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Friday, October 21, 2016

Four decades ago this weekend, in the living room of Jerry Ford’s high-school civics teacher, I watched on television the end of the Watergate nightmare. What we could not have known then was that we were also at the beginning of a new national nightmare, a much worse disaster that slowly erodes our Constitution, our economy and our freedoms.

Pop Churm was long retired from South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as we sat silently and observed President Richard Nixon announce his resignation on the evening of August 8, 1974, and then at noon the next day saw Jerry Ford sworn in, the first and so far only unelected president.

Churm then taught me and Detroit Free Press readers a powerful lesson — one that America has yet to learn — about decency, the corrupting influence of money in politics, and the value of not merely having vigilant watchdogs, but responding when they bark.  His was a lesson about government that serves not the donors of secret political money, but the people.

Now, 40 years on, it is clear that America took the wrong lessons from Watergate, just as it continues to misunderstand 9/11 to the detriment of our liberties, our security and our wealth. Had only America responded to both of these events with the wisdom of Ford’s teacher, what a better country we would live in today.

To Pop Churm, secret money in politics made Watergate possible, financing not just the burglaries and dirty tricks committed on White House orders, but giving the donors secretive influence that inherently corrupted our democracy and the people we temporarily grant the power to administer our government.

Churm taught Ford in 1930 that every penny of political money should be open and accounted for, lest temptation and human frailty damage the body politic and ruin one’s character. It was a practical lesson that evidently no one taught to a majority of today’s Supreme Court justices.

To teach students about integrity and political campaigns, Churm had the students organize mock political parties to run candidates class office. Each party was limited, in this Great Depression year, to 10 bucks.

As I reported in my front-page story back then:

To make sure no one used campaign funds for dirty tricks or teenage pranks, Churm had the students organize a watchdog committee to keep an eye on all receipts and expenditures. Each party had to file a report on its financial activities at the end of the campaign. Political reformers today are still trying to get that kind of mechanism to watch real political fundraising.

‘We try to teach the students honesty and integrity and dependability,’ Churm said. ‘We tried to teach them that they should be working for the interests of their school and the class, not their own.’

Churm smiled a bit when Ford said in his inauguration address that ‘truth is the glue that holds government together.’

Pop Churm says he is confident that with his former pupil in the Oval Office, ‘there will be a new era in government and that those who serve the people will be beyond reproach and the honesty and dignity will prevail.’

“Here’s an ordinary man, a regular fellow,” Churm, who was then 87 years old, told me, getting up to switch off the television, “not one who has his head up in the clouds, a man who has led a decent life. It just goes to show that if you have character and decency and honesty you’ll get ahead.”

Churm’s words captured what all of America felt in this peaceful transition of power: hope for a better future and change we believed in.

A 1935 portrait of Churm by painter Mathias Alten. (via Ford Presidential Library)
A 1935 portrait of Churm by painter Mathias Alten (via Ford Presidential Library).

Once the Senate hearings had established what the president knew and when he knew it, Nixon at long last had the decency to resign, saving us from an impeachment trial. Looking back, we forget how much Nixon was a creature of the New Deal. He experimented with cash grants to the poor, a “black capitalism” program that morphed into a loan program for immigrant cabbies in New York City, and pretty good environmental laws. Were Nixon to come back today, though, his own party would reject him as an ultra-liberal. Politics reporters would describe him as Dennis Kucinich Lite.

When Nixon left the White House, we celebrated how the scheme of our Constitution worked under pressure. The separation of powers, the checks and balances, mixed with an aroused citizenry — and no small amount of animus for a paranoid and hard-drinking politician whom even some of his allies personally detested — brought an end to an administration polluted with secret political donations.

In a foreshadowing of today’s massive electronic surveillance of Americans, what ultimately brought Nixon down were government recordings. Unbeknownst to Oval Office visitors or many of his top staff, Nixon had tape recorders installed to make a full record of his Oval Office conversations except for 18 minutes of inconvenient truth.

What Nixon thought was the innocent recording of Oval Office conversations — a future aid in writing his history of his presidency — destroyed him. Just as the words from massive and illegal surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and emails pour into ever more government computer files where we are told they should not concern us. Yet events unseen may turn any of those conversations and emails into swords to be wielded against any among us deemed an enemy of the state if only because of our religion, the exercise of our rights, or any other offense to a government that is becoming a power unto itself.

What no one could have grasped that day was that Watergate would not rejuvenate politics, would not restore the 80 percent-and-above voter participation of the late 19th century. Instead, Watergate would prompt many millions of Americans to shun politics, saying they wanted nothing to do with such dirty business, weakening our freedoms.

