Aaron Friedberg: On the Rise of China and the Strategic Threat to the United States
Is China already a serious strategic threat to the United States? If so, how should the United States respond to its rise as a regional and global power? In this Conversation with Bill Kristol, Aaron Friedberg, professor of political science and international affairs at Princeton University, argues that a rising China is now the most significant foreign policy challenge facing the United States. Reviewing recent history, Friedberg notes that America since the end of the Cold War has pursued a policy of greater engagement with China, believing that the country would ultimately liberalize politically. As Friedberg explains, this has not happened. Rather, the Chinese Communist Party has increasingly attempted to shape the world system in ways favorable to China and detrimental both to the security and economic well-being of the United States. Friedberg calls for economic, technological, and diplomatic efforts by the U.S. to meet the challenge from China.
Surveys tell us that Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with government institutions—from Congress and federal agencies to state and local governments. Given our aversion to taxes and bureaucracy, why do we demand the government do so much? And what can be done to improve the quality of our government's performance?
In this provocative Conversation, University of Pennsylvania political scientist John J. Dilulio, Jr. argues that America does not have enough government workers to accomplish the tasks we demand of our government. Dilulio points to the paradox that we have not witnessed any increase in the federal workforce since the mid-1960s, while government spending has exploded since that time. Instead, the federal government has increasingly outsourced work to for-profit contractors, state and local employees who are de-facto federal workers, as well as non-profit workers. Making matters worse, we do not give the federal workers the discretion and oversight necessary to achieve good results. This “government by proxy,” according to Dilulio, is plagued by a lack of accountability, out-of-control spending, and poor outcomes. This is a must-listen podcast for anyone interested in the inner workings of American government.
Born in 1950 in New York City and raised in Montreal, Charles Krauthammer, who died on June 21, 2018, was an indispensable voice in American public life for nearly four decades. His writing and speaking—covering politics, religion, technology, sports, and many other subjects—enriched American public life in a profound way. A staunch defender of American exceptionalism, he was one of the most eloquent writers of his generation. As Bill Kristol put it, he was that “rare combination of extraordinary courage and intellect.” Originally released in April 2015, this Conversation covers his education, his political reflections from the 1980s through to the present day, his upbringing in Quebec, his work in medicine, and his attachment to Israel and Zionism. In it, some of Krauthammer's extraordinary wisdom, wit, and character come through.
Harvey Mansfield on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
Why is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America the best book “ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America?” Why is it indispensable both for understanding the country as well as defending it? In this Podcast, Harvey Mansfield, co-translator of Democracy in America (with Delba Winthrop), presents a detailed exposition of Tocqueville’s masterwork. Mansfield considers the major themes of Tocqueville’s work, including Tocqueville’s treatment of the idea of rights, the role of religion, men and women, self-government, and the relationship of liberty and equality. As Mansfield explains, Democracy in America advocates a more “political” version of the liberalism propagated by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and other modern political philosophers. Americans, in Tocqueville’s account, learn the practice of self-government through the institutions they inherit and build upon. American practice therefore elevates the country and citizens above the individualism and narrow materialism that can follow from a liberalism too literally applied from a theory—e.g., the “state of nature.” As Mansfield puts it, Tocqueville remains even in our time the greatest resource we have for “defending a defensible liberalism.”
Jim Manzi: On Global Warming, Climate Change, and What To Do About It
How should we think about global warming and climate change? How can we develop a sensible strategy to confront a problem for which the risks are inherently difficult to predict with accuracy? And how might the risks from climate change compare with other threats we'll face in the years ahead? In this Podcast, Jim Manzi, a leading technology entrepreneur, shares his perspective. In contrast to the maximalism we often hear in debates about climate change—“is the world going to end?” or “is this a hoax?”—Manzi urges us to think quantitatively about climate change and to pursue a strategy that would allow us to deal with a range of possible outcomes. Manzi explains why the predictions about climate are inherently uncertain—and warns against taxation that would not meaningfully affect climate change but would empower rivals to the United States like China. Instead, Manzi recommends “technology rather than taxation,” a strategy that emphasizes public and private investment in ambitious research toward technologies that will equip us to meet possible challenges and threats from climate change in the years to come.
Edward Conard: Economic Growth, Innovation, and Middle-Class Prosperity
On how we can sustain economic growth, spur innovation, improve productivity, and ensure greater prosperity for the middle class. In this Conversation, businessman and best-selling author Edward Conard shares his perspective on how America can achieve these objectives. Conard counters the commonplace view, today, that the American middle class has been hollowed out and that economic mobility has stagnated. While recognizing a slowdown in productivity and growth in recent years, Conard considers the overall strength and diversity of the American economy, and the relative growth in middle-class incomes in America compared to peer groups in Europe as well as Japan. According to Conard, we must prioritize innovation and growth in order to meet today’s challenges—and he cites America’s opportunity to increase high-skilled immigration as the single best way to jumpstart innovation and productivity now and in the years to come.
Andrew Ferguson on Identity Politics and American Culture
What is “identity politics”? How has it changed American culture? What are its political ramifications? In this podcast, the author and Atlantic Staff Writer Andrew Ferguson shares his perspective on identity politics and the condition of American culture today. Ferguson argues that the weakening of civic education in America created a void that identity politics has filled. Instead of attempting to think for themselves, many of our best and brightest students are attracted to championing identity groups (e.g. on the basis of race, gender, or class). According to Ferguson, this has made our civic life more contentious and has weakened our culture and institutions. Kristol and Ferguson also discuss the effects of identity politics in higher education—and consider alternative ways of fostering civic and liberal education.
Paul Cantor on the Dark Side of the American Dream
“[America], which promises freedom, can’t guarantee that freedom won’t be misused.” So argues Paul Cantor in our new Conversation. Drawing on his new book "Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream: Con Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies," Cantor explains how a country that offers a fresh start to everyone inevitably produces many false starts and opportunities for con men, along with tragic examples of freedom misused and talent thwarted. Cantor traces this theme through American popular culture, focusing on Mark Twain’s "Huckleberry Finn," Francis Ford Coppola’s "Godfather" movies, and Vince Gilligan’s "Breaking Bad." These works, Cantor argues, exemplify what he calls the “dark side of the American dream.” This is a must-see Conversation for anyone interested in American culture and ideas.
Robert Kagan on Authoritarianism and the Threat to the Liberal Democratic Order
Does the rise of authoritarian powers represent an ideological threat to liberal democracy—or just a strategic challenge? Why must America defend the liberal order created after World War II? In this podcast, Robert Kagan, a historian and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues that authoritarian regimes represent an ideological as well as strategic threat to the America-led liberal democratic order. Drawing on his recent essay “The Strongmen Strike Back,” Kagan explains that authoritarian regimes—whatever their differences of character or policy—are united in their ideological opposition to liberalism, and have compelling reasons to try to subvert it wherever possible. Highlighting the growing dangers posed by aggressive authoritarian regimes, now armed with technologies of surveillance, Kagan explains why America must defend liberalism at home and the liberal democratic order abroad.
Joe Trippi on the Race for the Democratic Nomination in 2020
What is the state of the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020? In this Conversation, veteran political consultant and commentator Joe Trippi draws on his extensive experience in Democratic campaigns to assess. Will the ideological energy of the Democratic Party grassroots determine the nominee? Or will a “safe choice” prevail? Trippi highlights party regulars’ attention to electability, as well as the desire of many voters for a candidate who presents a strong contrast to President Trump in terms of character and style. According to Trippi, such a focus on electability could play a pivotal role in the candidacy of Joe Biden, who has the big advantage of having served as vice president to a president still popular in his party.
James Ceaser on James Madison as the First American Founder
Did James Madison invent the idea of the American founding? Why do we venerate the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the figures who wrote and defended our founding documents? In this Conversation, University of Virginia politics professor James Ceaser explains how in 1787 James Madison deliberately encouraged the drafters of the Constitution in Philadelphia and other Americans to conceive of their project as a “founding.” Madison did so, according to Ceaser, to elevate the project beyond a mere exercise in day-to-day politics or ephemeral lawmaking. He wanted to encourage future generations to venerate—as well as rationally reflect—on the founders and the documents they produced. Ceaser argues that these efforts by Madison, as well as other founders, have had a profound effect on how Americans think about the role of reason, tradition, and law in politics. Kristol and Ceaser also consider the extent to which the Constitution and founders still influence our politics.
