June 17: Heavy Date For Me
On June 17, 1961, I became a man—from the Jewish point of view. That was my Bar Mitzvah in North Bellmore, Long Island, New York. I walked the two miles to synagogue with my step-grandfather, absolutely petrified about performing well. I did fine. The party was in my backyard under a huge tent and it was a beautiful day. I still have some of the gifts I got that day—a dictionary and set of cufflinks with my initials in gold. I have no idea what happened to the money I received. I suspect it was sent to Duke University some years later.
On June 17, 1972, I woke up in our first apartment in Durham, North Carolina ready to go to a fourth-year medical school clinical rotation. I was close to finishing by then and Genie was in her second year. My sister was staying with us for the summer to work in a laboratory at the Durham VA. As usual, I was doing my sit-ups on the living room carpet in front of our first color television that I had bought to watch the Olympics later that summer. The news came on announcing that there had been a burglary at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. My first reaction was, “What? Why?” I could not imagine the purpose of any such burglary. By then it was pretty clear that President Nixon would be re-elected easily and surely needed no clandestine leg up on the competition which was going to be South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who no one gave a chance to win. And he didn’t win. So why would anyone pull such a silly trick on the Democrats?
As Woodward and Bernstein and so many others have described, the Watergate break-in was just the tip of the iceberg of the dirty tricks and sleaze surrounding the Committee to Re-Elect the President and the Nixon White House in general. A recent take on all of this from Martha Mitchell’s point of view is Gaslit on Starz. Worth a look.
On this the fiftieth anniversary of the Watergate break-in, we get a chance to compare that scandal with the one unfolding on Capitol Hill now as the House Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 riot plows on.
First, let’s remember the ultimate result of the Watergate hearings was the resignation of Richard Nixon and the imprisonment of many of his team of co-conspirators. The ultimate result of whatever it is the current committee thinks it’s doing would be preventing Donald Trump from running for any office again following a Department of Justice prosecution for federal crimes that resulted in a Trump felony conviction. This may be a worthy goal, but it is not as significant—yet—as were the goals of the Watergate Committees. (There were Senate and House hearings. The Senate opened the lid and the House began deliberating articles of impeachment.)
Second, Nancy Pelosi made a huge mistake in not seating a real bipartisan committee that included the appointees of House minority leader Kevin McCarthy even if she didn’t like them. I don’t like Jim Jordan either, but there were Nixon apologists on the House Committee that looked into Watergate. There should be Trump apologists on this current committee if it is to have any credibility. If these Trump apologists can be swayed by the evidence that Trump is guilty, as many Republican House members were in 1974 about Nixon, then there is a real chance that there is a there there. No one doubts that there was a riot on Capitol Hill on January 6, but many question whether it was truly instigated by Mr. Trump. Only a true bipartisan committee would have been able to get to the bottom of this and now we will not have that. I blame that on Pelosi. She simply does not understand what true bipartisanship looks like, but she will after November if she’s lucky. Meanwhile, it will be up to Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to decide whether the evidence unearthed by the current committee and made public rises to the level of prosecutable offenses.
Finally, does a committee of faculty and executives need to be formed to investigate the Pisters Administration’s war on the faculty, this “professionalism” nonsense, the folly of “One MD Anderson” and the amazing mediocrity of the current leadership of the cancer center. I think it does. Dr. Pisters has had a sufficient amount of time to correct the ills wrought by the DePinho era and has not done so. When is it time to look into this? Sometimes, mismanagement alone is cause for a second look. Or a third. It’s June 17, 2022. Tick, tick.