Tag Archives: Watergate

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.

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.

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.

Hoping for a cure for Trump Fatigue

I am going to steel myself for a lengthy, winding and probably tiresome period as the media continue to report on the myriad troubles bedeviling the Donald John Trump administration.

Is there a cure out there for what looks like a case of acute Trump Fatigue?

If someone can find it, let me know … please!

Trump’s time in office is all of six weeks old now. Every single day seems to produce something of consequence. It might be relatively minor. It might be, oh, yuuuge.

The biggest event so far has been the president’s baseless, evidence-free assertion that his predecessor, Barack H. Obama, ordered a wiretap of the Trump Tower offices in New York City.

The former president has denied it. The FBI director, James Comey, has asked the Justice Department to ignore it. Now the president has called on Congress to investigate it.

It all centers on those damn Russians and whether they sought to influence the 2016 election — and whether they colluded with candidate Trump and his team as they were seeking to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Folks, this battle is just beginning and for those of us out here who have an interest in good government, public service and the once-noble craft of politics, we are heading for an ugly, raucous, tumultuous, possibly critical time in our nation’s history.

As the essay attached to this blog notes, we are entering uncharted waters as it regards the presidency of the United States.

Here it is.

So, the Trump administration begins where — as some have noted — the Nixon administration ended in August 1974. Think about this for just a moment.

The Watergate break-in occurred in June 1972. The media barely covered it at first. Then one tip led to another and two years later, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment, a key Republican senator — Barry Goldwater — told President Nixon he didn’t have any Senate support to acquit him if the case went to trial, and then the president quit.

Trump has been in office for just a few weeks and the questions are swirling around him with increasing volume and velocity.

The president seemingly always has been keyed toward finding ways to bring attention to himself. Well, now he has the whole world watching and waiting for the next chapter to unfold in this amazing drama.

If only we can stand it.

In the meantime, I will await the miracle cure for Trump Fatigue.

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?

Here comes another ‘gate’ scandal

The “gate” suffix no doubt is going to be attached to the brewing controversy boiling up out of the Trump administration.

Russiagate? Flynngate? Hackinggate?

I grew annoyed long ago at this media concoction to put the “gate” suffix at the end of every scandal that comes down the pike.

The Watergate scandal that brought down a president in August 1974 stands alone. It began with a “third-rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate office complex. It morphed into something, well, much bigger than the metro desk crime story that the Washington Post considered it initially.

However, the controversy involving Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his alleged contacts with Russian government officials smells like a story that could rival Watergate in its gravity.

Some veteran journalists who covered the Watergate scandal are beginning to pick up the scent of something quite serious. Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign could involve collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to, um, influence the election.

We’re a long way from drawing such conclusions. There needs to be a thorough, aggressive and independent investigation into what Flynn did and what he told those Russians. Congressional Republicans have joined their Democratic colleagues in calling for such a probe.

Let it commence, but please — no “gate” references.

Chaos need not be the new White House norm

As I watch Donald J. Trump’s chaotic first few weeks as president of the United States, I have to keep reminding myself: Does it really need to be this way?

Of course it doesn’t. We’re watching Trump stumble-bum his way through controversy after controversy and his ridiculous rants and riffs with foreign leaders.

Now we’re watching an potentially unfolding major-league scandal involving the president’s former national security adviser, who quit this week in the wake of reports that he had inappropriate — and possibly illegal — discussions with Russian government officials prior to Trump taking office.

Two presidents in my lifetime have taken office amid terrible tragedy and tumult. In both cases, these men grabbed the reins of power and assumed the role of president as if they’d been there all along.

Example one: Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office on a jetliner sitting on a tarmac at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. His predecessor’s body was in a casket in the back of the plane and the nation was in utter shock over what had happened earlier that day when a gunman murdered President John F. Kennedy.

LBJ flew back to Washington and asked the nation to pray for him. We did. He convened his team and got to work immediately.

The nation buried JFK a few days later, President Johnson went to Congress and declared “all that I have I would surrender” to avoid standing before the nation in that moment.

The nation marched forward.

Example two: Gerald Rudolph Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974 as his predecessor resigned in disgrace. The House of Representatives stood poised to impeach Richard Nixon for high crimes and misdemeanors relating to the Watergate scandal. It took a stalwart Republican U.S. senator, Barry Goldwater, to tell the president his time was up. He had no support in the Senate, where he would stand trial after the House impeached him.

President Nixon quit. President Ford took the oath and then told us, “Our long national nightmare is over.” He told us he was “acutely aware” he hadn’t been elected vice president or president. But he was the right man for the job.

He, too, called his team together and instructed them to get back to work.

President Ford would lose his election battle in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. It was Carter who, upon taking the oath of office in January 1977, would turn to his predecessor and begin his inaugural speech by thanking the former president for “all he had done to heal our country.”

Presidents Johnson and Ford had something in common: they both had extensive government experience prior to assuming their high office. They knew how the government worked. LBJ had served as Senate majority leader before becoming vice president in 1961 and had many friends on both sides of the partisan divide. Ford had served as minority leader in the House of Representatives before Nixon tapped him to be vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew quit after pleading no contest to a corruption charge. Ford also had many friends on both sides of the aisle.

These men assumed the presidency under far more trying circumstances than Trump did, yet they made the transition with relative ease … compared to the madness we’re witnessing these days with the 45th president.

We are witnessing in real time, I submit, the consequences of electing someone who brought zero public service experience to the most difficult and complicated job on Planet Earth.

Trump makes history by firing acting AG

I had not heard of Sally Yates until today.

Now she becomes something of political hero in the eyes of millions of Americans — thanks to Donald J. Trump’s decision tonight to fire her from her job as acting U.S. attorney general.

What did the former assistant AG do? She declined to argue on behalf of the president’s decision to ban refugees trying to enter this country from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Yates questioned whether the executive order was lawful. Oh, yes — she is a holdover from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice.

My head continues to spin. My eyes are bugging out. My heart is palpitating.

Ten days into his presidency and Donald Trump’s penchant for pandemonium has claimed its first victim.


Yates was holding down the DOJ post until Jeff Sessions was to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

I’m not yet sure about the legality of the executive order. Perhaps the former assistant AG is right; perhaps she is wrong. Whatever the case, the president chose to fire her summarily without first trying to persuade her that she really ought to do the job she was supposed to do.

Some folks around Washington are bringing up some dark memories. Can you recall the Saturday Night Massacre, when President Nixon sought to remove a special prosecutor who was examining the Watergate caper? Do you recall he then fired — in succession — the attorney general and his assistant AG who refused to dismiss the independent counsel?

The task then fell to the U.S. solicitor general, a fellow named Robert Bork, who went on to earn his own place in our nation’s history.

Honeymoon for this president? It is officially over.

U.S. remains strong and resilient, despite the chaos

A friend of mine and I were chatting briefly Monday about the state of affairs in Washington after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

“What do you think about how things are going?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know. I’m worried,” I answered.

We chatted about the media relations that the Trump administration seems intent on destroying. “Hey, CNN gave the press guy good marks for his press briefing,” my friend said, “and if CNN says it’s OK, then it must be OK, right?” He clearly was tossing a dig at CNN’s purported “liberal bias.”

He added, “I think we’re going to be just fine.” Oh, yes. I am quite sure my friend voted for Trump.

Then it dawned on me. We’ve been through muc worse than what we’re experiencing now. Nothing, though, quite matches the unique quality of the weirdness taking place as Trump settles into the presidency after two terms of Barack Obama.

Watergate? That was worse and we got through it. World War II? Hey, how does one compare any conflict with that event? We got through that one, too. The Great Depression? We survived and then prospered. The Civil War? Other countries endure such bloodshed and never are the same. We did and went on to continue our march toward international greatness.

I, thus, take a form of perverse comfort in knowing that our system of government is crafted to see us through crises. Do I rank the current transition from one president to another as one of those? Not really.

However, it’s damn weird. I hope our system can make provisions for the strangeness of it all. I’m guessing it will.

‘Tricky Dick’ surely earned his moniker

Political chicanery certainly isn’t a new phenomenon.

Now, though, the world is learning that when it comes to matters of war and peace, not even the prospect of peace that could end years of bloodshed and the loss of thousands of American lives is above the hideous intervention of one prominent politician.

It appears to be confirmed now that President-elect Richard Nixon sought to derail a last-minute peace deal that President Lyndon Johnson sought to broker with North Vietnam near the end of his presidency.

Notes acquired by journalist John Farrell suggest that Nixon’s intervention in those peace talks are far worse than anything the future president would do during the Watergate scandal that forced him to quit his office in August 1974.

According to the New York Times: “In a telephone conversation with H. R. Haldeman, who would go on to become White House chief of staff, Nixon gave instructions that a friendly intermediary should keep ‘working on’ South Vietnamese leaders to persuade them not to agree to a deal before the election, according to the notes, taken by Mr. Haldeman.”

LBJ was seeking to start peace talks that could have brought the fighting to a much earlier end. Nixon, according to Farrell’s upcoming book, didn’t want the Democratic president to succeed and give a boost to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was Nixon’s primary opponent in the 1968 presidential race. To block any possible boost to Humphrey’s campaign, Nixon finagled a way to keep the South Vietnamese away from the peace table until after the election.

Can you say “treason”?


This is so profoundly offensive to learn of this so many years later, I almost don’t know where to begin.

So, I won’t go into too much detail here. I do, though, want to suggest that the moniker “Tricky Dick” now seems more appropriate than ever.

The idea that a president-elect would interfere directly with a sitting president’s initiative to seek an end to warfare that was killing Americans crosses the line with both feet that defines treason.

Nixon campaigned in 1968 on the promise to deliver a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Of course, he wouldn’t tell us that the plan involved derailing his predecessor’s effort and then drag the war effort on for another five years.

The link I attached to this blog post goes into amazing detail about what Farrell discovered at the Nixon presidential library. Take a look at it.

Warning: It might turn your stomach as much as it did mine.