In today’s presidential campaign, America seems all tractor pulls, county fairs, town halls and truck stops. Candidates scramble for photo ops in plaid, stump in wheat fields and scarf down corn dogs. Yet more than 80 percent of Americans live in cities. By stressing rural voters so strongly, presidential candidates risk ignoring the bread-and-butter issues that matter most to most Americans–housing, transportation, infrastructure and crime. The candidates should, of course, have an urban agenda. But what should it be?

A new collaborative video project between The Nation and the

Drum Major Institute

asks the people who know our cities best: America’s mayors. In ten punchy interviews, the mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Rochester and Salt Lake City offer their prescriptions for a reinvigorated urban agenda.

The contrast between the mayors’ priorities and the presidential candidates’ rhetoric couldn’t be more stark. “In presidential elections, the media and pollsters focus on issues like war, abortion, gay rights, things that, quite frankly, for those of us in the trenches, aren’t the hot-button issues,” says Miami Mayor

Manny Diaz

. “People want to know that their kids will get a good education, that their neighborhoods will be safe and clean…. It’s difficult for me to understand how presidential candidates don’t see that. Those are the issues that affect Americans each and every day. We [mayors] are dealing with them, and [candidates] should also be dealing with them.”

Watch Diaz and the others at www.MayorTV.com for insights into urban issues, presidential politics and the elections.


Many Republicans have a hard time calling torture “torture,” but it seems the news desks of major papers have an equally hard time using the T-word, even when it comes to coverage of the CIA’s destruction of what everyone else (including their editorialists) calls the “torture tapes.” In nine New York Times articles since December 6, “torture” appears just thirteen times, while “interrogations” appears eighty-four times. Likewise, in four articles the Washington Post printed “torture” sixteen times but used “interrogations” in forty instances.

“Interrogations,” and other euphemisms like “methods” and “tactics,” were sometimes modified as “harsh,” “severe,” “controversial” or “aggressive.” All uses of “torture” in both papers were attributed to critics of the Administration’s “tactics” or used in the context of Administration denials, as in “We do not torture”–a line these papers seem all too willing to swallow.