Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters
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
In the spring of 2011, Newt Gingrich denounced Paul Ryan’s then-current proposed federal budget as “right-wing social engineering” and argued that a “free society” should not “impos[e] radical change.” On Friday, Andrew Sullivan made a similar case against congressional Republicans’ attempts to junk ObamaCare
Republicans’ drive to repeal and replace Obamacare has hit its latest pothole, which didn’t surprise New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. Chait observed that from 2010 through 2016, when GOPers were merely naysaying regarding the ACA, they had “cohesion.” Once they also controlled the White House, however, that unity “disintegrated…because their ideology left them unable to pass legislation that was not cruel, horrific, and repugnant to their own constituents.”
You don’t have to have been president of the United States to qualify for the “Miss Me Yet?” meme, suggested Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky on Thursday. Tomasky contended that it’s “a tragedy” that Donald Trump became POTUS instead of Hillary Clinton and opined that Clinton would have been a “good” president, though he thinks Republicans might have prevented her from being “great” by holding “impeachment hearings…over far smaller matters than the things we know the Trump family has done. That would be rough, but I know this much…She wouldn’t be an international embarrassment.”
Conservatives’ professed devotion to freedom is mostly fake news, believes Paul Rosenberg. “Liberals and Democrats actually care about freedom substantially more than conservatives and Republicans do,” argued Rosenberg this past Sunday in Salon. “When it comes down to the most basic forms of freedom Americans have long recognized, conservatives may talk a good game, but that talk is largely BS.”
In a Monday piece, Chauncey DeVega urged “people of conscience and true patriots” to fly their American flags upside down on Tuesday, the Fourth of July, “as a collective signal of our national distress” over Donald Trump’s presidency. “America’s citizens have been traumatized,” declared DeVega, who argued that upside-down flags “would symbolize that Americans, as individuals and as a people, are much better than Donald Trump and what he represents.”
Over the past five-plus months, the political media have acquitted themselves pretty well despite having to deal with a “dark, damaged” POTUS and his “gangland” administration, believes Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall, whose caveat is that “as long as the [media’s] effort is to try to shame Trump and his crew into appearing on camera, holding press conferences, not refusing access…there is a big limit to its effectiveness,” since that approach “amounts to begging.”
Barack Obama believes that “there are no red states or blue states, just the United States,” and Sophia McClennen agrees with him, sort of. In a Saturday piece for Salon, the Penn State prof declared that since “the GOP attacks on the idea of the truth and on the concept of fact-checking are only going to get more absurd,” before long “we won’t code maps by blue and red states; we will code them by whether their voters favor facts or fantasy.”
In the long run, Republicans’ health-care-reform efforts are going to backfire, suggested Vox editor-in-chief Klein last Thursday. He argued that if Congress junks the Affordable Care Act, “Medicare for all” will become a rallying cry for Democrats, and once Dems return to power, “they’ll pass what many of them wanted to pass” instead of the ACA: “A heavily subsidized buy-in program for Medicare or Medicaid, funded by a tax increase on the rich. A policy like that…will satisfy an angry party seeking the fastest, most defensible path to restoring [Obamacare’s] coverage gains.”
There’s only one “normal” major party left in America, argued Jamelle Bouie on Tuesday. In Bouie’s view, Democrats, “as evidenced by the rapid and normal transfer of power from President Obama to President Trump,” believe that our system “only works if both sides see each other as legitimate actors with the right to wield power should they win it…But increasingly, it seems the GOP does not…We’ve moved from ordinary partisan competition -- even partisan hardball -- to something ominous and illiberal.”
Deliberately polluting the air with high-volume diesel exhaust isn’t just a pastime for nihilists -- it’s an expression of “the key animating ethos in the decision-making process” of the Republican Party, claims Brian Beutler. The activity is known as “rolling coal,” and, as Beutler sees it, three years ago it resembled “many Obama-era protest trends” in that it was “a kind of obnoxious primal scream, indulged by an increasingly powerless subset of the population.”
