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American Psychosis, an Interview with David Corn

I sat down with my friend David Corn. We talked about his new book, American Psychosis: A Historical Investigation of How the Republican Party Went Crazy.

David Corn is a veteran Washington journalist and political commentator. He is the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine and an analyst for MSNBC. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Battled the GOP to Set Up the 2012 Election and Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (co-written with Michael Isikoff). He is also the author of the biography Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA’s Crusades and the novel Deep Background.

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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

David Corn 0:00
I call the book American psychosis. You have 10s of millions of Americans who believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump, right? They’ve produced no evidence

Jimmy Tingle 0:17
Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and today’s guest is not only a friend of mine, but he is a fabulous author and commentator. You know him from Fox and CNN and MSNBC. David Kahn is an American political journalist and author. He is the Washington DC bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, and is best known as a cable television commentator specifically right now for MSNBC. Now I know him from his summer book events on Cape Cod and for being an audience member at many of my shows. Well, he has got a new, fasten your seat belt, ladies and gentlemen, a new blockbuster book out American psychosis, a historical investigation of how the republican party went crazy. The book chronicles the long and deep relationship between the GOP and far right fanaticism and shows how the Republican Party for over 70 years has exploited and encouraged extremism, bigotry, paranoia, conspiracy theories and tribalism. It didn’t start with Donald Trump. Did you hear that? Folks? It did not start with Donald Trump. And what happened on January 6, was not an aberration. But the combination, please welcome to the show. The one and only drumroll, please. Mr. David Kahn. Hello, David. Hey, Jimmy, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be with you, David. I just love the reviews of the book. I’m gonna get to them in a second. But it’s so great that you’ve come up with this work. And it’s going to be it’s perfectly timed. But the interesting thing that I was reading is you started this book, when it was a little over a year ago.

David Corn 2:00
You know, I had gotten I was interested in the relationship between the Republican Party and far right extremism how they’ve encouraged and exploited it for for years. Now, before Trump, I went looking for a book I said, say that so must have written about this. And I found that no one had I found good histories of the Republican Party in a very traditional way, I found good political histories of the 50s 60s 70s and 80s. But I didn’t see anyone who really took a close up look and scrutinize how the GOP since World War World War Two has again and again and again courted far right elements. And then this sort of very ugly dance. And the more I sort of looked into this more, I saw there was just a real obvious pattern here. Now we see it clearly with Donald Trump. But if we go back to McCarthyism in the 50s, or we look at Barry Goldwater using the John Birch Society to help run his campaign in 1964. Richard Nixon in 1968, cutting a deal with white supremacist to get the nomination of the Republican convention. You see Ronald Reagan cutting a deal with the religious right in the 1980s. And embracing them when they literally were calling the members of the Moral Majority. Were calling for the execution of homosexual Americans. I know it’s hard to believe. But they were saying this that time, you know, Ronald Reagan was saying the Moral Majority is a great outfit. And you have both pushes, working with the Christian coalition. You have the Tea Party and in the 2009 2010, all leading up to Donald Trump, that for all this time period, the Republican Party, there’s this dark side to it, that the party doesn’t acknowledge, and that the media and others have not covered fully, that this was a an integral part of the Republican Party. I’m not saying it was all that it was. Richard Nixon created the EPA, he went to China, Ronald Reagan had a whole ideological component cutting government cutting taxes, creating a deficit, you know, that it’s not the totality of the Republican Party, and its strategy, but it’s always, always always has been there. And it took Donald Trump to put this out in the open to take this, this this dark history and say,

this is really what I am because he had no legislation. He had no ideas for policy. He didn’t want to have a real debate over anything. He ran for president as a guy who wanted to throw red meat to the most extremist elements. He endorsed conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones when he was running for president, one instance, there was a rally in which somebody shouted out, get rid of all the Muslims. And he said we’re looking into the head. I mean, no

Oh holds bar didn’t talk about policy matters. So it’s always been there. And that was the point of the book. And I spent a year reading 200 or so other books going into the archives, looking at 1000s of newspaper and magazine articles. And I was able to pull together this pattern.