After Watergate so many Americans would turn off, tune out and drop out of politics that by 1996 less than half of the adult population bothered to cast a ballot, though that figure has begun to rise as voters born after Nixon’s departure cast ballots.

What we could not have foreseen was how turning our backs on a system that worked when it most needed to work would benefit those who profit from government or who want to impose their ideology, be it the fantasy that invading Iraq on a pretext would bring democracy, peace and stability to the Middle East or that corporations have political and religious rights, rights they are now using to trample those of actual people.

And certainly no one back then, a decade before Orwell’s 1984, could have imagined that judicial activists on the Supreme Court would fashion from whole cloth a cloak of invisibility around political donations and donors. Certainly not Pop Churm.

Churm hid his given name, Percy, even before he started teaching at South High School in Grand Rapids in 1917.  By the time a stocky blond track and football athlete named Jerry Ford, class of 1931, came along, the history teacher had become a much-loved coach known as Pop.

As advisor to Ford’s senior class, Churm created some 15 student committees to oversee class affairs from dances to the yearbook.

“Jerry was always honest and dependable,” Pop Churm recalled. “You told him to do something and he just did it. He never got into any kind of trouble. He had high moral standards,” Churm said, adding, “he wasn’t ever selfish and he isn’t vain at all. And he wasn’t a stuffed shirt about it, either.”

Ford served on the yearbook picture committee, which Churm recalled sought competitive bids from photographers for the senior class portraits. It was one of many things he said he taught students so that in life, in business, and in politics, they would be smart and honest. Those elected or appointed to government posts, Churm said he taught, should always conduct themselves with integrity, viewing themselves as servants of the people trusted for a spell with power, not as powers that be.

Sadly, things work did not work out as Pop Churm hoped after the decent and affable Republican congressman from Grand Rapids left office. In each of the subsequent administrations, in varying degrees, we have faced the same problem that Pop Churm guided that stocky athlete away from more than eight decades ago – the corrupting influence of money, especially how it makes government distant from the people from whom it derives its power and legitimacy.

We have lost the idea Pop Churm taught: That those in power are stewards, temporarily granted powers by us to act on our behalf.  Today it costs so much to run for Congress or the Senate that lawmakers have big donors on speed dial, but not Joan Q. Citizen. Presidential politics is even worse in this regard of craven obeisance to donors.

Today perhaps 100,000 lobbyists work Washington and the state capitals. Today money talks more than anyone could have imagined when Nixon henchmen had the equivalent of less than $2 million in today’s money for dirty tricks.

And we suffer as a result, paying tribute to big corporations that refuse to invest much of their shareholders’ money in America or pay taxes on their profits, while demanding hidden gifts of taxpayer dollars to pay for new factories or offices.

Pop Churm told me he would have made sure that any student who stole a penny – a mere penny – from the 10 bucks he allowed each of the mock political parties at South High to raise would not have received a diploma. That bright line struck me back then as harsh, but effective. What didn’t occur to me or anyone else was that in the decades following Watergate we would drift so far from the idea of decency, of integrity and of holding government accountable through transparency.

What no one imagined was that in politics the power of money, especially unaccountable money, would grow like kudzu, strangling the body politic.

Who could have imagined back then that four decades later, the lines between private gain and public duty would blur until they were virtually erased by our Supreme Court, so much so that the corrupting influence of secret money in politics ceases to be the news of the day?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • From the Land of the Indians

    “If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.”- Justice Lewis D Brandeis… The worst thing that Jerry Ford did was pardon Richard Nixon because it sent the message that some people were above the law, that Justice was not for everyone. This was the lesson learned from the Watergate scandal and why voter’s became disenfranchised.

    • ericlipps

      What Ford did created the impression of a quid pro quo–“Make me president by resigning and I’ll pardon you before congressional investigators can dig even deeper and find who knows what.” The language of that pardon strengthened that impression by applying presidential forgiveness to essentially anything Nixon might possibly have done–before any sort of trial could be conducted.

      I dislike pre-emptive pardons on principle–I think the Framers intended the pardon power to apply only after trial–but this one, given the stakes, was particularly odious. And in all likelihood it cost Ford victory in 1976, since the stink of back-room dealing lingered.

      • sleepvark

        I sympathize and mostly agree with your sentiments here, but we need to remember one little thing about those times. We were almost to the point of civil war, the country was so deeply divided. Ford diffused the situation by essentially saying “Guilty as charged, now go home”. It cost him any chance of getting elected in the next cycle, and I think he knew it all along. He was a decent man, and I liked him a lot, but I didn’t vote for him because of the Nixon thing. It was the price of getting the healing process started, and it worked.

