Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Why do Republicans and the right-wing media try so hard to make President Obama seem foreign and different from the rest of America? Which candidate is actually more like you and me? I didn't have stocks to sell off so that I could pay for college. I worked the whole time I was in school and finished paying off my student loans at age 48. I trust the president to understand the average American a lot more than I trust Mitt Romney.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

So You Wanna be Vice President?

So you Wanna be Vice President?
Good Luck with That!


Now that Mitt Romney has secured the Republican nomination for president, the media is all abuzz with speculation about Romney's potential running mate. Whoever Romney picks, that person will have to go a long way to be as big a national disappointment as the average vice presidential candidate in recent years.

Our current Vice President, Joe Biden has been an exception to the rule of vice presidential disappointments. Despite right-wing efforts to paint Biden as a senile, goofy gaffe-factory, the truth is that Biden has been a steady voice in the administration helping to shape both foreign and domestic policy. Biden has been especially strong in supporting President Obama's efforts to end the Iraq War and draw the Afghanistan War to a close.

Sure, he said that health care reform was a "big f***ing deal" a little too loudly while standing a little too close to a microphone. But, despite the salty language, he was absolutely right.

Let's go down the list of recent winning and losing Vice Presidential candidates and see how history has treated them.

Sarah Palin (John McCain's running mate in 2008):
- Possibly the most shrill and divisive figure in current American politics
- Quit halfway through her term as Alaska governor
- Cashed in on her fame to get a job lying on Fox News as often as possible
- Has a national approval rating in the 30s
- Teased her die-hard Tea Party fans with a potential presidential run in 2012 but polled behind President Obama in a potential match-up even in her home state of Alaska

Dick Cheney (George W. Bush's running mate in 2000 and 2004):
- Credited for much of the mismanagement of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
- Shot a man in the face while in office
- Frequently compared to Darth Vader for his mean streak
- Got a new heart (triggering countless jokes about the doubts that he had a heart before the operation)
- Had an approval rating just above 10% when he left office

John Edwards (John Kerry's running mate in 2004):
- Dumped by his popular wife while she was dying of cancer because he was cheating on her while he ran for president
- Had a child with his extra-marital lover
- Became a tabloid laughing stock
- Currently on trial for campaign finance law violations related to his affair

Joe Lieberman (Al Gore's running mate in 2000):
- Defeated in the Connecticut Democratic primary but retained his Senate seat as an independent
- Endorsed McCain for president in 2008, nearly picked as McCain's running mate, and spoke at the Republican National Convention that year
- Has gone so far right-wing on most foreign and domestic issues that his impending retirement is being celebrated by Democrats across the nation

Al Gore (Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992 and 1996):
- By most accounts, was a competent if boring Vice President
- Won the popular vote for president in 2000 but lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush due to a poor campaign, along with an improbable series of weird events in Florida and in the Supreme Court
- Fell from the great success of his climate change book and movie An Inconvenient Truth to being the butt of fat jokes
- Accused of sexual assault by massage therapist
- Got divorced from longtime wife Tipper
- Founded a news network that has some excellent talent but is so far up the cable dial that it's almost impossible to find

Jack Kemp (Bob Dole's running mate in 1996):
- Former professional football player who had a solid congressional career and served in the cabinet under George H.W. Bush
- Something of a surprise pick as Dole's vice Presidential nominee
- Appeared on the cover of Time Magazine with Dole but was upstaged by the cover headline "Life on Mars"
- Fell into the background of public life after his loosing run and died in 2009

Lloyd Bentsen (Michael Dukakis's running mate in 1992):
- Long and distinguished congressional career
- Undistinguished presidential run in 1976
- Short-term Treasury Secretary during Clinton administration
- Most famous for telling a blushing Dan Quayle, "you're no Jack Kennedy"
- Fell into the background of public life and died in 2004

Dan Quayle (George H. W. Bush's running mate in 1988 and 1992):
- The modern definition of Vice Presidential disappointment
- Misspelled "potato" as judge of children's spelling bee
- Battled fictional character Murphy Brown on the issue of single parenthood
- Appeared to be a child among adults in any serious setting
- Ran a short-lived failing presidential campaign in 2000
- Fathered a current member of congress (Ben Quayle) best known for writing articles on an x-rated web site

So … is it any wonder most of the potential vice presidential nominees are running away from consideration as fast as possible?

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Monday, April 23, 2012

One Day, Two Podcasts

What a great way to spend a rainy Sunday: I got to be a guest on two great liberal podcasts!



