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If You Ask Me

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?

From the Land of Steady Habits to a state of decline

Connecticut, the longtime Land of Steady Habits, has turned into a state of decline. 

The decline comes in many forms from many causes. But the biggest is in people. More of them are going from than coming to Connecticut for a third year in a row, the shrinking Hartford Courant told its readers on Christmas morning. From July 2015 to July 2016, “the net outmigration was 29,880, more than twice as many as five years earlier.” Forty-two states increased their population in that period. Connecticut is one of the other eight.

Harry Truman, a president for his time and for our time

Just before Christmas, The Wall Street Journal had a piece on presidential oral histories, a relatively rare species that tends to range from revealing to self-serving.

But the story, which selected the best of the bunch, recalled a forgotten favorite of mine, “Plain Speaking,” the blunt reminiscences of an aging Harry Truman as told to the novelist and biographer Merle Miller. 

Trump brings back the Big Lie

This is how the Trump transition team responded to the CIA’s determination that Russia intervened in the election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

“These are the same people who said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s time to move on and make America great again.” 

Well, not exactly.