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.


May 16, 2024 63 mins
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 learned about effective communication over the years. She joined David to talk about he...
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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 35. While he valued helping those in need, he felt he could make a difference more au...
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May 2, 2024 62 mins
“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 challenges posed by grievance, why Ron DeSantis is the most emblematic politician of ou...
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April 25, 2024 61 mins
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 against Donald Trump should be taken seriously. He resigned his seat in March 2024, cit...
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April 18, 2024 56 mins
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 of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present,” how past revolutions...
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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 she learned from her father, her work to pass the Affordable Care Act, her unfavorab...
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April 4, 2024 64 mins
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 law school in addition to taking her vows as a Catholic nun, intertwining her faith w...
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March 28, 2024 65 mins
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 episodes of The Axe Files (Karl Rove episode #80, and David Plouffe episodes #43 and...
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March 21, 2024 65 mins
Eight years ago, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shook up the political world by dropping out of the race for president to endorse Donald Trump. Since the election of 2020 and the events that followed, including a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, Christie has become one of Trump’s fiercest critics and unsuccessfully challenged him in this year’s primary elections. He talked with David about the...
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This week, we're revisiting a conversation from the early days of The Axe Files, way back in 2015, featuring Alastair Campbell. He served as the communications guru for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Campbell, a prolific author and speaker, shares poignant insights into his own struggles with mental illness, in addition to delving into political matters. They explore various topics, including the emerging candidacy of Do...
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March 7, 2024 60 mins
Last week, David sat down with Arizona State University’s celebrated president, Michael Crow. During their discussion, the two talked about Crow's remarkable personal journey, ASU's pioneering model for the new American public university, which emphasizes inclusivity in admissions and academic excellence, as well as innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the 21st century. They also delved into ASU's deep commitment to ad...
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February 29, 2024 64 mins
Last week, David sat down with Congressman Pete Aguilar of California, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic House Caucus and holds the distinction of being the highest-ranking Hispanic member in the U.S. House. They delved into Aguilar's remarkable personal journey, emblematic of the American dream, and addressed the gridlock gripping Congress, exacerbated by mounting crises concerning the budget, the border, and funding fo...
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February 22, 2024 60 mins
Bill Bradley stands as a rare figure, achieving Hall of Fame status in both sports and politics. As a former New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate, Bradley's impact on public life spans decades. Before his esteemed political career, he left an enduring legacy in college basketball, the Olympics, and as a vital member of the historic early '70s New York Knicks. Throughout both careers Bill Bradley earned a reputation for tho...
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February 15, 2024 55 mins
For over four decades, Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning luminary renowned for his insightful columns in The New York Times and a friend of The Axe Files, has been a steadfast voice delving into the intricate tapestry of the Middle East. His profound understanding of the region's nuances is unparalleled, making him an invaluable ally in navigating its tumultuous landscape. As the harrowing conflict in Gaza persists, David...
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February 8, 2024 61 mins
Many individuals have two jobs, but none quite like Raphael Warnock. On most weekdays, he patrols the halls of Congress as the Senior Senator from the state of Georgia. However, he also holds the position of senior pastor at the storied Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Preaching from the same pulpit that his idol, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once graced—a man he shares much in common with. Last week, David sat down with Reverend...
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February 1, 2024 60 mins
Stephanie Murphy truly is a great American story. Born in Vietnam a few years after the war, she and her family fled tyranny and were rescued at sea by the U.S. Navy. Raised in a trailer park in Virginia, she worked her way through college and graduate school. Post 9/11, she became a young star at the Department of Defense, working as an analyst at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Later, she was elected to three terms in Congres...
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January 25, 2024 56 mins
Jeff Zeleny is one of America's very best political reporters, with decades of experience covering national campaigns for the Des Moines Register, the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, ABC, and CNN. David sat down with him the day of the New Hampshire primary to glean his insights into the current race. Their conversation also delved into Zeleny's personal journey – from his Nebraska farm childhood influencing his reporting to o...
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January 18, 2024 66 mins
John Miller has seen a lot. Born into the world of journalism as the son of a National Enquirer reporter, Miller's upbringing immersed him in a world of celebrities, club owners, mobsters, and law enforcement. Miller has spent his life toggling between television, journalism, and law enforcement. He has covered some of the most significant national security and crime stories in the past four decades, including a rare interview with...
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January 11, 2024 62 mins
Mick Mulvaney knows a lot about the central players in the Republican nominating drama. With a background as the former budget director and acting chief of staff to Donald Trump, Mulvaney played a crucial role in the political landscape. Serving in Congress alongside Ron DeSantis and co-founding the House Freedom Caucus, he offers a unique perspective on party dynamics. Sharing anecdotes from his time as a South Carolina legislator...
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This week The Axe Files team is sharing a special episode of Anderson Cooper’s extraordinary podcast All There Is. It’s a conversation about grief with President Joe Biden, who has faced more than his share in life. In it, he offers moving memories, lessons, and insights that are well worth hearing.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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