RESPILLING OLD TEA: A SURVEY OF NEWS STORIES ABOUT PAST PRESIDENTS 5 YEARS BEFORE BEING ELECTED

The reality show that is the US presidency is one of the most ostentatious and expensive productions the world has ever known. Its producers are massive corporations, political parties, financial institutions and military interests. Its actors hail from the best universities, families, and fraternal societies across America. Seeing an actor give a tour de force performance in a movie or television show can have the effect of coloring your opinion of them from then on. Making it hard to distinguish or appreciate them when they play another role. Other actors are trapped in their past and end up typecast into a series of roles based upon the character they’d played at some prior date.

The public image of any president, for better of for worse, is dramatically altered by the time their terms are up. Examining the maelstrom of media coverage concerning current president Donald Trump. media analysts may, if they can remove the chastity belts of partisanship the wear so proudly, look to investigate the media’s presentation of presidential hopefuls in the past and how public perception shifts over time. Ensconced in a hyperreality of mass news and social media communications we now experience the phenomenon of public figures ‘coming out of no-where,’ juxtaposed with the actions of known public figures either being buried or constantly reintroduced into the news cycle.

Due to the power of narrative driving by media outlets, which nowadays seek to run parallel with public trends rather than serve as somewhat non-partisan reporters, candidates can be recast in new roles with a speed and efficacy never before imagined. In this last election we saw a New York billionaire braggart transformed into a populist hero going to Washington to drain the swamp of career politicians and greedy oligarchs.

That character ran against another media invention. This time it was a humble woman of the people, public servant and feminist who — despite being having been a well known political figure and source of controversy for decades — had been reborn as a as a kind, loving, hot sauce in her purse carrying, strong female leader unafraid to wage war wherever and whenever possible. 

METHODOLOGY

Thinking about the shifting media narratives surrounding presidential candidates, even intra-campaign, lead me to ask the question which served as the impetus for me to conduct an ad-hoc survey of internet news headlines and stories about our 6 most recent presidents. The question I asked was:

“What was the news saying about a president 5 years before they got elected?”

For this survey I simply entered the names of the 6 following presidents and created a time interval of one year which was 5-6 years before they were elected.

NAME PRESIDENTIAL TERM YEAR SEARCHED
1. Ronald Reagan 1981 – 1989 1976
2. George H.W. Bush 1989 – 1993 1984
3. Bill Clinton 1993 – 2001 1988
4. George W. Bush 2001 – 2009 1996
5. Barack Obama 2009 – 2017 2003
6. Donald Trump 2017 – 2011

Key word searches were performed on Google and the Google newspaper archive using the name of the president with no other qualifiers except for in the case of president Obama for whom I also had to expand the years searched and conduct searches using “Senator Obama” as my key-words. The reason for this seems to be Obama’s emergence from major political obscurity began with a keynote speech at the DNC’s 2004 convention and his mentions in the news media rose after that event.

After running the queries I selected a story from the first few pages of the search results, switching back and forth between the newspaper archive and online articles as necessary. The purpose of this was to mimic an interested person using only the internet to do some cursory research to satisfy a curiosity. This methodology is not purported to be of the highest academic caliber and should be used for personal edification, discussion and ideation.

RESULTS AND COMMENTARY

George HW Bush, Barack Obama, George W Bush, William Clinton
NAME PRESIDENTIAL TERM YEAR SEARCHED
1. Ronald Reagan 1981 – 1989 1976
2. George H.W. Bush 1989 – 1993 1984
3. Bill Clinton 1993 – 2001 1988
4. George W. Bush 2001 – 2009 1996
5. Barack Obama 2009 – 2017 2003
6. Donald Trump 2017 – 2011

In the case of Ronald Reagan we find an article from 1976 discussing how he was already a millionaire due to a movie studio deal and one discussing how as far back as the 1950s while a GE employee Reagan was promoting the idea of taking government back for the people and reducing political cronyism,  Ronald Reagan’s Millions — Inside the candidate’s closest cabinet and the movie studio land deal that made him rich.  Another article addressed the now infamous “welfare queen” episode which the Reagan campaign used to incite racial and class disagreements in order to secure their growing base of support, Welfare Queen’ Becomes Issue in Reagan Campaign, which juxtaposed against allegations of tax evasion on Reagan’s part was quite ironic, Reagan Records Show Little Paid In Taxes. There was also an interesting piece which discussed his battles with Gerald Ford and his Rockefeller backing in an ideological battle for the future of the GOP,  Being Presidential – Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, and the 1976 Republican nomination.

The results for George HW Bush naturally intersect with Reagan’s as he was his VP and a powerful political player by 1984, When Big Business Needs a Favor, George Bush Gets the Call Ronald Reagan’s back-door man. Bush would lose out to Reagan in a run for the presidency in 1981 and his appointment to VP was always considered a concession prize that he’d remedy by winning the presidency after Reagan’s term had been completed, GEORGE BUSH – LOYALTY TO THE CAUSE. The political life of HW Bush can truly only be fleshed out by students of parapolitics due to his long term familial connections with Intelligence and corporate elements within the American system. In popular culture Reagan is described as a giant of a president whose policies and accomplishments altered American politics forever. Yet, the reality was HW Bush was ever present behind the scenes using his political connections which were in fact far beyond the level of those enjoyed by Ronald Reagan.

In 1988, William Jefferson Clinton was serving as governor of Arkansas and many of the results had to do with his giving a speech in support of Michael Dukakis for president in that year’s election, 1988 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION : Restores Focus on ‘Apostle of Hope’ : Clinton Talk Lauds Virtues of Dukakis. Not shocking for students of the Clintonian political history he was also involved in a legal battle over voter suppression of blacks in Arkansas, Smith v. Clinton, 687 F. Supp. 1310 (E.D. Ark. 1988) .

George “Wubya” Bush’s results from the year searched, 1997, highlight another millionaire politician in the process of maneuvering towards the White House, Secret Hideaways of the Rich and Famous. As well as a story about him issuing a pardon to a convicted rapist, who was exonerated by DNA yet claimed to have committed the act, and its resultant fall out as it was seen as a political move on the part of then governor of Texas, Gov. Bush Denies Pardon In Rape Case, Despite DNA.

President Obama’s queries turned up the least amount of hits by a wide margin as 5 years before his ascension to the presidency he was as unknown as any future president had been in many years. However, we find some of the concerns people are still dealing with now, being mentioned back then. From the Black Agenda Report we have a series of pieces written between 2002-2003 interrogating  Obama’s honesty and dedication in fighting for certain causes, In Search of the Real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate Candidate Resist the DLC? In a long but quite interesting piece on Obama’s political moves in Chicago as a senator we have, “Is Bobby Rush in Trouble?  Two formidable opponents in the race for his congressional seat are banking on it“, which goes into what the author views as highly political decision making by the senator as prelude to his ingratiating himself with DNC leadership.

Donald Trump had been a fixture in American popular culture for nearly 4 decades. The flamboyant New Yorker had risen to even higher levels since the debut and success of The Apprentice on NBC in 2004. Trump had been hinting at running for president since the 1980s but whether or not people thought that was a serious proposition he still was receiving media attention for it, Was he ever serious? How Trump strung the country along, again. Other conversations about Trump in 2011 concerned his support for Birtherism,  Trump sends investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama, his dodging of the Vietnam draft, Donald Trump’s Own Secret: Vietnam Draft Records, and the reality of his often touted net worth, A History of Donald Trump’s Net Worth Publicity (1988-2011) .

For a list of all the stories selected please continue to the section below.

SEARCH RESULTS

“… That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

— Karl Rove

I. RONALD REAGAN (1981 – 1989)

SNAPSHOT: Five years before his election as president of the United States Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, failed to win his party’s nomination to run for president in 1976 to Gerald Ford who had taken over the office in 1974  after the resignation of Richard Nixon due to Watergate scandal.

1.) Ronald Reagan’s Millions — Inside the candidate’s closest cabinet and the movie studio land deal that made him rich

 

2.) ‘Welfare Queen’ Becomes Issue in Reagan Campaign

 

3.) Another Loss For the Gipper 

 

4.) Being Presidential – Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, and the 1976 Republican nomination.

 

5.) Ford brands Reagan an extremist after offer

 

6.) Reagan Records Show Little Paid In Taxes

 

II. GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1989 – 1993)

SNAPSHOT: Five years before being elected as president George HW Bush was a highly accomplished operative of the State and American aristocracy. He had served 5 years in Congress, was ambassador to the U.N., chair of the RNC, envoy to China and head of the CIA all before becoming vice president to Ronald Reagan as consolation prize for losing the Republican nomination to Reagan in 1980.

1.) When Big Business Needs a Favor, George Bush Gets the Call Ronald Reagan’s back-door man

2.) BUSH AND FERRARO DEBATE; DISAGREE ABOUT LEADERSHIP, FOREIGN POLICY AND RELIGION  

3.) GEORGE BUSH – LOYALTY TO THE CAUSE  

4.) Bush Visits Bangor Campaigns For Ticket  

III. BILL CLINTON (1993 – 2001)

SNAPSHOT: Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown and won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford. He met his wife and future Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in law school after which he served two terms as governor of Arkansas, 1979-1981 and 1983-1992. Clinton’s bona fides had been fairly well established before he  was given the role of introducing the snakebitten candidate Michael Dukakis as the DNC’s presidential candidate in 1988. In 1992 he’d run and win the title of president for himself.

1.) 1988 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION : Restores Focus on ‘Apostle of Hope’ : Clinton Talk Lauds Virtues of Dukakis

2.) Smith v. Clinton, 687 F. Supp. 1310 (E.D. Ark. 1988) 

3.) THE DEMOCRATS IN ATLANTA: CONVENTION CHRONICLE; On Last Day, Party Starts to Poop

4.) Today’s Document • Governor Clinton thanks President Reagan 

IV. GEORGE W. BUSH (2001 – 2009)

SNAPSHOT: In 1996 George W. Bush, son of then former president George Herbert Walker Bush was in his 1st term as governor of Texas. Rumors of him running for president  in the future were already circulating widely and after winning his 2nd term as governor he ran for president and was victorious in defeating Al Gore.

1.) Secret Hideaways of the Rich and Famous  

2.) Hail to the Kinkster 

3.) Gov. Bush Denies Pardon In Rape Case, Despite DNA

V. BARACK OBAMA (2009 – 2017)

SNAPSHOT: Five years before becoming president of the United States Barack Obama had yet to make a huge mark on the national stage. He had been serving in the Illinois state legislature before making a splash with his keynote speech at the DNC’s 2004 convention. Obama would go on to win an unexpected victory against John McCain after besting Democratic primary favorite, Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 presidential campaign.

1.) In Search of the Real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate Candidate Resist the DLC? 

2.) Obama rides political wave and ponders presidential run (2006) 

3.) Is Bobby Rush in Trouble?  Two formidable opponents in the race for his congressional seat are banking on it.

VI. DONALD TRUMP (2017 – )

SNAPSHOT: Five years prior to being elected president of the United States Donald Trump, a well known figure in both business and popular culture, had risen to worldwide “fame” as host of reality tv the Apprentice. Long known as a real estate mogul with healthy ego, Trump had been making overtures of running for president since the 1980s. In 2011, he was being the same man we’d come to know over the previous decades, possibly enjoying a slight bump in attention due to his defense and promotion of Birtherist claims that President Obama was not a natural born U.S. citizen capable of being president.

1.) Donald Trump’s Companies Filed for Bankruptcy 4 Times – ABC News

2.) Donald Trump’s Own Secret: Vietnam Draft Records

3.) Trump sends investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama

4.) Trump and the Mets? Anything Is Possible

5.) A History of Donald Trump’s Net Worth Publicity (1988-2011)

6.) Was he ever serious? How Trump strung the country along, again

 

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