Unclear and Present Danger

By Jamelle Bouie and John Ganz

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Description

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie and freelance writer John Ganz delve into the world of 90s post-Cold War thrillers with Unclear and Present Danger, a podcast that explores America in an age of transition to lone superpower, at once triumphant and unsure of its role in the world.


Episode Date
The Fourth War
01:04:11

In the sixth episode of Unclear and Present Danger, John and Jamelle discuss “The Fourth War,” a late-period John Frankenheimer film about two crusty bastards who almost start the third world war over a personal grudge match. It looks like a TV movie and it’s not that interesting, but it was good fodder for a fruitful and fascinating conversation. Jamelle brings some 19th century American political history to the table, and John uses Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History” to get at some of the ideas in the film.

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John Ganz

Jamelle Bouie

Links from the episode!

New York Times front page for Friday, March 23, 1990

Janet Maslin’s New York Times review

Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times review

“The End of History?” by Francis Fukuyama, published in the Summer 1989 edition of The National Interest.

A book worth reading: The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780–1860

Jan 07, 2022
The Package
00:59:20

In this week’s episode, Jamelle and John talk “The Package,” the 1989 conspiracy thriller from Andrew Davis, and the first of many Andrew Davis movies to come on this podcast. They talk class tensions within the military, the age-old American fear of standing armies and military bureaucracies, the anti-politics inherent in conspiracy theorizing, the role of ideology in shaping the actions of key actors, and how the shadow of the JFK assassination hangs over this movie.

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John Ganz

Jamelle Bouie

Links from the episode!

The New York Times frontpage for August 25, 1989.

An information page for the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The Wikipedia entry for “The Day of the Jackal.”

The Wikipedia entry for “The Manchurian Candidate.”

A little background on Nazis in the Chicago area.

Dec 24, 2021
No Way Out
01:03:30

On this week's episode, Jamelle and John discuss the strange, surprisingly sleazy 1987 thriller No Way Out, starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. Topics of discussion include Costner's strikingly bland persona, the contradictions within Reaganite conservatism, the futile quest for national unity, and the late 1980s as the last hurrah for the idea of the carefree white man. 

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John Ganz

Jamelle Bouie

Links from the episode!

New York Times front page for August 14, 1987

New York Times review

Trailer for The Big Clock

Bob Dole's Washington Post obituary

Dec 10, 2021
Clear and Present Danger
01:16:19

In this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John discuss the show’s namesake, “Clear and Present Danger,” the third and final “Jack Ryan” movie of the 1990s, whose politics are one part arch-cynicism about American foreign policy and one part naive liberal optimism about the integrity of the national security bureaucracy. Other topics include the film’s connection to the Iran-Contra scandal, the way that it touches on American memory of the Vietnam War, the fantasy of unlimited American power that animates this and other movies in the Tom Clancy oeuvre and, of course, Harrison Ford.

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John Ganz

Jamelle Bouie

Links from the episode!

New York Times frontpage for August 3, 1994

The Tom Clancy Companion

1994 Entertainment Weekly feature on “Clear and Present Danger”

Nov 26, 2021
Patriot Games (feat. Will Rahn)
01:01:26

In this week’s episode of Unclear and Present Danger, Jamelle and John are joined by Will Rahn of Yahoo News to talk “Patriot Games,” the second Jack Ryan movie of the 1990s and the first to star Harrison Ford. They discuss Ross Perot and the 1992 presidential election, Irish nationalism (and Irish bars), the film’s unambiguously pro-C.I.A politics, WASP triumphalism and the politics of George H.W. Bush.

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John Ganz

Jamelle Bouie

Links from the episode!

New York Times for June 6, 1992

Janet Maslin’s New York times review

Roger Ebert’s review

Nov 12, 2021
The Hunt for Red October
58:21

This is the first episode of Unclear and Present Danger, a new podcast by Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times and John Ganz, a freelance journalist writing a book on American politics in the 1990s. It is a podcast about the political thrillers of that decade, and what they said — or did not say — about the United States in the last years and immediate aftermath of the Cold War. We’re going to cover a wide range of movies, but we thought we would begin with a paradigmatic example of the genre, John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October, based on the best-selling Tom Clancy novel.

A quick correction: In the episode, Jamelle said that McTiernan went to jail for tax evasion. This was incorrect. He actually went to prison for lying to the FBI.

Oct 28, 2021