It is not often that this column pays tribute to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But the man who in 1994 played a pivotal role in putting the Republican Party in control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years -- and in developing the strategies that have kept the GOP in control -- has a sharp political mind. And he used it this week to analyze the unexpectedly strong showing of Democrat Paul Hackett in a special election to fill the southern Ohio U.S. House seat vacated by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.
Hackett won 48.3 percent of the vote in a district where no Democrat had ever gotten more than 28 percent against Portman. In the most Republican House district in the state of Ohio, the Democrat, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, lost by barely 3,000 votes. And he did that after a campaign in which he said the U.S. should not have invaded the Iraq in the first place and condemned the administration's approach to the occupation. Unlike more cautious Democrats, Hackett was unapologetic about calling President Bush an "SOB" whose actions endangered Americans, and about referring to members of the administration as "chickenhawks."
Of course,most Republicans and their media allies were quick to dismiss the significance of Hackett's showing -- despite the fact that it was the best finish for a Democrat in the district since the Watergate election of 1974. The rules of spin these days are such that reality is rarely allowed to intrude on discussions of politics.
Saturday, August 6, marks the fortieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's signing into law of the Voting Rights Act, considered by many to be the most comprehensive civil rights law ever passed. The act provides protection for voters against actions taken by states to limit participation in the electoral process, actions most often targeted toward black, Hispanic, and low-income citizens. The law banned literacy tests and the other barriers that southern states had erected since blacks won the vote in 1870. And in the three years after it passed, more than a million new nonwhite voters cast ballots in southern states.
As The Nation's unsigned editorial said this week, "By tearing down the barriers to equal opportunity at the ballot box, the act removed the essential political mechanisms that maintained segregation and white supremacy." Several key provisions of the act expire in 2007, however, and Rev. Jackson, the NAACP and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are taking the lead in campaigning for their renewal.
NAACP Convention SpeechRev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.July 12, 2005
To Chairman Julian Bond, a legendary force in the last half of the 20th century, whose work, vision and sacrifice, and whose call to conscience lifted a generation - we thank you. Of our generation of activists who survived the bullets and the lynchings, there is no brighter light, no keener mind, than Julian Bond.
To Bruce Gordon who now assumes the awesome responsibility to guide our civil rights mother ship - we share with you in your daunting task. You have the integrity, the intelligence and the strength of reasoning to take us another rung up freedom's ladder. Be assured that the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition stands with you. The entire civil rights community will be served well to rally, close ranks and join with you in partnership.
In an age in which corporate malfeasance abounds, too much of the mainstream media has been unaccountably lax in covering the abuses of big business. Luckily for us--and unluckily for would-be white-collar criminals--one indispensable journal has kept a watchful eye on corporations for the last quarter century.
In 1980, Multinational Monitor was founded by Ralph Nader and a rag-tag band of socially conscious reporters who felt that corporate power was "undergoing a transformation, mutating into something more fundamentally global in scope and profoundly more dangerous." Published nine times a year, the Monitor is not glamorous or immediately recognizable outside of activist and political media circles. But its hard-hitting stories on corporate environmental abuse, health and safety violations, and exploitation of developing nations have long held the feet of executives to the fire.
The Monitor's most widely publicized feature in recent years has been its annual list of the "Top Ten Worst Corporations," compiled by Robert Weissman (who also serves as editor) and Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter. This past year, Coca-Cola, Merck, and--you guessed it--Wal-Mart all made the list, which spread through the blogosphere like wildfire and caused migraines for corporate PR firms.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that Americans would be "greeted as liberators," has in recent weeks been peddling a new line of spin.
If Cheney was not in charge of U.S. foreign policy, he could be dismissed as a ranting lunatic. But, because of his title, and because the former Secretary of Defense is the dominant player in the Bush administration when it comes to military policy, Cheney has to be taken seriously -- as seriously, that is, as his bizarro worldview permits.
Unfortunately, the primary reason to take Cheney seriously is the fact that Americans and Iraqis are dying because of the policies he has promoted. And, of course, because those same policies are emptying the U.S. Treasury into the quagmire that is Iraq.
