1. Did you ever have a commercial you really liked?
I used to watch the Super Bowl ads fairly religiously. Someone put together the 25 best ones, and I remember liking 1, 2, and 7.
2. How did you learn to ride a bicycle?
I have no idea. When I was 16, I rode someone else’s bicycle from Binghamton’s First Ward to the South Side. I was crossing the bridge from Riverside Drive, gaining on my friend Carol, but I couldn’t stop. So I put my foot down, tumbled, and severely scraped my left arm, a wound I had for another three and a half decades. I had never had a bicycle with hand brakes, having always stopped by essentially trying to pedal backward.
3. How did you celebrate your 21st birthday?
It was a Thursday, and I was a political science major in college. Six days earlier, a “grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted several former aides of President Richard Nixon, who became known as the “Watergate Seven”—H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John N. Mitchell, Charles Colson, Gordon C. Strachan, Robert Mardian, and Kenneth Parkinson—for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation. The grand jury secretly named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator.”
There is no doubt that Watergate was the source of gleeful conversation since the first three in particular were contemptible sorts.
4. What fascinated you as a child?
The World Almanac. I received it every year from when I was 10 to 60. The longest rivers, the most significant cities, and the sheer number of Canadians in the list of Famous Personalities, folks like Lorne Greene of Bonanza.
5. What was one of your favorite playground games?
I always liked slides and still do.
6. What things matter most to you in life?
Survival of the species, justice, equality.
7. If you had to go back in time and start a brand new career, what would it be?
I’m not sure that I would. Maybe I would have become a librarian sooner. Conversely, my experience working at FantaCo, a small business, was extremely useful in being a small business librarian.
8. What do people get wrong about you?
They think I’m an extrovert. I have written about this a lot, most recently here.
9. Do you believe that people can change? Why or why not?
Most people can change because the species would not have survived this long.
10. What is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you?
My mother was not great with useful advice. It tended to be a lot of platitudes. To be fair, she might have agreed with that assessment if asked.
11. If you could see into the future, what would you want to find out?
12. How has your life turned out differently than you imagined it would?
Occasionally, I was directed to make a plan in work and non-employment situations. What do you see yourself doing in five years? Except for retiring, this has never been at all useful or correct.
13. What is the longest project you have ever worked on?
Quite possibly, this blog. 18 years, four months. Unless you consider owning a house a “project.”
14. What have been some of your favorite restaurants through the years?
Little Caesar’s in Binghamton, NY. Lombardo’s in Albany. The former is still operating.
15. What is one of the best shows you’ve ever been to?
I’ve been writing a lot about 1972 in 2022. 1972 was the year that Richard Nixon went to China, in February. The Watergate break-in was in June. Yet, in November, Nixon was overwhelmingly re-elected, much to my distress at the time.
I have the vast majority of these hits of 1972, on vinyl or compact discs. But I was not a singles buyer. All of these songs were gold records except the ones marked *. I suspect the lack of the designation is a function of the record companies not submitting the paperwork.
American Pie, Parts I and II – Don McLean, four weeks at #1. We sang this at my high school reunion last year Without You – Nilsson, four weeks at #1. Despite my basic cynicism of romance songs at the time, I was a sucker for this one I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash. four weeks at #1. there are two songs that made me feel hopeful during the pandemic, and both are on this list
Group named after Vespucci
A Horse With No Name – America, three weeks at #1. Before this became a hit, this group played at SUNY New Paltz for fifty cents admission. I didn’t go, alas. Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me – Mac Davis, three weeks at #1 Me and Mrs. Jones – Billy Paul, three weeks at #1. A great early Philadelphia International/Gamble and Huff track The Candy Man – Sammy Davis Jr. with the Mike Curb Congregation, three weeks at #1. NOT my favorite song Lean On Me – Bill Withers. This is the other inspirational song. Unfortunately, both Nash and Withers died in 2020.
My Ding-A-Ling – Chuck Berry, two weeks at #1. His ONLY #1 hit, and one of the WORST #1 songs ever.
One week at #1
Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) – Looking Glass Let’s Stay Together – Al Green. Ah, cousin Al. (He’s not really my cousin, but I used to say that a lot. He was actually born Albert Greene, but sensibly dropped the last letter.) I Am Woman – Helen Reddy. ANTHEM *I’ll Take You There – Staple Singers. I SO love this song and this group Heart Of Gold – Neil Young. In the liner notes from the compilation album Decade: “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there.”
Since the break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex hit the half-century mark, pundits have decided to do a comparison. Watergate versus The Big Lie.
If you are too young to remember or weren’t near the United States at the time, it may be difficult to understand the earlier event. The Watergate hearings were so unexpectedly shocking that people were watching them for double-digit hours every week that they aired.
