I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to watch the Watergate scandal unfold. Now, as it looks as though a similar fate may be store for President George W. Bush, it turns out I was flat out wrong about how I presumed it would feel.
The Watergate scandal was already in full swing in the summer of 1973, yet Nixon’s approval rating was at 39 percent, higher than Bush’s latest numbers. Polls by both FOX News and Newsweek magazine saw President Bush score an abysmal 36 percent this weekend, even though Bush managed to pull off an election campaign in 2004 that was squarely built on his perceived leadership skills.
By July 1973, former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord had been convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. Three other White House staffers had resigned, and the White House counsel had been fired.
The scandal was front and center in the nation’s consciousness, yet Nixon’s numbers held steadier than Bush’s. One can only imagine what will happen to Bush’s numbers when the investigation gains more traction in the public’s awareness, let alone when other national crises arise.
On Friday, Bush felt compelled to hold a speech that was aimed at quelling questions concerning the way in which the war in Iraq was started. Bush said it was “deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began” and those that said he had manipulated intelligence engaged in “revisionism.”
Coming from an administration that changed the reasoning behind the war more times than I switched majors, this was less than believable. Nevertheless, it was an attempt to persuade the nation that increasingly sees the war in Iraq as both pointless and lost that he had done the right thing.
In November 1973, Nixon stood in – of all places – Walt Disney World and told the nation, “I am not a crook.” Bush’s speech on Friday tried to do this without coming out and saying it.Early into an investigation that continues to prove that the Bush administration manipulated the nation into a war, Bush is on shakier grounds than Nixon ever was. Even his strong hold over a Republican-led Congress has already shown signs of falling apart, as members of Congress are carefully distancing themselves from Bush to avoid him tainting their re-election campaigns in 2006. Nixon never even had that luxury.
Longtime readers of my columns must assume that I am gleefully watching the implosion of the Bush administration. I have to admit that when it all started, I did indeed place myself squarely on my living room couch with a bucket of popcorn as I watched Bush officials and Republicans alike squirm.
After an hour or so, though, this gradually lost its appeal. Yes, what I had been saying all along was now being proven, but I would gladly trade the right to say “I told you so” if that would turn back time and make all the blemishes on America’s record go away that were inflicted by the Bush team over the past five years, not to mention the chaos the war in Iraq caused in the Middle East.
Reading between the lines of most columnists out there, I see that I am not alone in this feeling. Even a lengthy editorial in the New York Times that called the Bush administration “an administration with no agenda and no competence” was practically begging Bush to turn it around and repair the damage he has done rather than reveling in Bush’s crumbling might.
And that’s probably the biggest difference. Since the war in Iraq started, I have repeatedly watched the movie rendition of All the Presidents Men. I have also repeatedly listened to the audio version of the book while walking on campus. The book that detailed how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward uncovered the scandal that ousted Nixon cheered me up – it reminded me that there may yet come a time when all the manipulation, cronyism and flat-out lying done at the hands of the Bush administration would come out for all to see.
Now that this is happening, though, I have to realize that sometimes winning leaves as sour a taste as losing.
Sebastian Meyer is a senior majoring in political geography and a former Oracle opinion editor.