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Conversations with Bill Kristol
83 minutes | 7 days ago
Stan Veuger: What is Bidenomics?
How should we analyze the economic policies advanced by the Biden Administration? What are the possible effects of the trillions of dollars in government spending and the various programs proposed by the administration? What is America’s overall economic outlook coming out of the pandemic—and how might things play out under various scenarios? Joining us to consider these questions is American Enterprise Institute scholar Stan Veuger. Analyzing Biden’s economic agenda, Veuger and Kristol address the paradox that it is both extraordinarily large in scale but doesn’t create large structural changes to the economy, as would the institution of single-payer healthcare, for example. Veuger reflects on the degree to which the territory we face in fiscal policy is uncharted: the extent of domestic spending, outside of a crisis, without sufficient tax revenue to pay for it. Veuger also addresses topics ranging from the threat of inflation to where things stand in our politics relative to immigration and trade.
69 minutes | 20 days ago
Mark Blitz on Reason, Politics, and Human Nature
What can reason tell us about rights, freedom, responsibility, and the common good? What obstacles stand in the way of human beings developing clear thoughts about politics and its role within nature? How can attention to our experiences—for example, of freedom and rights—help us understand the nature of these political phenomena? In this Conversation, Claremont McKenna philosopher Mark Blitz presents his approach to the study of politics and human nature. Drawing on his new book, Reason and Politics: The Nature of Political Phenomena, Blitz argues that we should take our bearings in the study of political things not, in the first instance, through recourse to rigid rules or theories then imposed on the world, but through an open-minded encounter with political phenomena as they come to light through our own experience of them. Employing this approach, Blitz makes a series of stark and revealing comments about the nature of rights, liberty, equality, virtue, and human excellence. Finally, Blitz explains how his approach relates to thinkers including Plato and Martin Heidegger. This is a deep, challenging, and rewarding Conversation that has something important to say to anyone interested in liberal democracy, the American regime, and the nature of politics more generally.
64 minutes | a month ago
James Carville: The Democrats, The Republicans, and the Biden Administration
How has Joe Biden done in the first months of his presidency? What role might Donald Trump play in the Republican Party as we look ahead to 2022 and 2024? What challenges do the parties face—from the culture wars to economics? We are delighted to be joined for the first time on Conversations by James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist. Carville expresses cautious optimism about the Biden presidency but highlights the fragility of the Democratic coalition—and the possibility, in 2022 and 2024, of missteps in the culture war overshadowing the successes of a Democratic administration. He warns his party about vulnerability on issues like defund the police and the talk of socialism. As for the Republicans, Carville argues that Trump is in a weaker position than one might have anticipated—and that Republicans have proven surprisingly unable to challenge Biden’s agenda much beyond opposing the Democratic Party and the media on cultural grounds. Finally, Carville shares advice for those aspiring to run for office, and shares fascinating anecdotes from his distinguished career in politics.
69 minutes | 2 months ago
Leon Kass on the Book of Exodus
What makes a people a people? What forms its communal identity? The second book of the Bible, Exodus, tells of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, their journey through the wilderness, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, the building of the tabernacle, and much else. Exodus and its abiding mysteries have been studied for millennia as a source for wisdom and understanding about theological questions as well as human affairs. Joining us to discuss Exodus is Dr. Leon Kass, emeritus professor at the University of Chicago and emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Kass has just published the new book Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus, a monumental work in which he considers Exodus in a philosophical spirit, and shares striking insights on its theology, anthropology, and especially its politics. In this Conversation, he reflects on what he has learned through his study of Exodus—and argues that, regardless of our religious affiliation or beliefs, Exodus has much to teach those who read it with an open mind.
61 minutes | 2 months ago
Garry Kasparov: On Vladimir Putin, his Global Influence, and Standing up for Freedom
What are the latest developments in Russia with the Putin regime? How have recent protests surrounding the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny affected it? What is the nature of Putin’s power and why have his tactics so often been effective? To discuss, Bill Kristol is joined again by former world chess champion and human rights activist Garry Kasparov. According to Kasparov, the recent protests have demonstrated deep dissatisfaction in Russia with the Putin regime and the depth of its corruption. However, Kasparov notes that Putin has proven stubbornly effective at maintaining power and may yet weather this and other challenges he faces. In response to Putin’s authoritarianism, Kasparov calls for America and the leaders of the West to develop a coherent strategy for countering Putin’s aggression and for defending the principles of liberty, democracy, and free markets that have been the source of our strength.
68 minutes | 3 months ago
Larry Summers: On the Economic Outlook, the Case for Public Investment, and the Threat of Inflation
How should we think about fiscal stimulus in an era of low interest rates? Is $1.9 trillion too much? Is the proposed relief package sufficiently well targeted? In this Conversation, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers shares his analysis of the American economy and the challenges we face. Summers argues for substantial fiscal stimulus but emphasizes the importance of investments in infrastructure that could lay the groundwork for durable economic growth. Summers warns about the dangers of inflation—and especially if the accommodative fiscal and monetary policies of the crisis era become standard practice. Finally, Kristol and Summers discuss the state of higher education and how universities should conceive of their mission today.
