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January 26, 2021 78 min

Kurt Andersen and Lawrence O’Donnell first met 46 years ago as undergraduates at Harvard, forming a friendship that’s flourished alongside their careers as two of their generation’s most incisive, insightful observers of American politics and culture. Andersen made his mark in the 1980s as co-founder of the iconic Spy magazine, then went on to serve as editor-in-chief of New York magazine, host of the Peabody Award-winning radio program “Studio 360,” and best-selling novelist and non-fiction author. O’Donnell cut his teeth in Washington as staff director of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and protege to legendary New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then transitioned to the TV business — first as an Emmy Award-winning writer on “The West Wing” and currently as host of “The Last Word” on MSNBC. On this week’s Hell & High Water, Heilemann, a friend of both Andersen and O’Donnell, brings the two men together for their first-ever joint interview. They discuss the performances of Joe Biden and Amanda Gorman on inauguration day, O’Donnell’s insider’s perspective on the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, and Andersen’s “grand unified theory” of modern American life, as sketched out in his recent companion volumes, “Fantasyland” and “Evil Geniuses.”

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