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Nation in the News

Nation in the News

TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.

Rod Blagojevich, 'Bumbling Crook,' Gets Off With Only One Conviction

After 14 days of deliberation, a jury of 6 men and 6 women found Rod Blagojevich guilty Tuesday night on only one count out of the 24 counts brought against the former governor. Blagojevich was found guilty of lying to federal agents and the judge has declared a mistrial in the other 23 charges. Prosecutors say they will retry Blagojevich for the more serious charges, including the charge that he tried to sell President Obama’s old Senate seat for a new job or campaign money.

While guest hosting The Rachel Maddow Show, Nation Washington editor, Chris Hayes, says “This is a shocking conclusion for a case that everybody seemed to believe, back in the day, was cut and dry,” Hayes says. “Everybody just knew he was guilty.” Blagojevich never took the stand in his own defense because “he was the person most roundly convicted in court of public opinion before his trial since O.J. Simpson," Hayes says. He wasn’t just presumed guilty, “he was a laughing stock, a symbol of everything that is wrong in American politics.”

Andy Shaw, executive director of the Better Government Association (and Hayes’s father-in-law) explains that there was a disconnect in this trial, which accounts for its result. “There was no smoking gun,” Shaw says. “He did not make the final calls for the quid pro quo. None of his transgressions actually resulted in a favorable outcome…He was essentially a bumbling crook.”

-Melanie Breault

America Plagued by Periodic Paranoia

Our country has a strong pattern of losing its mind over relatively silly things, says Nation Washington Editor Chris Hayes. Take, for instance, the most pressing issue of national importance at the moment -- the proposed construction of a mosque near the Ground Zero site in downtown New York City. Hayes, who is guest-hosting The Rachel Maddow Show this week, compared the climate of this controversy to a period in 2003 during which a national campaign was made to change the name of french fries to freedom fries.

"I want everyone watching this program to take a deep breath and really think what this is going to look like four years from now, or five years from now, or twenty years from now," Hayes says. "Which side of this debate will come out looking good when history renders its judgement? You don't want to be on the side of freedom fries." His Nation colleague Melissa Harris-Lacewell joined Hayes on the show to discuss the building of the mosque, emphasizing the controversy as an opportunity for America to prove itself as a defender of free speech and free worship. "As Americans, the thing that makes America unique and interesting and such a great project in history is that we meet vulnerability not with this kind of terrorized anxiety, but instead by actually opening ourselves up," she says.

--Carrie Battan

End of the Tea Party?

Multiple Tea Party candidates—even after receiving endorsements from Sarah Palin—have lost in primaries this week, leaving many to wonder whether or not the fringe party has a future in American politics. The Nation's Ari Melber joins Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty to discuss how this year's elections might play out for the Tea Party on MSNBC. 

Langer and Melber agree that the Tea Party is still a force to be reckoned with. "Folks are as fired up as ever," Langer said. In response to rumors that the Democratic Party is actually looking to support Tea Partiers in order to help weaken the right, Melber warned that meddling inside the opposition party is tricky business. "I think people would be making a profound mistake to cherry-pick a few races where [Tea Party] challengers aren't winning," he says. "I think the Tea Party remains very powerful."

—Carrie Battan

The Right's New Media Scare Tactics

“Scaring white people for fun and profit is not only politically expedient, it’s also increasingly easy to do," says Rachel Maddow on her show. Tea Party Nation created a new online forum where they are asking tea partiers to post stories about undocumented immigrants. In an email sent to supporters, they say: “If [sic] have been the victim of a crime by an illegal, or if your business has gone under because your competition uses illegals, or if you have lost your job to illegals, we want to know about it… We need to get the true story out about illegal immigration and we need your help to do it.” Also, if anyone sees undocumented immigrants acting out, like burning an American flag or hanging a Mexican flag above an American one, they also would like photos. “Acts of decency by people without papers are disqualified from this forum,” Maddow says. The right has used fear and loathing to political ends for a long time, Maddow says, the difference being that "now it’s user generated.”

Nation columnist Melissa Harris-Lacewell joins Maddow to tell her why there seems to have been a switch between the left and the right over who is using new media to their political advantage. In the 2008 campaign, Obama for America (OFA) figured out the most appropriate ways to use and develop new media, which ended up changing American elections. The question then became whether the Democratic party could take the lessons of the campaign and turn them into legislative and electoral power. But as Harris-Lacewell explains, “The Democratic Party has not been able to take on the capacity that the OFA had in 2008, but is certainly going to need to in order to be responsive."

—Melanie Breault

Is the Tea Party Falling Apart?

The idea that the Tea Party is an accurate representation of Americans' political views was put to the test in this week's primaries—and it turns out that it's a false notion. More moderate Republicans won out over the Tea Party faction of the right in Kansas, Missouri and Michigan. The Nation's Melissa Harris-Lacewell joins Keith Olbermann on Countdown to discuss what these losses signify for the future of the Tea Party in America. 

The Tea Party, she says, is part of a traditional extremist backlash that occurs before a political party moves back to the center. "When a party loses the White House, what it tends to do in the midterm is to pull to the extreme. We've seen it happen over and over again," Harris-Lacewell explains. "But then what it finds out is... most people's opinions are kind of towards the middle, with just a few people, often very vocal people, out on the edges. But if you want to win an election, you've got to get a majority of the people, which always means moving into the center of that normal curve." 

—Carrie Battan

Obama's Plan for Iraq Is the Petraeus-Bush Iraq Plan

In a speech before the Disabled American Veterans national convention in Atlanta on Monday, President Obama said: "By the end of this month, we have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office.… Because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence continues to be the lowest it's been in years.… Next month, we will change our military mission from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces." But as Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman points out, figures show that July was the deadliest month in Iraq in over a year with over 500 people killed.

As a guest on today's Democracy Now!, The Nation's Jeremy Scahill says Obama is "implementing the policy that was on the desk of George W. Bush when he left the White House." Obama says that we are "changing from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats," but as Scahill asserts, "that doesn’t just mean that there’s going to be negotiations by pencil pushers.” Last month, Hillary Clinton submitted a request to the Pentagon to “beef up” the State Department’s military contractor force. “When you take out all these combat troops, we want to have a replacement for that capacity," says Scahill. He goes on to say that Clinton, who as a candidate said she would ban Blackwater and other mercenary firms, is now responsible for increased reliance on these companies and private soldiers in Iraq. "You can say that officially combat has ended," he says. "But in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning."

—Melanie Breault

The Nation Makes the Case for Independent Journalism in New TV Ad

The Nation has made a splash before with provocative and sharp television ads on cable television nationally. The magazine is now going up with its newest ad—about the challenges facing independent journalism, and suggesting The Nation as a smart way to "counter the toxic nonsense on the right."

Our new ad is below; what do you think? Did we make our case, or could we have done better. Let us know in the comments, and please share this ad on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere if you'd like an easy way to support the magazine and independent journalism at large. 

Bernie Sanders: Rally the People

To bolster our flailing economy and ease the huge unemployment rate, President Obama talks about "coming together across party lines" and investing in small business. But Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tells Laura Flanders that it's not that simple—and even when it comes to supporting small businesses, cross-party progress can be difficult to achieve.

"The role of the Republican party in the Senate has been obstructionist and filibustering from the beginning," Sanders tells Laura Flanders on GritTV, citing the tax breaks that the right has endorsed for the richest in America. Sanders, who published a piece called "No To Oligarchy" in the Nation last week, suggests something called the Responsible Estate Tax Act, legislation that would ensure that the majority of families—save the top .03 wealthiest percentile in America—wouldn't have to pay a dime upon losing a loved one. "What we are fighting for now," Sanders says, "is to stop the decline of the middle class, the increase in poverty and the incredible gap between the very, very rich and everybody else."

—Carrie Battan

Big Oil's Next Stop: The Arctic

“While the technology exists to drill at 5,000 feet, we have absolutely no clue what to do or how to do it when something goes wrong," says Nation Washington editor and Rachel Maddow Show guest host Christopher Hayes. "We have learned that a mile below the sea is a very difficult and dangerous place to drill for oil, but we must still meet our energy needs, right?" How about shallow water drilling? If something goes wrong there, we know how to handle it and cap the spill. Except for Tuesday's incident where a barge crashed into an abandoned oil well off the southern coast of Louisiana, which the US Coast Guard estimates will take ten to twelve days to stop. “There’s got to be a less environmentally disastrous way to meet our energy needs.”

There's always hydraulic fracturing—or "fracking"—which involves pumping highly-pressurized water, sand and some mysterious mixture of chemicals into the ground to force natural gas to the surface. "But ya know what’s also in the ground?" asks Hayes. "Water… water we drink." Michael Klare, professor, author and Nation defense correspondent, says "We’ve been extracting oil and natural gas and coal for a very long time," so most of our easy-to-reach oil fields have been depleted. All that's left is drilling deep off shore in places like the environmentally fragile Arctic region. "Any kind of oil spill there would have devastating consequences for wildlife," warns Klare.

—Melanie Breault

Baseball Fans Rally Against Arizona Immigration Law

In New York, a rally is planned tonight outside Citi Field in Queens where baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks will play the New York Mets. Demonstrations have already taken place outside ball parks in cities across the country, demanding that baseball owners move the 2011 All Star Game out of Arizona. The owners will have to make their decision carefully considering that 30 percent of its players are Latinos. Nation sports editor and Bad Sports author Dave Zirin tells Democracy Now! that this is "not exactly news you’re gonna hear on SportsCenter." These demonstrations are so important because "what they’ve allowed people to do is nationalize the issue and have it not be just an Arizona issue.”

Ken Kendrick, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, holds fundraisers for Arizona's SB 1070 legislation supporting politicians in the owner's box of what is a publicly-funded stadium in Arizona. “This is political money laundering and it happens in our cities around the country," says Zirin. "We are underwriting right wing politicians and right wing politics through sports." A couple players from the Diamondbacks have come out and spoken against SB 1070, only to be shut down very quickly by team management and Major League Baseball itself. Within hours of the law being passed, 18 baseball players came out against the Arizona Law, but now they're being pressured to keep their opinions to themselves.

—Melanie Breault

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