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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

Rethinking the War on Drugs

Can we separate drug problems from prohibition problems? How has the war on drugs changed policing? And what does prohibition cost? Kai Wright, editorial director of Colorlines.com, Maria Hinojosa, co-anchor of "Need to Know," Reihan Salam of National Review and former Baltimore police officer Peter Moskos discuss these questions and more on Saturday's episode of Up with Chris Hayes.  

Erin Schikowski

Liberals Are Winning the Culture War

Last weekend on Up with Chris Hayes, Hayes suggested that the popular narrative surrounding the president’s birth control compromise was wrong. What was missing from the story, he said, “was a simple but rarely articulated truth that liberals aren’t losing the culture war—we’re winning it.” Hayes explains why, citing Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, in this segment. 

Erin Schikowski

How 'Citizens United' Allows the Super-Wealthy to Buy Elections

On Up With Chris Hayes this Saturday, Chris Hayes argued that the FEC’s 2011 filings prove what we always expected to be true: “that the new Super Pacs exist chiefly as an instrument for the extremely wealthy to funnel massive amounts of cash into influencing the outcome of our elections.” In this hour, he also considers consumers’ responses to working conditions at Apple’s supplier factories and a retired NYPD officer’s views on the country’s drug war.

Erin Schikowski

How Sheldon Adelson Made Newt Gingrich

When Sheldon Adelson first donated $5 million to a pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC, he enabled the candidate to compete effectively with Mitt Romney. After learning this week that Adelson’s wife has donated another $5 million, Chris Hayes observed that Newt Gingrich will have a “direct and personal debt” to the billionaire, should he be elected president. In this episode of Up with Chris Hayes, he asks: Who is Sheldon Adelson, anyway?

In the same episode, Nation editor Richard Kim, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Demos’s Heather McGee, Manhattan Institute fellow and National Review Online contributor Josh Barro and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter David Cay Johnson address the ongoing tax policy debate and Mitt Romney’s tax returns.

Erin Schikowski

Why Did the GOP Oust a Respected Healthcare Official?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dr. Don Berwick is an admired pediatrician and Harvard professor, and was recently haled by Health Affairs as “one of the nation’s leading champions of high quality, patient-centered care”—but that didn’t stop forty-two House Republicans from forcing him to resign from his government post, on the grounds that he was “socialist.” In a recent conversation with Nation editor at large Chris Hayes, Dr. Berwick discusses exactly why conservatives were so opposed to him running Medicare and Medicaid. You can watch more interviews on Up With Chris Hayes here.

—Teresa Cotsirilos

Obama, Crypto-Lefty? I Never Thought So

I originally wrote the following to Joan Walsh in response to her recent piece at Salon. But after sending it I realized that by e-mailing her privately, I was conspiring to impose a liberal agenda on a fellow journalist! So, I figured in the spirit of openness I'd just publish it here. I feel like the entire explosion of words devoted to JournoList has a sort of fiddling-while-Rome-burns feel to it, but I guess I'm not going to escape playing a few bars myself.

Hey, Joan:

For the record: I like you, too! And thought your piece on the shame of right-wing journalism was astute and suitably outraged. But I also felt like your characterization of me and my views was sloppy and unfair. If there's a God of Journalism, I'm sure she is looking very unkindly on me even taking the time to write this (the world needs exactly zero more minutes of mental energy expended on JournoList but because I respect you and take your writing seriously, I felt I had to respond.

First, a factual correction: You write "And while I don't think anyone on the JournoList directly took Hayes' or Ackerman's suggestion that they call people who raised the Wright issue 'racist' ..."

That apostrophe at the end of my name creates a claim that I suggested people accuse those who raise the Wright issue of being racist. I didn't. Not in the thread or anywhere else, so far as I can tell. It's not really my style. If I had, I'd be happy to be whacked for it. But I didn't. That sentence is just factually wrong.

I'm not quite sure what in my emails makes me a "combative Obama zealot," nor do I think I engaged in "Obama worship" but, OK, fair enough: I wanted Obama to win, and I wrote as much. If you think my devotion to him was particularly slavish, then there's little I can do to disabuse you of that sentiment. (I'll note that I more or less entirely avoided, in my public writing, food fights with Hillary Clinton supporters, or even going after Clinton.)