Why is today's Congress so dysfunctional? Are today’s legislators worse? What reforms could improve Congress?
Jeff Bergner has had a distinguished career in government, having served as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs (2005 – 2008), Chief of Staff to Senator Richard Lugar, and Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Drawing on his new book "The Vanishing Congress," Bergner shares his perspective on why Congress has increasingly ceded its Constitutional authority. Many have proposed fixes like campaign finance reform or term limits to solve these problems. But Bergner asserts that Congress has encumbered itself with many unhelpful practices. Bergner suggests reforms that might strengthen Congress, including trimming down Congressional staff and eliminating the Senate filibuster. Finally, Bill Kristol and Bergner discuss how the executive branch and legislative branch interact with one another, and how this relationship might be improved.
Kristen Soltis Anderson: Millennials and Generation Z on Trump, the Left, and Big Government
Kristen Soltis Anderson is a pollster, author, and political analyst. In her second conversation with Bill Kristol, Anderson analyzes the latest data on the political, social, and cultural attitudes of the two youngest voting generations, “Millennials” (ages 23-38 in 2019) and “Generation Z” (ages 14-22 in 2019). According to Anderson, both of these generations continue their leftward political trajectory—a trend, she asserts, has accelerated during the presidency of Donald Trump. Anderson shares her perspective on what this data means for American politics in the short and medium term. Finally, Kristol and Anderson discuss how Republicans might broader their appeal to younger voters.
Michael Strain is a scholar and director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. In this Conversation, Strain challenges the increasingly widespread notion that America is in decline economically—and reflects on the enduring importance of innovation and dynamism in the American economy. Highlighting measures like social mobility and increases in living standards, Strain argues that America remains robust economically even as globalization, technology, and other factors have presented and will continue to present serious challenges to the status quo. Finally, Strain points to several policy goals that promote innovation and growth—including high-skilled immigration, renewed focus on STEM, and investment in research and development—that could increase America’s economic performance.
Stephen Rosen: US Foreign Policy, Great Power Competition, and the Rise of China
Harvard government professor Stephen Rosen assesses the current geopolitical environment, and considers America’s capacity to meet its foreign policy responsibilities and deter its adversaries. Detailing threats to America from a rising China, the success of bad actors in the Middle East, and other geopolitical turmoil, Rosen explains why America must compete in economic, political, and military arenas—and reflects on the deleterious consequences of American disengagement from the world.
Harvey Mansfield on Aristotle, Democracy, and Political Science
What does Aristotle have to teach us about democracy and the relationship of philosophy to politics? A profound treatment of this theme is found in "Aristotle: Democracy and Political Science" by Delba Winthrop (1945 – 2006), which has just been published by the University of Chicago Press. In his sixteenth appearance on Conversations, Harvey Mansfield draws on Winthrop’s book and her stunning interpretation of Book III of Aristotle’s "Politics." Mansfield argues that the political quarrels in every city between a “democratic” party and an “oligarchic” party have something crucial to teach us about political science, natural science, and human nature. As Mansfield demonstrates, Aristotle’s "Politics" reveals that philosophers have something to learn from politics. And, if they do, according to Mansfield, “they’re no longer just natural philosophers but political philosophers. This would make political philosophy central to all philosophy. Politics shows you the central heterogeneity of things.”
Veteran political strategist and commentator Mike Murphy assesses where the Republicans and the Democrats stand as we look toward 2020. What are President Trump’s prospects for reelection? Where are the divisions in the Democratic Party, and which Democratic candidates might prevail in the primaries? And could there be a successful primary challenge to Trump? Murphy shares his thoughts on these and other pressing questions with his usual blend of political insight and humor.
Ronald Brownstein: From the 2018 Midterms to the 2020 Elections
Ronald Brownstein is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst at CNN, and a shrewd observer of American politics. In this Conversation, Brownstein shares his perspective on how the midterms reveal further intensification of the geographic and demographic divisions in American politics. Brownstein and Bill Kristol then look ahead to 2020. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of both parties, the key cultural and economic issues that are likely to feature in the campaigns, and whether President Trump might be vulnerable to a primary challenge. This is must-see electoral and political analysis at the highest level.
Jack Goldsmith: Cybersecurity, Cyberwarfare, and the Threats We Face
Jack Goldsmith is a professor of law at Harvard University and served as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (2003-2004). In this Conversation, Goldsmith shares his perspective on America’s vulnerabilities to cyber attack—the complex and systemic threats to our digital and physical infrastructures, as well as to our politics via hacking and digital espionage. As Goldsmith explains, we have not done nearly enough to counter cyber threats through better defense or employment of countermeasures against adversaries. Finally, Kristol and Goldsmith consider what the government and private sector can do to improve our cybersecurity.
Christine Rosen on the Me Too Movement, Women, and Men
Christine Rosen is an author, the managing editor of The Weekly Standard, and a columnist at Commentary. Rosen shares her perspective on the confused and confusing state of relations between men and women in contemporary America. According to Rosen, the Me Too movement has shown how we lack the rules and even the language for understanding the new sets of challenges facing men and women today. In Rosen’s view, we can begin to address these challenges by encouraging young men and women to think not only of their rights but also of their responsibilities in a free society. Finally, Kristol and Rosen discuss why the study of history and literature can give us necessary perspective on the most important and contentious questions about men and women.
Scott Lincicome is a leading international trade attorney, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and senior visiting lecturer at Duke University. In this Conversation, Lincicome explains the system of free trade agreements and alliances that the U.S. has built over many decades and how the system contributes to peace and prosperity for America. Lincicome also shares his perspective on the renegotiation of NAFTA, the decision not to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and other trade agreements. Finally, Kristol and Lincicome consider where Republicans and Democrats stand on trade today—and where the parties are likely to go in the future.
Paul Cantor on Great Television and the Emergence of a TV Canon
In his most recent Conversation, University of Virginia literature professor Paul Cantor considers how television has reached a critical stage in the history of a medium: canonization. According to Cantor, television, much like theater, novels, and movies before it, has now reached a point where people recognize that its greatest artistic triumphs have enduring cultural value. Shows such as Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, and The X-Files, Cantor argues, will be appreciated for many generations to come. Cantor explains how the canonization of TV follows a pattern whereby a medium—originally designed for utilitarian purposes or simple entertainment—is then transformed by great artists into an instrument for the creation of great art. Finally, drawing on the history of TV shows and movies, Cantor argues that collaboration, improvization, and chance are often as essential to the production of great art as forethought and individual genius.
Eric Edelman: Restoring American Leadership in the World
Eric Edelman reflects on increasing threats to the U.S.-led international order and considers the dangerous consequences of a continued decline in America's geopolitical position and influence. Edelman also shares his perspective on how America can strengthen its resolve and commitment to lead in the world. Eric Edelman is The Hertog Scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies and has had a distinguished career in government, having served as ambassador to Turkey and to Finland, and as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the George W. Bush administration.
Harvey Mansfield reflects on The Federalist and why it should be read seriously as a great work on politics. Mansfield’s discussion calls our attention to the subtlety and complexity of the argument of The Federalist, as a whole, and explains why it remains an indispensable guide for thinking about American government. Mansfield and Kristol also consider how The Federalist draws on, but also differs from, works of ancient and early modern political science in its analysis of good government and republicanism.
Linda Chavez is an author, syndicated columnist, and served in the Reagan administration. A longtime analyst of immigration and immigration policy in the United States, Chavez shares her perspective on the current debates over immigration. She explains why immigration remains a net benefit to the United States—and why we should address, improve, and streamline the immigration system. Citing relevant data, Chavez notes how recent arrivals to the United States are following the pattern of earlier waves of immigration and assimilating into the American way of life. Finally, Chavez proposes reforms to the immigration system that prioritize relevant skills and also would be more flexible to market conditions.
Jim Manzi on Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Technological Innovation
A leading software entrepreneur and developer of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Jim Manzi shares his perspective on AI—what it is, what it can do today, and how it might develop in the coming years. Manzi also discusses how AI currently affects politics and society, and the implications of progress in AI for the future. Finally, Manzi compares today’s advances in computer science and in biology to past scientific breakthroughs in chemistry and physics.
