|A Watergate salad, involving, according to RealHousemoms, "sweet pineapple, creamy whipped topping, mini marshmallows, crunchy walnuts and green pistachio flavored pudding! I like to add maraschino cherries to mine too." Speaking of coverups that are crimes.|
Can everybody please stop saying "The coverup is worse than the crime because Watergate was a third-rate burglary"?
That characterization, coined by the late Ron Ziegler (he died in 2003, just as the Iraq war was about to begin and Ari "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold" Fleischer was ready to take over his old title as history's most mendacious press secretary, though he himself only survived in the job a few months after that), became "inoperative", as Ziegler put it, on April 17 1973, when Nixon informed the gasping world that he had personally investigated the Watergate burglary himself, or that poor John Dean had, and concluded that some White House officials might have been involved.
Mr. Ziegler told a puzzled press corps that this was now the ''operative statement,'' repeating the word operative six times. Finally, R. W. Apple Jr. of The New York Times asked, ''Would it be fair for us to infer, since what the president said today is now considered the operative statement, to quote you, that the other statement is no longer operative, that it is now inoperative?''
Eventually Mr. Ziegler replied: ''The president refers to the fact that there is new material; therefore, this is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.'A third-rate burglary is when somebody breaks into your apartment through the front window and steals your cable box and the fucking Brooklyn cops who futilely dusted the house for fingerprints tell you weeks or months later that there is no such thing as a report you can give to Time Warner to account for the missing box, though it's obvious they're lying, and you end up having to pay the fucking cable company $300. As you can see I know my third-rate burglaries pretty well.
And the Watergate burglary wasn't one of them, however ineptly it may have been carried out.
Its precursor, the Ellsberg burglary of 1971, was an attempt to steal a file from a psychiatrist's office in the hope of obtaining kompromat material! Have you ever asked yourself what they thought they might find, and what use they hoped to make of it? "Do not listen to this so-called expert military analyst Ellsberg when he tells you our war policy is going to fail—we happen to know the man has unresolved Oedipal issues! And has a valium prescription!" The thing in itself was as weird as Dog Day Afternoon, and it was emanating from the executive seat of the most powerful government on earth! How many burglaries do you know of that are even a little bit like that? How is that third-rate, excuse me?
And then Watergate itself, in May 1972, an attempt to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the hope of discovering what kinds of malfeasance? Were they looking for evidence that McGovern had early access to debate questions or was mean to Henry Jackson or Hubert Humphrey, or did they simply genuinely believe that McGovern was a Communist in collusion with the Soviet Union and listening to Lawrence O'Brien's phone conversations would provide some evidence of that (O'Brien wasn't even working in Washington at the time, he was spending his time in Miami)? And why did they do such a terrible job of the bugging, for that matter? It was botched from beginning to end, whatever its purposes, and to add insult to injury, they got caught.
The Watergate burglary wasn't "the" crime, either. The White House was running a criminal gang including many members with CIA black ops training! They were found guilty of burglary, criminal wiretapping, using the IRS to harass enemies, accepting illegal campaign contributions, laundering money from campaign contributions into funding their activities, spying on and sabotaging the Democrats' political campaign, conspiracy. And the coverup activities of perjury and obstruction of justice as well, because the coverup was part of the crime! It wasn't "worse than the crime".
It was important, as the part of the crime that enabled investigators to put the whole thing together, but you have to understand it was covered up from the start, because that's what criminals do. And the Watergate burglary was important because it was the route through which the larger conspiracy was revealed, of Nixon and his Germans running a secret government within the government—not to run the government (which was mostly being done by the congressional Democrats at this point, not exceptionally well, though I don't fault them for rejecting Nixon's health insurance program, since, though it would have provided government-sponsored health insurance for people who were already reasonably secure, it was also dedicated to taking down Medicare and Medicaid), but to protect Nixon and his friends from the long list of Nixon enemies.
What does this have to do with the present emergency? Clearly the Russian invasion of the DNC computers was a much more successful burglary than when Nixon's plumbers tried to do the same thing with the DNC file folders. There's probably a lot more to say. I think the selection of a special prosecutor, and the particular selection of Robert Mueller, is a nice sign that something could be starting to move. For the time being, over to you.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.