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. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

Latest from Tom Johnson
July 5, 2015, 2:26 PM EDT

The two most recent Republican presidential nominees weren’t particular favorites of the party’s core voters. This time, suggests Jamelle Bouie, if the GOP wants a candidate who excites its base, the choice is clear: Donald Trump, who boasts the “belligerence” and “bigotry” that “ugly and angry” right-wingers love.

Since Trump’s never held political office, observed Bouie in a Wednesday piece, he can say pretty much anything that’ll rev up righty activists, whereas even staunchly conservative officeholders “can appease the Republican base with harsh attacks on the other side, but they can’t endorse every crazy idea, lest they hurt their [legislative] goals and priorities.”

July 4, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT

Richard Nixon’s campaign did what it could to make sure the Democratic party didn’t nominate its strongest presidential candidate in 1972, thereby facilitating Nixon’s re-election. President Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2016, but New York magazine's Jonathan Chait speculates that Obama is trying to smooth Hillary Clinton’s path to the Oval Office by nudging Republicans into nominating Scott Walker.

July 3, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

Conservatives have an ideological fever, and the only prescription is to wait until their crazy ideas vanish. That’s the word from Washington Monthly blogger Martin Longman, who opined in a Wednesday post that many on the right have suffered from a sort of “heat-fever” when confronted with President Obama and his policies.

Longman explained that “a fever is something that comes over you suddenly, causing addled thinking, hallucinations and other delusions, but which eventually breaks and goes away as quickly as it arrived...[T]he Obama Era has been marked by an unusual number of these outbreaks of mass insanity,” such as rage against the Affordable Care Act.

July 2, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

In the week since the Supreme Court upheld certain Obamacare subsidies, some on the left, applying the wisdom that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” have gratefully praised majority-opinion-writer John Roberts. But now liberals need to put their warm fuzzies for the chief justice behind them and guard against “complacency” regarding the court, advised Brian Beutler in a Tuesday article.

“Nothing inspires spasms of rage on the right quite like Obamacare, which explains why the conservatives feel as if Roberts has betrayed them on a Shakespearean scale,” wrote Beutler. Nonetheless, Roberts has established his right-wing bona fides on many other matters, including “affirmative action, voting rights, [and] campaign finance regulations,” and conservatives see the Roberts court as a “useful tool” in their effort to “litigate federal regulatory laws.”

July 2, 2015, 12:31 AM EDT

Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change. Last week’s Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage. California’s new mandatory-vaccination law. What all these have in common, according to Michael Specter, isn’t merely that they’re correct, but that they’re manifestations of “rational thought.”

Three of those events, of course, were highly unpopular on the right (the vaccination issue is less ideologically clearcut) so it’s fair to say that Specter also sees them as defeats for the conservative movement, though he opines that the SCOTUS is “governed largely by conservatives” and that the pope certainly has some right-wing tendencies (“in many areas,” Specter snipes, Francis “adheres to tenth-century notions of justice”).

July 1, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT

Though both Jonathan Chait and Amanda Marcotte approve of same-sex marriage, they differed on Monday in their assessment of the case against it. Chait, of New York magazine, claimed that anti-gay-marriage arguments have been pitiful and consequently were doomed from the get-go. He declared that “preventing gay people from marrying each other serves no coherent purpose. Allowing them to marry harms nobody.”

Meanwhile, Marcotte argued in a Talking Points Memo column that same-sex marriage helps to “redefine…marriage as an institution of love instead of oppression,” and that the anti-gay-marriage forces are clinging to the idea that marriage is “about dutiful procreation and female submission.”

June 29, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

It’s likely that most NewsBusters readers are familiar with the grimly humorous saying “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” Last Friday, UCLA professor of public policy Mark Kleiman opined in so many words that the Republican party’s beatings in presidential elections will continue until its mental health improves.

In a Friday Washington Monthly post, Kleiman mocked conservatives for their allegedly fanciful belief that their “frivolous” arguments in King v. Burwell would carry the day and predicted that Republicans probably have a few more years of delusion and defeat ahead of them: “It’s possible that a convincing [Hillary] Clinton win and a Democratic recapture of the Senate in 2016 will shock the GOP back to reality. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Feeding right-wing fury is a profitable venture financially, and it works well enough electorally in off-years to keep the hustle going. My guess is that it will take a Clinton re-election landslide in 2020 to do the job.”

