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Gibbons should learn from history

George Santayana (1863-1952), the philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, wrote in “Reason in Common Sense”: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

More than a quarter-century ago, a noted politician had a mild political/legal hiccup. First he ignored it, then refused to admit involvement. Then he lied, he forgot details, he blamed others, he lied some more and finally resigned.

The quotes and information that follow come from the front pages of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times of the early 1970s.

June 18, 1972: “Five men … were arrested in what authorities describe as an elaborate plot to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee here (Washington, D.C.).”

Nov. 8, 1972 (election night): “President Nixon is determined in the next four years to leave an imprint of responsible conservatism that will outlive his administration … It was exactly 10 years ago that Mr. Nixon, after losing the California gubernatorial election, had told the press that, ‘You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.’ … ‘A huge landslide margin means nothing at all unless it is a victory for America,’ Nixon said.”

Oct. 10, 1973: “Agnew Resigns — Nixon Expresses, ‘A Deep Sense of Personal Loss.’ … After pleading no contest before a federal judge, Agnew says, ‘I categorically deny assertions of illegal practices on my part by government witnesses.’ “

Feb. 26, 1974: ” ‘I do not expect to be impeached,’ Nixon said, claiming he had committed no impeachable (criminal) offense. … The House Judiciary Committee said impeachable offenses were those that ‘undermine the integrity of office, disregard of constitutional duties and oath of office, arrogation of power, abuse of the governmental process (and) adverse impact on the system of government.’ “

July 10, 1974: “President Nixon urged ‘stonewalling’ and ‘cover-up’ plans for the Watergate scandal, according to transcripts of presidential conversations released by the House Judiciary Committee.” Nixon: “I don’t give a shit what happens. I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover up or anything else, if it’ll save it … save the plan. That’s the whole point.”

This quote came from transcripts of recordings of the first day after Nixon claimed he learned of the cover-up from White House counsel John Dean III.

Aug. 8, 1974, headline: “NIXON RESIGNS” … “As the Watergate scandal overwhelmed his presidency, it was reported that Mr. Nixon’s closest aides joined scores of Republican leaders in urging him to step down. … One official said Mr. Nixon’s family — wife Pat and daughters Julie and Tricia — opposed resignation on the grounds their husband and father was innocent of wrongdoing.”

Aug. 10, 1974: Nixon wrote: “Dear Mr. Secretary (to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger): ‘I hereby resign the office of the President of the United States.’ … Newly inaugurated President Gerald Ford said, ‘Our long national nightmare is over.’ “

Sept. 9, 1974: President Ford grants a ” ‘full, free and absolute’ pardon to the former president. … In a statement, Nixon wrote, ‘I can see clearly now that I was wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthcoming in dealing with Watergate, particularly when it reached the stage of judicial proceedings and grew from a political scandal into a national tragedy.’ … Mr. Nixon at no point in his 250-word statement admitted criminal guilt.”

These are the words of a great philosopher and the straightforward description of the Watergate scandal as reported by two national newspapers. Today, my contemporaries at the Review-Journal, the Reno Gazette-Journal and other publications have done a fine job of reporting the missteps of Gov. Jim Gibbons and his wife — pre-election, election time and post-election.

It matters little what I think about the “Big Guys” who are the reporters on the national stage. But I’ll bet a sawbuck that nobody at The Wall Street Journal took a dime to uncover the manure that has attached itself to our governor’s shoes. However, I think some salivated when they got the scent that a congressman/governor-wannabe was off cruising with those who had been favored by his actions in Congress.

As for Dawn Gibbons (“Someone had to make some money, how could we live on a congressman’s salary?”), maybe her indiscretions take the back burner.

Perhaps state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio has a point: “I am tired of everybody bashing the governor all the time.”

Indeed, everyone might get off the governor’s back if he only learned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Bill Roberts is a veteran journalist in Tonopah. His column appears twice monthly. Contact him at broberts@reviewjournal.com.

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