Over the weekend in this - Who Cares? Irony is all we have left these days. - it seemed we were done with the Watergate business - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and I, and others, said what needed to be said. But some trailing comments are necessary.
Many have been commenting on what Ben Stein, one of the Nixon guys from long ago, said here in the American Spectator -
Oh, some of us do.
Re: The "news" that former FBI agent Mark Felt broke the law, broke his code of ethics, broke his oath and was the main source for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's articles that helped depose Richard Nixon, a few thoughts.
Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended the war in Vietnam, brought home the POW's, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started the Environmental Protection Administration. Does anyone remember what he did that was bad?
He had this idea it would be a good idea to no some nasty things at the Brookings Institute.
John Dean here -
Well, maybe he was just venting, as they say. What we have on the Nixon tapes is this - "Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No? Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute's safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes somebody else responsible."
"Even by the standards of the Nixon White House, the plan to blow up Washington’s pre-eminent think tank seemed crazy" presidential counselor John W. Dean III recalled here Monday.
But there was White House aide John Ehrlichman on the phone one day in 1971, telling Dean that "Chuck Colson wants me to firebomb the Brookings (Institution)." Describing the incident Monday to several hundred presidential history junkies at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Dean said he was dumbfounded.
"I said, ‘John, this is absolute insanity,’ " he remembered. "People could die. This is absurd."
… It seemed incredible, but now that he has listened to earlier tapes, Dean said he has heard Nixon "literally pounding on his desk, saying ‘I want that break-in at the Brookings (Institution).’"
See, that’s not as bad. He was just kidding about the firebombing business, one supposes. Venting, as it were.
Did his staff take him seriously when he vented?
See William F. Buckley here - "On January 5, 1973, Howard Hunt, an old friend and my sometime boss in the CIA, came to see me, accompanied by one of his daughters (my goddaughter, as it happened). He told me the appalling, inside story of Watergate, including the riveting news that one of the plumbers was ready and disposed to kill Jack Anderson, the journalist-commentator, if word came down to proceed to that lurid extreme."
But the word didn?t come down. Jack Anderson lived. Not so bad.
Ben Stein is angry that this all is blown out of proportion ? the man had a temper and he lied a little -
So Mark Felt and Ben Bradlee are responsible for the killing fields in Cambodia. Got it.
Oh, now I remember. He lied. He was a politician who lied. How remarkable. He lied to protect his subordinates who were covering up a ridiculous burglary that no one to this date has any clue about its purpose. He lied so he could stay in office and keep his agenda of peace going. That was his crime. He was a peacemaker and he wanted to make a world where there was a generation of peace. And he succeeded.
That is his legacy. He was a peacemaker. He was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker. He was not a lying, conniving drug addict like JFK, a lying, conniving war starter like LBJ, a lying, conniving seducer like Clinton -- a lying, conniving peacemaker. That is Nixon's kharma.
When his enemies brought him down, and they had been laying for him since he proved that Alger Hiss was a traitor, since Alger Hiss was their fair-haired boy, this is what they bought for themselves in the Kharma Supermarket that is life:
1.) The defeat of the South Vietnamese government with decades of death and hardship for the people of Vietnam.
2.) The assumption of power in Cambodia by the bloodiest government of all time, the Khmer Rouge, who killed a third of their own people, often by making children beat their own parents to death. No one doubts RN would never have let this happen.
So, this is the great boast of the enemies of Richard Nixon, including Mark Felt: they made the conditions necessary for the Cambodian genocide. If there is such a thing as kharma, if there is such a thing as justice in this life of the next, Mark Felt has bought himself the worst future of any man on this earth. And Bob Woodward is right behind him, with Ben Bradlee bringing up the rear. Out of their smug arrogance and contempt, they hatched the worst nightmare imaginable: genocide. I hope they are happy now -- because their future looks pretty bleak to me.
And Nixon saved Israel? Would that be the guy who said this? - "Please get me the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats. Could we please investigate some of those cocksuckers?" That is on the tapes.
