When Fact Checkers Err; Women and Cyber; Texas Coverup; O Say Can You Hear

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Good morning. It’s Thursday, June 14, 2018. On this date in 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national emblem. For the past century, U.S. presidents have sought to associate themselves closely with that badge of honor -- and that date.

Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed June 14 to be “Flag Day” in 1916. In 1949, Harry Truman made it official. But the Flag Day ceremony that most impacted the modern presidency took place on this date in 1922, fittingly, in Baltimore.

I’ll relate this story in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Why Fact Checkers Need to Accept That They Can Err. Kalev Leetaru examines the limited avenues of recourse the subjects of negative fact checks have to dispute rulings they believe are inaccurate.

Women and Cyber. In our latest cybersecurity podcast, former Homeland Security official Phyllis Schneck discusses her pioneering role in the cyber defense realm.

Religious Freedom Isn’t Baked Into Wedding Cake Ruling. Peter Berkowitz considers the implications of last week’s Supreme Court decision.

Black America’s “Stockholm Syndrome.” Aubrey Shines argues that African-American voters are locked into a party that has not served their interests. 

Texas School Supers Behaving Badly, But Mum’s the Word. In RealClearInvestigations, Steve Miller reports that officials’ misconduct has been addressed under a code of silence that insulates school boards from negative publicity.

McConnell Is the Longest-Serving GOP Leader. But Not the Most Consequential. In RealClearPolicy, James Wallner contends that the Senate majority leader's real legacy is replacing the art of deliberation with the aim of winning congressional elections.

Hurricanes, Flooded Homes, and Moral Hazard. Also in RCPolicy, Bruce Yandle calls on Congress to reform FEMA’s insurance program.

America's Mayors Should Not File Copycat Climate Suits. In RealClearEnergy, Phil Goldberg urges public officials to focus on legislation, rather than litigation, to formulate energy and emissions policy.

Why the AMA & Everyone Else Should Oppose Assisted Suicide. T. Brian Callister makes his case in RealClearHealth.

Simple Law Will Save Us From Telemarketers. In RealClearMarkets, Harold Furchtgott-Roth advises Congress to pass a new law that updates a 1991 measure to protect the public from unsolicited calls.

The Story Behind “Three Identical Strangers.” In RealClearLife, Thelma Adams interviews the director of a documentary about triplets separated at birth.

* * *

Warren G. Harding was president on June 14, 1922, when a memorial to national anthem author Francis Scott Key was unveiled at Fort McHenry, in Baltimore Harbor. The president was invited to make remarks, and on that date, and in that place, he became the first U.S. president whose voice was broadcast over the radio.

His exact words were unmemorable, which isn’t the point, but it’s worth digressing momentarily for an observation about President Harding’s communication skills. The publisher of an Ohio newspaper before he became a U.S. senator from the Buckeye State, Harding was fascinated with modern communications. Paradoxically, his own speaking style was epitomized by language so flowery and over-the-top that it seemed to come from a previous era. Harding’s prose was also generally devoid of any real meaning. Here’s an example from 1920, the year he was chosen as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee:
“America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not the experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.”

Aside from displaying a fetish, if not a talent, for alliteration, what did it all mean? If you’re unsure, nobody at the time quite knew what to make of it either. (“Normalcy” was a term Harding didn’t invent, but did popularize. Some people made fun of the word, and still do. “Equipoise,” on the other hand, was doomed to remain in justifiable obscurity).

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo, who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination that year, derided Harding’s speech as “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” But Warren Harding wasn’t stupid, and his rhetorical obtuseness was -- as he might have put it -- a deliberate device, a clever contrivance, sly stratagem. Mostly, though, he spoke in baroque generalities to avoid alienating the warring ideological factions within his own political party.

As president, he was also quick to grasp the politically advantageous implications of technological innovations. In February 1922, he had the first radio installed in the White House. This gave his advisers an idea: Prior to his planned trip to Fort McHenry, Baltimore’s mayor and other civic leaders worried that the crowd would be so large that most people in attendance would be unable to hear the president.

Frederick R. Huber, the Baltimorean heading up the planning committee, proposed building a separate broadcasting station. But the estimated cost, $30,000, was deemed too steep. So they improvised: The president’s voice was carried by telephone to a broadcasting station in the Anacostia district of Washington, D.C., and then relayed back to receiving stations in Baltimore.

The world would little note, nor long remember, what Warren Harding had to say in Charm City that day, but it never forgot that a president’s words could now be transmitted through the air. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.



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