No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Thanks for asking. I've just been a little busy lately, and then we took a trip out of town over the weekend and I'm still recovering. But you shouldn't get the idea that I'm out of ideas. Far from it. In fact, I've actually got TOO much stuff to write about and don't know where to begin. I'm not sure what piles up more when I leave town: my work or my posts.
But here it is. And keeping in line with the topical nature of this blog, my subject this evening will once again be Watergate and what it means to us. Cutting edge stuff, to be sure. But quite applicable to our current crisis. I'm still reading W&B's fascinating must-read, The Final Days; which features an inside look to the final days of the Nixon administration.
Watergate Lesson #526
The main Watergate lesson we'll be discussing this evening is on loyalty and truth; and how loyalty means far more to Republicans than truth. And we'll be starting this with a little quote from Mr. Pat Buchanan, who had been a speech writer for President Nixon and one of his closest aides who had worked for him almost longer than anyone. Here's a passage I read today, regarding why Pat believed that Nixon should step down:
Buchanan paused, searching for the right words. This was the hardest part. "The problem is not Watergate or the cover-up," he began. "It's that he hasn't been telling the truth to the American people." He paused again. "The tape makes it evident that he hasn't leveled with the country for probably eighteen months. And the President can't lead a country he has deliberately misled for a year and a half."
Boy, those words seem to be coming straight out of a more innocent and wide-eyed era, eh? Back when Whitehouse staffers believed that the worst thing a president could do was to lie to Americans. Seems like times have changed immensely since those idealistic days. But they haven't. Not really. You see, it's quite evident from the book that many of Nixon's closest allies and supporters had believed for some time that Nixon was guilty. And they were afraid that a fight would seriously hurt the nation and the Republican party. Which it certainly did.
But you see, none of them were saying that publicly. Even down to the final handful of days, Buchanan and the rest of Nixon's men put up a valiant front; both to the nation and to each other. In fact, until the last few days, they wouldn't even admit to each other what they really thought. It was all cheerleading and smiles, while vowing a strong offensive against the "Nixon bashers" trying to bring him down. But they all knew better. Or most of them anyway. It was all just a false front.
So it's not that times were more innocent back then, when a president's ally truly looked out for the benefit of the nation; compared with the evil men running things now. No siree. It's the same thing that we have now. The exact same thing. People refusing to even contemplate negative thoughts; preferring to run blindly towards a victory which can only be achieved with positive thoughts and partisan propaganda. Pat Buchanan and others had been defending Nixon against the Watergate charges for over eighteen months, and the only thing that could get them to drop their defense was when reality imposed itself and forced them to face the truth.
Nixon only fell when his supporters finally lost faith in him. And learning that lesson will teach you exactly why Bush's supporters will continually ignore the truth if the truth would force them to stop defending their leader. They may like truth, but they like loyalty even more; making them believe the unbelievable and support the unsupportable. And that's why they're Republicans.
So there were these damning tapes out there, and all anyone had to do was listen to them and they'd feel sure that Nixon was guilty. But then comes the weird thing: none of the people defending him wanted to listen to the tapes. Or some of them kind of did, but it obviously wasn't important enough to make them want to withhold their support. They may have wanted to know the truth, but they clearly believed it was more important to be loyal to Nixon first.
And why didn't they listen? Because Nixon didn't want them to listen to them. But isn't that terribly suspicious? I mean, after all, it's one thing for Nixon to decide that Congress doesn't have the right to grab evidence from the president (executive privilege and all that). But shouldn't the damn people defending Nixon have listened to them, assuming he was innocent? Nixon listened to the tapes over and over, and insisted that they exonerated him; so shouldn't the people talking about this publicly have heard how he was exonerated? Assuming that it's true, wouldn't that have aided their defense?
So isn't that terribly suspicious? I mean, that's not a red flag. That's a frickin' forest fire in your face just telling you that the man's not being completely truthful. And he certainly wasn't. And he was fighting like crazy to see to it that nobody could get the tapes...including his allies. And I understand not letting John the Copy Guy in on the secrets, but Buchanan was one of his closest and oldest aides; and he didn't read the transcripts until right up to the end, after it was already hopeless. And neither did Nixon's main lawyer, or almost anyone else. So what's up with that?
