The Press and the President’s Daughter

 

The general rule guiding the press and the offspring of a sitting President is hands-off unless the child has reached adulthood. Then everything is fair game, especially when it comes to that adult child’s chosen profession.

But the President is still a father, no? So, what happens when that fatherly instinct takes over? What happens when the President of the United States threatens a Washington Post columnist with physical harm?

What should you do with a President that is so unstable, so undeferential to the role of the free press in our society that he would have the temerity to write this to the columnist:

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beef steak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

If you’re a Democrat you stand up and cheer. Wait … you don’t understand why the Democrats are cheering? Because the President I’m speaking about isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Harry Truman. The excerpt above is from a letter Truman wrote to Post music critic Paul Hume in 1950 after Hume reviewed Margaret Truman’s singing.

Margaret had a pleasant enough voice but tended to be a bit flat. Hume simply told the truth.

Amazingly, looking back at it from today’s perspective, Hume not only chose not to respond, The Post declined to publish the letter. It only came to light when Hume told a colleague about it, which he said he always regretted. Today it would dominate the news cycle for days.

Margaret continued singing throughout the 1950s with mixed success. She was a frequent guest on “The Big Show,” a 90-minute variety show that was NBC’s last gasp at keeping radio relevant in a television world. Its host, the actress Tallulah Bankhead, praised her performance skills. But, of course, they had a bit of “spiritual” connection, too. Her father, William Bankhead, was swept up in the Roosevelt tidal wave in 1933 and spent the remainder of his life representing the 7th District of Alabama, and for the last six as the 42nd Speaker of the House.

This morning, President Trump is taking heat for Tweeting about retailers severing ties with his daughter Ivanka and her clothing line. Now all we have to do is find out if Ivanka can sing.

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  1. Isaac Smith Member
    Isaac Smith
    @

    Brilliant, E.J., thanks for the historical grounding.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    “They won’t let me say the word I’m thinking of darling”

    • #2
  3. Theodoric of Freiberg Member
    Theodoric of Freiberg
    @TheodoricofFreiberg

    <sarcasm>

    Truman’s (D) defense of his daughter was well within the bounds of presidential decorum. Trump’s (R) tweets are beyond the pale and show his devotion to Hitlerian tactics.

    </sarcasm>

    • #3
  4. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Nice piece, EJ.

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I think there is a distinct point to be made Truman’s comments to the critic were expressed in a private letter. The contents of which neither of the two gentlemen seemed to want to make public. It was the president acting in a private manner on a personal and private issue. Trump on the other hand does not seem to have the same grace or sense as Truman did to keep his private disputes private.

    Half the job of the presidency is public image and presentation. Had Truman taken to the weekly presidential radio address to call out the critic he would have been wrong to do so. Not wrong as a father, but wrong as a president. You can not have private public comments, and all public comments made by the President reflect on him, his office, and our nation.

    • #5
  6. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    @theodoricoffreiberg, I think you’ve got it!

    • #6
  7. Bill Nelson Member
    Bill Nelson
    @BillNelson

    EJHill:….

    But the President is still a father, no? So, what happens when that fatherly instinct takes over? What happens when the President of the United States threatens a Washington Post columnist with physical harm?

    What should you do with a President that is so unstable, so undeferential to the role of the free press in our society that he would have the temerity to write this to the columnist…

    Amazingly, looking back at it from today’s perspective, Hume not only chose not to respond, The Post declined to publish the letter. It only came to light when Hume told a colleague about it, which he said he always regretted. Today it would dominate the news cycle for days.

    ….

    This morning, President Trump is taking heat for Tweeting about retailers severing ties with his daughter Ivanka and her clothing line. Now all we have to do is find out if Ivanka can sing.

     In the initial evente, a private correspondence. Quite different than a “tweet”. When Trump “tweets”, he is tweeting as the President of the United States. Not communicating as a father. In the initial event, the Post choose not to publish the letter, and to keep it as a private event. Trump made the choice to make this a big deal.

    • #7
  8. Trinity Waters Member
    Trinity Waters
    @TrinityWaters

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    I think there is a distinct point to be made Truman’s comments to the critic were expressed in a private letter. The contents of which neither of the two gentlemen seemed to want to make public. It was the president acting in a private manner on a personal and private issue. Trump on the other hand does not seem to have the same grace or sense as Truman did to keep his private disputes private.

    Half the job of the presidency is public image and presentation. Had Truman taken to the weekly presidential radio address to call out the critic he would have been wrong to do so. Not wrong as a father, but wrong as a president. You can not have private public comments, and all public comments made by the President reflect on him, his office, and our nation.

    More importantly, for the left, manliness is out of vogue now.

    • #8
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    @valiuth and @billnelson Point taken as to the private nature of Truman’s letter. But honestly, do either of you truly believe that if Trump wrote such a letter to a Post columnist today it would remain private? Of course not. It would be on The Post’s website within the hour, they would Tweet photos of it and MSNBC would devote their entire day dissecting it.

