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Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter credits a fearless streak to a strong career
David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, brings 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. 453 — Stephanie Cutter
Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter says she has a fearless streak. This fearlessness gave her the confidence to walk into Gov. Mario Cuomo’s office asking for a job in her early twenties and to later successfully execute the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention during a pandemic. Stephanie joined David to talk about her upbringing in a small town in Massachusetts, her close relationship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, working for former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsk…Show morey period, and putting together President Joe Biden’s Emmy-nominated inauguration program.
Ep. 452 — John Anzalone
John Anzalone first met President Joe Biden while working as a field organizer in Iowa on Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign. Thirty-three years later, John was the top pollster for Biden’s 2020 campaign, this time watching as Biden secured the presidency. John joined David to talk about growing up in a working-class family in Michigan, how living away from Washington helps inform his work, the surprising way Covid-19 impacted the 2020 polls, and why he believes Biden is handing Democrats a stro…Show moreng platform heading into the 2022 midterms.
Ep. 451 — Ben Rhodes
Ben Rhodes thought he wanted to pursue creative writing, but witnessing the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a graduate student at New York University altered his career path. He joined the 2008 Obama campaign as a speechwriter, eventually becoming deputy national security advisor for strategic communications in the Obama administration. He joined David to talk about how American foreign policy has shaped the world in the last 30 years, what he learned from traveling with Obama during and after his tim…Show moree in the White House, national identity, and his new book, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made.
Ep. 450 — Nathan Law
As an architect of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, Nathan Law first tried to keep his activism a secret from his mother. But before long she saw police arresting him at a protest on live television. Since then, Law has been elected to political office, served time in prison and fled to London where he has been granted asylum. He joined David to talk about his upbringing and path to disenchantment with Beijing, threats to democracy in Hong Kong and the US, and leaving behind his fami…Show morely and the city that he loves—possibly forever.
Ep. 449 — Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was picking up his dry cleaning in Brooklyn when he got a call from the Obama administration asking if he was interested in the job. He wavered at first, but realized it was the perfect blend of his healthcare nonprofit, advocacy and medical practice experiences. He is now on his second stint as America’s top doctor under President Biden. Dr. Murthy joined David to talk about his family’s immigration story, Covid-19 and his concerns over variants and vaccination rate…Show mores, gun violence, emotional wellness and loneliness and designing a better post-pandemic future.
Ep. 448 — Cecile Richards
Growing up was a political affair for activist Cecile Richards. She spent time stuffing envelopes at her family’s dining room table and got in trouble in high school for protesting the Vietnam War. Her activism later propelled her to the position of president of Planned Parenthood, which she led for more than a decade. She joined David to talk about the ongoing fight for abortion rights as some states move to restrict access, what Democrats miss in talking to rural voters, her work with American…Show more Bridge, and whether she could see herself one day running for governor of New York.
Ep. 447 — Rep. Liz Cheney
When Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney was a little girl, she and her sister would spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons in the West Wing while their father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, served as Chief of Staff to President Ford. Rep. Cheney ultimately became a politician herself, rising to House GOP conference chair. She was removed from her leadership position in May after denouncing former President Trump’s repeated claims that the 2020 election was stolen. She joined David to talk about whe…Show moren she realized her position in Republican leadership was untenable, why she believes President Trump is dangerous to the GOP and the country as a whole, and why she still supports Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Ep. 446 — Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already faced a series of unprecedented crises during her almost four year tenure in the nation’s highest office. The young, progressive Prime Minister has led her country through a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic, successfully keeping case and death numbers low. From her rural and working-class childhood to her nation’s highest office, Prime Minister Ardern says her focus has always been on creating a mo…Show morere just society. She joined David to talk about her early introduction to politics, the difference between working with the Trump and Biden administrations, her government’s response to Covid-19, New Zealand’s relationship with China, and how she measures her success.
Ep. 445 — Heather McTeer Toney
Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, much of Heather McTeer Toney’s life was tied to the environment, from food and agriculture to the levees holding back the Mississippi River. But it wasn’t until she was mayor of her hometown and working on a water issue that she realized the connection between climate and social justice. Heather is now senior adviser at Moms Clean Air Force, a group that works to protect children from air pollution and climate change, and climate justice liaison at the Enviro…Show morenmental Defense Fund. She joined David to talk about her childhood steeped in the fight for civil rights, how climate and racial justice intersect, and why she believes fighting for voting rights is a vital component of climate activism.
Ep. 444 — Justin Amash
Growing up as the son of a Palestinian refugee and a Syrian immigrant, former Rep. Justin Amash developed an early appreciation for the opportunities and freedoms America offered. His views on what power the government should have in limiting those freedoms crystalized after a Google search led him to libertarian thinkers and texts. As a Republican member of Congress following those libertarian principles, Amash sometimes found himself at odds with party leadership and eventually with President …Show moreTrump. He joined David to talk about the value of immigrants of all backgrounds, how he believes US Congress operates as more of an oligarchy than a democracy, what he respects about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and why he’s unsettled by what he sees as the media’s lionization of Rep. Liz Cheney.