Jack Lessenberry

Essay/Analysis: Political Commentator

A Detroit native, Jack recognized that he wanted to become a journalist during his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. (He had previously set out to be a historian.) Now, he boasts thirty years of eclectic journalism experience. Jack has worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor of The Detroit News, and he has written for many national and regional publications, including Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Oakland Press.

Currently, he is a professor of journalism at Wayne State University and a contributing editor and columnist for The Metro Times, The Traverse-City Record Eagle, and The Toledo Blade...in addition to his work at Michigan Radio.

Throughout his years of journalism experience, his favorite memories are of interviewing Gerald Ford about Watergate in 1995 and winning a national Emmy for a documentary about Jack Kevorkian in 1994.

On a personal note, Jack stopped watching TV -- except for documentaries -- when Mr. Ed was canceled.

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Politics & Government
8:50 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Commentary: Detroit’s next mayor

Ten years or so ago, I went to talk to the powerful and flamboyant medical malpractice lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, probably best known for successfully defending Dr. Jack Kevorkian in a series of sensational, high-profile assisted suicide trials.

He said he was thinking about running for mayor of Detroit, and wanted my confidential advice. I told him I thought that was a brilliant idea, but that there were only three things wrong with it.

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Politics & Government
9:19 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Commentary: Collective bargaining

There are five proposed constitutional amendments on the state ballot this fall, and at this point, it is impossible to predict whether any of them will pass or fail.

But I do think I know which will provoke the most spending: Proposal Two, the amendment that would make collective bargaining a state constitutional right. Unions are going to spend millions to try to get it passed. Chambers of commerce and corporate interests are likely to spend even more to try to make sure it fails. This is seen to some extent as a Battle of Stalingrad for the union movement.

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Politics & Government
8:46 am
Wed September 26, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

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Every Wednesday Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about what's been going on in the news when it comes to Michigan politics. This week they talked about a Michigan family's request to release a Marine Veteran imprisoned in Iran in order to see his ailing father in Flint, where the state's incarceration system stands when it comes to inmates releases in Genesse County and Attorney General Bill Schuette's stance on juvenile lifers, and the Kwame Kilpatrick trial.

Politics & Government
9:00 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Commentary: What matters most in November

The election is six weeks away, and the vast majority of the media attention has been on whether President Obama or Mitt Romney will win the state. But I think that in Michigan, the real importance may be about something bigger.

This election will also determine whether one incredibly rich man can essentially buy our government for his own selfish interest.

That man is Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River. He is 85 years old, and according to Forbes, is worth close to two billion dollars.

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Politics & Government
8:38 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Commentary: A flag too far

Last week the Michigan Legislature overwhelmingly voted to require every public school to set aside time for the Pledge of Allegiance, and to require every classroom to display the American flag. The lawmakers wanted to strike a blow for patriotism.

Unfortunately, they didn’t give the schools any money to buy the flags, making this one more unfunded mandate.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Sat September 22, 2012

The week in review

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Every Saturday Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about some of the biggest stories in the week's news. This week they talk about Michigan Farm Bureau endorsing Democrat Debbie Stabenaw for the US Senate race, the Kwame Kilpatrick trail and the slew of art story headlines seen this week.

Politics & Government
8:36 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Commentary: Chrysler and Canada

We’ve got a lot going on in Michigan, to put it mildly, and I would guess that you haven’t been paying much attention to the union negotiations that have been going on in Canada.

That’s understandable -- but they could have a significant impact on the economy in this part of the world. The Canadian Auto Workers union used to be part of the UAW, before breaking off and becoming independent in the 1980s.

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Politics & Government
10:20 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Commentary: Acid test for Detroit

Does Detroit have any chance of avoiding bankruptcy and a state takeover of some kind? Frankly, I don’t know. The odds right now look bad for the city being able to continue governing itself.

But miracles and surprises happen. And right now, something is going on which should be a pretty clear test of whether those running the Michigan’s largest city can avoid disaster.

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Politics & Government
9:23 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Commentary: Depending on government

I’m not running for anything, now, or presumably ever. But I have a confession to make. I am not rich, but my household income is more than a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Nevertheless, I get a form of welfare from the government. And my guess is that you do too. If not, other members of your family do. My welfare is called the home mortgage tax deduction.

