Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and associate editor of The Capital Times. His latest book is titled The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism.
Negotiations continue between Democrats and Republicans to break a U.S. budget deadlock and avoid a government shutdown. Without an agreement on spending for the next six months, money to operate the government runs out at midnight tonight. We discuss the possible shutdown and the latest news from Wisconsin with John Nichols, Washington correspondent for the The Nation magazine and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison. He is also co-founder of the media advocacy group Free Press, the organization behind the National Conference for Media Reform. “This is not a fight about money, it is not a fight about budgets. This is a fight about a gaming of the budget process. We have a group of Republicans who are saying the most critical overspending in the United States, the biggest budget that just has to be addressed, is that of Planned Parenthood,” says Nichols. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: "Tell Us the Truth" by Boots Riley, Lester Chambers, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Steve Earle and others at the first National Conference for Media Reform. It was in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2003. Yes, we’re broadcasting from that very conference, but it’s 2011, and we’re in Boston. And we’re going to talk, though, about Wisconsin, as well as what’s happening in Washington. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, and we’re broadcasting before a live audience.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, we turn now to Washington, where negotiations continue between the White House and Congress to break a U.S. budget deadlock and avoid a government shutdown. Without an agreement on spending for the next six months, money to operate the government runs out at midnight tonight. President Obama spoke late last night.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk about the possibility of a government shutdown, as well as the latest news from Wisconsin, we’re joined by John Nichols, who is the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, associate editor of Capital Times in Madison, co-founder of this media advocacy group Free Press, the organization behind the National Conference on Media Reform.
John, let’s start with the government crackdown, and then we’ll go to Wisconsin.
JOHN NICHOLS: Sure. I hope it’s not a crackdown yet, just a breakdown. But the bottom line — the bottom line is this.
AMY GOODMAN: The possible shutdown.
JOHN NICHOLS: Yes. The bottom line is this: this is an entirely false construct. The fact of the matter is that we have a government that’s got plenty of money to keep going. This is not a fight about money, it is not a fight about budgets. This is a fight about a gaming of the budget process. We have a group of Republicans who are saying the most critical overspending in the United States, the biggest budget that just has to be addressed, is that of Planned Parenthood, right? It is a — this is a comic lie.
And the thing that troubles me the most, frankly, is that President Obama too frequently participates in that fantasy. What the President ought to be saying is, "Look, we have sufficient funds to run the country now. This is a game that’s being played, and I refuse to do it. I won’t participate." Instead, he’s sort of gone into a bargaining process with these Republicans. And the fact is, they keep coming back and moving the goalpost. Every time — every time the President says, "Yeah, let’s compromise. I’ll give up another program for the poor," they say, "No, the poor are still eating. And so, we’re just going to have to intervene a little more here." So, I’m very troubled by it. It’s an unsettling process.
JUAN GONZALEZ: John, I want to ask you about your home state of Wisconsin. New votes —
JOHN NICHOLS: Oh!
JUAN GONZALEZ: — have been found on a race that occurred earlier in the week?
JOHN NICHOLS: Now, Juan, you have covered some elections in the Bronx.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes.
JOHN NICHOLS: And I’ve covered some in Chicago. And I know the things that get said. But in Wisconsin, we’re somewhat unfamiliar with this. Now, let me give you just a quick scenario. In the most — we have this huge election for State Supreme Court between a candidate closely tied to Governor Scott Walker — his name is David Prosser, he’s the incumbent chief — or incumbent justice of the Supreme Court, being challenged by a woman named JoAnne Kloppenburg. She wasn’t thought to have a chance. But because of this uprising in Wisconsin, she swept up politically, very much a grassroots campaign, and tied David Prosser.
So, we’re about headed — guaranteed headed for a recount — until two days after the election, when a former aide to David Prosser and a former political aide and ally in the legislature to Scott Walker, who is now the county clerk of the most Republican county in the state, looked at her personal computer and found that, as the county clerk of that county, she had forgotten to count the votes of the second-largest city in the county. And it happens that the votes from that city provided precisely the number of votes for David Prosser to avoid a recount. Some Wisconsinites are asking questions.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ve got 10 seconds. What do you think we should be looking at in Wisconsin right now?
JOHN NICHOLS: The U.S. attorney should impound the ballots from Waukesha County, as well as the computer equipment associated with this vote. They look for all calls, and we should have a thorough investigation, count every vote, settle this election honestly.
AMY GOODMAN: John Nichols, thanks for being with us.