Appearing on C-Span to discuss the 40th anniversary of the 2 a.m. break-in at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate office complex, Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen on Sunday seemed to go out of his way to downplay the sprawling political scandal it spawned. That scandal eventually culminated in President's Nixon's resignation.
Rosen, for instance, described Nixon as someone who was in over his head in terms of keeping track of the Watergate cover-up and the long list of players involved. Conversely, the Fox reporter tried to shift the blame onto Nixon's former aide John Dean as the person who may have "ordered" the break-in. (Dean famously turned on Nixon during his Watergate testimony before Congress.)
During his C-Span appearance, Rosen, who has written a book about John Mitchell, who was chairman of Nixon's reelection campaign at the time of the break-in after serving as his attorney general, repeatedly lashed at out Dean, accusing him of "muddying the waters of history" with regards to Watergate.
But if anyone was mudding the waters it was Rosen, who offered this startling response when asked about how Watergate had effected the American political landscape [emphasis added]:
I would say we are a more cynical nation since Watergate. We have less trust in our institutions, including the news media.
It's also the case that the Internet has occurred, has arisen, since Watergate. A number of other things; 9-11, which put Watergate in its perspective.
I think the idea of Fred LaRue skulking around Washington with a manila envelope full of recycled one hundred dollar bills sounds rather petty when juxtaposed to the incineration of three thousand people on a Tuesday morning, as we saw on 9-11.
So history continues to unfold and give us new perspective on Watergate and what its effects on the American political landscape were.
This is a bizarre, and nonsensical, way to view history.
Of course, Watergate and the terror attacks of Sept. 11 are in no way related. At all. But Rosen's view of history seems to be that if Event A unfolds, and then many years later Event B occurs and is more upsetting (and deadly), even though the two are completely unrelated, Event A somehow becomes "petty" in comparison.
By Rosen's logic should Watergate have been dismissed as "petty" during the 1970's because at the time hundreds of Americans were stilly dying in Vietnam.
The fact is Richard Nixon was responsible for a criminal enterprise that operated inside the highest levels of his administration and was designed to rig the political system in the United States through deceit and intimidation. Nixon and his aides lied chronically about their actions and routinely obstructed justice, all in the name of securing Nixon's re-election.
Commenting on the 40th anniversary, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein observed in the Washington Post that "Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law."
They also stressed that the Watergate office break-in and phone tapping represented just a sliver of Nixon's rampant lawlessness:
In the course of his five-and-a-half-year presidency, beginning in 1969, Nixon launched and managed five successive and overlapping wars -- against the anti-Vietnam War movement, the news media, the Democrats, the justice system and, finally, against history itself.
Rosen though, busy rewriting a very dark chapter in the Republican Party's past, tries to reduce the epic corruption of Watergate to the benign image of a forgotten player (LaRue) "skulking" around with a some hundred dollar bills in an envelope. Then Rosen tries to belittle the scandal's significance by claiming Al Qaeda's plot to strike America three decades after the GOP break-in now makes Watergate seem "petty."
I wonder what other bouts of historic lawbreaking are now deemed "petty" by Rosen.