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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.
475 Episodes
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This week we’re bringing you an episode of CNN's Total Recall: California’s Political Circus. You probably remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California. But do you remember how it all happened? The blackouts, the budget and of course, the car tax! CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, takes you back to the origins of the 2003 California Recall and talks with Schwarzenegger and the man he beat, Gray Davis to learn why this election became such a circus. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 460 — Ken Burns

Ep. 460 — Ken Burns

2021-09-1601:01:481

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns can pinpoint the exact moment he knew he wanted to be a storyteller. After witnessing his father cry during a film, he understood the power of an impactful story. That, plus the tragic death of his mother which he calls the defining moment of his life, spurred a passion for storytelling that unearths the past and “wakes the dead.” He joined David to talk about his difficult upbringing, what he loves about history, why it’s impossible to disentangle race from his work, and his latest project exploring the life of boxer Muhammad Ali. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 459 — Clarissa Ward

Ep. 459 — Clarissa Ward

2021-09-0901:05:324

Twenty years ago, as Clarissa Ward watched the 9/11 attacks unfold on television, she experienced a profound sense of shock and shame that she did not have a better grasp on what was happening in the world. In that moment she felt compelled to pursue journalism in order to bring to life the shared human experience, and since then she has reported from the front lines of conflict zones around the world. Ward, who is CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, joined David to talk about her childhood in the U.S. and London, the mental and emotional toll of covering conflict, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and how the events of 9/11 shaped her life, America, and the world. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
After a behind-the-scenes career in the military that led to the National Security Council, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman found himself thrust into the spotlight as a key witness in the first impeachment trial of President Trump. He joined David to talk about his family history and childhood as an immigrant in New York, his thoughts on the Afghanistan withdrawal and Afghan refugees coming to America, Trump and his relationship with Russia, and his new memoir, Here, Right Matters. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 457 — Dr. Leana Wen

Ep. 457 — Dr. Leana Wen

2021-08-2601:00:381

Dr. Leana Wen has become a leading voice offering straightforward guidance on the Covid-19 pandemic, but her journey to professional prominence was anything but simple. Her family left China—where her father was frequently jailed as a political dissident—when she was a child, arriving in the US with just $40 in their possession. She joined David to discuss the incredible story of her family’s journey to America and the struggles they faced once in the country, her roles as a physician and health advocate, what she believes is the last and best hope to get people vaccinated against Covid-19 and her new book, Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Shortly after coming to America, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi’s family hit a financial rough patch. For a time, the family lived in public housing and relied on food stamps, a boost that instilled in Rep. Krishnamoorthi a lifelong appreciation for the US government and a desire to give back. He joined David to talk about what he sees as the US’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, his journey from engineering student to US Congressman and how the job has grown more dangerous in the past few years. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Journalist Anne Applebaum began her career as a stringer in Poland in the late 1980s reporting on the fall of communism, an assignment that led her to drive to Germany when she heard the Berlin Wall was coming down. She has written extensively on the former Soviet Union while becoming a prominent conservative journalist in the U.S., U.K. and Poland. She joined David to talk about how her early exposure to authoritarian governments shaped her political ideology, how autocratic leaders create alternate realities and manipulate institutions to retain power, and her recent book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 454 — Amy Walter

Ep. 454 — Amy Walter

2021-08-0559:302

Cook Political Report editor-in-chief and publisher Amy Walter grew up in a bipartisan household. Her mother was a Democrat, and her father was a Republican, a dynamic that her mother said primed Amy for a career in political journalism. Amy joined David to talk about running a contentious congressional campaign at just 25 years old, the importance of approaching interviews with empathy and curiosity, diminished trust in American institutions, and what—if anything—the Ohio special election results mean for the future of the Democratic Party.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
With the Tokyo Olympics under way, we revisit a conversation from 2020 with Megan Rapinoe, captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and Olympic gold medalist. At the time, Rapinoe was skeptical about the future of the 2020 games. Megan joined David to talk about growing up in a small conservative town, finding and forging her identity, her decorated soccer career and World Cup wins, and using her platform to engage in progressive activism: from LGBTQ and racial justice to equal pay, electoral politics, and more. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter says she has a fearless streak. This fearlessness gave her the confidence to walk into Gov. Mario Cuomo’s office asking for a job in her early twenties and to later successfully execute the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention during a pandemic. Stephanie joined David to talk about her upbringing in a small town in Massachusetts, her close relationship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, working for former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky period, and putting together President Joe Biden’s Emmy-nominated inauguration program. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
John Anzalone first met President Joe Biden while working as a field organizer in Iowa on Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign. Thirty-three years later, John was the top pollster for Biden’s 2020 campaign, this time watching as Biden secured the presidency. John joined David to talk about growing up in a working-class family in Michigan, how living away from Washington helps inform his work, the surprising way Covid-19 impacted the 2020 polls, and why he believes Biden is handing Democrats a strong platform heading into the 2022 midterms. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 451 — Ben Rhodes

