- Into the Way Back Machine.
- On May 17, 1973 the U.S. Senate convened a series of hearings to look into the matter of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC.
- Forty-nine years ago. Almost a half century.
- For most Americans “Watergate” is best known as having provided the suffix “-gate” to any scandal that comes out of Washington.
- For those who may not be baby boomers, Watergate has the same emotional impact as Teapot Dome had to me.
- Those of us who are old enough to remember what the Watergate scandal was all about, probably spent day after day (or, in my case night after night) as the Senate Watergate Committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC) held its hearings.
- The senior Republican on the Committee was Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee.
- The break-in was called a “3rd rate burglary” by President Richard Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler.
- He wasn’t wrong. But, it exposed a pattern of behavior by Nixon and those around him which shocked even Republicans. Maybe it shocked Republicans more than Democrats because Dems always thought Nixon was a crook.
- One of the major turning points in the hearings occurred when Minority Counsel, Fred Thompson (yes, that Fred Thompson) asked deputy assistant to the President Alexander Butterfield a crucial question;
- “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?”
- “I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.”
- There were tapes. There were tapes of meetings in the Oval. There were tapes of meetings in the Oval with Richard Nixon’s voice plotting the coverup of that 3rd rate burglary.
- In the end it was the tape of Nixon and chief of staff H.R. Haldeman plotting to get the CIA to tell the FBI to back off because it was a matter of national security.
- Nixon didn’t give the tapes up easily. It took the Supreme Court to order the White House to turn over the tapes for the damage to be done.
- Someone said after it was over that Nixon should have taken those tapes out to the South Lawn and lit them on fire.
- Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 and was immediately replaced by Vice President Gerald Ford.
- Ford issued Nixon a blanket pardon which (a) was likely part of the deal for Nixon to resign, and (b) probably allowed Jimmy Carter to defeat Ford in the election of 1976.
- Before Social Media was even a phrase, someone published a parody song that began, “I beg your pardon. The one you promised in the Rose Garden.”
- Some 40 people were indicted and/or jailed as the result of Watergate – almost all of them for obstruction of justice. Only eight people had been caught in the DNC headquarters.
- The United States House Committee on the January 6th Attack convened its “Watergate” style hearings on Thursday night.
- I told someone that the opening night of the hearings (which Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has suggested will go on for weeks) will not likely draw Super Bowl level eyes, but will likely remind people of what was at stake on January 6 – not just a 3rd rate riot, but an actual attempt to subvert the Constitution and via a violent coup install Donald Trump as the American dictator.
- Vice Chair Liz Cheney, more than Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), took on the role of lead counsel, laying out the case against Trump. Clips from depositions by former Attorney General Bill Barr and even Ivanka Trump saying they didn’t believe there was outcome-changing fraud in the election of 2020.
- A clip of Mike Pence speaking to the legal conservative organization the Federalist Society saying that the President was wrong in trying to get Pence to overturn the election. “I had no right to overturn the results of the election,”, Pence said. “The election belongs to the people.”
- Watergate was about one man, Richard Nixon, who tried to bend the levers of government to his will. The January 6th Committee hearings are about one man, Donald Trump, who attempted to destroy and abolish the Constitution to retain and increase the already awesome power of the office of President of the United States.
See you next week.