From Carter to Trump: Presidential Remarks

“Consuming things will never satisfy our longing for meaning.”  Jimmy Carter, 1979, in speech calling on US citizens to curtail radically their overall consumption and particularly their use of fossil fuels; and urging Congress to authorize, and industry to facilitate, rapid development of alternative sources of energy, an effort he earlier had described as “the moral equivalent of war”.

“Well, that man is going to make a million dollars.” Ronald Reagan, 1980, in answer to Bill Moyers’s question, in a pre-election interview on PBS, “What is Ronald Reagan’s vision of America?” — discussing the gentleman who had invented a styrofoam beer can holder, “to keep your cold beverage cold”, even while it was gripped in a warm hand.

“I like a colorful sock. I’m a sock man.”   George H. W. Bush, c. 1990, during a photo op at J. C. Penney’s, a Presidential shopping trip with enormous entourage undertaken to encourage Americans to spend more money as a means of battling recession, and a trip during which the patrician Bush bought a single pair of socks, unable to find in the aisles of Penney’s anything else he even remotely wanted. While checking out he expressed wonder at the by-then-decade-old scanning devices used at the register.

“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”  And: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  And:  “Character is a journey, not a destination.”    Bill Clinton, various occasions between 1996 and 1999.

“I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”  George W. Bush, 2003, commenting on the US invasion and continuing conflict in Iraq. (A peace that carries on to this very day.)

“We tortured some folks.”  Barack Obama, 2014, in a press conference in which he became the first US official to admit publicly that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” the US had been using for the 13 years prior constituted torture and during which he expressed “full confidence” in then-director of the CIA John Brennan.

“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it, you can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”  Donald Trump, remarks recorded earlier and released in 2016.

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