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In the spring of 1973 my father -- then and now an eminent historian specializing in the economic history of the Portuguese empire -- and I retreated to a small patch of land on Whidbey Island to cut a little firewood. This was something we did occasionally.

What we had, that first morning, was a failure to communicate.

Fortunately I had the reflexes of a 14-year-old, and jumped. The chainsaw tore up my new jeans (mom was pissed), and went down to my kneecap, but no further.

There was no first aid kit at our cabin.

Father handed me a rootbeer for strength, gathered quickly all our belongings, and drove toward the ferries, me sitting in the backseat with a reddening t-shirt tied around my knee.

It was a slow weekend day, and the first ferry to come into the slip tied up, the crew headed home, and there we sat.

I don’t remember how many stitches were finally sewn into my leg, only that I was more afraid of the needle than the chainsaw. For some reason they didn’t splint my knee, just told me not to bend it. And I had to sleep on my back.

Happily this event coincided with the arrival of a 12-inch black and white TV in our household, occasioned by my mother’s discovery that when father and I went to watch games at his colleague’s house, well, his colleague has a vineyard.

This, then, is how I came to watch gavel to gavel coverage of the Senate’s Watergate hearings. The public investigation of President Richard Milhaus Nixon’s campaign misdeeds, the curious character twitch which obliged him to cheat in an election he could not have otherwise lost.

Never have I been so proud of my country.

PBS also ran the Army-McCarthy hearings, or at least long excerpts from them, in the interstices.

That summer I formed the notion that there was no more noble career I might pursue than politics.


And everything I did from that day forward until one long, black night in my early 20s when I realized that I was singularly unsuited to such pursuits, and had, furthermore, come so far off the rails as to be utterly unelectable, everything I did was centered on that goal.

Youthful hubris being what it is, I had even planned to run for President in 2004.

But what I really aspired to was the U.S. Senate. For on that dais, in that crucible, I was privileged to watch democracy act out its most difficult dance. I was privileged to watch men of both parties struggle mightily to do the right thing. And I believe, without having read all the books I have slowly collected on Watergate, I believe to my soul that without exception they placed their country above their party.

I write this from Kentucky, where Rand Paul contests with Jack Conway for Jim Bunning’s Senate seat, but I could write this about any election you might be obliged to follow.

What the hell is wrong with you people?

How have we come to this?

Mine is not a partisan objection, though my politics are no secret. Because I tilt fairly hard left, I tend to believe that the Republicans started this, that the chief domestic legacy of the Nixon years was a fatal breakdown in trust between our elected officials, the press (which succumbed to the temptation to intrude on the private lives of public figures), and the electorate. Because I tilt left I tend to think that the Republicans are more prone to dirty tricks, to Swiftboating, to all that. Because I tilt, and wish for my side to win, I tend to wish that my side would do a better job defending their goal, if not attacking the other.

Because I am an American, I am dismayed beyond words by what passes for political discourse. I am ashamed. Saddened.

I do not believe we should elect people to government who do not believe in governing. I do not believe public service should be nothing more than an altercation for power. I do not believe we deserve the discourse we are being served with.

And I fear the rise of the corporate state.

Those are my paranoias.

But for the purposes of this discussion, they do not matter. For the purposes of this discussion, I wish simply to suggest that every single bloody politician who puts his name on an advert should be ashamed. Because none of them are worthy of the democracy in which we once lived.

Originally posted to Shocko from Seattle on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 05:30 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent diary, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aaraujo, allenjo, QuestionAuthority

    thank you.

    Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion: Awards Edition & News of Dubious Veracity Dep't: Wed or Thursday evenings, starting 10/20

    by commonmass on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 05:39:02 AM PDT

  •  You were there to see the rot take hold. (6+ / 0-)

    Nixon negotiated behind our backs with the enemy.
    The GOP welcomed Dixiecrat racists with open arms.
    They chose to divide the nation, and make existing divisions worse, for electoral gain.
    Nixon's political philosophy was so relatively "liberal", he'd be kicked out of the GOP. But Nixon's absence of conscience has become the core of the Republican party.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 05:40:33 AM PDT

    •  You say this like it was a bad thing . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Nixon negotiated behind our backs with the enemy.

      If it helped end a ridiculous war, why not?

      Besides, who was the enemy - it was all rather contrived from the get-go?

      •  It Was To PROLONG the War. He Sabotaged the Peace (5+ / 0-)

        talks they were having with LBJ during the runup to the election of 1968.

