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If You Ask Me

Another president went directly to the people, but did it right

Very early in his administration, the president decided he had to find a way to get around the mainstream media and appeal directly to the people. He succeeded better than most, including the current awkward practitioner of the art.

John F. Kennedy had been in office for only a few days when, on Jan. 25, 1961, he became the first American president to hold a live, televised news conference. His predecessor, President Eisenhower, had done some filmed news conferences, but he insisted on White House approval before any exchange could be broadcast. 

Clinton’s smart people couldn’t play the game

It was the analytics, stupid.

To paraphrase the Bill Clinton 1992 campaign mantra reminding his staff to keep focused on the economy, in Hillary’s campaign, the focus was on the analytics, with quite a different result. 

Clinton’s hyper-intelligent people couldn’t play the game of politics

It was the analytics, stupid.

To paraphrase the Bill Clinton 1992 campaign mantra reminding his staff to keep focused on the economy, in Hillary’s campaign, the focus was on the analytics, with quite a different result. 

Writing about politics when the stories keep changing

Writing a weekly column often devoted to national politics when the story line changes every half hour can be something of a challenge. 

There was the sharing of intelligence with the Russians as TASS photographers recorded the event closed to the American press. 

Or the allegation that the former FBI chief has notes indicating President Trump tried to get him to walk away from investigating Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia and therefore, what Flynn — and Putin — may have on Trump. 

Writing about politics when the stories keep on changing

Writing a weekly column often devoted to national politics when the story line changes every half hour can be something of a challenge. 

There was the sharing of intelligence with the Russians as TASS photographers recorded the event closed to the American press. 

Or the allegation that the former FBI chief has notes indicating President Trump tried to get him to walk away from investigating Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia and therefore, what Flynn — and Putin — may have on Trump. 

Leaks, from the first to the worst

Leaks have always been with us. Politicians and government officials have been leaking information to reporters throughout American history. The practice is, in fact, older than the nation itself. The leak is and always has been an essential part of our democracy, no matter what you’re hearing today.

I will mention some notable leaks in our history, but concentrate on two, the first and the worst. These are not to be confused with the criminal, computer leaks of the Assanges, Snowdens and their ilk.

The presidential summer of ‘46

We didn’t know it at the time, but the summer of 1946 has turned out to have been a rather significant season in American history. Between June 14 and Aug. 19 of that first postwar summer, three of the first Baby Boomers were born, and all three grew up to be president.

The last arrived first. Donald Trump was born in Jamaica, N.Y., on June 14 to Frederick Trump, a real estate developer, and Mary Anne MacLeod Trump, a Scottish immigrant who came to America at 18 and worked as a housemaid. 

Trump tax plan — another stunt or the start of something big?

Last week, the Trump Administration capped its hundred days with a tax plan that is either “a necessary course correction that will help restore broad-based U.S. prosperity” or a “stunt by a gang of plutocrats looking to enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s future.” Maybe even something in between.

Welcome to Dystopia on the Potomac River

In 1949, George Orwell wrote “1984,” his enduring novel about the totalitarian state of Oceania, where thought was controlled with the help of “Newspeak,” and its reduction of the English language to simple concepts that reinforced the power of the state.

In 2017, on its third day, the Trump Administration enriched American thought with the introduction of “alternative facts” courtesy of the administration’s accomplished doublespeaker, Kellyanne Conway. 

America first: Great and dreadful inaugural addresses over the centuries

It’s been a week since Donald Trump made what the eminent conservative columnist George Will called “the most dreadful inaugural address in history.” 

It was easily the most awful in my memory, but it prompted me to wonder about the competition. What other presidents have made truly terrible inaugural addresses or, conversely, how many have made great, memorable speeches to launch their presidencies?