Does that question sound familiar?
Those long in the tooth enough to have lived through the Nixon years will recognize it. Most of us have only read about the question, or only vaguely recall it coming up in History 101.
"What did the President know, and when?" became the vortex of the Watergate investigation in the final days of the Nixon presidency. The President's innocence or criminality were to be determined by they answer to that one, simply posed question. But in the shadow of that investigation, what the President knew, and when, meant everything to America. The answer meant the difference between a constitutional battle between Congress and the White House, or a full blown sucker punch to the stomach as an entire country realized it has been betrayed and made fool of by the very man they elected to lead them into a new decade, and out of an atrocious war.
That was 1972 - 1974. Today, it's 2007, and the deja vu is getting difficult to ignore. Post Op-Ed, via Editors & Publishers:
Since the congressional testimony earlier this week by former Justice Dept. number two, James Comey, about a mysterious latenight rush to the bedside of a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft, much speculation about President Bush's role in it has swirled.The President's words during Thursday's press conference are themselves an apt description of his own failings, and the public's growing suspicions. (Simply replace the words "al-Qaeda" with "Republican Party" and you've got all you need to know.)
At a press conference on Thursday, the president was asked directly about this, and refused to explain. In an editorial on Friday, The Washington Post (the newspapers of Woodward and Bernstein) revised the famous Watergate era question in its headline: "What Did Bush Know, and When?"
It charged that "Bush wants to short-circuit that discussion by invoking the continuing danger of al-Qaeda..."
They would like to do harm to the American people, because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology. They want us to retreat from the world. They want to find safe haven, and these just aren’t empty words. These are the words of al Qaeda themselves.During Watergate, there were many (Republicans) who cried foul. Every Sunday talk show was booked for months straight with GOP squawkers decrying the hostility of Congress, and the "politically motivated" attacks on Nixon. The wanted to convince the American people that the Watergate investigation, and the common sense of holding the President accountable, demanding, at the very least, an explanation, was costing us a war (we had already lost), and rendering the President ineffective (which he had done himself).
And, well, it turns out they, and their president, were full of shit. Completely.
Nixon was an incompetent leader, a political monster, and a criminal, who took this country for quite a ride, betraying our trust in such a way we still feel the effects of it over 30 years later. Those who supported him were ideologically blinded, had an agenda, and were succeeding only in isolating us from the rest of the world.
As we watch this play out on our TV's and blogs and newspapers, we should all keep in mind that while we lost our innocence and faith in the Watergate investigation, two more years of Nixon would have been worse.