Where’s Trump’s Duct Tape?

I keep looking for Donald Trump’s missing piece of duct tape but it isn’t there yet.  Half a century ago  Richard Nixon over-reached himself in the “Watergate fiasco” that brought him down.  But so far Nixonian overplaying his hand  seems to be part of Trump’s winning style.

Roll flashback:

On the night of June 17, 1972, Frank Willis, a low wage African American security guard at Washington’s luxury Watergate office complex, noticed a piece of duct tape on one of the door locks to the Democratic National Committee kept reappearing after he’d removed it. He called the police who arrested five CIA employees on one of their several  “black bag” operations to burglarize anywhere Pres. Nixon believed his enemies lurked.  Previous break-ins included the psychiatrist of former war hawk Daniel Ellsberg who had leaked the “Pentagon Papers” tracing official lies that led to, and persisted in losing, the Vietnam war.

Ellsberg in particular drove Nixon nuttier.  A White House-based ‘plumbers unit’ (to plug leaks) was formed that, with Nixon looking the other way, ran wild with serial burglaries and fantasies of assassinating The Boss’s enemies.  Nixon was too busy to pay full attention since he was conducting several wars at once, against the press (his near-psychotic obsession), black people, the antiwar movement and almost as an afterthought the Vietnamese.

For months the Watergate break-in was a minor police matter and hardly appeared in the press except as a tiny item on an inner page.

But due to the reality later dramatized by Robert Redford (as reporter Bob Woodward) and Dustin Hoffman (as Carl Bernstein) in All The President’s Men, and the persistence of a powerful Beltway paper the Washington Post, it all came undone.

The break-ins would have faded into history (as indeed the Watergate scandal itself has) except for Nixon’s hysterical attempts at cover-up.  All it needed was these two stubborn reporters and one CIA conspirator to lose his nerve and confess, and the whole house of corruption came tumbling down with Nixon’s impeachment and indictment of 69 – no less- federal officials for perjury, fraud, obstruction, whatnot.

A major conspirator, Atty Gen John Mitchell, a Jeff Sessions predecessor, served 19 months prison.

As also did two UCLA school pals and drinking buddies of mine, Nixon’s top aides Bob Haldeman (“I’m the president’s sonofabitch”) and the President’s snarling spymaster John Ehrlichman.  I spent tons of time with Bob at (a rather comfortable) prison and with Ehrlichman.   The bottom line of our talks was with dark energy. They despised the press and journalists, the basic fuel for the Watergate fiasco.

Unbelievably, their hatred of reporters went back years to my college newspaper UCLA Daily Bruin which in Haldeman’s view was a cabal of “Jewish liberals”.  (And we wonder where Nixon got his spewing anti-Semitism on his office tapes?)

Roll to Today.  Give Robert Redford, who got the movie made, the next to last word.  A few days ago on Watergate’s 45th anniversary, he drew the parallel:

“When President Trump speaks of being in a ‘running war’ with the media, calls them ‘among the most dishonest human beings on Earth’ and tweets that they’re the ‘enemy of the American people,’ his language takes the Nixon administration’s false accusations of ‘shoddy’ and ‘shabby’ journalism to new and dangerous heights.”

Back then, Redford says, “politicians from both sides of the aisle put partisan politics aside to uncover the truth”.  He’s talking about a long-ago political Brigadoon, almost lost in the mists, when now forgottens like Judge Sirica, Sen. Sam Ervin, Archibald Cox – we musn’t forget ‘Woodstein’s secret source Deep Throat the FBI’s 2d in command Mark Felt – outwrestled a once-popular and impregnable Pres Nixon.

But Redford is concerned that in today’s “divided” America, things might be different.  “If we have another Watergate, will we navigate it as well?

In the 1970s America was also “divided”.  But today somewhere out there another Frank Willis is alive, alert and has an I-phone.

More articles by:

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Black Sunset

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers