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)
When the Clinton-Gore administration attempted to reform the nation's approach to financing health care in 1993 and 1994, the one proposal that administration aides always rejected was a single-payer health care system. Even when more Democratic members of the House endorsed a single-payer plan sponsored by US Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, than any other proposal, the administration rejected attempts to cut costs and guarantee quality service for all with a fully government-funded system.
When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he maintained his opposition to single-payer proposals. Such was Gore's opposition to investing in fundamental health care reforms that he went so far as to criticize costs associated with a plan, advanced by his Democratic primary challenger, Bill Bradley, to take modest steps toward universal coverage.
Now, however, as Gore edges toward another presidential campaign, he is singing a different tune. Wednesday night in New York, as he began a national book tour that many see as an attempt to raise his profile in advance of the 2004 contest, Gore announced that he had "reluctantly come to the conclusion" that the only way to respond to what he described as an "impending crisis" in health care is a "single-payer national health insurance plan" for all Americans.
"From the standpoint of commitments, this race is over," House Whip Nancy Pelosi said Friday, as the California Democrat announced that a majority of her colleagues had committed to support her candidacy to replace House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri.
Gephardt revealed Thursday that he would step down from the minority leader position, after Democrats lost their fourth consecutive attempt to retake control of the House in elections two days earlier. That announcement set in place a fast-paced campaign to replace the veteran leader, with a vote by the caucus set for next Thursday.
Initially, it was expected that Pelosi, who argues that Democrats must be more aggressive in challenging the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans, would face House Democratic Caucus chair Martin Frost, D-Texas. But Frost blew up his candidacy with a Thursday press conference in which he attacked Pelosi and seemed to suggest that he wanted to temper the party's message in a way that raised genuine concern among House Democrats. "It sounded like Martin was saying we wanted to make the Democratic message even fuzzier," said one senior Democrat. "After we just finished a campaign where we suffered terribly because we were so unfocused, everyone agrees that we have to sharpen the message, not weaken it."
The collapse of Richard Gephardt's leadership of the House Democratic Caucus did not occur on November 5, when the party lost seats in an election where history and economic trends suggested that it should have gained them. That result was simply a confirmation of the crisis that had been evident for more than a year. From the first days of George W. Bush's selected-not-elected presidency, it was clear that Gephardt was unprepared to serve as the leader of Congressional opposition to a Republican president. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he simply stopped trying. That doomed Democratic chances of taking over the House in 2002, as Gephardt failed to define an opposition agenda and took positions out of sync with his own caucus.
That was never more evident than on October 10 when, after Gephardt helped craft the resolution authorizing Bush to launch a unilateral attack on Iraq, the majority of House Democrats voted against the plan. In surprising result, 126 House Democrats opposed it with only 81 joining their leader Gephardt in supporting it.
Among the Democrats who opposed the resolution was House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who won the caucus' Number 2 leadership position last year. Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, argued -- as did Senate Intelligence Committee chair Bob Graham, D-Florida -- that the Bush administration had failed to make a case for its position. "I have seen no evidence or intelligence that suggests that Iraq indeed poses an imminent threat to our nation," she said, in one of the most powerful indictments of the resolution. "If the Administration has that information, they have not shared it with the Congress."
Conservative Republicans will take charge of the US Senate as a result of Tuesday's voting. But the nation's newest senator, at least for the time being, is not singing from the right-wing songbook on questions of war and peace.
The man chosen to temporarily occupy Paul Wellstone's seat in the Senate says that he will echo the late Minnesota senator's opposition to the Bush administration's approach to war with Iraq.
Dean Barkley, the nation's newest senator, was sworn in as Minnesota's interim senator after Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura appointed him to hold the seat that has been vacant since Wellstone died in a plane crash October 25. Barkley will not be a senator for long.
Mark Twain was no fan of war, which he described as "a wanton waste of projectiles," and he nurtured a healthy disdain for anyone who suggested that patriotism was best displayed through enthusiastic support for military adventures abroad. The phrase "our country, right or wrong" was, he argued, "an insult to the nation."
But Twain's deepest disgust was reserved for politicians who played on fear and uncertainty to promote the interests of what would come to be called the military-industrial complex. Describing how Americans were frequently goaded into war by their leaders, Twain recalled: "Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
Twain, a longtime leader of the old Anti-Imperialist League, uttered those words a century ago. But for opponents of George W. Bush's election year efforts to justify war with Iraq, they ring truer than most of what has been said by Republican or Democratic candidates in Tuesday's congressional contests.
In a state that prides itself on letting corporations off easy â€“ especially local firms such as the DuPont chemical conglomerate â€“ candidates for the position of Delaware Attorney General do not typically talk about throwing corporate criminals in jail. But Vivian Houghton is not a typical candidate for the top law enforcement job in Delaware â€“ or, for that matter, most states.
A politically savvy lawyer with a long track record of high-profile involvement in Delaware debates on issues of concern to organized labor, women and minorities, Houghton has shaken up the contest for Attorney General this year by mounting a sophisticated Green Party campaign that pulls no punches. "If a worker commits a felony, she or he is jailed. Yet the state routinely makes companies, whose environmental violations contribute to Delaware's high cancer rate, pay token fines," says Houghton, who is running against Republican incumbent Attorney General M. Jane Brady and former U.S. Attorney Carl Schnee, a Democrat, in the most hotly contested statewide race on Tuesday's Delaware ballot. "As Attorney General," Houghton promises, "I will possess the toughness to cancel a company's corporate charter if the company either commits a gross violation of its charter or repeatedly violates state regulations."
It is rare to hear talk of pulling corporate charters coming from politicians in Delaware, a state that maintains deliberately weak regulations and enforcement practices in order to encourage corporations and banking institutions to incorporate there. (For instance, Enron chartered 685 subsidiaries in Delaware.) It is rarer still to hear talk about corporations contributing to high cancer rates in a state where the DuPont chemical conglomerate retains immense business and political power.
This is how one homestate newspaper editorial described the U.S. Senate candidate: "...he suffers from multiple sclerosis, which makes it difficult for him to walk long distances. Nonetheless, he maintains a cheerful, laid-back demeanor -- the prototypical 'happy warrior.'" The same editorial discussed how the candidate represented "the kind of progressive politics that appeal to a broad spectrum" of voters, noting that, "He has consistently championed green issues such as salmon (protection), renewable energy and a ban on offshore oil drilling. He's pro-choice. He supports assisted suicide. He opposed the Iraq resolution and backs the Patients' Bill of Rights. He is a staunch defender of gay and lesbian rights. He has the blessing of local labor."
The newspaper is not located in Minnesota and the "happy warrior" candidate with a touch of MS and a penchant for progressive politics is not the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone.
Rather, the editorial in question is an endorsement of Oregon U.S. Senate candidate Bill Bradbury, which appeared in Portland's popular Willamette Week newspaper two days before Wellstone died in a Minnesota plane crash. As in Wellstone's first Senate race, a 1990 challenge to Minnesota Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Bradbury is not being given much chance to upset Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith. Yet, just as Wellstone did in 1990, Bradbury is using a combination of edgy progressive politics, grassroots organizing and good humor to get his challenge on the radar.