WAS WATERGATE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO GOP?
By STEVEN TRAVERS
The fact the “dominant media culture” is liberal is obvious and needs no elaboration beyond it simply being the well-known thing that is known by people. Those of us who possess this knowledge realize it is not important for liberals to agree with us. It is only important for us to possess this knowledge.
But what some of us may not have come to realize is that this dynamic is an advantage to the Right. One can point to many examples. For instance, the Dan Rather affair of 2004 stands as one. CBS was doing their utmost to discredit President George W. Bush’s military service with “fake news” about his time in an Air Guard unit in the 1970s. The American public came out of this farce understanding that not only did the media lie in favor of Democrats, but the fact that George Bush served in the military during the Vietnam War and was impressive enough to be a fighter jock – an endeavor many near-impressive “wash out” of – became something they did not need liberals to agree with them about. They already knew the facts. Bush won with coattails a couple of months later.
Note also the pattern of films, documentaries and special programs Hollywood produces. There was Fog or War (2003), a documentary that featured former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara bowing down before the forces of liberalism to apologize for fighting against Communism, murderers of 120 millions human beings. This was meant to discredit America’s efforts in Iraq and knock George Bush out of the White House. It was no more successful than Dan Rather’s story about his Air Guard service.
We also have W. (2008), made by ultra-Leftist Oliver Stone to make Bush look dumb and immoral. That film did not have near the effect of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, which was caused mainly by President Bill Clinton and Democrat Congressman Barney Frank in an effort to make sure poor African-Americans with no ability to pay back house loans would get houses they would eventually be unable to pay for, leading to losing their homes. If the media really wanted to get to the bottom of that, they would connect the dots and ask why it came to a head just in time for John McCain, leading by five or six points right after naming Sarah Palin as his running mate, lost to Barack Obama because of the crisis it all caused. Not unlike what happened, oh one might conjecture, when George Soros broke the British pound in the previous decade. But that would require curiosity the media just does not have when it might lead people to learn too many true things about Democrats (or, as Dr. Michal Savage would say, “to get the right idea”). Instead Hollywood came up with The Big Short (2015), which bent over backwards, using every trick and mental gyration imaginable not to blame “poor people” unable to pay loans they never qualified for, and instead focus on “too big to fail” Wall Street capitalists.
Perhaps the most egregious “made for TV movie” was Game Change (2012), which was pure character assassination of Alaskan Governor Palin, meant to hurt Mitt Romney and help Obama’s re-election campaign. At the end of the film ultra-liberal Woody “Hemp Man” Harrelson, playing the turncoat “Republican” political consultant Steve Schmidt, makes a B.S. endorsement of Obama, comparing the neophyte Palin to the “Harvard law professor” Obama.
Also coming in 2012 was Hollywood’s blatant pro-Obama film Zero Dark Thirty. One scene shows a top national security man admiringly talking about how thoughtful and forward-thinking Obama was. In watching the film, however, one is taken with the CIA’s advice that Osama bin Laden’s house be bombed to smithereens instead of sending in a bunch of SEALS exposed to death, capture or torture, all to make the President look good and hold to his strong desire not to kill Muslims, mass murderers or not mass murderers. It is also impossible to watch Zero Dark Thirty without crediting Bush for the successful hunting down of Obama, er Osama, just as Saddam Hussein was captured nearly a decade earlier in Operation Red Dawn, named after conservative filmmaker John Milius’s popular pro-NRA, anti-Communist film of 1984.
The beating goes on, and in the Presidential election year of 2016 along came Confirmation (2016), which tried to make Senator Joe Biden look fair in what was actually his effort to destroy African-American Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991. If that was not enough, the 1996 film Jerry Maguire made sure that Justice Thomas’s name would be besmirched as long as the movie plays perpetually on TV, in a scene in which Tom Cruise’s Maguire compares himself to Thomas after he drunkenly harasses his employee, played by Renee Zellweger.
Finally, we come to the Trump Presidency. Two recent TV programs are playing simultaneously in a concerted effort to tar Trump historically with Richard Nixon and Watergate. First, there is Slow Burn (2020), which returns to Watergate as the gift that keeps on giving. This, along with American defeat in Vietnam, remains for Democrats a time of glory long yearned for.
The documentary has little to say for itself. For anybody familiar with the events of 1972-74, there is virtually nothing new or even very interesting, although it is worth noting that most of the discoveries of the hearings came from Republicans, not Democrats. In other words, Republicans were and still are too honest for their own good. No Democrat would have been equally judicious in bringing down a fellow party member.
It is also worth noting that Nixon did basically the same thing that his predecessors Lyndon Johnson and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had done. That is, bug political opponents. Nixon was Vice-President under Dwight Eisenhower, who loved clandestine espionage, which he saw as a wonderful alternative to warfare.
But do not hold your breath waiting for a similar documentary dealing with how Obama did far worse spying on Trump than what Nixon did, which resulted mostly in learning when secretaries would be coming in to see their hair dressers.