        • ericlipps

          I think you mean “defused.” And what he did was leave the wound unhealed. Nixon partisans resented that their hero was forced to resign at all, and have carried that resentment forward through the years. Nixon antagonists (and many legal experts) were left unhappy that Nixon was pardoned in such a rush; many have continued to suspect a corrupt bargain may have been struck as far back as when Agnew resigned–to pick Ford as his replacement and then, if Nixon were forced from office, for the newly-minted President Ford to return the favor with a quick blanket pardon which would choke off any further inquiries. And constitutional authorities still disagree as to whether a a pretrial pardon was within the scope of the presidential pardon authority.

          • DurdyDawg

            That’s one scenario that seems to have political reality embedded within it’s corruption. I must agree.

    • … it’s so refreshing to see one of my favorite American hero’s – Justice Lewis D. Brandeis – being quoted & that, in spite of the occasion, it having such ironic resonance for events of today. Regrettably, b/c of events leading up to Nixon, undoubtedly spinning out of the horrors of November 22, 1963 & continuing thru the Nixon years, culminating w/the absolute crash of our civil society (2008) & our inability to find solid ground of which to rebuild upon since, the quote U’ve conjured up has meaning more remarkable than U or any of US can imagine…

  • The lucky one

    The author makes some good points but describing Ford as anything less than the hack politician he was is a bad joke. Yes Gerry was the first unelected president but not the last. That would be G Bush II who was appointed by the supreme court inc. after losing the popular election.

    • DurdyDawg

      I had no dislike for Ford either and it really upset me when the media made a sap out of him and his (supposed) klutziness. He wasn’t that clumsy, more than a few of us have slipped on those damn plane stairs.

    • ericlipps

      Who says Bush is the last unelected president? He’s only the most recent. Who knows what the future holds?

  • ericlipps

    Pop Churm was long retired from South High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as we sat silently and observed President Richard Nixon announce his resignation on the evening of August 8, 1974, and then at noon the next day saw Jerry Ford sworn in, the first and so far only unelected president.

    There are millions of Americans who’d take issue with that statement since the 2000 election.

  • sigrid28

    This terrific piece by David Cay Johnston captures something missing in most of the political discourse of our day, what Jonathan Swift called, in his epitaph, “fierce Indignation.” The ostensible purpose of Johnston’s essay is to honor the memory of one of his mentors, Pop Churm, through whom the author has a personal connection to the late President Gerald Ford, one that might have turned into mush in the hands of a lesser writer: they both attended the same high school, where Pop Churm was the coach. The occasion for Johnston’s essay is the anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, which has become the subject of more hack journalism this week than–as my grandmother’s generation used to say–“you could shake a stick at.” Let’s just pause a minute and reflect on the justness of that American regional expression and its efficacy–unless you are David Cay Johnston. In his hands, what could have been simply a memoir of local interest, creates the opening for “fierce indignation,” the kind that shows how one step in the wrong direction forty years ago has brought our country to its knees: During the Great Depression, you couldn’t get ahead because there wasn’t enough money; after the Great Recession, you can’t get ahead because there is too much of it.

  • stsintl

    Capitalism is masculine and strong. Democracy is feminine and delicate. Free Press is the window to Democracy’s bedroom. When Capitalism posts five judges of the Supreme Court to guard the bedroom door, pulls down the shades over the windows, and rapes Democracy, nation ends up with an illegitimate Congress. This is what has happened to our nation since Nixon’s presidency. And, there is no end in sight.

    • … knowing this & understanding your meaning here should create a more determined ‘frame of mind’ to act against what you describe as the ‘pathological patriarchy’ ingrained in our outlaw, out of control capitalism, that now, threatens life – ALL LIFE – on the planet. It shouldn’t take an election, nor should it take a crisis, to throw ‘BUMS’ out of office. Some food for thought as we consider ripping down the shades & shoving aside the ‘court guards’ to rescue multiples UPON MULTIPLES of rape victims in America & across the globe…

      • stsintl

        Three-step process is needed.
        1. No more life-time appointments for Supreme Court Justices. Nine-year term limit. In nine years the entire court is replaced with new nine justices each with a nine-year term. If not, the five “Paliniots” on the bench will rule that corporations, as people, have the right to bear arms, legalizing Mafia take over of all US corporations. Will require Amendment to the US Constitution.
        2. Senators serve only one six-year term. House Reps serve no more than three 2-year terms. Since the illegitimate Congress won’t let this happen, electorate will have to do it at the voting booths. If incumbent’s party does not offer a new candidate, the candidate of the opposite party gets elected.
        3. With a new Supreme Court and a new Congress, campaign finance laws are changed to limit the campaign contributions to 25% of Federal Income Taxes paid.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    From the moment Nixon was pardoned, the GOP party fabric began to fray as if a single thread had been pulled that held it all together. From that point on, the GOP bull tyrants began to believe in their own government autonomy. More’s the pity. What I recall of the 33 years I spent as a Republican was that duplicitous double speak they’ve honed to an art form. There’s outright lying you can hear and then there’s the GOP lies by omission…omitting to publicly state what taxpayers paying their salaries have EVERY right to know.

