Joe Scarborough, MSNBC: “The Right Path”

Almost no Republican needs reminding: The party has lost 5 of the last 6 popular Presidential votes. And now, with one Government Shutdown behind them, new budget battles coming, and midterm elections on their minds, Republicans face a clear challenge: Which direction will they go? Hard to the right, as the Tea Party wing seems to desire? Or more to the middle, as the so-called Establishment might emphasize?

With both sides claiming to represent true conservatism – claiming to be the real heirs to Ronald Reagan – who should voters believe? And with so many competing claims, does any Republican have a clear way forward?

One person who says he does: Joe Scarborough. Host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and, of course, former US Representative from Florida. He’s author of the new book: “The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics – and Can Again.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

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Michael Beschloss, Presidential Historian: Presidents’ Second Terms

What is it about Presidential Second Terms? Just 11 months into Obama Term 2, he seems to have fallen into the same trap as many of his predecessors.

Each of the last four two-term Presidents – Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Nixon – had extremely difficult second terms: Each with different circumstances and outcomes. And they weren’t the first.

Why are second terms so difficult? Do they have to be? And are there any lessons President Obama can take from history to make the rest of his time just a bit easier?

Earlier I spoke with Michael Beschloss, Presidential Historian, author, Contributor to PBS NewsHour & NBC News about the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination. It was a terrific conversation. But I also wanted to ask him to help put current times into perspective – to help us understand what makes second terms so challenging.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Peter Klein: “The Sleeper Cell That Wasn’t”

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 11.41.41 PMFrom secret eavesdropping to surreptitious email gathering, we all have an increased sense of how far the government seems willing to go in the war on terrorism.

But as many of us recall, in those first days and years following 9/11, the fear and wonder of how far terrorists had infiltrated our cities and towns was real – how far had they gone to integrate themselves into our societies, waiting to strike unannounced? The concern was so-called Sleeper Cells, and when the FBI arrested three Arabs in Detroit just 6 days after 9/11 on false document charges, our worries were confirmed.

However, what if it turned out that these alleged terrorists weren’t terrorists at all? That this alleged sleeper cell was, in fact, just a dream? What if, as we debate today government’s reach and the tension between public safety and civil liberties, we had fair warning nearly a decade ago that terrible mistakes are extremely easy to make? What, if anything, have we learned?

Peter Klein is a Reporter and Director at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “The Sleeper Cell That Wasn’t.”

Michael Beschloss, Presidential Historian: JFK Anniversary

It was a Golden Age of hope and danger and opportunity. A young President; a glamorous wife; a country with internal conflict and external threat, but also inspiration. And suddenly 50 years ago, with a shot, it ended.

Any person alive at the time recalls exactly where he or she was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But with 50 years of hindsight, do we have a better sense now of where we were then as a country? What is most relevant today about what JFK represented and accomplished? And, how would he fare politically today?

Few have spent and continue to spend more time considering these questions than Michael Beschloss, Presidential Historian, author, contributor to PBS NewsHour & NBC News.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Jeff Greenfield: “If Kennedy Lived”

Some 50 years ago, the gunshot that changed American politics – indeed, changed America – was fired.

Dallas, November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy – urged by Vice President Lyndon Johnson – made a long-planned trip to Texas. With the ’64 election just around the corner – and Texas support in question – the trip mattered. Kennedy went to Dallas. We know what happened next.

But what if – by twist of fate – that day played out differently? What if the rain hadn’t stopped and a plastic bubble top would have covered the President’s car? What if he were not fatally injured? What if he lived?

If you wonder about any of those questions, you’re not the only one: Jeff Greenfield, veteran and thoughtful analyst of politics, culture and media is also author of the fascinating new book, “If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History.”

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Jonathan Gruber: “The Day the Lights Went Out”

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 10.27.50 PMIt was the day the lights went out across the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Just more than 10 years ago, August 2003, 50 million people from New York to Ottawa were left in the dark.

The first thought for many was terrorism. But then it became clear: This disaster was not the product of some terror network, but of our power network. It had overloaded and shut down.

This was the warning shot many in the power industry had predicted: An old infrastructure, lacking sufficient investment and modernization left millions without electricity. No lights. Elevators stuck. Subways shutdown. For some, no water or bathrooms in the dangerous heat of summer. If bad things happen in the dark, this was a nightmare.

Now, 10 years later, are better prepared? Have we made the investments needed to keep the lights on?

Jonathan Gruber is a director at Retro Report, the non-profit news and documentary group that follows important events after the headlines fade. Their new video is “The Day the Lights Went Out.”

Ezra Klein: Vox Editor-in-chief; Policy analyst at MSNBC (updated)

ezra-klein(Note: Klein’s role has been updated since this conversation occurred on Nov. 11, 2013)

As we sit in the gap between October’s disastrous healthcare.gov rollout and the site’s relaunch at the end of November, there’s only one way to fill this time that’s in perfect keeping with the state of American politics: Congressional Hearings.

They began last month and continue this week, as Health Care and politics continue to mix. Beyond Health Care, plenty of other politics: It’s the Chris Christie tour – he’s about to take over as head of the Republican Governors Association – just one more entry for his pre-presidential race resume?

Here to discuss health care, politics and more – Ezra Klein, Editor of the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Bloomberg View columnist, and MSNBC contributor.

Listen here at Political Wire.

Retro Report’s Jill Rosenbaum: “The Long War on Cancer”

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 6.23.44 PMVirtually all of us have dreams for a cure to cancer. But in December, 1971, the hope for a cure couldn’t have been higher. President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, launching America’s War on Cancer. With some reports predicting a cure by the bicentennial, the full power of the U.S. Government would go behind fighting this destructive disease.

Needless to say, more than 40 years later, cancer continues to ravage our society. Some 13 million people currently live with cancer in the U.S. About 1.6 million new cases are diagnosed yearly; and more than half a million Americans die of cancer each year.  And while, thankfully, great progress has been made – more people not just surviving, but beating cancer – we all know someone who has suffered.

In looking back, were hopes of a quick victory overplayed by politicians and the media? And whatever happened to the promises made in that historic bill signing four decades ago? Can victory ever be declared?

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 “The Long War on Cancer.”