Steven F. Hayward on Winston Churchill and Statesmanship
Steven F. Hayward is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley and author of important books on Churchill, Reagan, and many other subjects. In this Conversation, Hayward analyzes Churchill’s wartime leadership and his domestic political concerns—as well as his often neglected writings, which contain both timeless and timely political insights. Highlighting Churchill’s attachment to principles as well as his understanding of circumstances, Hayward demonstrates that Churchill remains vital to understanding statesmanship. Kristol and Hayward also compare and recommend their favorite speeches and works by and about Churchill.
Ronald Brownstein on Red and Blue America, 2018, and 2020
Ronald Brownstein is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst at CNN, and a shrewd observer of American politics. In this Conversation, Brownstein analyzes factors that fuel our increasingly polarized politics. He explains why these partisan divisions are likely to increase as we head toward elections in 2018 and 2020. Brownstein and Kristol also consider possible outcomes in the midterms, the direction of the Trump presidency, and reflect on the electoral dilemmas both parties face in an atmosphere of intense partisanship.
Diana Schaub on the Life and Political Thought of Frederick Douglass
Diana Schaub is a professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland and a leading interpreter of political philosophy and American political thought. In this Conversation, Schaub considers the life and ideas of the statesman and political thinker Frederick Douglass (c. 1818 – 1885). Schaub reflects on Douglass’s life, including his experience of slavery, his abolitionist politics, his work on behalf of the Union in the Civil War, and his post-war efforts to secure civil rights. Schaub demonstrates Douglass’s importance as a political thinker, pointing to his reflections on the corruptions of slavery, the meaning and requirements of freedom, the significance of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the role of prudence in politics.
In July 2014, we released the first part of a Conversation with University of Virginia literature professor Paul Cantor on Shakespeare and politics. Now we are pleased to share the second part—in which Cantor analyzes central themes in the English history plays, including the character of monarchies and republics and the relationship of religion and state. Turning to Shakespeare’s comedies, Cantor argues that Shakespeare sought to replace medieval Christian notions of romantic love with a more reasoned approach to love. Finally, in his analysis of "The Tempest," Cantor contends that Shakespeare was the only poet who could write tragedies and comedies at the highest level, transcending the division between the tragic and comedic views of life.
Christopher Caldwell on Populism and the Future of the European Union
A leading commentator on European politics, Caldwell shares his perspective on recent developments in Europe, particularly the surging populist movements that have upended politics in many countries. Caldwell focuses particularly on populist parties and movements in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary—and also analyzes the ramifications for Europe as a whole. Highlighting the effects of mass migration, weak economies, and mounting debt, Caldwell anticipates greater turmoil and significant threats to the European Union in the years ahead.
Edward Conard on Innovation, Income Inequality, and High-Skilled Immigration
Edward Conard is a former Managing Director of Bain Capital and bestselling author. In this Conversation, Conard shares his perspective on why innovation is the key to America’s long-term economic vitality and how we can go about fostering it. To address what he describes as a shortage of properly-trained talent and risk-bearing capital, Conard calls for increasing high-skilled immigration and other public policies that match talent with opportunities. Conard and Kristol also reflect on the inequalities that are inherent in a technology-driven economy and consider what can be done now to benefit lower-skilled workers in the years to come.
Paul Begala on the Democratic Party, the Midterms, and 2020
Paul Begala is a veteran Democratic strategist and commentator, and served as counselor to the president in the Clinton White House. In this Conversation, Begala analyzes the key dynamics within the Democratic Party today. Looking ahead to the midterms and to 2020, Begala considers the Democrats’ response to Trump, the tensions between progressives and moderates, and the kinds of candidates that are likely to succeed. Begala also makes a spirited case for why Democrats must defend free speech and liberal principles more generally.
Former world chess champion and human rights activist Garry Kasparov shares his perspective on threats to Western democracies from dictators abroad and illiberal movements at home. Analyzing the geopolitical situation, Kasparov argues that the challenge to the West posed by dictators like Putin remains significant and even growing. Turning to Western societies themselves, Kasparov diagnoses a dangerous complacency about the effort required to sustain political liberty. Finally, Kristol and Kasparov discuss how America can recapture the will necessary to defend itself and its principles.
Jonah Goldberg on Nationalism, Populism, and Identity Politics
Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute. Drawing on his new book Suicide of the West, Goldberg argues that strong tendencies in contemporary American culture—including tribalism, populism, nationalism, and identity politics—are increasingly undermining the moral and political foundations of America. In discussing these phenomena, Kristol and Goldberg also consider why it is important for young people to study the American political tradition and appreciate what is best in Western civilization.
Peter Berkowitz is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a leading scholar of political philosophy and American politics. He serves as dean of students for the Hertog Political Studies Program and The Public Interest Fellowship, and teaches for the Tikvah Fund. In recent years, criticism of liberal democracy for its alleged hostility to tradition, family, and community has been gaining strength. In this Conversation, Berkowitz addresses such critiques, reflects on classical liberalism, and considers why liberal democracy deserves to be defended. Kristol and Berkowitz discuss thinkers within the liberal tradition including John Locke, Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and Alexis de Tocqueville. As Berkowitz makes clear, these thinkers understood that liberalism—like all regimes—has drawbacks. Yet these great thinkers also provide the intellectual resources for defending liberalism. This is a must-see Conversation at a time of growing uncertainty about the core principles of the modern West.
James C. Warren on Today’s Media Landscape and the Problem of Fake News
James Warren is a veteran reporter, columnist, and editor, having served as Washington Bureau chief for the New York Daily News and managing editor for the Chicago Tribune, among other posts. In this Conversation, Warren shares his perspective on the major changes in American media during the last few decades—from the decline of print and emergence of online news outlets to the dramatic impact of social media. Kristol and Warren discuss the benefits of the current media landscape, notably the availability of diverse news sources of high quality, data-driven reporting, and audiovisual content. They also consider the drawbacks, including the proliferation of disreputable sources online and how budget constraints and other factors have led to the lowering of editorial standards in traditional media. The executive editor of NewsGuard, a new consumer reporting platform, Warren also addresses the future of the media business and the challenge readers and viewers face in distinguishing between serious reporting and fake news.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a distinguished scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is one of the world’s preeminent experts on North Korea. In this "Conversation," Eberstadt shares his perspective on the distinctive character of the North Korean regime and the threats it poses to its neighbors and the United States. Drawing on his recent essay “The Method in North Korea’s Madness,” Eberstadt explains the strategy behind North Korea’s actions, including nuclear escalation—and how it fits with the regime's self-understanding and ambitions. Finally, Eberstadt considers how America might craft a sustained policy to address the North Korean threat.
Charles Murray: Reflections on a Distinguished Career in Ideas
Charles Murray, one of America’s preeminent thinkers, is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In this Conversation, Murray reflects on the major themes of his work and shares his perspective on the state of American society in 2018. Engaging the arguments of his seminal books including "Losing Ground," "The Bell Curve," "In Pursuit," and "Coming Apart," Murray considers how his views have changed in the years since they were published. Finally, Murray reveals the working title of his next book, “Human Differences: Race, Gender, Class, and Genes,” and explains how new discoveries in the natural sciences are likely to affect the social sciences in the coming years.
Mike Murphy on the Trump Administration, the Midterms, and 2020
Veteran Republican political strategist and commentator Mike Murphy shares his perspective on possible scenarios as we head toward the midterm elections and 2020. Will Republicans hold Congress? What are Trump's prospects for reelection (and renomination)? What kind of presidential candidate might Democrats choose? Could there be a viable independent candidacy in 2020? Murphy and Kristol discuss these and many other questions in this incisive (and often humorous!) Conversation.
John Podhoretz on Movies, TV, and American Popular Culture
John Podhoretz is the editor of "Commentary" and film critic of "The Weekly Standard." Podhoretz shares his perspective on movies as an American art form, pivotal eras in filmmaking (the 1930s and the 1970s), Hollywood today, and the broader cultural significance of movies and TV. Kristol and Podhoretz also consider innovations in television during the last decades and whether TV has surpassed film in cultural importance. Finally, Podhoretz argues that we have to much to learn and enjoy from watching the greatest movies of earlier decades.
Garry Kasparov on Artificial Intelligence, Technology and Politics, and AlphaZero Chess
In his fourth appearance on Conversations, former world chess champion and human rights activist Garry Kasparov discusses artificial intelligence and the political and social implications of it. Drawing on his recent book "Deep Thinking," Kasparov outlines what he considers the potential of new technologies built on “machine learning.” Kasparov explains why free societies must prioritize technological progress and embrace the challenges associated with innovation. Finally, Kasparov considers the new artificial intelligence chess program, AlphaZero—what we can learn from it about chess, as well as the relationship between humans and machines.
