Today’s issue, who’s running harder against President Obama – Republicans or Democrats? The question is only partly exaggerated.
From criticism on “who lost Iraq” to the handling of the Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange to even the environment. And, of course, there’s always Obamacare.
So how legitimate is this criticism? Is President Obama – and his low approval ratings in various key states – weighing down the team? Should Democrats be more constructive and supportive of their chief?
Doug Schoen is one of the most influential Democratic campaign consultants for over thirty years. He served as a political adviser and pollster for President Bill Clinton from 1994-2000, and has worked with mayors, governors and heads of state in more than 15 countries. He is a founding partner and principle strategist for Penn, Schoen & Berland and widely recognized as one of the co-inventors of overnight polling.
For anyone who looks at our government today and says, “Everything seems great to me. No room for improvement here,” well, today’s conversation is not for you.
Now that that person has stopped listening, here’s what the rest of America can learn from today’s talk: The problem is even worse that you thought. While most discussion on fixing government deals with the politics and the posturing, we instead might want to focus on something much more difficult to fix: Nobody is actually in charge. A mountain of overlapping, contradictory and often unnecessary laws, regulations, oversight committees and more seem designed specifically to block responsibility and accountability – and ensure the status quo.
So how did we get here? How can we get out? And where is the leadership?
At first glance, today’s conversation might seem as surprising as dog bites man: Money has taken over our political process. I know – not a shocker. But what if I told you that, quite possibly, our next President will be chosen by 5 or 6 of the richest people in America? Or a dozen? Certainly no more than 100?
It’s hardly an exaggeration. From the historic growth of PACs to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision through now the increasing mega-wealth of the top .01 percent, the role of the super rich in politics has grown exponentially. Control of America’s future has shifted from political parties to power players – individuals who bankroll campaigns and collect politicians like sports franchise. And this is no fantasy league.
What does this shift in money and influence mean for our political future? Who are these individuals and what are they doing to our democracy? While you may know some of the names – Koch or Adelson or Soros or Katzenberg – you likely don’t know them all.
The White House recently announced a change at the top. Not the very top, of course, but as head of the Press Office. Jay Carney is stepping down; Josh Earnest is stepping up.
The White House Press Secretary is, quite often, America’s face to the world. And speaking for the President, sometimes several times a day, the Press Secretary faces many masters – the Commander in Chief, the media, and of course, the American people.
So how to balance the competing pressures: For example, protecting information responsibly vs. the public’s right to know? Particularly in these highly partisan times – with POW swaps, VA scandals, Midterms, Obamacare fights and more – how do you balance policy with politics?
Few in the role had to walk that line more regularly Joe Lockhart, who served as President Clinton’s Press Secretary. Today he is a Founding Partner and Managing Director of The Glover Park Group, which offers media, communications and political strategy to global corporations and non-profits. He also served as Vice President of global communications for Facebook.
Forget the Koch Brothers or Super PACs or even President Obama. The most-watched player in the 2014 Midterms just might be a computer program called LEO.
LEO is the always-on, data-crunching, poll-adjusting Senate forecasting model used by the New York Times. Each day LEO takes the latest polls and historical data from around the country, blends in other information like fundraising and national polling, and then simulates all 36 Senate races – 250,000 times. And from that, each day LEO speaks about which party will win the Midterm’s grand prize – U.S. Senate control.
So following several big weeks of primary voting, what does LEO have to say… and why should we believe it?
Nate Cohn is a reporter at the New York Times’ new hot spot – The Upshot – where he covers elections, polling and demographics.
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.
Among 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?
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.
Remember 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?
Few 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?
Often 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Given all the arguing that dominates television, radio and the web -- the he said/she said, the all-or-nothing verbal warfare, the relentless search for scandal or quick quip -- the most simple element that drives important, human communication is often missing: Smart conversation.
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There is space between the noise. That's where "Conversations with Thinkers" sits.
At its best, smart conversation informs, excites and prods. It reveals, intrigues and explains. Always, it must entertain.
Here you'll find conversation on politics, business, foreign affairs, culture, economics, sports, public policy and more.
"Conversations with Thinkers" is for someone who wants to explore ideas in a rational way. Someone who wants to connect.