How Nixon Won Watergate

220px-Richard_NixonPresObamaBelow is today’s column in USA Today. It is a follow up to my speech at the National Press Club on the 4oth anniversary of Watergate. The event included a number of Watergate figures from Daniel Ellsberg to Liz Holtzman to Alexander Butterfield and others. It was an extraordinary event organized by Common Cause.

This month, I spoke at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal with some of its survivors at the National Press Club. While much of the discussion looked back at the historic clash with President Nixon, I was struck by a different question: Who actually won? From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixon’s impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.

Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:

Warrantless surveillance

Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.

Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.

Unilateral military action

Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.

Kill lists

Nixon ordered a burglary to find evidence to use against Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the famed Pentagon Papers to the press, and later tried to imprison him. Ellsberg was later told of a secret plot by the White House “plumbers” to “incapacitate” him in a physical attack. It was a shocking revelation. That’s nothing compared with Obama’s assertion of the right to kill any U.S. citizen without a charge, let alone conviction, based on his sole authority. A recently leaked memo argues that the president has a right to kill a citizen even when he lacks “clear evidence (of) a specific attack” being planned.

Attacking whistle-blowers and Journalists

Nixon was known for his attacks on whistle-blowers. He used the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring a rare criminal case against Ellsberg. Nixon was vilified for the abuse of the law. Obama has brought twice as many such prosecutions as all prior presidents combined. While refusing to prosecute anyone for actual torture, the Obama administration has prosecuted former CIA employee John Kiriakou for disclosing the torture program. The Obama Administration has also threatened action against journalists in receiving precisely the same type of information published in the Pentagon Papers during Nixon’s administration.

Other Nixonesque areas include Obama’s overuse of classification laws and withholding material from Congress. There are even missing tapes. In the torture scandal, CIA officials admitted to destroying tapes that they feared could be used against them in criminal cases. Of course, Nixon had missing tapes, but Rose Mary Woods claimed to have erased them by mistake, as opposed to current officials who openly admit to intentional destruction.

Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement. By coming out of the Democratic Party and assuming an iconic position, Obama has ripped the movement in half. Many Democrats and progressive activists find themselves unable to oppose Obama for the authoritarian powers he has assumed. It is not simply a case of personality trumping principle; it is a cult of personality.

Long after Watergate, not only has the presidency changed. We have changed. We have become accustomed to elements of a security state such as massive surveillance and executive authority without judicial oversight. We have finally answered a question left by Benjamin Franklin in 1787, when a Mrs. Powel confronted him after the Constitutional Convention and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His chilling response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We appear to have grown weary of the republic and traded it for promises of security from a shining political personality. Somewhere, Nixon must be wondering how it could have been this easy.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

USA Today March 26, 2013

79 thoughts on “How Nixon Won Watergate

  1. From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixon’s impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.

    The next question is why is it NOT illegal when Obama does it yet Congress thought it illegal 40 years ago? Have the players changed and the rules stayed the same or have the rules changed and we’re just now catching on?

    When did violating the First Amendment become legal?
    The same to the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth…

  2. Unfortunately it says a lot about our country when so many turn a blind eye to the actions of this president. And you hear nothing substantive coming out of his own party, who claim to be the ones who champion the civil rights of the citizenry. Yet, they either don’t have the courage to demand the administration change its ways or they actually agree with it. Either way it is contemptable. But, nothing is done. Instead there are shills in the party who demonize the republicans for taking away civil rights of the people but they only need to look at their own president if they want to criticise someone.

    But, I can see, though I don’t agree with, why people don’t call him out on his actions. They will be attacked in one way or another.

    The only ones that are going to reign in this disgrace of a president are those in the democratic party. The republicans are nearly all against his actions and they are not going to acomplish much. The democrats are the only party that can do so, but they won’t do enough.

  3. This whole situation is so bloody sick! Its exactly as stated & worse. Only a few countries in Africa & several Arab ones have less freedom on the law books. Where are the riots?

  4. I have said before that Obama is just like Nixon. Nixon, GW Bush and Obama have alot in common.

    The reason it goes unnoticed is because the Leftwing is too busy being happy a Republican is not President to realize that a right leaning Fascist is. Willful ignorance. One day they will wake up and realize they elected GW Bush for 4 terms in a row.

    I am a Liberal and I find the Democratic party to be a corrupt vile entity now. Liars thieves and hypocrites.
    Half the Democrats voter base is a foaming at the mouth fanatical Fascist who are now whipped up into a frenzy of which is just crazy when you consider this was the party of the Hippies.

    How the hell did that happen? Well I think the fact that the rightwing was close to the same way during the Clinton and Bush years kinda pushed alot of leftists over the edge of reason. Which is ironic because now the left has gone over the deep end so far that it is pushing the right towards True Liberalism even as they drive themselves and the Democratic party into a Bizarre version of the Fascist right. Never in a million years did I expect to see Democrats support a President using Drones to blow up little kids, provoke war or revoke Civil Liberties and rights. Pure Craziness.

    Fact is I am not sure who I trust the LEAST now. The Religious Right Fascists or the Pro Big Brother Anti Gun Left Fascists. Both are equally dangerous to the Bill of Rights and our Freedom.

