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Politics Weekly America

The Guardian

Every Friday, Guardian columnist and former Washington correspondent, Jonathan Freedland, invites experts to help analyse the latest in American politics. From politicians to journalists covering the White House and beyond, Jonathan and his guests give listeners behind the scenes access to how the American political machine works.


United States




The Guardian


Every Friday, Guardian columnist and former Washington correspondent, Jonathan Freedland, invites experts to help analyse the latest in American politics. From politicians to journalists covering the White House and beyond, Jonathan and his guests give listeners behind the scenes access to how the American political machine works.




Copping out? Biden skips UN climate conference

The UN’s Cop28 climate conference has kicked off in Dubai this week – but one notable absence will be the US president. Joe Biden pledged to make the fight against climate breakdown one of his top priorities when he took office, and news of his absence from this year’s gathering has frustrated activists. Jonathan Freedland speaks to one such activist, Jerome Foster, who in 2021 became the youngest adviser to the White House when he was asked to sit on its environmental justice advisory council


Henry Kissinger and the man who wanted to confront him

Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state under Richard Nixon, died at the age of 100 this week. One of the most famous and powerful diplomats of the 20th century, some will remember him as the person who won a Nobel peace prize for his work negotiating the end of the Vietnam war. For others, he will forever be known as a war criminal. So what is Kissinger’s legacy? This week, Jonathan Freedland speaks to journalist and author Michael Goldfarb about how Kissinger came to be one of the most powerful people of the 20th century, and why back in the 1970s he had the opportunity to criticise the man to his face – and chose not to. Does he regret staying quiet?


Did the assassination of JFK kickstart the conspiracy theory movement?

This week marked 60 years since President John F Kennedy was shot dead as he travelled in the back of a car through the streets of Dallas, Texas. From the moment the news broke, people had their theories about what happened. So why did the assassination of JFK spawn dozens of conspiracy theories that have persisted for decades? Is there a reason why Americans are quick to believe their government is covering something up? And despite multiple examples of when conspiracies turn dangerous, are politicians today, including Kennedy’s own nephew, using conspiracy theories for political gain? This week, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Prof Kathryn Olmsted, author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11


Will Biden lose voters over response to Israel-Hamas war?

On Wednesday, the UN security council voted to back a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza and the release of all the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The US and the UK abstained on the resolution, saying they could not give their full support because it did not explicitly criticise Hamas. Joe Biden is facing growing calls to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. In a letter presented to him on Tuesday, more than 500 political appointees and staff members criticised the extent of the president’s support for Israel. But what about the communities directly involved? What do Arab-American and Jewish American voters think of Biden’s response since the 7 October attacks? Jonathan Freedland speaks to Dr James Zogby, of the Arab American Institute, and Jodi Rudoren, of The Forward, to discuss it


Elections 2023: Republicans lose big on issue of abortion

Tuesday was a big night for the Democrats, with big wins in some unexpected places: Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky. Abortion rights advocates were celebrating, their hopes lifted ahead of next year’s presidential election, despite some gloomy polls for Joe Biden. Republicans, meanwhile, like the presidential candidates who took to the debate stage on Wednesday, are reeling. So what do the results mean for 2024? Should Republicans rethink their message on abortion? And why is it that despite Donald Trump spending the week in court on trial for fraud, it’s Joe Biden who’s suffering in the polls? Jonathan Freedland is joined by Tara Setmayer and Simon Rosenberg to discuss it all.


Speaker Johnson, Israel, government shutdown and Virginia

The new speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, faces the tough task of uniting a fractured Republican party, and preventing a quick-approaching government shutdown. Jonathan Freedland and Marianna Sotomayor of the Washington Post discuss what we have learned about his approach to the job from his first week with the gavel. Plus, as we prepare for next week’s off-year elections, Jonathan speaks to Carter Sherman about Virginia – the last remaining southern state without extensive abortion restrictions. They look at why results there could prove pivotal for Republican chances in 2024


Will Mitt Romney be remembered as a ‘good Republican’?

Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana became the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Democrats immediately criticised his support for Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Most Republicans will just be happy the speaker selection debacle is over for now, but there may be some in the party, such Mitt Romney, who wish events had taken a different direction. A senator for Utah, Romney has spent the last few years angering his Trump-supporting colleagues by voting to convict the former president in both of his impeachment trials and speaking out against him on several occasions. He announced he was retiring in September, and this week his biography hits the shelves, detailing his life in politics and how he has fallen out of love with the Republican party of today. Jonathan Freedland talks to McKay Coppins, a staff writer at the Atlantic and author of Romney: A Reckoning.


A high-stakes diplomatic mission for Biden

This week, Joe Biden travelled to Israel – becoming the first US president to visit the country at war. He set out to show United States support for Israel, ease the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza, win the freedom of hostages held by Hamas, and prevent a wider regional conflict that might draw in the US. So with stakes this high, how did he perform? And what does this mean for Biden politically? This week Jonathan Freedland is joined by Julian Borger, the Guardian’s world affairs editor, who is in Jerusalem and has been following the trip and the reactions to it.