June 28, 2015, 12:58 PM EDT

Presidential nominees sometimes choose one of the candidates they defeated during primary/caucus season as their running mate for the general election. In that tradition, the Washington Monthly's D.R. Tucker recommends that Hillary Clinton, assuming she’s the Democratic nominee, name Bernie Sanders to the ticket, adding that Hillary “would have to signal that [Sanders] would be something of a co-President, the progressive answer to Dick Cheney.”

Tucker sneered that “a Clinton-Sanders ticket would, of course, put the American right on suicide watch” and asserted that if the two were elected, it would “finally put the corpse of Reaganism into the ground once and for all. Sanders is the living refutation of Reaganism, and the Vice Presidency would provide an effective bully pulpit to push back against the false arguments made by those who still worship the false idol who was the 40th president of the United States.”

June 27, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

There's a major opinion gap between white Catholics and Latino Catholics in the U.S. regarding climate change. A recent poll found that by margins of approximately 20 percent, Latino Catholics are likelier than white Catholics to believe that there is such a thing as global warming; that it’s “due to human activity”; and that it “constitutes a crisis or a major problem.” What’s causing this discrepancy? A false god, suggests writer Patricia Miller.

“White Catholics don’t accept the scientific consensus on climate change because it clashes with their other god: the free market,” declared Miller in a Thursday piece for Salon. “Over the last 15 years…much of institutional American Catholicism has become hopeless[ly] intertwined with a conservative, liberation [sic] ideology that has trickled down to Catholics in the pews.”

June 27, 2015, 12:38 AM EDT

Conservatives are accustomed to admiring the work and deploring the politics of artists like Bruce Springsteen and Stephen King. Michael Tomasky wrote Thursday that some liberals have had roughly similar feelings about Antonin Scalia, but that’s over now because of Scalia’s dissent in King v. Burwell, which was devoid of the justice’s usual “writerly flair and intellectual acumen.”

“It long ago became a kind of fetish, the anticipation of reading Scalia’s opinions,” remarked Tomasky. “There was always an excess of intellectual and moral certitude, to be sure, but there was also wit and a kind of joyfulness of battle whether he was on the winning or losing side…But that was then. This decision is something else again. Here, there is no wit. There is just bile. As you read along you can veritably see his carotid artery pulsing, growing; smell the sweat flopping out of the pores...The law lives, and he is livid.”

June 25, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT

In the lead-up to the King v. Burwell decision, not a few liberals claimed that most Republicans secretly wanted the Supreme Court to uphold certain Obamacare subsidies because quashing them would have caused major political hassles for the GOP. The SCOTUS ruled Thursday morning, and before noon we had examples of the updated conventional wisdom: Republicans are happy with the decision, which will spare them harm in the 2016 elections.

One post in this vein came from Steve Benen, a producer for MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and the main writer for the TRMS blog. Benen asserted that chief justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, “did the GOP an enormous favor -- had the court created systemic chaos, and scrapped benefits for millions of red-state families, Republicans would have confronted an incredible mess they were woefully unprepared to clean up. Worse, there’s a big election coming up, and the GOP was poised to be on the hook for hurting a lot of people out of nothing but spite.”

June 24, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

Several years ago, an episode of The Simpsons featured a Fox News helicopter emblazoned with a fictional slogan for the channel: “Not Racist, But #1 With Racists.” Washington Monthly blogger Ed Kilgore seems to think that those words fit the modern Republican party.

Kilgore acknowledged in a Wednesday post that “if you go back far enough the Democratic and Republican parties were very different beasts,” but argued that these days, “the ideological realignment of the two parties has left just about all the racists in the GOP. That doesn’t mean all Republicans are racists, but it does mean racism is the GOP’s problem at present.”

June 23, 2015, 5:38 PM EDT

Racial issues, not gun issues, understandably have been at the forefront of most media coverage of the Charleston massacre, but Adam Gopnik suggests that in any such mass shooting, the firearm is the salient factor.

“Mental health, the enduring structures of racism—these are issues that we have to deal with, too,” wrote Gopnik in a Tuesday column. “But they are not at the heart of the tragedy. Gun massacres happen for no reason at all, as well as for crazy reasons. Every country has people who come into the grip of delusions...Most countries keep lethal weapons out of their hands. After a mass killing, grief is supported by wisdom; laws change, and killings stop.”

