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
8:34 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

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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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Politics & Government
9:22 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Commentary: Ballot madness

Five million Michigan voters will go to the polls two months from today. When they are handed their ballots and walk into the voting booth, they will face six ticking time bombs.

I’m talking about the ballot proposals. Yesterday, the State Supreme Court ended a legal battle by ordering three more proposed constitutional amendments on to the ballot. They’ve already put two others there, plus a referendum on the emergency manager law.

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Politics & Government
9:16 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Commentary: Watching the conventions

I grew up a pathetic political junkie of the worst kind. I've been avidly watching and occasionally attending conventions since I was eight years old. I was so pathetic that I would rather have watched Stuart Symington speak than Rocky Colavito play ball.

However, while that didn’t make me one of the cool kids, it does give me some basis for comparison, and there is no doubt that Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last night was one of the best I have ever heard.

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Politics & Government
8:52 am
Wed September 5, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

User: cncphotos flickr

This week Christina Shockley talked with Jack Lessenberry about the focus of the auto bailout at the Democratic National Convention, the teacher retirement benefit bill that has been heating up in Lansing, and the special primary taking place Wednesday in southeast Michigan.

Politics & Government
9:07 am
Tue September 4, 2012

Commentary: Science and politics

Everybody knows the old saying that prophets are never  appreciated in their own countries. We take the familiar for granted.

That’s certainly the case in Michigan. This is one of the more beautiful states in the union, something we sometimes forget. We also have some of the nation’s most fascinating people, some of whom aren’t always on the media radar screen.

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Politics & Government
10:12 am
Fri August 31, 2012

Commentary: Post-conventional wisdom

The Republican National Convention is over. The Democratic National Convention is about to begin. And unless something unexpected happens next week, my guess is that the world will little note nor long remember what anybody did at either gathering.

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Politics & Government
11:17 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Commentary: Blocking Ron Paul out

There’s an elderly lady in Royal Oak who has sharpened and repaired my razors and table knives for years.

She has spent her life in business for herself, and does excellent work. She also isn’t shy about expressing her political opinions. She now works out of her home, and since the campaign started, her home has been decorated with Ron Paul signs.

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commentary
9:24 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Commentary: Grand Jury Investigation

Yesterday should have been a day of ultimate triumph for Michigan Republicans. Mitt Romney became the first native Detroiter in history to be nominated for President of the United States.

His wife Ann, another native Michigander, gave a very moving  nationally televised speech to the Republican National Convention, and celebration should have been the word of the day.

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week in state politics
9:10 am
Wed August 29, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

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Every Wednesday Christina Shockley talks to Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what is going on in state politics. This week they talk about the one-person jury that is investigating election rigging allegations involving  State Representative Roy Schmidt and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. They also discuss the ballot campaigns that are now going to court to try to get on the November ballot, and what Michigan delegates are doing at the Republican Nation Convention.

Commentary
12:21 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Commentary: The Romneys

I don’t claim to really know Mitt Romney, who is going to be nominated for president tonight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. I did, however, interview him at length five years ago, the first time he ran for president.

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Commentary
10:37 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Commentary: Michigan and the GOP convention

If you watch much of the Republican National Convention this week, you’ll be in a tiny minority, even though the delegates are nominating a Michigan native with a famous name for President.

In fact, you may have to work hard at finding a network that carries very much of the convention. If you are under forty you may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when all the networks offered gavel-to-gavel coverage of every minute of both major parties’ conventions. They thought it was their civic duty.

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