The journalists at CBS This Morning on Monday fretted that, unlike past impeachments, voters aren’t paying attention to the warnings of the mainstream media. Instead, John Dickerson worried they are “going to their preferred media outlets seeking affirmation rather than information.”
This Morning co-host Anthony Mason lamented, “You go back to Nixon. And I think it was all but four Republicans voted forward with impeachment. There were 31 Democrats with Clinton who voted to move to impeach. No Republicans on this recent vote.” Of course, of the 233 Democrats, just two of them voted against opening the impeachment inquiry against Trump. Hardly an example of bipartisan Democrats.
Dickerson replied by offering a version of this typical media complaint: We don’t have just three networks with Walter Cronkite telling viewers what is and is not news. Here's Dickerson's spin on it:
And so, you have an instance in which you have voters who are much more tribally aligned and the media landscape is different. So, you have people going to their preferred media outlets seeking affirmation rather than information.
This is a common theme with Dickerson. On October 11, he appeared on CBS and mourned:
You know, during Nixon you had three networks.... But you had a sort of common set of facts. Now everybody can go to their corners. You have social media which not only allows different information but allows a kind of tribal response to things. So that people just talk past each other and that destroys institutions.
Of course, for many decades there was no Fox News, no talk radio, no conservative alternative media (other than a few outlets like National Review) and no right-leaning social media. Liberal outlets like CBS could control the narrative. Perhaps it bothers them that there are now alternatives to This Morning co-host Gayle King, a Democratic donor who vactioned with the Obamas.
Dickerson also had a VASTLY different view on how to get along with the opposition in 2013. He urged Barack Obama to “go for the throat” with Republicans, saying that the then-President’s “only remaining option is to pulverize” Republicans.
Yet, on Monday, he insisted that Trump’s claim to running on the economy should be nuanced and might not work:
This is not a traditional president. And we see a gap the way people think the economy is going and the way they think he is behaving as president. That's why for Democrats in the course of impeachment and the election, their argument is to say, “Sure, the economy's important, but there are downsides to a disordered presidency. And here they are, A, B and C.” And that’s their sort of key argument for the next year between now and the election.
Finally, with regard to a Democrat getting Medicare for All passed, Dickerson suggested it might be hard, with all the “restoration” going on: “They will have been elected as a restoration of the American presidency. A Democrat. That's going to be a busy job.
A transcript of the segment is below. Click “expand” to read more:
CBS This Morning
GAYLE KING: 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson is here with a look at what the impeachment inquiry means for the 2020 election. John, always good to have you here.
JOHN DICKERSON: Thank you, Gayle.
KING: Very interesting time for us much you've got for the first time a president who is running for re-election who is also facing an impeachment inquiry. So is there a way that both sides can use this to their advantage?
JOHN DICKERSON: Oh, sure, and they're going to. There's upsides and downsides. For the Democrats it's a chance, the upside, to define the President, define what they think he did wrong and the specific instance and more broadly. The downside is they look vindictive. They look like they are warping an honored institution the purpose of just trying to get him out of office. For Republicans, the problem, the downside for them is that they shred the traditional American values. You saw it in some of the defense of the President with — with Alexander Vindman, the lieutenant colonel in the army. When defenders said the President basically said he had loyalties. That was going too far. The upside for Republicans is they get to define Democrats through the impeachment process. When you have an unpopular president, and this President is unpopular, what you often try to do is basically tear down the other party. And so it's an opportunity for Republicans not only to defend the President but also to characterize the Democrats.
ANTHONY MASON: There is more partisan than ever, John, which is what is really striking about this. You go back to Nixon. And I think it was all but four Republicans voted forward with impeachment. There were 31 Democrats with Clinton who voted to move to impeach. No Republicans on this recent vote.
DICKERSON: Right. We are in a more tribal period where the structure of politics incentivizes people to close ranks. In Nixon's time, you had senators from parties whose voters voted for Nixon for president but were Democrats and so those same voters had voted for them. So, voters were switching parties. You had split-ticket voting. That's almost gone now. And so, you have an instance in which you have voters who are much more tribally aligned and the media landscape is different. So, you have people going to their preferred media outlets seeking affirmation rather than information.
TONY DOKOUPIL: One of President Trump's many responses to the threat has been, look, “The economy's doing great. If you impeach me, it's going to crash.” So how important is the economy to his reelection?
DICKERSON: First of all, that as a sitting president is a great argument. Right? They can say something simply and say, “You may not like my methods and the way I've behaved. But, hey, the economy is doing well.” So he’s got a good argument. That’s traditionally a good argument. This is not a traditional president. And we see a gap the way people think the economy is going and the way they think he is behaving as president. That's why for Democrats in the course of impeachment and the election, their argument is to say, “Sure, the economy's important, but there are downsides to a disordered presidency. And here they are, A, B and C.” And that’s their sort of key argument for the next year between now and the election.
KING: To follow up, isn't this so much bigger than the impeachment question? What is happening here.
DICKERSON: Yes, what happens when you have an impeachment going on while you have a re-election, it's a chance for the country to look at the presidency and say, “How do we want a president to behave?” Should they listen to experts or should they go around and create their own foreign policy channel? How to they sort their priorities? Is the President paying attention to the most important thing in the world when he's talking to the Ukraine president, or is he focused only on his set of priorities which are different from the country's? Those kind of debates about the larger role of the presidency are all on the table. Now, we can get distracted by the food fight in impeachment, or we can step back and say what are the standards of presidency, is this President exceeding those standards, falling below them? And what are the costs? And we've never had a chance to be able to do that. Have that larger conversation about the presidency.
MASON: With the most significant point of debate between the Democratic front-runners seems to be over health care, you think that's going to be the deciding factor here in the nominee?
DICKERSON: It's a proxy debate in a way. Which is to say whether Medicare for all actually is ever going to happen is not as important as “I get a signal from a candidate who's showing me their commitment on that issue.” When Donald Trump said, “The Mexicans are going to pay for the wall,” that was never going to happen. His voters knew it was never going to happen. They thought “that sends me a signal about how committed he is to that idea.” That's really what Medicare for all is as a debate. Think about what a — a Democratic president will face when they come into office. Let's imagine they get elected.
They will have been elected as a restoration of the American presidency. A Democrat. That's going to be a busy job. There's going to be a lot to do. Most of it overseas. The political landscape will have been beaten by a year of politics. Getting Medicare for all passed through the Senate or doing it even through reconciliation or some, you know, clever method is going to be extremely difficult because they'll be busy doing other things and politics will be a much, even coarser place than it is now. So the conversation they are having is really about a proxy for things, less about what is going to happen with the Democrats.
DOKOUPIL: One fear is this is going to get coarser and more partisan before it gets less so.
DICKERSON: It’s in everybody’s interest to get it more coarsened to keep their bases aligned.
DOKOUPIL: John Dickerson, thank you very much.