Jack Goldsmith on American Institutions and the Trump Presidency
Jack Goldsmith is a professor of law at Harvard University and served as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel (2003-2004). In this Conversation, Goldsmith shares his perspective on how American institutions, and political and cultural norms, have fared during the Trump presidency. While arguing that judicial independence and other constitutional checks and balances remain robust, Goldsmith also reflects on various stresses to the system during this volatile period in American politics.
Harvey Mansfield on Tocqueville’s Machiavellianism
In this Conversation, Harvey Mansfield considers the connection between the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville and Niccolo Machiavelli. In Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," there is just one reference to Machiavelli. Yet, according to Mansfield’s illuminating interpretation, Tocqueville draws significantly on Machiavelli’s thought—and ambition. Even while opposing the effects of Machiavelli's teaching, Tocqueville learns from Machiavelli in his effort to develop and advance a “new political science” for democratic citizens that preserves honor and political liberty. This Conversation reflects on the essay “Tocqueville’s Machiavellianism” by Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop.
Dan Balz on the media and Donald Trump’s presidency
Dan Balz is chief correspondent at The Washington Post, having been a political reporter and editor at the paper for four decades. In this Conversation, Balz shares his perspective on the increasing fragmentation of the media—and the dramatic rise of social media as a political force. Balz also discusses Donald Trump’s relationship with the media, and considers how Trump's experience in the world of New York tabloid journalism and on reality television helped contribute to his success as a presidential candidate. Finally, Balz and Kristol reflect on our political situation more generally, sharing their thoughts on President Trump and the parties as we head toward elections in 2018 and 2020.
Kristen Soltis Anderson on Millennials and American Politics
Kristen Soltis Anderson is a pollster, author, and political analyst. In this Conversation with Bill Kristol, Anderson considers the millennial generation and shares her research on their political, social, and cultural attitudes. She also reflects on the longstanding failure of the Republican Party to attract younger voters, and explains why these difficulties may be getting worse. Finally, Kristol and Anderson discuss what the voting patterns of millennials might mean for American politics in the short and medium term.
Jonah Goldberg on Donald Trump and the Future of Conservatism
In his third appearance on Conversations, National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg joins Bill Kristol to discuss how the first year of the Trump presidency has affected American politics in general and conservatism in particular. Goldberg and Kristol also reflect on the history of the conservative movement and consider the prospects for American conservatism in the years to come.
Spencer Abraham and Vin Weber on Congress, Trump, and the Parties
Former Senator Spencer Abraham and former Congressman Vin Weber are both respected political strategists and thoughtful analysts of American politics. In this release, Abraham and Weber join Bill Kristol for a wide-ranging Conversation about our current political moment. Analyzing both the Republican and Democratic parties and the Trump presidency, the group look ahead to elections in 2018 and 2020 and consider possible outcomes. Abraham, Weber, and Kristol also reflect on the extent to which current American and global politics represent a break from recent history.
Eric Edelman on the Global Threat of Authoritarianism
The Hertog Scholar at the Center for Strategic Studies, Eric Edelman has had a distinguished career in government, serving as ambassador to Turkey and to Finland, and as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the George W. Bush administration. In this Conversation, Edelman considers the rise of authoritarianism around the globe and explains why it threatens world order. Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Turkish history and politics, Edelman highlights the descent of Turkey into an Islamist, authoritarian regime under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Finally, Edelman recalls momentous events from his career in foreign service, including serving in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union and his appointment to Turkey during the Iraq War.
In his fourth Conversation, University of Virginia literature professor Paul Cantor discusses Shakespeare’s view of ancient Rome. Drawing from his new book Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy, Cantor presents illuminating interpretations of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra. As Cantor explains, Shakespeare’s Roman plays compel us to reflect on perennial human questions such as the tension between ambitious individuals and the political community, the relationship between philosophy and politics, and the differences between republics and empires. Cantor also compares Shakespeare’s Rome to Friedrich Nietzsche’s view of Rome. In sum, Cantor offers us an extraordinary look at a crucial part of Shakespeare's work.
Thomas Donnelly on Addressing the Challenges to American Primacy
Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Thomas Donnelly analyzes the growing challenges to American primacy and explains why our “security, liberty, and prosperity seem to be at greater risk than at any time in a generation.” Considering mounting threats from Russia, China, the Middle East, as well as the consequences of nuclear proliferation, Donnelly argues that America has the resources to meet the challenges but today suffers from a lack of resolve. In sum, Donnelly makes a compelling case for continued American leadership in the world.
Christina Hoff Sommers on Google, GamerGate, and Threats to Free Speech
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and host of the popular online series, The Factual Feminist. In this Conversation, Sommers reflects on the “Google memo” and argues that the suppression of free speech at universities now is spilling over into other parts of American life. Sommers also returns to the subject of “GamerGate,” the backlash against political correctness by video game enthusiasts, and describes how that movement has fared in an era of online “trolling” in American politics. Highlighting the decline in free speech on one hand and norms of civility on the other, Sommers calls for an alliance of “fair-minded liberals and conservatives” to restore civic education and respect for the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.
Harvey Mansfield on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
The latest in our ongoing series with Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield is devoted to Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) and particularly his masterwork, Gulliver’s Travels. In this Conversation, Mansfield provides an in-depth interpretation of Swift’s writing, which Mansfield calls “essentially political.” Through his illuminating analysis of Gulliver’s voyages and encounters, Mansfield uncovers Swift’s pointed though subtle critique of modernity. In sum, Mansfield argues that Swift deserves to be studied as an important thinker in the history of political philosophy.
Irwin Stelzer: Strengthening and Preserving Democratic Capitalism
Irwin Stelzer is Director of Economic Policy Studies at Hudson Institute, a Sunday Times (London) columnist, and a thinker who combines wisdom about politics with penetrating insights into economics. In this Conversation, Stelzer shares his perspective on threats to American democratic capitalism, including the “feeling that compensation and performance have become disconnected.” To address these current challenges, Stelzer calls for a more political approach to economics—one which is both mindful of the limitations of economics and considers the political consequences of distributional inequities. In sum, Stelzer offers a spirited defense of democratic capitalism: “not because of the goods and services it produces, but because of the freedom that it has produced.”
Ronald Brownstein on America’s Political and Electoral Fault Lines
Ronald Brownstein is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst at CNN, and a shrewd observer of American politics. In this Conversation, Brownstein shares his perspective on the 2016 elections and explains why Trump’s path to victory represents the culmination of long-term trends in the ways voters relate to the political system and the two parties. Brownstein also discusses the partisan divisions in the country, today, and outlines the central political and electoral challenges facing each party—including Democrats’ lack of appeal beyond urban and coastal areas and the demographic headwinds faced by Republicans.
Mike Murphy is a Republican political strategist, commentator, and veteran of the campaign trail—having advised John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Spencer Abraham, Christie Whitman, among many others. In this Conversation, Murphy shares his perspective on the 2016 elections, the first months of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the challenges both Republicans and Democrats face ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. Kristol and Murphy also reflect on Murphy’s experiences in campaigns, including some notable (and comical) experiences with George H.W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Finally, Murphy considers how and why American politics has become increasingly “tribal” over the last few decades.
Martin Feldstein is a professor of economics at Harvard University, former president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan (1982-1984). In this Conversation, Feldstein discusses the financial crisis of 2008, the policy mistakes that led to it, and the risks we face today from a sustained policy of low interest rates. Feldstein then shares his perspective on other important questions of political economy—including the costs and benefits of trade, the impact of technological innovation, as well as the need for tax and regulatory reform. Finally, Feldstein recalls his experiences as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and explains what we can learn from how Reagan managed the serious economic challenges of the early 1980s.
Josh Bolten on Managing the White House in Moments of Crisis
Josh Bolten was White House Chief of Staff from 2006-2009, having served as Deputy Chief of Staff (2001-2003) and Director of the Office of Management and Budget (2003-2006). In this Conversation, Bolten reflects on his tenure in the George W. Bush administration, particularly his experiences in the White House on September 11, 2001 and responding to the financial crisis of 2008. Bolten and Kristol also discuss the role of chief of staff in the modern presidency more generally and the challenges of creating processes that lead to effective decision making. The Conversation offers a fascinating insider's account of one of the most important and least understood positions in contemporary politics.
