Any Republican Will Do
One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting near a small black and white television and watching the Watergate scandal and the drama surrounding President Richard Nixon. I am 55 years old, so I would have been 8 or 9 years old. To refresh my memory, I did a quick Google search and found an easy to digest article outlining the history of Watergate.
What I found in the article were themes that eerily resemble the drama surrounding our current President: a sitting US Republican president trying to interfere with the election of a Democratic contender, a president trying to resist the release of recordings and other materials while under investigation, and a president facing impeachment charges for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution.
I imagine that Watergate would not have much significance for anyone born in the '70s or later. For those who might need a little historical perspective and information on Watergate, here is David Millward's article:
What was Watergate and why did Nixon face impeachment?
David Millward, US Correspondent 20 MAY 2017 • 1:01AM
What was the Watergate burglary?
Richard Nixon was on course for a comfortable win in the 1972 presidential election when, on June 17, five burglars were caught prowling around the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel in the heart of Washington DC. This was the second raid on the building. Burglars had broken in late May and made off with secret documents as well as planting listening devices on office phones. They returned to plant fresh bugs on the DNC phones, because the first batch turned out to be faulty. This time they were not so lucky with a security guard noticing that there was tape on some of the locks on the building including from the underground car park. The five men were charged with attempted burglary and attempted interception of telephone and other communications.
What linked the burglars to the Nixon campaign?
The five, who were caught red-handed, included James McCord. McCord, a former FBI and CIA agent, was security co-ordinator for the Republican National Committee and the Committee for the Re-election of the President - a body known as CREEP. The police secured search warrants for the burglars' rooms at the Watergate hotel. There they found address books containing the name "H Hunt WH" - and a White House telephone number.
It also emerged that G. Gordon Liddy, who supervised the burglary but did not enter the building, was General Counsel on CREEP's finance committee.
Liddy and Hunt were also two of the "White House Plumbers", a special team set up to plug the leaking of sensitive classified information. The five burglars, along with Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy appeared before a Grand Jury on September 15.
Did the burglary have an impact on the result?
No, Nixon trounced George McGovern, his left-wing Democrat opponent. Nixon took 60.7 per cent of the vote, winning 49 states and 520 seats in the Electoral College. McGovern won one state - Massachusetts - along with Washington DC, taking only 17 Electoral College seats and a 37.5 per cent of the votes. Did Nixon have any advance knowledge of the burglary? The evidence is not conclusive, but on balance it looks as if he did not know what was being done in his name. Some believe he did have advanced knowledge, but most experts believe that as ruthless and sharp operator as Nixon would not have sanctioned as hamfisted an operation as the Watergate burglary.
According to a taped conversation between Nixon and H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, a furious president asked: "Who was the a**hole who ordered it?"
How did Nixon get involved?
Worried by the damage disclosure that his election team was involved in the Watergate burglaries, Nixon and his team tried to contain the damage.
The five burglars, who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money, pleaded guilty heading off a trial. McCord and Liddy were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping. Publicly Nixon promised there would be "no whitewash at the White House", but behind the scenes, there were frantic efforts to cover the tracks of a conspiracy which would lead to the President's closest advisers. But within a week of the burglary, Nixon was concerned that the FBI was delving into uncomfortable territory. In discussions with Haldeman, he suggested that the CIA - who he hoped would be more malleable - take over the inquiry. Nixon was also involved in raising large amounts of money. The CIA was instructed to undermine the FBI's investigation of the break-in at a time when suspicions were growing that the conspiracy involved far more people than the seven who were indicted following the burglary.
How did the plot unravel?
The involvement of several men linked to the Nixon election campaign piqued the interest of two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. At the same time, the FBI was making progress. Less than two months after the burglars were arrested, the FBI found a $25,000 cheque which had been earmarked for the Nixon campaign in the bank account of one of those arrested. Some of the material from the investigation reached Bernstein and Woodward thanks to their secret source - known as "Deep Throat" - recently disclosed as the FBI's associate director, Mark Felt. John Sirica, who presided over the burglars' trial, was also convinced that those arrested had not acted alone. Putting pressure on defendants - such as offering leniency if they provided information - he succeeded in breaking through the wall of silence. It was McCord who broke, sending Sirica a letter in which he said that he and his fellow defendants had been put under "political pressure to plead guilty and remain silent." His letter on March 23 1973 implicated John Dean, White House Counsel, and Jeb Magruder CREEP's deputy director in the cover-up which followed the burglary. The Senate, meanwhile, was conducting its own investigation and Dean, who had hired his own lawyer, was co-operating with the committee and prosecutors. He was sacked by Nixon on April 30 1973. On the same day, the White House announced the resignations of two of the President's most senior advisers, Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, his chief domestic adviser - the two men known as the "Berlin Wall"
So how did Nixon get ensnared in the scandal?
