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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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