Wednesday, May 7, 2014
(Much) Worse Than Watergate
A little over a year ago, Conrad Black wrote an article exposing the deceitful and unscrupulous journalistic tactics utilized by Bob Woodward, especially with regards to his reporting on the Watergate affair. Black argued that Woodward, along with partner Carl Bernstein and boss Ben Bradlee, caused much damage to the country with his self-promoting crusade to discredit and demonize Richard Nixon.
Like the recitation of Deep Throat’s ulcerous sour grapes, (Woodward's biography of John Belushi) is a mere chronicle. There is no editing, no overview, no subtlety, no analysis, just a fictional morality play, by a slanted, strident scold. Dan Aykroyd called it “exploitative, pulp trash.” At one point, Belushi’s manager said, apparently jokingly, “It made you think Nixon might be innocent.”
Bingo. Let us alight on that forbidden planet.
Article I of the impeachment of Richard Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 held that Nixon “had made it his policy” and acted “directly and personally through his close subordinates and agents, to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of the [Watergate break-in], to cover up, to protect, and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.” In fact, he had authorized staff to suggest to the director and deputy director of the CIA (Richard Helms and Vernon Walters) an intervention by the CIA with the FBI, and had declined to pursue the matter when the CIA officials said they would do so only if given a presidential order. He also authorized payment of the Watergate defendants’ legal and personal expenses by his reelection committee, but there was only the flimsiest evidence that this was in exchange for altered testimony.
Article II of impeachment claimed Nixon had “endeavored” to misuse the IRS (not that he had actually done so, as some of his predecessors had*), had not fulfilled his oath to uphold the Constitution, and had violated the constitutional rights of citizens. Article III of impeachment charged Nixon with impeding impeachment proceedings by non-compliance with eight Judiciary Committee subpoenas for 147 tapes of White House conversations. All the Democrats voted for these three articles and half the Republicans for the first two. Nixon’s handling of Watergate was sleazy and uncharacteristically inept, but the first article was a stretch, and the second and third were an outrage. But such was the sense of presidenticidal righteousness confected by the Woodward-Bernstein revelations and their media echo chamber that Richard Nixon resigned. Thus ended an administration that must be ranked — with Lincoln’s time in office, Washington’s first term, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first and third terms — as one of the most successful presidencies in American history.** Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, and others have jubilated about it ever since.
*And as the current administration has. **My emphasis.
Whether or not Nixon deserved to be hounded from office, his alleged misdeeds are trivial compared to the current administration's crimes involving Benghazi.
At worst, (and Black disputes this), Nixon sought to cover up a crime, the commission of which caused no loss of life and one that he had nothing to do with - the break in of the Watergate Hotel by low level operatives of his campaign committee. Compare this to the multifaceted transgressions of the Obama administration concerning Benghazi.
1) The unexplained placement of a diplomatic outpost, dense with CIA personnel, in a dangerous, politically unstable location. One theory is that Secretary of State Clinton was attempting to buy back RPGs that the administration had provided to terrorist militants in their fight to depose Moammar Khadafy. (But hey, "What difference does it make?")
2) The failure to provide adequate security for the outpost even after the British Ambassador was attacked in June and the British Embassy staffs were withdrawn. The Red Cross Headquarters had also been attacked around the same time and that office and its personnel were also withdrawn. Ambassador Christopher Stevens himself had warned of “Islamic extremism” and displays of “the Al-Qaeda flag” and of the inadequate security measures in place three months before the fatal attack that took his life. Security levels were actually reduced in the months leading up to the attack and these reductions were approved by Secretary Clinton. (Again, "What difference does it make?")
3) The failure to respond to the attack as it was occurring. Former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty fought bravely for eight hours in a desperate attempt to hold off al-Qaeda linked militants deploying vastly superior firepower. A Military Special Forces Team could have been at the site within two hours. Especially infuriating was the revelation that Woods and Doherty had laser pinpointed, for arriving American forces, the position of the enemy firing the mortars that ultimately killed them. Those forces never arrived.
