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John Nichols

Washington Correspondent

John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He 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) and, most recently, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street (Nation Books). 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)


  • October 29, 2004

    Springsteen’s Political Poetry

    The art of political speechmaking is now so lost to the dark machinations of the spin doctors, pollsters and pundits that most Americans have never heard a live campaign speech of any particular consequence. Perhaps that is why the crowd of 80,000 people who rallied for John Kerry on Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin, fell so completely silent a few minutes into what turned out to be the most poignant and powerful election address of 2004.

    The speaker was not a candidate. Rather, the words that cut through the rhetorical fog were those of a guitar player from New Jersey.

    "As a songwriter, I've written about America for 30 years," explained Bruce Springsteen, after he finished playing the appropriately chosen song, "Promised Land."

    John Nichols

  • Election 2004 October 28, 2004

    Nader’s Flawed Calculus

    From the start of his independent campaign for the presidency early this year, Ralph Nader constantly argued that he would draw as many or more votes from Republican George W.

    John Nichols

  • October 25, 2004

    Political Laughs? Try Fox

    Sorry, Jon Stewart, but Sean Hannity is the king of television comedy.

    Yes, of course, "The Daily Show" is hilarious.

    But the Emmy Award-winning Comedy Central program featuring Stewart's cutting comments on the foibles of campaigners for president and spot-on parodies of network election coverage by his crew of fake news reporters is just too intellectually advanced. If you want to see fall-down funny political humor on cable television, click over to the Fox News Channel and watch Hannity "interview" members of the Republican ticket.

    John Nichols

  • Campaigns and Elections October 22, 2004

    Nader’s Flawed Calculus

    Nader backers support Kerry more than Bush, Nation Institute poll shows.

    John Nichols

  • October 21, 2004

    The Race Right Now

    With 12 days left before the election, millions of Americans have already cast their ballots -- records are being set for early voting and absentee ballots in all of the battleground states and in many non-battleground states. Yet, it is no easier to identify a frontrunner now than it was last spring. Rarely in history has an American presidential contest remained this close for this long, and it is beginning to appear that, like 2000, 2004 may be a year when neither candidate opens up a clear lead at the close of the contest.

    That's got George W. Bush's reelection campaign team running scared, as races that stay close to the end tend to break for the challenger. But John Kerry's camp has had a hard time identifying themes in the post-debate period. For instance, it took the Democrat the better part of a week to figure out that the shortage of flu vaccine is precisely the sort of real-life crisis that illustrates the problems that result when the federal government adopts a hands-off approach to health care concerns.

    The big movement seems to be occurring not in the presidential race but in contests for the Senate, where Republican overconfidence has created unexpected openings for the Democrats.

    John Nichols

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  • October 21, 2004

    Losing it

    In Senate races across the country, Republicans are falling behind.

    John Nichols

  • October 18, 2004

    Orwellian Twist on the Campaign

    "Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind." -- George Orwell

    George Orwell shaped our imagination of a future in which a propagandistic media produced a steady stream of up-is-down, right-is-wrong, war-is-peace lies in order to impose the will of a governing elite upon the subject citizenry.

    Orwell reckoned this ultimate diminution of democracy would come in the year 1984. Imperfect genius that he was, the author missed the mark by twenty years. But, after watching the controversy regarding the Sinclair Broadcast Group's scheme to air the truth-impaired mockumentary Stolen Honor in an attempt to stall the momentum John Kerry's campaign gained from the presidential debates, it becomes evident that the future Orwell imagined is unfolding.

    John Nichols

  • Election 2004 October 14, 2004

    Election Matters

    As he began his seventh campaign swing this year through the battleground state of Wisconsin on a sunny day in late September, George W. Bush loaded a secret weapon onto his bus: Dr.

    John Nichols

  • October 13, 2004

    The Race Right Now

    On the eve of the final presidential debate of the 2004 campaign, everything has changed -- again. And it could all change once more tonight. But here is where the race stands right now:

    READING THE POLLS: The race for the presidency is as close as it has been at any time during this long campaign. Neither Bush nor Kerry has opened a consequential lead in recent days. No matter what survey you look at -- those with Bush in the lead or those with Kerry out front -- the two men are within the margin of error. That's a notable improvement for Kerry, who was clearly behind in a number of national surveys before the first presidential debate. Kerry's trajectory has been an upward one since that initial face-off with Bush. All the polling suggests that the Democrat benefitted not only from his own performance in the first debate but also from public reaction to the vice presidential debate and the second presidential debate.

    Beneath the top line numbers that show Kerry and Bush essentially tied, there are powerful trends at work. They tend generally to favor the Democrat, although he still faces serious challenges heading toward November 2. Kerry's personal and issue-by-issue approval ratings have risen dramatically since the first debate. According to the CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released 10/12, Americans surveyed now say Kerry would do a better job than Bush on virtually every major domestic issue: protecting the environment (29 point advantage), improving access to health care (19 point advantage), preserving Medicare (15 point advantage), eliminating deficits (13 point advantage), preserving Social Security (9 point advantage), aiding education (7 point advantage), shoring up the economy (4 point advantage), maintaining a woman's right to choose (4 point advantage) and promoting stem cell research (20 point advantage). Only on the question of taxes did Bush have an advantage, with those surveyed favoring the president by a 51-44 margin.

    John Nichols

  • October 11, 2004

    Cheney’s Lamest Excuse Yet

    What do you do when the excuses you used to "justify" an unwise and unnecessary war are completely discredited.

    If you're Vice President Dick Cheney, you make up a new one.

    Cheney's favorite excuse, the claim that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had significant ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, was never credible. But the vice president's attempts to peddle the theory became absurd after it was rejected by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States. Cheney kept trying to spin the fantasy for weeks after 9 11 Commission reported that there was no working relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda. But he finally had to acknowledge during last Tuesday night's debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards that he has no evidence to sustain the claim.

    John Nichols