John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

  • 03/22/2023: Historical Shade and political anti-intellectualism

    Governor Ron DeSantis gave this response to Donald Trump’s nickname “Ron Sanctimonious” in a recent interview: “I don’t know how to spell the sanctimonious one. I don’t really know what it means, but I kinda like it, it’s long, it’s got a lot of vowels. We’ll go with that, that’s fine.”

    The nickname thing is ridiculous, of course, and we should all pay attention to the more substantive and interesting issues related to the debate over national interest going on in the GOP, but DeSantis (who attended Yale and Harvard)(*) running to Trump’s left as an anti-intellectual tells you something about how he views the GOP audience and has a deep tradition in American politics.

    Which brings me to the point of this post.

    Richard Hofstadter could say it well. In this book he refers to presidents Hayes and Benjamin Harrison as “innocent of distinction.”

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    Here’s the thing though about the point DeSantis is making: It’s an intellectual one. He’s said in the interview, don’t pay attention the name calling, pay attention to the kind of team a leader builds and their capacity for execution. Pay attention to what the job requires, not the way a leader makes you feel with his barbs. As a person who wrote a book arguing a version of this about the presidential selection process I recognize the pitch!

    As I think about DeSantis’ remark, I can’t really produce in the noggin a modern conservative elitist boogeyman of the kind of role that Willilam F. Buckley played. Kevin Phillips, author and former Nixon aide, called Buckley “Squire Willie,” and in his book The Emerging Republican Majority, (1969) heralded a “New Right” that connected with real people. “Nor can we expect Alabama truck drivers or Ohio steelworkers to sign on with a politics captivated by Ivy League five-syllable word polishers,” wrote Phillips, who attended Harvard. “Any politics or coalition has to surge up from Middle America … not dribble down from Bill Buckley’s wine rack and favorite philosophers shelf.”

    *Is it likely that the Governor of Florida doesn’t understand this word? It is unlikely. Pretending you don’t know a word when you know a word is the kind of thing that Donald Trump might spend a lot of time lampooning. All the while he does so, Trump will repeat the word “sanctimonious,” thereby cementing the underlying charge. Then, people will go look up the word and see that it means “making a show of being morally superior to other people,” and they will decide that pretending you don’t know a word and that a childish nickname doesn’t matter to you because you’re focused on morally superior pursuits is a behavior consistent with a word you recently looked up.

  • More Notions

  • 06/04/2024: When a person has been convicted by a jury, what do you refer to them as?

    I asked Claude AI: After a person has been convicted by a jury in a criminal trial, they are referred to as a “convicted criminal” or simply a “convict.” More specific terms may include: Convicted felon – if the crime they were convicted of was a felony offense. Convicted misdemeanant – if the crime they […]
  • 01/08/2024: How he drinks his coffee

    A small pleasure: one of my children and I are working together at the dining room table. We’re both writing. It’s hard for both of us, but we’re typing, so we’re both on the right road. I realize after a bit that I am witness to his writing tics. I have them. Lots of them. […]
  • 01/04/2024: A piece on the personal quality of restraint from 2015 that never ran

    I wrote it for Slate and was just reminded of it. This is a very rough draft. I wish it had run: On a recent Saturday, I listened to the audiobook of The Marshmallow Test while doing chores. In the famous experiment, children were given a choice between candy they could eat immediately, and a larger reward […]
  • 12/07/2023: Is enforced loyalty a good recipe for achievement?

    You: What is the historical record of operations founded on loyalty where the person to whom everyone must show loyalty has a record of almost no reciprocal loyalty? ChatGPT: The historical record of operations or regimes founded on loyalty to a central figure who does not reciprocate that loyalty is marked by instability and often, […]
  • 12/05/2023: I asked Chat GPT to offer guidance to lawmakers offering their endorsement

    You: Pretend I am a lawmaker and I have taken an oath to defend the constitution, how should I decide whether to endorse a candidate for president who will take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. ChatGPT: In your role as a lawmaker who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution, […]
  • 12/05/2023: Hello! I see you sent me a text message!

    Hello! I see you’ve sent me a text! Is it urgent? If so, please call me. If not, please send me an email, that way I won’t think that in this world of constant interruption where we must have our guard double ready against mindless incursions, that you value my time so cheaply and yours […]
  • 12/02/2023: Discovering the photography of Saul Leiter

    Social media is a scourge, obviously. But I have been trying to respond to the negative effects of social media (cortisol-driving, attention-shredding, ego poking) with long-looking. Long-looking is the practice of spending a lot longer on an idea, piece of art, song, etc. than you normally would so that it give up additional meanings. If […]
  • 11/13/2023: What good is criticism

    I like this idea of criticism. (Colors are from my note taking).  It’s from an essay by Morgan Meis that can be found here. “Criticism does not stand outside the work of art, but stands alongside, maybe even inside, the work of art, participating in the work in order to further express and tease out […]
  • 11/03/2023: Thoughts on covering Donald Trump

  • 11/03/2023: Ray Bradbury punk rock graduation.

    Ray Bradbury was so poor growing up that in order to dress up for his graduation he had to wear his uncle’s suit. His uncle had died recently. The suite was the one he wore when he died. His uncle was shot. The suit still had the bullet hole in it. I learned that from […]