Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson: Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy


Time magazine editors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy discuss their new book The Presidents’ Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity and trade anecdotes with Peter on presidents they have worked for and covered.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    Very good interview, Peter. You missed one question. “What kind of club member will Obama be if he is forced to join next year?”

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    kiwikit:   . . . TIME Magazine is one in which I have no interest whatsoever.  . . .

    As legacy media placekeepers, Time mag’s Duffy and Gibbs are about as good as it gets. In fact, they both seem to incline slightly rightward on many issues. They are respectful, even sympathetic to conventional conservative views. Their vice, typical in the MSM, is an insistence to present a “balanced” view, which manifests as ludicrous moral equivocation.

    For example, in this interview Peter asks them who was the worst ex-president. The correct answer based on what Gibbs and Duffy themselves had said earlier is Carter. (Carter roping Clinton into the 1994 North Korea Agreed Framework, from which the world still suffers badly and may yet suffer terribly, makes him the worst ex-president ever.) But Duffy answers, “Carter or Nixon.” Because Carter is a lefty Democratic, Duffy must “balance” criticism of him with criticism of a righty Republican. But the insistence upon balance usually applies only in one direction. (Nixon often comes in very handy for that purpose.)

    (More in next post.)

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    Gibbs  is also too careful about how far she offends conventional opinion. For example, in this interview with Katie Couric, Gibbs praises Palin’s “laser beam” political skill (21:30 in the interview), citing the “death panel” meme to illustrate how Palin focused national debate with a single line on Facebook. Couric immediately interjects rhetorically, “Does it matter that it [Palin’s death panel comment] wasn’t really accurate?” A courageous Gibbs might have replied, “Whether Obamacare would ration resources for end-of-life care is debateable.” But instead Gibbs implicitly accepts Couric’s assertion, because Gibbs fears offending a leading member of the MSM.

    To her credit, Gibbs recognizes Palin’s significance. Athough she is unwilling to outrage the MSM by overtly praising Palin’s intellect as such, she acknowledges  Palin’s political “skill, understanding, instinct.”

    Gibbs might be more insightful if she were not so careful to avoid offending conventional sensibilities. She makes sense, but, because of a fear of straying from the reservation, seems always slightly to miss the most important point about whatever she’s discussing. Usually she makes conventional opinions seem more interesting. The rest of the time she makes interesting opinions seem more conventional.

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  4. Profile Photo Member

    Mr. Duffy’s mention of the “thread count” of the sheets in the “clubhouse” ticks Me off. They ain’t royalty. They’re My former employees. My “thread count” should be more than Theirs.

    I did laugh mightily at “Carter gave the club a great gift: something for all the others to complain about.”

    Fascinating interview. I enjoyed every word.

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  5. Profile Photo Member

    Is there are a reason that FDR had so much antipathy for Hoover?  I remember reading that the ride to the podium for Mr. Roosevelt’s inaugeration was silent and awkward.

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    I quit reading “Time” years ago because of its leftward leanings. So I was pleasantly surprised (stunned, perhaps) that two editors from the magazine offered such even-handed views. (Though I agree with Astonishing above regarding the “worst ex-President” question.)

    I thoroughly enjoyed the interview and am interested in reading the book.

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive

    That was good; certainly better than Mitch McConnell. When do we get Lileks?

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  8. Profile Photo Contributor

    Nancy and I are grateful to Peter for his careful read of the book and the smart clarity of his questions — just what you’d expect from someone who worked in the White House and watched presidents up close.

    What i think for the record? Carter’s worst moment is his sabotage of Bush I’s Gulf War coalition, a covert campaign of letter writing in 1990-91 to dozens of middle eastern leaders that Bush aides still believe was a likely violation of the Logan Act. (His moves on North Korea on Clinton’s behalf were by comparison, mild. Unbelievable, but mild.) 

    We say in the book that Nixon tended by contrast to do his sabotage in public, and on less critical foreign policy issues; he was also less operational than Jimmy. But I included RN in the answer to PR’s question because Nixon made life unpleasant for both Ford and Reagan at times and his own campaign against Bush in 1992 on Russia was a clever campaign to change a president’s mind that not only worked but was its own gift to the Democrat Party. 

    And Nixon’s partnership with Clinton still makes my head spin. 

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  9. Profile Photo Inactive

    Peter, thank you for this interview. Fascinating insights. Well done.

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  10. Profile Photo Member
    Yeah…ok.: That was good; certainly better than Mitch McConnell. When do we get Lileks? · 53 minutes ago

    Coming this fall. And it will be shot on location in a very exotic locale. That’s all I can say for now. 

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  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    Peter,  I try never to miss one of your interviews but TIME Magazine is one in which I have no interest whatsoever.  I complain when I see it at the Doctor / Dentist but am told they’re sent it without subscribing.  That tells me the value of their product.  I doubt that they can even produce biographical details which aren’t biased.

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive


    Give them a chance! 

    I listened to the entire hour, and it is one of the better ones I have heard on Uncommon Knowledge.  There are interviews that are more trenchant, and with people more identifiably conservative, but the insights I gained into the Presidency, and past holders of the office were fascinating.

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