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Walter Lippmann

Walter Lippmann met Harper’s Magazine contributor Theodore Roosevelt at the age of nine and became an “unqualified hero worshiper.” Lippmann, who was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes, cofounded The New Republic in 1914, helped write Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech, contributed to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, and popularized the term “cold war.”

As an undergraduate student, Lippmann founded the Socialist Club at Harvard University and met with the philosopher William James weekly for tea. Lippmann’s politics underwent what he called “an important change” during the first winter of World War I: “I find less and less sympathy with the revolutionists,” he wrote in his diary, “and an increasing interest in administrative problems.” During the war he joined Captain Heber Blankenhorn’s propaganda team, which produced what he considered to be “a frank campaign of education addressed to the German and Austrian troops.” One of his leaflets depicted a German soldier in Allied custody: “Do not worry about me,” the soldier says. “I am out of the war.” The flyer was found in the hands of more captured German soldiers than any other piece of American propaganda. Lippmann was gravely disappointed by the Treaty of Versailles. “IS IT PEACE?” appeared on a 1919 front page of TheNew Republic; “THIS IS NOT PEACE” was the headline on the next issue. He was equally disappointed in the press coverage of the treaty. “The pathetically limited education of officials trained to inert and pleasant ways of life prevented them from seeing or understanding the strange world that lay before them,” Lippmann wrote of the reporters covering the peace talks. In 1920 he coauthored a study of the New York Times’s coverage of the Russian Revolution. “The news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was,” he concluded, “but what men wished to see.” In 1922 his book Public Opinion was published, wherein he popularized the modern meaning of the word “stereotype”: “We do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see.”

Paul Newman was slated to portray Lippmann in a made-for-television movie called The Walter Lippmann Story, but it was never filmed. Joanne Woodward (Newman’s second wife) would have played the author’s second wife, Helen Byrne Lippmann, who had previously been married to his best friend, Hamilton Fish Armstrong. Lippmann had three poodles, Courage, Brioche, and Panache, and he wrote the preface to Training You to Train Your Dog (1946) after its author, Blanche Saunders, convinced Brioche to stop biting Lippmann’s secretaries.

“I am rather gloomy about the quality of the men in charge of our destiny,” he wrote in a letter a year before the Korean War, and he would later challenge John F. Kennedy on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson, whom he called the “most disagreeable individual ever to have occupied the White House,” on the Vietnam War. “They little know the hydra who think that the hydra has only one head and that it can be cut off,” he wrote. Lippmann died on December 14, 1974, and, in lieu of eulogies at his memorial service, his friend Fred Friendly screened a series of excerpts from Lippmann’s television interviews.

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September 1927

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