40 years of Watergate

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate office complex.  That event on June 17, 1972, would bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

I remember news of the burglary and the subsequent dripping out of details and the final whole cascade vividly.  I was a college student at the time.  I realize many of you weren’t even born yet.  So I first ask those of you who remember it:  What has changed since the Watergate scandal?  Did it change the way you view the office of the president or our government or journalists?  Did it make you the cynic you are today?

To the rest of you and to anyone, what, to use grandiose language, is the legacy of Watergate?  It was uncovered largely by old-fashioned investigative journalism, as well as bipartisan Congressional investigation.  Do you think if an event like this happened today, in our media environment of 24-hour news, the internet, and yet cash-strapped newspapers, that it would be that big of a deal?  Are we in a state of scandal overload, so that the serious gets lost in the trivial?

Watergate scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I remember reading G.Gordon Liddy’s account of Watergate and hearing him talk about it on his radio show. He sort of laughed it off, because he pointed out that people act as if only one political administration or one political party had ever been guilty of something like this.

    As far as the reaction of something like this happening today? Depends on who gets caught. The press has a tendency to cushion the blows with politicians they like.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I remember reading G.Gordon Liddy’s account of Watergate and hearing him talk about it on his radio show. He sort of laughed it off, because he pointed out that people act as if only one political administration or one political party had ever been guilty of something like this.

    As far as the reaction of something like this happening today? Depends on who gets caught. The press has a tendency to cushion the blows with politicians they like.

  • http://fivepintlutheran2.wordpress.com/ David Cochrane

    I was 16 back in ’72. It was amazing to me how the scandal overshadowed all issues of the time. I was already cynical about our leadership because of Viet Nam quagmire etc.

    Yes being close to the age of the draft had some bearing on my concerns. However, our involvement in much of international squabbles is still revolting.

  • http://fivepintlutheran2.wordpress.com/ David Cochrane

    I was 16 back in ’72. It was amazing to me how the scandal overshadowed all issues of the time. I was already cynical about our leadership because of Viet Nam quagmire etc.

    Yes being close to the age of the draft had some bearing on my concerns. However, our involvement in much of international squabbles is still revolting.

  • Susan

    I remember the shock of the Watergate scandal as a young adult. I remember Nixon and his administration being seen as bad apples in the tradition of Chicago politics or other corrupt pockets of government: more the exception to the rule rather than the norm. What I think has changed is the Press’ move away from it’s traditional role of watchdog of the government and it’s choice to take up and even protect progressive political causes by either spiking or promoting stories. John Edwards and his shenanigans might be a good example. Not to mention the lack of vetting of Obama and the plethora of shady shenanigans he has engaged in since taking office.

  • Susan

    I remember the shock of the Watergate scandal as a young adult. I remember Nixon and his administration being seen as bad apples in the tradition of Chicago politics or other corrupt pockets of government: more the exception to the rule rather than the norm. What I think has changed is the Press’ move away from it’s traditional role of watchdog of the government and it’s choice to take up and even protect progressive political causes by either spiking or promoting stories. John Edwards and his shenanigans might be a good example. Not to mention the lack of vetting of Obama and the plethora of shady shenanigans he has engaged in since taking office.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I’m with Susan.

    I always think about how many other things get covered up and that are illegal and wonder where the media is.

    You (the U.S. government) can sell guns to drug runners but as long as “the good guys” are in power, it’s ok.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    I’m with Susan.

    I always think about how many other things get covered up and that are illegal and wonder where the media is.

    You (the U.S. government) can sell guns to drug runners but as long as “the good guys” are in power, it’s ok.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Who cares about governmental intrusions on religious freedom? LeAnn Rhimes wore a bikini to a super market after saying she wouldn’t.

    Also, I am sick of all the scandals being called “fill in the blank” gate.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Who cares about governmental intrusions on religious freedom? LeAnn Rhimes wore a bikini to a super market after saying she wouldn’t.

    Also, I am sick of all the scandals being called “fill in the blank” gate.

  • SKPeterson

    DL21C – Yes, that is the most annoying fallout from Watergate: the “name of scandal”+gate trope. It has either downsized a scandal or magnified another for so long, that it is now no longer even meaningful in describing a scandal or if one even exists. To sharpen my generational axe, I suspect this is some manifestation of Boomer subconsciousness which must always refer back to the glory days of their youth and the lost wonders of the 1960′s and early 70′s. Thus, for Boomers, Watergate is the scandal, the lens through which all other scandals since must be viewed, weighed, and ultimately found wanting. Only when they have largely passed from the political and cultural scene will Watergate be able to stand on its own without the generational bias propping it up. Then it must be viewed in association with other scandals like Teapot Dome or the New Deal.

