Was Leland Stanford a ‘Magnanimous’ Philanthropist or a ‘Thief, Liar, and Bigot?’

The Railroad Baron and Governor of California Was Starkly Contradictory and Infamously Disruptive

Born in his father’s East Coast backwoods bar, dying in a magnificent West Coast mansion built from his self-made fortune. Condemned as the complete robber-baron, consecrated as a singular titan of American enterprise. Exalted as the magnanimous founder of a world-class university, damned as a thief, liar, and bigot.

With all of the stark contradictions in his character, Leland Stanford—a man best known as a railroad magnate, California governor, and putative philanthropist—embodies American typecasts that have bedeviled us for centuries. Today’s infamously disruptive, get-rich-quick, world-altering, ill-mannered, entrepreneurial culture traces …

Matt Miller, Matt Bai

When Journalists Became Scandal Mongers and Politicians Became Celebrities

Matt Bai on a Fundamental Shift in the Relationship Between the Political and the Private in America

Discussing how the media covers politics—and political scandals—is “one of the most important conversations we can have” about our democracy, KCRW Left, Right & Center host Matt Miller told a …

Can Sensationalism Save Democracy?

The Case for Reporting on More Scandals, Worrying Less about Page Views, and Fighting Audience Apathy at Every Turn

Earlier this year, Stephen Colbert triumphantly declared “the first real scandal” of the Obama administration after CNN reported that veterans had died while waiting for care in the Phoenix Veterans …

Have Our Politicians Become Boring?

All the Truth Is Out

Have our politicians gotten more boring? Yes, says Yahoo! News national political columnist Matt Bai. New technology—both social media and the 24-hour cable news cycle—have made political candidates particularly cautious …

Donald Sterling Is Los Angeles

For 30 Years, the City Knew This Man Was a Racist. But Impunity Is Part of the Culture Here.

Late in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction, Marsellus Wallace—a criminal boss played by Ving Rhames—banishes prizefighter Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) from Southern California. “You lost all your L.A. privileges,” …