Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale appear before the 1980 Democratic National Convention.
Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale appear before the 1980 Democratic National Convention.
President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale at New York’s Madison Square Garden on the final night of the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 14, 1980. Image: Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

For Jimmy Carter and the Democrats, a deadly, once-in-a-generation heat wave roasting the United States was not the only thing that made the summer of 1980 unusually brutal and unforgiving.

The economy — suffering 12% inflation — was a mess. The president was embroiled in a futile re-election effort. Fifty-two Americans continued to be held hostage in Tehran, with no resolution in sight. Long lines at service stations caused by gasoline rationing had become routine.

And the party was divided. Not until mid-August did Carter finally see off Sen. Ted Kennedy’s insurgent campaign to steal the Democratic nomination. But the Massachusetts senator’s supporters — chanting “We want Kennedy! We want Kennedy!” — periodically interrupted Carter’s sweat-soaked Aug. 14 speech accepting the party’s nomination. The president’s attempts to roust the crowd…


President Lyndon B. Johnson announces that he will not seek re-election in March 1968.
President Lyndon B. Johnson announces that he will not seek re-election in March 1968.
President Lyndon B. Johnson announces that he will not seek re-election in March 1968. Photo: LBJ Library

Recently, a favorite parlor game cropped up in partisan political circles: Will Donald Trump drop out of the 2020 presidential race?

Perhaps, an anonymous GOP operative told Fox News.

No way, said Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.

Well, maybe, said veteran Democratic operative James Carville.

Not likely, argued an LA Times columnist.

But, well, maybe …? said MSNBC host and former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough.

No way, “just a side effect of Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a Boston Herald columnist wrote.

What’s going on?

However it might strike us, deciding not to run again is more common than you…


Carter congratulates Reagan during the latter’s inauguration
Carter congratulates Reagan during the latter’s inauguration
Jimmy Carter congratulates Ronald Reagan on Jan. 20, 1981, on the occasion of the latter’s inauguration. Source: http://www.defenseimagery.mil/imagery.html#guid=b1c3db908f67189bb7de3dd57891f3e619190672

(*Sure, maybe it’s too soon to speculate, so I’ll just knock on wood now)

Donald Trump isn’t exactly known for his grace or magnanimity.

But if — and that’s a big if — the current polling holds, he’s headed for a major defeat in November. If so, he’ll be just the third president in more than half a century to lose his re-election bid.

The last two who lost re-election — Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush — were, whatever you think of their politics, generally known as gracious and dignified political figures.

Not so the peevish and defensive Trump…


The current president has always seemed especially concerned about whether the world is laughing at America. “The whole world was laughing” over the way states handled anti-police brutality demonstrations, he said Monday in a rant at governors. Of course, he has it backward: the world is laughing at him — and by and large mournful over the state America has put itself in.

The demonstrations against racism and police brutality that have convulsed U.S. cities in the past week were triggered by a white Minneapolis police officer’s horrific killing of George Floyd, in which the cop continued to kneel for…


Powell Street, San Francisco, 1958
Powell Street, San Francisco, 1958
Powell Street, San Francisco, 1958. Image: WikiCommons

With its steep streets, airy vistas, and unique counterculture, San Francisco has attracted filmmakers since the silent era.

In the decades before tech crept up the Peninsula from Silicon Valley to colonize San Francisco, The City was a regional shipping and manufacturing hub, relatively working class but with a veneer of old-world-meets-new glamour, and ripe for intrigue and noir.

That now-vanished San Francisco has long appealed to me — as a Bay Area native, historian, and old film enthusiast. Cooped up by COVID-19, I’ve turned to watching classic movies set in The City as my grandparents — and (wow!) …


Image: Trump addresses the nation on the coronavirus outbreak
Image: Trump addresses the nation on the coronavirus outbreak
Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office on March 11, 2020 (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Donald Trump’s coronavirus speech on Wednesday night seems likely to go down as one of the least effective presidential speeches in a time of national crisis in American history.

What went wrong? The better question: What went right? The lighting was … fine.

The speech offered a masterclass in how not to deliver information and reassure an anxious public. He did it all in three easy steps:

  1. He looked like a frightened meerkat The most visible problem stemmed from his very appearance and delivery. He is a man known to fold his arms across his chest when he’s out of…

The recent freak out about Bernie Sanders’ comments regarding Cuba’s literacy programs under the Castro regime have illuminated a remarkably ill-informed, ahistorical, and reactionary streak in America’s media and professional political class.

Aside from what it may or may not say about Sanders’ political views, this dustup illustrates three lamentable truisms about American political life: we can’t break free from the Boomer paradigm that has defined our social and political life since the 1960s; our views of the rest of the world are completely distorted by domestic politics; and we fail to wrestle honestly with our mixed record of sometimes…


Photo: CIA lobby seal.jpg
Photo: CIA lobby seal.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most common tropes in horror movies and urban legends is the scene where “the call is coming from inside the house”: the soon-to-be victim realizes that the menacing voice on the phone is on the wrong side of the door, the true threat is actually inside the ostensibly safe space, and the supposedly sketchier world outside is actually more secure.

Well, when it comes to dangers to American national security and foreign policy, the call is most definitely coming from inside the house.

Recent reports about the state of critical national security agencies under the Trump administration…


Image for post
Image for post
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, President Jimmy Carter, and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David, Maryland, in September 1978. By Fitz-Patrick, Bill, photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

As the long-time central mediator in the Arab-Israeli dispute, the United States has struggled with how to address the issue of Palestinian representation.

But the Trump administration’s Middle East team — led by presidential son-in-law and lead negotiator Jared Kushner, former real estate lawyer Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — has not just committed to an approach that has failed many times before. It has moved it to a new level. By punishing the Palestinian people and excluding their leadership from the peace process, it’s turned from malign neglect to active maliciousness.

September 17 marks 40…


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Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, center, shakes hands with Sen. Carl Curtis from Nebraska at a luncheon given by the Conservative Club of Capitol Hill at the Senate Office Building in honor of returned prisoners of war on May 23, 1973. Credit: National Archives via Wikicommons.

As the country remembers Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81, a feature of every story about the Navy vet and 2008 Republican presidential nominee is the more than five years he spent in captivity after being shot down over North Vietnam.

But few have mentioned the return of McCain and 590 other prisoners of war in a PR event stage managed by the Nixon administration known as Operation Homecoming.

McCain, as the son of a the recently retired commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, received special media attention when he was freed in March…

Daniel Strieff

Writing, history, journalism. Fellow and PhD @LSEHistory. @NBCNews alum. Author: JIMMY CARTER AND THE MIDDLE EAST (2015). danielstrieff.com

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