Watergate weeks and glorious expense accounts

The Watergate complex in Washington, scene of the break-in that led to the downfall of President Nixon.

The Watergate complex in Washington, scene of the break-in that led to the downfall of President Nixon.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com:

Lots of people are trying to draw similarities between Watergate and the Trump mess. There are some, but we should bear in mind the big differences between Trump and Richard Nixon, whom I’m more than old enough to remember “professionally’’.

I had a seat in the journalistic third balcony during Watergate, copy-editing the occasional story about the developing scandal and from time to time writing short items about it when I filled in as the writer of The Wall Street Journal’s World-Wide column on page one. I did this in New York, and then filled in at the WSJ’s Washington bureau shortly after Nixon resigned on Aug. 8, 1974 to avoid an impeachment trial.

I’ll never forgetcoming upon the block print “Nixon Resigns’’ headline in The New York Times’s Aug. 9 edition at the newsstand at my steamy Brooklyn Heights subway stop. I still associate hot weather with Watergate since so much of the biggest developments came in summer or late spring.

(Ah, those were the salad days of journalism, including expense accounts. I was told to fly first class, and on my Washington gig, stayed in a suite in the oh-so-fancy Hay Adams Hotel.)

Nixon, like Trump, was often paranoid, but Nixon wasn’t a narcissist, of which Trump is an extreme example. And Nixon, who was very well read, had an idealistic streak that resulted in some thoughtful domestic policies and international initiatives. 

Finally, he had a far more intelligent and experienced staff than Trump’s, including, of course, some who got caught up in Watergate. Many of Trump’s, on the other hand, tend to mirror his amorality and ignorance.

One of Nixon’s key assistants, especially for domestic policy, was John Ehrlichman. When Mr.  Ehrlichman was asked, years after Watergate, what he thought of Nixon, who had basically hung him out to dry, he responded coolly:

 “Every man is a mix.’’  Indeed, including Trump, I suppose.

How will the expanding Trump scandal play out? Impeachment is wrenching and much of the GOP in Congress will be very loathe to take one of their own, as much as they’d prefer the very right wing  but apparently sane and stable Mike Pence. More likely is a semi-paralyzed administration that staggers along through Republican losses in next year’s congressional elections and finishes its term with few achievements. That President Trump will continue to have control over the U.S. national-security apparatus is scary.