The Axe Files with David Axelrod

The Axe Files with David Axelrod

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.

Episodes

September 16, 2021 59 min
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns can pinpoint the exact moment he knew he wanted to be a storyteller. After witnessing his father cry during a film, he understood the power of an impactful story. That, plus the tragic death of his mother which he calls the defining moment of his life, spurred a passion for storytelling that unearths the past and “wakes the dead.” He joined David to talk about his difficult upbringing, what he loves ...
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Twenty years ago, as Clarissa Ward watched the 9/11 attacks unfold on television, she experienced a profound sense of shock and shame that she did not have a better grasp on what was happening in the world. In that moment she felt compelled to pursue journalism in order to bring to life the shared human experience, and since then she has reported from the front lines of conflict zones around the world. Ward, who is CNN’s Chief Inte...
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September 2, 2021 57 min
After a behind-the-scenes career in the military that led to the National Security Council, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman found himself thrust into the spotlight as a key witness in the first impeachment trial of President Trump. He joined David to talk about his family history and childhood as an immigrant in New York, his thoughts on the Afghanistan withdrawal and Afghan refugees coming to America, Trump and his relationship...
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August 26, 2021 59 min
Dr. Leana Wen has become a leading voice offering straightforward guidance on the Covid-19 pandemic, but her journey to professional prominence was anything but simple. Her family left China—where her father was frequently jailed as a political dissident—when she was a child, arriving in the US with just $40 in their possession. She joined David to discuss the incredible story of her family’s journey to America and the struggles th...
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August 19, 2021 58 min
Shortly after coming to America, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi’s family hit a financial rough patch. For a time, the family lived in public housing and relied on food stamps, a boost that instilled in Rep. Krishnamoorthi a lifelong appreciation for the US government and a desire to give back. He joined David to talk about what he sees as the US’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, his journey from engineering student to US Congress...
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August 12, 2021 56 min
Journalist Anne Applebaum began her career as a stringer in Poland in the late 1980s reporting on the fall of communism, an assignment that led her to drive to Germany when she heard the Berlin Wall was coming down. She has written extensively on the former Soviet Union while becoming a prominent conservative journalist in the U.S., U.K. and Poland. She joined David to talk about how her early exposure to authoritarian governments ...
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August 5, 2021 58 min
Cook Political Report editor-in-chief and publisher Amy Walter grew up in a bipartisan household. Her mother was a Democrat, and her father was a Republican, a dynamic that her mother said primed Amy for a career in political journalism. Amy joined David to talk about running a contentious congressional campaign at just 25 years old, the importance of approaching interviews with empathy and curiosity, diminished trust in American i...
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July 29, 2021 56 min
With the Tokyo Olympics under way, we revisit a conversation from 2020 with Megan Rapinoe, captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and Olympic gold medalist. At the time, Rapinoe was skeptical about the future of the 2020 games. Megan joined David to talk about growing up in a small conservative town, finding and forging her identity, her decorated soccer career and World Cup wins, and using her platform to engage in progr...
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July 22, 2021 56 min
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, wo...
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July 15, 2021 57 min
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 ...
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July 8, 2021 58 min
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, w...
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July 1, 2021 55 min
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 ...
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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 st...
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June 17, 2021 56 min
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 ...
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June 7, 2021 47 min
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...
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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, Prim...
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May 27, 2021 60 min
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 pollut...
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May 20, 2021 67 min
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 him...
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May 13, 2021 59 min
Sally Yates was born into a family of lawyers. She followed suit, entering private practice before becoming a federal prosecutor, which began a 27 year career at the Department of Justice. As Deputy Attorney General during the Obama administration and then as Acting Attorney General just after President Trump took office, she was involved in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just ten days into her te...
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May 6, 2021 60 min
Press Secretary Jen Psaki didn’t envision herself returning to the White House after serving as Communications Director under President Obama, but when President Joe Biden asked her to join his team, she agreed. She now speaks on behalf of the Biden administration and holds near-daily press briefings, which she called just the tip of the iceberg of her responsibilities. Jen joined David to talk about how the constant flow of inform...
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