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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)

  • November 5, 2002

    ELECTION 2002: Mark Twain for Congress

    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.

    John Nichols

  • November 3, 2002

    ELECTION 2002: Challenging “the corporate state”

    In a state that prides itself on letting corporations off easy – especially local firms such as the DuPont chemical conglomerate – 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 – 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.

    John Nichols

  • November 1, 2002

    ELECTION 2002: Making war an issue

    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.

    John Nichols

  • October 30, 2002

    Mourning Wellstone, Preparing for Nov. 5

    MINNEAPOLIS -- "We pay tribute to a leader -- a true DFL liberal..." shouted US Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, invoking the initials and the ideological tradition of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party to honor his fallen colleague, Senator Paul Wellstone.

    The Iowan's battle yell drew the loudest cheers of a night filled with tears, laughter and passionate reflection on the legacy of the Minnesota senator Harkin described as "the soul of the Senate." The crowd of more than 20,000 that packed a University of Minnesota arena and an adjoining sports center rose in a foot-stomping, fist-pumping frenzy as Harkin continued: "That's right! A DFL liberal who constantly reminded those of us who are Democrats of the real center of gravity in our party -- the progressive grounding of our being: that everyone should be able to reach their whole potential in our society," Harkin bellowed as the crowd stood and cheered."

    The official memorial service for Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and campaign aides Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy -- who perished Friday in a plane crash on Minnesota's Iron Range -- was more a rally than a funeral. Busloads of Wellstone partisans from across the state poured into Minneapolis to share the memory of the man many of them had marched with, rallied with and campaigned with across two decades of struggle against conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

    John Nichols

  • October 29, 2002

    Bob Dylan, Dick Cheney and Paul Wellstone

    Most Americans had no idea where Eveleth, Minnesota, was until they saw the maps showing where Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife and daughter, three staffers and two pilots perished in a plane crash Friday.

    Not so Bob Dylan.

    A native of Hibbing, a city just 30 miles from Eveleth, the songwriter grew up as Robert Zimmerman on the northern Minnesota Iron Range where Wellstone was a populist hero to the Steelworkers and other trade unionists who continue to dominate the region's politics.

    John Nichols

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  • October 27, 2002

    Sheila Wellstone’s Senate Career

    When initial reports of Senator Paul Wellstone's death reached Minnesota's Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party leaders and activists immediately asked: "What about Sheila?"

    The question was grounded in a mixture of human concern and political calculation. The human concern could be traced back to the fact that Sheila Ison Wellstone, the senator's wife of 39 years, seemed to maintain a personal friendship with everyone who had ever stuffed an envelope or walked a precinct for the DFL. The political calculation was an extension of that fact: People who knew Sheila and Paul Wellstone were well aware that Sheila was the Minnesota Democrat best suited to win the November 5 election and fill the senate seat left empty by her husband's death.

    "You could talk to one and know you were talking to both," explained Sarah Stoesz, a former member of Wellstone's Senate staff who now serves as chief executive officer for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota. "They were fully coupled and united in a way that is very unusual in Washington."

    John Nichols

  • Political Figures October 25, 2002

    Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002

    For grassroots economic and social justice activists, there was never any doubt about the identity of their representative in Washington.

    John Nichols

  • Congress October 24, 2002

    Rewarding Dissent

    Democrat Paul Wellstone, the only vulnerable incumbent senator to vote against blank-check authorization to use force against Iraq, is locked in one of the year's closest Senate contests.

    John Nichols

  • Congress October 24, 2002

    The Fight for the Senate

    The man behind the "Jeffords Jump" is aiding Democratic efforts to stay on top.

    John Nichols

  • October 24, 2002

    Money Flows Into Anti-Wellstone Campaign

    US Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, is the Democrat the Bush administration loves to hate. White House political director Karl Rove personally selected Wellstone's Republican challenger in the November 5 election, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, and Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush have visited Minnesota again and again on Coleman's behalf.

    But Minnesotans have not taken to the high-level pressure. Bush made a swing through the state last week on Coleman's behalf, but it was Wellstone whose poll numbers went up. Actually, Wellstone's numbers have been rising ever since he voted against the president's request for blank-check authorization to launch a war with Iraq. After months of too-close-to-call poll numbers, the headline of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday announced, "Wellstone edges into lead in U.S. Senate race." The Star-Tribune's latest poll found the two-term liberal Democratic senator to be ahead by a 47-41 margin among likely voters.

    But that doesn't mean Wellstone is sure to beat Bush, er, Coleman.After the poll results were released, a shadowy Virginia group that campaign finance analysts have linked to the Bush family and George W. Bush's 2000 campaign -- as well as to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the Republican Party -- made a record-breaking $1 million purchase of television and radio advertising time to attack Wellstone.

    John Nichols