Commentary: Is history repeating itself?

In May of 1973, a 22-year-old kid sat riveted to a television at a B&B in Cuttingsville, Vermont. His future in-laws also stared in disbelief. They were there in preparation for their daughter's college graduation. They may have been distracted as this was a big day for their daughter, but not the kid. He couldn't tear his eyes from the screen.

The Senate Watergate Hearings chaired by Sam Irvin (D-N.C.) began on May 17, 1973 and would end with departure of our President, Richard Nixon. Nixon did not enjoy the benefits of having both the House and Senate controlled by his party.

The Democrats held the majority in both houses. It's interesting to ponder how differently the process of discovering the crimes and corruption of the Nixon White House might have been had the Republicans controlled everything as they do today.

In 1972 Nixon was becoming more unraveled every day. He was obsessed with the leaks that were coming out about the Vietnam War with documents known as the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times; a newspaper described by our current President, Donald Trump, as "fake news." Nixon demanded his staff stop the leaks and thus came the creation of (and I'm not making this up) The Plumbers; headed up by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy. Although constantly angry at the press, Nixon never went so far as to refer to the press as fake.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, young reporters with the Washington Post (another media source described as "fake news" by Trump), got lucky. The Watergate break-ins were initially investigated by the Washington D.C. police. Had the FBI done the initial investigation things might have been different. It was good ol' shoe leather reporting from Woodward and Bernstein that led to a source within the FBI — "Deep Throat."

Nixon's worse nightmare came true with the revelation that tapes of White House discussions existed; complete with the missing 18.5 minutes.

Like an acrobat trying to balance all those spinning dishes on multiple sticks, Nixon tried desperately to keep everything spinning along. At some point they would come crashing down. Knowing it was a crime to destroy the evidence Nixon did the next best thing. He would agree to allow one Senator to hear the tapes; his friend and former colleague, Sen. John Stennis, D-Miss. Ironically, Sen. Stennis was nearly deaf and his account of what he heard suspect.

We all know how this sordid tale of crimes and cover-ups ended. Nixon stood on the stairs of Air Force One with both arms outstretched and fingers of both hands giving the peace sign (of course it was supposed to mean victory, but oh well).

Fast forward to today. Once again, we appear to have elected a delusional, narcissistic president who is obsessed with leaks and may very well have broken the law. No two events in history are ever exactly the same, but there are times when haunting similarities reappear.

By all accounts Trump is losing control. Legislators don't like him. He can't get legislation passed. He's a man of no substance; only bluster. His Sec. Of State says he's a moron.

Sadly the Republican-controlled Congress holds hearings out of our view. Similar to Nixon they would prefer to have the blind attempt to see what's happening. Then, like now, it was a pathetic state of affairs, but we got through it.

Let's hope that the 22-year-olds of today will have the same opportunity to see democracy in action and that our free press is unbowed. The facts surrounding the misdeeds of today's White House must be exposed for all to see. Those who would put our great nation at risk must suffer the same consequence as those of yesterday. Maybe history will repeat itself if we don't remain vigilant.

Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.


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