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.


July 11, 2024 57 mins
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 convention performance by Biden and his supporters won’t move the needle, and the allure ...
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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 the story of the decade through more than 300 boxes of Dick’s archives. Doris joined...
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June 27, 2024 60 mins
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 health combatting everything from Ebola to SARS to HIV. He joined David to discuss his n...
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June 20, 2024 61 mins
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 prisoners and a democratic Russia. She joined David to talk about growing up during the d...
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June 13, 2024 61 mins
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 joined David at the newly re-opened Michigan Central to talk about the revitalizatio...
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June 6, 2024 67 mins
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 down with David to talk about his long political career, his thoughts on the war in Uk...
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May 30, 2024 61 mins
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. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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May 23, 2024 54 mins
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,” George Stephanopoulos chronicles 60 years of American politics through spotlightin...
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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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May 9, 2024 64 mins
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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