    I think the only answer is for all the moderates and reasonable people of BOTH parties to flee to either a newly created party or the Libertarian or Green.

    But one thing is certain…..
    It MUST be Eliminated.

  5. 9/11 has its parallels. That word parallel does not go far enough. On 9/11 we had historical copycats who operate without copwrite. Eleven al-qaeda guys from Saudi Arabia with box cutters get on four planes and hijack. They fly two into the World Trade Cente Towers, three towers fall, one into the Pentagon and one attempt on the White House. The President asks for the Patriot Act and Congress gives it. Subsequent acts are passed that are worse. In 1933 someone burns down the Reichstag which is the German Parliament bldg. The President of the German Republic, von Hindenburg is pressured into issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree which abrogates their constittuion and all civil liberties. The Third Reich is ushered in with Hitler, Goerring et al. Holocaust, WWII, and Nuremburg Trials bring some of the worst to justice. Goerring admits that he set the fire while he is locked up prior to his suicitde. It was not the commies after all.

    The 1933 Parallels. Coming to a theatre near you.

  6. Wow, not a mention of the Bush II regime in today’s post.

    Very much like the recent Republican Convention.

    From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixon’s impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.”

    The reason “Nixonism” has succeeded is because we do not see the problem, as Gene H alluded to up-thread, we see a mirage of a personality.

    The power that has moved us into the “homeland” state of a plutonomy, mastered by a warmongering plutocracy, is more power by far than any one individual personality can muster.

    It is inane to think otherwise, and intuitively we know that to be true because otherwise we would not condemn Citizens United.

    Instead, we would say “no biggie that the big bucks are injected into American elections and politics, because any individual personality who believes strongly enough can grasp the vast reins of American elections and move himself or herself into that vast seat of world influencing power.”

    We should know that no single individual effort can get anyone into the presidency, much less command worldwide militancy, on their personality or anything else any one individual can conjure up (Epigovernment: The New Model).

    Members of Nixon’s administration exercised power in accord with the policies of the Nixonian mindset — “If we need money I can get it” he said on the tapes — because he had epigovernment sources and was a tool.

    Those very same members of Nixon’s administration have more recently exercised orders of magnitude more power as members of the Bush II administration (e.g. Cheney, Rumsfeld).

    They commanded enough power, even though their Nixon Administration had been woefully shamed by criminal acts, to once again perform anything from “unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance” not mentioned in the pos.

    But this time they did it with impunity and with immunity, even adding torture to their sordid mix.

    And they have extolled the virtues of such activities in public.

    Whether Barack Obama would want to single handedly put such dark powers into play is irrelevant — compared to the question of “could he?”

    When we face reality that individual personalities are substantially puppets we can begin to hopefully reign in the epigovernment beast.

    Until then the epigovernment will continue to oppress, dominate, and practice their psychotic imaginings through the crucible of war.

  7. The time has come to question whether or not a political Revolution has become necessary to save the US Constitution.
    I am of the mind that it is. Starting with a National strike and retail boycott to force the resignation of our so called leaders. I cannot see Obama stepping aside easily however. Too much arrogance.

  8. Let us not leave out ol’ Jerry Ford who wanted so badly to put all this behind us that he pardoned Nixon because the citizens and the economy couldn’t handle further Watergate fall out that would occur from putting Nixon on trial.

    And what ap said.

  9. Excellent article.
    A couple points.
    Those who speak out opposing any Obama policy are immediately labeled as racist by the Obama acolytes. Thus, many sit silent rather than be called a racist.
    With so many Obama Acolytes, any national strike or other civil protest will not get close to a start. Too many don’t want to be called a racist and still believe the pied piper Mr. O.
    And lastly, please, please, please, there are more than two political parties. Do Not vote for a DemoRepo or a RepoDemo, the are one and the same. There are a number of other options, choose the best of what is left.

  10. Need a revolutions? Yeah, but I think the Supreme Five figured they pulled one off in 2000.

    And not for nothing did Bush The Lesser indicate he might vote for Obama. Obama is Bush/Cheney in Dem clothing.l

  11. Blouise,

    In Ford’s defense, he was an idiot doing what he was told by “the Party”. He did, however, come to realize the grave nature of his error later in life and said he regretted pardoning Tricky Dick. Too little, too late.

  12. Darren,

    “Unfortunately it says a lot about our country when so many turn a blind eye to the actions of this president.”

    Many turned a blind eye to the things Bush did too. There were even members of the media who were cheerleaders for the war with Iraq. In addition, many have turned a blind eye to terrible offenses that happened during other administrations–including those of Clinton and Reagan.

  13. If we keep turning a blind eye to what our own political party does we will all eventually go blind. Obama should be impeached.

  14. G.Mason 1, March 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

    If we keep turning a blind eye to what our own political party does we will all eventually go blind. Obama should be impeached.
    What needs to be impeached is the nature of what our government has become — a tool for the epigovernment.

    They would gladly impeach Obama or any other singularity if it covered their tracks.

    No individual who does not obey them will ever become president until they are sufficiently neutralized.

