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Matt Mackowiak's Mack On Politics

Smart political talk every week from Austin, Texas political consultant Matt Mackowiak, who has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators and the Bush administration.
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Matt Mackowiak's Mack On Politics
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Jun 21, 2017

North Korea is the subject of our 31st episode, with best-selling author Mark Bowden (“Black Hawk Down” and “Killing Pablo”), among others. His new reported piece for The Atlantic, “The Worst Problem in the World”, examines the complexity of the North Korea nuclear threat and evaluates all four policy options facing the United States. After a deep dive into North Korea, we discuss his other writing subjects, including Vietnam and Pablo Escobar, as well as his own process for writing, what future subjects he is considering, and what advice he has for young writers.

Jun 15, 2017

Our most distinguished guest in the podcast’s history: Adm. James Stavridis (U.S. Navy, Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and also Commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami. He is the author of the new book, “Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans”. We take a trip around the world with this 37-year Navy man, from Miami, to Brussels, to Russia, to Syria, to the Strait of Hormuz, to the Arctic, to the South China Sea. He has fascinating insight each of these important global challenges. We wrap up with a little talk about politics, including his interactions with the Clinton and Trump teams, and then discuss the importance of public service.

Jun 9, 2017

Our guest for the 29th episode is U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). We discussed the Comey hearing, health care, tax reform, criminal justice reform, and the Paris Climate Accord with him, as well as his new book, “Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government.” It’s an interesting and timely discussion.

Jun 3, 2017

The issue this week: The Paris Climate Accord and President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. For this subject, we sought out noted expert Robert Henneke, General Counsel and Litigation Director for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. We begin asking him about current environmental litigation that is still pending from the Obama years, then turned to a discussion of the Paris agreement, why Trump withdrew, why it matters, and what this means going forward.

May 26, 2017

We talked to Karen Elliott House, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who served as Publisher of The Wall Street Journal and has spent 39 years reporting on the Middle East. We focused our discussion on Saudi Arabia, with President Trump beginning his first foreign trip there at the beginning of this week. We discussed the historic arms deal, the threat from Iran, the state of the Royal Family, and Saudi Arabia’s position in the region, as well as examined what the Trump administration can realistically accomplish there over the next few years. We finished with some informed speculation about the future of the Saudi royal family.

May 22, 2017

Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of Harvard Law School, famed defense lawyer and the author 35 books, joined me for a detailed discussion of the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We began with his views on President Trump’s terrorism speech in Riyadh and then preview his visit to Jerusalem, before pivoting to a through discussion of how a Special Counsel works, whether the allegations against Trump and his campaign are even criminal according to statute, how damaging the leaks have been, what “collusion” means, whether a 9/11-style Commission would be a better approach, and discuss Obstruction of Justice and the Pardon Power of the President.

May 12, 2017

For our 25th episode, we dive into President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

We begin with former U.S. Department of Justice chief spokesman Matthew Miller, a Security and Justice analyst for NBC News, with his overall take on the firing, how he would feel if he were a White House communications aide and why the White House was surprised at the blowback, whether he believe a Special Counsel is needed and how that would happen, where he thinks the Russia investigation stands and where it is headed, and then we discussed his view of Comey and potential FBI Director replacements.

Next, we talked to Politico “Playbook” co-author Anna Palmer, live from California, where she just interviewed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. We explored the political dynamics at play on this story, within the White House and on Capitol Hill, and consider what this all means for Trump’s legislative agenda and the 2018 midterm elections.

May 10, 2017

For our 24th episode, we dig deep into the world of Fox News with New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, the author of “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” a biography of Roger Ailes that is being developed into a series for Showtime. We talked with Gabe about how he became an expert on Fox News, whether Ailes would have contained the fallout in the past year had he still been there, how the Murdochs are running the network currently, whether their bid for Sky News has changed how Fox News responds to crises, whether stars like Shep Smith, Sean Hannity, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace are rising or falling under new management, whether another conservative cable network could truly challenge Fox News, and where this story goes from here.

May 7, 2017

In the 23rd episode, we talked to author Garrett Graff, whose new book, “Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die” has received strong praise in reviews in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico and Vice. It is a spellbinding and fascinating account how the doomsday plan that the federal government has developed to ensure that government operations continue during and after a mass casualty event. You simply will not believe how thorough and far-reaching the government’s plans are.

Apr 24, 2017

We begin the 22nd episode with a fascinating conversation with Jonathan Allen, the best-selling co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” where we delve in to how Allen and his co-author Amie Parnes kept their reporting secret throughout the campaign, if they book would have been different had she narrowly won, and whether overconfidence, arrogance, and disrespect for Donald Trump cost them the election. We explore Hillary and her campaign’s relationships with her husband Bill Clinton, as well as Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. And finally, we consider what regrets Hillary and her campaign have now.

Then, we turned to author, CNN contributor, and Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis to take his temperature on the Trump era. What does he make of Trump’s White House, the GOP and the conservative movement?

