I suspect James Comey’s appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was a déjà vu moment for many baby boomers.
I know I couldn’t help thinking back to the televised Senate Watergate hearings, which began in May of ‘73 and lasted until July 27, when the House Judiciary Committee began the process to impeach President Richard Nixon. Dodging that humiliation, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 – which just happened to be my 24th birthday.
I’d voted for George McGovern instead of Nixon, so I watched nearly all the two hundred and fifty hours of the hearings. Millennials may be amused to note that before the “livestream” age, viewers actually sat still in front of a screen in real time, not on demand.
That summer, my then-husband went off to architecture school each day while I stayed at home, supposedly painting our living room. But I kept putting my brush down to gaze at a parade of Nixon aides calmly explaining to senators how - with Nixon’s full knowledge, as it turned out – they’d sent burglars into Democratic National Committee Headquarters in an attempt, foiled by police, to install listening devices.
And I wasn’t the only one glued to the tube. The guy painting the exterior of the house kept staring through the living room window, straining to see the TV, so I finally invited him in, to watch with me, as our paintbrushes dried solid.
Now, 44 years later, it’s tempting to compare the five Watergate burglars with the recent – and so-far anonymous - DNC email hackers. Of course, the Watergate crew was more amateurish and less successful than the hackers. And this time around, the spies may not be as easy to catch as the Watergate gang – who unwisely tried to prop open a door with tape – thus alerting a security guard – never mind that their President taped himself trying to cover up their crimes.
Possible Russian involvement adds a dangerous layer to today’s story. And we don’t yet know if President Trump recorded private meetings with Comey or anyone else on his phone. But thanks to Watergate, there’s now legal precedent for issuing subpoenas for that kind of evidence.
When Nixon refused to release his incriminating tape recordings, he set his own impeachment in motion. It’s too soon to know if history will repeat itself, but it sure is fascinating to watch.