Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
 
Avedon at Sideshow has the best blogger's remembrance I've seen of the 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation. Clearly a woman who was raised properly by parents who managed the rare feat of despising Nixon even more than mine did.

I was a teen then and can remember vividly. I was at a summer camp that focussed on camping and wilderness activities. With no electricity or TV available, a bunch of us were listening to the speech over AM radio in a camp van. I must have really loathed Nixon because my excitement was not so much that he was being driven out of office as enjoying the thought of how utterly crushed and humiliated he must have felt as he delivered the resignation speech.

The moral so often drawn after the crisis, that the system worked, looks about right to me with a few decades of hindsight - more right than it did at the time, when I felt that Nixon being pardoned and spared a prison sentence was a catastrophe. The leadership of both the 'Establishment', such as it was, and the Republican Party agreed to cut loose a man who had become an impediment, and who clearly was guilty as charged of high crimes and misdemeanors. Allowing for the fact that no real precedents existed, it was a relatively clean operation.

The famous 'smoking gun' tape of June 20 that finally pushed Nixon out has never seemed to me very important. In reading the transcript, I didn't see that it provided overwhelming new evidence, certainly not enough for every member of the House Judiciary Committee and most members of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate to give up the cause simultaneously and publicly, which they did.

Unfortunately, we've gone mostly backwards in the 30 years since. One very large change, which is profoundly destructive, is that the congressional Republicans of Nixon's era felt a duty to hold one of their own to accountability. They played a hesitant, not completely willing, but ultimately positive role in the investigations into Watergate. Their current successors view congressional oversight as an entirely partisan activity, not really distinct from campaigning.



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