by iampunha | 6/17/2008 08:00:00 AM
On June 17, 1972, a security guard took tape off the locks on some doors.

On June 17, 1972, a security guard took tape off the locks on some doors in the building he was working in. Again. Then he called the police.

On June 17, 1972, a security guard took tape off the locks on some doors in the building he was working in. Again. Then he called the police. Five men were arrested for attempted burglary and wiretapping.

On June 17, 1972, a security guard took tape off the locks on some doors in the building he was working in. Again. Then he called the police. Five men were arrested for attempted burglary and wiretapping. They were all employed by the government, and they had been hired by E. Howard Hunt Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy to break into a hotel.

On June 17, 1972, a security guard took tape off the locks on some doors in the building he was working in. Again. Then he called the police. Five men were arrested for attempted burglary and wiretapping. They were all employed by the government, and they had been hired by E. Howard Hunt Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy to break into the Watergate Hotel, where the DNC had its headquarters.

For Iceland, which turns 64 today. And for Tasha, who was to help me write an entry on her mother country's independence, but who is now helping her mother declare independence from cancer.

Watergate.

I can write nothing about Watergate that you haven't seen somewhere else from someone who was involved.

I could write a blog just on -gate as a suffix meaning "Shit went down, dude." Bo-ring.

I could write about Watergate as part of a larger chain of events that disillusioned a generation of Americans and paved the way for the current president and his Cabinet to try to undo everything our government did to wrest absolute government control from a third of the government. But I'd have to do way more reading on Dick Cheney's political career than I want.

I could write about how Watergate and the Pentagon Papers (which, as I wrote two days ago, was not a Nixon problem until Nixon tried to fight it) overshadowed the presidency of a man who was a brilliant politician but an absolute failure of a human being.

Disagree with the assertion that Nixon was a brilliant politician? OK. Name for me another person who was elected twice each as president and vice president.

In this age of alienating the world, Nixon normalized relations with China.

In this age where science is supposedly bad, Nixon saw the political benefit of continuing our space program — and getting during his presidency every moon landing Kennedy and Johnson had bankrolled in the 1960s.

But Lord that man was flawed. If you swatted his hand because there was a mosquito on it, and you showed him the dead mosquito, he'd think you'd put it (the mosquito) on your hand just to have an excuse to hit him.

That Nixon didn't need to break into the Watergate Hotel is pretty bloody obvious, given that he won 49 of 50 states.

But the Watergate break-in is bigger than Nixon. Indeed, there are a lot of politically aware people today who do not know where the Watergate is or even that it is a place. I grew up near D.C., with Democratic parents, and I knew about Watergate, but not the hotel.

The Watergate break-in is bigger than Nixon because it is the shining (or blinding, depending on your perspective) recent example of a president who used his powers not only to the detriment of his office but in plainly ridiculous ways. Nixon had henchmen who would do just about anything for him.

That loyalty to a president is evident in our current president's group of advisers and other yes-men, but the sense of betrayal of a people is, I hold, something that has shaped the extent to which publicly questioning and disbelieving President Bush is acceptable.

No longer is it possible to say, "But he's the president. He can't be THAT bad." Watergate is the trump card for all such discussions. (Had Reagan had "a clear recollection of" any event back during the Iran-Contra hearings, we'd probably have another such shining example, but Reagan was far cooler under pressure.)

As I write this, articles of impeachment are before the House, probably of no avail.

They accuse the sitting president of far worse than trying to spy on the other party by illegally tapping phones and unlawful entry into private property. They accuse the sitting president of 35 different kinds of illegal activity, and I seriously doubt anything will ever come of them.

Richard Nixon didn't sit back and watch as a city was flooded, as its citizens were poisoned by government-issued trailers, and disappear for a birthday cake and a photo op with a former rival his campaign had poisoned just five years before.

Richard Nixon didn't suspend habeas corpus, then suspend it again, then suspend it again. The Nixon administration had no new designations designed to skirt the law where possible and wait it out where not.

Richard Nixon didn't turn a national tragedy into a national nightmare. Yes, our military involvement in Asia was a massive mistake, but there's an argument to be made that Nixon helped us get away from the military involvement we'd mired ourselves in earlier in that era.

Under Richard Nixon, schools didn't get punished if their immigrant students didn't master English in three years. (Find for me any human who mastered English in three years.)

Under Richard Nixon, health care was a priority, not some way to accuse Democrats of wanting to socialize medical care.



Would I want Richard Nixon as president today? Not Richard Nixon, no, but someone who wanted to move the country forward, certainly. I'll tell you this much: I'd rather Nixon for two terms than Bush for that time. Nixon was a flawed human being, and that flaw absolutely snuck into (some might say infiltrated) the political arena, but show me where Nixon ignored a public health crisis. Show me where someone bombed us and Nixon struck back at someone completely different. Show me where Nixon broke the military. (Nixon was an actual veteran, unlike George W. "We have check stubs proving he was paid by the National Guard" Bush.) Nixon screwed up and knew it, and he left office as a result. Bush has done far worse with a far better situation, and I don't know that he actually realizes the hellish situation he's put this country in. Nixon knew, and he resigned.

Richard Nixon's flaws (not his politics, his person) allow us to examine George W. Bush's flaws (not his person, his politics) because no longer can anyone seriously say, and rightly expect to be believed, that the president must be someone of high character who wouldn't, just wouldn't, screw so many people on purpose.

The Watergate Affair (Part 1)


Watergate Scandal ends...President Nixon resigns - 27 of 28

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1 Comments:


Blogger Dave Grady on 7/02/2008 2:04 PM:

I am consistently disappointed when people belittle Watergate because, well... Nixon was a political juggernaut at that time anyway. Sure, he won a lot of states, but that was AFTER he tampered with the election in dozens of illegal ways. That was AFTER the campaign of "ratfuck" had poisoned the entire environment. That was AFTER he had jettisoned his most dangerous opponents (e.g., Edmund Muskie) by planting false stories, wiretapping enemies, and using all of the mechanisms of power to ensure his own re-election.

Heck by that reckoning, Robert Mugabe was destined to win in Nigeria last week as well!