Reporter's Notebook

Question of the Week
Show Newer Notes
President Obama tosses up a basketball presented to him as a gift by UConn Huskies head basketball coach Geno Auriemma during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

This week, in honor of March Madness, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers: If you had to pick a lawmaker to coach your team and take it to the Final Four, who would you pick—and why?

Eileen is one of several readers who thought of Arizona Senator John McCain:

His military service and his ability to survive as a POW held by the Vietcong are a tribute to his character. Equally impressive is his courage as a Republican to speak out when he sees something is wrong. He did this recently in asking President Trump to show evidence of wiretapping by former President Obama or to stop talking about it.

But after some consideration, Eileen decided she’d rather have Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as her team’s coach:

His energy, enthusiasm, clear thinking, and ability to decipher complex issues and explain them in simple terms is more than impressive. He is a role model for all people, no matter their race, nationality, or religion. He gets my vote for the above reasons. He is my go-to guy. If there is a job to be done, he can be counted on to do it.

For reader Adela, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the obvious choice:

Can’t you just see her on the court cheering on her players? She’d be a dynamo! And she’d defend her team like a mother tigress. No ref would dare to argue with her if she knew she was right. She would, no doubt, get ejected from many games because she’d be warned, but, nevertheless, she’d persist!

Another suggestion for Warren—plus some notable support staff—comes from Barbara:

Warren is feisty, and would have high expectations of her team players as well as her assistant coaches. Everyone would know they needed to play their best game, both on the court and off. As a player, you would know Coach Warren would be fair and have your back. You would know not to cross her or be dishonest with her lest you incur her “come-to-Jesus” and get benched.

Her players and assistant coaches (Hillary Clinton, teaching community-building skills by listening and bringing together players, parents, community, and fans; Tammy Baldwin, teaching loyalty and team building skills; Michelle Obama, teaching healthy-eating and exercise-training skills; Barack Obama, team adviser) would be dedicated to helping each player be their best as a student athlete, in their coursework, and as a global citizen.

Tricia picks 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to take her NCAA team to the final four. Here’s why:

She’s tougher than nails, smarter than a whip, she does her homework, and she perseveres to the end. She’d have a few tricks up her sleeve and our team would be the winner against unimaginable odds. It would be my—and her—thrill of a lifetime.

Dirk of Holland, Michigan, chooses a congressman from his home state to bring his team to victory—Republican Representative Bill Huizenga:

He’s got the spine, imagination, and drive to get ’er done. He’s also Dutch-American, which means he’s hard-headed, a great coach to those alongside him, and knows his people well.

Kennedy recommends South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, “because Lindsey Graham.” And finally, Bruce has a joke about the popular vote:

Come on! It would have to be Trump. Even if the other team scored more points, you’d somehow still win.

Charles Dharapak / AP

On Monday, February 20, we’ll celebrate Presidents’ Day. So this week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers: What U.S. president do you admire most—and why? We received dozens of thoughtful responses, but here are a few of our favorites.

For Dolores Oliver, the answer is George H. W. Bush. She admires his ability to “work beyond ideological barriers”:

First, Bush was willing to resist pressure to aggressively brag about the fall of the Soviet Union. This approach reminded me of Lincoln’s commitment to welcoming back the South after the Civil War. He worked hard to respond with humility and support to bring the former Soviet satellite countries into the international community and eventually Russia too. Had the West come out with a prideful, bellicose attitude, perhaps we would be far worse off in our relationship with Russia than we are currently.

Secondly, he was willing to stand firm against great pressure within his party against the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, he recognized the need to give individuals with disabilities the opportunity to function independently, thus empowering many who otherwise would be homebound.

Third, he was willing to stand firm against tyranny when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. He worked carefully and wisely to merge together a coalition of more than thirty countries to remove Iraqi forces and liberate Kuwait in under four months.

Lastly, he was willing again, against great pressure, to acknowledge the need to increase taxes—which would eventually lose him a second term.

