Happy 30th anniversary Watergate buffs!
Like all the preceding anniversaries of the Watergate break-in the big questions posed by the mainstream press are the old reliables:
“What are the lessons of Watergate?”
And of course, “Who was Deep Throat?”
First lets us note the irony that the real Deep Throat, Linda Lovelace died on April 14th.
In the parlance of the conspiracy buff, is it coincidence or conspiracy that April 14th is the date of the dearly departed Trick Nixon’s demise?
The best answer to the “lesson of Watergate” question was provided by Noam Chomsky who, by the way, wrote the best article which appeared in the best book (a collection of essays) on the Watergate scandal, aptly titled “Big Brother and the Holding Company.”
The lesson of Watergate, Chomsky noted, was that its perfectly fine in this country to use Gestapo tactics on those outside the mainstream of US politics, especially the political left: but to use fascistic tactics against one’s peers in the power structure is to court banishment.
And so Nixon’s fall from grace and power as CEO of the US empire transpired not because all of a sudden we realized Nixon was a criminal. As Chomsky further noted, Nixon–and Kissinger– were demonstrably two of the biggest criminals of the 20th century.
Nixon’s crime was he attacked fellow power brokers, DNC chief Larry O’Brien and Ted Kennedy and the Washington Post.
Crimes such as the secret bombing of Laos or Cambodia and the railroading of activists such as Vietnam veterans like the Gainesville 8’s Scott Camille were briefly noted and/or ignored.
Indeed, the U.S. House impeachment committee ruled out the bombing of Cambodia as one of the articles of impeachment.
Another lesson of Watergate is that it literally takes a “smoking gun” i.e., tape to convict or impeach a US president (the Clinton exception noted) no matter how transparent the criminal behavior.
Ronald Reagan, for example, bragged to a grand jury that the Iran-contra was “my idea to begin with,” but congress and the press pretended (ala Reagan) not to hear what he said.
Even today no reporter will go on record and admit that Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in –at least generically.
This despite the fact that transcripts of the Nixon tapes published in book form by professor Stanley Cutler, (“The Abuse of Power Tapes,”) shows an obsessive and revenge minded Nixon ordering his henchmen to go after Larry O’Brien using any means necessary.
Without a smoking gun tape in which Nixon says ala his order to firebomb the Brookings Institute, “I want a break-in at the Watergate,” we are supposed to pretend that Nixon only knew of the cover-up.
Silly parlor game that it is, I believe we will one day find out it was the man who revealed the existence of the Watergate tapes, Alexander Butterfield.
In their book “All the Presidents Men,” WoodStein note that of all of HR (Bob)Haldeman’s henchmen, the only one they never got around to interviewing was HR’s head of “internal security,” Butterfield.
Nice guy that he was, Woodward suggested to a Watergate committee investigator that they do the honors of interviewing Butterfield.
And the rest is history.
Perhaps an even more interesting question is “Who wrote All the Presidents Men?”
Several years ago Daniel Schorr wrote a fascinating article in the Christian Science Monitor about a mysterious conversation he had with Woodward.
Schorr says he told Woodward that he couldn’t locate the famous phrase, “Follow the money,” in the book. Woodward told Schorr that Deep Throat’s famous utterance was indeed in the book. It wasn’t, Schorr discovered on second and third read.
Then again, Woodward is the guy who conducted a death bed interview with clinically brain dead William Casey.
Follow the brain waves, Dan.
Jack McCarthy can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org