“My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”
- the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan at the Watergate hearings.
Anyone who’s read Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” knows fully well Coleridge’s symbolic use of the albatross. The albatross, on the basis of that poem, has become the symbol of a persistent problem that just never seems to go away. A curse, if you will.
Watergate is proving to be Fred Thompson’s albatross exactly 34 years after the hearings that made Thompson briefly famous and relevant, proving for him the springboard for a lobbying and political career that obviously has as much substance as the powerful but artificial men that he depicts in his acting career, roles that, to an amazingly stupid Republican voter base, alone seems to qualify Thompson to head the most powerful nation in the free world.The Boston Globe’s article
on the 4th of July that blew the lid on Thompson’s slight but ultimately pivotal role in the Watergate hearings proves the venality, dishonesty and partisanship that we still see today in the pardoning of Scooter Libby and the Republican operatives who cloistered and fumbled around him (including Thompson himself).
Regarding Fred’s involvement in the Watergate hearings, about the only thing that distinguishes him from the neocons of today is that he had the good sense to stop supporting Nixon once the Oval Office tapes proved his hero guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that’s erased when one considers two things: That Wrong Said Fred continued defending Scooter Libby and saying he was too sexy for the hair shirt for which he was fitted by Judge Reggie Walton and Thompson’s willingness to allow the cultivation of him being a hard-nosed minority counsel in the Watergate hearings who’d hounded the White House in his dogged defense of the Constitution.
Thompson, through his own admission 32 years ago, stepped on both Nixon’s and his own dick back in 1973 because Fred, rather than merely acting as minority counsel assisting Sen. Howard Baker to get to the bottom of the worst political scandal since Teapot Dome, had already formed an opinion that Nixon was innocent and that the release of the Watergate tapes would bear that out. At the very least, he was acting as Nixon’s personal attorney. At worst, he was thinking like a judge and already prejudged Nixon’s innocence before the most damning evidence had even come out.
Imagine the panic in the Oval Office when the Nixon administration learned that one of their own had publicly began pressing for the secret tapes that the White House had gone to extraordinary lengths for years to keep from the knowledge of the American public! Small wonder those 18 1/2 minutes wound up occupying that same comfortable hazy Republican netherworld as Bush II-era emails, dozens of RNC email accounts and TALON surveillance records, not to mention Ronald Reagan's memories of Iran Contra and Alberto Gonzales's own memories of the US attorney purge and the Bush-NSA wiretapping scheme.
Yet when called on his partisanship and opportunism and plainly illegal warning of the Nixon administration of the tapes (if he thought there was nothing incriminating on them, why bother with the secret smoke signal to the West Wing?), the first thing that came to Thompson’s mind was, “Finally! Someone read my book!”
Even a massive scandal such as Watergate, in Thompson’s solipsistic mind, relates to him. Republican priorities. You have to marvel at them.
In his book At That Point in Time
, Fred wrote, "Looking back, I wonder how I could have failed to realize at once . . . the significance of the tapes. I realized that I would probably be thinking about the implications of Watergate for the rest of my life." No doubt, Fred was thinking of how Watergate would affect his future political ambitions.
But the GOP’s role in Watergate and the scandal thirty years later involving an obscure, minor player named I. Lewis Libby shows that the GOP is slimier and more partisan than ever, putting party loyalty above national security, a covert agent’s identity, even above the very Constitution itself. It’s a GOP that, so claimed outgoing Congressman Henry Hyde, had retaliated for the hearings against Nixon by going after Bill Clinton
(Freeper alert) for the Monica Lewinsky affair (while conveniently sidestepping the fact that Hyde himself, a fellow adulterer, had made a big deal
back in 1998 about Clinton lying under oath over what still boiled down to a sleazy blowjob).
At least the GOP 33 years ago had the good sense to walk away from Nixon in sufficient enough numbers to justify Barry Goldwater going to the Oval Office and telling Nixon that he no longer had enough Republican support to stave off impeachment. Libby, after his guilt was proven, after receiving a not unreasonable sentence for four convictions of perjury and obstruction, still had powerful friends lobbying for him, his most powerful one keeping him out of a well-deserved prison term in order to ensure his golden silence.
