Tag Archives: Richard Nixon

Watergate: Dumbest scandal in U.S. history

Many of us are going to mark the 45th anniversary of the start of the Watergate scandal in varying ways.

Those of us of a certain age might take time to reflect on what I consider to be the most stupid, unnecessary and ridiculous political scandal of the 20th century.

On June 17, 1972, five idiots broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.; they rifled through some cabinets, pilfered some papers and then left.

Then came the cover-up. President Nixon sought to call off the investigation being done by the FBI. It all led to the president’s pending impeachment and then his resignation from office.

Why so stupid? So pointless? So needless?

Because the president was en route to a smashing re-election victory later that year. On Nov. 7, 1972, Nixon was re-elected with a 49-state landslide over Sen. George McGovern. He won more than 60 percent of the popular vote: 47 million votes to 29 million votes. That’s an 18-million vote margin!

Every political expert in America knew Nixon would win. They knew he’d win big. Sen. McGovern didn’t have a prayer. I received my political baptism that year working for McGovern in my home state of Oregon, helping register first-time voters among college students in Multnomah County. I, too, was a college student. I also had separated from the Army in August 1970 and had served for a time in Vietnam. I wanted the war to end and I supported McGovern’s candidacy.

But McGovern’s candidacy was doomed. Nixon’s team knew it. So did McGovern’s team.

I am left to wonder 45 years after that ridiculous break-in: What in the hell did the Committee to Re-Elect the President hope to gain from such a stupid stunt?

CREEP blew it, causing their guy — the president — to try to cover it up and it all cost him his job as leader of the free world. And for what purpose?

If they ever create a college curriculum to study “Stupid Political Scandals,” Watergate must serve as the all-time benchmark for stupidity.

Yes, Newt … the president can ‘obstruct justice’

I am beginning to think Newt Gingrich no longer should be taken seriously.

He’s the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; at one time he was second in line to be president, right behind the vice president.

Gingrich once voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for, among other things, obstruction of justice. So what does this clown say now? The president cannot commit such a crime because — are you ready? — he’s the president!

The current president, of course, is Donald J. Trump.

Gingrich is an ally of Trump. He has spoken favorably of the president. I get that. However, his remarks to the National Press Club make no sense. He didn’t cite a federal statute that prohibits a criminal indictment against the president. He said that the office protects its occupant from an obstruction of justice charge.

But … didn’t it protect President Clinton? Didn’t it do the same for President Nixon when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him for, um, obstruction of justice?

Newt needs a reminder of history. Indeed, he was part of an event that involved a president who he once accused of obstructing justice. If he continues to ignore history and spout the nonsense he keeps spouting about Donald Trump, then he is talking himself out of any relevance to the current political discourse.

Watergate burglary + 45: Where has the time gone?

Forty-five years ago, some goons broke into the Democratic Party national headquarters office in a business complex in Washington, D.C.

Little did they know that they would change history.

The Watergate scandal gave birth to a new name for political scandals. They attach the “gate” suffix on every transgression. There’s only one scandal worthy of the “gate” identifier.

The “third-rate burglary” — which occurred June 17, 1972 — became swallowed up by what would come afterward. That would be the cover-up orchestrated by President Richard Nixon.

Two dogged Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — were turned loose eventually to follow the leads they got suggesting that the White House was involved in the burglary. They hit pay dirt and opened up a new wave of interest in investigative journalism. They lured a generation of young reporters into the craft; I happened to be one of them.

Forty-five years later, the memory of that earlier time is coming back to the fore as another president flails about while a special counsel examines whether he and/or his campaign colluded with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 election outcome.

There won’t be a “gate” attached to this matter — even if it explodes into a scandal that rivals the granddaddy of political scandals.

Cable news networks are going to look back at that break-in. They’ll examine the journey upon which the nation embarked in the weeks and months to follow. We’ll get to relive that “long, national nightmare” referred to by yet another president, Gerald R. Ford, who took office when President Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate cover-up.

Yes, it was a dark time. However, as President Ford noted, “The Constitution works.” Watergate put the Constitution to its supreme test and in the process, the scandal delivered to Americans a shining illustration of the founding fathers’ brilliance in crafting a government.

