Author and American Greatness columnist Michael Walsh returned to “The Seth and Chris Show” this week to discuss the stunning revelations in the House Intelligence Committee’s FISA memo, the incestuous relationship between pols and the Washington press, and Bill Clinton’s early mentor in Arkansas, Owney Madden. Never heard of Owney Madden, you say? Well, therein lies a great story. Listen to the interview and read the transcript for the fascinating tale.
Chris Buskirk: Hi. I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. Welcome back to The Seth and Chris Show. It was a good interview with Congressman Lamar Smith in the last segment, but guess what? We are going from strength to strength today. We’re joined by Michael Walsh right now. He’s an author. He is a novelist. He is a man for all seasons, though we hope the same fate does not befall him. Michael, how are you?
Michael Walsh: Hey. How are you, Chris?
Chris Buskirk: Good, good, thanks.
Seth Leibsohn: Call him a man of parts.
Chris Buskirk: You are a man of parts, Michael.
Seth Leibsohn: That way, you don’t have the—
Michael Walsh: Well, what parts do I . . . Yeah, well, let’s not get into that [crosstalk 00:00:33]—
Seth Leibsohn: OK. Lots of parts, 2,000 body parts.
Michael Walsh: Yeah. Who’s counting? Listen, at my age, probably—
Seth Leibsohn: Lever Brothers.
Michael Walsh: Probably fewer, so there you go.
Seth Leibsohn: OK.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, I wanted to chat with you about the piece you wrote for American Greatness the other day, and we’re going to. It was called “In Trump, The Churlish Left Finally Meets Its Match,” but there is other business going on today. I don’t know if you are aware. There was a memo released earlier today, in case you have been locked in a barrel and only recently released.
Michael Walsh: Well, I have actually been in a barrel. I’ve been working on a movie script for the last 48 hours pretty continuously, but I have gotten some time in the prison yard to walk around and listen to the birds sing. Yeah, so I’m aware of that memo.
Chris Buskirk: Have you looked at this FISA abuse memo? Have you had a chance to read it and digest it at all or offer any opinion?
Michael Walsh: Well, yeah. I have certainly read the memo. I want to think about it because I’ll probably write about it more this weekend over at PJ Media, but from what we see, it’s pretty much what we thought it was going to tell us, which is that this was the kind of closed circle of malfeasance in which an imaginary dossier was used to get the FBI to apply for a FISA warrant against Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whatever their names are, Page and Papadopoulos, certainly Page, but used the false pretenses of an imaginary dossier, and then certainly and unvetted one, to put political pressure on behalf of the Clinton campaign. That’s the way it looks to me, guys. What do you think?
Chris Buskirk: Yeah. Boy, that sounds like the good part. I mean that sounds like the least of it to me. I mean the FBI could not corroborate . . . They tried to corroborate the information in the dossier, but apparently, there’s some subset of the Bureau that’s charged with these things. Couldn’t do it.
Michael Walsh: No.
Chris Buskirk: Couldn’t do it. Then you see people like James Comey three times, Rod Rosenstein once, Sally Yates once going to the FISA court and concealing the providence of this document, concealing the fact that it was bought and paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign and produced by a partisan political operative.
Michael Walsh: Oddly enough, I mean, if you were a conspiracy theorist, which I’m actually not, but I am a believer in forewarned is forearmed, you could say that they took this thing, which did begin, remember, as oppo research on the Republican side during the primary season, which was then pushed by . . . what’s that’s guy’s . . . John McCain, yes, of all people. When that finally petered out, it went over to the Democrats, and then it was weaponized by the Clinton campaign. The funds were funneled through the legal firm. I mean the whole thing stinks to high Heaven, but when you know the Clintons, you understand that they . . . Bill grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was an entirely gangland-controlled town, and it was controlled by what eventually became the Genovese crime family via Frank Costello and my own personal hero, Owney Madden, the last of the great Irish gangsters who ruled Hot Springs.
