David Gergen, Master of the Game

  1. On Nov. 9, 1960, the day after John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon to become the 35th President of the United States, a reporter for The Washington Daily News and a reporter for The Associated Press dropped by Nixon’s house in Washington, looking for a interview with the loser. The Vice President answered the door himself, and standing on the front stoop, the three men settled into a polite routine of questions and answers. Suddenly, Pat Nixon appeared. She was angry and, it was clear, not in control of her emotions. She damned the reporters and their colleagues for favoritism toward Kennedy that she said cost her husband the election. Nixon calmed her and led her away. When he returned, he said nothing about his wife’s outburst, and the reporters resumed their inquiry as if nothing unusual had occurred. Neither reporter ever wrote about Mrs. Nixon’s behavior; it wasn’t news.

    This small, oddly dignified scene, remembered by one of the reporters, belongs to a world that has vanished utterly. A journalist interviewing the losing candidate on the day after the 1992 election would have done so as a member of a large pack, covering a set piece of political theater—a media event, as it is called. The event would have been scripted down to the level of minor jokes, in an effort to insure that the candidate committed no gaffes before the cameras. The reporters, hoping to shake things off-script, and aware of their own video presence, would have shouted self-consciously aggres...