Bipartisan era gone forever? Looks like it

I am thinking at this moment of an earlier era when presidents and members of Congress reached across the great partisan divide to ponder their joint legislative agendas.

The thought came to me when I heard that Donald J. Trump is going to meet this week with Republican congressional leaders to talk about upcoming projects.

No Democrats need not attend. Nope! Stay away, you folks. We don’t need you.

I’ll go back a few decades for a moment.

* Lyndon Johnson needed Republicans to help him enact landmark civil-rights legislation.

* Richard Nixon needed Democrats to run interference for his environmental agenda.

* Ronald Reagan developed a great personal and professional relationship with congressional Democrats, such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

* Bill Clinton relied on congressional Republicans to assist in producing a balanced federal budget.

* George W. Bush sought Democratic help in crafting education-overhaul legislation. I should add that President Bush had plenty of practice working with Democrats, as he did quite well in that regard while he governed Texas and became partners with Democrats who controlled the Legislature.

That’s when it seemed to end. Barack Obama didn’t develop many relationships with key Republicans, who — lest we forget — made clear their intention to block damn near everything the president intended to accomplish. And now we have Donald Trump seeking to push through a legislative agenda with zero Democrats in his corner.

I also recall those photo ops when presidents would sign bills in front of large bipartisan gatherings of lawmakers. He’d hand out ceremonial pens left and right. They’d all clap and slap each other on the back while extolling the virtues of working together for the common good.

Do you expect to see anything like that with the current president occupying that office in the White House?

Me neither.

Impeachment? Not likely with this Congress

John Podesta knows a thing or two about impeachment. He served as White House chief of staff for a president who was impeached by the House of Representatives and put on trial in the Senate.

Podesta has looked at the political landscape and reports that he doesn’t see impeachment on the horizon for Donald J. Trump.

I have to agree with his assessment.

The issue is the makeup of the body that would file articles of impeachment.

Podesta seems to think, according to his comments to the Washington Post, that Trump might deserve to be impeached, but he doesn’t think the current House has the guts to do it. He allegedly sought to quash an FBI investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russia. The Justice Department has assigned a special counsel to look at the matter.

Consider the 20th century’s two big impeachment moments.

* One of them occurred in 1974. The House was in control of Democrats. The president, Richard Nixon, was a Republican. Nixon stood accused of obstructing justice in the Watergate scandal. The House Judiciary Committee, with its Democratic majority, approved articles of impeachment and referred them to the full House.

President Nixon’s impeachment was a done deal. It took a stern lecture from the late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater to persuade the president to give up the fight; Nixon quit the presidency the next day.

* The other occurred in 1998. Republicans controlled the House and the Senate. The special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, began his probe by looking at a real estate matter involving President Clinton and his wife, Hillary — both of whom are Democrats. He expanded it to include an extramarital dalliance the president was having with a young woman. He summoned the president to testify before a federal grand jury; the president was untruthful.

He was impeached on obstruction and perjury charges. The Senate acquitted him. Again, politics — just as it did in 1974 — played a role in moving the impeachment forward.

Would the Republicans who control Congress have the stones to impeach a fellow Republican who also happens to be president? Podesta doesn’t think so. Neither do I.

Impeachment is a political exercise in the extreme. Sure, the members of Congress talk a good game about seeking justice, to punish the president for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The reality is that it all rests on politics.

The previous century provided ample evidence of the politics associated with this serious matter. I have no reason to believe — at least not yet — that anything has changed.

No matter the result, blowback will be ugly

Donald J. Trump’s current political troubles are likely to end one of two ways.

The special counsel and two congressional committees will find criminal conduct involving the president, his campaign and the Russian government — and he’ll be impeached and possibly convicted.

Or …

The special counsel and those committees will come up empty and will decide there’s no “there” there. The president will be absolved of wrongdoing and he’ll complete his term in office.

Either outcome bodes ugly for those of who have an interest in government, in politics and in public policy. The ugliness will be the result of the president’s reaction to either outcome.

