For the first time in 36 years, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (popularly contractioned as “Woodstein,” but PostScript doesn’t do popular things) returned to the pages of The Washington Post this weekend with a joint byline, to tell us that the crimes President Nixon committed were no big deal.
Okay, that’s the opposite of what Bernward probably think they said. But that wasn’t PostScript’s takeaway. As it turns out, all those sleazy violations of law and human decency that Nixon actually went through with are nothing compared to the totally insane, sleazy violations of law and human decency he talked about doing but didn’t. Hire kidnappers and muggers to go after his enemies! Kill reporters! Crack the safe at the Brookings Institution! Float a yacht full of prostitutes offshore near the 1972 Democratic convention — prostitutes wired for sound.
We here at the PostScript bunker would like to say that again with more punctuation. PROSTITUTES. WIRED! FOR^ SOUND>*}.
Commenters wanted to say things too, 5,000 things and more, until the Web site got tired of counting them all. Many questioned whether Watergate would go undiscovered and/or unpunished if it happened today, in an era of weakened media, and — more to the point — greater political partisanship.
Mnjam thinks Nixon might have remained in power:
A bipartisan group of leaders held Nixon accountable once the evidence reached a certain point. Hard to imagine that today.
MdLaw agrees, citing the comments themselves as proof that most of us will only listen to facts coming from our own side:
The real story in many of these comments is the danger of partisan politics and its ability to destroy a democracy’s willingness to hold corrupt politicians accountable. In the aftermath of the Nixon era, many and probably most Republicans were willing to recognize the threat to our Nation brought upon us by the acts of a paranoid president who was willing to abuse his office for political gain. I am afraid that in today’s political environment partisan allegiances would take priority over Country. Members of the incumbent party (whichever it may be) would do anything and everything they could to prevent their corrupted leader from being held accountable -- even sacrifice the promise of democratic government. Would America really hold Richard Nixon accountable today or would it be just another round of hateful finger pointing?
And sanfran6003 argues that this exact mind-set is what allowed Nixon to feel justified in his crimes:
One lesson to be remembered on the 40th anniversary of Watergate is that blind partisanship can lead to demonizing political opponents beyond reason; so extreme a demonization that even tactics that are blatantly underhanded or illegal can be justified to destroy them.
Adam_Smith thinks a fateful attempt to put Watergate behind us has paradoxically ensured a level of corruption, lawlessness and lack of accountability in our government:
I felt strongly at the time that Nixon’s pardon, (broadly praised by politicians and pundits), was a great mistake. In the absence of the full incriminating details, Nixon’s observable low character alone showed that he was undeserving of leniency. The nation, however, would be denied the full accounting that it did deserve. Every failure to prosecute the criminal acts of the powerful and politically connected is actually a crime against the public, an assault upon the rule of law and another slip further into corruption and despotism.
Finally, crisp11 taps into a feeling that pervaded the thread and might explain why, 40 years later, Nixon still gets 5,000 comments: personal betrayal. Even the way Nixon left the world stirs up ire:
I was in Washington DC the day he died. I hoped that the family would decide to have his body lie in state so that I could positively confirm that the evil man was indeed dead. They opted not to. Even in death, he cheated me.