Welcome to Playbook Deep Dive, the stories behind the power. From Congress and the White House to bar stools and back rooms, POLITICO's top reporters and Playbook authors bring you the most compelling and confounding stories that explain what’s really going on in Washington.
Giorgia Meloni's Hard Right Playbook
Last Sunday, Italians voted for the most right-wing government since Benito Mussolini. The controversial politician leading the winning coalition, Giorgia Meloni, will become Italy's first female prime minister.
Meloni has become a darling of sorts for many Republicans in America, who invited her to speak at this year's CPAC conference. The "Brothers of Italy," co-founded by Meloni in 2012, was a fringe party with neo-fascist roots. It rebranded itself in recent years as a socially conservative, ultra-nationalist party that's also a European voice in the growing trans-national culture wars.
From a rooftop bar near central Rome, Ryan Lizza and POLITICO Europe's Rome correspondent, Hannah Roberts, dig into Meloni's history, rise, and how she's likely to lead Italy's government with EU, NATO, and Russian relationships center stage.
The untold story of Trump's botched impeachments
It’s hard to imagine a political event that was covered more intensively in real time than Trump’s two impeachments. But only now, 18 months after the Senate acquitted Trump a second time, we are learning crucial new details about what happened behind the scenes of those proceedings. And only now are we starting to reckon with what those two failed impeachments have wrought for Congress, the presidency, and the Constitution — and who was responsible.
That reckoning comes courtesy of Playbook’s own Rachael Bade and Washington Post national security reporter Karoun Demirjian, who on Oct. 18 will publish “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress's Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump.” It’s an unsparing look at the characters, the calculations and, frequently, the cowardice that shaped Congress’s dealings with Trump — and how the results have likely changed impeachment forever.
On this week’s Playbook Deep Dive, Rachael and Karoun talk extensively about their book and its provocative argument with Playbook editor Mike DeBonis. It’s a reunion for the trio, who covered Capitol Hill together at the Washington Post and watched closely as Congress struggled to hold Trump to account. They discuss why “Unchecked” is an unapologetically “both sides” book, how congressional leaders’ public rhetoric rarely matched private reality, and just how many impeachment articles President Joe Biden might be facing if Republicans take the House.
The Bitter End to democracy? Hindsight is 20/20.
UCLA political scientists Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch and Vanderbilt’s John Sides argue that political party identity has become increasingly “calcified” in surprising new ways. Their latest book,“The Bitter End,” describes both the long-term trends and short-term shocks that shaped the 2020 presidential election and continue reverberating today.
What’s driving the increasing distance between the parties and the growing homogeneity within the parties?
Playbook Co-Author Ryan Lizza met Vavreck on UCLA’s campus to learn why so-called “identity-inflected issues” are the great new dimension of political conflict and present a dangerous direction in America. Ryan Lizza is a Playbook co-author for POLITICO.
Kara Swisher knows when to fold ‘em
Kara Swisher has hosted the annual Code Conference for the last twenty years. Recently she announced that this was her final year organizing and running the event, which concluded on Thursday in Los Angeles.
At the final big panel on Wednesday evening, Swisher ended things where she started: with a conversation about Steve Jobs.
She gathered the famous Apple designer Jony Ive and the widow of Steve Jobs — Laurene Powell Jobs — and the CEO of Apple — Tim Cook — who flew to Los Angeles for Swisher hours after unveiling the new iPhone 14 at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino. The event ended much more poignant than one would expect at a conference about technology and politics.
Afterward, Playbook Co-Author Ryan Lizza met Swisher in a suite on the 8th floor of the Beverly Hilton at what was Code's last secret poker party. They talked about the end of her running the Code Conference, her long and winding career … and why she loves saying no.
When Senator Leahy laughed with Raul Castro
On Tuesday, Leahy, who is retiring this year after representing Vermont in the Senate since 1975, released “The Road Taken,” an engrossing memoir that covers his long career, from his politically fraught vote against the Vietnam War to his account of rallying his fellow senators back into the chamber on Jan. 6 after they fled the mob that stormed the Capitol. In between, you meet dozens of politicians, Supreme Court Justices, presidents, world leaders, musicians, and Hollywood celebrities.
Ron Klain says ‘season of substance’ could save Dems
The White House suddenly has a lot to brag about. And the president’s aides, led by chief of staff Ron Klain, are reaching deep into the 20th century to make the case that Joe Biden is a transformational president with “historic achievements.” We ventured over to the White House and sat down with Klain in the Roosevelt Room to review the last 18 months of the Biden presidency and talk about what’s next. At the start of the summer, this conversation would have been vastly different. Now, gas prices have dropped, the last CPI report hints that inflation may finally be trending down after hitting a peak. Election forecasters are writing pieces at least entertaining the idea that Democrats might not suffer the long-predicted midterm wipeout. And there’s that burst of legislative victories that were squeezed out of Congress in July and August that had Biden, a lover of alliteration, calling this period “a season of substance.”