Richard Nixon, Jack Benny, and Barrack Obama Walk into a Bar
It’s hard not to chuckle when Greg Gutfeld and his Fox News Red Eye team flash “Obama-geddon-care-o-gate” on the TV when the president’s health law comes up for discussion. I’m frankly surprised that the right wing hasn’t officially added the suffix “Gate” to Obamacare by now, considering the lies upon lies, the incompetence, and the overall disaster of the ACA.
I’ve been a student of the original “gate” scandal, Water, for some time. The reveal of Deep Throat was a Watergate fan’s Superbowl–finally, we knew the whole story. I’m also a collector of old time radio shows from the Golden Age of broadcasting, and many of my recordings were taken from broadcast replays in the 1970s. So what does Obamacare, Richard Nixon, and old time radio have in common?
I was listening to an episode of the Jack Benny show the other night, and often with those ’70s replays, whoever recorded the show let the tape run longer than the actual problem, and the station went into a top-of-the-hour news update after the show ended. The reporter read a set of headlines, mostly concerning Watergate, which was exploding. Among the breaking news, the reporter quoted experts who said the fate of the country hinged on the outcome of the scandal. We had never faced anything like it. Did the Constitution properly detail how such a situation should be handled, or would we have to create new rules to deal with the aftermath? Would Nixon resign or be impeached? You could cut the uncertainty and fear with a knife. Thirty years later, listening to this in my bedroom, it added a dimension to the Nixon scandal that shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. I can tell you the facts of the Watergate scandal and how it ended, but I could never fill the in-between real-time gaps where the country, at the height of the scandal, had no idea what would happen, or how we would carry on.
As I watch the continuing developments of Obamacare and the seemingly dismantling of the U.S.A.; listen to the nail-chewing worry of the right wing; the pessimism of my friends; my own thoughts about how we’re finished; I find myself listening again and again to that news broadcast. The fear is the same.
I can’t see thirty years in the future, but I know one thing: we’ve survived The Worst before. Like Gerald Ford said, the system works. There are other non-political elements that suggest, to me, it’s a harder battle this time (that’s another column) but the system indeed worked, and, in an ironic twist, Nixon lived long enough to become a respected elder statesman, and the nation mourned his passing as if Watergate had never happened (which shocked liberals from one end of the country to another). Back in 1992 my high school Republican buddies and I had a joke: “He’s tanned, rested, and ready–Nixon in ’92!” We were criticized by one of our older teachers of making light of a horrible period in this nation’s history, and I can only imagine that thirty years from now I might say the same thing to a kid who makes an Obama joke, and he’s going to wonder why I’m making such a fuss.
Some of you are going to say that I don’t get it. This is the Last Stand. If we fail here, we’re history. I’m not saying you’re wrong, and I don’t mean we should stop fighting because “it’s all going to work out” or some “hopeful” garbage like that. What I mean is we need to consider history in how we approach the battle, and we need the confidence of history as we press our counterattack. Chicken Little need not be a part of the team. We have enough trouble with John Boner (ooops, I mean Boehner), John McCain, Karl Rove, and the rest of the GOP Establishment who have no interest in fighting, and are actually working against us. We may be surrounded, but at least we know where the enemy is. That narrows things down a bit.