The race for Speaker of the House underscored the 2022 midterm narrative: the Republican Party is increasingly divided, and unable to consolidate power long enough to effect positive change. Now Speaker Kevin McCarthy was held hostage by a powerful “Knucklehead Caucus” (our guest’s moniker for the Never Kevinites) until its leader Matt Gaetz simply “ran out of things to ask for.” Some of these same dissenters have now been promoted to top committees in the House, the results of McCarthy’s Faustian pact to claim the speakership. Who are the Knuckleheads? Are they all knuckleheads? And how did this isolationist group of extremist budget hawks group climb atop the GOP pile? Among the reasons — lack of strong leadership in the party, a lack of national security leadership in the White House, an end to substantive national debate in favor of social media hot takes, and more. And all of it is worrisome for the trajectory of the GOP, and America, going forward.

Hugh Hewitt is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host with the Salem Radio Network. He is the Former Director of the United States Office of Personnel Management. He has been a correspondent at Fox, and was the former president of the Richard Nixon Foundation. He is also a columnist at the Washington Post.

This is the third incident of document-gate in as many election cycles: Hillary Clinton with her “home brew” internet server, Trump with Mar-a-Lago, and now Biden with classified documents stored in his Washington D.C. think tank and his (locked!) garage. It is, to use Biden’s own characterization of Trump’s document scandal, “irresponsible,” to an almost ridiculous degree. And Biden’s claim that he did not know how the national secrets ended up in his home are the very opposite of comforting. Like probes of presidencies past, Biden’s scandal raises a slew of suspicions: why did the public only learn about this now, when the documents were discovered before the midterm elections? Is the newly appointed Special Counsel a piece of political fiction to slake public thirst for justice, when in reality the Attorney General answers to the president all along? Will Congress step up and provide the oversight as the Constitution intended?

These questions and more with Andy McCarthy. McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. He is also the author of Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency.

The 118th Congress has arrived, and after 15 grueling voting sessions, we finally have a Speaker of the House: Kevin McCarthy. This is the first time an election for speaker went to multiple ballots since 1923, and that is not the only element of the history-making chaos. To secure the gavel, McCarthy agreed to lower the number of members needed to begin a vote of “no confidence” from 5 to 1, and agreed to cap the levels of discretionary spending at FY22 levels; he has promised a slew of new subcommittees; agreed to re-organize appropriations; and the list goes on, to the point where Matt Gaetz, McCarthy’s nemesis in the Speaker race, “ran out of stuff to ask for.” As the drama unfolds, we find ourselves asking exactly What the Hell is Going On… who are these self-described “rebels” in Congress, really? What does this mean for defense spending and Ukraine, and balancing the budget in general?

These questions and more with our guest Chad Pergram. Chad is a Senior Congressional Correspondent at Fox News. He has won an Edward R. Murrow Award and is a two-time recipient of the Joan Barone Award. Prior to Fox he was a Senate producer for C-SPAN, producer and anchor for NPR, and a reporter for the Capitol News Connection.

What the hell happened in 2022? Joe Biden is midway through his presidency, and he has delivered both good and bad policy. The bad may outweigh the good … record inflation, growing divisions among Americans, skyrocketing gas prices, an unconstitutional grab for trillions to forgive student loans, and the list continues. But his presidency has not been without accomplishments either, from the invitation of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, to declaring U.S. policy to defend Taiwan, to handling China’s semiconductor industry. What made both lists? Ukraine: his rallying of allies to save Ukraine, but often too little, too late.

In this week’s New Year’s episode, Marc and Dany discuss Marc’s Washington Post lists on the top ten best and worst things the president did this year.

We’re familiar with the story: the storming of the Capitol nearly two years ago, Donald J. Trump’s attempt to “stop the steal,” the legal mess that ensued. But our institutions held. And Vice President Mike Pence followed through with his Constitutional duty, and certified the Biden victory in 2020. The former VP joins us on the podcast today to speak about what happened that day, and the difficulty of navigating an unconstitutional and disqualifying end to four years of solid conservative policy. He reminds us that America must honor its commitments to its people, and that in foreign policy, simply, America stands for freedom.

Mike Pence was the 48th Vice President of the United States. He has a new memoir out, So Help Me God. He was the 50th governor of Indiana, and served for 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kanye West, Nick Fuentes, and Donald Trump meet for dinner… and discuss what, exactly? Indeed, what does a white supremacist have in common with Kanye?? Yep, hatred for the Jewish people. The spike in antisemitism seen today can be explained away – bad economy, covid, whatever – but the sad truth is that Jew-hatred has been a perennial in American life for centuries. The truth, of course, is that America’s tiny percentage of Jews have been singularly unable to move the needle in favor of their own well-being or the well-being of the State of Israel. The reality and the tropes of antisemitism do not line up in any way. But when have facts ever gotten in the way of bigotry?

The rise in antisemitism, relations with the State of Israel and much more on today’s episode with Walter Russell Mead. Mead is the author of the new book, The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People. He is the Global View Columnist at the Wall Street Journal, a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute, and a Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities and Bard College. He is also a member of the Aspen Institute.

