he hit on the first floor. and down there was an estimated 5-20 people who rushed him to new jersey, milwaukee, and then
mexico and cuba. >> we need that kind of p perserverence. he has been in the news on what is going to happen to fugitives with the new deal. well, i bet you guys have interesting questions. sir? >> when you were finally able to pry lose some of the stories of the bombings that took place how were you able to get conformation on the stories and how difficult was that? >> by and large most of the details -- one of the biggest problems was the fallibility of memory. people told me these things and got the order wrong. let's say famous bombing.
the first significant weather bombing was in june of 1970. i had the guy who built the bomb and a couple people there and the facts didn't match the account. you do what writers have done for decades. you say you thought it was at 5:00 the papers say it was at 6:30. well it probably was i don't remember. it was 40 years ago. you do the dates, times and facts and you tend to go with what watt accepted by the press and then the quotes, memories, and emotions and specific memories are where i become more comfortable bringing in the human remembered accounts because humans just don't remember the basic facts 40 years later. they just don't. >> you don't have a lot of footnotes for people to follow
up. >> you are right. i should are done more. >> you can get the website. >> you are so good at it and i am not. i take things with a quotation from another source. most of my stuff is from personal interviews and unlike a lot of authors i don't footnote. this is from an interview done february 18th, 2011 i know i should. i just say i talked to the guy and he told me this. >> do you have any instances where any of the bombers showed remorse or apology or did they take a stance it was justified? and a second question is do you have instances on the university
campuses as well like wisconsin? >> first question first. i am always surprised when i get questions not meaning to comment on whatever politics you have but often questioners from the right are stunned when i say people in the book respect remorse because many do. two thirds of the people i spoke to did not express remorse but sadness they lost and sadness people don't understand the necessity or severity of the circumstances that required them to do this. about a third of the people i would say especially those who went into white coller jobs. many of the weather men went on to be doctors, lawyers and
professor. >> mark speaks about the consequences. >> mark rud who was one of the early leaders and later marginalized and has had a long career at a community college. so i would say a third or 40 percent express some time of remorse. because of the main narrative of the book starting in fall of '69 and i am primarily concerned with people who took explosive and radical violence from the campus out into the mainstream america i primarily deal with campus violence in a couple background chapters early on showing in essence the bombing and domestic terrorism of the 1960's are roots in the campus bo bombings especially in the late '60s but most of it was cocktails thrown against buildings at night with the notable exception of the one off
attack that killed robinson in august of 1970 that was larger than any of the bombs set off by the other groups i am riding about. the significance cause the bomb and when i say it was a one off it was a group of students who did it one time and disappeared. >> there is a book about that. >> but the significance of that is weather was at a turning point. they were underground for eight months and trying get on their feet and the madison bombing changes the national conv conversation from what was wrong in vietnam and what was wrong with the revolutionaries on campus. i don't write a lot about campus violence but that would be the most significant bit in terms of what happened in the '70s at
least. >> first, thank you so much for public enemies. it was a great read. >> thank you. >> my question is how made it clear how difficult this book was to gather information on. so what would you say was the impetus or the reason for your decision to tackle it in in the first place? what motivated you on the subject? thank you. >> thank you. i am -- i hop around with a new book and subjackect every years. issues and books are not the primary drivers in what gets me to determine a good book.
i want to go back and do something that had a feel. it had to be a situation where i thought i could break things and reurgeitate people's stuff. i reached out to a lot of guys and i realized a guy came back and suggested the fln. and i thought no one has written about them and they will not talk about me. it was screamingly apparent if i wrote a book about a terrorist group with no cooperation from the book i would get about 17 readers. >> outstanding, dedicated readers >> i looked at weather and the
fla and none i thought rose to the significant or importance i wanted into book and that is when it wrote me you are missing. it is all of them. it is an era. an underground era. and maybe these people were only numbered in the hunts but the scale and breadth of violence they kept going i don't know how you call it not historically significant. >> this is in stark difference to what brandy and bill ayres said. have they spoken publically you to you about the differences? >> they are in flat contradiction. but i should point out what they say is accurate about it.
i tried to talk with them for six years and went back and forth with e-mailing bill ayres. he is a talented writer and career communicating and i don't think the time is right for me to look back and he didn't see the value in allowing someone else to tell a story. >> was he admitted to can he was a graduate student.
and he went to know -- to a new york law firm. >> what is next? >> my question is with the increasing animosity we see in the political realm today do you think maybe in the next 5-20 years we will see another day of rage. >> we have a problem of right wring terrorism in america. we just don't hear it spoken of as terrorism. there were plenty of people going after cops in the first few years of the obama administration and clinic bombings and all of the rest. it is part of your political culture that is not being wre
reckened with right now. thoughts? >> who is the guy at the times? greg? in slate or slime and he has a new book out trying to argue that. economy equality and divided government has reached such a point we are seeing the seeds lane for what might be the revolutionary movement left right or otherwise in the near future. i would have thought your answer would be about progression in african-american and activist rhetoric. because the issue were the same at first that were the issues that furthered the panthers and spawned the bla's. and until baltimore, the activist were uniformally not only non-violent but preached non violent.
it wasn't until baltimore we started to see op-eds and interviews of people saying i am tired of being in the protest marches. less dr. king and more malcolm in their voices. >> well, i think that, you know, like now compared to 1968 it was just one compared to three miles of adson street burned to the ground. the scale is not the same. people say baltimore is violence. how can you say we don't have violence like that today? i am like wait baltimore was a good night in 1966.
baltimore was a good night in newark or detroit in 1968. there is no comparison. don't let the artificial amplification of cable and social media lead you to believe this is more than it is. >> the rioting in the '60s led to hiring black cops and not black cops like in harlem or chica chica chicago who would compete to see who could beat up the most black folks to be along the line. the whole ecology is different. the fact there is no african-american class to speak of like the ones you have now like the los angeles times who had to send out genders to cover because they didn't have black reporters, you know?
>> it is true american police department department departments are better at saying things to hold down the feelings. you don't get police chiefs up there talking city after city after bad acts you had professional administrators that grew up on rodney king and knew how to say the right things. >> compared to the 1955 riots who accrued cops in mississippi and after the rights he said it is like one monkey