Exclusive to The Hagmann Report. As a young journalist in Washington, D.C., I was a close on observer of the infamous Watergate scandal (1972-1974) that forced President Richard M. Nixon from office. Now, looking at the expanding efforts to unseat President Donald Trump 4½ decades later, it feels like déjà vu and an appropriate time to weigh in with some more thoughts on the two situations.
At the outset, it should be kept in mind that Watergate was about a bungled burglary and the ham-handed attempts of the Nixon administration to cover it up. Evidence for the scandal(s) that Donald Trump and/or his associates are alleged to have committed is so far largely absent. Meanwhile, the real scandals of recent years – too many to mention here and many of them more systematic and much more serious than Watergate – were all committed by Democrats.
There are other differences. Obviously, the zeitgeist would have to be near the top of the list. The United States of America in the early 1970s was a much different place than the country that we are living in now. After the excesses of the sixties, the early 1970s represented a return to the center right political roots of mid-century America that was the high point of the post World War II American Century. In effect, in the wake of the upheaval of the sixties during which leftist mobs and inner city rioters pushed themselves to the forefront, a conservative-leaning “Silent Majority” was once again firmly in control of the country. The declining number of people alive today who remember that earlier era can assuredly attest to the validity of these observations.
The United States was more homogeneous when Nixon was president, demographically and culturally. The common language for almost everyone in the country was English and the corrosive identity politics, racial and social division, and political polarization that have taken bitter root today were still somewhere off in the future. The extreme fragmenting of the popular culture – one example being the transition from three national broadcast networks that offered mostly unifying prime time programs to a thousand or more cable and satellite channels aimed at narrowly targeted niche audiences, many of whom have been conditioned to consume a diet of garbage programming – is one indication of the current cultural divide.
In the early 1970s it was easier to find and achieve unity in the country. The election of Richard Nixon to his first term in 1968 – a close victory over “Great Society” big government statist Democrat Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey – signified a yearning for and a return to that unity. Despite the baggage he carried as “Tricky Dick,” Nixon was a popular president during his first term and easily won a historic landslide re-election against the Democratic Party’s nominee in 1972, progressive anti-war South Dakota Sen. George S. McGovern. Nixon’s popularity had grown steadily during his first term as he handled foreign affairs with aplomb and gravitas. His administration was winding down American participation in the unpopular Vietnam War, had opened the door to relations with Red China, and, with a new era of detente in the making, had significantly thawed the 25 year-old saber rattling Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Contrast Nixon’s standing with that of President Donald Trump. Not yet in his second year in office, Trump, according to the polls, is one of the least popular American presidents in the history of public opinion polling. This, despite the fact that in his first year in office President Trump has delivered on a number of the promises that got him elected by voters fed up with the status quo. He has helped to jump start an ailing economy that is showing signs of significant health and growth after eight years of stagnation under the anti-capitalist regime of Barack Obama. He has re-calibrated Obama’s “apolologize for America/leading from behind” foreign policy and re-established American global leadership in the face of challenges by the expansionist People’s Republic of China and Russia. And so on.
Many things account for Trump’s perceived unpopularity and controversy. An unabashed roguish iconoclast with a penchant for tweeting his unfiltered thoughts, Trump is the first person with no political or government (military) experience to ascend to the Oval Office. The mainstream media is almost totally united against him and his America First MAGA agenda. Since the day that he was sworn in, Trump’s enemies including the MSM’s self-appointed elitist leftist poobahs have been egging on talk of his removal from office by any means necessary. The totally degraded popular culture, which almost everyone is addicted to in the modern era of the smart phone and the total electronic mediated matrix that defines 21st century American life (consider the pathetic Saturday Night Live which even the women on Fox News almost always swoon over the Monday after it airs), is being used 24/7 as a sophisticated propaganda tool to disparage, demean, and mock the president. Academia and the public education systems nationwide have been taken over by the extreme radical left and, at the university level, now espouse an authoritarian crypto-fascist climate of violent, anti-free speech, Maoist-inspired intimidating cultural revolution.
To sum it up: In the past three to five decades, a domestic Fifth Column of statists and globalists – leftists all – has corrupted the minds, if not the bodies and souls, of many people in the country, who most likely represent a majority now with the younger generation almost totally subsumed by social justice Gaia-worshipping propaganda. This has resulted in a collective Petri dish breeding ground for a mass societal witches’ brew of authoritarian socialist-communist control and ultimate decay (think Venezuela under authoritarian Hugo Chavez and his handpicked communist successor Maduro).
Standing up against this full spectrum anti-American/anti-Christian/anti-family onslaught is Donald J. Trump and his Make America Great Again supporters, who probably comprise about 40% of the adult voting age population. Contrast that with Nixon’s historic achievement of a 60% electoral victory in 1972 with the backing of his “silent majority.” With the mainstream media totally allied against him, it’s an uphill battle for the Trump administration.