The Clintons always act in a gangland sort of way, and it’s no surprise because Billy grew up sitting in the Southern Club and Grill in Hot Springs, Arkansas on the main street of Hot Springs right across from the Arlington Hotel where the gangsters used to stay, and he would watch the great gangsters from New York and all over the country come. Hot Springs was an open town, and it was basically don’t kill anybody, check your guns at the door kind of place, and Madden ruled in for 30 years from 1935 to 1965.
In the course of his rule of Arkansas, Madden owned all of the governors during his heyday there and, certainly, Senator John McClellan and, very likely, Senator William Fulbright as well, so the entire state, which wasn’t a very big state, was corrupt from 1935 on. It had been corrupt before that, but it was really turned into a Tammany South, actually, people called it, because of its resemblance to Tammany Hall in New York and the corrupt Democrat power machine. That’s the history of the Clintons, and when you understand that, none of this is particularly surprising.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, we’re going to go to break in a second, but just out of curiosity, what was Owney Madden’s business? How was he making money by running Hot Springs and the surrounding environs?
Michael Walsh: Well, Owney Madden was the greatest gangster ever in the history of ever. He was—
Chris Buskirk: Actually, hold on. This actually is going to be too interesting, so I don’t want to give it short shrift.
Michael Walsh: Oh, no. You want to hear this.
Chris Buskirk: I want to give it full shrift.
Michael Walsh: You definitely do.
Chris Buskirk: Michael Walsh is our guest. We’ll be right back with The Seth and Chris Show.
Hi. I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. This is The Seth and Chris Show. Welcome back. Our guest is Michael Walsh. He is, as Seth says, a man of parts. He is a man of parts, and he is explaining to us the history of the Clintons vis-a-vis Hot Springs, Arkansas, a town controlled by Irish gangster Owney Madden. Michael, I want to give full shrift to this. Just out of curiosity, what was the Madden business in Arkansas?
Michael Walsh: Well, the Madden business in Arkansas was the same as it was in New York. He made his fortune first as a very vicious murderer for the Gopher Gang on the west side of New York in Hell’s Kitchen, the Irish territory. He did some time in jail. He got shot up pretty good. He got actually shot 11 times simultaneously but lived. Came out, took over prohibition in New York. He was the king of prohibition in New York. He brewed a beer called Madden’s Number One, which was the best-selling beer in New York City. In doing so, of course, he had to deal with corrupt officials. He founded the Cotton Club and many, many other clubs, but the most famous one is the Cotton Club, where he hired Duke Ellington and Lena Horne and a whole bunch of great jazz immortals to perform at the club.
He left New York in 1932, roughly. No, he did some time in jail in ’32, ’33. He left New York in 1935, curiously enough, the day after Dutch Schultz was assassinated over at the Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey. I wrote a novel about Owney.
Chris Buskirk: What a coincidence.
Michael Walsh: Oh, yeah. It was a total coincidence. I wrote a novel about it. It’s called And All The Saints. If people are interested in the life and times of Owney Madden, you get to hear the great man himself tell you all about it, and that was Bill Clinton’s mentor in Arkansas.
Chris Buskirk: Did Bill Clinton know Owney Madden?
Michael Walsh: Sure.
Chris Buskirk: No kidding?
Michael Walsh: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Buskirk: How did this escape me all these years? Okay. That is fascinating. Bringing this—
Michael Walsh: Well, it’s not like I haven’t tried to tell people. The late John Kennedy called me up years ago and said, “Hey, would you write a story about Owney Madden?” because he heard I was working on this book, and I did. I wrote it for George magazine, which laid out the relationship between Madden and John’s grandfather, of course, the patriarch, Joe Kennedy, in the liquor rum-running business during prohibition on the East Coast.
Madden was also involved in Hollywood. His best friend growing up in Hell’s Kitchen was the young, half-German, half-Italian, very handsome kid named George Ranft, who dropped the N and became George Raft. Every time you see George Raft in a movie, including Scarface, his big debut, he’s doing an Owney Madden imitation. Madden also just was, in addition to his other feathers in his cap, was one of Mae West’s lovers, and he produced all of her shows on Broadway. Quite a guy.
Chris Buskirk: That’s amazing. That is amazing.
Michael Walsh: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:08:36]—
Chris Buskirk: Wow, I thought we were going to talk about the FISA abuse memo.