4) President Obama's failure to explain where he was and what he was doing during the attack. We know he didn't pose for publicity photographs as he had during the bin Laden raid. Was he already planning the coverup? (With the attack in progress, Obama had a lengthy phone conversation with Hillary Clinton, immediately after which Clinton made the first reference to the phony story about the anti-Islam video - Repeat, "What difference does it make?"). Did Obama retreat to his home theater to catch up on his extensive TV viewing itinerary or retire early to get ready for a campaign stop in Las Vegas the next day? We don't know.
And perhaps worst of all.
5) The coverup. Faced with its abysmal failures in points 1-3, the administration sought to conceal its ineptitude with an outrageous lie - that the attack was prompted by an obscure video critical of Islam. This lie was perpetuated for weeks after the attack by senior administration officials including U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Clinton and Obama. Rice went on five Sunday news programs to promote the lie. No one knows who told her to do this. No one seems to care enough to ask. For her mendacity in the cause of helping the Obama re-election campaign, Rice was promoted to National Security Advisor. Clinton, most shamefully, espoused the lie in the presence of grieving relatives of the dead Americans during the eulogy of her "friend" "Chris", two days after the attack when the caskets were received back in the U.S. (Once more, "What difference does it make?") Characteristically, Obama did his dissembling in non-serious venues - on the David Letterman show and at the U.N. Described by National Review editor Rich Lowry as "the first victim of Sharia law in America", video producer Mark Bassely Youssef (aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula), was arrested (ostensibly for a parole violation) and kept in prison for nearly a year. Even if the video was responsible, there is no justification for the cowardice exhibited by the administration in caving to Islamists demanding subservience to their fascist ideology. So says the First Amendment.
6) Top Obama administration officials vowed immediately after Benghazi that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. A year and a half after the attack, the only individual punished has been Youssef. The actual perpetrators, members of the terrorist groups Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna are known and walk the streets freely and defiantly. One of the ringleaders, Ahmed Abu Khattala, has openly mocked the American response. That there have been no apprehensions (never mind assassinations) is due to Eric Holder's absurd insistence on trying foreign terrorists in the U.S. legal system with its requirement for jury trial standards of evidence.
Nixon was threatened with impeachment for his alleged involvement in covering up a crime. His motivation was to avoid the effect the bad publicity a botched burglary attempt by operatives associated with his campaign would have on his re-election chances.
Obama's cover up was motivated by a similar concern - the bad PR effect a terrorist attack would have on his campaign. Unlike Nixon, he was responsible for the crimes he was trying to cover up. Obama had promoted the fiction that the terrorist threat from al-Queda and its affiliates had died along with bin Laden. His failure to provide adequate security for the Benghazi consulate, his failure to fulfill his constitutional duty to protect Americans under attack, and his dishonesty regarding the reason for the attack were all driven by the need to protect his re-election campaign from negative publicity.
The death of four Americans, including the first murder of a U.S. ambassador in 33 years, was a direct result of Obama's failures. Those failures also diminished our global credibility. Khadafy's successor, the moderate Libyan leader, Mohammed Magariaf had promptly and forcefully condemned the Sept 11, 2012 attack as the well-planned terrorist assault it was. As Andrew McCarthy has noted, Magariaf was undermined by Obama's "the video made 'em do it" lie. Islamic extremists are also now aware of the emptiness of Obama's vow to respond to terror attacks directed at Americans at home or abroad. They know that the present administration will countenance almost any outrage as long as "oppressed" groups can claim an instigating factor (offensive cartoons, videos, commentary). And they know they needn't fear relentless manhunts in the absence of iron-clad evidence.
In contrast, it was Nixon's removal from office, not his alleged misdemeanors, that had destructive and lingering after effects. Conrad Black again -
There were not grounds to remove Nixon from office, shabby and neurotic though the tone of the administration’s response to its enemies often was. What occurred was a tragedy that wounded the country and the presidency and facilitated the Democratic desertion of the anti-Communists of Indochina — which led to the massacres of the South Vietnamese resisters, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the Boat People.
Finally, a prediction. Trey Gowdy, who's been chosen to lead the new House Select Committee investigating Benghazi, will burnish his credentials during the proceedings to such an extent that he will instantly become a serious 2016 presidential contender. Whether he gets the nomination or not is another story. Gowdy is brilliant, but he looks and sounds like a Confederate colonel. Not an appealing characteristic in a presidential candidate.