At 86, Dan Rather has been around long enough to have serious perspective.
The former CBS evening news anchor has found a second life as a forceful voice of reason in the Trump era, communicating largely to his growing legion of Facebook followers.
Rather’s latest truth bomb came after President Trump and his supporters complained of “a lack of civility” in the wake of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave a Virginia restaurant.
“President Trump and the GOP bemoaning a lack of civility is a hypocritical farce,” Rather wrote. “It spurs an almost uncontrollable bout of forehead slapping in disbelief.”
To show what “incivility really looks like,” Rather went on to list 17 examples of what the Trump administration has done in less than 18 months.
But a consistent theme is how Trump’s actions and those of his administration have actively worked to undermine our national institutions and societal norms:
Incivility is our government’s response to Puerto Rico.
Incivility is undermining a merited investigation by respected law enforcement officials and maligning the notion of an independent judiciary.
Incivility is cozying up to dictators and attacking our allies and friends.
Incivility is ripping children — even those too young to know their parent’s name — from immigrants legally claiming asylum.
Rather has publicly tussled with other Republican presidents before. He famously quarrelled with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush on national TV and ultimately lost his job after investigating the National Guard record of then-President George W. Bush.
This is different.
For Rather, this is less a debate about politics and more a question of basic morality and how we collectively choose to carry ourselves as a nation.
“We will only succeed if we have a civil society,” he wrote. “And anything or anyone who attacks that cherished American ideal must be considered … uncivil.”
Honest, respectable discussions on public policy and the U.S.’s role in the world are essential. No one side has all the answers.
Even in some of our most heated debates, however, both sides generally have argued from a place of how their policy or proposal would strengthen our institutions, not weaken them.
Getting back to a civil discourse is a fight worth having — and that means serious talk about what “uncivil” behavior really means.