"... a faceless mass, waiting for handouts."
— Ronald Reagan, 1965. (Description of Medicaid recipients.)
"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."
— California Governor Ronald Reagan, in the Sacramento Bee, April 28, 1966
"We were told four years ago that 17 million people
went to bed hungry every night.
Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet."
— Ronald Reagan, TV speech, October 27, 1964
SAM SMITH — Ronald Regan has carried out his last con. The first occupant of the White House to make politics just another form of show business is being buried as a hero despite having been one of the worst presidents America ever had.
True, he was not as corrupt as Nixon or Clinton, nor as gleefully imperial as George Bush the Lesser, and the damage he did was largely unintentional, the fatal mischief of a small minded man granted too much power.
But the result was to begin the decline and fall of the first American republic by convincing its leaders, media, and citizens that the main thing they needed for happiness was a free, unfettered market accompanied by sufficient faux cowboy rhetoric. That there was never any empirical evidence for the absurd economic assumptions didn't matter; his charm sufficed where logic failed.
A quarter century later we are left with a middle class with substantially greater problems, a lower class far more ignored, an ecology far more damaged, a much larger gap between rich and poor and between CEO and employee, Medicare and Social Security in danger, and a culture of greed and narcissism that has buried ideals of democracy, community, and cooperation.
The nausea-inducing elevation of Reagan into someone he never was is another triumph of rightwing spin being swallowed whole by a media that not only doesn't know the facts, it doesn't even think it has to, for it, too, has become just another part of show business.
of the Washington press corps,
one of the first things you have to do
is stay away from press conferences,
which are devices designed to
distract reporters from finding the news.
I feel like every morning I get to go fishing
. . . only for news rather than for trout."
New American Dream Interview
SAM SMITH, 71, recently moved to Maine from Washington, D.C.
He produces The Progressive Review, an online publication.
"Is a writer, activist and social critic who has been at the forefront of new ideas and new politics for more than four decades. He has been editing alternative publications since 1964, longer than almost anyone in the country. He has covered Washington longer than almost anyone in the capital. ...
"Is a native Washingtonian who covered his first Washington story in 1957 as a 19-year-old radio news reporter.
"Was operations officer and navigator aboard a Coast Guard cutter and later executive officer of the Baltimore Coast Guard reserve unit.
"Graduated from Harvard in 1959 with a major in anthropology. Was news director of Harvard radio station WHRB. Was elected station manager but couldn't serve due to academic probation.
"Spent his teen years in Philadelphia. Attended Germantown Friends School and took part in his first political campaign at the age of twelve. Started his first alternative publication, a family newspaper, when he was 13, and his school's first band.
"A musician (first drums, then stride piano & vocals), he had his own group - the Decoland Band - for over a decade and was the co-composer of a musical revue. He also played with the New Sunshine Jazz Band, Hill City Jazz Band, Phoenix Jazz Band, and the No So Modern Jazz Band.
"Wrote lyrics and music for a number of tunes for Washington in Revue, performed by the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop in 1974."
More about Sam Smith:
The New American Dream Trivia Question:
To win something be the last one to correctly answer the following.
Sam Smith would rather be ....
a. Meeting Karl Rove in the alley behind Nanny O'Briens Irish Pub
b. Something at the Washington Post
c. Finding my private 9/11 Deep Throat and making History
d. Playing jazz, al fresco, as Bush's motorcade to prison passes by
e. Getting a nickel for every protester I've seen marching around town thinking he was going to change the world with his Magic Marker sign
f. Something at the Washington Times
NAD: Sam, hello, thank you for taking the time for this.
Well, why aren't you a member of the Washington Press Corps?
Actually, I may be one of the last members of the Washington press corps, along with a few others like Jim Ridgeway, Sy Hirsch and William Greider.
We have largely been replaced by stengraphers and power groupies.
Gene McCarthy used to say that Washington reporters were like blackbirds on a telephone wire.
One flew off and they all flew off.
If you want to be a real member of the Washington press corps, one of the first things you have to do if stay away from press conferences, which are devices designed to distract reporters from finding the news.
If you want to find out what's really happening, you are more likely to find it on some obscure piece of paper rather than having lunch with some spinner.
Or you find it by looking carefully at the numbers.
Since most Washington reporters majored in things like English or history they tend to think of numbers as just more adjectives and so they miss a lot of good stories.
NAD: Why have you done all this?
So what else was I meant to do?
NAD: Why are you so interested?
My college roommates used to make fun of me because I would run out the door whenever I heard a nearby fire engine. I guess it must be genetic.
NAD: Where did you go to high school?
Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia.
I had three wonderful English teachers and took one of two high school anthropology courses being offered in the country at the time.
It was only a ninth grade course but so influential that when I majored in anthropology at Harvard, five of the twenty undegraduate majors were from GFS.
we have moved from
disaster to disappointment.
NAD: Was there a "moment" you can recall that made you want to do something about it?
I don't know if there was a moment.
The better question would be: was there ever not a moment?
From junior high on I was more of a fan of journalists like Ed Murrow and Elmer Davis than I was of sports figures.
NAD: Would you like to choose one of these to answer, elaborate on?
We don't ask this to make fun. We ask because we really seek the answers.
— Is there a God?
I'm a Seventh Day Agnostic.
I don't think it matters because if there is a god I can't imagine him being worth worshipping if he holds it against people for not knowing whether he exists or not.
That would be a pretty rotten attitude — sort of like favoring the likes of Sarah Palin and Rick Warren. Who needs a god like that?
On the other hand, if it helps people to believe in God or things on key chains, that's fine.
It only becomes a problem when they want to punish others for failing to live up their misinterpretation of some sacred book and start wars and things like that.
I'm an existentialist and believe our existence is defined by what we do and say.
You can't blame it on God.
NAD: What's it like to do what you do?
I love it.
I feel like every morning I get to go fishing. . . only for news rather than for trout.
NAD: How much work is it?
It's 10:52 p.m., and I've been working all day.
Pretty typical but it's almost time for Jon Stewart.
NAD: Do you think you have any impact on the government insiders?
You never know.
We can never control whether we affect history; but we can always control how we react to it.
So you do what you can and hope some of it helps.
One of the existentialists said that even a condemned man can determine how he approaches the gallows.
Only two of the women who attended the first big woman's conference lived long enough to cast a ballot. Was their attendance at that meeting a waste of time?
Would you have been an abolitionist in the 1830s or would it have been a waste of time?
A labor activist in the 1870s? A gay activist in the 1890s?
Besides, as someone pointed out, if you're not trying to do the right thing, you're probably doing the wrong thing.
So just trying can help.
The example I sometimes use is of an article I wrote in 1970 about how Washington D.C. could and should become a state.
All I got in response was from a reader who sent a five dollar check to help the cause.
Then about four months later, a group of us were sitting around planning an election campaign for a local civil rights leader, Julius Hobson.
After a while, he says, "Well what platform should I run on?"
And somebody says, "Well Sam wrote this article about how D.C. should be a state."
We discuss it and less than a half hour later, Julius suddenly says, "That's it. That's my platform."
And that's how a third party was formed that would elect officials for the next 25 years. There's no way you could have scripted it. The idea was just out there waiting for the right moment to come along.
NAD: You railed against the war, but it happened and it went on for years.
Isn't that discouraging?
But what if Iraq and Afghanistan are just more painful steps towards a war abolition movement?
Important lessons in the futility and stupidity of war.
I'm conscious of this because both my parents lost brothers in the First World War.
One them had a cousin in the Lafayette Escadrille who died on a scouting mission of Germany.
Another uncle committed suicide ten years afterwards as a result of what we would call post traumatic stress syndrome (he was in charge of moving bodies by train from the front).
My father worked overseas for the Army as a civilian during World War II and neither my brother (in the Air Force) nor I (in the Coast Guard) saw combat.
None of my 17 full or step nephews and nieces have served in the military at all.
So on the good days I can see a time when we will regard war as repugnant as we do slavery.
NAD: Do you have hope in Obama?
As someone said, hope don't pay the cable.
With Obama I suspect we have moved from disaster to disappointment.
If you look at his positions and his appointments instead of his skin color, you realize how conservative he is.
When you come down to it, we haven't had a real Democrat as president since LBJ.
It's a sign of how far to the right we have moved that Obama represents the alternative.
And the funny thing is that so many Democrats have become so conservative they don't even notice it.
In social settings, however, I try to keep my knee jerk deficit disorder to myself.
Let people find the truth about Santa Claus at their own speed.
NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? What are they?
