Yesterday’s passing of two key Watergate figures — Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), who famously asked “what did the president know and when did he know it”, and IRS commissioner Johnnie Walters, who refused to target Richard Nixon’s political enemies — highlights a key difference between our two political parties: The Republican party is filled with honorable people who stand up for the rule of law, even against their own party’s interests. The Democratic party has few such people, if any at all.
On October 19, 1973, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus (Republican political appointees each) both resigned in protest when Nixon ordered them to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who headed up the Watergate investigation. Richardson had appointed Cox to the position earlier that year. Alas, today’s Attorney General is no Elliot Richardson. He has no special prosecutor to fire — not for the IRS, not for Gunwalker, not for the HHS, etc. — because he refused to appoint one in the first place. Far from countenancing any kind of investigation into the Obama administration’s wrongdoing, Eric Holder sees his role as “scandal goalie”, protecting the Obama administration from any investigation.
Nixon ultimately was forced from office because he was abandoned by his own party. Republicans had more than enough votes to acquit Nixon in a Senate trial on impeachment articles, but Nixon resigned when informed that he could rely on no more than 15 votes.
Contrast that with today, with Democrats placing their party over everything. Far from holding the Obama administration to account — as Republicans did — they are on the team, doing what they can to obstruct the investigation. As the most pungent example, here’s Elijah Cummings’s (D-MD) abject apology to IRS Commission John Koskinen (no Johnnie Walters is he!) for the appalling nerve of GOP representatives asking tough questions about the IRS’s highly suspicious loss of years of subpoenaed emails:
Elijah Cummings’s role in the IRS investigation has been to blunt any impact it might have by portraying it as a partisan effort. He’s right, in a way. The House investigation of the IRS (etc.) has been partisan. Democrats won’t take part in it, and they have blocked any non-partisan investigation.
In Watergate, Republicans showed that they have principles higher than party loyalty. During the Obama administration, Democrats have shown they do not.