Tag Archives: Watergate

When does POTUS become too much of a ‘distraction’?

You hear it all the time from public officials who get embroiled in public controversy or scandal, if you wish to call it that.

“I don’t want to become a distraction,” they say. “Being such a distraction makes it impossible for me to do my job. Therefore, I resign from this office to make way for public policy to continue without these other side issues swirling around.”

With that, I believe it’s fair to ask: When does a president of the United States of America himself become too much of a “distraction” for his agenda?

Let me say this straight up and straight out: I do not believe Donald J. Trump is going to resign. Nor do I believe he should quit … at least not yet.

A man nominated to join the U.S. Supreme Court testified today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s a huge deal, yes? Then, kaboom! The New York Times publishes an anonymously written op-ed from a senior White House official saying that he or she is part of a team effort to protect the United States from the president’s more dangerous impulses.

This essay comes directly on the heels of a preview of a book, “Fear,” written by The Washington Post legendary Bob Woodward, that speaks to the interminable chaos, confusion and, yes, “fear” within the White House.

How does the president govern with all these, um, “distractions” threatening to swallow him whole.

President Johnson said on March 31, 1968 that he could not put his own political future ahead of the issues troubling the nation; he told the nation that “I will not seek, and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Six years later, President Nixon spoke of distraction, too, as he tendered his resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. He couldn’t govern. He couldn’t move any legislative priorities forward.

What is the threshold? Where does it rest? When do these “distractions” become too much even for a president who calls himself a “stable genius” and a self-proclaimed expert on every issue known to the presidency?

These are questions that well might begin to boil to the top of the public discourse over what we’re witnessing in real time.

Woodward peels bark off Trump White House

I feel quite comfortable making this assertion, which is that Robert Woodward is not some schmuck seeking to make a name for himself.

Oh, no. Woodward is one of the country ‘s most renowned print journalists and he has just published a book that talks about life inside the Donald Trump administration. He made his name by reporting on an earlier presidential scandal, that thing called “Watergate,” which ended with the resignation of the nation’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon.

Woodward’s latest volume is, um, shall we say an unflattering portrait.

The book, “Fear,” talks about how the president referred to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “mentally retarded” and mocked the AG’s southern accent. It references a mock Q&A to prepare for a possible interview with special counsel Robert Mueller and how Trump exploded in anger, calling Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian collusion during the 2016 presidential campaign a “goddamn hoax.”

According to The Washington Post, where Woodward works as an associate editor: A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Also, according to The Post: Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

To think Americans actually elected this guy president of the United States, commander in chief of history’s greatest military machine and the Leader of the Free World.

Oh, the humanity!

I think I now know what I want for Christmas.

Remember the Archibald Cox firing, Mr. President

The buzz around Washington, D.C., is that Donald Trump well might dismiss Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then nominate someone to replace him who will ensure that special counsel Robert Mueller is sent packing.

What can go wrong with that notion? Try this: Let’s remember what happened when an earlier president fired a special prosecutor who was examining the details behind the Watergate break-in.

All hell broke loose, that’s what happened.

President Nixon ordered two attorneys general to fire Archibald Cox. Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus quit rather than do the president’s bidding. The solicitor general, Robert Bork, stepped up and fired Cox.

It got a whole lot worse for Nixon. Allegations of obstruction of justice boiled to the surface. Then came the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

Donald Trump is miffed at Mueller’s investigation into the Russia collusion allegation. The AG, Session, recused himself from the probe. Why? Because he served as a key campaign adviser. He couldn’t investigate himself, so he backed away.

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller, who has proceeded with all due meticulousness in his search for what happened. Trump calls it a “rigged witch hunt,” which it isn’t.

If he fires Sessions and then gets a new AG confirmed — which is no sure thing if the midterm election turns out badly for Republicans — there well could be a serious elevation of impeachment talk against Trump.

Such talk began to boil seriously after Nixon got Cox canned.

History, therefore, well might be ready to repeat itself.

Waiting for GOP heroes to emerge

I am acutely aware that we’re likely still some distance away from determining potential guilt or innocence in the “Russia thing” investigation involving Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

However, I want to ask something out loud: When might there be some Republican “heroes” emerging to tell the president that they’ve had enough of his lying; they have had their fill of the controversy that threatens to swallow the presidency whole?

The Watergate comparisons keep coming forward. President Nixon got ensnared in a coverup of the break-in at the Watergate complex in June 1972. Democrats, quite naturally, were raising a ruckus almost from the beginning. Republicans then remained more or less silent even as evidence of the coverup began to reveal itself.

Then the dam broke. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president had to release tape recordings of White House conversations. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment.

It was then that a delegation of Republican members of Congress trooped to the White House and confronted the president.

It fell to Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Arizona Republican, to tell Nixon that he had no support in the Senate once the House impeached him. He wouldn’t withstand a trial. The president’s list of supporters didn’t include Goldwater, the senator told him.

Nixon resigned shortly thereafter.

Are we heading to that point with Donald Trump? I have no clue.

However, the evidence of a cover-up keeps mounting in this case as well. Moreover, former aides and key advisers are talking openly about a president coming unhinged over the barrage of negative publicity.

And the president is lashing out at what he calls “fake news,” and uses Twitter to hurl bizarre insults at former allies who’ve become foes.

Where are the GOP heroes who are going to say, “Enough is enough”?

We need not get all the way to an impeachment deliberation for those heroes to emerge.

Nixon’s resignation now seems oddly relevant

The 44th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s resignation from office carries an odd poignancy when you consider what is happening in real time — today!

On Aug. 9, 1974, President Nixon handed over his letter of resignation to the secretary of state, walked out of the White House and flew away aboard Marine One. His covering up of the Watergate scandal did him in.

Gerald R. Ford took the presidential oath of office and declared that “our long national nightmare is over.”

I fear we’ve entered into another tempest of nightmarish proportions.

No one knows how the investigation into Donald J. Trump’s difficulty is going to turn out. Special counsel Robert Mueller is deep into his probe of “the Russia thing” and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

The president is acting like a man in trouble. He keeps declaring Mueller’s probe to be a “rigged witch hunt.” Mueller, though, is keeping his head down, his shoulder to the wheel and has clamped down on his legal team to protect against any leaks.

His 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is on trial for money laundering. Mueller has indicted several other key aides to the president. He has obtained guilty pleas from some of them.

What we have on our hands, dear reader, is a monumental mess. The president refuses to keep his mouth shut while Mueller does his job, sounding for all the world as if he has something he doesn’t want revealed … whatever it is.

So it is with a certain sense of dread that we look back 44 years to when another president, Richard Nixon, was given the grim news from his fellow Republicans. It was that he didn’t have enough Senate support to acquit him if an impeachment went to trial. Then it fell to GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona to tell the president he had to quit.

The president followed Sen. Goldwater’s advice. President Ford reminded us that “our Constitution works.” Yes, it did then.

It will work again, no matter what happens with this president.

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.

Will the WH trash Bob Woodward, too?

When Michael Wolff published his book, “Fire and Fury” about the White House in the Donald Trump administration, the White House released a torrent of criticism against the author.

I read the book. I found it mostly credible, but agree that there was evidence of some sloppy reporting and editing.

Now another author, a journalist of tremendous repute, Bob Woodward, is about to release a new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.”

I am wondering if the Trumpsters are going to trash Woodward — the same Bob Woodward who as a Washington Post reporter teamed with Carl Bernstein to chronicle the Watergate scandal — in the manner they did Wolff.

They would do so at their peril.

I look forward to seeing what the legendary journalist has to say.

‘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.

Day of infamy? Maybe, to a degree

Jill Wine-Banks is a partisan Democrat and a lawyer who served on the legal staff of the Senate select committee that examined the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.

She needs, though, to calm down a bit while commenting on Donald Trump’s disgraceful performance at that Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin.

She said to describe the president’s comments about Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election: “His performance today will live in infamy as much as the Pearl Harbor attack or Kristallnacht.”

Whoa, Mme. Counselor. Hold on!

Thousands of American sailors and airmen died at Pearl Harbor. Thousands of European Jews died during Kristallnacht.

No one has died as a result of Donald Trump’s disgraceful comments. I agree that Trump’s disparagement of our intelligence service and his embrace of Putin’s denial of wrongdoing regarding Russian meddling will live in infamy.

However, may we hold back on the hyperbole?