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Chris Riback's Conversations
Engaging interviews and discussions of elections and the political issues of the day
May 4, 2020
Jonathan Karl: Front Row at the Trump Show (Live Event)
This is a special live Zoom edition of Chris Riback’s Conversations, the first in our new series of political book conversations sponsored by Cornell’s Institute of Politics & Global Affairs. What does it mean for democracy when the President attacks the free press as fake news? How should journalists balance the need to avoid becoming the “opposition party,” as Steve Bannon described them, while also standing up when individual reporters – frequently women, frequently minorities – are publicly ridiculed? Jonathan Karl is ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent. Jon’s also President of the White House Correspondents’ Association and author of the new New York Times Best seller: “Front Row at the Trump Show” As Karl writes: “Our democracy is built on trust…. That’s why I fear President Trump’s war on truth may do lasting damage to American Democracy.”
Mar 25, 2020
Mayor Noam Bramson: From Patient Zero to New York as Epicenter
Chances are, you may not have heard of New Rochelle, NY before about a month ago. It’s New York’s 7th largest city, located just 30 minutes north of Manhattan. It was founded by refugee Huguenots – French Protestants – who were fleeing religious persecution in France in 1688. During the 1930s, New Rochelle was the wealthiest city per capita in New York state and the third wealthiest in the country. For listeners of a certain age — or any of you who watch the classic TV shows on YouTube — you’ll also know that New Rochelle is where Rob & Laura Petrie lived in the Dick Van Dyke show. It has a strong business community and cultural scene. And it’s beautiful. It sits right on the water is known as the Queen City of the New York Sound. Of course, right now, New Rochelle, NY has become known for something else: One of America’s multiple ground zeros of the coronavirus. Nearly every major media organization has suddenly paid a visit. And if you Google "New Rochelle" now, as you might imagine, nearly every result has something to do with the virus. And the face of New Rochelle through all of this – the one racing from town meetings to food distribution centers to senior living homes to religious groups to 60 Minutes interviews – is the city’s hometown mayor Noam Bramson. And I mean hometown – Noam was born in New Rochelle. He grew up there. After leaving for college, he returned. He’s been mayor since 2006. And it’s where he’s now raising his own family. So how do you run a municipality through a pandemic? And what’s it like to see the place you love – your home – go through this kind of challenge? That’s what we discussed. Before we begin, let me put my bias on the table right away: I’ve known Noam for nearly 30 years. We met in grad school. He was very smart, unnecessarily modest, and always friendly. As you’ll hear, some things don’t change, even when you’ve had to lead your hometown through a pandemic. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Mar 20, 2020
Rep. Steve Israel: Running for President in Time of Coronavirus
When I first scheduled an election analysis discussion with former U.S. Representative Steve Israel, it’s fair to say that my initial set of questions had nothing to do with how to run for President in a time of Coronavirus. That’s where this conversation begins, but not where it ends. Because while we all navigate this new reality, we’re also still trying to understand the Democratic primary: What in the world just happened? How did Joe Biden get blown out in the first three caucuses – and then turn it all around to basically run the table? And assuming Biden holds on, did the moderate wing of the Democratic Party really win the ticket – or did the progressives set the agenda and took moderates along for the ride? How unified is the party? And what about Biden’s running mate – he said he’ll choose a woman VP candidate. Ok, beyond that, what are the practical and political factors that matter? More background on Steve Israel: He spent 16 years in Congress representing New York's 3rd Congressional District – that’s on Long Island. He’s the former Chair of DCCC and today serves as Director of Cornell University’s Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. He’s also author of two political satire books, and we talk about his most recent one that took on the gun lobby – it’s called “Big Guns,” and it’s an excellent read. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com. As referenced in the intro, here is a link to the special edition of The 180 Podcast on the coronavirus with Dr. Pamela Cantor, Turnaround for Children’s Founder and Senior Science Advisor, about how to address the fear, stress and disruption caused by the pandemic.
Feb 28, 2020
Rick Hasen: Can America Run a Fair Election?
Today we continue with our check on the state of American democracy. We began with Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt to get an update on “How Democracies Die” and the question: How much more can our institutions take? Today we’ll look at the cornerstone of our democracy and a question that’s as shocking to ask as it sounds: Can America run a fair election? I told you – crazy. But whether that’s Putin’s great accomplishment, the post Iowa Caucus fiasco reality, or simply the result of the disintegration of nearly all of society’s institutions over the last years, well, that’s where we’re at. Look at the evidence: * The latest headlines that U.S. Intelligence briefed Congress that Russia is already attacking our elections again, trying to help Trump win in 2020…and trying to help Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders, too. * Voter suppression in Kansas, Georgia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, and elsewhere * Unproven claims of voter fraud to hurt confidence in elections. * Regular threats – or so-called jokes – to not leave office… from Trump to recently-ousted KY Gov. Matt Bevin * Massive, targeted disinformation campaigns – even from within the U.S. * And of course, election irregularities in Broward Country, FL, election debacles like the recent Iowa caucus, and even NY Times reporting from the Nevada caucus of “errors and inconsistencies” similar to Iowa. While concerns around the viability and fairness of U.S. elections have been raised in the past – anyone listening to this podcast seen a hanging chad? – it’s fair to say the distrust and concern have never been as great as they are today. It all adds up to one of the major threats to American democracy and the question I asked at the top that few of us ever expected to seriously hear. So where are we? How bad is the problem? And perhaps most importantly – how does American democracy survive if Americans don’t trust their elections? Rick Hasen is the one to ask. Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine and author of the new book “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.” Hasen writes the often-quoted Election Law Blog, which – like his excellent Twitter feed – is an absolute must read. Rick is co-author of leading casebooks in election law and remedies, as well as author of over 100 articles on election law issues, published in numerous journals including the Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Supreme Court Review. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Feb 17, 2020
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: Revisiting “How Democracies Die”
It’s time for a democracy check. With the Trump Impeachment Trial over and the 2020 presidential primaries in full bloom, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I imagine many other people are wondering, too: How’s our democracy doing? Are America’s democratic norms still valid? How much more can our institutions take? And this was even before the Roger Stone sentencing reduction news broke. So I decided to dedicate the next two conversations to the topic. The first one looks at democracy itself – coming out of only the third impeachment trial in our 250-plus year history, how stable are we? The second looks forward: If free elections fill the center of a true democracy, how stable is our election process? Both conversations are with previous podcast guests. Today’s is with the two Harvard professors -- Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt -- who I talked with two years ago and who first brought the issue to national prominence with their New York Times bestseller “How Democracies Die.” As I relistened to our previous podcast – and as I note in this one – it’s crazy how predictive they were about the way things could go. The second podcast will be with Rick Hasen, UC Irvine Law and Political Science professor, creator of the Election Law Blog, and author of the new book “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.” Some background on Levitsky and Ziblatt, Professors of Government at Harvard. Levitsky’s research interests include political parties, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions, with a focus on Latin America. Ziblatt’s interests include democratization, state-building, comparative politics, and historical political economy. His focus is on European political development. Together they’ve spent more than 20 years studying the breakdown of democracies around the globe – places like Germany, Italy, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, among others. Among my questions to them was an update to one of my previous questions: After so much work on shaky democracies in other countries, can they believe even now that somehow our country has become their new laboratory. One editorial note: As you’ll hear, near the end of our conversation, I got Roger Stone – Department of Justice headline alert on my phone just as my guests were talking about Attorney General Barr and the ways in which various manipulations of legal systems can impact a democracy’s health. Talk about real life proving the point in real time. While I interrupted the conversation to ask Daniel and Steven’s reaction, the news had just broken and no one had had time to fully consider what it could mean. And one listening note: Daniel took our call via Skype from Germany. Sometimes his audio is a little digitized, but that’s the price of primary research. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Feb 7, 2020
Philip Rucker & Carol Leonnig: A Very Stable Genius
The first time he said it – or rather tweeted it – was in January 2018. In describing his business, television, and political accomplishments, President Trump typed: “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that!” He said it again at a NATO meeting that July. Again the following July 2019. And again in September. And October. It’s become one of this era’s defining lines of bravado and self-image that infuriates Trump detractors and fuels his supporters with equal amounts of pleasure. Now, it’s also the title of one of this era’s defining books – an exploration of Trump’s first three years, with deep context and new extraordinary reporting. Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig have built on the work they do every day – and, if you watch cable news, it seems every night – to deliver the No. 1 New York Times Best Seller “A Very Stable Genius – Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America.” When they’re not writing best sellers, appearing on television or breaking news, Leonnig and Rucker are also earning Pulitzer Prizes, five of them individually and as part of teams. They brought that focus and detail to their book, an overwhelming series of events and back stories that delivers a powerful narrative that defines our times. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Jan 17, 2020
Rick Wilson: Running Against the Devil
Rick Wilson – the sharp-witted, wise-cracking Republican political strategist, ad-maker, analyst, columnist, and crazy-good tweeter – joined me in Westchester County, NY for a live conversation about the 2020 election, impeachment, and his new book, “Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump – and Democrats from Themselves.” * It was a terrific event, and we discussed everything: * How Democrats can beat Trump? * What has happened to his fellow Republicans, the ones he calls “bootlicks, yes-men, [and] edge-case weirdos?” * How endangered is our democracy? Would Democrats be better off if they in fact do nominate a woman – and if so, who would make for a more compelling candidate, Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar? As a bonus, we also discussed his regular Waffle House roundtables for The Lincoln Project – breakfasts with his other #NeverTrump Republican strategists, including one named George Conway. No surprise for anyone who has heard Rick or, better yet, followed his Twitter feed: He was at his colorful best. You may notice this particular edition of Chris Riback’s Conversations carries an “explicit” label, and folks, it’s not because of me! At the end, we opened it up to questions from the audience – you’ll want to hear those. Over the next weeks, I’ll post the video from the event. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
1 hr 12 min
Jan 11, 2020
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 2019 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary
(Note: This is a DocuPod – audio reads of important public documents. No conversation; no interview. Just the document itself.) You may have noticed: Especially with the impeachment, there’s been a lot of news, coverage and discussion – tweets, speeches, rallies, angry letters, hearings, cable panels – around two branches of government: The Executive and Legislative. But assuming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indeed sends the two Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, and assuming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indeed convenes a trial, our third branch – the Judiciary – will be front and center. That’s because, as you may know, when the President of the United States faces an impeachment trial in the Senate, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presides. And that person, of course, is John G. Roberts. Now, we don’t hear much from Chief Justices. Sure, they write some of the Court’s opinions. But they don’t really do interviews. They certainly don’t tweet. So when they speak, their words carry great power, and everyone scrambles to read between their lines. Just recently, Chief Justice Roberts spoke. Actually, he published – on New Year’s Eve, his annual Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. And, of course, with the tensions among the branches of government – with an impeachment trial likely on the horizon – this year’s report was widely anticipated. You may recall Roberts’ last comments that seemed to be directed towards President Trump in 2018, when the Chief Justice reminded the President that, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.” President Trump tweeted back: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.” So what about now? Would Roberts say anything about President Trump? Would he reveal his feelings on the state of our nation – on whether we are in, or headed towards, a Constitutional Crisis? Chief Justice Roberts didn’t disappoint. As the New York Times described, Roberts “issued pointed remarks… that seemed to be addressed, at least in part, to the president himself. The two men have a history of friction, and Chief Justice Roberts used the normally mild report to denounce false information spread on social media and to warn against mob rule. Some passages could be read as a mission statement for the chief justice’s plans for the impeachment trial itself.” For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Jan 2, 2020
Matt Stoller: The American Battle Between Monopoly and Democracy
As our 2020 Presidential campaign becomes more intense and pointed, it’s clear there is a battle going on for, among other things, America’s economic soul. Politically, the debate has exploded a revival of -isms… Populism, authoritarianism, socialism. But through the issues – from Trump’s tax cuts to Elizabeth Warren’s Health Care Plan – the complicated arguments largely can be simplified to this: For our democracy to survive, do we need massive economic restructuring? If you think this battle is new, you might want to listen to Matt Stoller. Stoller is a Fellow at the Open Markets Institute. Previously, he was a Senior Policy Advisor and Budget Analyst to the Senate Budget Committee and also worked in the US House of Representatives on financial services policy, including Dodd-Frank, the Federal Reserve, and the foreclosure crisis. He new and important book is “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.” As Stoller outlines, the tension between monopoly and American democracy is, without exaggeration, as old as our country. In fact he explains how concentrated financial power and consumerism transformed American politics, resulting in the emergence of populism and authoritarianism, the fall of the Democratic Party, and the need to create a new democracy. As Stoller has said: “We are in a moment where capitalism is being seriously questioned. There are corrupted and concentrated markets everywhere, not just search engines and social networks but dialysis, syringes, baby food, missiles and munitions. This isn’t just a threat to our quality of life, but to our democracy itself. We have been here before, and we defeated the monopolists. But to do that, we must understand our own history.” For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Dec 20, 2019
Peter Bergen: Trump and His Generals
It started with the generals. Mattis. Kelley. McMaster. Along with Rex Tillerson, they were part of the “Axis of Adults,” the ones, as the story of this presidency has been told, who stood between President Trump and chaos – between President Trump and his own, unchecked impulses, particularly in foreign affairs. As we know now, only Trump is left standing. And he stands impeached, because, the U.S. House of Representatives found, he couldn’t withstand his unchecked impulses and withheld U.S. military aid and White House prestige from Ukraine unless our ally announced investigations into his political rival. How did we get here? What happened to the defense and security these generals – heads of defense, security and more – were supposed to provide? And, not for nothing, where are they and what are they saying now? Peter Bergen is here to tell us. His new book is Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos. Bergen seems to have been inside the room for all of the details – the fights, debates, wins, losses. His goal: “To reveal what happens when the unstoppable force of President Trump meets the immovable object of America’s national security establishment.” For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com.
Nov 12, 2019
Fintan O'Toole: Think It’s Crazy Here? Time to Look at Brexit
If you’re feeling lousy about the state of politics in America, now might be the time to surround yourself with some Brits. As they surely must ask about us: What in the world is going on over there? The UK is now more than three years into Brexit, the unexpected, unplanned and so far unfinished move to pull out of the European Union. The latest delayed exit was delayed again when Boris Johnson – UK’s permanently disheveled Prime Minister – couldn’t, as we like to say, get the bloody ball over the goal line. Ok, we don’t say the “bloody” part. Instead, Boris called for and got new elections. So December 12, UK voters will decide whether to elect a new leader, or not, and through that choice, whether to leave the EU or not. In other words, Britain’s future is as clear to see as a plate that holds a double helping of bangers and mash. So what, in fact, is going on over there? How did they get into this Brexit mess – and will they ever get out? Few better – or fu…
Oct 31, 2019
LTC Alexander S. Vindman: Opening Statement to US House Impeachment Investigators
This is a special episode of Chris Riback's Conversations. For this podcast, I read the opening statement of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman to the US House Impeachment Investigators on October 29. As you surely know, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is the decorated Iraq war veteran and top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who listened in on that July 25 telephone call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky. That’s it. No conversation; no interview. Just the 6-page document itself -- a DocuPod. Here’s why I believe there’s a need for this type of service – audio reads of important public documents. First, with our democracy under stress, these documents are interesting and essential; 2) with all of the spin, it helps to know the exact words ourselves; and 3) those exact words are powerful — much more powerful than that third-party spin. And of course: It’s really hard to find time to read them. For show notes & my newsletter, go to…
Oct 29, 2019
Amb. William B. Taylor: Opening Statement to US House Impeachment Investigators
This is a special episode of Chris Riback's Conversations. For this podcast, I read the opening statement of Amb. William B. Taylor, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who testified behind closed doors before the U.S. House Impeachment Investigators on Oct. 22. His extraordinary testimony has been called “the smoking gun” of President Trump’s attempt to hold up Ukraine financial aid in exchange for political help from a foreign country. That’s it. No conversation; no interview. Just the document itself: Amb. Taylor’s 15-page opening statement – a kind of “DocuPod.” Why am I doing this? My gut is: There’s a need for this type of service – audio reads of important public documents. First, with our democracy under stress – and with continuing testimony and the House Impeachment Inquiry picking up speed – these documents are interesting and essential; second, with all of the spin, it helps to know the exact words ourselves; and third, those exact words are pow…
Oct 18, 2019
Julie Hirschfeld Davis & Michael D. Shear: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration
Between the alligator moat revelation and horrendous, inhumane taking of children from their parents, when considering Donald Trump’s immigration policy, it can be hard to get past the headlines. But it turns out, the immigration story serves as an incredibly useful way to consider the entire Trump presidency: Obsession, chaos, fear, depravity, and yet – meaningful, important, and potentially-lasting change that has shifted not only how the world views America, but how we view ourselves. The story has been told – through a combination of clear context, incredible detail, and expert storytelling by Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear in their book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” As you’ll hear in our conversation, Davis and Shear bring us inside the rooms –uncomfortable places, really – as extreme ideas about immigration move directly from the collective minds of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions into the campaign and then…
Oct 11, 2019
Andrew McAfee: Why Capitalism & Technology Will Save the Planet
If one question has driven mankind’s quest for innovation, it very well might be this: How can we get more from less? For most of our time on this planet, the answer was simple: We couldn’t. As my guest Andrew McAfee points out, for just about all of human history – particularly the Industrial Era – our prosperity has been tightly coupled to our ability to take resources from the earth. We got more from more. That tradeoff yielded incredible positive contributions in nearly every field: Technology, industry, medicine. But there’s one glaring area – one of those “aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play” areas – where the trade wasn’t so incredibly positive. Of course, that’s the environment. As global industry rode the combination of human’s infinite ingenuity and Mother Nature’s finite resources – we all reaped the benefits and the costs: Exponential global warming. Perhaps it’s not an exact straight line, but the connection is clear to all but…
Oct 4, 2019
Isaac Stone Fish: Why China is America’s Biggest Threat
October 1st marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China – the name given by Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong in 1949. To understate the reality, a lot has happened in China over the last 70 years. The fact is, a lot has happened in China over the last 70 days – much of it unexpected, confusing, and on-going – politically and economically. Politically, of course, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong capture global attention and concern. So, too, does China’s economic situation, in particular, its continuing – sometimes escalating – battle with the U.S. over tariffs, intellectual property, market access, currency valuation and more… all fitting somewhat neatly under the “Great Power Competition” with the United States. As the 2020 campaign heats up, several key questions will be asked and debated, including: How did we get here – and where do China and US-China relations go next? To find out, I talked with Isaac Stone…
Sep 27, 2019
James Poniewozik: How the Trump Show Happened
As regular listeners of this podcast know, I read a lot of books. Most of them, frankly, are excellent – smart people making thoughtful arguments in engaging ways. Every once in a while, though, I read one that’s not just excellent, but delivers something more: It shifts your lens on the world. Alters your focus. New York Times Chief Television Critic James Poniewozik has written that kind of book: “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.” He’s written that kind of book not despite the fact that he analyzes television and American culture for a living… but because of it. We know Trump loves TV. We know built his image through the NY media and that he was a reality TV star. We also know reality TV is hardly reality. What we may not have considered sufficiently is what has happened to us – how, as television and media changed over the last decades, so did we. And to put it bluntly: You might not like what we’ve become – or what’s…
Aug 2, 2019
Philip Mudd: Trump & the Attack on U.S. Intelligence
It was a perfect week to have Philip Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst, on the podcast. Phil spent some 25 years at the highest levels of the CIA – reaching Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center – and FBI, where he was hired to be its first National Security Branch Deputy Director by Robert Mueller. So when you have Mueller’s Congressional Hearings nine days ago followed by President Trump’s tweets five days later announcing his intention to replace our top intelligence chief with a Republican House member who, as the Washington Post wrote, has alleged anti-Trump bias at the FBI and Mueller’s team, directly accusing Mueller of violating “every principle in the most sacred of traditions” of prosecutors – when you have that and you want to know what in the world is the state of our national intelligence and law enforcement agencies, well, Phil Mudd is who you call. But truth be told, that timing was mostly luck. The real reason I wanted to talk with Mud…
Jul 26, 2019
Tim Alberta: How Trump Filled the GOP Leadership Vacuum
What happened to the Republican Party? You’ve heard of it: One of the two major political collectives in America… the one that counts Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan among its heroes? The modern GOP branded itself on ideals of fiscal responsibility, fighting dictators from the Soviet Union to Saddam Hussein, and personal morality. Today, of course, the U.S. deficit is more than $1 trillion. New age dictators are our friends. And personal morality? Well, not so much. The GOP change has been swift, stark, and you might be led to believe, all because of one person: Donald Trump. But is that true? Was Trump the cause or the most logical outcome? Perhaps more importantly, is there any going back? Is the GOP now the POT – the Party of Trump? That’s what I asked Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine’s Chief Political Correspondent and author of “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump.” For show notes & my newsletter, go…
Jul 19, 2019
Robert Tsai: Is Justice Possible? Your Supreme Court Questions Answered
You may have heard last week’s conversation on the Supreme Court. Well, there’s something about the Supreme Court that gets listeners’ attention. I received a lot of follow-up questions – so many, that I wished I had immediate access to another constitutional scholar. Turns out, I did. I already had recorded the second half of the conversation you’ll hear today with Robert Tsai. Tsai is Professor of Law at American University and a prize-winning essayist in constitutional law and history. Previously, he clerked for two federal judges and worked civil rights lawyer in Georgia. He has written three books, the most recent of which is Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation. When we consider remedies to the various inequalities that define these times – from voting restrictions and oppressive measures against migrants to the rights of sexual minorities, victims of police action, and even racism in the criminal justice system – existing laws to address equa…
Jul 12, 2019
Adam Liptak: How Far Did Trump Tip the Supreme Court Balance?
It was the Supreme Court session Democrats feared and Republicans had waited a generation for – a solidly conservative 5-4 majority. It took the Merrick Garland block and Brett Kavanaugh hearings to get here, and now that first session is complete. So how’d it go? Were the fears and hopes realized? That’s what I asked Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court for The New York Times. As you’ll hear, for all of this session’s surprise alliances and shifting balance, it may turn out to be an important prelude that sets up a supreme bonanza: A 2020 election year session that confronts some of our most contentious issues – Immigration, the Second Amendment, discrimination against gay & transgender workers, and possibly abortion, as well as health care and the Affordable Care Act. For show notes & my newsletter, go to chrisriback.com
Jul 5, 2019
Angela Stent: Explaining Putin’s World
Here’s a parlor game: Outside of President Trump, who’s the most curious figure on the world stage today? China’s Xi? North Korea’s Kim? MBS of Saudi Arabia? As Trump’s interactions with global leaders raise never-ending questions, few are as perplexing – or, if we only could understand it, might explain so much – as the one with Vladimir Putin. When the Cold War ended, it all seemed so clear: History was over, and liberal democracy would deliver a new Russia. But as the so-called liberal modernizers and democratic reforms emerged, so too did a period of extreme poverty and oligarchic wealth – a debilitating era of Russian economic and social challenges, even humiliation. As that time ran its course, an apparent savior emerged – a single man who refused to consider Russian weakness and instead redefined Russian power and pride. A man who recently told the Financial Times: “The liberal idea has become obsolete.” So what happened? How is today…
Jun 28, 2019
Jared Cohen: Accidental Presidents
With 20 candidates and 2 Democratic debates spread over 48 hours this week, the 2020 Presidential campaign season is officially underway. We know the process: For the next 16 months, candidates will debate, boast, fundraise, debate, and fundraise some more. Then on Nov. 3, 2020, we’ll have the decision – the President will be chosen. But what about when we get a new President not over two years, but in a heart beat? When we don’t elect our President following an intense, 500-day process, but rather get our new leader instantaneously and by accident. I’m talking, of course, about the times when we’ve gotten a new President because the sitting one died. So what does history tell us about these leaders, the process, our country – about what happens when accidents occur? Jared Cohen has written the NY Times best-selling book – “Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America.” Cohen offers a unique way look at our history – and the many ways our country evolved…
Jun 21, 2019
Joseph Stiglitz: Saving Capitalism From Itself
It’s already one of the major issues of the 2020 presidential campaign: Does American capitalism still work? In the face of ever widening income disparity – not just exponential upward movement at the top, but also, at best, stagnation near the bottom — economic inequality is a key social and political topic. Which is why Joseph Stiglitz’ 55th high school reunion was so telling. It was about four years ago, the Nobel Prize winning economist was reminiscing with old friends in Gary, IN, when he heard a story that made him stand up straight. Then he heard another. And another. These classmates’ stories brought to life the statistics Stiglitz had been seeing in his economic charts: Lost jobs, poor access to health care, shorter life spans, diminishing hope. The numbers hadn’t lied, and now they were talking to Stiglitz at his high school reunion. Their message: The economy was broken. In fact, more than just the economy wasn’t working – Capitalism itself seemed off.…
Jun 19, 2019
We're Back: New Season, New Name
A few updates: First, we’re back. I’ve been doing a lot of prep for this new podcast season. I think you’re going to like it. Second – and maybe this should be first – you may have noticed the name change from Political Wire Conversations to Chris Riback’s Conversations. Why the change? I love politics and public policy. In these podcasts, I’ve talked with Senators, Governors, Mayors, and candidates; Generals, historians, journalists, and professors; Strategists, pollsters, and more – thinkers, writers and doers across the political spectrum. But these aren’t my only conversations. I also talk with leaders, thinkers and doers in business, technology, science, and the global marketplace. Guests include Nobel Prize laureates, a U.S. Presidential Medal of Science winner, global CEOs, two U.S. Council of Economic Advisers chairs, tech & media entrepreneurs, the most incredible cancer researchers, and more. I like these conversations a lot. More importantly, I don’t…
Dec 6, 2018
Sen. Maggie Hassan: 'No More Medical Surprises'
So you’re in a restaurant. Great meal. The bill comes, and it’s got a surprise – an unexpected $10 charge because, well it turns out your entrée required a special ingredient the server forgot to mention. Would you pay it? Would you expect to have to pay it? Now look at our health care. You go to the Emergency Room. They take your insurance. Only it turns out, your in-network ER is being staffed by out-of-network providers. Suddenly, in addition to the surprise of having landed in the ER in the first place, you’ve got thousands of dollars in surprise medical costs. What you wouldn’t stand for in a restaurant can happen any day in an emergency room – and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan wants to do something about it. Sen. Hassan has introduced a bill titled the “No More Medical Surprises Act.” As you’ll hear, her bill aims not only to protect patients from the outrageous bills that suddenly land folks deep in medical debt, she borrows from basebal…
Oct 29, 2018
Live from Harvard's Kennedy School
This is a special live edition of Political Wire Conversations. On Friday, I hosted an outstanding live event and discussion at Harvard’s Kennedy School: Midterm Elections Preview: Blue Wave or Red Save? I was joined onstage by an All Star cast of panelists: * Rick Wilson, Republican Political Strategist * Asha Rangappa, CNN Legal & National Affairs Analyst * Clare Malone, 538 Political Reporter * Taegan Goddard, Political Wire Publisher
1 hr 18 min
Oct 19, 2018
Richard Clarke: Democracy Is On the Ballot
The countdown to Midterms is on. With less than three weeks to go, many questions remain and the stakes couldn’t be higher. How high? According to my guest today, “the nature of our democracy is on the ballot.” I’m not sure I disagree.You may remember Richard Clarke for his 30 years in the U.S government, including 10 continuous years as a White House official, serving three consecutive presidents as Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs, Special Adviser to the President for Cyberspace, and National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism.His first book, "Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror," was a New York Times #1 bestseller, and he has stood on the front lines warning us about the risks and realities of cyber attacks.Now he’s got a new outlet – a podcast (c’mon, who doesn’t have a podcast these days?) called Future State. The 10 episode run started last month and ends the day before the Midterms. Once you’re done listening to…
Oct 12, 2018
Michael Lewis: Who’s Actually Running Our Government?
