Diane Rehm: On My Mind-logo

Diane Rehm: On My Mind


Diane Rehm’s weekly podcast features newsmakers, writers, artists and thinkers on the issues she cares about most: what’s going on in Washington, ideas that inform, and the latest on living well as we live longer.


Washington, DC




Diane Rehm’s weekly podcast features newsmakers, writers, artists and thinkers on the issues she cares about most: what’s going on in Washington, ideas that inform, and the latest on living well as we live longer.






(202) 885-1200

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How U.S. Public Schools Became Political Battlegrounds

Three years ago, conservative activists took over the school board in a small suburb in Texas. They ended diversity initiatives, rolled back LGBTQ protections, and banned books they said did not reflect their values. Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News senior investigative reporter, has been following the story ever since. He says what happened in Southlake inspired a movement that threatens to undermine public education in America. Hixenbaugh’s reporting led to the award-winning podcast, Southlake, and the new book “They Came for the Schools.” He joined Diane to talk about one town's fight over race and identity, and the new war for America’s classrooms


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The Role Of Third-Party Candidates In The 2024 Election

About half of American voters say, if given the chance, they would replace both Trump and Biden on the ballot. While nearly two-thirds agree with the statement that “a third major party is needed.” Given the mood of the country, what will the role of third-party candidates be in the 2024 election? Could, say, Robert F. Kennedy, break through? How worried are Trump and Biden about an independent acting as “spoiler” and handing the race to their opponent? Michael Scherer is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. He joins Diane to discuss the ways independent and third-party candidates are affecting the campaign -- and could affect the election.


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Will Trump And Biden Debate This Election? Does It Matter?

Will Biden and Trump take the stage? Last week President Biden said he would be willing to debate Donald Trump ahead of this year’s election in November. This came after months of back and forth between the candidates. Biden’s answers had been coy regarding a face off, citing the “behavior” of the former president. This was likely referencing Trump’s frequent interruptions and name calling in their 2020 meetings. Meanwhile the GOP turned this reluctance into a campaign talking point, claiming Biden was afraid to face the former president and the American people. If their commitments to share the stage fall through, this would be the first presidential campaign since 1976 without a debate. But with so many other methods available for candidates to reach potential voters, do debates even matter anymore? “Candidates control so much of the campaign process with their ralies, ads and conventions,” says Mitchell McKinney, dean of the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Akron and an expert on political communication. “We the votes deserve a moment when they are not in control, and debates provide that.” McKinney joins Diane to talk about the past, present, and continued relevance of presidential debates.


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Can We Engineer Our Way Out Of Catastrophic Climate Change?

Last year was the hottest on record. 2024 is predicted to be another record year. Meanwhile, we are seeing the very real effects of our changing climate in more intense forest fires, and more severe and unpredictable weather. This has pushed the idea of geoengineering -- or deliberately intervening in climate systems -- closer to reality. Christopher Flavelle is a reporter for the New York Times. His work is part of a new series for the paper called “Buying Time,” a look at the risky ways humans are starting to manipulate nature to fight climate change. He joins Diane to talk about the perils and promise of these technologies.


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A Call To Rethink American Leadership: "We Must Stop Outsourcing Responsibility For Our Democracy"

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. has a message for Americans: it is time for ordinary people to take charge of our democracy. An African American Studies professor at Princeton, Glaude argues that we have outsourced our responsibility for creating a just society to the political class for too long -- and it hasn’t worked. Glaude explores these ideas in a new book titled “We are the Leader We Have Been Looking For.” He says the roots of this thinking took hold around the time of the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Many Americans celebrated a post-racial era in the country, but Glaude felt uneasy. He worried Obama’s presidency limited Black political engagement as Black Americans – and others -- turned to a “prophet-like figure.” Since then, Glaude has become increasingly convinced that political leaders are not the answer. Glaude is the author of two previous books, “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul” and the bestseller “Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.” He is also a political commentator for MSNBC. He joins Diane to talk about his new book, the 2024 election, and why he says the concept of “whiteness” is holding back all Americans from moving toward a more democratic future.


