5 podcasts about political scandals and upheaval

Summer is traditionally a quiet time for politics, but this year is proving to be a notable exception. (Photo: NYTimes)
Summer is traditionally a quiet time for politics, with most governments taking some form of recess during the hot months. But this year is proving to be a notable exception.اضافة اعلان

Since early June, US public hearings held by the House committee investigating the January 6 riot have brought one revelation after another about Donald Trump’s conduct. July brought upheaval across the pond, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dramatically ousted by his own party. That same week saw the assassination of Shinzo Abe, a former Japanese prime minister, a tragic crime made all the more shocking by Japan’s low level of gun violence.

It is an unsettling time for governments around the world. And if you feel like leaning into the chaos, these five podcasts dig deep into political tales and scandals, including the origin of Vladimir Putin’s two-decade reign in Russia and the US authorities’ bungling response to Hurricane Katrina.


It’s hard to encapsulate the impact of a catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed lives, homes, and livelihoods on an unimaginable scale in Louisiana during the summer of 2005. This searing series from The Atlantic approaches the disaster by focusing first on individual stories — like that of Le-Ann, a 14-year-old tomboy whose life was transformed overnight by the hurricane — before unpacking the dysfunctional government response that made Katrina “an unnatural disaster” (as the podcast’s tagline has it).

The series, reported and hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II, an Atlantic senior editor, combines interviews with survivors and officials, including Michael Brown, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to create a detailed picture of everything that went wrong. Beginning way back in 1856 with the evocative story of the Last Island hurricane (the first of many harbingers of things to come in Louisiana), “Floodlines” is a tightly structured and comprehensive chronicle of a catastrophe that’s surprisingly easy to binge in a single sitting.

Starter episode: “Antediluvian”

‘The Big Steal’
Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine has plunged Europe into societal and economic turmoil, and represents the apex of a grudge the Russian leader has held ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Presented by Gavin Esler, a BBC journalist, “The Big Steal” traces the roots of Putin’s obsession with Ukraine, and how his ascent to power began when he was a KGB officer based in East Germany. Beginning with the story of the clash between Putin and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman who is now in self-exile after being imprisoned for 10 years on tax evasion and fraud charges, “The Big Steal” offers plenty of troubling insight into Putin’s psyche and is essential listening for anyone trying to make sense of his actions.

Starter episode: “The Rivals”

 ‘British Scandal’
To use an appropriately English phrase, this deft series from Wondery does exactly what it says on the tin, delivering wry and detailed retellings of political controversies. “British Scandal” kicked off last spring with a five-part series delving into the slaying of Alexander Litvinenko, the KGB agent-turned-defector who died after drinking a radioactive cup of tea given to him by a former comrade. Like many of the scandals covered, this story is harrowing and absurd in equal measure — Litvinenko’s killers inadvertently left a huge trail of radiation behind them across hotels, bars, and public transit in central London. Each episode intersperses a gripping central narrative with quick-witted asides from the hosts, Alice Levine and Matt Forde, who find the humor in each saga without making light of the often nightmarish reality.

Starter episode: “The Litvinenko Affair — Poisoned”

‘The Eleventh’
You do not need any familiarity with Australian political history to get hooked on this docuseries, which chronicles one of the most dramatic moments in the country’s history. On November 11, 1975, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was removed from office by representatives of Queen Elizabeth II. This unprecedented act was viewed by many as a constitutional coup and sparked fierce debate about Australia’s supposed independence from Britain. Though some mysteries about Whitlam’s dismissal may never be solved, “The Eleventh” lays out the complex backstory and repercussions in enthralling fashion.

Starter episode: “Sweet Spot”

‘The Fault Line: Bush, Blair, and Iraq’

In recent years, the presidential legacy of George W. Bush (by his own admission, according to some reports) has benefited significantly by comparison to Trump. Thanks to Trump’s disregard for political norms, and the broader dissolution of civility in Washington, it has become easier for some liberals to look back on the Bush era more generously — but this meticulous series, from Somethin’ Else and Sony Music Entertainment, aims to put a stop to that. Hosted by veteran journalist David Dimbleby, “The Fault Line” explores the 18-month period between 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq War, and how Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair added a divisive chapter to the two countries’ “special relationship.” Even if you think you already know every detail of this story, think again.

Starter episode: “The Truth Shall Set You Free”

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