How do you make the most arcane, overlooked, eyes-glaze-over – and most critical – aspect of the U.S. government – interesting? How do you help folks understand that the so-called deep state – the parts of the bureaucracy that some people ignore and belittle – is actually vital to our safety, well-being and, frankly, our future?Simple: Have Michael Lewis write about.And now he has. In his new book, The Fifth Risk, goes inside several government departments – Energy, Agriculture, Interior, EPA – and reveals the truths that might seem funny if they weren’t so scary: Not only was the Trump Administration unprepared to run the government, the plan may have been crafted and executed by design. Want to shrink government? The easiest way is simply not to staff it.And why does this matter? Well, do natural disasters like hurricanes or fires matter? Is it important to find black market uranium before terrorists do? What if we no longer feed kids at school?Lewis does for governme…
Oct 2, 2018
Rebecca Traister: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
One thing is sure about the extraordinary, once-in-a-generation Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing last week: There was a lot of anger in the room.Judge Brett Kavanaugh: Angry. Senator Lindsay Graham: Angry.But it might have been the anger outside the room that changed everything. You’ve seen the video – two women somehow got hold of Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator, and they unleashed: “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” one shouted. “Don’t look away from me!”For many, watching that scene felt uncomfortable – not just the cornering of a U.S. Senator. The scene of women getting mad in public. But for others, including author Rebecca Traister, the scene was a remarkable, appropriate and much-needed display of what they already knew: Women have been angry for a long time – in fact, very likely as long as there have been women.Most of the time, as Rebecca Traister wrote in Sunday’s NY Times, “female anger is discouraged, repressed, ignored, swallowed.” Tha…
Sep 25, 2018
Major Garrett: What’s It Like to Cover the Trump White House
Think your life is crazy? How’d you like to be a White House correspondent with Donald Trump in the Oval Office?After all, if your daily schedule doesn’t get turned around multiple times, you always could get cursed or threatened at a campaign rally. In fact, just 60 minutes before my conversation with CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett began, news broke that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had resigned. Or was fired. Either way, he was gone. Then, 20 minutes after the recording, Rosenstein was back – and meeting with Trump later in the week to figure things out.It’s a perfect example of what Major means and writes about in his terrific book “Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.” The book itself is a great ride: Major is a professional storyteller. And as you’ll hear, he brings new details and drama to the events we all lived through. He brings the reality show to life: Wha…
Sep 18, 2018
Doris Kearns Goodwin: Trolling Trump on Leadership
Doris Kearns Goodwin. Do I need to say more?Seven books; multiple New York Times’ best sellers; Pulitzer Prize. She is simply one of our nation’s great presidential historians.And Doris has spent much of her career studying four of the best – Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ. Now she takes a new look at all of them through a lens that – as you’ll hear – feels as much a commentary about today as it does on history. It’s titled “Leadership in Turbulent Times.”Doris explores the early signs, growth, and active display of leadership for each of them, exploring not only the green shoots sprouting early in their lives, but also how that leadership took over during the key – if not most important – moments of their presidencies: * Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation * Teddy Roosevelt’s handling of the Great Coal Strike of 1902 * FDR’s First Hundred Days * LBJ and Civil Rights A great historian writes about yesterday, of course, but with a keen eye…
Sep 7, 2018
David Kaplan: The Most Dangerous Branch of Government
How important has the Supreme Court become in American life? From gun rights to personal relationships, from money in politics to healthcare, whether it’s access to abortion, the voting booth or even our borders, the Supreme Court increasingly dominates how we work, live, and play – it defines, quite often, what kind of country we are. You could argue that it was the deciding factor for millions of voters in the last Presidential election – potentially the deciding factor in the election itself. And this week, of course – between anonymous New York Times op-eds and Bob Woodward book drops – the Senate held confirmation hearings for our likely next Justice, the one who many believe will turn this purple Court decidedly red for the next generation. How did this happen? In Alexander Hamilton’s words, the Court would be based “neither on force nor will, but merely judgment.” While the president “holds the sword” and Congress “commands the purse,” t…
Aug 30, 2018
Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner: Who Is Mike Pence?
Who is Mike Pence? It seems strange, but more than two years after he entered our national stage, how much do you feel you know about the Vice President? He’s a man of faith – we know that… but what exactly does it mean? He has acted as something of an economic libertarian – he’s a favorite of the Koch Brothers. But again, what does that mean – and how does it connect with his religious beliefs? And then there’s his treatment of Donald Trump – George Will notably called Pence a “sycophantic poodle.” And we all remember the Cabinet roundtable in 2017 where Pence, as the Washington Post noted, offered “one expression of gratitude or admiration every 12 seconds” over three minutes of “impromptu praise.” How do these strands – faith, economics, and his exceptional handling of Donald Trump – come together? Who, in fact, is Mike Pence? That’s what Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner cover in their new biography “The Shadow President: The Truth About…
Aug 20, 2018
Jason Kander: Lessons In Everyday Courage
Jason Kander has a lot going on.To begin, he’s running for mayor of Kansas City. For most of us, that would be a full-time job. But as you’ll hear, Jason Kander is most definitely not the rest of us. It’s not just that he can rebuild a combat weapon while blindfolded, as he proved in a 2016 political ad.It’s also not simply that in reaction to 9/11, he did what only a few other brave and patriotic people did – volunteered for US military service and got himself sent to Afghanistan.It’s not even the crazy volume of meaningful activity he sustains simultaneously — in addition to the Kansas City race, he started Let America Vote, a PAC that aims to end voter suppression across the U.S.; he hosts Majority 54, the Crooked Media-backed podcast that debuted at No. 1 when it launched last November; and now he’s written a new book, Outside the Wire: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned in Everyday Courage. As you’ll hear, the book is less about life lessors and more of a call to arms.Be…
Aug 10, 2018
Rick Wilson: A GOP Strategist on the 'Worst President Ever'
Rick Wilson doesn’t expect you to like him. For the last 30 years, Rick has been part of the underbelly of American politics: A self-described “Republican political strategist and infamous negative ad-maker.” And he’s done it for Republicans at all levels – state, local, & national, ranging from George H.W. Bush to Rudy Giuliani. As he says, he’s the one you called when you needed an attack. Not that feels his Democratic competitors were any better. But among them all, they helped make our politics nasty, bitter, angry, and mean. Now we have a divided country and Donald Trump is President. And Wilson – who, as you’ll hear, feels some guilt about the mess we’re in – is trying to do something about it. And he’s written all about it in his new book: Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever. If you’ve seen Rick on TV, you know he’s a live wire. Just this week Morning Joe had to use 7-se…
Jul 28, 2018
Catherine Rampell: What, Exactly, is Trumponomics?
The latest economic numbers are out, and by the time you hear this podcast, Donald Trump surely will have told us all why they are great, why tariffs work, and why this economy is the best ever.But you know better. Or at least Washington Post opinion columnist Catherine Rampell does. While we may have one or multiple months of strong GDP, the key question remains: Is that growth sustainable? And as she wrote, “Right now, under Trump’s policies, the answer looks like a big fat no.”So today my goal was to better understand Trumponomics, and whether bad economics might just be good politics.After all, we’re running up debt, collecting fewer taxes, destroying free trade, fighting with trade partners, implementing tariffs, and then bailing out farmers with $12 billion of handouts to pay for the results. As I seem to ask every week: What is going on?About Catherine Rampell: As you surely know, her columns focus on economics, public policy, politics and culture, with a special emphasi…
Jul 20, 2018
Nicholas Burns: 'I Don’t Think He’s Fit for Office'
Well, that was quite a week. And no doubt, in the few hours between my recording this intro and when the podcast drops, another extraordinary week will have passed.How to make sense of it? To fashionably employ the double negative – it’s so good to see grammar finally get its due on the world stage – I don’t think it’s unfair to ask: Where are we as a nation?For guidance, I turned to former U.S. Ambassador and current professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Nicholas Burns. Without exaggeration, I don’t think I could have found anyone better.A full rundown of his bio could be a podcast on its own. Just some highlights:· Served or participated under five presidents· U.S. Ambassador to NATO – including on 9/11 – and Greece· State Department Spokesman· National Security Council, where he held roles covering Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia Affairs, and the Soviet Union· Onsite service at the American Consulate General in Jerusalem and U.S. Embassies in Egypt and…
Jul 13, 2018
Brian Abrams: Understanding Obama
It feels like a lifetime ago, I know. But so much of what’s happening today – the divides, anger, insults, policy realities – have emerged as a reaction to the Obama years. To understand today, it helps to understand what came before. Brian Abrams makes an important contribution to the process. Abrams specializes in oral histories – talking with key players and letting their words, almost exclusively, tell the story. Done well, this approachthoughtful narrative. That’s exactly what Abrams did his new book “Obama: An Oral History.” It’s a rare opportunity to relive and understand the Obama years, from the inside. Brian talked with many of the key players, Democrats and Republicans. He joined me for a terrific conversation – just what you’d expect from a great storyteller. I think you’ll like it.
Jun 29, 2018
Dan Pfeiffer: What Comes Next for Democrats
So here’s the timeline: Two days ago, I spoke with Dan Pfeiffer. As you surely know, he’s President Obama's former communications director and senior advisor and co-host of a podcast you might have heard of: Pod Save America. Then yesterday, Dan’s new book -- Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump – debuts at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Co-incidence? I’ll let you decide. All I can do is accurately portray the facts.The other thing I can do: Tell you that the book is a terrific read, and the conversation was even better. He’s got a great sense of humor. That comes out in the book, too.We also discussed the serious side of politics today: I asked Dan about Democratic messaging for the midterms and beyond – what should their message be and can they possible overcome all of the noise? As well: Who’s the elected Democrat who can best lead that narrative? We also discussed the ways in which he feels the Barack Obama’s election…
Jun 22, 2018
Steven Brill: The Fifty-Year Fall of America
In the face of jailing immigrant children, questions about capitalism amid tariffs and possible trade wars, and concerns about democracy as we reject western allies and warmly welcome authoritarians and dictators, a lot of us are wondering not just who are we, but also, how in the world did we get here?Steven Brill feels he has an answer.You likely know: Brill is a serial ideas entrepreneur. He founded, among other ventures, American Lawyer and Court TV. He has taken on some of our biggest issues and institutions – Law, Journalism, Healthcare, Schools. Now he’s at it again, and the topic is no less than the American decline.He has written it all down in “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall--and Those Fighting to Reverse It”Tailspin is a vital and complicated story that Brill simplifies like this: About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down.The story’s also complicated because, as you’ll hear, Brill…
Jun 15, 2018
Scott Jennings: What's Happening to the Republican Party?
