204 episodes

The most interesting conversations in American life now happen in private. This show is bringing them out of the closet. Stories no one else is telling and conversations with the most fascinating people in the country, every week from former New York Times and Wall Street Journal journalist Bari Weiss.

Honestly with Bari Weiss The Free Press

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 6.7K Ratings

The most interesting conversations in American life now happen in private. This show is bringing them out of the closet. Stories no one else is telling and conversations with the most fascinating people in the country, every week from former New York Times and Wall Street Journal journalist Bari Weiss.

    Can Israel Actually Win This War?

    Can Israel Actually Win This War?

    When Hamas attacked Israel eight months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s war goals were threefold: one, destroy Hamas; two, free all of the hostages; and three, ensure that Gaza can never threaten Israel again.

    More than 250 days later, some 120 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, both dead and alive. Two Hamas battalions remain, consisting of somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000 fighters. More than 300 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza and thousands wounded, 135,000 Israeli civilians are still displaced, and the war seems to have no end in sight.

    Why? Israel is supposed to be the greatest military force in the Middle East. So why haven’t they achieved their war goals? Are their war goals even viable? And, can Israel win this war?

    Here to help answer these questions today are Seth Frantzman and John Spencer.

    Seth Frantzman is the senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. He has reported on the war against ISIS, several Gaza wars, and the conflict in Ukraine. And, he is an Adjunct Fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He thinks Israel can and should win this war, but he thinks the past eight months have been dismal and that Israel is at risk of losing and losing disastrously.

    John Spencer is a military expert who has served in the army for 25 years, including two combat tours in Iraq. He is now chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point and host of the Urban Warfare Project podcast. He was recently asked if the war was winnable for the IDF, and he said: one hundred percent. But he thinks it is contingent on a total defeat of Hamas.

    Today, we discuss what has actually been accomplished by the IDF in the last eight months, why they haven’t achieved “total victory” yet and if that’s even possible, the fate of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, how the U.S. has restrained Israel and if that restraint has been good or bad for Israel, what hope there is for the remaining hostages, whether the idea of Hamas can be defeated, what a “day after” plan could look like, the war with Hezbollah heating up in the north, and, most importantly: why October 7 did not wake up the West.
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    • 1 hr 10 min
    Was Legalizing Weed a Mistake? A Debate.

    Was Legalizing Weed a Mistake? A Debate.

    It’s been a little over a decade since cannabis was first legalized recreationally in the United States. As of today, recreational weed is legal in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and Americans have never been more pro-weed. In a Gallup poll from last November, 70 percent of U.S. adults said they support the federal legalization of marijuana, up from 50 percent in 2013 and a mere twelve percent in 1969. 

    In May, the Biden administration moved to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I, where it sits alongside heroin and LSD, to Schedule III, a category of drugs that the DEA says have a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” States with legal marijuana report economic benefits, a reduced burden on the criminal justice system, and positive health outcomes for patients with chronic pain and epilepsy.

    But is legal cannabis really such a no-brainer? A recent study found that marijuana use—whether through smoking, edibles, or vapes—is associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Other studies have consistently shown that so-called “high-potency cannabis” increases the risk of psychotic episodes in young users. 

    Today, a debate with two leading advocates both for and against the legalization of marijuana: has decriminalization worked? Or should it be reconsidered with more sober eyes? And is the most widely used and most socially acceptable illicit drug in the world, actually. . . dangerous? 

    Dr. Peter Grinspoon is a physician and medical cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Seeing Through the Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth About Marijuana.

    Kevin Sabet was a drug policy adviser for presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. He is the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an advocacy group that has emerged as the leading opponent of marijuana legalization in the United States. He is the author of Smoke Screen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.
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    • 1 hr 4 min
    Steven Pinker: Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things

    Steven Pinker: Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things

    Steven Pinker is a world-renowned cognitive psychologist, and is widely regarded as one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. His work delves into the complexities of cognition, language, and social behavior, and his research offers a window into the fundamental workings of the human mind. 

    Pinker, who is the author of nine books including Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress and Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, approaches his work with a kind of data-driven optimism about the world that has set him apart from the chorus of doomer voices we hear so much from in our public discourse.   

    Today, we talk to Pinker about why smart people believe stupid things, the psychology of conspiracy theories, free speech and academic freedom, why democracy and enlightenment values are contrary to human nature, the moral panic around AI, and much more.

    The Free Press earns a commission from any purchases made through Bookshop.org links.
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    • 41 min
    “I Was Wrong About Anti Semitism”: Sheryl Sandberg on Waking Up

    “I Was Wrong About Anti Semitism”: Sheryl Sandberg on Waking Up

    Last Saturday, stunning news broke out of Israel: four hostages had been rescued by the Israel Defense Forces in a daring daylight operation in central Gaza. Noa Argamani, 26; Almog Meir Jan, 22; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were liberated after 245 days in captivity.

    The first name, Noa Argamani, was one that many people recognized immediately. Everyone remembered the footage of Noa being kidnapped on the back of a motorcycle on October 7 from the Nova Music Festival, a look of terror on her face, reaching for help. Eight months later, it was hard not to see the footage of Noa’s reunion with her father, crying in his arms, as anything short of a miracle.

    But it wasn’t a miracle. It was the result of a complex and historic military operation that many are comparing to the raid on Entebbe in 1976. Not that you would have known that from the headlines. One BBC article was headlined: “Noa Argamani released.” A CNN chyron said the same. A UN official posted: “Relieved that four hostages have been released.” It was as if Hamas just handed them back to Israel and that was that. Other headlines focused on the Palestinians killed during the rescue, without mention of who started the gunfire, how many Hamas militants were killed vs. true innocents, who was holding the hostages, and of course, blindly quoting numbers given by the Hamas-run “Ministry of Health.”

