In 1972, during President Nixon’s reelection campaign, five men were arrested for breaking into Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington DC. They were attempting to bug the phones and gain intelligence on the campaign of the President’s opponent, Senator George McGovern (1922-2010).
And while President Nixon was reelected in 1972, the investigation of the break in grew in the minds of many Americans. By May of 1973 Congress began holding hearings and President Nixon (under pressure) appointed Archibald Cox (1912-2004) to investigate what we all began to call “Watergate.”
But Mr. Cox soon began to investigate whether or not President Nixon drove a coverup by bribing the original defendants to quietly plead guilty in return for cash and not implicating anyone else. President Nixon spent the summer of 1973 growing angrier and angrier over the investigation. On Saturday, October 20, 1973 he directed his Attorney General Elliot Richardson (1920-1999) to fire Mr. Cox. General Richardson refused to do so and resigned. President Nixon then ordered General Richardson’s deputy, William Ruckelshaus (b.1932) to fire Mr. Cox. Mr. Ruckelshaus also resigned. Finally Solicitor General Robert Bork (1927-2012) fired Mr. Cox.
Instead of ending the scandal it intensified it. Pressure grew on President Nixon, and on August 8, 1974 he resigned.
I write this not out of nostalgia for events 45 years ago, but because we’re seeing frightening parallels today. President Nixon ordered a coverup of events intended to ensure his reelection. Many of us believe that in 2016 then candidate Donald Trump conspired with Russia to provide false information to convince American voters to vote for him.
President Nixon spent the rest of his life convinced that he did nothing wrong and his enemies were out to get him.
As I said, the parallels are frightening.