Dear Oregonian: More David Sirota! Thank you.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Over the last few weeks, it seems that the Oregonian has been giving nationally-syndicated columnist David Sirota a tryout. They've run a couple of columns, and on Sunday, they even excerpted his blog (in an update to a previous column.)

The Oregonian should pick up David Sirota as a regular weekly columnist.

Ever since Molly Ivins passed away, there's been something missing in the pages of the Big O: an authentic progressive from outside the establishment.

Sure, the stuff from EJ Dionne, Leonard Pitts, and Paul Krugman is fine - but it's mostly the usual blah-blah-blah that passes for commentary inside the DC/NY axis.

Meanwhile, though he's just in his first few months as a national columnist, my friend David Sirota has already found his voice: he speaks passionately and thoughtfully about progressive economic populism and takes a strong stand against the chattering class inside the Beltway -- exactly the kind of voice we need at the Oregonian.

His book is coming out next month, entitled The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington -- and here's a clip from a recent column about "BitterGate":

A recent New York Times profile of [MSNBC's Chris] Matthews describes a name-dropping dilettante floating between television studios and cocktail parties. The article documents the MSNBC host's $5 million salary, three Mercedes and house in lavish Chevy Chase, Md. Yet Matthews said, "Am I part of the winner's circle in American life? I don't think so." ...

Tim Russert invited affluent political consultants on "Meet the Press" to analyze the "controversy," with millionaire James Carville saying, "I'm hardly bitter about things." ...

This sickening episode was topped off by ABC's Charles Gibson, who only months ago humiliated himself by insinuating that typical middle-class families make $200,000 a year (95 percent make less). Last week, while moderating a debate, Gibson segued from the "bitter" comment into a tirade against rescinding capital gains tax breaks, implying the proposal would hurt most Americans. This, even though the tax cuts in question delivered the vast majority of their benefits to the richest 1 percent.

Matthews routinely turns discussions of economic issues into debates about tactics, and then heads home to Chevy Chase telling himself he isn't "part of the winner's circle." Tim Russert asks millionaires to explain working-class struggles, and then reminds viewers he roots for the Buffalo Bills — as if that proves he speaks for blue-collar America.

If you agree that the Oregonian needs a strong outside-the-beltway voice for progressive economic populism, then send a note (polite, please) to the Oregonian's editorial page editor, Bob Caldwell at [email protected].

  • Mike (unverified)

    Thanks for the contact info. I mailed him.

  • Dylan (unverified)

    I completely agree. Sirota is a breath of fresh air on the editorial page.

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    I agree about the value of David Sirota's columns.

    On the other hand, I thought your analysis was way off base. David Sirota is very much focused on topics near and dear to those inside the beltway characters. Sirota's value is that he comes at them from a perspective that is much closer to reality most of the time.

    I wonder if you even read Leonard Pitts. His columns are seldom about the topics that are popular with the insider crowd.

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    Yes, Doretta, I agree - Sirota is focused on topics "near and dear" to beltway folks... but has an entirely outside-the-beltway perspective.

    And I agree that Leonard Pitts does good stuff; didn't mean to disparage him in any way.

  • im (unverified)

    I think of myself as "blue" but I have to disagree about David Sirota and the quality of his work. Compared to someone like, say, Paul Krugman, I think Sirota's stuff is impressionistic and lazy.

    Yesterday's column is a good example; honestly, Kari, you could have rolled out of bed yesterday and written a more insightful and intellectually rigorous column before your first cup of coffee.

    Sirota is a populist brand, a preacher to the choir, and not a critical thinker. I don't know (or really care) about the Oregonian, but the world has enough, better writers in that mold. those of you disagree and deeply admire Sirota, I ask you to explain: where's the growth, the evolution, the depth, in his body of work? If I'm not already predisposed to hate capitalism, generally open minded, and I already buy the premise that income inequality is real, what has he ever written that would challenge my thinking? (Please don't just cite his book title.)

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    Sirota and his ilk need to go back to the university and take Economics 101, so they can realize that their diatribes against free trade are delusional.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Krugman is generally very careful and thoughtful. Sure he supports Hillary Clinton--that's fine. I wish he had never written that stupid column about the "cult of Obama", or however he phrased it exactly, but I'll forgive him, because he is very clear about economics. (I wish that James Surowieczki, who writes an economics page for The New Yorker, were syndicated....)

    As for Leonard Pitts, isn't he from Florida?

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    I ask you to explain: where's the growth, the evolution, the depth, in his body of work?

    Funny. Given that he's only been a columnist for a few months now... David's an intellectually curious guy, I'm quite confident that he'll "grow" over the years.

    I already buy the premise that income inequality is real, what has he ever written that would challenge my thinking?

    Well, yeah, me too - but that's a perspective that's actually quite rare amongst columnists. We need a true progressive who cares about issues (not just tactics).

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    While I like Sirota on many domestic issues, and would welcome his commentary in the Oregonian on those issues, I have not seen that he has any ideas on foreign policy beyond stopping the Iraq war and stopping trade with foreign countries where wages are less than in the US. And because he does not seem to understand the changing international system, and seems to want the US to withdraw economically and militarily from the rest of the world, and from the process of globalization, I find his commentaries on the trade issues and on foreign countries more appropriate for the 19th than the 21st century.

  • im (unverified)


    As you know, David's publishing career predates his column, and goes back (from his blog archive) to 2004. I agree that's not a lifetime's work. You know him personally, and I have no reason to doubt his underlying intellectual curiosity. A lot of journalists, many of them very good, seem to like him, and I'm sure he's a great guy.

    But to my taste, his current work (his blog, his Huffington Post columns, and the book blurbs I have read) is one dimensional and speculative. He writes like someone stuck, very deeply, inside his assumptions. Maybe that makes someone an effective organizer or mobilizer, but it doesn't make someone a great journalist.

    Great columnists like Molly Ivins (rip), or Bob Herbert, or Nick Kristof, all of whom care about issues, seem(ed) to ask themselves "what do the unpersuaded think, and how does one talk to them?". David, and someone like Naomi Klein (who makes my forehead peel) do not seem to wonder, care, or even think of the question. If either you or David feel differently, please illustrate.

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    Sirota's value to me comes less from his ideas than from his research. He tends to bring to light a lot of facts other people miss.

    I've been a major Krugman fan over the years but he's been worse than awful through the Clinton/Obama thing. I have absolutely no problem with him supporting Clinton and I have said here before that I think there is substance to some of his criticisms of some of the Obama camp's positions. If it had been only one awful colum that would have been one thing. However, his relentless drumbeat against Obama has been way out of proportion to the substance of his criticisms and he's written a lot of essentially contentless crap in the process. My esteem for him has plummeted over the course of this campaign--starting from significantly before I made up my mind to support Obama in the primary. It's one thing for anonymous Clinton supporters on BlueOregon to wax totally irrational, but the fact that supporting Clinton managed to engender similar, if somewhat less extreme, behavior out of Paul Krugman was one small factor of many that pushed me off the fence toward Obama.


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