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When presidents could be bold

President Obama’s address to the nation on the oil spill now devastating the Gulf coast was widely criticized, then consigned to the usual “who’s up and who’s down” of pundits’ chatter. The Gettysburg Address, it was not. But the miserable reviews made the speech — not the spill — the focus of political conversation.

There has never been a golden age of politics. But as Need to Know’s Jon Meacham points out in this essay, there was a time not so long ago when presidents were able to speak broadly about America’s challenges in a realistic and honest way — without the cynical shin-kicking and hyperbole that’s a premium among commentators today.

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  • Paul

    I see you’re debating the death penalty. Why don’t you ever debate abortion? Is it because that’s a death penalty that you believe in so it doesn’t merit discussion? Or would a debate bring up unpleasant realities that you would prefer to keep out of people’s minds? I’ll be waiting for that debate that has never found its way onto any national airwaves (that I know of). And superficial debates that don’t deal with the substance of the issue don’t count.

  • bobtr900

    Presidents cannot be bold because the Republican party and the Religious Right is destroying what little is left of our government and our democracy, and all done by and for allowing BIG Business to rape America for profits,endless profits, mammon, the Golden Idol. This is all being done by people who claim Pro-life and Family Values, and yet all the while they are the very ones killing in Iraq for oil, oil company profits and other BIG Corporate profits. So exactly how is that Pro-life. These very same people, the Republicans, are also all about raping our economy and have been attacking working middle class families. Exactly how is that Family Values.

    The equation is poverty equals abortion. So the pope(my religion) is causing abortions by supporting those who cause poverty, the Republicans, those who rape/steal every dollar out of our economy. Even GHW Bush, Bush41, spoke out about the causal effect between poverty and abortions.

    Could it be that this entire Republican mess is really NOT about Pro-life and Family Values, that they are nothing but a smoke screen. It is really about money and power. The endless money grubbing, people hating, union hating, America hating and endless lusting for power by Republicans and their Calvinistic worship of wealth. Could it be that the issues of Pro-life and Family Values is just a gimmick to get voters to vote for the Repub party by inflaming them. They have done this many times by using such issues as guns, defense, welfare queens, States Rights, Big gov’t, taxes, Black people, other minorities(Jews, Catholics, Irish, Italians, etc) city dwellers, Northerners, etc, etc, etc.

    How much longer will it be before America becomes a theocracy not unlike Iran. And who will do it: Jeb Bush(Catholic), Newt Gingrich(Catholic) or Sarah Palin(ex-Catholic family).

    This entire mess is really all about Bizness, bid’ness, Bin’ness, the Republican worship of business mentality, and nothing else Business, business, business, me, me, me; greed, greed, greed, power, power, power over the lives and money of others; that’s what it’s really all about, nothing else but profits even if they cause death or suffering of others, our troops and their families, Iraqis and their families, Latin peoples and their families.

    Bill Clinton just admitted this. He refused to tell about those who talked him into doing NAFTA, etc. But it was all Repubs who did it. Repubs like Alan Greenspan, other Friedman Reaganesque Repubs. They only worship money!!! There is no Pro-life and Family Values; only greed.

    Some things to think about.

  • C. Marxer

    Paul -
    The abortion issue has been hotly debated for three decades or so and ruled upon by the Supreme Court. Also, have you been able to identify the most active abortion provider worldwide? I’m here to help: it’s God and his handiwork is abortion by another name – miscarriages, millions every year.

  • Gayle

    Mr. Meacham:
    I applaud you for your comments about pundits’ lack of civility and respect for our Presidents. I am shocked by TV commentators whose cruel comments override the message President Obama is trying to deliver – all for the sake of making money for their networks. Their shallow insight speaks volumes. Please continue to speak out about our need for respect and kindness – towards everyone, but especially our President.

    I thought no-one could replace Bill Moyers, but you’re doing a great job!

  • John W. Cone

    I thot Mr. Meacham’s comment was excellent. Would it be possible to get a transcript? The transcripts provided by Bill Moyers for his programs have been very helpful. Thank you for becoming a valued replacement.

  • Marv Ostberg

    Boldness now is lacking mainly for political reasons. It seems that to survive a President must pander to at least their base. In this case Obama trys to make his Left and his hard Left happy by jumping up and down and railing against BP almost daily – and often the capitalist system in general for its “uncaring and evil greed”. He himself knows the illogic and worthlessness of this approach. But because of the need to keep his base happy with anger and “righteous indignation” he does not focus on the kind of real leadership that would bring this horrific event to a conclusion. He needs to be discussing the realities of clean up and the nuts and bolts of getting it done. He needs to accept help from abroad rather than give a cold shoulder. Unions and lawyer must not dominate in this issue. There are blue collar folk down there that have had practical ideas for clean up. Kevin Costner should be top headlines with his centrifuges, now on the job. Skimmer do work and we need a lot more and quickly. The Dutch and Norwegans have ideas for stopping the leak and clean up. Obama needs to rise above his base and assert honest leadership, lacking up to now.

  • Katie Kaufman

    On the night of June 18th, it was oh so VERY refreshing to listen to Jon Meacham’s “right on” comments about President Obama and the speech he delivered recently about the oil spill in the Gulf. When I heard the comments, I stated out loud, “Amen”!

  • When presidents could be bold – Politics & Current Affairs Forum

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  • Turtlemayor

    This is so typical, we are criticized for how we say things and not for what we say!! One could actually tell a bold face lie but if he was gracious enough when he was saying it, oh boy, one buys it.

  • Howard

    If sponsors want to waste their money with those hokey after the speech analyst shows go ahead, I don’t watch them. I find it very insulting to have a reasonable understanding of the English language and then have someone try to tell me what he meant. Hell, I heard what he said, I don’t need nor care to have someone else then interpret what he “Really” meant and then have them put their own spin on it to fit their agenda.