Posts Tagged ‘Nixon’

TV is Still Politically Powerful

May 19, 2017

IT  STILL  DOMINATES THE NEWS MEDIA SCENE

If anyone truly understood the political power of TV it was the late Roger Ailes, the creator of FOX News, who, according to news report, died because he fell and hit his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach, Florida home.  He played a major role in helping Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump get elected by advising them on how to  use TV.

President Trump certainly seemed to  understand Ailes’ “orchestra pit theory.” It enabled him to get tons of free TV news time, especially during the Republican primary fights. TV fell for the ploy hook, line, and sinker. Many, including me, believe this is the main reason he won the nomination. The “pit” theory, I read in Wikipedia, is explained in this Ailes quote:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

During Nixon’s time, TV was, no doubt where, to a large degree, elections were lost or won. It was and still is where most people get their news. At least, that’s what a Pew poll tells us that was the case in 2016..  However, that is changing.

The poll shows that 57 percent of US adults get their news from TV, cable, network, and local; 38 percent from social media, websites/apps; 25 percent from radio, and 20 percent from print newspapers.

However,  the trend appears headed online.  50 percent of people ages 18 – 29 get their news online, 27 percent of them get it on TV, 14 percent on radio and 5 percent print newspapers.

49 percent of 30 through 49 years old get their news online, 45 percent  on TV, 27 percent  on radio, and 10 percent from print newspapers.

Seniors still depend on TV heavily, 72 percent ages 50 – 64, and 85 percent ages 64 plus. The  age 64 plus crowd give print newspapers their highest percentage, 48 percent.

Where I get my news? From TV, online, radio, and magazines.  What about newspapers? Definitely. Big time.  But, not print editions, unless you count the Ledger-Enquirer online copy of the print edition as a print edition. I read both the e-edition and the website edition. I also occasionally sample newspaper websites from Washington D.C, Atlanta, New York,  Israel, U.K., Russia, France, China, and other countries. It’s amazing what’s out there for us to read now.

 

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

50 Years of Covering Bo Callaway

March 17, 2014

When I covered the late former Secretary of the Army Howard  Bo Callaway’s entrance into national politics in 1964, I didn’t reflect on how his actions were a part of a pivotal shift in American politics.  The Solid South was no longer “solid” for the Democratic Party and was moving toward being “solid” for the Republican Party.  Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Law and carried five Southern states, including Georgia.  Bo Callaway switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party and ran as a “Goldwater Republican.”  Goldwater lost ,  but Bo won easily in his bid to become the first Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia since Reconstruction.

I first met Bo when I covered the 1964 3rd Congressional District election for WRBL Radio and TV in Columbus.  As far as positions on issues were concerned, I couldn’t tell much difference between them. Both Democrat Garland Byrd, a former Georgia Lt. Governor, and Bo were conservatives, and when I asked them if they were segregationists, neither seemed pleased that I asked the question, but both told me they were.  I wasn’t, but, then, I wasn’t running for public office in 1964 Georgia.

Timing is everything, the adage tells us, and, in 1964,  Bo Callaway’s timing was perfect. He went to Washington, but he only stayed two years, deciding he would rather be Georgia’s  first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.  He came close, but in the 1966 Georgia governor’s race that got national attention, he lost to arch-racist Democrat Lester Maddox in a convoluted election that ended up being decided by a Democratically controlled Georgia Legislature, because he got  the most popular votes, but not enough for a majority, which was Georgia law at the time.  (A plurality wins now.)  I reported that General Assembly election  live for WRBL Radio and TV from the Georgia House of Representatives.  What a show that was!

The Republican National Convention in 1973 that nominated President Richard Nixon for reelection was also quite a show.  I decided at the last-minute that WRBL Radio and TV needed to have some Georgia oriented coverage.  Owner and GM Jim Woodruff, Jr. thought it too late because all of the hotel rooms were taken.  I told him we would fly down in the morning and back that evening, that jets were fast.  He said he would call Bo Callaway, who was a member of the Georgia delegation, to see if he could cut red tape and get us some credentials so we could get on the floor of the convention. He did and Bo did.  When we got on the floor, Bo met us, gave me an interview, and took me over to the California delegation to introduce me to then Governor Ronald Reagan, who graciously gave me an interview.

