Episode 39, with guests Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Mass. and Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair

Setti Warren and Juli Weiner are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton
Original Air Date: December 17, 2011 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124
Listen to the show by clicking on the bar above.
Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

In the annals of “local boy makes good” stories, Setti Warren’s journey from back roads of my hometown, Newton, Massachusetts, to the White House, then to service in the U.S. Navy in Iraq, and back to Newton, where he was elected in 2008 as mayor, ranks right up there.

Setti Warren, Mayor of Newton, Mass.

A good researcher could probably divine a long list of men and women who, at one time or another, served as an advance person to a presidential candidate or president and went on to new heights in the business world or elective office. When I create my own list, I always put Setti down first. As an advance man in the Clinton White House, he used humor, creativity and a good dose of political guile to lead and persuade people to help him create the best possible setting for President Clinton, wherever in the world his travels led.

Then, in 2004, he joined Senator John Kerry’s campaign and served as its trip director, the senior advance person who travels constantly at the candidate’s side. We all know the ultimate outcome of that effort, but it served Setti well. He went on to work for Senator Kerry in Massachusetts and also decided, after 9/11 to enlist in the U.S. Navy where he serve a one year tour as an intelligence specialist in Northern Iraq.

The biography that Setti laid out positioned him perfectly to run for, and win, a historic race for Mayor of Newton in 2010, which was contested against better known and more experienced candidates. But he’s what Newton needed, a fresh face with new ideas. As I told him, frankly, on our conversation on Polioptics, he won the job I always wanted, to be the mayor of my home town. True, Setti has to deal with stringent budget issues and the headaches that always accompany the chief executive’s role in a major metropolitan suburb, but he also gets to ride, if he wants to, the snowplows as they clear the city’s streets after a classic Massachusetts nor’easter. Now that’s my idea of fun on the job!

Against the wishes of many of his constituents (my parents included), Setti threw his hat in the ring to challenge Scott Brown, the holder of Teddy Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate.


The campaign didn’t last long. After launching his campaign, beginning to raise money and travel throughout the state, he ran into another juggernaut named Warren — Elizabeth Warren — a natural candidate whose own biography is exciting Bay State voters and setting up one of the classic races of the 2012 cycle.


In his conversation on Polioptics, Setti is candid and reflective about his own race, that of the woman he’s now endorsed, and the polioptics of getting elected and holding onto office.

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The pages of Vanity Fair hold a special kind of journalism. The length of the stories in the magazine, and their unique tone, offer enough space for the kind of color you can’t get anywhere else. The photography that illustrate the great writing is genuine art. I’ve always been a big fan.

Writers like Todd S. Purdum, who I’ve known since he reported from the White House for the New York Times, are a joy to read when given the space that Graydon Carter allows. Other writers, like Christopher Hitches, who passed away on the day this episode was taped, enthrall the reader with immense literary artistry.

Those who read the magazine know it’s a monthly, and those familiar with writing for just journals know how much effort goes into a single issue. So to keep pace with the 24/7 speed  of covering a campaign, even Vanity Fair has had to adapt to the new competitive landscape.

Enter Juli Weiner, who wrote prolifically for Wonkette while still in college and was then scooped up by Graydon Carter. I was pretty sure I found a soul mate when I gleaned that she, too, kept a close eye on White House Photographer Pete Souza’s Flickr feed of the First Family and from it found fresh content to blog. Her memory of one photo in particular served as the basis of an “exclusive” find that Rick Perry’s campaign had done a special Photoshop job on one of Pete’s signature shots. That doctored photo provided the “money shot” for a Michael Bay-like, movie trailer-style ad that went viral on YouTube with over 200,000 views.


Juli’s own homage to Christopher Hitchens is found here, which leads as well to Graydon Carter’s rhapsody and a trove of other Hitchens-related content.

When we were talking, Juli was putting the finishing touches on Vanity Fair’s Official 2012 Republican Beefcake Calendar, which is now online and, for the discerning calender collectors out there, a must pin-up on the kitchen wall.

Every day, with Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump serving as her muse, Juli brings Vanity Fair’s tone and her own distinctive eye to covering aspects of the campaign that few other publications take time to notice, and that’s what makes her a very special guest on Polioptics. Keep reading her posts as she packs her bags and leaves Manhattan to cover the countdown to the Iowa Caucus from the frozen tundra of Des Moines.

* * *

As we wrap up 2011 with our 39th episode, I can’t press “publish” on this post without pausing to thank everyone who has made this a great year on the radio for Adam Belmar and me.

First, our listeners, on SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124, who tune in every Saturday and the many more who hear us through iTunes or streamed on this site.

Second, our guests, whose names you see linked on the right side of this page — you’re in for a good listen if you click on any one of them. Jonathan Prince was our first guest of the year and Juli Weiner was our last, and they were all great. They gave us stories, humor and a special kind of polioptic insight that I don’t think you  can find anywhere else on the radio.

Third, our indefatigable producer, Katherine Caperton, who sat with us during every hour of our broadcasts and many more as she assembled the show in post production.

Fourth, our Website manager, John Ekdahl, who created the Polioptics Website and improved it steadily since launch, and who stands by each week to help put the show online.

To everyone in the Polioptic world, thank you for going along on the ride with Adam and me. Have a very happy holiday and a healthy new year.

We’ll be talking to you again in 2012!

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