Jason Dick

How a Capitol Hill staffer and a James Bond screenwriter dramatized ‘The Report’
Political Theater, Episode 101

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report in 2014 was a compelling episode in American history, detailing as it did the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists and their lack of effectiveness. That doesn’t mean the seven-year investigation that led to the report automatically lends itself to high drama, particularly when one considers that many of those seven years were spent reading sensitive CIA documents in a windowless room. That makes the new movie “The Report” that much more of an accomplishment.

Director and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had his work cut out for him, constructing a political thriller out of the efforts led by Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel J. Jones. Burns and Jones explained some of thinking that went into the film’s narrative, as well as the issues it explores, in the latest Political Theater podcast with CQ Roll Call senior staff writer Niels Lesniewski and me. 

The four most likely scenarios for 2020 elections, explained
Political Theater, Episode 100

The 2020 elections are shaping up as the most significant in memory, but predicting them is a handicapper's nightmare. Nevertheless, CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales gave it a whirl, offering these four scenarios: 1) Eviction at 1600 2) Blue Washington  3) Status Quo 4) Red Revival.

The most vulnerable 2020 House and Senate incumbents, explained
Political Theater, Episode 99

One year out from Election Day 2020 and Senate Republicans and House Democrats find themselves in parallel universes. The GOP is on defense in Senate races, where more Republicans are on the ballot, and it’s the opposite in the House, where many Democrats who won in hostile territory last year find themselves in tough races. CQ Roll Call’s campaign team, Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin, run through the 10 most vulnerable members of both the House and Senate.

Show Notes:

From impeachment’s high solemnity to high farce
Political Theater, Episode 98

From lawmakers struggling with the “high solemnity” of their votes to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974 to the “high farce” of the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998, each impeachment episode has its own distinct identity, according to CQ Roll Call contributor Finlay Lewis. 

In the latest Political Theater podcast, Lewis discusses his own coverage of Watergate for the Minneapolis Tribune and of the Clinton impeachment for Copley News. As the country gears up for another impeachment inquiry, there are some important echoes that Americans might want to heed. Sometimes things start with a so-called third-rate burglary. Sometimes they start with some weird real estate transactions in Arkansas. And sometimes they start with a phone call to Ukraine. Where they end can be anyone’s guess.

Inside the unique tributes to Elijah Cummings
Political Theater, Episode 97

The memorials for the late Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings illustrate the unique way the nation remembers figures like him, a tradition of grieving both in public and private in places important to the deceased. Longstanding rituals in the Capitol, and in also in his hometown of Baltimore, give his family, friends, colleagues and constituents a way to celebrate his life. 

From former presidents to high schoolers from Baltimore City College, Cummings’ funeral shows the unique way we grieve people like him.  

That time Justin Verlander and Kate Upton visited the Capitol and Uncle Fred
Before he was a World Series foe, he was a tourist

Washington Nationals fans will root for their team tonight as it takes on the Houston Astros and one of their ace pitchers, Justin Verlander, in Game 2 of the World Series. Was it really three-plus years ago that Verlander, then hurling for the Detroit Tigers, visited the Capitol with his then-fiancee, supermodel Kate Upton, for a tour with Uncle Fred, R-Mich.? (That being Rep. Fred Upton.)

Indeed. And how quickly things change. Not only did Verlander and Kate Upton marry and Verlander add a World Series ring in 2017 after being traded to the Houston Astros that year, but Verlander was teammates back then with, who else? Nationals ace Max Scherzer. 

Between a Trump and a hard place
Political Theater, Episode 96

Republican senators up for reelection in swing states have a delicate balance to strike. They need to get almost all GOP voters in their column while reaching out to independents and Democrats. And President Donald Trump does not make that easy.

CQ Roll Call elections analyst and Inside Elections publisher Nathan L. Gonzales explains the politics. For instance, in Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner finds himself up next year in a state increasingly trending Democratic. Inside Elections rates his race a Toss-up.

The Supreme Court is ready for its close-up
Political Theater, episode 95

Hot topics? The Supreme Court’s got ’em this term. LGBTQ rights. Guns. Immigration. Abortion. 

The first Monday in October marks the start of the high court’s term each year, providing the titles of a 1981 Walter Matthau-Jill Clayburgh feature film — “First Monday in October” — and a short-lived CBS television drama with James Garner and Joe Mantegna, “First Monday.”

This is not your father’s impeachment
Political Theater, Episode 94

The conventional wisdom is that impeaching President Donald Trump could imperil Democrats in 2020. But beware the conventional wisdom, and relying on dated data and small sample sets, like the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

“Make no mistake about it: Backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020,” Rep. Tom Emmer, the head of the House Republicans’s campaign arm, thundered after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday. Every Republican from the president on down has echoed this sentiment. 

That ’70s Show: Biden edition
Political Theater, Episode 93

Say this for the Democratic presidential field: Voters certainly have choices. From former vice presidents to tech entrepreneurs, from senators to mayors, from wizened veterans to young upstarts.

Out of this crowded roster, Joe Biden is arguably the most recognizable. The affable No. 2 to President Barack Obama and longtime former senator is among the most known political quantities.

