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Preview: Michigan Radio: Jack Lessenberry: Jack's Take Podcast

Jack Lessenberry

Every weekday, Michigan Radio political analyst Jack Lessenberry offers up his perspective on the latest political news in Michigan.

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 10:30:36 +0000


Remembering Tom Hayden

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 15:45:42 +0000

There was a great fascination with Tom Hayden when I was in high school in the Detroit suburbs in the mid-1960s. Mostly on the part of the teachers, that is. They regarded him as a boy gone wrong who had grown up in what was then sleepy, suburban Royal Oak and then become a radical enemy of America. Some of them knew his mother, who was a film librarian for the public schools.

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Fixing what caused Flint

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 16:59:24 +0000

For almost eight months, the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Crisis has been meeting, taking testimony, and struggling to find solutions. Two days ago, they released a major report aimed at preventing further disasters. Unfortunately, they did this the day of the final presidential debate, which meant it got less than full attention.

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Lessenberry: The Republican Party should never allow another Donald Trump to happen again

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 15:18:51 +0000

Forty years ago, Gerald Ford, the only man from Michigan ever to reach the White House, went to bed in the wee hours of Election Night not knowing whether he had won or lost. For Ford, the very closeness of the election was a sort of vindication. He started the campaign terribly unpopular. Inflation was high, and he was the man who pardoned our one clearly criminal president, Richard Nixon.

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Two who made a difference

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 15:17:31 +0000

For the last several weeks or months I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about politicians, usually people who want you to think they have accomplished more than they have, and are now promising to do more than they can possibly do. As long as you vote for them, that is. Well, two people died in the last few days who spent their lives doing more than most people realized, and who weren’t very well known.

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The irony of Romney firing Wendy Day because she won't support Trump

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 13:49:45 +0000

Last weekend I was invited to a birthday party with a 1980s theme in which guests were supposed to dress accordingly. Well, I don’t have any mustard-colored sports coats of the sort President Reagan sometimes wore. So, as the guest of honor was a Democrat, I wore political buttons honoring that party’s three great losers of that decade – Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis.

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The wicked messenger brings good news

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 16:20:12 +0000

According to the Special Theory of Relativity, time slows down as you approach the speed of light. I think that’s also true for political campaigns, especially this one. Every day seems longer and more interminable as we get closer to the actual election, and more and more weird and fantastic stuff seems to be happening.

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Whatever once united us as a people seems badly frayed

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:01:56 +0000

I’ve been fascinated by politics my entire life, and have usually regarded election night the same way football fans regard the Super Bowl. Whether the candidates I supported won or lost, I felt sort of a letdown after it was over; I’d have to wait another four years before a new presidential contest.

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Canadian ambassador on building their "most important infrastructure project"

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 14:47:55 +0000

David MacNaughton, Canada’s relatively new ambassador to the United States, came to Detroit yesterday, to speak to an important but too-little known group, CUSBA, or the Canada-United States Business Association. Our relationship with Canada is, by far, the most important one there is for both countries. Canadians always know that; Americans tend to forget. Detroit-Windsor is also easily both countries’ most economically important border crossing. The Canadian consulate graciously invited me to lunch with the ambassador, a witty and urbane man who isn’t a typical career diplomat. After serving his nation briefly as a young man, he went on to build his own political PR firm, sold it, and went on to run two more. .

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The reports of the Republican Party's death have been greatly exaggerated

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 13:49:26 +0000

Type some words like “will the Republican Party survive this election” into any search engine, and you’ll find stories predicting its coming collapse. Without any doubt, the GOP is now being torn by an internal civil war, and most of its key figures privately or publicly have written off Donald Trump’s chances.

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I'm saddened by the amazing decline in the quality of our national discourse

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 13:05:43 +0000

When I was eight years old, something historic happened: The first-ever televised presidential debate between major party candidates. My lower middle-class Detroit-area family watched it together, as did many American families, and I was encouraged to pay attention. The following day, my fourth-grade teacher encouraged discussion about the debate. I am sure much of it was over my head, but I remember very vividly that everyone thought it an important event. However, I don’t think our mothers would have wanted us to watch if there were any chance one of the candidates would have been asked to clarify his statement that he “moved in” on a married woman “like a bitch,” or would be asked if he really grabbed women by the genitals, as he claimed in a videotape to have been able to do. We also had a strong and correct hunch that the Democratic candidate would be asked about her own husband’s past behavior with women. Somehow I think my mother, who was a rather unanalytical Republican, would

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Taxpayer money directed to private schools is clearly unconstitutional

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:45:02 +0000

Here’s what the Michigan Constitution says about state aid to private schools: No public monies or property shall be appropriated or paid or any public credit utilized, by the legislature or any other political subdivision or agency of the state directly or indirectly to aid or maintain any private, denominational or other nonpublic, pre-elementary, elementary, or secondary school. No payment, credit, tax benefit, exemption or deductions, tuition voucher, subsidy, grant or loan of public monies or property shall be provided, directly or indirectly, to support the attendance of any student or the employment of any person at any such nonpublic school or at any location or institution where instruction is offered in whole or in part to such nonpublic school students. That’s about as clear as could be.

