The Watergate Scandal is still an interesting event to this day. In 2002, I did a History Day project in 8th grade about Watergate. It made it to the local finals, but didn’t make it to the nationals. In the time since, however, I’ve learned a lot more that might have put me over the top. And what I’m talking about is the few who got away.
It was not just Nixon who got away with his role in the break-ins. Some were able to get away without a scratch of public humiliation. Three, who I’d like to mention, are senior Nixon aides Patrick Buchanan. Antonin Scalia and Fr. John Mclaughlin. Boy, did the loss in Vietnam accelerate the fear of the hippies whom Buchanan Scalia, and Mclaughlin had helped agitate in American society during the Nixon years. In 1972, history was made when Nixon became the first Republican President to actually win the Republican vote
Groomed as an actor in youth, Scalia was skilled at manipulating people. To him, the hippie movement was an excellent opportunity to divide the rebellious Judeo-Christian youth who had been caught between a rock and a hard place. Even with the large-scale Catholic youth wave that expressed empathy towards their parents Church, the memory of both John and Robert Kennedy, whom they regarded as humanist freedom fighters, was keeping them at least sympathetic to a widening, New Left-leaning evangelical-Catholic Church, with many not even knowing what the hell the New Left was.
Argumentative towards authority, Pat Buchanan made a huge name for himself during his time as a student at Georgetown University by getting arrested and suspended for a year after assaulting a cop who gave him a traffic ticket. With this experience, Buchanan could easily play on this same rebellious youth who had grown hostile towards cops, who held the authority to use brutality when needed and in some instances, thrived on it.
In 1979, Scalia found an opportunity to use Emmitt Till to unlock a now scientifically Dallas police dicta.belt which involved a different Dallas shooting. As Emmitt Til’s murder had no statute of limitations and was a civil rights crime which had a previous FBI investigation, Scalia saw great opportunity to use it to open the FBI investigation of the John Kennedy assassination. Under law, US government institutions can be investigated. Extra credit also came due to growing public distrust of the FBI following revelations of controversial investigations such as the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which including wiretapping of various figures such as Civil Rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. Even though this dicta.belt could soon be discredited by a forensic investigation, the gullible general public was still unwilling to get over distrust in government altogether and many accepted it as accurate.
Although they didn’t greatly publicize their interactions, common sense rules against the possibility of Buchanan and Scalia not being closely tied. Buchanan often dropped hints of working with Scalia, especially in his notorious Culture War speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Buchanan described “abortion on demand (a litmus test for the Supreme Court), homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units”, as the biggest problems facing America. Scalia would often rule in favor of the ideology which Buchanan brought forth in this speech throughout his time as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, even writing the dissident opinion in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling which struck down state sodomy laws. In 1992, Buchanan ran an ill-fated campaign for the Republican nomination as President. Shortly after Buchanan lost, Scalia wrote an interesting dissenting opinion in the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey which succeeded Roe v. Wade when it came to determining abortion rights, invoking propaganda of the Heritage Foundation, which was founded during his time in the Nixon Administration, by stating it was against moral values that the nation was founded upon.
Even news reporters were suckers for Scalia’s acting skills. Sometimes he even manipulated gullible Jews, with pro-death penalty rhetoric like how European states couldn’t execute Nazi fugitives due to post-war abolition of the death penalty, relying on military courts which now no longer exist. Even the Hague, which tried Bosnian war criminals who committed genocide, has been reluctant to consider the now unlawful death penalty. Scalia’s definition of cruel and unusual punishment did not include torture, since to him, torture is not a punishment. Reminds me of converters in historical religious events like the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition, where methods of torture were considered merely justifiable repentance in the eyes of God.
And speaking of converters, a third member of this few who got away has emerged: John McLaughlin. Yes, that John McLaughlin who was later PBS’s firebrand panel host of the McLaughlin Group, of whom Pat Buchanan was an occasional member. Starting out as a Jesuit priest in New England, McLaughlin ran for US Senate as a Republican in his native home of Rhode Island after switching his allegiance from the growing anti-war Democrat Party in 1970, but lost. During his failed campaign and through his own writing for ”America” the Jesuit current affairs periodical, Pat Buchanan saw potential in McLaughlin and recommended that Nixon should hire him as a speech and content writer. It was McLaughlin who wrote Nixon’s infamous speech defending the bombing of Cambodia in front of Congress in 1970.
For all of the the three branches of the American democracy, judicial, executive, and legislative, each of these three Jesuit-educated Nixon cronies had a hand in keeping up Cold War conservative standards. They shed the “good Catholic” moniker. Instead, they pushed their tough Irish and Italian backgrounds to get through an often WASP hierarchy in American politics at this time. To all of these three, morality within the White House was too hard to gamble with during the Nixon years. It can even be argued that McLaughlin was an attempt to hold in check the Protestant pastor who Nixon’s predecessor Lyndon Johnson made the official White House pastor: Billy Graham.
As people, we often struggle, repeating our past and not learning from our past mistakes. It’s easier to rehash old events and tweak them to fit our current divide. If this is true, one can only cringe with fear knowing that a few could get away from our current Administration as well. As Billy Graham warned Nixon during his 1972 re-election that “the Synagogue of Satan…will have a strange brilliance.” Some from this “Synagogue” such as Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, and Woody Allen (whom Graham debated on national TV) have left their mark and continue to do so. In doing so, let’s hope that the few who got away stay the few.