My grandparents used to read Art Buchwald. And laugh.
I remember seeing a stack of Buchwald's books on a bookshelf. Once, when in grade school, I tried to read some of his work and well, let's just say a bunch of Gerald Ford jokes were completely lost on me.
Recently, I was devouring a podcast called "Slow Burn" in which journalist Leon Neyfakh chronicles Watergate and some of the backstories that have been left out of the common knowledge of that scandal. The Slate-produced podcast should be required listening for any political junky or historian. It's a tightly produced, engaging listen.
On one of the episodes chronicling the media's coverage of Watergate, it references a Buchwald column in which the popular political columnist provides 30 excuses for Nixon supporters to say when confronted with the word "Watergate" (wink, wink, wink).
The column which was meant to be funny then, and should be quaint now took my breath away. Without meaning to, Buchwald wrote a column that could be used anytime someone says, "Russia investigation" or "Mueller probe."
Mark Twain was credited with saying that history doesn't repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.
Well, Twain was wrong.
It does repeat.
Let's be clear: I am not necessarily comparing former President Richard M. Nixon to current President Donald J. Trump. And we don't know if the Watergate investigation will be anything like the yet-to-be-seen Mueller investigation. And even though I am deeply concerned and critical of Trump's time in office, impeachment seems like hyperbole.
Still, Buchwald's excuses of nearly 50 years ago sound pretty modern. I've selected a few -- and with apologies to Buchwald -- and added their modern-day equivalents:
2. What about Chappaquiddick... Change Chappaquiddick to Hillary.
3. A President can't keep track of everything his staff does...Kind of like Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone.
4. The press is blowing this whole thing up....Fake News. Failing New York Times. Dishonest media.
5. The Democrats are sore because they lost the election.... (See previous Hillary comment.)
7. Are you going to believe a rat like John Dean or the president of the United States... Are you going to believe Michael Cohen or the president of the United States?
8. If you impeach Nixon, you just get Agnew... If Trump leaves, we're left with Mike Pence.
11. The only thing wrong with Watergate is they got caught...Yeah well, the Clinton Foundation took money from the Russians, too.
14. People would be against Nixon no matter what he did... Liberals hate Trump. Heck, liberals probably hate America, too. They also hate making America great. And steaks. And guns. And the idea of anyone having fun.
15. I'm not for breaking the law, but sometimes you have to do it to save the country...Collusion is not crime.
18. The President is too busy running the country to know what was going on...See Manafort, Cohen, et. al. comment.
22. Maybe the Committee for the Re-Election of the President went a little too far, but they were just a bunch of eager kids... Maybe the Trump folks were too cozy with the Russians, but hey, wouldn't it be nice to have a good relationship with another superpower?
28. I'm sick and tired of hearing about Watergate and so is everyone else...I'm sick and tired of hearing about the Russia investigation and so is everyone else -- no one cares.
The problem then is the problem now: Those were all excuses and excusing behavior that couldn't be pardoned or overlooked. If Trump cared, he should note that now more than half the American public thinks Mueller's investigation is fair, according to a recent NPR/PBS poll.
Unfortunately, Buchwald's column, a deadly serious attempt at humor in July 1973, demonstrates that not much has changed in Washington. But if history is truly repeating itself, we can only hope that politicians treat whatever information that comes from the special counsel with as much reverence as they treated the evidence that came from Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.
Where have you gone, Art Buchwald?