I remember waking up very early on the morning of May 17th, 1973.
That was the opening day of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings.
I also remember being a little disappointed, because nobody managed to finger Richard Nixon as the culprit of the Watergate break-in.
Instead, all we got were diagrams of the organization charts inside the White House.
It was such an inauspicious start for such a historic occasion.
But that was 46 years, five months and 27 days before the opening day of the current impeachment hearings last Wednesday.
Things have certainly changed over the years.
It took those Watergate hearings nearly a full month (from May 17th, until June 25th), before there was a real headline grabber. It was then that the White House Counsel John Dean would spill the beans on Richard Nixon, and his supposed hand in the Watergate break-in and the resultant cover-up.
The next blockbuster, on July 16th, was when Nixon’s special assistant, Alexander Butterfield, casually announced there was a recording system inside the Oval Office, that recorded everything the president said.
Those slow and deliberate hearings (over 319 total hours) were eventually watched by 85% of U.S. households (at one time or another) on the three major television networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC).
Last week, though, when the Democrats kicked off their public impeachment hearings, it only took 90 minutes for jaws to drop across the country.
Bill Taylor, the Ambassador to Ukraine, indicated that he had spoken to one of his staff members who said that the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sunland, had told them that President Trump cares more about the investigation of the Bidens than about Ukraine.
That conversation took place only a day after that fateful call on July 25th, when it’s thought that Trump had indicated he needed the president of Ukraine to help him smear his chief political opponent.
That’s the crux of the argument for Trump’s impeachment.
That he had been so fixated on finding dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, that he was willing to barter this county’s military support for it. That’s something that even Richard Nixon never did.
To be honest, while Nixon may have been an out-and-out scallywag, he was a smart one.
Trump doesn’t possess that kind of guile.
Come to think of it, only a month before that call (on June 17th, 2019), Trump signaled that he would freely use information that would come his way from foreign governments if he could use it against his opponents.
(From ABC News)
George Stephanopoulos: If foreigners, if Russia, if China or someone else has information on your opponent, should you accept it. Or should you call the FBI?
Trump: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. There’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country; Norway, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.
Stephanopoulos: You want that kind of interference in our election?
Trump: It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go, maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong. If you talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it. They always have. It’s called oppo research.
That interview was highly revealing.
That he not only didn’t see anything wrong with gathering information from a foreign government (something that’s very, very wrong), but that he feels that everybody else does that.
These House impeachment hearings have a long way until they’ll be wrapped up.
Republicans, no doubt will get their licks in.That’s nothing new in Washington. But Republicans, for the first time in years, aren’t in control of the goings-on. They’re mainly resorting to crying foul about the nature of the proceedings.
They’ve begun growling at witnesses, and, when it’s their turn to ask questions, they don’t.
Instead, they give minutes-long speeches about how unfair they think the whole thing is.
Al Owens is a multi-Emmy Award winner, former reporter, and anchor for Entertainment Tonight and 20-year TV news veteran. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.