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John Nichols

National Affairs Correspondent

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) 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)


  • February 26, 2003

    Exit Phil Donahue

    The day before MSNBC announced that it was pulling the plug on Phil Donahue's nightly show, the man who pretty much invented talk TV was interviewing actress and author Rosie O'Donnell. But this was not the standard celebrity interview. Rather, Donahue led O'Donnell through a serious discussion of her feelings about whether the U.S. should go to war with Iraq. "Well, I think like every mother, every mother that I've spoken to, every day when I go to pick up my kids from school, every person I've spoken to has said they're against this war, for basic reasons," said O'Donnell. "I don't want to kill innocent mothers and children and fathers in another country when there are alternate mean available, at least at this point." And when Donahue asked why anyone should take what celebrities say about war seriously, O'Donnell came back, "Nobody wants to interview the mother of the two kids in my daughter's class who feels the same way. I stand with 36 women every day outside the elementary school. And if any newscaster wanted to speak to any member of the PTA across America, I have a feeling they would say the same thing I'm saying. I'm not speaking as a celebrity. I'm speaking as a mother and I'm speaking for the mothers who don‘t have the option of an hour on the Phil Donahue show."

    As of Friday, no one will have the option of an hour on the Phil Donahue show. The show has been cancelled, and with it will be lost one of the few consistent forums for progressive voices on cable television. Just this month, Donahue's guest list has included U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Institute for Policy Studies foreign policy analyst Phyllis Bennis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Global Exchange director and "Code Pink" anti-war activist Medea Benjamin. And it is a pretty good bet that, now that Donahue is going off the air, we will not soon see another show like the one where he featured Ralph Nader and Molly Ivins in front of a crowd of laid-off Enron employees. And we certainly are not likely to see such a show on MSNBC, which appears to be veering hard to the right in its programming -- adding former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Florida, as regular contributors, and conservative talk radio personality Michael "Savage Nation" Savage as a regular host. MSNBC will temporarily replace Donahue starting next week with "Countdown: Iraq," hosted by Lester Holt. Talk about adding insult to injury. Getting cancelled is bad enough; getting cancelled to make way for a program devoted to anticipating an unnecessary war is just plain awful.

    Media analyst Rick Ellis, who writes for the excellent www.allyourtv.com website, makes a strong case that Donahue is being elbowed off the air at this point -- when his ratings have actually been ticking upward -- precisely because it appears that a war is coming. According to Ellis, Donahue's "fate was sealed a number of weeks ago after NBC News executives received the results of a study commissioned to provide guidance on the future of the news channel." According to Ellis, the study suggested "that Donahue presented a ‘difficult public face for NBC in a time of war" and expressed that, in a time of war, Donahue's show might become "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

    John Nichols

  • February 26, 2003

    Echoing Wellstone on War, Activism

    When hundreds of labor, academic and community activists gathered in a City University of New York's graduate school auditorium this week to honor the memory of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, the speaker list was itself a tribute to the late Minnesota senator and his partner in marriage and politics. Author Barbara Ehrenreich, scholar Frances Fox Piven, Institute for Policy Studies director John Cavanagh, Wellstone campaign manager Jeff Blodgett and veteran labor leader Bob Muehlenkamp called on the memory of the Wellstones to energize the struggles for econnomic and social justice, and peace, that lost two of their greatest champions when the couple died in a plane crash last fall.

    But the standout address of the night came from the member of Congress who may well be the truest heir to the Wellstone mantle. US Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, drew cheer after cheer for a speech that echoed the hope, courage, passion and political timeliness that characterized the career of the unabashedly progressive senator who died less than two weeks before Minnesota voters were expected to reelect him last fall.

    "Paul Wellstone taught us that a politics of conviction is a winning politics," said Schakowsky, who like Wellstone was a grassroots organizer long before she ever thought of running for public office.

    John Nichols

  • Election 2004 February 20, 2003

    Kucinich’s Antiwar Bid

    Three days after he sued the President to force a Congressional vote on whether to attack Iraq, and one day after hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators in New York cheered his call to

    John Nichols

  • February 14, 2003

    ‘The Whole World Is Against This War’

    "The whole world is against this war. Only one person wants it," declared South African teenager Bilqees Gamieldien as she joined a Cape Town antiwar demonstration on a weekend when it did indeed seem that the whole world was dissenting from George W. Bush's push for war with Iraq.