        Nixon's secret plan to end the war, that he was running on as he negotiated for its continuance, was to extend the war through 1972 so that he would have it as a campaign issue for his re-election. He figured Presidents are virtually never thrown out during a time of war.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 05:57:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It did not help end the ridiculous war, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JG in MD, ETF, Aquagranny911

        it helped stop the war from being ended in 1968. Then Nixon continued and expanded the war throughout his Presidency. The war did not end until Ford was President. Nixon did the same thing Reagan did when he negotiated with the Iranians, used secret negotiation with the enemy to win an election and continue a horrible situation longer than it would otherwise have continued.

        •  I think that's the way it looks in retrospect (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JG in MD

          (and is perhaps a fair judgment) but at the time there were a lot of competing interests, confusion over the different goals of difference parts of the US government, etc.

          It seems just like right now - is Obama really negotiating with the Taliban to prolong the war over there or end it?  I suspect the latter, but when history is written it may very much look like the former . . . .

          •  Two points (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            1. Obama is POTUS; he can negotiate with enemies; that's part of what he was elected to do. Nixon was a candidate and he sabotaged the President's (Johnson's) negotiation to end the war.
            1. Nixon did not end the war, then or ever. He expanded it to Cambodia and Laos. The war continued another 7 years and it was Ford who ended it.
            •  You know, I have no desire to expend (0+ / 0-)

              much or any effort defending Nixon . . . .

              My original intent was to simply point out that he was more or less "business as usual" for the USA (both looking backward and forwards from him).   Somehow that all went badly awry.

  •  Nothing paranoid... (3+ / 0-)

    ....about your fears.  We already HAVE a Corporate State.  The only question is:  how high will it rise?/


    •  Corp Political Spending Has Tilted Massively (0+ / 0-)

      Republican as never before, thanks to CU. The Democratic Party could be on track to have trouble remaining a viable national party pretty soon, for lack of funding.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 05:59:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent piece. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thank you for posting this well-written diary.

    I'd like my life back, too, Tony ____ Video and more songs at da web site

    by Crashing Vor on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 06:18:27 AM PDT

  •  It's funny that you should mention Watergate. (5+ / 0-)

    As much as the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein helped to identify what was wrong with the Nixon administration in particular, and politics in general, it also changed, in my opinion, the reason for real investigative journalism.  

    While Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein obviously were trying to succeed as journalists, the news, the story was the thing, not the reporters.  Since Watergate, it seems, reporters and analysts (talking heads) seem more intent upon making names for themselves (and obviously money) than pursuing a story to whatever end.  They know the end they want, and then skew the story to arrive at that end. That's obviously backward.

    The 24-hour news cycle would have killed the FDR administration, in my opinion.  Every battle in WWII would have been over-analyzed and critiqued and questioned.  The fact that Pres. Roosevelt was paralyzed would have been trumpeted; can't you see Wolf Blitzer blabbing away while in big print right below his scrubby face are the words: "FDR: Unfit for the Presidency?" (don't you love the use of the "?" on news programs; they can put whatever they want as long as there's a "?").  

    Yes, the Watergate story made Woodward and Bernstein, and it took down a president, but it also changed journalism for ever, and not necessarily for the better.

    President Barack Obama; I helped make this happen!

    by PittsburghPete on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 06:28:03 AM PDT

  •  "What have we done to our country?" (2+ / 0-)

    reminded me of a Randy Newman song called "Memo to my Son." Here are the lyrics:

    What have you done to the mirror?
    What have you done to the floor?
    Can't I go nowhere without you?
    Can't I leave you alone any more?

    I know you don't think much of me
    But someday you'll understand
    Wait'll you learn how to talk baby
    I'll show you how smart I am

    A quitter never wins
    A winner never quits
    When the going gets tough
    The tough get going

    Maybe you don't know how to walk baby
    Maybe you can't talk none either
    Maybe you never will, baby
    But I'll always love you
    I'll always love you

    I can't find a Randy Newman version on YouTube, so here are the words without the music.

    It's from his 1972 album, "Sail Away," so I was listening to it about the same time that Nixon was almost impeached. I was 16 in 1972 and I worked so very hard to get McGovern elected. It broke my heart when Nixon was re-elected.

    WWJD? Jesus would drive faster is what he would do.

    by Dbug on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 07:50:04 AM PDT

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