Long-time friend JB (no, not that JB, this JB) just reminded me that on June 17, 1972, 50 years ago this Saturday, undercover police arrived at the Watergate Complex to investigate a possible break-in. The police arrested five guys wiretapping and burglarizing the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee there. These five hapless idiots actually had a lookout across the street who was supposed to keep an eye out for police, but he got hooked watching a B-movie, “The Attack of the Puppet People.” Ultimately, it turned out the president of the United States, Richard Nixon, had authorized the break-in, and the subsequent cover-up. Nixon would famously declare on national television, “I Am Not a Crook.” Very few people believed him.
Please do not draw unhealthy parallels between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Trump had nothing to do with the storming of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Nor has Trump tried to cover up his involvement in that armed insurgency. The big difference between Trump and Nixon is that Trump is actually in fact and really truly the lawfully elected president of the United States. He won the 2020 election. Trump is not a loser like Nixon. He is a winner. Therefore, everything he does is lawful, by definition. Donald Trump Is Not a Crook. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way (no parallels between Nixon and Trump! none!), let us continue.
I was in middle school when the Watergate break-in happened. The subsequent Watergate scandal and the eventual melt-down of the Nixon administration had a big impact on people in my age cohort. I was in high school on the fourth anniversary of Watergate Day, and six of my friends and I decided to engage in some political theatre: we would “break in” to the main office of the high school, and plant some bugs (dead insects we found lying around school somewhere). Then we would ask the secretary to sign a document we prepared in advance, attesting that we had “bugged” the office.
We were all about 14 or 16 years old, and both disgusted and fascinated by the spectre of the American political system as it unraveled before our eyes. We could barely keep from giggling as we carried out our plan. As the secretary willingly signed our “Certificate of Veracity,” the assistant principal, the man in charge of discipline at the high school, walked in. He barely restrained his own laughter, and at the bottom of our “Certificate” wrote: “I caught these buggers,” then signed his name.
This story of political theatre is primarily aimed at today’s middle school and high school students. Perhaps it will serve as inspiration for you on the fourth anniversary of the storming of the Capitol building.
Happy Watergate Day.