With the passing of former Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, Democrats have a chance to rise above partisanship and get serious about the IRS scandal.
As many voices from all over the political spectrum have pointed out, Baker, a Republican, set an example as a leader who put the nation first and politics second while attempting to discover the real truth about possibly illegal activities by Republican President Richard Nixon. Although he had a long, distinguished Washington career, Baker will forever be remembered for repeatedly posing the question,“What did the president know, and when did he know it?” — a question that has since become a Washington cliché.
Baker kept asking his now-famous question as vice-chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee. This special committee was set up to investigate the 1972 Watergate Hotel break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Eventually that investigation led to revelations of numerous other abuses of power leading to Nixon’s resignation on August 8, 1974.
The Washington Post summed it up well in Baker’s obituary:
Republicans were confident that the second-term southerner and trial lawyer with the boyish look and aw-shucks manner would defend the White House. His 1972 campaign literature described him as a “close friend and trusted advisor of our President, Richard M. Nixon.” Indeed, when he asked the question for which he became famous, Mr. Baker intended to distance Nixon from the scandal.
But as it turned out, Baker’s question had the opposite effect, and his query was used to further deepen the investigation.
Are there any Senate Democrats today who would be willing to step up and assume an investigative role with President Obama similar to the role Howard Baker played with Richard Nixon? Does any Democrat dare to use the term cover-up? Is that word banned from Democratic talking points?
Is there any Democrat who is curious about the possibility that President Obama may have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors?”
Currently, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has offered a resolution calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal. Why won’t Democrats appoint one, akin to Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski?
Certainly this growing and egregious IRS scandal has some eerie similarities to Watergate. The tax collector’s timely crashed hard drives and missing emails are the modern-day version of Rosemary Woods’ 18- minute gap on the White House tape recording system.
Senate Democrats, of course, are very likely to block the resolution.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) articulated the party line last week when she was asked if she was suspicious of the hard-drive crash that the IRS says eradicated Lerner’s e-mails.
“What it convinces me [of] is that they need a new technology system at the IRS,” Pelosi told reporters. “They need to upgrade their technology, get it right, so that there’s no suspicion about what agenda anyone may have on that.”
Right: Now it’s just a “technology” issue with not a “smidgen of corruption” — to use a phrase that could become Obama’s version of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.”
Although headlines have called the antics of the Obama administration “Worse than Watergate” or “Watergate Revisited,” Democrats have expressed virtually no outrage about Obama’s many scandals, even as the list — including using the IRS to persecute political enemies, the Benghazi coverup, Fast and Furious, a contempt of Congress citation for Attorney General Eric Holder, and more — piles up to create what should be called “Obamagate.”
Why has our nation changed so dramatically since Watergate? The answer is three-fold.
First, the left-leaning mainstream media have become cheerleaders instead of investigators.
Second, the country is full of low-information voters who view these scandals as partisan political spats.
Third, partisan politics makes it nearly impossible that Obama could ever be impeached, no matter how wide and deep the IRS or Benghazi cover-ups or any number of current or future scandals that may grow or unfold.
Now, I find these three factors distressing because Watergate was my first scandal. It helped develop my interest in politics.
After Nixon resigned, my takeaway lessons from Watergate were that the system worked, our nation was strong, and corruption at the top was rooted out by the press and the two other co-equal branches of government. I felt great pride in knowing that the founding documents of our nation had been tested and had triumphed over evil. As a teenager I believed the good guys had won.
My fondest Watergate memory took place during the summer of 1973 in Cape Cod, Mass., where I worked as a waitress. On my daily bike ride to work, I passed a small hotel with a TV in the lobby. There, I watched as John Dean testified before the Senate Watergate Committee and said, “I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency and that if the cancer was not removed the president himself would be killed by it.”
Today, I view Obamagate through the prism of Dean’s iconic quote. The Obamagate cover-up is becoming the cancer that Dean was referring to. We owe it to ourselves at least to explore that possibility.
So to repeat the title question, where is the Democrat’s version of Senator Howard Baker, someone who is not afraid to stand up to an imperial President of his or her own party?
If Obama were a Republican you can bet the Democrats, cheered on by the media, would be in their second year of an IRS investigation. Is the IRS scandal of less importance than the Valerie Plame affair? Why is a hound-dog federal prosecutor type like Patrick Fitzgerald not on the IRS case?
How can our nation tolerate such an absurd political double standard?
Twenty five years after Watergate, Howard Baker said on the PBS NewsHour:
It was, indeed, a watershed time in American politics. And I guess I have to look back on it to realize how effective the system really was. The system worked.
Does our system still work? Every day that goes by without an Obamagate special prosecutor, I have my doubts.
Cross-posted at the National Review