Thanks to the hosts and other guests for great discussions and a really fun time!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Appearance on the David Pakman Show

I enjoyed talking with David Pakman about my book Tales of a Real American Liberal.


Not sure why George C. Scott as General Patton is the visual icon for this video, but it certainly is inspiring.

By the way, Skype makes my head look large. My large head doesn't make my head look large ... it's Skype. That's what I'll keep telling myself.

Trivia: My stepdaughter Danielle graduated from high school with David Pakman. Either he's officially young, or I'm officially ... well, let's say, not so young as I used to be. Or both. David does a great job discussing current events and politics from a reality-based, liberal perspective.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Guest Appearance on The Morning Show with Bill Newman

Friday morning, I enjoyed talking about politics and my new book on The Morning Show with Bill Newman at my hometown radio station, WHMP, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Here's a clip from the show:

  video

The whole show should be available soon on the WHMP website.

By the way, the familiar voice introducing the show is none other than Rachel Maddow, who used to work at WHMP before moving on to national fame as the smartest person in television news and opinion.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Republicans Say "Bye-Bye" to Women Voters


Republican Governor Scott Walker just signed a Republican-sponsored bill repealing a law meant to ensure equal pay for women. And he did it pretty much in secret, trying to let it slip under the radar. 

Hmmm ... I wonder why a governor up for recall would want to downplay signing a new law that makes discriminating against women easier. I guess it could have something to do with the fact that women actually have the right to vote in Wisconsin and the rest of America. Of course, given a few more years of Republican power, they might just change that as well.

But Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican Party, says that, despite a deluge of new Republican legislation and right-wing commentary that targets women, the Republican agenda isn't anti-women. I guess Priebus hasn't been paying attention to what his own party has been up to in regard to equal pay, reproductive choice, Planned Parenthood, forced ultrasounds, health care, and contraception--not to mention the negative impact of the Republican economic policies on women.

If anyone wonders why President Obama is doing very well with women voters in recent polls, the Republican anti-women blunders certainly play a big role. But it helps that the first major legislation Obama signed as president was one to protect equal pay for women, exactly the opposite of Walker's recent actions.

Presient Obama was on the side of American women long before the Republican Party launched its current wrong-headed offensive against the gender that constitutes more than half of the American population.

These recent events are just more reasons to recall Walker out of office, support the president, and never to vote for Republicans again.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Justice Antonin Scalia, a Shining Beacon for Slackers Everywhere


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia complained last week about reading the Affordable Care Act, stating directly that he didn't plan to read it and derisively invoking the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution banning "cruel and unusual punishment." 

Get it? Reading is punishment. Ha, ha. That might be funny coming from a third grader who doesn't know any better, but a Supreme Court Justice? Not exactly "supreme."

Scalia's comments sound more like something we'd hear from a dropout who would rather party or play video games than crack open a textbook. He reminds me of the guy who sneaks off to the far corner of the warehouse to take a nap on company time rather than unload that truck backed up to the loading dock. 

Sure the Afordable Care Act is long. But Scalia is a grown man with a law degree from Harvard, an extensive staff, and all the resources of the United States Supreme Court at his disposal. He's not some ten-year-old telling his Mommy that he wants to play instead or doing his homework. Reading the Affordable Care Act is his job. If he's not up to that job, he should retire.

When Justice Elena Kagan suggested that Scalia's law clerks could easily read the bill, Scalia replied, "I don't care whether it's easy for my clerks, I care whether it's easy for me."

Scalia isn't exactly the kind of role model young people in American need. Here we have a Supreme Court Justice who whines about how hard it is to do his required reading and who brags about being too lazy to do his job effectively. How can one of the nine people deciding the most important legal cases in our nation think, talk, and behave this way on the bench? It must be nice to have a lifetime appointment with no consequences for being blatantly terrible at your job.

Scalia has been parroting right-wing talking points about the Affordable Care Act rather than even bothering to give the appearance of impartiality. Scalia has even appeared at fundraisers (with fellow conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) for the anti-health-care-reform Koch brothers, which is a clear conflict of interest that should have led to both judges recusing themselves from this case. So Scalia's ruling in this case is hardly in doubt. Partisanship will guide him far more than actual judicial thought.

Scalia is a case-study example of the current Republican Party, the party that used to be known for emphasizing personal responsibility--which is the core concept of the health-care reform mandate opposed by Republicans and currently being debated by the Supreme Court. Today's G.O.P. has evolved into the party of complaints, laziness, and ethical conflict.

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