The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be

The Battleship Yamato and Lesley Stahl were born on the same day in December of 1941. The Yamato was obsolete at the moment of its commission thanks to the rise of naval airpower. 

The Yamato sunk in 1945. Stahl, however, is still in commission. The specific moment of her obsolescence is not entirely clear, but at 78 years young, I would place it at no less than a decade ago.

Stahl was 19 when John F. Kennedy was elected, 21 when he died, 25 when Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson, 29 when Nixon was elected, 33 when Nixon was reelected in a landslide, and 35 when Nixon was forced to resign.

Joining CBS News in 1971, Stahl, in her autobiography Reporting Live, wrote “I was born on my 30th birthday.” She nailed that exactly. Her political understanding of the world is defined by Vietnam and Watergate. 

As I have written before, America has a gerontocracy problem. The idea that Lesley Stahl could be an appropriate choice to interview President Trump is as short-sighted as was the massive capital investment the Japanese made in the Yamato, a conservative blunder of the most expensive proportions. 

The Yamato—a symbol of the backwards militarism of Japan—contributed nothing to Japan’s war effort. Sending Stahl—a symbol of conventional media’s backward obsession with Watergate—to interview the president, contributed absolutely nothing to the public’s understanding of the serious political choices before them. 

Perhaps Stahl has too much accumulated experience and too little ability to form new opinions to grasp what is happening now. For Stahl, and for all correspondents of her cohort who feel intense nostalgia over All The President’s Men, every Republican is a Nixon problem. How do you get the cancer—an elected Republican—out of the White House?

Trump had Stahl’s number when he asked her, “Where are we?” She answered, with some prodding, “The White House?” “That’s right,” he answered, punctuating his status as popularly elected.

With Stahl’s view of the present, cramped by longing for the past—best not to think too much of the future as decade nine looms—she came to the White House to mock an elected president as a corrupt imposter. Hair blown, make-up perfect—almost a work of taxidermy—she so bumbled her interview with discourtesy masquerading as “tough questions” that it was cut short. She did not even get to ask her questions. Maybe some of them would have been important. Neither she nor the public will ever know because of her decision to be cantankerously impolite.

And false. Stahl began her interview denying that the president’s campaign had been “spied upon” with a patronizing “You know that’s not true.” But this is inarguably true.

Stahl’s doddering opening of her interview set “60 Minutes” down the path to media Armageddon: having witnessed Stahl’s biased hostility, the White House chose to publish independently the full interview to blunt selective editing, a trademark of “60 Minutes” as it was pioneered by Mike Wallace.

There was a time when Stahl symbolized, whether or not you agree with her politics, tenacious high achievement. Breaking barriers in television media for women, Stahl helped forge a path for many other women. Today, a woman has as good or better shot at anchoring a news program as her male counterparts. News is delivered to us by (for the Right) a Kayleigh McEnany or (for the middle) a Harris Faulkner or (for the Left) an Erin Burnett or a Nicolle Wallace. Stahl helped make this happen.

But, as the children’s song goes, the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be. Someone at CBS needs to ask herself why it seemed like a good idea to let Stahl suck the oxygen out of the room for younger newswomen. Why not Elaine Quijano or Jennifer Miller? Why not just someone close enough to the questions of the age?

Watergate is over. The paradigms of Vietnam and the Cold War have died a natural death. The Republican Party of the 1980s committed to libertarian free trade über alles has been abandoned. Done. Kaput. Finis. The Republicans, now led by Trump and merely afflicted with Mitt Romney (R-Utah), are seeking to form a majority from the middle class against a feckless, selfish elite.

The Republican’s proposed policy is to support the value of the unskilled and semi-skilled labor through trade and immigration policies which shelter them from unlimited global competition. The Democrat’s proposed policy is to support tech and trade monopolies, a billionaire-plutocracy, and its overcompensated technocratic elite. Democrats seek to form a majority based on sycophantic flattery of tech and financial monied interests, identity politics pitting Americans against one another, a false promise of redistribution, and fear—fear of COVID-19, fear of climate change, fear of your neighbors, fear of everything.

These are things that Lesley Stahl is, quite simply, unlikely to understand. Greedily dominating her younger peers at CBS, she pulled up the ladder for other female correspondents for one last breakdance in the Roosevelt Room. And what a dance it was. 

Give the youngsters—women in their 40s and 50s—a chance. Or to quote one of Stahl’s peers, “C’mon, man!”

About Jay Whig

J. Whig is an attorney practicing in New York and a resident of Connecticut specializing in insolvency and restructuring. Opinions are his own.

Photo: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

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20 responses to “The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be”

  1. The name of the battleship is Yamato. Yamamoto is the name of a IJN admiral. It’s tough to buy in to the post with such a glaring error repeated multiple times.

    • Yes. Fixed. I telegraphed orders to have our proofreader shot without giving him time to pray.

      • The comparison of Leslie Stahl to the battleship Yamato was one of the funniest memes of this election season. I laughed out loud.

