Where is that review of the book on Mark Felt?

June 4, 2012

“Deep Throat?”

I’m running desperately behind on the week. The review I promised would be up on June 1.  Perhaps later this afternoon.

My apologies.

Leak:  Why Mark Felt became Deep Throat, by Max Holland

(It’s got great stuff in it — buy it and read it while you wait!)

Check back, please

Also see:

June 17 in history: Watergate and Bunker Hill

June 17, 2010

I didn’t know the Associated Press shares its “This Day in History” feature on YouTube in video form.

Is there a really good way to use ‘today in history’ features in the classroom?

LeveeGate? KatrinaGate? Republicans arrested trying to bug Sen. Landreiu’s NOLA office

January 27, 2010

You don’t think it’s political?

Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise has links, summaries and good original reporting at her site.

Four men were arrested with a carload of electronic bugging gear, allegedly and apparently while trying to install bugs in the office of Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Mary Landreiu.  One of the men arrested was James O’Keefe, the guy who posed as a pimp in a sting on the Washington offices of the ACORN low-income housing advocacy group.

Beyerstein has more details here, here, and here.  Astoundingly, the four men appear to have been working to plant bugs in a federally-owned building.  That will make it a federal crime, a felony.

Illegal spying on Democrats was big news in 1972no one believed anyone could stoop so low, however, and so the news went under-reported for months.

Today?  Everybody expects Republicans to play so dirty — and so the news goes under-reported.

Bookmark Beyerstein’s site.

In their attempt to turn back the clock on so many issues, have the Republicans resorted to the Dirty Tricks of the Nixon era, too?


Domestic terrorist at the White House

December 16, 2008

Old joke said Nixon took crime off the streets, and put it into the White House.  It’s not really funny, though.  Read the story at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and more at Secular Right.

Where are those who worry about Bill Ayers when the terrorists actually show up at the White House?  Chuck Colson got a medal?

There’s an air of hypocrisy about the whole thing, and an air of sadness, and oddly, an air of fire and brimstone that makes Hugo Chavez look like a prophet.  Anything with anyone who makes Hugo Chavez look good is beyond funny.  Farce or tragedy, Madison worried, or maybe both;  in this case tragedy eclipses farce.

There were deserving medal winners, too.  Perhaps much good, with the bad. January 21, 2009, cannot come too soon.

Exciting times: House committee subpoenas

May 6, 2008

Living through the Watergate scandals and the Constitutional crises they produced — and spending part of that time in Washington, D.C., working for the Senate — I got a wonderful view of how constitutional government works, why it is important that good people step up to make it work, and a glimpse of what happens when good people lay back and let the hooligans run amock.

Over the last three months it occurs to me that we may be living in a similar time, when great but latent threats to our Constitution and the rule of law may be halted or rolled back by one John Dean-like character who will stand up before a group of elected officials, swear to tell the truth, and then, in fact, tell the whole truth.

Teachers, are you taking advantages of these lessons in civics that come into our newspapers every day?

We live in interesting times, exciting times — we live in educational times.

You should be clipping news stories on these events, and you should be using them in your classrooms today, and saving them for the fall elections, for the January inauguration, for the new Congress . . . and for your future classes.

What other opportunities for great civics lessons come to our doorsteps every day?

When things get tough, the patriotic listen to Barbara Jordan

August 2, 2007

Whose voice do you hear, really, when you read material that is supposed to be spoken by God? Morgan Freeman is a popular choice — he’s played God at least twice now, racing George Burns for the title of having played God most often in a movie. James Earl Jones?

Statue of Barbara Jordan at the Austin, Texas, Airport

Statue of Rep. Barbara Jordan at the Austin, Texas airport that bears her name. Photo by Meghan Lamberti, via Accenture.com

For substance as well as tone, I nominate Barbara Jordan’s as the voice you should hear.

I’m not alone. Bill Moyers famously said:

When Max Sherman called me to tell me that Barbara was dying and wanted me to speak at this service, I had been reading a story in that morning’s New York Times about the discovery of forty billion new galaxies deep in the inner sanctum of the universe. Forty billion new galaxies to go with the ten billion we already knew about. As I put the phone down, I thought: it will take an infinite cosmic vista to accommodate a soul this great. The universe has been getting ready for her.