Apr 21, 2017

The singular man of the moment Roger Stone, taped live in Austin.

We talked about his 40+ years of friendship with Donald Trump, how Trump won the election, what’s really going on inside the West Wing, and how Roger answers questions about Russia and his own activities. He’s offered to testify in public, under oath, in front of Congress.

Apr 13, 2017

The situation in North Korea is our subject for the 20th episode of the “Mack on Politics” and our guest is former Pentagon Chief of Staff and former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.

We preview Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming visit to Seoul, discuss the recent transition in South Korean leadership, examine the offensive and defensive options that President Trump may be considering, consider what China’s options may be, and then talk about the differences between what life is like in North Korea vs. South Korea.

Finally, we reviewed what it was like when Amb. Lippert survived a gruesome assassination attempt in March 2015, and whether he has hope for North Korea in the future.

Apr 6, 2017

Two foreign crisis are dominating the news this week, so in the 19th episode, we are focusing on the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, as North Korea continues to test ballistic missiles and the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons on its own citizens.

First, we talked to former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a member of the U.S.-China Commission, about China, North Korea, defense spending, the budget, NATO and Syria. Then we talked about how the U.S. Senate has changed and what he misses about serving in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Then, we spoke with Gordon Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China” and “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World.” In this conversation, we dive deep into what Xi’s agenda will be with Trump, what leverage the U.S. has over China, why the ‘One China’ policy is so important to China and then what advice Chang would give to President Trump ahead of this meeting.

Mar 29, 2017

In the 18th episode, we talk to Naval War College professor Tom Nichols, the author of “The Death of Expertise” about Russia. We covered what Russia up to, what their goals are, what the protests mean, what the stakes are for NATO and Syria, what’s going on between the Trump team and Russia, and what the future is for Putin’s regime.

Mar 27, 2017

In the 17th episode, we talked to Dr. Tom Coburn, a former Republican two-term U.S. Senator and former three-term Congressman. His new book, out May 30, is titled, “Smashing the DC Monopoly,” and it makes the case for an Article V Convention of States. In this discussion, we start by discussing the failure of the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal and replacement legislation, what the next year looks like under Obamacare, and how Obamacare has effected the practice of medicine. Then, we dive into the “debt bomb” facing the country, with a $20 trillion national debt and $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities. We wrap up by discussing why he believes a Convention of States is needed and how President Trump is doing.

Mar 13, 2017

In the 16th episode, our guest needs no introduction: James O’Keefe. He is the president of Project Veritas, a guerrilla journalism organization focused on exposing corruption “wherever it exists.” In our somewhat brief chat, we talked about his mission, whether the national media should be the target in the current environment and whether alternative journalism organizations need their own communications platforms to get around the media filter. We talked about how widespread corruption really is in all levels of government, and we mused about what he wants for his own professional future.

Mar 12, 2017

In the 15th episode, we first talked to Jim Geraghty, author of “The Weed Agency” and senior political correspondent for National Review Online about the week in Trump, where Obamacare is substantively and politically, and we evaluate the state of conservatism and the state of the national media. Then, we took a deep dive into Ohio politics, with The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Henry Gomez, to look back at how Trump won Ohio, muse about how that state can simultaneously be represented by John Kasich, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, considered whether Brown has 2020 presidential aspirations, reviewed the state of the 2018 U.S. Senate and Governor’s races, predicted what will determine whether Trump can win Ohio again in 2020, and finally, we discussed Gomez’s recent professional decision to leave the Plain Dealer and head to Buzzfeed to report on national politics from Ohio.

Mar 6, 2017

For the 14th episode, we take a deep dive into Obamacare, with nationally recognized expert Avik Roy, the President of the Foundation for Research in Equal Opportunity (FREOPP). We discussed the policy choices facing the Republicans, including the overall number of Americans covered, tax subsidies, means testing, Medicaid expansion, portability, and the potential for a 50 state marketplace. We also considered the politics of the issue and delved into legislative procedure to look forward. Finally, we talked about why he started his own think tank and what he wishes to accomplish with it.

Feb 23, 2017

In our 13th episode, we first talked to Blain Rethmeier, Managing Director for Crisis and Risk (Western Region) for powerhouse PR firm Edelman. Rethmeier just completed serving as an advisor to Gen. John Kelly, the Homeland Security Secretary nominee. Rethmeier helped shepherd Gen. Kelly through confirmation and we discussed what that was like, how it worked, and how the team helped prepare Gen. Kelly for his crucial confirmation hearing. Then, we turned the discussion to Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, and called upon Rethmeier’s experience as Communications Director for the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine how much Supreme Court battles have changed in the past decade. Finally, we delved into the world of corporate PR, reputation management, and crisis communications in a world where the President of the United States often praises and criticizes major corporations on social media.

Next, we interviewed columnist and author Ashley McGuire about her bestselling new book, “Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.” We discussed President Trump rescinding the transgender bathroom executive order, how and why she wrote this book, whether an orchestrated effort to “end the gender binary” actually harms women, and where these issues tend to have practical consequences. We wrapped up by discussing her process for writing the book and what the publishing industry is really like, particularly for a first-time author.

Feb 20, 2017

Susan Page is the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, and a former president of the White House Correspondents Association.

In this episode, we delved into what it is really like covering the Trump White House, reviewed the past turbulent week, discussed whether President Trump’s manner of operating is really the problem, inquired where she believes the Michael Flynn situation is headed amid an FBI investigation into potential campaign contacts with Russia, recalled what the historical precedent is for Democrat delays of Trump’s Cabinet, mused about what the State of the Union moment offers for President Trump, and then finally, spent a few minutes talking about the future of journalism.

Feb 13, 2017

On the 11th episode of the “Mack on Politics” national political podcast, produced in partnership with The Washington Times, we interview former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza and DNC vice chair candidate Adam Parkhomenko.

With Ambassador Garza, who joined us from Mexico City, we started with an overview of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship, before diving into specific discussions about a proposed border tax, NAFTA, what the Ambassador job is, how the race for the Mexican presidency is shaping up ahead of national elections in July 2018, border security, and whether he has optimism about the future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and hope for the future of Mexico.

Then, we talked with former Ready for Hillary executive director, former DNC national field director and DNC vice chair candidate Adam Parkhomenko about the state of the Democratic Party, whether the party faces a strategic choice of whether to move left or to the middle, what type of reform is necessary at the DNC, whether the Democrats should fight Trump or find areas of agreement, and finally, we delved into what Hillary Clinton is really like.

Feb 6, 2017

In the 10th episode of ‘Mack on Politics,” we examine Russia and the Supreme Court with two experts: Michael McFaul and Ed Whelan.

Michael McFaul served as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2010-2012 in the Obama administration and served on the Russia desk at the National Security Council for three years before that. Fluent in Russian, he is currently a professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. We discussed what is going on in Ukraine, what Vladimir Putin is personally like (he first met him in 1989), what the U.S. just did with sanctions against Russia (and what they are considering next), whether NATO remains a vital alliance, what Putin is up to in Syria, whether the “Russian Reset” worked, what a post-Putin Russia will look like and we review his personal experiences while he served in Moscow as Ambassador.

Next, we dive deep into the Supreme Court with Ed Whelan, the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a former clerk to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Whelan gives us an overview of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, we discuss why originalism and textualism matter and whether judges should care about “outcomes.” Then, we looked at Gorsuch’s ten-year record on the Court of Appeals, previewed the Senate confirmation battle and the debate over the filibuster, discussed the current spring term and the upcoming fall term, and ended with his view on what it was like to work in the Supreme Court, what Justice Scalia was really like, and what the stakes are whenever the next vacancy arrives.

Jan 31, 2017
In the 9th episode, we look back on the life of Donald Trump with his friend and colleague of 40 years, legendary operative and author Roger Stone. As he writes in his new book, "The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution", which was released Jan. 31, 2017, we discuss how Trump decided to run for President, how he won the primary, how Hillary Clinton's vulnerabilities caught up with her, how Trump survived the Billy Bush "Access Hollywood" tape, how Stone answers questions about Russia and Wikileaks, how Trump can succeed as President, what the biggest misconception about Trump is, and finally, Stone reveals an incredible story about Trump.

Then, we talked to longtime Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who managed the 2004 presidential campaign of Howard Dean. We take stock of the current Democratic Party, discussed the Clinton v. Sanders primary, considered how a 2016 bid by Joe Biden might have gone, look back at the groundbreaking 2004 Dean campaign, consider how Democrats were in the minority in 2004 and then back in the majority after 2006, look forward to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and wrap up with a discussion of what motivates Trippi away from politics.

 

Jan 28, 2017

In the 8th episode of "Mack on Politics,", we talked to Rory Broomfield, Director of the Freedom Association, from London.

On the day that British Prime Minister Theresa May met with President Donald Trump, we delved into his assessment of PM May's speech in Philadelphia yesterday, we discussed the speech PM May gave in Britain before she left for the U.S. which detailed the path forward for Brexit, we discussed the next steps for Britain as it leaves the E.U., we considered the implications of a bilateral trade deal between the U.S. and and the U.K., and we discussed the future of the E.U., as France and Germany plan to hold national elections later this year.

Jan 24, 2017

In this episode of "Mack on Politics," we first talk about the state of the media in the Age of Trump with New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg. We discussed the Trump's media relations, why the media consistently takes Trump's bait, whether public job approval of the media really matters, who Rutenberg thinks we're the media stars of the 2016 campaign, what is really going on inside Fox News and what major media stories we should follow in the next few months.

Then we talked to national security and foreign policy expert Tom Rogan, a columnist for National Review, about Russia, Syria, NATO, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, in a fascinating 45 minute discussion of these foreign policy challenges for the new administration.

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