    Millions of protesters marched into the streets of cities from Tokyo to Tel Aviv to Toronto and Bush's homestate of Texas to deliver a message expressed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to a crowd of more than one million in London: "It's not too late to stop this war."

    Crowd estimates for demonstrations of the kind being seen this weekend are always a source of controversy, especially when nervous politicians -- like British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- try to convince journalists and the public to dismiss the significance of the protests even before they begin. But, faced with a historic show of dissent, even the constantly spinning Blair had to acknowledge that the cost for his unwavering support of the Bush administration on Iraq is turning out to be "unpopular" in his own land.

    John Nichols

  • Criminal Justice February 13, 2003

    Filibustering on Estrada

    Few of George W. Bush's judicial nominees have generated as much opposition as has Miguel Estrada.

    John Nichols

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  • February 12, 2003

    Dems Move to Block Estrada

    Setting up what could be the boldest challenge yet to the Bush administration's drive to pack the nation's courts with conservative judicial activists, Senate Democrats have signaled that they will mount a filibuster to block a Senate vote on the nomination of Bush favorite Miguel Estrada to serve on the powerful U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

    The administration and Republican operatives in Washington and around the country have waged a fierce campaign to win Senate approval for Estrada, a former solicitor general who is a favorite of movement conservatives and is widely viewed as a likely contender for a future nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. As recently as Tuesday, as the Senate entered the third day of deliberation on the nomination, the White House issued a statement from Bush demanding a quick "up or down vote on the Senate floor." When he learned of the decision by Democrats to filibuster, Bush grumbled about how "a handful of Democrats in the Senate are playing politics with his nomination, and it's shameful politics."

    But it is not just "a handful of Democrats." Senate Democratic leaders say that more than 40 members will join efforts to block a vote. The delay, Democrats say, will extend at least until the White House releases information regarding Estrada's legal views. That information was repeatedly requested by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to the panel's 10-9 vote in late January to recommend approval of Estrada. The committee vote split along party lines, and was one of the first indicators that the new Republican leadership of the committee and the Senate would seek to force votes on even the most controversial judicial nominees.

    John Nichols

  • February 10, 2003

    Aussies Aboard? Not Exactly

    In the White House's latest attempt to suggest that the United States has garnered significant international support for an at´tack on Iraq, President Bush met Monday with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Like British Prime Minister Tony Blair, How´ard pledged unquestioning support for the US administration's position -- even as the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and other more skeptical lands continued their efforts to avert war.

    Howard dutifully echoed Bush's recent "the-game-is-over" rhetoric: "For something serious to happen to turn around the direc´tion of this whole thing, there would have to be a total change of attitude by Iraq," the Australian declared. "It's not good enough to give a little bit. This has happened before. We're not going to play that game again."

    White House stenographers, er, reporters scribbled notes on Howard's comments and proclaimed Australia to be fully in the US camp -- just like Estonia and Albania. What they failed to note is that Howard is not speaking for a united Australia. Like most of the countries that have announced official support for the US position on Iraq, Australia is deeply divided.

    John Nichols

  • February 7, 2003

    Dubious Dossier

    Speaking to the United Nations on Wednesday, in an address that was broadly portrayed as a case for war with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell argued that, "Iraq today is actively using its considerable intelligence capabilities to hide its illicit activities." To support that claim, Powell said, "I would call my colleagues attention to the fine paper that United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities."

    It turns out, however, that much of that "fine paper" – a dossier distributed by the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair under the title, "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation" – was not a fresh accounting of information based on new "intelligence" about Iraqi attempts to thwart UN weapons inspections. Rather, the document has been exposed by Britain's ITN television network as a cut-and-paste collection of previously published academic articles, some of which were based on dated material.

    Substantial portions of the report that Powell used to support his critique of Iraq were lifted from an article written by a postgraduate student who works not in Baghdad but in Monterey, California, and who based much of his research on materials left in Kuwait more than a dozen years ago by Iraqi security services.

    John Nichols

  • Media February 6, 2003

    Media Democracy’s Moment

    Suddenly, there are serious discussions about the danger of monopoly power.

    John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney

  • Media February 6, 2003

    As Not Seen on TV

    The debate over the dangers of media monopoly got a lot less theoretical in the last week of January, when Comcast, the nation's No.

    John Nichols