Monday, May 15, 2017

Watergate and "Russiagate"

The break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., occurred 45 years ago (in June 1972). As virtually everyone knows, repercussions of that single event led to President Nixon resigning in August 1974, prior to almost certain impeachment and removal from office.
As is widely recognized, it was not the Watergate break-in itself that led to Nixon’s resignation. Rather, it was his attempt to cover-up that ultimately did him in. Barry Sassman was city news editor at The Washington Post during those years, and he called it “the great coverup”.
Sassman (b. 1934) authored The Great Coverup: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate. It was named by the New York Times as one of the best books of 1974.
In that highly-regarded work, the author wrote, “It is sobering to realize just how reluctant Congress, including Democrats as well as Republicans, was to take action against the President. Congress acted only when an outraged public demanded it” (p. 298)
The impeachment process against Nixon wasn’t formally initiated until February 1974. On Feb. 6 the House passed a resolution giving its Judiciary Committee authority to investigate whether sufficient grounds existed to impeach the President primarily because of the Watergate scandal.
That investigation wasn't undertaken until a whole year after the Senate established a select committee to investigate the Watergate break-in and of the Nixon Administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement.
Impeachment is a long, drawn-out process.
Are there parallels between the actions of the Pres. Nixon and the current POTUS? There certainly seem to be some parallels, but at this point we don’t know to what extent.
Ironically, Pres. Trump tried to make a parallel between his predecessor and Nixon. On March 4, DJT tweeted, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
There has been no evidence found to support Trump’s charges—but there has been growing suspicion that he may be trying to cover up his connections with Russia and Russia’s influence on the 2016 election.
During his May 10 monologue, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel remarked, “When we said Trump should act more presidential, we probably should have specified–we didn’t mean Nixon.” This was the day following Trump’s sacking of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the FBI probe into Russian election meddling. 
The second chapter of Allan J. Lichtman’s book The Case for Impeachment (April 2017) is “The Resignation of Richard Nixon: A Warning to Donald Trump.”
Lichtman (b. 1947) is a Distinguished Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. He gained considerable notice last year when he predicted that Trump would win the presidential election—in spite of all the polls suggesting otherwise. What made that prediction noteworthy was the fact that he had correctly predicted every winner of the Oval Office since 1984.
In the second chapter of his book, Lichtman points out that “Donald Trump exhibits the same tendencies that led Nixon to violate the most basic standards of morality and threaten the foundations of our democracy” (p. 21).
On May 12 Lichtman talked to Newsweek about Trump’s sudden firing of Comey. “The only parallel is Watergate, and this is much more serious,” Lichtman said. “What Trump is involved in is more serious because it involves a foreign power and the national security of the country.”
Is it now time for an outraged public, Republicans as well as Democrats, to speak up again as they did in 1974?


  1. Thinking Friend Bill Locke in Colorado gave me permission to share these pointed comments he sent by email:

    "Trump is doing exceedingly well as the tinpot dictator that his core supporters seem to want. Those people that share and admire his misogynistic, racist, cowardly, bullying and lying traits are four square behind him. It would appear obvious to anybody of sound honest mind that he is maneuvering to avoid light being shed on his Russian ties--I am sure they exist.

    "It is a surprise to me that what at one time were mainstream Republicans also remain supportive of him--my best hope is the tide turns quickly---he has made the USA about as great as North Korea--hopefully he will be fully exposed before he makes us even greater."

  2. Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago once again shares thoughtful comments:

    "Mr. Trump's recent actions certainly suggest that there may be a cover up, but proving that there was collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign may be difficult.

    "There are two kinds of evidence, hard and testimonial. Hard, or objective, evidence would consist of written documents, taped conversations, telephone contacts, and emails. If any hard evidence exists, and it shows collusion, then Mr. Trump is in very serious trouble.

    "Testimony will consist of statements by Russian officials and those of the Trump campaign. It is unlikely that any Russians would testify, or if they did, that their testimony would be credible. Trump campaign officials will probably circle the wagons and deny any collusion. Even if testimony emerges showing collusion, it will still be necessary to tie Mr. Trump to it.

    "I strongly suspect that there was some sort of at least informal collusion, but we will see how all of this unfolds."

  3. I thought Saturday night's Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit of Lester Holt's interview with Trump was telling. In the skit, Trump completely admits to obstruction of justice. Holt says something to the effect of, "Wait. Did I get him? Is that it?" Then he repeats the voice from his earpiece which said, "No. No one cares. It doesn't matter anymore."

    It seems to me the polarization that exists will stall any massive public outcry. NPR reported last week from Trump supporters around the country that they are tired of hearing about "the Russia thing," basically saying the media needs to drop it so Trump can focus on running the country and bringing back the economy.

    Leroy, I think an interesting blog would be to compare the mood of the country from 1974 to 2017. What's different? How has the evolution of our current political climate changed what might citizens tolerate or decry?

    1. Thanks for your comments, David--and your suggestion for a future blog article. I think there is definitely a great change in the mood of the country from 1974 to 2017, and the main difference is the expanding polarization that has taken place during those years.

      At this point I don't know how to document the cause of that polarization, but my guess is that it is mainly because of the development of cable television and people being to choose the news source with which they agree.

      It used to be that "mainstream news" was just that--the main stream from which people received national/international news. There were some differences between ABC, CBS, and NBC--but very little decisive difference. The news was the news--not "fake news" or right-wing news or left-wing news.

      That is all different now. People can pick their news source like they pick their favorite flavor of ice cream. But, as a result, the country has lost any public consensus on most major issues.

    2. Falsehoods and shows of ignorance that would have turned public sentiment against earlier presidents are now everyday background patter. I wonder if even proved collusion with Russian election tampering would be enough to get a rise out of today's conservatives.

  4. Thanks for articulating what many are thinking. I think it is premature to start impeachment proceedings at present. This is still a time for fact-gathering. The analysis of Trump’s ego-centeredness and proclivities is in, but not yet accepted as widely as it could and should be. A case for impeachment is being built and tested, nevertheless. The case gains support as moderate Republicans begin to see and publicly acknowledge that Trump’s impetuous actions are undermining long standing democratic principles and practices. Impeachment awaits the clear proof of an illegal or criminal act.

  5. Rather than impeach, they should probably bring in a special prosecutor. In order to not offend Republicans, they should also probably enlist a special prosecutor for Hillary at the same time.

    There is just too much corruption in our national politics. A good reason for term limits, and many other limits for Congress - Clean House... and Senate!

    - from a centrist independent who votes across the board for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens..., but is fed up with DC politics (politicians).

  6. Thinking Friend (and fellow church member) George Melby asked me to post these comments from him:

    "Excellent blog topic, Leroy.

    "I remember sitting with a number of students (quite a high number, actually) in the Department of Political Science in the Dept. Head's office, watching the Nixon impeachment hearings (lovingly referred to as the "Bon Voyage, Tricky Dick" hearings). We were amazed at watching history pass before our eyes at such tender ages. It was one event we hoped would never have to observe again, as it tore our country apart.

    "Back then the Republicans were a much respected Party with morals and values. Today? Mehhh, not so much, unfortunately."

  7. No special prosecutor, that law expired years ago. BUT, a special counsel has just been appointed: Robert Mueller, former FBI Director, originally appointed by George W. Bush. See link: