PHOTO BY NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD
Jonathan Heins, 13, listens during a Norma Marks Shribman Memorial Town Hall gathering at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead. He is the grandson of panelist, Michael Harrington.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
MARBLEHEAD — President Donald Trump’s rise to power was the focus of Wednesday night’s panel discussion which brought more than 200 spectators to Temple Emanu-El.
“Many people feel like the political system was offering them nothing, and, in my opinion, had some pretty legitimate grievances with that,” said James M. Shannon, former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts who later served as the Massachusetts attorney general. “We just have to acknowledge that a lot of people have been left behind, have been threatened, have had stagnant wages or wages that have declined. I think we have to have a little more respect for the people who voted for Donald Trump than we tend to have around here.”
The event was held in memory of Norma Marks Shribman, who had a special interest in current affairs, and sponsored by her children; David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Jeffrey Shribman of Marblehead; Peter Shribman of Swampscott; and Cindy Liptrop of Marblehead.
David Shribman formerly worked as the Washington bureau chief for The Boston Globe, where he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. A Salem native, he also spent time as a reporter with the Salem News.
He said his mother loved a crowd and would have been pleased with the size of the audience.
Shannon was among four panelists chosen because of their role as prominent observers of the political scene.
He sat beside Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma and former John Quincy Adams lecturer in politics at Harvard University; Katherine Seelye, New England bureau chief for The New York Times, who has been with the Times since 1994 and covered six presidential elections; and Michael J. Harrington, former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, who won a special election in 1969 and was elected to four full terms as a congressman.
Shannon also expressed disappointment in U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, whom he said he expected more from. Instead, he said, Mattis stood beside Trump with a smile on his face while he signed executive orders that don’t align with what the country stands for.
Edwards agreed, adding he was equally concerned with the people Trump has on the White House staff.
“Kellyanne (Conway), when she was Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, would come speak to my class when I was teaching at Harvard and she’s smart but her ideas are bad,” Edwards said.
Seelye said that while covering a primary in New Hampshire last year, she kept thinking that one thing after another would surely be the remark or action that would eliminate him from the presidential race.
“I kept thinking no candidate could get away with saying something like this or doing something like this,” she said. “In a way, I’m just as dumbfounded as I was a year ago.”
The change in administration has brought many added challenges to the media, she said. Her staff has to be extra conscious of remaining impartial.
“It’s a challenge every day in multiple ways — one is this question of lies — whether you call something that is blatantly untrue a lie,” she said.
According to the dictionary, a lie is only a lie if it was intended to be untrue, she said.
“This is just one of 5 million decisions going on in newsrooms today on how to deal with this phenomenon,” Seelye said.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.