June 23, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT

In a Tuesday piece for Salon, Stanford comparative-literature professor David Palumbo-Liu alleged that Fox News “surely planned to furnish [accused Charleston mass-murderer Dylann] Roof with an alibi regarding the exact nature of his heinous crime,” and declared that “if Roof is convicted I suggest we regard Fox as an accessory after the fact.”

Palumbo-Liu also claimed that Fox News “provides a support system for hatred” to politicians and organizations unaffiliated with FNC and dubbed “this mutual support system that radiates out from the cesspool of Fox News the ‘Larger Fox Network.’”

June 21, 2015, 2:02 PM EDT

Michael O’Donnell is eager to push back against the belief that Reagan ranks with Franklin Roosevelt as a great 20th-century president. In his review of H.W. Brands’ Reagan: The Life in the Washington Monthly’s June/July/August issue, O’Donnell wrote that “Roosevelt saved the nation from an existential threat (the Great Depression), while Reagan merely steered it out of a funk (the 1970s). Roosevelt enacted structural reforms to protect the most vulnerable members of society, [whereas] Reagan systematically set about dismantling those reforms.”

Moreover, argued O’Donnell, Reagan influenced today’s politics for the worse. O’Donnell calls him “the author of many of our current predicaments as a nation and a society…The government-is-the-enemy mind-set that pervades the right today comes to us from Barry Goldwater via Ronald Reagan. As our roads, bridges, and schools fall apart around us, we have them to thank.”

June 20, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

Group loyalty is a big part of politics on both sides of the fence, but as far as lefty pundit Marcotte is concerned, it’s become so inflated on the right that it often crowds out crucial things like “basic common sense.”

In a Friday Talking Points Memo column, Marcotte asserted that “conservatives are going way too far with this knee-jerk tendency to believe ‘their’ people can do no wrong and to assume ‘liberals’ are some subversive force out to destroy everything. It’s mildly amusing when Republican voters are mindlessly preferring religious nutcases” -- the Duggars -- “to a centrist liberal who probably gave them health care."

June 19, 2015, 9:48 PM EDT

Pundits occasionally opine that someone or other is the face of a given political party. Paul Waldman of The Week implies that Donald Trump would be a fitting choice as the Republican party’s face, presumably drawn by a cartoonist, since Trump is “a walking caricature…created from everything Republicans believe” about matters such as money and patriotism. “Trump is the essence of contemporary Republicanism,” wrote Waldman. “From his jingoism to his willingness to present all kinds of weird ideas as facts…to his relentless oversimplification of complex issues…[it's] what you get when you take a typical Republican politician and make him a little dumber and more extreme — but just a little.”

June 19, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

Anger, sadness, and disgust have been nearly universal responses to Wednesday night’s apparent act of racist terrorism in Charleston, S.C., but Jeb Lund doesn’t think such reactions make sense coming from conservatives.

In a Friday screed, Lund argued that the Charleston shootings shouldn’t have surprised anyone, given that “American movement conservatism has already made these kinds of killings political. The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.”

June 18, 2015, 10:58 AM EDT

In a Wednesday column, Tomasky alleged that the “real job” of the House select committee looking into the September 2012 Benghazi attack is “to get [Hillary] Clinton” and declared that “this ‘investigation’ now constitutes openly and defiantly urinating on the grave of Amb. [Chris] Stevens.” Tomasky commented that Trey “Gowdy’s investigators have come up empty on the consular attack itself, but their assignment, undoubtedly never spoken but equally undoubtedly always understood, is to find something that will keep Clinton out of the White House.”

June 17, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT

From her years at Yale Law School until early in her Senate career, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s liberal credentials rarely were questioned. Since then, many on the left have come to doubt that Hillary is one of them, for reasons that include her support for the Iraq war and her alleged coziness with Wall Street.

Rebecca Traister believes that it’s been twenty-five, not fifteen, years since Clinton started backing away from liberalism, but in any event Traister’s message to the doubters is that Classic Hillary is back. In a Sunday TNR piece, Traister rejoiced that Hillary the presidential candidate seems to have abandoned “power-appeasing, over-careful politics” in favor of “leftward shifts toward sanity.”

Given that Hillary is “recalibrating to the left,” Traister contended, America is “facing a test: How much more—if at all—tolerant is this nation of difficult, disruptive liberal women, and how willing is Hillary to really commit to being one again? These answers will matter a lot to those American[s] who liked original Hillary—and haven't much cared for the revised versions.”