The Political Scene | The New Yorker

27 Jan. 2023

The White House chief of staff is the second most powerful but hardest gig in Washington, D.C. Dick Cheney blamed the job for giving him his first heart attack, during the Ford Administration. A hapless chief of staff can break a Presidency; effective ones get nicknamed the Velvet Hammer. On Friday, the Biden Administration announced that Ron Klain will depart as chief of staff, after two long years in the job. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to look at what Klain accomplished and what to expect from his replacement, Jeffrey Zients.

25 Jan. 2023

Last weekend, a man shot and killed eleven people at a ballroom-dance studio in Monterey Park, California, an Asian enclave outside of Los Angeles. Then, less than forty-eight hours later, in Half Moon Bay, California, another man shot and killed seven Chinese farmworkers. Notably, both alleged killers were older men with Asian backgrounds. While mass shootings take place with mind-boggling regularity in America, these attacks also happened amid an alarming rise in hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent. Jay Caspian Kang, a New Yorker staff writer and the author of “The Loneliest Americans,” joins Michael Luo, the editor of newyorker.com, to discuss how these two types of American violence shape our understanding of such disturbing events.

23 Jan. 2023

George Santos is hardly the first scammer elected to office—but his lies, David Remnick says, are “extra.” Most Americans learned of Santos’s extraordinary fabrications from a New York Times report published after the midterm election, but a local newspaper called the North Shore Leader was sounding the alarm months before. The New Yorker staff writer Clare Malone took a trip to Long Island to speak with the Leader’s publisher, Grant Lally, and its managing editor, Maureen Daly, to find out how the story began. “We heard story after story after story about him doing bizarre things,” Lally told her. “He was so well known, at least in the more active political circles, to be a liar, that by early summer he was already being called George Scamtos.” Lally explains how redistricting drama in New York State turned Santos from a “sacrificial” candidate—to whom no one was paying attention—to a front-runner. At the same time, Malone thinks, “the oddly permissive structure that the Republican Party has created for candidates on a gamut of issues” enabled his penchant for fabrication. “[There’s] lots of crazy stuff that’s popped up in politics over the past few years. I think maybe Santos thought, Eh, who’s gonna check?”

20 Jan. 2023

President Biden has faced remarkable challenges in his first two years in office, from the overturning of the national right to abortion and the management of the U.S.’s COVID response, to the invasion of Ukraine. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to look at what the Biden White House has accomplished in the past two years, and what the forty-sixth President can hope to achieve before 2024. Plus, the roundtable talks about the political implications of “The Getty Family’s Trust Issues,” Osnos’s latest article which explores how the ultra-wealthy avoid paying taxes. 

18 Jan. 2023

A few days before Christmas, the New York City pastor Lamor Whitehead—known to some as the “Bling Bishop”—was federally indicted for a number of alleged crimes. Among the charges was that Whitehead, a close friend of New York’s mayor, Eric Adams, tried to extort a businessman by claiming he had pull with City Hall. This is not the first time that friends of the Mayor have found themselves in legal trouble, or that Adams has faced questions about potential corruption. Eric Lach writes a regular column about New York City politics, and over the weekend he published a bombshell report on the long history between the Mayor and Whitehead. He joins Tyler Foggatt to talk about the persistent questions surrounding their relationship.  

16 Jan. 2023

Bob Woodward has been writing about the White House for more than fifty years, going toe to toe with nearly every President after Richard Nixon. Woodward is every inch the reporter, not one to editorialize. But, during his interviews with Donald Trump at the time of the COVID-19 crisis, Woodward found himself shouting at the President—explaining how to make a decision, and trying to browbeat him into listening to public-health experts. Woodward has released audio recordings of some of their interviews in a new audiobook called “The Trump Tapes,” which documents details of Trump’s state of mind, and also of Woodward’s process and craft. Despite having written critically of Trump in 2018, Woodward found his access unprecedented. “I could call him anytime, [and] he would call me,” Woodward tells David Remnick. His wife, Elsa Walsh, “used to joke [that] there’s three of us in the marriage.”

13 Jan. 2023

The House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government was launched on Tuesday, with Representative Jim Jordan, a combative ally of Donald Trump and a co-founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus, at the helm. This powerful new committee has the authority to investigate the federal government and how it has collected, analyzed, and used information about American citizens. Its mandate includes access to sensitive documents and details about covert actions, all of which fall under Congress’s typical oversight authority. But the new committee also provides a way for Republicans to advance the narrative that conservatives are systematically under attack. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to look at historical parallels of this new committee, and how it will likely handle issues such as Hunter Biden’s laptop and the recent revelation that Joe Biden had a number of classified documents in his possession.

11 Jan. 2023

On Sunday, a mob of protesters ransacked Brazil’s capital, claiming that the recent Presidential election had been rigged. The riots, eerily reminiscent of the United States Capitol attack, were carried out in the name of Brazil’s former President, Jair Bolsonaro, a political figure who has been described as the “Trump of the Tropics.” Andrew Marantz, a New Yorker staff writer, was in Brazil during November’s election, when another former President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, defeated Bolsonaro. He joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss the contagiousness of far-right political movements in the age of social media.

