Most people old enough to remember the intricate details of the Watergate scandal are rapidly approaching geezerhood, if they aren’t established geezers already. (If you were an adult when Nixon resigned, you’re over 50 now.) So readers of Unsilent Generation may be interested in a story posted recently by my colleague at Mother Jones, David Corn.

The Rose Mary Stretch

The Rose Mary Stretch

It seems that a former NSA staffer and amateur historian thinks he has found a way to recover some of the infamous 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes, in which the president and his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, discuss the recent break-in by their team of dirty tricksters at the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate offices.  This gap was discovered when Nixon finally released the tapes, after resisting for months (and firing half of his own Justice Department over the issue in the Saturday Night Massacre). Nixon’s loyal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, later said that she had inadvertantly erased part of the tape by stepping on a pedal while she reached over to answer the phone–a move so unwieldy and implausible that it came to be know as the “Rose Mary Stretch.”

All this cloak-and-daggering in the Oval Office might seem pretty amusing, 35 years after Nixon boarded his plane back to San Clemente–if only history hadn’t repeated itself so many times. There’s a reason why the recent film Frost/Nixon wasn’t seen as simply an overblown tale of two has-beens trying to redeem themselves. When Nixon says, in one of his interviews, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” he could be expressing the credo of the Bush/Cheney White House.  In fact, some of Tricky Dick Cheney’s sinister machinations make Watergate look tame by comparison: Nixon, after all, was mostly just trying to get re-elected, not toss out the Constitution and take over the world.

Things may have gotten better since January 20, 2009. But as John Nichols pointed out in the Nation last week, we’re still a long, long way from the executive branch transparency Obama promised in his campaign. In particular, the Obama White House’s clandestine deals with Big Pharma and other health care industry representatives are starting to sound a lot like Dick Cheney’s secret sessions with oil companies to set energy policy–maybe not quite as bad, but bad enough. And as Nichols puts it, “bad-but-not-quite-Cheney-bad is an unacceptable standard.”

2 responses to “Obama/Nixon

  1. Yes…I do remember Watergate. BUT there are things I had forgotten about Nixon:

    Changes Voting Age – In 1971, Right to vote: The voting age in the United States is reduced from 21 to 18 (provision of the 26th Amendment formally certified by President Richard Nixon).

    Alaska Pipeline – In 1973, President Nixon signs the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act into law, authorizing the construction of the Alaska Pipeline.

    Minority Business Enterprise – Developed and Coordinated a national program for minority business enterprises.

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Created the EEOC in the Federal Government on August 8, 1969.

    Regulations Regarding Employment of the Handicapped – Implemented regulations protecting and assisting the employment of the handicapped on September 9, 1969.

    This info is from HuffingtonPost
    Increased Social Security and Medicare Spending – Under Nixon, direct payments from the federal government to individual American citizens in government benefits (including Social Security and Medicare) rose from 6.3% of the Gross National Product (GNP) to 8.9%.

    Food aid and Public Assistance rose, beginning at $6.6 billion and escalating to $9.1 billion. In August 1969, Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Plan, a welfare reform that would have guaranteed an income to all Americans. The plan, however, did not receive congressional approval.

    Defense Spending Decreased – from 9.1% to 5.8% of the GNP.

    Revenue Sharing Program – pioneered by Nixon delivered $80 billion to individual states and municipalities.

    Return of Okinawa to the Japanese – In 1969, President Nixon and Japanese Premier Eisaku Sato agree in Washington to the return of Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. retains rights to military bases on the island, but they must be nuclear-free.

    Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act – In 1970, President Nixon signs the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, banning cigarette television advertisements in the United States, starting on January 1, 1971.

    EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) – Implemented a broad environmental program (he is largely responsible for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

    Ended the Draft – Nixon formed the Gates Commission to look into ending the military service draft, implemented under President Johnson. The Gates Commission issued its report in February 1970, describing how adequate military strength could be maintained without having conscription. On September 28, 1971, Nixon signed legislation abolishing the military draft.The draft was extended to June 1973, and then ended.

  2. Thank you Barb, for pointing out so many things that many have forgotten.

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