James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Newt Gingrich’

Labor ‘wobbles’ or we all fall down: Belaboring a point about why unions matter

Posted by James McPherson on September 2, 2012

Labor Day is here, marking the unofficial end of summer–a time for every little rich kid to stop wearing white while poor kids risk getting maimed in factories. And if junior should happen to lose a limb or an eye while on the job, then mom and dad can spend some of their 60-hour work week trying to figure out how to pay the hospital bill, since their jobs provides no insurance.

What, that’s not how you think of Labor Day? You probably think I’m just exaggerating, perhaps to take another shot at the mean visions for America produced by folks lik Mitt RomneyPaul Ryan and Newt Gingrich. But no, I think that this weekend is the ideal time to remind us all of what we owe laborers in this country, particularly those laborers who fought to make things better for all workers–and therefore for all of us.

Remember when having a few Americans–say, more than 3,200 in a single year–die in mines was no big deal? Or when a person could be fired–or shot or lynched–for protesting dismal work conditions? You probably don’t remember it, but if some people (mostly Republicans) had their way we could go back there. There is no doubt that companies are doing better than their employees.

Admittedly, unions have been prone as other human endeavors to corruption, and some union members show a selfish, short-sighted streak when it comes to their neighbors–a regrettable attitude because it’s a view that (when held by others) weakens the influence of labor and the earning power of workers. The most notable example I’ve come across recently was a Wisconsin union worker (whom I won’t name) who offered a troubling combination of views within a space of moments.

“I can explain as best I can all of the horrible things that have happened to me in my work life, and everybody’s like, ‘Well, then find a new job,’ but it’s not that simple. And somebody still has to do the job one way or the other,” said the worker, who, according to the piece, “got really fired up in the fight to defend his union.”

“”I’ve never been involved in politics until what happened in 2011 was thrown in my lap, and I realized how much I’ve been affected by it,” he was quoted as saying–before then going on to complain about Obamacare:

“I don’t think that we should have a national health care plan [in which] everybody is put in the same category,” he says. “I feel like I joined the Department of Corrections, and I continue to work for the Department of Corrections because I have excellent health benefits. … So if health benefits are important to you, I feel like you should be able to go out and find a job where you can get excellent health benefits.”

Hmm. Really? When it comes to finding that a job with “excellent health benefits,” especially with ongoing Republican efforts to weaken unions, it seems as though someone might suggest “It’s not that simple.” And when it comes to those other less “excellent” jobs, it seems as though some wise person might point out, “Somebody still has to do the job one way or the other.” Right? Sigh.

By the way, if you’re too young to understand the pun in the headline above or don’t remember your labor history–or if you just want to see cool video of an old toy commercial–you can go here. And happy Labor Day, to all who work and all who wish they could in these difficult times. Below are a few of my favorite reminders of how far we have come, starting with the incomparable Paul Robeson singing the labor ballad “Joe Hill”–also sung by a trio in my church today (as my pastor, who preached about the value of work and workers, wore a long-sleeved T-shirt that had been given to her by the local sheet metal workers’ union), and which I’ve also heard performed in person by Utah Phillips.

P.S.: Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of Labor Day.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

Cain for GOP? Nein, nein, nein

Posted by James McPherson on December 2, 2011

First, let me say that I don’t particularly care whether Herman Cain cheated on his wife. I might care, for her sake, but since she seems to be a “Cain en-able-er” (go ahead, say it out loud and groan), I’m certainly not going to lose sleep over what goes on in their 43-year marriage. Apparently something works.

The same generally goes for serial adulterers Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. If they can govern, that’s mostly what I care about. Still, when Republicans keep preaching about family values, it seems a bit more hypocritical (and perhaps more politically relevant because of that hypocrisy) when the cheater is a Republican such as those three, Mark Foley, Arnold Schwarzenegger,  Larry Craig, Mark Sanford and John Ensign, rather than a Democrat such as Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Anthony Wiener or Eliot Spitzer.

