Jack Germond, a great political reporter, died today at his home in West Virginia at the age of 85. Beginning in 1974, he wrote often for Washingtonian, and a few of his magazine stories are below.
When I met Jack in 1968, he was covering national politics for the Gannett newspapers. Back then, press coverage of presidential campaigns was dominated by maybe ten reporters, and Jack, through his energy, savvy, and wit, was one of the leaders of the pack. Those top print reporters—Jack, columnist Robert Novak, plus the reporters from the AP, UPI, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Time, and Newsweek—helped decide the kind of campaign coverage that went out to most Americans.
Much of the tone of the campaign coverage was decided over long dinners at the end of the day. The dinners were held under “the Germond rule,” which said that the check would be split evenly, meaning that you might as well enjoy as much food and drink as possible because you were helping to pay for everyone else’s food and drink. Jack loved those dinners and was, in effect, the chairman of the board of the top political reporters.
In 1974, Jack went to the Washington Star and then to the Baltimore Sun, where he teamed often with another great reporter, Jules Witcover, on his stories for Washingtonian and columns published by many newspapers. In the late 1970s, Jack was one of the first of the great print reporters to go on television—he was a regular on The McLaughlin Group, making him one of the nation’s most entertaining and popular political reporters.
The following are selected pieces Jack wrote for Washingtonian.
Political mischief isn’t what it used to be, but we still have a few rogues, cranks, and buffoons.
Will there be a woman President in this century? Would you believe a woman Vice President in 1984?
Once again Teddy crossed up the political experts, but it wasn’t the first time they'd been badly burned.
Why is everyone being so nice to that terrible Dick Nixon and so mean to that fellow from Georgia?
Republicans are taking over in the south, but can they dominate the country? And what happens after Reagan?
In 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. Now, in 1982, he is an increasingly respected Senator from Ohio, and he is cautiously circling the Oval Office.
You may think the Vice President hasn't done anything to make anyone mad, but the Right fears that he's secretly taking over the Reagan Administration, and they shudder at the thought of a President George Bush.
New Hampshire has the nation’s first presidential primary and often picks winners. But sometimes it leaves front-runners frozen stiff.
The candidates may spend millions of dollars and talk intelligently about big issues. But in the end, the race for president can turn on a single gaffe.
Advice from a veteran political reporter on how to be a smarter voter.