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“Forgotten History”: No, Conservatives, Benghazi Is Not Worse Than Watergate

On Friday, I got into a little Twitter tete-a-tete with Jim Treacher of the Daily Caller over this post I wrote last week, which argued that the reason conservatives are acting as though the aftermath of the events in Benghazi is the scandal of the century is that they’re frustrated that Barack Obama hasn’t had a major scandal, so they’re making as big a deal as possible out of whatever’s handy. What ensued opened my eyes to something I found surprising, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been so naïve. It turns out that many conservatives not only believe Benghazi is far, far more serious than Watergate was, they seem to have no idea what Watergate was actually about or how far-reaching it was. After the number of Treacher’s followers tweeting me with “How many people died in Watergate? Huh? Huh?” reached triple digits (each tweet no doubt considered by its author to be a snowflake of insight), I decided that since the story broke 40 years ago, we all might need a reminder of why Watergate was, in fact, a really big deal.

The first and most important thing to remember is that when we say “Watergate,” we aren’t referring only to the break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate hotel. The break-in was merely the event that triggered the investigations that would eventually reveal the full magnitude of Richard Nixon’s crimes and the crimes committed by many of the people who worked for him. As Jonathan Bernstein has written, for starters, imagine if Barack Obama were suspicious of some former Bush administration officials now working at the American Enterprise Institute and repeatedly ordered Rahm Emanuel to get people to break in to AEI in order to steal files that could be used to embarrass or blackmail those officials. Nixon did that (the Brookings Institution was the think tank in question). Bernstein goes on:

The president’s men, sometimes at Nixon’s instructions, sometimes with his knowledge, and sometimes perhaps without his direct instructions or knowledge but always in keeping with his general orders to his top staff, also planted spies in the camp of Democratic campaigns; broke into Democratic headquarters, photographed documents, and planted bugs; broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in order to learn things that could be used to destroy his image in the press; attempted to plant left-wing materials in the home of the guy who shot George Wallace; planned to (and perhaps did) selectively leak classified materials about foreign policy in order to hurt the Democrats; forged materials about foreign policy (the death of South Vietnam’s President Diem) in order to plant false stories in the press that would hurt the Democrats; wiretapped government officials; paid a private investigator to tail Ted Kennedy; performed other dirty tricks such as forged letters intended to manipulate the Democratic presidential nomination process (efforts that may indeed have been successful); and other illegal, abuse and unethical actions — this is not a comprehensive list.

Those were the original crimes. What followed was obstruction of justice as the White House, with the active leadership of the president, lied to FBI investigators and grand juries, destroyed evidence, suborned perjury by prearranging false testimony; suborned perjury by paying off witnesses and either promising or at least hinting at the promise of presidential pardons in exchange for false testimony, and using the authority of the presidency to derail and undermine FBI investigators and prosecutors. Again, the president was personally actively involved in all of those things.

The scandal also revealed so many repugnant statements and acts, some of them illegal and some of them not, that I suppose it’s hard to keep them all in your head. For instance, Judeophiles that conservatives have become, they may like to forget that the White House tapes showed Nixon to be a vicious anti-Semite (“The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal”) who ordered his staff to assemble lists of Jews working within the executive branch so he could identify his enemies (the aide who carried out a Jew-counting operation in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Fred Malek, is to this day a major Republican fundraiser). Of course, there was also the “enemies list” of Nixon opponents targeted for harassment; one memo detailed “how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Among the crimes planned but never executed, the most colorful has to be G. Gordon Liddy’s plan to murder columnist Jack Anderson. Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping; today he is a popular conservative radio host. Among those who ended up going to prison for their crimes in the Watergate scandal were the attorney general, the White House chief of staff, and the president’s chief domestic policy adviser. The scandal was so damning that facing impeachment and almost certain conviction, the president of the United States resigned.

The point is “Watergate” was not just a break-in. It was a panoply of government malfeasance and outright criminality the likes of which the country had never seen before and will probably never see again.

