Fear of presidential accountability is allowing former President Donald Trump to roam the streets while Americans lose faith in the legal system that has failed to rein his behavior.
"There once was an era — not so long ago, in my lifetime — when Americans had so much trust in their government that most folks couldn’t fathom a president committing felonies in the Oval Office," Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch wrote of the pre-Watergate era. "Only when whistleblowers — first campaign-tied burglar James McCord, then White House counsel John Dean — came forward in the spring of 1973 did Americans start to understand the depth of the scandals. The public was both stunned and utterly spellbound."
Bunch described listening on Audible to Watergate: A New History, by journalist Garrett Graff.
As he listened to Graff's new book, he recounted "reading strikingly similar headlines about arguably an even lower moment in American history than the downfall of Nixon — a flood of disclosures about the involvement of former President Donald Trump and his roguish inner circle in efforts to unlawfully overturn President Biden’s 2020 election victory, culminating in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on Capitol Hill."
He noted a lot had changed in the half-century since Watergate.
"And yet it’s also not hard to see the differences in a nation that’s become increasingly jaded and weary about scandal after five decades of Vietnam, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Enron, and so on. Several months of stunning headlines that have revealed the Jan. 6 chaos as an attempted coup against the peaceful transfer of presidential power have been overwhelmed again and again by understandable distractions — such as a war in Ukraine and inflation, " he noted. "But two massively important new disclosures from just this week involving Trump’s criminality have really hammered home the comparison to Watergate, and how one of the nation’s greatest mistakes from the 1970s is coming back to haunt America in the 2020s — with possibly dire consequences for the future of our democracy. Jan. 6, after all, didn’t happen in a vacuum."
He described the Mark Pomerantz resignation letter as "blistering" and citied allegations against Trump by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) as proof of an "ongoing" criminal conspiracy.
"The fear of presidential accountability has paved an ever-widening superhighway from Nixon to Trump that surely convinced POTUS 45 that he could get away with anything — because so far, he has," Bunch wrote. "From the all-but-one GOP lawmakers who gave Trump a free pass on Ukraine — only to see the real-world implications two years later — to conflicting reports over whether Attorney General Merrick Garland has the stomach to climb the Jan. 6 ladder all the way to the Oval Office, Americans have come to doubt anyone in the public arena has the courage to take on this bully. Even Wednesday’s shock report from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has left a lot of folks numb, because we’ve come to fear that Nixon’s boast was right all along."
Bunch was left with one question.
"Is there not one high-ranking leader with the courage to call his bluff, and to stop a once and future autocrat from hiding in the long shadow of Richard Nixon?" he asked.
No person should be above the law, but on the 50th anniversary of Watergate, Nixon's claim that "when a president does it, that means it is not illegal" has taken stubborn root\n\nWho's got the courage to charge Trump's 'numerous felonies'? My new columnhttps://www.inquirer.com/opinion/50th-anniversary-watergate-nixon-trump-20220324.html\u00a0\u2026— Will Bunch (@Will Bunch) 1648146624
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