Related Content: Gwen Ifill

Meaning What You Say

Gwen's Take

It’s a familiar cycle. Voters say they want new faces and fresh thinking in Washington. But once the newcomers arrive in the nation’s capital, they discover themselves consigned to back benches and basement offices.

Reality soon sets in. It’s harder than it seems to get things done.

But in both the House and the Senate this year, first-termers are making their presence felt on deficit spending, defense budgets, anti-terror laws -- and even Big Bird.

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

Gwen's Take

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

Gwen's Take

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.

Of Symbols and Meaning: Part Two

Gwen's Take

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.

PBS NewsHour: Political Checklist

Web content

January 10, 2011

In this week's edition of the Political Checklist, Political Editor David Chalian and Senior Correspondents Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff reflect on Saturday's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz, and 19 others at a political meet-and-greet in Tucson on Saturday.

Lawmakers in Washington have paused to acknowledge the tragedy by halting legislative action and observing a moment of silence on Monday. The political team looks at how the reaction in Washington of this event compares to tragedies of the past, and if this will produce a change in political rhetoric. 

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

Gwen's Take

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.

Predictions, Prophecies and the Perils of Prognostication

Gwen's Take

One of the things that I promise reporters who appear on “Washington Week” is that they will never have to make predictions. Even on the PBS NewsHour, where many of our guests actually make their livings by peering into crystal balls, we shy away from the practice.

The Sincerity Test

Gwen's Take

Polls can be confusing. Americans generally hate Congress but don’t mind their own Congressman. And many of them say they hate President Obama but consider him a good father and a generally likeable fellow.

What gives?

I did a deep dive into two new polls out this week to see if I could figure it out. As I was scouring the graphs and tables, I came across a question I’d never noticed before.

Deconstructing the President

Gwen's Take

I am not much for putting U.S. Presidents on the couch, but there was something about watching Barack Obama striding into the White House briefing room with fists clenched the other day that appealed to the Sigmund Freud in me.

One-Week Wonders: We Pay Attention So You Don’t Have To

Gwen's Take

I have a new theory. Let me know what you think about it.

Has it occurred to anyone lately that so many of the things we obsess about turn out to be stories that last for – give or take -- one week?

This gelled for me during Thanksgiving week when, thanks to my pal Michele Norris, I got to take a week off from “Washington Week” and concentrate on brining my turkey. (Write for the recipe. It was delicious.)

Watching from a distance, I detected a trend I had noted before but actually had the space to consider: The One Week Story.