The Entergy Nuclear company of Jackson, Missippippi, with the blessing
of the Bush Administration, is seeking preliminary approval to add one
or two new nuclear reactors to its existing reactor
Days after Bill Frist, the White House's choice for Senate majority leader, turned his back on religious conservatives to support federal funding for stem cell research, President Bush threw his evangelical base a bone. He came out in support of public school science classes giving equal standing to "intelligent design," the belief that life forms are so complex that their creation can't be explained by Darwinian evolutionary theory alone, but rather points to intentional creation, presumably divine.
Was this sequence of events random? Or the design of a higher intelligence, say The Boy Genius, perhaps? Unless special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald investigates, we'll never know.
But what we do know is that when it comes to intelligence and the designing of it, the Bush Administration is not to be trusted. Its "slam dunk" evidence on Iraqi WMD was a concoction of deliberate lies and false hopes. Its democratic designs on the Middle East are bleeding to death in the sands of the Sunni Triangle. And its theory that we fight the terrorists "over there" so they won't attack us "over here" is small comfort to the victims in Madrid and London.
"Two months ago, the special election race in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches across seven southern Ohio counties, was expected to be a low-key affair, a near-automatic win for whichever republican candidate emerged from the June 14 GOP primary," the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, noted on Tuesday. "After all, the previous congressman, Republican Rob Portman, routinely won the district with more than 70 percent of the vote."
In fact, Portman, who was plucked from the southern-Ohio district by President Bush to serve as the US Trade Representative, won all of his seven campaigns for the seat with more than 72 percent of the vote. The district had been so radically gerrymandered by Republican governors and legislators that it was all-but-unimaginable that a Democrat could ever be competitive there.
But, in Tuesday night, Democrat Paul Hackett almost did just that. Hackett's near-win came after a remarkable campaign in which he blunted Republican efforts to exploit national security issues and provided food for thought for Democrats as they prepare for 2006 Congressional races nationwide.
The conservatives who applauded the President's courage in making a recess appointment are normally strict constructionists, and although Bush is not the first President to abuse the prerogative, it is clear that recess appointments were meant to be be used in cases of unexpected emergencies, not to bypass the confirmation process. Ian Williams reports.
Readers of The Nation online are used to hearing about Wal-Mart. In fact, it tends to be one of those subjects that we can't do enough on. We've been strongly supportive of efforts to pressure the world's wealthiest company to raise wages and alter business practices that are significantly increasing low-wage dead-end, benefit-less jobs. We've organized a public debate, shown on CSPAN and streamed on the web, against The Economist magazine about Wal-Mart. We've even started a regular Nation web feature called Wal-Mart Nation by Liza Featherstone.
So we're very excited about the potential of Robert Greenwald's new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, to pump up the volume on what's wrong with the retail giant and why.
The film looks to be a powerful, emotional and entertaining way to help trigger change in the way the company conducts business in the US and across the globe. The only way the film can have an impact, though, is if lots of people help spread the word. The best way is by hosting your own screening of the movie. Click here if you're interested in learning more about the possibilities of staging an event yourself. (Just pick a day that is likely to be most convenient. You won't be bound to it! Don't worry about the details yet--Greenwald's office will be in touch with you as November draws closer.) And click here to check out the film trailer.
When the United States sought to be a true world leader, as opposed to a petulant global bully, this country's seat at the United Nations was occupied by great men and women. Consider just some of the amazing figures who have served as U.S. ambassadors to the international body: former Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, former civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman Andrew Young, academics and public intellectuals Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jean Kirkpatrick, Madeine Albright and Richard Holbrooke, former State Department aide and New Mexico Congressman Bill Richardson, former Missouri Senator John Danforth.
These ambassdors came from different parties and from different ideological backgrounds, they had different styles and different goals, but they had one thing in common: They served with the broad support of official Washington and the American people. When they spoke, they spoke for America. And they did so in a tradition of U.S. regard for the mission of the UN, which was perhaps best expressed by an American who served for three decades as a key player in the world council, Ralph Bunche. "The United Nations," said Bunche, "is our one great hope for a peaceful and free world."
