political-theater-podcast

Comic Maz Jobrani is seriously funny about politics
Political Theater, Episode 109

Comedian and actor Maz Jobrani has thoughts about Washington, performance in the Trump era and hanging out in the fake West Wing. (Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

What a time to be heckled by Trump supporters when you’re an Iranian American comedian!

Ph.D. dropout and comic Maz Jobrani takes Heard on the Hill’s Kathryn Lyons “back to school” to talk Trump hecklers, his least favorite 2020 candidate and what it’s like to be in the fake West Wing in the latest Political Theater podcast

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

What’s it like covering President Donald Trump? Let us count the ways.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak as Tom Steyer looks on after the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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

A Capitol. A hallway. Lunch. The Senate copes with not having full control of its calendar and waiting on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to transmit articles of impeachment so it can start its trial. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

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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

Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, smiles as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks by at the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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.

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

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown has a new book, “Desk 88,” about senators who have occupied his current workspace in the chamber. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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 uses the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center to hold discussions with his allies, adversaries and other dignitaries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

President Donald Trump concludes a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

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.