Sam Youngman: Lexington Herald-Leader on Kentucky Politics

Few states have more action right now than Kentucky. It’s home to One of the biggest Senate races – the fight for Mitch McConnell’s office and whether the Minority Leader can come out of this not just with his seat, but perhaps the upgraded title to Majority Leader.

It’s also home to a likely Presidential contender, Kentucky’s junior Senator, Rand Paul, who keeps gaining strength and support, while possibly splitting the Republican Party.

And as if you didn’t know, it’s home to the Kentucky Wildcats, which this weekend could become college basketball’s national champion. Which of these stories is most important to the Blue Grass state?

Well, we’re going to talk politics anyhow. Our guest, Sam Youngman, political reporter at the Lexington Herald Leader who recently wrote that he’d like to have his ashes spread at Rupp Arena where the Wildcats play hoops.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Jill Rosenbaum: “Baby M and the Question of Surrogacy”

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 1.03.42 PMAmong the many wonderful areas where science has created new hope and opportunity, baby surrogacy – a woman carrying a child to term for another family – surely ranks among the most fantastic.

But it’s also among the most controversial, as this positive hope also created challenges and concerns, perhaps none better known than the case of Baby M, the first contested surrogacy case in US history. Sure, there was a contract. But there also was a surrogate mother who didn’t want to lose Baby M. What happened then? And what has occurred at the intersection of science, law and the miracle of life since?

Jill Rosenbaum is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “Baby M and the Question of Surrogacy.”

Nicco Mele: Author, “The End of Big;” Founder, EchoDitto

We might have debated who invented the Internet, but there’s no debate over which candidate brought the Internet into political campaigns. In 2003 and 2004, Democrat Presidential candidate Howard Dean made fundraising go digital.

The brains – if not the functionality, design, and execution – behind that operation belonged to Nicco Mele, a 20-something year old webmaster who had worked for various advocacy groups.

Since that online revolution, Mele has launched his own firm – EchoDitto – which helps organizations gain greater impact through technology. He also is a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of “The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath,” where he warns against – of all things – the disruptive and perhaps dangerous power of the Internet. Among the areas he worries about: Digital’s potential destruction through polarization of politics and government.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Josh Fisher: “Fly Wars: Battling the Medfly”

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 1.42.50 PMRemember the medfly? All bugs are pesky, of course, but the Mediterrean Fruit Fly might have been the peskiest. And a little bit scary. The threat was imminent: A tiny creature was going to ruin California’s agricultural industry.

But the battle of the Medfly soon became a battle over pesticides – mainly, one called Malathion – and the widespread spraying of California’s towns and cities – even Los Angeles.

What happened to the medfly? More importantly perhaps, with widespread spraying of pesticides to fight the pest, why did our public officials, news media and even the public get so concerned about this crisis? Which side of the science was right?

Josh Fisher is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “Fly Wars: Battling the Medfly.”

Retro Report’s Barbara Dury: “McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Panic”

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 4.19.57 PMFew stories were more disturbing. Systematic child molestation in our nation’s preschools.

It started, of course, with the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, CA in the early 80s. The allegations were offensive and shocking. Child abuse. Even Satanism. And as the allegations grew, more stories from more preschools across the nation. We had, it seemed, an epidemic.

But after years of trials and front page news, nothing. No convictions –  lives ruined – both for the people who ran the McMartin preschool and for many of the children who were allegedly abused.

What have we learned from the McMartin Preschool case? Could therapists, investigators, journalists – even we the pubic – get something so wrong again?

Barbara Dury is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Panic.”

Retro Report’s Drew Magratten: “When a Bridge Falls”

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 10.56.26 PMOften the only positive to come out of a disaster is the promise that it won’t happen again.

That certainly was the case in 2007, when the I-35w bridge in Minneapolis collapsed with hundreds of cars on it, most falling into the Mississippi River 10 stories below.

Thirteen died; 145 were injured. Following the horrific accident and aftermath, promises – from the states, from the federal government – that a review of American bridges would occur. Our infrastructure, long ignored, surely now would get the attention it needed and we deserved.

But nearly seven years later, what has occurred? Were promises kept? Are our bridges safe?

Drew Magratten is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “When a Bridge Falls.”

Jeffrey Toobin: New Yorker Staff Writer; CNN Senior Legal Analyst

The next phase of Chris Christie’s bridge scandal has arrived, and it won’t end quickly. It’s the legal battle – subpoenas, documents, testimony and more. To complicate things, it’ll occur across several fronts: legislative and judicial; state and federal; Lane closures on the GWB and alleged suggestions of trading Hurricane Sandy funds for Hoboken development projects.

With so many competing players, goals and possible outcomes, what will the next legal and political steps look like? And how long might they last?

