What Makes a Constitutional Crisis?

May 16, 2017

"Constitutional crisis" is a phrase heard a great deal in the news lately. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch about what constitutes a constitutional crisis.

Walch also discusses several instances when the U.S. government threatened to break down - during the Civil War in the 1860s, the Great Depression in the 1930s and during the Watergate crisis in the 1970s.

"When you're in the middle of a crisis, or you're in the real time of events, you can't quite determine how important this is going to be, and you do need the value of time and distance from an event to let you measure how important that is," says Walch. "We can't look at the present day and say, 'Oh this is an unprecedented crisis.' No, we won't know perhaps for 50 or 75 years, certainly a generation or more."

In the second half hour, New York Times bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick presents a controversial portrait of the American people in crisis during the Revolutionary War. His latest book is titled Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution