In October of 1973 I was barely two months passed my fifteenth birthday. As young as I was, I was at least perceptive enough to understand that something extraordinary was occurring in the life of America. On the evening of the historical and extraordinary "Saturday Night Massacre", when Dick Nixon fired the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, my brother Pete and I were across the street from our house at the home of our pals, Tom and Tim Finkle. When NBC's John Chancellor broke into the regularly televised programming to announce that this was a "constitutional crisis" and that, "nothing like this has ever happened before", I knew then and there that the proverbial substance had hit the fan. Between the firing of Cox, the resignation-in-disgrace of Vice-President Spiro Agnew and the swearing-in of the new Veep, Gerald R. Ford, October of 1973 was one of those months that took the average news junkie's breath away - not unlike February 2017. As Yogi Berra once observed, "It's Deja Vu all over again!"
Watergate turned me into the stone-cold political animal that I remain to this day, forty-four years after the fact. In the summer of 1973, weeks before my fifteenth birthday, so transfixed was I by the daily hearings that were unfolding on the television screen, I taped about four hours of them by placing the microphone of my little cassette tape recorder up to the speaker of the tube in my father's den. I still have those tapes, filed away in a drawer about six feet from where I now sit. I knew damned well that history was being made and I was determined to preserve it for the sake of posterity. I guess it never occurred to me that the networks might have their own system of archiving these nasty little events. Stupid kid!
As someone once said (and I wish like heck I could remember who it was) "everything today is just the same as it was then - only different". The scandal that is now brewing in Washington is so palpable that one would have to be in complete denial not to perceive it. For every hour that ticks by, the stench becomes more-and-more pronounced. The Trump campaign conspired with the government of a hostile foreign power (with a little help from the head of the FBI) to pervert the American election.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before."
John Chancellor died in 1996. About a decade after Watergate, I would find myself working in the lobby of Rockefeller Center in New York City, headquarters of the National Broadcasting Company. More than once, I would see him emerge from the elevator and stride across the lobby. I was always tempted to walk up to him and explain the impact that his reporting had on me at so tender an age - but I was never able to muster up the courage to do so. It was one thing to strike up a friendly conversation with David Letterman (as I did twice) but John Chancellor was something else indeed. He had a dignity and a gravitas that I could never come close to approaching, so I let him walk by, undisturbed (although making eye contact with the great man was enough to give me the dry heaves). Six months ago I would have been tempted to say that we'll never see his like again, but I need to restrain myself. The Washington press corps seems to be awakening from a long and blissful slumber. We shall see.
If Watergate was a paper cut, this is going to be a blood bath. These are extraordinary times to witness.
SUGGESTED READING AND VIEWING:
All the President's Men
by Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein
It is one of the very few times of my experience that the movie was every bit as good as the book. Watch it. Read it - or both
. Either way, you won't be disappointed.
Monday's Rachel Maddow program was the most extraordinary of her notable career (at least in my opinion). The scandal is unraveling, slowly but ever-so-surely. If you missed the opening of her program last night, you missed something that was quite eye-opening. Here's a link to watch it….WATCH IT!
What is now happening is extraordinary; we're talkin' unprecedented here. It just keeps getting stranger and stranger. This is no ordinary time. We’ll just leave it at that.