Tags: AEI | Watergate | Nixon | president

AEI Panel Remembers Watergate — Part I

By    |   Monday, 11 Aug 2014 07:45 AM

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) convened a panel of experts Aug. 1 to recall the Watergate scandal, which came to a head with the resignation of President Nixon, who had been re-elected in 1972 by an overwhelming margin against Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D.

This writer was a young congressional staffer who at first thought the scandal would blow over, but it was prolonged by a series of gaffes by the White House staff. Conservatives had become disillusioned with Nixon after his opening to China in 1971, his closing of the gold window and the imposition of wage and price control (early in Nixon's career he had worked for the wartime Office of Price Administration).

In retrospect, Nixon was impeached because the Democrats controlled Congress. In August of 1974, after an emotional speech, Nixon boarded a helicopter and left Gerry Ford in charge. Ford made a classic speech proclaiming, "Our long national nightmare is over." Little did the nation realize that the nightmare of the Ford presidency was just beginning, setting the stage for four years of Carter "malaise," gas lines, the botched transition from the Shah to the Ayatollah, the hostage seizure and a bipartisan movement for change that swept Ronald Reagan into the White House with George H.W. Bush as a de facto co-president instead of Gerry Ford. Democrats solidified their hold on Congress even further, with a House majority of 289-144 and a 60-vote hold on the Senate.

Panelists were Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner and a resident fellow at AEI whose studies of Congress are authoritative and indispensible tools; John Bolton, a leading foreign policy expert of his generation who took his principled conservatism right into the hostile territory of the State Department and United Nations; Norman Ornstein, who together with Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution parlayed a year's internship in Congress into a career as a liberal talking head on Congress as an institution; and Fred Thompson, who parlayed his prominent role as telegenic counsel to Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., at the Senate Watergate hearings into roles as senator, actor and TV pitchman.

Of course, Watergate is one of those events, like the Kennedy assassination, where everyone who was alive at the time remembers where they were at the time. Ornstein told of having found himself within the inner circle of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino, D-N.J., and that Tip O'Neill, D-Mass., was trying to get control over the proceedings. Thompson was in the thick of the action as counsel to the Republicans and was becoming a media sensation; in those days he had wavy hair.

Ironically, in the intervening 40 years, the reaction against the "imperial presidency" has come and gone, and now the incumbent President Obama openly courts impeachment as a strategy for motivating the Democratic base for an off-year congressional campaign.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) convened a panel of experts Aug. 1 to recall the Watergate scandal, which came to a head with the resignation of President Nixon, who had been re-elected in 1972 by an overwhelming margin against Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D.
AEI, Watergate, Nixon, president
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2014-45-11
Monday, 11 Aug 2014 07:45 AM
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