And I'll tell you what's up with that. His allies didn't want to know that he was guilty. They didn't want to know, because once they knew, they couldn't defend him anymore. Not in good conscience. And so they decided that it was better to take Nixon's lying word for it, forest fires and all, rather than know the truth and be disloyal to Nixon.
Hear No Evil
And I'll tell you straight-up, that's exactly what happened. Maybe I should have given you a *spoiler alert* on that one, but you really should already know how all this ends. Once Nixon's friends heard the content of those tapes, the gig was up. He lost the support of much of his Whitehouse staff, and his political defenders. In fact, it had been the "betrayal" by his biggest defenders in Congress that stood as the turning point. They were ready to say anything to defend Nixon, but once they learnt the truth; they felt betrayed and abused by Nixon; feeling that they could have defended Nixon, had they known the truth from the beginning.
And that's such bullcrap. The lack of truth didn't bother them so much when they were defending him. And Nixon knew that, had they known the truth, they couldn't have defended him as well. Again, they may have been a touch upset that he wouldn't let them see the evidence, but it wasn't enough to get them to stop defending him. And it did look terribly suspicious that he wouldn't even let his closest supporters hear the tapes. And these aren't stupid people, so they knew better. They just didn't care. They'd rather that Nixon not be guilty; but if he was guilty, they'd rather not know about it.
And that's the thing. They didn't want to know because they wanted a clean conscience and they also wanted to defend to Nixon; no matter what. And that's what they did. Even when they believed that Nixon was guilty, or should at least have resigned; they still put on a strong public front. To do otherwise was disloyal and wrong.
And the proof of all this is just how quickly it took for Nixon's men to stop defending him. They had been fighting and kicking and shoving, and most of all confident. Confident that this was just the work of the "Get Nixon Crowd", and that Nixon would again be victorious. They may have felt pressured and weak and vulnerable inside, but their foes always saw a solid, impenetrable wall of defense. And it was because Nixon was so weak that they had to project such strength. And it was only because Nixon lied to them that they could continue to project that strength.
And that's the crazy thing about Nixon's impeachment. It may have seemed like a railroad express to the participants and to history, but it's truly amazing how easily that freight-train could have been derailed. It took a lot of pushing and tugging to get that impeachment trial in the station, and Fate could have saved Nixon at any turn.
Which should be contrasted with the foolish Clinton impeachment which came chugging into the station so fast that it took them all by surprise. In fact, by the end, I wouldn't doubt if ALL of the Republican Congressmen secretly wanted that thing removed from the tracks and tossed into the trashheap.
And that's one of the things about Republicans: they're all huff and blow, with their fancy rhetoric and bumper-sticker ideologies; but when push comes to shove, they'll be glad to stick with the pushing. They don't want to rule D.C. They just want to stop us from ruling it. Because it's much easier to make promises and attack bad government than it is to fulfill promises and make good government. Especially for these guys, as they hate the government; good government most of all!
And that just about says it all. Or enough for this late hour. Republicans really don't care about the truth, and are mainly interested in the rhetorical value of truth. Because it helps them in their political war with the Democrats. Not that this is anything new, I just thought we needed a non-Bush related example of this. Especially as it's something that liberals often say, but I don't think they really mean it. I keep reading liberals shaking their figurative heads when they're again confronted with the Republican desire for propaganda, half-truths, and deceptions. But there's nothing to be confused about.
Republicans really want to live in a continual state of denial. That's the only way you can possibly justify support of the Republican agenda, by denying the unpleasant portions of reality. So it's not that propaganda and denial are techniques that Republicans employ when necessary; but rather they're personal flaws which cause someone to identify with Republicans in the first place. Dishonesty isn't a minor trait of Republicans, but one of their defining characteristics.
And I don't say that as a mean-spirited jerk trying to bad-mouth the opponent, but as a saddened human taking pity on his fellow humans. We don't need to convince these people so they'll vote with us politically. We need to convince them so that we can help make these people whole and better than they currently are. Because that's what it means to be a liberal. To take pity on those who should be pitied and using the tools at our disposal to assist those people; just as we would want to be assisted ourselves. Conservatives want to limit those tools, but we can't allow that. After all, they may be Republicans, but they're still human; or so I've been told.