I only asked Bo one question when he was forced out of his job as campaign manager for Vice President Gerald Ford when he ran against  Jimmy Carter for President.  He held a live prime time news conference in a WSB-TV studio in Atlanta, which was broadcast on TV stations all over Georgia.  Since I drove up from Columbus for the news conference, the WSB-TV producer of the program allowed me to ask the first question about the alleged conflict of interest charge reported by an NBC  correspondent.  Bo responded that the charge was false, but he resigned as Ford’s campaign manager in order not to make the election about him instead of Ford.

When he was sworn in as President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Army in 1973,  a WRBL-TV news photographer and I flew to Washington to cover the ceremony.     After we filmed the ceremony,  he gave me an interview for the home folks.  A West Pointer, who had left the Army as a First Lieutenant after the Korean War, was then outranking all of the generals.

When I working at WTVM, I did a series of half-hour interviews for Georgians and Alabamians who have earned “A Place in History.”  When I interviewed Bo,  he candidly answered all of my questions about his personal and professional life without hesitation.  It was a fun interview with his telling me about such things as President Franklin D. Roosevelt coming to his parent’s Harris County home for cocktails and dinner when he came to nearby Warm Springs.  There was one question that caused him to pause before answering.  I asked him, “What was it like growing up as the son of the richest man in town.” Bo’s father Cason and his uncle Fuller, Jr.  owned Callaway Mills in LaGrange.  As best as I can remember it, he said, “Nobody has ever asked me that question before, Dick.  My father made it clear to me that being who I was carried a responsibility with it.  He said that I had to always conduct myself honorably and, if I didn’t, and he heard about it, I would have to answer to him.  I’ve always remembered that and tried to follow his admonition.”

You may wonder why I refer to him by his nick name. It’s not out of disrespect, but because  I consider that he and I were friends.  There are some people that you cover over the years that you can’t resist becoming friends with.  He is one and his political rival, President Jimmy Carter,  is another. I read where he and Bo eventually became friendly.   Recently, at the Rotary Club of Columbus where he was a member,  as he was sitting at the table next to mine in his wheel chair, necessitated by a stroke, he leaned over and patted me on the shoulder when I was among those thanked for participating in a Rotary Foundation fund-raising program.   That was the last contact I had with Howard “Bo” Callaway, who truly earned a place in history. .

Another Island of Hope in a Sea of Hollywood Flotsam

August 19, 2013

When I  read this  morning that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was number one in the weekend box-office results, I felt like shouting for joy. I just love it when a quality film that  relies on a story well told more than special effects, gratuitous violence,  and endless very loud crashes attracts profitable audiences.  It made $25 million.  It cost $30 million to  make. It should easily be turning in an impressive profit by next weekend.  Hopefully that will encourage the making of more movies like it.

The review in the Ledger-Enquirer found a lot of fault with the film and gave it 2 1/2 stars.  What a bunch of nonsense.  If there was ever a movie deserving of at least 4 stars,  Lee Daniels’ The Butler is it.

The  screenplay was inspired by the true story of African-American White House butler Eugene Allen, who served seven presidents. It follows the civil rights struggle from 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower, played by Robin Williams,  was president through the election of Barack Obama.

It depicts the butler’s relationships with the presidents during the Federal desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas,  the Nashville sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party, the Vietnam War, the Nixon  resignation, the Free South Africa Movement, and President Obama’s 2008 presidential  campaign.

The movie’s all-star cast includes five Oscar winners and one nominee.  Forrest Whitaker plays the  butler, Opra Winfrey plays his wife, and  David Oyelowo plays his eldest son. Supporting actors include Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding  Jr., and John Cusack.