To make that hope real, U.S. ambassadors had to be both strong and pragmatic advocates for the best interests of their own country and visionaries who recognized that all United Nations member states merited at least a measure of diplomatic regard. As Adlai Stevenson, who capped a brilliant career in American politics by representing his country at the UN during some of the hottest years of the Cold War, explained, "The whole basis of the United Nations is the right of all nations--great or small--to have weight, to have a vote, to be attended to, to be a part of the twentieth century."
Even his supporters acknowledged that former U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox was a controversial nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. A former corporate lawyer who had collected millions of dollars from business interests, wealthy CEOS and some of the country's most prominent stock-market manipulators during eight campaigns for the House, Cox arrived with precisely the wrong resume for the head of an agency that is supposed to regulate the corporate sector and Wall Street. As such, his nomination represented a presidential poke in the eye to workers seeking protection of their pensions, small investors worried about being defrauded and consumers.
Of course, conservative Republicans in the Senate were enthused about Cox's nomination. After all, the California Republican was a key player on the supply-side economic team, someone who had in the House sponsored legislation designed to make it harder for shareholders to sue corporations that engage in scandalous practices. He has, as well, been one of the Congress's most ardent defenders of "creative bookkeeping" by the nation's top corporations -- supporting schemes such as the one that allowed corporations that pay employees with stock options to avoid reporting those payments as expenses against their bottom lines.
But how could responsible Republican, Democratic and independent members of the Senate ever approve an SEC nominee who, when he was a securities lawyer in the 1980s, worked for First Pension Corp., a company that was accused by the government of bilking investors, that was sued by the SEC for fraudulent activity and that saw its founder plead guilty to charges of felony wrongdoing? How could any member of the Senate who was not completely in the pocket of the securities industry vote for a nominee who the watchdog group Public Citizen described as "a defender of corporate interests whose legislative record indicates he would not protect investors if he were confirmed"?
This was supposed to be a Sweet Victory post. That's the weekly feature Sam Graham-Felsen and I started last fall. In those grim days after the election, we believed that one antidote to the political darkness was to shed some light on progressive wins--from legislative and electoral victories to successful organizing efforts, protests and boycotts, to the launching of promising new organizations or initiatives. We hoped these stories would serve not only as a source of information but as inspiration.
We plan to continue tracking these victories. And we hope you Nation readers will continue to send us tips about what you think we should be covering. (Click here to send suggestions.) But I have to confess that it was really tough to come up with a sweet victory in this last week of July 2005.
As a friend from DC wrote me late last night: "So this is the week from hell: the AFL-CIO splits, the DLC unveils Hillary as head of its American Dream new ideas committee (god forbid), to be followed by confirmation of Christopher Cox to head the SEC without a fight, passage of a big oil energy bill with massive giveaways to industry, including Halliburton, passage of CAFTA, with 15 Dems on board. Bush declares triumph; hailed as effective. Country takes it in ear. No wonder breathing the air here in DC is officially bad for your health....And as Congress heads to recess, both parties show what they are. Rs are disciplined and utterly corrupt, willing to hijack democracy for their own agenda, and wrongheaded. And Ds still in disarray, divided with too little fight in them."
A couple of months ago, with the help of terrific song suggestions from Nation readers, I put together a playlist for Dubya's iPod. Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, Green Day's American Idiot, Kid Rock's Pimp of the Nation, and REM's The End of the World, As We Know It, all made the Top Ten. Masters like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Frank Zappa (especially his The Torture Never Stops) were also at the top of many readers' lists.
The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want, made it to the top fifty. Now, it seems, the band may be gunning for the top slot with its new single. Britain's New Musical Express reported last week that the next Stones album, slated for release this September, will include a track critical of the Bush gang's foreign policy. Sweet Neo-Con, according to the weekly, "is believed to be an attack on the politics of George Bush and the Republican Administraton." Virgin Records has been telling people the song has "a political message about moralism in the White House."
Jagger giving Dubya morality lessons. I like it. Sympathy for the Devil.