Sunday Shorts: Why Is This President Smiling, and What Have Millennials Really Learned?

Jack Goodman is constantly urging me to write more frequent, but shorter blog posts. In response, I’m introducing a new Sunday blog format, provisionally titled Sunday Shorts, that will touch briefly on political topics that I could not fit in during my longer posts during the week. This week’s short topics include Watergate, what explains Millennials’ growing distrust of the Presidency and why George H. W. Bush is a very happy 90-year old.

Let’s begin with Watergate. On the 40th anniversary of its original publication, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic work of investigative journalism All the President’s Men is being reissued with an afterword by the two authors. Both appeared on Candy Crowley’s State of the Union show this morning and had some choice words for the state of investigative journalism today. Simply put, they believe news organizations put too much time and money into shows that specialize in political punditry, and not enough into traditional on-the-ground reporting. Moreover, in this internet-dominated 24-7 news cycle, journalists face increasing pressure to get something out on a daily, even hourly basis, rather than taking the time to gather the facts in order to tell the full story. To illustrate, they cite the Benghazi and IRS missing e-mail controversies as stories that would benefit from some traditional investigative journalism, rather than the daily back-and-forth evidence-free accusations that have dominated discourse on this topic. Immediately after their appearance, Crowley – showing not a trace of irony – hosted a round table of four pundits who traded accusations about who is to blame about the IRS missing e-mails.

Former Midd student and political science major Addison DiSesa (who is gainfully employed in communications) pointed me in the direction of Ezra Klein’s Vox video piece claiming that Millennials (that would be Addy’s generation) are “getting smarter about politics.”  As evidence, Klein notes that Millennials’ “trust in the presidency has plummeted during [Obama’s] two terms.” This, Klein suggests, is a good thing because it shows Millennials are catching on that the presidency is an inherently weak office. As Addy, a veteran of my presidency course, can surely attest, Klein’s observation regarding the power of the presidency is Basic Neustadt 101.  But I’m not sure Millennials’ growing skepticism of the presidency is a sign of increased understanding of the limits of presidential power so much as it is disappointment in what Obama has been able to accomplish. Put another way, it would not surprise me to see Millennials’ fooled again, given the right presidential candidate and political context.

we all know how this ends

That’s what honeymoons are for! Later this week I’ll post a brief analysis of Obama’s falling approval ratings. You might be surprised which previous president’s approval ratings closely mimic the current president’s.

Speaking of previous presidents, why is George H. W. Bush smiling? Probably because when he’s not jumping out of airplanes, he’s surrounding himself with agreeable guests. Plus he wears cool socks.

This, I submit, is a just reward for arguably the best president not to win reelection!

Have a great Sunday (and keep those comments and suggestions coming)!


  1. Matt, this makes my day. I can turn the morning pundits off and take my dog for a walk. A very good “First Edition”


    PS, Do you know where one can buy socks like that?
    PPS, Do you think W J Clinton would ever have his photo taken in this type of environment.

  2. Jack,

    You asked, and you received! As for the socks, I think you need to be an ex-president to wear those. Finally, I doubt Hillary would risk her presidential hopes by allowing Bill anywhere near this type of setting!

  3. Thanks, but I hope I don’t create the impression I’m hatin’ on Ezra. As I’ve noted in previous blogs, he’s set a pretty high objective in trying to explain “everything [we] need to know, in two minutes”! It’s pretty easy, and probably not all that fair, to call him out when he doesn’t quite achieve that goal.

  4. Jack:

    Find a couple of pairs of long, really outrageous socks (the more outrageous, the more he likes them) and send them to him.

    I saw a couple of pairs at my local haberdashery and bought them and sent them to an Ambassador friend of mine who was going to visit with GHWB in Texas.

    41 sent me back a great pair of patriotic ones with his “41” logo on them. I haven’t decided to wear them or frame them yet.

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