Now, at last, she has an amplifying system equal to that voice. As we gather in her memory, I can imagine the cadences of her eloquence echoing at the speed of light past orbiting planets and pulsars, past black holes and white dwarfs and hundreds of millions of sun-like stars, until the whole cosmic spectrum stretching out to the far fringes of space towards the very origins of time resonates to her presence.

Virgotext carried a series of posts earlier in the year, commemorating what would have been Jordan’s 71st birthday on February 21. (Virgotext also pointed me to the Moyers quote, above.)

Now, when the nation seriously ponders impeachment of a president, for the third time in just over a generation, Ms. Jordan’s words have more salience, urgency, and wisdom. It’s a good time to revisit Barbara Jordan’s wisdom, in the series of posts at Virgotext.

“There is no president of the United States that can veto that decision.”

“My faith in the Constitution is whole.”

“We know the nature of Impeachment. We’ve been talking about it a while now.”

“Indignation so great as to overgrow party interests.”

And finally:

The rest of the hearing remarks are all here. It’s a longer clip than the others but honestly, there is not a good place to cut it.

This is Barbara Jordan on the killing floor.

This was a woman who understands history, who illustrates time and again that we are, with every action, with every syllable, cutting the past away from the present.

She never mentions Nixon by name. There is the Constitution. There is the office of the Presidency. But Richard Nixon the president has already ceased to exist. By the time she finishes speaking, he is history.

“A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.”

Also see, and hear:

Virgotext’s collection of Barbara Jordan stories and quotes is an excellent source for students on Watergate, impeachment, great oratory, and Barbara Jordan herself. Bookmark that site.

Barbara Jordan, in a pensive moment, in a House Committee room

Rep. Barbara Jordan sitting calmly among tension, at a House Committee meeting (probably House Judiciary Committee in 1974).

Update 2019: Here is the full audio of Barbara Jordan’s speech. It is still salient, and if you listen to it you will understand better what is going on in Congress today.

Barbara Jordan, Statement on the Articles of Impeachment, at AmericanRhetori.com.

Eleanor McGovern

February 2, 2007

The past few weeks have been studded with the deaths of people important to my life, or important in history. The string is a long, unnecessary reminder that there are a lot of people holding history in their memories whom more historians need to get out and interview, even (and perhaps especially) high school-age historians.

Eleanor and George McGovern

Eleanor McGovern died in Mitchell, South Dakota, last week. I wonder how many of the town’s high school history teachers ever thought to invite the woman to speak?

McGovern was the probably the first spouse of a presidential candidate to campaign alone, without the candidate along. The respectful, rather long obituary in the Los Angeles Times made that a focus point of its tribute (free subscription will eventually be required). That was the place I first got the news of her death, while I participated in a Liberty Fund seminar in Pasadena, California, last week.

I was recruited to politics by a McGovernite in early 1972, in Utah. Over the next few months we saw Eleanor McGovern look cool, calm, intelligent and charming in her husband’s losing campaign. She may not always have been so cool as we saw — the Times piece mentions she was nearly ill before the first-ever Sunday interview program solo appearance by a candidate’s wife.

That she was both pretty and smart probably scared the opposition more than anything she ever said. Read the rest of this entry »

Ford tells Nixon: ‘Take these guys’

January 4, 2007

President Ford, National Archives photo

[I hear from teachers who want lesson plans dealing with Gerald Ford. Here’s one I came across from the National Archives.]

Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign in late 1973 in lieu of being prosecuted for bribery. The 25th Amendment allows a president to nominate a new vice president in the event of a vacancy. It was passed after the assassination of President Kennedy, when heart-attack victim Lyondon Johnson held office for over a year with no vice president, but it had never been used. With more than two years to go on his second term, Nixon was encouraged to fill the office.

Eventually Nixon picked Gerald Ford, putting Ford in line to become the first U.S. president to hold the office without ever having been elected to either the presidency or vice presidency, though that was unknown in the fall of 1973. What Nixon needed was someone who could pass the “advice and consent” test of the U.S. Senate. He got a letter from the Republican leader in the House, Gerald Ford, a long-time Michigan congressman, who named several others.

Whose names did Ford suggest to Nixon?

That letter is the focus of a lesson plan suitable for high school U.S. history or government classes, which comes with images of the letter and suggested activities from the National Archives.

The National Archives has lesson plans for all eras of U.S. history.

