FOR THE THIRD TIME in as many decades, a U.S. administration finds itself facing a crisis of confidence. In a parliamentary democracy, say Britain or Canada, this would probably mean the fall of a government. In this country, it will mean undoubtedly two years of an administration sapped of power and influence. Instead of becoming a lame duck, as many had feared, the president politically well could become a dead duck.
Why this phenomenon should be endemic to the U.S. political process is hard to fathom. Do presidents become overconfident after they have been in office more than four years? Or merely tired? Or is a president, especially a popular president, so cut off from the true thinking of the electorate that he inevitably goes astray?Ronald Reagan's plight differs from that of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Across the country the people still love him. But, the polls confirm, they no longer value his management. What worse sentence than to be tolerated, not appreciated? Like the once proud father of a family whose grown children hear him but no longer listen to him and just as regularly ignore his counsel.