"Morning in America" (1984); "Teflon" President (1983)

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jun 10 04:32:40 UTC 2004

In a 1995 article, Elliot King and Michael Schudson say that Reagan
was first described as "the Great Communicator" during the first 6
months of his first term. I found a Russell Baker piece on political
cliches in the NY Times from January 27, 1976 in which "Ronald Reagan
is 'a great communicator'" is listed as a bit of conventional
political wisdom. I haven't found anything earlier than that in the
Times, the WSJ, or newspaperarchive.com, but given the Baker context
the phrase must have been in use before then. Can anyone help with
this? Also, it would be interesting to know when the phrase was first
used with the definite article (which changed the sense of 'great',
of course) -- was this before the 1980 election?

Geoff Nunberg

>    Here are a few more phrases from the Ronald Reagan era.
>    I worked 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. yesterday.  I was too pooped to post.  Today
>was only 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.  All a waste.
>    Going home in the subway from the Bronx to Manhattan, I heard the warning
>to beware of suspicious packages--TWICE on the same trip.  OK, so they expect
>us to die in the subway--so how come cell phones still don't work there?  How
>are you supposed to dial 911?  A stupid question, perhaps, but what's the
>answer, Mr. Mayor?
>MORNING IN AMERICA + REAGAN--4,520 Google hits, 1,130 Google Groups hits
>    The 1984 re-election theme.  This week called "mourning in America."
>     1.  Display Ad 6 -- No Title
>Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: Oct 27, 1922. p. 6 (1 page)
>New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 4, 1923. p. X12 (1
>     3.  Display Ad 17 -- No Title
>Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: May 28, 1925. p. 19 (1
>     4.  WHAT GOES ON?
>Chapin Hall. Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.: Sep
>15, 1938. p. 2 (1 page)
>     5.  A Lee for Villain; MORNING IN AMERICA. By Willard Wiener. Decorated
>by William Sharp. 303 pp. New York: Farrar & Rinehart. $2.50.
>WILLIAM DU BOIS.. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 1,
>1942. p. BR18 (2 pages)
>New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 1, 1942. p. BR39 (1
>     7.  Latest Books Received; Latest Books Received Latest Books Received
>New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 1, 1942. p. BR35 (3
>     8.  Dire Results of Dealing With Nazis Vividly Told
>Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.: Dec 6, 1942. p.
>E7 (1 page)
>     9.  Television This Week; OF SPECIAL INTEREST
>New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Jul 23, 1978. p. D25 (2
>     10. MYSTERIES; Mysteries
>By JEAN M. WHITE. The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.:
>Jul 18, 1982. p. BW6 (2 pages)
>     11. A Daunting Victory
>By Anthony Lewis. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Jun 7,
>1984. p. A31 (1 page) :
>    Ronald Reagan's amazing political appeal turns in large part on his
>projection of optimism, I think: the sense that he feels good and
>that we should.
>His new campaign television ads do it wonderfully: "It's morning in
>America," a
>voice says, and there are idealized scenes of a happy America that Mr. Reagan
>has restored.
>     12. Don't Bet That He'll Pick a Woman
>Michael Barone. The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.:
>Jul 1, 1984. p. C8 (1 page)
>     13. Reagan Ad Aces; The Tuesday Team, Making America Feel Good About
>Itself ! ,,7hesday,' 7&am
>By Elisabeth Bumiller Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post
>(1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: Oct 18, 1984. p. D1 (2 pages)
>TEFLON + REAGAN--6,980 Google hits, 4,990 Google Groups hits
>    A few Democrats have said recently that Ronald Reagan was such a wonderful
>person, that he stopped the partisan bickering.  Kids, there was partisan
>bickering then, too.
>New Goal for NOW: The Vice Presidency
>By Bill Peterson Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post
>(1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: Oct 2, 1983. p. A13 (1 page) :
>    In the most widely applauded speech of the day, Schroeder accused Reagan
>of trying to act like a "Teflon-coated" president by claiming he is simply
>misunderstood by women.
>Many Who See Failure in His Policies Don't Blame Their Affable President
>By STEVEN V. ROBERTS. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Mar
>2, 1984. p. A14 (1 page) :
>    This has caused great frustration among Democratic politicians, summed up
>by Representative Patricia Schroeder's characterization of Mr. Reagan as the
>"Teflon-coated President."  Blame, the Colorado Congresswoman complains, never
>seems to stick.
>Frederick Post - 8/25/1983
>...President REAGAN had established "a TEFLON-coated presidency. He sees to
>it.....the wagman file' by robert j. wagman REAGAN's 'gender gap' irks
>Frederick, Maryland Thursday, August 25, 1983  552 k
>Pg. B-3, col. 6:  An unabashedly partisan suggestion by Rep. Patricia Shroder
>(sic), D-Colo., that President Reagan had established "a Teflon-coated
>presidency.  He sees to it that nothing sticks to him.  He is responsible for
>nothing--civil rights, Central America, the Middle East, the economy, the
>environment--he is just the master of ceremonies at someone else's dinner."
>Frederick Post - 5/4/1984
>...leader." Thank God it is REAGAN, the TEFLON man, the non-stick president.
>But.....He is best summed up as the "TEFLON the ultimate non-stick invention..
>Frederick, Maryland Friday, May 04, 1984  544 k
>Gettysburg Times - 6/30/1984
>...D-Colo. She has called REAGAN a "TEFLON president." claiming he can
>make.....use in the campaign against President REAGAN. But leaders
>seemed baffled..
>Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Saturday, June 30, 1984  536 k
>Frederick Post - 8/23/1984
>...succeed. That's the secret of Ronald REAGAN." Lyn Nofziger, a longtime
>REAGAN.....challengers who call his the TEFLON presidency because, they
>Frederick, Maryland Thursday, August 23, 1984  591 k

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