President Obama should know things are really bad for his administration when even The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart is mocking him for getting all his information on critical events from television news reports.
As a presidential history buff, I decided to do a little research and find out if other presidents have experienced similar difficulty getting information about what’s going on in the world . . . or the White House itself. . . for that matter.
After a thorough examination, I’m pleased to report that most if not all of our presidents were pretty on top of things. Granted, sometimes they didn’t find out critical information for long stretches of time, but that was mostly because the means of communication were pretty slow.
For example, our Founding Fathers relied mostly on word of mouth or letters carried by riders on horseback. Even with the fastest steed on Earth or the biggest gossip imaginable, that still takes time.
Imagine the difference if Paul Revere could have tweeted the news, “The British are coming!” He could have saved himself a long dangerous horseback ride. Granted, it would have made a pretty pathetic poem. Instead of Paul Revere’s Ride, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would have been stuck with Paul Revere’s Tweet. It just wouldn’t have the same ring to it:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight tweet of Paul Revere.
It sounds kind of wimpy, if you ask me.
Abraham Lincoln liked to hang out at the War Department at all hours of the day and night and receive telegraph messages from the front lines. That was just his style. He liked to be the first, not the last, to know. That might explain why he saved the Union and there is an enormous monument to him in Washington, D.C. If that wasn’t enough, his picture is on the five dollar bill. In this country, we like to recognize overachieving like that.
I couldn’t find any evidence that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was ever caught flat footed on the news front. That’s a good thing. He had the Great Depression and World War II to contend with. Audience share for his fireside chats would probably have plummeted if everyone figured he’s always the last to know anything.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if he’d started his speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor with the words, “This morning I heard on the radio . . . . “ Somehow I think just that opening line would have completely drowned out the “day that will live in infamy” part of his speech.
In fact, the only president I could find that appeared totally in the dark about something extremely important to his administration was President Thomas J. Whitmore in the film Independence Day.
At a critical point in the movie, he’s taken to Area 51, where a captured alien spacecraft is reportedly being held. He asks his Secretary of Defense, Albert Nimzicki, “Why the hell wasn’t I told about this place?” Nimzicki replies, “Two words, Mr. President. Plausible deniability.”
That’s the only example I could find. Even though it’s fiction, it’s the only explanation I can think of for the current mess. That is, of course, if the president really didn’t know about all these scandals in his administration until he turned on his TV.