Tag Archives: Watergate

Optimism being tested

My eternal optimism is being put to the strongest test in my life’s history … as I watch this political drama play itself out.

Our nation’s constitutional framework is being tested mightily by forces loyal to an individual who declares his intention to be his followers’ “retribution.” How might he do that? By suspending — and these are his own thoughts — constitutional authority if only for a day were he elected to the presidency of the U.S.A.

I long have held firm to the notion that President Ford was right when he took office in August 1974 after President Nixon resigned. “Our Constitution works,” the new president reminded us … and it does.

It’s facing an entirely new set of challenges these days. What I find most remarkable is that the idiot who is challenging the Constitution is doing so with the blessing of the blind cultists who follow him. I will never subscribe to the notion that these followers comprise a majority of Americans. They are a minority, but dammit, they are vocal. Their vocal cheering of the trash that pours forth from their hero only empowers him.

My sense of optimism, therefore, is being tested like never before.

But you know what? I am not going to give in the idiotic belief that enough Americans are stupid and simple-minded enough to elect this fraud to high office.

We are a great country and most of those of us who are willing to cast our ballots for POTUS know the difference between who we are and who we could become … if we make the wrong choice.

End of era: end of division

We all know this about this so-called Era of Donald Trump: It will end eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.

When it does, it is my sincere hope to see friendships rekindled and rebuilt, even among family members who have split between two camps: the MAGA cult and the Never Trumpers.

I lo.ng ago lost count of the number of times people have told me how they avoid certain friends or family members because of their political differences. Specifically, these friends of mine tell me it has to do with their loyalty to Trump.

“I just can’t stand to be around them,” these folks say with more than a slight air of frustration and sadness. To be truthful, I don’t hang out with the MAGA cultists, so I generally only have heard from the anti-Trump side. So, forgive me for not having a more complete picture of the great divide that has split the nation.

This divide among friends and family is worse than anything I’ve ever witnessed in real time. I am 73 years of age. I came of age during the Vietnam War. I went there for a time to serve my country. There were those in families who supported the war and those who opposed it. I do not recall ever discussing with anyone whether they should talk to their family members because of policy differences relating to the war.

Not long after Vietnam came Watergate. A team of numbskull burglars got caught breaking into the Democratic Party’s office complex in DC. Then came the coverup. President Nixon abused the power of his office to obstruct justice. He was on the road to impeachment when he resigned the presidency in 1974. Again, do I recall family members becoming estranged over that? No.

You are free to correct me if you experienced such a thing. I merely am saying I did not see it first hand.

This time it’s different. A former president has been indicted twice for crimes. The House of Reps impeached him twice, only to see that effort fail to obtain a conviction because of a lack of courage in the U.S. Senate.

And there has been plenty of wreckage spread along the way, even as Trump has sought to overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election.

When the Trump Era ends is anyone’s guess. It could end with the Republican Party primary season in 2024. It could end with a conviction perhaps at the end of this year on one of those indictments. It could end with — dare I say it? — Trump’s demise.

I just know it will end eventually. I hope the damage this demagogue has inflicted on families and friendships isn’t permanent.


Pollyanna? No, an idealist

One of the harshest criticisms I have received over many decades offering commentary on issues of the day came from a colleague of mine.

He called me a “Pollyanna.” I cannot remember the specific issue that prompted the dig, but it likely had something to do with the political climate of the time and my wish for a return to a kinder time. I guess my critic/friend didn’t ascribe to the same ideals as I did then … and still do today.

I might invite the Pollyanna brickbat once again by declaring that no matter how desperate the current environment appears, I am going to rely on my faith in the U.S. Constitution … yeah, the same Constitution that Donald Trump said we should suspend.

For starters, the Constitution is far stronger and more durable than the insane rants of a disgraced politician. Moreover, we have been through many crises that rival or even exceed the current tempest brewing over efforts to reject election results, or return Trump to the White House.

We endured two world wars, and in the past 75 years two other wars — in Korea and Vietnam — that tore at our fabric. We went to war in the Middle East, prompting yet another crisis of confidence.

We have endured presidential assassinations dating back to President Lincoln’s murder in 1865, presidential scandals — one of which forced a president to resign — the Great Depression and a Civil War.

What has been the common denominator, the one political structure that survived? The U.S. Constitution. It has held the nation together, albeit while showing plenty of wear and tear around the edges.

It will continue to hold us together. No matter how hard the MAGA cultists/traitors seek to undermine it, the Constitution will endure. So will our democratic republic … and so will the electoral process that is taking its share of heavy hits from those who have declared war on our founding document.

This is not the feel-good wish of a Pollyanna. It is the assertion of an old man, a veteran who went to war for his country and a patriot who remains committed to the glorious idealism that our nation’s founders envisioned.


Fifty years ago … everything changed!

I cannot believe it’s been 50 years — to the day — that a group of burglars broke into an office building, got caught rifling through files and then in the course of an investigation became part of a history-making constitutional crisis.

The term “Watergate” became part of our vernacular. Who would have thought it in real time?

On June 17, 1972, the dipsh**s hired by the Republican National Committee thought they would steal some files belonging to the Democratic National Committee. It was reported initially as a burglary; the Washington Post put the story deep inside its next-day edition.

Then a couple of reporters — Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — began hearing whispers about who was behind the burglary. They told their editors that the story smelled fishy. They sought to get to the truth.

Oh, brother, did they ever find it!

They trooped down many blind alleys. That’s what happens to the most intrepid reporters. Bernstein and Woodward were two of the best. They persisted and eventually uncovered a coverup that would bring down a president, who resigned because he had abused the power of his office to prevent the truth from getting out.

Watergate has become almost a synonym for political misdeeds. How often do we see the “gate” suffix attached to scandals? To my mind, Watergate stands alone.

Woodward and Bernstein personified the very best of investigative journalism. They sought to hold those in power accountable for the mischief they committed. They succeeded famously.


When the break-in occurred, I was a freshly scrubbed college student. I was newly married. I had just returned from a tour of duty in the Army. I wanted to be a journalist.

Woodward and Bernstein taught us in real time the value they bring to their craft. They made a difference. I was among thousands of other journalism students who also wanted to make a difference.

These men personified the best of a noble craft.

Fifty years is a lifetime. My own career surely didn’t produce the notoriety that showered Woodward and Bernstein. They spurred me to stay the course over many years in print journalism.

For that I am eternally grateful.


‘Insurrection’ growing many legs

The past may be taking the shape of a prologue to an unfolding saga that is far from reaching its conclusion.

Watergate began in June 1972 when some goons were caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters in D.C. One thing led to another, and another, and another.

We learned about a coverup and the enormous abuse of power that came from the Oval Office.

It ended with the resignation of President Nixon more than two years later.

Fast-forward to 2020. Donald Trump lost an election. He refused to concede to Joe Biden, who beat him. He stood before a crowd on the Ellipse and told them to “march on the Capitol.” They did and all hell broke loose.

They launched an attack on our democratic form of government, as Congress was meeting on that day to certify the results of the election.

Now we hear about text messages, emails, pleas from family members for Trump to intervene; he didn’t do a thing to stop the riot. We also hear that members of Congress, Trump’s fellow Republicans, were warned against committing violence. The House GOP leader said he would tell Trump to resign; he then denied saying such a thing, only to be shown as a liar.

The 1/6 insurrection is growing more legs, just as the burglary 50 years ago grew them. Indeed, the past may well be prologue.


‘Worse than Watergate’

Carl Bernstein knows an existential threat to American democracy when he sees it, given that he had a front-row seat at one of the worst threats ever imagined, the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.

However, he said that the Donald Trump unraveling is worse than Watergate because this crisis lacks something that Watergate contained: heroes among Republicans who told the president, Richard Nixon, that he couldn’t survive an impeachment and a Senate trial. Thus, Nixon quit the office and headed off into the sunset of oblivion.

Donald Trump isn’t facing that kind of threat from within his party, the same party of Richard Nixon.

Carl Bernstein Says Trump Investigation is “Far Worse Than Watergate” | The View – YouTube

Bernstein and his Washington Post colleague Robert Woodward covered the Watergate scandal as it unfolded in late 1972, into 1973 and ended with President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. Bernstein and Woodward became journalism legends and their work stands forever as the definition of investigative reporting.

I have to agree with Bernstein, that Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law, on our democratic process, on the nation’s cherished electoral system presents a greater threat to the nation than a “third-rate burglary” that devolved into a coverup and an abuse of presidential power that drove a president from the pinnacle of power.

We need answers to the 1/6 insurrection and we need to take measures to prevent a tragic recurrence.


He put us in ‘Peril’

The older I get the harder it becomes for me to sit down with a book and read it from front to back non-stop. Yep, even those so-called page-turners.

That all said and understood (I presume), I ordered a new non-fiction piece of work that well could go down as a landmark historical document of the final days of the 45th president’s term in office. It’s titled “Peril,” co-written by a walking-talking journalistic legend, Bob Woodward, and an up-and-comer, Robert Costa.

They are telling the world a story about the imminent peril that the 45th POTUS put the nation through while he continued to fight the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Joe Biden won fairly, squarely, legally and any other way you want to describe it.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley called his Chinese counterpart to assure him he would be alerted ahead of a possible attack by the United States, Woodward and Costa tell us. They also related how then-Vice President Mike Pence talked with one of his VP predecessors, fellow Indianan Dan Quayle, about how he (Pence) could overturn the results of the election; Quayle told Pence to “give it up,” that he had no choice but to obey the Constitution and certify the results on Jan. 6.

I want to know more. I trust Woodward implicitly to get it right. I mean, he and his former Washington Post college Carl Bernstein wrote the book on political investigative journalism (no pun intended) during the Watergate crisis of the 1970s.

This is good stuff. I might be too old to read a good book in one sitting. I am damn sure not too old to learn more about how vulnerable our democratic institutions can become when we put a charlatan in charge of our nation’s executive government branch.


Worse than Watergate!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The toxic presidency brought to us by the 45th POTUS has been shoved into the dust bin, but its legacy lives on.

I fear it will be with us for a good while. Although I will pray to God in heaven it won’t last forever. If the Good Lord is listening, he will consign it to that place where no one dare venture.

The 45th POTUS’s legacy will be a presidency that became engulfed in a scandal that far eclipses Watergate, that other great constitutional crisis that enveloped the nation nearly 50 years ago.

On Aug. 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon told the nation he would resign the office effective at noon the next day. Vice President Gerald Ford — who took office the previous year when the previous VP resigned in another scandal — would take the reins of government; President Ford became the first man to hold the office without ever being elected POTUS or VPOTUS.

The 45th POTUS — whose name I refused to publish on this blog — was a disgrace to the office from the moment he took his hand off the Bible while taking the oath. He got impeached twice by the House of Representatives; yes, he dodged expulsion because Senate Republicans refused to convict him of the crimes he committed.

As bad as his term as POTUS was, the worst would come after he lost his bid for re-election. He incited an insurrection against the government on 1/6, the day it set aside to certify the 2020 election result. He instigated a riot by terrorists, plowing asunder the notion of a “peaceful presidential transition.”

He has continued to foment The Big Lie about the election being stolen. We are seeing reports now about an alleged “coup attempt” promoted by the power-hungry POTUS. The former Insurrectionist in Chief’s company has been indicted by a district attorney’s office. There might be more indictments to come … involving the head of the company (the ex-POTUS) himself.

All of this adds up to a legacy that — as my memory serves  to remind me — makes Watergate look almost tame by comparison. It wasn’t tame as it was unfolding. Nearly five decades later, Watergate has a different feel and look to it juxtaposed to what continues to unfold with regard to the most recent former POTUS.

My fervent desire now is for President Biden to continue to strengthen his grip on the presidency and deliver us all from the wreckage that his predecessor has left behind.

What did POTUS know and when did he know it?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The ghost of a great Republican U.S. senator has been revived in the closing hours of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

Howard Baker of Tennessee once asked witnesses appearing before the Senate Watergate Committee: What did President Nixon know and when did he know it? What did the president know about the break-in at the Democratic Party offices, the coverup and all that followed that infamous scandal of 1973-74? We found out. Nixon resigned. The rest is history.

Now comes the latest iteration of that query. What did Donald Trump know about the danger facing Vice President Mike Pence during the Jan. 6 riot at Capitol Hill and when did he know it? Trump’s lawyers say he didn’t know anything. Two GOP lawmakers — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Tommy Tuberville — say something quite different. They told Trump that Pence was in trouble and that the mob was looking for the VP as he sought to do his constitutional duty of certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

Trump didn’t respond. He didn’t express concern about Pence’s well-being. He did nothing to quell the violence.

Will any of this change minds? Hardly. Still, I am intrigued by the channeling of a long-departed political icon — Sen. Baker — into this current bit of drama.

Get ready for the losers’ mantra

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let us steel ourselves for what I am certain is going to be an incessant drumbeat from those whose candidate for the presidency in 2020 lost the election … by a lot!

It will go something like this: more than 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump and our voices deserve to be heard; and voices are going to insist that Joe Biden “stole” the election from our guy.

OK. How does one counter such an argument?

I’ll start by reminding anyone who tosses it at me that President-elect Biden garnered more than 81 million votes. He won with a 51.5 percent majority. Biden collected 7 million more votes than Trump. Biden carried 26 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.

I encourage those Trumpkins out there to spare me the argument that for the past four years, many of the anti-Trump forces reminded everyone that in 2016 Hillary Rodham Clinton won more votes than Trump. I have noted that fact on this blog. I have acknowledged — often in the very next sentence — that Trump won where it counted: in the Electoral College. I know what the U.S. Constitution sets out for the election of a president; I honor it and accept that Trump was elected under the rules set forth by our nation’s founders.

So, the Hillary-won-more-votes-than-Trump argument doesn’t hold up. Nor does it matter one damn bit. The issue today is that President-elect Biden won more actual votes than Trump, he captured more than enough electoral votes than Trump and that every bogus legal challenge that Trump has mounted to overturn the results have been tossed out by every court that has heard them. That includes the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mantra will continue at least for the next four years as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris seek to repair the damage that Donald Trump inflicted on our democratic process.

I will wait for the bumper stickers to appear as well, although I am not sure how you distill the message of discontent onto a foot-long piece of paper plastered onto a motor vehicle bumper.

Speaking of that, my favorite post-election bumper sticker appeared in the 1970s, about the time President Nixon was being swallowed whole by the Watergate scandal. You’ll recall that Nixon won re-election in 1972 in a historic 49-state landslide. Public opinion turned against the embattled president. Then came the bumper sticker that read: Don’t Blame Me — I’m From Massachusetts … the only state that cast most of its votes in 1972 for George McGovern.

That was then. The here and now presents a whole new set of challenges. One of them likely will be hearing from the losers that their guy didn’t actually lose.

Yeah. He did.