Biden’s foreign policy agenda upended by Israel-Hamas war

In a TV speech on Tuesday Joe Biden pledged unwavering support for Israel after Hamas militants killed hundreds of civilians including US nationals on Saturday. More than 900 people in Gaza have been killed in retaliatory airstrikes by Israel, which has enforced a ‘blockade’ of the area, sealing off 2.3 million people from food, fuel and other supplies. Despite some Democrats calling for de-escalation of the situation, Biden said Israel not only had the right to defend itself, but a ‘duty’ to do so. So how else might the US be able to influence the war? As some at home use this moment to blame Biden, what can his administration do to keep his foreign policy plans on track? This week, Jonathan Freedland is joined by Aaron David Miller – who served for two decades as a state department analyst, negotiator and adviser on Middle East issues – to discuss what the US president should do next


US surgeon general on why loneliness threatens democracy

In a public advisory, written back in the summer, Dr Vivek Murthy warned of a growing ‘epidemic of loneliness and isolation’, which he believes is not just destined to affect the physical and mental health of individuals but could end up being detrimental to democracy itself. ‘The nation’s doctor’ speaks to Jonathan Freedland about why some bad faith actors are choosing to manipulate this problem and how political leaders on all sides can address it before it gets worse


McCarthy has been ousted as US House speaker. What happens next?

On Tuesday night Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker of the US House of Representatives to be removed from his job. Eight House Republicans joined every Democrat in the chamber to wrest the speaker’s gavel from McCarthy’s hand. For now, McCarthy’s fellow Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is the acting speaker, but the House will most likely vote next week on who will take over permanently. The Guardian US Washington bureau chief, David Smith, joins Jonathan Freedland to discuss the fallout from this unprecedented event, and the various possibilities for McCarthy’s replacement


Trump gets done for fraud as GOP candidates vie for attention

Wednesday was debate night for almost all the Republican candidates for the White House, but once again, the man who chose not to turn up was stealing the headlines for yet another legal issue that went against him. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and the others had ample opportunity to bring up the fact that a judge in New York ruled that Donald Trump had committed fraud for years while building a real estate empire. But they didn’t focus on that or any of the other court cases set to interrupt his campaign next year. So what did they all have to say? Did they manage to steal any of the limelight? This week, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Bill Kristol, the former chief of staff to the vice-president Dan Quayle and top conservative commentator, to get his take on the Republican field


What happens to Ukraine if Biden loses in 2024?

Both Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, and Joe Biden, the US president, reiterated their calls for unity against Russia this week at the UN general assembly in New York. In Washington DC, however, Republicans and Democrats in the House hold very different views on the war – how to help, who to help, and which allies they should team up with to try and bring an end to it all. Jonathan Freedland speaks to Susan Glasser of the New Yorker to talk through a question many in Europe are trying to work out: what happens if Biden loses in 2024?


Will Joe Biden be impeached?

Despite an apparent lack of evidence that Joe Biden profited from the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, announced on Tuesday that he was launching a formal impeachment inquiry into the president. Many suspect he was pushed to make the move to appease some far-right members of the Republican party, who have threatened to tank his deal to avert a government shutdown by the end of the month if he does not meet their list of demands. So, will Joe Biden be impeached? Is this just an act of political revenge for Donald Trump? Could it end up backfiring on McCarthy? Jonathan Freedland speaks to Marianna Sotomayor of the Washington Post about what happens next


What was behind Joe Biden’s biggest presidential decisions?

Afghanistan, Ukraine, abortion rights – what was Joe Biden thinking during some of the toughest points of his presidency so far? Who did he rely on for advice? How did his morals play a role? Does he regret anything? This week, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Franklin Foer of the Atlantic about his new book, The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future


Will the real Vivek Ramaswamy please stand up?

He’s an entrepreneur, a former libertarian, a lover of rap, and has been labelled ‘Trump 2.0’ by some. He’s also campaigning to be the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election. So why is he polling well despite angering many? Jonathan Freedland speaks to Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark about Ramaswamy’s credentials, his campaign style and his chances of winning


The winners and losers of the first GOP debate

Republican presidential candidates took to the stage this week to try to convince voters they should be the one to take on Joe Biden in 2024. There was one notable exception – but Donald Trump was still inescapable for his opponents. Joan E Greve speaks to the former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer about everyone’s performance on the night, and whether these debates even matter when the missing frontrunner is so far ahead in the polls


Georgia takes on Trump and his allies

Until five months ago, no former US president had ever faced criminal charges. As of Monday evening, Donald Trump is facing 91 felony counts. The 97-page indictment handed down by a Fulton county grand jury in Georgia includes 41 criminal counts, 13 of them against Trump. This case may represent the biggest legal peril for Trump to date and it could see him behind bars, no matter who wins the presidential election next year. Joan E Greve and Sam Levine discuss every possible outcome


The power of junk food companies in Washington

When and why did so-called food deserts first emerge? How has the fast food industry become so powerful? And despite the growing rate of obesity in the US, why are politicians not stepping in to improve nutrition? This week, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Dr Eduardo J Gómez of Lehigh University, on how his new book Junk Food Politics taught him about the power of lobbyists


Al Sharpton on 60 years since the civil rights march on Washington

On 26 August, Rev Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and other civil rights activists will commemorate the 1963 march on Washington, which was organised to advocate for civil and economic rights for African Americans. This week, Jonathan Freedland sits down with Sharpton to discuss why he believes Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech has been abused by some on the right, why he is still fighting for police reform, and how James Brown was so influential on his life