Jimmy Tingle 5:21
David, do you think that the the base, then the base was always there in the country, I think is what you’re saying. And then the leaders of the GOP, in order to win elections would attach themselves to that base and say whatever they needed to say, to get elected. I mean, is that basically the playbook?

David Corn 5:42
Well, yes, and no. I mean, they, in some instances, they did it very explicitly go back to Joe McCarthy, in the early 50s, who said there was a plot in the US government, led by members of the Truman administration by real people to destroy America, so that it would fall into the hands of the Soviet Union. He said, there are leeches out there who want to destroy this country. He didn’t say what they were doing was wrong. He didn’t say their policy that their legislation was ill advised that they you know, that he disagreed with them about taxation, housing energy policy, he said they were actively plotting to destroy the country. And there were millions of Americans who believed him. Because there was a lot of paranoia and unease and fear. With the rise of the Cold War and nuclear terror and other errors. You’ve had Republicans

sort of reach out to extremists without being as explicit and try and still come across as responsible statesmen. Do you think that they’re just trying to win elections? And they’ll say what they have to say, to get the support of these folks, or do you think some of them actually believe it? Do you think some of these people actually believe that there were forces trying to overthrow the government to give it to the Soviet Union? Well, that’s a good question. Do you think march today, that Lauren bowburn Emergency teller green, believe what they believe? I mean, Marjorie Taylor Greene was basically a Cuban honor. Before she got elected to Congress, as was Lauren Bobert. Do they believe this stuff? I think to some degree, they do. Does Mitch McConnell believe this stuff? Of course not. He doesn’t believe that Donald Trump won the election. He doesn’t believe the deep state isn’t persecuting Donald Trump. But he has not, you know, stood stood against that. Because the party needs these people. You look at the Tea Party, what was the essence of the Tea Party in 2009, that core argument and I went to the rallies, I spoke to people, they really believed that Barack Obama was a secret socialist Muslim, who had a secret plan to destroy the country by wrecking the economy. So he could impose a totalitarian dictatorship. They believe this. Now, what happened was Glenn Beck was on TV on Fox every night saying this. And the Republican Party, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and others went on his show as guests, and they end up validating him, and they’re sent signaling to the base, you can believe this guy. I’m on the show here. You can trust him. What he says is valuable. So did Boehner believe that? Of course not. John Boehner didn’t believe that, but he wanted to become speaker. So he rode that tiger to Sarah Palin, believe it? Maybe she did. But the bottom line here is that the Republicans either cynically or not, so cynically have encouraged and exploited this extremism is far right. Extremism, and often kookiness for over 70 years, and gradually it kind of radicalized the Republican base. The voting base, you know, in 2009, is much more radical than it was in 2000. You know, the more the Republicans played to this, the more red meat they threw the more red meat the bass wanted. So when Sarah Palin is out there in 2008, on the McCain ticket, saying that Obama is pals around with terrorists, and is known as a socialist and a threat to America. Well, in 2009, the same people who she energized with that with that nonsense, now want more. Yeah. And then in 2016, Trump comes along and says, I got what you want. Yeah, so the Republicans have been normalizing this for decades. And it’s got and the base has gotten more and more radicalized. And it led the way and made it very easy for Trump to come in and 2016 and blow away 15 mainstream Republicans

Jimmy Tingle 9:53
so you’re thinking that the base many of the base are convinced that of these theories they believe it as gospel Literally, but the most of the leadership doesn’t believe it, but they go along with that they encourage it for political gain for ultimate power. Is that basically your premise here?

