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.
Latest from Tom Johnson
Just because liberals devote a massive amount of attention to the current POTUS doesn’t mean that they neglect his VPOTUS. In a Tuesday Nation piece, Walsh disclosed, “You probably have these debates with your friends, too: Do we want Donald Trump to resign, or be impeached, which would leave us with Vice President Mike Pence in charge?...Would the low-charisma Pence, who looks like a B-movie producer’s idea of a president, be easier to defeat [in 2020], especially given the GOP fratricide that would commence with Trump’s departure, however it came about?”
A few days before Steve Bannon left the Trump White House, President Trump noted that Bannon had not signed on until “very late" in the 2016 campaign. Still, much like a ballplayer acquired just prior to the trading deadline who puts his team over the top, Bannon made a crucial contribution to Trump’s win, suggests New York’s Jonathan Chait. Bannon realized well before he joined the Trump campaign that if Hillary-bashing had a respectable face, it could find a far larger and more persuadable audience than the old-school wacky conspiratorial stuff did.
The motto of the Trump-era Washington Post is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Its counterpart, suggests David Roberts, might be “Conservatism Lives in Darkness.” “Secrecy,” wrote Roberts on Monday, “is the standard approach of today’s GOP…It is, in fact, the only approach possible to advance an agenda that is unpopular and intellectually indefensible.”
On Saturday afternoon, an act of racist terrorism was committed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Among those responsible, according to Esquire’s Charles Pierce, were Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. “Every Republican who ever played footsie with the militias out west owns this bloodshed,” disgorged Pierce in a Sunday post. “Every Republican president -- actually, there's only one -- who began a campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to talk about states rights...owns this bloodshed…Every Republican politician who followed the late Lee Atwater into the woods in search of poisoned treasure owns this bloodshed…Every conservative journalist who saw this happening and who encouraged it, or ignored it, or pretended that it wasn't happening, owns this bloodshed.”
Conservatives who’ve rallied behind former Google engineer James Damore traditionally have undermined workers like him, contended The New Republic’s Josephine Livingstone on Wednesday. Livingstone has no use for Damore’s now-famous, if little-read, memo, which allegedly “contained a bunch of ‘red-pill’ nonsense about biological differences between men and women,” but she also claimed that the right typically objects to certain protections for fired employees like Damore.
Clarence Thomas is known for speaking not softly, but rarely, when the Supreme Court holds oral arguments. Nonetheless, he carries a big stick in terms of influence on both the courts and the presidency, warn Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern. Thomas, who in Lithwick and Stern’s words had “spent his career teetering off the right edge of the federal bench,” now “finds himself at the center of the table.” As Lithwick and Stern tell it, the major difference between the president and the justice is that Trump is “far too witless to grasp, let alone implement, [Thomas’s] complex theories of law.”
It was thirty years ago this week that the FCC, wanting to “extend to the electronic press the same First Amendment guarantees that the print media have enjoyed since our country’s inception,” abandoned the Fairness Doctrine. Some liberals hoped that the Obama administration would retrieve it, but that didn’t happen. That was too bad, indicated The Washington Monthly’s D.R. Tucker in a Monday post. Getting rid of the doctrine, Tucker claimed, was a “destructive” move and “a shamefully successful effort to divide our public airwaves along partisan lines, a choice that made a few people rich while impoverishing our democracy.”
On Friday morning, Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas faintly -- very faintly -- praised Republicans for their straightforwardness while damning them for their supposed hostility to political freedom. The post’s headline: “Republicans are totalitarians, and they’re being more honest about it every day.”
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.”