John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

  • 12/05/2023: I asked Chat GPT to offer guidance to lawmakers offering their endorsement

    Pretend I am a lawmaker and I have taken an oath to defend the constitution, how should I decide whether to endorse a candidate for president who will take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

    In your role as a lawmaker who has taken an oath to defend the Constitution, your decision to endorse a presidential candidate should be grounded in a thorough evaluation of how well the candidate’s values, policies, and character align with the principles and mandates of the Constitution. Here’s a structured approach to consider:

    1. Alignment with Constitutional Principles: Assess whether the candidate’s platform and past actions are in harmony with the fundamental tenets of the Constitution. This includes respect for individual rights, adherence to the separation of powers, commitment to the rule of law, and the preservation of democratic norms.
    2. Track Record and Integrity: Examine the candidate’s past conduct in public or private capacities. Integrity, honesty, and a history of ethical behavior are crucial indicators of how they might uphold their oath. Scrutinize any past instances where they faced constitutional challenges or decisions.
    3. Policy Analysis: Evaluate the candidate’s policy proposals for their constitutional implications. Policies should not only be effective and pragmatic but also constitutionally sound. Consider seeking expert opinions or analyses to understand the potential constitutional impacts of these policies.
    4. Public Commitment to Constitutional Duties: Consider how the candidate articulates their understanding and commitment to constitutional duties. Public statements, debates, and their proposed agenda can offer insights into their dedication to uphold the Constitution.
    5. Advisory Team and Appointments: Assess the quality and background of the advisors and potential appointees the candidate surrounds themselves with. These individuals often play a significant role in shaping policies and decisions, and their commitment to the Constitution is equally important.
    6. Bipartisanship and Unifying Ability: A president should be able to work across party lines and unify different factions, a principle that resonates with the Constitution’s intent to form a more perfect union. Evaluate the candidate’s ability to engage in bipartisan collaboration and their track record in building consensus.
    7. Public Perception and Support: While not a direct indicator of constitutional adherence, public opinion can sometimes reflect the collective judgment on a candidate’s suitability for the presidency. Consider how different segments of society view the candidate and their constitutional values.
    8. Personal Conscience and Values: Finally, align your decision with your own conscience and the values you hold dear as a lawmaker and a defender of the Constitution. Your endorsement should ultimately reflect a decision you believe in deeply and can stand behind.

    In opposition, one might argue that a lawmaker’s endorsement should primarily focus on party alignment, political pragmatism, or aligning with the most popular candidate among constituents, rather than a stringent constitutional analysis. This perspective might emphasize the practical aspects of politics, where strategic alliances and party unity are sometimes prioritized over strict constitutional interpretations.

    However, given your oath, a balanced and constitutionally grounded approach seems most fitting. It’s a decision that intertwines legal assessment, ethical judgment, and personal integrity.

    UPDATE: A follow-up

    What if the person the lawmaker is thinking about endorsing has had this said about them: Their former number two has said this person I am thinking about endorsing has promoted “no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.” The House leader in the political party the person I’m thinking of endorsing said the person “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” The attack took place in order to stop the lawful counting of electoral votes to certify the president. The Senate leader of the party of this person I’m considering said ” ‘There is no question that [this person is] practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.’ The events the Senate leader was talking about was the attack on Congress. Finally, an ally in the Senate in the party of the person I’m considering said this about the attack on Congress: “When it comes to accountability, the president needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution. “It breaks my heart that my friend, a president of consequence, would allow yesterday to happen and it will be a major part of his presidency. It was a self-inflicted wound.” “”There’s been a constant effort by people from the president’s legal team to provide misinformation, to distort the facts, to make accusations that cannot be proven. That needs to stop.” How should I use these statements to inform my decision to support this person to defend the constitution given that I have pledged to do the same?

