Episode 127, with guests Peter Baker, James Hawes and Rocky Collins

Peter Baker, James Hawes and Rocky Collins are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: November 16, 2013 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs on POTUS on Saturdays at 8 am, 4 pm and midnight and on Sundays at noon and midnight.
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This week: Days of Fire.

Did you keep your eye on the news this week? A president, reelected convincingly a year ago, is under fire. His signature program, the Affordable Care Act, is enduring its own days of fire, and the president’s polling numbers are feeling the effects.

Eight years ago saw similar circumstances. George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, rolled to a second term. And yet, the first pivotal year of his re-set – 2005 – was no stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue. There was a deteriorating relationship with Vladimir Putin; first one, then two, vacancies on the Supreme Court; the investigation of the leaking of the identity of a CIA analyst; growing anger over the War in Iraq; a hurricane named Katrina, and; shock, shock that the intelligence community might be using its technology to intercept phone calls on U.S. soil.

And they said being president could be a fun job.

Peter Baker covers President Obama, as he did President Bush, for the New York Times, and while the first draft of history isn’t yet finished for the 44th president, it is for his predecessor, and it covers 658 pages from our first guest, his big new book just out from Doubleday.

Because we find ourselves similarly situated smack in the middle of a presidency in 2013, Peter and I spent our time together revisiting the parallel moment of the Bush Administration, 2005, when the voters gave Bush a new term and perhaps a new mandate – just like Obama received a year ago. But as the president is finding today, Bush saw through the events of 2005 that when you earn political capital, the coffers can run dry quickly, and power might not be all that it seems.

* * *

Then, we return to January 28, 1986. Where were you that day? If you are of a certain age, you will remember.

I was in my college dorm room that morning, smarting over the loss two days earlier of the New England Patriots to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX. My black and white TV was on. Out of the corner of my eye I was watching something I loved but also took for granted as routine: another launch of the space shuttle from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Then, that evening, President Reagan spoke to the nation:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Remembering Ronald Reagan’s words as he shared news of the deaths of the seven Challenger Astronauts on January 28, 1986 is a fitting preparation to watch a thoughtful film tonight — November 16 — on Science Channel, its first dramatic film ever. The Challenger Disaster stars William Hurt as Dr. Richard Feynman and tells the behind-the-scenes story of how one man bucked the system and sought the truth behind the tragedy.

On our show this morning we talk with the film’s executive producer, Rocky Collins, and its director, James Hawes. Here’s a preview of Hawes’s work:

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