Magazine | April 21, 2014, Issue

From the MSNBC Archives . . .

April 19, 1886: “President Cleveland a ‘Father’ to Many”

President Grover Cleveland took the extraordinarily brave and forthright step today of acknowledging his son. A lifelong Democrat, President Cleveland, as of this writing an unmarried male, admitted this morning in an emotional and moving address to having fathered a child out of wedlock. “We’ve all heard the children’s rhyme,” the president said as he introduced the youngster to the crowd. “‘Ma, ma, where’s my pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha.’ And while this is no laughing matter, it is time to set the record straight.”

Republicans in Congress instantly attacked the president and politicized “family issues,” which up to now have been off-limits for political smears. But Republicans themselves — notably the problem drinker U. S. Grant — have been less than loyal to the “family values” agenda. Openly gay Democratic president James Buchanan led the charge to a more inclusive and open culture, only to be condemned by the far-right smear machine funded by the Koch brothers.

In making this announcement, the president has shifted the focus from the specifics of his own conduct to a broader conversation about the role of government in the American family, how society fails working women, and the ways that public programs can be brought to bear on the challenges of modern parenting.


December 7, 1941: “Pearl Harbor Attacked! Democratic President Scores Diplomatic Victory”

In a stunning rebuke to the warmongering defense-industry profiteers Charles and David Koch, the president of the United States won a significant victory against the far-right Imperial Japanese Navy this morning at Pearl Harbor base in Honolulu, Hawaii. Despite the “spin” and distortions of the Koch-owned right-wing press, the damage done to the United States Navy infrastructure and fleet was considerably less than predicted. “Our internal projections were accurate and on-target,” Secretary of War Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release this morning. “It’s irrelevant how many ships were lost or how far back our fighting capability has been set. What’s crucial to focus on is that we’re now in a hot war in the Pacific, and this is something the president has been saying all along was the goal. The president is pleased with the progress of the war so far, and we consider this morning’s event at Pearl Harbor to be a significant victory.”

Sebelius was immediately attacked by an all-male chorus of Republican lawmakers who demanded her resignation, despite — or perhaps because of — the manifest successes of the administration’s policies to date. By politicizing the event, far-right Republicans in Congress have shown themselves unable or unwilling to lead.

#page#Secretary Sebelius and the president have successfully shifted the national conversation from “How do we keep the Japanese from attacking us?” to a more thoughtful and productive “How do we win a war against the Japanese?”

What the administration envisions, ultimately, is a large national movement to a more progressive and inclusive workplace. “We’re talking about factory jobs, administrative work, everything,” Secretary Sebelius said. “We even want women to become part of the labor force. Say, riveters. Or whatever.”

“Nothing is perfect,” she continued. “But I’ve just spoken with the president and he’s pleased and enthusiastic about the changes that lie ahead.”


November 4, 1979: “Americans Held Hostage in Tehran. President Carter Shows Sophistication, Mastery”

In a widely applauded diplomatic coup, President Jimmy Carter announced this morning that he had arranged for 52 American Embassy personnel to be held against their will in Tehran, Iran.

The president scored this significant victory for his foreign-policy team suddenly, without notice, when Iranian students stormed the American Embassy in Tehran in the early morning hours.

Republicans in Congress — backed by the oil-and-gas tycoons the Koch brothers — instantly denounced the president and his agenda, even as it was leading, slowly, to a renewed diplomatic advance on the ultra-religious Iranian government. 

Experts agree that what the president has done is shift the national conversation from focusing narrowly on the strategies of dealing with a specific religious government to the broader and more inward-looking threat of religion in politics in general. While it is true, in a sense, that a foreign government has taken American citizens hostage, the president — in a masterly act of diplomatic strategy — has redirected attention to the far-right Christian agenda here at home.

“Who are we holding hostage?” the president’s spokesman, Jay Carney, asked today at his usual press briefing. “Can you tell the ayatollah from the hostage?”

Conservatives, predictably, took to Twitter.

In This Issue



Politics & Policy

Maneuver Warfare

It was February of 1991, and six weeks of brutal aerial bombardment were still no match for Saddam Hussein’s hubris. His continued refusal to evacuate Kuwait had triggered a coalition ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

The Lawless

Just a few months ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was praising “our Russian partners” for their role in making possible a second “Geneva peace conference” on Syria. Having spent ...


Politics & Policy


Tax Talk I fail to understand why National Review deems a proposal to eliminate the federal tax exemption for state and local taxes paid a “welcome” reform (The Week, March 24). ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The get-together between President Obama and Pope Francis was a meeting of giants: One is held by his flock to be infallible, the other merely the Vicar of Christ. ‐ ...
The Long View

From the MSNBC Archives . . .

April 19, 1886: “President Cleveland a ‘Father’ to Many” President Grover Cleveland took the extraordinarily brave and forthright step today of acknowledging his son. A lifelong Democrat, President Cleveland, as of ...

Too Darn Hot

The International Court of Justice, which would get more respect if they appended “and Pancakes” to its name, has asked Japan to stop whaling. Japan has agreed, which must have ...
Politics & Policy


TO AN EARLY BIRD, MID JUNE To-we, to-woo, to-woe! Must you sing so early, bird?  Can these announcements wait until a better time: say, half-past eight? You don’t think this cacophony will bring a friend ...

Most Popular


White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More

Wolf Warrior II Tells Us a Lot about China

The Chinese economy is taking a big hit as a result of the trade war with the U.S: A leading export indicator has fallen several months in a row, Chinese companies postponed campus recruitment, and auto and housing sales dropped. A number of U.S. manufacturers are moving production outside of China. So ... Read More