Few people analyze and explain the intersection of law and politics more clearly than Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at the New Yorker and senior legal analyst at CNN.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Teddy Goff: Obama ’12 Digital Director; Partner, Precision Strategies

With the midterm election season approaching, every aspect of every race will be watched: The issues; positioning; and, of course, campaigns. And within the campaigns, special attention on what’s new – and that means digital.

So what can we expect from digital campaigns? What’s the next wave of ways candidates will try to connect with us – and especially young voters – directly through Facebook, Twitter and so on? How will they get us to donate?

If during either of President Obama’s campaigns you clicked, watched, liked or gave online, then you’re familiar with our guest. Teddy Goff was responsible for state-level digital campaigns in 2008 and served as Digital Director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. Today he is a Partner at Precision Strategies and was recently named one of Time’s 30 people under 30 who are changing the world.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Stan Greenberg: Polling Adviser, Co-Founder Democracy Corps

The agenda is set. President Obama gave his State of the Union address this week, and he was clear: He wants a year of action, and he’ll go it alone if Congress won’t go with him.

But with Midterm Elections driving the political calendar and 2016 coming on fast – did the President lay groundwork for Democrats to succeed or openings for Republicans to attack? How will the substance – the ideas and goals – resonate with American voters? And for a President who’s been struggling in the polls, has he offered a plan that might turn things around?

Few understand the art and the science of polling more than Stan Greenberg: Polling adviser to President Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Nelson Mandela, among many others; CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Co-Founder Democracy Corps.

Listen here at Political Wire.

The Making of the State of the Union Address

We spoke with speechwriters for the last three presidents — Jon Favreau, David Frum and Michael Waldman — about what it takes to put together the president’s biggest speech of the year.

They gave us some amazing insights. Listen here at Political Wire.

Jon Favreau: Former Director of Speechwriting for President Obama

The connection between policy and communication is a close one. Get only the policy right, and you’re a wonk. Focus solely on the communication, and you risk being seen as just another political sweet-talker.

For the Obama administration – from health care to the economy to dealing with wars around the world – there’s been a continual need to score high on both fronts. So how to strike the right balance?

One expert on the topic – Jon Favreau, Former director of Speechwriting for President Obama, now a Principal at Fenway Strategies and columnist for The Daily Beast.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Mike Murphy: Political Media Consultant

The challenges for Republicans keep piling up. First it was the Great Divide, the battle between the Tea Party wing and so-called Establishment. Now, NJ Gov. Chris Christie – Fort Lee and Bridgegate, along with Hoboken and Hurricane Sandy Funds. And on Friday, the release of a new – more human – documentary on Mitt Romney – a film that is already raising questions of what type of Presidential candidate Republicans should nominate and how they should run their campaigns.

With 2014 Midterms and a possible Senate takeover on the horizon – and the 2016 Presidential campaign on the mind – can Republicans get their act together? And if so, what’s their best path forward?

To help provide answers, renowned Republican media strategist Mike Murphy. He has handled media and strategy for more than 26 successful Gubernatorial and Senatorial campaigns; he helped run John McCain’s Presidential race in 2000; and today, he’s a partner at Revolution Agency in Washington D.C. and when you’re not following him on Twitter, you can read him in Time and see him on Meet the Press.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Steve Kornacki: MSNBC Host

New Jersey Bridgegate is not slowing down. Questions around how and why several George Washington Bridge access lanes were shut last September – questions around what Governor Chris Christie knew and when he knew it – are not only growing, but now they’ve gone viral.

Thanks to Jimmy Fallon, Bruce Springsteen and a devastating “Born to Run” update, the scandal has jumped from political fiasco to pop culture touchstone. And like those cars in Fort Lee, the issues pile up: Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? Why was this done? And why did no one have the brains or courage to stop it?

If you want answers, few people have covered this story more closely – and few know more about New Jersey politics – than Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Chuck Todd: NBC News Political Director & Chief White House Correspondent

It took less than 10 days for our first big political scandal of the year to hit: Chris Christie’s revenge. Bridgegate.

Whatever you call it, as we try to understand what happened – and as the New Jersey State Legislature and U.S. Attorney’s Office do the same – questions about Gov. Christie’s temperament and management ability. Is he fit – emotionally and skillfully – to run our country? What does this mean for the Republican party and, of course, the 2016 Presidential race.

And then there’s Congress. With midterm elections on the horizon, another key member announces retirement. How might this affect the campaigns and the ultimate balance?

Joining me to discuss New Jersey, Washington and beyond: Chuck Todd, NBC News’ Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director, as well as Host of “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Joe Trippi: Political Strategist & Media Consultant

The holidays are over and politics is back. After what was a relatively quiet two weeks – President Obama didn’t even have to leave Hawaii this year – Washington and our other political centers are back to life.

And as we begin the 2014 Midterm season – and with a State of the Union address on the way – some analysis on where we stand? And for this conversation, more specifically, where does the Democratic Party stand?

