Jason Dick

Life in the ‘Hakuna Matata’ White House
Political Theater, Episode 108

There is a lot to learn from covering the White House for four years. For former CQ Roll Call White House correspondent John T. Bennett, that included realizing aides for President Donald Trump were looking into that “Hakuna Matata” thing; whether the president’s accessibility is a double-edged sword; and how to stay sane in a crazy environment.

Now as Bennett takes on a new assignment as bureau chief with The Independent of London, he shares some of the biggest lessons he got from life in the Executive Mansion in the latest Political Theater podcast.

Impeachment clouds hang over home stretch of Iowa caucuses
Political Theater, Episode 107

This week’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa was the last chance for the significantly winnowed field to make a big impression — not just before the Feb. 3 caucuses there but also before the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump begins. 

Of the six Democrats onstage Tuesday night at Drake University in Des Moines, three of them — Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar — will be jurors in the upcoming trial and not free to move about the country, as the old Southwest Airlines ads went. 

Waiting for Pelosi: The Senate theater of the absurd
Political Theater, Episode 106

Senators are getting a little antsy waiting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump so they can start a trial. We spent the first full day Congress was back in the Capitol after its recess talking to senators, and we got an earful of their frustrations, suggestions and theories about what happens next.

Why the angst? The beginning of January can be a fairly slow time for Congress, especially during an election year. But not so for 2020.

The year in Political Theater: Our favorite 2019 podcasts

One has not quite lived until Werner Herzog tells you on your own podcast: “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no ... You are wrong.” Lesson learned: Don’t argue with headstrong German filmmakers about 19th Century Russian poets. 

That was just one of the many highlights of 2019’s Political Theater podcast. Of course we also examined the world of politics, what it means to be a member of Congress, the effect of President Donald Trump on the journalism, and the advice a respected and garrulous former member of Congress for the newly elected.

Picture perfect: CQ Roll Call photographers explain their favorite images of 2019
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 105

From Jon Stewart’s smirk to an Elizabeth Warren scrum at the Iowa State Fair to the frenzy surrounding former presidential aide Hope Hicks, CQ Roll Call photographers Tom Williams, Bill Clark and Caroline Brehman are crashing this episode of Political Theater to explain their favorite images of 2019, how they got them and what goes into getting the shot they need.

It’s not entirely fair — seeing as how they take about 100,000 images during the year and have to whittle that down to about 10,000 that they file for editorial use — to ask them to pick just one.

Latest additions to National Film Registry a political smorgasbord
From ‘The Fog of War’ to ‘Before Stonewall,’ list provides vivid backdrop for contemporary issues

The 2019 additions to the National Film Registry, unveiled Wednesday by the Library of Congress, provide film buffs with a wide array of works with contemporary political relevance — spanning from 1903’s “Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island” to 2003’s “The Fog of War.”

“The National Film Registry has become an important record of American history, culture and creativity,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement announcing the list. Not everything is political, of course, and some of the movies are there simply because they found a way into the public’s imagination, like Kevin Smith’s 1994 slacker day-in-the-life comedy “Clerks,” or recorded a singular moment, like Martin Scorsese’s 1978 concert film “The Last Waltz,” which chronicled The Band’s final performance in San Francisco.  

Sitting at ‘Desk 88’ with Sen. Sherrod Brown
Political Theater podcast, Episode 104

Democrat Sherrod Brown was first elected to the House in 1992 and just won a third Senate term in 2018. Perhaps aware of the history that surrounds him and his own place in it, he has a new book out, “Desk 88.”

That is where he sits in the Senate, and the book is a series of portraits of the senators who sat there before, a list that includes Hugo Black, Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern.

The center of Mitch McConnell’s legacy-building
Political Theater podcast, Episode 103

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not shy about using his namesake McConnell Center at the University of Louisville as a platform for showcasing his allies, adversaries and his own ability to steer the national conversation.

Just this week, Kentucky’s senior senator and proud Louisville alumnus spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, currently enmeshed in key elements of the Ukraine saga and the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, is McConnell’s preferred candidate to run for Senate in Kansas, where GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring.

Our offbeat debrief of the off-year elections: Trump ‘always makes it about him’
Political Theater, Episode 102

It is tempting to read into the 2019 campaign results, so-called off-year elections, for signs of what’s to come in next year’s big political brouhaha. Political prognosticators beware!

But while we don’t want to look too much into what happened in high-profile gubernatorial and special elections that President Donald Trump campaigned in, there are a few key data points to consider, particularly a growing rural-suburban partisan divide that showed up in places as disparate as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Virginia. 

How a Capitol Hill staffer and a James Bond screenwriter dramatized ‘The Report’
Political Theater, Episode 101

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report in 2014 was a compelling episode in American history, detailing as it did the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists and their lack of effectiveness. That doesn’t mean the seven-year investigation that led to the report automatically lends itself to high drama, particularly when one considers that many of those seven years were spent reading sensitive CIA documents in a windowless room. That makes the new movie “The Report” that much more of an accomplishment.