What rankles though is your use of the adjective "feverish." You write: "In fact, if you read the story, you'll see that several people are quoted strongly disagreeing with the feverish suggestions of Hayes and Ackerman..." Once again I find myself yoked to Ackerman. He's a friend, and a reporter I greatly admire. But we do actually have different stated opinions. In terms of what I wrote, I'm not quite sure what qualifies as "feverish." My (admittedly purple) riff on the consequences of the American empire? Maybe it was rhetorically indulgent, but every single thing I said was true. We do disappear people. We do torture people. And the combined civilian casualites from the US-led sanction regime combined with the US war is up near a million. The only "suggestion" I made is that people chose to write about things other than Jeremiah Wright. Does that really count as "feverish"?

Finally, there's the part that is mostly just confusing. You contrast my argument for why Wright wasn't important,with the fact that now I'm criticizing Obama from the left! But the two have nothing to do with each other. I've been dragged into an argument you want to make about Obamaphiles blinding themselves to his true nature. I get that: you're saying, "I told you so." But my defense of Wright doesn't have any real ideological valence, or relevance to progressive disappointment with Obama. The issues are orthogonal. To the extent they're related, they actually confound your analysis. The argument that Wright was deserving of so much attention was grounded in the notion that it was revealing of Obama's judgment, perhaps even his politics. Among the right and some supporters of Clinton, Wright was seen as the Rosetta Stone that translated Obama's language of national uplift into its radical original tongue. In other words it was the people focusing on Wright who were making the implicit claim that Obama was really some kind of crypto lefty. Not me. I was making the claim that it just didn't really matter one way or the other.

Now, say what you want about Barack Obama, but in temperament, word and deed he has been in every conceivable way, the opposite of Reverend Wright. My argument was that Wright's views and Obama's relationship to him simply weren't at all predictive of how Obama would govern or fundamentally revealing about the kind of president he would make. That view has been entirely vindicated, right?

-c

 
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A Classic Case of the "Shaggy Defense"

Nation DC Editor Chris Hayes guest-hosts the Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday and reports on the recent BP oil spill which has left those in charge—BP, Transocean and Halliburton—employing the Shaggy Defense. What is the Shaggy defense? In a 2000 hit song, “It Wasn’t Me,” from singer Shaggy, a man finds himself caught red handed in an affair. Yet with each interrogation, he responds with an excuse and a catchy refrain: “It wasn’t me.”

Likewise, the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill has those in charge using the Shaggy Defense non-stop. In a circular blame game, BP pinned the blame on Transocean, Transocean returned the blame to BP. Transocean added that the blame also falls on Halliburton—the company responsible for the cement job on the oil well.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey joins Hayes to discuss his new bill that would ensure that those responsible for the spill will be liable for all damages. Currently, BP’s liability stands at $75 million, which he believes is about $9 billion short. “When commercial fishermen are harmed, when shrimp fishermen are harmed, when seafood processing plants are harmed, when those coastal communities lose tourism and on and on and on, their liability is $75 million,” says Menendez. “That's ridiculous. So, we want to raise that to $10 billion.”

—Clarissa León

United We Stand to Audit the Fed

For Tuesday night’s Rachel Maddow show, guest-host and Nation DC Editor Chris Hayes, reports on “something remarkable” that happened in Washington earlier that day. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 96-0 to add the “Audit the Fed” amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill. As Hayes explains, the Federal Reserve is the bankers’ bank and beginning in 2007 when the economy went into an “apocalyptic death spiral,” identifying how much money the Federal Reserve lent out—and to which banks—met a similar, apocalyptic death. In one instance, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke flat-out refused to say which banks received money.

“The effort to combat that secrecy, and to account for the basic facts of who is getting how much money from the Fed, on what terms, has given rise to the ultimate strange bedfellows political coalition,” explains Hayes. “The Audit the Fed alliance includes lefty bloggers like Jane Hamsher, and the über-conservative right wing anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist…And now, remarkably, the Audit the Fed movement includes all of the 96 Senators who were present today.”

—Clarissa León

ExplainThis.org and The Breakdown

By now you've likely noticed the barrage of banner ads here at TheNation.com for my weekly podcast, The Breakdown. We've been doing it every Friday for two months now, sometimes with co-stars (Marcy Wheeler this week; Ryan Grim of HuffPo last month) and sometimes just me and my extremely dedicated intern Lauren. I started The Breakdown because I wanted to get into podcasting, but also because I thought there was a real hunger for explanatory journalism among Nation readers.

I wanted to put in a plug, then, for our new partner on "The Breakdown," ExplainThis.org. Started by Professor and Media expert Jay Rosen at NYU, ExplainThis.org bills itself as "a user-driven assignment desk for journalists doing explanatory work." Basically, it's a new model of how readers and citizens can get their tough questions answered by experts and journalists. They've been cool enough to create a separate page for The Breakdown. Go to ExplainThis.org/TheBreakdown, ask your politics or policy question, and the wheels start turning: questions are reviewed, sorted and ranked by the community of ExplainThis.org readers; then the most relevant and popular get answered.

