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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Sep 22, 2017

We take a deep dive into the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare replacement bill with Lanhee Chen, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and former Policy Directory for the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign.

We begin by discussion why Lanhee supports the bill, how states would handle receiving block grants to create their own health care systems, how repealing the individual and employer mandates would affect the system, how the bill treats those with preexisting conditions, how the Essential Health Benefits provisions are treated, why increasing contribution limits for HSAs is important, whether states can create single-payer systems, whether a full CBO score is necessary, and then how health care will change in a scenario where it passes and how Obamacare is working if the replacement bill fails.

We end with a discussion of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all single payer proposal and I ask Lanhee to predict whether the Graham-Cassidy bill will pass.

Sep 11, 2017

We take the pulse of the conservative movement with former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who now serves as President of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

I wanted to begin by discussing President Trump’s decision to phase out DACA over six months, with his view on what kind of deal he wants before the deadline comes in March.

Then we discussed the short-term agreement on the debt ceiling and government spending that President Trump cut with Democratic leaders.

We then talked about the 2018 cycle and his work at the Senate Conservatives Fund, including next year’s 2018 U.S. Senate race in Virginia. He also sized up this year’s Virginia Governor’s race as Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s term comes to an end.

Finally, we consider the state of the conservative movement in the Age of Trump.

Sep 10, 2017

Texas is in the middle of everything and so we wanted to talk to Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune for this episode.

We began with a discussion about Hurricane Harvey, first about the challenges it presents to a news organization, and then about the different ways the recovery is taking shape to get people back on their feet.

We then turned to discuss three national issues that affect Texas directly: DACA, the border wall, and NAFTA.

Finally, we explored why his nonprofit journalism venture, which is about to celebrate its 8th anniversary, has been successful and consider what it could tell us about the future of journalism.

Sep 2, 2017

A “500-year flood” hit Texas this week and that is the subject of this episode.

We begin with a monologue from your host about heroism in Houston.

We continue with three interviews, each about a different angle to this story.

First, we talked to State Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, who has represented the coastal bend region of Texas off and on since 1989. I began by asking him how he’s feeling, what the most pressing challenges are for his area of the state, how the state and federal response has been, what kind of heroic response he has witnessed, and finally about what is needed now.

Then, we turn to the non-profit angle with Alberto “Beto” Cardenas, who is a Board Member and Secretary of the Houston Food Bank. We started by discussing the mission of the Food Bank, the scale of its operations, and then discussed what they are doing to serve thousands of people each day, what their needs are, and how people can help. Finally, we discussed the spirit of Houston.

We end this episode with a discussion about how the energy industry has been affected with Texas Railroad Commission chairman Christi Craddick, whose regulatory agency oversees the energy industry in Texas. She updates us on where things stand with gasoline supply and refineries, gives us her assessment of how the industry has handled this crisis, and then discuss what, if anything, she’s worried about.

Aug 26, 2017

Our guest for the 42nd episode is Jon Ward, a journalist of 15 years who currently writes for Yahoo News. He previously reported for The Huffington Post and was a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. Mr. Ward is currently writing a book about the 1980 primary between sitting U.S. President Jimmy Carter and then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), which will be released next year.

We began by looking at the upcoming border wall funding battle and assess the potential for a government shutdown. Then we examined whether a realignment in American politics is underway.

We then turned to a discussion of that 1980 Democratic presidential primary – how it came about, how it played out, why it mattered then and why it matters today. We continued by discussing his writing process and reviewed what he’s learned about writing his first book.

Finally, we talked about what it’s like covering the White House, how the media is doing today, and look ahead to the future of journalism.

Aug 15, 2017

Tax reform crusader Grover Norquist is our guest for the 41st episode.

Since 1985, he has been running Americans for Tax Reform, the leading conservative organization in the country on tax reform and limiting spending.

With Congress set to begin a major debate on tax cuts, we checked in with Norquist on where the effort currently stands, whether the (temporary?) failure to reform health care makes tax reform easier or harder, whether there is a parallel between the Reagan tax cuts and this year’s version, why annual economic growth matters, how federal spending fits into this debate, what he wants to see happen on health care, and why his organization’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge has been so influential for so many years.

Aug 11, 2017

We explore the North Korean threat from all angles with 36-year military veteran Gen. Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army, Ret.) on our 40th episode.

