Political Mischief: Smear, Sabotage, and Reform in U.S. Elections

By Bruce L. Felknor | Go to book overview
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12 Watergate: Mandate for Reform

If their own explanations are pieced together, the perpetrators of the Watergate scandal were not there because they were busy correcting the wrongs of two centuries of political vandals, whose great heritage was being destroyed by its beneficiaries, ungrateful wretches. The whole thing was a high public service, and this is the thanks we get!

If their popular prosecutors, the avengers of truth and virtue, are taken at their word--an equally risky proposition--it was a conspiracy driven by evil never before seen on Earth and carried out by men whose greed, guile, and wickedness we had been taught was a figment of fundamentalist orthodoxy and therefore did not exist. If only we had thrown Nixon off Ike's ticket!

The ingredients of the scandal were the essence of paradox. A political campaign managed for a master campaigner by a circus troup of naifs and thugs. Lawyers, marketers, and closets stuffed with money. A desperate, half-billion-dollar effort to win a fight already publicly thrown by the opposition.

What became the Watergate affair began in secret shortly after Nixon's first inauguration in 1969. Its first public notice was the needless and meaningless burglary of the Democratic National Committee at the end of May three years later. This was largely left unexplained and unexamined by the news media and the electorate until the winter's nagging by the Washington Post's Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Nixon got his landslide.

A few days before the election, I wrote about the unanswered, even unasked questions of Watergate in my biennial roundup of campaign mischief for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

Yes, it is properly styled the Watergate mess and not caper, and it is something ugly and frightening, more substantial than mere vilification and the theft and purchase


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