Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jack Germond

Jack Germond, presidential politics reporter, RIP.

Germond was, at his peak in the Reagan/Bush years, mainly known for two things: his quadrennial books (with Jules Witcover) about the presidential elections of 1980 through 1992; and his appearances as a regular on The McLaughlin Group. He and Witcover also had a syndicated column for years.

The books were...well, they carried on the tradition of White's "The Making of...", which these days is "Game Change." As I remember them (and I think I read at least the 1984 and 1988 editions, maybe more), they had the strengths and weaknesses of the genre. The strengths are that good reporters can amass a mountain of data; the weakness is that they usually present that data as evidence for the importance to campaign outcomes of all sorts of day-to-day minor events and strategies. I definitely don't want to say that the events they tell are unimportant in an absolute sense; they're just usually unimportant to campaign outcomes, especially general election outcomes. Germond and Witcover had the bad luck to have competed, in 1988, with Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes, which is simply a much better book than any of the other "The Making of..." successors, but otherwise their stuff was first rate for what it was.

As far as the Group: Germond was really good at TV. He cultivated a cynical, seen-at-all persona that played really well off the insane host (captured nicely by Dana Carvey in a bit someone linked to this morning). The McLaughlin Group really was a big deal in those years, at least for a while, when CNN was new but many people still didn't have cable TV.

And he supplied Triple Crown picks for the Hotline (hey, current Hotline editors -- I'm available if you need someone for that important task), and apparently retired to Charles Town race track.

He shared the faults of his generation of reporters, but he had more than the average amount of the virtues. I was a big fan.


  1. One thing I really respect about Germond: He knew the McLaughlin Group was basically a big pile of crap, and made no bones about doing it strictly for the money. As soon as his daughter finished with medical school, he quit doing the Group.

    1. Yes - I remembered (more or less) that story, and was disappointed that the obits have it as him finally getting fed up with McLaughlin.

      He and Buchanan were the only ones who seemed to be in on the joke, I think.


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