The Virtues of Restraint and Modesty: Rare Now in Politics, Also in Journalism

From “The speech George H. W. Bush didn’t give may be his most important,” in a leadership column by Jena McGregor in today’s Washington Post business section:

Since the passing Friday of George H.W. Bush, there have been many recollections of the most famous lines or most memorable speeches by the 41st president. His “thousand points of light” remark from his acceptance and inaugural speeches was used by the current White House to celebrate the former commander in chief just months after President Trump openly ridiculed it. Bush’s “read my lips” promise got pulled into round-up after round-up of the former president’s most famous sayings.

Yet presidential rhetoric scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson said in an interview Monday that what’s even more memorable are the remarks he never made: Any kind of big public speech after the Berlin Wall fell, at a time when many expected one.

“He could have said ‘we did it. The U.S. is victorious‚’ ” said Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “But he did not do that. And as a result he didn’t get the kind of credit in that moment that he might have.”. .

The lack of a big showy speech was a reminder, Jamieson said, that “sometimes the right thing to do is not celebrate and engage in a rhetoric of triumph.”

As Jamieson put it: “When you evaluate a presidency, you ask ‘did the president, in difficult times, make decisions that were good for the country even if they were not in his political interest?’ ”


  1. Yep.

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