Happened to catch “All The President’s Men” last night, the 1976 movie about Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s (two Washington post reporters) successful efforts to topple President Richard M. Nixon  If you haven’t seen it please do given all the contemporaneous comparisons between our current Russiagate and Watergate you've heard of late.  As I’ve noted before, the two scandals are actually quite different although both seem to following the same pathway to conclusion, Russiagate, of course, at a horrifically accelerated rate.  The similarities between the two “Gates” are worth exploring.  Both center around “ratfucking” (the term Donald Segretti invented for the Republican Party's election campaign of dirty tricks) and the Watergate burglary was only one of literally hundreds of attempts to undermine Democratic candidates across the county.  The “ratfucking” activities engaged in by the Republicans back in the mid 1970’s involved the creation of fake documents – one of which caused the Democratic Candidate for Vice President to drop out of the race – false campaign flyers, telephone calls to voters describing fake scandals by Democrats running for office, the planting of fake information that damaged Democrats in office and running for office, and a whole bunch of other dirty campaign tricks all designed to secure Nixon’s second term as President.  Nixon’s minions wanted Nixon to run against prominent Democratic anti-Viet Nam War candidate, George McGovern.  As a result of the clandestine ratfucking activities of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) Nixon got his wish.  He went on to trounce McGovern in the 1972 election garnering 520 Electoral College votes to McGovern’s 17.

As the Watergate scandal unfolded – Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign, Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, was indicted by a Grand Jury and later served 17 months in prison, Nixon fired the Special Prosecutor investigating Watergate, Archibold Cox, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General resigned in protest, but the discovery of a secret tape recording system Nixon installed in the White House was the “smoking gun” that implicated Nixon directly in approving the dirty tricks campaign and attempting to shut down the FBI investigation of it.  In the end, nearly all of Nixon’s White House staff were indicted for participating in the “ratfucking” campaign and all served prison terms.     

It was a scandal of Shakespearian proportions and America spent just over a year on tenterhooks wondering where all of this was going to wind up.

Russiagte?  Same stuff really, a political campaign that in an effort to win at all and any costs seems to have gone off the rails.  The superficial read on the differences between Watergate and Russiagate center around the involvement of a foreign actor, Russia, that was not a part of Watergate.  Nixon’s efforts to win re-election at all and any costs were totally domestic, totally limited to efforts by paid American "ratfuckers" to undermine a domestic Presidential election.

But here’s what I think is the biggest difference between the two.  Richard Milhous Nixon was no neophyte in the world of politics.  Nixon was elected to Congress from California and served six years in the House of Representatives (1947-1953) before serving for eight years as Dwight Eisenhower’s Vice President (1953 – 1961) and then served as President between 1969 and 1974 when he resigned.  Richard Nixon was no political amateur.  By the time he was elected President in 1969 he had sufficient Washington political experience to know how Washington worked, who actually wielded power in the Capital City and where all the deeply buried skeletons were located.  It was his intimate knowledge of Washington politics and how the Washington Establishment worked that led him to believe that he could manage the burgeoning Watergate shitstorm back in 1973.  But despite all his efforts and those of his staff and operatives around the country, he could not prevail.  It wasn’t the burglary that eventually did him in, it was his efforts to cover up the nationwide dirty tricks campaign that his presidential re-election organization, CREEP, had engaged in that finally forced him to resign.  As the Post’s Woodward/Bernstein eventually figured out, following the money led the way to Nixon’s downfall.

Consider the Trump Administration.  Trump and his minions, because they have zip Washington political experience, apparently have not a clue about how Washington actually works or Trump would not have slimed the NSA, the CIA and the FBI during his Presidential campaign.  Nixon, on the other hand, was successful in curtailing the Watergate investigations by ordering Attorney General John Mitchell’s Justice Department (the FBI) to not expand their investigations any further than investigating the five men who broke into the DNC offices and purloined documents.  And the FBI acceded to this dicta.  Anything that wasn’t directly related to the burglary – who organized the raid, who paid the perpetrators, where the money came from – was never investigated by the FBI.  It all stopped at the break-in of the DNC headquarters at Watergate.  The Trump folks, by their actions, have actually expanded the range of investigation into Russiagate.  Trump, of course, believes that he has outsized powers to change virtually anything he wants to.  He doesn't.  In fact, his constant tweeting about the lying media, the fake news and the absolute denial of any Russian influence and association only makes him appear guilty.  Nixon remained silent about Watergate except for calling it a "third rate burglary."  By doing so, he managed to stave off this demise for a year.    