    When evaluating whether to endorse a candidate for president, particularly one surrounded by such serious allegations from prominent figures within their own party, it’s essential to approach the decision with a high degree of scrutiny and responsibility, especially given your oath to defend the Constitution. Here’s how you might consider these statements in your decision-making process:

    1. Assessing the Seriousness of the Allegations: The allegations you’ve mentioned are grave and directly pertain to the fundamental democratic process and the rule of law, both key elements of the Constitution. If true, they suggest a profound disregard for constitutional principles.
    2. Evaluating the Sources: The statements come from high-ranking officials within the candidate’s own party, which adds weight to their credibility. These are not external critics but individuals who have likely worked closely with the candidate and are familiar with their actions and mindset.
    3. Context and Consequences: Understand the context of these statements. They refer to an event that was a direct assault on a constitutional process – the certification of electoral votes. This is a cornerstone of the democratic system. If the candidate played a role in provoking or supporting such actions, it raises serious concerns about their commitment to the Constitution.
    4. Legal and Ethical Implications: Consider the legal implications of these allegations. If they are accurate, they may not only reflect poor judgment but potentially criminal actions. Ethically, supporting a candidate under such circumstances could be seen as an endorsement of these actions.
    5. Public Trust and Legitimacy: Endorsing a candidate associated with such actions could erode public trust in the electoral system and the government’s legitimacy. As someone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution, maintaining public faith in constitutional processes is crucial.
    6. Personal Conscience and Oath: Reflect on your personal values and the oath you took to defend the Constitution. Supporting a candidate who is accused of undermining the Constitution could be seen as contradictory to your oath.
    7. Seeking Additional Information: Before making a decision, seek out more information and context. Are there ongoing investigations? What are the counterarguments? It’s essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
    8. Long-Term Implications: Consider the long-term implications of your endorsement. How will it affect the constitutional integrity of the office of the presidency and the broader political landscape?

    In contrast, an argument for endorsing the candidate might focus on political alignment, policy agreements, or maintaining party unity. However, given the severity of the allegations and your constitutional oath, these factors might seem secondary to the fundamental issues of democratic integrity and adherence to the rule of law.

    Ultimately, the decision should be guided by a careful consideration of the candidate’s actions in relation to constitutional principles, the credibility and gravity of the allegations, and your commitment to upholding the Constitution. This decision transcends mere political strategy, touching upon the core values and principles at the heart of democratic governance.

  • More Notions

  • 01/08/2024: How he drinks his coffee

    A small pleasure: one of my children and I are working together at the dining room table. We’re both writing. It’s hard for both of us, but we’re typing, so we’re both on the right road. I realize after a bit that I am witness to his writing tics. I have them. Lots of them. […]
  • 01/04/2024: A piece on the personal quality of restraint from 2015 that never ran

    I wrote it for Slate and was just reminded of it. This is a very rough draft. I wish it had run: On a recent Saturday, I listened to the audiobook of The Marshmallow Test while doing chores. In the famous experiment, children were given a choice between candy they could eat immediately, and a larger reward […]
  • 12/07/2023: Is enforced loyalty a good recipe for achievement?

    You: What is the historical record of operations founded on loyalty where the person to whom everyone must show loyalty has a record of almost no reciprocal loyalty? ChatGPT: The historical record of operations or regimes founded on loyalty to a central figure who does not reciprocate that loyalty is marked by instability and often, […]
  • 12/05/2023: Hello! I see you sent me a text message!

    Hello! I see you’ve sent me a text! Is it urgent? If so, please call me. If not, please send me an email, that way I won’t think that in this world of constant interruption where we must have our guard double ready against mindless incursions, that you value my time so cheaply and yours […]
  • 12/02/2023: Discovering the photography of Saul Leiter

    Social media is a scourge, obviously. But I have been trying to respond to the negative effects of social media (cortisol-driving, attention-shredding, ego poking) with long-looking. Long-looking is the practice of spending a lot longer on an idea, piece of art, song, etc. than you normally would so that it give up additional meanings. If […]
  • 11/13/2023: What good is criticism

    I like this idea of criticism. (Colors are from my note taking).  It’s from an essay by Morgan Meis that can be found here. “Criticism does not stand outside the work of art, but stands alongside, maybe even inside, the work of art, participating in the work in order to further express and tease out […]
  • 11/03/2023: Thoughts on covering Donald Trump

  • 11/03/2023: Ray Bradbury punk rock graduation.

    Ray Bradbury was so poor growing up that in order to dress up for his graduation he had to wear his uncle’s suit. His uncle had died recently. The suite was the one he wore when he died. His uncle was shot. The suit still had the bullet hole in it. I learned that from […]
  • 06/07/2023: Presidential Restraint

    Matt Yglesias has a piece in the New York Times under the headline: “It’s Great to Have a President Who Knows When to Shut Up.” My favorite topic: presidential restraint. I spent a lot of time on the topic in my book, and why it’s necessary for the job. (Chapter 23: Restraint). There is no greater […]