I grant you that all of the guys named above with the possible exception of Cain are sleazeballs that I don’t want to hang out with. But if I thought one of them could get the country on track, he’d get my vote. And the fact is, Cain would be a lousy president. Most conservatives would agree, if they actually know anything about him. Cain just happened to fill the “anybody but Mitt” slot that Gingrich now occupies, probably also temporarily because he’s also a loser, for the GOP faithful.

I would remind the Cain supporters not to be too hasty in their arguments that Cain is being maligned. Usually the women who make these kinds of claims are ridiculed and disbelieved at first–and usually they turn out to be telling the truth. But one of those Cain supporters made me laugh out loud today.

Floyd Brown, the creator of the infamous “Willie Horton” ad used against Michael Dukakis posted on his own blog a piece titled–and I promise, I’m not making this up–“Video: Herman Cain, Man of Character, Destroyed By An Evil Media.” In his post, Brown unbelievably writes the following: “I consider the attacks on Cain to be the most reprehensible series of unjustified media allegations I have seen in my 50 years of life.” Really, Floyd? Remember, you’re the guy who takes pride in introducing most of us to Willie Horton through the ad that–in case you need a reminder–you can find at the bottom of this post.

Brown also states that “the relentless assault planned by the Obama White House … is abhorrent.” Now that’s just goofy, and Brown–or any regular watcher of “The West Wing” or “The Good Wife”–should know it. If Democrats were behind this, don’t you think they’d wait to unleash it until after Cain had the nomination? If the supposed “attacks” are political in nature, my guess on who is behind it would be Gingrich–the guy who is supposedly staying above it all.

And while I thought Brown’s showing of support was funny, I found another to be simply sad. A new website, titled “Women for Herman Cain,” includes words of support from women around the country professing their belief in Cain. Most include photos of themselves, many of the self-shot variety that too many girls and young women commonly post on Facebook. But many of these women aren’t young, and shouldn’t be naive. And because I find them mostly pitiful, I won’t include their names below.

“Dear Mr. Cain, I am a 66 year old female architect in the State of Texas, and want to simply say… as a REAL woman I do not believe for one second any of these ‘women’ that have crawled out from under a rock somewhere to defame you and bring pain to you and your family. They are pitiful creatures at the very least, and evil at the most. Isn’t it convenient that they have suddenly become offended by supposed advances by you now after all these years, my goodness, poor babies, how have they been able to bare up under the pain for all these oh so many years… LIARS, LIARS, LIARS…”

Even as we wonder about the ironic misspelling of bear/bare, one wonders how this “real woman” knows that others are liars. Here’s another, with the original spelling and grammar intact:

” Hello, Herman Cain, you need to focus about this America” and don’t even listen to all this women ,that they don’t have nothing good to say about you… they they are money hungry… and women like this, Don’t care or don’t have no “SHAME to go on TV…to use lies, for money…somebody has been paying this women. They make me sick to my stomach…..they need to start digging a hole on the ground n till they rich china”

And another, from a woman who apparently missed the fact that Cain blames unemployment on the jobless: “”Mr. Cain, I support you very much. I am currently unemployed. I haven’t been able to find a full time job since I graduated college in 2009. … I do not believe a single one of the ‘women’ who have accused you.” What is it about Cain’s female followers and their use of quotation marks while disparaging possible “women” victims?

One writes to Cain’s wife, who is heading up the website: “Mrs. Cain, I’m so very sorry for the pain you’ve had to suffer at the hands of these seriously troubled women and those behind them. Such an elegant lady as you should never have to deal with such scum.”

I agree that Gloria Cain shouldn’t have to deal with scum. But apparently she chooses to do so. And I do wonder how often her husband checks out the photos on her new website, looking for new women to “help.” God knows that some there seem to need it.

Next-day follow-up: Cain admits that his campaign is toast, as he is “suspending” his campaign. He’s make an endorsement soon, as he continues his run for vice president–I’m betting it’s for Gingrich, since the two men obviously have much in common.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Election Day: A boost to Obama’s 2012 campaign

Posted by James McPherson on November 2, 2010

So how many House seats with the Democrats lose today? A record is unlikely, thanks to modern gerrymandering by both parties. The Democrats lost a record 116 House seats in 1894, exactly 20 years after the GOP lost 96.

This election is likely to be closer to the 53 the Democrats lost in 1994, the 56 they lost in 1946, or the 57 Republicans lost in 1910. And while dramatic, it’s hardly likely to be earth-shattering (despite the claims you’ll hear tonight on the cable news networks).

Keep in mind that the GOP must pick up a net of 77 seats to have the SAME 255 seats that Democrats now hold. And even if Republicans were to win EVERY Senate seat that’s open they’d have a smaller majority there than Dems do now.

In fact, the Democrats aren’t likely to lose even enough to cost them the Senate majority. I predict they’ll end up with 51 seats, perhaps one or two more if Sharron Angle and/or Joe Miller manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (though we may not know the final outcome in Alaska for a couple of weeks or more).

We’ll likely have a GOP-controlled House that can’t do much because there will be a Democratic Senate (which also won’t be able to do much) and a Democratic president who will be able to campaign against a “do-nothing Congress” in his re-election bid, as Harry Truman did in 1948. We’ll have two years of gridlock, or the parties will figure out how to work together.

Either may help Barack Obama two years from now, especially if Sarah Palin runs for president and John Boehner turns out to be the kind of House leader I expect: Think Newt Gingrich with less charisma. Come to think of it, the GOP gave us that not long ago.

Also keep in mind that a lot can happen in the next two years, as I was reminded when I came across this poll last week. Two years before Obama was elected president, 37 percent of people had “never heard of him.” In a disgusting example of American ignorance, 30 percent now say the same about Boehner.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

25 Democrats & 30 Republicans who should ‘go away’

Posted by James McPherson on December 6, 2008

Blogger Ben Cohen apparently got such an overwhelming response (with lots of hate mail) to a column titled “10 Republicans Who Should Go Away,” he has now offered a Democratic version.

The Democrats: Joe Lieberman, Mark Penn, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Matthews, John Dingell, Robert Rubin, Steny Hoyer and Joe Lieberman (yes, Cohen hates Lieberman so much he put him on the list twice).

The Republicans: William Kristol, Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Dick Morris, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, Alan Greenspan, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and George Bush.

I would have rearranged the lists and bit and made a few changes, but having used this blog to criticize everyone on Cohen’s GOP list and almost everyone on the Democratic list (though often just through association, with such terms as “gutless Democratic Congress” (here, here, here and here), I can’t disagree much with Cohen’s rankings.

I might have put Lieberman on both lists, and can easily expand the Republican list to 30. Besides Lieberman, my list (alphabetically) might include Glenn Beck, Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, James Dobson, Matt Drudge, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Miller, Rupert Murdoch, Darragh Murphy, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Pat Robertson, Karl Rove, Michael Savage and George Will.

The Democratic side is a little tougher for me to expand, perhaps in part because of personal bias but mostly because Dems haven’t had much power for quite a while. Still, even after eliminating the second mention of Lieberman, I can boost it to 25 by adding Bill Clinton, James Carville, John Edwards, Geraldine Ferraro, Al Franken, Christopher Hitchens, Jesse Jackson, Joe Klein,  Scott McClellan, Keith Olbermann, Ed Rendell, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton, Jerry Springer and Jeremiah Wright.

Cohen explains his reasons for each of his 19 nominees, though I won’t bother–other than to say the folks I’ve listed are among those who in my view have offered the least during the past year or so compared to the amount of visibility they’ve received. Obviously not all of those listed are formally affilitiated with the parties I’ve placed them with–but they might as well be.

Of course your picks might be different and others might be considered, including “Joe the Plumber,” “Obama girl,” and various filmmakers, political hacks, bloggers, and TV talking heads. And thankfully, many of those listed above are likely to disappear from public view in the near future, and from memory soon after.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »