Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

Latest from Tom Johnson
May 2, 2016, 9:34 PM EDT

In March of 2013, the Republican National Committee issued what soon became known as the “autopsy report,” which discussed how the party might improve its chances of winning presidential elections. Last Thursday in The Atlantic, reform conservative (or former conservative) Frum provided the GOP with a sort of pre-autopsy document that it might consult after Donald Trump’s “almost certain failure in November.”

Frum argued that conservatives need a new approach which avoids both “toxic” Trumpism and “the entrepreneur worship of the past few years.” He mused that “much of the old conservative message is out of date. Not all of it, but much. Yet the people who formed the conservative coalition remain. They’ve misplaced their faith and trust in Donald Trump. But then, it’s not as if their faith and trust were honored by the party’s plutocratic former leadership, either.”

May 1, 2016, 8:57 PM EDT

Several decades ago, there were plenty of right-of-center Democrats and left-of-center Republicans. These days, however, almost everyone agrees that the Democrats have become a distinctly liberal party and the GOP a distinctly conservative party. One who disagrees in part is writer Conor Lynch, who in a Saturday article claimed that Republicans have transitioned out of true conservatism and now are “extreme nihilists” who have “embraced Bolshevism of the right.”

Lynch noted that pundits such as George Will and David Brooks “have widely condemned Donald Trump as a fake conservative, and they’re not wrong. Trump is clearly not conservative—but neither is the Republican Party...[which] has become an increasingly friendly place for…the kind of characters who used to make up the John Birch Society…For the sake of John Boehner’s mental well being, he is lucky he got out when he did.”

April 29, 2016, 9:16 PM EDT

A few months back, some maintained that Ted Cruz was ineligible for the presidency because, in their view, he wasn’t a natural-born citizen of the United States. In a Thursday article, Jeb Lund made an even more extreme argument about Cruz, suggesting that he isn’t even a full-fledged person. Specifically, Lund opined that both Cruz and his would-be running mate, Carly Fiorina, are “spectacular failed approximations of human beings,” and huge liars to boot.

Lund also contended that it’d be futile for Cruz to use Fiorina as attacker-in-chief against Hillary Clinton: “Leave aside institutional opposition to equal pay for equal work, forget opposing the re-signing of the Violence Against Women Act…skip over attacks on reproductive rights and ask who came up with the 25 years of ridicule of Clinton…If a quarter century of that bothered Republican voters, then Carly Fiorina is not the solution, especially when her idea of acknowledging a war on women is claiming that Hillary Clinton invented it…And if a quarter century of sexism and legislative scorn didn't bother Republican voters, then what single thing does she change in the slightest?”

April 28, 2016, 10:22 PM EDT

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait admires Bernie Sanders’s willingness (eagerness?) to raise taxes so as to “finance the kind of social benefits American liberals would prefer.” That’s why Chait is disappointed that Sanders opposes Philadelphia’s proposed three-cents-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks, revenue from which would fund citywide pre-kindergarten and other programs.

In a Tuesday post, Chait wrote that Sanders “has received justifiable credit for breaking the taboo on middle-class taxation and asking just why it is that Americans must be denied public services taken for granted elsewhere…But where does this leave his opposition to the soda tax? His position is strange and ironic because taxes on specifically defined, unhealthy goods has long been the loophole through which Democrats escape the pressure of their own no-taxes-on-the-middle-class vise…What’s more, the proceeds of the soda tax finance a vital liberal social goal (in this case, early education).”

April 27, 2016, 9:17 PM EDT

Last week, a long Vox essay by Emmett Rensin asserted that “contempt” for supposedly “stupid” blue-collar whites -- in response to the exodus of those voters from the Democratic party -- has become pervasive among liberals. The piece has gotten some pushback from lefty writers, including Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, who thinks that Rensin greatly overestimates the spread and influence of what Rensin called the “smug style in American liberalism.”

“The driving reason working-class whites abandoned the Democratic Party is race,” commented Bouie in a Friday piece. “The New Deal coalition Rensin describes was devoured by its own contradictions, chiefly, the racism needed to secure white allegiance even as the party tried to appeal to blacks…Pressed by those blacks, Democrats tried to make good on their commitments, and when they did, whites bolted.”

April 26, 2016, 5:56 PM EDT

Republican politicians, more than their Democratic counterparts, tend to campaign on anti-Washington themes. That’s kind of odd, suggests Michael Tomasky, given that one of Washington’s quintessential institutions, Congress, helps the GOP by playing a crucial role in obscuring the American people’s fondness for liberal socioeconomic policies.

“If Congress is what you see when you see America,” wrote Tomasky in a Tuesday column, “then you see a place where roughly half—no, more than half—of the people think that raising the minimum wage is radical, or that health care is a privilege you have to earn, or that climate change is a fantasy…Out in the real country, only crackpots think these things…But the crackpot community is dramatically overrepresented in Washington and skews the way all these things are discussed and described on shows like Morning Joe.”