In this discussion, we consider how concerned Guam should be, what the current state of the North Korean nuclear program is, why North Korea would give up their nuclear weapons, what would change China’s strategic calculation, how worried South Korea should be, what the current level of U.S. military readiness is, what can the U.S. offer China to persuade them to do more, what Secretary Mattis might be thinking and what would lead the U.S. to take pre-emptive military action.

Aug 7, 2017

Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is our guest for the 39th episode.

We begin by discussing with him the case of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Pakistani citizen who was working for her who was arrested trying to leave the country two weeks ago. What is really happening with this story and where is it headed? DeSantis has asked DOJ to investigate.

Then we turn to a discussion of North Korea, Iran, health care, and immigration, with Rep. DeSantis, whose committee work touches all of those areas.

We wrap up with his view on what he hopes Congress can accomplishment for the rest of 2017.

Aug 5, 2017

Michael Reagan is our guest for the 38th episode. He is the son of former President Ronald Reagan, and the President of the Reagan Legacy Foundation, and an author, commentator and motivational speaker.

We talked to him about parallels between Reagan Democrats and Trump Democrats, about the importance of traveling the country for Reagan’s success, about how Reagan worked successfully with Democrats, including on tax reform, about why performance is an important part of politics, and about what lessons Trump can learn from Reagan’s way of dealing with Russia.

Finally, we discussed two policy areas of personal importance to Michael Reagan: sex trafficking and adoption.

Jul 28, 2017

Our guest is Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor for and Fox News contributor.

We review an insane week in national politics, with the health care meltdown, the hope for tax reform, and dysfunction inside the White House. We wrap up with what she sees as the best case scenario for the rest of 2017 for Team Trump.

Jul 24, 2017

We exclusively talk to Kris Kobach, vice chair of the Presidential Election Integrity Commission and Kansas Secretary of State.

We explored the mission of the commission, which just held their first meeting, whether voter fraud is real, how the commission is doing its work and when it hopes to produce a report, whether three million people illegally voted in 2016 and whether voter ID is necessary.

Then we turned to his experience advising Trump during the campaign, how he weighed whether to join the administration, and what his political future holds.

Jul 21, 2017

Iowa-based CRTV host and columnist Steve Deace is our guest. For many years he has been one of the sharpest voices in the conservative movement, as comfortable criticizing Republicans as he is Democrats.

We evaluate the state of the health care debate and the path forward, what might happen in the tax reform debate, what he makes of the Russia probe, what he thinks Trump is doing well, and what the best case scenario is for the White House for the rest of the year.

Jul 10, 2017

Our guest for the 34th episode: Former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who recently served as President of the Heritage Foundation.

He just began a leadership role in the effort to organize a Convention of States through the Constitution’s Article V process. We begin by discussing why he signed on, where the effort currently stands, and what they hope to accomplish by amending the constitution.

Then, we turned to tax reform, federal spending, health care, his view on how the Trump administration is doing, and his evaluation of the state of the conservative movement in the Trump Era.

Jul 7, 2017

Former U.S. Amb. to Syria Robert Ford is our guest for the 33rd episode. He served as U.S. Amb. to Syria from 2010-2014, after a 30-year career including a stint as U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.

We began our discussion with his assessment of the Syrian cease-fire, announced at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, by President Trump and President Putin.

From there, we discussed why Russia is involved in Syria and what Russia’s goals are. We discussed Bashir al-Assad and how his rule of Syria has changed, as well as how the effort to take back Raqqa is going, whether Assad will use chemical weapons again, what the U.S. can do to deter Assad, whether a political settlement is possible, what advice he would privately give to President Trump, and what his experience was like as Ambassador in Damascus.

Jun 29, 2017

Our guest is Eric Bolling, the co-host of Fox News’ “The Specialists” each weekday, and “Cashin’ In” each Saturday morning. His new book, “The Swamp: Washington's Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It” is out this week and it is already a major bestseller.

A former commodities trader in New York City, we talked about his decade-long friendship with Trump, what Trump’s policies mean for the economy, how his new Fox News show came about, what he makes of the cable news industry currently, how Trump uses Twitter (and whether he should continue), what he wants to see from tax reform, and what he learned writing two best-selling books.

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?

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