Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why I Do What I Do: Reflections On A Career, Two Presidents & Two Scandals

Separating what you would like to happen from what may happen is always difficult for a citizen-journalist journalist like myself, but in the case of Donald Trump it can be hazardous to your health.  
I’ll explain what I mean: I chose journalism over architecture as the vocation I wanted to pursue at the tender age of 17 because I was interested in public service.  Journalism — while not neatly comparable with social work, teaching or law enforcement — seemed like a way to give back.  I believe that it still is, and I have endeavored over a 50-year career to give back.  

Trump's evil craziness (crazy evilness?) has indelibly colored our lives, as well as our country and culture.  He has been figuratively and literally hazardous to my health and yours.  Moving beyond a sense of impotent outrage by fighting him in my own small way was what got me back on my feet after his shocking “victory” on November 8.  I was determined to push away the dark cynicism that threatened to paralyze me, and that was by continuing to doing what I do.   
As the U.S. spirals downward into a full-blown constitutional crisis — and we’re just about there if Trump cannot be checked — the comparisons with Watergate are coming hot and heavy even if in my view Trump is not half as smart as Richard Nixon was.  And that at its heart Watergate was indeed a “third-rate burglary,” as Tricky called it, that begat a draconian cover-up, while at its heart the Russia scandal that hopefully will bring down Cheeto Jesus is nothing less than an assault on the bedrock of American democracy, and no matter how awful the cover-up, that cover-up cannot  compare to the crime of colluding with the Kremlin to successfully sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

While I did not have a direct hand in Watergate coverage, I did produce my first of many investigative stories.  This was a piece on how the Nixon administration, through Attorney General John Mitchell, was abusing the grand jury system for political ends, which included indicting friend and Vietnam veteran Bill Patterson, who became one of the Gainesville Eight merely because he had demonstrated against the war at the 1972 Republican National Convention.  (The whole bunch of them were acquitted.)  
I never spoke to Mitchell himself, but I did get his notorious wife, Martha, on the phone at their Washington home one night.  Drunk as a skunk, as she frequently was said to be, she confirmed the thesis of my story while interjecting asides about what a “deplorable” man her husband was.  
That adjective remained stuck in my mind for another 45 years until Clinton accurately if inopportunely used it during the presidential campaign to describe Trump followers, who are wondering these days why none of the millions of jobs he promised to create have come to their burg.  Or any other burg for that matter.  If that liberal news media would just stop obsessing about Russia.   
One of the lingering, if small, disappointments in my life was on the night of August 8, 1974 after Nixon finally resigned, grinned manically and gave that trademark two-armed vee salute on the steps of Marine One on the White House lawn and flew off into well-deserved obscurity.  
I of course was elated that Nixon was gone.  But when I got to my watering hole -- the Deer Park Tavern in Newark, Delaware -- after putting the next day’s edition of the old Wilmington Morning News to bed, instead of the raucous celebration I had expected there was a funereal pall in the townie bar.  People were so relieved that the long national nightmare was over that they just wanted to get drunk in peace.  
I expect it will be much the same when Trump tucks his forked tail between his legs and scuttles back to his gilded Fifth Avenue penthouse.  
Power ultimately lies with us, the people, and not with the president even if Trump is trying to dismember the Constitution and cowardly congressional Republicans -- who are defecating in their Dockers at the prospect of James Comey testifying in public, not to mention the appointment of Robert Muller as a special counsel -- are banking on Trump hanging on long enough to help enact their deeply unpopular agenda.  It has not helped that the hapless Democrats have meekly followed the grassroots resistance to Trump and not led it.   
We can hope that when the trickle of leaks to citizen-journalists from the people surrounding Trump with consciences turns into a flood, which I believe it will in the coming days, that the Grande Guignol of presidencies comes to an end and we are able to escape this second long national nightmare.   
Regardless, I intend to keep on doing what I do.  Thank you for your support.

1 comment:

Ed said...

You lost. Get over it.