Opinion | The Watergate Hearings Gripped a Nation. Can the Jan. 6 Hearings Do the Same?
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The third lesson from the Ervin committee underscores the large gulf politically concerning 1973 and 2022: The Republicans on the committee — and in Congress much more usually — had been superior-faith members in the hearings. Regardless of their partisan affiliation, they came into the course of action with open minds. Even the rating Republican, Senator Howard Baker, identified his viewpoint modifying as the proof of wrongdoing amassed by means of the summertime. He claimed, several years right after the hearings, that at to start with he thought that they ended up “a political ploy of the Democrats, that it would arrive to very little,” but as they proceeded, “it began to dawn on me that there was extra to it than I assumed, and more to it than I preferred.”
Baker’s Republican committee colleague, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, was horrified by what he read from John Dean’s testimony. He instructed the Ervin committee: “Republicans do not deal with up. Republicans do not go forward and threaten. Republicans do not go ahead and commit unlawful functions. And, God understands, Republicans really do not look at their fellow Individuals as enemies to be harassed.”
It’s this last position that most plainly factors to the chasm between politics then and now through Watergate, Republicans in both the Residence and Senate recognized that they had an important purpose as customers of the coequal legislative branch to maintain the government department to account.
Watergate is in the end a story of the American process performing — the sensitive ballet of constitutional checks-and-balances functioning to convey a corrupt and prison president to justice. But the tale was only probable simply because Republicans, both equally leadership and rank-and-file, acted as associates of Congress first and partisans next.
Now, of system, there’s a really distinctive political dynamic on Capitol Hill. The braveness — and political isolation — of the Jan. 6 committee’s two Republican users, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and the lopsided Republican votes on the two of Mr. Trump’s impeachments demonstrates how tricky it will be to drive the social gathering to confront actions its members evidently want to ignore.
Garrett M. Graff is a journalist, historian, and writer, most not long ago, of “Watergate: A New History.”