Lawrence O’Donnell, “Playing With Fire”

Now host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” O’Donnell began his career as an aide to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and he draws on his early experiences in government for this detailed account of the 1968 presidential election. A year that changed American politics forever, it was full of surprises for everyone: Johnson was worried about Robert Kennedy and was blindsided by Eugene McCarthy. Then RFK was assassinated. The Democratic convention in Chicago drew violent protests, which made their nominee, Hubert Humphrey, seem a weak candidate. Nixon became the front-runner, but as his lead began to slip, he pulled off the “October surprise,” sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks to deny Humphrey the diplomatic victory that could have led to his winning the election.

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Produced by Tom Warren


Tom Wilson says:

This is pretty much the Oliver Stone version of Vietnam, chapter and verse.

Eugene McCarthy was a creature of Tet ’68: he pretty well set the bar for intellectual light weight. Of course, Naom Chomsky has retired the catagory.

Gore Vidal’s “crypto-Nazi” moment provides the essential dimension of the modern Deplorable activists, with white male crypto-Nazis like Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh and white femi-Nazis like Lynn Cheney and Laura Ingraham.

TheaterPup says:

Sadly a Catholic was never elected again (due in part to Democrat litmus tests), and we still haven’t had a Jewish president. We haven’t made all that much progress.

measl says:

*Like O’donnell, I was one of millions of young men who watched Cronkite when he would announce the Draft Lottery Numbers (I had a fairly low number in 1971, and was certain I was going to have to decide whether I was willing to die for something I had no input in, nor any belief in, or flee to Canada). The relief of hearing the end of the draft without my number having been called was literally not describable: that kind of relief is so strong, that I don’t think a human being could survive it twice! I spent every extra hour I had trying to push for alternatives to the people then in power: I remember crying for several hours when Eugene McCarthy was finally “out” – he was to millions of us, the one last hope for surviving into adulthood either alive or just maimed. That entire period was completely fucked up, but without question, 1968 was among the worst years of the period – and that’s **_without_** the Democratic Convention!*

*Our children are so much safer today, even if they choose to enter into the military – in a way that was just inconceivable in ’68: whether in Vietnam (without body armor or sane commanders), or just on the streets of our cities (which unlike today, were **_actual_** killing grounds. I lived in New York, which **_averaged_** about 800 murders a year at the time), that none of them could ever even imagine what it was like to genuinely (and _reasonably_) believe that you would never see 25: Vietnam, the “Cold” war, crime (the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control Act actually made crime massively _worse_!), criminality by both Police and Prosecutors, routine diseases which have been iradicated today by vaccination (I had everything but polio and small pox, since these were the only vaccines at the time. Mumps was _horrific_, as was Chicken Pox and the Measles)…*

*Thank God that shit is **_OVER_** with!*

capatga says:

Such an articulate and learned man.

JAKESTAR105 says:

Unlike most MSNBC followers, I don’t watch Rachel Maddow. She does too much of her show on her own. I guess that’s what viewers must like about her. I prefer hosts asking smart questions to their guests. Like Lawrence, Matthews and Chris Hayes.

HAOAN W says:

Besides my love for Lawrence, I really want to ask him in person “Where’s your Boston accent Lawrence ?”

Lucia Delia says:

I love this guy along with the people in the audience. Lawrence’s show “The Last Word show” is so concise and understandable. He has my back and I look forward to seeing his show everyday. I lived those years back in the late 60’s along with Lawrence. I look forward to this hearing him speak here at Politics and Prose.

dizzymasekela says:

Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow are the two smartest and bravest people on television.

Lady Truth says:

I worked in the Senate. I don’t think you should trust the Senate. I don’t think you should trust senators. Trust is the biggest mistake I think you can make with government.
~Lawrence O’donnell~

Lisa Twitchell says:

Really like Lawrence. However, wish there had been a volunteer Vietnam veteran in the audience. I missed most of 1968 because I was in Vietnam then was there in 1969 for the full year and have a slightly different view of the war. Went as a patriot and became disillusioned there. Not everyone was afraid of the draft. Knew many volunteers in late 1967, many young people, no matter our reservations, were still driven by patriotism. My second tour was not patriotism. I was there to help other GI’s get home alive. Don’t feel my 100% disability is appreciated even though many others came home because I was there.

Aaron Laflin says:


MrDb says:

fabulous! thanks p & p!

Sam GL says:

amazing video, Lawrence has such insight it’s incredible absolutely love O’Donnell

Kim Lawson for 5 says:

What all sensible people should be doing is asking psychiatrist how to deal with a malignant narcissist. This guy is like an out of control cancer hollowing out the US nation. The US empire was already failing. Trump is a catalyst for it to be over in about 20 years. Capital flight to Asia has been happening since the the eighties. The other insane president, Nixon, started it at the behest of corporate profits. All presidents since have followed suit.

dian kreczmer says:

thank God for Lawrence o donnell

IHateGoogle says:

Such an interesting talk. Thank you!

Connie Gee says:

I would have thoroughly enjoyed being in this fun audience.

Lovely Lori says:

When you talk about military deaths you should also discuss how medicine has advanced. More lives are saved but long term disabilities have increased. So we don’t bury our soldiers we just treat them for serious and traumatic injury for the rest of their lives. Maybe we should also talk about the impact this has on family.

pudder 1961 says:

Always, it’s so worth one’s time to listen to Lawrence!

Laurie Bolles says:

My father asked my brother ‘Are you thinking of going to college?’ Wade replied ‘he hadn’t thought about it.’ Thats when my father probably saved my brother’s life and told him ‘Then I suggest you get your ass down to the Navy Recruitment Office or you’ll be on mainland Viet Nam before you know it.’ Two weeks after Wade was accepted into the Navy he received his draft notice. Knowing my brother he would have come home in a box draped by the flag.

My sister, friends and I protested the war and fought to have the voting age dropped from 21 to 18. The logic if Elected Officials can draft you into a war, you should at least have the right to vote in those officials. General/ President Eisenhower warned us of the Military Industrial Complex and it’s a shame we didn’t listen, there’s just too much money to be made. As a famous Protest Song said ‘When well they ever learn?’

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