Saturday, October 15, 2005
Once upon a time, I was young and earnest and a messenger who carried small packages and letters from office to office on foot in San Francisco's financial district. This material would now mostly go by email or fax, but in the early 1970s it moved with me.
I liked the job. It was easy. San Francisco was a new city to me and this work offered an opportunity to explore its alleys and cul-de-sacs. Some days I would ride in ornate 1920s elevators to leave envelopes under doors on corridors with marble floors. Occasionally I would get to deliver something to an organization whose work I supported; I particularly remember going to the "Save the Redwoods League." (There were more redwoods to save then.)
In those days we still had two real newspapers daily, the Chronicle in the morning and the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner in the afternoon. As I wandered around, I would read the headlines in newspaper boxes. The papers printed several editions a day -- sometimes the lead headline would change twice or more in an afternoon. And those headlines were the medium through which I took in the Watergate investigation that led, finally, to the resignation of President Nixon.
The particulars of the Administration's malfeasance seemed to me too complex to follow. I knew the U.S. war on Vietnam was wrong, an immoral, unjustified invasion of somebody else's country, and corrosive to our own country. I knew Nixon was a crook -- all mildly countercultural young people knew that. But the ins and outs of the Watergate, the legal issues, the actual (very bland) grounds for moving toward impeachment, were more than I could take in. Watergate came and went as a blur, though I never doubted that Nixon had led a cabal that had done something very wrong.
Several years later, I did read enough book length descriptions of the sequence of Watergate events to get a deeper picture of the unraveling of the Nixon presidency.
This past month many in the liberal blogosphere have been fixated on the Valerie Plame affair, following each twist and turn with bated breath. Emptywheel has been doing a brilliant job of this at The Next Hurrah, for example. The quality of concentrated work that folks churned out is amazing. I've tried to read it, but I keep recalling that young person I was during Watergate. This too is something about which I don't want to get too caught up in the play by play.
Whatever legalities the thuggish enforcers of Republican Party discipline have tripped over, what matters is that they acted to prop up lies promoting an unnecessary war that has killed many thousands of Iraqis and a few thousand of the disposable cannon fodder sent by the invaders. Perhaps the prosecutor will nail them for some legal faux pas. But in the end, what matters is that they are criminals, guilty of crimes against U.S. democracy, against the people of Iraq, and against the hopes of humanity.