Watergate RevisitedI’m feeling the earth move, or at last quiver, now that the Democratic Party under the wise leadership of Nancy Pelosi has started the impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump. This country, I believe, will gradually come to support this effort, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and everyone else, as this country did as the evidence unfolded that forced President Nixon to resign in 1974.
The country wasn’t behind the impeachment process at first, as Charles Ferguson’s four-hour documentary, Watergate — Or, How We Learned to Stop an Out-of-Control President makes clear. But as layer after layer of perfidy on the part of Nixon and his aids was peeled back, what at first might have been dismissed by some as a burglary gone wrong began to show clearly as a transgression of the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Only after months of testimony, much of it initially blocked by the White House, did members of the Republican Party inform Nixon that they could no longer support him.
This will happen to Trump, as well, I believe. There are sensible people in the Republican Party, some of whom will be running for re-election to vulnerable seats, and they will not go down with the sinking ship. Even the rats will finally jump overboard…
I was oblivious to a lot of the Nixon drama, perhaps because my family seldom or never looked at television, in spite of their ownership of Kentucky’s newspapers, and may have been tempted to dismiss Nixon’s very real threat to the Constitution as merely the ridiculous misbehavings of a lower-class man—a convenient explanation for just about everything in those days.
But I do remember seeing, if not actually meeting, the special prosecutor Nixon labored to fire, Archibald Cox, a hero to liberal Democrats because of his refusal to bow to the president’s threats.
But it wasn’t only Archie, as he was called, the privacy-seeking tall, slender middle-aged white man I saw in a New England resort. The other prosecutors on his team, threatened by the president, also refused to be cowed, even after Archie himself had been forced off the scene.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to,” the man Nixon had tried to pressure into firing Cox said—an expression not heard much these days, “I just couldn’t bring myself to” refers to a code of personal honor all of these men—and they were almost entirely men—seemed to find familiar, basic, essential to their self-esteem.
Now as the men’s club of politics is replaced by a group of legislators much more representative of this country, is it possible we have lost the code of personal ethics that seemed to bind that long-ago band to a concept of honor?
I hesitate to suggest it. But when a group loses power, it takes away with it certain standards and expectations. It may even be that we women, who often condone or excuse questionable behavior on the part of the men we love, may be less eager to condemn the same kind of behavior on the part of powerful men.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to…” It’s a badge of honor, as well as proof of membership in a certain group, bound together by familiarity and a shared ethic.
The Masons, the Rotatarians, the Shriners—all these secretive men’s groups are gone, taking with them standards of behavior we may find we still need.
Nevertheless, I believe the country as a whole will come to say, “I just couldn’t bring myself to…”
…re-elect the man who has betrayed us.