History already has shown that Trump cannot — or will not — let go of the past. Witness his continual recitation of his stunning, shocking victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Consider the potential outcomes:

Trump gets impeached and then convicted. The president will not go quietly. He will not leave office as President Nixon did in August 1974 and then disappear for years. We won’t see Trump fly away aboard Marine One from the White House lawn, grinning broadly, waving to his friends, White House staff and political supporters.

Oh, no. He’ll be angry. He’ll be lashing out continually against the media, Democrats, turncoat Republicans, Congress in general. He might even call for the abolition of the U.S. Constitution for all I know.

Once in some form of retirement, he’ll be tweeting his fingers to the bone. He’ll be dishing out insults by the minute, let alone the hour. He’ll threaten to sue anyone for any reason that comes to mind.

And the media he hates — allegedly — will lap it up, report it dutifully and give him all the platform he needs to seek some form of revenge against the system that “betrayed” him.

If the president is impeached and then acquitted by the Senate, well, ratchet all of the previous up by a factor of, oh, several thousand.

The president is clean. This outcome could be just as ugly as the other one.

Think of how the president is going to play this one out. He’ll stage campaign-style rallies. He’ll savage the media and his political enemies. He likely could re-tell the story of his “historic” electoral victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. The president is not likely to accept victory like a gentleman, praise the system for doing its job, thank the special counsel, Robert Mueller, for his service to the country and wish him well as he returns to private law practice.

The president will seethe and stew over the very idea that he would be the subject of an FBI probe, of an investigation by the legislative branch of government.

Moreover, he’ll do all of it in public. He likely would seize the limelight at every opportunity. He’ll create opportunities when they don’t present themselves.

All of this is my way of telling you that no matter the outcome of these investigations, we — the American public — are going to be disserved by the president of the United States.

Just as he showed during the 2016 GOP primary campaign, he exhibited a clearly defined “sore loser” trait. When he won the whole thing, he has shown as well that he is a “sore winner.”

Thus, I am not looking forward to the end of this investigation, no matter how it turns out.

Bluff or no bluff about those recordings?

Donald John Trump might be trying to pull of the costliest bluff in U.S. political history.

He has mentioned the word “tape recordings” relating to his conversation with former FBI Director James Comey. The nation’s capital is now buzzing with reports about whether the president actually recorded the conversation he had with Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has declined to answer directly the question about the existence of recording devices.

So … has the president recorded conversations in the Oval Office or not? If he has, then is there more to learn?

Those of us of a certain age remember a fellow named Alexander Butterfield. He worked in the White House during the Nixon administration. The Watergate scandal was beginning to overtake President Nixon in 1973-74. Butterfield, in testimony before the Senate Select Watergate Committee, blabbed to the world about the existence of Oval Office recording devices.

What did they reveal? Oh, all kinds of things that revealed that the president was using the power of his office to obstruct justice.

The rest is history, you know?

What has the current president done to preserve his comings and goings for posterity? What on Earth might such recordings — if they exist — reveal about his alleged connection to, oh, Russian government officials?

Yet another question for the president to answer. If only he would.

Do as Trump says, not as he does

Donald J. Trump cracks me up.

Except that I’m not laughing with the president, but rather I’m laughing at him for the preposterous declarations he makes about the media — and what he does before and after he makes them.

Trump stood before the Conservative Political Action Conference audience this week and excoriated the media — the “enemy of the people,” remember — for using anonymous sources.

What, then, occurred that makes this attack so laughable?

His White House staff talked to a select group of media on the grounds that they be allowed to speak anonymously.

D’oh! Huh? Eh? What the … ?

Trump’s CPAC rant was the latest ramping up of his war against the media, the folks whose task is to report to their own constituents what is going on with the White House, the president’s staff and, by golly, the president himself.

This ridiculous and nonsensical rant in which he blasts the media for granting anonymity to sources only demonstrates the president’s utter ignorance of the traditional role between the media and the White House.

It’s supposed to be adversarial. Every single president — regardless of party or ideology — has bitched about his treatment by the media. Some have taken that complaint to more intense levels than others; President Nixon’s troubles come to mind.

However, every single one of them has said essentially the same thing: The media treat me unfairly; they’re too harsh; they’re too probing; they pry too much and too deeply.

