Excerpts from a good piece by David Scharfenberg for The Boston Globe
IT’S THE FALL of 2018, and everyone can feel a crisis approaching. But it’s not at all clear how to stop it.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has nearly completed his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and damaging revelations about President Trump’s inner circle keep coming.
The economy is softening. Polls suggest Democrats are poised for big victories in the midterm elections. And the president’s bellicose tweets are ratcheting up tension with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
In the past, the political establishment has found ways to bring crises to a close. After the Nixon White House finally gave up the “smoking gun” tape of the president mulling a Watergate cover-up, a solemn delegation of congressional Republicans told him he’d lost his support on Capitol Hill. A day later, he announced his resignation.
A few years prior, when revered television anchor Walter Cronkite delivered a somber verdict on the Vietnam War – the US military was “mired in a stalemate,” he said – President Johnson reportedly turned to an aide and said something like, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” A few weeks later, LBJ announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Historians caution that Johnson’s “Cronkite moment” may be apocryphal. But the story has endured because it seems plausible: Until now, we could imagine a president yielding to an authoritative voice speaking hard truths.
In Trumpland, though, truth is negotiable, and there are hardly any authoritative voices left. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will never talk the president out of the Oval Office. And there is no Cronkite who can reach a Trump base deeply distrustful of the “liberal media.”
It’s that base that matters – the roughly 40 percent of voters who have stuck with the president tweet after jaw-dropping tweet. And there’s only one one institution that can reach them – just one that can hold the president accountable to the audience that matters.
The only authoritative voice in Trump’s divided America is the voice that helped drive us apart in the first place.
If we’re to have a “Cronkite moment,” or something approaching it, it’ll have to come from Fox News.