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A New Focus On Menopause And Women's Health After 40

Once a taboo topic, menopause has recently come out of the shadows. Media headlines declare it is “having a moment,” as celebrities like Michelle Obama, Drew Barrymore and Oprah have shared their experiences with “the change.” Even Washington is paying attention. In March, President Biden signed an executive order that funds research into women’s health – including midlife conditions like menopause. “We cannot afford not to address the health issues of women as they age,” says Dr. Sharon Malone, a gynecologist and vocal advocate for menopause awareness. She points out that menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the country, 80% of whom will experience menopause related symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeplessness, or anxiety. This is not just a matter of inconvenience, adds Dr. Malone, but left untreated, can lead to more serious conditions like cardiovascular disease. Dr. Malone is the author of a new book titled “Grown Woman Talk.” She calls it a “‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book for women who plan to live past 40,” referencing the popular pregnancy guide. Dr. Malone joins Diane on this week’s episode of On My Mind to explain why the current attention to menopause is long overdue, and why understanding this phase of life is so critical to a woman’s ability to get – and stay – healthy.


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How Trump Is Using Christianity To Power The MAGA Movement

Donald Trump has enjoyed strong support from white Evangelical Christians since his first run for the presidency. But recently, he has made a specific brand of Christianity a centerpiece of his campaign. He repeatedly casts himself as a messiah figure, even comparing his legal troubles to the persecution of Christ. He regularly ends his rallies with prayer. And last week he started hocking a version of the Bible that also includes copies of the founding documents of the United States. “Trump is now wrapping his candidacy around this idea of White Christian Nationalism,” says Robert P. Jones, president and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, or PRRI. He is also author of two books about the relationship between race and religion in the United States, “The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy,” as well as “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity.” Jones joins Diane on this week’s episode of On My Mind to talk about what’s behind the attempts to build The Church of Trump, and why he sees it as a dangerous development for the country. To find out more about Robert P. Jones and read his latest, visit his blog, “White Too Long”: https://www.whitetoolong.net/.


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Donald Trump's Family History With Alzheimer's Disease

Donald Trump has made cognitive decline a major issue in this year’s presidential race. On the campaign trail he accuses Biden of impairment, while boasting of his own brilliance. Yet, this line of attack is nothing new. He has long accused rivals of mental frailty, weaponizing the issue of dementia for his own gain. Washington Post investigative reporter Michael Kranish says Trump’s fixation on mental fitness came after years of watching his father’s own experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Kranish joins Diane on today’s episode of On My Mind to discuss Fred Trump’s dementia, Donald Trump’s reaction to it, and what questions we should be asking of our candidates when it comes to cognitive ability. You can read Michael Kranish’s piece about this here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2024/03/20/donald-trump-dementia-father-fred-alzheimers-biden/


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Trump's Money Troubles

Donald Trump owes the state of New York almost half-a-billion dollars in fines. This stems from a civil fraud suit that found the Trump Organization engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to lie about the value of their assets. A deadline to pay is looming and his lawyers say the former president does not have the cash, nor can he find a company to cover the bond. This comes on top of a 91.6 million dollar fine in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case that he posted earlier this month. “He had been very glib about saying, oh I can afford it, easy peasy, I’m super rich,” says Edward Luce, U.S. editor and columnist for the Financial Times. “It turns out he obviously doesn’t have anything like that.” Luce joins Diane on this episode of On My Mind to talk about Trump’s finances and what these legal penalties could mean for him and his candidacy.


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How Old Is Too Old? Age And The 2024 Election

How old is too old to be president? It’s a question many Americans are asking as Joe Biden and Donald Trump face off for the office. President Biden is 81. Over the last four years, his hair has thinned, his gait has stiffened. And the media, not to mention his opponent, have pounced on his verbal gaffes, like when he mixed up the presidents of Egypt and Mexico, or when he seemed to momentarily forget the name of “Hamas.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump is 77 and has experienced his own memory lapses, including when in a recent speech he said “Nikki Haley” was in charge of security on January 6th, when he clearly meant Nancy Pelosi. “I wish we could separate our conversation about age and competency,” says Tracey Gendron, an expert on aging and author of the book “Ageism Unmasked.” She says that these issues with recall do not necessarily signify any underlying cognitive issues, but could happen to anyone, though admittedly increase as we age. Tracey Gendron joins Diane on this episode of On My Mind to talk about memory, mental competency, and why she feels our conversation about age this election season is missing the mark.


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What Trump’s Legal Victories Say About The Role Of The Courts In Our Democracy

Those who see Donald Trump as a threat to democracy have taken solace in the cases piling up against him. There were civil cases that carried massive financial penalties. There were four criminal cases whose trials were set to take place before the November election. And there was the question of the Fourteenth Amendment that could have barred trump from the ballot. But two recent Supreme Court decisions have changed that. “It’s going to be Biden versus Trump,” says Ian Millhiser, senior correspondent at Vox. “There is no magical anything that is going to stop us from having an election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.” Millhiser writes about the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the decline of liberal democracy in the United States. He joins Diane on this episode of On My Mind to talk about Trump’s recent legal victories and why he argues “the courts were never going to save American democracy.”


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The Human Cost Of The War In Gaza

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas rages on, the level of human suffering in the Gaza Strip has come into clearer focus. The death toll in Gaza surpassed 30,000 this week, according to the Gazan health ministry. The United Nations estimates that 2 million Palestinians in the territory have been internally displaced by war. New reports say nearly all of the 2.3 million people in the enclave face crisis levels of food insecurity. And at least one quarter of the population is one step away from famine. Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib is a U.S. citizen from Gaza who has lost 31 family members so far in the conflict. He is also a Middle East analyst whose writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and the Washington Post. He joined Diane on this week’s episode of On My Mind to share his family’s story — and what it says about the broader humanitarian crisis in Gaza.


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The Death Of Alexei Navalny And The Future Of Russia

Last week the Russian government announced the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s harshest and most well-known critic. For more than a decade, Navalny campaigned against the corruption of Vladimir Putin and his allies. He ran for mayor of Moscow, crisscrossed the country in an attempted run for president, and offered a younger generation a glimpse of a post-Putin Russia. During that time, he also endured arrests, beatings, and in 2020, a near fatal poisoning. At the time of his death, he was imprisoned at a penal colony in the Arctic on what his supporters say were politically motivated charges. “Navalny was the plan for the day after,” says Julia Ioffe, longtime journalist who covers Russia and U.S.-Russia relations. Even behind bars, she says, he represented hope for those who opposed Putin’s power. Ioffe joins Diane on this episode of On My Mind to discuss the life, death and legacy of Alexei Navalny.


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The Supreme Court, Donald Trump And The 2024 Election

Last week Supreme Court justices heard arguments about whether the state of Colorado could ban Donald Trump from the ballot. This week, Trump petitioned the justices to temporarily block a decision by a federal appeals court regarding his claim of presidential immunity. “The real question to me is how do these two cases, the Colorado case and the January 6th prosecution, end up fitting together,” says Stephen Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas School of Law and author of the New York Times bestseller “The Shadow Docket.” Vladeck joined Diane on this episode of On My Mind to explain these cases and why, together, they highlight the role today’s Supreme Court plays in the country’s democracy. For more from Stephen Vladeck, you can read his newsletter, One First.


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The Fight Over Decriminalization In Oregon And The Future Of US Drug Policy

In 2020 Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that decriminalized drug use. Since the law went into effect three years ago, homelessness in the state has increased, the rate of overdose deaths has risen sharply and the support for decriminalization has plummeted. Now, Oregon legislators on both sides of the aisle are considering overturning the measure, reinstating a more “law and order” approach to addiction. “Drugs are a symptom of what’s going on,” says Maia Szalavitz, contributing opinion writer at the New York Times who covers addiction and public policy. “Drugs are not the primary cause of what happened.” Szalavitz joins Diane on the latest episode of On My Mind to talk about the fight over decriminalizing drugs in Oregon – and what it means for the rest of the country.


