Burn the Boats

When Failure is Not an Option

Host, Ken Harbaugh, interviews political leaders, influencers, and other history makers about the choices we confront when failure is not an option. Choices like Alexander the Great made when he landed his troops on the shores of Persia and ordered his men to burn their boats.

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Latest Episode

Bonus: Sec. Leon Panetta and the Anniversary of 9/11

In this bonus episode of Burn the Boats, Sec. Leon Panetta talks about the ultimate tough decision: as Director of the CIA, Panetta oversaw the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, launching a raid into Pakistan based on uncertain intelligence. He talks about that decision, as well as the current presidential administration and the state of our political landscape.

Secretary Leon Panetta is a lifelong public servant, having served in many different roles: US Congressman, Chief of Staff to President Clinton, director of the CIA, and the Secretary of Defense under President Obama. He now serves as Chairman of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, located at California State University - Monterey Bay and focused in part on bringing young people into public service.

Recent Episodes

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Anthony Scaramucci: Room on the Off Ramp

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:23
Anthony Scaramucci talks about his brief tenure as the White House Communications Director and his recent decision to denounce Trump, as well as his journey from working class to Goldman Sachs and the White House.
Listen to Anthony Scaramucci: Room on the Off Ramp

Swati Mylavarapu: Making Politics Accessible

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:22
Pete Buttigieg’s chief investment officer and founder of Incite.org and the Arena, Swati talks to Ken about campaign finance and about diving into politics as a relative outsider.
Listen to Swati Mylavarapu: Making Politics Accessible

Andrew Towne: Modern-Day Adventurer

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:21
Andrew Towne, endurance athlete and principal with the Boston Consulting Group, has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent, including Mount Everest, and rowed the Drake Passage with the Discovery Channel series The Impossible Row.
Listen to Andrew Towne: Modern-Day Adventurer

Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:20.5
In this bonus episode of Burn the Boats, Gen. Stanley McChrystal reflects on his formerly-beloved painting of Robert E. Lee and his perspective on Confederate symbols.
Listen to Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols

More about the name of the show...

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great led Greek troops across the Dardanelles Straits and into Asia Minor, landing on the shores of Persia. He hoped to finally vanquish his greatest enemy, Darius III - the King of Persia. But Alexander was badly outnumbered. The Persian army assembled to attack and Alexander’s troops began to speak openly of retreat. So he gave an order: "Burn the Boats." He told his men, “we either return home in Persian ships, or we die here.” There would be no turning back.

By burning his boats, Alexander hoped to galvanize and motivate his troops. They needed to fully commit to defeating Darius and the Persians. There was no other way - failure was not an option.

This podcast explores decisions our guests made when they fully committed to something because failure was not an option.

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The Team

Ken Harbaugh

The Host
A former US Navy Pilot & past president of Team Rubicon Global; served as a commentator for NPR; a host on Crooked Media; & a contributor to The NY Times & The Atlantic.

Isabel Robertson

A producer, writer, & researcher based in CLE. She has worked on programs like StoryCorps, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, the Intercept. She serves on the ACLU-Ohio Board of Directors.

Sean Rule-Hoffman

Sean hails from Orange Village, Ohio. He earned a degree in Music Technology with a minor in Electronic Media and Film from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

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