    The real problem cannot be impeached, it must be continually resisted for as long as it takes.

    Every president since Nixon is impeachable because of who controls them.

  15. Gene,

    In my opinion that was the point in time when we lost the Republic, the Rule of Law rather than the Rule of Man. That was the point in time that the Constitution was trashed and the Executive became Majesty. Ford may have been following the dictates of his party but the opposition party went right along with it and the populace bought the whole thing lock, stock, and barrel. Other Presidents before Nixon had done as badly but never before had the proof of obstruction been so evident, so easy to publicly convict. The growing dysfunctional reality that is rampant through every department of government today was inevitable once the Rule of Law was replaced by the Rule of Man. Gerald Ford was the one man who could have stopped it.

    Sometime, when you have time, send me the info on his “regrets”. I’ve never read anything from him other than justifications.

  16. Off topic–but I think pertinent to this discussion:

    Anthony Lewis, 1927-2013
    By Charles P. Pierce

    One of the better things that happened to me in the job I held previous to this one was a note I received one Tuesday morning from Anthony Lewis, the longtime New York Times correspondent who’d worked the Bill Of Rights beat the way Dick Young used to cover the Brooklyn Dodgers, lived in Cambridge with his wife, Margaret Marshall, who was then the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. (We call it that because the official name for our state legislature is the Massachusetts General Court. This is because we have been pretentious dweebs ever since John Winthrop et. al. stepped off the boat. Anyway, we want to keep confusion to a minimum so that people don’t accidentally bribe a judge when they could be paying off their state rep.) Lewis had liked a long profile I’d done on Senator Edward Kennedy and dropped me a personal note to say so. This was only fair because I’d admired almost everything Lewis had done with his career.

    He was the champion of the Constitution in everyday life, because he knew that it is in everyday life that the liberties guaranteed therein are the most fragile, and that it is in everyday life where the hundred small abridgements of those liberties work to disenfranchise us from the rights that are our property to the point where the huge and egregious abridgements become possible. Drug test everyone in the workplace every day and, pretty soon, you have a population that will tolerate — nay, applaud — wide-scale wiretapping. His great work, Gideon’s Trumpet, was a book about how an obscure case became the basis for a guaranteed right to counsel for poor and indigent defendants. It is a cliche to say that we protect the civil liberties of X because, in doing so, we protect our own, but Tony Lewis’s life’s work was based on that most simple formulation of the place of rights in the creative act of building a political commonwealth. It is said that the Bill of Rights has less of a constituency these days. In Tony Lewis, who passed away over the weekend, it had a constituency of one, and that’s really all it ought to take.

  17. Blouise,

    Perhaps “regrets” was too strong a word. It certainly was mine and not his. However, I think over time you could see in Ford’s justifications a weakening trend. His defense became less and less vociferous. I think he knew it was an indefensible mistake after seeing some of the repercussions, but being a pol and the egotist that the job attracts, I think he came closest to expressing regret as he could when he said that he had been disappointed that despite the pardon – which he and later the SCOTUS felt were tantamount to an admission of guilt – Nixon remained unrepentant. That to me indicates that despite his trying to save face, that deep down Ford knew it was a mistake and he knew that it was an unjust act that undermined his credibility and probably cost him the election in 76. Even Ford agreed the pardon was instrumental in that loss. He may have been an idiot, but he was a pol. No pol wants to stand before the American people and say, “Sorry! I screwed the pooch for the whole lot of you by allowing one man to be above the rule of law and thus forever removing accountability from the American political landscape.” The roots of our current malaise, at the very tip of the taproot, are resting in Watergate and the pardon. This is a new column by the Prof, but this is a long held and espoused contention that I (and others) have made many times in the past here on this very blog. The only reason I’m not more hostile to Ford’s bad act in pardoning Nixon is I genuinely think he was duped by the party into a decision that he had qualms about and some of his closet advisers warned him against. He wasn’t a bright man and he was in over his head, but I don’t think Ford, unlike Nixon, Bush I & II, Clinton and Obama is intrinsically evil. He’s more like Reagan. A useful dupe, a compliant puppet, but if he’d been left to his own devices, he’d probably have been – in the words of Douglas Adams – “mostly harmless”.

  18. As one who has personally experienced the violations of civil liberties by Nixon and the outright illegal actions of him and the local cops acting as crooks, I have to disagree with Prof Turley that Nixon won. If Nixon and his ideas won, then we should have the FBI, unofficial Democratic Party goon squads attacking GOP events, jailing those who oppose Obama, breaking and entering GOP headquarters, planting bugging devices in GOP headquarters, getting GOP people fired from their jobs, etc.. So far I have not heard any such things going on. Maybe the GOP has fallen asleep or are too stupid to notice.

    Now I do agree that there are very real concerns about the laws which have been passed on civil liberties grounds, and I too think that they have gone too far in many instances. We can deal with that by modifying the legislation, and since they are part of law, we DO have notice of them and thus can be modified. Nixon operated wholly outside of law, and even traditional governmental practice. He went so far as to claim that it is legal if the President says it is. It is even more chilling to know that he was himself a lawyer who should have known better.