For many on the right and left, the question has been “what’s happening to the GOP?” * Free Trade? Gone. * Budget deficits? No problem * Free movement of labor? Not so much. * Military war exercises? Who needs’em? * Russia as outlaw state? How about Russia in the G8? I think a more fair – and probably more relevant question: What is the GOP?And frankly, the question comes more from the right than the left. Bob Corker basically asked it this week on the Senate floor. Conservative writers ask it in columns and tweets. GOP voters ask it, particularly as they primary established conservatives like South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and, perhaps, Alabama’s Martha Roby.Today I’ll ask it.Scott Jennings is a political strategist and co-founder of RunSwitch Public Relations in Kentucky. You’ve seen him on CNN, where he is resolutely polite and Republican. Among many roles: He served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Deputy White House Political Direct…
Jun 12, 2018
Harry Litman: Does President Trump Think He's a King?
Does President Trump think he’s a king?That was the provocative headline to a recent piece by Harry Litman, a former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General. Litman made his argument after reviewing the legal arguments made in that confidential 20-page memo sent by President Trump’s lawyers to the special counsel, Robert Mueller.I wanted to talk with Litman for many reasons, not least of which: He’s a Constitutional Law expert. We discussed other major legal questions, including Paul Manafort, leaks, and whether a president can pardon himself.
Jun 1, 2018
Bill Browder: Vladimir Putin's Public Enemy No. 1
If you know Bill Browder's story already, you surely won’t mind hearing it again. It’s extraordinary. If you haven’t heard it before, get ready. Bill Browder very well may be Vladimir Putin’s public enemy No. 1. Why? Remember that “Hillary dirt” Russia meeting that Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 – the one the White House said was about Russian adoptions?As you’ll hear, “Russian adoptions” is code for the Magnitsky Act – legislation passed in 2012 that now blocks more than 40 Russian government officials and businesspeople from entering the U.S., froze their U.S. bank assets and banned them from accessing U.S. banking systems. Bill Browder is the force behind the Magnitsky Act.Everything about Browder’s story is made for a movie – His upbringing, professional career, and especially his life since an early-morning November 2009 phone call informed him that his lawyer, Sergei…
May 24, 2018
Gen. Michael Hayden: Trump's Assault on Intelligence
Of the many institutions that Donald Trump has attacked – Courts, Congress, media, political parties, diplomats, former Presidents – perhaps the most surprising and unnerving has been the relentless attacks on our intelligence community. Even before that second day in office – the one where he stood before the 117 stars honoring the CIA’s fallen and said we should’ve kept Iraq’s oil, claimed almost everyone in the room voted for him, and, of course, raved about the inauguration crowd size – even before all that, the attacks were there. Why does he do it? More importantly, what’s the impact on our country and our stability? Gen. Michael Hayden has written as thorough, thoughtful and complex an analysis as I’ve seen in his new book “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies.” Gen. Hayden connects our Enlightenment Era roots, philosophy, history, science and our post-truth insanity with the mindfulness you’d e…
May 20, 2018
Amy Walter: Six Months Until Midterms… What Do We Know?
Can we talk politics? In the last weeks on this podcast, we’ve talked about racism, our shrinking diplomacy, the Mueller investigation, how democracies die, and more. But we ought not forget: it’s the political elections that deliver the policies that define our democracy. Not happy with how things are going? You might want to vote. Thrilled? Well, you may want to, also. So where’s our Midterm vote headed? Who’s up, who’s down, where’s the Blue Wave – and how much do particular candidates actually matter, or is all politics today really just about Donald Trump? Amy Walter is the person to talk to. Amy is National Editor of The Cook Political Report and simply one of best political journalists around. She’s the former ABC News Political Director. Her weekly column is must-read. When she’s not writing, you regularly see her on one of the television political shows. And now, starting in June, she’ll be Friday host of The Takeaway on WNYC. There’s…
May 7, 2018
Mitch Landrieu: A White Southerner Confronts History
Usually we drop these conversations on Friday mornings – you know, something to look forward to since the workweek excitement is about to end. But we’re posting this on Monday, May 7 because of my guest: It’s his last day as Mayor of New Orleans. Did you see the speech? It was about a year ago and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood up and explained to his city and the nation, really, why he removed four statues that honored the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee; Jefferson Davis; P.G.T. Beauregard; and the Crescent City White League. In that speech, Landrieu took on race and inequality and history. He asked: “Why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what a…
May 3, 2018
Ronan Farrow: Inside the War on Peace
Iran, North Korea, Syria, Brexit, Paris Agreement, China. Prime Minister Abe, Macron, Merkel, Xi, a fellow named Putin. At a time when U.S. foreign policy – when diplomacy itself – requires as much clarity and coordination and skill as it has in decades, ours has been going through – to put it diplomatically – a major transition.You know the headlines: Thousands of State Department positions unfilled. Budgets slashed. Tillerson fired. One day we have the world’s biggest button; the next, we’re ready to travel across the world for a summit with a leader who just months ago was a madman.How’d we get here?That’s what Ronan Farrow has pieced together – through exceptional storytelling and just plain reporting – in his new book “War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.” Farrow did the work, talking with every living Secretary of State. And what he’s pulled together is the story of not only the shrinking, but also the militarization,…
Apr 26, 2018
Stuart Eizenstat: Taking Another Look at the Carter Years
Forget everything you think you know about President Jimmy Carter and get ready to ask yourself: Was he an ineffective, overwhelmed outsider who oversaw four of the worst years in our history… or, as my guest today argues, was Carter’s presidency one of the most consequential in modern history. I confess – I forgot just how much occurred during Carter’s four years – and how much of what he did set the stage for politics and policies today: Ideas like protecting the environment, putting human rights at the center of our foreign policy, energy conservation, the Middle East peace process, and perhaps most painful in today’s political ridiculousness: A post-Watergate President who ran for office on the promise that “I’ll never lie to the American people.” Say what you want about Carter; he kept that promise. But for all the success, Carter’s presidency is rarely hailed. He micromanaged. He tried to do too much. He ruined the economy. He oversaw gas lin…
Apr 12, 2018
Asha Rangappa: How Will the Mueller Investigation End?
How will it end?For any of us following the Mueller investigation -- hanging on the latest leaks around the mood inside the White House and who might get fired or not fired – the wonder of what’s next is relentless. The possibilities seem endless.That’s why for many of us, we’re getting a crash course in Constitutional Law – indeed in our Constitution itself – seeing in real time how and whether our government works.What happens if Robert Mueller gets fired? Can he be? What about Rod Rosenstein? What does a Constitutional crisis look like – what does it mean?No need to worry – Asha Rangappa can explain. You likely know, Asha is a frequent CNN contributor and senior lecturer at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where she teaches National Security Law and related courses. But as you’ll hear, Asha’s personal story is extraordinary and would make for a fascinating conversation on just its own: Asha is the Indian-American daughter of immigrants and speaks fl…
Apr 9, 2018
Jennifer Palmieri: Who Will Be the First Woman President?
Why is Hillary Clinton not the first woman President?Many people, political types, historians and sociologists will consider that question for many years to come. But besides Hillary Clinton herself, the people who surely must think about it most are the ones who worked with her for years and during the campaign.Jennifer Palmieri is one of them.You may know: Palmieri was Director of Communications for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Previously she served as President Obama’s White House Director of Communications, National Press Secretary for the 2004 John Edwards presidential campaign and for the Democratic National Committee in 2002. She also was Deputy White House Press Secretary under Bill Clinton.That’s quite a history in politics, but Jennifer hasn’t written a strictly political book. Instead she’s written – based on the campaign, certainly – a compelling and important reflection on the future. And it’s excellent.The book is “Dear Madam President: An Open…
Mar 30, 2018
Rick Hasen: How Antonin Scalia was the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court
Perhaps this is how the Framers wanted it, but has there ever been a time where more issues with the potential to more deeply divide us – has there ever been a time where more of them seemed so likely to head to the same place: The U.S. Supreme Court? I’m talking about the 2nd Amendment, and the inevitable gun rights issues surely to come out of the growing #enoughisenough movement. I’m talking about gerrymandering, the crazy geographical games that determine who sits in our state legislatures and Congress – that’s already in front of the Justices. And, lurking there in the distance, the potential biggest of them all: Can a sitting President be indicted? And yet, more and more, the U.S. Supreme Court feels less like a beacon of neutrality and more like yet another politicized branch of the U.S. government. How’d we get here? As you’ll hear in my conversation with Rick Hasen, the person we might want to thank for that isn’t even here anymore: Antonin Scalia. Rick…
Mar 23, 2018
David Wasserman: The House Outlook for 2018
For the last several weeks, regular listeners will know that I’ve been pretty focused on the state of our democracy. We all need to pay attention. At the heart of democracy, of course, is elections… and so today we get to focus on the politics and probabilities and look ahead to the big vote this fall: The midterm elections.Midterms always have a story to tell, of course, and most frequently though not always, it’s not a good one for the party in power. This year, with the early indicators -- special elections, Presidential approval ratings and generic ballots – pointing to Democrats’ strength, we wanted to find out: How likely is that Blue Wave to becoming reality.Specifically, can Democrats really flip the House?And if you want to talk about district by district voting for the U.S. House of Representatives, it’s hard to find anyone better or more plugged in than David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for Cook Political Report.
Mar 15, 2018
Michael Isikoff and David Corn: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America
With the daily headlines on Russia – Nunes memos, Mueller indictments, Trump denials, continual cable TV panels – it’s easy to miss a powerful and – as it turns out, complicated – question: How did Russia happen? How did we get here?For many of us, the so-called “Russia story” started in 2015 with Donald Trump. It continued with Paul Manafort and Carter Page and WikiLeaks and, of course, picked up steam with Internet Bots and cyber war and what we now know is a continuing massive, coordinated attack on our democracy – on our very way of life.But as with any major attack, these things don’t just appear out of nowhere. Sometimes, like 9/11, the signs were there and once missed, create the opportunity for something much, much worse.So how did Russia occur? What happened during Trump’s campaign – and since? And how has all of that come together to put Trump and us in the situation – the divided democracy – we all now face?That’s the incredible road map and story…
Mar 8, 2018
Chris Whipple: How the Trump White House Is the Most Dysfunctional Ever
I’ve just got one thing to say: Thank goodness for John Kelly! I bet that’s not the one thing you expected me to say. But here’s why:With Kelly so much in the news – for the Rob Porter disaster, inexplicable non-existent security clearances, insulting the congresswoman who supported a gold-star widow from Georgia, his supposed role as a so-called “adult in the room” – for all those reasons and more, people are actually aware of and talking about what is arguably the most important White House job after, of course, the top one: Chief of Staff.I mean before Kelly, if I wanted you to turn off this podcast right now, I’d tell you that today I talked with the author of a book positioned as the ultimate analysis of the historical role of the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.But that characterization vastly shortchanges the appeal and importance of Chris Whipple’s outstanding book “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presid…
Feb 20, 2018
Steve Coll: Inside America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
About 13 years ago, I climbed on the bandwagon and, like lots of other folks, read several books to better understand our history in Afghanistan and Iraq and with Al Quaeda — how we got into the mess and, maybe how we’d get out.You may recall – it was a bit of a golden age of reporting and writing. Among them: “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright; “Fiasco,” by Thomas Ricks; “Imperial Life In The Emerald City,” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran; “The Places in Between,” Rory Stewart’s crazy story of walking across Afghanistan, as well as his follow-up "The Prince of Marshes." But the first one I read has long stayed with me, and set the context for the all the others to come: That was the Pulitzer prizewinning “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001” by Steve Coll.“Ghost Wars” outlined the CIA’s secret history in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s rise, the emergence of Osama bin Laden, an…
Feb 9, 2018
How Democracies Die
I might not have a more important political conversation this year than the one I just had with Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. You’ll be tempted to look at the title of their book How Democracies Die and – particularly if you sit on the left side of things – think that it’s purely about President Trump. It’s not. Yes, of course, it covers Trump. Specifically, by looking at authoritarians across continents and throughout history, the authors outline four key indicators of Authoritarian Behavior. And, many of you may not be surprised – they find that candidate and President Trump has infringed on all four. But what you’ll also see – more clearly and ominously – is what we might call the Great Softening. What you’ll see is that the weakening of our democracy began long before Donald Trump came down his Trump Tower escalator in 2015 and announced his candidacy. Quite simply, this book will change the way you look at the last 40 years, daily ev…
Jan 31, 2018
Peter Enns: Where Polls Live Forever
If you’ve ever wondered: Where do public polls go to die, today we bring you the answer: They don’t. They live on forever at the Roper Center. One of the things I love most about doing this podcast is the opportunity to talk with incredibly smart people in fields where, under normal circumstances, our paths might not cross. I just finished talking with one of them. Peter Enns is Executive Director of The Roper Center at Cornell University, where he is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Government. The amount of data housed at the Roper Center will blow your mind: It’s the largest public opinion archive in the world with some 25,000 public opinion polls and nearly every survey question ever asked in the U.S. – more than 700,000 of them. And as you’ll hear from Peter, this matters for all kinds of reasons, perhaps most importantly to give us a clearest possible sense of how American views have evolved – in big ways and really nuanced way…
Jan 23, 2018
David Cay Johnston: Political Termites
Investigative Reporter David Cay Johnston documents President Trump’s first year in office and explains why “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America.”