    Reading many of the headlines over the last few days—or the Twitter posts claiming that the hostage raid was some kind of decoy for the IDF to kill Palestinians—felt like nothing new from the last eight months: more distortions of reality, more spinning of words, more half-truths or outright lies. The day after the news broke, thousands of protesters encircled the White House waving Palestinian flags and calling for the death of Zionists. “Hezbollah, kill another Zionist now.” “Stand with Hamas,” read one poster. Another sign read “LGBTQ—Let’s Go Bomb Tel Aviv Quickly.”

    How did this come to be? How is it that progressives are openly siding with Iranian-backed terrorist groups and against the country trying to stop them? And why are so many people shocked by this moral inversion?

    Those are some of the questions Sheryl Sandberg has spent the past eight months asking.

    As Sheryl watched the horrors of October 7 unfold, she was sure that everyone would rally against these unspeakable atrocities—particularly after the reports of sexual violence and rape committed by Hamas started coming in. When she saw that people did not, in fact, rise against it, and worse—when people began denying that it even happened—she was stunned. Sheryl was particularly stunned that many of her would-be allies—prominent feminists and progressives in this country and around the world—stayed silent.

    This led her to make a documentary about the sexual violence of October 7 called Screams Before Silence. Sheryl described the film as the most important work of her life, which is saying something considering her substantial résumé. 

    When people think of Sheryl Sandberg, they think of a girlboss, corporate feminism, and coastal politics—wearing a power suit and campaigning for Hillary Clinton. She is, in other words, a normal Democrat. A normal liberal. But as major parts of the left side against Israel, and downplay or ignore or actually foment antisemitism, a lot of people who consider themselves normal liberals are asking themselves: What happened to liberalism? 

    The position that Sheryl finds herself in is relatable to many Americans, people who feel betwixt and between in a post–October 7 world where the very people they thought were their friends are proving themselves to be just the opposite. Today, Sheryl talks about this very fraught moment we are living in. She talks about her film, the silence from so many women’s organizations and feminists, the denialism, how antisemitism is thriving in America, her changing Jewish identity,

    • 58 min
    The Former Russian Official Calling for a Coup Against Putin

    The Former Russian Official Calling for a Coup Against Putin

    When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, it was the largest military attack on a European country since World War II. Reliable casualty figures are hard to come by, but U.S. intelligence officials estimated last year that as many as 500,000 Russians and Ukrainians had been killed in the conflict, with an estimated 15–30 million refugees. 

    Congress has allotted $175 billion in aid for Ukraine since the war began. 

    But Ilya Ponomarev says that cash and defensive weapons alone won’t liberate Ukraine or impede future Russian aggression. He insists that Vladimir Putin must be deposed by force. And he is actively working to do just that. 

    Ilya Ponomarev was a member of Russia’s Federal Assembly (Russia’s national legislature) from 2007 to 2016. He was the only member to vote against Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Exiled to Ukraine since 2016, he is the political head of the Freedom of Russian Legion, a paramilitary group made up of Russian dissidents and defectors fighting for Ukraine. He argues that nonviolent resistance is not enough and that radical steps are needed to overthrow Putin. 

    In today’s conversation, Ponomarev talks about his life as a dissident and what it is like being a target for assassination, his previous relationship with Putin, and why democracy has failed to take root in Russia.
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    • 42 min
    BONUS: Is the Trump Verdict a Witch Trial? Or Justice?

    BONUS: Is the Trump Verdict a Witch Trial? Or Justice?

    On May 30, former president Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to adult actress Stormy Daniels. His sentencing has been scheduled for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. He faces a possible sentence of four years for each count.

    If you were on Twitter or Instagram or your social media platform of choice that historic Thursday afternoon, then you will have noticed two diametrically opposed reactions. On one side, people celebrated like it was the very best day of their entire lives, as justice, at last, was served. On the other side of the space-time Twitter-uum, it was a very, very somber day for the country. 

    So. . . which is it? Did Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg at long last rightly and justly prosecute Trump for felony crimes? Or was this an obviously political witch trial and an abuse of the U.S. justice system? In other words: Have we crossed the Rubicon in American politics? After all, District Attorney Bragg campaigned on a promise to bring charges against Trump.

    And either way, the reality is that the presidential front-runner is now a convicted felon. What does that mean? For voters? (Spoiler: it made them want to give him. . . more money.) For future elections? And for this country?

    To debate these questions on Honestly today are Sarah Isgur and Mark Zauderer.

    Sarah is a columnist for The Dispatch and an ABC News contributor. She clerked for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and served as the Justice Department spokeswoman during the Trump administration.

    Mark is a veteran New York litigator who sits on a committee that screens applicants for the same court that will hear Trump’s appeal.
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    • 52 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
6.7K Ratings

6.7K Ratings

Kevin O'L ,

Left of center is waking up!

It is so nice to hear from people that were Main Street Democrats 10+ years ago only to let the far left take over the Democratic Party finally stand up to the insanity. Sadly I believe there need to be viewed “good compassionate people stopped them from standing up. The Democratic Party was in the hive and helping destroy this country. Glad to see them helping to fix the ship. Because Conservatives like me can’t do it alone. Welcome to the fight glad to have you!!!

TinyMom63 ,

Bold, honest, and truthful

Thank you for featuring Ayaan Hirsi Ali reading her essay. She’s brave to say it all out loud. Thank you, Bari, for sharing this on your platform. I’m going to share this episode with my young adult kids and other family and friends. Stay bold, honest, and truthful.

Noodles115 ,


Keep Moynihan as one of the primary hosts, he’s excellent.

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