History often repeats itself, especially for those who fail or refuse to learn from past events. Many of us who remember the Watergate era see many parallels between that era and the present day where Donald Trump's lies and corruption make Nixon's sins pale in comparison. Then and now, far too many Republicans chose to ignore facts and remained in lock step with their lying and corrupt party leader. Ultimately, many of those who sold their souls in support of or co-conspiracy with Nixon paid a high price, many going to prison and many more seeing their political careers ended. This reality is lost on those currently prostituting themselves to Donald Trump - think Lindsey Graham and AG William Barr - and setting the longer term stage of seeing their reputations destroyed and their place in the view of history something other than what honorable people would want. A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the message that such individuals ought to remember for Watergate. Here are excerpts:
As the campaign to impeach and remove President Trump has intensified, so have the defenses from his most devoted underlings. Naturally, these have included individuals closest to him—his adult children, his attorneys, and White House officials.More die-hard demagogues have taken fortified positions on Capitol Hill. As the impeachment inquiry kicks into gear, they are doing whatever they can to downplay the charges and delegitimize the process. In hearings, they demand evidence or dismiss it; in interviews, they dodge the problems and gum up the process. Throughout, they hope that the volume of their voices might overwhelm the volumes of evidence. These Trump loyalists have now lashed themselves to the presidential mast. And if Watergate is an American parable, most of them will go down too.
Richard Nixon avoided prison time thanks to a pardon, but all the president’s men weren’t so lucky. Four dozen were convicted of criminal charges, and about half did time—including Nixon’s chief of staff, White House counsel, top advisers, and attorney general. Some of Trump’s inner circle, including his lawyer and his campaign manager, are already locked up. Odds are, they won’t be the last.
Nixon’s congressional toadies avoided courts of law, but they couldn’t escape the court of public opinion. Republicans fared so badly in the 1974 elections that prominent conservatives pronounced the GOP DOA. The party’s name was “poisoned with negatives,” said strategist Richard Viguerie. It’d be easier to sell “Typhoid Mary, the Edsel, or tickets on the Titanic.” William Rusher, publisher of National Review, wanted to scrap it all and start fresh with a “Conservative Party,” led by Ronald Reagan or George Wallace.
Reagan’s fealty didn’t harm his long-term prospects, but only because his prospects were long-term. He didn’t face voters in 1974. When he challenged Gerald Ford for the nomination in 1976, the man who’d given excuses for Nixon looked fine compared with the man who’d given him a pardon. By 1980, his water-carrying over Watergate was a non-issue.
[T]wo columnists—liberal Marquis Childs and conservative James J. Kilpatrick—published excerpts from letters sent by “Nixon loyalists,” charging that the “rotten, slanted, and biased” media “brain-washed” voters against their “brilliant” president. They warned impeachment was a “political coup d’état” that would spark “chaos.”
Initially, House Republicans—especially those on the judiciary committee—weren’t reluctant at all. Representative Edward Hutchinson, the ranking Republican, said Nixon shouldn’t be held accountable “for every little impeachable offense.” A millionaire from Michigan, Hutchinson complained in early 1974 that impeachment had been drummed up by “some eastern newspapers.” Despite the damning evidence, Hutchinson remained “unconvinced” by the “grab bag of allegations.”
Others agreed. . . . These Republicans formed a wall around Nixon, but cracks soon appeared. The committee had some liberal Republicans—a group not yet an oxymoron—but a staunch conservative, Maryland’s Lawrence Hogan, was the first from either party to announce his vote to impeach. In late July, the longtime Nixon loyalist announced that “my President has lied repeatedly” and said he had no choice.
When the time came to vote on five proposed articles of impeachment at the end of July, Hogan voted yes on three; six other Republicans voted for one or two articles. All had been warned that breaking with the party would end their political legacies, but the opposite happened. All the Republicans who approved articles of impeachment, except Hogan, stood for reelection. Five of them won. Indeed, they were repeatedly reelected . . . . Ten other Republicans voted against every article of impeachment. Most immediately regretted it. They had spent months demanding a “smoking gun” that proved the president’s role in Watergate. To their embarrassment, the recording showing just that became public only days after their vote. . . . Only one of the six was reelected that fall.
I remain dumbfounded by the willingness of so many to throw away honor and even basic morality to cling to someone as morally despicable as Trump. One can only hope they face a very hard fall and are viewed by history as moral monsters.Republicans lost 48 seats in the House that fall, with many of the president’s most vocal defenders among them. Take Indiana representative Earl Landgrebe. “Don’t confuse me with the facts: I’ve got a closed mind,” he announced. “I’m going to stick with my President even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.” He wasn’t shot, but voters killed his political career with a humiliating loss that fall.