6 Jan. 2023

By Thursday evening, Kevin McCarthy had lost eleven votes for Speaker of the House, the longest series of inconclusive ballots for the role since 1859. Until the next Speaker is selected, nothing can happen in the House of Representatives: no new legislation, no top-secret briefings, not even paychecks for lawmakers. McCarthy’s fate remained unclear when the staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gathered for their weekly conversation, on Friday morning. Whatever the outcome, they say, the entire saga is instructive about the current state of the Republican Party—who wields true power, what the role of big money is, and even what the next two years of divided government might look like.

4 Jan. 2023

Luke Mogelson, a contributing writer at The New Yorker, is one of the rare reporters who has seen the war in Ukraine from the front lines. He recently spent two weeks embedded with a group of fighters from around the world who had chosen to travel to Ukraine and join the war against Russia. In a new story in the magazine, he writes about the sophisticated and incessant violence of the war, and the mentality that keeps these volunteer soldiers there, fighting on behalf of a country that is not their own. He joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss what he witnessed.

2 Jan. 2023

During the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, Broadway theatres were among the many institutions to announce a commitment to equity and protecting Black lives. But for many Black performers, the promise rang hollow. Frustrated by what he perceived to be a lack of accountability, the actor Britton Smith and colleagues at Broadway Advocacy Coalition organized events that pointed to the industry’s failures and called for genuine change. BAC won a Tony Award for its work. But two years later, “the fire [has] crumbled into ashes, and now the ashes are starting to settle,” Smith tells Ngofeen Mputubwele. “You have to go through a process of (finding) peace. … Some people are horrible. Some people want to learn, some people don’t. Some people want to keep their power, some people don’t.”

30 Dec. 2022

2022 was the year that the contours of the post-pandemic world started to heave into view. Critical aspects of domestic and international politics were reordered. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to consider the most important stories of 2022. They talk through the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, changing perceptions in Washington of the U.S.-China relationship, and the immense toll of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Plus, they offer some year-end reading and watching recommendations.

28 Dec. 2022

In 2022, three hundred and forty pieces of legislation in twenty-three states targeted L.G.B.T.Q. rights. The most high-profile was Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill—officially the Parental Rights in Education Act—introduced by Governor Ron DeSantis. The law limits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grade-school classrooms, including through the removal of books and other educational materials. DeSantis, of course, won a landslide reëlection contest in November, with parental rights a central part of his platform. In July, when the “Don’t Say Gay” law was newly implemented, Jessica Winter joined Tyler Foggatt to discuss the history of queer children’s literature, why the right finds it so dangerous, and how its banning will affect the lives and education of young people.

This episode was originally released on July 14, 2022.

26 Dec. 2022

Tracy K. Smith was named Poet Laureate in 2017, at the beginning of the fierce partisan divide of the Trump era. She quickly turned to her craft to address the deep political divisions the election laid bare, putting together a collection called “American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time.” Then she hit the road, visiting community centers, senior centers, prisons, and colleges, and reading poems written by herself and others for groups small and large. “It was exhausting, and exhilarating, and it was probably the best thing I could have done as an American,” she told The New Yorker’s poetry editor, Kevin Young. 

This segment originally aired July 5, 2019.

23 Dec. 2022

On Monday, the House select committee investigating January 6th voted unanimously to refer Donald Trump to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation over the attack on the Capitol, including a charge of insurrection. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to talk about the committee’s eighteen-month probe and what’s next for the forty-fifth President.

22 Dec. 2022

After a nearly eighteen-month investigation, which included televised hearings and more than a thousand interviews, the January 6th Committee is set to release its final report. As indicated by the executive summary, the report will lay bare who is to blame for the Capitol attack: Donald Trump, unambiguously. The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, authored the foreword to a publication of the full report being co-issued by the magazine and Celadon Books. He joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss the committee’s exhaustive work, the historic nature of its criminal referral, and the possible outcomes ahead for Trump.

17 Dec. 2022

Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most powerful people in Washington for decades. As the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, she shaped and passed monumental pieces of legislation—from Obamacare to the Inflation Reduction Act—often with slim majorities. She learned lessons as part of a powerful Baltimore political family and then went on to navigate sexism in Washington politics and stand up to Donald Trump. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation to discuss the secret to Pelosi’s effectiveness. Plus: what the next two years might hold for Kevin McCarthy as he takes over the role and navigates narrow Republican control.

14 Dec. 2022

Last week, the Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema announced that she would be leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an Independent—a decision that seems especially dramatic given the Democrats’ slim majority. Yet Sinema is joining a growing bloc of about forty per cent of the electorate that does not identify with either party. Amy Davidson Sorkin joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss the causes of this widespread dissatisfaction, and whether an Independent movement could energize electoral politics in our highly partisan moment. “In theory, a third party would be great, and yet it’s so worrisome because there’s all of these real threats to democracy in the last few years,” Sorkin says. “But another threat to democracy is people feeling deeply alienated from politics and like there is no home for them.”