    The press operates under a different set of rules these days. In the heyday of the newspaper, when every town large and small had multiple papers, not even the overtly pro-Republican papers such as The Chicago Tribune would publish pictures of FDR in his wheelchair or struggling to stand on his heavy metal braces. In fact, the Secret Service would seize the camera of any photographer who even attempted to capture such images and would destroy the film before returning the camera. The Roosevelt library has thousands of photographs of the President and exactly three of them show him in his wheelchair.

    The so-called Fourth Estate is in full battle mode.

    • #9
  10. dittoheadadt Member
    dittoheadadt
    @dittoheadadt

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    I think there is a distinct point to be made Truman’s comments to the critic were expressed in a private letter. The contents of which neither of the two gentlemen seemed to want to make public. It was the president acting in a private manner on a personal and private issue. Trump on the other hand does not seem to have the same grace or sense as Truman did to keep his private disputes private.

    If Trump had written Truman’s letter in private, how long do you think the WaPo critic would have kept it private?  Nothing is private (for long) now.

    And do you think Truman’s private letter – I mean, the President of the United States’ letter – to the WaPo critic had any effect on the critic’s future behavior and writing?  Intimidation of the press is intimidation of the press, whether privately or publicly.  Just as intimidation of the judiciary – Trump toward a lowly judge, Obama toward the SCOTUS – is intimidation of the judiciary.

    But they’re all fascist threats against the republic…only when done by the Right.

    (Edit: Sorry @ejhill, I didn’t mean to beat a dead horse. I think we were writing at the same time.)

    • #10
  11. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Yes, we can deplore the lowly state of the News Media. I don’t think though that this excuses Trump to engage in presidential behavior. There is no bottom to this spiral and while newspapers can go out of business because their readership dries up because they are tabloidesque rags peddling gossip and vitriol, the presidency can not go out of business. If it, as an office descends to such a level what kind of government shall we have? I do not buy the idea that Trump will fight fire with fire and somehow then restore proper order once his enemy is defeated. I do not see this in Trump as his goal or ideal. He is a man who likes to fight and does not care who or what gets wrecked while he is fighting. Once he has won or loss he then moves on, as if nothing has happened. This may be politically advantageous for the leader of a political party. If Trump were simply the Prime Minister then I think I would be less apprehensive. But he is also the Head of State. Could you imagine what would happen if the Queen of England behaved 1/10 like Trump? We have wrapped up these two offices into one man in America and this can only work (in my opinion) if the person occupying that office strikes a good balance between the two distinct roles. Obama I think was poor at it, Trump may be even worse.

    • #11
  12. Marion Evans Member
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    I am glad DT is laser-focused on the serious problems we face.

    • #12
  13. Bill Nelson Member
    Bill Nelson
    @BillNelson

    EJHill (View Comment):
    do either of you truly believe that if Trump wrote such a letter to a Post columnist today it would remain private?

    An excuse based on the projected bad behavior of another is not a very good defense.

    Pres. Trump needs to drop Twitter and do the people’s business.

    • #13
  14. Mr. French Member
    Mr. French
    @MrFrench

    @billnelson #7:

    Don’t you have a filibuster or NASA promotional event to prepare for, Senator?  (Smile)

    • #14
  15. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    In the FWIW category, this was written not to excuse the actions of the current occupant of the Oval Office but merely to point out that there’s really nothing new under the sun. Human nature is eternal, but sometimes, so is the belief that history began the day we were born.

    • #15
  16. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    EJHill (View Comment):
    @valiuth and @billnelson Point taken as to the private nature of Truman’s letter. But honestly, do either of you truly believe that if Trump wrote such a letter to a Post columnist today it would remain private? Of course not. It would be on The Post’s website within the hour, they would Tweet photos of it and MSNBC would devote their entire day dissecting it.

    The press operates under a different set of rules these days. In the heyday of the newspaper, when every town large and small had multiple papers, not even the overtly pro-Republican papers such as The Chicago Tribune would publish pictures of FDR in his wheelchair or struggling to stand on his heavy metal braces. In fact, the Secret Service would seize the camera of any photographer who even attempted to capture such images and would destroy the film before returning the camera. The Roosevelt library has thousands of photographs of the President and exactly three of them show him in his wheelchair.

    The so-called Fourth Estate is in full battle mode.

    Full battle mode is right.   Perhaps our president would feel better if there were powerful forces battling the fourth estate.

    • #16
  17. Patrick McClure Coolidge
    Patrick McClure
    @Patrickb63

    Bill Nelson (View Comment):
    In the initial evente, a private correspondence.

    He sent the letter to the Washington Post critic, at the Washington Post.  Just because the Post critic chose not to publish it does not mean that Truman expected the letter to go unpublished.  I do not believe that Truman expected the letter to remain private correspondence.

    • #17
  18. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    EJHill (View Comment):
    In the FWIW category, this was written not to excuse the actions of the current occupant of the Oval Office but merely to point out that there’s really nothing new under the sun. Human nature is eternal, but sometimes, so is the belief that history began the day we were born.

    I guess we can always be comforted by these words from the Bible, “This too shall pass”.

     

    • #18
  19. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Patrick McClure (View Comment):

    Bill Nelson (View Comment):
    In the initial evente, a private correspondence.

