Jenna Bush will debut this Friday, September 18, 2009 as a correspondent on the NBC Today Show. It will not be the first time a presidential kid crossed over to the Fourth Estate. Call it “Stockholm syndrome” if you will, but these kids who suffer for years at the hands of the media and watch their fathers suffer even more, quite frequently find security by joining the ranks of their tormentors.
Most recently Ron Reagan, Jr. co-hosted the talk show Connected: Coast to Coast with Monica Crowley at MSNBC. That ran from February to December, 2005 and followed a brief stint by Mr. Reagan as a late night host on a syndicated show. Both Ron and brother, Michael Reagan, still have their radio shows but hailing from the opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Nor did this start with television. In 1945, Anna Roosevelt, daughter of FDR, was a super powerful White House aide to her ailing father. When the president died Anna joined her mother, the former First Lady, as co-host of an ABC national radio program. For years Anna attempted to launch her own newspaper from Arizona.
Anna’s brother, Elliott Roosevelt, teamed up with William Randolph Hearst, the media magnate and his father’s most bitter enemy. And this while the president was still in office. Elliott became director of a Hearst owned syndicate of radio stations in Texas that routinely pilloried the president.
The kids of presidents do very well as educators. Lyon Tyler was president of William and Mary. Harry Garfield was president of Williams College. Helen Taft Manning ran Bryn Mawr College. Today, David Eisenhower, grandson of a president, has a successful academic career at the University of Pennsylvania.
And children of presidents have written hundreds of books, award winning books. John Eisenhower is one of this nation’s greatest military historians. Two of the country’s most beloved and prolific mystery writers, Margaret Truman and Elliot Roosevelt, were children of presidents. There have been a slew of great warriors, including generals and two Medal of Honor winners. Most of all, they often succeed in their family business, politics, where they have a head-start in name recognition and sometimes fund-raising potential. But, alas, try as they may, there have not been many successful media figures, either as business persons or correspondents.
Ron Reagan’s syndicated talks show folded under pressure from competition. Anna Roosevelt’s ABC network program fizzled after a year. And she and her husband were never able to get their newspaper off the ground. Michael Reagan, finding his own place in talk radio has been one of the more successful. So when Jenna Bush takes to the air waves this Friday, we will all cheer her on and wish her the best but expectations will be quite low and that will likely bring a smile to her father’s face. The Bush family has always done well when the expectations were low.