    Deliberate admissions of fact and truth have rewarded the GOP today with the reputation as liars who cannot hope to ever be trusted until they clean up their act.

    The worst part of their lies by omission is the carefully construction of their actual statements that mean precisely the opposite of what we all hear and see. In a government of the people, for the people, by the people, this is wholly unacceptable. It omits honor, common decency and dedication to the country and people…and not just tax evading corporate cronies.

    • You always like to blame ONLY republicans, when in reality, it is both parties that are corrupt and self serving.

      • Independent1

        Oh! I see. The Dems were self serving when they fought for and passed a law called Social Security. And they were self serving when they fought for and passed a law called Medicare. And the Dems were also self-serving when they stood up for unions and doing what was best for the working person.

        You are so vile and distorted it’s beyond comprehension.

        I defy you to identify one piece of legislation the GOP HAS sponsored since Teddy Roosevelt was in office that wasn’t in some way related to satisfy business or wealthy donors.

        And Eisenhower pushing for the interstate highway system doesn’t count, because Ike wasn’t a true Republican, he was more of a libertarian, and the GOP congress opposed the project.

        And Bush pushing for the drug benefit to Medicare doesn’t count, because he pushed for that to satisfy lobbyists from Big Pharma, which is why the GOP wouldn’t even consider passing it without the stipulation that the government couldn’t negotiate for lower drug prices.

        So come on, let’s hear about all those humanitarian wonderful things the GOP has done for America since Teddy Roosevelt (and the GOP even opposed a lot of what Teddy did which is why he issued over 1,000 Executive Orders).

        Let’s see you list all these wonderful GOP initiatives for the average American!!!! Come on!! Just spew them out!!!

        And nobody is saying that the Democrats are always wonderful, but there’s light years difference between them and the Devil which is the GOP.

      • Independent1

        And with respect to self-serving, let’s see you identify some instances where you can substantiate that claim.

        Can you identify an instance when the Dems purposely lied and distorted the truth in order to start a war so they could hand out no-bid contracts so a lot of their donors could rip off the taxpayers of trillions of dollars??

        Can you identify an instance when a Dem President ever proposed two unwarranted tax cuts and had them implemented so he and his rich donors could keep millions of tax dollars in their pockets while running up the country’s debts on a credit card??

        Can you identify a time or piece of legislation that a Democrat sponsored and pushed for to have enacted which was designed purely to let Big Pharma rip off elderly Americans by overcharging for their drugs while adding even more to Americas debts on a credit card??

        Can you identify a Democrat in the passed 50 years who has actually sponsored legislation to drastically cut the country’s maximum tax rate just so he and his rich buddies could retain more and more of what should be their fair share of taxes like Reagan did back in the 1980s that started America on today’s enormous income inequality???

        Can you identify a Democrat president who has kept 20-30% of his spending outside of his budget so his excessive spending was harder to track like Reagan and the two Bushes did while running up over 15 trillion in debt???

        Let’s see you come up with all these Democrats that have enacted legislation or done things that were enormously “self-serving”!!!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        kenndeb…Which US Presidents have been all too chummy with corporations since Warren Harding? Herbet Hoover was Harding’s cabinet member (Secy. of State). Harding and Hoover were both complicit in the Great Depression for their refusal to rein in Wall Street. Nixon was forced to resign bringing disgrace on the US for his masterminding of WaterGate. Reagan had a 2nd term recession as did Bush ’43. The only reason “Kinder, Gentler (to corporate cronies) didn’t get to do much damage was because he only got a single term..and in that single term…Bailed out the Savings & Loans banks, one owned by his son Neil Bush (Silverado) and the other by his own brother.

        Bush ’43 is a legend in his own time for his inability to stand up to Cheney like a man and BE the president he was elected to be. 2 Bushes….2 bailouts..its that all your GOP is good for? To bail out billionaires?

        So no..I don’t blame JFK for refusing to get the US involved in Viet Nam, for creating the Peace Corp and Medicare…all of which you righties see as Democrats taking something from you…really?

        Out of 17 red states, 10 have the highest welfare recipients in the country, 2 live off phony SSDI so they don’t have to touch their state revenues and all 17 have the lowest salaries for their middle class employees..

        So tell me little girl…How do you dare blame ANYONE for the tax cuts that enriched the 1% according to the 2005 GAO report by 11% ..and that was just one of the 3 the GOP demanded. Gingrich, a GOP bull shut the government down and now, so did Boehner.