Nixon had installed a secret taping system in parts of the White House, executive office and official retreat at Camp David in 1971. Their existence was disclosed by Alexander Butterfield in July 1973, when he appeared before the Senate Watergate Committee. Nixon fought tooth and nail to prevent the release of the tapes, which laid bare the extent of the cover-up and his involvement. Archibald Cox, who had been appointed special prosecutor by the administration, demanded the tapes as did the senate committee. Cox was fired on October 20 1973 in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre - prompting the resignation of several senior Department of Justice officials. Nixon, meanwhile, agreed to release some - but not all - of the tapes.
What brought Nixon down?
On March 1 1974 a grand jury, appointed by Cox's successor, Leon Jaworski, not only indicted seven of Nixon's former aides but named the President as an "unindicted conspirator" In July the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the remaining tapes, which he again tried to resist. The House of Representatives lost patience, voting to impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution. The tapes which were released on August 5 provided compelling evidence of Nixon's complicity in the Watergate cover-up. With impeachment by the Senate certain, he resigned on August 8 1974.
I remember being excited about the right to vote. My first opportunity was in 1984, I was 20 years old. I voted for Ronald Reagan. Four years later, I voted for George H. W. Bush. Four years after that, I voted for him again. Four years later, I voted for Senator Bob Dole. Then I voted for George W. Bush twice, then Senator John McCain. It wasn't until Mitt Romney received the nomination to be on the Republican ticket for President that I began to ask myself, "will any Republican do?"
Mitt Romney didn't seem to be a bad guy. From my own personal perspective as a lifelong Republican voter, however, I didn't see how he fit in with Republicans that I had voted for in the past. I always have and always will admire George W. Bush. I admired the courage he displayed in banning partial-birth abortions and launching his faith-based initiatives. As a career military man, I also admired his stance on the conduct of the Gulf War and his response to the 9-11 attacks. It was in this light that I reviewed Mitt Romney's candidacy.
From my view, Romney wasn't a very strong proponent of abortion, nor would he be considered a champion for the "religious right." He seemed to be just a wealthy businessman running for office and the only one with enough support to feasibly run against President Obama.
I remember sitting down with my two youngest daughters and explaining to them why I, as a black man, didn't vote for the country's first black President. They were teenagers, and I knew they would soon be making their own voting decisions. I wanted them to know how I decided who to vote for. I told them that there were some things that I believed in very strongly, and one of them was that abortion was wrong. I also told them that I had never voted for anyone that supported abortion. I explained to them that as articulate and as impressive as President Obama was, and even though he was a Harvard-educated African-American man, with charisma on a gigawatt scale, I could not vote for him because of his views on abortion.
When I considered Romney, I thought he represented a new type of Republican, one who was mainly focused on the economy and the interests of the wealthy. For me, he was the embodiment of the "any Republican will do" mentality. For the first time ever, I abstained in the vote for President, I didn't check a box. I could not, at that time, cast a vote for President Obama because of his stance on abortion, but I also couldn't get enthusiastic about the "any Republican will do" candidate, Mitt Romney.
Ironically, I recently found myself looking with hope to Mitt Romney. He stood out as a Republican leader with the guts to challenge the conduct of President Trump. I have been dismayed, even disgusted that there was no Republican leader with the courage to challenge a president that I believe has tarnished the image of the Republican party.
In her Oct, 2 2019, Washington Post article, "Dear Sen. Romney: The times have found you," Jennifer Rubin expresses similar sentiments.
