Monday, June 06, 2005

More Required Reading

Jonathan Alter's latest Newsweek column is a gas. In "If Watergate Happened Now" he imagines the consequences if Richard Nixon were our president now and Watergate was a new story. The column is a retrospective look back at the conclusion of Richard Nixon's complete second term. A few excerpts...

Those of us who hoped it would end differently knew we were in trouble when former Nixon media adviser Roger Ailes banned the word "Watergate" from Fox News's coverage and went with the logo "Assault on the Presidency" instead. By that time, the American people figured both sides were just spinning, and a tie always goes to the incumbent.

Once they (Woodward and Bernstein) scored a few scoops with the help of anonymous sources, Sean Hannity et al. went on a rampage. When the young reporters printed an article about grand jury testimony that turned out to be wrong, Drudge and the bloggers had a field day, even though none of them had lifted a finger to try to advance the story. After that, the Silent Majority wouldn't shut up.

Just as in the Valerie Plame case, the Justice Department subpoenaed Woodward and Bernstein to testify before the grand jury about their sources. When they declined, they were jailed for 18 months on contempt charges.

With Woodward and Bernstein out of business, the No. 2 man at the FBI, W. Mark Felt, held a press conference to air complaints that the White House and his own boss were impeding the FBI probe. Of course it was only a one-day story, with Ann Coulter predictably screaming that Felt was a "traitor." Rush Limbaugh dubbed Felt "Special Agent Sour Grapes" because he'd been passed over for the top FBI job. Within hours, the media had moved on to the tale of a runaway bride.

Ken Duberstein and a few other principled Republicans weighed in that Nixon was bad news, but they were drowned out by former aides like Pat Buchanan and G. Gordon Liddy, who wanted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. When "Firebombing Brookings: Good Idea or Not?" became the "Question of the Day" on MSNBC, Liddy's radio show got a nice ratings boost. After Ralph Reed disclosed that Nixon and Henry Kissinger had been on their knees praying in the Oval Office, Nixon went up 15 points in the Gallup, double among "people of faith." Our long national nightmare was just beginning.

Satire or truth?

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