Jason Dick

Field notes from a North Carolina runoff and a reparations hearing
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 79

There is always a special congressional election somewhere. For the purposes of this particular Political Theater podcast, it is the upcoming Republican primary runoff in North Carolina’s 3rd District.

This is the seat that became vacant when longtime GOP Rep. Walter B. Jones died earlier this year. The April 30 GOP primary ended with two candidates heading to a July 9 runoff: state Rep. Greg Murphy and political newcomer Joan Perry. (The winner will face Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, in a Sept. 10 special general election to serve out the remainder of the 116th Congress.)

What’s in a vote? In the Senate, it’s in the eye, or ear, of the clerk
A look at the more common voting gestures seen on the chamber floor

How do I vote thee? Let me count the ways. 

Unlike the House, where the utilitarian electronic voting card does all the work, senators have so, so many ways to say “yes” or “no.”

James Inhofe and the art of the bipartisan joke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 78

Sen. James M. Inhofe is one conservative guy, and he is proud of it, trumpeting vote-tracking organizations that peg him as the most right-wing in the chamber. And yet, the Oklahoma Republican has an equally proud history of working with some of his most liberal colleagues on bipartisan legislation. 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed, the panel’s ranking Democrat, constructed the highly popular defense authorization bill the last two years. And before that, he worked quite productively with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, the yin to Inhofe’s yang on environmental issues, as leaders of the Environment and Public Works Committee. This, despite Inhofe writing a book that claimed global warming was, as the title attested, “The Greatest Hoax.” And yet, “We prided ourselves in getting things done,” he says. 

Getting handsy: Why are senators waving their hands about on the Senate floor?

Senators can get a little animated with their hands at times when voting on the Senate floor and sometimes it becomes difficult to determine which way they're trying to vote.

‘Running with Beto’: The offstage version of Beto O’Rourke
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 77

Filmmaker David Modigliani got to first base with Beto O’Rourke. At an amateur club baseball game in Austin, Texas, in early 2017, O’Rourke, center fielder for the Los Diablitos de El Paso, singled and introduced himself to Modigliani, first baseman for the Texas Playboys Baseball Club, and said he was a congressman running for Senate.

This anecdote doesn’t make it into Modigliani’s documentary for HBO, “Running with Beto,” but it fits right into the movie’s vibe. O’Rourke’s “Let’s put on a multimillion-dollar Senate campaign” approach did not suffer from a lack of exposure, but Modigliani casts it in a different light by showing more than just the Texas Democrat’s armpit-sweat and crowd-surfing, DIY schtick. He wanted to document someone like O’Rourke “trying something new” in Texas, where Democrats “have been banging their heads against the wall for 30 years.”

Why the Grim Reaper thing works for Mitch McConnell
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 76

Mitch McConnell is an extraordinarily successful politician, despite lacking what might be described as traditional attributes of a public official.

The Senate majority leader pursues his policy goals with metronomic unflashiness. He is almost proudly uncharismatic, brandishing his fuddy-duddyism as a boy scout might display a merit badge.

When Werner met Mikhail … ‘Meeting Gorbachev’
Political Theater, Episode 75

Everything about Werner Herzog becomes theater. Talk to the iconic German filmmaker about his documentary “Meeting Gorbachev” and he might just end up scolding you about your interpretation of Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. Scroll through historic footage of the fall of the Iron Curtain, and you could end up learning how much beer garden slugs like to drink. Quote from his movie about worries that the U.S. and Russia are heading toward an arms race, and he will downplay that Russia is a threat, while also saying world leaders need to “look beyond the horizon again,” and strive toward peace, much like Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev once did.

For better or worse, he’s always interesting. He doesn’t have much patience for small talk, so your latest Political Theater podcast, which features our conversation with him about his film on the last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is a real ride. “I never would have dreamed I would have spoken to Gorbachev himself,” he says. The movie demonstrates his undreamed reality. Listen for yourself: 

Who’s the guy in the background of all those Capitol Hill TV hits?
Undercover Capitol: taking you inside the historic workplace — one video at a time

He was a Cherokee, a cowboy, an actor and a political commentator. He was born in 1879, but he’s in the background of a handful of Capitol Hill TV news hits every day. 

He’s Will Rogers, Oklahoma’s favorite son. And his statue sits between the House floor and Statuary Hall in one of the few Capitol rooms where TV cameras can regularly shoot interviews. CQ Roll Call’s Jason Dick spoke with Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole about the ‘Old Country Boy’ himself, a Native American multimedia icon whose celebrity star still shines on Capitol Hill.

Get used to talking about Pennsylvania
Political Theater, Episode 74

For pure Political Theater, it will be hard to beat Pennsylvania during the 2020 campaign. The Keystone State will be, well, key to an Electoral College victory. President Donald Trump knows it. That may be why he has visited it six times since taking office, including to Montoursville in the north central part of the state on May 20.

He won’t be alone, though, because the current Democratic frontrunner, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was born in Scranton, represented neighboring Delaware in the Senate for decades and opened his official campaign headquarters in Philadelphia on May 18. Pennsylvania has long been a swing state in presidential politics, and Democrats’ ability to flip several Republican seats in 2018 paved the way for them retaking the majority in the House.