Michael Walsh: No, no, no, no.
Chris Buskirk: But in some ways, I’m so much more fascinated by Owney Madden.
Michael Walsh: Yeah, but the FISA abuse memo is important because it shows a criminal conspiracy that is not something that just evolved suddenly. I think that the Clintons have been inclined towards this for a long time, and here this is the result of it. I mean this family is dwindling in power, and no one expected her to lose, which is why they thought they could get away with it, but now they can’t. The real corruption story … I don’t so much care about the governmental corruption, because you expect that. There’s dirty cops throughout our history, people who send investigations in the wrong direction to deflect suspicion, but the journalistic malfeasance is stupefying, that the ex-journalists of Fusion GPS would do this and try to actually affect the results of an election through a fraudulent dossier.
By the way, the whole Christopher Steele thing is a whole ‘nother subject that we have to get on, but Christopher Steele is no James Bond. He wasn’t in Moscow to get any of this information. It came second, thirdhand. It’s basically gossip. In other words, it’s a lot like the Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury, so there you go. That’s the short version.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, it’s amazing. I mean I couldn’t help but think about Ben Rhodes creating his much-vaunted echo chamber, and you’ve got all these journalists running around Washington repeating what Ben Rhodes, this is back during the Obama administration, repeating what he told them breathlessly, credulously. They did the same thing here. How many of them, I wonder, were knowingly complicit, in other words, they knew that what they were repeating was bunk, and how many were just lazy or stupid?
Michael Walsh: Well, never explain malevolence when you can explain it by stupidity. Journalists are plenty stupid, let me tell you. Even Ben Rhodes made fun of them, if you remember.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Michael Walsh: He thought it was ludicrous, and he said, it’s a bunch of 20-somethings who don’t literally, his words, literally know nothing. I’ve written about this in the past, that the media’s emphasis on youth and beauty gives you reporters who should be in Butte covering a local town board meeting, but instead they’re—
Chris Buskirk: And badly.
Michael Walsh: Hopefully badly, but at least they’re learning, and now they’re opining about the White House, so this is what we have. Thank you very much, television.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah. I was actually talking with somebody who earlier today . . . A younger journalist, actually written quite a bit but has never done television, is supposed to do television in the next week or so said, “Well, what should we do?” I say, “Television is . . . It doesn’t have to be dumb, but it often is, right? That’s just the way it’s been made. They condense these segments down to three or four minutes, and there’s five people talking. And if you don’t have a clear, concise point, you’re not going to get anything out, and they’re-”
Michael Walsh: And you’re not going to be asked back, either [crosstalk 00:11:33]-
Chris Buskirk: And you’re not going to be asked back. Right. That’s right. That’s right.
Michael Walsh: And so you can’t build your brand, and you can’t become a celebrity journalist, and then you want to parlay that celebrity journalist into some kind of position in the next Democrat administration. It’s almost always Democrats. Republicans do it too, but they don’t do it well, and they don’t do it often, but mostly, it’s a revolving door between the media and the Democrat administrations. Look how many of my colleagues, my classmates at Time magazine, went to the Obama administration. Two of them, in fact. Jay Carney, whom I knew very well back starting in Moscow, and Rick Stengle, who became . . . They both became press spokesmen. Jay, obviously, was the chief press spokesman for Obama, and Rick was at the State Department.
Is that good? Is that right? Should we encourage this sort of thing? Certainly, maybe if you go to retire from journalism and go into government, that’s one thing. If you then come back into journalism, or even worse, start in government and then go to journalism, like George Stephanopoulos, that’s not so good.
Chris Buskirk: No, it’s not. It actually gives credence to the idea that you floated a week or two ago about breaking up the federal government and moving the parts out of D.C. and the D.C. area to different parts of the country. It would make that type of thing much more difficult.
Michael Walsh: Yeah. I think people don’t realize the extent to which Washington’s really quite a small town, and there’s only a few places you go. It’s like Hollywood in a way. There’s only a few places you go, and you see everybody you know. If it’s not at Morton’s, it’s going to be at the Off The Record bar in The Hay-Adams, or it’s going to be a half a dozen other places. Your chances of running into the same person as you go about your business in Washington is very high. It’s happened to me. People that I know I see on the Hill, I see at the restaurant, I see somewhere else.