Director and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had his work cut out for him, constructing a political thriller out of the efforts led by Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel J. Jones. Burns and Jones explained some of thinking that went into the film’s narrative, as well as the issues it explores, in the latest Political Theater podcast with CQ Roll Call senior staff writer Niels Lesniewski and me. 

The four most likely scenarios for 2020 elections, explained
Political Theater, Episode 100

The 2020 elections are shaping up as the most significant in memory, but predicting them is a handicapper's nightmare. Nevertheless, CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gave it a whirl, offering these four scenarios: 1) Eviction at 1600 2) Blue Washington  3) Status Quo 4) Red Revival.

The most vulnerable 2020 House and Senate incumbents, explained
Political Theater, Episode 99

One year out from Election Day 2020 and Senate Republicans and House Democrats find themselves in parallel universes. The GOP is on defense in Senate races, where more Republicans are on the ballot, and it’s the opposite in the House, where many Democrats who won in hostile territory last year find themselves in tough races. CQ Roll Call’s campaign team, Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin, run through the 10 most vulnerable members of both the House and Senate.

Show Notes:

From impeachment’s high solemnity to high farce
Political Theater, Episode 98

From lawmakers struggling with the “high solemnity” of their votes to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974 to the “high farce” of the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998, each impeachment episode has its own distinct identity, according to CQ Roll Call contributor Finlay Lewis. 

In the latest Political Theater podcast, Lewis discusses his own coverage of Watergate for the Minneapolis Tribune and of the Clinton impeachment for Copley News. As the country gears up for another impeachment inquiry, there are some important echoes that Americans might want to heed. Sometimes things start with a so-called third-rate burglary. Sometimes they start with some weird real estate transactions in Arkansas. And sometimes they start with a phone call to Ukraine. Where they end can be anyone’s guess.

Inside the unique tributes to Elijah Cummings
Political Theater, Episode 97

The memorials for the late Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings illustrate the unique way the nation remembers figures like him, a tradition of grieving both in public and private in places important to the deceased. Longstanding rituals in the Capitol, and in also in his hometown of Baltimore, give his family, friends, colleagues and constituents a way to celebrate his life. 

From former presidents to high schoolers from Baltimore City College, Cummings’ funeral shows the unique way we grieve people like him.  

That time Justin Verlander and Kate Upton visited the Capitol and Uncle Fred
Before he was a World Series foe, he was a tourist

Washington Nationals fans will root for their team tonight as it takes on the Houston Astros and one of their ace pitchers, Justin Verlander, in Game 2 of the World Series. Was it really three-plus years ago that Verlander, then hurling for the Detroit Tigers, visited the Capitol with his then-fiancee, supermodel Kate Upton, for a tour with Uncle Fred, R-Mich.? (That being Rep. Fred Upton.)

Indeed. And how quickly things change. Not only did Verlander and Kate Upton marry and Verlander add a World Series ring in 2017 after being traded to the Houston Astros that year, but Verlander was teammates back then with, who else? Nationals ace Max Scherzer. 

Between a Trump and a hard place
Political Theater, Episode 96

Republican senators up for reelection in swing states have a delicate balance to strike. They need to get almost all GOP voters in their column while reaching out to independents and Democrats. And President Donald Trump does not make that easy.

CQ Roll Call elections analyst and Inside Elections publisher Nathan L. Gonzales explains the politics. For instance, in Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner finds himself up next year in a state increasingly trending Democratic. Inside Elections rates his race a Toss-up.

The Supreme Court is ready for its close-up
Political Theater, episode 95

Hot topics? The Supreme Court’s got ’em this term. LGBTQ rights. Guns. Immigration. Abortion. 

The first Monday in October marks the start of the high court’s term each year, providing the titles of a 1981 Walter Matthau-Jill Clayburgh feature film — “First Monday in October” — and a short-lived CBS television drama with James Garner and Joe Mantegna, “First Monday.”

This is not your father’s impeachment
Political Theater, Episode 94

The conventional wisdom is that impeaching President Donald Trump could imperil Democrats in 2020. But beware the conventional wisdom, and relying on dated data and small sample sets, like the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

“Make no mistake about it: Backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020,” Rep. Tom Emmer, the head of the House Republicans’s campaign arm, thundered after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday. Every Republican from the president on down has echoed this sentiment. 

That ’70s Show: Biden edition
Political Theater, Episode 93

Say this for the Democratic presidential field: Voters certainly have choices. From former vice presidents to tech entrepreneurs, from senators to mayors, from wizened veterans to young upstarts.

Out of this crowded roster, Joe Biden is arguably the most recognizable. The affable No. 2 to President Barack Obama and longtime former senator is among the most known political quantities.

K Street doesn’t need just any old retired lawmakers
Political Theater, Episode 92

Lobbying firms on K Street and trade associations used to be a sure bet for retiring members of Congress. Not anymore.

Julian Ha, a recruiter on K Street and an adviser to FiscalNote, the company that owns CQ Roll Call, joins the podcast along with CQ Roll Call senior writer Kate Ackley to talk about the current state of lobbying positions for former lawmakers.