The Trump presidency has seemed a bit like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, fitting far more into four years than should be physically possible. It’s overwhelming to reflect on the relentless news onslaught 2016 unleashed, but the ABC has given podcast listeners an entertaining digest in the form of America, If You’re Listening. This is a podcast “about how Donald Trump changed the United States and the world”. Or, to put it another way, it’s a chance to understand a lot of things we may have forgotten about the Donald’s term, in anticipation of the 2020 election. Host Matt Bevan has good form on this material: his previous show, Russia, If You’re Listening, provided a thorough, snappy examination of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The same strengths that defined the Russian stories are on show in this latest material. This is a heavily scripted podcast, leaning far more on archival material than fresh interviews. In all it plays as a kind of “story time with Matt Bevan”. The writing is thorough and confident in a way that reflects a journalist who has immersed themselves in the subject material across a long period. And Bevan’s wry tone feels like an honest reflection of what happens when you fall down these absurd rabbit holes. Producers Yasmin Parry and Will Ockenden, both experienced hands at news podcasting, round out a team that knows how to lend these stories necessary energy. The linear rhythm of narration and tape is punctuated by vignettes that provide context and set the scene. It doesn’t all totally work. A long episode about Trump’s flirtations with nuclear war gets tangled in several foreign policy threads. But a detailed look at how the President seesawed on gun control policies encapsulates what this podcast does best: a surprising and scrupulous story with a clear eye on what listeners need to hear.
Listen to America, If You’re Listening on your favourite podcast app.