    The other points in Prof Turley’s article are not so wildly out of the usual in long standing practice and law in the US. Warrantless surveillance was in practice ever since the end of WWI. ALL telegrams from the US and incoming ones were read by US naval intelligence. This was illegal at the time, but it went on anyway. The NSA has since the end of WWII done the same for all communications for overseas traffic too. So this is an attempt to at least get some legal oversight for this longstanding practice. Given the international terrorism threat, I have no real problem with this either. Had 9/11 not happened, there might be more of an outcry about this. I think that since it is not domestic communications, it has some legal basis. Having that done in domestic matters, makes it far more problematic. But again, if Nixon had won, then the GOP campaign contributors would have their bank records openned to the FBI, and all of their communications and records would be available to the Democratic Party.

    I had to laugh at the example of unilateral military action being Tripoli since President Jefferson DID use unilateral military action against Tripoli in his term of office. In fact, he conducted an undeclared war there with actual boots on the ground, something which Obama did NOT do. Unless one counts a pilot bailing out as that. Clinton did far worse in Yugoslavia, which was illegal in every sense of the word. Also, one can use the facts of Lincoln’s Presidency to blast unchecked executive powers which violated far more civil liberties than anything we have seen since. Ranging from imprisoning his critics and pro-slavery activists, to throwing Congressmen out of the country, to censorship, to our first income tax on the wealthiest people, to the draft, to printing of greenbacks, etc.. Given all of this, we should be a dictatorship by now. So unless one thinks that we are a military dictatorship, there is good reason why there is not more outcry against these measures.

    As for kill lists. This has been a standard US practice for many years by the CIA. I can list the people who have been murdered by the CIA. There was a US journalist in Greece who reported on the horrors of our fascist allies who was disappeared in the late 40 and early 50s. Then closer to home, the CIA ordered the murder of Benjamin LInder who was working as a civil engineer in Nicaragua on a hydroelectric power project during the Contra War which was outright illegal since it had been specifically banned by US LAW. Then there was the murder of Charles Horman who was a US journalist who accidentally stumbled on the CIA role in the Chile coup. He was murdered on the orders of the US government. Then we have the US journalists who were crippled and severely injured by a CIA planted bomb in an Eden Pastora press conference in Nicaragua. ALL of these victims had NOT done or supported any illegal activity or terrorism. They were simply inconvenient politically.

    The targets of Obama are NOT in any way shape or form innocent of illegal or terrorist activity. They are more akin at the very least to Lord Haw Haw or Ezera Pound in WWII. I doubt if there would have been any outcry if the RAF and Fifteen Air Force had specifically targeted either one of them for a bombing raid. That would have been targeted killing of a British and US citizen by Presidential or PM order. Think that would have been an illegal or horrendous violation or expansion of executive power? I don’t think so.

    The the other points are not quite as Nixonesque either. Nixon did far worse in prosecutions of speech as did LBJ. I remember Dr Spock and Dr Sloan Coffin being put on trial for their speech alone. I also recall the use of force against anti-war protestors in Chicago at the DEMOCRATIC party convention. So how some get the idea that the Democratic party was or is the party of hippies is beyond me. Overclasification is a long standing problem and hiding legitimate secrets has long been a source of contention of all parties. Obama is neither better or worse on this one. As far as a cult of personality being a defense for him, that is absurd. I have lots of differences with Obama, and I can hardly be accused of “worshiping” him. In fact, I was for Hillary Clinton during the primaries. That is an unverifiable slur in making ones point against some of Obama’s measures.

  19. “As far as a cult of personality being a defense for him, that is absurd.”

    I don’t think anyone has used the CoP as a defense for Obama, ARE, but rather as an explanation of the deafening silence on the part of many of his supporters concerning Obama’s bad actions which are every bit as bad as the Constitutional abuses of Bush.

  20. Would now be a good time, Professor Turley, to take another look at the evidence that President Obama has also been dishonest about the authenticity of his birth certificate pdf image that he “released” to the press, but not to any plaintiff in any court?

    Here is local Arizona CBS coverage of Sheriff Arpaio’s presser which has been suppressed, IMO by the cult of personality running the national media (aided by intimidation in some cases, I suspect, such as Fox News):

    Here is Arpaio’s full presser from March 1, 2012. (Reportedly Arpaio has accumulated additional federally certified forensic document laboratory confirmation of the forgery and is awaiting congressional support for a select committee investigation.):

    Note that on the White House’s own website the transcript of the BC “release” event shows Dan Pfeiffer and Bob Bauer exhibiting obvious “plausible deniability” tactics as well as “consciousness of guilt” behavior:

    Q And this is going to sound — I mean, you can just anticipate what people are going to — remain unconvinced. They’re going to say that this is just a photocopy of a piece of paper, you could have typed anything in there. Will the actual certificate be on display or viewable at any — (laughter.)

    Q Will the President be holding it?

    MR. PFEIFFER: He will not, and I will not leave it here for him to do so. But it will — the State Department of Health in Hawaii will obviously attest that that is a — what they have on file. As Bob said, it’s in a book in Hawaii.

