Wednesday, November 15, 2006


An Oldie But Goodie

An old post, true, but it says all you need to know about the pundit class in America: the Katherine Graham quote was especially disturbing (and I previously thought she was one of the good guys, to an extent ...): all it made me think about was this quote of Bentham (who looked suspiciously like Ben Franklin, IMHO -- conspiracy theories anyone? after all, we already know that Atrios is really both Gene Lyons and Sidney Blumenthal who are the same person ...):

Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government

I'm not a utilitarian, but there's often nothing like a good utlitarian argument to cut to the chase and quantify things and thus see nakedly where people's priorities really do lie, nu?

Katherine Graham had greatness thrust upon her when she still had a bit of idealism left in her. It took some economic courage - the rarest kind - and a sense of civic duty to publish the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate stories. However, by the end of the Reagan years Graham was all jaded Royalist. Those at the Post like David Broder, who were ever keeping their eye open for the main chance, came right along with her.

You can probably fill in the blanks from the first three parts of a particular four part Bob Somerby series just by reading this last installment. This well conveys what the departed Graham and other shakers and movers of Royalist media culture have spawned.
Thanks for the link. Yeah, Graham was pretty bad, and growing up in DC I saw firsthand that the Post has never been anywhere close to its reputation as a liberal paper. Moreover, by this point it's pretty right-wing.

And as we gain more and more hindsight, it seems pretty clear Watergate was just a fight between different sectors of the U.S. elites. Actual democracy didn't have much to do with it.
And as we gain more and more hindsight, it seems pretty clear Watergate was just a fight between different sectors of the U.S. elites. - jon

Indeed. Nixon was a test case that "just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you". Part of the reason why Nixon fell whereas, e.g., Reagan and Bush II have gotten away with possibly worse stuff, is that Nixon had no base: the moderate elites didn't like him as he -- inspite of having good corporate attorney cred and helping out the elite class whenever he could, e.g. in Chile -- never really was part of their club, and the right knew that Nixon was, in spite of having rode and indded enabled the wave of right wing reaction so successfully via his "Southern Strategy", at heart a moderate.

So Nixon really did have people out to get him, but his concern about this proved to be his downfall: how tragic, i.e. in the classical Greek sense.

Anyway, some people more paranoid than I have suggested (in particular before it become known that Felt was "Deep Throught", but Felt's involvement doesn't put these theories to rest ... and even Bob Woodward's current change of heart on Bush & CO doesn't put these theories to rest) that the whole Watergate scandal was blown out of proportion (or even maybe purposefully somehow magnified) by those loyal to Nixon-enemy (albeit likely not actually on the "enemies list") and CIA-type George H.W. Bush, who was and who's family still is also (a) key figure(s) in the shift of the GOP to the right: while Nixon sought to use the right to storm the gates of the GOP establishment and show them who really could win elections and gain power, Bush & CO sought to use the right for fun and profit ... so clashes were inevitable.

But that's just what a paranoid person, more paranoid than me maybe or maybe not, would say ;)
I don't think the fall of Richard Nixon had much to do with the unseen machinations of shadowy government and political figures in the months after the Watergate break-in. You had a crew of former CIA operatives and agents who managed to get themselves busted by a night security guard. The burglars, by random assignment, ended up in front of a no nonsense federal judge. Then you had a president who, even as the scandal unfolded, seemingly pathologically self-destructed by keeping audio tape evidence of himself engaging in acts of obstruction of justice.


The importance of the Woodward and Bernstein/Deep Throat role has been a bit romanticized. That role was akin to what bloggers have done in the Plame matter - entertain the political junkies. The break-in was not quite as obscure an event as the movie All the President's Men represented it to be.

The key event in the scandal occurred months before the Senate Watergate Committee held its first hearings on May 17, 1973 and were not the result of anything G.H.W. Bush or Mark Felt were up to:

March 19/23
James W. McCord writes a letter to Judge John Sirica in which he claims that the defendants had pleaded guilty under duress. He says they committed perjury and that others are involved in the Watergate break-in. He claims that the burglars lied at the urging of John Dean, Counsel to the President, and John Mitchell, the Attorney-General.

These allegations of a cover-up and obstruction of justice by the highest law officers in the land blew Watergate wide open.

(The Youtube link is worth watching just for the sake of seeing what a liberal media looks like.)
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