Saturday, June 2, 2012

RickOHIO Revisited: Here Comes the Watergate Flood

This is a web column written before blogs were blogs at  June 17, 2012 marks the 40th Anniversary of a dubius event in U.S. history--the Watergate Break-In.  I first wrote a web column on this topic at in 1997 for the 25th anniversary.  Here it is below:

Here Comes the Watergate Flood
by RickOHIO

June 1997
"It is, of course, impossible to fully explain Watergate in a paragraph, a page, or even a book, given the complexity of the events that constitute it." -- George Magazine, June 1997

Be prepared. Here comes the great flood of 1997.

June 17 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most dubius events in the history of the United States. It was on June 17, 1972 that a "third-rate burglary" occurred at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters started a chain of events which continues to be the subject of much political discussion until today.

This month in 1997, however, will surely bring a flood of news reports which will, no doubt, exceed that of the original event in 1972.

Look for coverage from a variety of mediums. The Sunday politics shows, like Meet the Press, will spend June 15 interviewing pundits while talking and debating Watergate. Dan Rather will have something to say. At least one of the weekly magazines, like Time, is a candidate to give the cover to this 25-year-old story. Look for the Washington Post to try to reseize its role as the premier news authority on the topic.

Look for President Clinton to try to minimize his scandals by casting them in the shadows of Watergate. Also don't be surprised to find former Nixon aides, like John Erlichman (EDITOR'S NOTE 1999: now deceased) and G. Gordon Liddy, trying to recapitalize their fame during this time.

As the numerous World Wide Web links demonstrate, the Internet holds a great deal of information about Watergate. The search engine HotBot returns over 109,200 web sites with reference to the word "watergate." The sites range from the surprising (a very complete article and web site on Watergate written by a cyber writer in Australia) to the ironic (a site for a conference on wireless communications being held June 25, 1997 at, of all places, the Watergate Hotel).

Still. No one expects that the 25th anniversary flood of information will help the country find the answers. The 1997 Watergate flood will subside and the muddied waters it brought will be left behind.


The Ohio Connection

Part of Richard Nixon's family on his father's side was from Northeast Ohio.

John Dean was from Akron and went to school at the College of Wooster.

Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary who was blamed for erasing 18 critical minutes from one of the Watergate tapes, lives in Alliance.


A Synopsis of The Watergate Scandal - by RickOHIO

The break-in at the Watergate was the first criminal act. A cover up that followed brought others. It's not clear today how high up in the Nixon White House the break-in plan went. It is, however, widely believed that many, including President Nixon himself, were involved not long after the break-in in a cover up.

The cover up consumed the White House in Nixon's second term. Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Domestic Affairs Assistant John Erlichman, Counsel to the President John Dean, former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, and others spent jail time for their involvement.

President Nixon resigned in August 1974 to avoid an impeachment vote and trial. The day of his departure, he gave a speech to the White House staff which is regarded as among the most stirring remarks of any President. The most memorable line was his instruction to those present:

Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. . .Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.

No impeachment vote was taken and no trial of President Nixon ever occurred. However, staffers' testimony and secret Oval Office recordings, which were made public during the congressional hearings on the scandal, revealed a number of possible instances of Nixon involvement in abuse of power. The information might have been used to try to prove his involvement in money laundering for attempting to buy the silence of the break-in culprits, obstruction of justice in Justice department and FBI investigations, and compelling witnesses to perjure themselves in congressional and court proceedings.

Watergate has had a lasting impact on the history books. Though the country had endured numerous scandals in the White House, none was as involved as Watergate. No scandal, until Watergate, had caused a President to resign. Richard Nixon was the first. Watergate was big enough to leave a permanent bookmark in history books forever.

Watergate has had a lasting impact on politics in this country. The policy reaction to Watergate gave way to the rise in PACs (political action committees), the special interest groups which control so much of the political process today. The scandal also was the start of greater public distrust of government.

Watergate has had a lasting impact on journalism in this country. Not since Woodward and Bernstein has an aggressive journalist been found who didn't dream to be the one who toppled a President. Political coverage is a sport now. Every elected official has a media target on his or her back.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that the Watergate scandal left an indelible mark on my generation — the one that was passing through junior high and high school at the time, and had its youthful idealism and naïveté about government exploded earlier than I think the previous generation had. As a sometimes middle school history teacher, I've endeavored to explain to my students just how disillusioning that entire period was. I put together a video summarizing the events. You can watch it at