Dec 18, 2017
McKay Coppins: What Is God's Plan for Mike Pence?
McKay Coppins, Staff Writer at The Atlantic, joins Chris to discuss religion and politics, and his recent piece: "God’s Plan for Mike Pence." If we want to understand just how divided the country is – and if we want to consider whether it will ever be repaired – we better dig deeper into the role of religion and politics. One question: How do evangelicals today reconcile their true beliefs and politics?
Dec 8, 2017
Chris Matthews: Looking at Today's Politics Through the Perspective of RFK
First, where to begin? Roy Moore? Al Franken? Tax bill? Jerusalem? Government shutdown? Russia? The pace of politics is relentless – fatiguing, really – so you need someone of relentless energy to talk about politics with. And few have more relentless energy than Chris Matthews. But these times also call out for perspective and context. What in the world is going on? To many of us, it feels like there’s an all-out war – on decency, good behavior, justice – even democracy. What does history have to say? And how many people can bring a better historical context to politics than Chris Matthews? Finally, the more out of control 2017 becomes, the more fascinated I’ve become with revisiting 1968. I keep wanting to consider how the conflict and anger and uncertainty of that year not only compares to what we’re experiencing today – but also, what can we learn from it? Chris Matthews helps here, too. So let’s talk bio: If you only know him from cable televisi…
Nov 22, 2017
Charlie Cook: Is There a Democratic Wave Coming In 2018?
It’s only a slight exaggeration that there is nothing in the political world that Charlie Cook can’t analyze, clarify or explain. Which is good news, because we had plenty to cover, starting with the Cook Political Report’s Midterm analysis. The report -- Political Environment and Congressional Breakdown Charts – is available only to Charlie’s subscribers. But he went into the details with me. I also asked Charlie about a recent piece he wrote – one with a headline sure to excite Democrats and frustrate Republicans: A Democratic Wave is Forming Off the Political Coast.What does the wave look like? And how will we know whether it’s real or just wishful thinking for Americans who need some political good news?Then near the end of the conversation, I asked Charlie about what I think is the issue our time – our great political divide. Charlie has a deep historical perspective. As you’ll hear, he’s been doing this for a while. And when he talks about what he sees going o…
Nov 13, 2017
Preet Bharara: How to Flip a Witness
I just finished talking with former U.S. Attorney and current podcast/analysis/and media star Preet Bharara. He claims to be a rookie at this whole media thing, but if you’ve listened to his top rated podcast “Stay Tuned with Preet,” you know that’s what someone in the law enforcement business might graciously call “pretext.” The guy’s a pro. Our conversation covered the topics you would expect – Russia, President Trump, flipping witnesses – and some you might not – like what was that Senate staffer (the one who looks an awful lot like Preet Bharara) thinking 10 years ago, when a recently-fired US attorney described the political pressure on the U.S. justice system – and the discomfort of receiving phone calls at home from top elected U.S. officials? And how might that experience have prepared Preet when he got his own phone calls 10 years later? You surely know Preet’s bio: Chief counsel to Senator Schumer, Assistant and then U.S. Attorney for the Southern Dist…
Oct 4, 2017
Rep. Jim Jordan: "Just Ask Me"
So a couple of weeks ago, I saw Rep. Jim Jordan – Republican from Ohio’s 4th congressional district – say something on TV that I feel I see our politicians say all the time and I never believe: Call me.Rep. Jordan was reacting to something that had been written about him, something he said was flat out wrong. If you want to know what I think, he said, just ask me.So I did. And Rep. Jordan kept his word… this podcast is the result. Specifically, I wanted to ask the Freedom Caucus Congressman about two main issues – the budget and tax reform plans. I wanted to ask him about Republican leadership and any tensions within the Republican Party. And given the Las Vegas tragedy, I wanted to ask him about that, too – not to have a gun control debate… that’s for another podcast – but to ask him the straightforward question that’s on my mind and, I know, on the minds of many others: Is there any role government can play in helping prevent the proliferation of these mass murder…
Oct 3, 2017
Jason Altmire: A Former Congressman Explains Our Divided Country
So this is tough one. I just finished speaking with former Congressman Jason Altmire. He has written a new book that I really hope you read. It captures exactly what most of us hope for, but also seems like a ridiculous long shot at the moment: That somehow our divided country will come together around policy and politics. Congressman Altmire’s new book is "Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America, and What We Can Do About It." Some background: From 2007-13, Altmire represented PA’s 4th district – that’s in the south-central part of the state. However, he lost his seat when it got redistricted for the 2012 vote. While in Congress, Altmire practiced what he preached – at one point the National Journal calculated his voting record to be at the exact midpoint of the House -- the Dead Center -- giving him the most centrist voting record in Congress. Altmire argues that’s part of what did him in – but it’s also our way out of this mess. As I said, it’s a…
Sep 20, 2017
David Litt: My Hopey, Changey White House Years
It turns out the key to a great conversation: Book a comedy-writing presidential speechwriter as your guest. That’s what we have for you today. David Litt worked in the Barack Obama White House as Special Assistant to the President and senior presidential speechwriter. Those are awfully formal titles, and David seems like he’s anything but awfully formal. What he is is awfully funny. And smart. He wrote many of President Obama’s funniest bits – from Correspondent Dinner speeches to his Happy 90th Birthday shout out to actress Betty White. David also knows policy, and wrote serious speeches on issues like immigration and race. To mangle a line from David’s book where he’s describing someone else: He’s the speechwriting equivalent of a two-way player. David is now Head Writer and Producer for Funny or Die’s Washington DC office. But more immediately and relevant to David’s personal interests, he is author of the new book: Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House…
Jul 22, 2017
Joshua Green: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency
If you’re going to read one book on politics this summer vacation, the word is out: Devil’s Bargain – Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency is the one. The book is by Josh Green, Senior National Correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, and if you believe what Politico reports, the book has President Trump livid. To be clear, as you’ll hear, Josh is just fine with that. You’ll love this conversation. Josh is a great storyteller and a funny guy – Back stories on Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign, Jeff Sessions, Rebekah Mercer. We talked about all of them. Before we begin with Josh, a quick ask from me to you: I hope you like these conversations. If so, I’d appreciate if you’d take a moment, go to iTunes, and, if you’re so moved, leave a 5-star review. The ratings really matter. As always though, if you don’t like the conversations, please forget I ever mentioned it. And one last word about the conversation – when I caught Josh, he was o…
Jul 21, 2017
Graham Allison: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?
That’s the provocative, timely, and somewhat scary question posed by one of America’s great authorities on international affairs: Harvard’s Graham Allison. Allison looks at the rising tensions between the two global competitors through a 2500-year lens in his new, important book: “Destined for War: Can America and China escape Thucydides’s Trap.” Don’t worry, Allison explains it very clearly, but it’s centered on a central principal that has resulted in 12 wars over the last 500 years: Situations when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one. Indeed, on the one hand, from trade to North Korea and beyond, the U.S. and China seem to need each other. And yet on the other hand, from trade to North Korea and beyond, the two powers often seem at each others throats. Remember President Trump’s tweet from just a few weeks ago, and just months after the two leaders met and dined on chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago: “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in…
Jun 8, 2017
Al Franken: "I freed up the funny"
So where do you start a conversation with U.S. Senator Al Franken? There’s so much to discuss. Russia investigations? President Trump? Congressional Hearings? Health Care? Which is why we started with the obvious: The Grateful Dead. He’s a big fan. But don’t worry. We quickly moved off the Dead and to the policies and politics that matter today. As Sen. Franken makes clear: That’s why he says this is the best job he’s ever had. You surely know some or all of Sen. Franken’s biography. You know he was an original and long-standing member of Saturday Night Live. You know he made a living for decades by being one of the funniest people in America. You likely know he became – by the smallest of margins and several months after everyone else got sworn in – a U.S. Senator in 2009. And you may know that he’s written a new book titled the way any modest kid from Minnesota would title it: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. But even if you know all of Sen. Franken’s background o…
May 19, 2017
Sidney Blumenthal: 'Wrestling with His Angel'
I just finished talking with Sidney Blumenthal, and I know, depending on which cable network you prefer, he’s someone you already likely either love or hate. But I’m telling you, regardless of where you fall, you’re really going to like this conversation. We spoke because Sidney has a new book, and it’s excellent – It’s “Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856.” He has two more volumes to go, and wait until you hear about his process. It was not what I thought it would be. The book isn’t just a fascinating look back at our President to be living in one of the most compelling, dangerous times in our history The book also is incredibly, almost scarily, relevant today. A divided country. Intense fights over “popular sovereignty,” also known as states’ rights. Incredibly charged personalities – some of the most influential and divisive we’ve seen – people like Jefferson Davis, Stephen Douglas, Henry Clay, Daniel Webst…
Apr 11, 2017
Tom Walker (a.k.a. Jonathan Pie): Political satire in the Trump era
Today Tom Walker is going to set you straight on politics, liberalism, free speech, and more. Who’s Tom Walker? You might know him better as Jonathan Pie, the liberal British “newscaster” – and that’s in quotes – who keeps getting surreptitiously filmed talking off-camera to his producer Tim, who’s back at the studio. Here’s the YouTube video he posted 2 days after the Trump election. By Walker’s count it’s been shown in various formats more than 100MM times. A quick warning: This Jonathan Pie loves to curse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLG9g7BcjKs As you clearly can tell from that clip, Walker is a classically trained actor whose sights were always set on Shakespeare rather than political satire. Truly. Here’s the backstory: For years, Walker was a struggling actor right out of central casting. He waited tables. Worked odd jobs. Took the acting roles he could. Then about two years ago, it happened. A character, a fast-talking, foul-mouthed, frequently-frustr…
Mar 3, 2017
Garry Kasparov: Why Trump Will Lose Playing Putin’s Dangerous Game
What went on – and is going on – with Russia and the U.S., or more specifically, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump? DNC hacking; the President’s continually positive characterizations of Putin; former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; new questions around Attorney General Jeff Sessions – and calls for him to recuse himself from any investigations… the list goes on. And while the facts continue to trickle out, the overall context becomes increasingly relevant – including Russia’s apparent goals to create chaos in various democracies around the world. And few people in the world are better positioned to analyze the context than Garry Kasparov. Most of us know Kasparov, with Bobby Fischer of course – as the most famous, most significant person in chess history. Indeed, Kasparov broke Fischer’s rating record in 1990. Kasparov retired from chess in 2005 and moved into a new and certainly more dangerous arena – Russian politics. He ran for president of his…
Jan 18, 2017
Norm Eisen: Is Donald Trump Above the Law?
