Tag Archives: Watergate

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

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.

Waiting for GOP ‘heroes’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein has said that the real “heroes” of the Watergate scandal were the Republicans in Congress who stood up to President Nixon and told him he needed to resign.

Nixon didn’t have the support in Congress to withstand an impeachment accusing him of abuse of power and covering up the scandal that began in 1972 with a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Leaders of the GOP congressional caucus delivered the news to the president.

Looking now at another Republican president seeking to undermine the democratic process that is about to elect Joe Biden as president, one has to wonder if there any GOP heroes left to stand up to Trump.

I fear there are none. I fear they won’t tell Trump to give up a futile and unpatriotic fight that seeks to undermine a free and fair election. I could be wrong; indeed, I am wrong way more than I am right on most matters.

I just want to see and hear a “hero” emerge as they did in 1974 when an earlier president faced certain political doom. Donald Trump’s time as president now appears doomed as well, as Joe Biden inches closer to an Electoral College victory.

Instead we are hearing Trump issue ridiculous and defamatory accusations of conspiracies and “illegal” votes being cast.

Waiting for the heroes to emerge. Are they out there? Anywhere?

‘Rage’ ends with … rage

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Bob Woodward crossed a line that reporters don’t usually dare to cross. He delivered a stinging rebuke of the subject of a book he has just written.

“Rage” chronicles Donald Trump’s deception — among other things — regarding the pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. We hear from Trump’s own voice how he “downplayed” the pandemic so as to avoid “panic” among Americans. He undersold the threat even though he knew it would be a killer of many thousands of Americans.

Woodward, the legendary Washington Post reporter who, with Carl Bernstein, unraveled the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, couldn’t resist the temptation to offer a scathing indictment on Donald Trump at the very end of “Rage.”

“When his performance as president is taken in its entirety,” he intones, “I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

OK. I happen to agree with him. So do millions of other Americans. To be fair, millions of other Americans believe Trump is the greatest president in history. I believe those folks are tragically mistaken.

Do I condemn or condone what Woodward wrote at the end of his latest book. I will condone it, but with a caveat: He no longer can be assigned to work on any aspect of a future story on Donald Trump being reported by the Washington Post.

Woodward said he consulted with his wife, Elsa, who edited his work. He talked to other editors, book publishers, colleagues at the Post. They all agreed that he had to keep that ending in the book.

Woodward told the truth as I have known it all along about Donald John Trump.

Trump is all the ‘Rage’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Robert Woodward practically needs no introduction.

He is a legendary journalist who, with the equally legendary Carl Bernstein, produced a body of work that resulted in the near impeachment and resignation on an American president.

So now he has sat down with Donald Trump and is about to release a new book called “Rage.” What did Trump tell Woodward … to his face? Oh, just that he knew in February that the coronavirus pandemic was serious and could kill thousands of people but that he kept that information from the public.

Trump told Woodward, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

OK, there you go. Donald Trump took an oath to protect Americans. He has admitted to Robert Woodward that he welshed on that promise. On purpose!

How in the world is Trump going to defend this once the book is published? Oh, I know. He’ll say Woodward made the quotes up, that he never said it and that the legendary journalist is a practitioner of “fake news.”

To think as well that millions of Americans will buy into the president’s ridiculous denial!