Supplemental: The legacy of Ben Bradlee!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2014

Style section, then Richard Nixon:
We never met Ben Bradlee. Manifestly, he seemed like a very impressive man.

Until today, we hadn’t realized that Bradlee was such a major swell. Before we praise his mother, let us record these unusual facts, from the world’s leading authority:

“Josephine de Gersdorff, Bradlee's mother, was a direct descendant of Heinrich XXIX, Count of Reuss-Ebersdorf, who was a lineal descendant of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, King John of Denmark and King John II of France and Bonne of Bohemia and John V, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. Bradlee's maternal great grandfather was Dr. Ernst Bruno von Gersdorff, who was a third cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom through Heinrich XXIX.”

Our own mother wasn’t descended from the Holy Roman Emperor. She just thought she was.

Now, for that impressive claim. We don’t know if this is accurate:

“His mother, Josephine de Gersdorff (1896–1975), was awarded the French Legion of Honor for helping keep children safe from Nazi Germany during World War II.”

To state the obvious, that's a tremendous claim to be able to make.

We spent some time this morning thinking about Bradlee’s legacy. It seems that people who knew him admired him. Plus, he invented the Washington Post’s Style section, and he led the Watergate chase.

Style, and Nixon’s forced resignation! These are very important elements in modern newspaper culture, not necessarily in good ways.

That takes nothing away from their invention. We’re talking about where they led.

We were already planning to spend next week discussing the press corps’ coverage of White House campaigns post-Nixon.

We’ve become more and more intrigued by what happened to the coverage starting with Candidate Muskie. The invention of “Style section journalism” is fairly clearly part of that tale. So too for the pursuit of Nixon, in which, as far as we know, the work was respectable, good.

That said, even Maximilian I couldn’t have saved us from the culture which followed. Increasingly, we’re intrigued by how badly the trends have worked against presidential-level Democrats, even as we in the liberal world keep cheering those trends along.

As far as we know, Ben Bradlee was sharp. After Bradlee, the whirlwind?

28 comments:

  1. Ed Muskie would have probably been the best Vice Presidential nominee not to become President if Dole and Kemp hadn't beaten him out.

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    1. I think Muskie would have been a better President than Quayle never got to be. Neither reach the tragic level of Al Gore, who won the election but had it snatched away by the press.

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    2. What the public will tolerate is strongly affected by the press. Gore has gone on to influence the world in other ways. What have these other also-rans done? I think that is the measure of what we lost.

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  2. Poor Richard Nixon.

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  3. Why do Wikipedia bios always read like press releases?

    Boston Brahmin, eh? Genealogy can be a dangerous thing to get into. All my life I was told I was part Cherokee, like fellow Okie Will Rogers. Took it to be true. Read up on native peoples. Raged over theTrail of Tears. Even thought it was OK to make the occasional ethnic joke (usually something about dog being a food animal) since I was "one of them."

    Then I took a couple of DNA tests to get some idea of my actual blood quantum, to see how much of the local casinos I owned, or if I qualified to open a tax-free smoke shop and retire on the white man's emphysema. Had my parents tested, too. A lot of Irish, some Viking. No surprises there. But not one drop of Native American. Not one. The other shocker was that I'm instead a little bit Ashkanazi Jew. On my mother's side. Like Elvis. "Does this mean we have dual citizenship?" she asked. "It means our names are now on some list somewhere," I answered. "It'll be very convenient when ISIS hacks the database."

    It seems my whole self-identity has been suddenly transformed. Not so long ago I felt I had a stake in the Redskins controversy. Now I'm fixated on every Nazi movie on TCM and every Hitler documentary on the history channels.

    Don't let your elders fool you. Family lore is a lie. As Rabbi Telushkin tells us, "Be thankful for your little problems; they're a sign you don't have One Big Problem."

    Oy, how I miss my little problems.

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    1. Die Grafschaft Reuß-Ebersdorf entstand nach mehreren Teilungen der jüngeren Linie Reuß ebenso wie die Grafschaft Reuß-Hirschberg 1678 aus einer Teilung der Grafschaft Reuß-Lobenstein und existierte bis 1848.

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    2. Dir russische Kaiserin Katharina die Große wurde als die Prinzessin von Anhalt-Zerbst geboren.

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    3. Nixon said his mother was a saint.

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  4. We never met Hillary Clinton. That said, all seems quiet on the Post jihad front. Bet Bradlee's funeral will spur them back to action.

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    1. Apparently you don't read Harper's. The war against Clinton never stops -- it shifts battlefields.

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    2. Yes, I have read it, and how dare anybody question whether Hillary would be the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.

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    3. By the way, Doug Henwood's piece doesn't seem to mention Hillary's wealth.

      Isn't that the battlefield on which the War on Hillary is supposed to be fought?

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    4. No, 2:37. We don't read Harpers. Apparently you don't read TDH. Bob accused the Washington Post of the jihad. Not Harpers.

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    5. The Post isn't responsible for the jihad -- it is one vehicle for pursuing it. The jihad originates from the people who want to take down Hillary. They use whoever is handy. Huffington Post, for example, never misses the chance to show a bizarre candid photo of her or to put a nasty spin on a headline about some innocuous activity she has been involved in -- book tour, new grandchild, some global goodwill initiative, campaigning for a Dem candidate. Do you imagine Arianna originated this?

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  5. From what I've been able to tell, at least some of the Clinton hatred that consumed Washington came from Bradlee's wife, Sally Quinn, who had an intense hatred for Hillary, which infested the Washington dinner party circuit, and eventually, affected the coverage the Clinton's got. I remember Bradlee himself, some time in 2007 or 2008, saying "the ladies," (ie, his wife and the Washington biddies who surrounded her) hate Hillary. For a crucial decade or so, Quinn was pretty much the unofficial queen of Washington. An honest reckoning of Bradlee's legacy ought to include his wife's behind the scenes role in shaping elite opinion-- but it won't. What happens, or happened, among those people, in those days before the unwashed of the internets came along, stays buried deep. I wonder how many people are still around from back then who could even chronicle the Antoinettish atmosphere of that era, the atmosphere that produced so much horrible, history-changing journalism. Bradlee's death makes one less -- not that he would have been likely to tell, if he even consciously understood what happened back then, anyway.

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    1. Horrible. History. Changing. Journalism.

      And those damn biddies. Things were better before they could vote!

      From what I've been able to retell after being told by Bob.

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    2. They're not biddies they're socialites and it's their town, anyone one else is just living there. Therein lies the new Nu-Liberal, he avoids the obvious class issue like The Plague so long as he can get off an extremely weak 'S' blast,

      Can a middle-class democracy survive this elitist millionaire press corp? It doesn't look good to me.

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    3. What evidence is there a middle class democracy has ever last more than a couple of centuries at best?

      Your comment is murky.

      Nu-Liberal is just a label to replace Nu-Democrat. I call myself Progressive instead.

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    4. We've been around for 238 years. That is 38 years longer than a couple of centuries. Although GB has a nominal monarchy it has been a functioning democracy a lot longer than we have. A couple centuries longer depending on when you consider the balance of power between king and parliament to have shifted sufficiently. I clock it from the beheading of King Charles I in 1649 (369 years and counting).

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    5. We weren't a middle class democracy in the beginning. We were a white male property owners
      confederation of former Royal colonies for quite some time.

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    6. As long as it is not inherited wealth those landowners count as middle class (bourgeoisie).

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