    MR. BAUER: And you’ll see the letter from the director of the Health Department that states that she oversaw the copy and is attesting to —

    Q But do you understand that this could quiet the conspiracy theorists?

    MR. PFEIFFER: There will always be some selection of people who will believe something, and that’s not the issue.

  21. Thanks for the link, Elaine.

    And worth repeating, IMHO:

    “He was the champion of the Constitution in everyday life, because he knew that it is in everyday life that the liberties guaranteed therein are the most fragile, and that it is in everyday life where the hundred small abridgements of those liberties work to disenfranchise us from the rights that are our property to the point where the huge and egregious abridgements become possible.” -Charles Pierce about Anthony Lewis

  22. Elaine, Gene, AP and I guess ap,



    You’re Onto something…


    Seeing you post this is a breath of fresh air in such a partisan word…

  23. Well at least we have a president that stands up for what he believes in…. Weatherboarding and all…

  24. Here’s more from Charlie Pierce:

    Mar 18,2013
    History’s Yard Waste Explored, Continued
    By Charles P. Pierce

    The biggest story in American political history that has broken in many years pretty much died of loneliness over the weekend. As near as I can tell, nobody in the elite political media picked it up, and it certainly didn’t hit any of The Sunday Showz. And these, of course, are the mightly gatekeepers of the First Amendment who, when Richard Nixon shuffled off his plague-ish coil and climbed up on his personalized spit in Hell back in 1994, went wall-to-wall with coverage of his funeral. People like Tom Wicker and — alas — the great Murray Kempton insisted that there was something worthwhile to be found in this wandering heap of vicious neuroses, that there was something of legitimate value at the bottom of this vast bag of rancid old sins. Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy.

    Oh, yes, he knew great controversy amid defeat as well as victory. He made mistakes, and they, like his accomplishments, are a part of his life and record. But the enduring lesson of Richard Nixon is that he never gave up being part of the action and passion of his times. He said many times that unless a person has a goal, a new mountain to climb, his spirit will die. Well, based on our last phone conversation and the letter he wrote me just a month ago, I can say that his spirit was very much alive to the very end.

    Clinton should be ashamed today for having said that. We should be ashamed as a nation that we didn’t just drop the corpse unceremoniously into the sea. The elite political media, past and present, living and dead, should atone in Purgatory for centuries over trying to redeem this vat of squalid poison. Because, over this weekend, we discovered, once again, that the irredeemable barrel that was Richard Nixon had no bottom to scrape.

    It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign. He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser. At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared. The Paris peace talks may have ended years earlier, if it had not been for Nixon’s subterfuge.

    Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal. So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out. He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”. Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.

    There were 22,000 more Americans who died in Vietnam after Nixon sabotaged the peace talks in order to win an election. That’s 44,000 more American parents. That’s thousands and thousands more American children. That’s god alone knows how many more men, women, and children in Southeast Asia, all of whom died, very likely unnecessarily, because of Richard Nixon’s treasonous ambitions. Millions of people visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington every year. Everyone of them who comes to commemorate a loved one lost in the war after 1968 should say a silent prayer at the wall and then turn slowly, and, with great dignity and quiet grace, spit in the direction of the White House, just because Richard Nixon once lived there.

  25. Gene,

    Let’s remember that Cheney and Rumsfeld were influential in Ford’s administration … they were his guys … especially Cheney who was Ford’s special assistant, then Chief of Staff and finally, campaign manager for Ford’s 1976 presidential campaign. Anyone that closely aligned with Cheney has got to have serious character flaws of his own … serious ones. One being a desire to usurp the Constitution and Majestify the office of President. They did it and Cheney reaped the rewards in 2000.

    Yes, Nixon did cave too easily and pardoning him without a trial kept him buried.

  26. After reading Elaine’s links i wonder if treason was not met with treason. What a da*n trashy place the White House is.

  27. “Somewhere, Nixon must be wondering how it could have been this easy.”
    Profoundly stupid statement. Nixon knows exactly how easy it could be when the mass media collude with you rather than oppose you. Just look at the latest headlines about the investigation into criminal malfeasance in “Fast and Furious” and the Benghazi gunrunning meltdown. Oh, you say there are no headlines? No investigation? Hmm. How could that be…

  28. Blouise,

    I wasn’t thinking of Cheney or Rumsfeld (who have a place in Hell reserved for them right next to their former boss) but of James Cannon when I said that, but evil generally attracts evil. Evil is not a word I toss about lightly. Those were and still are evil men and just so Obama is in their company by his own actions at this point.

  29. Also, I’m pretty sure being dead is what keeps Nixon buried.

    “I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it.” – Mark Twain

  30. Gene,
    you are right about the Gideon case and the book about it. It was a wonderful book and a bright moment for justice. It was one of the reasons I went to law school.
    you are right that the blind eye started long before Obama. I think it started accelerating when Ford pardoned Nixon. If he had gone to trial, we would not have the so-called imperial presidency. At least not to the extent we have it now.

  31. Both parties are corrupt and self serving. Voters elect the lesser of two evils, yet history proves that to be a fools errand. Obama is the biggest political disappointment in a string of many. The biggest issues of our time will be resolved in the streets.

  32. Obama’s Crackdown on Whistleblowers
    By Tim Shorrock
    March 26, 2013

    In the annals of national security, the Obama administration will long be remembered for its unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. Since 2009, it has employed the World War I–era Espionage Act a record six times to prosecute government officials suspected of leaking classified information. The latest example is John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer serving a thirty-month term in federal prison for publicly identifying an intelligence operative involved in torture. It’s a pattern: the whistleblowers are punished, sometimes severely, while the perpetrators of the crimes they expose remain free.

    The hypocrisy is best illustrated in the case of four whistleblowers from the National Security Agency: Thomas Drake, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis. Falsely accused of leaking in 2007, they have endured years of legal harassment for exposing the waste and fraud behind a multibillion-dollar contract for a system called Trailblazer, which was supposed to “revolutionize” the way the NSA produced signals intelligence (SIGINT) in the digital age. Instead, it was canceled in 2006 and remains one of the worst failures in US intelligence history. But the money spent on this privatization scheme, like so much at the NSA, remains a state secret.

    The story goes back to 2002, when three of the whistleblowers—Loomis, Wiebe and Binney—asked the Pentagon to investigate the NSA for wasting “millions and millions of dollars” on Trailblazer, which had been chosen as the agency’s flagship system for analyzing intercepted communications over a smaller and cheaper in-house program known as ThinThread. That program was invented by Loomis, one of the NSA’s top software engineers, and Binney, a legendary crypto-scientist, both of whom began working for the NSA during the Vietnam War. But despite ThinThread’s proven capacity to collect actionable intelligence, agency director Gen. Michael Hayden vetoed the idea of deploying the system in August 2001, just three weeks before 9/11.

    Hayden’s decisions, the whistleblowers told The Nation, left the NSA without a system to analyze the trillions of bits of foreign SIGINT flowing over the Internet at warp speed, as ThinThread could do. During the summer of 2001, when “the system was blinking red” with dangerous terrorist chatter (in former CIA Director George Tenet’s famous words), they say the agency failed to detect critical phone and e-mail communications that could have tipped US intelligence to Al Qaeda’s plans to attack.

  33. The October surprise of ’80 was just a page out of the Republican playbook from ’68. The Nixon, Chennault maneuver has been written about as a theory for years. Johnson should have had them arrested at the time for treason.

  34. Just because a previous administration performed dastardly acts against the civil liberties of the citizenry, it does not give license to the subsequent administration to do the same.

  35. The link to Taibbi’s piece that Elaine provided is well worth the read. From that:

    “We haven’t had to openly ratify any of these policies because the secret-keepers have done us the favor of making these awful moral choices for us.”

    Something is coming. It’s in the air everywhere.

  36. Here is one of the problems with our country: Education of the young. I have a grandniece, who will be 23 in July. I asked just a couple of weeks ago if she had ever heard of Watergate. She said, “No.”

  37. Darren,

    “Just because a previous administration performed dastardly acts against the civil liberties of the citizenry, it does not give license to the subsequent administration to do the same.’

    I agree. I think some of us are just pointing out that it’s nothing new under the sun. Our government/other administrations have performed many dastardly acts in the past.


    Studies show ‘dark chapter’ of medical research
    By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
    October 1, 2010

    (CNN) — The Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the 20th century is often cited as the most famous example of unethical medical research. Now, evidence has emerged that it overlapped with a shorter study, also sponsored by U.S. government health agencies, in which human subjects were unknowingly being harmed by participating in an experiment.

    Research from Wellesley College professor Susan Reverby has uncovered evidence of an experiment in Guatemala that infected people with sexually transmitted diseases in an effort to explore treatments.

    Lapses by American Leaders Seen in Syphilis Tests
    Published: September 14, 2011

    The highest medical and legal officials of the American government and experts at Harvard and other top medical schools approved venereal disease experiments on people in the 1940s, which led to the deliberate infection of Guatemalan prisoners and mental patients with syphilis to test penicillin, a White House bioethics panel reported Tuesday.

  38. “Something is coming. It’s in the air everywhere.” -Blouise

    Agreed. Blouise. Let’s hope it’s soon.

  39. G.Mason,

    Your sentence is accurate, but the tense is wrong: Fascism has taken over both parties.

    Just a suggestion.

  40. Prof. Turley –

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your explanations. When I read the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, certain matters are crystal clear with no ambiguity. When the punditocracy starts talking about the same things, I wonder if they’ve actually read and comprehended the same documents. When you explain things in your clear and concise manner, I feel like I’m not wandering in a fog like when other people start talking about the same issues and get lost in inconsequential detours to nowhere. Everything is crystal clear again.

    I see us wandering in the wilderness of fascism now, a leftover legacy of the Bushista years which was the culmination of the most unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, unethical, dishonorable actions I’ve seen our government take in all my (now 67) years…, until Obama became president. I didn’t support his candidacy because of a 2007 interview he had where he said he didn’t support impeachment, and his support of even possibly investigating the lies and war crimes of Bush, Cheney, and their lying war criminal cohorts was less than enthusiastic (the other “frontrunner candidates” also had put out statements that were similarly worded, so I didn’t support them either). Still, I had some dim hopes he might repeal the Patriot Act, MCA ’06 (which took away our habeas corpus rights), FISA fiasco ’08 (and until he said he’d expand and increase funding for the unconstitutional ‘office of faith-based initiatives’ in ’08, I’d hoped he’d disband that office that Bush created with an executive order).

