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 ‘Rahm Emanuel’

I’ll take the vote Tea Partiers don’t want

Posted by James McPherson on June 1, 2010

One thing that some Tea Party folks and I have in common: Apparently neither of us wants them voting for my U.S. senators.

The difference is, unlike some Tea Party Mad Hatters and conservative elitists such as George Will, I’m not willing to give up the right to vote for the Senate candidate of my choice, while bringing back the increased corruption that spawned the 17th Amendment in the first place.

As the New York Times suggests, imagine a thousands of Rob Blogojevich-wannabe-power brokers, and the return of “the old-fashioned American political machine–a condition voters in the Internet age would tolerate for about 10 minutes, maybe less.” (And remember, one of the most common complaints about Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel is their reliance on machine-style politics.)

The argument is that repeal of the 17th Amendment would give power back to states (perhaps by giving increased power to the 10th Amendment). The problem is that it would do so through state legislatures put in office by even fewer people than vote in Senate elections. A general rule of thumb: The smaller the election (and therefore the greater the chance that any individual vote will actually matter), the smaller the percentage of the electorate that will turn out.

State legislators probably are no better today than those chronicled by David Graham Phillips in 1906. I’ll keep my wimpy little vote and the illusion that it matters, thank you. Still, I don’t mind those Tea Partiers causing problems for Republicans, especially since the repeal movement–like the Tea Party movement in general–is likely to fizzle into distant memory in fairly short order.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 8 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 »

Barak and Barack, Israel and America

Posted by James McPherson on December 29, 2008

With Israel continuing its attack on targets in Gaza for a third day, Defense Minister Ahud Barak says Israel is now in an “all-out war” with Hamas. In the meantime, various countries with sympathies toward one side or the other are trying to provide aid to the areas hardest hit.

President Bush–whom Condi Rice predicts the American people will soon “start to thank” (and not just for leaving office)–sides with Israel. Barack Obama also has previously supported Israel as strongly as any other American politician; one might argue that he wouldn’t be president-elect, if he hadn’t.

Perhaps now, as Obama ponders yet another crisis that he’ll have to deal with when he takes office in about three weeks, he’s wondering if not being president-elect would be such a bad thing. Obama has promised to focus on Middle East issues right away (as if he had a choice) and to try to boost America’s image with Muslims. He undoubtedly will have more credibility among Palestinians than Bush does.

Among other potentially promising signs are the names of the people involved. Barack Hussein Obama’s first name is nearly the same as the Iraeli defense minister’s last name, while his middle name–as we were reminded many times during the election–is an Arabic name that he will use when he takes his oath of office.

In addition, the full name of Obama’s proposed White House chief of staff (a Jew whose father was born in Jerusalem and whose last name means “God is with us”) is Rahm Israel Emanuel.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments »