Political Wire Podcast






September 2014
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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 Watergate and what actually occurred. He has documented it all in a new book: “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It.”

Direct download: John_Dean_7-28-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19 PM

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 right time? And while it’s all surely fascinating, is it good?


Alex Lundry is one of the political world’s foremost campaign scientists. He served as Director of Data Science for Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. He is now co-founder of Deep Root Analytics and Chief Data Scientist at Target Point Consulting, helping define the vanguard and intersection of political and technical development…

Direct download: Alex_Lundry_7-21-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:46 PM

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 complained that they didn’t want a group home for 5 men with autism opened on their street. He wrote about his shame, and his now public stance in favor of the group home some of his very good and loyal constituents don’t want.

I guarantee the piece will move you and restore – if only for a moment – your faith that political courage may not have completely died.

Before we begin, my own confession: I am not the most objective person on this topic. Not only do I have a sister-in-law who lives in a similar type of assisted living home, but I’ve known Noam Bramson for more than 20 years. I’ve donated to his campaign. So has Taegan Goddard, publisher of Political Wire.

But I feel strongly that the sinking trust in government is a national crisis and small acts of political courage is a conversation worth having. And I’m confident, by the end of this conversation, so will you…

Direct download: Noam_Bramson.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:51 PM

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 Justice Antonin Scalia and special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has argued 11 cases before the Supreme Court and briefed hundreds more. He is now a partner in the Goodwin Proctor Litigation Department and a co-chair of its Appellate Litigation Practice.

Direct download: Willy_Jay_7-2-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50 AM

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 quiz, so you can determine with truthfulness where you fit in.

So how polarized are we? Is there room – a chance – for the so-called political compromise so many seek? What does the so-called “Center” actually look like?

Carroll Doherty is Director of Political Research, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and he’s here to tell us the answers.

Direct download: Caroll_Doherty_6-26-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:48 PM

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.

Direct download: David_Wasserman_6-24-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:50 PM

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.

Direct download: Doug_Schoen_6-20-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:14 PM

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 ignore. He is Founder & Chair of Common Good and his new book is “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government.”

Direct download: Philip_Howard_5-19-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:16 PM

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’t know them all.

Kenneth Vogel, however, does. Ken covers the confluence of money, politics and influence for Politico. He’s also author of the new must-read book “Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics.”

Direct download: Ken_Vogel_6-11-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02 PM

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-profits. He also served as Vice President of global communications for Facebook.

Direct download: Joe_Lockhart_6-4-14.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14 PM

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