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If It Swings Like a Gate, and Creaks Like a Gate, It's a Gate

Dave Randall

Posted on March 19, 2018 17:02

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Does the Russia Investigation draw parallels to the mother of all presidential scandals?

When five men were caught burglarizing offices of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, there was no way of knowing the name of the complex that housed those offices would provide a suffix for every ensuing presidential scandal.

Though not the first incident of wide scale impropriety in a 20th century presidential administration (Tea Pot Dome had dogged Warren G. Harding in the early 1920's), Watergate was a crucible. A nexus of crime and cover-up at the highest level of government, revealed through dogged journalism, the rule of law, and presidential hubris -- the Supreme Court ordered secretly recorded oval office tapes be released to investigators. 

There's a tendency, then, to compare what's happening now to Watergate. Not simply the term, but the nuts and bolts of the scandal as it unfolded. This desire is stirred on by at least one of Watergate's most visible, surviving players: former Nixon White House Counsel John W. Dean III, whose regular cable TV appearances and commentary puts a name and face on the break-in and subsequent cover-up. Also adding a wealth of televised expertise and the juxtaposition of past and present are the journalists who dug the deepest on the Watergate story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  

So, the question: Does the current Russia Investigation draw parallels to Watergate?

It can be pointed out that both germinated in the midst of presidential elections. What's easier to determine is how the two differ. Both Nixon and Trump fronted campaigns that mined the animus of one class of Americans against the other, it's true, and Trump did apply lessons from the Nixon playbook during the campaign.

There is loathing of the press in common, but Nixon was as awkward as a first date. Trump, at times, seems to apply a bow to the media as Yo Yo Ma would a cello. Nixon would have had no use for Twitter, but I've proposed for years (and pundits now agree) that if he'd had the foghorn of Fox News blaring daily and nightly, he'd have not resigned the presidency. If Republicans had been the majority in Congress, articles of impeachment would not have been passed.

What's trickled out concerning the current inquiry, circumstantial as it is, points to acts that would make Watergate pale by comparison. Collusion with Russia to interfere with a presidential election? Russia? The country used for decades by the political Right as the very avatar of evil incarnate? Treason? What kind of evidence from the Mueller investigation would it take to convince the sitting Congress?

In 1974, it took Richard Nixon's voice on tape for New Jersey Representative Charles Sandman to finally give up defending the President. There lies the substantial parallel: in the political climate of 2018, it will take that level of proof against Trump. Then any comparison will be surpassed by a darker reality.

Dave Randall

Posted on March 19, 2018 17:02

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Source: NPR

The House released a controversial memo about the FBI's Russia probe. Scott Simon talks with John Dean, former counsel to...

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