A veteran of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, John Walters was “Drug Czar” of the George W. Bush administration (director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy from 2001-2009). In this Conversation, Walters discusses the opioid epidemic and the country's shocking passivity about addressing the crisis seriously and comprehensively. Reflecting on the devastating consequences of the opioid threat, Walters makes a compelling case for fighting back—through urgent changes to the way we approach law enforcement, combatting foreign sources of supply, education about drug abuse, and treatment for addiction.
Elected in 2014, Ben Sasse is a U.S. Senator from Nebraska. In this Conversation, Sasse shares his thoughts on the state of American society and culture. Drawing on themes from his forthcoming book, The Vanishing American Adult, Sasse highlights an erosion of American civic life and a corresponding decline in work ethic. Along with Bill Kristol, he argues for the importance of a culture that promotes self-reliance and rewards meaningful work. Sasse also reflects on his first years in the Senate and the politics of Washington.
Harvey Mansfield on the Neil Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings
In his twelfth Conversation with Bill Kristol, Harvey Mansfield discusses the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch. This event, says Mansfield, “turned out to be a lesson in politics. You were learning from people actually in politics about the issue: What’s the relationship between law and politics?” Beginning from the arguments of Senate Democrats and Republicans, Mansfield explains how the hearings captured the opinions of each party about the proper relationship of politics and law. Mansfield and Kristol also discuss how Aristotle’s reflection on the limits of politics and law might inform our own understanding of politics, law, and the Constitution.
N. Gregory Mankiw: America’s Economy and the Case for Free Markets
Greg Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard University and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush (2003-2005). In this Conversation, Mankiw analyzes the American economy and shares his perspective on current public policy debates about trade, immigration, technological innovation, jobs, and economic growth. Reflecting on the economic challenges the U.S. faces today, Mankiw makes the case for a robust commitment to free markets—both for the sake of America and for the world.
A senior editor at The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell is one of America’s leading journalists and most thoughtful commentators on Europe. In this Conversation, Caldwell reflects on the difficult situation in Europe today, highlighting what he calls its “demographic, economic, and military weakness.” Caldwell points to demographic decline, stagnant economies, the migrant crisis, the failure to integrate immigrants, and the rise of Islamism as major challenges facing the continent. Finally, Caldwell and Kristol analyze the populist movements and parties in Britain and various European countries and consider how they might shape Europe’s future.
Vin Weber on American Internationalism, Trump, & Our Parties
Vin Weber is a former congressman from Minnesota, a respected political strategist, and a thoughtful analyst of American politics. In this Conversation, Weber reflects on Reaganite conservatism and makes the case for continued American leadership in the world. Kristol and Weber also discuss the Trump presidency, its implications for the Republican Party, and whether Trump’s election portends a breakup of the two party system.
David Axelrod on the Democrats, the Republicans, and President Trump
Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod discusses the 2016 elections, particularly at the presidential level, and reflects on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the victory of Donald Trump. He also considers challenges and opportunities for the Democrats and Republicans during the Trump presidency and possible paths forward for both parties. Finally, Kristol and Axelrod discuss the early days of the Trump White House and consider the prospects for his presidency.
Christopher DeMuth And Adam White on Reforming the Administrative State
On how the president, Congress, and courts might go about reforming the administrative state. Christopher DeMuth of the Hudson Institute and Adam J. White of the Hoover Institution diagnose the problems of the modern administrative state and reflect on the often harmful role it plays in our politics. Both lawyers, they offer significant insight into how administrative agencies of the federal government have become increasingly unchecked during the last few decades. DeMuth and White then consider how the Trump administration, Congress, and the courts might go about reforming the administrative state and restoring its accountability.
James Ceaser on Our Parties, Conservatism, and President Trump
University of Virginia professor James Ceaser offers his account of the election of Donald Trump in his third conversation with Kristol. Ceaser considers what we might anticipate from the Trump administration—both on policies like immigration, trade, and American leadership in the world, as well as on constitutional issues like the separation of powers. Ceaser also discusses modern conservatism and how the Trump presidency might affect it. Finally, Kristol and Ceaser reflect on the Obama years and discuss possible similarities and differences between Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Andrew Ferguson on Journalism, Politics, and Culture
A senior editor at The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson is one of America’s leading writers and journalists. In this Conversation, Ferguson reflects on his career, including his work on American politics and culture, his time as a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, and his start in journalism at the American Spectator. Ferguson and Kristol also discuss higher education, the state of the conservative movement, and the changing norms of our politics and culture from the early 1990s to the present.
Jonah Goldberg on Conservatism and President Trump
National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg discusses President-elect Donald Trump and how conservatives might think about their task during Trump’s presidency, in this, his second Conversation with Bill Kristol. Goldberg and Kristol also reflect on the state of liberalism and conservatism today, and consider some trends in the broader culture—e.g., political correctness, the rise of social media, celebrity politicians—and how they might affect the conservative movement in 2017 and beyond.
Harvey Mansfield on Donald Trump and Political Philosophy
In his eleventh Conversation, Harvey Mansfield discusses Donald Trump's election and how political philosophy can inform our understanding of Trump. Mansfield and Kristol also discuss what Trump’s victory reveals about American politics and our parties.
William Galston on the 2016 Elections, Populism, and the Democrats
Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William A. Galston shares his perspective on American politics today, including the factors that led to the election of Donald Trump, the state of our parties after his election, and the prospects for the Trump presidency. A former senior aide to President Clinton, Galston considers the significance of the 2016 elections for the Democrats and outlines potential conflicts between what he calls “pro-growth progressives” and “populist progressives” within the party. Galston also describes his work with President Clinton and reflects on Clinton’s political gifts.
Elliott Abrams on the Death of Fidel Castro and the Future of Cuba
In this brief and timely conversation, Elliott Abrams and Bill Kristol reflect on the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, its record of brutality and repression, and the romanticization of the Castro regime by certain figures of the Left. Abrams then considers how the Trump administration might take advantage of this opportunity to change American policy toward Cuba, for the benefit of the U.S. and for the Cuban people.
2016 Post-Election Special: Spencer Abraham and Jay Cost
Kristol, Abraham, and Cost analyze the 2016 elections and the opportunities and challenges for the Trump administration, particularly during the transition and in the early days after inauguration. The group also discusses significant changes in American politics caused or revealed by the 2016 presidential race, including the importance of social media and chances for “outsider" candidates.
Steven F. Hayward on Ronald Reagan and the Study of Statesmen
Currently a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, Steven F. Hayward is a writer, political commentator, and author of a definitive biography of Ronald Reagan. In this conversation, Hayward discusses Reagan and the qualities that made him a successful president. Kristol and Hayward also explain why studying great political figures is essential for understanding politics. Finally, Hayward reflects on how he came to the study of statesmanship and on some important books and teachers that have influenced him.
Justice Clarence Thomas: Reflections on Twenty-five Years on the Court
Appointed by President George H.W. Bush, Justice Clarence Thomas has served on the Supreme Court since October 1991. In this conversation, Justice Thomas shares personal reflections on the Court, his jurisprudence, and the people, ideas, institutions, and experiences that have influenced him. Justice Thomas also reflects on his late colleague and friend Justice Antonin Scalia.
Elliott Abrams: How Should the Next President Conduct U.S. Foreign Policy?
In his second appearance on Conversations, former Deputy National Security Advisor (under George W. Bush) and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams explains the challenges to a new president of quickly putting together a foreign policy team and the urgency the new president will face in restoring America’s global standing. Kristol and Abrams discuss particular hot spots around the world including the Middle East. Finally, Abrams offers advice about how the new president should work within and around Washington’s entrenched bureaucracies.
Harvey Mansfield on Mysteries, Wodehouse, Wilson, Churchill, and Swift
In his tenth conversation with Bill Kristol, Harvey Mansfield recommends some important and diverting books from different genres. Mansfield discusses crime fiction, comedic novels, biographies, and political science and considers what we can learn from the best writers in these genres. Mansfield also interprets Jonathan Swift’s "Gulliver’s Travels" as a critique of modern science. Other authors discussed include: Bill James, Agatha Christie, Donald Westlake, P.G. Wodehouse, James Q. Wilson, and Winston Churchill.
