When House Republican leadership recommended Urbana nativeRep. Jim Jordan for the committee, they were just trying to throw sand in the gears. Some Republicans object that the committee will make Republicans look bad. Well, I’m a Republican and I say, “So what?” Sometimes you just have to take your medicine and vow to do better next time. Everything is not about partisan political talking points.
I was a college boy, a Nixon man, when the Senate and House investigated the Watergate scandal after President Richard Nixon’s re-election in 1972.
We learned a lot watching the wall-to-wall coverage of the special seven-member Senate committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina. There was no cable TV then, just three networks, and it was appointment television. Republican Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee wondered, “What did Nixon know, and when did he know it?”
White House deputy assistant Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a secret taping system in the Oval Office — a rare instance of an answer the questioners didn’t know was coming. White House counsel John Dean testified to a Watergate cover-up — testimony that ended up landing him in jail. But, he told the truth — and for millions of supporters, the sheen was off of Nixon.
The Senate hearings dovetailed with the House Judiciary Committee, 38 members strong, including Ohioans John Seiberling and Delbert Latta — more appointment TV as they discussed potential articles of impeachment in May of 1974.
Also among the committee members was Fr. Robert Drinan of Massachusetts, a Catholic priest who was later ordered out of politics by Pope John Paul II, who told him he could either be a priest or a congressman, but not both.
William Cohen, future senator from Maine who later served as U.S. Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, was among a number of Republicans on the committee who supported impeachment charges against Nixon. The beleaguered president saw the handwriting on the wall and resigned in August of 1974.
The bottom line is — some watershed moments in our country require a serious public airing. The Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol certainly qualifies.
Dirk Q. Allen is a former opinion page editor of the Hamilton JournalNews. He is a regular contributor.