“Watergate just happened to come along at the same time as the demand for honesty in relations between the sexes, in advertising, in ecology, in almost everything. It just stumbled into that great big elephant trap that had already been built for it.” – Walter Cronkite
On August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon resigned rather than face almost certain impeachment and removal from the office of President for his role in the Watergate scandal. I was thirteen years old. He was and continues to be the only U.S. president to resign from office. His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier after being charged with accepting bribes while holding office as a Baltimore County Executive, the Governor of Maryland, and the Vice President. He was replaced by House Minority Leader Gerald Ford who subsequently became the only person to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without being elected to executive office. This was a very messy time for the United States and American politics, but, we survived all the turmoil.
If you have ever read anything about Nixon, by most accounts, he was not a very nice person. Insecure and paranoid are often used to describe his demeanor. And like the boss, Nixon surrounded himself with a pretty nasty crew of advisers and henchmen. Nixon wanted to be loved and there was a large segment of the American population that simply found him unlovable.
I posted the other day that I have Donald Trump fatigue and I am just a little over 100 days into his reign with many more days to come. So since I was just 13 when Nixon resigned and really all I remember about the whole Watergate thing was seeing our North Carolina Senator, Sam Ervin on television seemingly everyday and Nixon on the steps of the helicopter waving peace signs goodbye I asked an older gentleman at my Church if he saw any similarities between then (Nixon) and today (Trump). Just to be fair, full disclosure, this guy did not vote for Trump.
The biggest similarity my friend sees between the Nixon and Trump administrations is a lack of trust by a segment of the population. He remembers the Nixon supporters as a fervent bunch, mostly older, certainly more establishment. He said they didn’t have terms like the “Christian Right” back then but Nixon appealed to the Protestant, family values crowd which was composed of both the working class and the wealthy.
He remembered Nixon doing some good things, ending the Vietnam War and enforcing the desegregation of Southern schools being two he recalled but it never seemed enough for him to build a level of trust with everyone. There was just something about him, the way he looked, the way he talked that didn’t give people a good feeling. I guess in the end those folks were right.
I asked him when all the Watergate stuff was cascading down on the heads of the American people was there a sense that the world was going to end? No, he said. People weren’t happy that all the time, energy and money was being spent to unravel the Watergate mess, but strong leaders emerged, he mentioned Sam Ervin, who gave people confidence that this wouldn’t simply become a pissing match between the Republicans and the Democrats and get swept under the rug.
It is hard to know at this point if Watergate and Russiagate are on par with each other. From our Presidents standpoint Russiagate is simply a figment of the Democrats imagination. But the battle lines have been drawn to discover or coverup the truth and at this point, given the Senate hearing I watched yesterday with FBI Director Comey, the line simply dissects the two political parties.
This has all the makings of a very slow and very expensive process. It would easy to envision two or three years passing and we not know anymore than we know right now because of party interference. Hopefully strong leadership, from both sides, will rise to the occasion and discover the truth, whatever that truth may be. Right now it is just a dance, a dance of would, should and could. I hope we all are wearing comfortable shoes.
“Even Napoleon had his Watergate.” – Yogi Berra