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The Threat Of Deepfakes In The 2024 Election

Over the last year, a leap in technology has put powerful generative AI tools in the hands of practically anyone with a computer. This means creating fake audio, images, and video has never been easier. “That’s a democratization of a technology that should terrify us,” says Hany Farid, professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “Because now I can make the president of the United States, or a candidate for the highest office in the United States, say anything I want them to say.” Farid is an expert in artificial intelligence and disinformation who is tracking the use of AI in the 2024 election. He worries that widespread access to these powerful new technologies will exacerbate pre-existing challenges to our democracy, particularly a shared understanding of truth itself. “I think it’s like throwing jet fuel onto a dumpster fire,” Farid tells Diane in the latest episode of On My Mind. Visit Hany Farid’s website to see how AI has been used in the 2024 election: farid.berkeley.edu/deepfakes2024election


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Separating Fact From Politics In The Immigration Debate

A record surge of migrants at the U.S.- Mexico border has pushed politicians on both sides of the aisle to look for ways to ease pressure on what many consider to be an overloaded, out-of-date, and needlessly bureaucratic immigration system. Yet, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Molly O’Toole says the focus of negotiations misses the mark when it comes to finding real solutions to the current crisis at the border. “We first need to understand who is coming, why they are coming, and where they are coming from,” she explains, adding that the demographics of the migrants crossing into the United States over the southern border has changed dramatically since the 1990s, but the proposed solutions have not. In the latest episode of On My Mind, O’Toole outlines what she thinks is missing from the country’s current immigration debate.


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Paul Krugman Takes The Temperature Of "Bidenomics" And The U.S. Economy

In poll after poll, voters around the country say their number one issue is the economy. Which should be good news for President Biden as we approach the November election. The job market is strong, the stock market is up, and inflation is down. And yet, a December 2023 Gallup poll, showed that four in five U.S. adults rate the country’s current economic conditions as “poor” or “fair.” Meanwhile, voters in swing states say they trust Donald Trump more than Joe Biden as an economic leader. “There are a bunch of things that have conspired to perpetuate the narrative of a bad economy even as the reality is kind of a miracle,” says Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate in economics. Krugman joins Diane to offer his perspective on just how healthy the U.S. economy is under Biden, was under Trump, and whether either man should actually get credit for it.


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How To Get Kids To Return To Class – And Stay There

Millions of American children are regularly skipping class. It is a problem educators have faced for years, but the issue has gotten much worse since the pandemic. Today, some estimate that nearly one in three students are “chronically absent,” meaning they miss more than 10 percent of the school year. Now, educators around the country are facing the question of what to do about it. Alec MacGillis is a reporter for ProPublica who focuses on gun violence, economic inequality, and the pandemic-era schools crisis. He recently wrote about chronic absenteeism for The New Yorker and joins Diane to talk about what he learned.


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A Look Ahead To The Issues, Questions And Politics Of The 2024 Election

In less than two weeks, the Iowa Caucus will kick off an election year like no other. Donald Trump leads his Republican rivals by nearly 50 percentage points. Yet, he has been barred from the primary ballot in two states and faces legal challenges to his candidacy in more than a dozen others. And there is the matter of the four pending criminal court cases that have resulted in 91 criminal charges. Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s approval ratings have dropped to a record low, and he currently trails Trump in national polls. “There are two conflicting things here,” says Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today and a veteran political reporter who has covered 11 presidential campaigns. “A high level of dissatisfaction with the two candidates and also a sense that this election is of such great consequence.” Susan Page joins Diane for a preview of the questions, issues and legal arguments at the center of the 2024 presidential campaign.