    He sent the letter to the Washington Post critic, at the Washington Post. Just because the Post critic chose not to publish it does not mean that Truman expected the letter to go unpublished. I do not believe that Truman expected the letter to remain private correspondence.

    But he had the option to make it public from the get go. He chose not to, even if he was prepared for it to become public. That I think matters.

     

    • #19
  20. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    ValiuthI guess we can always be comforted by these words from the Bible, “This too shall pass”.

    Which is what I tell myself every time my Fox Terrier eats something… uh… shall we say, not really edible.

    • #20
  21. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    https://twitter.com/weknowwhatsbest/status/828795552905113601

    • #21
  22. EugeneKriegsmann Member
    EugeneKriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    What I find most unpresidential is not so much the tweeting as the constant harping on how unfair everyone is to him. I am sorry, it is time for President Trump to grow up and grow a pair. Life is not fair. It never has been. He has had advantages that almost no one in the entire world has had, and so have his kids. If things get a little bit rough for them, let them handle it. You, Mr. President, have a few far more important things to be concerned with.

    • #22
  23. Mike Hubbard Member
    Mike Hubbard
    @MikeHubbard

    EJHill:

    It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

    Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beef steak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

    If you’re a Democrat you stand up and cheer. Wait … you don’t understand why the Democrats are cheering? Because the President I’m speaking about isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Harry Truman. The excerpt above is from a letter Truman wrote to Post music critic Paul Hume in 1950 after Hume reviewed Margaret Truman’s singing.

    Hume was right to pan Margaret Truman’s singing: she was lousy.  And President Truman was wrong to respond as he did.  According to Gallup, Truman’s average popularity was the lowest of any president—yes, even lower than Nixon or Carter.  The Democrats of 1952 were cheering because Truman was on his way out.

    • #23
  24. Lily Bart Member
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    His fatherly concern is natural and understandable, but he needs to keep it out of his public role as president.   He needs to learn to compartmentalize these things.

    And, if this is the same Ivanka who asked the flight attendants “please don’t make a thing out of this” when she was verbally abused by the leftists on her JetBlue flight a few weeks ago, she cannot be happy about this tweet.

    • #24
  25. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    What I find most unpresidential is not so much the tweeting as the constant harping on how unfair everyone is to him. I am sorry, it is time for President Trump to grow up and grow a pair. Life is not fair. It never has been. He has had advantages that almost no one in the entire world has had, and so have his kids. If things get a little bit rough for them, let them handle it. You, Mr. President, have a few far more important things to be concerned with.

    Narcissists just lash out and I don’t expect that too change as long as the president feels he’s being attacked and there’s not enough push back.  When companies loudly tell the petition and banning folks to go to hell then perhaps the president will stop tweeting his umbrage.

    I’m not excusing the president but I am explaining what will help.  Sadly I know way way way too many narcissists.

     

    • #25
  26. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    DocJaySadly I know way way way too many narcissists.

    Sadly, that’s usually what it takes to get elected. There are more narcissists in public life than humble servants.

    • #26
  27. Lily Bart Member
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I’m not excusing the president but I am explaining what will help. Sadly I know way way way too many narcissists.

    I’m the daughter of one, so I know: they’re not going to change, and it will always be someone else’s fault, and they are never really in the wrong.  And they’re also rather predictable in these things.  Therein lies the problem:  his enemies are going to use this to keep him busy and off balance.   And they will delight in the result.  One thing my father had going for him was the ability to maintain dignity in public. Clint Eastwood western characters were his role model.  He’d just stare you down with a steely-eyed look.  It was very effective.

    • #27
  28. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Lily Bart (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I’m not excusing the president but I am explaining what will help. Sadly I know way way way too many narcissists.

    I’m the daughter of one, so I know: they’re not going to change, and it will always be someone else’s fault, and they are never really in the wrong. And they’re also rather predictable in these things. Therein lies the problem: his enemies are going to use this to keep him busy and off balance. And they will delight in the result. One thing my father had going for him was the ability to maintain dignity in public. Clint Eastwood western characters were his role model. He’d just stare you down with a steely-eyed look. It was very effective.

    I’ve seen that look ;-)

    Our last president was almost as bad but he had an eternity of folks watching his back.

    • #28
  29. Lily Bart Member
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Our last president was almost as bad but he had an eternity of folks watching his back.

    Obama was capable of being petty and thin skinned, and the press covered for him- but he did have that instinct for ‘personal dignity’.  I believe it was just ‘personal image preservation’, as it benefited him as he liked to be known as ‘cool’, but it served him well overall.

    • #29
  30. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Lily Bart (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Our last president was almost as bad but he had an eternity of folks watching his back.

    Obama was capable of being petty and thin skinned, and the press covered for him- but he did have that instinct for ‘personal dignity’. I believe it was just ‘personal image preservation’, as it benefited him to be know as ‘cool’, but it served him well overall.

    Like your father I suppose ( I don’t mean this in any negative way ) some can control it better.  Donald has less control and that will never change.  Hopefully he improves over time and with people lining up versus various mutual enemies.

    • #30

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