This all summarized here with the comment - This is not just "what all politicians do." This was different: a completely lawless White House whose corruption went way beyond normal.
Anyway, Ben Stein was one of Nixon?s speechwriters, and it loyal still. And he?s knows Mark Felt was just a bad Jew. Stein elsewhere says this (my emphases) -
So, there?s a war on, Nixon was heroic, and Felt is one bad Jew. Got it.
Now, we read that Mark Felt's family and Mark Felt put out their story solely to make money off it. So, this makes the family's karma even more unnerving. The father, patriarch, Mark, took out his anger and frustration for being passed over at the FBI, by ruining the career of the peacemaker, Richard Nixon. So, he condemned a whole subcontinent to genocide and slavery and poverty to please his own wounded vanity. (Maybe his nickname should be "sour grapes" and not "deep throat" because he has as much in common with that fox as with a porn star.) And, blood will tell, as the old saying goes: his posterity is now dragging out his old body and putting it on display to make money. (Have you noticed how Mark Felt looks like one of those old Nazi war criminals they find in Bolivia or Paraguay? That same, haunted, hunted look combined with a glee at what he has managed to get away with so far? )
And it gets worse: it's been reported that Mark Felt is at least part Jewish. The reason this isworse is that at the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.
? But there was and is a bigger story here. Frankly, Nixon is no longer alive. If he was a hero, he is a deceased hero. Bob Woodward is no one's idea of a hero. A super businessman and accomplished writer, but no hero. Mark Felt is only Richard Ben-Veniste's hero. But there are major heroes out there every day. There are 140,000 of them in Iraq and about 15,000 in Afghanistan, at lethal risk every minute of every day. There are a million more ready to go. There are millions of family members of these heroes. Can we possibly, possibly, conceivably forget them? Somehow, I think we have. The lead news stories are almost never about them. The story is about Michael Jackson or about Mark Felt. This is desperately wrong, and I do mean desperately.
? let's remember there's a war on, and the best and bravest of our nation are dying every day - to protect a great nation, but one which seems lately to have forgotten even what the nation is all about.
There are a million more ready to go? To Iraq? Look at the current Army recruiting figures. That part doesn?t seem so. But you see his argument.
And what is the nation all about? See Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State, on Nixon and Felt here - "You know, President Nixon once suspected Mark Felt. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that."
Well, heroes have tempers.
I?m an old guy. All the Watergate stuff was breaking when I was in my early twenties in graduate school. Those who don?t remember all this breaking in odd story after odd story now see the ex-cons who went to jail over these things - G. Gordon Liddy and the rest - on Fox News, and the other Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, saying Nixon was a hero and Felt some evil self-hating Jew betrayer, and this all was no big deal until Felt went over to the dark side. I guess they believe that must be so.
History is different for those of us who were there. But the ex-con plumbers and burglars, who plotted fire bombings and murders, have seized the narrative. Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible?
And I did not see this on television back in 1973 ? even though I thought I did ? Senator Herman Talmadge asks John Ehrlichman during the Watergate hearings, "If the president could authorize a covert break-in and you don?t exactly know where that power would be limited, you don?t think it could include murder or other crimes beyond covert break-ins, do you?" Ehrlichman - "I don?t know where the line is, Senator."
I could have sworn I saw that. Oh well, Fox News and Ben Stein tell me I didn?t.
Peter Rodino was a fairly obscure Democratic member of Congress from Newark, New Jersey who became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee early in 1973. Once the demand to impeach Nixon grew, it was that committee's responsibility to open up an impeachment inquiry, which it did in October of 1973. Rodino chaired that committee. Peter Rodino passed away a few weeks ago. Our friend, the Wall Street attorney, knew Rodino well; in fact, they were friends. Rodino was his advisor at law school, at Seaton Hall. And the comments above do get to our friend in Manhattan -
So our friend returns to the day?s issues with corporate regulations and SEC filings and the like ? but when he?s clear of that, will he be the one to compile what Rodino thought of all this?
There is just so much to comment on here during the work day.
As you all know, I try to keep my comments to myself, but on what would have been Peter Rodino's 96th birthday, I have to respond to Ben Stein's new show - "Ben Stein's Dementia."
So our friend Ben writes, "If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it."
How Israel is secure and safe escapes me. As far as I can tell the entire Middle East is still a powder keg ready for the right spark. As for one Jew calling another Jew bad, evil, and all the rest, this serves no purpose except for the hate mongers. As a Jew I find Ben Stein's comments truly offensive. Of course, I'm also not crazy about that constant stupid expression of boredom on Ben Stein's face, but that is getting too personal.
Now, about Watergate, I was a few years younger than Alan, but I did spend that summer in front of the television and have many scary memories. I suspect that what was truly scary was the lack of remorse of the perpetrators. However, it was during Watergate that I became interested in constitutional law and theory. It would, however, be 25 years before I found myself in Peter Rodino's advanced constitutional theory class in law school. I remember his leadership, and to a lesser extent the showmanship of Sam Irvin on the Senate side. What is amazing is to have heard Rodino speak of his first hearing the Watergate Tapes. He didn't like Nixon's reference to dagos, wops, and kikes. It literally made him sick. If Nixon did do anything positive for the country, it was far outweighed for his reckless disregard of the truth and more importantly the Constitution. (As I wrote that last sentence I realized how easily one could substitute Bush for Nixon without losing context.)
What we need is another "bad Jew" or anyone else out there with the information and knowledge to expose our present administration for what it is and what it has done to the United States. In speaking to a mutual friend at Rodino's wake, I was told that in the weeks before his death he had a tough time deciding who posed a greater hazard to the Constitution, Nixon or Bush. In the end he started thinking that Bush had really surpassed Nixon in this area.
At some point, several of Rodino's mentees, colleagues, and others who knew him will start comparing stories that Rodino told to each of us at various times. In fact, Rodino was in the middle of writing a biography that would have covered many of the areas that we discuss in these pages. I kept telling him to wrap up the book over the past few years but it was never completed. Perhaps his students will finish it for him sometime.
One last thought. I worry that we all have such negative opinions of politics and politicians. While I understand how politics can bring out the worst in people, I was lucky enough to know someone who really exemplified what a politician could and should be.
Unfortunately, I have to get back to work now.
Monday, 6 June, the New York Times reported on what one current political figure had to say about things right now. Is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior senator from New York, channeling Peter Rodino?
Strong words, but she spoke them at a Democratic fundraiser, after all. Bush surpassed Nixon, as our friend says Rodino was thinking.
There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda. I know it's frustrating for many of you, it's frustrating for me. Why can't the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It's very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they're doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don't care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.
Clinton on her fellow colleagues in Congress, the Republicans across the aisle ? they "honestly believe they are motivated by the truth, they are motivated by a higher calling, they are motivated by, I guess, a direct line to the heavens."
On the media today? "It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. I mean, c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake."
Is she running for president? New polling shows she has a shot - her current numbers are 55 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, seven points better than Bush.
We could do worse. Rodino is gone. And our attorney friend in New York hasn?t decided to run for office ? yet.
For more perspective on this all you might to catch what Seymour Hersh recalls in the current New Yorker in Watergate Days. He was with the New York Times back then.
On this Jewish business -
I had called Kissinger to get his comment on a report, which the Times was planning to run, that he had been involved in wiretapping reporters, fellow Administration officials, and even his own aides on the National Security Council. At first, he had indignantly denied the story. When I told him that I had information from sources in the Justice Department that he had personally forwarded the wiretap requests to the F.B.I., he was silent, and then said that he might have to resign. The implicit message was that this would be bad for the country, and that the Times would be blamed. A few minutes later, the columnist James Reston, who was a friend of Kissinger?s, padded up to my desk and asked, gently, if I understood that ?Henry? was serious about resigning. I did understand, but Watergate was more important than Kissinger.