Charles Murray on Populism, Globalization, “The Bell Curve,” and Politics Today
In his second conversation with Bill Kristol, American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray discusses the state of American civic life and how this can help us understand the current political moment. Murray explains how the decline of communities, the effects of immigration, and the growth of anti-trade sentiment have fueled populist impulses in 2016. Kristol and Murray also revisit Murray's prescient The Bell Curve (1994) and discuss how cognitive ability might affect American life in the future.
Mark Blitz on Natural Rights, Liberal Democracy, and the American Regime
In his second conversation with Bill Kristol, Claremont McKenna professor of political philosophy Mark Blitz discusses American liberal democracy. Blitz explains the meaning of individual natural rights and why they form the basis of American government. Blitz and Kristol then consider critiques of American liberal democracy—most prominently, that the American regime promotes inequality or leads to a lowering of standards. Blitz addresses these criticisms and explains why the American regime remains solid and defensible.
In his third conversation with Bill Kristol, Paul Cantor focuses on works of literature—plays, short stories, and novels—that deepen our understanding of the characteristics and challenges of political and economic liberty. Cantor considers a variety of authors from across the centuries—Ben Jonson, Daniel Defoe, Georg Büchner, Elizabeth Gaskell, Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka, and Tom Stoppard—who thought deeply and wrote powerfully about the politics of freedom.
Spencer Abraham and Jay Cost on the 2016 Presidential Race
In their third "state of the 2016 race" conversation, Kristol, Abraham, Cost discuss how to think about the 2016 presidential race and consider whether the frequently underestimated Trump could win. The group also reflects on how various possible outcomes could affect the political parties and our politics. The group discusses these and many other questions in this timely conversation on the 2016 elections.
The ninth in our ongoing series with Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield focuses on the Constitution and what Mansfield calls “America’s Constitutional Soul.” In this conversation, Mansfield discusses the jurisprudence of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and his focus on the wisdom of the Constitution. Mansfield reflects on why America has a “Constitutional Soul” and how our political parties treat the Constitution. Finally, Kristol and Mansfield consider the relationship of the Constitution to the Declaration of Independence.
Jonah Goldberg on Donald Trump’s Candidacy, Liberalism, and Conservatism
Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor at National Review and a best-selling author and political commentator. In this conversation, Goldberg and Kristol reflect on Trump's candidacy and its meaning for conservatism and the Republican Party. Goldberg also discusses his best-selling book 'Liberal Fascism' (2008) and how subsequent events, including Trump's campaign, have affected his thinking. Finally, Goldberg recommends a few books and essays that played an important role in his political education.
General David Petraeus on American Leadership in the World
In his second conversation with Bill, General Petraeus makes the case for continued American leadership in the world. Drawing on his experiences in command in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus explains how the American military can best harness its strategic and technological assets to achieve goals in difficult environments. Finally, Gen. Petraeus and Kristol discuss the general’s academic and battlefield education and how it prepared him for military command.
Garry Kasparov’s third conversation with Bill Kristol focuses on American politics and the 2016 Presidential race. Kasparov argues that the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders candidacies offer interesting and worrisome lessons about the current state of our politics. Kristol and Kasparov also discuss whether America can change course and consider some distinctive features of the American political character.
University of Virginia politics professor James Ceaser discusses the intellectual roots of contemporary progressivism and the role of progressivism in our politics today. Ceaser compares the new progressivism with the ideas of the early twentieth-century progressives, and highlights the influence of “postmodernism” on the contemporary left. Kristol and Ceaser also discuss the effects of progressivism and its relationship to political correctness on and off campus.
Peter Thiel on the Global Economy, Technology, and Artificial Intelligence
In this wide-ranging conversation, his second on "Conversations with Bill Kristol," business founder and investor Peter Thiel discusses the global economy, the state of technology, and the future of computing and artificial intelligence. Thiel argues that we have had less technological innovation over the last few decades and explains one reason is an increasing aversion to risk. Finally, Kristol and Thiel discuss artificial intelligence and the extent to which it might transform our lives.
The eighth in our ongoing series with Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield, this conversation marks the tenth anniversary of his important and provocative book "Manliness." Mansfield offers his account of manliness and its importance as a permanent, though problematic, feature of human nature. He explains how liberal political philosophers and liberal society have often been suspicious of manliness, and details the consequences of this for our politics. Mansfield and Kristol also discuss contemporary efforts to transcend manliness through the creation of a gender-neutral society, which have led, according to Mansfield, to “more justice and less happiness.”
Garry Kasparov on Russia Since the End of the Cold War
In his second conversation with Bill, Garry Kasparov discusses Russian and American politics since the end of the Cold War, and offers his account of the rise of Vladimir Putin and how we should understand Putin and his rule over Russia. In his discussion of post-Cold War history, Kasparov highlights many missed opportunities both in Russia and the U.S., which have enabled anti-Western leaders to strengthen their positions. Now living in the U.S., Kasparov also shares his impressions of America—both its inherent strengths and the challenges America faces today.
Robert P. George on Our Universities, Natural Law, and Social Conservatism
Princeton University professor, Robert George is one of the nation’s most distinguished students of legal and moral thought. In this conversation, George discusses the state of American conservatism as well as the condition of freedom of speech and thought on university campuses. He also details the development of his own political and moral views, including his interest in the natural law tradition in moral philosophy. Finally, Kristol and George discuss the importance of social conservatism in our public policy debates today.
Stephen Rosen on Our Geopolitical Challenges and American Leadership
Harvard University professor Stephen Rosen details the current geopolitical environment and challenges to the United States from the chaos in the Middle East, European retrenchment, Russian aggression, and the rise of China. Rosen explains how and why the United States must play a leadership role in the world, and outlines the potential consequences of American disengagement. Kristol and Rosen also discuss classic and recent books that can help us think about foreign policy.
A best-selling author ("Bowling Alone," and "Our Kids"), and professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Robert Putnam is one of America's leading political scientists. In recent years, he has written widely on the decline in America's civic life, and, with it, our capacity for self-government. In this conversation, Putnam discusses his research on declining levels of civic participation in America and presents his interpretation of the reasons for it. Putnam also recalls how actual political developments awakened his interest in political science, and explains how social science might help us address public policy problems.
Garry Kasparov on Chess and Politics in Soviet Russia
In this conversation, Garry Kasparov reflects on his upbringing in Soviet Russia and his journey from questioning whether communism could be reformed toward the conviction that the Soviet Union had to go. Kasparov also recalls his epic series of chess matches against Anatoly Karpov and why chess was important to the politics of the Soviet Union. Finally, Kasparov and Kristol discuss the decline and fall of the U.S.S.R. and the roles of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Boris Yeltsin.
Spencer Abraham and Jay Cost on the 2016 Republican Race
In their second "state of the 2016 race" conversation, former senator and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Weekly Standard staff writer Jay Cost, and host Bill Kristol discuss how to think about the race for the Republican nomination as we head toward the March primaries. The group also reflects on the Trump phenomenon and why the 2016 race has upset expectations. The group also discusses, in addition to Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.
In this conversation, Gen. Petraeus recalls his command in Iraq and the "surge." Gen. Petraeus recounts what it was like to run the war—from day-to-day operations and navigating Iraqi politics to weekly videoconferences with President Bush and testifying before Congress. Gen. Petraeus also explains the “surge of ideas,” the conceptual groundwork for the strategy he then executed.
Rich Lowry on Conservatism, Donald Trump, and the 2016 Race
In this special conversation, filmed the day after the Iowa caucus, Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, and Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, discuss conservatism, Trump, and the state of the 2016 race. Lowry and Kristol also consider the Democrats and the meaning of Bernie Sanders’ success in Iowa.
In his seventh conversation, Mansfield considers our two parties, the ideas behind them, and the qualities that often go with being a Democrat or a Republican. Mansfield argues that the Democrats are the “party of progress”—and that progressivism may be headed for a crisis. Mansfield calls the Republicans the “party of virtue” and suggests that Republicans should not only speak about freedom but also about virtue.
Larry Summers on Political Correctness and our Universities
In his second conversation with Bill Kristol, Harvard President Emeritus and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers reflects on the current climate of political correctness on campuses and its effects on freedom of thought and the pursuit of knowledge. Summers also discusses significant controversies from his tenure as president of Harvard, including his opposition to boycotts of Israel, his battle against grade inflation, and his interest in bringing ROTC back to campus. Finally, Kristol and Summers consider how technological developments might shape the future of higher education.
