John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its national affairs correspondent. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books, and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.
Nichols is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.
Nichols is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. He was featured in Robert Greenwald’s documentary, “Outfoxed,” and in the documentaries Joan Sekler’s “Unprecedented,” Matt Kohn’s “Call It Democracy” and Robert Pappas’s “Orwell Rolls in his Grave.” The keynote speaker at the 2004 Congress of the International Federation of Journalists in Athens, Nichols has been a featured presenter at conventions, conferences and public forums on media issues sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Consumers International, the Future of Music Coalition, the AFL-CIO, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Newspaper Guild [CWA] and dozens of other organizations.
Nichols is the author of The Genius of Impeachment (The New Press); a critically acclaimed analysis of the Florida recount fight of 2000, Jews for Buchanan (The New Press); and a best-selling biography of Vice President Dick Cheney, Dick: The Man Who is President (The New Press), which has recently been published in French and Arabic. He edited Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books), of which historian Howard Zinn said: “At exactly the time when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift–a collection of writings, speeches, poems, and songs from throughout American history–that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country.”
With Robert W. McChesney, Nichols has co-authored the books It’s the Media, Stupid! (Seven Stories), Our Media, Not Theirs (Seven Stories), Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy (The New Press), The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books), Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street (Nation Books), and their latest, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (Nation Books, March 2016). McChesney and Nichols are the co-founders of Free Press, the nation’s media-reform network, which organized the 2003 and 2005 National Conferences on Media Reform.
Of Nichols, author Gore Vidal says: “Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert, John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest.” (Photo by Robin Holland / Bill Moyers Journal)
Press reports on the primary victory of Minnesota Democratic U.S. House candidate Keith Ellison make note of the fact that he is now likely to become the first Muslim elected to Congress. But Ellison is also likely to become one of the most left-leaning members of the next House.
The Ellison victory was one of several for anti-war Democrats seeking open seats. Others came in in New York, where City Council member Yvette Clarke won a fierce fight for a Brooklyn seat once held by Shirley Chisholm, and in Maryland, where John Sarbanes, the son of retiring Senator Paul Sarbanes, led in a crowded House race. In Maryland's highest-profile race, however, former NAACP head Kweisi Mfume, who was outspoken in his opposition to the war, lost to the decidely more cautious Representative Ben Cardin by a 46-38 margin.
In another Maryland race, activist Donna Edwards was in a virtual tie this morning with Representative Al Wynn, with a substantial number of votes still to be counted. During the campaign Edwards billed Wynn "the Joe Lieberman of Maryland" because of the Democratic incumbent's many votes in favor of Bush administration initiatives.
There are plenty of anti-war Democrats running in today's primary elections in states across the country. There are even a few anti-war Republicans -- mostnotably Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee. But few have done a better jobthan John Sarbanes, a frontrunner for an open U.S. House seat representingMaryland's 3rd District, of articulating the position that the oppositionparty should be taking with regard to George Bush's war.
While he asserts that, "It is long overdue for the Bush Administration toprovide Congress and the American people with a concrete plan for bringingour troops home," Sarbanes pulls no punches with regard to his own party.
"The Democratic leadership in Congress must take action immediately â€“ thatmeans today â€“ by petitioning the President to deliver to the appropriatecommittees in Congress within thirty days two proposed disengagement plansfor Iraq: one that would bring our troops home within six months; the otherthat would bring them home within twelve months," says Sarbanes, a lawyerwho is the son of retiring U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes. "In making thisrequest, Democrats should make it clear that they will use all substantiveand procedural leverage available to them to force delivery of the plans,including resisting the President's budget priorities. As long as thePentagon and the Defense Department resist providing concrete scenarios fordisengaging our troops, it is impossible to evaluate the risks and benefitsof any particular course of action. The Bush Administration must get itshead out of the Iraqi sand and offer the American people a meaningful planfor bringing our troops home."
Senator Hillary Clinton's army of political aides, strategists and tacticians has spent an inordinate amount of time in recent months worrying about the Democratic primary challenge that their boss faces from anti-war candidate Jonathan Tasini. The Clintonites maneuvered mightily to keep Tasini out of the spotlight at the state Democratic convention in May. They did the same when the small but influential Working Families Party pondered its endorsement. They discouraged Democrats from supporting the petition drive that eventually got Tasini's name on Tuesday's Democratic primary ballot. And they made it clear that Clinton would not join any debate that included Tasini.
None of this is particularly inappropriate. Incumbents aren't usually inclined to aide their challengers. But the extra effort by the Clinton camp with regard to Tasini, a relatively unknown labor activist who got into the race without much money or many prominent backers, illustrates the extent to which the senator and her high-powered staff fear the main thing that Tasini has going for him: clear opposition to an unpopular war that Clinton has consistently backed.