It's the one my guitar playing son rejected when I gave it to him.
It has a skull and crossbones on it and says, "Tune it or die."
Seems like pretty good advice.
NAD: What did you absolutely have to get done by noon today?
Make myself a BBQ beef sandwich with mayo.
NAD: How about by Christmas 2009?
Finish the books that have been sitting on my table since Christmas 2007.
NAD: What else would you like to add? What else should I have asked?
In my next life I would like to come back as the piano player Teddy Wilson.
I can recite the names of all the presidents in order — at least through Eisenhower when the trick my father taught me runs out.
I have covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of these presidencies.
I can survive in any environment as long as there's enough Diet Coke and peanut butter.
If you search the archives below, you will find, in a sort of order [last to first], interviews with:
Jarek Kupsc, 9/11 Truth filmmaker, "The Reflecting Pool"
Bill O'Driscoll, arts editor, Pittsburgh City Paper
Gerry McCarthy, editor of The Social Edge
Jim Cullen, editor of The Progressive Populist magazine
Bartcop, old-school blogger from Tulsa
Lee Rayburn, radio show host from Madison, Wisconsin
Aimee England, bookseller in Michigan
Al Markowitz, poet for the working woman & man
Timbre Wolf, a Tulsa peace minstrel goes to Hawaii
Steven Stothard, a radical grows in Indiana
Dale Clark, an artist in the desert
Jacqui Devenuau, Green Party organizer in Maine
Don Harkins, co-editor of The Idaho Observer
Stewart Bradley, independent film producer
Rick Smith, Cleveland area radio host
William P. Meyers, independent book publisher, political activist
Ian Woods, Canadian publisher, 9/11 Truth activist
Richard D. Brinkman, Edmonton, Canada 9/11 Truth
Lynn Berg, New York City actor
Alejandro Rojas, of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network
Brian Kasoro, publisher of The Liberator magazine
Brother Raymond, walked from Denver to D.C., for truth
Korey Rowe, one of the producers of Loose Change
Dave Zweifel, editor of The Madison Capital Times
Cathleen Howard, expatriate, from Tucson to Mexico, to pursue her dreams
Sander Hicks, Brooklyn radical entrepreneur, writer, publisher
Joe Bageant, America's blue-collar author
Frida Berrigan, a lifetime of faith, hope and love
Denise Diaz, brewing up a revolution, at The Ritual Cafe in Des Moines
Deanna Taylor, Green Party activist, teacher, in Salt Lake City
Rossie Indira-Vltchek, writer, filmmaker in Jarkarta, Indonesia
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Pacifica reporter in Gaza
Delaney Bruce, Friends of Peltier
Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs
Michael Sprong, South Dakota Catholic Worker
Brian Terrell, Des Moines Catholic Worker
Bob Graf, One of the Milwaukee 14
Loren Coleman, Bigfoot researcher
Monty Borror, Sci-Fi artist from Virginia
David Ray, Great American Poet
Jack Blood, radio show host, in Austin, Texas
Danny Schechter, A Real Reporter
Bob Kincaid, host, Head-On Radio Show
Tony Packes, Animal Farm Radio Host, Keeping An Eye on Big Brother
Richard Flamer, Working With the Poor in Chiapas
David Ray Griffin, 9/11 Truth activist author
Barry Crimmins, U.S. comedian, author, social activist
Bret Hayworth, political reporter for the Sioux City [IA] Journal
Lisa Casey, publisher of website All Hat No Cattle
Joe & Elaine Mayer, activist couple in Rochester, Minnesota
Fr. Darrell Rupiper, U.S. priest revolutionary
Whitney Trettien, MIT student, Green Party activist
Meria Heller, radio show host
Phil Hey, professor, poet
John Crawford, book publisher
Steve Moon, Iowa Bigfoot researcher
Carol Brouillet, California social activist, 9/11 Truth
Russell Brutsche, Santa Cruz artist
Kevin Barrett, professor, radio show host, 9/11 Truth activist
A'Jamal Rashad Byndon, social activist in Omaha
Chris Rooney, Vancouver, Canada Catholic Worker, website publisher
Marc Estrin, political novelist, from the left
Peter Dale Scott, poet, professor, author, activist
Anthony Rayson, anarchist zine publisher, works with prisoners
Alice Cherbonnier, editor of The Baltimore Chronicle, an independent newspaper