David Corn 10:12
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s most of the leadership or not most of the leadership put what they believe in, they don’t believe I call the book American psychosis. And I mean, it’s a political psychosis. You literally, you know, just to stick to the here and now. Yeah, the book is history, but stick to the heroin here. And now, you have 10s of millions of Americans who believe the election was stolen by from Donald Trump, right. They’ve produced no evidence. There is no basis for this any evidence that Rudy Giuliani cited has been debunked. And in fact, Rusty Bowers, who was the Speaker of the Arizona State, legislature, you know, testified to the January sixth committee, and he’s a rock ribbed conservative that Rudy Giuliani told him, they had no evidence, it was all theories. And so these people believe this, they believe the deep state nonces rather than believe Q Anon, there was a poll God, I’m gonna get the number on Jimmy. It’s in the book. And I wrote about it. You know, a couple of months ago, there was a poll that showed out it was at 30 40% of Republicans believe that the Democrats are running some global cabal with a ring of pedophiles and sex traffickers, basically. Q anon. So, I don’t know what to say about people who, you know, believe things that are not true. That is one clinical definition of psychosis. So it’s out there, and there are things some Republicans who share it, and other Republicans who say, this is good for business.

Jimmy Tingle 11:47
Well listen to some of these reviews because you got some reviews from the progressive community. At least one writer Jane Mayer, from The New Yorker, the author of dark money, the great book Dark Money about American politics, David Cohen’s American psychosis is essential reading for anyone hoping to restore political sanity in America. He argues convincingly that a toxic brew of bigotry, conspiracy theories and lies that define Trumpism started long before Trump, Cohen weaves this investigative history together, and a compelling narrative as equal parts horrifying and entertaining. Did you hear that, folks? It’s entertaining. And I know David Cohen and he is entertaining. It is a tribute to corn that with the publication of American psychosis, he has managed to make a brilliant Did you hear that folks? A brilliant sense of American senselessness. That’s pretty good. That’s Jane Mayer. But then on the other end of the spectrum, on the conservative side of the aisle, you have Norm Ornstein, Emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and he writes, The Genesis from a conventional party to a fanatic cult did not start with Donald Trump, the roots go much deeper and much further back. David Korn with rich detail and in compelling prose, ladies and gentlemen, gives us a full history of the journey to crazy whether you have read a lot about the Republican Party, or are just beginning to examine how the country could have come to this deeply dangerous point, American psychosis is a must read. Now, those are pretty strong reviews, David from two opposite ends of the spectrum. However, the readers or the reviewers are honest, they’re honest, people, they don’t have a dog in the fight. They’re honest people assessing the situation. And this is what they’ve come up with. And I know, as you said earlier, this is not to demonize or paint all Republicans with this brush. This is about focusing on the part of the party that is off the hook. And they believe that the election was stolen, and they believe that Obama was a Muslim, and that his birth certificate was a fake. That’s what they believe. And I put the blame at the leadership. I mean, the people on the air, the people on talk radio, the people who are who are pumping this, the Alex Jones’s of the world, or if you’re sitting not all talk radio, of course, and not all, you know, Fox, or not all media.

David Corn 14:06
I think you’re right, Jimmy. I mean, I mean, one part of the book that I get into is the whole Rush Limbaugh isolation of the Republican Party. And, you know, when he comes in at eight, which happens to be about the time that Newt Gingrich, you know, comes into, you know, the Republican Party in the House, you know, you see this trend towards exploiting hatred, and paranoia, and indeed, conspiracy theories. And demonizing you know, the Democrats. I mean, that’s the thing is that’s a pattern that goes back to McCarthyism. It’s not that the Democrats are wrong, and that liberals are wrong. It’s that they are actively plotting to destroy the country. That’s a McCarthy said that’s what Limbaugh said. That’s what Newt Gingrich said. That’s it. Sarah Palin said so at the Tea Party said it’s worked Trump says today it’s what he said through the 2020 campaign that Joe Biden was working to bring about far left fascism. That’s what he now they get upset when he uses the F word. That’s what Donald Trump said, and during the 2020 campaign, so they’ve been, you know, dehumanizing and demonizing the Democrats for decades now. And it’s, you know, created a terrible political situation for us.