April 24, 2016, 1:02 PM EDT

George H. W. Bush pooh-poohed “the vision thing.” Bernie Sanders wouldn’t have a presidential campaign without it. True, the Vermont senator is not known for his grasp of policy minutiae, to which Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas says, in effect, so what?

Kos implied that Sanders has caught a lot more flak for his vague answers than Republicans do when they routinely “promis[e] the world to their voters, like banning abortion, getting rid of The Gays, liberating the oppressed from the Obamacare FEMA concentration camps, finding Barack Obama’s true birth certificate, etc. No one asks those assholes how they’re going to accomplish any of it.”

April 23, 2016, 5:35 PM EDT

Republicans may have to do some world-class needle-threading to come up with a presidential nominee who can win in November. New York magazine's Kilgore believes that even if such a candidate exists, it’s not the “hammer-headed movement conservative” Ted Cruz.

“Unity candidates are reassuring and have a knack for making you see your own reflection in their soft and soulful eyes,” wrote Kilgore in a Monday post. “Cruz has the persona of someone who's been told by his crazy father a thousand times that God has chosen him to redeem America from its secular socialist captors…[He] does not represent a natural compromise between those who want to lower their marginal-tax rates and melt the polar caps and those who mainly want to ensure they'll never have to ‘press one for English’ or hold their tongues in the presence of women and minorities ever again.”

April 20, 2016, 8:55 PM EDT

Eight Is Enough was a popular television series in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Dahlia Lithwick hinted in a Saturday article that a show about Republicans’ sour attitude toward the current Supreme Court situation might be called Eight’s Not Enough, with the key role played in absentia by Antonin Scalia.

Lithwick theorized that for Republicans, “the 2016 term was meant to be the Supreme Court’s year to destroy Obama…Had [Scalia] lived until July the docket was full of poisoned pills and silent time bombs that would have exploded in President Obama’s face this summer…GOP senators aren’t just angry about losing Justice Scalia’s seat. They are angry because the court as the weapon of choice to screw the president has been taken from them, and they want it back.”

April 19, 2016, 5:54 PM EDT

Kevin Drum thinks he understands Hillary Clinton’s reluctance to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches, and it has more to do with attacks she might face during the fall campaign than it does with Bernie Sanders.

Drum believes it’s “vanishingly unlikely” that the speeches include “something genuinely damning,” but noted in a Saturday post that “when you give speeches to any industry group, you offer up some praise for the vital work they do. It's just part of the spiel. And Hillary knows perfectly well without even looking that some of that stuff is in these speeches—and it can be taken out of context and made into yet another endless and idiotic Republican meme. Remember ‘You didn't build that’? Sure you do.”

April 18, 2016, 9:27 PM EDT

Confirmation, HBO’s new “fact-based dramatization” of the October 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill clash, reminded Jill Abramson, a former New York Times Washington bureau chief, managing editor, and executive editor, of “more recent congressional proceedings” that featured both “a lone woman witness” and copious Republican misogyny.

“Hillary Clinton was the star of this show trial, the Benghazi hearings last fall,” wrote Abramson in a Friday column for the U.S. edition of the liberal British newspaper The Guardian. “Both sets of hearings were billed as fact-finding exercises, but turned out to be poisonous displays of partisanship. The Republican attack machine was turned, full force, on both witnesses. With stoicism and poise, both Hill and Hillary withstood the onslaught to fight other, more important battles.”

April 17, 2016, 12:24 PM EDT

One demographic group you won’t see mentioned in poll results from Quinnipiac, Monmouth, or pretty much anywhere else is “aggressive a**hole[s].” Nonetheless, according to Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman, such voters have constituted the key bloc in this year’s Republican presidential primary-and-caucus process.

“If you take the electorate and subtract every laid off mechanic and guy over 40 who obsessively fantasizes about being a successful golf pro, [Donald] Trump’s support approaches zero,” asserted Longman in a Thursday post. “The GOP has been so denuded of ordinary people that the aggressive a**hole vote is now a big enough plurality of the party to decide their nomination. This becomes doubly clear when you realize that the main alternative to Trump is Ted Cruz, who almost defines the aforementioned term of non-endearment.”

April 15, 2016, 9:29 PM EDT

Media coverage of Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia typically noted that it reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage. Slate’s William Saletan acknowledges the literal truth of that reporting, but suggested in an April 8 article that the document contains seeds that will sprout into Vatican acceptance of same-sex unions, though he admits that process “might take centuries.”

Saletan argued that in time, the Church will extend Amoris Laetitia’s treatment of infertile heterosexual couples to same-sex couples: “This double standard, between homosexuality and other forms of infertility, is the cracked pillar at the foundation of the church’s policy against same-sex unions. It’s how Catholic teaching on homosexuality will eventually collapse.”