A year and a half ago, the late Molly Ivins wrote indelibly and damningly
of Alberto Gonzales’s “testimony” to the still Republican-run Senate Judiciary Committee during the NSA wiretap hearings and their own clannishness in keeping Gonzo’s feet far removed from the fires of righteous enquiry by not insisting he swear to tell the truth. It was reminiscent of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens having a hissy fit over petroleum executives having to swear in prior to testifying before Congress as if they were potentates who shouldn’t be insulted by the shackles of Congressional rules as if they mere mortals.
This is how the late Congresswoman Jordan defined impeachment:
"(Impeachment) is designed to 'bridle' the executive if he engages in excesses. ... The Framers confined in the Congress the power, if need be, to remove the president in order to strike a delicate balance between a president swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the executive. ... 'A president is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.'"
Nixon would’ve been impeached for using the CIA to spy on his political rivals. So why isn’t Bush being impeached for using the NSA, a vaster agency than the CIA and one that specializes in spying on people, to spy on not just Democrats but ordinary American citizens both here and abroad when the Carter-created and Clinton-refined FISA courts would’ve given him all the latitude that he needed to combat terrorism?
And one doesn’t have to be a scholar in Presidential history to see that in his six and a half year-long squattage in the Oval Office, George W. Bush, “swollen with power and grown tyrannical” himself, had easily subverted the Constitution in more ways, and more novel ways, than the sinister and paranoid 37th president had during his darkest talking-to-paintings days. Indeed, looking back on her definition of impeachment, Congresswoman Jordan’s words even more closely define George W. Bush moreso than they did even Nixon.
Reread, also, these words by Barbara Jordan, then a freshman Congresswoman in 1973: “My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”
Then compare it to Ronald Reagan’s equally famous 11th Commandment of “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican” and Nancy Pelosi saying both before and after the midterm elections, “I have said it before and I will say it again: Impeachment is off the table.”
Read those three quotes and tell me which politician seems the most passionate about the defense of the Constitution. Reagan unashamedly said that no one, especially a fellow Republican, should ever blow the whistle on another Republican even if guilt is proven. If followed to the letter in 1973-4, Reagan’s 11th Commandment would’ve prevented impeachment from ever taking place, allowing Nixon to serve his full two terms.
Pelosi openly equates impeachment hearings with partisanship, thinking that the Republicans would actually welcome “the waste of time” that impeachment proceedings would create, thereby choosing bipartisanship that the Democratic party should know
by now they’re not going to get from a party led by Karl Rove and his open call for a “permanent Republican majority.“ If she were Speaker of the House in 1973, the very necessary Watergate hearings wouldn’t have even come to pass .
Jordan, as with Ivins over three decades later, simply saw impeachment of a President who plainly deserved it as doing the right thing at the right time for the good of the nation. This is why her tombstone simply says, “Patriot” in the original and true sense, not the “Patriot” redefined by the despicable USA PATRIOT Act that has done nothing more than hobble the Constitution for which Jordan had tirelessly fought.
Watergate is just the latest example of what an opportunistic vulture Thompson was and still is, a bass-mouthed party hack who viewed Watergate as merely a stepping stone for his own political aspirations and bent whichever way the political winds blew while carefully not calling to attention his own errors, hypocrisy and even partisan treachery. In trying to defend his beloved Nixon administration, all Thompson did was inadvertently help the cause of justice by admitting the Trojan Horse of the Watergate tapes into the White House. But there’s a more important observation that we ought to make here:
We look back on Watergate with bittersweet fondness and recall a time when, even only if faced with the prospect of defending an indefensible president, the GOP worked with Democrats (Thompson’s treachery notwithstanding) to see justice done. The Libby scandal, which is only the tip of the iceberg, betrays to an already weary and cynical American public the lowering of the bar of both parties working in an antagonistic collusion but a collusion nonetheless, neither of which much interested in observing the rule of law for two entirely different reasons.
God must be bored with the world that He made. Otherwise He wouldn’t find it necessary to spice things up by making the good die young while allowing the wicked to age and prosper.