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Marc Cooper

Contributing Editor

Marc Cooper, a Nation contributing editor, is an associate professor of professional practice and director of Annenberg Digital News at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Cooper’s career in journalism began in 1966, when he founded and edited an underground newspaper in high school in Los Angeles. After being expelled from the California State University system for his antiwar activities in 1971 by order of Governor Ronald Reagan, he signed on to work in the press office of Chilean President Salvador Allende. The 1973 military coup found Cooper working as Allende’s translator for publication, and he left Chile as a UN-protected refugee eight days after the bloody takeover.

Since then Cooper has traveled the world covering politics and culture for myriad press outlets. He reported on the Yom Kippur War, Lebanon, South Africa, Central and South America, Eastern and Western Europe and domestic American politics for dozens of publications ranging from Playboy and Rolling Stone to the Sunday magazines of the Los Angeles Times and The Times of London.

Cooper was news and public affairs director of KPFK-FM (Los Angeles) from 1980-83 and has been a correspondent for NBC, CBC and Monitor Radio. For television, he has been a reporter and a producer of news documentaries for CBS News, The Christian Science Monitor and PBS Frontline.

Cooper’s journalism awards include prizes from The Society of Professional Journalists and PEN America, and several from the California Associated Press TV and Radio Association.

An anthology of Cooper’s work, Roll Over Che Guevara: Travels of a Radical Reporter, was published by Verso in 1994. He was also a contributor to the collection Literary Las Vegas, published in 1995 by Holt.

Returning to the system from which he was expelled, Cooper has also taught in the journalism departments at the Northridge and Los Angeles campuses of California State University.

His Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir (Verso), is now available in paperback.

  • Political Figures May 18, 2006

    The Race to Replace Arnold: Running on Empty

    The limp grassroots response to Democratic gubernatorial candidates reveals that the plummeting popularity of one party doesn't automatically translate into support for the other.

    Marc Cooper

  • Immigration Policy March 16, 2006

    Showdown on Immigration

    After twenty years of inaction, the US Senate is considering sweeping immigration reform. But a push for quick action and the November elections may thwart the current bipartisan consensus.

    Marc Cooper

  • March 2, 2006

    Guess Who Was Advising the Emirates?

    Guess who just bobbed to the surface smack dab in the middle of the Dubai ports deal? Why, none other than Slick Willie. That's right, we now learn that Big Bill Clinton was on the phone a couple of weeks ago offering the monarchs of Dubai some free advice on how to slip their ports management deal by a rather skeptical, if not dumbfounded, American public.

    Clinton was offering his sage counsel in private at the time that his wife, in public, was denouncing the deal. American politics hasn't seen such a cynical duo since the advent of the Carville-Matalin spectacle.

    The former president's paid flacks are now trying give this all an innocuous spin: "President Clinton is the former president of the US and as such receives many calls from world leaders and leading figures every week," said his official spokesman. And, we're further told, Clinton was a good Boy Scout and earnestly advised the Emirs to submit to any and all reviews that might be asked of them. (There's no report he was biting his lip or crossing his fingers behind his back as he chatted up our royal buddies).

    Marc Cooper

  • February 27, 2006

    My Dinner With Ashcroft

    I spent this past weekend bunkered in with 350 movement conservatives and some of their favorite pols and strategists – from John Ashcroft to Tom Tancredo to Jim Woolsey --and let me tell you, even many of these folks are openly worried about Republican chances in the Fall.

    The Phoenix gathering was the latest edition of David Horowitz's Restoration Weekend, a traditional gathering of the right-wing tribes. And no, I didn't go native. I was merely a panelist on the future of the Democratic Party along with Matt Bai of The New York Times and Democratic consultants Flavia Colgan and Pat Caddell. You can see my personal blog for the Ashcroft jokes.

    But here's the serious part: there's a lot of fear and trembling going on among Republicans. A rich sampler from this weekend's panel discussions:

    Marc Cooper

  • February 24, 2006

    L.A. Labor Thrown Into Crisis

    The country's most dynamic and progressive union coalition – The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor--finds itself in a world of pain this week, just a few months out from a looming hotel workers' showdown.

    Earlier this week, the charismatic County Fed leader Martin Ludlow – a close ally of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--was forced to resign under the cloud of a criminal investigation. Ludlow reportedly took a plea deal to avoid jail by stepping down after a multi-agency probe turned up evidence that he violated campaign laws when he accepted undisclosed union phone banking support during his 2003 election to the City Council.

