January 2011

Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn’t the Speech

Posted: Thu, 01/27/2011 - 6:02pm

Seldom have I watched the President’s annual speech to the joint session of Congress with anticipation that had so little to do with the contents of the address itself.

By now we surely know that – aside from the occasional brandishing of a veto pen or the periodic pledge to rein in government – these speeches are seldom memorable.

Kennedy, King and the Power of Words

Posted: Thu, 01/20/2011 - 5:59pm

I am not such a fan of celebrating anniversaries for their own sake. Much of what we say on such occasions is rote – if not trite – and the true meaning of observance is easily lost.

But there were two occasions this week (while we in Washington were all on the lookout for post-Tucson lapses in civility) that made me rethink. Both cases involved taking the words of famous men and allowing others to speak them.

Tags: civility | Gwen Ifill | JFK | MLK

Of Symbols and Meaning: Part Two

Posted: Thu, 01/13/2011 - 6:39pm

Last week in this space, I mused about how quick we can be to over interpret events and ascribe tenuous meaning to actions that so often defy explanation.

Less than forty-eight hours after I posted that column, 19 people were gunned down in a Tucson parking lot---six died---and suddenly we were sucked into a situation in which symbolism seems all too real.

Guns. Mental illness. Overheated political speech. Personal security. Everyone flocked to their favorite theory.

OF SYMBOLS AND MEANING: Or, how to read too much into anything

Posted: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 5:19pm

Just a few weeks before Christmas in 1996, I was seated in the front row in an auditorium at the Old Executive Office Building across from the White House. My job, then for NBC News, was to cover the announcement of a clutch of new administration officials for Bill Clinton’s second term.