Ep. 451 — Ben Rhodes

2021-07-0801:00:075

Ben Rhodes thought he wanted to pursue creative writing, but witnessing the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a graduate student at New York University altered his career path. He joined the 2008 Obama campaign as a speechwriter, eventually becoming deputy national security advisor for strategic communications in the Obama administration. He joined David to talk about how American foreign policy has shaped the world in the last 30 years, what he learned from traveling with Obama during and after his time in the White House, national identity, and his new book, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 450 — Nathan Law

Ep. 450 — Nathan Law

2021-07-0155:541

As an architect of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, Nathan Law first tried to keep his activism a secret from his mother. But before long she saw police arresting him at a protest on live television. Since then, Law has been elected to political office, served time in prison and fled to London where he has been granted asylum. He joined David to talk about his upbringing and path to disenchantment with Beijing, threats to democracy in Hong Kong and the US, and leaving behind his family and the city that he loves—possibly forever.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was picking up his dry cleaning in Brooklyn when he got a call from the Obama administration asking if he was interested in the job. He wavered at first, but realized it was the perfect blend of his healthcare nonprofit, advocacy and medical practice experiences. He is now on his second stint as America’s top doctor under President Biden. Dr. Murthy joined David to talk about his family’s immigration story, Covid-19 and his concerns over variants and vaccination rates, gun violence, emotional wellness and loneliness and designing a better post-pandemic future. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Growing up was a political affair for activist Cecile Richards. She spent time stuffing envelopes at her family’s dining room table and got in trouble in high school for protesting the Vietnam War. Her activism later propelled her to the position of president of Planned Parenthood, which she led for more than a decade. She joined David to talk about the ongoing fight for abortion rights as some states move to restrict access, what Democrats miss in talking to rural voters, her work with American Bridge, and whether she could see herself one day running for governor of New York. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
When Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was a little girl, she and her sister would spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons in the West Wing while their father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, served as Chief of Staff to President Ford. Rep. Cheney ultimately became a politician herself, rising to House GOP conference chair. She was removed from her leadership position in May after denouncing former President Trump’s repeated claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She joined David to talk about when she realized her position in Republican leadership was untenable, why she believes President Trump is dangerous to the GOP and the country as a whole, and why she still supports Dr. Anthony Fauci. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already faced a series of unprecedented crises during her almost four year tenure in the nation’s highest office. The young, progressive Prime Minister has led her country through a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic, successfully keeping case and death numbers low. From her rural and working-class childhood to her nation’s highest office, Prime Minister Ardern says her focus has always been on creating a more just society. She joined David to talk about her early introduction to politics, the difference between working with the Trump and Biden administrations, her government’s response to Covid-19, New Zealand’s relationship with China, and how she measures her success. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, much of Heather McTeer Toney’s life was tied to the environment, from food and agriculture to the levees holding back the Mississippi River. But it wasn’t until she was mayor of her hometown and working on a water issue that she realized the connection between climate and social justice. Heather is now senior adviser at Moms Clean Air Force, a group that works to protect children from air pollution and climate change, and climate justice liaison at the Environmental Defense Fund. She joined David to talk about her childhood steeped in the fight for civil rights, how climate and racial justice intersect, and why she believes fighting for voting rights is a vital component of climate activism. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 444 — Justin Amash

Ep. 444 — Justin Amash

2021-05-2001:08:292

Growing up as the son of a Palestinian refugee and a Syrian immigrant, former Rep. Justin Amash developed an early appreciation for the opportunities and freedoms America offered. His views on what power the government should have in limiting those freedoms crystalized after a Google search led him to libertarian thinkers and texts. As a Republican member of Congress following those libertarian principles, Amash sometimes found himself at odds with party leadership and eventually with President Trump. He joined David to talk about the value of immigrants of all backgrounds, how he believes US Congress operates as more of an oligarchy than a democracy, what he respects about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and why he’s unsettled by what he sees as the media’s lionization of Rep. Liz Cheney. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
Ep. 443 — Sally Yates

Ep. 443 — Sally Yates

2021-05-1301:00:022

Sally Yates was born into a family of lawyers. She followed suit, entering private practice before becoming a federal prosecutor, which began a 27 year career at the Department of Justice. As Deputy Attorney General during the Obama administration and then as Acting Attorney General just after President Trump took office, she was involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just ten days into her tenure as Acting Attorney General, Yates was fired by President Trump after refusing to enforce his travel ban on those from predominantly Muslim countries. She joined David to talk about the assault on truth and institutions, the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, voting rights, police reform, and her work advocating for mental health and suicide prevention. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit cnn.com/privacy
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Comments (14)

Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
Reply

Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
Reply

gary fowler

Great interview. I'm always impressed when a white American can be honest about white apathy/disinterest regarding equity in the US. it has always been obvious we who live outside of the US. Nothing will change until campaign finance, Citizens United and gerrymandering are corrected.

Jun 26th
Reply

Nellie Fly

The ragin Cajun. I could listen to him read the phone book.

May 8th
Reply (1)

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
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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
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fresh mannn

I want this person for President

Dec 7th
Reply

Andy Weir

sore loser

Mar 24th
Reply

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
Reply
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