The treatment Trump is getting is really no different than what has occurred since the founding of the Republic.

Now, for him to blast the media for granting anonymity — while allowing his staff to request it of the media — simply makes me shake my head in sheer amazement at this president’s ignorance.

Democrats to grass roots: Cool it with the ‘I-word’ talk

The “I-word” might be gaining some traction among rank-and-file Americans who profess worry — even fear — of Donald J. Trump.

Democratic Party officials are issuing a wise word of caution. Avoid the rush toward an impeachment of the president of the United States.

I happen to agree with the Democratic Party elders/wise folks.

Impeachment is a serious matter. It’s only occurred twice in the 228-year history of the Republic. The 17th president, Andrew Johnson, came within a single vote in the Senate of being tossed out; the 42nd president, Bill Clinton, was acquitted by healthier margins on all three counts heard during his Senate trial. A third president, Richard Nixon, was on the verge of being impeached before he resigned in disgrace in 1974.

Trump has stirred plenty of enmity during his single month in office. To suggest that he ought to be impeached is at best far too premature an act to even consider; at worst, well, it might be a fool’s errand.

As Politico reports: “’We need to assemble all of the facts, and right now there are a lot of questions about the president’s personal, financial and political ties with the Russian government before the election, but also whether there were any assurances made,’ said California Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. ‘Before you can use the ‘I’ word, you really need to collect all the facts.’

“’The ‘I’ word we should be focused on,’ added Pennsylvania Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘is ‘investigations.'”

I happen to share the concerns of many of my fellow Americans about the questions that are looming large over the Trump administration. So soon after the president’s inauguration, Americans would be wise to give the guy some time to clear out some of the wreckage he has brought upon himself and his administration.

I want to offer a slightly conciliatory word here. Trump became president with zero experience in government. He hadn’t spent a single moment of his life in public service until he placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath of office of the presidency.

It might be too much to ask that a zillionaire businessman/TV celebrity could know all the nuance and complexity of forming a government as massive as the one he now commands.

He has made some remarkable missteps in just a few weeks on the job. He has said some amazingly stupid things and made some ridiculous gestures. Are any of them impeachable? No.

But he’s got this personal enrichment matter he must clear up. That “emoluments clause” that bars presidents from profiting from relationships with foreign governments is pretty clear. The president hasn’t done nearly enough to clear himself of that mess.

He had better get busy.

The fired-up grass roots Americans who are hell bent on impeaching the president had best listen to the political elders who know about these matters.

Their advice? Cool it.

It’s the temperament, man … the temperamant

I’ve been trying to determine when I’ve ever seen a president of the United States treat the media in the manner being displayed by the current one.

I cannot remember a single time. Not even during President Richard Nixon’s time in the White House.

Donald Trump has shown utter contempt and disrespect for the men and women assigned to cover the White House for their various news organizations.

It manifests itself when he gets a question he dislikes. He tells reporters to “sit down, that’s enough” when they seek to elaborate on their question, to fill in a blank or two. No, the president will have none of it.

Forget for a moment that he calls them “dishonest” out loud, in public, to their face … and then expects these fellow human beings to treat him with kid gloves.

The disrespect — as I’ve witnessed it — is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed, even from afar.

If we march back through time — starting from Barack Obama and going backward — I cannot remember a president acting the way this one does in front of the media.

There was one memorable, testy exchange in the 1970s between then-CBS News correspondent Dan Rather and President Nixon. The president was getting entangled in the Watergate scandal and Rather asked him a pointed question. Some members of the press gallery chuckled, some even clapped. Nixon asked Rather, “Are you running for something?” Rather responded, “No, Mr. President, are you?”

Presidents usually have strained relations with the media. They dislike negative coverage, as does any politician — no matter what they might say. As I’ve watched presidential/media relationships from a distance over the years, I have noticed a sometimes cool cordiality between the Big Man and the media that cover him.

What we’re getting now is open hostility and an exhibition of extremely bad manners from the guy who needs the media as least as much as they need him.

I’m trying to imagine what will occur if and/or when the crap really hits the fan at the White House. I fear the president will go berserk.

Didn’t someone mention temperament as a quality we look for in a president of the United States of America?