This book bubble contains excerpts from two chapters: "Any Republican Will Do" and "A Ringing Endorsement by the Church?"
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 at that time 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 America’s current state of affairs: a sitting U.S. 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 • 1:01 AM
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 percent 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 percent 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.” (Millward, 2017)
…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." (Kaplan, 2019) 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?
…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.
…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."
…Impeachment drama fills my TV screen as it did when I was 8 or 9 years old. As I watch, I see history repeating itself. Just any Republican wouldn’t suffice in the Nixon era, and it certainly won’t now.
A Ringing Endorsement By the Church?
…Though Billy Graham founded Christianity Today, Franklin Graham was one of the national Christian leaders, who came out against its editorial on President Trump. He distanced himself from the magazine and said on social media that “his father would not agree" with Christianity Today's op-ed, adding that his father voted for Trump in 2016.”
In contrast to Franklin Graham’s remarks, Billy Graham shared in an interview with Christianity Today in Jan 2011, “that he wishes he hadn’t been so political during parts of his career,” and that he “also would have steered clear of politics.” (Church and State Magazine, 2011) His involvement in politics blew up in his face during President Nixon’s impeachment. History seems to have repeated itself with his son Franklin following down the path that his father warned against.
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