  • SKPeterson

    DL21C – Yes, that is the most annoying fallout from Watergate: the “name of scandal”+gate trope. It has either downsized a scandal or magnified another for so long, that it is now no longer even meaningful in describing a scandal or if one even exists. To sharpen my generational axe, I suspect this is some manifestation of Boomer subconsciousness which must always refer back to the glory days of their youth and the lost wonders of the 1960′s and early 70′s. Thus, for Boomers, Watergate is the scandal, the lens through which all other scandals since must be viewed, weighed, and ultimately found wanting. Only when they have largely passed from the political and cultural scene will Watergate be able to stand on its own without the generational bias propping it up. Then it must be viewed in association with other scandals like Teapot Dome or the New Deal.

  • Bob

    The Wqtergate break-in was just the tip of a huge, ugly, paranoid, illegal iceberg.

    Richard Nixon tried to turn subvert the rule of law and turn our country into an illegal one-party rule. Richard Nixon, the master of resentment politics and a true paranoid.

    Here’s are a couple money quotes from this recent piece by W&B:

    “At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law”.

    “Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/woodward-and-bernstein-40-years-after-watergate-nixon-was-far-worse-than-we-thought/2012/06/08/gJQAlsi0NV_story.html

  • Bob

    The Wqtergate break-in was just the tip of a huge, ugly, paranoid, illegal iceberg.

    Richard Nixon tried to turn subvert the rule of law and turn our country into an illegal one-party rule. Richard Nixon, the master of resentment politics and a true paranoid.

    Here’s are a couple money quotes from this recent piece by W&B:

    “At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law”.

    “Long before the Watergate break-in, gumshoeing, burglary, wiretapping and political sabotage had become a way of life in the Nixon White House.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/woodward-and-bernstein-40-years-after-watergate-nixon-was-far-worse-than-we-thought/2012/06/08/gJQAlsi0NV_story.html

  • DonS

    We frequently hear that Reagan was president 30 years ago — it’s time for conservatives to get over Reagan and move into the 21st Century.

    Well, Watergate was 10 years before Reagan….

    Watergate was big for these reasons: 1) It was the first such scandal to arise during the TV age; 2) Nixon was a Republican; 3) Nixon was not well liked; 4) There was a reliable inside informant; 5) Nixon was stupid enough to try to cover up a stupid petty crime perpetrated by underlings that would otherwise have probably blown over fairly quickly; and 6) There were tapes, and, worse yet, a critical gap in those tapes. However, in the scheme of things, there have been many equally bad or worse significant incidents of governmental corruption, before and since, including the current Fast and Furious scandal and the leaking of national secrets to further a political campaign.

  • DonS

    We frequently hear that Reagan was president 30 years ago — it’s time for conservatives to get over Reagan and move into the 21st Century.

    Well, Watergate was 10 years before Reagan….

    Watergate was big for these reasons: 1) It was the first such scandal to arise during the TV age; 2) Nixon was a Republican; 3) Nixon was not well liked; 4) There was a reliable inside informant; 5) Nixon was stupid enough to try to cover up a stupid petty crime perpetrated by underlings that would otherwise have probably blown over fairly quickly; and 6) There were tapes, and, worse yet, a critical gap in those tapes. However, in the scheme of things, there have been many equally bad or worse significant incidents of governmental corruption, before and since, including the current Fast and Furious scandal and the leaking of national secrets to further a political campaign.

  • Bob

    Wow.

    DonS.

    How sad.

    W&B +10

    Don S’s right-wing spin and lack of perspective
    -20

  • Bob

    Wow.

    DonS.

    How sad.

    W&B +10

    Don S’s right-wing spin and lack of perspective
    -20

  • Dust

    Wow.

    Bob.

    How sad.

    DonS +10

    Bob’s left-wing spin and lack of perspective
    -20

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Wow.

    Bob.

    How sad.

    DonS +10

    Bob’s left-wing spin and lack of perspective
    -20

    cheers!

  • SKPeterson

    Sure, Nixon was no saint, but neither was LBJ if you want to talk about subversion of the political process. I’m not sure if Fast and Furious rises to the level of chicanery involved in Watergate or most of the Great Society claptrap – it simply points out that the government is constantly full of good intentions gone awry that rarely, if ever, result in censure or the loss of a political appointee’s position. Come up with an asinine plan that backfires and gets people killed? No biggie. Keep your job, Mr.Holder. Keep your job, Ms. Reno. Spend money on clowns in Reno (or Vegas)? You’re outta here.