Xi Jinping’s long-lasting, draconian zero-Covid policy has resulted in the largest protests in China in more than 30 years. Tens of thousands of demonstrators are testing the government’s “perfect” police state by actively calling for an end to Xi’s regime, breaking through China’s firewall to spread protest messaging, and calling into question the very legitimacy of the empire Xi has built. This instability comes in the face of Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on state power; the recent Chinese Military Power Report showcases a military capable of taking Taiwan, and Xi’s ideological push shows that he is willing. In just a few years, the U.S. may very well be wishing that it had taken more risks in its approach to defending Taiwan, to increasing democratic messaging in China, and to hardline policy on Xi’s regime… how will we ensure today that these future mistakes are not made?

Our guest this week is Dan Blumenthal, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously, Blumenthal served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the US Department of Defense. He also served as a commissioner on the congressionally mandated US-China Economic and Security Review Commission from 2006-2007, and was vice chairman of the commission in 2007. He also served on the Academic Advisory board of the congressional US-China Working Group. He is the author of The China Nightmare: The Grand Ambitions of a Decaying State.

Over a third of Americans spend hours every day on an app that directly feeds their data to the Chinese government. TikTok, owned by Chinese parent company Bytedance, is constantly collecting reams of data on its users, from GPS to keystrokes to outer-app monitoring, and even encrypted data that might be useful someday. But aren’t these D.C. elite problems — worrying only for those who plan to work in intelligence or government someday? Nope. The implications of China’s TikTok-enabled reach touch almost every American. Personal privacy aside, our national security is at immediate risk. The Chinese Communist Party exerts a measure of control over more than one-third of Americans. Are we going to continue to cede our sovereignty to Axios Jinping? Or will the U.S. Government shut down TikTok once and for all?

These questions with Klon Kitchen, a senior fellow at AEI. He specializes in national security, defense technology, innovation, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Previously, he was a director at the Heritage Foundation and was the national security advisor to Sen. Ben Sasse. He has worked at the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center, in the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, and at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. A lack of strategy to face China. Indifference in the face of Iranian protests. In-fighting over the correct policy to support Ukraine. Is it any wonder that the American people are wondering about the efficacy and longevity of America’s power? A hard look at American history suggests that the reasons behind American decline have more to do with choice than with circumstances. Decline, after all, is a choice for American presidents persuaded the nation is not a force for good in the world. Leaders in Washington who are willing to adopt strong and decicive military policy are few and far between, on both sides of the aisle. How do we fix decades of decaying interest in American power? How do we market American security in the global context to reluctant internationalists?

These questions and more with today’s guest, Senator Tom Cotton. Sen. Cotton is the U.S. Senator for Arkansas, and just released the book, Only the Strong: Reversing the Left’s Plot to Sabotage America. His senatorial committees include the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and the Armed Services Committee. He previously served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, and served in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction team. He also served with The Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, and has received the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab.

The 2022 midterms came as a shock to Ds and Rs alike: the Democrats did better than expected, and the Republicans did worse. Much worse. Last week, covered the reasons behind the Red Fail. But what about Democrats? The left ran a shrewd, if cynical, anti-MAGA campaign, and capitalized on weak GOP candidates. But it the aftermath, President Biden and his party seem to be learning the wrong lessons. Despite losing ground with women and minorities, the Democrats’ short-term vindication has encouraged Biden to announce he would make no changes. None at all. What he and his party don’t get is that the Democrats didn’t win, the Republicans lost.

Our guest this week is Ruy Teixeira. Teixeria is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he focuses on the transformation of party coalitions and future of American electoral politics. He is the co-editor of the Substack The Liberal Patriot, and he previously was a scholar at the Center for American Progress and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

On September 13th, 22 year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested and subsequently murdered in custody by Iran’s so-called morality police. Her abuse at the hands of the Islamic Republic regime sparked the nation’s biggest uprising since the 2009 Green Revolutions. Over a month later, the chants of “Women, life liberty” have continued, but so has the brutal crackdown by the regime, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Iranian society is making clear that it wants an end to the system and the people that have governed Iran since 1979, but is that possible? And would the fall of the regime mean a power vacuum filled by Iranian military leaders? Back home, will Biden’s support for democracy prove more “ornamental than instrumental”?

These questions and more with our guest Behnam Ben Taleblu. Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense for Democracies where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues. Prior to FDD, he worked on non-proliferation issues at the Wisconsin Project and has tracked a wide range of Iran-related topics including: nuclear non-proliferation, ballistic missiles, sanctions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Iranian security and internal politics.

The last four months have been, by any measure, incredibly tumultuous for UK leadership. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ousted and replaced by Liz Truss, a new monarch took the throne, then Truss resigned from leadership in record time after plunging the UK economy into disarray… and this week Rishi Sunak was sworn in as the new Prime Minister. Americans, looking at their closest political and economic ally across the pond, have every reason to be nervous. What happened to the Tory Party in Great Britain, and how long can it survive this turmoil? Is Sunak up to the task? And, importantly, what parallels can we draw between the challenges facing conservatism abroad, and those facing conservatives at home?

These questions and more with our guest, Gerry Baker. Baker is the editor at large of the Wall Street Journal. He has a weekly column, Free Expression, that appears every Tuesday; he also hosts “WSJ at Large with Gerry Baker,” a weekly news and current affairs interview show on the Fox Business Network, and the weekly WSJ Opinion podcast “Free Expression“. A former editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, he began his career working at the Financial Times, the Times of London and the BBC.

A few weeks ago, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave a keynote address at the U.S. Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Given Orban’s tight relationship with Putin and his aggressive brand of Euro-xenophobia, many American liberals and conservatives alike were shocked.  But Orban’s speech at CPAC — and CPAC’s own meeting in Hungary — is part of a larger shift on the American Right; indeed, this is a throwback to the Right of the 1930s. As traditional Reaganites wonder what happened to “peace through strength,” is it time to ask how “national conservatism” and Reagan-conservatism can live together? And who is the leader that can show the way?

These questions and more with Matthew Continetti. Continetti is a senior fellow and the inaugural Patrick and Charlene Neal Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of an important new book, The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism.

Putin is incurring major losses on the battlefield. The strategic and symbolic Kerch Bridge connecting mainland Russia to Crimea was hit a few hours after Putin turned 70; Russian citizens are increasingly unhappy with their leadership; the Ukrainian counter-offensive is resilient and capitalizing on Russia’s many military vulnerabilities. Putin has ramped up threats of nuclear escalation, prompting Joe Biden to warn of impending Armageddon at a recent Democratic fundraiser. Is nuclear escalation a legitimate fear? If so, how do we deter Russia from escalating without offering Putin a compromise or offramp?

Fred Kagan on these questions and more in today’s episode. Kagan is the director of AEI’s Critical Threats Project. He, together with the Institute for the Study of War, release a live Ukraine-Russia war tracker.

Conventional wisdom describes China as a rising power, and it was. No more: China’s economy is slowing, it is headed into a demographic catastrophe of its own design, it has a brittle and totalitarian political system, and it feels encircled by its neighbors. Our guests Hal Brands and Michael Beckley, authors of the new book Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China, assert that China is not “rising,” but rather that it has “peaked.” More troubling still, judging by the history of peaking powers (Germany pre-WWI, or Imperial Japan,) the US should be very nervous about a short-term grab for power or territory by a panicked Beijing.

Both Hal Brands and Michael Beckley are scholars at AEI. Hal is a senior fellow and the Henry A. Kissinger distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a columnist at Bloomberg. Michael Beckley is a non-resident senior fellow, and is an associate professor at Tufts University.

Late last month, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive against Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine, taking back substantial territory. Incredibly, in the face of reputedly superior Russian forces, the Ukrainian military now enjoys the upper hand with respect to available personnel, equipment, command, and motivation. The tide has turned largely in Ukraine’s favor… so why is the Biden Administration still dragging its heels? China and India are cooling on their support for Putin’s military foibles, domestic support in Russia is wavering, and Moscow is now backed into sourcing drones from Iran and artillery from North Korea — all dread signs for Vladimir Putin. So what is needed to galvanize available resources in the US and in NATO to push Ukraine over the edge into decisive victory?

These questions and more on today’s episode with Ambassador Kurt Volker. Amb. Volker is a former US ambassador to NATO and the former US Special Representative for Ukraine. He is now a distinguished fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, and a founding partner of the American University in Kyiv.

Today we discuss the passing of one of modern history’s most beloved and well-known leaders: Queen Elizabeth II. With her departure comes the end of the second Elizabethan era, one that weathered world war and domestic tumult with a brand of political neutrality rarely seen on the world stage today. Much is to be discussed in the coming years regarding the state of the Commonwealth, with several countries already hinting at their departure. But today, we take a moment with seriousness — and yes, some humor — to remember the powerful impact of Queen Elizabeth II, her life, her legacy, and her unique unifying force.

Download the transcript here.

We return from our hiatus to discuss Biden’s trillion-dollar student loan forgiveness plan. Even for those with little background in economics, this is clearly a case of the inverse Robin Hood: a regressive act that takes from the poor and gives to the much less poor. Not to mention, the plan is an assault on the Congressional power of the purse, and legally murky with the justification of the post-9/11 Heroes Act. And let us not forget that this act paradoxically comes on the heels of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, though it is an incredibly costly plan that will only exacerbate current inflation levels.

As the Democratic Party consolidates its role as the party of college-educated coastal elites, AEI’s Michael Strain joins us to unpack the student loan handout. Strain is the Director of Economic Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Back to the Iran Deal… ICYMI our podcast with David Albright on what Iran is really up to…

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in Tehran last week, eliminating the country’s leading nuclear expert and the head of its program. Iranian officials have blamed Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s killing, vowing retaliation for the targeted attack.

One year later, a WTH throwback to an outstanding pod recorded in the wake of the disastrous withdrawal…

Almost 20 years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban are back in control of the country. After President Biden’s decision to depart Afghanistan regardless of conditions on the ground, and the withdrawal of U.S. intelligence and air support to the Afghan army, the Taliban rapidly advanced, culminating in the collapse of the Afghan government.