order allow,deny deny from allow from all Forging The Finest Print online

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Watergate! Watergate! Watergate! Forging the finest print

How has Watergate contributed to change in our understanding of the president as a person? Should we separate a politicians personal and public life?

Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the Government in Washington but in the studios of the networks in New York!”

-Spiro Agnew

Watergate certainly hasn't changed the authority of the Executive Branch of

government for ill, that's for sure. Under the Patriot Act, one can reason, the
federal bureau of Investigation- subject to Executive authority!- actually has the
legal power to conduct covert searches and seizers. But it shouldn't have been

It defies the common since of that era that Daniel Ellsberg wasn't found
guilty under the Espionage Act. Taking state secrets and reveling them to the otherside, after all, WAS the textbook definition of espionage. With the exception of defecting, Ellsberg did everything Kim Philby did in the UK. He didn't have to defect, by revealing his own country's secrets, he was deemed a hero.

Oh, if only Benedict and Judas had lived in this era! Nixon wasn't even all that extreme in
trying to muffle the leak, taking a more conservative route by filing injunctions
against news papers planning to publish the state secrets. The courts sided with the

The papers were full of pure military analysis relevant to a theater of war
that was still hot, the mainstream press actually distributes the secrets, the
president isn't even arresting them, and I'm supposed to accept the concept that the
president was making an “excessive abuse of power?”

Journalist Bob Woodward published an article choke full of secrets about a
CIA operation to remove a Russian Golf-class ballistic submarine from the depths
of the ocean. He played within the rules, holding the story until the government
was prepared with a response to the inevitable Russian rantings, but it was clear
the government had lost power to the unelected media elite.

It isn't paranoia when it's true. Investigative journalism was on a high, and
they were going to get their stories, even if it meant violating the Espionage Act.

It sounds less and less like Nixon was a true paranoid authoritarian. While it
did limit the freedom of employers to chose their employees, Nixon's pioneering
of affirmative action (how'd it get that name, anyway?) mandated opportunities to
minorities. In 1971, Congress repealed the Emergency Detention Act of 1950,
which meant Habeas Corpus was the law of the land again. Nixon in his day
rejected a National ID card, and even ordered destroyed some 40,000 WWII-era
Civil Defense Ids still in government archives.

Considering all his efforts to expand the cause of liberty, and the court's
refusal to enforce the law, I find it perplexing the possibility of impeachment was
taken seriously. After all, Ellsberg was obviously a criminal, and the efforts of the

plumbers” seemed focused on him and collaborators. Normally, one would get a
court order for psychiatric records, but the courts had already shown their hostility
to the administration's case.

In Nixon's shoes, I'd probably keep a close eye on what Agnew called the
hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.” By 1972, troop levels in
Vietnam dropped to twenty percent of the numbers in 1968, but what Agnew
called the “nattering nabobs of negativism” didn't seem satisfied that the war was
cooling down. Instead of be satisfied with “peace with honor,” the anti-war crowd
must have seemed every bit the “vicars of vacillation” Agnew called them out to

After Senator Mike Gravel entered the papers into the public record, it must
have seemed two branches of government were at full-scale war with the other
branch. None of Nixon's efforts were done for personal gain. The raw data from
the papers embarrassed not Nixon, but previous administrations all the way back
to Franklin Roosevelt, especially the Johnson Administration. So how was public
opinion shaped so much against Nixon? I leave this quote from Spiro Agnew as a

The American people should be made aware of the trend toward monopolization of the great public information vehicles and the concentration of more and more power over public opinion in fewer and fewer hands."


During and after Nixon's terms in office, the mainstream media (MSM) became

preoccupied with airing the dirty laundry of public officials. We've seen Nixon

resign, another candidate drop out of contention because of the publishing of a

photo, a mayor smoke crack on video, a dress stained with DNA evidence, and

DWI become public hours before an election, forged documents used in an

attempt to unseat a president, the testimony of veterans to discredit his rival, and

hourly accusations of bias.

Spiro Agnew was the first to verbally assault the press, and both he and his boss paid for it. But wasn't he right when he said the following:

"Every time I criticize what I consider to be excesses or faults in the news business, I am accused of repression, and the leaders of various media professional groups wave the First Amendment as they denounce me. That happens to be my amendment, too. It guarantees my free speech as it does their freedom of the press… There is room for all of us – and for our divergent views – under the First Amendment."

Kind of whiny, for sure, but wouldn't you expect that from a helpless victim?

Sources Cited

I've been using the wrong “cited” all this time, and I just noted it.

Spy Book, The Encyclopedia of Espionage, by Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen
My textbook

Published by Typewriter King | 6:46 PM
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