"Hang a lantern on your problem” was entered into the political lexicon in the 1980s by Chris Matthews, a former chief of staff to Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill. Matthews explained “hang a lantern on your problem” to the New York (NY) Times in 1987:
“The first step is, admit you have a problem; that gives you credibility. The second step is to use that credibility to redefine your problem, or use the problem for your own purposes.”
“Hang a Lantern on Your Problem” was a chapter title in Matthews’ book, Hardball (1988). Politicians get in front of the news, admitting and defining their problems by “hanging a lantern” (shining a light) on them.
Google News Archive
10 July 1987, Palm Beach (FL) Post, “Politicians release skeletons from closet, earn sympathy” by E. J. Dionne (New York Times News Service), pg. 8A, col. 3:
For some in politics, the new tendency to expose personal weakness is an extension of the older approach in the marketing of human frailty, which Christopher Matthews, president of the Washington-based Government Research Corp., calls, “Hang a lantern on your problem.”
“The first step is, admit you have a problem; that gives you credibility,” said Matthews, who served as a top aide to House Speaker Tip O’Neill. “The second step is to use that credibility to redefine your problem, or use the problem for your own purposes.”
How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game
By Chris Matthews
New York NY: Simon & Schuster
Hang a Lantern on Your Problem
Google News Archive
2 June 1988, Gainesville (FL) Sun, “Bush hangs a lantern well” by George F. Will, pg. 8A, col. 4:
(Chris—ed.) Matthews’ thesis is that there is much politics in everyday life and there are many truths in the politicians’ rules. George Bush recently acted on one of those rules. It is: “Hang a lantern on your problem.”
That is, be the bearer of your own bad news. Talk about your difficulty before the other guy does, and talk in a way that makes the difficulty endearing, and perhaps even a virtue.
The American idea Abroad and at Home, 1986-1990
By George F. Will
New York, NY: Free Press
Bush, following the rule that you should hang a lantern on your problem rather than try to hide it, has been happy to play the hapless fellow, the Atlanta Braves of debaters.
A Mormon in the White House?:
10 Things Every Conservative Should Know About Mitt Romney
By Hugh Hewitt
Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc.
“Hang a lantern on your problem,” is an old saying in politics, and it was practiced by Romney at the 2002 Games as with the seating sight lines at the Delta Center.
@jianghomeshi following sage Tip O’Neill political advice: Hang a Lantern on Your Problem. http://www.wikisummaries.org/Hardball #cdnpoli
9:37 PM - 26 Oct 2014
Hang a Lantern on Your Problem: In other words, when you make a mistake admit it. How many times have we seen… http://fb.me/7oHB2CdSu
11:44 AM - 14 Dec 2014
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, June 17, 2015 • Permalink