A similarity – then vs. now – in these two very different situations is the intense dedication of the forces of the left, which today can be described as including the Shadow Government, the Deep State, and most of the media, to take down the 45th POTUS. After the failed break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex on June 17, 1972 by a group of operatives associated with the CIA and the Nixon administration, it took 26 more months for the left to achieve their goal: the removal of Nixon from the office of the presidency. The key vehicle was a select committee on Watergate of the U.S. Senate which provided the television broadcast networks with months of newsmaking televised hearings in the spring and summer of 1973. Damaging testimony and evidence day after day on TV gradually whittled away Nixon’s popularity and public support. The coup de grâce was the discovery that Nixon had covertly tape recorded his private White House meetings and phone conversations, and the evidence on the tapes appeared to support obstruction of justice charges that were passed by the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives in the summer of 1974. With Special Counsel Robert Mueller continuing to grind away at his fishing expedition investigation that appears to know no bounds, there’s no telling what kind of “evidence” he and/or the Congressional committees that are also sniffing around might come up with to ensnare Trump or one of his close associates.
Back to the Watergate era, for two years, from the summer of 1972 until Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974, it was a drip drip drip situation as more and more damning testimony and evidence dribbled out, grist for the mill of the nation’s increasingly left of center news media. The media, however, was not as totally in the tank for the far left as it is today – not by a long shot – and it was also very decentralized and localized, and not as controlled by a few big politically correct transnational globalist corporate owners as it is now. It took months to get impeachment fever against Nixon really going. On June 29, 1972, at a nationally televised press conference, Nixon was not asked a single question about the Watergate break-in that had occurred twelve days earlier.
Another similarity of America around 1970 and the present is the role of the popular culture in demonizing a sitting Republican president. Throughout his career, Richard Nixon – including as a member of the House, a Senator, the Vice President of the United States, and a candidate for president in 1960 and 1968 – was mocked and satirized including in political cartoons. The award-winning high profile political cartoonist Herbert L. Block a.k.a. Herblock, whose work was prominently published in the Washington Post for more than half a century, was lionized (three Pulitzer prizes and a share in a fourth, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, etc.) for his dark depictions of Nixon and, before him, Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Herblock’s caricatures of Nixon served as models for scores of other less well known cartoonists throughout Nixon’s career. Herblock was well compensated for his attack cartoons. When he died in 2001, according to Time magazine, he left an estate valued at $90 million.
Since he emerged as a serious candidate for president in 2015, Donald Trump has also been the subject of increasingly vile political cartoons. And not only cartoons. A major story last June involved comedian Kathy Griffin posing for a photo and video while she was holding a bloody severed mannequin head made to resemble Trump. This outrageous stunt would not have been tolerated in Nixon’s time. In January 2018, Time published its third magazine cover in a series by progressive artist Edel Rodriguez that cruelly mocks Trump. After the Washington Post reported on January 11, 2018 that Trump had allegedly used the term “s***hole countries” in reference to failed Third World nations responsible for mass immigration to the U.S. (he later denied using that term), the New York Daily News on its January 12 front page depicted Trump’s face as a pile of feces.
Actual guilt or innocence of a Republican president and “all the president’s men” in these kinds of political situations is not the point. Once the target (a Republican POTUS) is is in the left’s crosshairs, an assumption of guilt is pretty much assured. In Nixon’s case, the actions taken by him and his subordinates that forced him from office were standard operating procedure for every Democrat administration, with the possible exception of Harry Truman’s, that preceded his. In the case of Trump, the fact that he and members of his team most likely did not “collude” with the Russians to influence the 2016 election to his benefit is beside the point: the Establishment/Shadow Government/Deep State has deemed him unworthy of holding or unfit to occupy the nation’s top office and, as a perceived threat to the hegemony of the globalist powers-that-be, he must be gone.
On the positive side today vs. the early 1970s, there is some cause for optimism when assessing our immediate future. Little more than a year ago, almost everyone was predicting a Hillary Clinton victory in the 2016 presidential election. Somehow the country was given a reprive and that nightmare did not come to pass. It’s possible that the common sense conservatism that carried the day in 2016 could play a vital role again as new and even more daunting challenges emerge in 2018 and beyond.
One difference that has come to the fore in recent years that remains an unknowable or unmeasurable factor that largely escaped the notice of the cognoscenti in 2016 is the rising tide of people in this country and around the world who are absolutely fed up with the sclerotic political status quo. Helping to accelerate this long overdue sea change in ordinary people’s opinions and attitudes are a wide variety of factors that didn’t exist until recently. These factors include the rise of independent alternative and citizen journalism made possible by new developments like social media whose viral influences can breach previous insurmountable boundaries, and the proliferation of smart handheld devices that have further democratized and accelerated the flow of information. This entire emergent alternative information matrix did a successful end run around the biased pro-Clinton mainstream media and helped to upend the embedded political process and install insurgent candidate Donald Trump in the White House. A question now is, Can this tide of rising awareness defeat the forces of globalism in the ongoing infowar of attrition?
Donald J. Trump has managed to succeed repeatedly in the face of predictions of his demise and exceed expectations before – culminating in his surprise electoral victory on November 8, 2016. It will be interesting to see in the new year 2018 and maybe beyond if he can weather the inevitable coming storms.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran reporter and analyst of news on national politics, media, and popular culture. In addition to his writing, Peter has appeared as a guest commentator on NBC, PBS, the CBC and, on January 4, 2018, the BBC. For announcements and links to a wide selection of Peter’s published work, follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.