On a similar note, Mary Shannahan chose President Jimmy Carter because he “walks his talk”:

I admire him because of his integrity while in office. Since his term ended, he’s facilitated  peace on a global level and supervised integrity, or lack of it, in elections throughout the world. Here in the States he’s active with Habitat for Humanity. His principles are guided by his faith.

From Jennifer Poulakidas: “LBJ, for sure”:

What President Johnson was able to accomplish during his tenure is undeniably amazing and advanced our country in many very significant ways. AND, he was able to get a majority of the Congress to join him! The Civil Rights Acts, the Voting Rights Act, the first ESEA and HEA bills, the Immigration Act of 1965, the establishment of Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid and Work Study, creation of the National Endowments of Humanities and the Arts—the list could continue.

Paul E. Doherty suggested President Harry Truman, who he calls a real “man’s man.” Why?

He probably made more difficult decisions than any other president, and right or wrong, he made them in the best interest of our country. He truly meant it with the sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said “The Buck Stops Here!” After leaving the White House he went back to Independence, Missouri, to live the rest of his life with his family.  Truly a great American!

Reader Cindy Simpson would have some questions for FDR:

If he were in office today, he’d probably be impeached: Did he know about Pearl Harbor? If so, when, and if not, why? And what about those affairs—for both him and his wife?

But I admire Franklin D. Roosevelt. I believe he led this country through a very difficult time—he helped to get people relief and employment during and after the Great Depression; established social security, the SEC, and the FDIC; and navigated the U.S. entry into WWII (though of course, it wasn’t all good).

For college student Zubair Merchant, it’s a tossup between two young presidents, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama:

Both men had a passion and honor in office that I think is characteristically unique to them. It also helps that they were young and inspirational presidents and that I am in college.

I think that 50 percent of the presidency is policy and 50 percent is rhetoric. On the policy side you can debate that JFK didn’t have time to do much, yet Obama (I believe) moved this country forward in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time (he’s the liberal Reagan, but cooler). On the rhetoric front, they are, in my view, the most inspirational presidents in history, and their youth carried a message that is unparalleled.

Finally, Christopher Wilson didn’t support Barack Obama during his candidacy, but says he still admires him the most—“without question”:

When someone is observed with such scrutiny and vigilance, they cannot escape their faults.  President Obama had his.  The pivot of his leadership was changing an opinion of what had been a strong conviction—not for the purpose of politics and remembrance—but because he knew it was the right thing to do!  Specifically, having held strong opposing views of [same-sex marriage], President Obama made a remarkable turnaround and went full throttle in securing rights and becoming a quiet champion for the community—this in spite of his own personal beliefs.  That’s rarely seen in politics, and applaudable.

Lastly, he gave the face of the president its most human touch.  His humor, casual style, personal interests, candor and confidence were his beauty.  I, like many others were able to connect with and see him for who he was ... a great father, husband, brother, uncle, son, friend and human being.

Thanks for your comments, and stay tuned for next week’s Question of the Week contest.

Andrew Burton / Reuters

President Obama told The New York Times that reading books like The Three-Body Problem and The Underground Railroad helped him “slow down and get perspective” during his eight years in the White House.

This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers to share which books inform their daily lives and help keep things in perspective. Here are some of our favorite responses.

Tom Lucas suggested The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah:

The story of how French citizens faced so much difficulty during the Nazi occupation is relevant today when we talk about ISIS and how they took over cities in the Middle East.  I’m sure many of those citizens didn’t want to take in the soldiers but were forced to do it in order to protect their families.  We are so far removed from this kind of suffering that it can be difficult to imagine, and understanding it more makes me appreciate how small our problems in America are by comparison.

Thomas Gierach suggested both fiction and nonfiction: Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, and Stamped From the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi.

Gail Driscoll enjoys Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss, Jon Meacham’s American Lion, and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegywhich she says “exposes the complexity of the problems facing much of the Rust Belt.”

