What if Watergate hadn’t happened?
“Deep Throat” is only a dirty movie. Daniel Ellsberg is still seeing the same psychiatrist. Robert Bork sits on the Supreme Court, appointed in 1976, because he never sacked Archibald Cox, because Archibald Cox never left Harvard to become a special prosecutor, because there was nothing to prosecute, specially.
Elizabeth Taylor is dead. She was never saved from drugs and booze and overeating by the Betty Ford Center, because the Betty Ford Center does not exist, because Betty Ford remained a perfectly happy golf widow in Grand Rapids, Mich., who sometimes acted a little silly at Christmas parties.
Twenty-two men did not go to jail. The Ethics in Government Act was never written — nor passed — and so even more men did not go to jail. The 94th Congress didn’t include 75 newly elected, ethically empowered Democrats, including Gary Hart.
The Vietnam War draft dodgers were stuck in Canada, without Jimmy Carter to bail them out. Fifteen years later, the hippest city in the Western Hemisphere, birthplace of a cultural renaissance unknown since the Left Bank of Paris in the 1920s, is Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Without Carter’s $ 1.5 billion loaner, Chrysler went belly up. The 1968 Dodge Dart immediately became a collectible, and was displayed in the design wing of MOMA. Lee Iacocca became a Subaru executive. Larry Flynt was never saved by Ruth Carter Stapleton. He remained a disgusting pig.
Edmund Morris was able to finish the second installment of his Theodore Roosevelt biography because he never got tied up doing Ronald Reagan, since Ronald Reagan, after an unsuccessful run at the presidency in 1976, quit politics. He was wholly satisfied that a good conservative — Spiro T. Agnew — had finally made it into the White House. Reagan resumed a successful career in television, and in 1980 accepted the part of Blake Carrington on “Dynasty.” He dyed his hair gray.
Without a presidency to cement their marriage, Ron and Nancy Reagan sadly drifted apart. At a black-tie benefit for menstrual cramps, Nancy was introduced to the recently separated hotelier Harry Helmsley. They were married two months later.
A generation of talented young people, over-educated and under-experienced, never took to sorting mail and answering phones at newspapers, trying to become famous reporters like Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Instead, they became insurance actuaries, dentists and performance artists.
And the president’s men?
Charles Colson, unstained by any hugely public sinning, returned to the Marines and never got a chance to host “The 700 Club” with Pat Robertson. John Mitchell did host a show, though, called “Washington Windbags,” with John McLaughlin. It was canceled after 13 weeks due to poor ratings, and neither man was seen on television again.