Last week, vehement anti-Trumper George Will declared that conservatism in 2017 is “soiled by scowling primitives.” Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman doesn’t disagree, but he contends that Will is partly to blame for that sordid state of affairs.
“Between Donald Trump and anything resembling Christianity,” there is only a great void -- a “vast, empty, and dark space,” declared gay Catholic pundit Sullivan in a Friday column for New York magazine. Sullivan described Trump as “neither religious nor irreligious. He is pre-religious. He is a pagan. He makes much more sense as a character in Game of Thrones, a medieval world bereft of the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth, than as a president of a modern, Western country...I will never understand how more than half of white Catholics could vote for such a man, or how the leadership of the church could be so terribly silent when such a monster stalks the earth.”
According to author, critic, and former Fox News Watch panelist Neal Gabler, there’s not much of a mystery about who killed “the idea of media objectivity.” The perp, Gabler alleges, was the late Roger Ailes. “Before Fox News, most people actually trusted the media,” wrote Gabler in a screed that ran Friday on Salon and was originally published at BillMoyers.com.
If Dwight Eisenhower were alive, he might warn the Republican Party about the dangers of its conspiracy-industrial complex, suggested Jeet Heer on Tuesday. As for Democrats, Heer acknowledged that while some of them buy into conspiracy theories, especially juicy ones about President Trump and Russia, they, unlike Republicans, generally deal “responsibly” with “politically convenient, but obviously fantastic, stories.”
The Nation’s Eric Alterman doesn’t mind that a few weeks ago, The New York Times added another conservative op-ed columnist. He just wishes it hadn’t been the “awful” Bret Stephens, who used to write for “the rubes who believe what they read in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal” but now is tasked with impressing the “smarter and more sophisticated” readership of the Times.
A 77-year-old man died the other day, and, according to The Nation’s Walsh, it should have been a major learning moment for the Republican Party. In a Thursday piece about the career and legacy of former Fox News Channel boss Roger Ailes, Walsh mused that the passing of the GOP’s “intellectual patron” might “serve as a warning to the party” that “anger, arrogance and seething resentment of a rapidly changing country can be fatal.”
For a real-life example of how to succeed in business without really trying, check out the “Lean Forward” channel, suggests The Week’s Ryan Cooper. Cooper asserts that MSNBC is “attempting to ditch its entire brand as a liberal network just as it is starting to pay off handsomely,” and indicated that the driving force behind the ditchery is Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC.
At one time officially, and since then unofficially, the “S” in “ESPN” stood for “sports,” and, according to Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum, that’s entirely fitting. As for the frequent complaint from conservatives about the channel’s liberal bias, Drum says, “I don't really get it...I'm not a heavy ESPN viewer, but I watch enough to have some sense of its political leanings. And I haven't really discerned much. Mostly they seem to call games and then argue about whether Tom Brady can play football into his fifties. You know, sports stuff.”
Just as it’s exceedingly tricky to know the dancer from the dance, it’s awfully hard to separate Fox News Channel’s program content from its hypermacho, litigation-generating workplace. That was the word from Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall in a Friday post. In Marshall’s words, FNC on the air and FNC in the office are “almost umbilically tied…If you’ve watched Fox for years and you found that it wasn’t a hotbed of sexual harassment, pervasive racist attitudes and a generalized sixty-something faux-bro ‘alpha’ culture, you’d have to think you had been scammed, that the big screen talent were somehow hypocrites and frauds. It would be like finding out that Chris Hayes was a major libertarian who funded the Cato Institute and Club for Growth or that Joy Reid had secretly been advising Donald Trump throughout the 2016 election cycle.”
This week’s avalanche of layoffs at ESPN has been a story in search of an explanation. Some say that a major reason for the network’s financial woes over the past few years has been, as Clay Travis noted, its “absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network.” The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis, who endorses the recent leftward drift of sports media, thinks that whether or not ESPN is “a liberal network” is “a legitimate and interesting question that deserves examination,” but finds what he calls the “libtard ESPN got what it deserved!” argument shallow, even knee-jerkish.