David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, brings 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.
Monica Lewinsky has been many things: White House intern, media punching bag, writer, anti-bullying activist, and now, producer. She talked to David about her upbringing and her parents’ tumultuous divorce, her struggles with mental health following her affair with former President Bill Clinton, the dangers of social media, and how she took back control of her own story, most recently as a producer on “Impeachment: American Crime Story.”
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.
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 w…Show moreork, and his latest project exploring the life of boxer Muhammad Ali.
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…Show more 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.
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.
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…Show more 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.
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 year…Show mores.
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 alte…Show morernate realities and manipulate institutions to retain power, and her recent book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.
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 resul…Show morets mean for the future of the Democratic Party.
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, elec…Show moretoral politics, and more.