The Axe Files with David Axelrod
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.
CISA Director Jen Easterly got an early taste of government as a sixth grader when her class was featured in a commercial for then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. The ad never made it to air, but Director Easterly continued in public service. After spending decades in the Army and the private sector, Director Easterly now leads the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. As head of CISA, she works to protect against cyberattacks on everything from U.S. election infr...Show moreastructure to systems Americans use every day, like water, schools, and hospitals. Director Easterly joined David to talk about what she believes makes a good leader, cyber threats from Russia and China, the potential downsides of A.I. and TikTok, and why cybersecurity needs to be a collaborative effort.
Mar 23, 2023
Since childhood, journalist John Hendrickson has lived with a stutter: wrestling with it, searching for escapes from it, and working to accept it. John, who rose to national prominence after interviewing then-presidential candidate Joe Biden about his own stutter in 2019, recently wrote a book about his experiences and the science behind stuttering. John joined David to talk about living with a stutter, his work as a journalist, interviewing Biden, and reexamining his own relationship with his stutter in his book “Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter.”
Mar 16, 2023
In high school, Michael McFaul developed an interest in the Soviet Union that would eventually lead to him serving as US Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, McFaul emerged as a vocal supporter of Ukraine. McFaul joined David to talk about his work advising on sanctions against Russia, why he believes that the US should go all-in on military aid to Ukraine, how Russian President Vladimir Putin could claim victory, how much time Ukraine has to turn the tide of the war, and his skepticism that Putin will resort to using a nuclear weapon.
Mar 9, 2023
Just days after he was sworn in to Congress, former GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan watched in horror as protestors stormed the Capitol. Deeply unsettled by the experience, he voted to impeach President Trump, opening a lane for a Trump-endorsed primary opponent to defeat Meijer in 2022. He joined David to talk about his Michigan-famous family name, his time in the military, the importance of defending Ukraine, his decision to vote to impeach Trump, the importance of long-term thinking in politics, and a potential Senate run.
Mar 2, 2023
Beto O’Rourke shot to national prominence in 2018 when he narrowly lost to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in an unexpectedly close election. Two years later, he ran in the Democratic presidential primary, and, in 2022, he ran for governor of Texas. While the three back-to-back races were unsuccessful, they generated enthusiasm and energy and at times helped reinvigorate the Democratic Party in Texas. Beto joined David to talk about the political fight in Texas, raising three children while running three successive campaigns, why he decided to run for governor, gun violence and its impact on young voters, immigration, and what he sees for his political future.
Feb 23, 2023
As a Jewish kid growing up in Duluth, Minnesota, Amb. Tom Nides didn’t plan to be a diplomat some day. After a career spanning roles in government and business, he took on the position of US ambassador to Israel in 2021. Following a year of relative calm, Nides now finds himself weathering a tumultuous few months under a new Israeli government—the most right-wing in the country’s history. He joined David to talk about the US’s “unbreakable bond” with Israel, the state of Israeli democracy, the chain of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and the prospects for a two-state solution.
Feb 16, 2023
Growing up with severe dyslexia, California Governor Gavin Newsom questioned his own intelligence and path forward. But things began coming together in college when he embraced his interest in politics. Gov. Newsom joined David to talk about his childhood, the tension of growing up with little money while being deeply connected to the Bay Area’s elite, approving same-sex marriage in San Francisco as mayor, gun violence, his disdain for Gov. Ron DeSantis, and why he thinks the Democrats need to stop playing defense.
Feb 9, 2023
A chance meeting with his Congressman during a high school football banquet set Tim Ryan on a path to politics, from a seat in the Ohio Senate, to two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, to a bid for U.S. Senate in 2022. He joined David to talk about growing up in working class Ohio and how the Democrats lost touch with blue-collar America, the state of the federal government and the need for reform, the House of Representatives under Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, and what his own political future holds.
Feb 2, 2023
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a circuitous path to government, working in journalism, law, and the movies before landing a job in the Clinton administration. He still has varied interests; while he spends his days meeting with world leaders, guitar fans can also find him on Spotify. Secretary Blinken joined David before a live audience at the University of Chicago to talk about Russia’s war on Ukraine, America’s relationship with China, Afghanistan, the state of the world, and the power of public service.
Jan 26, 2023
When poet Amanda Gorman was 5 years old, she was already in the habit of waking up before dawn to write; her mother paid her a quarter each morning she stayed in bed past 6 a.m. Poetry became Amanda’s outlet for exploring history and her own experiences. Her talents have taken her from serving as the first National Youth Poet Laureate to reciting her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Amanda joined David to talk about her mother’s influence, working through her chi...Show moreldhood speech impediment, the importance of representation in poetry and literature, writing for the inauguration following the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, poetry as the language of the people, and her presidential aspirations.
Jan 19, 2023