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Is there a pause in the political battle over state Supreme Court?

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 14:06:53 +0000

For many years, few people paid any attention to the politics of Michigan Supreme Court justices. Nor were elections for the state’s highest court usually exciting. That’s because there used to be a presumption that judges were more or less above politics, and that once on the bench, they should remain there as long as they were honest and competent, until the magic age of 70, after which, under the Michigan Constitution, they may finish a current term, but are no longer eligible to run again.

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Can Vicki Barnett beat L. Brooks Patterson in Oakland County?

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 15:00:25 +0000

If this election follows the familiar pattern, Donald Trump will lose Oakland County, Michigan’s second-largest and easily most affluent county, and lose it badly. Oakland was once reliably Republican. But the party’s move to the right on social issues hasn’t played well with largely highly educated Oakland voters, especially professional women.

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No system in place to replace unstable candidates

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 13:40:25 +0000

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a President of the United States went stark raving mad? As in, thinking he or she was an eggplant? Actually, there IS a system to deal with that. As I understand it, all that would have to happen would be for the vice president and a majority of the cabinet to sign a declaration that the president was not competent, and send it to Congress.

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Education suffers in Michigan because no one is accountable

Mon, 03 Oct 2016 16:14:35 +0000

There’s general agreement that education in Michigan is an unholy mess that is getting worse. Test scores confirm it is failing hundreds of thousands of students, which has huge implications for our future and that of our state. We are spending billions on a system that doesn’t work, and narrowly based ideological remedies aren’t helping. When I look at a system that is failing to teach far too many Tommys and Tamikas to read, and which is making higher education unaffordable for those who can, what oddly comes to mind is what a young John Kerry said about Vietnam: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" In this case: How we can keep refusing to fix a system to which we are sacrificing generations of children? I’ve been writing about various education issues for years, but last weekend, I read a piece in that really zeroes in on the heart of the matter. The author, Ken Winter, who had a long and distinguished career as editor and publisher of

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Do newspaper endorsements matter anymore?

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:46:55 +0000

The Detroit News caused quite a stir this week when it endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president. The newspaper, which was founded in 1873, has never endorsed anyone except a Republican for the nation’s highest office, though on three occasions, including the contest between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, it hasn’t endorsed anyone. But do such endorsements matter?

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Political scientists show how our politics have become asymmetric

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:22:36 +0000

Democrats are liberals, and Republicans conservatives, right? We usually talk and think about the major parties that way, as if they were two different flavors of ice cream. Republicans are red raspberry; Democrats, blueberry. Republicans want lower taxes and fewer services; Democrats higher taxes and more services. Democrats are pro-choice; Republicans anti-abortion, et cetera, et cetera.

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Could Flint sway this election?

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:35:15 +0000

If Donald Trump is to be elected President, he almost certainly has to win either Michigan or Pennsylvania. If Trump carries every state Mitt Romney won and adds Ohio, Florida and Iowa, he still loses – unless he can take Michigan or Pennsylvania away from the Democrats. So far this year, polls show he may have a better chance here. Hillary Clinton leads in Michigan, but by less than in Pennsylvania and by far less than President Obama won the state either time. But Republicans in Congress are now doing something that may torpedo any chance Trump has of flipping this state this year.

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Michigan should join states that compensate wrongfully convicted

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:12:36 +0000

Macomb County resident Julie Baumer volunteered to care for her sister’s unwanted baby thirteen years ago. She was a 27-year-old mortgage broker who was engaged to be married and had a full life, but she didn’t want the little boy to be put up for adoption. But a few weeks later, she took the baby to the hospital, where doctors discovered a lot of blood on his brain. She was suspected of violently shaking the baby.

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Could tonight's presidential debate change the 2016 election? History suggests yes.

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:34:53 +0000

As everyone knows, the first presidential debate since the primaries is tonight, the first head-to-head clash between the two least popular presidential nominees ever.

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