In 1972, Richard Nixon went about collecting as much power as he could find and insulating himself within a nest of lies and deception. What is known about Watergate is limited to the idea of a break-in at the now infamous hotel and Nixon’s attempts to utilize Executive Privilege to insulate himself and his tapes. There is a bit of irony in the fact that Nixon came to power by “discovering” the Pumpkin Tapes, and it was the taping of White House conversations that brought him down.
We now have an administration that had promised to right the wrongs enacted during the Bush years–including a revisit of the Patriot Act.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has fallen short on this promise. However, I am not about to cast stones; surely if this were the Puritan era I’d have been pressed long ago.
Rather, the three scandals–Benghazi, IRS, and the AP wire-tapping–are doing more to discredit an institution and that’s what I think we need to be focusing on right now.
Here’s where things are going sour for the American people. The Watergate scandal brought a sense of mistrust to the office of President; Ford didn’t do much to help and WIN wasn’t “win”ning over any voters. Sure, every president had their detractors, but you have to dig deep into the darker corners of the opposing party, or even outside of it. No matter how hard FDR tried to stomp on the Constitution, and he did, the American people, all of them, rallied behind their president to the tune of four elections. The only opposition he faced came from firebrands and radicals–chiefly Father Coughlin and Huey Long.
Now, hating a president has become the new zeitgeist. Recently, President Obama joked at the Correspondent’s Dinner about a new architecture to go with presidents… he was going to build his own “Blame Bush Library” next door to the recently opened Bush library in Dallas. George could have one next door to Clinton’s library. Imagine walking in and in the foyer you find a mannequin dressed in the infamous blue dress.
I would love to save all the comments on the various web sites out there were Republicans lambast Obama and Democrats cry fowl, just so that when the roles are reversed, they could see how idiotic the statements are since they’d be parroting exactly what the other side was saying earlier.
What we’ve had for the last thirty or so years is the slow destruction of the office of President. The termites have nested, undetected, and are rotting out the insides. I won’t say that I have the perfect solution to any of this. There are far too many people in America that view politics like the finals in a sporting event, pitting two opposing giants against each other for a meaningless trophy–or the right to re-write American history to their narrow world view.
I would suggest, however, that we step back from press and shock radio. Reading the trending articles now one would think that the Democrats are completely innocent of attacks on a President and that Republicans are one screw short of insanity. Here’s an example from the National Journal:
Red-faced Republicans, circling and preparing to pounce on a second-term Democratic president they loathe, do not respect, and certainly do not fear. Sound familiar? Perhaps reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s second term, after the Monica Lewinsky story broke? During that time, Republicans became so consumed by their hatred of Clinton and their conviction that this event would bring him down that they convinced themselves the rest of the country was just as outraged by his behavior as they were.
There were plenty of Red-faced Democrats, circling and preparing to pounce on Bush over Iraq, WMDs, Patriot Act, World Trade Center, etc. Sadly, it goes both ways and it only serves to divide this nation into the few haves and the many have nots.
If we allow this to continue, the smokescreens that will be sent up from Washington will become so dense that no one will know what is happening until it is beyond too late. A few politicians will learn how to utilize the polarization, get Americans to yell at one another during family gatherings, our kids sporting events, church, wherever, and then use the distraction to undermine the very fabric of a democracy we fought for.
The institution is crumbling.
For the most part, we are letting it.