64 minutes | 3 months ago
Ashish Jha: Covid-19, Vaccines, and the Outlook for 2021
Where do things stand in the US and around the world with Covid-19? How is the vaccine rollout affecting the course of the pandemic? How concerned should we be about new variants? When will we get kids back in school and the country open for business again? To discuss these and other questions, we are joined by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. While noting the possibility of threats from new variants, Jha shares a guardedly optimistic perspective on a path to relative normality over the spring and summer, and into the fall. Jha argues we should focus on essential things: leading with the vaccine rollout, complemented by efforts to ramp up testing capacity to make crowded venues safer—and that we should devote ample energy and resources to resuming in-person learning as soon as possible. According to Jha, we can do better than the recent CDC guidance suggests and should be able to reopen most schools this spring.
46 minutes | 3 months ago
Mark Blitz on Martin Heidegger
In this special audio release, Claremont McKenna professor of political philosophy Mark Blitz talks to Bill Kristol about German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889 - 1976). While stressing the problematic features of Heidegger's thought and his deplorable political activity, Blitz explains why Heidegger cannot simply be ignored. Video of Blitz and Kristol's discussion about Heidegger (from 2016) is available through the Great Thinkers website, a guide to political philosophy.
78 minutes | 4 months ago
Scott Lincicome: The Race for Vaccines and Global Collaboration in Science and Commerce
What has the Covid-19 pandemic and the race for vaccines taught us about government and private sector capabilities? How should we think about questions related to free trade, the global economy, and collaboration among scientists internationally? According to Scott Lincicome, a leading international trade attorney and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, the pandemic powerfully demonstrates the importance of an America that is open to trade, scientific talent wherever it is found, and an economy that is open to the world. While not denying a pivotal role for government in the arc of scientific innovation, Lincicome argues that the private sector in America should focus on its traditional strengths in research and development while advancing trading relationships with our partners around the world. At the same time, he argues, we should resist the growing temptation to pick winners in the economy as it leads to cronyism and corruption.
71 minutes | 4 months ago
Robert Gibbs: Joe Biden and the Challenge of a Presidential Transition during a Crisis
While presidential transitions always present challenges, few take place in crisis situations like the one we confront today. What lessons can we learn from past transitions? How should the Biden administration navigate the complexities of the current moment? Joining us to consider these questions is Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary during the financial crisis and a key figure in the Obama administration. Gibbs reflects on lessons learned from that transition and experience. Turning to the present, Gibbs and Bill Kristol consider the Biden transition and the unique set of challenges the Biden administration confronts. The experience and insight Gibbs draws upon here is a valuable resource for thinking through how to navigate the tumultuous times we face.
66 minutes | 4 months ago
Sean Wilentz: Conspiracy Theories and American Politics, Then and Now
What role have conspiracy theories played in American political history? What is the connection between conspiracism and demagogy? How do the conspiracies circulating in our time compare to the conspiracies of the past? Using the classic work by Richard Hofstadter The Paranoid Style in American Politics (1964) as a springboard, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz joins us to consider these questions. Wilentz, editor of Library of America’s new volume of Hofstadter’s work, argues that conspiracies, paranoia, and demagogy have deep roots in American political history—and have, at various times, succeeded in affecting American politics considerably. Wilentz brings his perspective to bear on conspiracies circulating today and considers how our situation compares and contrasts with other tumultuous moments in American history. Kristol and Wilentz also discuss whether and how a less demagogic form of politics might emerge in the years ahead.
67 minutes | 5 months ago
Ashish Jha on Covid-19, the Path to Recovery, and Lessons Learned
Where do things stand in the US with Covid-19? How quickly might the rollout of vaccines improve the situation? What lessons have we learned about America’s biomedical infrastructure and society during the course of the pandemic? To discuss these questions, we are joined by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. According to Jha, the short-term situation is worrisome, with infections, hospitalizations, and deaths at their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. Yet, he argues, there are now grounds for optimism about 2021 thanks to the development of highly-effective vaccines, the increase in testing capacity, and improvement in therapeutics. Most important, the rollout of the vaccines now approved by the FDA should allow our situation to improve significantly during the winter and into the spring and summer (with additional benefit likely to come from more vaccine candidates gaining approval in the months ahead). Jha and Kristol also discuss broader questions regarding the pandemic, including the impressive capacity for development of biomedical technology as well as the challenges of governance and social solidarity.
74 minutes | 5 months ago
Eric Edelman: Foreign Policy and the Biden Administration
Every new presidential administration faces its own set of foreign policy challenges, whatever the political climate at home and abroad. According to Eric Edelman, the incoming Biden administration faces an increasingly complex and dangerous world, as well as a fractious political environment at home. How should the Biden administration navigate America’s foreign policy? What should it focus on? In this Conversation, Edelman shares his perspective on the foreign policy challenges we face. Edelman calls for a renewed effort to defend America’s core interests while reforming and rebuilding alliance structures and institutions that have helped America prosper. While acknowledging key challenges to the enterprise, Edelman argues that America must reengage in leadership around the globe.