It’s very well done.  I was moved.  Don’t  pay any attention to the review in the Ledger-Enquirer.

Newt, Elvis, and Me

November 28, 2011

Of all of  the candidates in the Republican presidential primary, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the only one I have met.  I interviewed him a number of times when I was working as a broadcast journalist.   The fact that, even though I was rarely on the same page politically with him, I was fair when interviewing him was evidenced the last time I interviewed him.  When he was still Speaker of the U.S. House, before he got caught  in his marital hypocrisy which revealed he was conducting an adultrous affair at the same time he was working to impeach President Clinton for doing the same thing, and before he had to pay a $300,000 fine for alleged House ethics violations, and eventually was forced to resign from Congress, he came to Columbus for some event.

When WTVM News requested a live 6 p.m. news interview with him, I was told that he would do it if I conducted the interview.  Seems my good Republican friend – I even voted for  him – Mac Collins, who was Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District representative at the time, had suggested that to Newt.  Anyway, I did interview him live that evening.  I was on the news set at the studio and he was at  the Trade Center.  It was one of those split-screen set ups.

I don’t recall  any of  the content of the interview so he must have basically  behaved himself and wasn’t in his nasty mode.  He can turn that on and off.  I do remember a little of what he said when I went up to Washington to interview him not long after he had become Speaker of the House.  I threw some soft-ball  questions to him about what it was like to be Speaker of the House, but eventually got around to the meaty stuff, things like, Why were the Republicans trying to cut school lunch money for the needy?  He said that charge by Democrats was misleading, that they were not trying to cut the school lunch  budget, just an increase in it.

The reason I decided to ask WTVM to pony up the money for a flight to Washington for me and my photographer was that when a Georgian reaches a position of that national importance, we needed to interview him in that environment.  Not only did WTVM do that, it made a deal with CNN for me to use their facilities to feed back a live report from D.C. to Columbus on the 6 p.m. news.  I also taped interviews with Rep. Mack Collins and my Democratic Party friend Rep. Sanford Bishop of the 2nd Congressional District, which includes South Columbus.  (Mack liked Sanford, and said his only problem was he was a Democrat and he should switch parties, and later, according to Sanford, even asked him to do it, but Sanford said he couldn’t do that.) After the taped interviews, both of them had said they would try to show up for the live shot that night, but neither did. Seems they had to stick around the House for a vote.  That  meant that, at the last minute, I realized I had to, as we said in the business, tap dance by myself.  I was glad I managed to get through the ad-libbing without hyperventilating.  We ran the taped interviews with all three of them over the  next few days when I got back to Columbus.

I also remember the time I interviewed Newt at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in 1988.  That was the one when President George H. W. Bush made the ‘No new taxes!” pledge.  The fact that turned out to be an empty promise helped Bill Clinton beat him in Bush’s reelection bid.   My crew and I stayed at  the same hotel as the Georgia delegation, which included Newt.  I remember that he spotted me in the lobby the first night we were there and yelled hello.  The next day as we were walking to the  Superdome where the convention was being held,  I spotted him walking very fast behind  us. As he caught up with us, I told him I wanted an interview, and he said, as best as I can recall, “All right, but it’ll have to be later. I’m in a hurry right now because ABC wants to interview me.” That was understandable.  The WTVM audience was certainly no match in size for ABC’s.  He did, as he said he would, give me an interview later.

Now, he’s back in the  national spotlight big time.  Can he possibly get the nomination  and be elected with all  of  the political and personal baggage he is carrying?  At first blush,  my answer is certainly not.  But, in politics you just never really know.  As one famous movie producer, whose name I can’t remember, said, You should never overestimate the American public.  That is so true. Just think of some of the people who have been elected President.  Which reminds me, I just saw a really entertaining movie called Elvis Meets Nixon. It was so funny, and, as Dick Cavvitt said, “for the most part, true,” that I watched it twice.  By all means, rent it the first chance you get.