It feels like every day we reach a new point of “well, this has never happened before” in American politics. And I’m not just talking about the Tweets. Ok, the tweets are something. Incredible, really. We can and will have a conversation on when to ignore and when to react to them. But let’s get past the Tweetstorms for a moment. I’m talking about actual questions about democracy and the Constitution and even America itself. Questions that take more than 140 characters to answer. Like this one: Is the President above the law? Ok, I guess that doesn’t take 140 characters to answer. It should only take two characters – three if you count the period. Truly, this question had never previously occurred to me. Most of us thought it was asked and answered, initially in the Constitution, and subsequently through 240 years of democracy. But in a time where things have never happened before, even that simple belief has come into question, most recently during that unbelievable firs…
Dec 24, 2016
Celinda Lake: It Was Still the Economy, Stupid
The Electoral College has voted. The next cabinet is essentially filled. And with the holiday season here, and our focus is turning to the little things like peace on earth and good will towards men. And yet, even with the time passing, even with the new challenges – Russia hacking our democracy, Congress promising to hack healthcare, Navy drones in the South China Sea – nearly every Democrat I talk with still has the same singular question: What happened? We know all the theories: The Democrats forgot to reinforce their blue wall. Fake news and foreign hacking combined to rig the system. Angry white males. The email server. Celinda Lake has another theory: It’s the economy, stupid. And Democrats forgot about that. Celinda is one of the one of the Democratic Party's leading political strategists – a senior advisor to the national party committees, dozens of Democratic incumbents, and challengers at all levels Celinda also has shown that she can work across party lines. She’s…
Nov 4, 2016
Neil Newhouse: The ‘Nose-Holder’ Election
We’re down to the numbers game, folks. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll still have the name calling, threats, promises, rallies, commercials and more – I didn’t say the campaign is over – but all focus now turns to a single number: 270. What’s the best path for both candidates to get there? And what’s it like inside the campaigns in the final days. Few would know better than Neil Newhouse; because he’s been there. Neil was lead pollster four years ago for Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign. He is partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, which the New York Times once described as the country’s “leading Republican polling company.” Neil himself is 3-Time winner of “Pollster of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants. He has seen and done a lot. And yet, as you might imagine, he’s never seen anything like this campaign. I know it’s naïve, but I keep getting amazed at how many political professionals I talk with who…
Oct 25, 2016
David Wasserman: Can Democrats Put More House Seats In Play?
It’s so hard to talk politics and not have the whole conversation be about Donald Trump. And with all of the coverage – even ours – seemingly centered on the Presidential race, it might be hard to remember that there’s another branch of government where the November 8 vote matters as well. We didn’t forget, though. So today, let’s talk about the House. You know the basics – the Republicans control it. And most people think Democrats would have to run a clean sweep of the so-called contested races to take back control. It seems unlikely. But what about this election season has been likely? Exactly. Among the key issues: If the Presidential race becomes seen as a blowout, will Republicans stay away from the voting booth on Nov. 8, depressing turnout and votes for the House races? Even if Republicans keep control of the House, what will that control look like? Will moderate Republicans fall in November, setting up a 115th Congress where sitting Republicans are dominated by t…
Oct 16, 2016
What's Going On with the Republican Party?
I wanted to step away from the daily politics today and take a bit of a longer view, because maybe you’re wondering the same thing I am: What’s going on with the Republican Party? Everywhere you turn there’s another layer of erosion, whether from politicians or party elders or longtime political donors. Regardless of who wins the Presidency, something big has changed within the Republican Party. And I don’t care which party you belong to, if either of them looks like it’s disintegrating before our eyes, that means definitionally that our political system – the one that’s done us pretty well over the last 200 years – is changing. Now to be clear, I’m not saying change is bad or that it hasn’t happened before. And I’m definitely not saying it’s not needed. But change is underway, and for anyone the least bit curious, the question becomes: What’s next? That’s what I wanted to learn in this conversation: Where is the Republican Party today and what’s next? We…
Sep 28, 2016
Dan Drezner: Foreign Policy for Campaigns is Like an Unexploded Landmine
I just finished talking with Dan Drezner, Professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Stay with me now… because Drezner is most definitely not your parents’ poli sci professor. For one, you’ve got to follow him on Twitter. He’s funny, topical, and as likely to tweet a goofy video as he is to include a scatter-plot graph. He’s also not above using a curse word every now and then. He also seems, on Twitter, like a guy you’d want to hang out with. For example, when he tweeted before the debate: “I'm stocked up on the necessary provisions for #debatenight. Are you,” the accompanying image wasn’t old Theodore White books on The Making of the President, but instead was a photo with bottles of rum, scotch, vodka, and ibuprofen. And the scotch was Blue Label. Like I said, definitely a new age professor – and we talked about that. In fact, it turns out that in addition to foreign policy and international security agree…
Sep 24, 2016
Jim Messina: "It Was Always Going to be Close"
So I just finished talking with Jim Messina, Barack Obama’s winning 2012 campaign manager. Boy this guy knows politics. He knows the numbers. He knows the states. He knows the strategies. He knows the personalities. And he offers this great mix of numbers and narrative – he’s a walking master class. The data doesn’t matter without the story, and if you’ve got a campaign message but no numbers to get to 270 votes, well that doesn’t matter much either. For background in case you don’t know, before the 2012 Obama for America campaign, Jim served as Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Before that he worked on Capitol Hill. He almost literally grew up running campaigns, from his home state Montana to Alaska, New York, and more. Today, the Messina Group helps run campaigns around the world. Anyhow, we had a great discussion on the changing demographics in America and of American voters – and how that should be helping Hillary Clinton and Democrats. I asked him to help me under…
Sep 16, 2016
Maureen Dowd: "This is Pure Madness"
So if this campaign is part psychological drama, part comical farce – a matchup of personalities that would be case studies 1 and 1a for any Psych 101 class… is there anyone better to talk to than Maureen Dowd? Of course there isn’t. Which is why I was really looking forward to this conversation. Maureen Dowd, as you know, is the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist. She’s a best selling author, and her latest book – just published – is “The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics.” I can certainly say, based on this conversation, she’s also really funny and extremely thoughtful. She’s kind of seen it all. Dowd’s covered Trump and Hillary Clinton for more than 20 years. So I asked her whether Trump was always like this – and, if not, what in the world happened? I asked her also about Hillary and why do people think Dowd hates her. She answered it all – usually with a laugh or insightful line.
Sep 8, 2016
Robert Costa: Reporting on a 'Wild and Weird' Election
So I just finished talking with Robert Costa, the Washington Post National Political Reporter and political analyst for NBC and MSNBC. The call was perfectly timed, as just this morning, a bunch of publications – including the Washington Post and Bob Costa – were taken off the Trump blacklist. So I had a newly freed Bob Costa, ready to talk about Trump and the Republican Party and Congress and more. And he did. As you likely know, Bob is basically the pre-eminent political reporter on the Republican Party. He used to work at the National Review, and he’s built what must a crazy Rolodex of everyone even tangentially connected to the party. He reports on Democrats, also. But he breaks a lot of news on the Republican side. We talked a lot about what it’s been like to cover Trump – even with the blacklist – and what his campaign means for the Republican Party. I don’t want to give away the whole conversation, so for now, just two words: Wild and weird. I really liked the end…
Aug 26, 2016
Stuart Stevens: A Neutron Bomb Has Gone Off in the Republican Party
Where does Stuart Stevens find the time? He is a founding partner of Strategic Partners & Media, the political consulting firm. He’s a Daily Beast contributor. He was the lead political strategist for the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And he just released his 7th book – this one is a novel – titled “The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear.” It’s an excellent read whose narrative is also weirdly close to the plotlines of our current presidential campaign. Speaking of the presidential campaign – no surprise – that’s what we spent most of our time talking about. If you’ve spent anytime on his Twitter feed or read his columns: Is there anyone more active, more persistent, more consistent in arguing against Donald Trump than Stuart Stevens. The conversation also hit on a wide range of ideas – it was really interesting, very funny at times, and, frankly, really serious. This guy is worried. He’s worried about the Republican Party and about the level of c…
Aug 3, 2016
Jim Lehrer: There's Never Been One Like This
Jim Lehrer, the Dean of debate moderators, as Bernie Shaw once called him, joins us on Political Wire Conversations. Moderator of 12 U.S. Presidential debates. He’s also a current member of the Board of Directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group that organizes and runs the general election debates – three with Trump and Clinton and one for the Vice Presidential candidates Pence and Kaine, assuming, of course, they all take place. Maybe Jim hasn’t seen it all, but he surely has seen nearly everything in modern American politics. In fact, that’s what I started with. I really wanted to know: Given everything he’s seen, has he ever seen anything like this campaign. His answer might surprise you. Of course, we spent most of the time talking about debates – future and past. Is there anyone more qualified to discuss Presidential debates in this country? By the way, in case you don’t know the rest of what Jim has done: Not only is he the former executive edi…
Jul 13, 2016
Taegan Goddard: Is This Clinton's Election to Lose?
The 2016 presidential campaign is shaping up as Hillary Clinton's race to lose -- unless everything we know about politics is wrong. Clinton is leading Donald Trump in the national polls and most state polls as well. Nearly every forecast at this point show s landslide in the Electoral College. She has put together a better national campaign. She's running way more television ads. But can she win?
Jul 8, 2016
John Dickerson: Have We Really Never Seen a Presidential Election Like This One?
We’re in the middle of a political campaign that everyone says is unprecedented. There’s never been a candidate like Donald Trump. There’s never been a candidate like Hillary Clinton. There’s never been a campaign like this one. Never more negative. Never more disorganized. Never more off the cuff. Never, never, never. Well, how truly “never before” is this campaign? Are we really in totally unchartered territory? His history in fact no guide at all? Does context matter? John Dickerson just might be the perfect person to discuss this with. You know his bio: He’s Moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation. He’s a Slate political columnist. But he also hosts an incredible podcast called Whistlestop, Slate’s podcast about presidential campaign history. And now he has published a new book of the same name: “Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History.” Dickerson goes through “the stories behind the stories of the most memorable moments in American…
Jun 2, 2016
Van Jones: When the Temperature Gets Too Hot
So as you know, because you can hardly turn on the television without seeing him, Van Jones is a political commentator on CNN. But as you’ll hear, he’s got so much else going on. He is President of Dream Corps and Rebuild the Dream, and you’ll hear about that. As opposed to so many of the people we see and hear on TV and talk radio, this guy is out there getting it done. You may not agree with Van on every issue, but you’ll have to agree there’s substance there. More biography: Van was President Obama’s green jobs adviser; you’ll hear a little about that. He’s also a Best-selling author. I didn’t even get to ask him at all about his books. There was just too much else to discuss around Trump and race and Hillary and progressives and the state of our nation and the turning point that we face.
May 11, 2016
Josh King: An Advance Man’s Look at the 2016 Campaign
Chris Riback talks to Josh King about his new book, An Advance Man’s Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle, and Political Suicide, and the 2016 presidential campaign. King, a veteran of Bill Clinton's White House, leads readers through an entertaining and illuminating journey through the Hall of Infamy of some of the most catastrophic examples of political theater of the last quarter century.
Apr 21, 2016
Charlie Cook: This Has Been the Wildest Year
If you really want to know how good the Cook Political Report is, you’ll want to listen up – because we’ve got the real thing! Charlie Cook is Editor and Publisher of the eponymous Cook Political Report. He is also a National Journal columnist, and it’s only a slight exaggeration that there is nothing in the political world that Charlie can’t analyze, clarify or explain. Which is good news, because we’ve got plenty to cover: On the Republican side: Are votes enough? Donald Trump keeps winning them, but do they translate into enough delegates? If not, then what? For Democrats, can Hillary Clinton finally start her victory lap? And assuming she wins the nomination, has she been pulled too far left – How does she translate her message for more centrist general election voters?
Apr 12, 2016
Taegan Goddard: The Outcomes Look Bleak for Republicans
The candidates may be riding the subway in New York. Perhaps they’re thinking about Pennsylvania – Even California. But all political eyes are on Cleveland. While polls show Donald Trump crushing in the Big Apple, Ted Cruz was the Big Cheese in Wisconsin. Cruz’ double-digit win there significantly increased the chances of a contested Republican Convention. 538’s panel of experts estimates Trump will fall short of the magic 1,237 delegates. As The University of Virginia Center for Politics told the New York Times: “The chances of a contested convention just went up.” It’s no surprise that the frontrunners say a wide-open, no-holds-barred contested convention would devastate the Republican Party; delegitimize the entire primary process; silence the precious voice of primary voters. It would bring disaster. But would it? Or instead at this point, might a contested convention be exactly the thing Republicans should hope for? Taegan Goddard, as we all know, runs Taegan Goddard…
Apr 1, 2016
Rick Shenkman: What Your Brain Really Thinks About Donald Trump
Many of us look at this extraordinary, ridiculous, seemingly-unprecedented political season and wonder: How is this possible? The anger perhaps we understand. The feeling that the system is so corrupted that the only effective approach will be to kick over the table and figure out later how to rebuild it? Even those who don’t agree the problem is that dire can get their heads around the idea. But fear-mongering, name-calling, locker-room-talk-mimicking as the path the White House? What is going on? According to historian Rick Shenkman, the answer just may be science. And evolution – or, perhaps more accurately, a lack of evolution and the way our natural instincts are helpful for, say, avoiding sharks in the ocean, but unhelpful when it comes to sharks of the political kind. Shenkman is the New York Times best selling Author of ”Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.” Shenkman uses science to explain why so many of us are susceptible to po…
Mar 19, 2016
Mark Blumenthal: What Do Americans Really Think About Politics?
