John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, writes about politics for The Nation 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 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 Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, forthcoming from Nation Books this fall, as well as The Genius of Impeachment (New Press); a critically acclaimed analysis of the Florida recount fight of 2000, Jews for Buchanan (New Press); and a best-selling biography of former vice president Dick Cheney, Dick: The Man Who is President (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), Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street (Nation Books), and their latest, People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy (Nation Books, March 2016). McChesney and Nichols are the co-founders of Free Press, a 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)
The Senate agreed on Thursday to increase the federal debt limit by $850 billion -- from $8.965 trillion to $9.815 trillion -- and then proceeded to approve a stop-gap spending bill that gives the Bush White House at least $9 billion in new funding for its war in Iraq.
Additionally, the administration has been given emergency authority to tap further into a $70 billion "bridge fund" to provide new infusions of money for the occupation while the Congress works on appropriations bills for the Department of Defense and other agencies.
Translation: Under the guise of a stop-gap spending bill that is simply supposed to keep the government running until a long-delayed appropriations process is completed -- probably in November -- the Congress has just approved a massive increase in war funding.
One of the thornier issues in American politics is rarely, if ever, discussed at the level of presidential contention.
In many states across the country -- including the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire -- there is genuine disdain for the federal government policy that requires states to set the minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol at 21.
By threatening to withhold highway funds, the feds have forced states that historically have set the drinking age at 18 -- respecting the fact that if a young man or woman can be trusted to defend the nation as a member of the military, can be held responsible for his or her debts and can marry and have children, that individual should be trusted to buy a beer and drink it responsibly.
President Bush has made it clear that he does not read newspapers. And there is little reason to believe that the chief executive spends much time viewing serious news programs before his twilight bedtime.
So it is a bit surprising that he has kept up with the controversy surrounding the MoveOn.org advertisement in the New York Times that urged General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, to put aside administration talking points and speak blunt and necessary truths when he briefed Congress last week.
It is even more surprising that the commander-in-chief would in an official setting take the extraordinary step of attacking the advertisement and the group that placed it.
The United States Senate celebrated this week's 220th anniversary of the Constitution by failing to endorse the restoration of the habeas corpus protections that legal scholar Albert Venn Dicey once described as being "worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty."
Of all the insults to the nation's founding principles that have been recorded in this era of undeclared wars, unwarranted spying and unlimited executive excess, none is more galling than this one.
That a single senator, having sworn an oath to defend the Constitution, would vote against the renewal of habeas corpus protections ought to be a shock to the system.
President Bush's nominee to succeed the most lamentable Attorney General of the United States since Warren Harding's scandal-plagued accomplice, Harry M. Daugherty, is undoubtedly capable of doing a better job than Alberto Gonzales.
But, with all due respect to the president's pick, retired Federal Judge Michael Mukasey, a randomly-selected recent law school graduate -- provided that the degree is not from an institution affiliated with Pat Robertson's legally-embarrassed "Preeminent Christian University" -- would make a better Attorney General than Gonzales. Similarly, a randomly-selected second-year law student would have been a better choice than Bush's preferred replacement for Gonzales, former Solicitor General Ted Olson, whose role in the Bush-v-Gore manipulation of the Florida presidential election recount of 2000 marks him as an even more dangerous partisan than the exiting AG.
There is real danger in settling for a nominee who looks good by comparison with Gonzales or Olson. While pressure from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee forced Bush to select a more mainstream nominee than he would have liked, Mukasey's record calls for intense scrutiny by the committee and the full Senate.
When the White House floated the name of former Solicitor General Ted Olson as the president's preferred replacement for scandal-plagued Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it was a poke in the eye to responsible members the Senate Judiciary Committee who were pressing for a nominee capable of rebuilding the Justice Department Gonzales had effectively destroyed.
Olson might have been an abler lawyer than the outgoing Attorney General. But the man who led the scheming to get the Supreme Court to prevent an honest recount of Florida presidential votes in 2000 is, if anything, more fiercely partisan and ideologically driven than Gonzales.
With the Justice Department in crisis as a result of instability caused by the politically-motivated firings of key U.S. attorneys, resignations of top-level managers, an exodus of career lawyers and revelations about crude political meddling with the mission of the civil rights division, the idea of putting a committed ideologue like Olson in charge was not merely offensive but frightening to Democratic and Republican senators who take seriously their oversight role.
Two-hundred and twenty years ago this week, the patriots who had stuck through the long process of drafting a Constitution for the new United States finally approved the document. The primary purpose of their creation was, in the language of their time, to "chain the dogs of war."
The American colonies has suffered the cruel fates of wars plotted and pursued by the royal families of distant Europe, and they set about to assure that the nation they had freed from the grip of British imperialism would not, itself, be subjected to the imperial whims of presidents who might someday imagine themselves to be kings.
"The executive should be able to repel and not to commence war," explained Roger Sherman, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Connecticut, who moved to make clear the intent of the founders that nothing in their exposition of the powers of the executive branch should be conceived as authorizing the president to "make war." An executive could assume the mantle of commander-in-chief only when it was necessary to defend the country; never to wage kingly wars of whim.