Start Making Sense

The Best of 2018: Seymour Hersh on Trump, Barbara Ehrenreich on ‘Wellness,’ and Amos Oz Remembered

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Our most popular interviews of the year, starting with Seymour Hersh, one of our heroes; he says “don’t underestimate Trump.” He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his expose of the My Lai massacre—he was a 33-year-old freelancer at the time. Since then, he’s won pretty much every other journalism award. He’s worked as a staff writer for The New York Times and The New Yorker. He’s also written a dozen books, most recently ‘Reporter: A Memoir.’
Also: Barbara Ehrenreich is another hero of ours– the author of more than a dozen books, including the unforgettable “Nickel and Dimed.” Now she has a new book out, a bestseller, and it’s terrific: it’s called “Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainly of Dying, and killing ourselves to live longer.”
Finally, Amos Oz died on Dec 28 –He was an Israeli novelist and unyielding critic of the occupation of the West Bank and a campaigner for a two state solution. His novels were translated into dozens of languages, and he also wrote for The Nation. Here we revisit an interview we did with him in 2004, about mideast politics.  1/2/19

The Facts of Russiagate have been Obvious for a Long Time: David Klion on Putin and Trump, plus Amy Wilentz on Trump’s Mental Status and Bill McKibben on Climate Change

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For our year-in-review show, we open with a Russiagate update with David Klion – he says it’s basically a corruption scandal whose basic facts have been obvious for a long time—and one that should bring down Trump’s presidency.
In a lot of ways, Trump himself was the biggest story in 2018–we ask Amy Wilentz the key question: “is Trump crazy?” She discusses the mental and emotional status of the president, as analyzed by 27 psychiatrists in ‘The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,’ a book edited by Bandy X. Lee. The book was number four on the New York Times bestseller list.
And the biggest story of the year, for all of humanity, has been catastrophic climate change —Bill McKibben says “it’s not just an environmental issue.” 12/27/18

2018: The Year of the Progressive–John Nichols, plus Erwin Chemerinsky on Obamacare, and Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on left internationalism.

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John Nichols presents the highlights of The Nation’s annual Progressive Honor Roll—our heroes in Congress, in state politics, and in leading protests at the border.
Also: is Obamacare unconstitutional? A federal judge ruled last week that all of Obamacare violates the constitution if he’s upheld by the Supreme Court, 20 million people will lose their insurance coverage. The case has the potent name “Texas versus the United States.” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at UC Berkeley, explains why that ruling is likely to be rejected at the Supreme Court—by vote of 9-0.
Plus: right-wing authoritarians have been coordinating political campaigns and disrupting elections across national boundaries – a project masterminded by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. It’s time now for the left, especially the American left, to go on the offensive and reclaim its tradition of internationalism. Atossa Araxia Abrahamian reports on the project of Yanis Varoufakis—and Bernie Sanders—to organize a Progressive International.  12/19/2018

 

William Barr: Another Jeff Sessions? David Cole, plus Dave Lindorff on Pentagon Accounting Fraud and Marc Cooper on the Revolution in Armenia

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Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, is more qualified to do the job than Matt Whitaker–but so are thousands of others. His record, however, show’s he as bad as Jeff Sessions—if not worse. David Cole, National Legal Director of the ACLU and The Nation’s legal affairs correspondent, explains.
Also: a report on The Nation’s investigation of Massive Accounting Fraud at the Pentagon – Dave Lindorff found that $21 million cannot be accounted for. For decades, he says, the Pentagon has been “deliberately cooking the books to mislead Congress.”
Plus: the Armenian Revolution: “a small light of hope and progressive democratic change in a Europe increasingly shadowed by authoritarian and dictatorial forces, especially in most of the former soviet-bloc states of Eastern Europe.” That’s what Marc Cooper says—he’s spent months in Yerevan, where elections on Sunday confirmed the victory of the revolutionaries.  12-12-18

 

The Dark Side of George H.W. Bush: Harold Meyerson, plus Katha Pollitt on White Women and Trump and Eric Foner on Frederick Douglass

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George H. W. Bush paved the way for today’s Republican party with his racist Willy Horton campaign, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and pardoned the Iran-Contra conspirator whose trial would have exposed his own abuse of power. Harold Meyerson explains — he’s executive editor of the American Prospect.
Also: Katha Pollitt finds lessons from the midterms about white women who support Trump – she argues that they are unlikely to change their minds, and that we’d do better following the example of Stacey Abrams and mobilizing the nonvoters.
Plus: Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist, was the most famous black American of the 19th century. Historian Eric Foner says Douglass’s political ideas can help us in our struggles today. 12/5/18

 

Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’: Where Are the Politics? Amy Wilentz, plus Kai Wright on Midterm Victories and Tom Athanasiou on Climate

