Tom Ashbrook - Conversations

Hi, this is Tom.

It’s been so gratifying to dig in again with movers and shakers and you on the issues and ideas that are lighting up our world - sometimes in bright hope, sometimes in angry flames.  This first round of conversations has been tremendously fun.  For all your listening and your great feedback, thank you.  You rock.

Now it’s time to take this project to the next level.  We’re going to close the tent flaps a little while we build out the next iteration - a proper podcast and more.  A lot of you have asked for it.  We’re excited to bring it.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about what you most need to hear.  We’ve set up a short survey.  I really hope you’ll give us your feedback.

Your support and encouragement mean the world as we move to build out our next phase. 

Stay tuned!


the conversations

salman habib, maya jasanoff, john sawers



“Max Boot: Trump's GOP Must Burn”

Longtime big-voiced conservative columnist Max Boot has had a fiery conversion on the Republican Party that has so long been his home. It’s Donald Trump’s GOP now, he says in his new book “The Corrosion of Conservatism,” and it has to be “burned to the ground” at the polls to save the possibility of a reasonable center-right party in America. And if it’s not? White nationalism and know-nothingism, Max Boot warns, will swamp America.


"Weaponizing Social Media"

With military strategist and futurist P.W. Singer.  Singer co-authored Ghost Fleet, the Tom Clancy-style novel of future warfare.  But he's a scholar too, and a student of all weapons - including social media. It's been weaponized he says in his new book LikeWar in a way that can now decide real wars and real politics.  We talk about the fierce battle for what's understood as real in the age of social media.


"April Ryan, Under Fire"

With White House correspondent April Ryan, who asked Donald Trump: "Mr. President, are you a racist?" We talk race, death threats, "living while black," a free press, democracy in trouble, Serena Williams, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, April's epic shouting match with Omarosa, and her new book, "Under Fire."  In the White House, she says, "I am warred upon."


“Western Capitalism in Trouble”

With economic historian Adam Tooze of Columbia University.  Stocks are up, GDP is strong, unemployment is down... but ten years after the 2008 financial collapse, Adam Tooze sees disenchantment all around.  Republicans going protectionist. Democrats going socialist. The collapse, he says, brought us Donald Trump. His new book is Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.


"Nixon would be 'horrified' by Trump"

With John Dean, White House Counsel for President Richard Nixon. John Dean was at the heart of the Watergate uproar that drove Nixon from office. Star witness in the Watergate hearings.  He knows the law, impeachment, tapes, the works. Where does he see Donald Trump's scandal heading?  We asked.  And this:  John Dean says Nixon "would be horrified" by Trump.  Wow.


"Beyond Crazy Rich Asians"

With Eileen Cheng-yin Chow, director of the Cheng Shewo Institute of Chinese Journalism at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan and co-director of Story Lab at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Eileen Chow knows rich Asians.  Her grandad was a mainland China newspaper mogul.  We look at the grand narratives between the United States and China. And recite some very beautiful late summer poetry.


"When the river's gone, what lies beneath..."

The news cycle is gripped by politics. Nature is gripped by climate change, and us.  It's a longer cycle, but no less dramatic.  Hydrologist Rosario Sanchez Flores studies where border populations of the US and Mexico will turn when the Rio Grande river runs dry.  It's happening.  And then it's all about aquifers that don't know borders - or walls. 


"US Military: Here's the risk..."

Open the microphone to former four-star US Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis and you learn a lot in a hurry.  About US military readiness facing Iran and North Korea. About military attitudes toward "the parade." About standing for democracy while the president lauds authoritarians, and the risks of a tweet-storm presidency.  And yes, we talked Space Force.


"Whiteness... is unraveling"

Race and racism are fiery topics yet again in the USA, with a president who seems more than ready to fan the flames.  Artist Steven Locke has his own take on our return to raw racism. "Whiteness," he says, "is unraveling" - and therefore at its most dangerous. Facing history he says, can save us all. Locke wants to build a slave auction block memorial in the nation's "Cradle of Liberty," historic Boston.


"Where is Trump Taking the World?"

With Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony Kori Schake sees global "willful destruction" on the part of President Donald Trump.  She sees real danger right now many fronts. She also sees resilience in the international order.  But that order is under heavy fire... from the USA.


"The Next Social Network"

With Salman Habib, entrepreneur, drop-out, and co-founder of the social network HelloFriend.  Mark Zuckerberg and Salman Habib both dropped out of Harvard to start social networks.  Zuck's network is hitting trouble.  Habib's is just revving up.  People are calling HelloFriend the Facebook killer.  Habib demurs, but he's ready to take social networks to their next chapter - the fusion of social network and blockchain.


"Heart of Darkness"

With Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World.  The great novelist Joseph Conrad took the world up the Congo River in his classic "Heart of Darkness." Historian Maya Jasanoff finds the dawn of the age of globalization upriver with Conrad.  She says he would well recognize the great disruptor of our time. And she's gone upriver to prove it.


"A Two-Power World"

With Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, Britain's global spy service.  Judi Dench played the role for James Bond.  John Sawers sees China at eye-level now with the US.  And soon, the bigger player. "It's not as if we have the superior model that will forever keep us in the lead... America has to share its role in the world with China."  And this:  "Q is a real live person."


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