political-theater-podcast

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

Senate Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and ranking member Jack Reed have a warm relationship that enables them to move bipartisan legislation, something Inhofe discusses in the latest Political Theater podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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. 

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

Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for Senate in Texas provided plenty of fodder, warts and all, for David Modigliani’s ‘Running with Beto’ documentary on HBO. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has his own way of doing things, to the consternation of his political foes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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

Filmmaker Werner Herzog, seen here in 2016 promoting his film “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” discussed his documentary “Meeting Gorbachev” recently with Political Theater podcast host Jason Dick. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

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: 

Get used to talking about Pennsylvania
Political Theater, Episode 74

Hello, Pennsylvania! Air Force One arrives with President Donald Trump for a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on Monday, May 20, 2019. The perennial battleground state will go a long way to determining the next president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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.

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

Democratic House freshmen banding together to help each other raise money to keep their seats in 2020 are, from left, Reps. Mikie Sherrill, Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, and Chrissy Houlahan, along with Rep. Elaine Luria. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Movie night: The Catholic priest who shepherded civil rights
Political Theater bonus: Episode 72

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, center left, with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights protesters in the 1960s.(Courtesy O’Malley Creadon Productions)

A documentary about the late Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, a real life “Forrest Gump” who challenged presidents and popes in the last half-century, resonates in today’s turbulent times, the director of the film tells CQ Magazine managing editor Mike Magner, who grew up hearing about Father Ted’s work and causes. The film, directed by Patrick Creadon, explores the challenges Father Ted faced with Republican and Democratic administrations in advancing civil rights. 

Show Notes:

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

Anti-gerrymandering activists gather on the steps of the Supreme Court as justices prepare to hear the Benisek v. Lamone case on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. The case challenged Maryland's 2012 Congressional redistricting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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, director of the documentary film "Hail Satan?" is interviewed for an episode of the Political Theater podcast in the CQ Roll Call podcast studio in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2019 (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call).

No holds Barr as Democrats grill attorney general
Political Theater, Episode 69

Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., both candidates for the 2020 presidential race, got their chance to question Attorney General William Barr about the Mueller report. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)