We need a Joe Friday presidency – just the facts

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, along with a ceiling shattering vice-president, Kamala Harris. The first subject will be a breath of fresh air, while we should celebrate Harris’ elevation to her role as a woman who is multiracial, part African-American and part Indian-American.

On CBS Sunday Morning, long time conservative pundit and speech writer, Michael Gerson, noted the Biden presidency will be a return to normal governance with a heavy focus on standard communications of “just the facts.” This reminded me of another Joe, a role on the 1960s police show “Dragnet,” with Jack Webb starring as Detective Joe Friday.

The most consistent line uttered by the deadpan Friday to witnesses when they offered conjecture is “just the facts” usually followed by the appropriate “ma’am” or “sir.” It became so routine, the comedian Johnny Carson had fun with Webb in a take-off skit on his “Tonight” show’ well before Saturday Night Live started.

As the outgoing president rides off into the sunset with his well-packed saddle bag of routine untruthfulness, we are in desperate need of a boringly truthful president. This Joe needs to tediously follow the detective Joe with a consistent and daily stream of “just the facts.”

I am reading the excellent book by historian Jon Meacham called “Soul of America.” In it, he noted that Dwight Eisenhower was worried about being on TV too much as president. He thought Americans would grow fatigued with seeing him so often. He knew real leadership was working together with disparate interests and groups for a common cause and felt going on TV made it more about him. And, Ike knew a lot about leadership as Allied Commander over Europe in WWII.

Contrast that to the outgoing president who cannot stand NOT being the center of attention. Seemingly every issue is made about him, even things that we do not need a president to opine on. We are exhausted by this person and need a break. An old colleague had a line that comes to mind, “when you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much.” If the outgoing president did more of that, we would not need to hear from him so much.

I am hoping we can return to a more normal modus operandi where we need not hear from the president every day. People may disagree with his policies, but this Joe is a decent person. But, one thing is for certain, if the 46th president is talking, we will stand a far better chance of hearing the truth than from the 45th one. Just the facts, Joe.