K Street doesn’t need just any old retired lawmakers
Political Theater, Episode 92

Lobbying firms on K Street and trade associations used to be a sure bet for retiring members of Congress. Not anymore.

Julian Ha, a recruiter on K Street and an adviser to FiscalNote, the company that owns CQ Roll Call, joins the podcast along with CQ Roll Call senior writer Kate Ackley to talk about the current state of lobbying positions for former lawmakers.

Perchance to dream: Some British cheek and scowl in Congress
Brexit debate showcases a slightly different way of debating public policy

What hath the Brexit debate wrought? Leaving aside the overall chaos in the United Kingdom, the last two days have given those of us who watch Congress for a living a chance to imagine what it would be like if there was just a smidge of British cheek in its deliberations.

Anyone who has ever watched the British Parliament’s Prime Minister’s Questions has surely dared to dream what would happen should their cousins across the pond adopt such a freewheeling political debate.

In our podcast, we’re gone to Carolina
Political Theater, Episode 91

It’s September 2019, but we’re only just now wrapping up the 2018 election. Voters in North Carolina’s 9th District will finish it all off on when they decide on Sept. 10 whether Democrat Dan McCready or Republican Dan Bishop will represent them in Congress. 

The lagging special election was necessary because the North Carolina State Board of Elections threw out last fall’s initial results because of election fraud tied to the Republican effort and its nominee, Mark Harris. 

‘American Factory’ arrives in time fraught with U.S.-China troubles
Netflix documentary humanizes international trade, labor fights in Dayton

Timing is everything, and the Netflix documentary “American Factory” comes out in times tailor-made for its story of the rebirth of a former U.S. truck-making facility as a Chinese glass manufacturer in the heart of the Rust Belt. 

Dayton, Ohio, has been in the headlines lately for the horrific mass shooting earlier this month that killed 10 and injured 27. But the Gem City has a proud history as the home of the Wright brothers, the Dayton peace accords and an industrial hub. 

Stage-managing ‘The Trump Show on the Road’ in Biarritz
Political Theater, Episode 90

How do you plan for the unplanned? That was the challenge for advance teams paving the way for the recent G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, and for President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to Poland and, until recently, Denmark. That includes CQ Roll Call White House correspondent John T.  Bennett, who helped plan press logistics for the trips, and was as surprised as anyone at the way things worked out. 

From French President Emmanuel Macron keeping the camera-attentive Trump off guard all weekend at the G-7 to the planning for the president’s trip to Copenhagen going all for naught (because, as has been noted, Trump was miffed Denmark would not sell Greenland to the United States) to working with different countries on their own expectations for press access, an advance team’s work is never done, with this president or any other. 

A conversation with the Senate historian: Duels, bathtubs and other mysteries
Political Theater, Episode 89

Politicians and pundits are fond of saying that Washington has never been more polarized and that the Senate, in particular, may never recover from contemporary hyper-partisanship and rule-bending.

But it is assistant Senate historian Daniel S. Holt’s job to remind us all that disputes in the chamber used to result in pistols at dawn instead of dueling tweets.

So much Iowa, so little time
Snapshots of a state that will be a big deal politically for a while

DES MOINES, Iowa — It is difficult for some people to accept that Iowa, a relatively small state in the middle of the country, has such an outsize role in determining the next president. But the Hawkeye State is more of a microcosm of U.S. politics and the country than it might first appear.

Iowa’s population of roughly 3 million people is tiny compared to mega-states like California, Texas and Florida, and it has a lack of racial diversity (it is about 87 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). But its voting patterns and political infrastructure make it a valuable barometer. 

See the Iowa Caucuses early on Aug. 30!
Iowa Cubs baseball team renames itself after home-state political process

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you just cannot wait until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020, then consider visiting here on Aug. 30, when Minor League Baseball’s Iowa Cubs rebrand themselves for the night as, yes, the Iowa Caucuses. 

“I absolutely love it,” said David Redlawsk, chairman of the political science department at the University of Delaware and author of “Why Iowa?: How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process.”

The Iowa State Fair: Our hits, misses and lessons learned
Political Theater, Episode 88

DES MOINES, Iowa — For all its quaintness and fun, the Iowa State Fair does a pretty good job of approximating politics at the national level, be it questions about electability and charisma or trade and agricultural policy.

“The debate within the party that is happening right now, is happening right in front of me at the Iowa State Fair between these two people,” CQ Roll Call senior politics writer Bridget Bowman says, recounting a conversation between a couple after hearing South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox on Aug. 13. The couple, both of whom told Bridget they were impressed with Buttigieg, were torn between what was more important for a Democratic candidate: offering bold ideas or being more likely to beat President Donald Trump.

The Iowa State Fair: Why do you have to come here to be president?
Political Theater, Episode 87

Iowa plays a big role in presidential politics because of its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. Even by that standard, though, the Hawkeye State this time feels busier, more significant.

There are more than 20 Democrats running for president, and unlike in previous years, no one is writing the state off. There are also several competitive congressional races here. That means a very busy Iowa State Fair, because all these politicians want to meet voters, make their case at The Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, flip pork chops at the pork tent and eat.