Ironic, isn’t it? The current owners of the Watergate Hotel in Washington also own Opryland in Nashville. Want to book a room? Well, you can’t. The Watergate is closed for renovation. Maybe after 40 years, the ‘billies have figured out a way to renovate the stink of the California Hillbilly Nixon out of the place.
Sunday, June 17. 1972: Nixon’s henchmen rented a couple of rooms as headquarters from which they burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Office Building next door. That gave us our first presidential resignation and changed the language. Shorthand for any scandal since has been a name, followed by a hyphen, followed by the word “gate.”
So, 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday. The Dems moved out to a more secure location. The HoJo across the street is a college dorm. Most of the principal characters in this tragicomedy have died. But we still have Woodward and Bernstein, the two young reporters who first printed news of the scandal in the Washington Post (back when it was a real newspaper,) and rode the story to lifetime careers.
Recently they joined by-lines for the first time since those days to write a Washpost story declaring the conventional wisdom -- the coverup was worse than the break-in -- is wrong.
It’s Woodstein who’s wrong. The coverup is what did El Tricko in. And it wasn’t just the Post that should get the credit. It’s the wire services, The Associated Press and United Press International. Without them, your local paper wouldn’t have been able to keep you informed.
Our MTV attention span prevents us from remembering the nature of this crisis. It’s ancient history to today’s students of... ancient history. You know: first there were the dinosaurs, then Fred Flintstone, then George Washington, then Nixon.
What we learned from this was next to nothing. Nixon -- regardless of what else he was was President of the United States. And he could have put a stop to the nonsense in a heartbeat. All he had to do was get up there, tell the truth and fire the felons. That would have been the end of it, other than in the fringe media of the time which unlike today had no clout and amounted to little.
There would be no disclosure of secret tapes, no downfall of top aides like Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Bit players like G. Gordon Liddy would be sweeping instead of talking on the radio. Chuck Colson would never have to had found Jesus and inflict himself on the public. UPI’s Helen Thomas would never have been in a position where she disgraced herself and her profession. And Nixon would have served his term and vanished into the oblivion of ex-presidents like Fillmore, Pierce, Harding and Carter.
You’d think they’d stop covering up stuff. But, no.
Monica-gate, Trooper-gate, Billy-gate, Stripper-gate. And coming soon to a New Jersey location near you Halfway House-gate.
“Sandusky-gate” is bound to make an appearance once people find that coverup.
The operating principle behind all of these gates is “I didn’t do anything wrong. The law doesn’t apply to me and neither do your rules of ethics.”
And how many guys since Nixon have used the line “Make no mistake, I AM the President”?
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2012