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Presidential

The Washington Post's Presidential podcast explores how each former American president reached office, made decisions, handled crises and redefined the role of commander-in-chief. It was released leading up to up to Election Day 2016, starting with George Washington in week one and ending on week 44 with the president-elect. New special episodes in the countdown to the 2020 presidential election highlight other stories from U.S. presidential history that can help illuminate our current moment. Hosted by Lillian Cunningham, the series features Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers like David McCullough and Washington Post journalists like Bob Woodward. [When you're done, listen to Lillian's other historical podcasts: Constitutional and Moonrise]

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Barack Obama: The pursuit of identity

Political strategist David Axelrod and biographer David Maraniss discuss Barack Obama's search for identity -- and how that quest has paralleled America's own complex reckoning with race.

56mins

30 Oct 2016

Rank #1

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John F. Kennedy: We are all mortal

Robert Dallek, Michael Beschloss and Fredrik Logevall--three major Kennedy historians and biographers--join us on this week's episode to talk about JFK and death. But not his assassination...

47mins

28 Aug 2016

Rank #2

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James Madison: Burning down the house

Though he's our first wartime president, James Madison is usually better remembered for his work on the Constitution rather than his time as commander-in-chief while the White House went up in flames. But maybe that's the wrong way to look at it.

38mins

31 Jan 2016

Rank #3

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James Monroe: The Forrest Gump of presidents

In the latest episode of Presidential, we look at our fifth president's knack for being present at famous moments in history.

40mins

7 Feb 2016

Rank #4

Most Popular Podcasts

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Herbert Hoover: Dealing with disaster

Herbert Hoover entered the White House with an array of high-profile experiences leading disaster relief. So why was his handling of the Great Depression considered a failure? Biographer Charles Rappleye guest stars.

39mins

31 Jul 2016

Rank #5

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Andrew Jackson: The violence, the fight

Barbara Bair, Steve Inskeep and Jon Meacham examine the tragedy of Andrew Jackson's personal life, the brutality of his battles and his policies against Native Americans, and the conflict that makes up a dynamic democracy.

46mins

21 Feb 2016

Rank #6

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John Quincy Adams: The trait that broke a presidency

We're about to witness how the inability to compromise can tank any hope of being an effective president.

45mins

14 Feb 2016

Rank #7

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Calvin Coolidge: A tale of two Coolidges

Former politician Michael Dukakis, biographer Amity Shlaes and political scientist Robert Gilbert join Washington Post economics reporter Steven Pearlstein to offer a version of Calvin Coolidge's legacy that doesn't follow the standard story.

46mins

25 Jul 2016

Rank #8

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Theodore Roosevelt: Exuberance

Biographer David McCullough and historian Michelle Krowl take us inside the wild, unstoppable dynamism of Teddy Roosevelt, whose energy and activism redefined the role of American president.

42mins

26 Jun 2016

Rank #9

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Abraham Lincoln: His hand and his pen

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of 'Team of Rivals,' and Michelle Krowl of the Library of Congress guide us through Lincoln's love for language--and how his gift for writing and oratory became one of his greatest presidential leadership tools.

55mins

24 Apr 2016

Rank #10

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Woodrow Wilson: A complicated legacy

Racism, diplomacy, women's suffrage...historian John Milton Cooper and Woodrow Wilson House executive director Robert Enholm lead us through Wilson's complicated personal and presidential legacy.

45mins

11 Jul 2016

Rank #11

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Donald Trump: Division and union

In this final episode of the podcast, Library of Congress historians Michelle Krowl and Julie Miller return--along with Washington Post journalist Dan Balz--to reflect on the changing nature of the American presidency.

56mins

9 Nov 2016

Rank #12

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Warren G. Harding: Love and scandal

Steamy love letters. Jazz. Scandal. Psychics. Newspapers. The Hope Diamond. Historian Nicole Hemmer helps guide us through the wild life and presidency of Warren G. Harding.

42mins

18 Jul 2016

Rank #13

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Bill Clinton: The good and the bad

David Maraniss, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Bill Clinton, explores how Clinton's core character traits had both a bright and a dark side. And Post reporter Jim Tankersley examines a similar duality in his policy legacy.

48mins

16 Oct 2016

Rank #14

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William Howard Taft: This chief, not that chief

Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of 'The Bully Pulpit,' along with historian Michelle Krowl and Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes discuss why President Taft made a better chief justice than commander-in-chief.

37mins

3 Jul 2016

Rank #15

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George H. W. Bush: Restraint

Historians Jon Meacham and Jeffrey Engel discuss President Bush's unique form of presidential leadership--a vintage combination of public service, conservatism and emotional restraint--and examine why his legacy has grown more positive over time.

51mins

9 Oct 2016

Rank #16

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Martin Van Buren: The story of our two-party system

Martin Van Buren did much to create the political party establishments we have today. Experts Barbara Bair and Mark Cheathem, along with Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza, examine his mark on modern politics.

39mins

29 Feb 2016

Rank #17

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Ulysses S. Grant: Lover, fighter, writer

Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs are considered the best ever written by a president. In this episode, Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada and biographer David Maraniss discuss what they found funny, touching and illuminating about the work.

43mins

8 May 2016

Rank #18

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James Buchanan: The bachelor and the bloodshed

America is on the eve of civil war, and James Buchanan is alone in the White House as our first and only bachelor president. Historians Jean Baker and Jim Loewen, and The Washington Post's Jim Tankersley, explore the lack of personal and political union.

39mins

18 Apr 2016

Rank #19

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Rutherford B. Hayes: The most contested election

How does a vicious, close and disputed election spill over into a presidency? We examine the razor-thin election results for Rutherford B. Hayes, and the equally fine line he then had to tread as president during the end of Reconstruction.

43mins

15 May 2016

Rank #20