Dear Sen. Romney,
Refusing to parrot the hear-no-collusion-see-no-collusion attitude of your Republican colleagues responding to the released July 25 transcript puts you in a small group of Republican lawmakers who have not jettisoned all moral authority. You know, as your colleagues do not (or pretend not to know), that it is a fundamental breach of the President's oath of office to seek foreign collaborators to determine the outcome of the election…
The Republican Party seems determined to go down with the sinking ship, taking anyone on the ballot with an "R" next to his or her name down with it. They seem insistent on further dividing the country and perpetrating out-and-out lies. Both because you have not sullied yourself by participating in such conduct and because you are immune to intimidation and threats (you're not on the ballot for five years and you don't need this job anyway), you are uniquely situated to do several critical things…
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) likes to say the "times have found us" in reiterating the solemn duty of the House. I would suggest they have found you too.
Interestingly, enough Senator Romeny posted these remarks on Twitter about the President and his request that China investigate Joe Biden:
When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China's investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated. @MittRomney 12:02 PM Oct 4, 2019
By all appearances, the President's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.
Mitt Romney replying to @MittRomney
I live in Arizona, and I have been an admirer of former Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake. I liked the fact that he was unafraid to speak out against the President when his behavior warranted it. He said recently that his former Republican colleagues were reluctant to speak out against the President on the matter of asking foreign governments to investigate Joe Biden. Specifically, he said, "There is a concern that he'll get through it and he'll exact revenge on those who didn't stand with him."
Jeff Flake said something else that I found very telling. He said, "There is no love for the President among Senate Republicans, and they aspire to do more than answer questions about his every tweet and issue. But they know this is the President's party and the bargain's been made." What's the bargain? If you keep proving that you can win, we will back you no matter what you do, because Republicans winning is all that matters.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed similar sentiments when he said:
"The Republican Party has got to get a grip on itself. Right now, Republican leaders and members of the Congress, in both the Senate and in the House, are holding back because they're terrified of what will happen to any one of them if they speak out," Powell said. "Will they lose a primary? I don't know why that's such a disaster, but will they lose a primary? (Becker, 2019)
Republican leaders have lost their moral compass. When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was a young politician, he called the Watergate affair "totally repugnant" and denounced the conduct of President Richard Nixon. (Rucker, 2019)
However, his most recent campaign ad shows him stoutly supporting President Trump saying, "The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader." How could a Republican leader who watched the corruption of Watergate unfurl, stand idly by as the President flaunts the fact that he invited a foreign government to interfere with our election process?
When candidate Donald Trump was caught on tape speaking of grabbing a woman by the genitals, I knew he was done politically, but to my amazement, he wasn't. When candidate Trump referred to Mexicans in the vilest terms that I had ever heard from any political leader, I thought surely he was done. I remember as a Republican teacher, in a primarily Hispanic community, being surrounded by Hispanic students, shortly following candidate Trump's remarks. They asked me, "Mr. T, are you voting for Trump?" I remember assuring them that I would never vote for Trump. In the back of my mind, I just knew that he would never make it that far. There was no scenario that I could imagine that candidate Trump would receive the Republican party's nomination.
Then the unthinkable started to happen. The candidate with the least demonstrated moral character, no military service, no record of success in public office, no identification with the religious right, the one who's success as a "businessman" had been derided and ridiculed—this candidate began to emerge as the front runner.
It was clear that candidate Trump's white nationalism, anti-immigration, cut taxes for the wealthy and villainize all things Obama, were making him the candidate with the best chance to beat former first-lady, Secretary of State and Senator, Hillary Clinton. Political affiliation aside, on paper, candidate Trump's political resume did not deserve to be compared to Hillary Clinton's. However, under the "any Republican will do" banner, candidate Trump was amply qualified. We know the rest of the story.
The Republican candidate that was deemed most capable of winning the election was given the nomination, despite the lack of credentials shared by previous Republican candidates such as Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain (Governor of a large state, service in the Armed Forces of the United States, heroism in combat, distinguished record in Congress).
As the 2020 election nears and now coincides with impeachment hearings, there is still the palpable, yet incomprehensible sense that Republican leaders will ride the elephant until it dies while carrying the banner "any Republican will do." The following quotes mirror the exasperation that I feel:
Republicans largely stood behind Trump in 2016 after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape on which he bragged of sexual assault, as well as during the darkest days of the Russia investigation and in the wake of racist comments.
