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Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.

Richard Nixon resigned from the office of the presidency of the United States, 38 years ago on 9 August 1974. Earlier in his second term the vice president, Spiro Agnew, had returned.

Since the loss of a politician of the stature of Richard Nixon is much regretted, this segment of his resignation speech gives the tenor of his rectitude, or more cynically the gap between rhetoric and reality:

Leaks are a way of life in Washington circles; their purpose and motive are self-evident and self-serving. Onetime Nixon presidential counsel Leonard Garment regularly talked with media people to reveal forthcoming potentially explosive news, hoping to defuse it. Sam Dash, the Watergate Select Committee counsel, once remarked: “Leak? I leaked all the time”—to advance his committee’s work.

Watergate was “done” by many: Judge John Sirica, the District of Columbia U.S. attorney, Sen. Sam Ervin and his colleagues, administration and campaign officials who testified, the Watergate special prosecutor force, the bipartisan House impeachment inquiry, a unanimous Supreme Court and, of course, the tapes of Richard Nixon.

Indeed that may be true for Washington, Canberra, or elsewhere, although the news cycle and the top of the mind issues still galvanize attention, although the case against Nixon had become undeniable.

The occasion is the article in The Washington Post by Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worst than we thought. The authors, the original investigative reports suggest a historical perspective, one that is critical of “Tricky Dicky” but without reflection on the current state of American politics.  They write:

Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: “Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”

History proved that it was anything but. Two years later, Richard Nixon would become the first and only U.S. president to resign, his role in the criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice — the Watergate coverup — definitively established.

Another answer has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the coverup was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions.

Ervin’s answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: “To destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the President of the United States is nominated and elected.” Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.

Woodward and Bernstein conclude the article with the following observations, which markedly contrast with Nixon’s resignation speech:

Nixon had lost his moral authority as president. His secret tapes — and what they reveal — will probably be his most lasting legacy. On them, he is heard talking almost endlessly about what would be good for him, his place in history and, above all, his grudges, animosities and schemes for revenge. The dog that never seems to bark is any discussion of what is good and necessary for the well-being of the nation.

The Watergate that we wrote about in The Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forced to resign, Nixon had turned his White House, to a remarkable extent, into a criminal enterprise.

On the day he left, Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon gave an emotional farewell speech in the East Room to his staff, his friends and his Cabinet. His family stood with him. Near the end of his remarks, he waved his arm, as if to highlight the most important thing he had to say.

“Always remember,” he said, “others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

I would have expected that after 40 years since the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters by the “third rate burglars”, everything about the instant would be on the public record, and fully reported by the investigative reporters on the case. Such is history that newspapers record it, but perhaps do not write it. Lamar Waldron has just written,”Watergate- the hidden history”. He discusses his book with Thom Hartmann:

Part One:

Part Two:

If Nixon was a crook, then the opportunities for corruption with in the unaccounted influx of money from the political action committees is greater. Then it can be concluded if the watchdogs of democracy were unable to detect the larger picture of what was happening then, it is unlikely they will do so now. So perhaps indignant outrage is the best option.

Stanley Kutler, Journalism was only a bit player in exposing Watergate, observes at Truthdig:




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