The Axe Files with David Axelrod
The Axe Files with David Axelrod
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.
Ep. 416 — Mandy Patinkin
Mandy Patinkin may be a well-known, award-winning actor and singer on the big screen and stage, but these days he’s trying out a new medium: social media. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mandy has been uploading videos ranging from heartfelt moments with his wife, writer and actress Kathryn Grody, to political messages encouraging people to vote for Joe Biden. He joined David to talk about growing up enmeshed in the Chicago Jewish community, his love for acting even as he wrestled with being a perfectionist, and what his role in Homeland taught him about the patriotism of the US intelligence community To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 29
1 hr 6 min
Ep. 415 — Nina Totenberg
As a young reporter, Nina Totenberg once got a tip about a robbery underway at the local bank. When she called the bank to confirm, one of the burglars answered the phone. Her career has since taken her from covering misguided crimes to reporting on the country’s highest court. Nina joined National Public Radio in 1975 as a legal affairs correspondent and has covered the Supreme Court ever since. She joined David to talk about her journey as a reporter, the evolution of the court over the years, and her friendship with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.   To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 26
1 hr 6 min
Ep. 414 — Susan Page
As a high school senior facing college applications, Susan Page had a choice to make. Should she follow her passion for playing the oboe and go to music school? Or should she allow her love of journalism to guide her? In the end, journalism won, and Susan soon found herself away from her home state of Kansas for the first time as a freshman at Northwestern University. Now the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, Susan has covered six administrations and 11 presidential elections. She spoke with David about how the media can rebuild public trust, what it’s like to cover the most powerful politicians in the country and her recent experience as moderator of the 2020 vice presidential debate.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 22
1 hr 5 min
Ep. 413 — Peter Baker and Susan Glasser
Journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser met while working together at The Washington Post. While they spent long hours together in the newsroom investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal, they didn’t realize they lived on the same block until a colleague pointed out the coincidence. Today, Baker—who famously doesn’t vote for the sake of objectivity—covers the White House for the New York Times, and Glasser writes on Washington for The New Yorker. The now-married couple joined David to discuss what they learned about democracy in their four years based in Russia, finishing their first joint book while Glasser was in labor and how much Washington has changed since the time of James Baker, a political player and power broker who served most notably as President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state. James Baker is the subject of the pair’s latest book, The Man Who Ran Washington. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 19
1 hr
Ep. 412 — Amb. John Bolton
As a young man, Ambassador John Bolton often found himself as the lone conservative in a sea of anti-Vietnam War liberals, whether at his private Baltimore prep school or during his years at Yale. But Bolton never wavered from his world view, which led him to roles in the Justice and State departments under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, including a brief stint as Ambassador to the United Nations. He most recently served 17 months as National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, a time he chronicled in his book The Room Where It Happened. He spoke with David about his career in politics, his concerns about the upcoming election, and why he believes Trump is not smart enough to be a threat to democracy. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 15
1 hr 1 min
Ep. 411 — Bob Costas
Sports broadcaster Bob Costas loved baseball from an early age. As a kid, Bob would sit in his father’s car, tuning the radio to find baseball games taking place hundreds of miles from his home on Long Island. Since his first full-time broadcasting gig at 22, he has called NBA Finals and World Series, hosted Super Bowls and Olympic Games and been inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He joined David to talk about the intersection of politics and sports, the magic of baseball on the radio and the difficulty athletes, leagues, and sportscasters face in finding balance between advocacy and entertainment.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 12
1 hr 2 min
Ep. 410 — Sen. Sherrod Brown
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown announced his first campaign for public office as a college senior at a one dollar-per-plate fundraiser in a Yale dining hall. He won that race and joined the Ohio state legislature at just 22 years old. He went on to serve as Ohio Secretary of State, U.S. representative and finally U.S. senator. He joined David to talk about how he became a champion for the working class, his views on trade and why he thinks the upcoming election could be an electoral college landslide for Joe Biden. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 8
54 min
Ep. 409 — Nicolle Wallace
Nicolle Wallace, host of MSNBC’s Deadline: White House got into Republican politics partly by chance. After a brief stint in broadcast news, she applied to work for both a Democratic and Republican member of the California assembly. The Republican offered her a job. She has since worked in communications for Jeb Bush and John McCain, and served as White House communications director for President George W. Bush. She talked with David about her fondness for the 43rd president, how Sarah Palin was the precursor to the present-day Republican Party and what she thinks President Trump fundamentally misunderstands about the job of president.   To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 5
1 hr 2 min
Ep. 408 — Tim O'Brien
Journalist Tim O’Brien took a winding path to reporting. He built bridges in Peru, studied karate in Japan, taught in New York City, and earned three graduate degrees before landing in journalism for good. His reporting eventually led him to develop a relationship with Donald Trump, talking and traveling with the future president as Tim researched—and was subsequently sued for—his 2005 book, TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. Tim joined David to talk about what it’s like to be sued by Trump, the reverence he has for public service, and why he suspects the next month could be rife with chaos.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Oct 1
1 hr 4 min
Ep. 407 — Sen. Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders first got involved in social justice movements as a University of Chicago student fighting against segregated housing. Today Sen. Sanders is one of the most recognizable figures in Washington, widely credited with pushing more progressive policies into the mainstream of the Democratic party. He joined David to talk about why he believes Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in US history, the trouble he has defending the Electoral College and how young voters can transform America. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Sep 28
33 min
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