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)
Twelve years ago, Harris Wofford made healthcare an issue. Promising to fight for coverage for all, Wofford scored a surprise victory in a Pennsylvania Senate race--inspiring speculation that a President named Bush could be beaten in 1992. Wofford handed the issue to Bill Clinton, who won the election but lost the war by proposing a plan that offered more in the way of bureaucracy than a clean break with the existing for-profit system. Since the Clinton crackup, Democrats have struggled to reassert the healthcare issue. While the 2004 campaign has yet to experience a "Wofford moment," Dr. Norman Daniels of the Harvard School of Public Health says rising numbers of uninsured and underinsured should move healthcare to the fore as an issue. "The question," he says, "is whether the new crop of candidates will address it effectively."
Enter Representative Jim McDermott, a physician and the new president of Americans for Democratic Action, who has taken it on himself to sort through candidate proposals (www.adaction.org). As McDermott sees it, the plans of Howard Dean, John Edwards, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt "are all quite similar--they each combine modest expansions of public sector programs such as Medicaid and [children's health programs] with private sector initiatives to encourage employers to provide health insurance for their employees." While under each of these plans the government becomes an even greater purchaser of healthcare, McDermott says that "because most of the new expenditures are through the fragmented private insurance market, the government will continue to waste its considerable market power." He's still reviewing Lieberman's plan, which looks to resemble the others.
In contrast, McDermott notes, Representative Dennis Kucinich offers a single-payer national healthcare plan based on a bill by Representative John Conyers, of which McDermott is a co-sponsor. While he sees value in incremental reforms, McDermott says, "I continue to believe that a national health care plan, with a government-guaranteed revenue stream for providers, would be most effective in providing universal coverage and controlling costs while guaranteeing high quality care." A separate study of the candidate proposals, done by The Commonwealth Fund (www.cmwf.org), says Kucinich's plan would cover all Americans, while those of Lieberman, Dean, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards would leave 9 million to 19 million uninsured. Single-payer backers Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun have not offered details; Gen. Wesley Clark has yet to make his views clear.
While McDermott's analysis will please Kucinich backers, his candidate choice won't. The Congressman just endorsed Dean. Two reasons, he says. First, "as governor of Vermont, Dean implemented reforms. He got people covered. One of the problems the Clintons had is that they were starting without ever having done it. For them, it was theoretical. Experience helps you avoid big mistakes." Second, "Electability. Dean isn't my perfect candidate, but I think he can beat Bush. Beating Bush is the first step toward healthcare reform."
Vice President Dick Cheney has a special interest in this week's Congressional debate on the Bush administration's request for $87 billion to maintain the occupation of Iraq and other military adventures abroad. If approved by the House and Senate in its current form, the proposal would allocate roughly $20 billion to reconstruct Iraq, with most of the rest of the money going to cover the costs of the occupation.
Approval of the $87 billion package would be good news for Cheney, who it is now evident, retains ties to his former employer, the energy and construction conglomerate Halliburton. Halliburton is, of course, a prime benecificary of military and reconstruction expenditures in Iraq.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has already awarded Halliburton's engineering and construction arm, Kellogg, Brown & Root, a no-bid contract to restore Iraq's oil industry. Halliburton parlayed an initial $37.5 million contract to put out oil-field fires into a range of responsibilities that has already run up roughly $1 billion in costs. "War is hell, but it has turned into financial heaven for Halliburton," said Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, who with Representative Henry Waxman, D-California, has led the charge to expose details of Halliburton's dealings in Iraq. "This sweetheart, no-bid contract given to Halliburton spikes up by hundreds of millions of dollars each week. It's outrageous."
Edward Said closed one of his last published essays with the lines: "We are in for many more years of turmoil and misery in the Middle East, where one of the main problems is, to put it as plainly as possible, U.S. power. What the U.S. refuses to see clearly it can hardly hope to remedy."
Said's frustration was obvious, but so too was the determination of the man Salman Rushdie once said "reads the world as closely as he reads books." No one worked harder and longer than Said to awaken Americans to the damage their government's policies had done to the prospects for peace and justice in the Middle East. It cannot be said that he succeeded in that mission, but nor can it be said that he failed. If successive presidents refused to listen to Said's wise counsel, millions of citizens were influenced directly and indirectly by his speeches, writing and tireless advocacy. To the extent that there has been a broadening of sympathy for the cause of Palestine and Palestinians in the United States in recent years -- especially among younger Americans -- it can be traced in no small measure to the work of the world-renowned scholar, author, critic and activist who has died Thursday at age 67 after a long battle with leukemia.
Born in 1935 in British-ruled Palestine, and raised in Egypt, Said came to the United States as a student. He would eventually become a professor at Columbia University and the author of internationally acclaimed books on literature, music, culture and imperialism. His groundbreaking 1978 book, Orientalism, forced open a long-delayed and still unfinished debate about Western perceptions of Islam.
Forget about the economy. Forget about the environment. Forget about the mess that he has made of US relations with the rest of the world. The issue that is on George W. Bush's mind is more basic: Does a leader end up paying a political price if voters think he lied his country into an unwise and unnecessary war in Iraq?
For the answer to that question, the president and his aides might want to look to Britain, where Bush's closest comrade-in-arms before, during and since the Iraq invasion, Prime Minister Tony Blair, just took a political body blow.
In a multi-ethnic, working-class section of London that has for decades been a political stronghold for Blair's Labour Party, voters used a special election to fill a vacant seat in the Parliament to send the prime minister a message that has shaken the British political establishment. It is a message that ought to be heard, as well, in the United States.
When the World Trade Organization's fifth ministerial conference in Cancun collapsed Sunday without reaching agreement on how to launch new free-trade initiatives, American activist Gretchen Gordon declared, "This is a major victory for the social movements of the world, and a reality the Bush administration can't ignore if it continues to pursue the same failed policies in other regional trade agreements."
Gordon, the director of the Washington-based Citizens Trade Campaign, was right to turn the attention to Bush. The collapse of the WTO's Cancun summit represents a serious blow for the president. How serious a blow remains to be seen -- with much of the impact to be determined by the willingness of Bush's Democratic challengers to make an issue of trade policy in the 2004 election campaign. But there is no question that the administration's free-trade policies and politics took a hit in Cancun. Gordon and her allies are hoping the blow could prove sufficient to weaken the president's secretive effort to negotiate a Fast Track agreement for a Free Trade Area of the Americas that would create a hemispheric corporate free-trade zone stretching from Argentina to Alaska.
The optimism and enthusiasm displayed by Gordon was echoed by her allies in the labor, farm and human rights organizations that worked around-the-clock in recent weeks to prevent the WTO from writing trade policies that would help global corporations to further dominate the economic, social and political life of the planet.