The speed at which the Russiagte scandal is unraveling is a direct result of Trump and his Trump Team minion's lack of experience.  They display an extraordinary lack of both knowledge and sophistication about the longstanding Federal Establishment and the threads of power they wield.  The firing of FBI Director, James Comey, was Trump’s biggest and probably longest lasting mistake.  I’m betting that he will make another yuge mistake in the near future – he will fire Special Counsel, Robert Meullier, when this man's investigations steers too close to Trump and his Team members.  In fact, I’m betting that the Treasury Department’s investigation into Trump Family financial dealings will yield the most damaging evidence of the corruption of Trump and the entire Trump Administration.

But as we slog off to whatever destination we are heading towards as we live in Trumpland, remember that we’ve never had a political scandal that remotely approaches Russiagate.  Sure, we all are very much aware that there is no “evidence” for the multitudinous allegations against the Trump Team, but this was the same Republican rhetoric that accompanied the initial reports of White House collusion in covering up the extensive web of crimes perpetrated by Nixon and his Republican mafia back in the mid 1970’s.  But the Trump Administration does not have the collective sophistication nor the experience to weather the developing storm that is Russiagate.  They will continue to deny and deflect and I don’t think that the Trump Team is even capable of fending off the onslaught of daily revelations about the Russian connections with any effectiveness. 

Will all this eventually implicate Trump directly just as Nixon was finally tagged with obstructing justice and abuse of power in the articles of impeachment in attempting to shut down the FBI investigation into Watergate?  Not sure.  But I have maintained all along that the NSA, CIA and FBI already have the goods on Trump and/or his associates.   What remains to be seen is how “the goods” are revealed to all the investigators currently looking into Russiagate and how such evidence is released to the public.  Frankly, I don’t see all of this working out well for Trump and his Mafia Don Family.  Sure, times have changed.  Back in the Nixon era there was no internet or social media or Patriot Act where our intelligence agencies have free rein to monitor our every communication.  Back then it all revolved around paper documents, tape recordings and a trail of money that was enshrined in bank transactions.  Today?  Well, despite all the “advances” in technology and social media, there remains the “electronic trail” just like the “paper trail” that hounded Nixon just in the different form of zeros and ones.  The fundamental  character of the trails are the same.  Little Red Riding Hood leaving a trail of crumbs so that she can be followed is no different from the breadcrumbs of Nixon’s paper trails nor the trails of the electronic crumbs left behind by the Trump Mafia. You can shred a paper document and thereby eliminate it from view forever.  But when you delete an electronic "document" there's still other ones that remain on your hard drive. 

The slow drip, drip, drip of leaks, the breathtaking headlines in our newspapers, the Breaking News Headlines on television,  the mind blowing allegations of potential crimes, the instant denials and defenses of political friends, the anonymous sources, are all common elements of both Watergate and Russiagate.  But there are two major ways that the two scandals diverge:  1) the speed at which Russiagate seems to be unravelling is unprecedented; and 2) Watergate was essentially about a massive effort to undermine Democrats through dirty tricks while Russiagate involves a foreign power that is not a friend of the United States of America.  The stakes in Russiagate are much higher.

There is no question that we do not have hard and fast “evidence” of Trump’s collusion with Russia in rigging our election.  But remember that for over a year there was no “evidence” that Richard Nixon was in any way involved in the Watergate burglary.  But in the end, through the dogged investigation of a couple of Washington Post reporters, it was proven that Nixon not only approved the ratfucking of Democrats around the country but had indeed engaged in trying to cover up these crimes.   As the constant stream of “unsupported” allegations and revelations of our newly energized media pour forth, it is instructive to recall that the very same defenses, “there’s nothing here” and “there is no evidence of collusion” by Trump apologists, are exactly the same proclamations from Nixon supporters who claimed that Watergate was just a “third rate burglary.” 

Have A Great Day Everyone!


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