I wonder if people being polled today really know enough about what really happened in Watergate to use it as a standard of comparison. I remember growing up in a time when Teapot Dome was the standard of comparison. Worse than Teapot Dome was what people said, but no one ever quizzed them about Teapot Dome.
Nixon was a contemptible, horrible man — as we knew him, not personally, but from press reports. And so we came to understand that Watergate was the epitome of a scandal, which was convenient, because we lived through it, and then we never had to feel embarrassed about not knowing much about Teapot Dome.
But you kids today — Watergate is for you what Teapot Dome was to me — the symbol of presidential scandal, to be used in cogitations about whether something new is worse. So thanks, everyone, for answering Politico's question.
Now, can I add a little subtlety? Do you remember how Watergate looked on the eve of the 1972 election? We knew about the Watergate break-in when we went to the polls. Here's how we voted:
Here's a Watergate chronology. The break-in occurred in June 1972. The burglars, caught in the act, were indicted on September 15th. Nixon had made an announcement on August 30th that his counsel John Dean had done an investigation that determined that no one in the White House was involved, but on September 29th, WaPo reported that Attorney General John Mitchell "controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats." On October 10th, WaPo reported:
FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon's re-election and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.So that's what people had to think about when we reelected Nixon in the biggest landslide ever. (I was 21 and it was the first time I was eligible to vote, though the voting age was suddenly 18. All that youth vote — which represented a lot of opposition to the war (and, especially, the draft) — wasn't enough to stop Nixon. Like everyone I knew, I voted for McGovern.)
The news that there were audiotapes of White House conversations didn't come out until July of the following year, and without these tapes, Nixon would have hung onto the presidency. The slow roll out of the Watergate scandal went on for more than a year after that before Nixon resigned. It was August 8, 1974. Almost 2 years after that landslide election.
So let's look back in 2 years and see how Hillary's big trouble looks compared to Watergate. But if you want to compare it to Watergate now, try comparing it to how Watergate looked on the eve of the 1972 election. And think about what it was like to go through those 2 years from landslide election to forcing the President to resign. What an ordeal! But I'm not saying that if Hillary Clinton gets elected — even by a slim margin — that she'll be swamped by scandal the way Nixon was. The press won't be straining to take her out, and for all the wars we are fighting, there's nothing like Vietnam.