  2. Yamamoto was an admiral. The battleship was Yamato.

    And, oddly enough, the USN, which sunk her, did not think battleships obsolete. Less important than they had been, but still important.

  3. As a conservative woman working in a male dominated field, I applaud this article, including the title. I work hard to be at the top of my game and never blame others – a hallmark of unhappy, angry, liberal women.

  4. 1. As stated above, the name of the ship was the “Yamato.”
    2. Your math regarding Stahl is all over the place.

    Fix these.

  5. Stahl is a dinosaur running interference for another dinosaur. This is not a young person saying it. I was born in 1943 and know for sure I’m no longer capable of doing what I used to do for a living and it was nowhere near the “toughest job in the world”.

  6. Essentially pathological, self inducee. Self-existence, is what the Bible refers to in the doctrin of sin.

    The self-defining, self-loving centrality excludes the possibility of God being there. Her god is what the Bible defines as the god of this world, his essence is, Liar!

    The Lie becomes the madness that controls these lives. They are redeemable but, the Bible also tells us that it is a low probability. You can grind them into powder and they won’t change their minds. Good-by “Mare”.
    I was once like you and my world was rocked and I woke to the claims “I AM” presented me.

  7. Thank you for all your (especially recent) efforts Mr. Whig.

    Your pace betrays your wherewithall.

    God bless

  8. 60 minutes has a long-standing tradition of editing in favor of their preferred narrative. They shoot many of the scenes showing their reporter’s emotional ‘reactions’ in the studio(I suppose it’s done with computers now) and insert them in the footage before it is aired. Not to mention that they are easily duped(Dan Rather, Benghazi eyewitness) when the narrative fits their agenda, and occasionally outright dishonest(Audi sudden unintended acceleration piece, “Out of control” in ’86).
    Why did AG go to this awkward way of posting comments? The comment section hear used to be lively and robust; now it’s a graveyard.

  9. “Hair blown, make-up perfect—almost a work of taxidermy…” — loved this line! Great article Mr. Whig. So sick of the disrespect, mocking and “discourtesy” shown this President. Stahl and the others like her are such arrogant turnoffs….just look at reactions to smug Kamala Harris in her debate. It’s not a good look.

  10. Spot on, the left in this country are sold out to the fascist wing of the party. Leslie Stalled, is trying to relive her “glory” days. We would like to give you Arthell Neville and Marie Harf, we want nothing in return.

  11. I loved the article. Leslie Stahl should have followed the example and displayed the courage of the Yamato’s crew and gone down with the ship. Instead Stahl lingers on like the ghost of Christmas past.

  12. Knowledge is like water.
    A person’s mind is like a cup.
    You cannot pour water into a full cup.
    Leslie Stahl like all the reporters on CNN and MSNBC and most of them on the mainstream media are all full cups. Their mind is so filled with ideology and false beliefs they cannot accept new data, a new perspective.

    Trump is a wild card in history. A unique set of talents that are perfectly suited to fixing the problems that are weakening America, holding us back, during a time when a dedicated, larger, powerful enemy is racing past us. He sees and economy suffocating under hyper-regulation driven not by real need but by the desire of governments and bureaucrats to exert power and responds with radical deregulation restoring health. He seen businesses exiting America and moving investment overseas because of terrible tax rates and policies and responds with tax reform and shift the tide of investment from leaving America to flowing into America. He sees the parade of terrible trade treaties generated by a Cold War mentality of giving away economic goodies in order to buy friends and uses his intensely manipulative but formidable negotiation skills to fix the treaties. He sees America drained yearly by having to pay for cost of EU defense and endless neocon wars to make the world safe for multinationals and he ends the endless wars, forces the EU to pay for most of their own defense, destroys ISIS, moves the Sunni Muslim nations into a developing alliance to resist Iran, an alliance enabled by combining with Israel. He sees that the Serbia Kosovo conflict is a wedge for Russia to divide Europe and convinces the nations to follow their own self interest and do a deal. He sees the VA failing administration after administration because of bureaucratic ineptitude and is radical enough to change the personnel rules to allow a hard-man administration to do what is necessary to make staff accountable. It is like he is just a step ahead of everyone.
    The last time I saw someone like this was watching Kissinger during the Cold War. I had read his amazing dissertation, “A World Restored” about Metternick and it clued me in to how, in a time of American weakness , he did to Russia what Metternick did to Napoleon by using one small advantaeous treaty after another like the gossamer threads with which the Lilliputians bound Gulliver to remove the Russian advantage of being a revolutionary power in a revolutionary time in the third world.

    Trump is the right man for his time.

  13. Here are the most important words in your piece:
    “Joining CBS” – Home to the lying Walter Cronkite who is PERSONALLY responsible for the death and torture of millions of Vietnamese.
    ” Her political understanding of the world is defined by Vietnam and Watergate.” – These words speak for themselves…she needs to understand more about Benghazi and Obamagate.