  • SKPeterson

    Sure, Nixon was no saint, but neither was LBJ if you want to talk about subversion of the political process. I’m not sure if Fast and Furious rises to the level of chicanery involved in Watergate or most of the Great Society claptrap – it simply points out that the government is constantly full of good intentions gone awry that rarely, if ever, result in censure or the loss of a political appointee’s position. Come up with an asinine plan that backfires and gets people killed? No biggie. Keep your job, Mr.Holder. Keep your job, Ms. Reno. Spend money on clowns in Reno (or Vegas)? You’re outta here.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 11 — the serious issue with Fast and Furious appears to be the cover-up by Holder and the Justice Department, not necessarily the original act. This tendency to want to cover up is what also made Iran-Contra an evil, rather than merely a questionable policy decision.

  • DonS

    SKP @ 11 — the serious issue with Fast and Furious appears to be the cover-up by Holder and the Justice Department, not necessarily the original act. This tendency to want to cover up is what also made Iran-Contra an evil, rather than merely a questionable policy decision.

  • John Drake

    I too was in college during the Watergate scandal. It appears to me that the biggest change resulting has been in the news media. Prior to Watergate, it seems to me, the goal of the news media was more or less to be to _inform_ the public. But then Woodward and Bernstein were hailed as heroes who took down an administration. Since then the goal of the news media, it seems to me, has more or less shifted to _influence_ the public.

  • John Drake

    I too was in college during the Watergate scandal. It appears to me that the biggest change resulting has been in the news media. Prior to Watergate, it seems to me, the goal of the news media was more or less to be to _inform_ the public. But then Woodward and Bernstein were hailed as heroes who took down an administration. Since then the goal of the news media, it seems to me, has more or less shifted to _influence_ the public.

  • Bob

    #13

    What a load of crap.

    The media is/are owned by big conglomerates. If anything, there’s much less investigative news now than there was 40 years ago. In its place is Internet speculation and opinion, most of it not worth a diddly damn in terms of credibility and fact checking.

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

  • Bob

    #13

    What a load of crap.

    The media is/are owned by big conglomerates. If anything, there’s much less investigative news now than there was 40 years ago. In its place is Internet speculation and opinion, most of it not worth a diddly damn in terms of credibility and fact checking.

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

  • mikeb

    DonS @12

    Well said.

    One of the publishers I worked for when I started my career in newspapers gave me two very good pieces of advice that I’ve tried to use in business myself, as well as share with those our paper covers:
    1. Always tell the truth.
    2. Tell your version first.

  • mikeb

    DonS @12

    Well said.

    One of the publishers I worked for when I started my career in newspapers gave me two very good pieces of advice that I’ve tried to use in business myself, as well as share with those our paper covers:
    1. Always tell the truth.
    2. Tell your version first.

  • mikeb

    John Drake @ 13 and Bob @ 14

    Neither one of you is 100% right because you paint with too broad of a brush.

    Some journalists are obviously going to be motivated by their personal passions and skew their reporting. Still, others remain objectively neutral, at least in their professional life. I’d say the more conservative a journalist is the more likely they lean to “inform” while the more progressive they are the more likely they are to lean to “influence” based in no small part on what they see their role in reporting is.

    FoxNews is definitely trying to influence to public. To watch it’s shows. It does this so that it can charge ridiculously high rates for advertising. That’s the business model. If we’d spend the last 20 years with a conservative national news media Rupert Murdoch would have slanted his programming to appeal to a different demo.

  • mikeb

    John Drake @ 13 and Bob @ 14

    Neither one of you is 100% right because you paint with too broad of a brush.

    Some journalists are obviously going to be motivated by their personal passions and skew their reporting. Still, others remain objectively neutral, at least in their professional life. I’d say the more conservative a journalist is the more likely they lean to “inform” while the more progressive they are the more likely they are to lean to “influence” based in no small part on what they see their role in reporting is.

    FoxNews is definitely trying to influence to public. To watch it’s shows. It does this so that it can charge ridiculously high rates for advertising. That’s the business model. If we’d spend the last 20 years with a conservative national news media Rupert Murdoch would have slanted his programming to appeal to a different demo.

  • John Drake

    You are right, of course, that there can be no real dialogue unless each party interacts with what the other party actually said. You said, “If anything, there’s much less investigative news now than there was 40 years ago.” What’s the difference between that and what I said: “Prior to Watergate, it seems to me, the goal of the news media was more or less to _inform_ the public.” and, “Since then the goal of the news media, it seems to me, has more or less shifted to _influence_ the public.”? Where did I exclude Fox News when I said that?

  • John Drake

    You are right, of course, that there can be no real dialogue unless each party interacts with what the other party actually said. You said, “If anything, there’s much less investigative news now than there was 40 years ago.” What’s the difference between that and what I said: “Prior to Watergate, it seems to me, the goal of the news media was more or less to _inform_ the public.” and, “Since then the goal of the news media, it seems to me, has more or less shifted to _influence_ the public.”? Where did I exclude Fox News when I said that?

  • Dust

    Bob at 14….as Reagan said to Mondale, there you go again :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Bob at 14….as Reagan said to Mondale, there you go again :)

    cheers!

  • Bob

    John Drake,

    Watergate was a blip on the screen. Before it, there was little investigative reporting. Since then, there has been little investigative reporting. Investigative reporting is not synonymous with “writing to persuade.” That’s what news organizations who aren’t news organizations do, such as Fox and CBN (god help us).

    Most publishers only care about staying alive — the Ben Bradlees jumped ship long ago.

    ‘You are right, of course, that there can be no real dialogue unless each party interacts with what the other party actually said’

    That’s not what I said.

    So I’ll repeat what I said earlier. What I said earlier was:

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

    Let me repeat myself: Or, in the words of Tricky Dick, “let me make myself perfectly clear’:

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

  • Bob

    John Drake,

    Watergate was a blip on the screen. Before it, there was little investigative reporting. Since then, there has been little investigative reporting. Investigative reporting is not synonymous with “writing to persuade.” That’s what news organizations who aren’t news organizations do, such as Fox and CBN (god help us).

    Most publishers only care about staying alive — the Ben Bradlees jumped ship long ago.

    ‘You are right, of course, that there can be no real dialogue unless each party interacts with what the other party actually said’

    That’s not what I said.

    So I’ll repeat what I said earlier. What I said earlier was:

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

    Let me repeat myself: Or, in the words of Tricky Dick, “let me make myself perfectly clear’:

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

  • Susan

    Perhaps, more reporting from the Onion journalists would help?

    If you haven’t seen this, it’s hilarious:

    Obama To Enter Diplomatic Talks With Raging Wildfire:
    http://www.theonion.com/video/obama-to-enter-diplomatic-talks-with-raging-wildfi,14374

    White House officials are confident the President will be able to convince the wildfire to stop incinerating large swaths of land and American homes.

  • Susan

    Perhaps, more reporting from the Onion journalists would help?

    If you haven’t seen this, it’s hilarious:

    Obama To Enter Diplomatic Talks With Raging Wildfire:
    http://www.theonion.com/video/obama-to-enter-diplomatic-talks-with-raging-wildfi,14374

    White House officials are confident the President will be able to convince the wildfire to stop incinerating large swaths of land and American homes.

  • Dust

    Bob at 19….there you go again :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Bob at 19….there you go again :)

    cheers!

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Oh great. DL21C and others are trying to stir up controversy. Make it a scandal even. Now we’ll have to put up with ‘gate-gate.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Oh great. DL21C and others are trying to stir up controversy. Make it a scandal even. Now we’ll have to put up with ‘gate-gate.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

    Well, I don’t watch Fox News, so I guess I can’t talk to anyone about anything. Because there is no further point in talking to anyone who doesn’t agree that Fox News is the only news media trying to influence the public.

    Even without much exposure to Fox, that seems rather improbable.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The only news media trying to influence the public is Fox “News. ”
    If you think they’re not, then there’s no further point in dialoguing with you.

    Well, I don’t watch Fox News, so I guess I can’t talk to anyone about anything. Because there is no further point in talking to anyone who doesn’t agree that Fox News is the only news media trying to influence the public.

    Even without much exposure to Fox, that seems rather improbable.

  • Ron Henzel

    I believe that the Watergate scandal left an indelible mark on my generation — the one that was passing through junior high and high school at the time, and had its youthful idealism and naïveté about government exploded earlier than I think the previous generation’s had. As a middle school history teacher, I’ve endeavored to explain to my students just how disillusioning that entire period was. I put together a video summarizing the events. You can watch it at https://vimeo.com/43366697.

  • Ron Henzel

    I believe that the Watergate scandal left an indelible mark on my generation — the one that was passing through junior high and high school at the time, and had its youthful idealism and naïveté about government exploded earlier than I think the previous generation’s had. As a middle school history teacher, I’ve endeavored to explain to my students just how disillusioning that entire period was. I put together a video summarizing the events. You can watch it at https://vimeo.com/43366697.

  • Bob

    Nice job, Mr. Henzel, laying out the facts about Waterage. A trip down an ugly, shameful U.S. memory lane.

    As has been said: you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

    Nixon was very lucky he didn’t wind up in jail for the rest of his miserable life.

  • Bob

    Nice job, Mr. Henzel, laying out the facts about Waterage. A trip down an ugly, shameful U.S. memory lane.

    As has been said: you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

    Nixon was very lucky he didn’t wind up in jail for the rest of his miserable life.


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