The Axe Files with David Axelrod
David Axelrod, the founder and director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and CNN bring you The Axe Files, a series of revealing interviews with key figures in the political world. Go beyond the soundbites and get to know some of the most interesting players in politics.
Dr. Walter Massey is a uniquely accomplished and fascinating American. Raised in the segregated South, Walter became one of only a handful of Black physicists in the 1960s and went on to hold leadership roles at laboratories, universities, and briefly Bank of America during the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. He joined David to talk about his work bringing more minorities into the sciences, his involvement in civil rights as a professor, nuclear energy and scientific research, and Covid-19’s effect on trust in the scientific community.
Nov 23, 2023
Ambassador David Pressman has spent decades working on human rights, from positions at the White House to years as a human rights lawyer and nonprofit leader. He is continuing to fight for human rights and democracy as the current Ambassador to Hungary, but this time with added significance—he serves as a gay man in a country enacting increasingly anti-LGBT legislation. He joined David to talk about supporting LGBT rights in Hungary, how the state-run media has made him a target, and the threat of Vladimir Putin and Russia to democracy is Hungary and around the world.
Nov 16, 2023
This week, we’re bringing you a special episode of The Axe Files. In honor of the 15th anniversary of President Barack Obama’s historic election, David assembled a group of key players who made the 2008 Obama campaign happen. Jon Favreau, Robert Gibbs, Reggie Love, and Alyssa Mastromonaco joined David to talk about their memories of the campaign, share stories from the trail, and reflect on the historic nature of Nov. 4, 2008.
Nov 9, 2023
Journalist McKay Coppins has been linked to Sen. Mitt Romney since he covered Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. As a fellow Mormon from Massachusetts, McKay was seen as a “Mormon whisperer” by his fellow reporters on the trail. Now, with the help of dozens of interviews and access to Romney’s journals and emails, McKay has written “Romney: A Reckoning.” He joined David to talk about his new book, the political evolution of Romney and the Republican Party, the omnipresence of Romney’s father in his life and career decisions, political idealism, Donald Trump, and Romney’s sense of legacy.
Nov 2, 2023
Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan has anchored "Uvda,” the leading investigative news program on Israeli TV, for 30 years. She joined David this week to talk about the first 24 hours after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, America’s involvement in the conflict, the helplessness felt in Israel, whether she believes the war will expand throughout the region, the political fallout for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party following the attack, and where the Israeli-Palestinian relationship—as well as any hope for peace—goes from here.
Oct 26, 2023
Writer Walter Isaacson grew up in a family full of engineers and spent his spare time making radios and televisions sets. While he became a journalist and author instead, his interest in technology and science remained and has informed his selection of biography subjects, from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs. Walter joined David to talk about his latest biography on Elon Musk and Musk's “epic hero visions of himself,” his technological genius, how Musk’s father’s treatment of him affected his personality, the openness and transparency Musk allowed Isaacson, and criticism Isaacson received for getting too close to Musk during the writing of his book, "Elon Musk."
Oct 19, 2023
David French has held many roles: religious-liberties attorney, army officer, writer and political commentator, and outspoken critic of Donald Trump. French joined David to talk about the dissonance he felt in adhering to his conservative Christian values in the face of a changing GOP, his decision to leave the Republican Party in 2016, the hate and threats he and his family endured for criticizing Trump, his views on same-sex marriage and abortion, his steadfast belief in the First Amendment, and why he is greatly concerned for America today.
Oct 12, 2023
This week, we’re revisiting a 2015 interview with Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Then serving as House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi spoke with David about her childhood in Baltimore, her tenure as Speaker of the House and all of its challenges, the key to building consensus, and politics and power.
Oct 5, 2023
As a child, journalist and writer Lawrence Wright cherished his summer visits to the library with his mother when he would load up cardboard boxes with books to devour. His love of reading evolved into a love of writing, and he has since written deeply reported books, novels, plays, and screenplays, as well as working as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Lawrence joined David to talk about the Texas of his childhood and what the current state of Texas portends for America; writing about faith, from Islamic extremism to Scientology; his concerns over political violence; the type of Texas he would like to see in the future; and his newest book, “Mr. Texas: A Novel.”
Sep 28, 2023
After a decades-long career in public service spanning three presidential administrations, Susan Rice left her post as President Biden’s domestic policy advisor in May 2023. Rice joined David to talk about the differences between working on domestic policy and national security, Biden taking office in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of mental health care, the challenges of immigration policy, gun violence's impacts on generations of young people, the stakes of the war in Ukraine, and the threat of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Sep 21, 2023