Strange Tales from a Strange Time: Nixon, Ailes, Cameron, Murdoch
Senior government sources have admitted that meetings between the two disgraced former News of the World executives might have taken place in the Prime Minister’s office.
However, Downing Street last night refused to confirm or deny that the meetings occurred after it emerged that Mr [Neil] Wallis had informally advised Mr [Andy] Coulson in the run-up to the general election.
From the June 29, 1973 entry of Hunter S. Thompson’s Watergate coverage for Rolling Stone, as collected in The Great Shark Hunt:
The news, and John Dean again — that fiendish little drone. (Did the president seem surprised when you gave him this information?) “No sir, he did not.”
The junkies are rolling up the tents at Camp David tonight. Mister Nixon has cashed his check. Press reports from “the Western White House” in San Clemente say the President has “no comment” on Dean’s almost unbelievably destructive testimony.
No comment. The boss is under sedation. Who is with him out there on that lonely western edge of America tonight. Bebe Rebozo? Robert Abplanalp, W. Clement Stone?
Probably not. They must have seen what Nixon saw today — that the Ervin committee was going to give Dean a free ride. His victims will get their shots at him tomorrow — or next week — but it won’t make much difference, because the only ones left to question him are the ones he publicly ridiculed yesterday as tools of the White House. Baker’s credibility is so crippled — in the wake of Dean’s references in his opening statement to Baker’s alleged “willingness to cooperate” with the Nixon brain-trust in the days before these hearings — that anything Baker hits Dean with tomorrow will seem like the angry retaliation of a much-insulted man.
…The Harris poll in today’s Rocky Mountain News — even before Dean’s testimony — showed Nixon’s personal credibility rating on the Watergate “problem” had slipped to a fantastic new low of 15 — 70% negative. If the Ervin committee lets even half of Dean’s testimony stand, Richard Nixon won’t be able to give away dollar bills in Times Square on the Fourth of July.
Watching the fall of Rupert Murdoch play itself out has brought back old, old memories. Memories of the only political scandal I’ve experienced in my homeland that comes even close to what’s been unfolding in the UK right now: Watergate. And to judge from this British piece and this Canadian one, I’m not the only person to be thinking of Watergate in connection with all of this.
Murdoch is, of course, Nixon. The two of them would have understood each other immediately. As court jester and apologist for his master, the pathetic Piers Morgan makes a good Ron Ziegler stand-in, though Ziegler may have actually had more style, being a motorcyclist and all. And at least one person, Roger Ailes, has not only played prominent roles in both the Nixon and Murdoch sagas, he’s also been under suspicion of doing a bit of phone hacking in the US as well.
The symmetry isn’t perfect, obviously. But it’s getting closer every day.
Lots of heads rolled in Watergate and related scandals before we got to that of the big fish Nixon: Agnew, Ruckleshaus, Cox, Richardson, John Mitchell, Dean, Magruder, Haldeman, Ehrlichmann, Liddy — and that’s not even close to a complete reckoning. Three of these persons — Cox, Richardson, and Ruckleshaus — were struck or forced down by Nixon in the “Saturday Night Massacre” because they were honorable men trying to serve justice, a justice that was starting to imperil his hold on power. Lots of heads have already rolled in the phone-hacking scandal, too: Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, Sir Paul Stephenson, Glenn Mulcaire, John Yates, Les Hinton, with the promise of more to come. There have even been tragic deaths in each case, both of key whistleblowers: Martha Mitchell and Sean Hoare.
I leave you with one last glimpse from the distant mirror held up by Hunter S. Thompson, on June 29th of 1973:
Six months ago, Richard Nixon was the most powerful political leader in the history of the world, more powerful than Augustus Caesar when he had his act rolling full bore — six months ago.
Now, with the passing of each sweaty afternoon, into what history will call “the Summer of ’73,” Richard Nixon is being dragged closer and closer — with all deliberate speed, as it were — to disgrace and merciless infamy.