Chris Buskirk: Oh, sure.
Michael Walsh: Yeah. It’s very small, so were Washington decentralized, you wouldn’t have this concentration of media and money and power all in one place.
Chris Buskirk: You forgot the big one. Now all of the Trump-affiliated people or Trump-sympathetic people meet where? The Trump Hotel.
Michael Walsh: Yeah, right. I haven’t set foot inside the Trump Hotel yet, but I’ll [crosstalk 00:13:50]-
Chris Buskirk: I did a couple weeks ago. It is very [Trumpian 00:13:53]. You need to next time you’re down there. Michael, we’re going to go to a break, then we got a short segment.
Michael Walsh: Great.
Chris Buskirk: We’ll be right back with Michael Walsh.
Hi. I’m Chris Buskirk. He is Seth Leibsohn. This is The Seth and Chris Show. Our guest is Michael Walsh. He is a columnist at American Greatness. He’s also the author of a number of books. The last one is The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. The sequel is coming up. It’s coming quick, Michael. The Fiery Angel is scheduled to appear, what, April or May?
Michael Walsh: Be out on the stands, as they say, or in your tote bag on May 8th.
Chris Buskirk: May 8th, OK. Mark that date on your calendar in red, but you can pre-order on Amazon right now. My recommendation to anybody who hasn’t read The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, buy that right now. Read it in preparation for the sequel, The Fiery Angel. While you’re ordering Devil’s Pleasure Palace, order Fiery Angel, too. You can pre-order on Amazon.
Michael Walsh: Well, I think that actually is a good idea, Chris, because it’ll sell out very quickly on day one, so the people who want it should get their orders in now, and it’ll give the publisher a shot to know exactly how much the first printing should be. I’ve often found there’ll be a lot of publicity blitz for it, and when I go on the air, shows like yours and others, it sells out immediately, and then there’s weeks before it’s fulfilled, so this is a good strategy. As Seb Gorka said to me the other day, he said that The Devil’s Pleasure Palace is the graduate course on the whole notion of Cultural Marxism, so The Fiery Angel is the post-graduate course on the-
Chris Buskirk: It’ll be the postdoc?
Michael Walsh: It’ll be postdoc, but so the prereq is The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, and I encourage people to read it.
Chris Buskirk: Yeah, and I’ve got to tell people who are listening, this is banter, and we’re having fun here, but it is actually true. You want to order the book sooner rather than later because if you order it when Michael is doing all of his press tour in May, the chances of there being a delay because they run out are actually quite high.
Michael Walsh: Yes. Yeah, unless you get the Kindle edition, of course, but if you want a hardcover, that’s the way to get it.
Chris Buskirk: Are you a Kindle guy or a paper book guy?
Michael Walsh: I’m both. I like having them on my Kindles, but I have a library here in my house that I specifically built to house my book collection, and I have a lot of beautiful limited edition books. When I’m reading a book for pleasure, I like to read it sitting with a big, gorgeous book in my hand. It’s fun. On planes, Kindle, you can have your whole library in one little thing, so that’s great too, have them both.
Chris Buskirk: Michael, we’re unfortunately coming to the end of our time because we got detoured on Owney Madden.
Michael Walsh: Sure.
Chris Buskirk: But it was valuable. I loved it. I actually want to find that George article that you were telling me about.
Michael Walsh: Yeah. It’s not online, but I can send you a PDF of it, if you would like and-
Chris Buskirk: I would love it if you would do that, please.
Michael Walsh: Yeah, and—
Chris Buskirk: Could you just quickly say what’s the heroic narrative?
Michael Walsh: The heroic narrative is we are not a collective, we are individuals, and that history is not made by an impersonal arc bending in any which way. It’s made by individual people who rise to the occasion, and that’s what distinguishes the West from everybody else.
Chris Buskirk: That’s it right there in a nutshell. Michael Walsh, thanks so much for being our guest. Have a good weekend. We’ll talk to you again next week.
Michael Walsh: OK. Thanks, guys.