Conversations with Bill Kristol features in-depth, thought-provoking discussions with leading figures in American public life.
Joe Trippi: The Biden Administration, the Parties, and Looking Ahead to the Midterms
Eight months into his presidency, how is Joe Biden doing politically? How should we understand the current dynamics in the Democratic and Republican parties? What key things should we look for as we head toward the midterm elections in 2022? To consider these questions, we are joined by veteran Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, a shrewd and incisive analyst of our politics and our parties. As Trippi sees it, and noting Liz Cheney’s removal from House leadership, the Republican Party is locked in to a series of loyalty tests around Donald Trump, which diminish the party's appeal to independent voters. The Democrats' problem is they are divided, and currently facing quarrels in Congress between the moderate and progressive wings of the party. For the Democrats to succeed in the midterms, in Trippi’s view, Biden must be perceived as generally successful at managing the concrete challenges the country faces, while the Democrats in Congress must grow up and help Biden pass popular legislation. Further, the Democrats need to broader their tent to include more independents and former Republicans. Kristol and Trippi also consider what the primary elections of the Democrats and Republicans between now and the midterms will reveal about the direction of the parties.
Donald Kagan: War and Human Nature
Donald Kagan (1932 - 2021), who passed away this summer, was a preeminent historian of both the ancient and modern worlds. In 2015, we were privileged to host Professor Kagan for a wide-ranging Conversation about the major themes of his work. We are pleased to re-release the Conversation here. In the 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.
Aaron Friedberg: On US-China Relations and the Threats We Face
How will the American withdrawal from Afghanistan influence US-China relations? How should we understand China’s geostrategic ambitions—and the threat to Taiwan in particular? How is America dealing with the challenge? To discuss these questions, we are joined again by Princeton professor Aaron Friedberg, author of A Contest for Supremacy and the forthcoming Getting China Wrong. Friedberg explains how Americans often have misunderstood and underestimated the challenge from China on political, economic, and technological fronts. Friedberg calls for an integrated approach in which the US, in concert with allies, develops an alternative to the current paradigm—building and developing networks of industrial, technological, and political capacities in order to defend ourselves and Western principles. This is a timely and important Conversation that can help us think through the many political choices required to sustain a more effective strategy for countering the threat posed by China.
Eric Edelman: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations
Civilian control over the military, and a non-partisan military, have been bedrock principles of American government since the founding of the country. In recent times, however, significant strains have developed in our civil-military relations. Why should we be alarmed about the growing politicization of the military in America? Why must partisan neutrality prevail, and why must civilians avoid using the military to advance their own partisan causes? In this Conversation, Eric Edelman shares his perspective.
Edelman organized an important letter in January 2021, signed by all living former secretaries of defense, reminding military and civilians at the Defense Department that the peaceful transfers of power...are hallmarks of our democracy. The need for such a letter, according to Edelman, underscores how the bedrock principles of American civil-military relations have been challenged, especially within the last years, both from within the ranks and in our politics. In this timely and urgent discussion, Edelman explains how we have reached the current situation. He calls for reinforcing the norm of keeping the military out of partisan politics—and politicians not seeking military support for partisan aims.
David Epstein: The Political Ideas of The Federalist
Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to defend the ratification of the Constitution, The Federalist has long been recognized as a fundamental text in American political thought. Yet the complexity and subtlety of The Federalist as a work often is not sufficiently appreciated. In this Conversation, David Epstein, author of The Political Theory of The Federalist, (1984), shares his perspective on why The Federalist should be taken seriously as a work of political thought, and on its enduring importance. Epstein guides us through central themes including representation, the separation of powers, the roles of interests and ambition in politics, and how popular government can be made to be good government. Throughout, we come to see the complex character of The Federalist—and its sometimes surprising point of view on these fundamental aspects of American government. Finally, Epstein and Kristol consider the ways in which The Federalist, irrespective of our own political choices or policy preferences, remains a vital source for learning to think about politics.
Ashish Jha: On the Delta Variant, Vaccines, and Where We Stand
Where do things stand with Covid-19? How has the emergence of the Delta variant changed the situation? How might things look in the US as we had into the fall? To discuss these questions, we are joined again by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha explains why the highly-contagious Delta variant, coupled with greater-than-anticipated resistance to vaccines, now threatens a return to normalcy that seemed on track throughout the late spring. Today, all Americans have ready access to vaccines that are extraordinarily effective at preventing hospitalization and death. Jha stresses that exposure to Covid now is much more likely than just a few weeks ago, perhaps inevitable, so the choice in America now is binary: to get vaccinated, or get infected. Jha and Kristol consider choices in public policy and in the private sector we face now including whether to mandate vaccines, the role of the CDC and FDA, and the global dimension of the pandemic—and the ramifications of these choices as we look ahead to the reopening of schools, business, and other indoor activities, in the months ahead.
This is the Bill Kristol remember - a sunny but rock-ribbed conservative with intellectual chops.
A liberal likes Bill’s Conversations
Bill Kristol is an excellent interviewer. He asks incisive questions and gets out of the way so that his guests can provide detailed answers. I enjoy hearing the views of assign an intelligent conservative to challenge my own views. This is a great podcast. I recommend that you listen to it
Great to podcast, least amount of bias
Such a rare approach these days. I like centrist views (left or right), from people who care to understand true source of the problem, and propose possible sane solution. I would not agree certain things brought up, which makes it even more valuable, as you are getting an exposure to variety of opinions, and get your own views challenged.