    To my horror, Obama and our Congress Critters extended all those unconstitutional laws that took away so many of our rights, and added MCA ’09. Before his first week in office was over, the drone bombings had already begun. Obamacare is a giveaway to the insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations and premiums people are forced to pay them will finance the executive bonuses and shareholder payouts for those corporations; suddenly Obama and the Congress Critters developed a spine to thwart our demands for a not-for-profit single-payer medical insurance and/or a buy-in to Medicare (which would be the logical step and very easy to do). All of that on top of the continuation of record-setting profits for oil, mercenary, and military-industrial corporations. I didn’t expect much of Obama, but I spent many months with my jaw dropping as things progressively became worse during those first couple of years and no one said a word against the slide into fascism.

    I miss your voice and the chats you used to have with Keith Olbermann, Professor Turley. Sorry, I no longer tune in to the Sunday morning poli-speak punditocracy and the glib talk and crosstalk that has little or no substance (and too many ads), so when you appear on them I would only catch them on your blog or on YouTube if they’re put there. I wish you could get a TV show that let you speak in full about the issues facing our country right now, legislation that desperately needs repealing….

    Thank you, again, for your clear and concise explanations of constitutional issues and laws.

  41. Darren: The republicans are nearly all against his actions and they are not going to accomplish much.

    I think that is inaccurate. The Republicans are against a Democrat taking these actions, the Democrats are against a Republican taking these actions. I am pretty sure, after George W. Bush, that if Romney had won and exercised these exact same powers, about 95% of Congressional Republicans would be defending Romney and claiming that any action he took was justifiable for our safety, and everything the Democrats said about it was just partisan politics.

    Which would be true in that hypothetical, as it is true in reality: With the exception of a single-digit percentage of Representatives and Senators, Neither side cares what is Constitutional or what the country needs, they only care if their Party is “winning” or not, and pretty much no matter what the cost.

  42. What? No mention of Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew? Somehow the phrase “nolo contendre” comes to mind. Not exactly a Bradley Manning type prosecution of the “lawbreakers,” to say the least.

  43. Please proof read better. In the sixth paragraph you say Nixon was impeached. Nixon was never impeached. He beat them to it and resigned. So, no impeachment. Andrew Johnson, impeached but was acquitted. Bill Clinton is the only President both impeached AND found guilty.

  44. “From unilateral military actions to warrantless surveillance that were key parts of the basis for Nixon’s impending impeachment, the painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.” – Jonathan Turley

    That word, “impending”, is an important adjective.

    It occurs in the second paragraph and thus modifies the usage of “impeachment” from thereon out, including in the sixth paragraph.

  45. As I have always understood things, “impeachment” serves as the political equivalent of a criminal “indictment.” If it so wishes, the House of Representatives can vote articles of impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” meaning by those terms (if it wishes — and it did) even extramarital fellatio, whereupon the Senate will try the case, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. Punishment, if any, consists in removal from office, nothing more.

    The House of Representatives has voted articles of impeachment against three presidents: Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. The Senate did not vote to remove either Johnson or Clinton from office, so both finished out their terms — Bil Clinton quite successfully. Richard Nixon, realizing that the Senate had enough votes and the intention to remove him, chose to resign from office as part of a deal the terms of which only became apparent after his resignation when his personally selected Vice President granted him a carte-blanche pardon that essentially short-circuited any possible legal proceedings — civil or criminal — against him.

    As Glenn Greenwald summarizes the impact of the Nixon pardon in his book With Liberty and Justice for Some:

    Although there have been episodes of unpunished elite malfeasance throughout American history, the explicit, systematic embrace of the notion that such malfeasance should be shielded from legal consequences begins with the Watergate scandal – one of the clearest cases of widespread, deliberate criminality at the highest level of the U.S. government.

    Remarkably, [President Gerald] Ford explicitly pointed to Nixon’s lofty status as a reason to exempt him from the accountability applied to ordinary Americans – a complete reversal and rejection of the central covenant of the American founding. Ford’s signature line – “Our long national nightmare is over” – put a heroic spin on the betrayal of the rule of law: we end the “nightmare” of high-level criminality by sweeping it under the rug, protecting the wrongdoers, and pretending their crimes never happened.”

    The actual beneficiary of the pardon, of course, was not “Americans” but Richard Nixon.

    That about covers the subject, I think.

  46. “Ford’s signature line – “Our long national nightmare is over” – put a heroic spin on the betrayal of the rule of law…” -Glenn Greenwald

    Being in the thick of it, I can attest to the fact that “our long national nightmare” most certainly isn’t “over.” Many are slumbering and the nightmare continues.


    “Watch “The Lessons of Watergate””

    “Thanks to everyone who made our “The Lessons of Watergate” conference possible. Watch the footage from the first day — we’ll have more as it becomes available.”