The government exempts me from paying thousands of dollars in taxes that I would have to pay if I lived in a rented apartment.

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Politics & Government
8:27 am
Wed September 19, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

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This week Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talked about the lawsuit filed against Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The lawsuit challenges Johnson’s instruction that voters who show up on Election Day should be asked whether they are US citizens. Shockley and Lessenberry also talked about Governor Rick Snyder's trade mission to China.

Politics & Government
8:34 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Commentary: Bringing cities back

Everybody running a business or a government knows they can make painful spending cuts that may balance the budget.

But you can’t cut your way to prosperity. You have to attract new growth and new investment, and the trillion-dollar question is: How?

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Politics & Government
8:38 am
Mon September 17, 2012

Commentary: Who will guard the guardians?

Shortly before Michigan’s statewide primary six weeks ago, I began to hear from people who had concerns about the sheriff in Eaton County, which is suburban and rural and just west of Lansing.

They told me the sheriff Mike Raines was putting together some kind of armed militia group and had scary ideas about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.

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Politics & Government
8:57 am
Fri September 14, 2012

Commentary: How to vote for judges

You probably haven’t thought much about this, but in addition to the candidates for President and Congress and everything else this  November, there are dozens who want to be elected judges.

Judicial races are usually more boring than other contests, because judges ethically can’t talk about how they might rule in hypothetical cases, though everyone frequently tries to figure that out. Nor do they normally criticize how past cases were decided.

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Politics & Government
9:49 am
Thu September 13, 2012

Commentary: Restoring Belle Isle

There was some good news yesterday for those who care about this state. Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced a deal to turn Belle Isle, the city’s neglected jewel of an island park, over to state management for the next thirty years.

Under the agreement, the state would pour millions into Belle Isle, fixing up facilities that have become shabby. They would restore shelters and restrooms; shore up buildings that are starting to crumble, and make the park safe and family-friendly. 

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Politics & Government
8:40 am
Wed September 12, 2012

Commentary: Understanding Blue Cross

Whatever else you think about Governor Rick Snyder, you can’t say he has failed to be bold. He has made or tried to make some stunning changes in the way Michigan works in a little over a year and a half in office. Yesterday, he did it again.

He unveiled a plan to dramatically change the health insurance landscape in Michigan by changing the way Blue Cross/Blue shield does business. He would convert it from its current official status as a charity to a nonprofit mutual company over the next fifteen months.

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week in michigan politics
7:55 am
Wed September 12, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

cnc photos flickr

Every Wednesday Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about the latest in Michigan politics. This week they talk about updates to emergency financial managers in Allen Park and Flint, the future of Belle Isle and the proposed overhaul to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Politics & Government
8:39 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Commentary: Canada and the bridge

After weeks of court battles, the Michigan ballot is now final, and in addition to a boatload of candidates, we will be asked to decide six statewide ballot proposals.

One of these is designed to prevent anyone from building a new bridge to Canada, no matter who, what or why, without first holding a statewide vote of the people. That may sound sensible.

But it is anything but. This is the result of a private monopoly spending millions of dollars in order to keep a stranglehold on trade.

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Politics & Government
10:31 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Commentary: Ballot madness in Detroit

If you live in Detroit, I want to wish you good luck trying to wrestle with your election ballot this November.

The rest of us Michigan voters are going to be asked to decide six complex statewide ballot proposals, which is far too many. But Detroiters are going to face a total of ten proposals.

That would be ridiculous, even if this were an enlightened state like Oregon, where everyone is mailed a ballot so they have time to study the races and issues before casting an informed vote.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

The week in review

Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry this week about the ballot proposals that were approved, the results of the special primary in Michigan's 11th congressional district and what happens now, and the medical marijuana debate in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

Politics & Government
10:42 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Commentary: Reflecting on the political conventions

Twenty years ago, I had to go to a dinner at a fancy restaurant in Northville on the last night of that year’s Republican National Convention, which nominated then-President George H.W. Bush.

While I waited for my table, I watched a couple seated at the bar, watching the convention. From their conversation, they were clearly Republicans. At some point the man said to the woman, “Well, that’s all right. We’ll be back in in four years.”

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