After what was termed a ‘third-rate burglary” in June 1972, both the Washington Post and CBS News were perceived as having a vendetta against President Richard Nixon. He was re-elected president, carrying every state except Massachusetts, plus the District of Columbia.
Yet, by May 1973, the Senate hearings under conservative Sam Ervin (D-NC) began. They were riveting, and almost everyone was watching. “‘Never have I enjoyed watching television more than in the last two weeks,’ one Washington Post letter writer testified, ‘with the spectacle of high human drama interwoven with the finest possible example of the democratic process at work unfolding before my eyes for hours on end, with no rehearsal, no canned laughter, very little commentary (none needed!), and, best of all, almost no commercial interruption!'”
A “fascination of the hearings was the questioning of young Nixon aides who left senators incredulous with their explanations that ‘ends-justifies-the-means’ morality had become semiofficial White House policy.” Ultimately, with Republicans recognizing that, indeed, Nixon WAS a crook, RMN resigned in August 1974.
Compare and contrast
djt was impeached a second time in January 2021, but acquitted by the Senate the next month. I thought I had heard all I needed to know back then. But the manner in which the January 6 committee laid out the details was stunning to me.
The first hearing showed how the Big Lie led to the insurrection at the Capitol. It was even more brutalizing than I’d seen before. And BTW, here are some companies that Empower the “Big Lie”.
Hearing number two made it clear that 45 KNEW that the claims of fraud and conspiracies were crap. He may have chosen to ignore White House lawyers, campaign lawyers, and his staff. AND he profited monetarily, something I noted at the time, from gullible supporters told they were helping to fight corruption. Nah, the corruption was a quarter of a BILLION dollars, much of it going to his hotels.
Regarding the third hearing, I’d like to say here, poor Mike Pence. I’d like to, but the former veep was such a sycophant. Yes, he withstood the great campaign to get him to violate the Constitution by nixing Biden’s electoral college votes. I’d heard it before, but djt’s assertion that maybe rioters were right when they chanted “Hang Mike Pence” was chilling What kind of person says that? The angry mob came within 40 feet of the vice president. djt called Pence a “wimp” and “pussy” that morning, using a tone Ivanka Trump had never heard her father use towards the veep.
I didn’t know that former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who I had despised policywise, was one of the folks floating the idea of removing djt via the 25th Amendment, but Pence rejected it.
State election officials were up for hearing number four. They were pressured by djt or surrogates such as Rudy Giuliani to “find” votes for Trump and/or invalidate Biden electors. And when they refused, they were harassed.
A truck was driven through the neighborhood of Rusty Bowers (R), the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, playing a recording accusing him of being a pedophile. The wife of Brad Raffensperger (R), Georgia’s secretary of state, received “sexualized” threats by text.
Black, female poll workers Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, were called out by name by djt and Giuliani in a ploy that was both violent and racist. Ms. Freeman said there is “nowhere I feel safe. The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American. Not to target one.”
We know djt planned to declare premature victory even before election day. Were Supreme Court justices considering joining a scheme to overturn the election? What does Ginni Thomas have to say regarding her conversations with John Eastman, the law professor who cooked up the false and illegal strategy?
Department of Justice officials described at hearing number five how djt hounded them to pursue his false election narrative. If he had replaced the agency’s leader with a more compliant, unqualified person, there would have been mass resignations at DOJ.
Multiple Republican members of Congress requested pardons after January 6, including Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, Scott Perry, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
No big deal?
For me, January 6 is far, far worse than Watergate. More than one analyst suggested that Watergate had, in the end, a positive outcome because “the system worked.” That’s a reasonable assertion.
But lots of Americans are convinced that January 6 was just a vigorous exercise of freedom of speech. Some folks can be easily conned. And/or members of Congress and other officials are feeling beholden to djt. Hell, Rusty Bowers said that he would vote for djt in 2024 if he were running.
And it’s not over. Election denier Jim Marchant is the Republican nominee for Nevada secretary of state. He’s hardly the only one who puts the integrity of future elections at stake. For instance, current members of Congress.
“If I become president someday, if I decide to do it, I will be looking at [the Jan. 6 rioters] very, very seriously for pardons — very, very seriously,” djt said. “Should I decide to do it, we’re going to be one people and one nation.”
Not about partisan revenge
The Boston Globe says There is no question: Merrick Garland must put Trump on trial. “If the former president and his allies can get by with nary a scratch after plotting an overthrow of the US government, then what message will that send? Prosecuting Trump is not about partisan revenge; it’s one of several necessary steps that the federal government ought to take in order to meaningfully reform the presidency and defend American democracy.
“Now that the United States has gone through one failed attempt at overthrowing the government — instigated by none other than a man who was president at the time — it is more crucial than ever to show future occupants of the White House that breaking the law in the Oval Office will not stand.
