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 ‘Oprah Winfrey’

If you knew Suze, like Oprah knows Suze… maybe you’d be richer

Posted by James McPherson on April 7, 2009

“Suze Orman decides what couples can afford,” reads a headline on the front page of the CNN Web site. The headline links to an Oprah.com story(headlined after the click, “Suze decides what you can afford).” As for Oprah.com, the lead story under “hot topics” is “Suze Orman’s Recession Rescue Plan.”

Suddenly with the economy in the toilet, Orman has become as omnipresent as two other women with O’s in their names–Michelle Obama (live or otherwise) being the third. Regular PBS viewers already knew Orman as perhaps the only openly lesbian financial expert in the country (relevant only because not long ago her sexual orientation would have kept her off of conservative airwaves, but may actually enhance her credibility with some of the PBS audience), but she seems now to be on everywhere.

She has her own show on CNBC, the generally conservative business network that goes along with MSNBC’s political liberalism to make a balanced peacock. (Rather than schizophrenia, I guess we should view it like the old golf joke in which a drive into the left rough followed by a shot into the right rough equals statistical perfection.) Orman also is an editor for Oprah’s magazine, and writes regularly for the Costco magazine.

Aside from the fact that the most powerful and perhaps richest woman in America (Oprah, not Michelle, though Barack wouldn’t be in the White House without both of them) is now giving us poorer folks economic advice herself, why should we now trust Oprah’s endorsement of Orman? I admit that I’ve distrusted Oprah since she foisted Dr. Phil on the American consciousness, but still, who is Orman that we apparently should trust to tell us what to do with our money, anyway?

Well, you can read her story here, and she did largely luck into a good education and a job and career in business. But she also has worked tough jobs, such as spending six years as a waitress (one of the tougher and more honorable jobs in America), so she may remember what it’s like not to have money. Considering that she has written a bunch of bestselling books telling us what to do with our money, perhaps the problem was that the right people just didn’t listen to her early enough.

Besides, consider the fact that the vast majority of people who have been guiding us into the current mess are men. Maybe it’s because today I went from teaching my “Women and Media” class to a moderated discussion of “The Vagina Monalogues” (which will be read publicly on my school’s campus later this month), but I can’t help but feel that the problem may be that there hasn’t been enough Orman to go around.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Why Obama should dump Daschle and draft Dean

Posted by James McPherson on January 31, 2009

Tom Daschle’s tax issues are causing problems with his nomination to be Barack Obama’s health czar and secretary of Health and Human Services. Yet while I am constantly amazed that prominent politicians don’t have enough sense to pay (or hire competent  accountants  to pay) taxes on the kinds of “human services” that most of us can only dream about–drivers, maids, nannies, gardeners–frankly I’m more troubled by Daschle’s connections with the industry he would be seeking to reform.

So far, Daschle has mostly said the right things about the problems with health care (unlike Obama, who lately has gone silent on the issue). But as Kenneth P. Vogel reported yesterday for Politico, Daschle has made almost a quarter of a million dollars in just the past two years by giving speeches. “many of them to outfits that stand to gain or lose millions of dollars from the work he would do once confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services.”

In addition to the speeches, there’s the whole lobbyist issue that Obama promised he’d avoid, and which he is finding to be virtually unavoidable in the search for qualified people. Daschle went to work for a lobbyist (though he managed to avoid the title himself) after leaving the Senate, and as the Washington Post reported back in November, “He serves on the boards of Prime BioSolutions and the Mayo Clinic, among others, and his law firm lobbies for a number of industry clients, including CVS Caremark, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, Abbott Laboratories and HealthSouth.” In addition, Daschle’s former beauty queen wife still is a lobbyist–who has worked for clients in the health care industry.

I’ve been a fan of Tom Daschle much of the time, and thought he did a good job of balancing his somewhat progressive leanings with the interests of his conservative state. I also still believe (one of my few departures into conspiracy theories) that the anthrax that was mailed to his office in 2001 came from a source interested in scaring Daschle into supporting the hastily-passed USA-PATRIOT Act.  The Bush administration tried to link the anthrax attacks to al Qaeda for the same reason, and, regardless of the reasons, Daschle unfortunately did support the faulty fear-inspired bill.

I also thought (and believe even more strongly today) that the Republican campaign to replace him with John Thune (a male version of Sarah Palin) in 2004 was politically smart (from a power-seeking position) for the party and its corporate benefactors in the short run, and bad for Congress and the country in the long run–pretty much like a lot of other GOP moves in recent years, particularly any involving Bill Frist, who traveled to South Dakota to campaign against Daschle.

Obama hasn’t made many mistakes since starting his run for the presidency, but Daschle was not the best choice for HHS secretary. The best option, as The Nation suggests in the issue that hit my mailbox yesterday, may have been the forgotten man who may be the one most responsible(yes, even more than Oprah) for Obama’s win–Dr. Howard Dean.

As governor of Vermont, Dean oversaw balanced budgets, income tax cutsand expansion of a universal health care system for children and pregnant women. He also happens to be married to another doctor, Judith Steinberg. Perhaps they even pay all their taxes.

Unfortunately Dean apparently made an enemy of Obama buddy Rahm Emanuel–who ironically is now chief of staff for a president who would not have been elected had Obama followed Emanuel’s favored Clintonesque key-state party-building strategy instead of Dean’s 50-state strategy.

Admittedly Dean may not as easy to like as Obama or Daschle (though he is at least as likable as Emanuel). But this administration isn’t supposed to be about who we’d like to have a beer with. It’s supposed to be about competence. The selection of Daschle somewhat calls that competence into question.

Sunday update: Today Glenn Greenwald offers an even more disturbing picture of Daschle.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »