In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 4, 2014 / 6 Sivan, 5774

Daily Combat at the White House

By Roger Simon

JewishWorldReview.com | Mike McCurry still has recurring dreams. They are like the ones people have about showing up at a final exam not having done the reading.

But for McCurry, who was the White House press secretary for Bill Clinton from December 1994 to August 1998 — from Whitewater through most of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, in other words — the dreams are slightly different.

"In my anxiety dream, I walk out to give the daily briefing and I don't have my briefing book," McCurry says.

The briefing book, which takes enormous effort to assemble each morning, contains the assembled wisdom, positions, acumen and sheer flackery of the Cabinet, the executive agencies, the White House staff and sometimes even the president of the United States.

It is all done — and the process often starts before dawn — in anticipation of what questions the press corps will be asking at the daily briefing and what messages the White House wants to convey.

As McCurry once told me, "the modern presidency is defined by the manipulation of the news flow 24 hours a day."

McCurry was the first press secretary to allow the daily briefings to be televised, a decision he now regrets. In the beginning, the networks used very little from the briefings because the briefings, then as now, produced very little news.

Sometimes the networks would take snippets for the nightly news but go live only for big, breaking stories, such as the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

But in 1998, Monica happened. And everything changed. The networks began televising the briefings live, and a technical but very important change took place. "The moment I realized I had made some kind of mistake," McCurry says, "was when the networks started using two cameras — one to shoot the briefing (i.e., McCurry at the lectern) and a second one, right near my shoulder, to shoot correspondents asking the questions."

"The dynamic changed," McCurry goes on. "Now the briefings were television events rather than an opportunity to answer questions about the news."

Reporters, especially television reporters, now could use the briefings to perform. The better their performances (which, in fairness, were mostly linked to a genuine attempt to dig out the news and determine the truth) the greater chance they had of looking tough and dogged during the afternoons and getting airtime that night.

"The networks would break away from their afternoon soap operas to present the real soap opera of Monica," McCurry says.

Televised briefings also greatly enhanced the visibility of the White House press secretaries and their ability to cash in on that visibility (paid speeches, consulting firms, etc.) once they left office.

The current White House press secretary, Jay Carney, announced last week that he will be resigning in mid-June. That set off a spate of stories assessing his performance, especially his on-camera performance. Most agree that whatever Carney's abilities, the daily briefing has become a trial by combat.

As early as last July, The New Republic published a piece by Reid Cherlin, a former White House assistant press secretary, who wrote: "The daily briefing has become a worthless chore for reporters, an embarrassing nuisance to administration staff, and a source of added friction between the two camps. It's time to do the humane, obvious thing and get rid of it altogether."

Reid quoted Peter Baker of The New York Times as saying: "The White House decided a long time ago that it's not about candor; it's about deflection and survival. The press decided it's about preening."

A few days ago, Reid wrote: "But whether docile or sneering, Carney was just doing what was expected of him, and — depending on where you sit — doing it quite capably. ... He doggedly protected the president's interests with the full understanding that doing so would earn him bad reviews from reporters."

Exactly. As I wrote about Carney's predecessor, Robert Gibbs: "Gibbs has one boss, and it isn't the press. It's the guy in the Oval Office."

Press secretaries, standing up there behind the lectern each day, appear to wield great power. In fact, as with everybody else at the White House, their power is limited by the needs, desires and whims of the president.

"President Clinton used to watch, near as I could tell, the replay of the daily briefing on C-SPAN at 11:30 every night," McCurry tells me. "And right after, I would get a call from him at home." McCurry slips into Clinton's soft Arkansas accent: "I thought you did a fine job, but you know, we could also use this."

McCurry, who often began his workday at 4:30 a.m., was not personally bothered by the lateness of the calls. But, he says, "we had small kids then, and they would wake up when the phone rang."

So one day, McCurry gently and politely told the president, "I always enjoy getting feedback, but not so late at night." And then he explained about the children.

"I'm so sorry," Clinton said.

"And he never called back at night again," McCurry says a little wistfully. "I probably should not have told him that."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Roger Simon's column by clicking here.

Roger Simon Archives

© 2013, Creators Syndicate.