Several weeks ago, Jay sat down with Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University – and a former governor of Indiana. Daniels is a Reagan conservative. They were talking about free speech on campus. And Daniels hailed Professor Geoffrey R. Stone at the University of Chicago – a “lion of the Left,” he said, who had been chiefly responsible for the Chicago Principles, which address this issue of free speech. Purdue, along with approximately 70 other institutions, has adopted the principles for itself.

Jay has now gone to see Professor Stone in Chicago. They talk about life – especially Stone’s, but some of Jay’s, too – and the momentous issue of free speech. Conservatives will not like everything Stone says; he does not like everything conservatives say. But he and Jay have little time for snowflakes and safe spaces. America has become all too “triggerable,” they agree. 

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Marina Nemat is one of Jay’s favorite guests and people. She is an Iranian dissident, a former political prisoner, and a human-rights activist. Her memoir is Prisoner of Tehran. In this “Q&A,” she talks about the past and the present, linking the two. Recent events include the killing of General Suleimani and the downing of the Ukrainian airliner. Iranians are massing in the streets. They have been crushed before – will they be crushed again? Marina Nemat’s analysis is based on long, hard experience. It is subtle and often moving. Jay calls her “a beautiful person, inside and out.” She is also very, very brave. 

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Here at the beginning of the year – with the college football championship and the NFL playoffs gearing up – Jay does a sportscast. He does it with three of his favorite gurus and people: Sally Jenkins, of the Washington Post; David French, of The Dispatch; and Vivek Dave, “the corporate high-flyer from Chicago,” as Jay calls him. They impart great wisdom with much warmth: on college and pro football, yes, but also on basketball (college and pro), figure skating, the factor of China, and more. These gurus are really wonderful company.

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Mitch Daniels is the president of Purdue University. Before his current job, he had many others. He was governor of Indiana, for instance. And White House budget director. Before those two jobs, he was chief political adviser to President Reagan. In his office at Purdue, Daniels talks with Jay about higher ed, the federal government, and more. At the end, Jay pumps Daniels for a Reagan story or two – and Daniels comes through with flying colors.

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Alon Ben-Meir is an extraordinary figure, born in Baghdad in 1937. He is a professor of international relations at New York University. He has long been involved in international negotiations. He knows the Middle East intimately. In this conversation, he and Jay cover a good part of the waterfront (not that there’s much water in the Middle East): Turkey, Syria, the Yazidis, the Arab-Israeli conflict, etc. The conversation is also personal, about Ben-Meir’s life. He has lived in many places and speaks several languages. Does he feel at home everywhere – or nowhere? No one will agree with every word he says, but all can learn from this immensely learned, thoughtful, and experienced man.

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That is the title of Becky Powell’s new book. She got the title from a country song, written by Darryl Worley and Harley Allen, and recorded by the former. Becky is a friend of Jay’s. Her book is a memoir. One day, she learned that her husband – and the father of their three children – had killed himself. Then she learned that he was $21 million in debt. He had borrowed the money from 90 people. Becky did not have to pay it back. She was not responsible for the debt. But she felt she had to, for her own dignity, and to set an example for the children. How did she get through it all? That is the topic of her book, and you will enjoy hearing her talk with Jay.

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Jay’s guest is Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor of the Washington Post. In addition to being an editor, he is a columnist. He writes a great deal about human rights, and pays particular attention to China. He and Jay begin by talking about the Uyghur people. The Chinese government is doing catastrophic, Nazi-like things to them. (Yes, sometimes the N-word applies.) What can the world at large do to help the Uyghurs? Anything? Jay and his guest also talk about the newspaper business in general. An informative conversation, with a mixture of dark and light.

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Jay’s guest is Alexandra DeSanctis, or Xan (pronounced “Zan”), his colleague at National Review. She is in Washington, Jay in New York. They talk about a range of issues: abortion, impeachment, 2020 politics, baseball, cooking, and more. This conversation is like a busy train line: If you don’t like one issue, another one will be along in just a moment.

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That was the title of a column long ago, and for many years – first written by Drew Pearson, then by Jack Anderson: “The Washington Merry-Go-Round.” Robert Costa is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. He is also the moderator of “Washington Week,” a political analyst for NBC News, etc. He and Jay worked together at National Review. Jay asks him what it’s like to have a front-row reporting seat in these exciting political times (exciting for better or worse). They talk about Tuesday night’s elections; President Trump’s relations with the press; the canniness of Mitch McConnell; the canniness of Nancy Pelosi; the flexible nature of Lindsey Graham; the trajectory of Rudy Giuliani; the consistency of John Bolton; the return of Jeff Sessions; the 2020 Democratic presidential field; and more. Jay enjoyed this discussion with a real reportorial pro, and so will you. 

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Peter Pomerantsev has written a couple of books with very interesting titles. Their subjects are important, too. A few years ago, Pomerantsev published “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” about the “surreal heart” of Putin’s Russia. Now he has published “This Is Not Propaganda,” about … well, propaganda, or fake news, or disinformation. It is a worldwide epidemic. Pomerantsev is a Soviet-born British journalist. His parents were well-known dissidents, booted out of the Soviet Union. With Jay, Pomerantsev discusses the “post-truth age,” as some call it. A disturbing subject, but one that must be understood. 

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Denise Ho is a star in Hong Kong and in the broader Asian world. She is a singer and actress. She is also a democracy leader. She has been in the throes of the protests in her home city. What has her activism done to her artistic career? What are the prospects for the democracy movement in Hong Kong? What do protesters expect of the outside world, if anything? Denise Ho is a wonderful interviewee, in addition to a remarkable person.

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Jonathan V. Last, executive editor of The Bulwark, is known as “JVL.” Jay (S.) Nordlinger is not known as “JSN” – but we will call him that just for the purposes of this episode. Jay and Jonathan worked together at The Weekly Standard many years ago – indeed, in the last century. On this podcast, Jay asks Jonathan the pregnant question: What does the “V” stand for? They go on to Jonathan’s university, Johns Hopkins, which Jonathan excoriates in no uncertain terms. Then they talk about George Will, whom Jonathan first started reading when he was in seventh grade. He grew up to attend a ballgame with Will and, as a bonus, Tony La Russa. At Jay’s prodding, Jonathan further talks about presidential politics, Star Wars, Star Trek, design, presidents, athletes, musicians, novelists, and more. A tour with JVL is a rich and interesting one indeed. Jay calls him one of his favorite journalists and favorite people in America.

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The baseball master talks to Jay about a slew of issues: How was the 2019 season? What about the (current) playoffs? Who are the future Hall of Famers? Is the Hall selective enough? What reforms of the game would be advisable? What about the relative paucity of black American players? What about the preeminence of Latin American players? What is the role of managers? And of GMs? And of owners?

All this and more – including a blast against the NBA. The master, George Will, is at the top of his game.

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Today, Jay turns “Q&A” into an old-fashioned “Need to Know,” with his “friend, colleague, heroine, and podcast partner,” as he puts it: Mona Charen. They talk Trump-Ukraine-impeachment, of course. And then Greta (the teen climate-change activist), China, Turkey, Egypt, etc. A lot of laughs, a little yelling, and some keen analysis.

At the beginning, Jay asks Mona a potentially sensitive question: What is your middle name? He has never known …

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Tanya Chan is a legislator from Hong Kong and a democracy leader. She has just given testimony before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva (as an invitee of UN Watch, a non-governmental organization accredited at the U.N.). Chan talks with Jay about the democracy movement in Hong Kong. What does it want? What is its current mood? Who calls the shots in the city, the local government or the Party rulers in Beijing? What about police brutality? What about American flags in the streets? What about the relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan? How about Chan personally – does she feel like a Hong Konger, like a Chinese woman, or some combination? Jay asks her all this and more. She is a brave woman, Tanya Chan. Earlier this year, she was sentenced to prison, although this sentence was suspended, owing to health: She was operated for a brain tumor. An interesting, candid, and indeed brave woman, in this “Q&A.”

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At some point in this conversation, the guys get into “The Super Bowl Shuffle” – from the Chicago Bears in the 1980s. That leads to other music associated with particular teams: “Another One Bites the Dust” and the Detroit Lions; “We Are Fam-i-ly” and the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is a sportscast, with David French and Vivek Dave (hosted by Jay). We’ve got college football: Nick Saban and them. We’ve got the NFL: Andrew Luck, Antonio Brown, Tom Brady … We’ve got Major League Baseball, and the Red Sox in particular. And we have tennis – including the wonderful young Canadian woman who, after she had beaten Serena Williams in the U.S. Open, apologized to the crowd. MCTE (Most Canadian Thing Ever). And, oh yes: all of that music, not excluding the shuffle.

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As Jay says in his introduction, John Relyea is a wonderful singer, a wonderful guy – and, it turns out, a wonderful conversationalist. You will enjoy getting to know this Canadian bass-baritone, who has many insights, observations, and stories, related amiably.

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One of Jay’s favorite conductors – and favorite conductor-interviewees – is Manfred Honeck, the Austrian who leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He played in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for some years. His brother Rainer is still there: as a concertmaster. Jay had a conversation with Maestro Honeck – Manfred Honeck – at the Salzburg Festival last week. They discussed music and his life. Honeck grew up in a family of nine children; their mother died when he was seven. There was very, very little money in the house – but the father loved music, and insisted his children play. Which they did. Manfred Honeck can not only play, and conduct, he can also dance. At some point in this conversation, he gets up and demonstrates a dance in Schubert. An exceptional individual, Maestro Manfred Honeck.

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René Pape is one of the greatest singers of our time, a living legend. He is a bass from Germany – East Germany. He and Jay talk a little bit about that. They also talk about a range of other issues, as they sit outside in Salzburg, with bells occasionally ringing out. Pape does a little singing, just quietly: “Follow Me,” by John Denver. A very interesting person, René Pape, and great company, as you will find.

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As Jay says, Anne-Sophie Mutter is not just one of the great violinists of our time, she is one of the great musicians of our time. She is also a fascinating – fascinating – interviewee. Smart as a whip, for one thing. From the Salzburg Festival, she and Jay talk about a number of things, including a number of personalities: André Previn (to whom she was married), Herbert von Karajan (who launched her career), John Williams (the famed movie composer, with whom she has made a new album), and more. She ends with a sweet, moving tribute to her man – and the universe’s man – Bach.

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