Holy shit this was good. Like “drop everything you’re doing and listen to this right now” good. I’m new to the podcast world and never thought I’d be a person who listened to podcasts, much less spent time reviewing them.
But HOT DAMN THIS WAS GOOD. Informative, entertaining – everything you could want from a history lesson.
Listening to Slow Burn was like listening to a remarkably fun history lecture. And I got do it with my friends Chadd Hanus and Rachel Hanes!
There were two main takeaways in this pod for me:
What even happened in Watergate?
A) What the hell happened in Watergate? It happened before I was born so I feel like most of what I know is just steeped in lore.
Everyone seems to universally agree it was bad (hence why every scandal now has a -gate next to it), regardless of political party. But I didn’t really know what was involved in it before I listened to this pod.
(Rachel here!) So, what struck me the most is this. Okay, imagine with me for a moment that you’re like 87 years old. Maybe you are, I don’t know. But you were born during the great depression and can remember WWII and you definitely remember the Cold War, not to mention the Watergate era. Now imagine getting the news today. Wouldn’t you be like “Wait. I thought we defeated the Nazis? What do you mean we have chilly relations with Russia again? Wait what? A president degrading the press and involved in electioneering dirty tricks? DIDN’T WE SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS???”
Just a fun little thought exercise.
I think if you had asked me about it before I listened to this podcast, I would have given you some vague answer about Republicans breaking into the Democratic headquarters, and Nixon helping to cover that up.
But I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what they stole or why that was important; more importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what exactly was involved in the cover up and why it brought down Nixon.
For instance, the first episode goes into how Republican government officials DRUGGED AND RESTRAINED A SENATOR’S WIFE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH AND WAS BLABBING IT ABOUT IT. Whaaaaat?! This is real life? Holy shit.
Less salaciously, the second episode goes into how there was a US Rep from Texas (FUCK YEAH TEXAS!) that smelled something fishy and worked really hard to get a congressional hearing, only to have Nixon have his Republican friends squash it and never see the light of day.
Ahhh, back when we had Texas leaders willing to stand up for what’s right….the good ol’ days.
Or, the fact that the case was almost dead in the water until one person in Nixon’s inner circle said something like “So, I guess you guys already know that the President has an automatic taping device in each of his offices?” Talk about an unforced error – would Watergate even be in the public consciousness if Nixon hadn’t been so paranoid so as to record his Presidential conversations? Or would it have just been buried as “another partisan attack” in the annals of history?
This KILLED me. Because basically Nixon got taken down in the same stupid manner that Trump’s administration keeps shooting itself in the foot. I had never heard this part of the saga before either – and in a way it’s scary that basically these guys just keep having to stick their feet in their mouths in order for us to have any idea about anything their doing.
Speaking of partisan attacks: it was interesting – and both scary and comforting – to hear that Nixon and his guys tried to get out of the whole mess caused by their shenanigans by blaming a hyper-partisan, liberal press that was “out to get” Nixon and all Republicans. Sounds a little familiar.
Also, side note – I did not know that Nixon’s Vice President got removed from office literally a week before he did for totally unrelated bribery charges; WHAAAAAAT?! Moreover, it was really shocking to hear that Nixon had counted on his VP to be his impeachment insurance policy – thinking that people would vote against his impeachment in order to prevent his VP from being President instead.
So yeah, I learned a lot haha.
Damn that also was super eerily close to what’s going on today, i.e. vp insurance policy. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Trump is counting on everyone disliking Pence just as much as they dislike him – or on everybody being more scared of Pence because he may get more scary stuff done.
Wait, what year is this?
Episode 5, “True Believers” delved into the topic of President Nixon’s supporters and their thoughts during the whole debacle, and is the main subject of my second takeaway: how weirdly similar it is to today’s events with Trump.
Public support for Nixon apparently remained relatively high up until the Saturday Night Massacre, where he fired his Attorney General and his deputy Attorney General for refusing to fire the special counsel.
And you know, I’d like to think that a similar Saturday Night Massacre would convince people that some shady shenanigans were going on, but uhhh, James Comey and Sally Yates, etc, were already let go and there just wasn’t the same level of outrage from the entirety of the nation as there was when Nixon did it. Heck, just this week the Republicans in the House put up Articles of Impeachment for Rod Rosenstein so they could eventually get to firing Mueller and even that only earned a few small paragraphs in the nations news.
It was really eerie hearing radio clips and arguments that could have literally been copy/pasted to today. Things like
(paraphrased) “The liberal press, namely the New York Times and the Washington Post, have it out for the President, and are just looking for controversy”
Geeeh, where might I have heard THAT before? At least they didn’t call them “the enemy of the American people”…so +1 point for Nixon’s supporters? lol
“Richard Nixon’s apologists thought that liberals were obssessed with attacking the President.
Liberals meanwhile thought that Nixon apologists were willing to go to absurd lengths to ignore the truth to cover up for the President.”
Uh…that seems familiar.
Clinton/ObamaChappaquiddick? Nixon might be a bad guy, but Kennedy was WAY WORSE”
One of the arguments that Nixon supporters used to bring up whenever Nixon’s misdeeds were brought to light was a familiar refrain: WHATABOUT (other democratic person)?
As if there was no way for both things to be bad…?
Seems exactly like whenever Trump does something unquestioningly bad, and instead of trying to defend him, his supporters then just go “What about xxxx”.
Main difference being that most of the things that they accuse Clinton or Obama of are pure fantasy: Uranium One/Pizzagate with Clinton; Death Panels/Invasion of Texas/Not Being Born Here with Obama. Chappaquiddick at least *did* happen.
Yep yep yep, this is what I was saying earlier. There are SO MANY PARALLELS. Although, what worries me about the scary similarity Watergate has to today are actually the non-parallels. During the Watergate era there were a very limited number of news stations and newspapers. And definitely no internet. So it was kinda hard to get people totally into their partisan bubbles (yeah there were conspiracy theory radio shows but those were really not super effective – at least according to this podcast). Today, people are so hyper-“bubbled” that I don’t know if we’ll ever get enough people on the same page to start fully convincing the nation some more “dirty tricks” are going on.
I really enjoyed it. I’ll be honest, I originally just wanted to see how similar/different Watergate was to what is going right now with Trump and Mueller’s investigation, inspired in part because John Oliver has hilariously named what’s going on as “Stupid Watergate: A scandal potentially on the scale of Watergate, but where everyone involved is dumb and bad and terrible at everything”
The similarities are…kind of eerie in how alike they are:
- Both Presidents described the investigations against them as witch-hunts
- Both Trump and Nixon supporters attacked the Press as “liberal” institutions making up fake stories to discredit the President.
- The House of Representatives initially had investigations squashed by partisanship (Dumb Devin Nunes in our time closed the House Intel Committee’s investigation without even interviewing all possible witnesses / Patterson in the 1970s got his squashed by Nixon’s friends)
- (Potentially), both could be blown wide open with the presence of tapes that nobody had previously known about.
Interestingly enough, Slow Burn is about to start a second “season” where it goes into Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. Given the quality of this podcast’s dive into Watergate, I am definitely listening to it. I’m not only going to listen to things that make Republican presidents look bad. I want to learn ALL THE THINGS! 😀
Oh yeah, the Clinton White House 100% deserves its turn, no doubt, no doubt. And I’m ready for it 🙂
And this podcast has opened my eyes to stand alone podcasts. I just started The Wilderness in part because I enjoyed this one so much.
Slate.com did a really good job with Slow Burn; I was extremely impressed between the interviews, historical references, and new things I never knew before. 🙂