"It feels like we've been constantly moving the line," said Tom Rath, a GOP fixture in New Hampshire. "We say, 'Don't cross this line.' Okay, you crossed it. So, 'Don't cross this line.' We're finally at a point where patience is exhausted, reason is exhausted and, quite frankly, the voters are exhausted." (Rucker, 2019)
The GOP's paralysis was on display this past week in Templeton, Iowa, where a voter confronted Sen. Joni Ernst (R) at a town hall meeting Thursday over her silence about Trump's conduct. "Where is the line?" Iowa resident Amy Haskins asked in frustration. "When are you guys going to say, 'Enough,' and stand up and say, 'You know what? I'm not backing any of this.'" (Rucker, 2019)
Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, who is admired by Trump and occasionally speaks with him, co-wrote an essay in the Daily Caller last week offering a road map for Republicans, writing that "there's no way to spin" Trump's request that a foreign leader investigate one of his domestic opponents as proper, but that it did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. (Rucker, 2019)
In 2019 we know that the Russians tampered with our elections as if we were a third-world country. Who knew before it happened that it was possible for a foreign country to affect the election results of the most powerful nation on earth? Remember the "hanging chads" in Florida. Do you remember the questions of unfairness that seemed to linger over the Bush-Gore results, when President Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, appeared to have some possible impact on the outcome of how chads were dealt with? There are still some Democrats talking about how Bush "stole the election."
On a scale galactically greater in magnitude, the Russians tampered with US election results, and Republican leaders have helped downplay it's impact because it helped the "any Republican will do" candidate win and further discussion of it might diminish his chance of winning again in the future.
Since the election, we know that the President joked publicly with Vladimir Putin about not tampering with the next election. And far more gravely, we understand that the President and members of his staff have sought the aid of a foreign government (Ukraine) to affect the outcome of the 2020 elections.
The President showed absolutely no remorse in inviting Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Moreover, with impeachment proceedings looming, President Trump publicly stated that he would welcome China's assistance in investigating the Bidens: "China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine."
Also, in the ultimate example of "fake news," it has been brought to light that the President and key members of his staff have sought the aid of foreign countries (Australia, UK) to try to discredit the US intelligence agencies' assertion that the Russians tampered with the 2016 election. The aim was to prove that the tampering never happened.
This is Watergate on steroids. President Nixon only sought to have an advantage over one Democratic candidate. Our current President sits on the precipice of twice gaining an advantage over a Democratic opponent through the assistance of a foreign government.
I am a Reagan-era, military man who spent 28 years in a uniform. We spent so many years preparing for the Russian and Chinese, communist, threat, viewing Russia and China as America's greatest enemies. We were made to study how the US fought both these countries by proxy in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Perhaps, that seriously affects my view of the President's coziness with President Putin and his failure to outright condemn him for Russia's involvement in the 2016 elections. It causes me even greater alarm when I think of a sitting US President inviting China to become a factor in the presidential elections.
"My Republican colleagues' silence seems unsustainable and inexcusable, given the threat to our national security as well as the integrity of our democratic institutions," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (Rucker, 2019)
These matters are far larger than the Republican party, they are as Senator Blumenthal said, matters of national security. No two countries pose a more significant threat to the security of our nation. These nations are not our friends. They are not friends of Democracy. If we are cooperating with them, there will be a price to pay, even if it's just a lowering of our defenses, taking our eye off the fact that they are more than just ideological rivals, but economic and military rivals as well. Here's an example of what the President's compromise could look like:
What did @realDonaldTrump promise China in exchange for interfering in our election? An easier deal on trade? Ignoring crackdown on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement? Condoning repression of religious freedom? #TruthExposed @SpeakerPelosi
I don't believe, as Speaker Pelosi, suggests, that the President, offered these types of concessions to China, to do so would be an act of treason. I do believe, however, that by asking the Chinese to investigate Joe Biden, that the President unwittingly weakens his negotiating position on all of the things speaker Pelosi mentioned.
Third-world countries get their elections tampered with by the communist Superpowers. Inviting Chinese assistance, winking at Russian involvement, lowers our global prestige, and compromises the foundation of Democracy in a manner that would cause the Founding Fathers to roll over simultaneously in their graves.
The President is not just compromising Democracy in the United States but across the globe. If the integrity of the democratic process can be compromised by China and Russia in the United States, what chance do the other Democratic nations have in standing up against them?
How do we, as Christians, fit into all this? Christians have been an integral part of supporting the notion that "any Republican candidate will do." We, as Christians, however, must realize that Communism has always been a great threat to the spread of Christianity. Anyone who has ever worked with missions in a communist country will attest to that. Any act of the President that strengthens the hand of the Russians and Chinese likely also weakens the strength of Democratic ideals in the global political ecosystem. When Democratic ideals suffer, free speech and free elections suffer. The weakening of Democratic ideals across the globe is also without question, a threat to the spreading of the gospel.
If the greatest Democracy in the history of the planet can be compromised by Russia or China, especially at our invitation, how can we be so foolish to think that it will not further embolden these Communist nations to influence elections in other Democratic nations? What would then be the impact on the spread of the gospel in those nations?
Billy Graham was a spiritual advisor to President Nixon when Watergate erupted. The things that came out during the investigation caught him by surprise. He told Christianity Today in January, 2011 that he wishes he hadn't been so political during parts of his career, "I also would have steered clear of politics. I'm grateful for the opportunities God gave me to minister to people in high places; people in power have spiritual and personal needs like everyone else, and often they have no one to talk to. But looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now."
I believe today's Christian leaders could benefit from the wisdom that Billy Graham gained in his dealings with the White House. It is also my hope that Christian leaders would cease to be silent on the moral character and misconduct of the President. Many of our national leaders have "crossed the line," as Billy Graham said and used their pulpits, television shows, and other avenues to support/endorse and prematurely pardon the President. In doing so, they have diminished the credibility of their position by holding the "any Republican will do flag" higher than the ideals and values they teach from the Bible.
You may wonder, as a Christian, if I pray for the President. Of course, I do. I pray for him, his family. I pray that he would have wisdom. I especially pray that he'd have wisdom when it seems he isn't listening to the advisors that he has placed around him.
We don't have a King, we have three branches of government, that are a check and balance to each other. Our three branches reflect the incredible foresight and wisdom of the Founding Fathers. We should pray for all of the branches, they are all are part of God's established authority as outlined in Romans 13:
Rom 13:1-3 (NIV) Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
The President of the United States is subject to the laws approved by Congress and the Supreme Court. If the President is rebelling against these laws, he is rebelling against the governing authorities, and he will rightly bring judgment upon himself. We are all called to subject to the governing authorities. Colin Powell's quote illustrates this point with a recent example of the President's behavior:
"And I see things happening that are hard to understand. A couple weeks ago the President put a circle around south east Alabama, saying it's going to get hit by a hurricane. He put it on top of the meteorological prediction," he said. "In my time, one of us would have gone to the president and said, 'Mr President, you screwed up, so we've got to fix it, and we'll put out a correction.' You know what they did this time? They ordered the Commerce Department to go out and backup whatever the President mis-said. This is not the way the country's supposed to run, and Congress is one of the institutions that should be doing something about this."
Powell concluded, "The media has a role to play, we all have a role to play, you've got to remember that all these pieces are a part of our government. Executive branch, Congress, Supreme Court, and of the Fourth Estate, and we've got to remember that the Constitution started with, 'We the People,' not 'Me the President.'" (Colin Powell) (Becker, 2019)
The Bible says in a multitude of counselors there is safety (Prov 11:14, 15:22). It also says that we should pray for all who in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives (2 Tim 2:2). In that regard, I also pray for the President's staff, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. Specifically, in regards to the President's behavior, I started praying months ago that the Lord would raise up righteous authorities/leaders to challenge the President if he indeed is caught up in wrongdoing.
I believe that the "authority" outlined in Chapter 13 of Romans doesn't stop at the three branches of government. It also extends to government agencies. At the time of this writing, we have at least two "whistleblowers" from government agencies that are helping to bring out the truth of the President's intentions in dealing with Ukraine. I look at this as an answer to prayer.
My prayer is that God, in His mercy, will continue to raise up righteous men and women in authority with the courage to confront the President, amidst the vast sea of men and women in authority in the government and in the church who are afraid to.
Ezekiel 22:30, (World English Bible) says, "I sought for a man among them, who should build up the wall, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. I do believe that God would not have had to raise up men and women in our government agencies to check the President's misconduct if our national Christian leaders would have used their considerable influence collectively to do so.
I often watch TV on my laptop now. As I do, I see history repeating itself. Just any Republican wouldn’t suffice in the Nixon era, and it certainly won’t now.
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