Gerald Ford, nice guy

December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford died today. He was 93, the longest-surviving ex-president.

President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford walk with their daughter, Susan, and family dog, Liberty, at Camp David Aug. 7, 1976.
President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford walk with their daughter, Susan, and family dog, Liberty, at Camp David Aug. 7, 1976. Photo probably by David Hume Kennerly.

When a president dies, newspapers and news magazines pull out the stops to make their coverage of the person’s life exhaustive. You’ll see a lot about Gerald Ford in the next few days.

Gerald Ford, White House portrait, by Everett Raymond Kinstler
Official White House portrait of President Gerald R. Ford, by Everett Raymond Kinstler, painted 1977.

My college internship* with the U.S. Senate took me to Washington in 1974, just after Ford had assumed the Vice Presidency under the new rules of the 25th Amendment. Ford was selected as Vice President after Spiro T. Agnew had resigned in lieu of being prosecuted for taking kickbacks from his days as governor of Maryland. Within a few months he was elevated to the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974.

But for a few months he was President of the Senate. Starting with Spiro Agnew, vice presidents no longer spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill fulfilling their Constitutional duties as Senate leader. Hubert Humphrey had been quite active as vice president, carrying key messages from the White House to the Congress, and from Congress to the President, and pushing legislation with Lyndon Johnson, in what was surely one of the most effective legislative teams in the history of the world.

And when he was acting as President of the Senate, I first ran into Gerald Ford — literally.

I interned with the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, in the office of the late Secretary of the Senate Frank Valeo. Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) signed my credentials (we didn’t have photo I.D.s in those days), and since Mansfield had so few interns, or staffers, we, and I had the run of the Capitol (and Washington, too — with Mansfield’s signature I could get into the White House press room, which was a great place to hang out then. I also had Senate floor privileges, the value of which became clear to me only years later when I staffed for another senator. As an intern I could walk on the floor at any time, and sometimes did to watch debates. Staffers generally cannot do that at will.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Turning Point Presentations: Nixon’s “Checkers” speech

October 7, 2006

During one of my phase-shift transitions between universities and public schools yesterday, I caught a snippet of a commentary that I thought was on Richard Nixon’s 1952 speech that kept him on the ticket with Dwight Eisenhower. Public reaction was reported to be overwhelmingly warm, the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket won the 1952 election, won again in 1956, and Nixon eventually took the presidency for his own in 1968.

Shouldn’t that speech be considered one of the greater presentations of the 20th century, at least? It probably should, especially when we consider what history might have looked like had Nixon left the ticket — no Nixon nomination in 1960 against John Kennedy, no later Nixon presidency, Nixon continuing in the Senate . . . gee, which path is more gloomy?

The Checkers speech does not wear well, I think. Reading it today, I see the origins of smear campaign tactics and diversionary tactics that mar so much of today’s election campaigns and policy discussions.

This all comes up because the transcripts of the famous 1977 interview series newsman/comedian David Frost did with Nixon is the basis for a new play in London, “Frost/Nixon” by Peter Morgan, with Frank Langella playing Nixon and Michael Sheen as Frost — a play that is already being made into a movie for Universal Pictures by Academy Award winning director Ron Howard, but after a Broadway run in 2007.

Nixon’s mea culpa answer to Frost on the entirety of the Watergate scandal — “I made so many mistakes” — in the NPR piece voiced by Langella, sounded exactly like Nixon. I mistakenly thought it a recording of the Checkers speech, hearing just a snippet. The Frost/Nixon interviews would probably never have been necessary, had the Checkers speech not been a success. Surely there is a direct line from the Checkers speech to Nixon’s attempt to revive his reputation in the Frost interviews.

Watergate on Broadway, with a movie in the works, should offer good opportunities especially for high school history teachers to bring Watergate to a new generation. Too many people today fail to understand the depth of the damage done to Constitutional institutions in that crisis, and how lucky our nation was to have survived it. There are many lessons there for us in our current Constitutional crisis.

A lesson awaits, also, in the career of David Frost, who crossed from news to comedy and back. Many kids today use comedians as their chief source of political news. We should not be surprised — but let us hope that today’s comedians have as much a sense of public duty as David Frost did in 1977, even while using his public service interview to revive his own career.

Sometimes free markets work spectacularly, don’t they?

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