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Thu Oct 31, 2013, 10:42 PM

Watergate Blews

"What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

I was thinking about that famous line today, on the ride home from doing some campaign work. And not in terms of President Obama; I wasn't thinking about any particular U.S. President, but more about what Michel Crozier spoke of in his 1964 book, "The Bureaucratic Phenomenon" (University of Chicago Press). It's the idea that in most large institutions, be they the French experience of Crozier's focus, or the US government, newly empowered "leaders" find it difficult -- if not impossible -- to enact the changes they believe they have been given a mandate for.

Now, obviously, I was tired: how else could my mind dance about from the five local "town" campaigns that I'm helping to run, to presidential politics? While three of the candidates are seeking re-election, two are new to running for office. One of the two is a retired university professor, the other a young business owner. Both are highly intelligent, socially conscious individuals, running for all the right reasons.

But they cannot fully appreciate -- yet -- how difficult it is to make changes, once they are in office. The other three do. They know it, from learning it in their first terms in office (the range there being 2 to 16 years).

"Local" politics is, sadly, beginning to be as raw and acrimonious as the decay in the Congress in Washington, DC. I'm currently working with a three-county bi-partisan group on a range of issues, from an epidemiological study of the most polluted town in the most polluted county in New York State, to endorsing candidates who advocate a balance between economic development and environmental responsibility. Sometimes, I feel that we are but a tiny island of sanity in a sea of madness (though Neil Young was not playing on the radio on my ride home).

Senator Howard Baker, Jr., who made the quote about the President and what he knew and when, joined other former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell, in forming the Bipartisan Policy Center. Odd, how much such a thing is needed today. Odder yet how unlikely it is that this type of effort is so far out of style.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a Howard Baker fan. But I do realize that for much of his career in the Senate, his positions would disqualify him for today's party. That may be meaningless. From time to time, we read where some person or another claims that Dick Nixon was "more liberal" than President Obama -- which is an absolute fucking lie, and kind of true, all at the same time, because there were and are tons of issues, and times change.

Still, it strikes me as worth considering five of the points Baker, as the VP of the Senate Watergate Committee, made in its final report. (Funnier yet, to remember that Nixon wanted to appoint Baker to the US Supreme Court in '71; terrible that when Baker hesitated, Nixon appointed William Rehnquist.)

[1] He felt there should be a full-time "Public Prosecutor" to keep the Executive Branch from engaging in illegal and/or unethical practices .....after all, John Mitchell had shown that the Office of the Attorney General could be inhabited by a crook. Yet, there were questions about the constitutional balance of powers: Congress can impeach; the Courts decide legal cases. But neither prosecute criminal offenses. Baker supported Senator Ervin's suggestion that presidents appoint an independent "Public Prosecutor" to serve six year terms, and that any president would need Congress to okay the appointment (or firing thereof, to avoid another Saturday Night Massacre).

[2] Oversight of intelligence agencies: a novel concept then, which may seem impossible today, but which really deserves attention.

[3] Protection of witnesses' constitutional rights, when testifying before congressional committees. I think that we can have interesting discussions, when we look at how we feel about Nixon's men versus those serving a president we like: what rules create a just balance?

[4] Campaign and election reform: "Only individuals can vote, and I believe only individuals should be able to contribute," Baker noted, when discussing how corporate contributions to Nixon had financed the huge array of crimes known collectively as "Watergate." That attempted theft of our constitutional democracy almost succeeded. Curiously, Baker believed the fallout from Watergate would prevent any president in the near future from attempting such things again. (This relates to #5 and then his gig with Reagan. Older DUers will recall when Baker took over for Donald Regan, towards the end of the Gipper's 2nd term; Regan believed he was the "prime minister" of Ronald Reagan's very Imperial Presidency.)

[5] Baker thought the description "Imperial President" was cliche, and that the "Strong President" -- with increased power and authority -- was a natural development in our maturing democracy. He was, of course, very wrong about that. However, he did express concern that US Presidents were becoming isolated by their growing personal staffs; more, Congress had less ability to exercise the checks and balances defined in the Constitution, because the president's staff, unlike the cabinet, was largely beyond their reach. Again, for both "good" and "bad" administrations, there might be a benefit for placing more power in a cabinet than staff -- from the public's point of view.

What do you think?

Bonus Question: Who was the far too often overlooked "6th buglar" at the Watergate? Hint: he wasn't caught inside, or ever charged. Next Hint: He worked for McCord for quite a while. And he was paid from Dean's "hush money" that was never accounted for.

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Reply Watergate Blews (Original post)
H2O Man Oct 2013 OP
voteearlyvoteoften Oct 2013 #1
H2O Man Nov 2013 #3
gopiscrap Nov 2013 #2
pinboy3niner Nov 2013 #4
H2O Man Nov 2013 #5

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Oct 31, 2013, 10:49 PM

1. Martinez the Cuban

My husband has a good memory and that is what he remembers.

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Response to voteearlyvoteoften (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 1, 2013, 11:40 AM

3. A good guess .....

I believe that your husband's memory is close to the correct answer. He's thinking of the one who was keeping watch on the night of the first documented break-in at the Watergate -- and is remembering who the guard encountered, and told to leave. This was a fellow who was actually more connected to Hunt than McCord.

The gentleman I am using in this DU Trivial Pursuit question was "employed" by McCord's private eye business. He is generally more connected to the investigation of the "call girl ring," than Watergate. Yet he drove twice from his daughter's home to the Watergate on the night in question. After Watergate -- and he was questioned extensively by his former employer, the FBI, but not charged -- he would earn a salary, but not do any work.

I'm thinking that Brother Octafish will know, if someone like your husband doesn't remember. There was very little mention of this fellow during the congressional hearings or court trials. Yet, the break-in would not have been discovered that night, but for his involvement.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Nov 1, 2013, 01:13 AM

2. Shrub

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Nov 1, 2013, 11:54 AM

4. Alfred C. Baldwin III, the "spotter" for the Watergate burglars

I had to look it up to refresh my memory, but I remembered that they had a lookout (who was not arrested) who failed to alert them about the arrival of the police.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_C._Baldwin_III

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Response to pinboy3niner (Reply #4)

Fri Nov 1, 2013, 12:17 PM

5. True, but not

the person in question. Baldwin was indeed the "spotter," but wasn't one of the people who broke into the Watergate that night. Also, he was connected to Liddy, but not so much to McCord, other than the break-ins.

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