Tevi Troy: How Presidents Ring In the New Year

From a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Tevi Troy headlined “How Presidents Ring In the New Year”:

How you celebrate New Year’s Eve can reveal a lot. Extroverts revel in party and song. Homebodies remain home as balls drop and corks pop. When it comes to presidents, their December 31 habits have often reflected their character and that of their presidencies.

George W. Bush is a good example. When asked by reporters in late 2004 about his New Year’s plans, Mr. Bush replied laconically, “Early to bed.” His father spent New Year’s Eve 1989 visiting wounded U.S. soldiers who had liberated Panama from Manuel Noriega’s dictatorship.

Richard Nixon spent New Year’s Eve 1972—shortly after his landslide re-election—alone in the White House residence. Ronald Reagan would celebrate at Walter and Leonore Annenberg’s glamorous annual party in Rancho Mirage, California.

At the end of 1976, lame duck Gerald Ford attended a party at which reporter Richard Growald gave him a “Ski Poland” poster altered to read “Ski Free Poland.” The gag referred to Ford’s debate gaffe: “There is no Soviet domination of Poland.” According to the journalist Tom DeFrank, Ford, always a good sport, “laughed uproariously.”

Bill Clinton had a tryst with Monica Lewinsky on New Year’s Eve 1995, recounted in the Starr report. John F. Kennedy spent the week after Christmas 1962 in Palm Beach, Florida. While the president lounged by the pool, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield tried to speak to him about Vietnam but found Kennedy distracted by a Mexican beauty with whom he flirtatiously traded sunglasses. The president and his wife attended a champagne party on his last New Year’s Eve.

Jimmy Carter spent New Year’s Eve 1977 in Tehran. He drank a toast to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and called Iran “an island of stability.” Barely a year later, the shah fled after a coup. By New Year’s Eve 1979, Iran was holding dozens of U.S. hostages who wouldn’t be released until moments after Mr. Carter left office in 1981. Lyndon Johnson said at a December 31, 1967, press conference that the U.S. effort in Vietnam was “the most careful, self-limited air war in history.”

Hollywood-loving Barack Obama would hold a family talent show on New Year’s Eve, modeled on shows like “American Idol” and “The X Factor.” Donald Trump rang in the new year by tweeting. In 2017 he wrote: “As our Country rapidly grows stronger and smarter, I want to wish all of my friends, supporters, enemies, haters, and even the very dishonest Fake News Media, a Happy and Healthy New Year.”

This will be Joe Biden’s first New Year’s Eve as president. Last year the 78-year-old president-elect appeared with his wife on the quintessential old people’s show, “ Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”

Tevi Troy is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and the author, most recently, of “Fight House: Rivalries in the White House From Truman to Trump.”

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