A best-selling author and fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the American Enterprise Institute, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a brave, impassioned, and provocative analyst of the problems in Islam, today, including the dangers of what she calls “Islamic totalitarianism.” In this conversation, Hirsi Ali narrates her own experiences as a young woman in Kenya attracted by radical Islam and explains the dangerous allure of Islamism to youth all over the world. She calls on Westerners to assert the superiority of liberal societies to political Islam—and argues that our current obsession with multiculturalism and political correctness has rendered us ill-equipped to do so.
Leon Kass on Bioethics, the Bible, and “Athens and Jerusalem”
Leon R. Kass, M.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, the Madden-Jewett Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, and one of the nation’s most distinguished bioethicists. In this conversation, Kass recounts how he turned from the study of medicine to an examination of the moral questions and problems that modern science and technology pose for human life. Kass suggests that science, for all of the benefits it has brought to us, may not offer an adequate account of life as we experience it. Kristol and Kass also discuss the Bible as a source of wisdom and the similarities and differences between the Biblical view of man and the one found in Greek philosophy.
Harvey Mansfield on Niccolo Machiavelli and the Origins of Modernity
In the sixth conversation in our series, Mansfield explains why we should consider Machiavelli not only the founder of modern politics but also a founder of modern science and economics. What was the character of Machiavelli’s critique of Christian morality? Why did he reject the political teaching of the ancient political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle? Harvey Mansfield addresses these and other questions in this provocative discussion of one of the most famous political thinkers of all time.
Larry Summers describes key moments from his time in government, including responses to the Mexican Peso Crisis of 1994 and the financial crisis of 2008. He also explains how he got involved in public policy and government, and offers some thoughts on tensions between the world of theoretical policy-making and the practice of politics. Finally, Summers gives his take on differences between the two presidents he has served, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt on the U.S. Military and Foreign Policy
Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt are Co-Directors of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. In this conversation, Donnelly and Schmitt explain how the U.S. military has become dangerously underfunded and what we need to do to rebuild it. Donnelly and Schmitt also consider the character of the threats we face, why America must lead, and the benefits of American engagement in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.
Arthur Brooks on the American Enterprise Institute and Think Tanks Today
In this conversation, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, offers an inside account of the work of AEI and reflects on the changing role of think tanks today. He also recounts his own intellectual path which took him from a career as a professional French horn player to the academy and now to the presidency of AEI. Finally, Kristol and Brooks discuss how to challenge the intellectual complacency on college campuses and consider the state of conservative ideas and politics in America today.
In his second conversation with Bill Kristol, University of Virginia literature professor Paul Cantor focuses on American popular culture and what we can learn about America and the world from our greatest television shows and movies. Cantor analyzes our best television series—including Deadwood, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Simpsons, and Seinfeld—and explains why we should take them seriously. Cantor and Kristol also discuss American cinema—including The Godfather, Scarface, and The Searchers—and consider the enduring appeal of gangster films and Westerns. Finally, Cantor argues that conservatives have been wrong to ignore popular culture and makes the case for why they should pay attention.
Newt Gingrich on America and the State of the World
In his second conversation with Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich reflects on the serious domestic and foreign policy challenges confronting the United States. Looking at the world, he offers his take on the threats posed by Islamism, Russia, and China. Here at home, he explains how feckless bureaucracy is undermining political, economic, and technological initiative, and sketches some ideas for reforming or eliminating bureaucracy. Finally, Gingrich and Bill Kristol discuss President Obama and his legacy, as well as how a new president could reverse course.
Spencer Abraham and Jay Cost on the State of the 2016 Race
This conversation features former senator and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Weekly Standard political analyst and staff writer Jay Cost. In the conversation Kristol, Abraham, and Cost analyze both the Republican and Democratic races and assess where things might go for each party as we move into primary season. Will the current frontrunners--Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton--be the nominees? What are the chances of other major candidates? The group discusses these and many other questions in this conversation on the 2016 race for the White House.
The fifth conversation in our ongoing series with the distinguished Harvard government professor considers the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59). Mansfield and Kristol discuss key themes in Tocqueville’s work, including the nature of democracy and his views of America. They also consider Tocqueville's views as to why individualism is a danger to democracy, how associations counteract individualism, and how religion and liberty reinforce one another in our times. Mansfield also describes Tocqueville’s own life and political career, and how his thought differs from that of other modern thinkers such as J.S. Mill, Edmund Burke, John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes.
Mitch Daniels served as director of the Office of Management and Budget (2001-03), governor of Indiana (2005-13), and currently is president of Purdue University. In this conversation, Daniels reflects on his career in politics, business, and education, including his leadership of Eli Lilly and Company and his remarkable tenure as a reform-minded governor. Daniels also articulates his view of the proper role of government at both the federal and state levels: limited, but effective within its sphere. Daniels and Kristol also discuss the state of intellectual freedom on campus.
A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former philosophy professor, Christina Hoff Sommers is a thoughtful analyst and trenchant critic of radical feminism. In this conversation, Sommers and Kristol discuss how American feminism, once focused on practical questions such as equal opportunity in employment for women, instead became a radical ideology that questioned the reality of sex differences. Narrating her own experiences as a speaker on college campuses, Sommers explains how the radical feminism of today's universities stifles debate. Finally, Sommers explains a recent controversy in the video game community, which she defends from charges of sexism in a widely-publicized episode known as "GamerGate."
Justice Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court and His Education
Nominated by President George W. Bush, Samuel Alito has served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court since 2006. In this conversation, Justice Alito describes the inner workings of the Court, particularly how the justices arrive at decisions. Justice Alito and Kristol also discuss some recent controversial cases regarding free speech as well as Alito's dissent in the same-sex marriage ruling. Finally, Alito reflects on his upbringing in New Jersey, his legal education, and his career.
David Gelernter on American Culture, Computer Science, and Art
Yale University professor David Gelernter is a pioneering computer scientist, cultural critic, and artist. In this conversation, Gelernter details the decline in America’s cultural literacy over the last few generations—a phenomenon Gelernter terms “America-lite.” Gelernter also discusses computer science, the future of the Internet, and the promise and peril of new technologies. Finally, Kristol and Gelernter consider art and the art world today.
Professor Emeritus of Classics and History at Yale University, Donald Kagan is a preeminent historian of both the ancient and modern worlds. In this conversation, Kagan and Kristol discuss what humanity's greatest wars—from the Peloponnesian War to World War II—can teach us about the nature of war and the sources of human conflict. Kagan also discusses his education in history at Brooklyn College, his groundbreaking work on Thucydides, and his distinguished teaching career at Yale. Finally, Kristol and Kagan discuss the state of the study of history and the liberal arts more generally in America today.
Peter Berkowitz on Liberal Education and Our Illiberal Universities
Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Peter Berkowitz is a leading scholar of political philosophy and American politics. In the conversation, Berkowitz discusses how our universities—due to a combination of political correctness and professional specialization—have neglected their core mission. Berkowitz and Kristol also consider what might be done to educate students where universities fail at the task. Finally, Berkowitz discusses his experience teaching liberal arts and fighting for their preservation on campus.
Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes is one of America’s most respected political commentators. In this conversation, Barnes reflects on key figures and events from his forty years of covering Washington, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Jack Kemp, and George W. Bush. Kristol and Barnes also discuss the rise of cable political commentary and Barnes' contribution to it from The McLaughlin Group to The Beltway Boys and Special Report.
Harvey Mansfield on Leo Strauss and the Straussians
The fourth conversation in our ongoing series with the distinguished Harvard political philosopher considers the political philosopher Leo Strauss (1899 - 1973) and the "Straussian school" of philosophy he founded. Mansfield and Kristol discuss key themes in Strauss's work, including esoteric writing, the quarrel between Ancients and Moderns, and the theological-political problem. Mansfield also reflects on three outstanding students of Strauss: Seth Benardete, Allan Bloom, and Ernest Fortin.
An activist and former policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Gary Bauer has been at the center of conservative policy battles for over three decades. In this conversation, Bauer recalls how he first became interested in politics as a teenager fighting corruption in Northern Kentucky. Kristol and Bauer also discuss Bauer’s advocacy of conservative principles in domestic and foreign affairs from the Reagan era until today. Considering contemporary American politics, Bauer argues for a reinvigorated, pro-Main Street conservatism.
