Hell & High Water with John Heilemann
John Heilemann talks with two-time Peabody Award-winning comedian Hasan Minhaj, best known for hosting six seasons of the Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj and his widely acclaimed Netflix special, Homecoming King. Heilemann and Minhaj discuss his early career as a comic and the centrality of his background as a first-generation Indian- and Muslim-American to his work; his breakout stint as a correspondent for The Daily Show and how it shaped his political and social commentary; his 2017 performance at the White House Correspondents dinner and his return to the capital two years later to testify before Congress on the student loan crisis; and the embrace of Homecoming King as a "calling card for a new brown America." They also discuss The King’s Jester, Minhaj's current one-man show and the subject of his next Netflix special, in which he examines his pursuit of fame and social media clout — and the unexpected risks it ultimately posed both to him and his family.
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133. Cecile Richards01:20:44In which John Heilemann talks with Cecile Richards, co-chair of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, co-founder of the women’s rights advocacy group Supermajority, and, from 2006 to 2018, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Heilemann and Richards discuss Roe v Wade's uncertain future in the wake of the recent Supreme Court arguments around restrictive abortion laws in Mississippi and Texas, and the effects that Roe's potential demise might have on women and politics in America; how Richards's mother, Ann, the former governor of Texas, propelled her towards a lifetime of activism; and how her broader agenda in favor of "women's equity" is faring in the Biden era.
133. Tom Nichols Part 201:20:44A special two-part episode in which John Heilemann talks with international affairs and national security guru Tom Nichols, contributing writer at The Atlantic, longtime senior faculty member at the U.S. Naval War College, and author of eight books on foreign policy and politics, including, most recently, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy. Heilemann and Nichols assess the state of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s calculations in the face of the Russian military's inability to win a swift and decisive victory, and the emerging consensus in the West that war has reached what could prove to be a protracted and bloody stalemate; how President Zelenskyy has wielded a masterful media strategy to galvanize support around the world and dominate the information battlefield; and the difficult decisions facing Joe Biden and the NATO alliance as Zelenskyy warns that we may already have entered World War III. Nichols also discusses his proud status as a five-time, undefeated Jeopardy champion, and his well-known – and well-deserved – reputation for having indefensibly and inexplicably bad taste in music.
132. Tom Nichols Part 101:20:44A special two-part episode in which John Heilemann talks with international affairs and national security guru Tom Nichols, contributing writer at The Atlantic, longtime senior faculty member at the U.S. Naval War College, and author of eight books on foreign policy and politics, including, most recently, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy. Heilemann and Nichols assess the state of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s calculations in the face of the Russian military's inability to win a swift and decisive victory, and the emerging consensus in the West that war has reached what could prove to be a protracted and bloody stalemate; how President Zelenskyy has wielded a masterful media strategy to galvanize support around the world and dominate the information battlefield; and the difficult decisions facing Joe Biden and the NATO alliance as Zelenskyy warns that we may already have entered World War III. Nichols also discusses his proud status as a five-time, undefeated Jeopardy champion, and his well-known – and well-deserved – reputation for having indefensibly and inexplicably bad taste in music.
131. Shannon Watts01:20:44Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America — a self-described “accidental activist” who, in less than a decade, went from being a stay-at-home mother in Indiana to the face of a national grassroots movement with more active members than the National Rifle Association. When Watts launched her advocacy group as a simple Facebook page in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012, she had just 75 friends on the site but grand ambitions, boundless energy, and infinite chutzpah. Today, Moms Demand Action is part of Everytown For Gun Safety and a political juggernaut, deploying tens of thousands of volunteers and tens of millions of dollars to support candidates, legislative campaigns, and corporate reform efforts. Heilemann and Watts discuss the ways her group has changed the game on gun control, the role of women and young people in the movement, the crisis at the NRA, and why Watts believes the Biden administration will be “the strongest gun safety administration in history.”
130. Kurt Andersen and Lawrence O’Donnell01:20:44Kurt Andersen and Lawrence O’Donnell first met 46 years ago as undergraduates at Harvard, forming a friendship that’s flourished alongside their careers as two of their generation’s most incisive, insightful observers of American politics and culture. Andersen made his mark in the 1980s as co-founder of the iconic Spy magazine, then went on to serve as editor-in-chief of New York magazine, host of the Peabody Award-winning radio program “Studio 360,” and best-selling novelist and non-fiction author. O’Donnell cut his teeth in Washington as staff director of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and protege to legendary New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then transitioned to the TV business — first as an Emmy Award-winning writer on “The West Wing” and currently as host of “The Last Word” on MSNBC. On this week’s Hell & High Water, Heilemann, a friend of both Andersen and O’Donnell, brings the two men together for their first-ever joint interview. They discuss the performances of Joe Biden and Amanda Gorman on inauguration day, O’Donnell’s insider’s perspective on the January 6 assault on the US Capitol, and Andersen’s “grand unified theory” of modern American life, as sketched out in his recent companion volumes, “Fantasyland” and “Evil Geniuses.”
129. Fiona Hill01:15:07In which John Heilemann talks with Fiona Hill, the former national security official in Donald Trump's White House who made headlines with her testimony in the hearings over the Ukraine scandal that led to his first impeachment. Heilemann and Hill discuss her new memoir, There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century, including her reluctant decision to join the Trump administration, what she learned about his character, and his envious admiration for authoritarian leaders around the world and Vladimir Putin in particular; how Trump’s disregard for the rule of law and democratic norms led not only to his first impeachment but also his attempted coup in the weeks following the 2020 presidential election and culminating with the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6; and why it's no exaggeration to say that Trump is setting the stage for another attempt to subvert American democracy in 2024. Hill also discusses her unlikely journey from a working-class mining town in northeastern England to the rarified academic realm at Harvard, the inner sanctum of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and upper reaches of political and policy-making power inside the White House.
128. Ken Burns01:17:32In which John Heilemann talks with documentarian Ken Burns, whose new four-part series, Muhammad Ali, premiered this week on PBS. Heilemann and Burns discuss Ali's life and legacy as the most important athlete of the 20th century, in particular how his story transcends sports, intersecting with the defining issues of his era (race, religion, politics, protest) and illuminating much about the American experience in the convulsive Sixties and Seventies; Burns's prodigious body of work, which has earned him two Academy Award nominations, 15 Emmys, and two Grammys, and has made him the dominant practitioner of his art form over the past 40 years; the landmark films within his oeuvre — multi-part television events such as The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and The Vietnam War, some running nearly 20 hours in length — and how Burns found himself imbued with the power to get such sprawling projects made; and the central role that race has occupied in his work, and in the American story. Burns also reflects on his childhood and how it inspired his career, and what it was like to co-direct the Ali series with his oldest daughter Sarah and her husband.
127. Julia Ioffe and Michael McFaul01:00:27In which John Heilemann discusses the Russia invasion of Ukraine -- and its far-reaching implications for Europe, Joe Biden's presidency, Vladimir Putin's place in history, and the global security writ large -- with former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Puck News correspondent Julia Ioffe. Heilemann, McFaul, and Ioffe talk about Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified assault on Ukraine; Putin’s miscalculations regarding the strength of the NATO alliance, internal Russian opposition to the war, and the resolve of the Ukrainian people; and what’s at stake for an already shaky international order. They also marvel at how elements of both the American right and left have improbably become full-fledged Putin apologists ... and even Putin admirers.One of the things that makes it possible for us to make this show is by selling sponsorships to advertisers. And one of the things that would be helpful in getting more sponsors is if you tell us a little bit about who you are. To do that, please fill out this quick survey at https://survey.fan/hhw. Thanks for your help!
126. Michael Bender, Part 245:02In which John Heilemann talks with Mike Bender, senior White House reporter for The Wall Street Journal and author of Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, for a special two-part episode of the podcast. Heilemann and Bender discuss the latter's new book and its news-making account of Trump's cataclysmic final year in office and doomstruck reelection campaign; how the president mishandled the series of crises that beset the country in 2020, from Covid to the protests after the murder of George Floyd; his contraction of the coronavirus and obsession with Hunter Biden in the campaign's waning days; his actions behind the scenes and motivations in fanning the flames before and during the January 6 attack on the Capitol; the symbiotic relationship between Trump and the national media; Trump's continued post-presidential hold on the Republican Party; and both his and his party's future. Bender also discusses his career in journalism, his daily battle with his father for rights to the sports page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer when he was growing up, and the special challenges of writing about a White House filled with unreliable narrators.Check back tomorrow for the second installment of this special edition of Hell & High Water.