What this means for The Breakdown is that there are three ways you can suggest the question I'll tackle each week:

1 - Tweet it, to @chrislhayes, using the hashtag #thebreakdown

2 - Email me, thebreakdown [at] thenation [dot] com

3 - Ask me and a community of dedicated news-hounds and truth-seekers, at ExplainThis.org/TheBreakdown.

I'll shake it up and take different questions from different places each week. But through those three channels, what we're trying to do is get a sense of what you want answers to. A special thanks to Jay and ExplainThis.org, who have put in a lot of work to set up a page where you can ask a question, but also have a real discussion with me and a whole community of site users.

In case you missed it, here's the latest The Breakdown with blogger and journalist Marcy Wheeler, about the torture memo authors, and whether or not they will ever be held accountable:

The Breakdown is posted each Friday at TheNation.com, and you can listen right here or subscribe in Itunes. Bloggers can also embed The Breakdown on their own sites.

Let me know any questions (or topics for this week!) in the comments.

Health Care Moving in the Right Direction

For the first time since the Massachusetts debacle, I'm cautiously optimistic about the fate of health care reform. Here's why: In the wake of Scott Brown's election, what was most dispiriting was the total leadership vacuum and chaotic, every-man-for-himself atmosphere among congressional Democrats. There didn't seem to be any hard consensus on what to do next. Some said: break it up into smaller pieces, radically pare down the bill, go back and find Republican support (ha!) or let the thing die. Every one of these options would actually spell the death of health care reform, and one of the most stunning legislative failures in recent memory. To even consider such a move seemed insane, and yet those of us paid to observe Congress have spent the last two weeks watching, with mouth agape, as congressional Democrats slowly raised a loaded gun to their collective mouths and volubly considered pulling the trigger.

But sanity has, tentatively, provisionally prevailed. After spending much of yesterday talking to folks on capitol hill, it's clear there is increasingly consensus on a path forward: As I explained last night on Rachel Maddow, it involves a few steps, but is relatively straightforward. The House has to come up with a list of changes to the Senate bill that will get them to 218 votes (and will also pass muster with the procedural constraints of "reconciliation". For more on that you can listen to last week's episode of The Breakdown.) They then send those changes to the Senate leadership, which can pass them through reconciliation, a process that requires a simple majority. Once that process has moved forward or (better!) is completed, the House can then pass in quick succession the Senate bill, and the amended fix.

Now that's it, clear reconciliation is the only real option forward, we're suddenly operating in this bizarre alien universe where majority rules. So when I read Ben Nelson this morning expressing his discomfort with reconciliation I took great satisfaction in the fact that his opinion on the matter was more or less meaningless. It was always the razor thin 60 vote majority in the Senate that produced the agonizingly slow process of death by a thousand cuts. But that is, in the world of reconciliation, no longer operative.

In fact, now that reconciliation is on the table, the public option has regained a pulse. After all: it already got 218 votes in the House, remains one of the most popular parts of healthcare reform and once upon a time enjoyed majority support in the Senate. Today, Ryan Grim reported that two House members were circulating a letter to their Senate colleagues telling them to put the public option into the reconciliation package, and the PCCC, DFA and Congressman Alan Grayson delivered 250,000 petition signatures to Harry Reid this morning calling for the same.

This does not mean, by any earthly means, this is a done deal. If ten Senate Democrats get scared and back away from reconciliation the bill is sunk. That would be a massive and stunning rebuke to leadership, so this is a true test of Harry Reid's ability to see this through. So far, there's still been a startling lack of leadership both within the Senate caucus and from the White House. (Ezra Klein has a run-down of the latter here). It will also probably be necessary, for procedural reasons, to get Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad on board. So far he's been non-committal, but hasn't ruled out the idea of reconciliation.

So there are obstacles. And if the last year has taught us anything, it's that the congressional process is exceedingly ugly. So much so, that I think it's largely responsible for the drop in public support for health care reform legislation. At today's petition drop-off Alan Grayson made this point forceful: "I think that this endless discussion about process is cheating the entire country and it needs to stop," he said. "We need to go ahead and deliver to people what they voted on in 2008, which is affordable, universal and accessible healthcare."

But there's a very doable path forward, and there are almost certainly the votes to get it done. It really is a question of political will and pressure at this point. That may not be very comforting given the lack of leadership demonstrated over the last two weeks, but it's something.

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