    This is the second shock to the 800,000 member County Fed in less than a year. Last May, its highly successful leader, Miguel Contreras, died of a sudden heart attack. Contreras had forged the Fed into a political powerhouse whose endorsement was readily sought by aspiring candidates. Contreras, however, had thrown the Fed's support to then-incumbent Mayor James Hahn against challenger Villaraigosa. It was a decision that had deeply split labor ranks; Villaraigosa, a former union organizer, had been considered labor's best friend and seemed the natural favorite for the Fed.

    Marc Cooper

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  • February 22, 2006

    California Death Penalty Melt-Down

    It's getting rather macabre up in San Quentin's death chamber. For two nights in a row convicted killer Michael Morales was scheduled to die by lethal injection. Two times he didn't.

    His Monday night date with death was postponed at the last moment when two anesthesiologists walked out, stating ethical concerns. They could not in good conscience, they said, carry out their task of monitoring the execution because they didn't trust the integrity of the lethal dosage system. They feared that Morales might not die quickly and painlessly and that it would fall upon them to re-awaken the prisoner and prepare him for a second jolt.

    After Monday night's snafu, Morales was re-scheduled to be killed late Tuesday night. California state officials then proposed he be executed with a massive dose of just sodium pentathol, a drug that causes death in 30 to 45 minutes instead of the usual 11 minutes it takes when a three-chemical load is used.

    Marc Cooper

  • February 21, 2006

    Cheney Again

    Jane Mayer's got a whopping-good piece in the latest New Yorker detailing the frustrated crusade of one Alberto J. Mora to stop the institutionalization of torture by Bush administration officials.

    No cappuccino-sippin' liberal, Mora – the son of Hungarian and Cuban refugees-- was the Navy's chief legal advisor. He's also an honest and humane patriot who was disgusted and alarmed – long before anyone heard of Abu Grhraib -- by the way the U.S. military was treating its prisoners.

    Much to his credit, and elevating him far above the moral gnomes who generally populate the upper echelons of the administration, Mora drew no distinction between plain cruel and sadistic treatment of prisoners and outright torture. On this subject, he wasn't willing to split hairs (or for that matter to break shinbones, smash jaws or cause organ failure).

    Marc Cooper

  • February 20, 2006

    California Going Indie?

    "California voters are shedding their identification with the two major political parties so rapidly that if current trends continue, independent voters could outnumber Democrats and Republicans in the Golden State by 2025."

    That's a pretty bold statement coming from David Lesher and Mark Baldassare writing in this past Sunday's L.A. Times.

    Whether or not they're over-stating a trend, these two guys are definitely onto something here. The drift away from partisan party-identified politics can go a long way to explain what some think the inscrutable quirkiness of Kahllyfornia voters (as a certain Governor would say).

    Marc Cooper

  • February 8, 2006

    To Bash Or Not To Bash?

    Los Angeles-based Gay Republican activist and blogger Scott Schmidt worries that his party –-in the run-up to the November elections-- is about to take a suicidal turn toward immigrant bashing. He remembers the Republican electoral disaster that ensued after then-Governor Pete Wilson tried to ride a xenophobic wave: Wilson got re-elected but the state GOP as much as imploded under a Latino backlash.

    Currently, the national GOP seems split over what to do about immigration. President Bush and the more corporate wing of the party who have endorsed at least some tepid immigration liberalization, are under attack from their restrictionist right flank. While some analysts believe the Republicans are more interested in winning over the growing Latino vote than they are in pandering to xenophobes, Schmidt fears the opposite. He points to the virulent public comments made by L.A. GOP Chairwoman Linda Boyd to last week's State of the Union response offered in Spanish by Angeleno Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Schmidt writes:

    Chairman Boyd's "scorecard" on Villaraigosa's record blamed illegal immigrants for the City's failing healthcare system, astronomical high school drop-out rate and prison overcrowding. As a member of Boyd's Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, I blushed in embarrassment when she compared Villaraigosa to the dictators Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.

    Marc Cooper

  • February 6, 2006

    Arnie’s Favorite Double Dipper

    To some California conservatives, she's no less than Satan. To Governor Schwarzenegger, she's his Chief of Staff and his favorite Democrat. To some reformers, she's the embodiment of a double dippin' conflict of interest.

    Susan Kennedy is also a former top aide to Arnold's predecessor Gray Davis, a former director of the state's National Abortion Rights Action League and she's a high-profile lesbian who invited scads of pols to her 1999 commitment ceremony.

    Whatever one thinks of Schwarzenegger, putting Kennedy in charge of his staff and now sending her out in public as his most aggressive campaigner for re-election has thrown everyone off-kilter. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, there will be a move at this month's state GOP convention by Republicans who despise Kennedy to withhold endorsement of Schwarzenegger. It's an unlikely bet but still sure to be messy.

    Marc Cooper