Blood Sports

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What you’re seeing in the political miasma of “RussiaGate” is an exercise in nostalgia. Apart from the symbolic feat of getting a “black” president freely elected in 2008 (remember, Mr. Obama is also half-white), the Democratic Party hasn’t enjoyed a political triumph in half a century to match the Watergate extravaganza of 1972-74, which ended in the departure of Mr. Nixon, the designated Prince of Darkness of those dear dead days. Watergate had had a more satisfying finale than The Brides of Dracula.

So, in its current sad state, devoid of useful political ideas, mired in the mostly manufactured conflicts of race and gender, psychologically crippled by the election loss of a miserable candidate to the Golden Golem of Greatness, the Democratic Party is returning full steam to a gambit that worked so well years ago: beating the devil by congressional inquiry.

In President Trump (uccchhh, the concept!), they’ve got a target much juicier even than Old Nixie. It wasn’t for nothing that they called him “Tricky Dick.” He came back from political near-death twice in his career. The first time, running as Dwight Eisenhower’s veep, he was accused of accepting the gift of a vicuna coat for his wife, Pat, and other secret cash emoluments. He overcame that with one of the first epic performances of the TV age, the “Checkers Speech” — Checkers being the family’s cocker spaniel, who Nixon invoked as a proxy for his own guileless innocence. It worked bigly.

The second near-death was his defeat in the California governor’s race of 1962, following his 1960 squeaker presidential election loss to John F. Kennedy. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” he told the press. But he rose from the grave in 1968 — after fortifying his bank account in a Wall Street law practice — when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart (and wrecking the Democratic Party of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey).

It is not unrecognized that in his first term Nixon functioned as a very capable executive, presiding over social and environmental legislation that would be considered progressive today — though he remained mired in the tarbaby of Vietnam. But then, in the reelection campaign of ’72, he got a little too cute — or, at least, his campaign show-runners did, hiring a klatch of bumbling ex-CIA errand boys to burgle the DNC offices, who were then caught red-handed at the scene, which was the basement of the Watergate apartment complex… and the rest is history.

What a fabulous inquisition Watergate was! What a colorful cast characters: the wily old “country lawyer” Senator Sam Ervin, the dashing chief staff inquisitor Professor Sam Dash, the fallen Republican knights, Elliot Richardson and Archibald Cox, the lonely and heroic bean-spiller, John Dean! And many more. The Watergate hearings on TV were more thrilling than Downtown Abby. Once Old Nixie went down the path of stonewalling and evasion — covering up an escapade he might not have even known about at the time — he was dead meat.

I remember that sweaty August day that he threw in the towel. (I was a young newspaper reporter when newspapers still mattered.) It was pretty much a national orgasm. “NIXON RESIGNS!” the headlines screamed. A moment later he was on the gangway into the helicopter for the last time. Enter, stage right, the genial Gerald Ford….

Forgive me for getting caught up in the very nostalgia I castigate. And now here we are in the mere early months of Trumptopia about to hit the replay button on a televised inquisition. In my humble opinion, Donald Trump is a far more troubling personality than Tricky Dick ever was, infantile, narcissistic, at times verging on psychotic, but the RussiaGate story looks pretty flimsy. At this point, after about ten months of NSA-FBI investigation, nothing conclusive has turned up about Trump’s people “colluding” with Russia to gain unfair advantage in the election against You-Know-Who. Former NSA chief James Clapper has publicly stated twice in no uncertain terms that there’s no evidence to support the allegations (so far).

And there remains the specter of the actual content of the “collusion” — conveniently ignored by the so-called “Resistance” and its water-carriers at The New York Times — the hacked emails that evince all kinds of actual misbehavior by Secretary of State HRC and the DNC. The General Mike Flynn episode seems especially squishy, since it is the routine duty of incoming foreign affairs officials to check in with the ambassador corps in Washington. Why do you think nations send ambassadors to other countries?

The upshot of all this will be a political circus for the rest of the year and the abandonment of any real business in government, at a moment in history when some very weighty black swans circle above the clouds waiting to crash land. Enjoy the histrionics if you dare, and pay no attention to collapsing economy as it all plays out.


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