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Michelle Obama declares in her new memoir, “I am not a political person, so I’m not going to attempt to offer an analysis” of Trump’s victory.  That’s her stance in the rest of the book as well.  It seems strange for the person the New York Times called “The most outspoken first lady in modern history.”  What’s going on here?  Amy Wilentz comments.
Plus: The Democrats won the midterms by the largest popular vote margin for either party in the history of midterm elections — larger than the Watergate midterm after Nixon resigned in 1974, 44 years ago.  But there was a deeper and more significant victory hidden behind those numbers, Kai Wright argues: the political mobilization of millions of people of color in the South.
Also: Last week the White House – that is, the Trump White House – released a major scientific report on climate change, with the darkest warnings to date about the consequences of rising temperatures for the United States.  Tom Athanasiou explains.  11/28/18

 

How Democrats Won in the White-Hot Heart of the Republican Right: Gustavo Arellano on Orange County, plus L.A. Kauffman on Protest and Andrew Delbanco on Fugivitive Slaves

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Orange County, California, was the political starting point for Nixon, for the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, and for Reagan—as Republican as any place in America. But starting in January, not a single Republican will represent Orange County in the House. It’s solid blue. Gustavo Arellano explains how it happened – he’s a weekly columnist for the LA Times, and wrote the legendary column “Ask a Mexican.”
Also: mass demonstrations in America, from the 1963 March on Washington to the 2017 Women’s March: what protests do when they work, and why: L.A. Kauffman explains. Her new book is How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance.
Plus: cities providing sanctuary for people the federal government is trying to arrest and return to the oppression they had escaped– today’s battles over Trump’s attacks on undocumented immigrants have some striking parallels with the battles over fugitive slaves in the decade before the Civil War. Andrew Delbanco comments–his new book is The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul, from the Revolution to the Civil War.  11/21/18

 

“Chasing an Elusive Centrism is Ridiculous”: Frank Rich on politics, plus Erwin Chemerinsky on Matt Whitaker and Laura Carlsen on the Caravan

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Frank Rich finds lessons for Democrats in the midterms: seeking “the political center,” as recommended by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, running on “clean-government themes and promises of incremental improvement to the health care system rather than transformational social change,” is “ridiculous.” Frank writes about politics for New York Magazine and is executive producer of VEEP on HBO.
Also: Trump’s appointment of a new acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker: is it legal? He hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate – or even nominated. Erwin Chemerinsky comments—he’s dean of the law school at UC Berkeley, and his new book is “We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the 21st Century.”
Plus: a report on that caravan from Central America headed across Mexico toward Tijuana, from Laura Carlsen, who has has been with the caravan. Trump has stopped talking about it, now that the midterms are over and his fear-mongering failed to win key House seats.  11/14/18

A Blue Wave for Progressives and Women—With Some Heartbreakers: John Nichols and Joan Walsh on the Midterms, plus Andy Robinson on Brazil

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Tuesday night was a good night for progressive Democrats, John Nichols argues—and Democratic control of the House will bring an epic change to Washington politics—starting with a return to Constitutional principles and an insistence that the president is subject to the rule of law.
Also: women won unprecedented victories in the midterms.  Joan Walsh analyzes the feminist insurgency that will bring almost a hundred women to the House of Representatives in January—including the first two Muslim women (Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar); the first Native American women (New Mexico’s Deb Haaland and Kansas’s Sharice Davids), Texas’s first two Latina congresswomen (Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia); plus three young black women (Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley, Connecticut’s Jahana Hayes, and Illinois’s Lauren Underwood).
Plus: Brazil last week elected Jair Bolsonaro.  Our man in Rio, Andy Robinson, says he is “worse than Donald Trump,” and “as close to fascism as you will get in the world today, despite a growing number of contenders.” 11/7/18

Women Voters and the Midterms: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Joan Walsh, and Cecile Richards; plus Ari Berman on vote suppression and Gary Younge on the Midwest

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Women voters—and candidates—are mobilized as never before for next week’s midterms: Joan Walsh and Cecile Richards report from across the country at a Nation event introduced by publisher and editor Katrina vanden Heuvel.  Joan is the magazine’s National Affairs Correspondent and Cecile recently stepped down as head of Planned Parenthood after leading the organization since 2006.
Also: the Democrats are focusing now on voter mobilization and turnout, while the Republicans are at work on voter suppression.  How significant will the Republican effort be in this election–and where is it likely to have the biggest impact?  Ari Berman reports—he wrote about vote suppression for the New York Times opinion pages.
Plus Gary Younge, The Nation columnist, talks about politics in the midwest, the heartland, the rust belt – he’s covering the midterms from Racine, Wisconsin, an old Democratic factory town on Lake Michigan.  After so many defeats in the state, Democrats there told him they “can’t afford the luxury of hope.”  11/1/18