Maybe we should hold off on the Nixon comparisons until we can use the words “slush fund” to describe an actual fact.
And words like Haldeman, Erlichman, Mitchell, Charles Colson, and G. Gordon Liddy.
What’s funny about Republicans’ touting their various ginned up “scandals” as “worse than Watergate and Iran Contra”---funny as in hypocritical assholes!---is that most of them don’t believe those crimes involved any wrongdoing on the parts of Presidents Nixon and Reagan and all their men. They still think Oliver North is a hero and that Reagan was right to try to fund the Contras and support the Death Squads. They still think Nixon was railroaded and he and his gang of crooks, bagmen, burglars, thugs, political saboteurs, extortionists, spies, goons, and at least one very enthusiastic would-be murderer and assassin were guilty of nothing but playing political hardball the same way as the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson played it.
“Watergate” and “Iran Contra” are just words to them, and to Right Wingers words have no real meaning they feel bound to respect. Words are only useful noises, valuable in how well they make sounds that express emotions they want to exploit at the moment. They use the words because know they rile people up and send the Press Corps into a tizzy.
Journalists and pundits who should know better are tossing around Nixon references and comparisons too. But it’s well established that while the members of the national press corps should know better, too many can’t be bothered to. They have little knowledge of history and almost no interest in it except when they can think of something they sort of vaguely remember from their college history class that seems to prove a point about the present moment, a point they are determined to make no matter the evidence, a point they will continue to make even after it’s shown to them by historians and people who were actually there that the historical evidence proves that point is garbage.
They like the Nixon references because they’re easy, they make them feel like their onto something big, and if they keep making them maybe they’ll turn out to be true and then they’ll get to cover a Big Story full of gossip and scandal, with winners and losers, revelations, accusations, colorful characters, and no boring stuff like policy.
But even some actually smart journalists and pundits and bloggers, who not only should know better but do know better, liberals even!, have been happily conjuring the ghost of Tricky Dick.
I have no idea what’s got into them or what they think they’re thinking. They aren’t really thinking about Nixon and Watergate, that’s for sure. All I can figure is they’re trying to show that their political morality isn’t purely partisan and they are as ready to come down on President Obama as they were (or would have been had they been old enough) to come down on Nixon.
But using to Nixon and Watergate references to demonstrate how seriously they’re taking it all---the IRS mess, the spying on AP, which are things to take very seriously---they’re accidentally trivializing what Nixon did, reducing Watergate to some illegal wiretapping and auditing of a few political enemies’ taxes and the delivery of pizzas that were never ordered, apparently forgetting there was that little matter of a third rate burglary, definitely forgetting that Nixon’s men did more than spy on some journalists. They plotted the murder of one.
It’s been said a gazillion times since 1974 that it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. A fatuous observation in that covering up a crime is a crime and it usually involves the committing of more crimes. But also in the case of Watergate, the cover-up and the crimes were inseparable. What’s more, the reason the cover-up brought Nixon down was that the crimes he committed to cover up his other crimes put him under the jurisdiction of Congress and the federal courts and they got at him first. If Gerald Ford hadn’t pardoned him, various law enforcement agencies would have had their turn and he’d have faced criminal charges in a criminal court where he’d have almost certainly been found guilty---he’d have been a convicted criminal, and then there’d be no confusion in the matter, except the confusion deliberately caused by Republicans trying to defend him and excuse what he did prefatory to accusing Democrats of having done worse.
“Watergate” is an umbrella name for a wide-ranging, years-long criminal enterprise run out of the White House by Richard Nixon.
The answer to the questions “What did the President know and when did he know it” are “Everything” and “Right from the start, because it was his idea. He started it and he directed it from beginning to end.”
Watergate was an expression of Nixon’s personality: Paranoid, riven by insecurity, driven by resentments, hatreds, angers, and fear, contemptuous of everyone who wasn’t Richard Nixon, jealous, envious, covetous, vain, far too confident in his own abilities and intelligence except when he wasn’t at all confident, paralyzed and undermined by fits of self-doubt and self-loathing, and finally self-destructive.
To call President Obama and what you think he might have done or are afraid he might have done or hope he might have done Nixonian is to say that Barack Obama is like Richard Nixon in temperament, personality, motivation, and desire.
I don’t see it.
Robert Kennedy Jr. has a very good memory of Watergate and an understanding of Nixon that comes from being the son and nephew of three men Richard Nixon hated---it can be argued that Watergate was all about getting Ted Kennedy. He’s written a detailed piece for OpEdNews laying it out, Obama and Nixon: A Historical Perspective.
Someone you’d think would know better, simply by virtue of having become famous for breaking the story, apparently doesn’t. But then Bob Woodward has spent the better part of the last forty years proving that it was all Carl Bernstein. At TPM: Bob Woodward Compares Benghazi to Watergate.