Buttigieg’s first guest on “The Deciding Decade” podcast will be Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — another guy who launched a podcast after a career in the political spotlight. Bharara is repaying the favor to Buttigieg, who appeared on his “Stay Tuned with Preet” in March 2019, a month before launching the long-shot presidential campaign that ended up making him a household name.
“My guess is that it will be a cut above standard post-politics podcasts,” Bharara said. “I think Pete, as we saw from his presidential campaign, is a naturally thoughtful, smart, probing person, and all of those things are important to a long-form podcast.”
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary on March 1, somewhat shockingly after his first-place finish in the Iowa caucuses less than a month earlier — a move that signaled the start of a Democratic Party consolidation behind Joe Biden. Since then, Buttigieg has been a regular presence on television in support of the Biden-Harris ticket. But his new show, released by the iHeartMedia network, marks his first real foray into new media.
“I really valued the chance to detox a little bit and just kind of reset,” he said. “I was ready to take a beat and wait until we really had a concept of some things that would really make a lot of sense for me and make a lot of sense for now. . . . It’s a chance to build something, instead of just jumping in on something, and to really develop a format and an approach.”
Compared to doing quick, chopped-up TV and radio hits on the campaign trail “where you rushed to get your point across,” Buttigieg said he preferred the depth and opportunity for nuance presented by the podcasts on which he was a guest. “When the campaign ended and we were thinking about how to have a presence in some of the conversations that continued, I realized that podcasts would be a really interesting opportunity to explore things in a little more depth,” he said.
He also wanted to have more “two-way-conversations" and ask his own questions of guests — rather than being grilled by political reporters about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or whether he supports the Green New Deal, probably.
And though Buttigieg said he “really enjoyed” guest-hosting for ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in mid-March, he didn’t opt for a job as a paid commentator on a broadcast or cable news network, even though he would have slid nicely into CNN or MSNBC’s air.
His primary opponent, Andrew Yang, quickly joined CNN as a contributor after ending his campaign. But he also launched his own podcast, “Yang Speaks,” in April to keep his community engaged and his policy priorities alive.
“After running, being a podcaster feels much more human and organic because it’s not just about you all the time,” Yang said. “I learn something from every conversation."
During his campaign, Yang said that podcasts were his main way of reaching new audiences and potential voters, back when “cable news wasn’t beating down the door to have Andrew Yang on.”
Buttigieg’s podcast, which will run for 20 episodes, will not be the place to hear his take on the latest Trump controversy or political scandal, he cautioned. “The news of the day is punching us in the face every day,” he said. “We try to look at things in a slightly longer view than is just possible in a lot of the conversations across the news cycle.” (Comedian Colin Jost, who played him on “Saturday Night Live,” will be a guest.)
What’s unclear is whether Buttigieg is using the podcast as the launching point for a new career as a media personality, or whether he’s using it to maintain his follower base and potentially build up an audience — and email list — for another political run. When asked, he characteristically hedged a bit.
“My hope is that this will be compatible with any number of futures,” he said, “because like a lot of people, I’m in a moment of uncertainty that’s really driven by the uncertainty that our country is in.”
Either way, it may be an adjustment for Buttigieg to go from commander in chief candidate to commute-content creator. Or as Bharara, the former federal prosecutor, experienced it, “It’s a little weird to go from having subpoena power to reading ads for ZipRecruiter.”