Alexander Haig, Kissinger?s sometimes loyal deputy, had called a few times during the day to beat back the story. At around seven o?clock, there was a final call. ?You?re Jewish, aren?t you, Seymour?? In all our previous conversations, I?d been ?Sy.? I said yes. ?Let me ask you one question, then,? Haig said. ?Do you honestly believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself, your beliefs, and your nation to give us one day to prove that your story is wrong.? That was Watergate, circa 1973. The Times printed the story the next day, and Kissinger did not resign.
But what it was all about?
By May of 1973, the White House cover-up was unraveling, and the stalking of Richard Nixon by the wider press corps had begun. Woodward and Bernstein had been more than vindicated. The Nixon Administration, mired in a losing war in Vietnam, was also losing the battle against the truth at home. Throughout the two-year crisis, Watergate was perceived as a domestic issue, but its impact on foreign policy was profound. As memoirs by both Nixon and Kissinger show, neither man understood why the White House could not do what it wanted, at home or in Vietnam. The reason it couldn?t is, one hopes, just as valid today: they were operating in a democracy in which they were accountable to a Constitution and to a citizenry that held its leaders to a high standard of morality and integrity. That is the legacy of Watergate.
A comment from someone else who remembers things differently than Ben Stein - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
Our Wall Street friend mentioned that. And as for the source of Nixon?s comments? See this - one of about three hundred citations of the item on Google -
Something that seems to be missing in all this current discussion of Mark Felt being Jewish is what I heard last week in one of the White House tape transcripts, in which Haldeman, I think it was, was heard informing Nixon that most of the information being leaked seemed to be coming from Mark Felt -- to which Nixon immediately asked something like, "He's a Jew, isn't he?"
(I'm pretty sure I heard this version on NBC Nightly News, although I think ABC played that same segment, but dropped out before the Jewish part.)
None of this may have any real meaning beyond historical curiosity, but coupled with other examples (especially those taped conversations between Nixon and Billy Graham, in which Nixon really lets loose), one would think Ben Stein might want to reconsider nominating his old boss for posthumous induction into any Anti-Defamation League "Hall of Heroes".
I can't recall if there others than Chuck Colson from that Watergate crowd who went to prison and found Jesus, but I speculate from Ben Stein's apparent obsession with "kharma" that if you worked for Nixon and didn't go to prison, you found Buddha. In any event, to paraphrase some bumper stickers I've seen out there, I think Ben's Dogma is chasing Ben's own Kharma.
But prime among his many memories that need retooling is whether Nixon ever really brought peace to anyone, much less Vietnam. In my own recollection, Nixon had supported that war waged by the "lying, conniving war starter," LBJ, but realized when the election came around that he didn't need no weathermen to show him which way the wind was blowing, so he campaigned in 1968 saying he had a "secret plan" to end it.
(This "secret" election strategy was reprised years later by Pat Robertson, who claimed to lead an "invisible army" of voters. Nobody ever could be sure his army ever showed up at the polls; maybe they did, but since they were invisible, nobody saw them. And maybe Nixon did have a real "secret plan," but maybe the "secret" part was that it didn't actually exist.)
Anyway, sure enough, four years later - and just in time for the 1972 election - Nixon and Kissinger finally talked the Vietnamese into letting us out of the conflict, leaving the south to fight on without us. Three years later, we were seen hastily boarding choppers from the roofs of Saigon buildings, and Nixon's famous "peace, with honor" was finally realized.
So as for Stein's claim that Nixon "was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker," I, for one, really must beg to differ.
PS: By the way, how can anyone these days speak of Ben Stein without mentioning his gig as a game show host?
Nixon. A hero. Yeah, right.
The infamous Nixon tapes revealed that when the president was told that Felt might be the Post's source, he wondered aloud if Felt was a Catholic.
No, he was told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, he's a Jew.
And Nixon replied: "[Expletive], [the bureau] put a Jew in there?"
And Haldeman responded "Well, that could explain it."