political-theater-podcast

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

Journalists follow Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as she leaves her office on her way to the chamber floor to speak about the CIA torture report being released by the committee on on Dec. 9, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Speaker Nancy Pelosi looks on as the House votes on Oct. 31 on a resolution outlining the rules for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Impeachment will frame the debate going into the 2020 elections. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times/Pool)

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

Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn tops the list of most vulnerable House incumbents for the 2020 election cycle. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

House Judiciary Chairman Henry J. Hyde presided over the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton in 1998. At left is the portrait of Peter Rodino, the Judiciary chairman when the committee approved impeachment articles against President Richard Nixon.(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

A portrait of the late Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings sits nearby as his body lies in state outside the House chamber on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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.  

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

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner has a difficult balance to strike between loyalty to President Donald Trump and his GOP followers and building a coalition of voters as he seeks reelection in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her fellow Supreme Court justices are political issues themselves, a topic for discussion in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Luke Skywalker, played in the “Star Wars” saga by Mark Hamill, seen here, might as well have been talking about political conventional wisdom about impeachment when he counseled Rey in “The Last Jedi” that things don’t always go as planned. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images file photo)

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

Former Vice President Joe Biden arrives for his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia on May 18. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Gone are the days when retired lawmakers had a glide path to K Street and trade association gigs. These days, lawmakers need to show more than just a résumé to have a lucrative career in advocacy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.