Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.

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

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System