On the eve of the primary, Clinton's team was still spinning against Tasini, spreading the word among Democrats and pundits that they did not expect--and certainly did not want--to see the challenger win more than a single-digit percentage of the vote.
Primary elections always matter. But some primary elections matter more than others; indeed, some primary elections define the character not just of a particular official's term, or even of a legislative or congressional session, but of the nation's politics for years to come.
Residents of the state of Wisconsin, where my family has resided for seven generations, know this better than the citizens of most states. Sixty years ago this month, Republican primary voters turned out one of the greatest senators in the history of the United States, Robert M. La Follette Jr., and replaced him with one of the lousiest excuses for an elected leader this country has ever produced, Joe McCarthy.
The Wisconsin Republican Senate primary of 1946 set the wheels in motion for the Red Scare of the 1950s, to which McCarthy lent his name and his sordid tactics. It is true that Richard Nixon and others would have ginned up some sort of anti-communist propaganda campaign, but it is doubtful that it would ever have done the damage to civil liberties and public life that McCarthy achieved with his unparalleled lies and cruelty.
When Russ Feingold first argued that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program was in clear violation of federal law and the spirit of the Constitution, and that the Senate must censure the president for his wrongdoing, the maverick senator was condemned by the White House, ridiculed by Republicans and given the cold shoulder by most Democrats.
But, now, the Wisconsin Democrat who in March proposed that the Senate censure Bush for flagrantly disregarding the law has a federal judge on his side. And the question becomes: When will Democratic and Republican members of the Senate join Feingold in demanding that the administration be held to account for its assaults on basic liberties and the rule of law?
Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who expressed concern that the National Security Agency's spying initiative had made it difficult for them to develop and maintain legitimate international contacts and professional relationships, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit determined Thuesday that the warrantless wiretapping scheme is unconstitutional and ordered its immediate halt.
At the beginning of what is shaping up as America's summer of discontent, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" for a discussion about his opposition to the war in Iraq and the prospect that he might seek the presidency in 2008 as the candidate of Democrats who want their party to propose a dramatic departure from Bush administration foreign and domestic policies.
The program's host, Tim Russert, asked Feingold: "When will you decide whether you're running?"
"I'm going to look at this, Tim, after the elections in 2006," replied the maverick senator from Wisconsin. "I need to look at what happens in the congressional races -- how are the ideas I've been presenting resonating with the American people -- and decide whether this is something that makes sense or whether it's better for me to remain in the United States Senate."
George Bush is vacationing in Texas, and members of Congress â€“ with the notable exception of Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Ohio Democratic Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur and a handful of others â€“ have taken the president's exit from Washington as an excuse to put any concerns regarding the crisis in the Middle East on hold until the dog days of August have passed.
Not so in Britain, where members of Parliament take more seriously there responsibility to consider what is being done in their name but without their informed consent.
With British Prime Minister Tony Blair following President Bush's "look-the-other-way" lead regarding Israel's continued bombing of civilian targets in Lebanon â€“ with the death toll now hovering around 1,000, and the dislocation of more than 900,000 men, women and children â€“ in a conflict that has also seen dozens of Israeli civilians killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks, leading members of Blair's own Labour party have joined with opposition legislators to demand the recall of Parliament to consider steps Britain could take to stop the killing.
For whom does the bellwether toll? It tolls for thee, Joe Lieberman â€“ and, more importantly, for the neoconservative vision that you embraced more passionately than other Democrats and most Republicans.
Lieberman, a three-term incumbent whose defenses of the Iraq War and enthusiasm for a fight with Iran made him the Bush administration's favorite Democrat, lost to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont by a solid margin in Tuesday's Connecticut Senate primary.
With most of the votes counted, Lamont was leading by a 52-48 margin, a result that just a few months ago would have been unimaginable.
The last time that Democratic primary voters turned out a nationally-known U.S. Senator because they did not like where he stood on an issue of war and peace was in 1970, when Texas Democrats rejected anti-war incumbent Ralph Yarborough and replaced him with Lloyd Bentsen, a former congressman who favored taking a tougher line against the Vietcong in Vietnam and against student protesters on the campuses of the United States.
The Texas result was big news nationally, and it played a significant part in the decision of the Nixon White House to try and stir up a "silent majority" backlash to congressional liberals in that fall's Senate races.
Thirty-six years later, in a very different state, Democratic primary voters may avenge Yarborough's loss and set in motion a backlash of another character altogether.