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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.

616 Episodes
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Mayor Mike Duggan

Mayor Mike Duggan

2024-06-1301:02:08

From darkened streetlights and abandoned homes to pervasive graffiti and long waits for emergency services, Mayor Mike Duggan inherited a Detroit rife with problems, but also potential. Since he took office in 2014, Mayor Duggan has helmed a turnaround for the city, overseeing rising standards of living and significant economic growth. Mayor Duggan joined David at the newly re-opened Michigan Central to talk about the revitalization of Detroit, how Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer would fare as a presidential candidate, and the deeply felt ramifications of the Israel-Gaza war in his home state. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 582 - Leon Panetta

Ep. 582 - Leon Panetta

2024-06-0601:07:58

When Leon Panetta was growing up in Monterey, California, his Italian immigrant parents often invited soldiers training at nearby Fort Ord to holiday dinners before they shipped out to World War Two battlegrounds. Later, as Secretary of Defense, Panetta’s thoughts returned to those service members when deploying young men and women to war. He sat down with David to talk about his long political career, his thoughts on the war in Ukraine, the intelligence lapse around the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and what Israel is doing wrong in its fight against Hamas. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Bill Walton, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and former basketball announcer, died this week. David talked with Bill back in 2016 about leadership, what he learned playing for John Wooden at UCLA, how his back troubles nearly drove him to suicide, his love of the Grateful Dead, and much more. We revisit that conversation this week. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Originally built in just two weeks for $30,000, the White House Situation Room has been the nerve center during some of history’s most seismic events, from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. In his new book, “The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis,” George Stephanopoulos chronicles 60 years of American politics through spotlighting the historic room. George joined David onstage at the Chicago Humanities Festival to talk about his time working in the White House, how failed missions hashed out in the Situation Room informed future presidencies, and the responsibility of the media in covering Donald Trump in the 2024 election. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 580 — Jen Psaki

Ep. 580 — Jen Psaki

2024-05-1601:03:32

For former press secretary and current MSNBC anchor Jen Psaki, clear communication has long been a hallmark of her success, from door knocking in Iowa as a young campaign staffer to explaining to her kids why they should eat vegetables. With her new book, “Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World,” Psaki delves into what she’s learned about effective communication over the years. She joined David to talk about her book, the Biden administration’s messaging on the economy, how people are multilayered yet often caricatured, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the ongoing war in Gaza. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 579 — Cyrus Habib

Ep. 579 — Cyrus Habib

2024-05-0901:04:40

Cyrus Habib was a political rising star when he made the surprise announcement that he was leaving elected office to join the Catholic ministry. Cyrus lost his eyesight to cancer at 8 years old, but that didn’t stop him from collecting such accolades as degrees from Yale and Oxford and the role of Washington state lieutenant governor by the age of 35. While he valued helping those in need, he felt he could make a difference more authentically by removing the ego of political office and leaning into his faith. He joined David to talk about growing up as the son of Iranian immigrants and how his parents taught him his blindness was not his identity, interning for then-Senator Hillary Clinton following 9/11 and how it changed his outlook on public service, and deciding to convert to Catholicism and join the Jesuit order. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 578 — Frank Bruni

Ep. 578 — Frank Bruni

2024-05-0201:02:04

“Measuring misfortune is no strategy for living,” writes journalist Frank Bruni in his new book, “The Age of Grievance.” Yet, he says, we live in a culture obsessed with feeling victimized, searching for every micro-aggression, and leaning in to personal grievance as a sort of social currency. Frank joined David to talk about his book, the civic challenges posed by grievance, why Ron DeSantis is the most emblematic politician of our era, the need for political reform, protests on college campuses, and how to approach others with more grace and less judgement.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 577 — Ken Buck

Ep. 577 — Ken Buck

2024-04-2501:00:59

Former Rep. Ken Buck eludes simple classification. He grew up on the East Coast but says he felt more at home on his uncle’s Wyoming ranch as a kid. He is Princeton educated, but beelined for the Rocky Mountain West upon graduating. He is a former Freedom Caucus conservative who voted to certify the 2020 election and believes some of the charges against Donald Trump should be taken seriously. He resigned his seat in March 2024, citing the current dysfunction in Congress. Former Rep. Buck joined David to talk about his take on the Republican MAGA wing, Speaker Mike Johnson and how long he’ll hold his leadership role, attacks on the Department of Justice, his issues with the Affordable Care Act, and the importance of bipartisanship.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
According to Fareed Zakaria, we are living in an age of revolution, kindled by the converging factors of technological advancement, information proliferation, globalization, and cultural shifts. He joined David during a live taping of The Axe Files at the University Club of Chicago to talk about what he discovered in researching his new book, “Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present,” how past revolutions inform today, how the US electoral system magnifies polarization, the ways in which the ideas of left and right politics have changed, and his mixed feelings on the upcoming trials of former President Donald Trump.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi may have made history as the first woman elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, but she made her reputation as an effective leader with a knack for building consensus and pushing landmark legislation across the finish line. She joined David live at Arizona State University to talk about the political skills she learned from her father, her work to pass the Affordable Care Act, her unfavorable opinion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, why she wishes the Department of Justice would have moved faster on investigating January 6, 2021, and much more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sister Simone Campbell has never shied away from fighting for the underdog. Since childhood, she has looked for ways to assist those in need, a drive further fueled by the early loss of her sister to Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sister Simone joined David to talk about making a name for herself as an advocate for the Affordable Care Act, deciding to attend law school in addition to taking her vows as a Catholic nun, intertwining her faith with activism, and centering her faith in the present.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
This episode is a little different from the normal Axe Files. David sat down at Arizona State University with two legendary political strategists: Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s campaigns, and David Plouffe, David’s old partner and the brilliant manager behind the 2008 Barack Obama campaign. You can find their personal stories in past episodes of The Axe Files (Karl Rove episode #80, and David Plouffe episodes #43 and #418), but in this conversation, they talked about the Biden-Trump rematch, which they all agreed is the most unusual campaign of their lifetimes. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 572 — Chris Christie

Ep. 572 — Chris Christie

2024-03-2101:05:02

Eight years ago, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shook up the political world by dropping out of the race for president to endorse Donald Trump. Since the election of 2020 and the events that followed, including a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, Christie has become one of Trump’s fiercest critics and unsuccessfully challenged him in this year’s primary elections. He talked with David about the arc of his journey from ally and advisor to outspoken foe. He discusses their ruptured relationship and offers fascinating insights into the now-thrice-nominated Trump and his capture of the Republican Party. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
This week, we're revisiting a conversation from the early days of The Axe Files, way back in 2015, featuring Alastair Campbell. He served as the communications guru for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Campbell, a prolific author and speaker, shares poignant insights into his own struggles with mental illness, in addition to delving into political matters. They explore various topics, including the emerging candidacy of Donald Trump, who was embarking on his unlikely journey to the presidency at the time. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 571 – Michael Crow

Ep. 571 – Michael Crow

2024-03-0701:00:12

Last week, David sat down with Arizona State University’s celebrated president, Michael Crow. During their discussion, the two talked about Crow's remarkable personal journey, ASU's pioneering model for the new American public university, which emphasizes inclusivity in admissions and academic excellence, as well as innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the 21st century. They also delved into ASU's deep commitment to addressing local and global challenges, highlighting the university's significant impact on Arizona and beyond. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Last week, David sat down with Congressman Pete Aguilar of California, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic House Caucus and holds the distinction of being the highest-ranking Hispanic member in the U.S. House. They delved into Aguilar's remarkable personal journey, emblematic of the American dream, and addressed the gridlock gripping Congress, exacerbated by mounting crises concerning the budget, the border, and funding for Ukraine and Israel. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Ep. 569 — Bill Bradley

Ep. 569 — Bill Bradley

2024-02-2201:00:02

Bill Bradley stands as a rare figure, achieving Hall of Fame status in both sports and politics. As a former New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate, Bradley's impact on public life spans decades. Before his esteemed political career, he left an enduring legacy in college basketball, the Olympics, and as a vital member of the historic early '70s New York Knicks. Throughout both careers Bill Bradley earned a reputation for thoughtful reflection. David sat down will Bill this week to talk about his documentary, his life, and lessons learned along the way. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
For over four decades, Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning luminary renowned for his insightful columns in The New York Times and a friend of The Axe Files, has been a steadfast voice delving into the intricate tapestry of the Middle East. His profound understanding of the region's nuances is unparalleled, making him an invaluable ally in navigating its tumultuous landscape. As the harrowing conflict in Gaza persists, David thought it was time to sit down for some wisdom from his old friend. With the omnipresent specter of social media threats and the ever-evolving challenges of modern diplomacy, their conversation couldn't be timelier. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Many individuals have two jobs, but none quite like Raphael Warnock. On most weekdays, he patrols the halls of Congress as the Senior Senator from the state of Georgia. However, he also holds the position of senior pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Preaching from the same pulpit that his idol, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once graced—a man he shares much in common with. Last week, David sat down with Reverend Warnock, Senator Warnock, to discuss his extraordinary journey from the housing projects of Savannah to these esteemed positions, and how he utilizes his platform to further Dr. King's social justice mission. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Stephanie Murphy truly is a great American story. Born in Vietnam a few years after the war, she and her family fled tyranny and were rescued at sea by the U.S. Navy. Raised in a trailer park in Virginia, she worked her way through college and graduate school. Post 9/11, she became a young star at the Department of Defense, working as an analyst at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Later, she was elected to three terms in Congress where she stood out from the partisans, ideologues, and bloviators, earning a reputation as an earnest and incisive problem solver. In the end, however, Stephanie Murphy may be most remembered for her service on the fateful January 6th committee. She joined David to talk about all of this, and more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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Comments (23)

Wright Joel

"The Audit" boys absolutely torched you for your dumb master class with the war criminal Karl Rove. You're just another talking pinhead in it for the cash.

Apr 28th
Reply

Jennifer MacKinnon

what a liar and a phony! unbelievable. yeah, sure Trump said walking the corridors of the White House was "humbling" This man is a robot...so mind-numbing boring and dishonest.

Dec 12th
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Teddy

Enjoyed the interview. I have never been able to agree with Ms Cheney politics, but I do enjoy listening to her interviews. I know one thing, don't count her out.

Nov 1st
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Michael Brodie

An outstanding conversation

Sep 22nd
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Mae Arant

Never forgiven rabid Dems for not giving Franken the ethics investigation he deserved. There GOP hated Franken because he didn't play games and called them out directly every time - the Dems played right into their hands and we lost a great Senator.

Aug 25th
Reply

Jennifer MacKinnon

what a rat he was, no matter how he tries to tell it. a criminal.

Jul 17th
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Chip Brady

Why would you want the waste your time and your listeners time with an interview of someone who is the embodiment of "alternative facts".

Jun 30th
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Roland Riopelle

Loved it! Two smart guys talking through the world's intractable problems!

Feb 7th
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Karluigi Marie

Fantastic episode! I really enjoyed listening to Fiona Hills knowledge and experience.

Nov 11th
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Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
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Sherry Chase

0

Oct 25th
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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
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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
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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 com

Feb 24th
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Andy Weir

still a sore loser lol

Feb 16th
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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
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Andy Weir

sore loser

Mar 24th
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Andres Fernandez G

excellent interview and exemplary carreer in the pursuit of understanding Russia

Jul 21st
Reply