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The Long View

News Clips from the Past

by Rob Long

From the Manchester Poste, January 1774:

. . . after a muche learned and complikated discourse, Mr. John Adams of Bostowne took a small breathe, and pursuant to continuing in his oration did pause to take for himself a small drinke of water from a ewer laid before him for that expreff purpose. The crowde did gaspe in astonishment at his exceedingly strange behavior, and some good personnes were heard to utter admonishments and complaintes regarding to his distreffing acte of insolence and rudeness. Then, thirst slaked, the hopeful man of politics and philosophie continued on, though it was cleare to all gathered and all who hearde of this audacious and unacceptable acte that the career of John Adams, Esq., of Bostowne was well and truly finished.

From the Gettysburg Gazette, November 1863:

. . . grimacing and scowling with his ape-like countenance, the President of the United States delivered himself of a rather tempered set of remarks, neither memorable nor — from the murmurings and shiftings of the crowd — pleasing. His short and drab oration was interrupted, though, when he paused in a surprising and unexpected fashion and took a small sip of water from a glass that had been placed below him on the platform. The noisy drink could be heard several rows into the crowd, and it so stunned the audience — and even those honorable personages who filled the platform were seen to shake their heads in uniform disapproval at this rude and coarse depiction of presidential thirst — that for several moments the entire party was silent. But then, the silence turned to anger. The crowd, already unhappy with the blandishments of the President’s sorry prose, rose up as one to make clear their offense at this unprecedented and unwelcome behavior. “Take a drink, sir?” they jeered in rage. “Dare you sip of water?” cried the assembled, clearly indicating to all on the platform, including rising presidential timber, the Hon. Edward Everett, that the current occupant of the White House has truncated and put paid to his own political future.

From the Washington Star, March 1933:

. . . gathered in the East Portico, along with the appropriate dignitaries and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, radio microphones draped along the bunting and wires and cables forming a complex thatch-pattern on the ancient floor, the anticipation and electricity of the moment was felt by all. At a time when the nation and its citizens are caught in the grip of this terrible economic depression, the attention and regard given to the president’s remarks exceeded anything experienced in the memory of the assembled audience, which included veterans of such national trials as the recent Great War, the War Between the States, and even one hardy soul who had fought in the Mexican Conflict. So it was with intense disappointment that what should have been an inspiring and rousing declaration turned into a lackluster and deflating experience for all — the assembled crowd and the radio audience. “The only thing we have to fear,” the new president intoned — and here he paused, stopped, ceased the narrative entirely, while fumbling around for a small flask of (what we presume was) water. His sip, which was carried across the nation via the power of radio microphones, and the subsequent guttural sound of water sliding down the esophageal canal, was so thoroughly repulsive and off-putting that millions of hopeful and desperate Americans could not hear — simply couldn’t, out of disgust and shock and anger — the ultimate clause of the sentence, “ . . . is fear itself.” This presidency is doomed. This president is finished.

From the New York Times, June 1987:

. . . a simplistic and, frankly, dangerous set of remarks in front of the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall, which left the crowd in the street and the assorted leaders on the dais frustrated with a president who seems tone-deaf to the European mood, which is to ease tensions with their Soviet neighbors and explore ways to live with the Russian behemoth to their east. The only high point of an otherwise incendiary and crude speech came when the president, usually a skilled communicator, stopped in the tracks of his bellicose hectoring to take a long drink from a glass of water. “Mr. Gorbachev,” he intoned rudely to the architect of glasnost and perestroika, “Tear down this — ” And it was here that Reagan’s Hollywood training left him and he paused to take a sip from his water glass. “Wall!” he shouted to the nonplussed listeners, who by then had forgotten what, exactly, the president was demanding. So they cheered, unaware. They cheered never truly knowing, thanks to Reagan’s blundering sip, just how aggressive and warmongering this administration is. The Berlin Wall, as we all know, is here to stay. But President Reagan and his legacy, alas, will be relegated to the slurp pile.

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