79 minutes | 6 months ago
Ronald Brownstein: After 2020, What’s Next in Our Politics?
What did we learn about the American electorate and the state of our politics from the elections of 2020? What do the results tell us about partisanship, the divisions between red and blue America, and the possibilities for heightened polarization or compromise going forward? To consider these questions, we are joined by Senior Editor at The Atlantic Ronald Brownstein. When Brownstein last joined us after the 2018 midterms, he predicted a Biden-Harris ticket in 2020. In this Conversation, he and Bill Kristol analyze the results of 2020 and consider possible paths forward for each party, and our politics in general, over the course of the Biden presidency. This is must-see Conversation for those interested in post-election analysis that speaks to the fundamental political challenges the country faces today and in the years ahead.
61 minutes | 7 months ago
Diana Schaub: The Life and Ideas of Booker T. Washington
The educator, orator, and thinker Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915) has long been considered one of the most important figures in the post-Civil War era. But, as Diana Schaub explains, his thought and actions often have been misunderstood. In this Conversation, Schaub, a leading interpreter of American political thought, attempts to recover Washington’s ideas by setting them against the political situation of the time. When we do so, Schaub argues, we confront a profound and original thinker whose ideas on education, race, culture, and politics remain relevant today.
50 minutes | 7 months ago
Mike Murphy on Trump vs. Biden: Two Weeks to Go!
Where do things stand in the presidential race with two weeks to go until Election Day? Why have the polling averages been so stable even as events have been tumultuous? To discuss, we’re delighted to welcome back veteran Republican operative and frequent guest, Mike Murphy who has been sharing his wisdom, insight, and humor with us throughout the whole campaign. Murphy analyzes the dynamics of the race, why today it looks so favorable to Biden, and what might happen on Election Day and after. Kristol and Biden also discuss possible paths forward for the Republican Party if President Trump loses the election.
59 minutes | 7 months ago
Mike Murphy on Trump vs. Biden: The Home Stretch
Where do things stand in the presidential race after the first debate? What should we look for in the final five weeks before Election Day? To discuss, we’re delighted to welcome back veteran Republican operative and frequent guest Mike Murphy. After assessing the debate performances, Murphy explains why he thinks Biden now possesses a substantial lead and Trump faces an uphill battle. Reflecting on the past 30 days, and past presidential races, Murphy considers the importance of the month of September for the campaigns—and also shares what he’s learned in recent weeks from polls and focus groups of undecided voters in Florida. As usual, Murphy brings his unique blend of humor and insight to the analysis!
63 minutes | 8 months ago
Jack Goldsmith: Assessing the Rule of Law in the Trump Presidency
How well have political and legal norms held up in our politics during the Trump presidency? In November 2017, Jack Goldsmith, a professor of Law at Harvard and a former Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, shared his assessment of the early days of the Trump presidency. Now, as we head to the end of 2020, Goldsmith re-joins us to consider where things stand today. Goldsmith argues that American institutions and legal norms have retained some resilience over the course of Trump’s presidency. However, he analyzes how checks and constraints on norm-violating or corrupt behavior have weakened in many areas over the last three years. Drawing on his recent book (coauthored with Bob Bauer), After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency, Goldsmith explains how future congresses should consider legislative remedies to restore norms in politics. But the heart of the matter, Goldsmith contends, is that the potential for a restoration of norms in our politics principally depends on whether future presidents will make adherence to norms a priority.
62 minutes | 8 months ago
Mike Murphy on Trump vs. Biden: The State of the Race
Where do things stand in the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden as we head into the final two months of the campaign? What strategies are the candidates pursuing? What pitfalls do they have to watch out for? What expected or unforeseen events might shape the race? Joining us this week is veteran Republican operative and frequent guest Mike Murphy. Kristol and Murphy consider possible paths forward for the election and particularly how undecided voters, in swing states like Florida, might play a decisive role in the outcome of the race.
70 minutes | 9 months ago
Paul Cantor: The Crisis in Higher Education—and Opportunities for Learning Online
How should we grade American universities on their performance in educating young people? What role do universities play in American life today? How might we think about the opportunities for education beyond the traditional on-campus model? In this Conversation, the University of Virginia’s Paul Cantor argues that universities often are failing in their most critical mission. There are, Cantor argues, a whole host of ideological, economic, and political factors that contribute to this decline, but he highlights a neglected one: bureaucratic centralization. According to Cantor, the efforts of universities to place administrators in charge of key decisions has weakened university departments—and taken authority from faculty members, who often have been a check on efforts to undermine liberal education. In light of the decline of elite institutions, particularly in the domain of liberal arts, Cantor and Kristol also consider how online technologies and non-university educational programs can further the goal of genuine liberal education, outside the institutional world of higher ed. One such encouraging example is Cantor’s own Shakespeare and Politics website in the FCG’s Great Thinkers series.
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