Chris Riback speaks with pollster Mark Blumenthal on what we know about the 2016 presidential election. For answers to a Presidential campaign that few predicted and fewer, perhaps, pretend to understand, we often turn to the dark science of polling. Given the overwhelming amount of data each of us generates each day – from clicks to searches to surveys and more – the people who tell us what we think and feel have taken an important if not outsized role in American society generally and American politics specifically. Among our big questions: * Is this nasty campaign an accurate reflection of who we are as a country? * What do American’s really want in our next leader? * And if it does end up to be Clinton vs. Trump, who wins an election where both candidates are disliked in such intense ways by so many? Complicated issues, which is why Mark Blumenthal is here to help us understand. Mark is Head of Election Polling for SurveyMonkey and runs their NBC News|SurveyMonkey We…
Mar 16, 2016
Taegan Goddard: The Party No Longer Decides
Chris Riback and Taegan Goddard discuss the how Donald Trump's campaign not only broke the Republican party but broke political science. What in the world is going on? We are well into a primary season with results few of us expected, headed straight to a general election that even fewer dare to predict. All of us – and certainly both major political parties – are in unchartered territory. For Democrats, their new location at least appears to be on a pre-existing map. For Republicans, their new map reveals a planet they never knew existed – a place that frequently shows little signs of gravity – and I mean both definitions of the word, with its lack of seriousness alongside a certain amount of weightlessness. This place is a foreign territory – there’s no huge wall to keep us out. It’s a place where the leading candidate and possible nominee is hated by the party establishment, actively running against the Party – and Party ideology – he hopes to represent. Yet this…
Nov 22, 2014
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore
With the elections finally behind us, our focus turns the hard work of governing – and the big question of what, if anything, will get done?With Republicans controlling Congress and a lame duck Democrat who’s surely thinking about his legacy in the White House, what will give? Or are we about to see gridlock so extreme that the last few years will look incredibly productive in comparison?It won’t take long to find out. With the President’s Executive Order to remake Immigration in America – and with Republican vows to override – the first battle is on. What’s next? Where are we headed? And is it all really just about 2016?To help us understand: Jim Gilmore, Founder of Growth PAC. Of course, among many other roles, he’s also former Attorney General and Governor of Virginia and former chair of the Republican National Committee…
Nov 1, 2014
David King, Harvard Kennedy School
Midterms 2014 are just around the corner, and for Repubicans it seems the voting can’t come soon enough. State by state, poll by poll, the GOP appears to pick up steam by the day. They can taste Senate control.Are the appearances true? Might there even be a Republican wave? Which key races – in the Senate and the House – should we make sure to watch?David King is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He directed the Task Force on Election Administration for the National Commission on Election Reform following the 2000 presidential elections and recently hosted a conversation on the upcoming Midterms…
Oct 23, 2014
Larry Sabato, Center for Politics at the University of Virginia
It’s almost time – Election Day 2014, Midterm style is less than two weeks away. We can see the finish line from here – unless, that is, the finish line gets moved.With Republicans seeming more and more likely to take Senate control, could this election instead go into overtime? With possible runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana, recounts in close races, vote count challenges in states like Alaska, decisions by independent candidates on who they will caucus with… Could control of the Senate hang in the balance until January?To know the answer for sure, you’d really need a crystal ball… which, of course, is just what we have for you today.Larry Sabato is University of Virginia Professor of Politics and director of their Center for Politics. He is also Editor in Chief of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the must-read, detailed analysis for elections across the country…
Oct 16, 2014
Charlie Cook, The Cook Political Report
We’re proud to have as our guest today – our sponsor, Charlie Cook, Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report and Columnist for the National Journal.Few follow the ins and outs of political campaigns more closely than Cook and his team of reporters and editors. And with less than three weeks to go before the new "most important election of our lifetimes," they’re tracking all the key races and trends – in particular, who will take control of the U.S. Senate.
Oct 9, 2014
Stan Greenberg, Democratic pollster
With less than a month to go, the question that’s been at the center of the midterm elections continues to be the big unknown: Who will take control of the Senate.We know that stats: 36 races are on the ballots; to takeover control, Republicans need a net gain of 6. And the closer we get, the more the contest seems to be coming down to just 4 or 5 key states.As listeners of this podcast know, most predictions show probabilities leaning toward a Republican win. Of course, a few notable exceptions exist.And now a new one: the Women’s Voices Women’s Vote Action Fund and Democracy Corp teamed up to look at the Senate races. Their finding: For the first time in this election cycle, movement across a “range of indicators that suggest the Democrats are more likely to hold control of the U.S. Senate than not.”The survey was conducted by Stan Greenberg, longtime Democratic pollster, Polling adviser to President Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Nelson Mandela, among many others; CEO of Greenb…
Oct 3, 2014
Jules Witcover, author of "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power"
Is there any office in American politics with simultaneously more and less power than the Vice Presidency?Indeed, there may be no phrase in American politics that carries more unspoken meanings than “A heartbeat away.” It’s been used to create fear and doubt, as well as confidence and sure-handedness. It’s both an insult and an honor – the burden and opportunity that comes with attaining our nation’s second-highest office.In recent campaigns, the office has taken on incredible – even outsized – importance. From the Veepstakes watches that dominate coverage for months to the nominees themselves -- Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle; Al Gore and Jack Kemp; Sarah Palin and Joe Biden – the vice president’s role today carries unquestioned importance.But this wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, the vice presidency was a laughing stock, a place to hide people, placate others and at times, just plain disappear. What changed?Jules Witcover is the famed syndicated political…
Sep 24, 2014
Sam Wang, Founder of Princeton Election Consortium
It remains impossible to talk about the 2014 Midterms without turning immediately to the big question – the only question –which party will take Senate Control? And who are we to fight that power?So while we wait 6 weeks for actual results, we turn instead to predictive analysis –deep dives into dozens of race-by-race polls that seem to be released hourly. What do they show? How many seats are truly still in play? Where should we focus attention, and within that focus, what should we be looking for. And most simply, can’t anyone just tell us who’s going to win?Sam Wang is an Associate professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is also founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, where he publishes one of the most-watched polling models around. Sam’s model has come under some scrutiny this election season, as it’s been one of the few models consistently predicting that the Democrats will retain the Senate. What does Wang know that the rest…
Sep 17, 2014
Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight
As we make our way towards the first Tuesday in November, a highly-watched, always-debated component of American politics is ready to take it’s place center stage: Statistical models.These models, which connect and weight a range of ever-changing data, have replaced the simple “who will win by how many points” projections. And with Senate control both still undetermined and central to our political future, understanding these models is key.And, of course, none of these models is better known or more anticipated than Nate Silver’s.Nate Silver almost single-handedly brought the art and science of political statistical modeling in our cultural mainstream. He is founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight…
Sep 10, 2014
Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark, authors of "Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs and Washington Handshakes"
Every topic has its own slang, it’s own lingua franca. From football’s NFL stadiums to academia’s ivory towers to California’s beaches, every niche these days maintains a coded language of its own.To really understand these niches – to be clear on what’s behind the headlines, what people are really saying, what’s really going on – you need to speak the language. And if you don’t speak the language, you better have the right dictionary.Politics, of course, is no different. Here, “deep regret” is something you express only when you feel no remorse. “Bomb throwers” are celebrated, but “bridge builders” are sellouts. And the last thing you want to be is someone’s “good friend.”To help us navigate the doublespeak and double-dealing that define the language of politics: Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark. McCutcheon is co-author of National Journal’s Almanac of American Politics and co-editor of CQ’s Politics in America 2010. Mark is Editor in Chief of Po…
Sep 5, 2014
John Avlon, Editor in Chief of The Daily Beast, author of "Wingnuts"
Finally, summer is over! The relaxation, beach vacations and barbecues are finally behind us and in this post-Labor Day glow, Americans can focus on our prime national sport – the one with the late hits, flagrant fouls and crazy fanatics.Of course, I mean politics.And while this glorious season brings out the political junkies, it also brings out the political crazies. The extremists who have spent their time since the last election cycle tearing down the governments we elected and creating the conflict that makes politics a full-contact sport.As we speed into final lap of Midterms 2014, where do we stand? What is the state of our political debate? With President Obama’s approval ratings continuing to flounder – and with Senate control still an open question – what role might political extremism have on our campaigns and results?Few follow process and the politics more closely than John Avlon. He’s editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, a CNN contributor, and the author of multi…
Jul 28, 2014
John Dean, author of The Nixon Defense
In little more than a week, we’ll mark 40 years since one of the darkest days in American politics, government and culture – 40 years since President Richard Nixon resigned our nation’s highest office.Much has been written and reviewed about Watergate. So much that there would seem little room for anything new.But there is.John Dean played a key role in the Watergate tale. He served as counsel to the President during that time, and while he did not know of the break-in when it occurred nor of White House involvement for many months later, he found himself – perhaps unwittingly – becoming a central player in what he calls The Nixon Defense.In the last years, Dean listened to and transcribed the primary Watergate source material: Nixon’s own White House recordings. Incredibly, many of these conversations have never been transcribed, cataloged and examined. That’s what Dean has done, and in the process – he says – connected the dots between what we believe about Watergat…
Jul 22, 2014
It’s time to review what may become the most important words in the 2014 Midterm and 2016 Presidential campaigns. These words are not immigration or gun control or employment. They’re neither liberal or conservative The most important words just may be microtargeting. Data mining. Analytics. That’s because the science of campaigning is hitting an all new level. Not only can politicians and campaigns target you through direct mail and online – through websites, social media, blogs and more. They are now combining data about what you buy, wear and read with television – yes, what you watch. And not just which channel, but which show: Every click you make. And while big brother can’t connect all of this data down to you personally – at least not as far as we know – the science of campaigning is innovating at record speed. What does this mean for the future of campaigns and voter turnout? How exactly will politicians deliver the right messages to the right voters at the…
Jul 17, 2014
Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle
Is political courage dead? The question gets asked a lot these days, most recently around President Obama and the immigration-border control disaster. Joe Klein of Time wrote what many of us feel: “True political courage is near extinct.” He continued: “Nowadays politicians are swaddled by their media consultants, who determine whether it is ‘safe’ to be ‘courageous.’”Of course, it’s not just immigration. Pick any issue – health care, gun control, voter ID laws – and the lack of political courage is astounding. And it’s taking its toll – as the public’s disapproval of government – Congress and the President – reaches all time highs.So today, a small but very bright example of political courage during times of very depressing headlines.Noam Bramson is the mayor of New Rochelle, NY. He recently put a personal confession on the top of his webpage. Bramson wrote about his own complicit silence in a recent city council meeting – silence when local residents…
Jul 3, 2014
Willy Jay on the Supreme Court term
It’s an annual summer event, as much a part of our American culture as a Fourth of July barbeque – often with its own set of fireworks: Another Supreme Court term ended. It’s time to make sense of the policies and the politics.Important and intriguing decisions and alliances again this year: Birth Control and Obamacare; Privacy, police searches and cell phones; abortion protests; campaign finance regulations and more. We also may have seen a changing Court, with some two-thirds of all decisions coming by unanimous decision.How should we think about that compromise? Does the Supreme Court provide the so-called bi-partisanship our other branches brutally lack? How should we think about the policies – what’s the real impact of these decisions on our daily lives? And what about the politics? Many decisions went directly against President Obama’s priorities. What effect could there be on Midterm voting?Willy Jay has served as an Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, clerk to…
Jun 27, 2014
Carroll Doherty, Pew Research Center
It’s no shock, of course, that we live in polarized times. Even with no empirical evidence, everything seems to feel more ideological and divided than it has in many of our lifetimes. So is that true? And if so, is there a way out?Well, we now have a major set of data, and they don’t look so great. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press recently released the first of multiple reports on the “Political Polarization in the American Public.” And sadly the results may be more discouraging than we thought. From how polarization manifests itself in our personal lives to its effects on policymaking to the way it shows up even in our political participation, the numbers are telling.And now today, the second report covering political typography. This report looks beyond Red vs. Blue divisions to gain a clearer understanding of the dynamic nature of the “center” of the American electorate, and the internal divides on both the left and the right. It also comes with a qui…
Jun 25, 2014
David Wasserman, Cook Political Report
For anyone who thought Midterms 2014 was only about the Senate and which party will take control, we recently got our wakeup call. Congress has another chamber, as well.You may have heard: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary race to a Randolph-Macon College Economics Professor, David Brat. And since that shock – the first primary challenger to beat a sitting House Majority Leader since the position began in 1899 – the questions, politics and outlook for this season have all changed.Should we be paying more attention to the House? Should we be paying more attention to the Tea Party? What can one Congressional District in Northeastern Virginia tell us about voter anger in America and voter action as November elections arrive?David Wasserman is U.S. House editor for the must-read Cook Political Report. He has also worked on numerous political campaigns, including in Iowa, South Dakota, and Virginia.
