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US Presidents And Popular Culture

Past and present members of the White House have been both buoyed and sunk by their relationship to the country via the icons of the popular culture of their times. A new book by presidential historian Levi Troy covers a lot of ground, and contends that “the leader of a free and democratic nation must appear to be engaged in his country’s culture, but he must do so without letting the coarseness and vulgarity of that culture diminish himself or his office.” 
Some presidents comfortably fit into this new paradigm. Troy says that FDR “proved the original master of this new pop culture,” most prominently through his fireside chats, “and none of his successors has excelled him.” But some have come close: JFK through a great PR team whose efforts, including attending a concert featuring Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, established him as a public intellectual; Ronald Reagan, whose years of experience in radio, television, and film enabled him to project a positive public image despite a mostly antagonistic press; and Bill Clinton, who shared the tastes of his Baby Boomer generation.
Others have not been so lucky. The negative feedback from Harry Truman’s surreal piano gig at the National Press Club while he was still FDR’s vice president forced Truman to conclude that he “couldn’t be Harry Truman and vice president at the same time.” Nixon’s attempt to associate himself with country star Merle Haggard to rebuff a musical counterculture loathsome of him also fell flat. And Gerald Ford could not escape the SNL-produced perception of him as a klutzy dunce, despite being easily the most athletic modern president.
FreeBeacon - "The Presidents and Pop Culture"


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