Watergate was a watershed moment in American political history, so much so the suffix “gate” has been applied to nearly every political scandal, major and minor, since President Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency more than four decades ago.
But really, Watergate was about burglary, dirty money, dirty politics and covering up a petty crime. Compared what we are seeing now, Watergate is small potatoes. Compared to President Donald Trump’s kissyface with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Watergate is going to remembered as vividly and shamefully four decades from now as the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s.
What was the Teapot Dome Scandal? My point exactly.
The retirement of “gate” is long overdue, but if we persist in using it—”Kremlingate” is popular on Twitter—we risk minimizing the magnitude of this moment. This is going to be very big. There is little question in my mind it will be. How big is the question. In any case, the size of this scandal may be enough to “break the fever” that has plagued the Republican Party since the election of the first African-American president. Only when the party faces possible complicity in acts of treason will that fever finally break.
I don’t use the T-word lightly, because no one should. But we are getting close. As I noted in a recent column, I suspect everything needed to impeach and remove this president is probably already known, and it probably was known within weeks of Trump’s surprise victory in November. The problem for those with this knowledge was what to do with it after the country had completed a process of choosing a new leader. Only by leaking this information, drip by drip, were they able to expose Trump without jeopardizing the constitutional integrity of our democracy.
Time will tell if they succeeded. I suspect it will be years before public trust in Washington is restored. For now, we are getting closer to seeing a picture in which Trump may have struck a deal with Putin, a deal that may be as treasonous as it was boneheaded: Help me win the election and I’ll drop sanctions against Russia.