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The Axe Files with David Axelrod
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The Axe Files with David Axelrod

Author: The Institute of Politics & CNN

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David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and CNN bring you The Axe Files, a series of revealing interviews with key figures in the political world. Go beyond the soundbites and get to know some of the most interesting players in politics.
371 Episodes
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This week, we revisit our November 2016 conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She joins David to talk about why storytelling is important in politics, the qualities that make a great leader — particularly during trying times — what she learned from studying our nation's greatest leaders, and more.
Ep. 378 — Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Ep. 378 — Dr. Sanjay Gupta

2020-04-0201:02:372

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon, professor, and the Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. He joins David to share his insights into the present crisis, his assessment of the government’s response to COVID-19, and what steps we can take to mitigate the long-term effects of the pandemic. Dr. Gupta and David also discuss his remarkable personal story—including his foray into journalism, how difficult it is to deliver bad news as a doctor, and whether he thinks universal healthcare is compatible with high-quality care.
Ep. 377 — Gerald Butts

Ep. 377 — Gerald Butts

2020-03-3001:13:291

Gerald Butts is the former chief adviser and strategist to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He joins David to talk about the early friendship he forged with Trudeau as college debate partners, what he believes it takes to run a successful national campaign, the state of U.S.-Canadian relations in the age of Trump, and his efforts to combat climate change.
Ep. 376 — Ron Klain

Ep. 376 — Ron Klain

2020-03-2354:132

Ron Klain is the former Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden and served as the Ebola Response Coordinator in 2014 under President Obama. He joins David to talk about the COVID-19 crisis: relevant lessons he learned from managing the Ebola epidemic, his assessment of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, and what we can do to mitigate the coronavirus’ long-term impact. He also shares his take on the 2020 campaign and why he believes his longtime boss, Joe Biden – whose campaign he is advising – is uniquely equipped to handle the politics of the moment.
Denis McDonough is the former White House Chief of Staff and former Deputy National Security Advisor under President Barack Obama. As the world faces the reality of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, he joins David to discuss what it’s like to be in the White House in times of crisis, the steps the Obama White House took to quell public health emergencies like H1N1 and Ebola, and shares his assessment of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) joins David to discuss her career as a CIA operations officer and federal law enforcement agent, the series of events that drove her to run for public office in 2018, and why she ultimately chose to support the impeachment of President Trump. She also weighs in on what having Sen. Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee would mean for her reelection campaign, what it is like to be a member of Congress in a polarized environment, and more.
Ep. 373 — Andrew Gillum

Ep. 373 — Andrew Gillum

2020-03-0501:02:313

Andrew Gillum is the former Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and the 2018 Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee. He joins David to talk about the state of the 2020 Democratic primary in the aftermath of Super Tuesday. The first in his family to graduate from high school and college, he shares the inspiring personal journey that led him to become the youngest person ever elected to Tallahassee’s City Commission. He and David also discuss his tenure as mayor, his run for governor, why he’s decided to turn his attention to voter registration efforts, and more.
Ep. 372 — Paul Krugman

Ep. 372 — Paul Krugman

2020-03-0201:04:145

Paul Krugman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. He joins David to talk about why he decided to pursue a career in economics, the qualities that make a great writer, his assessment of the Trump administration’s economic initiatives, and the way in which economics animates public policy in climate change, health care, and more.  His new book, Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future draws from his New York Times column to tackle misunderstandings on a wide range of topics — including health care, housing bubbles, tax reform, and Social Security.
Ep. 371 — Adam Frankel

Ep. 371 — Adam Frankel

2020-02-2456:331

Adam Frankel is a former senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama. He joins David to discuss his new memoir, “The Survivors: A Story of War, Inheritance, and Healing.” The book is a remarkable story of family secrets, intergenerational trauma, and the process of coming to terms with life-changing revelations. He and David also discuss his family’s legacy of public service, their shared experience working for Barack Obama, and more.
Ep. 370 — Abdul El-Sayed

Ep. 370 — Abdul El-Sayed

2020-02-2001:01:252

Abdul El-Sayed is a public health expert, former Health Commissioner of the City of Detroit, progressive activist, and former Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate. He joins David to talk about how his Egyptian-American heritage shaped his appreciation for democratic ideals and institutions, his career in medicine and what he learned as a practitioner, and why he supports Bernie Sanders’ progressive agenda. His forthcoming book, Healing Politics: A Doctor's Note on Treating the Insecurity Epidemic, diagnoses our country’s epidemic of insecurity and the empathy politics we need to treat it.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are Pulitzer-Prize winning authors and journalists. They join David for a live edition of The Axe Files to talk about how their families’ immigrant stories inform their own views, how lessons from their coverage of the Tiannamen Square protests may be relevant today, and how the threat of a rising China might push us to reevaluate our own economic system. They also discuss their new book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, which illustrates the present-day working class crisis marked by poverty, addiction, and suicide — and offer policy prescriptions to address institutional failures.
Ep. 368 — Rep. Adam Schiff