12 Dec. 2022

For Washington insiders and people in the media, Politico publishes some of the wonkiest reporting inside the Beltway. It’s not what you’d call a mass-market publication, but it’s highly influential—it was Politico that obtained and published Samuel Alito’s draft opinion of the Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade. The German news publisher Axel Springer, led by the C.E.O. Mathias Döpfner, acquired Politico last year for more than a billion dollars. “I believe that journalism has a very bright future if we get some things right,” Döpfner tells David Remnick. The C.E.O. relishes taking provocative stances, but he has been a vocal critic of media outlets that he says increasingly cater to partisan audiences; he cites as an example the resignation of a New York Times editor over the publication of a right-wing opinion piece. “It is not about objectivity or neutrality,” he tells Remnick. “It is about plurality.” Politico, Döpfner says, is taking “a kind of contrarian bet: if everybody polarizes, the few who do differently may have the better future.”

9 Dec. 2022

It’s been a busy week in national politics: Raphael Warnock triumphed over Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff, Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic caucus in the Senate, and the Democrats proposed a new calendar for the 2024 Presidential primaries. There are also the myriad investigations into Donald Trump, and criminal convictions of Trump Organization companies for tax fraud. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation, starting with Donald Trump’s recent call to “terminate” the Constitution, so that he can be reinstated as President or have the 2020 election be “redone.” 

8 Dec. 2022

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, won reëlection by a stunning nineteen-point margin. With that kind of popularity—in a state with twenty-nine electoral votes—he seems well positioned to run for President. To do so, he must win supporters away from Donald Trump, who has already announced a 2024 run, in a speech delivered from Mar-a-Lago. DeSantis has questioned the “huge underperformance” of Trump-endorsed Republicans in the midterms, while touting his own brand of politics. Could he be the next leader of the G.O.P.? Dexter Filkins, who profiled the Governor earlier this year, joins Tyler Foggatt to discuss how Florida became ground zero of the new Republican Party.

5 Dec. 2022

J. Michael Luttig is a retired judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals and a prominent legal mind in conservative circles, close with figures including Clarence Thomas and William Barr. On January 5, 2020, he got a call from Vice-President Mike Pence’s then-lawyer asking Luttig to publicly back Pence’s decision not to attempt to overturn the election the next day. Luttig tweeted that the Vice-President had no constitutional authority to stop the election, and suddenly the judge was thrust into the center of the crisis.Now Luttig is siding with Democrats as co-counsel on the Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper, which he tells David Remnick is “the most important case, since the founding, for American democracy.” At the heart of the debate is the independent-state-legislature theory, a once-fringe legal concept that Donald Trump and his allies believe should have allowed Pence to reject the popular vote in 2020. If the court adopts the theory, it could grant legislatures essentially unfettered authority to run national elections; they could not be challenged even if the election violated the state constitution. Such power, in the hands of a gerrymandered legislature, could be used to bypass the popular vote and appoint a new slate of electors, effectively empowering state lawmakers to choose a winner. The court will hear the case on December 7th.

2 Dec. 2022

All week, Washington, D.C., has been talking about Donald Trump’s dinner with Nick Fuentes, a notorious white supremacist and Holocaust denier. A wave of prominent Republicans have repudiated the dinner and anti-Semitism, including Senators Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney. Trump’s former Vice-President, Mike Pence, condemned the meeting as well, with the caveat that he didn’t think his former boss was a bigot or an anti-Semite. But the issue goes beyond a single meal. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly conversation, to look at the modern history of the far right in Republican politics.

30 Nov. 2022

Anger over China’s “Zero-COVID” policy erupted in protests this week. It’s a startling and nearly unheard-of challenge to President Xi’s power, a short time after he secured a third term in office. The anger over Zero COVID is unique, the staff writer Jiayang Fan tells the host Tyler Foggatt, because it has united disparate groups across China that transcend class and geography. But Fan cautions about concluding this moment is the start of a revolution: “These political wobbles are something that the Communist Party is accustomed to, to a certain degree, despite trying to prevent it at all costs.” A clampdown seems to be already under way.  

The protests also arrive at a delicate moment in U.S.-China relations. Tensions over trade and Taiwan have flared. The Biden Administration has even criticized China’s Zero-COVID restrictions and lockdowns. “I can see Beijing using Biden’s words as a piece of evidence that the protests in China are not organic but somehow seeded by hostile foreign agents,” Fan says. “Even though clearly not many foreigners are getting into China these days.”

25 Nov. 2022

Many of the most important and powerful people in Washington, D.C., are on the older side. Joe Biden turned eighty last week. Mitch McConnell is also eighty. Nancy Pelosi, who recently stepped away from a leadership position in her party, is eighty-two. All three of these leaders have delivered big victories for their respective parties. But there is a question of whether America is becoming a gerontocracy—a country ruled by the elderly. The staff writers Susan B. Glasser, Jane Mayer, and Evan Osnos gather for their weekly roundtable conversation to ask: Do age and experience impart wisdom for troubled times, or can they create an inability to confront new ways of thinking?

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