The Corner

When Every Story Is About the President

There were a couple of ideological splits at my college newspaper, the Daily Texan at the University of Texas. There was the usual Left-Right split; the Travis County Democratic party thought highly enough of our newspaper that it spent money (in violation of election rules) working against conservatives who ran for the paper’s editorship. (The paper had an odd arrangement: popularly elected editor-in-chief, board-appointed managing editor; I eventually was the latter after having been exiled by one of the elected editors the local Democratic party supported.) But the split that generated the most debate was purely institutional: There were those who wanted the Texan to be a newspaper about the University of Texas, and those who thought it should be more of a general-purpose newspaper serving the university community. Because its circulation was so large (in the 1990s it had a readership that would have done most city dailies proud) and because the newspaper wasn’t owned or operated by the university, it was never quite clear which it was supposed to be.

Coming from the news side, my own bias was toward emphasizing our own local reporting, relying on the content that was unique to us rather than, say, AP copy that could be read lots of other places and that now can be read anywhere. My view was that a day with an all-local front page was a good day. But there was a great deal of Washington news at the time, focused on President Bill Clinton’s using the White House intern pool as a presidential harem and committing a string of legal offenses trying to cover that up and interfere with the related investigations. (He was later obliged to surrender his law license for his illegal actions therein; the story did not end with Senator Arlen Specter’s invocation of Scottish law and Clinton’s acquittal after his impeachment.) Prefiguring many conversations I would later come to have with Charles C. W. Cooke, I often found myself simply bored to tears by the president and his shenanigans. One of my fellow editors, who did not share my views of the president or my news judgment, would sometimes look down the table at me and sigh: “He is the president of the United States of America, Kevin.”

That was said in the same tone you’d imagine someone saying: “They’re good dogs, Brent.”

I recently complained that in these Last Days of Barack Obama, every story is about the president: It isn’t Veterans Day, it’s Obama’s last Veterans Day as president; it isn’t Christmas, it’s the Obama family’s last Christmas in the White House, etc. My intuition is that this already has grown much more pronounced with President Donald Trump, who is not yet president: Today isn’t about Martin Luther King Jr., but about what the president-elect has tweeted about Martin Luther King Jr. I cannot say this has me very much looking forward to Casimir Pulaski Day or National Dentists Day (both of which fall on March 6, for those of you who are not dental insiders or in the know re: Polish-American revolutionary war heroes). Although I expect that National Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) might be a hoot in the Trump years.

But the voice I expect to hear the most doesn’t sound like a pirate at all. It’s a very patient, calm, bemused voice: “He is the president of the United States of America, Kevin.” They’re good dogs, Brent. Fabulous. The best dogs. 

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