One major issue: Inequality. Unemployment benefits, minimum wage and new efforts to address a growing financial gap in our country. And of course another issue: Obamacare. Now that it’s in full action, how will it work as policy and politics?

Few spend more time thinking about Democratic chances – or helping mold public opinion – than Joe Trippi. Political Strategist & Media Consultant who has run or helped run campaigns for President, governor and more; Founder and President of Trippi and Associates; and author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

David Frum: Writer, Commentator, Former U.S. Presidential Special Assistant

As both parties kick off the 2014 political season – and Midterm primaries and Elections creep closer on the calendar – both parties face questions. For Democrats: How to defend and, if they can, advance Obamacare, minimum wage and other initiatives. For Republicans, the big question also seems to be a basic one: Can’t they all just get along?

The forced government shutdown, various election battles, competing strategies around health care and more have left party members and party watchers wondering what comes next. Many ask how the gap created between the Tea Party wing and the so-called Established branch will affect Republicans’ ability to drive policy and win campaigns.

One person who spends time considering the policy and the politics: David Frum, contributing editor at The Daily Beast, CNN contributor, former special assistant and speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and author of several books, including most-recently “Why Romney Lost (And What The GOP Can Do About It).”

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Bonnie Bertram: “Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets”

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 5.04.52 PMIf you think that stealing secret files to reveal rampant spying by the federal government on American citizens – their personal mail, phone calls and more – started with Edward Snowden, then get ready for another story.

Long before Al Qaeda, there was Viet Nam. And long before Snowden, there was the Media, PA Eight. Instead of a computer programmer, they were professors, grad students and a taxi driver. Instead of electronic files, paper files. Thousands of them stolen when they broke into the Media, PA FBI office. Right from the file cabinets! And when the Media 8 got their hands on the files, they did the same thing as Edward Snowden – sent them to a journalist for publishing and the world to see.

This all occurred back in 1971 and remained in the background because the thieves were never captured and never talked. Until now.

Bonnie Bertram is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important news events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secrets,” based on the new book by Betty Medsger, “The Burglary.”

John Sides, GWU Associate Professor; co-Founder “The Monkey Cage Blog”; co-Author “The Gamble”

We all know the high points of elections – the zingers, the gotchas and the flat out mistakes. They’re often called “game changers,” and our recent campaigns have seen plenty of them. From Mitt Romney’s 47 percent speech to President Obama’s debate debacle to so-many others that are now long-forgotten, the 2012 Presidential campaign was defined by these near-daily seminal events.

Or was it? What if the headlines that drive our minute-by-minute news cycles – the narratives that many of us believe define our politics – don’t define much reality at all? What if the data reveal something different than we commonly believe?

Among the many trends of popular political coverage today, perhaps the most telling is growing mix of scientific data analysis and narrative storytelling. And more than ever, this mix is revealing new truths in our political landscape.

One leader in this trend: John Sides, Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He is founder of The Monkey Cage, the popular political blog now hosted by the Washington Post and is co-author of one of the highly-influential book, “The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

Stuart Stevens, Political Strategist

It was just over a year ago that we held our national poll to decide who would lead our country for the next four years. We know the results: 51-47 percent popular vote – nearly 60-40 by electoral votes – we stayed with President Obama over Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney.

Any campaign, of course, starts with the candidate. But right behind the headliner – a vast network, a billion-dollar start-up that must quickly get into gear and then keep it going at top speed for some two years.

For Romney – as with any campaign – that network faced its share of ups and downs. What really happened behind the scenes? And looking forward, what lessons should Republicans apply to 2014 midterm elections and beyond?

One person with answers: Stuart Stevens, lead political strategist of the Romney campaign. Not only does Stevens remain a political strategist and media consultant with his firm – Strategic Partners & Media – he’s also an author, writer, extreme sports competitor and, soon, releasing a new book about his year of spending Saturdays watching Ole Miss football games with his 95-year-old father.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Scott Michels: “Exxon Valdez: In the Wake of Disaster”

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 6.11.06 PMIt was one of the worst oil spills in US history. The Exxon Valdez hit a reef off the Alaska coast in March 1989, spilling some 11 million gallons of crude oil. We remember the images: Birds, seals and other sea life, covered in black crude. Oil washing on beaches up and down the coast.

And many of us may think we remember the cause: The ship’s captain. He had been drinking, left the bridge and the ship hit that reef.

But, it turns out, fault for the Exxon Valdez spill went way beyond the captain. A key question: Where were the supposed emergency recovery plans – equipment, personnel – oil companies promised would be ready for disaster? What we subsequently learned about those emergency plans – or lack of them – raised questions then that remain relevant and concerning even today.

How concerning? Scott Michels is a producer at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that specializes in following important news events after the headlines faded. Their new video is “Exxon Valdez: In the Wake of Disaster.”

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