Saturday, June 16, 2012

JUNE 16, 2012

     Watergate was forty years ago.  It roiled the country.  Richard Nixon became the only American president ever to resign.

     It began as a burglary at Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. Word spread;  the whole country followed developments. The thieves were thugs hired by the Republican Party. They got caught, arrested, tried. White House aides resigned and went to prison. The Senate held hearings to learn what had happened. The House held hearings to consider whether to impeach the president.  Heavy stuff.

     As more and more evidence came out (I can still hear the Senate's Sam Ervin of North Carolina, "Ah am addressing you in English, suh, it is my mothah tongue."), it became clear that while President Nixon may not have known about the burglary he certainly knew about, and helped, the coverup.

     The country took sides, Pro-Nixon Americans would yell at reporters covering the scandal (at CBS, where I then worked, White House reporter Dan Rather was a prime target) things like "Traitor! We'll get you!"   Going to work could be an adventure.

     And then there was Nixon, facing the cameras, "I am not a crook. This president is not a crook."  Maybe not.   But the votes for impeachment gathered until it was inevitable. The House Judiciary Committee approved two resolutions.  I can remember one Republican Member saying, "This is bipartisan. I can vote for this"

     The count was in. Before a vote could be taken, Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford became president, and his first words to an anxious country were, "Our long national nightmare is over."

     It was.

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