It might merely be apocryphal.
Still, it’s viewed widely as LBJ’s “Aha” moment, when he realized it was over. Supposedly, after watching journalistic icon Walter Cronkite’s special report on the Vietnam War, where he concluded the war couldn’t be won, Johnson remarked “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”
Fact or fiction, this same idea is present in V’aera. Moses is sent to plead his people’s case before Pharaoh, and he is worried. His initial diplomatic foray was a failure; now the slaves have even more work to do than before his efforts.
What Moses asks God is a variation of the Cronkite moment: if the Jewish people won’t hear me, why will Pharaoh take me seriously?
Every leader, whether a monarch or democratically elected, depends on the good will of their people. Americans famously taught this to the world in April, 1775, on a village green in Lexington, northwest of Boston. But it was a lesson Moses learned early on, and would relearn again and again over his service.
Respect and good will are the necessary baselines to a leader’s ability to serve capably. That’s as true in a congregation or a revolution as it is in government or business.
Words to consider. Ideas to ponder. Politics & the parsha.
Howie Beigelman works at the intersection of nonprofit advocacy and Jewish communal affairs. Follow him on Twitter @howielb.
By Howie Beigelman