Dan Rather knows exactly what question he’d ask President Donald Trump in an interview: What are you so afraid of?
Rather told Bill Radke he’d start this way: “Mr. President, of what are you afraid? You have indicated by word and deed that you are very afraid of something."
Afraid. It’s not a word you often hear used to describe the president, who regularly lashes out at other public figures on Twitter and calls the news media and investigative journalists “the enemy of the people.” But Rather said that’s how he reads Trump’s behavior.
Rather, a journalist with decades of experience covering some of the biggest political scandals in American history, suspects Trump is afraid the public will find out something damning. But what exactly?
“I simply don’t know,” Rather said. But with an investigation looming into Russian interference in the last presidential election, Rather is concerned the nation may be in for a constitutional crisis if Trump attempts to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
And Rather isn’t sure what it would take for a Republican Congress to censure the president.
“Unless the evidence shows something that is the equivalent of treason or very close to it, I don’t see a Republican House of Representatives voting articles of impeachment against a Republican president,” he said.
Rather had harsh words for politicians while speaking with Radke, saying many are seeking to divide the American public.
“We have too many leaders who want to exploit our divisions for their own partisan political and ideological reasons,” he said.
His view on the state of the nation is less grim; he thinks Americans are still largely empathetic and audacious.
"There is so much more that unites us than divides us," he said.
But Rather worries about people confusing patriotism with nationalism — and he worries about a slide into tribalism.
“I think we’re at a very perilous point,” he said. “And a lot depends on whether we, this generation, does what our fathers and forefathers did. That is, get a grip. Lower our voices. Dedicate ourselves to being steady.”
Rather also answered questions about the many prominent news personalities who have had allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against them recently. As a CBS evening news anchor, Rather said he sometimes observed offensive behavior from male colleagues — usually inappropriate touching of women or sexual comments — and he wishes now that he had done something.
“There were times when I could have and should have spoken up,” he said. “... If I had been the man I wanted to be, I would have spoken up.”
Rather said he believes the #metoo movement has inspired a tidal wave that will make many high-profile workplaces safer for women. But he worries about women in low-paying jobs without a safe way to report sexual misconduct.
“For the woman who is a waitress at the diner, or the woman who makes the beds in the hotel rooms, it’s going to be a while — it may be a long while — before they will be in circumstances where they can speak up.”
Still, he said he hopes we’ll continue to push for change.
“Our mothers and sisters and daughters deserve it.”
Rather’s blog News and Guts has an extensive social media following. His new book, "What Unites Us," was recently released.
Produced for the web by Amy Rolph.