Opinion: A president finds uneasy peace with the press


This column appeared on the combined 1967 Thanksgiving Day Editorial page of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution:

WASHINGTON — Who says Lyndon Johnson doesn’t like press conferences? He had one Friday and nobody in the East Room enjoyed it more. It has suddenly dawned on the President that the institution has its uses, and he employed every last one of them.

It is, for one thing, a chance to talk to the public without danger of pickets. It gives a man an opportunity to make punchy little speeches without being heckled. It gives a man a chance to show he doesn’t hate his critics, that he is not heavy-handed.

Up until Friday the President gave everybody the impression that the wide open, no-holds-barred press conference was the most confounded imposition ever visited on a busy executive. He has tried all sorts of ruses to eliminate them. He has held them on the White House lawn and in his private parlor, meeting with only a handful of reporters.

But something happened last week, and the President suddenly saw the press conference was the easiest way possible for him to get his side of the story to the public. Why it never occurred to him before is one of those mysteries locked in the heart of the mysterious President.

Recent experiences may have persuaded him. When he made a string of speeches at military establishments, his critics began to say he was a President who did not dare address the country except under armed guard.

He went to church and got preached at.

He has also begun to realize that the demonstrations at the Pentagon had done for him what he had been unable to do for himself, that is to say, win him sympathy and support.

His principal advisers from Vietnam had been called back, and his detractors had braced themselves for another great spate of victory claims and flamboyant progress reports.

it was the perfect moment to confound his critics, and the president seized it joyfully, demonstrating that the heavy-handed ogre pictured by his enemies is actually a leader with a light touch.

Expansive, confident, tolerant, gesticulating in his old campaign style, laughing at himself, jollying his critics, the President was delighted with his discovery that the press conference is not, after all, a fiendish device invented solely for the torment of men in high places.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: America’s unsustainable empire

Before President Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal, he might consider: If he could negotiate an identical deal with Kim Jong Un, it would astonish the world and win him the Nobel Peace Prize. For Iran has no nuclear bomb or ICBM and has never tested either. It has cameras inside and inspectors crawling all over its nuclear facilities. And North Korea?...
Opinion: Macron on Trumpism — Non!

WASHINGTON — The early story line about President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron focused on their “bromance” and Trump’s puerile claim to dominance when he brushed what he said was dandruff off Macron’s suit. But on the last day of his state visit on Wednesday, Macron showed he will not be trifled with. He...
READERS WRITE: APR. 26

Financial hole dug by too-low millage rate Senior centers, libraries and the Cobb County parking garage are charging fees and/or cutting services. Cobb is $30 million to $50 million in the hole. Cobb’s pension fund is $500 million in the hole. How did Cobb get in this situation? It’s not the recession. I found the answer when I reached...
READERS WRITE: APR. 25

Medical oversight of cannabis oil would help patients In response to a doctor’s comments on the Georgia CBD Oil Registry (“Medical marijuana poses unregulated risk to state’s kids,” Readers Write, April 10), I can appreciate his concerns about patient safety. I would argue, however, that the law is a much-needed step in the...
Opinion: What if Trump really did ‘shoot someone on 5th Avenue?”

By JESS KIDDEN WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and conservative leaders rallied around President Trump Friday, attempting to minimize political damage after Trump shot down a man in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City. “I’m not going to put myself in the position of having to respond to every presidential shooting,&rdquo...
More Stories