It is true, as my conservative friends point out, that no one actually died in Watergate, while there were four deaths in Benghazi. Those deaths were a terrible tragedy. But unless some evidence emerges that President Obama or somebody else in his administration, through some act of corruption or misconduct, actually caused those deaths, the deaths don’t raise the magnitude of the “scandal” past that of other scandals that weren’t related to any deaths. For instance, 241 service members Ronald Reagan sent to Beirut were killed in the bombing of Marine barracks in October 1983, but I’ll bet that not one of my angry Twitter correspondents considers that a “Reagan administration scandal” (nor, by the way, did almost any Democrats at the time, rightly or wrongly).

For the record, I agree with Kevin Drum on this point: Let’s go ahead and investigate what happened in Benghazi. If that investigation helps us improve security for our personnel operating in dangerous places, that would be a positive outcome. But let’s be honest: Republicans aren’t worked into a lather about this because of their long-standing passionate commitment to security at our embassies and consulates. They’re hoping that if we keep digging, some kind of nefarious behavior will be discovered, and they’ll be able to use it to embarrass the administration. That’s politics, of course, so it isn’t all that surprising. But that’s all it is. And the idea that Susan Rice going on television and delivering some slightly inaccurate talking points constitutes a “cover-up” on par with the Nixon administration suborning perjury, paying hush money, and obstructing justice in a whole variety of other ways? That’s just insane.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 19, 2012

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toxic Misfits: Donald Trump, Birthers And Other Hazardous Materials

It seems that there is no end in sight. You can’t turn to any television channel or listen to any radio station without hearing something that has to do with Donald Trump and his vile birther rants. One wonders when will it all end. Some have given Trump a pass in this regard. Many believe that he is simply doing it for the attention while others, for some odd reason, see his actions only as a joke.

It seems that this whole “birther” issue began with Jim Geraghty, a conservative blogger for National Review and National Review On-line. The spark for the birther campaign began by Geraghty suggesting that President Obama’s first and middle names were not the same as listed on his birth certificate. The embers were kindled by Jerome Corsi in an interview on Fox News where the idea that Obama’s birth certificate was fake. This quackery has been non-stop since.

This birther theory was elevated to a different level of insanity by Orly Taitz, who not only believes that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States, but also believes that Hawaii cannot be considered part of the United States “unless it can produce an authentic statehood certificate”. Taitz, mind you, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel and then to the United States and is a dual citizen of Israel and the U.S. In her view, “the islands of Hawaii appear to be colonies of Kenya”.  As such, “everyone born in Hawaii is legally not an American but a Kenyan”. Never mind that these assertions have no basis of fact. Joshua Wisch, Attorney General of Hawaii has repeatedly noted that the presidents certificate of live birth is on file in the archives of the Department of Health of Hawaii.

Then you have the likes of Andy Martin, Michael Savage, G. Gordon Liddy, Lars Larson, Bob Grant and…. oh yes, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Chuck Norris, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Roy Blunt and David Vitter.

The latest participant in this land of make believe is none other than Donald Trump. Over the past several weeks, Trump seems to have gone out of his way to etch his place in history as the “birther of all birthers”. He has been given numerous opportunities by the media, often unchallenged, to espouse again and again what he surely knows to be flat out lies. Despite “prima facie” evidence, Trump has chosen to continue down a path that can be best described in every category as bigoted, racist and divisive.

I have been trying to figue out why this gang of “misfits” continue to propagate this charade on the American people. Surely they cannot believe that actions of this nature will endear them to the majority of the American people, or do they? It really makes you wonder if they are merely front persons for the real behind the scenes “power players” whose goal is to completely alienate and isolate certain segments of the population. This idea seems to have worked very well in the past with groups such as the teaparty and the christian right. Could it be that they are attempting to expand their grasps to include even more radical segments?

Power, radicalism, extremism, racism, bigotry, hate, fear…they all work, but at what cost to the rest of the country. There is a bigger picture here…one larger than Trump or Bachmann or Newt. The “power players” are all about the preservation of an aggressive, radical and dangerous conservative ideology…an ideology that is appealing more and more to the fringe and most noxious elements of our society…nothing more and nothing less.

Continued unfettered tolerance of these types of behavior is merely an assent of their vile actions and intents. That is just not acceptable. At some point, good people will have to take a stand and put a stop to the shananigans of these toxic misfits.

By: Raemd95, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Liberty, Media, Politics, President Obama, Public, Pundits, Racism, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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