President-Elect Jimmy Carter, in his first press conference since winning the White House, from November 4, 1976. In retrospect probably not an earth-shattering press conference, certainly sedate by todays standards, but a press conference which embodied the basic concept of “being Presidential“.
An outline of plans, including a pledge to do at least two press conferences a month. Plans for the first 100 days. Plans for cabinet positions. Reiterating policy positions – all those elements that go into running a country the size of the U.S. – a civilized, if not downright cordial relationship with the Press, even with the ones who didn’t like him. A level of honesty and candor that, in hindsight, seems refreshing.
That’s not to say Jimmy Carter had the monopoly on civilized Press conferences. There are a lot of people who felt Carter wasn’t a strong President; that he lacked certain skills, that he may not have been forceful enough in the area of Foreign Policy. There are others who felt Carter was an island of sanity, in light of the then-recent Watergate trauma and the resignation of Richard Nixon and the resulting succession of Gerald Ford. Carter represented a return to basic values and civility to the highest office in the land.
Over the past few weeks, and to be continuing in the weeks and months ahead, I have been running various press conferences from Presidents of both parties recorded over the past several decades – not to draw comparison to political ideologies, but to give you an idea that, despite everything, to be Presidential carries with it a certain traditional weight of responsibility – a certain (to use a word I am not a fan of) Gravitas.
So as a reminder of what a Carter Press conference sounded like, here is his first, delivered shortly after his announced win. A press Conference that was carried live throughout the country by both radio and TV.