Jun 20, 2014
Doug Schoen, Democratic pollster
Today’s issue, who’s running harder against President Obama – Republicans or Democrats? The question is only partly exaggerated. From criticism on “who lost Iraq” to the handling of the Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange to even the environment. And, of course, there’s always Obamacare. So how legitimate is this criticism? Is President Obama – and his low approval ratings in various key states – weighing down the team? Should Democrats be more constructive and supportive of their chief? Doug Schoen is one of the most influential Democratic campaign consultants for over thirty years. He served as a political adviser and pollster for President Bill Clinton from 1994-2000, and has worked with mayors, governors and heads of state in more than 15 countries. He is a founding partner and principle strategist for Penn, Schoen & Berland and widely recognized as one of the co-inventors of overnight polling.
Jun 19, 2014
Philip Howard, author of "The Rule of Nobody"
For anyone who looks at our government today and says, “Everything seems great to me. No room for improvement here,” well, today’s conversation is not for you.Now that that person has stopped listening, here’s what the rest of America can learn from today’s talk: The problem is even worse that you thought. While most discussion on fixing government deals with the politics and the posturing, we instead might want to focus on something much more difficult to fix: Nobody is actually in charge. A mountain of overlapping, contradictory and often unnecessary laws, regulations, oversight committees and more seem designed specifically to block responsibility and accountability – and ensure the status quo.So how did we get here? How can we get out? And where is the leadership?Few think about the need to simplify and clarify American government, policies and laws more than Philip K. Howard: Lawyer, author and thoughtful critic of the areas of our political system many others seem to…
Jun 13, 2014
Ken Vogel, author of Big Money
At first glance, today’s conversation might seem as surprising as dog bites man: Money has taken over our political process. I know – not a shocker. But what if I told you that, quite possibly, our next President will be chosen by 5 or 6 of the richest people in America? Or a dozen? Certainly no more than 100?It’s hardly an exaggeration. From the historic growth of PACs to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through now the increasing mega-wealth of the top .01 percent, the role of the super rich in politics has grown exponentially. Control of America’s future has shifted from political parties to power players – individuals who bankroll campaigns and collect politicians like sports franchise. And this is no fantasy league.What does this shift in money and influence mean for our political future? Who are these individuals and what are they doing to our democracy?While you may know some of the names – Koch or Adelson or Soros or Katzenberg – you likely don…
Jun 8, 2014
Joe Lockhart, former White House Press Secretary
The White House recently announced a change at the top. Not the very top, of course, but as head of the Press Office. Jay Carney is stepping down; Josh Earnest is stepping up.The White House Press Secretary is, quite often, America’s face to the world. And speaking for the President, sometimes several times a day, the Press Secretary faces many masters – the Commander in Chief, the media, and of course, the American people.So how to balance the competing pressures: For example, protecting information responsibly vs. the public’s right to know? Particularly in these highly partisan times – with POW swaps, VA scandals, Midterms, Obamacare fights and more – how do you balance policy with politics?Few in the role had to walk that line more regularly Joe Lockhart, who served as President Clinton’s Press Secretary. Today he is a Founding Partner and Managing Director of The Glover Park Group, which offers media, communications and political strategy to global corporations and non…
Jun 5, 2014
Nate Cohn, The Upshot/New York Times
Forget the Koch Brothers or Super PACs or even President. The most-watched player in the 2014 Midterms just might be a computer program called LEO.LEO is the always-on, data-crunching, poll-adjusting Senate forecasting model used by the New York Times. Each day LEO takes the latest polls and historical data from around the country, blends in other information like fundraising and national polling, and then simulates all 36 Senate races – 250,000 times. And from that, each day LEO speaks about which party will win the Midterm’s grand prize – U.S. Senate control.So following several big weeks of primary voting, what does LEO have to say… and why should we believe it?Nate Cohn is a reporter at the New York Times’ new hot spot – The Upshot – where he covers elections, polling and demographics…
Jun 3, 2014
Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary
Throughout American history, the balance of faith and politics has helped define who we are. And that definition hasn’t always been totally clear.Examples of extreme positives and negatives have dominated our headlines – from the clergy’s role in driving the Civil Rights Movement to the abortion wars that have ended in murder in the name of faith to today’s debates on same sex marriage.The Constitution addresses the topic in Articles 1 and 6. Thomas Jefferson addressed it with his phrase noting “the separation of church and state.” Candidates today continue to address it, from the far left to the Tea Party right.So what is the proper role of faith in politics and government? Where should the balance sit? Will we ever reach a place of common ground – indeed, should we ever reach a place of common ground?Few have thought about these questions more than Mike McCurry. We all know him, of course, as President Bill Clinton’s White House Press Secretary. Today, in addition to…
May 29, 2014
Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent at the New York Times
You think it’s hard to manage your life? Your schedule runs at the mercy of your boss or your clients or spouse or kids… Well, I’m pretty confident your life is smooth sailing compared to today’s guest.Michael D. Shear is White House Correspondent at the New York Times. In other words, when the most powerful person in the world decides to go to Hawaii or Capitol Hill or Afghanistan or the Washington, D.C. streets to buy a hot dog, you’ve got to be ready to drop everything and go. The tradeoff, of course, is spectacular – a front row seat to history, getting to know the President’s personality and, to some extent, his thinking.What’s that tradeoff like? What does life become when you cover the President – particularly this President. And from the VA scandal to CIA name leaks to Obamacare to Midterms, given the front-row vantage point, what can we learn about some of the major issues and politics facing the White House today?
May 29, 2014
Jonathan Alter, executive producer of Alpha House
It’s no secret that trust in government and politicians continues to chill. From a recent Harvard poll of Millennials to earlier surveys of older voters, the question for Midterms 2014 may not be whom do we trust, but do we trust at all?But as our trust in real life politics may fall, our delight in fictional politics – hit television shows and other video programming – continues to rise. Is there a connection? And if so, what might that connection – and the role of trust – play not just for Midterms this year, but as our voting focus soon turns to 2016.Few think, write, speak and executive produce more about these issues – and in more forms of media – than Jonathan Alter. He has been an Award-winning author, reporter, columnist and television analyst. Three of those books became New York Times bestsellers, most recently: "The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.” And now he is an executive producer of "Alpha House," a political comedy created by Garry Trudeau and starr…
May 23, 2014
Jon Ralston, Ralston Reports
As the battle for US Senate control continues to dominate Midterms 2014, perhaps the most influential and controversial senator in the process is not even running.It’s hardly an exaggeration that Majority Leader Harry Reid is the key Senate player in the races – spoken and unspoken. Whether it’s a Republican candidate running against his name or a Democrat benefitting from Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, he seems to be everywhere.So how much power does Harry Reid have? He’s not known as a great campaigner, and after barely holding on to his seat in 2010, how much confidence can he have going forward? And what about race for Nevada Governor, which might be less about the governor’s mansion and more about setting up Reid’s next major challenge. After all, Reid’s reelection campaigns have been no sure bet.The closest thing to a sure bet in Nevada is a political report from Jon Ralston, creator of the eponymously named Ralston Reports, which is both his nightly television polit…
May 21, 2014
John Della Volpe, Harvard Institute of Politics
With key Senate battles in multiple states, and both parties looking to build 2016 momentum, for Midterms this year, the old line is true: Every vote will count.So here’s some bad news for candidates who might be depending on young voters for victory: Don’t count on it.A prediction of low voter turnout is just one finding from the always revealing Millennials Poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government. Why might Millennials stay away? What’s their view of Obama? And who’s more enthusiastic – young Republicans or Democrats?The results might surprise you, which is why John Della Volpe is here to help us understand. John is the Institute of Politics’ Director of Polling, and he oversaw the Millennials survey. He’s also Founder and CEO of Social Sphere, where he helps direct polling for Politico among other duties, and finally he’s an Eisenhower Fellow and father of 3 Millennials, so we know he knows what he’s talking about.
May 17, 2014
Susan Demas, Inside Michigan Politics
It’s been more than a year since Michigan’s six-term U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced he was calling it quits. Like other Democrats, Levin made his decision early – giving his party the chance to choose its best candidate and build a big lead.While they might have their candidate, Michigan Democrats don’t have a big lead – if any lead at all.As the battle for U.S. Senate shapes up as the Midterm 2014 big prize, we travel to Michigan. With the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy and new and lower tax revenue projections, voters there are likely more focused on a balanced budget than a balanced Congress. Combined with a compelling governor’s race, an unbelievable blunder by a 25-term U.S. Congressman, and the retirement of a 29-term U.S. Congressman, Michigan becomes a key place to visit.And if you want to go inside Michigan, you go to Inside Michigan Politics, the must-read report that analyzes the Wolverine state’s politics and policy. Susan Demas is publisher and e…
May 13, 2014
Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News
As we continue our state by state deep dives, whaddya say we mess with Texas?In a place known for big personalities – big everything, really – this year is no exception.Of course, this year the eyes of Texas – and eyes in many other parts of the country – are on the Governor’s race. That’s where Democrats – with filibustering state senator Wendy Davis thought they had their best chance in 20 years to win back the Austin mansion. But with rising biography questions and lower-than-hoped-for poll numbers, can that chance become reality?Elsewhere, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is the state’s most popular politician; the state might give us two Republican Presidential candidates; and wouldn’t you know it, a Bush Republican is running for statewide office.But with immigration fights and Tea Party battles, could state Republicans overreach? And what can and should Democrats do to mount a Texas-sized comeback?Few follow Texas politics more closely than Wayne Slater, Senior politic…
May 9, 2014
Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa
If there’s one state where politics never turns off, it’s Iowa. And while preparations for the next Iowa Caucus seem to start the day the current Caucus ends, there is, perhaps, a more interesting new development on the Iowa horizon – for the first time since 1984, the state is about to elect a new Senator.With Sen. Tom Harkin’s decision not to run for a sixth term, Iowa is suddenly another key player in the biggest theme of Midterm 2014 – the battle for U.S. Senate control. How is the state leaning? Could the seat actually be up for grabs? And who will represent Republicans: A pig-castrating, gun-range visiting state senator or a former Fortune 500 CEO who has returned to his home state to try and steal a victory?Few follow Iowa politics more closely than Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson, who, as her bio points out, was born on Election Day.
May 6, 2014
Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times
As we continue our deep dives into Midterm 2014 key states, we visit a place where the focus is not on the Senate, but on the Governor’s mansion. It’s also been at the center of every Presidential race since 2000, and 2016 is no different. In fact, the state may offer up not one, but two potential major candidates.Of course, we’re traveling to Florida, where the upcoming governor’s battle not only will set the state’s political tone, but also party momentum for a place certain to play a central role in 2016. Will Jeb run? Will Marco? And could either of them beat Hillary?Helping us understand the players and the politics – Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times political editor. He’s been named the best political writer in Florida by washingtonpost.com and one of the country's Top 10 political reporters by the Columbia Journalism Review.
May 2, 2014
Elizabeth Wilner, Kantar Media Ad Intelligence
There are two sporting events where the advertisements are watched as closely as the game itself – and we’re not talking today about the Super Bowl.We’re talking politics, and if you think it’s too early in the Midterm 2014 season to pay attention to the advertising, well then, you haven’t been paying attention.With key battles in multiple states, Senate control in question, and a flood of outside money already in the system, have we gone too far too quickly? At what point do voters tune out the noise? And what trends – placement, tone, frequency – might we expect to see from campaigns going forward?Few analyze, think or write about the political ad space more clearly than Elizabeth Wilner. She’s Senior Vice President of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence with oversight of its Campaign Media Analysis Group; Contributing Editor of The Cook Political Report; and former Political Director of NBC News.
Apr 29, 2014
John Maginnis, LAPolitics.com
On our next stop of deep dives into key states for Midterm 2014 – Louisiana. To put it mildly, there’s always something colorful going on there.At the moment, highlights include a kissing Congressman stepping down, a former imprisoned Governor stepping up, and, of course, one of the most closely watched races in the battle for Senate control. Throw in key issues like Energy, the Coastal Cleanup, Health Care, and more, and Louisiana becomes an incredibly important and obvious place for us to visit.Our host on the Bayou – John Maginnis, longtime political reporter and author. Currently he’s Publisher of the must-read LAPolitics.com.
Apr 25, 2014
Geoff Garin, Democratic pollster at Hart Research
Geoff Garin has served as one of the most prominent Democratic pollsters of our generation. As President of Hart Research Associates, Garin has led research for nearly every leading policy, health care, education group in the world, including the United Nations and my alma mater, the University of California. He’s also polled for candidates at virtually every level of government – including serving as Chief Strategist for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Today, Midterms are heating up. New polls show the fight for Senate control is close to a toss-up; the South remains up for grabs; and if most Democrats are waiting to hear whether Hillary will run in 2016, new questions around whether that’s the right strategy.Few know more about designing and executing political strategy than Geoff Garin.