I’m well into my sixth decade of life in America. Unlike some of my contemporaries I don’t long for the good old days because I realize they weren’t really all that good. I like things like better air to breath, better water to drink, the ability to live life free from the fear of many diseases and a plethora of modern conveniences (like the device you are reading this article on). Simply put America is a great country! In the old days when we saw something that surprised us we would usually sum up the experience with words along the lines of: If you live long enough you will see everything. I remember Nixon resigning from the presidency under impending House impeachment and Senate conviction and thought it was a once in a lifetime experience. Today things seem to be moving faster and perhaps the new “axiom” is: If you live long enough you will see everything twice. Let’s explore.
For baby boomers it does feel like living through Watergate again. There are certainly some similarities; however there are some significant differences.
Russiagate is testing the old axiom that the cover-up is worse than the crime. In Watergate that was true. The original sin of Watergate was a break-in at the DNC Headquarters to do some political espionage. The cover-up involved a complex conspiracy of lies and actions that included obstruction of justice. In Russiagate the original sin is the involvement of a hostile foreign power in an American presidential election. Whether or not (and if so to what degree) the Trump campaign was involved is yet to be revealed. Other Trump and/or Trump campaign related felonies are also implicated. Those crimes are far more serious than a third rate break-in or what apparently is obstruction of justice in the cover-up.
Richard Nixon won the popular vote in the 1972 election by over 17 million. He also scored a landslide win in the Electoral College (520-17). Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million. He did however win one of the narrowest Electoral College victories since Alaska and Hawaii became states. Nixon’s win was expected; Trump’s was a shock to the world. It is impossible to conclude that the margin of Nixon’s 1972 victory can be attributed to the purloined opposition research netted from the burglary. It is at least plausible that Trump would not have won the 2016 election without Russia’s help.
Both guys benefited from cheating; one needed to the other certainly didn’t. In Watergate the transgressions were domestic; in Russiagate they were international.
I’ve heard the argument from many that if Trump and/or his team is proven to have colluded with Russia on the tampering that the election should be voided and either re-run or Hillary declared the winner. While there seems to be some basic fairness to that, it runs contrary to our legal principle prohibiting Ex Post Facto laws. Simply stated, we don’t believe that an act can be made illegal subsequent to its commission. Our founders and our laws never made a provision for a candidate cheating to get elected to the presidency.
I feel Russiagate is far from having reached its conclusion. I feel confident it will play out over a much shorter period of time than Watergate did. Part of the reason is that we have more media outlets looking into the story and news is now a very competitive 24/7 business. The base crime is both worse and more impactful this time around. Nixon was a choirboy compared to Trump. Nixon unnecessarily cheated to get reelected out of fear and insecurity. Trump’s alleged necessary cheating is augmented by many shady deals of his and his staff’s both past and present. Nixon cheated to get elected and then ran a legitimate White House. It appears Trump cheated to get elected only to run an organized criminal enterprise out of the Oval Office.
When Nixon resigned in 1974 I thought I experienced a once in a lifetime event. If I live a few more month or years it may well be deja vu all over again (thanks Yogi). Ah, if you just live long enough.
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