Tag Archives: Washington Post

Bernstein: ‘Worse than Watergate’

Carl Bernstein knows a serious political scandal when he sees one.

The veteran journalist had a front-row seat as the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1972 through much of 1974. His work for the Washington Post in tandem with fellow reporter Bob Woodward uncovered a constitutional crisis that eventually brought down President Richard Nixon.

So, when Bernstein asserts that the current troubles involving Donald Trump are “worse than Watergate,” I tend to take notice.

I will concede immediately that Bernstein is no fan of Trump. Indeed, he came from a family of radical left-leaning political activists. I recognize his bias.

However, he is able to apply some serious analytical thinking to these two events. His view about Trump’s handling of the Russia matter means a lot to me.

The Hill reports: “I think it’s time to recognize that what we are watching in the Trump presidency is worse than Watergate,” Bernstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s worse than Watergate, as I say, because the system worked in Watergate.”

“The heroes of Watergate were Republicans who demanded that the president be held accountable, who demanded that he be transparent, who demanded to know what did the president know and when did he know it, and who conducted bipartisan investigation that led, in fact, to understanding and finding out what Nixon had done,” he continued. “Whereas the Republicans on Capitol Hill thus far, have done almost everything they can to impede and undermine legitimate investigation.”

The “legitimate investigation” seeks to find out whether the Trump presidential campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system and whether there is a demonstrable obstruction of justice. The president calls it a “witch hunt,” and his GOP allies have sought to derail the investigation headed by a man — Robert Mueller — who was hailed universally as a man of principle when the Justice Department appointed him to be special counsel.

Republicans say something different about Mueller as he continues to tighten the circle around Trump, the White House and key members of his presidential campaign.

I guess my question goes like this: Are there any Republican “heroes” going to emerge?

Are we entering Watergate 2.0?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m beginning to sense a certain frenzy developing around the White House that — if memory serves — resembles the climate that fell over the place during the Watergate scandal.

Yes, Watergate happened a long time ago. President Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 just as he was about to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. As Carl Bernstein — one of the Washington Post reporters who covered the story — noted the other day, the “real heroes” of the Watergate saga turned out to be congressional Republicans — led by Sen. Barry Goldwater — who told the president he had no Senate support were the impeachment to go to trial.

That kind of “heroism” is missing at the moment.

Still, my sense is that there is a growing tension beginning to develop in Washington, on Capitol Hill and the White House as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his work to determine if there was any “collusion” between the Trump campaign team and Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

I am in no position to know how this case will conclude. It well might end with Mueller saying, “I got nothin’, folks” — which I doubt will happen. He might recommend criminal proceedings against key White House aides, maybe even the president himself.

Or … he could scold the president and his team and leave all the political consequences up to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

However, those of us of a certain age — such as Americans, like me, who came of age politically during the Watergate era — might be feeling a bit of deja vu as we watch the current White House writhe and squirm as the special counsel goes about his complicated task.

I know I am.

‘Our Constitution works …’

No one can predict how the current tumult involving Donald Trump, the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and the insult onslaught that is being hurled at the special counsel conducting the investigation.

However it ends, I take heart in a statement that came from the newly sworn-in 38th president of the United States.

“Our Constitution works,” declared President Gerald R. Ford moments after taking office on Aug. 9, 1974. “Our great republic is a government of laws, not of men,” the president said.

The 45th president is up to his armpits, his eyeballs, perhaps even his comb-over in a probe that is seeking to determine whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral process. Special counsel Robert Mueller is no fool. He’s not a hack. He is a dedicated professional who once led the FBI. However, the president has launched a full frontal assault on Mueller, seeking to discredit an honorable man and a dedicated public servant.

I don’t know what he’ll conclude when this process ends. Whether he recommends criminal prosecution of senior White House advisers or even the president himself, or decides there’s nothing there, then I will accept whatever he determines.

He is doing this all under the guidance of the U.S. Constitution, which as President Ford told us when he took office functions as it should.

Gerald Ford’s ascent to the presidency was unique. His predecessor, President Nixon, was forced to resign after seeking to cover up a “third rate burglary” at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972. One thing led to another and a pair of intrepid Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — peeled the layers of deception away for the nation to see for itself.

The constitutional crisis that evolved from this investigation was unprecedented in its scope. Yet the government held together.

Nixon quit the presidency. Ford — who became vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in another scandal involving bribery — calmly took office and assumed control of the executive branch of government.

No matter how this latest controversy ends, I am taking considerable comfort in the words of wisdom offered by a president whose straightforward eloquence spoke volumes about the inherent strength of our governing document.

It held together then … and will do so now.

Listen to this former GOP leader, Republicans

Bill Frist needs to be heard and heeded.

The former U.S. Senate majority leader worries that the Republican Party he served on Capitol Hill has become something foreign, something he doesn’t recognize.

He has written an essay for the Washington Post in which he says it is imperative to let special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who meddled in our 2016 election.

Read the essay here.

Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon, doesn’t believe Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians. Nor does he suggest the Senate where he served lacked partisanship. He does say that it was his belief that politicians should put patriotism above party.

He suggests that’s not the case at this moment in our history. It’s dangerous in the extreme to undermine Mueller, Frist writes: Every American should be rooting for Mueller’s success in determining precisely how Russia interfered in our fundamental democratic process. I had no illusions about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and I have none about Putin now. Mueller’s most recent court filings indicate that Putin is seeking to meddle in this year’s elections. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — all Trump appointees confirmed by the Republican-led Senate — have also warned of foreign interference. We should heed these warnings and empower Mueller to see his important work through to its conclusion.

The president is intent on derailing Mueller. Indeed, to the extent that Mueller is under such attack by fellow Republicans, it looks to me that Putin has succeeded in undermining our electoral process.

And please … spare me the notion that Bill Frist is a Republican In Name Only. He is no such creature.

Dr. Frist served his country with honor and distinction. Did I agree with every decision he ever made? No. However, he is speaking a fundamental truth about the deteriorating condition of our national political discourse.

Listen to this man!

As he has written: No matter who is in the White House, we Republicans must stand up for the sanctity of our democracy and the rule of law.

Mend ICE, don’t end it

I happen to agree with a former homeland security secretary who is pushing back against progressive politicians’ call to get rid of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Jeh Johnson, who ran the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, said that ICE needs to be reformed. To end it completely, he said, would compromise national security, given that ICE is a law enforcement agency.

Not at all surprisingly, Donald J. Trump has said progressive politicians favor “anarchy” instead of law and order. Those who holler for an end to ICE only give the president ammo to fire at his political foes.

He is at his demagogic best when given such ammunition. Trust me on this, he has been reckless in the extreme in suggesting that anti-ICE forces actually want the country to be “overrun” by gang members, assorted criminals and anyone who wants to do us harm.

As Johnson wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post: “Abolish ICE” makes for a good rallying cry on the left. Demanding the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency also provides President Trump with a useful weapon for bludgeoning Democrats politically. He has said as much, and a good portion of the American public will listen to him.

Read the entire Post essay here.

If there is a way to make ICE a more compassionate law enforcement agency, then let’s look for that solution rather than an outright abolition.

National debt? Hey, it’s still growing!

Donald Trump made a lot of promises when he ran for president of the United States.

Many of them were bold and audacious. One of them involved the national debt. He reaffirmed to the Washington Post in April 2017 that he would wipe it out over eight years, presuming he would be re-elected in 2020.

Let’s see. How’s he doing? Not too well. The national debt has, um, exploded in the first year and a half of his presidency. It has surged past the $21 trillion mark and is proceeding at a breakneck pace well beyond that total.

The Congressional Budget Office is reporting that the national debt, fueled by tax cuts and immense increases in government spending, is on a fast track into deep outer space.

According to CBS News: “At 78 percent of gross domestic product, federal debt held by the public is now at its highest level since shortly after World War II,” the CBO found. “If current laws generally remained unchanged, the Congressional Budget Office projects, growing budget deficits would boost that debt sharply over the next 30 years; it would approach 100 percent of GDP by the end of the next decade and 152 percent by 2048. That amount would be the highest in the nation’s history by far.” 

Republicans were so very quick to excoriate Democratic President Barack H. Obama over the national debt. The GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney sought to make the debt one of the centerpieces of his effort to defeat Obama. Then came Trump, the dealmaker in chief, the business tycoon and, oh yes, the self-proclaimed “King of Debt,” to tell us he would eliminate the national debt by the end of his presidency.

Well, at this rate, Mr. President, you have to get busy.

I mean, real busy.

It’s official: Hell has frozen over

I know I have said this before, so forgive me for repeating myself.

Except this time I am sure of what I am about to say: It’s official. Hell has frozen over. Completely.

How do I know that? Because one of the deans of conservative commentary, George Will — a man who for years was associated with the Republican Party — is urging voters to cast their ballots for (gulp!) Democrats.

Will leads his latest column this way: Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans — these are probably expanding and contracting cohorts, respectively — fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote.

Not long ago, Will decided to leave the Republican Party. He is now an “independent” voter. He was a Fox News contributor. Since leaving the GOP, he has gravitated toward other broadcast and cable news networks, where he also contributes to their commentary.

Will dislikes Donald J. Trump. His description of “Republican misrule in Washington” is a direct condemnation of the leadership provided by the president.

Read Will’s column here.

Will wants voters to cast their ballots for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election. He wants congressional power to swing back to Democrats, hoping that they can act as a bulwark against the “carnage” that Trump has created in Washington.

Will writes: In today’s GOP, which is the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him.

Granted, the idea of a Democratically controlled Capitol Hill doesn’t thrill the columnist. He refers to that possibility this way: A Democratic-controlled Congress would be a basket of deplorables, but there would be enough Republicans to gum up the Senate’s machinery, keeping the institution as peripheral as it has been under their control and asphyxiating mischief from a Democratic House.

Still, the very idea that George Will, of all people, would advocate such a rebellion means only one thing: Hell has frozen over.

R.I.P., Dr. Krauthammer

It didn’t take long after all.

Charles Krauthammer, the noted newspaper columnist and commentator for Fox News, announced on June 8 that he only had “weeks to live” after receiving a grim prognosis on his valiant battle against cancer.

Today, Fox announced that Krauthammer lost his fight. He died at age 68 of abdominal cancer. I am saddened in the extreme to hear this news.

Dr. Krauthammer was a Renaissance man in the purest sense. He obtained a medical degree from Harvard University and was a practicing psychiatrist when he decided to enter politics. He went to work in the Carter administration, where he wrote speeches for Vice President Walter Mondale.

Then he gravitated toward journalism. His ideology drifted to the right and he became one of the nation’s premier conservative columnists. He wrote with precision and clarity. Dr. Krauthammer signed on with The Washington Post — and then was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the commentary he wrote for the newspaper.

I was proud to run his column in the Amarillo Globe-News for all the years I worked at the newspaper. I’ve noted already that although I didn’t subscribe to his world view, I recognize great writing and clear thinking when I see it. Dr. Krauthammer provided both with his commentary — and I always enjoyed reading his work, thinking often at the time, “Damn! I wish I could write like that.”

American journalism has lost a significant voice. Charles Krauthammer was one of the great ones.

Happy Watergate Day, everyone

June 17, 1972 has gone down as the day when a presidency started to unravel, except that virtually no one on that very day predicted it would happen.

It started out as a “third-rate burglary.” Some men got caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office and hotel complex in Washington, D.C.

They rifled through some files. They left. A security guard discovered the break-in and reported it to the cops.

The rest, as they say, is history.

A couple of reporters for the Washington Post — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — covered the event as a police beat story. Then a few tips began trickling in. The reporters then began to piece together some hints that the story was a lot bigger than a run-of-the-mill “cop shop” tale.

It turned out to be the biggest political story of the past century. President Nixon sought to cover it up. He told federal authorities to shut down the investigation. Thus, the cover-up swallowed this event whole. Revelations about the cover-up prompted the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to approve articles of impeachment; a select Senate committee had hearings as well.

It ended with the president’s resignation.

The scandal also produced a suffix that results in adding the word “gate” to every controversy — large and small — that bubbles up in the halls of power. To me, as I’ve noted before, “Watergate” stands alone. The current president recently used the term “Spygate” to describe the alleged espionage of his campaign by the FBI in 2016. Fiddlesticks! There was no spying on the Donald Trump campaign. There damn sure was no “Spygate” occurrence.

Watergate also signaled the rise of gumshoe journalism. Bernstein and Woodward would be honored by their peers for the work they did to expose the enormous level of corruption they discovered. They helped energize a crop of journalism students and young reporters who sought to serve their own communities.

The reporters who covered the Watergate scandal did their job. They held the government accountable. They revealed the truth to a public that demanded it of the media and the government.

At many levels, the Watergate scandal illustrated a dark time in our nation’s political history. It also instigated the media shining a bright light down the halls of power.

I am proud of the role the media played in revealing the truth behind the scandal that toppled a president. Yes, it produced a “long national nightmare,” as the new president, Gerald R. Ford, told us.

We awoke from it and the nation emerged stronger as a result.

Krauthammer: ‘My fight is over’

Charles Krauthammer could have forged a stellar career in medicine after graduating from Harvard Medical School. He became a psychiatrist.

Then he went into public service, joining the Carter administration and serving as a policy adviser and speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale.

Eventually, Dr. Krauthammer gravitated rightward. He became a columnist, a pundit — and a sharp one at that.

Fox News Channel came along and hired Krauthammer as a contributor to the network, where he burnished his conservative commentary skills and where he became a stalwart of the network’s array of commentators.

Today, this brilliant essayist and pundit has announced that his doctors have given him only “weeks to live.” Krauthammer’s cancer has returned. The prognosis is as grim as it gets.

Allow me this moment to express my profound sadness at what is likely to transpire.

Back when I was working for a living as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, Krauthammer emerged as one of my favorite columnists, whose work we published regularly.

He is a brilliant essayist. He writes with precision and is concise in stating whatever view he wants to project.

Did I agree with him? No, but that’s not the point. One need not agree with someone to appreciate and admire his or her work. I admire Krauthammer’s brilliant mind and appreciate the courage with which he speaks. He speaks without outward rancor. He doesn’t “scream” his rhetoric while presenting his view of how the world should turn.

Here is Krauthammer’s note announcing his prognosis, published in the Washington Post, where he worked as a columnist since 1984.

Krauthammer says goodbye

This news saddens me terribly.

***

You are welcome to take a look at something I wrote in October 2009 about Charles Krauthammer. My thoughts about were as strong then as they are today.

A word or two dispelling a rumor

The man can turn a phrase.