History comes at you fast

History comes at you fast September 24, 2019

I was going to finish writing something today about Jerry Falwell Jr and why his scandals matter, but I got a bit derailed by today’s long-simmering and finally breaking news.

So let’s make this an open thread, with a bonus history lesson for those too young to remember this.

Stennis Compromise

The Stennis Compromise was a legal maneuver attempted by U.S. President Richard Nixon on October 19, 1973, during the Watergate scandal.

The Compromise was offered by Nixon to Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. It was made in response to a subpoena requesting, as evidence, copies of taped conversations which Nixon had made in the Oval Office.

After an initial refusal to comply on the grounds of executive privilege, Nixon offered to remit the tapes to a respected U.S. Senator, John C. Stennis, a Democrat from Mississippi. Sen. Stennis would listen to the tapes himself, then summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office.

The explanation was that Stennis would be sensitive to matters of national security contained within. However, Stennis was famously hard-of-hearing, therefore it is believed that President Nixon did not want the tapes entered into the public record, because they contained recordings of Nixon using coarse language and racial epithets, and – preeminently – implicating himself in the “cover-up” surrounding the Watergate break-in.

Cox refused the compromise that evening. Nixon’s response was to have the special prosecutor fired the next day, in a chain of events later known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”

This “Stennis compromise” followed Nixon’s attempt to release edited and altered transcripts of the tapes. We should remember this and learn from it, because it’s certain that Bill Barr does.


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