Marilyn Firth highlighted our own Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me:

I found that after I read it, I filtered everything I saw on the news or on Facebook through the insights I had received from reading this book. I joined my local chapters of the NAACP and SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice). The name of SURJ is somewhat counter to what Coates says about race being an artificial construct of oppression which originated as a child of racism rather than the other way around, as most people believe. But SURJ is a resource for positive activism in a city that is predominantly populated by people who are known as “white.”

Coates’s book—coupled with Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, about our tragically cruel treatment of this country’s Native population—are two books that will continue to inform my life by requiring me to always question the American dream, its shameful history, and the need to wake up from it, as Coates says. From these two books, I have learned to question constantly the assumptions we make about our country and our world and the roles we expect ourselves and others to play in them.

Paul Poletes also holds special appreciation for BTWAM:

Although I now live in a diverse neighborhood in Fairfax, VA, I grew up in South Dakota in the 1970s and 1980s.  I can (literally) count on one hand the number of non-white kids I went to school with.  Coates’s childhood in an all-black part of Baltimore—a neighborhood where everyone lived in fear of both street gangs and the cops—had about as much in common with my childhood as kids growing up in Karachi or Moscow.  As a child my friends and I had almost nothing to fear—especially not the police, whom we saw as kindly, well-meaning protectors.  Sioux Falls was probably more diverse in the 1980s than Coates’s childhood neighborhood, but barely (my neighborhood, on the other hand, wasn’t—it was all white).  Only after I moved to Minneapolis for college did I meet people really different from me—one of my college roommates was black, while another was Muslim.

I’ve thought a lot about Between the The World and Me since November 8, especially when I hear the ubiquitous talk of liberal elites living in their coastal and big city bubbles.  Between the World and Me reminds me that everyone lives in their own bubble—urban, poor, rural, gay, Vietnamese, black, evangelical, Jewish, white, rich, Lutheran, Baptist, etc.  How many bubbles do I live in now?  I have no idea, but at least I’m better able to understand everyone else’s bubbles too.

And lastly, Neel Lahiri picked The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha, writing:

For all that is wrong with society, it pays off to keep the small but important joys of life in mind. Reading a page a day is pure catharsis, and helps me remain calm even when the world is not.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

We can all agree that 2016 has been a long year, but this week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers to explain what they’re most thankful for in the world of politics.  Here were some of our favorite responses:

Miriam Helbok said she’s grateful for Bernie Sanders’s campaign because it “energized and perhaps even awakened thousands of young people to the importance of taking an active part in maintaining our democracy.”

For several readers, including David Lippman, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s loss in Arizona was “the only piece of positive news in a horrifying political year.”

Carl Dennis writes:

One of my favorite political responses this year happened as a result of one of the greatest tragedies in American history. After the shooting in Orlando at a gay bar, the outpouring of support and love expressed by political figures of both parties from President Obama to GOP figures gave me a glimmer of hope that in spite of our differences, we will be able to come together to support one another.

Grace Lutfy had a whole list of 2016 positives:

1. Ken Bone. At a time of high tension between Democrats and Republicans, he gave us a couple things we could all agree on: his awesomeness and how adorable he is.

2. That the government didn't shut down this year! The little things go a long way!

3. Saturday Night Live. Larry David as Bernie Sanders and Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump have been nothing short of amazing.

4. That Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could find something they liked about each other when prompted to do so.

The election is over! Happy Thanksgiving!

On that note, Craig K. Lehman is grateful that at least we’ve reached “the end of the Bush and Clinton dynasties.”

David Caskey, from University Park, Maryland, is thankful for California:

Governor Brown signed a law which will require farm workers to get overtime after an eight-hour day. No developed society I know of has been this committed to a decent life for those who labor for our food.

Trump was defeated in California by over 3 million votes. Big old California gives me hope for America.

And finally, Barry Tarshis wrote in to say that he’s “thankful to be a Canadian.” Thanks for that, Barry.

More Notes From The Atlantic
  • Notes Home