By Anonymous (not verified) on June 20, 2012

We need to recall the lessons of Watergate.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the break-in that sparked the scandal. By the time the scandal had run its course, President Nixon had resigned in disgrace but the democratic institutions of the country were strengthened. The rule of law was upheld, our free press played its role and our politicians came together, regardless of party, and smacked down the wrongdoers.

On June 17, 1972, five men with some connection to the Republican Party were arrested while bugging the offices of the Democratic Party located in the Watergate hotel and apartment complex in Washington, D.C. The men were working for The Committee To Re-elect the President.

The Nixon administration sought to cover up its connection to the burglars. It offered hush money to individuals to not cooperate. It lied to the media and to the public. And Nixon tried to get the FBI to not investigate the crime in violation of the law.

Luckily, the media didn’t go away. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, young reporters with the Washington Post, were relentless in pursuit of the story.

But even with top-flight media coverage, Nixon was re-elected in a landslide that fall. Yet the truth kept chipping away at him.

By 1973, the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, in a show of solidarity, voted 77-0 to form a committee to investigate Watergate. By March 1974, numerous top-level administration officials were indicted for hindering the Watergate investigation. Nixon was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

By that summer, it came out that Nixon had recorded all conversations in the White House Oval Office for years. The tapes revealed he was aware of his administration’s involvement in the actual break-in and he sought to cover it up.

Nixon was done. Facing certain impeachment, he resigned on Aug. 8, 1974.

Watergate made it clear that no one, including the president, is above the law. Also, the media did its job and held the most powerful officials accountable. Moreover, Watergate was a moment when the Democrats and Republicans put country and democracy above partisan pettiness.

Since then, though, these lessons seem to have gotten lost.

We’ve had several presidents who've acted as though they were above the law.

President Reagan was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and paid no price for it. President George W. Bush ordered torture, even though that was against the law, and got away with it. And President Obama has asserted the right to assassinate anyone, including U.S. citizens, overseas, and he appears to be paying no price for that, either.

Meanwhile, the press is much less powerful today than it was during Watergate. The Internet has decimated newspapers, and much of the media is more concerned with having a shouting match than with digging out the facts.

For its part, Congress is mired in partisanship.

Forty years after the break-in at the Watergate, our democratic institutions need to be put in better working order or we risk more abuses at the hands of the executive branch.

Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest lawyer. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

But instead of isolating the Saudi regime from the global mainstream, President Obama paid a visit there earlier...

The Gogebic Taconite company got what it wanted by throwing money around, with Walker's help.

Ruth Conniff discusses the funding controversy surrounding WI Gov. Scott Walker on The Ed Show.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter

Get Breaking News and Alerts!