Watergate: The Sequel

As calls for Trump's impeachment or criminal prosecution get louder and louder, some Republicans are defending Trump by distinguishing his case from that of the evil Nixon. Those who are old enough to remember Watergate understand it was a tempest in a teapot. As one liberal commentator at the time pointed out, Nixon made the mistake of challenging the power of the permanent federal bureaucracy and they lynched him. It was the low point of Sam Ervin's career, but he had justifiable concerns about the administration's abuse of power that had nothing to do with the break-in. The rest were childish, self-promoting scum.

I say this as one brought up to hate Nixon and initially happy to see him brought to bay. My father,when I was perhaps ten years old, told me that he had spent an evening drinking with Joe McCarthy. My father was a leftist but he found Joe "an amusing vulgarian." McCarthy disliked Nison and told my father that "if that man ever gets elected President, it will be time to leave this country." Decades later, Nixon told me that the conservatives never liked him but gave him a pass for going after Alger Hiss. So, I begin by celebrating the hearings as a welcome means of eliminating a cynical politician, but, as the proceedings went on and nothing of substance was revealed apart from political tricks his opponents had been pulling on Nixon throughout his career, I came to see him as a low-grade Charles I, a martyr to American constitutional liberty and an example to all who would defy the permanent government.

Now Trump is facing the same kind of jackals.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

5 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    As much as I agree that Watergate, and most other “gates” are much ado about nothing, I will always despise Nixon for having Wallace shot. Instead of the MAR’s getting the real deal, they got a pale imitation who pretended to speak for them, but actually despised them.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Wallace seems to have had strong suspicions, partly based on what Martha Mitchell seems to have told him, but one is not justified in turning a possible theory into a fact on which one can draw further conclusions. If I had to bet real money, I’d back “Yes,” but I don’t know. Nixon’s worst character traits might be read from the kind of people he surrounded himself with: Mitchell, Erlichman, Haldeman, John Dean, Howard Hunt, Gordon Liddy. RN was a principled Machiavellian. The object of his policy was American security and like Macbeth or Richard III, he does not appear to have cared much what happened to those who got in the way. His chief intellectual advisor, Kevin Philipps, was perhaps even more ruthless. But then, if we are going to condemn Richard Nixon or Richard III Plantagenet, it cannot be on the basis of some standard of the good ruler put forward by Plato or St Thomas. They must be compared with competitors, predecessors, successors. Did Richard III do anything his brother Edward or his successor Henry VII would have shrunk from? Was Nixon more ruthless than Johnson–remember what they used to call a Texas suicide?–or Kennedy (who had the Diems murdered) or the Clintons? What distinguishes him from most presidents of my lifetime are, I believe, intelligence, mental clarity, and the ability to think through history as the basis for making decisions in the present..

  3. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming,

    I recall that you have seen the picture of Bremer with Liddy. I’ve seen it too. It seems to have been miraculously scrubbed from the internet. I wish I would have saved it. I also know that Nixon declared war on Wallace and sent dozens of IRS and FBI agents to Alabama to dig up dirt, finding nothing. Perhaps, it’s a leap, but, I am inclined to believe it. It’s about as much evidence as you’ll ever get in cases like this.

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    It’s not much of a leap, but, logically and ethically, it is a conjecture that would not justify action, except, perhaps, to take steps to protect one’s self it such a person were to become an enemy. It was Jack Nelson of the LA Times who found that picture. The war on Wallace was a necessary step for them because Wallace had shown how one could attract blue-collar Democrats. Remind me some time to talk about Serb Hall in Milwaukee.

  5. James D. says:

    Thank you, Dr Fleming. I am interested in hearing about Serb hall. Happy father’s day.