Charles Krauthammer on His Career in Writing and Ideas
In this conversation, Charles Krauthammer reflects on his upbringing in a politically-tumultuous Quebec, his work in medicine, and his views on Zionism, Judaism, and religion. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol also discuss some of the key ideas, questions, and themes of his writing—including the “Reagan Doctrine,” an idea he coined, the role of America in a new post-Cold War world, and whether the America of 2015 is in decline.
Jeff Bell on the Conservative Movement and the Republican Party
Jeff Bell is a writer, strategist, and two-time Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate (1978 and 2014). In this conversation, Bell discusses the Senate campaigns and his advocacy for supply-side economics and a return to the gold standard. Bell also reflects on major themes in the conservative movement from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan. Finally, Bell and Kristol discuss the state of the Republican Party going into 2016.
Paul Begala on Bill Clinton and the Clinton White House
Paul Begala is a political adviser, commentator, and former Counselor to President Bill Clinton. In this conversation with Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, Begala gives an inside account of the 1992 campaign and tells the story of how the Arkansas governor won the Democratic nomination and the presidency. Begala also looks back on key moments in the Clinton White House and shares his experiences working with the president. Finally, Bill Kristol and Begala consider the 2016 field of Republican candidates.
James Ceaser on the Constitution and Constitutional Politics
A professor of politics at the University of Virginia, James Ceaser is one of the leading authorities on American Constitutionalism. In this conversation, Ceaser explains why the Constitution should play a greater role in our politics rather than simply in our courts. Kristol and Ceaser also discuss the character of party government and assess the presidency of Barack Obama.
Bill Bennett on the Book of Virtues, Education Reform, and the War on Drugs
In this conversation, Bill Bennett reflects on key moments in his distinguished career, particular his tenure as secretary of education under Ronald Reagan, his work as the first drug czar under George W. H. Bush, and the writing of his best-selling The Book of Virtues. Bill Kristol and Bennett also discuss the case for education reform and vigilance against drug use in America today.
Frederick W. Kagan on the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at home
Director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, Fred Kagan is a foreign policy strategist and military historian. In this conversation, Kagan and Kristol discuss the strategy for the troop surge in Iraq in 2006/07, which Kagan helped devise. The two also consider the state of the U.S. military today, including how it operates in wartime, how it educates its cadets, and how it interacts with civilians.
Harvey Mansfield on Party Government and Modern Political Philosophy
This is the third conversation in our ongoing series with the distinguished Harvard political philosopher Harvey Mansfield. In this conversation, Harvey Mansfield and William Kristol explore the distinctive characteristics of our two political parties. Kristol and Mansfield also consider Tocqueville, Machiavelli, and the limits of science—what Mansfield calls “rational control”—in modern politics.
Newt Gingrich on the 1994 Republican Revolution and his Career in Politics
In this conversation, Gingrich gives an inside account of the 1994 Republican Revolution, when Republicans took control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in forty years. The former speaker also recalls his first political campaigns and how he began to influence Washington in the 1980s. Finally, Gingrich offers a personal take on mentors, allies, and rivals, including Gerald Ford, Jack Kemp, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton—as well as his reflections on presidents from Eisenhower to Obama.
Jim Manzi on the Scientific Method in Business and Government
Jim Manzi is the founder and chairman of Applied Predictive Technologies, a software company that enables businesses to design and conduct large-scale experiments, and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. In this conversation, Kristol and Manzi discuss how scientific trial-and-error might help us develop better business and policy practices. The two also reflect on the limits of science in politics and offer a modest defense of social science experimentation for policy making.
Ruth Wisse on anti-Semitism, Jewish Politics, and Yiddish Literature
Ruth Wisse is Research Professor of Yiddish and Comparative Literature at Harvard and a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Tikvah Fund. In this conversation, Kristol and Wisse discuss the politics of anti-Semitism, why Israel is under attack in our universities, and the study of Yiddish literature. Wisse explains the nature of modern anti-Semitism and why it is best understood as a political phenomenon. She also reflects on a lifetime of teaching Yiddish literature, and discusses why we should read its great works.
Brit Hume Podcast on the Ascent of Fox News and Our Media Today
In this conversation, Kristol and Hume discuss the early days of Fox News and the story of its ascent. Hume recalls his experiences in print journalism during the 1960's and 1970's and his work as a White House and Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC News during the 1980's and 1990's. Kristol and Hume also reflect on the media environment of today and its effects on American politics.
This conversation features former senator and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and "Weekly Standard" political analyst and staff writer Jay Cost. In the first segment, Kristol, Abraham, and Cost analyze the results of the 2014 midterm elections, confronting myths advanced by the media and considering aspects that have gone underreported. In the second segment, Kristol, Abraham, and Cost assess the possible impact of the midterms on the open-seat presidential election in 2016.
Joe Lieberman: Reflections on a Career in Elected Office
In this conversation, Kristol and Lieberman discuss key moments of Lieberman’s career in public service from his ascent in Connecticut politics to Gore-Lieberman in 2000, as well as his successful Senate campaign as an independent in 2006. Lieberman also reflects on colleagues and contemporaries such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Bob Dole, John McCain, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
Christopher DeMuth on Ideas and Public Policy in Washington
The president of the American Enterprise Institute from 1986 to 2008, Christopher DeMuth is currently a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute. In this conversation, Kristol and DeMuth discuss political thinkers including Edward C. Banfield, James Q. Wilson, and Friedrich Hayek and consider how ideas shape policy. DeMuth also relates his story of a chance meeting with then-Senator Barack Obama and their discussion about Chicago politics.
Dick Cheney: Personal Reflections on his Public Life
In this wide-ranging conversation, Kristol and Cheney discuss momentous events in Cheney’s career, including his service as secretary of defense during the Gulf War, his work as chief of staff for President Ford, his leadership in Congress during the Reagan years, as well as 9/11 and its aftermath.
Jack Keane on the U.S. Military and the Troop Surge in Iraq
Gen. Jack Keane is a retired four-star general and former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. The conversation focuses on the advice that led President Bush to change strategies in the Iraq War via the troop surge, Gen. Keane’s remarkable career in the military, and the threats we face today.
Peter Thiel co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and is the author of "Zero to One, Notes on StartUps, or How to Build the Future." The conversation focuses on Thiel's experiences founding companies, the state of technology and innovation, and the crisis in American higher education.
Harvey Mansfield II on Conservatism, Constitutionalism, and Feminism
The second in an ongoing series with the distinguished Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield, this conversation focuses on the political science of The Federalist, conservatism in America, and on feminism.
Mark Blitz on Ancient and Modern Political Philosophy
Mark Blitz is a professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College and author, most recently, of "Plato's Political Philosophy." The discussion focuses on great thinkers in the history of political philosophy, ancient and modern (Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Karl Marx, G.W.F. Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche) and the importance of studying them in contemporary America.
The Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of the policy journal "National Affairs", Yuval Levin is a leading figure in the public policy movement that has come to be known as "Reform Conservatism." This conversation focuses on how conservatives—and conservatism—should respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century.
The Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia, Paul Cantor is a leading scholar of Shakespeare as well as an authority on American popular culture. In part one of a two part series, Cantor discusses comedies, tragedies, and what Shakespeare can teach us about politics. Plays discussed including Hamlet, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, Coriolanus, and Julius Caesar, among others. Visit www.thegreatthinkers.org for an online course on Shakespeare curated by Professor Cantor.
Charles Murray on Economic and Moral Life in America
Charles Murray is one of America's most distinguished political scientists and the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This conversation focuses on Murray's groundbreaking books from "Losing Ground" to "Coming Apart," the controversies surrounding the publication of "The Bell Curve," as well as the economic and moral challenges that America faces today.
Elliott Abrams on the State Department and the White House
A fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliott Abrams discusses his career in Washington, mostly in the State Department and the White House. Much of the conversation focuses on Abrams work on Latin American affairs and, particularly, Israel and Middle Eastern affairs.
Amy and Leon Kass on Liberal Education and Citizenship
Leon Kass and Amy Kass were for many years teachers at the University of Chicago. There, they taught great books, political philosophy, the Hebrew bible, literature, and many other subjects as part of the university's then-commitment to a comprehensive education. This conversation focuses on the experience of teaching as well as considers themes such as love, friendship, and courtship in contemporary America.
The first in a series of conversations with the Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield. In this conversation Mansfield discusses his work on Edmund Burke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Niccolo Machiavelli, and the importance of political philosophy. He also discusses the influence of Leo Strauss.