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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Oct 23, 2010

10 March 2011 (Update) - Both Robert Scheer and the New York City-based magazine City Limits have been named the shared winners of the third annual Izzy Award for Special Achievement in Independent Media. The Izzy Award is named after legendary maverick journalist I.F. Stone, who launched I.F. Stone’s Weekly in 1953 and exposed government deception, McCarthyism and racial bigotry. The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College in New York cited Scheer for being "a beacon of journalistic independence who exposes both major parties on issues foreign and domestic, while giving voice to the disenfranchised," and City Limits for providing "a model of in-depth urban journalism that examines systemic problems, challenges assumptions and points toward solutions."

Robert Scheer speaks here with Claudia Cragg about his latest book, The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books), was released on September 7, 2010. Publishers Weekly wrote that the book "proves that, when it comes to the ruling sway of money power, Democrats and Republicans, Wall Street and Washington make very agreeable bedfellows.” 

Born in 1936, Scheer is an American journalist who writes a column for, and is Editor in Chief of,  Truthdig, an online publication. His column is nationally syndicated throughout the US in publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle and The Nation. He teaches communications as a professor at the University of Southern California.

While working at City Lights Books in San Francisco, Scheer co-authored the book, Cuba, an American tragedy (1964), with Maurice Zeitlin. Between 1964 and 1969, he served, variously, as the Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor-in-chief of Ramparts magazine. He reported from Cambodia, China, North Korea, Russia, Latin America and the Middle East (including the Six-Day War), as well as on national security matters in the United States. While in Cuba, where he interviewed Fidel Castro, Scheer obtained an introduction by the Cuban leader for the diary of Che Guevara — which Scheer had already obtained, with the assistance of French journalist Michele Ray, for publication in Ramparts and by Bantam Books.

During this period Scheer made a bid for elective office as one of the first anti-Vietnam War candidates. He challenged U.S. Representative Jeffrey Cohelan in the 1966 Democratic primary. Cohelan was a liberal, but like most Democratic officeholders at that time, he supported the Vietnam War. Scheer lost, but won over 45% of the vote (and carried Berkeley), a strong showing against an incumbent that demonstrated the rising strength of New Left Sixties radicalism.

After several years freelancing for magazines, including New Times and Playboy, Scheer joined the Los Angeles Times in 1976 as a reporter. There he met Narda Zacchino, a reporter whom he later wed in the paper's news room. As a national correspondent for 17 years at the Times, he wrote articles and series on such diverse topics as the Soviet Union during glasnost, the Jews of Los Angeles, arms control, urban crises, national politics and the military, as well as covering several presidential elections. The Times entered Scheer's work for the Pulitzer Prize 11 times, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer national reporting award for a series on the television industry.

Scheer has interviewed every president from Richard Nixon through Bill Clinton. He conducted the noted 1976 Playboy interview with Jimmy Carter, in which the then-presidential candidate admitted to having "lusted" in his heart.[2] In an interview with George H.W. Bush, the future president and then presidential candidate revealed that he believed nuclear war was "winnable." Scheer has profiled politicians from Californians Jerry Brown and Willie Brown to Washington insiders like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, as well as entertainment figures like actor Tom Cruise.

Scheer has written eight other books, including a collection entitled Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power, With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War, and America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals. In 2004, Scheer published The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq and made it to the Los Angeles Times Bestseller List. It was co-authored by his oldest son, Christopher Scheer, and Lakshmi Chaudhry, senior editor at Alternet.

In 2006 Scheer published Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan and Clinton – and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush; in 2008 he published The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.

(Apart from being made universally available, free, in this podcast, many of these interviews are conducted for and are broadcast on KGNU Denver-Boulder. This is a public radio station, like all public radio stations in these hard economic times, in need of listener funding and support. Kindly consider making a donation to KGNU, however small, to the station (NOT to Claudia Cragg) to continue to make air broadcast  of this work possible).