Tri States Public Radio Staff
Anniversary of Break-In
Thu June 14, 2012
Watergate - 40 Years Later
Sunday, June 17 marks the 40th anniversary of the bungled burglary at the Watergate Hotel that eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.
Richard Filipink of Western Illinois University's History Department said the impact of the scandal has been felt ever since. All one has to do it look at the Republican attacks on Democrat Bill Clinton when he was president in the 1990s.
“If you think about some of the people who were involved in those attacks, in particular on the Senate side, Trent Lott was a member of the House (when Nixon was president). He was one of the last people who said he won't vote for Nixon's impeachment because you never vote for your own party's president to be impeached,” Filipink said.
He said the idea that “You got one of ours, we'll get one of yours” is part of Nixon's legacy.
Filipink also said Congress has become hyper partisan in the years since Watergate. He said before Watergate, lawmakers of different parties generally agreed they were all working for the same goal even if they differed on issue positions.
“What Nixon did as president and then as ex-president is emphasize the politics of division. That's Nixon's stock and trade: you're not just my opponent, you're my enemy; you're not just wrong, you're evil,” Filipink said.
He added Nixon brought to the forefront the idea that those who compromise in politics are betraying the cause.
Filipink believes Nixon was his own worst enemy.
“The same things that made him ambitious enough and self-confident enough to become President of the United States also drove him to see anybody who's an opponent as an enemy.”
Filipink said it's important to remember that Nixon was involved in Watergate from the start. He said Nixon might not have planned the break-in but he was aware it happened and he took charge of the cover-up.