Kablang! Strobe Flash!
No, it’s a New York Times OpEd piece entitled “The Myth of Watergate Bipartisanship.” [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/opinion/watergate-republican-party.html]
Occasionally, one comes across a revelation that produces the sensation of being gobsmacked, literally astounded, in Brit speak. Often, the experience is related to a long-held or long-promoted canard, accepted as an urban legend except that it is held as truth. And then that truth is questioned. Truth has been assailed recently by some, including a former mayor of NYC who asserted, “Truth is not truth.” And, when truth is not truth, it could be fake news. Or worse, it could be truth that is difficult to accept. Urban legends and folklore are comforting as representations of our views, often of historical or cultural events that offer a certain consistency with our own or other shared values.
Often, contemporary discussion of or reference to presidential impeachment draws comparisons to that of Richard Nixon’s Watergate era. Equally often, the talking heads or opinion writers will also bloviate about the absence of criticism of the sitting President by members of his party, appalled by their nonchalance as well as their concerted efforts to frustrate the Mueller investigation. Tweet storms raging about “witch hunt,” crooked FBI agents and investigations, and repetitive chants of “no collusion” abound.
Where, these commentators query, is the bipartisanship that existed in the Watergate matter? The OpEd piece, using a 2 by 4 to create the gobsmack effect, holds:
…When these critics refer back to the Watergate era as a time of bipartisan commitment to the rule of law over politics, they get it exactly wrong. Defending the president at all costs, blaming investigators and demonizing journalists was all part of the Republican playbook….
The OpEd was written by Michael Conway and Jon Marshall; the former was counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment inquiry of President Nixon—so he was there; the latter is an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Shocking as Captain Renault’s discovery of gambling at Rick’s Café American in Casablanca. Having constructed an entire political worldview of Democrats and Republicans in kumbaya euphoria, determined to dispense justice and fairness, the OpEd’s peeling of the onion was traumatic. It was a gasp to learn that Gerald Ford, House Republican leader at the time, decried the initiation of the Watergate investigation as a “political witch hunt” and defended the White House practice of taping conversations.
Bob Dole accused the defeated George McGovern of mounting a media campaign of mudslinging against Nixon. Sound familiar? Even when the secret tapes were released revealing Nixon’s participation in scheming with aides in the cover-up, party stalwarts stubbornly rejected the evidence and voted against articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee. When SCOTUS ordered release of more tapes that demonstrated Nixon had directed a cover-up, the Republican leadership recognized that the battle was lost.
Three congressional party leaders visited the President to advise him that the Senate would likely convict on the articles of impeachment on obstruction of justice. His resignation occurred the next evening.
As postscript, recent coverage of the Watergate hearings has clarified that Sen. Howard Baker’s famous “What did the President know and when did he know it?” was not uttered in suspicion but in defense of Nixon. Kalang! Gobsmack!
Now, the truth is known, or should it be said that history has been revisited, and the Watergate bipartisanship has been shown to be an illusion. The strum of “no collusion” seeks to dull the recognition and perception of bystanders as the failure of commentators to recall history accurately. In the matter of Russiagate, will the outcome of the Mueller investigation be accepted? Another Kablang, another gobsmack?