Jon Margolis

Jon Margolis, a former national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, is the author of The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964.

Recent Articles

Dis Interests

NASHUA, N.H. -- Thirteen television cameras, enough reporters to fill two press rooms, and 1,200 New Hampshire Democrats came to see Senator Hillary Clinton Saturday night at the massive Sheraton Hotel just north of the Massachusetts line,. But to veterans of these events, something seemed missing -- and not just because the hotel no longer outfits its doormen in 15th Century Beefeater guard costumes to complement the building's simulation of a Medieval castle. No, the deficiency was in the lobby and the corridor leading to the ballroom where the state Democratic Committee held its 100 Club Dinner. The place was crowded, but only with dinner guests, reporters, several platoons of young Clintonites handing out "Hillary" stickers, and a few (conventionally attired) hotel employees. What was missing was any activity resembling actual politics. Usually, this dinner is an issues bazaar, with advocates of various grouplets handing out leaflets against nuclear power and global warming; for...

Like A Rock

In politics, as in comedy -- assuming that they are distinct pursuits -- timing is everything, and right now the timing of both the candidates and the commentators contemplating the 2008 presidential election appears skewed. They are operating under the assumption that the New Hampshire primary will be next January 22. To borrow a term from Jimmy Durante, a comic with perfect timing, this could be a misahaprehension. Some may recall that, to the delight of reformers who have been stewing for decades about the disproportionate influence of New Hampshire, the national Democratic Party finally stood up to the Granite State's, well, flintiness , and took stern steps toward diluting its power. Last summer the Democrats decided to change the political calendar which had been in place since (politically speaking) the Pleistocene Era, or 1984. Since then, the Iowa Precinct caucuses have been held on a winter Monday evening, the New Hampshire primary eight days later, and all other states have...

His Own Worst Enemy

Thirty days before the election, a funny thing happened to Bernie Sanders on his way to the United States Senate -- his opponent emerged. Not that the aptly-named Rich Tarrant had been invisible. Au contraire (as they still say in some of Vermont's northern precincts) -- he had been unavoidable. Spending $6 million of your own money has to buy something, and in this case it bought familiarity with his name and face. For months, no Vermonter has been able to watch more than half an hour of television without seeing Tarrant's large head identify itself and announce, "I approve this message." The head in this case is proportional to the body. Tarrant came to Vermont in the early 1960s to play basketball at St. Michael's College just outside Burlington. After unsuccessful tryouts for the Boston Celtics, he returned to Vermont, started a software business, and got rich enough to end up on the board of trustees of the University of Vermont. Even before becoming a candidate, then, he wasn't...

Drain Canada

In Michael Moore's 1995 Canadian Bacon , an American president decides to boost his re-election prospects by going to war against Canada. Canadians were not particularly amused, but neither were they upset. This was a fictional invasion. Besides, it only sought to capture their government. Now looms a U.S. invasion Canadians take more seriously. This one is real, and its target is more tangible -- their water. They think we're coming after it. They're right. It isn't that the water wars are the talk of the nation; they were rarely mentioned in the recent federal election campaign. But the dispute bobs beneath the surface, a regular topic of conversation among the political elites. From the left, the Council of Canadians calls for a national water policy that would prevent “bulk water exports and diversions.” From the right, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed predicted that, “the United States will be coming after our fresh water aggressively within three to five years.” So far as...

What He Knew, And When He Knew It

Poor Ronald Reagan. Just because he was "caught extolling states' rights to a southern audience and civil rights to the Urban League on the same day," Andrew Busch reports, Democrats and political reporters accused him of being inconsistent. A bum rap, insists Busch in Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right . Reagan, "a Jeffersonian but not a bigot, undoubtedly saw no contradiction," and it is "only through a particular political lens" that his statements could be considered "gaffes." Busch is right about the bigot part. But that was not just any southern audience (and it was actually a day before the Urban League speech). Reagan's audience was an overwhelmingly white crowd in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Extolling states' rights wasn't a gaffe. It was a none-too-subtle signal: "I'm one of you." It worked. But will one find any suggestion of political cynicism in Busch's book? Heaven forefend...

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