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The Axe Files with David Axelrod

The Institute of Politics & CNN

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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.
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Ohio Sen. JD Vance made news this week when GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump selected Sen. Vance as his running mate. But Sen. Vance didn’t start out a Trump fan. Once a harsh Trump critic, he slowly transitioned to all-out supporter. Sen. Vance spoke with David in 2017 about his life and bestselling book “Hillbilly Elegy,” what it was that …
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Political commentator and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau watched the first 2024 presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden with great concern. Now, he’s questioning whether Biden should stay in the race. He joined David to talk about voters feeling “gaslit” by the Biden campaign and White House, poll denialism, why a stellar conv…
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Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is known for chronicling the lives and leadership styles of some of America’s most prominent presidents. But for her latest book she focused on a different sort of subject: her husband, the late political adviser Dick Goodwin. Part memoir, part history, “An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s” tells…
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Dr. Anthony Fauci became a household name during the Covid-19 pandemic. While Dr. Fauci stepped down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 2022, he still has stories to share. His new book, “On Call: A Doctor’s Journey in Public Service,” recounts his triumphs and heartbreaks over 50 years in public hea…
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Evgenia Kara-Murza did not intend to become a public figure. But that all changed after her husband, Russian political opposition leader and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, was arrested in Moscow in 2022. With Vladimir now serving a 25-year sentence in a Siberian prison, Evgenia has taken up his mission, advocating for the freedom of political pris…
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From darkened streetlights and abandoned homes to pervasive graffiti and long waits for emergency services, Mayor Mike Duggan inherited a Detroit rife with problems, but also potential. Since he took office in 2014, Mayor Duggan has helmed a turnaround for the city, overseeing rising standards of living and significant economic growth. Mayor Duggan…
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When Leon Panetta was growing up in Monterey, California, his Italian immigrant parents often invited soldiers training at nearby Fort Ord to holiday dinners before they shipped out to World War Two battlegrounds. Later, as Secretary of Defense, Panetta’s thoughts returned to those service members when deploying young men and women to war. He sat d…
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Bill Walton, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and former basketball announcer, died this week. David talked with Bill back in 2016 about leadership, what he learned playing for John Wooden at UCLA, how his back troubles nearly drove him to suicide, his love of the Grateful Dead, and much more. We revisit that conversation this week. Le…
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Originally built in just two weeks for $30,000, the White House Situation Room has been the nerve center during some of history’s most seismic events, from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. In his new book, “The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis…
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For former press secretary and current MSNBC anchor Jen Psaki, clear communication has long been a hallmark of her success, from door knocking in Iowa as a young campaign staffer to explaining to her kids why they should eat vegetables. With her new book, “Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World,” Psaki delves into what she’s le…
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Cyrus Habib was a political rising star when he made the surprise announcement that he was leaving elected office to join the Catholic ministry. Cyrus lost his eyesight to cancer at 8 years old, but that didn’t stop him from collecting such accolades as degrees from Yale and Oxford and the role of Washington state lieutenant governor by the age of …
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“Measuring misfortune is no strategy for living,” writes journalist Frank Bruni in his new book, “The Age of Grievance.” Yet, he says, we live in a culture obsessed with feeling victimized, searching for every micro-aggression, and leaning in to personal grievance as a sort of social currency. Frank joined David to talk about his book, the civic ch…
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Former Rep. Ken Buck eludes simple classification. He grew up on the East Coast but says he felt more at home on his uncle’s Wyoming ranch as a kid. He is Princeton educated, but beelined for the Rocky Mountain West upon graduating. He is a former Freedom Caucus conservative who voted to certify the 2020 election and believes some of the charges ag…
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According to Fareed Zakaria, we are living in an age of revolution, kindled by the converging factors of technological advancement, information proliferation, globalization, and cultural shifts. He joined David during a live taping of The Axe Files at the University Club of Chicago to talk about what he discovered in researching his new book, “Age …
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Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi may have made history as the first woman elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives, but she made her reputation as an effective leader with a knack for building consensus and pushing landmark legislation across the finish line. She joined David live at Arizona State University to talk about the political skills…
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Sister Simone Campbell has never shied away from fighting for the underdog. Since childhood, she has looked for ways to assist those in need, a drive further fueled by the early loss of her sister to Hodgkin's lymphoma. Sister Simone joined David to talk about making a name for herself as an advocate for the Affordable Care Act, deciding to attend …
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This episode is a little different from the normal Axe Files. David sat down at Arizona State University with two legendary political strategists: Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s campaigns, and David Plouffe, David’s old partner and the brilliant manager behind the 2008 Barack Obama campaign. You can find their personal stories in past…
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