        As I recall and your convenient memory doesn’t. The GOP in 2009 already planned as McConnell stated, “to get rid of Obama.” In the 3rd month of a brand new presidency..

        Your kind has a lot to answer for and you will for all of the hardship your political thieves have dumped on the rest of the country.

        MY NJ Dems work for the people, your red state CONs work to dismantle government by sequestration, tax cuts and wars we can’t pay for and threats to shut the government down.

        Do you need to be reminded that it’s OUR government too? Especially, since the liberal blue states do all the paying and the red state DogPatch Lil Abners are still living like it’s pre-Civil War era?

  • charles king

    I am from the old school one Who? believed in Honesty, fair play, and Democracy. I did not know that Plutocracy existed in America. I Now recommend to the people of these United States the importance of knowing What? type of government that is in charge, also do some (Critical Thinking) with Who? your Representives are. Monies are destroying all the things that you throught your Country and States were all about. The politicians are running big in the country today but you the People must bring America back to its senses. The VOTE is still Supreme and that still belong to the People. Many States Governs are trying to make it hard to VOTE but you the People must not let them get away with this act of treason, Kick Their A**** OUT OUT OUT. The President, Obama has shown you, The People that critical thinking works because You The People reelected him for a second term. I Do Not give MONEY for any politician and that is my advise to you, the People your VOTE is your hole-card, so use it wisely. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • Here in Grand Rapids, MI, the quiet undercurrent flowing beneath the Nixon resignation is that he (Fmr. President Gerald Ford) let Nixon walk scott free, blocking any prosecution of his crimes, by making a prior deal, to pardon him (Nixon). I personally feel abivalent about whether Nixon should or shouldn’t have been charged, but look at the legacy in his escaping w/out any charges have cost the nation? The very next Republican (Reagan) administration copy-catted many of the same criminal acts (‘October Surprise’, in negotiating w/the nation’s ‘enemy’, as civilians; intentionally putting our soldiers in harms way, w/out real or clear-cut strategies; allowing the economy to slide, by pumping up military spending, calling it productivity, at the expense of the remainder of the economy & in the face of a new trend – outsourcing American jobs over-seas; the government as a piggy-bank for donors & close friends, resulting in massive theft, graft, corruption & the collapse of the Savings & loans, then lying to the American people of being unaware (Reagan), but being out of the loop (incompetence) left staff unpunished conspirators & masterminds; exploiting a deteriorating old Reagan, unaware much of the time, what was even going on by then…), but then, was out-done by the 2nd Bush White House, responsible for the crashing of the best economy (by the Clinton administration) the nations’ had in decades, by ‘again’, theft, graft, corruption, wars & war profiteering to close friends & friends of friends, criminal intimidation of dissent (including IRS pretextual audits vs. its Left-wing/anti-war enemies), etc… The legacy of Nixon left open the door to do to America what ever conservatives please. W/no worry of sanctions or retribution. The timidity of Liberals only emboldened these behaviors, post-Nixon, leaving the Constitution as nothing more than toilet paper in the hands of conservatives – then & now… then handing it to US telling US – ‘… U fix this…’ after the mess is smeared coast to coast & planet-wide! We’re still paying the cost of a 40 year old, now, continuous, open-ended act(s) of repeat offenses against the people & the state!!!

    • irishtap

      Well done rustacus21; very well explained.

  • Robert Blankenship

    100,000 lobbyists!? Eliminate lobbying & lobbyists.
    Citizens United!? Repeal immediately plus all other corrupt rulings pertaining to.
    Scalia & Thomas!? Impeach both ….they are corrupted bums!
    Public funding of campaigns with strict limitations on spending.
    Indict & convict those who violate the rules and put them in jail!
    ……but, we just may be too far gone! Revolution anyone?

    • Allan Richardson

      Lobbying, itself, is a legitimate right of the people guaranteed by the First Amendment (“… to petition the government for a redress of grievances”), but it had turned into a “right” to PURCHASE the votes of Congressional and other officials. And paid lobbyists themselves are not the problem per se, since most of us do not have the time to travel to Washington or our state capitals and visit with our elected officials, so it is within our rights to form groups to send paid, or expense-paid volunteer, lobbyists as our proxies.

      The corruption comes in when a lobbyist is allowed to SUBSTITUTE money or other items of value for his or her REASONING to get access to any elected official. ALL gifts and campaign contributions FROM LOBBYISTS should be illegal; perhaps the staff of every Representative and Senator should even be required to allocate time on a first come first served, or lottery, basis to speak to their bosses.

      The motivation for all this corruption is the fact that it costs so much to be elected or re-elected, in terms of advertising costs. Although conservatives would call the alternative “socialist” or “welfare for politicians,” I believe that the public good means that media access for political speech SHOULD be “socialist” in order to keep the profit motive out of it. There should be a preallocated limit of total network TV time, cable TV time, time in each market, etc. for partisan ads, with all comers having an equal share of that time available. Ads should be formatted with the candidate speaking personally to voters, no anonymous announcers narrating over edited photos or videos. Incumbents should have no media advantage over challengers. There would be no need for lobbyists to pay for any of this advertising time, and it would be illegal for lobbyists to do anything other than PERSUADE their targeted officials with their verbal and/or statistical arguments.

      Any other ideas that would protect the right for outraged CITIZENS to air their views and support a candidate, without allowing for a candidate to be PACKAGED AND SOLD as a for-profit product, would be welcome!

  • atc333

    Sad truths to be faced, and dealt with by the American People. The Supreme Court of the United States has done untold damage to this Nation, with the concept of money is speech, and Corporate person hood. Today, your right of free speech is now determined by how much money you can afford to put into your opinions, to distort facts, candidates positions, reputations, and influence elections.

    The solution is a Constitutional Amendment over ruling and reversing the past several radical decisions of the Roberts Court, assuming this nation is not turned into the worlds largest oligarchy, before such a Constitutional Amendment it can be ratified by the States.

  • 14hei

    This is why the overturning of Citizens United and the McCutcheon Supreme Court rulings is so important. We have to take back our democracy from those that want to end it for their financial and personal gain. So, if you truly love this country, vote on November 4 for individuals that will follow the teachings of Pop Churm.

  • TMZ1928

    Nixon’s activities look like child’s play when compared to the corruption of the Obama administration.

    • tntlimited

      Hey TMZ, don’t you mean the corruption of the Bush administration? They are the ones who started a ten-year invasion and occupation of a foreign nation who did nothing to us. (Iraq). This invasion was based on lies and treason, killed 5,000 Americans, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, (who by the way had no weapons of mass destruction). Those weapons belonged to the United States, who used them to destroy a nation for absolutely nothing. Oh yes, let us not forget that 9/11 killed another 3,000 Americans, while Bush hid in a children’s class room. Lest we also
      not forget, Bush/Cheney outed a CIA agent, and then sacrificed Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Scotter Libby for the crime…which Bush immediately pardoned. You want to talk about corruption…look into the mirror…your lies are perpetuating and condoning the real corruption that has already taken place!!!

      • bhaggen

        Actually the problems in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Bosnia, Serbia, and even Nazi Germany started in 1920 when the British & the French divvied up the Ottoman Empire and forced people that have hated one another for centuries to “get along”

        • charleo1

          Actually, your rebuttal has exactly zip to do with what tnlimited stated. As President Obama stated yesterday. The withdrawal of U.S. forces was a done deal, before he took office. Iraq, a sovereign Country, had held elections, and set up it’s government. Which at the end of the UN mandate, without the consent of the Iraqi Government, made a U.S. occupation illegal under international law. They, the Iraqis decided it was time we left. All of us. That was their call. Unless the entire legal foundation for our incursion into the State was unilaterally revised. Then, we’re no better than Somalia, and lawless. There’s a lot conversation about this President, and the law. He doesn’t follow it, is the accusation from the Right Wing. The truth is, he doesn’t break the law. He never said he wouldn’t enforce the employer mandate. He only said it was necessary to suspend enforcement for a year. This was not arbitrary. But a necessary delay, completely within his discretion to make. Staying in Iraq, without the permission, of the Iraqi Gov. was not within his legal power, if you hold that G. W. Bush was the legal President, and had the authority to make the agreement. So, your Nixon comment was out of line. Not true. Not even subjective, but, unfair to make. And attempts to exonerate the dumb ass who lobbied heaven, and and earth, to create the mess this President is charged with dealing with. And it’s not the first mess he’s been obliged to spend his time as President cleaning up. Not by a long shot.

          • Independent1

            Great post!!

          • Allan Richardson

            Exactly! I compare it to the cop who pulls you over for a violation but lets you off with a warning THIS TIME. As long as he is not doing this as a favor to his buddies only, while “throwing the book” at everyone else, this is within his discretion as a police officer.

          • charleo1

            That’s it! Last I looked, enforcement was the Constitutionally established purview of the
            Executive Branch. So, the lawsuit is essentially
            about a radical right wing, that’s dissatisfied
            Obama refused to carry out the healthcare law,
            in a way, as to most likely cause it’s failure. Or,
            a picture of what Legislative Branch overreach
            looks like. And they all carry those cute little copies
            of the Constitution around with them as a prop.
            When they should try reading them.

          • bhaggen

            “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama on ISIS 2012. Guess they took on his playground challenge! The very LEAST I expect from the President of the United States: Keep the schoolyard rhetoric to yourself. You’re not playing one-on-one with Jay-Z.

          • charleo1

            Okay. “Kobe Bryant,” “Guess they took on the the play ground challenge.” And, “Keep the schoolyard
            rhetoric to myself.” Alright, I understand. You’ve
            got your limitations. We all do. Sorry about my
            post. Be well, and have a nice life….

    • Independent1

      Let’s see you list all that corruption. Come on!! Tell us about all those devious things Obama has done!! My guess is you’re nothing more than the typical GOP loving fake!!!

    • davidcayjohnston

      Columnist here…
      TMZ1928 would you kindly send me at [email protected] any links or documents that support your post. Apart from the massive intelligence gathering, continued from the previous administration, I am eager to see what you can point to.

      I have been highly critical of Obama from 9 days into his first term, but corruption –where? The IRS scandal is a complete phony as I have explained several times. Benghazi has turned up nothing.

      And corruption usually means greasing palms, which we saw a rest deal of during the Harding and Reagan Administrations.

      So hard facts, please. If you can show them I’ll do a column on this because it would be a very big story indeed.

    • Mary Bell Lockhart

      The Obama administration has been remarkably free of corruption. Get the facts, Jack!

  • bhaggen

    “We are leaving a sovereign, safe, & free state of Iraq” Obama is the President, Nixon could only dream of becoming. As least Nixon had the balls to resign!

    • charleo1

      Right on! And just why did Obama invade Iraq in the first place?
      Weapons of mass destruction, Pshaw! Don’t let the smoking gun
      we can’t show you, become a mushroom cloud! A marijuana cloud
      more like! He was smokin’ something, because that was the dumbest Gawd Dammed stunt since Hitler invaded Eva Braun, and blew his brains out! On the same day! Now that’s the ballsy way to end a war!

      • ps0rjl

        I don’t know if you are stupid or sarcastic. George W. Bush invaded Iraq on Darth Cheney’s intelligence.

        • charleo1

          Hard to tell nowadays, I know. Just being sarcastic.
          Believe it or not, a lot of disinterested people don’t

        • dtgraham

          He’s definitely not stupid, and he’s really not sarcastic either. He’s one of the top liberal commentators on this website. Charleo’s humour is not biting and aggressive. It’s more of a dry, understated sense of humour.

    • ericlipps

      Nixon resigned to keep his balls from being cut off by Congress.

      Or if not his balls, certainly his comfortable pension and other post-presidential perks, which would have gone bye-bye if he’d been impeached and (as seemed likely) convicted.

  • Mary Bell Lockhart

    Perhaps the reason media providers don’t cover the megabucks ruling our politics is that, if you follow the money, you will see the media gets it. They dare not stand up against money in politics. It’s their bread and butter. So in addition to limiting money in politics we need to return to requiring that media provide campaign advertising at no charge. Programming in the public interest, what a novel idea!

    • davidcayjohnston

      Columnist here….
      The BROADCAST media, not print or online. Broadcasters charge their highest rates for political ads, which can be ten times or more greater than the lowest price for unsold time available.
      In two states, Arizona and Maine, we experimented with public financing and a curious and expected result was that incumbents were vulnerable.

      • Mary Bell Lockhart

        I assume you mean only to do public funding in broadcast media. I agree mostly, but do think that newspapers should have to publish, for each federal/state election, an “election guide” allowing candidates at all levels to answer questions or tell the public about themselves and including details about the election – times, dates, locations and sample ballots.

  • irishtap

    The emerging back story has Nixon henchmen subverting the Paris peace talks in effort to keep the Vietnam war from ending before the election. Johnson had received reliable intelligence to verify this as fact. You Tube has a Whitehouse tape of Lyndon Johnson warning Nixon of being partner to treason.
    This is how Nixon won election to begin with, on his “Secret Plan to end the Vietnam war”. So – he needed the war to continue. His treasonous actions were the primary cause of his growing instability and paranoia, culminating in the ‘break in’s’ he directed and the downfall of his presidency. Nixon knew Johnson and Bush conspired to assasinate JFK, (Nixon is known to have been in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963, saying “I don’t remember” when asked where he was that day.) and Ford served on the cover up we all know as the Warren Commission.
    Nixon was losing it. He selected (or) perhaps was directed by G H W Bush to replace him with Ford because Ford was dirty as well. Gerald Ford leaked commission documents to the FBI, to keep Hoover apprised of which members ‘were playing ball’. Ford had also played an integral role in the John Birch (daddy Koch) campaign to impeach Justice Earl Warren. was Ford who appointed George H. W. Bush to direct the CIA, in attempt to circumvent the Church Commission as they pried into dubious ‘intelligence activities’, including assasinations.
    When Bush was named Reagan’s vice presidential running mate, he skipped out of the country to set up the ‘October surprise’, to ruin Carter’s diplomatic efforts to free U.S. hostages in Iran and, land Reagan at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
    The point is – Johnson was a filthy scumbag whom signed some sweeping legislation to obfuscate his true character. So – the Democrats have had terrible scoundrels in power but, nothing compares to the Godless and treasonous acts from the GOP. They hate democracy – it’s plain to see.

    • Mary Bell Lockhart

      Not much evidence that Johnson conspired to assassinate JFK. GHW Bush perhaps only remotely. Suggest reading Lamar Waldron’s “The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination” Altogether though, I’d say that Eisenhower was the last Republican elected without subterfuge or corruption. That’s a very sad commentary on the party.

      • irishtap

        I agree Mary, evidence is not overwhelming yet, enough exists to provide a compelling argument – believe me I’d like to be wrong.
        I share your opinion regarding Ike. For perhaps the most unbiased appraisal of today’s GOP, please read ‘Goodbye to All That, Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult’ (article by Mike Lofgren). He dedicated 28 years in Washington to his beloved Republican Party, until he simply couldn’t stomach it any longer. Being cognizant of my own left leaning bias, the article not only validated my perceptions of the GOP as being profligate and corrupt, Mr. Lofgren made it clear – ‘things are worse, much worse.’
        We all should read it.

  • Lisztman

    I’m sorry, but there’s some sort of disconnect here.

    I lived through Watergate, a college student at the time. I fail to see what “the money in politics” had to do with burglary. The point is not made. Or, if Mr. Johnston believes there to be a point, it’s insufficiently drawn.

    For Watergate, money was neither a motivator nor an enabler. Money had, for all practical purposes, nothing to do with it. If integrity in politics is the connection, so be it (and I imagine that’s the connect). But then lets get down to discussing integrity and put the money over on the side as simply one issue.

    • davidcayjohnston

      Columnist here…

      Lisztman, you have either forgotten or did not pay attention during Watergate. Secret money, including the cash I mentioned, enabled the break-ins and dirty tricks. As Mark Felt, the No. 2 FBI official, told Bob Woodward back then– “follow the money.”

      In the aftermath of Nixon’s resignation we got new campaign finance laws, including state laws like the very strong and transparent reforms enacted in Michigan, where my bureau chief and I covered the issue for the Detroit Free Press.

      I suggest you read the Nixon bill of impeachment, for starters.

      Article 1 at point five includes “the surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses, potential witnesses or individuals who participated in such unlawful entry and other illegal activities..”

      Article 2 at point three says that Nixon “has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the President, financed in part with money derived from campaign contributions, which unlawfully utilized the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency, engaged in covert and unlawful activities, and attempted to prejudice the constitutional right of an accused to a fair trial.”

      I could go on here for thousands of words about the crucial role of money in Watergate and the lessons we failed to learn from the role of secret funds in subverting our government.

  • joe schmo

    I see things have only gone from worse to worst since Nixon/Ford were in office. Nixon got caught and paid heavily for his mistakes. At least Republicans will admit when they have made a mistake and most step down. Unlike the party of ‘One.’ Everyone lies and cheats and pleads the 5th. No responsibility. No honesty left in our government today. So how’s that freedom working for you?

    Everyone seems to pacify Obama. He is one of the most corrupt, if not the most deceitful president we have ever had. If he weren’t African American, the man would have been up for impeachment a long, long time ago.

    In my opinion, corruption in government keeps getting worse and you fools cannot even see it. Hey, don’t get me wrong, not saying Repubs are perfect. To say the least, they are more in cahoots with the ‘one party system’ than we have ever seen in a lifetime.

    ….and it keeps getting loonier all the time.

    • ericlipps

      And what, exactly, is Obama’s “corruption”? Evidence, please.

      As for impeachment, Republicans are working their way toward it. Their bogus lawsuit against Obama is clearly intended to give them a peg on which to hang articles of impeachment. May they have all the luck they did last time.

  • sigrid28

    I stand corrected.

  • sigrid28

    Great reporting. A tribute to the Fourth Estate.

  • sigrid28

    Just a brief follow-up. I wondered why I had assumed that you were also a student of Pop Churm, based on the content of the article, writing which I still like a lot. Two things misled me. It was the circumstance of your being in his living room. Also the following remark: That bright line struck me back then as harsh, but effective. Perhaps your editor, if he or she did catch this misleading suggestion in the piece, left it in to give it another aspect of human interest: the kind of content that always sells newspapers. Otherwise it could have been clarified quite simply.


    The only thing Nixon was guilty of was Paranoia, Nixon was a saint compared to this jerk you have in thr now.