Jimmy Tingle 15:26
Right, David, we only have a few minutes left, but I want to, let’s say, What are your hopes for the book in terms of the impact that has on the American people? And number two, how do you think we are, you know, what, what would you like the people to do? What would you like us to do with the midterms coming up with 2024? Coming up? What are your What are your suggestions?

David Corn 15:45
Well, I hope that millions of people buy it so I could buy a house Wellfleet and hang out with you in the summertime. Okay.

Jimmy Tingle 15:51
After they see the interview, David, the bookstores are going to be stormed. You think January 6, the attack on the cabinet was a riot. Wait two people here this interview, they will be storming the Harvard bookstore, they will be storming the bookstores of America.

David Corn 16:05
Well, I hope to sell a lot in Cambridge, the book to me, is far more timely than I expected it to be when I started out, you know, we look at the what Biden’s speech recent and the whole debate about the hold that Magga extremism has on the Republican Party and whether Trump is leading the party towards fascism. I think that if you know what the book does is put this current debate, which is, I think, a critical debate in a really important historical context, you can see that Trump didn’t create this. He didn’t invent this, that this is, as you noted earlier, it’s a combination that indeed, these these forces have been at play in American politics. And the Republican Party has been playing with them, and exploiting them and being cynical about them for decades. I think once you realize that, you see the extent of the problem, and you realize you can’t just flip a switch and go back to a previous error, or previous Republican Party that really never existed, that we’ve gotten to a point where the party is broke. And it’s not really fixable. And so if that’s the if that if you understand that, what do you do? I think you need to isolate and contain that part of the population. I’m not physically but you need to segregate it politically, I haven’t figured out how to work around the 20 30% of the public that are part of the Magga extremists. So I really hope that the book and conversations that are being have had now gets, you know, encourage people who haven’t paid a lot of attention to this threat to pay attention and realize that there is a majority of Americans who are opposed to this creeping authoritarianism, and that we band together, we can keep the threat at bay. If we don’t, then there’ll be a lot of problems. And obviously, this, you know, has a bunch to do with the midterms. And, and but beyond that, but just understanding the problem and seeing where it fits in our history, I think is one of the first steps we need to take, right?

Jimmy Tingle 18:09
David well said, Congratulations on the book. We cannot, we can’t just agonize, we got to organize, we got to vote, you know, we got to donate, we got to knock on doors, we got to make phone calls, we got to get involved. That’s what we got to do. January 6, was a horrible day, but the day before was January 5, and that’s when the Democratic Party through the work of Stacey Abrams, and everybody down there on the ground in Georgia, elected the first Jewish American senator from Georgia and first African American senator from Georgia. And that was a major upset and that was due to hard work, shoe leather, voting, calling, donating, just doing the hard work of retail politics. We just can’t be despondent, your book is going to be an inspiration and hopefully light a fire on to some people and get out there and just take back the country, man. Take it back from the crazies. David, thank you so much for being here. What’s your website, if people want to can they order it directly from your website,

David Corn 19:08
they can they can go to or, which is for independent bookstores. If you go to my Twitter feed David Korn DC, there’s a link there and how to order the book. You also could sign up for my newsletter, David, a free trial subscription to my newsletter, which is called our land comes out once or twice a week. And you can get that at David Dav ID And believe me, I promote the book

Jimmy Tingle 19:38
I’ll bet Well, thanks so much for joining us today. Continued success, David, and thanks for squeezing us in. It’s great to see you it’s always great to see you and your family on the cape and I hope to see you in person soon hopefully at a bookstore. Are you going to be doing any any live events in Boston?

David Corn 19:55
Not sure yet. That schedule is in the works right now. I’m toldis just doing lots of media appearances including lots of podcasts. Okay, man, thanks a million and thanks again for being here today. Congratulations, David, on everybody. American psychosis.

Jimmy Tingle 20:14
Thank you for joining us today. This has been a human for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity. Jimmy Thank you

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