Political Wire Conversations







August 2016
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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 editor and a former news anchor for the PBS NewsHour, but he’s also written more than 20 books – fiction and non-fiction – along with some screenplays and plays. I’m telling you – check out his author page on Amazon. It’s really something.

Oh yeah – one other thing: You may not know, but as a journalist, Jim not only wouldn’t register with any party – he wouldn’t even vote. He said that was a personal choice – he didn’t feel every journalist had to do that, but that’s how he felt. So I asked him – will you vote now? His follow-ups to my question were a lot of fun.

Direct download: PWC_Jim_Lehrer_8_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:23am EDT

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?

Direct download: PWC_Taegan_Goddard_July.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49am EDT

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 presidential campaign history.” You can order it now at Amazon or your local bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.

What’s great about this conversation – and what’s genius about Dickerson’s podcast and his book – is that we’re constantly told that we’re at this “End of Political History” moment, this time where nothing that’s happened before matters and we can’t possibly make sense of today’s political realities.

Now some of that makes sense to me. I mean, it’s factual: Trump would be the first elected president with no political or military experience. Clinton, of course, is the first woman presidential nominee of a major party. We’ve never had a presidential nominee who tweets like Trump does. The list goes on.

So is there nothing to learn from the past? Is EVERYTHING about this election new ground? Personally, I doubt that, and Dickerson is a perfect person for that discussion.

It’s not just all of his current roles. Dickerson grew up in a house where politics and news were central – his mother, Nancy Dickerson, was TV News’ First Woman Star, as John wrote about in his outstanding memoir about his mother. This guy is an incredible source to help us try to make sense of this most incomprehensible election.

Direct download: PWC_John_Dickerson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:10pm EDT

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.  

Direct download: PWC_Van_Jones_w_close.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EDT

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.

Direct download: PWC_Josh_King.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:02pm EDT

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?

Direct download: Charlie_Cook_noted.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:02am EDT

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’s Political Wire. He spends the totality of his waking hours and many of his sleeping ones scouring political news of the day.

Direct download: PWC_Taegan_Goddard_4_12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:15am EDT

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 politicians’ manipulations – and why so many don’t seem to care. Shenkman is also Editor & Founder of the History News Network.

Direct download: PWC_Rick_Shenkman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:55pm EDT

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 Weekly Election Tracking poll. He, of course, is the original Mystery Pollster, and was co-founder of Pollster.com and previously served as Senior Polling Editor at The Huffington Post. He has worked for dozens of Democratic candidates running for office at various government levels.

Direct download: PWC_Mark_Blumenthal.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:01pm EDT

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 new planet may be exactly where the future of politics is headed. A place where the direct connection between candidate and voter has changed – and governs – everything.

So how did we get here? More importantly, where are we going?

To kick off our season and help us find answers, there’s no one better than my friend and Political Wire’s namesake, Taegan Goddard.

Direct download: PWC_Taegan_Goddard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09pm EDT