Today 40 years ago, I was getting ready for a much-awaited discharge from the US Air Force and looking forward to a fall enrollment at the University of Florida — one happy, though, clueless youngster.
Indoctrinated by four years in the military, surrounded by right-wing types, the following November I stood in a slight drizzle to vote for Richard M. Nixon — one of the great, nonsensical horrors of my life.
The arrest, however, of five nit-twits trying to burglarize the DNC HQ at DC’s Watergate complex went completely unnoticed, not only by me but all US peoples — no one knew a legacy was forming.
(Illustration found here).
And this evening 40 years ago — June 17, 1972 — will indeed live in infamy.
Wikipedia with a quick overview:
The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) connected cash found on the burglars to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a fundraising group for the Nixon campaign.
In July 1973, as evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and he had recorded many conversations.
Recordings from these tapes implicated the president, revealing he had attempted to cover up the break-in.
After a protracted series of bitter court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators; he ultimately complied.
Facing near-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and a strong possibility of a conviction in the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.
His successor, Gerald Ford, then issued a pardon to Nixon.
A few weeks working on UF’s student newspaper, The Alligator, and just being at a major liberal university, broke the Bill Buckley hold on me and I became a fervent anti-Nixonian.
The profession I found myself in after college — journalism — was in its glory and all my fellow reporters felt the whimsy of being part of a most-noteworthy profession.
And the US as a whole likewise — the so-called Church committee moved the country through a tough time in exposing the shitty life of the entire presidency — and voted out the GOP in 1976 with the election of Jimmy Cater.
Now 40 years later — WTF!
From Esquire on Friday:
Instead, the true “lessons” of Watergate were how we could abandon our responsibilities as citizens, and twist the obligations of self-government, so that “the country” would never have to “go through” anything like that again.
What was a triumph of self-government in 1974 was reckoned to be such a national trauma by 1986 that our elite institutions formed an iron circle to keep it from happening to Ronald Reagan and his people because the country “couldn’t take another failed presidency.”
(As illustrated in On Bended Knee, Mark Hertsgaard’s essential account of the lapdog press under Reagan, even Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, who’d stood all the gaff when her newspaper was alone on an island in its early Watergate coverage, was concerned that the press might go too far.)
And the final absurd twist came with the impeachment of Bill Clinton for crimes against the Seventh Commandment, an exercise in Kabuki that really was only the final act in an ongoing campaign of dirty tricks.
Kenneth Starr had far more in common with H.R. Haldeman than he did with Archibald Cox, and Henry Hyde had more in common with Gordon Liddy than he did with Peter Rodino.
History was thereby turned on its head until its brains fell out its ears.
The lasting “lesson” of Watergate, it appears, is that self-government was too dangerous, that the perils of it outweigh its values, and that the obligations of citizenship, beyond those which are purely ceremonial, are too heavy for citizens to bear.
And a sad footnote on Frank Wills, the Watergate security guard who actually fingered the burglars:
As it happens, life didn’t turn out so well for Frank Wills.
He couldn’t get another job after he lost the job at the Watergate.
(One university in D.C. told him it was afraid to hire him for fear it might lose its federal money.
So much for the “lessons” of Watergate.)
When his mother down in South Carolina suffered a stroke, Wills moved in to take care of her, and they survived on the $450-a-month she got from Social Security.
When she died, Wills lost the house and was briefly homeless.
He got busted for shoplifting a $12 pair of shoes in 1983.
He died, penniless, on September 27, 2000.
Richard Nixon, needless to say, got rich.
Nowadays the MSM should not even be classified as journalism any more — US peoples who get all their news from the open end of sources like broadcast/cable news or most newspapers haven’t a clue.
In fact, they’re way-worse than that dumb-ass kid in June 1972.
Right now in this most-ugly of times, Nixon would have way-most likely gotten away with it.