“But there is also another reason for the Department of Justice to hold anyone who participated in trying to overthrow the government, including Trump, accountable: Not only would it deter a future president from breaking the law in such a brazen way, it would also discourage their cronies and sycophants from playing along. Government officials at any level must be shown that they can be held personally liable for abusing their power.”
Blowhards such as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who’s another Big Liar, suggest that he’ll investigate Hunter Biden next year if the GOP takes back the Senate and if Garland acts against djt. Here’s my working theory: Johnson will investigate Hunter Biden REGARDLESS of whether Garland acts, so it’s a non-issue.
I was watching 60 Minutes in November. Lesley Stahl was reporting on the mountain gorillas of Rwanda making a comeback. “Visiting mountain gorillas is no walk in the park. It’s an uphill hike for more than an hour at an altitude of 8000 feet, through that farmland that once belonged to the gorillas just to get to the park.
“Lesley Stahl: Are you out of breath? Tara Stoinski: Yes. [LAUGHS] Lesley Stahl: Or is it just me?”
And I thought that reporter must be close to 80! And she was. She must love the gorillas, which she first covered back in 1987.
It occurred to me that I had been watching Lesley Stahl for nearly half a century. As she noted in her 1999 book Reporting Live (1999), she, Connie Chung, and Bernard Shaw were the ‘affirmative action babies’ in what became known as the Class of ’72.” As such, she was assigned to cover, in June 1972, a “third-rate burglary” in the Watergate complex. Like Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post, the seemingly insignificant story really launched her career.
She was a White House correspondent during the presidencies of Carter, Reagan, and part of Bush 41. Also, she moderated the CBS Sunday morning program Face The Nation between September 1983 and May 1991.
Since March 1991, she’s been a correspondent for 60 Minutes. Thirty years is as long as Steve Kroft and the late Ed Bradley were on the show; only Morley Safer and Mike Wallace, both of whom started in 1968 are now deceased, were on longer.
Lesley Stahl received 13 Emmys, plus numerous other awards. One was for “a shocking 2015 report on how some police recruit vulnerable young people for dangerous jobs as confidential informants.” One was for a series based on her “unprecedented” access at Guantanamo Bay prison facilities. “Another [was] for an eye-opening story about China’s huge real estate bubble… She won her 13th Emmy for her interview with the widow of a slain hostage that offered a rare look inside the technically illegal process of negotiating with terrorists.”
Stahl has gotten the big interviews. Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the then-new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and many, many more. She has managed to greatly annoy some of the powerful, including Trump (2020) and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007).
“She and her husband, author Aaron Latham, live in New York. They have a daughter, Taylor Latham, and two granddaughters. Jordan and Chloe, the subjects of her book, ‘Becoming Grandma: the Joy and Science of the New Grandparenting.'”
The key lesson of Watergate seems to have been “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.”
Five burglars involved with the break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972, were arrested; a couple more, involved in the operation, were also detained. The term used by President Richard Nixon’s Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, to describe the event was “a third rate burglary attempt.” The seven were tried and convicted, President Richard Nixon was reelected in a landslide, and that was that. Except for the fact that two years later, the President was forced to resign in order to avoid almost certain impeachment.
I could not do justice to the story in such limited space – I recommend this Washington Post retrospective – but I do want to convey how important this story was to me personally, and how it played out provided an optimism about “the process” that I have seldom had since.
The US Senate had a select committee operate from May 17 to August 7, 1973, and shown in rotation by the three major networks. Riveting story and I watched it as often as possible, as did most of the country, though some soap opera fans were furious; this was better than the made-up stuff.
It got REALLY interesting when White House assistant Alexander Butterfield revealed that there were listening devices in the Oval Office of the President. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate, but Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege and ordered Cox to drop his subpoena, which Cox refused. On October 20, 1973, Nixon demanded the resignations of Attorney General Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus for refusing to fire the special prosecutor, finally getting the reluctant Solicitor General Robert Bork to do so; this was referred to as the “Saturday night massacre.” It was pretty much downhill from there, with each new revelation pointing closer to RMN himself.
I remember SO many of the characters in this drama. Chair of the Senate select committee Sam Ervin of North Carolina had a folksy demeanor, yet stayed on task. During the House committee hearings on impeachment, Republican House member William Cohen of Maine’s looked pained as he recognized his President’s failings. Charles Colson was convicted of obstruction of justice; he became involved in prison ministry, and he died only a couple of months ago (Arthur had a take on him).
It reminded me how checks and balances used to work, with even Republicans communicating to a GOP chief executive that an abuse of power had taken place. And it was also a time when a vigorous press was a true fourth estate, holding government accountable, but in turn, holding itself responsible for what is published in return. I do miss those days. Oh, here’s the trailer to the film All The President’s Men, which addresses the latter aspect.
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