But the Watergate affair remains the Lodestar in studying liberal bias. Take for instance the acronym CREEP (Committee for Re-Election of the President). Every sitting President has had a committee to help re-elect him. All have been known as CRP, except Nixon’s was called CREEP, its meaning left understood for all.
Also, the movie All the President’s Men (1976) came out in time for Jimmy Carter’s upset win over Gerald Ford, and like The West Wing portrayed those opposed to Republicans as heroic and diligent. Note also a scene in the film in which Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee speaks by phone to an actor portraying White House aide Ken Clawson, who claimed to Washington Post reporter Sally Aiken to have written the Canuck Letter. The gist of the conversation was that it occurred in her apartment, where the married Clawson had been “shot down” while having a cocktail with Sally. Clawson was concerned his relationship with Sally not be revealed, but that did not stop Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, nor Robert Redford, from revealing it in the book and film. It, like Jerry Maguire, plays over and over on TV, so Clawson’s infidelity is captured in perpetuity.
But in looking at Watergate and the way the Post went after Nixon like Moby Dick’s Ahab, ask yourself, “Where was the Post when John F. Kennedy stole the 1960 election from Nixon?”
Where was Ben Bradlee, or Carl Bernstein, or Katharine Graham? How many movies and documentaries have been made about this event? How many retrospectives have been made about it in succeeding anniversaries? Basically none. This was likely the greatest political crime in U.S. history, but since Democrats are the culprits it, like all the Communist spies working for Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, are covered up by history.
If the Venona Project were Republican Nazis instead of Democrat Commies, it would be taught in every school, the subject of movies forever. But of course Republican Nazis could not be found on the Earth.
That does not stop Hollywood from inventing them, in the form of The Plot Against America, a 2004 novel and now a new series. Its purpose remains the same as all the aforementioned political hit jobs. When Philip Roth’s book came out in 2004, it was meant to compare “American fascism” of the 1930s with George Bush’s “fascism” and “authoritarianism.”
The new HBO series is meant to cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s ”fascism.” The problem of course in describing Republicans as Nazis, fascists and authoritarians is that conservative ideology favors rugged self-individualism and small government that stays off people’s backs, in the form of less regulation and lower taxes. Actual authoritarianism and modern fascism can be found in the big government Socialism of Obama and Bernie Sanders, which far more resembles the cradle-to-grave concepts of Hitler and Joe Stalin. Just ask any farmer who has had to face the EPA claiming some water run-off on his land is actually a navigable waterway in need of strangulating rules and taxes.
Getting back to Roth’s novel, here we see a made-up story in which Charles Lindbergh runs for President and defeats Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. He favors Adolf Hitler and rounds up American Jews. The problem, of course, is that it never happened. It is fantasy. More likely FDR would have been challenged by fellow Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy, who used his official position to apologize for Hitler . . . in real life.
Wendell Willkie never gave any aid or comfort to Nazi Germany, and in succeeding years, basically all those rural farm boys Philip Roth so easily calls anti-Semites were the ones who actually did go to Europe, to die, and to stop Hitler . . . in real life.
But the lessons of Watergate as it pertains to media bias remain the most vivid and far-reaching. Republicans do not recall with gauzy fondness the era, but it taught the party invaluable lessons it has never forgotten, and have used to win elections ever since.
This may seem a stretch, but Republicans are like black baseball players in the 1950s. After Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier,” blacks were allowed to play professionally, but they had to be better and more morally above-board than their white counterparts. If a black player’s talent were even with a white player, the white player would get the job. No black players would be allowed to get away with the sort of drunken adulteries of a Mickey Mantle. Players like Willie Mays and Frank Robinson had to stay on the straight and narrow. Yankees catcher Elston Howard was a typical black player; hard working, talented, Christian, a family man. A womanizer like Vic Power was drummed out of the corps.
Consequently, most of the National League MVPs of the 1950s were black. The senior circuit took to the black players with greater fervor, and dominated baseball for decades until the American League caught up.
So it goes with Republicans. When the Democrats went after Brent Kavanaugh, he had to hold up as a good Catholic family man under scrutiny in order to survive the ordeal, just as Thomas had. Republicans know they are given anal examinations. Democrats know they are allowed to get away with anything, so they are the ones who commit the acts of corruption they ascribe to their GOP counterparts.
The public in the mean time just sees an unfair world in which Republicans pay for whatever indiscretions they may be guilty of, while Democrats skate by. A Nixon is disgraced, a Bill Clinton completes his term in office. While frustrating, this results in Republicans voicing their frustrations in the one place they are allowed to: the ballot box.
The result of that? The age of Trump.
Steven Travers is a former screenwriter who has authored 30 books. A USC graduate, he played professional baseball, attended law school, worked in politics, served in the Army, and was a sports agent before finding his calling as a writer. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, L.A. Times, StreetZebra, Gentry magazine, and MichaelSavage.com.