Reflections on Watergate and politics in 2016
SAN JOSE, August 10, 2016 – One of our nation’s greatest nightmares ended at 9 p.m. on Aug. 8, 1974, when President Richard M. Nixon delivered a nationally televised speech that declared his resignation as president of the United States. The Watergate scandal exposed something that Americans had not readily witnessed from the highest levels of the nation’s leadership — Nixon had been caught in lies to the American public — and the debacle surrounding Watergate had sliced to the heart of America’s system of government.
The episode remains as one of the worst examples of leadership in the history of the United States.
While the Watergate scandal unraveled from the time of the election in 1972 until Richard Nixon’s resignation, there were attempts made at cultural exchange between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. One of the first came in the fall of 1973, when a training ship of the Soviet Merchant Navy docked at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY. A young Tim Donney was a first classmen (senior) at Kings Point, and he and his fellow classmates had the experience of having the Soviet cadets attend some classes, social events and evening discussion sessions, in which the subject would invariably turn to politics. The recurring theme from the Soviet cadets was defense of their system of government.
Tim Donney still remembers the Soviet cadets claiming, “You Americans and your democracy, you think you are better than us, but you are not. The truth is your politicians are just as corrupt as ours, and you cannot do anything about it. And, the proof is Watergate!”
Such words would sting, and many Americans born after the 1960s would not have had a real experience of the collateral damage of Watergate, but such an exposure to international judgment of the U.S. system of government would not have been experienced by many Americans.
As the Watergate scandal continued to unfold through 1973, many people watching the televised drama began to feel that something was terribly wrong in America. Many like Tim Donney and his classmates in Kings Point viewed the Watergate debacle as a true test of the nation’s system of government. Many citizens wondered at the time whether America was still a nation of laws, where none was above the law. Especially for Donney and classmates who had just debated the Soviet cadets, it became very real, as real as the legitimate question that gnawed upon them: Was America a nation governed by a ruling elite that were above the law?
The answer came in August 1974, when President Nixon, under pressure from congressional Republicans, resigned to avoid impeachment. When Gerald Ford addressed the nation that evening, he started by saying, “Our long national nightmare is over…”
Tim Donney never forgot his next three words: “The system works!” On that day in 1974, America was still a nation of laws, and Donney’s Soviet friends had got it wrong.
Yet in 2016, as Americans are witnessing another grueling presidential election campaign, and another true test of America’s system of government. The former secretary of state created her own personal e-mail account for communications at state for her and her staff and set up a private server in her home in Chappaqua, New York (apparently hidden in Bill’s sock drawer). She also used a personal Blackberry for communications on public networks throughout the world instead of a secure government device.
Two years after she left office, she sent her servers to a company that specializes in wiping servers clean. This was not a simple “mistake,” such as accidentally deleting an important message, but a deliberate, systematic violation of the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Records Retention Act, and it put our national security at risk, due to what was described by the FBI as an “extremely careless way of handling highly classified information.”
Yet, our Justice Department will not take any action.
Moreover, the Office of Inspector General’s report clarifies that the Obama administration was aware of her use of a private email system, as 18 emails were between the President Obama and Hillary Clinton, with all sent and received from a clinton.com account and not a dot.gov account, and they did nothing.
So much for the transparency in government that campaigner Obama promised during his first election campaign in 2008.
And in reality, Clinton cannot be indicted without the shadow of blame also cast on Barack Obama. An in-your-face timing of events foreshadowed FBI Director Comey’s announcement, which included Bill’s private meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, prior to Hillary’s interview with the FBI, and Hillary’s joining Obama on Air Force One for a campaign tour, on the very morning that the announcement was to be made.
While the Watergate debacle had profound consequences with several convictions of criminal activity by insider GOP operatives, as well as campaign finance reform, it pales in comparison to the crimes of the current Obama administration, including Hillary Clinton’s role as the former secretary of state.
Ironically, the shadows cast by Watergate had an impact upon Bill Clinton’s Impeachment of 1998-99, and historians basically agree that the investigations into the crimes involved in Watergate that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon are a case study in respect for and operation of the American Constitution and in America’s political values.
If such an impact were that significant, and if Watergate forced Nixon to resign, intelligent citizens should wonder why President Obama and former members of his administration would be able to survive the largest onslaught of simultaneous scandal exposures in the nation’s history. Where is the overly aggressive media so eager for justice to be served in America? Intelligent citizens could also wonder why a former member of a corrupt administration is the Democratic Party’s current candidate for president.
Sadly, President Obama’s administration was only weakly confronted by the mainstream media with an investigation into the killing of American Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed by one of the very guns Obama’s government had used for selling to Mexican drug lords. Brian Terry was only the first of law enforcement officials for which Obama and his administration has had little genuine regard. One more debacle that the mainstream media had a hard time exposing was the disregard for America’s veterans in the atrocious Veterans Administration’s handling of diseased and dying veterans. So many patriots who served their country died while waiting for proper healthcare.
Additionally, the callous manner in which the Obama administration bungled the 9/11 attack in Benghazi, and how the administration officials – including Hillary Clinton — initially lied to the public and tried to cover up the debacle is disgraceful. It continues to be a thorn of great injustice to the victims who died in the attack and to their families, who have had to reconcile the truth with the lies perpetrated by the highest levels of government officials.
Ironically, no one lost their lives because of Watergate. Crimes were truly committed, yet today Americans are regularly witnessing the lives of citizens being lost; proportionately, if such scandals and crimes are compared to the crimes of Watergate, the content of criminal activity under the Democratic Party is off the charts, and there is relatively zero demand for accountability.
In reality, Watergate can be viewed as a turning point of a descent into what Americans are willing to tolerate, but it could serve as a measuring stick for determining higher standards of leadership. In 1974, Americans were appalled by what was occurring at the highest seat of the government; today many Americans are quite comfortable supporting a candidate who has committed greater crimes than Nixon ever dreamed of committing.
If intelligent and fair-minded citizens would be honest with themselves, it is doubtful that there has ever been another time in America’s history in which there have been so many truly serious scandals, one after another. Especially, it is a sad irony that on the day after Independence Day in 2016, our country lost its rule of law and became a government of a ruling elite, who are above the law.
Sadly today, regular citizens like Tim Donney would have great difficulty debating whether U.S. politicians are as corrupt as those of the former Soviet Union. Recent scholarly studies have been presented that define the U.S. as an oligarchy and not even a basic democracy. Many sources have determined that the U.S.A. is no longer a democratic republic as established according to the original blueprints of the Founding Fathers. One of the charges made against King George in the Declaration of Independence was, “He has made judges dependent upon his will alone.”
America has come full circle to the days of her birth, and the proof of this is the presidential “election” of 2016, in which Bernie supporters did not get to decide their candidate during the Democratic primaries – instead the party has selected, if not crowned, Hillary Clinton. To the contrary, people who identify as Republicans are still being chastised and ridiculed by GOP elitists for insisting on the people’s candidate of choice.
Peeling back the curtain on the ruling class of elitists in both political parties could awaken the Americans who still believe in the preciousness of the right to vote and the basic rule of law. The oligarchs are not just the Democrats seeking a Leviathan-like control over people, but also Republican establishment elitists who would rather have Hillary for POTUS because she will play ball with them.
Tragically, with no real outcry for leadership accountability in 2016, and such blatant loss of the rule of law, there is no longer room to debate differences between the United States of America and the former Soviet Union.
This article was co-authored by Tim Donney.