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Positively Dreadful

Crooked Media

Positively Dreadful, hosted by Crooked Media’s Editor in Chief Brian Beutler, takes listeners below the headlines of the stories stirring widespread anxiety in today’s news landscape to give them a richer understanding and appreciation of how and why to remain engaged, even in the face of daunting challenges.

Positively Dreadful, hosted by Crooked Media’s Editor in Chief Brian Beutler, takes listeners below the headlines of the stories stirring widespread anxiety in today’s news landscape to give them a richer understanding and appreciation of how and why to remain engaged, even in the face of daunting challenges.


United States


Positively Dreadful, hosted by Crooked Media’s Editor in Chief Brian Beutler, takes listeners below the headlines of the stories stirring widespread anxiety in today’s news landscape to give them a richer understanding and appreciation of how and why to remain engaged, even in the face of daunting challenges.




On a Swing and a Prayer

Because elusive swing voters wield outsized influence over elections, different candidates try different things to motivate and reach them. Democrats believe sticking to bread-and-butter issues is strategically optimal, while Republicans focus on fabricating spectacles that dominate the media ahead of elections. And the only thing we can say for sure is that some Republican spectacles, like the Ebola blitz, work like a charm. What can Democrats learn from their opponents? And how can they...


We Need to Talk About Kevin

Republicans, especially Donald Trump, hoped the pendulum would swing in their favor on election night, without penalizing their party for its extremism and the Big Lie. Instead the results kind of blew up their plans, such as they were. Now, with a growing realization that Trump is making their party non-viable, Republicans find themselves at a crossroads. Who are their party leaders? What’s their basic character? What policy agenda do they even have, if any? Unfortunately for us, what’s...


Never Never Landslide

Going into Tuesday’s midterm elections, polls forecasted a close race, while Republicans and the media promised a red wave or even a red tsunami. But then the votes came in and it was basically a tie, and the phantom red tsunami was replaced by a storyline that Republicans really blew it—by banning abortion, rejecting democracy, and latching to extreme ideas and candidates. And while Democrats are mostly relieved, they also chose to cautiously hedge their bets instead of maximizing their...


Work Sucks, We Know

American work culture has changed dramatically in recent years. As the fog of the early pandemic lifted, workers had more power, the job market is tighter than it’s been in a generation, and many workers are realizing remote work has big perks. Yet, working from home and hybrid work weren’t the product of a lot of considered thought, it was thrust upon us in a crisis. Less time in office, fewer expectations around clock punching and putting in face time seem to make workers happier. But is...


Poll Dancing

Survey data has become the North Star of the Democratic Party and politically active liberals. Statisticians proved to be better forecasters of election outcomes than pundits and strategists, so over the past decade and a half we’ve outsourced the whole vocation of politics to them. It was a fateful development, but it hasn’t been a smashing success. Have we landed in the best possible place? Or can we do better? Why don’t Republicans follow this same strategy? Conversely, with Republicans...


BONUS: Merrickal Error

Frank Foer stuck around long enough to talk about his recent profile of Attorney General Merrick Garland in the Atlantic, which is really an investigation of the question, Will Garland indict Donald Trump? And to what extent does the light-touch way the Justice Department has gone about investigating Trump until recently stem from Garland's own internal contradictions? Brian and Frank discuss the fairly apparent tensions between Garland's sense of himself, his actual personality, and the...


Musk til Don

Tech billionaires like Elon Musk are surrounded by sycophants and think they’re masters of the universe. But what happens when the shine comes off and the public starts to question their ingenuity, their power, their social value? Or when men like Elon Musk decide they’re right and everyone else is wrong, and then start deploying their immense resources toward making sure nothing stands in their way? Musk’s on again, off again, on again, hostile takeover of Twitter is a live fire exercise,...


Imagining A Brighter Climate Future

2022 has been an absolutely terrible year for climate disasters. Hurricane Ian, record shattering heatwaves, and catastrophic flooding all served as the backdrop as Congress finally got it together well enough to pass a huge climate mitigation bill. The United States will now implement this new clean energy spending plan as the accumulated effects of all the greenhouse gas pollution we’ve already emitted continue to pile up. It all raises critical questions: How can we get the most out of...


Rule of Lawlessness

Over the next several months, the Supreme Court is poised to hear a ludicrous number of ominous cases that could destroy everything from free and fair presidential elections to what’s left of the Voting Rights Act, to Medicaid to the private right to censor Nazis and porn online. And we’re all spectators. Justice Alito and his allies in robes laugh their asses off knowing there are unlikely to be any consequences for commandeering the country on behalf of right-wing interests and shaping it...

Is It The Economy, Stupid?

This week the Federal Reserve announced another big interest-rate hike with full anticipation that it will cause the unemployment rate to climb. It’s the first good-for-workers economy in decades, and the Fed stands prepared to kill it, amid a national clamor over inflation. Is politics really as simple as “it’s the economy, stupid?” Or have we built a generation of conventional wisdom around a Goldilocks situation where the economy has to be juuuust so in order for consumers, voters,...


Bi-Valent Curious

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many questions that we sort of think we know the answers to, and many others we don’t. We do know vaccine effectiveness wanes, and that vaccines need to be updated to keep pace with an evolving virus. We don’t know if next-generation vaccines will be as effective against current variants as the original shots were against COVID Classic. We do know that the virus is substantially less deadly now that we’ve built up a big wall of...


Biden Says the F Word

President Joe Biden finally defined the MAGA movement for what it is, a form of “semi fascism”, and in turn ignited a debate about whether he was unwise, technically incorrect, or plain old offensive. The “F word” is complicated - it’s bandied about and stretched beyond meaning in some circles while others refrain from it to avoid seeming hysterical. Yet these elaborate rules and rubrics to distinguish what is fascist get in the way of clearly identifying the threats to our democracy....


Can Student Loans and the American Dream Coexist?

President Biden’s long awaited student-loan forgiveness plan has stirred up a fair amount of controversy. Many of the arguments were advanced in bad faith, some were above-board policy judgements, but none of them tackled the bigger question of whether America’s social contract with rising generations is fundamentally broken. The deal used to be that if you work hard and go to college, you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of economic security. Biden did a good thing by making people who bought...


Monkeypox and the Punditry Pandemic

What do Monkeypox, COVID-19, and James Comey have in common? Each of them revealed weak spots in our institutions, including a tendency among people in positions of influence, power, and public information to filter what they know and what they should convey through the lenses of mass psychology and political analysis. Monkeypox isn’t deadly or new, and yet the response too slow to contain the epidemic, and the communication around it from experts and professionals has been roundabout and...


Dark Brandon Rises

Inflation is down, Trump is on the run, Democrats are on the march. And out of the primordial stew of all this good news, Dark Brandon has risen—a new, viral depiction of Joe Biden as a relentless, remorseless political warrior who crushes his enemies and easily overcomes obstacles in his way. On the one hand, Dark Brandon is a fun, satisfying retort to years of unanswered right-wing attacks on the president as a confused, failing old oaf. But on the other, it’s a real-time demonstration of...


Raid On Our Parade

Democrats are having a good month. The Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate, Republicans are paying for the Dobbs decision, and the January 6th committee is reminding Americans that Trump and the GOP are a bunch of lying insurrections. And this recent sharp turn of events makes Democrats all the more hopeful that there won’t be a wipe out in November. But what is the lesson here? Is it that consensus-building is always the wisest course? Or that Democrats would be better off heightening...


Lock Him Up?

Former FBI investigator Peter Strzok joins to talk about how the Trump accountability story isn’t fully written. The January 6 hearings, and earlier investigations, have revealed more Trump crimes than we could have imagined six years ago, yet he hasn’t faced criminal charges and our institutions haven’t been bolstered to protect future threats he poses to the Constitution. Is the justice system failing? Or are we making a mistake by putting so much stock into legal accountability in the...


Baby Got Build-Back

Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer strike a deal on a big budget bill that would dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars to clean energy, giving Democrats much needed wind at their backs ahead of the midterms. The climate fight is a case study for how Democrats can harness political power, win back voters, and proactively redefine what it means to be a Democrat.


How to Make Guns Toxic

A bipartisan bill in Congress is one step forward for gun safety, but the Supreme Court just pushed us two steps back. As the legislative path to reducing gun violence has closed, we might have more success if we can influence the way people think about guns in America. How can we change hearts and minds rather than laws, and, in doing so, make gun culture anathema instead of something we celebrate or just roll our eyes at?


Make the Movies Maverick Again

Moviegoing has changed a lot in the past several years, as movies have become increasingly niche and box offices dominated by derivative blockbusters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have another golden age of cinema, even if it’ll be different from the ones in our past. Top Gun: Maverick managed to break the mold as a big budget action movie that quickly became a cultural touchstone for all kinds of Americans, proving, perhaps, that we can at least rekindle moviegoing, with movies everyone...