Worse Than Watergate
James Fallows has an Atlantic piece making the case for that this morning. I’ve thought the same thing myself. Nixon had a much better idea of how things worked for one thing and would never have been this brazen.
I mean Nixon knew you didn’t want to boast about having tapes-it was dragged out of Alexander Butterfield in Congressional testimony.
“Five Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate.”
“A journalist who covered Nixon’s fall 45 years ago explains why the current challenge to America may be more severe—and the democratic system less capable of handling it.”
One big difference is partisan: Nixon faced a Dem Congress. Ironically he had himself partly to blame as he didn’t lift a finger for the Congressional GOPers during 1972-he wanted to run as above politics.
Fallows who remembers Watergate well has some thoughts:
“So I’ve been thinking about comparisons between Watergate and the murky, fast-changing Comey-Russia-Flynn-Trump affair. As with anything involving Donald Trump, we have no idea where this will lead, what is “true,” and when the next bombshell will go off.”
“But based simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate. Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself. Here is a summary of some reasons why:
“At some point in the coverage of every scandal you’ll hear the chestnut “It’s always the cover-up, never the crime.” This refers of course to the historical reality that scandal-bound figures make more problems by denying or lying about their misdeeds than they would if they had come clean from the start.”
“This saying first became really popular in the Watergate era—which is significant for what it suggests about the gravity of the underlying crime in that case. Richard Nixon’s beleaguered press secretary Ron Ziegler, a Sean Spicer–like figure of that era, oversold the point when he dismissed the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters as a “third-rate burglary.” But the worst version of what Nixon and his allies were attempting to do—namely, to find incriminating or embarrassing information about political adversaries ranging from Democratic Party Chairman Lawrence O’Brien to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg—was not as bad as what came afterward. Those later efforts included attempts to derail investigations by the FBI, the police, and various grand juries and congressional committees, which collectively amounted to obstruction of justice.”
To be sure, I think this narrative ‘not the coverup it’s the crime’ is an attempt to claim the crime was small potatoes. So why then cover it up? Of course, ‘Watergate’ came to relate to all Nixon corrupt practices both through his campaign and also to get dirt on enemies, go after the media, etc.
The best comparison of the Russia collusion probe is Don Sagretti writing that Canucks letter. Arguably. that letter which led to Democratic POTUS candidate Ed Muskie ending his campaign which might have turned the election. Had he won, he was widely expected to be a much better candidate than McGovern. Nixon assumed Muskie was his toughest opponent. Another fun fact: Roger Stone was the 19 year old driver who hand delivered the Canucks letter to the Manchester Union Leader because of course he was.
Then there are the moves Nixon made to neutralize George Wallace. To this day some suspect he had something to do with Wallace being shot and paralyzing him-and ending the campaign. Whether this is fact or not it is known that Nixon paid Wallace off to run as a Democrat rather than again as an independent.
Back to Fallows:
“And what is alleged this time? Nothing less than attacks by an authoritarian foreign government on the fundamentals of American democracy, by interfering with an election—and doing so as part of a larger strategy that included parallel interference in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and elsewhere. At worst, such efforts might actually have changed the election results. At least, they were meant to destroy trust in democracy. Not much of this is fully understood or proven, but the potential stakes are incomparably greater than what happened during Watergate, crime and cover-up alike.”
Remember after Trump’s Syria strike and some Trump apologists on the Left and Right were like ‘Ok, so this proves Trump is right and Russia is a ruse?’
Seems to me that little victory dance the Russians did where Trump gave out the intel of our Israel allies like candy was payment enough and it was far from the only thing the Russians have gotten-like the gutting of the State Department for starters.
“A climactic event of the Watergate saga, the “Saturday Night Massacre” of October 1973, is too complex to lay out in full. (More here.) Its essence was a nearly-last-gasp attempt by Nixon to prevent a special prosecutor from getting full access to the Oval Office tapes whose existence had recently become known.”
“But even in his stonewalling, Nixon paid lip service to the concepts of due process and check and balances. (His proffered solution was something called the “Stennis compromise,” in which the very conservative Senator John Stennis, from Mississippi, would “listen” personally to the tapes and summarize their content. As it happens, Stennis was famous for being practically deaf.) Nixon wanted to survive and win, but he wanted to act as if he was doing so while sticking to some recognizable rules.”
Yes-I touched on this above. Nixon hid the existence of the tapes. Trump fundamentally really seems not to see what the problem with doing things like pushing the FBI Director for loyalty, asking him to drop the Flynn investigation, and finally firing the Director when it was clear he wouldn’t do what you want.
Trump doesn’t see what’s wrong with these actions. Nixon still at least officially adhered to democratic rules and norms. As Fallows also points out, Nixon was a much more complex figure-Trump is not complex, he’s a cartoon figure.
“Richard Nixon was a dark but complex figure. Of his darkness, this obituary/denunciation by Hunter S. Thompson provides a nice overview. Of his complexity, assessments from Garry Wills’s seminal Nixon Agonistes in 1970 to John Farrell’s Nixon: A Life just this spring emphasize the depth and sophistication of his political and strategic intelligence. He was paranoid, resentful, bigoted, and a crook. He was also deeply knowledgeable, strategically prescient, publicly disciplined—and in some aspects of his domestic policy strikingly “progressive” by today’s standards (for instance, his creation of the Environmental Protection Agency).”
Fallows also mentions another thing I touched on at top-partisanship.
“The Republicans of the Watergate era stuck with Richard Nixon as long as they could, but they acted all along as if larger principles were at stake. This I remember more clearly than any other aspect of that era, because the very first article I did for a big national magazine was a profile for Esquire, published not long after Nixon had resigned, about one of the very conservative Republicans who had finally chosen principle over party. That Republican was Charles Wiggins, a staunchly right-wing representative from Southern California who was on the House Judiciary Committee (and later became a Ninth Circuit appeals-court judge).”
Of course one big difference is the GOP was the minority then. But you listen to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell you hear nothing about principles just partisan power by McConnell and ideological obsession with gutting ObamaCare and Medicare by Ryan.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.