Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 23, 2009


Sam Smith - One of the pleasures of editing the Review is a readership of limitless knowledge on the most obscure matters. There was a time, for example, when I was almost afraid to mention any specific type of airplane because I was sure that I would be challenged on wingspan, range, altitude or similar issues.

But one of the skills of a reporter is the ability to cover your ass in as few words as possible. That why you see the word "allegedly" so frequently or "some critics say, however."

Thus I knew I was taking a risk when I quoted a 19th century congressman but thought I was safe in writing, "I prefer the Missouri motto that some say stems from an 1899 speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver, when he declared, 'I come from a country that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me.'"

Review reader (as well as former National Security Council staffer and author of the best biography of Bill Clinton) Roger Morris, however, hails from Missouri and saw through the guile of "some say." His grandmother actually knew Vandiver and Morris "always heard he had stolen the 'show me' from some unknown forerunner, and that was hardly the only way he was ahead of his time. Story told he quit Congress to go on the take as state insurance commissioner, then a bigwig in big insurance company, then on to assistant secretary of Treasury under Wilson. We of the 'show me state' invented 'show me the money' long before the movie line. Vandiver had started as a local teacher around Kansas City, and fondly remembered as the only teacher in Missouri who ended up with a million-dollar pension."

As for Obama, Morris writes, "I agree he is probably what a friend of mine once called an Afghan regime -- a 'sheep in wolf's clothing.'"


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