Adios, La Loma: Requiem for a Senate-side institution
Mitch McConnell calls it ‘the shutdown we all oppose!!’

Whether it was the convenient location a short walk from the Capitol, the bustling street-side patio or the tanker-sized margaritas, La Loma carved out a place in the life of Capitol Hill. And just like that, its 21-year Senate-side run on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast was over. 

If any place proved the real estate maxim of location, location, location, it was La Loma. Southwestern natives grumbled about the quality and execution of the fare, but it didn’t matter. Even the rain or cold wasn’t enough sometimes to keep people away from the patio, festooned with its green awning and multihued umbrellas, particularly during happy hour. And when the sun was out, it made for a mad dash to lunch, particularly on the Senate’s semi-workdays, Monday and Friday — and especially during recess. 

These Democratic women don’t want to be ‘show ponies’
Political Theater: Episode 73

Five Democratic freshmen, all women with military or intelligence backgrounds, are banding together to help each other fundraise for their 2020 races. They all flipped Republican districts in 2018, and they know winning districts like theirs is the key to holding and expanding the House majority in 2020. 

After a few months in Congress, they’ve figured out who are the “workhorses” and who are the “show ponies,” in the words of Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and they’re tired of the latter getting all the attention. Along with Slotkin, Reps. Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania are fighting to hold the majority.

Who’s afraid of political gerrymandering?
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 71

Political gerrymandering is losing friends fast, at least in the courts. Ohio and Michigan recently got smacked by federal judges for rigging the maps in favor of Republicans. At the same time, the Supreme Court could decide next month whether Maryland and North Carolina drew unconstitutional gerrymandered maps to favor Democrats and Republicans, respectively.  Why all the interest all of a sudden in such an esoteric part of politics? CQ Roll Call campaign reporters Simone Pathé and Stephanie Akin are our guides through the maze of maps on the latest Political Theater podcast. 

Movie Night: “Hail Satan?”
Political Theater Bonus, Episode 70

Penny Lane’s documentary “Hail Satan?” is among the most entertaining civics lessons to come around in a long time. Chronicling in jaunty manner the origins and growth of the Satanic Temple, which the IRS just recently recognized as a bona fide church, Lane’s movie shows how the Temple has enforced the First Amendment’s separation of church and state across the country. Lane, the director of “Our Nixon,” and “Nuts,” discussed her new...
No holds Barr as Democrats grill attorney general
Political Theater, Episode 69

Congress got its first crack at questioning Attorney General William Barr about his conclusions on the Mueller Report on May 1 in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room. As if that didn’t create enough drama, three of the members of the committee are running for president and looking to stand out. Read more...
Movie Night: “Knock Down the House”
Political Theater Bonus: Episode 68

If you listen to this podcast, you know Jason Dick loves movies, especially if they relate to politics. So on occasion, we’re going to bring you conversations with directors and actors — and even some movie reviews — for all the political movie-lovers out there. In this episode, we talk with Rachel Lears, director of the Netflix documentary “Knock Down the House,” which profiles four congressional challengers in 2018 and how they fared (spoiler alert: one of th...
Ellen Tauscher, former House member and diplomat, dies at 67

Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat who represented the eastern San Francisco Bay area in the House and later served as a senior diplomat at the State Department, has died at age 67.

Tauscher was among the more influential House Democrats outside the leadership circle during her time in Congress, as head of the New Democrat Coalition and a respected voice on arms control from her perch atop the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. 

Why a crowded 2020 ‘knife fight’ is good for Democrats
Political Theater, Episode 67

Democrats continue to throw their hats into the 2020 presidential race, and veteran strategist Rodell Mollineau thinks that’s a healthy way to work out the party’s message during a “once in a generation time” for them. “I’m all for this,” he says. Mollineau, a founder of American Bridge and Rokk Solutions, and previously a staffer for Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, discusses with Jason Dick and Nathan Gonzales the burgeoning field, what an ideal ticket would look like and learning from 2016’s mistakes.

The Mueller report gets a 9:30 Club kind of debut
Key questions as the hype around the Russian interference probe gets release

Coming to a Justice Department near you: The most highly anticipated investigative report in at least a generation, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, gets some pre-release hype at 9:30 EDT on Thursday in Washington before its wide release later in the day. 

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be on hand at the Justice Department to deliver the (perhaps heavily redacted) goods. So as one of the few events that could preempt “Today” and “Good Morning America” gets underway, here are some of the key questions surrounding the report. 

When Fritz Hollings ‘made the turn’ as a Southern politician
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 66

Before the late Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings was elected to what would become a distinguished congressional career, the South Carolina Democrat reversed himself on the defining issue in Southern politics: segregation. 

Running for governor in 1958, Hollings opposed integration, a keystone battle in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating public schools. But by the end of his term, he said it was time for the South to change, taking a step out of line with many of his Democratic colleagues in the region. 

Why ‘Queer Eye’ stormed Capitol Hill
Political Theater Podcast, Episode 65

Washington might be Hollywood for ugly people, but every once in a while Hollywood pretties the place up. That was certainly the case when the cast of “Queer Eye” came to the Capitol to advocate for the Equality Act, to the delight of many staffers, members and tourists. Jennifer Shutt discusses how the celebrity advocates used their powers for policy purposes.