The public, not Robert Mueller, will determine Donald Trump’s fateRoundup
tags: political history, Watergate, presidential history, impeachment, Nixon, Trump, Mueller report
Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an editor at Made by History, is associate professor of history at Purdue University and author of “Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life.”
The long-anticipated Mueller report has at last been released. Now the next phase of the investigation begins: the battle for political justice.
That battle will take place not in a court of law or a special counsel's office, but in the public. That's because, for good or ill, the definition of presidential misconduct has become directly connected to the fight over public opinion — a fight that Richard Nixon lost and Bill Clinton won.
And that’s a serious problem for President Trump. Because the former reality TV star has, surprisingly, consistently struggled in this arena. According to the Gallup poll, Trump is the first president to never have even one day where a majority of Americans supported him. While Trump’s unprecedented media style helped him win the presidency, it has repeatedly undermined his efforts to govern.
Of course, he isn’t the first president to have a roller-coaster relationship with the media. Richard Nixon’s political career was defined by it. In 1952, he famously saved his vice-presidential spot on the Republican ticket by holding a nationally televised conversation with the American public, in which he discussed, in intimate detail, his family’s finances. In the speech, he denied accepting any secret gifts from donors save one: his dog Checkers, whom he declared he would not give back because of how much his daughter loved the pet.
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