The coverage of "Watergate 40 years after" that aired on PBS got me thinking about how President Nixon did not resign right away after five men were arrested for trying to break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex. It took a long time for the dots to be connected and the temperature to rise. A comparison of the times, 1972 and 2012, and how society has changed leads me to ponder some of the issues that brought about his demise. I can state without a doubt that a President would no longer have to hire "burglars" to break into an opponent's headquarters, the technology of today is far more sophisticated.
Today a President with his own White House propaganda machine, and a few well placed lies or misleading information placed out on Sunday talk
shows could have the same effect on an election that skullduggery would of had in the past. Media is a powerful tool. With a little help from agencies like the IRS, leaning on the press, a few wiretaps, and some general, but subtle intimidation spread with a wide brush, it could happen. All this might come together in a way that would defined, and darkened, in effect "tainting" his opponent's image even before the presidential campaign began in earnest. Add to this the governments ability to move around spending in a way that gives the illusion that the economy is better then it really is and you have real power.
Watergate was not a flash flood, instead it lasted forever and a day. It would come out one drip at a time , then something big would every now and then come out that changed everything. Below is part of the timeline of events, but only the key issues that I feel necessary to make my point.
June 17, 1972: Five men, one of whom says he used to work for
the CIA, are arrested at 2:30 a.m. trying to bug the offices of the
Democratic National Committee at the Watergate hotel and office complex.
November 11, 1972: Nixon is reelected in one of the largest
landslides in American political history, taking more than 60 percent of
the vote and crushing the Democratic nominee, Sen. George McGovern of
May 18, 1973: The Senate Watergate committee begins its
nationally televised hearings. Attorney General-designate Elliot
Richardson taps former solicitor general Archibald Cox as the Justice
Department’s special prosecutor for Watergate.
June 3, 1973: John Dean has told Watergate investigators
that he discussed the Watergate cover-up with President Nixon at least
35 times, The Post reports.
July 13, 1973: Alexander Butterfield, former presidential
appointments secretary, reveals in congressional testimony that since
1971 Nixon had recorded all conversations and telephone calls in his
November 17, 1973: Nixon declares, “I’m not a crook,” maintaining his innocence in the Watergate case.
April 30, 1974: The White House releases more than 1,200 pages
of edited transcripts of the Nixon tapes to the House Judiciary
Committee, but the committee insists that the tapes themselves must be
July 24, 1974: The Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon
must turn over the tape recordings of 64 White House conversations,
rejecting the president’s claims of executive privilege.
August 8, 1974: Impeachment efforts get to the point where Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to
resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford assumes the country’s highest
office. He will later pardon Nixon of all charges related to the
It would be silly to think anything like what Nixon pulled back then could ever happen today. Remember that Eric Halterman testified that the President had no knowledge of what was going on, before it was proven that Nixon had his finger prints all over the scandal. In all honesty a wiser and more sinister Richard Nixon would of destroyed the tapes early on, he would of "buried them, then buried the shovel". But today a President and his top people wanting to hold on to power could never bend the rules and push the ethical lines to that degree. That could never happen today, could it?
Recently an article drew some comparisons between Nixon and Obama, how odd, for they appear to be complete opposites. We do indeed live in a strange world. Wouldn't it be surprising if some day Obama is heard saying at one of his several daily news conferences those famous words, "I'm not a crook". If any of the many scandals floating around have legs that form a trail leading ever higher, no body in their right mind would think that the trail would reach to the very top. The degree of incompetence that would let something like that occur could only take place in government.
Footnote; This dovetails with two previous post. One concerning using the White House staff to promote certain messages, and questioning when those messages turned into propaganda in our very polarized environment, the other about the constant barrage of scandal after scandal after scandal,