  47. Many believe it will take another scandal the size of Watergate, or worse, to get us back on track. Let’s hope not. -Michael Winship

    It will… It’s in plain sight. And it’s a doozy. One of these days…

    Watergate’s Lessons, Washed Away

    March 29, 2013

    by Michael Winship


    But the Lessons of Watergate are lessons learned and lost. We’ve got to organize, get our government back and make it accountable. Many believe it will take another scandal the size of Watergate, or worse, to get us back on track. Let’s hope not. Instead, four decades in the future, let there be changes for the good America can celebrate, so we don’t wind up like those old ballplayers on the road, reliving an unforced error, again and again.

  48. Elaine M.,

    From retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich’s book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War:

    In sum, failure in Vietnam seemingly left the Washington Rules in tatters. That within five years of Saigon’s fall they were well on their way to reconstruction qualifies as remarkable. That within another decade the American credo and sacred trinity had been fully restored deserves to be seen as astonishing. In retrospect, what distinguishes the legacy of Vietnam is not how much things changed, but how little. Seldom has a war been so fervently memorialized even as it was being so thoroughly drained of meaning.

    But the whopper of a remark that really sticks in my craw — as a veteran of the Nixon Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72) — comes from no less an amoral monster than Nixon’s Teutonic Rasputin himself:

    Already in 1975, in a memo drafted for President Gerald Ford, Kissinger, then secretary of state, called it “remarkable, considering how long the war lasted and how intensely it was reported and commented upon, that there are really not very many lessons from our experience in Vietnam that can be usefully applied elsewhere despite the obvious temptation to try.”

    The impeachment of Richard Nixon derived principally from three sources: (1) his scurrilous, low-road political career that savaged so many who never forgot or forgave; (2) his dragging-out and accelerating (via intensified bombing) a ruinous foreign war that the American people had long-since abandoned as pointless and dishonorable; and (3) his petty — and even worse, incompetent — criminality. Unfortunately for America, only the pathological personality of Richard Nixon (preceded by the simply venal Spiro Agnew) had to leave the scene of national government; whereas the reactionary gutter politics and official criminality remained, perpetrated and refined by more attractive and competent personalities.

  49. While over in the Philippines, I had a silk screen made, along with two T shirts: one black letters on white, one white on black; I’ll expand it to sweat shirts after I return to the States in two weeks. Here it is:
    Is BARACK O More Dangerous Than ADOLF H? (front)
    (on the back:) .1.Murders Children To Abolish The 2nd Amendment!
    2.Abolishes The Rule Of Law Using U.S. Drone Strikes!
    3.Repeals The Magna Carta With Rights Stripping NDA Act!
    (obviously larger letters on front, three lines) (back is six lines)
    Looks really good, especially in black with white letters. I do it because I’m personally outraged by what is going on.
    Seems exagerated or too ‘radical’? I get that a lot, but the answer is ‘Not at all!” We live in very radical times! Very! The extremism is out there, with our government & their bosses, corporate or private; and that goes both ways too, but the actions of our recent presidents are inexcusable, the latest being the worst ever. So, if any of this seems too radical, just get more education on what is going on, from presidential edicts to the role of psychiatry, to bankers, drug corporations, Illuminati & the New World Order. Bush Snr. didn’t make his NWO speech on 9/11/1990 for nothing!
    Anyway, we still have a chance but we have to use it. Should anyone else have the balls & conviction to wear this shirt, I’ll try to make it available at market prices. Meanwhile, I’ll be wearing it myself.

  50. travelinglimey,
    Thanks for sharing this vital information with us.
    Good, then we Illuminati of the New World Order can identify you by your Tshirt. We’re recruiting delusional paranoids, such as yourself, to be taken to the home planet on the Mother Ship.
    You will be surgically altered, to remove your balls and convictions, before being returned to the New World Order, as a quadruple-agent.

  51. Is Lewis Carroll alive? Even he couldn’t have written this. I for the life of me can’t believe what has happened in the past dozen years. I wonder what it’s going to take for people to wake up?

  52. Well, I am having quite a mixed reaction to reading this article. I am opposed to the expansion of presidential powers over the last several decades, and especially to the extreme powers granted President Bush after 9-11, many of which Obama has retained and used. But the article seems to be blaming Obama, who really had very little to do with any of it and simply continued using many, though by no means all, of the anti-terrorism resources set up during the previous administration. The article would have made much more sense comparing Nixon’s power with GW Bush’s. The fact that the author did not write it this way makes one suspect that his purpose was to bash Obama rather than to make valid points about the expansion of presidential powers. None of these powers had anything to do with why Nixon faced impeachment, so the premise of the article is strained, to say the least.

  53. Carl R, you are making the mistake of picking a side in the left/right donkey/elephant shell game. Its a distraction only, so you will miss what is really going on. I thought it could not get worse than Bush Jr after the Patriot Act. It has, & Obama is in the driver seat now.
    Mark C, you’re right, but fact can be stranger than fiction. That’s why David Ike titled his 9/11 book: Alice & Wonderland & the 9/11 Story… I’d like to answer your question but I’ll pass it on if I see him.

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