Yesterday we commemorated the first anniversary of an attempt to subvert the results of a Presidential election. Which also happens to be just a few months short of the fiftieth anniversary of another attempt to subvert a Presidential election, namely, the break-in at the Watergate Hotel.
In the same way that what really matters about the January 6th event is whether it can be tied back to plans hatched in the Oval Office, what kept the Watergate issue in the crosshairs of the media back then was what Nixon knew and didn’t know.
More than 20 members of the Executive branch were convicted of various offenses after Watergate, mostly perjury or illegal campaign activities, and 15 served time in prison, including the Attorney General, the Presidential Chief of Staff and two of the President’s Counsels.
But Nixon got off. He wasn’t charged with any crime, and after he resigned from office, he was pardoned by President Ford. This pardon may have cost Ford his own Presidential election in 1976, but at least Nixon got off the hook.
Comparing what happened to Nixon to what may happen to Trump doesn’t produce any good news for Number 45. And the reason that Trump is so much more vulnerable for January 6th than Nixon was vulnerable for Watergate is because Nixon remained in office for slightly longer than two years after the Watergate break-in occurred, whereas Trump has been a private citizen for almost the entire time since the rioters ran up the Capitol steps.
Which brings us to consider what may or may not happen to Trump given Merrick Garland’s pledge yesterday to push his investigation as far or no matter how high it goes.
If the GOP can maintain control of the Senate later this year, this would give a bit of a buffer zone in dealing with the other side. If the GOP can regain the House and control both chambers on the Hill, then Trump would have even a better chance of surviving an investigation that might otherwise lead to a criminal charge. In 1973, which is when the investigations around Watergate began to pick up steam, both chambers of the 93rd Congress were in the hands of the blue team.
What tipped the scales away from Nixon, however, was not so much the lack of a Republican majority in Congress, but the whole shape of the political media then versus now. In 1972, when Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward began reporting on Watergate, there were 3 national TV networks, a handful of national newspapers with a presence in DC, and that was it. No CNN, no FOX, no MSNBC and most of all, no internet, no political blogs, and no podcasts blasting out over the radio, social media or anywhere else.
Once Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post, decided to begin featuring Woodward and Bernstein’s reportage on Watergate, Nixon had no alternate media platform that he could use to make his case. And also remember that Watergate occurred before Reagan swept away the ‘equal time’ requirements that kept TV and radio from promoting ‘infotainment’ the way they do today.
Do you think someone like Matt Gaetz would ever have been heard from in 1972-73? Yea, if he got indicted, convicted, and went to jail the story might have played for one day. Ditto the endless verbal shenanigans of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Ditto what is now beginning to happen to Donald Trump.
Trump cancelled his so-called press conference at the same time that Merrick Garland was repeating the word ‘criminal’ in his speech for the tenth time, and yesterday he posted a statement about Joe’s speech on his website, which has dropped nearly 90% of its readership over the past six months.
But Trump doesn’t need to worry about fading from sight, because he can always count on the Fake News media to keep him alive and well. Yesterday, David Remnick of The New Yorker posted a review of a book on political instability and began his comments with the following quote: “most Americans have readily accepted the commonplace that the United States is the world’s oldest continuous democracy. That serene assertion has now collapsed.”
It has? American democracy has collapsed? When, exactly, did that happen? Did it happen while the electoral college votes were being counted last January 6th? Did it collapse when Merrick Garland announced that he would pursue a ‘criminal’ investigation into the January 6th riot as high and as far as the investigation needed to go?
Maybe American democracy collapsed last November when Joe piled up the staggering total of more than 81 million votes. Oh, I forgot. All those votes were faked, right?
The American democratic system wasn’t in the slightest bit threatened by those fools who broke into the Watergate or by an ex-President who sat in front of his TV for three hours telling everyone that the schmucks who were running around inside the Capitol waving their Confederate flags were just ‘fighting’ for him.
The last time I looked, the Insurrection Act makes it illegal for anyone to try and prevent any government agency from carrying out its lawful duties. The Insurrection Act was passed in 1807. Isn't it still on the books?