FDA and Vaping; College Faculty Leanings; Quote of the Week

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Technical difficulties delayed the publication of this Morning Note.

Good morning, it’s Friday, March 15, 2019, and the day each week when I offer a historical quotation. Today, I’m offering three, one each from Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge and the other from a political scientist talking about Theodore Roosevelt. All three concern the early 20th century relationship between the nation’s chief executive and the news media.

It was on this date in 1913 that Woodrow Wilson scheduled the first presidential press conference. Wilson invited the “newspapermen,” as he (accurately) called them, to meet with him in his office. Although it was only 11 days after his inauguration, Wilson was surprised when 125 showed up. He spoke to the group, but realizing he needed a bigger room, and perhaps more preparation, the session was rescheduled for the following week.

That gathering, held on March 22, 1913, would go down in American history as the first transcribed presidential news conference. It was vastly different from those of today, and I’m not only referring to the absence of broadcasting equipment, let alone the open hostility of the press and snarled charges from the president about “fake news.” By and large, these exchanges weren’t even on-the-record, and they wouldn’t be until Dwight Eisenhower arrived in the White House 40 years later (the 1913 Wilson exchange would be.

They were still valuable, both to the press and to the nation, however, and I worry about their current trajectory.

“I feel that a large part of the success of public affairs depends on the newspapermen,” Wilson said at the first transcribed presser. “Not so much the editorial writers, because we can live down what they say, as upon the news writers -- because news is the atmosphere of public affairs.”

That’s the first Quote of the Day. I’ll have the other two 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:

* * *

FDA’s Vaping “Epidemic” Doesn’t Hold Up to Scrutiny. Brad Rodu argues that CDC data contradict the outgoing head of the FDA’s contention that e-cigarette use is widespread among teens.

Slowing Higher Education’s Liberal Slide. In RealClearPolicy, Samuel J. Abrams cites survey data showing the liberal-to-conservative ratio of college faculties at 5 to 1, mirroring previous results after years of increasing leftward shift.

Equality Act Signals End of Incrementalism in LGBTQ Protections. Also in RCPolicy, Winnie Stachelberg writes that the legislation solves the patchwork of legal defenses against discrimination.

Future of Electric Vehicles Tied to U.S. Rare Earth Minerals Production. In RealClearEnergy, Bob Latiff discusses the vital connection between more EVs and domestic resources. 

China Is at the Forefront of Global Economic Reversal. In RealClearMarkets, Jeffrey Snider recounts the sweeping changes the nation has passed through since Mao Tse-tung’s death in 1976 and where it is headed now.

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The scholar who knows more about presidential communications than anyone else, living or dead, is (happily) still quite alive. Her name is Martha Joynt Kumar and she’s the rare academic who not only masters the archival material but also operates in the arena, the field of play in this case being the White House briefing room. During the Obama administration, Kumar wrote a piece for the White House Historical Association providing an overview of the presidential news conference. In it, she related a 1926 quote from Calvin Coolidge in which he discussed with reporters his rationale for holding news conferences. “I regard it as rather necessary to the carrying on of our republican institution that the people should have a fairly accurate report of what the president is trying to do,” Coolidge said, “and it is for that purpose, of course, that those intimate conferences are held.”

In other words, the famously taciturn Coolidge didn’t even pretend to enjoy them; he considered it a duty of the office. That’s the second quote of the day. The third comes from Professor Kumar herself, and it was about Theodore Roosevelt, a much different kind of cat -- the sort who would invite favored reporters into the White House residence to chat, sometimes while he shaved in the morning.

“He liked reporters,” Kumar told The Washington Post last year. “He liked banter, and reporters are good at banter.” 

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

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

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