Ep. 368 — Rep. Adam Schiff

2020-02-1301:01:455

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and served as lead House manager in the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. He joins David to share his assessment of the impeachment proceedings and beyond: including why he believes the impeachment trial was worth the political risk; what, if anything, the process accomplished; the significance of Sen. Mitt Romney’s unprecedented vote; what Trump’s acquittal might mean for the future of democratic institutions; and more.
Michele Norris, former host of NPR’s All Things Considered, joins David to talk about how her family’s firsthand experience with housing discrimination shaped her world view, her struggle as a fledgling television reporter to overcome a speech impediment, her friendship with Michelle Obama, and how The Race Card Project — an initiative she founded in order to foster a wider conversation about race — might inform our politics today.
Ep. 366 — David Gergen

Ep. 366 — David Gergen

2020-02-0601:02:582

David Gergen is a former presidential adviser and CNN political commentator. He joins David to talk about how Trump’s State of the Union could shape his reelection chances, the electoral challenges Democrats face, and which Democratic hopeful’s message he likens to Obama’s and Carter’s. He draws on five decades of experience across four administrations — Democratic and Republican alike — to situate Trump’s leadership style in the context of his presidential predecessors and shares what he thinks it could mean for the future of democratic institutions.
Judd Apatow is a filmmaker, writer, and comedian. He joins David to talk about how his parents’ divorce helped fuel his interest in comedy, his struggles with anxiety at the height of his career, the psychology behind Trump’s political prowess, how Hollywood culture parallels that of Washington, and much more.
Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch are the co-founders of Fusion GPS, the private research firm behind the Steele “Trump-Russia” dossier. Simpson and Fritsch join David to discuss their joint roots as Wall Street Journal reporters, how the research skills they developed as journalists translated to careers in private investigative work, how they met Christopher Steele and the formulation of the Steele Dossier, and what they learned about Donald Trump following a private investigation of then-candidate Trump. Their new book, Crime in Progress, takes readers inside the firm’s four-year-long investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia ties—culminating in what became known as the Steele dossier.
Ep. 363 — John Heilemann

Ep. 363 — John Heilemann

2020-01-2701:02:581

John Heilemann is a journalist, author, television commentator, editor-in-chief of The Recount, and host of Showtime’s The Circus. He joins David fresh from a swing through Iowa to share his assessment of the leading Democratic candidates, what he thinks matters most to voters in Iowa, why he believes Trump is politically underestimated, and whether or not impeachment will impact Trump in 2020.
Ep. 362 — Heather McGhee

Ep. 362 — Heather McGhee

2019-12-3001:02:143

Heather McGhee is the former president of Demos, a non-profit progressive think tank devoted to racial justice. She joins David to talk about her upbringing in the South Side of Chicago, the evolution of race relations in the United States, the weaponization of race in present-day politics, and the future of inequality in America.
Ep. 361 — Sarah Hurwitz

Ep. 361 — Sarah Hurwitz

2019-12-2301:00:292

Sarah Hurwitz, former head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama and senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama, joins David to discuss her early career in politics, the art of speechwriting, and the spiritual journey that culminated in her new book: Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life-- in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There).
Ep. 360 – Richard Stengel

Ep. 360 – Richard Stengel

2019-12-1601:04:58

Richard Stengel is the former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former managing editor of Time. He joins David to talk about his collaboration with Nelson Mandela on Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom; his tenure at the helm of Time, during which he interviewed Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mohamed Morsi, and Julian Assange; and his efforts in the Obama administration to combat disinformation. His new book, Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It chronicles the global spread of disinformation and offers prescriptions on how to combat this ever-growing threat to democracy.
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Comments (10)

Paul Sorensen

This interview with Andrew Gillum is so uplifting and eye opening. I hope he gets a chance to become part of the 46th president's Whitehouse. His kind of innovative thinking is really needed. Thanks David Axelrod.

Mar 12th
Reply

Diane Grillo

Terrific episode! My head feels like a closet that needs organizing. Now you can enjoy a lighter moment trying to figure out what it is I'm trying to say! I firmly believe that Russia created the whole Vegas movement with Bernie just as they began the Trump movement. I don't know how they knew Americans were dumb enough to completely empty their refrigerators. Who in their right mind would want to implement a country changing system after 4 years of a madman deconstructing 200 years of American accomplishments? Why hasn't even one candidate spoken of the immediate need to rebuild our relationships around the world? Joe Biden is the man for that job. He is also the one with 40 years of fruendly DC relationships. We need to properly staff the WH, replace Ambassadors around the world, find and fix all the deregulations before we can't drink the water and we're all getting cancer from waste dumping again! And Bernie's concern is Medicare for all in a country of over 300 million that he compares to those with 20 million! He won't be doing anything if the Supreme Court is even ruling in a partisan manner. We all know the media is crucial for a Democrat to win and right now they are only helping Trump as they love pitting candidates against one another and appear in a bad light. A couple of negative Trump phrases to chant for the democratic mantra and we can brainwash the deplorables in a NY second

Feb 24th
Reply

Andy Weir

still a sore loser lol

Feb 16th
Reply

Fraser Scantlebury

An excellent interview - heard more about Yang's programs here then on any other podcast/news report. Thanks to David and the crew for making this interview available for free.

Dec 7th
Reply

fresh mannn

I want this person for President

Dec 7th
Reply

Andy Weir

sore loser

Mar 24th
Reply

John Michaels

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Dec 2nd
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Andres Fernandez G

excellent interview and exemplary carreer in the pursuit of understanding Russia

Jul 21st
Reply

heather lankford

I appreciate your honesty on the subject of suicide. I know first hand how tough it is to be part of this club.

Feb 5th
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