April 13, 2016, 9:58 PM EDT

Author and former Fox News Watch panelist Gabler may or may not have a position on “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” but he does believe that when it comes to Hillary (and Bill) Clinton, “the scandals didn’t create the meme of untrustworthiness about them. The meme of untrustworthiness created the scandals.”

In a piece that ran Tuesday on Salon and was originally published at BillMoyers.com, Gabler contended that the MSM “should have been a firewall against…allegations” such as the Whitewater “non-scandal,” but “instead…were an accelerant." On more recent matters, Gabler wrote that Hillary has been “exculpated” regarding Benghazi and commented, apropos of the e-mail uproar, that “the media don’t want to kill the story any more than the Republicans do. It’s just too delicious.”

April 12, 2016, 6:05 PM EDT

There’s a crucial difference between the Loch Ness Monster and any Republican health-care-reform plan worthy of the name: Nessie almost certainly does not exist, but the GOP plan cannot exist. That, essentially, was the message of a Monday blog post by New York magazine’s Chait.

“It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public,” asserted Chait. “People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick…unusually poor…or both…You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.”

April 10, 2016, 5:43 PM EDT

If judicial review means that the U.S. Supreme Court is a de facto super-legislature that can in effect supersede actual legislatures, that’s fine with Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman. In a Wednesday post, Longman acknowledged that certain SCOTUS rulings over the past several decades have been politically motivated, but argued that those were appropriate remedies for the “deplorable and inexcusable wrongness” of conservatives on issues such as abortion.

Longman’s peg was Charles Grassley’s speech this past week criticizing recent SCOTUS decisions, such as the two in favor of Obamacare, that in Grassley’s view were based on “policy preferences” rather than on the Constitution.

April 9, 2016, 2:41 PM EDT

During Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans have greatly increased their power at the state level, enabling governments in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, and other locales to enact legislation that Daily Kos blogger Hunter has called, among other things, “straight-up crooked” and that has caused, among other things, a “financial clusterfuck.”

In a Friday post, Hunter theorized that one reason GOP bigwigs detest Ted Cruz is that “by bringing Republican extremism national, [Cruz has] stripped them of plausible deniability of all those bizarre and hostile and really not-working-out-all-that-great ideas.” According to Hunter, “It's rampant Ted Cruzism, aka tea partyism, that's been shredding [state] budgets and sending companies running.”

April 8, 2016, 9:19 PM EDT

In professional-wrestling slang, a bad guy is a “heel,” and in a Tuesday piece, Adam Gopnik likened Republican politicians to heel wrestlers who aren’t completely up-front about how nasty they are: “You’re supposed to be maximally crazy, but you’re supposed to pretend to pay attention to the referee…You’re supposed to hit your opponent over the head with a chair, but you’re supposed to pretend to hide the chair you are about to hit him with.”

Gopnik hinted that another similarity between GOPers and grapplers is that both groups routinely engage in hype and theatrics. As for Republicans specifically, he wrote, “We know that even the most passionate believers in forced birth don’t actually believe that abortion is really like murder, and have no real desire to treat it as such; they just want to do all they can to make abortion once again difficult, dangerous, and heavily stigmatized. They are for torture, but they are ashamed of it, too, and would rather it were done far away and in secret.”

April 5, 2016, 11:49 AM EDT

Liberals disagree on when Republicans changed from a mere opposition party into a truly malign force. For obvious reasons, the early 1980s are a popular choice. Martin Longman thinks it happened later, during Bill Clinton’s second term, but also speculates that the GOP’s “crackpot” period may be almost over.

Donald Trump’s presidential bid, contended Longman in a Friday post, may even spell the end of conservatism as we’ve known it: “If Trump loses, and loses badly, I’m not sure that future Republican presidential candidates will want to emulate him. There might still be a window where a candidate can hope to win by racially polarizing the electorate and getting enough of just the white voters to win. But that window is closing if it is not already closed…If [Trump’s candidacy] is the logical endpoint of the Conservative Movement, well, it seems like we’re reaching the end…That’s my hope, anyway.”

April 3, 2016, 11:53 AM EDT

When a politician says that the mainstream media favor the other side, he or she almost always is a conservative Republican. Therefore, it was noteworthy when, this past week, Sanders accused the MSM of propping up the GOP; his argument, however, was unconvincing even to a reporter for a lefty magazine.

On Thursday, Tim Murphy of Mother Jones noted Sanders’s remark that “if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for,” the GOP would be “a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.” Murphy didn’t buy it: “A corporate media that obsesses over the issues Sanders obsesses over would certainly have some impact on the political landscape. But Sanders' dismissal of the Republican base seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they've been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans…are proposing.”