Episode 105, with guests Jonathan Alter, author of THE CENTER HOLDS, and Christie Hefner, Executive Chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, Inc.

Jonathan Alter and Christie Hefner are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: June 8, 2013 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
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Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

After attending to affairs of state at home and abroad these past few weeks, it was great to be back in studio this week with my guest Jonathan Alter, and a separate conversation recorded earlier in the week with Christie Hefner.

Before we get to this week’s show, a little recap from the past few weeks.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we served up the full uncut hour of our conversation with HOUSE OF CARDS executive producer Beau Willimon. Noting how Netflix continues to enroll gobs of new members, that conversation was as relevant in May as it was when HOUSE OF CARDS downloads first started streaming.

Then, last week, I was thoroughly entertained, as I hope you were, when my friend Matt Bennett eased into the chair as guest host, which he may do from time to time. I loved Matt’s talk with Air Force General Richard Klumpp about his service as the Military Aide for Vice Presidents Gore and Cheney. And Matt’s chat with Stuart Connelly was perhaps even more revealing, bringing us behind the curtain at Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, now an amazing 50 years ago this summer.

Now, onto Episode 105, following a few weeks steeped in entertainment and history, we retur to the knitting of PoliOptics: the goings on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and everywhere the current president travels. To use one term: ‘contemporary history.’ That’s the kind of history Jonathan Alter is offering with The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.

For my own contemporary history, I’ve been on a plane – to London, to Switzerland, to San Francisco, and now back to New York. And in my time in that hollow aluminum tube I’ve done some reading. At the top of the list was Alter’s new tome, now available from Simon & Schuster. Alter who earned his political journalism cred over three decades at Newsweek, is also the author of The Promise, about President Obama’s first year in office, and The Defining Moment, about FDR’s First Hundred Days.

At my most recent stop, in San Francisco, I had a chance to hear a lecture by President Obama’s triumphant campaign manager, Jim Messina. To hear Jim’s talk, and to look at his slides, you’d think that the army he assembled in Chicago in 2011 and 2012 executed flawlessly, with nary a hair out of place or a nose rubbed out of joint. And while no one will ever deny Barack Obama his reelection victory or his overwhelming 332-206 electoral vote margin, campaigns are always inherently messy, and the 2012 effort in Chicago, a determinedly experimental and groundbreaking one, broke some glass too, as Alter faithfully reports.

If you’re ready to take a break from The Center Holds — and you’re a big-spending Prime member on Amazon, check out the pilot for Jonathan’s new show ALPHA HOUSE, written by Garry Trudeau, which grabbed a season pick-up courtesy of Mr. Bezos. There’s a new House in town. First, HOUSE OF CARDS. Now, ALPHA HOUSE. Network? What network?


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Christie Hefner

I found myself earlier this week on the campus of Stanford University at an annual communications conference that I attend when time permits.

Among many other speakers, we heard from Jim Messina, as I mentioned earlier, as well as General Stan McChrystal – the man who ran the war in Afghanistan before tendering his resignation to the President following the publication in Rolling Stone of disrespectful remarks by his staff aimed at Vice President Biden, among others.

With my microphone in tow, I wanted to try a field interview – complete with background ambiance of chirping birds. It’s a technique I hope to use later this summer when I cross paths with interesting people who might offer interesting perspectives for PoliOptics.

Another speaker at our conference was Christie Hefner, the former chairwoman and chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises, the iconic American publishing firm founded by her father, Hugh, in 1953.

Ms. Hefner, now executive chairman of Canyon Ranch Enterprises, focused her talk on creativity and leadership. When she left Playboy in 2009, shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, she could have done many things, but one thing she sought out to do was work with the Center for American Progress, the think tank founded by former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta that was sometimes referred to during the Bush years as the government in exile.

As you listen to our talk with Christie, imagine a warm early summer afternoon on a bucolic campus in Northern California. If the background noise of chirping birds aren’t your thing, my sincerely apologies.



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