Once upon a time, my dears, the press didn’t mention presidential scandals. FDR’s post-polio challenges weren’t exactly a secret, but reporters and their photog consorts went to great efforts to minimize his handicap in print. Politicians’ mistresses—JFK, anyone?—were discreetly overlooked. Woodward Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke, and his wife, Edith, essentially ran the country—without most of the country actually knowing it.
The phrase above is said to originate with Oliver Cromwell, the 17th century political powerhouse who asked his portraitist to paint him, quite literally, “warts and all.” But in American politics, the tide really turned with Richard Nixon, a man whose foibles became too large, too public, and perhaps even too stupid to hide. And voilà: “warts and all” journalism was born.