Saturday, July 16, 2005

Is This Deja Vu All Over Again?

The History Channel aired an odd, but excellent, documentary on an incident which had faded from common memory. On February 22, 1974, a jobless tire salesman, Samuel Byck, tried to highjack Delta flight 523 from Baltimore and fly the jet into the White House. His poorly crafted plan started to unravel when he mortally shot the police officer at the boarding gate. He coolly entered the cockpit and shot both pilots, after surmising they weren't going to help him. The carnage ended when a policeman shot Byck twice. While lying in a pool of blood, he ended his own life with a shot to the head. The plane never taxied from the tarmac.

Samuel Byck left a 2-hour cassette in his car. On it, he carefully detailed why he wanted to kill Richard M. Nixon. He conflated his frustration at being rejected for a federal small business loan with the mounting corruption in Washington. In his 1972 reelection bid, Nixon won 49 of 50 states, despite the June Watergate break-in. Samuel Byck, a frequent psychiatry patient, closely followed the political rumblings. His depression grew with the wild upheaval in our streets. Apparently, John Dean's testimony about "a cancer on the White House" was the breaking point. This tragic story is now remote history, swallowed by the major scandals of Watergate and the Viet Nam war.

There were two things odd about this documentary. The History Channel named the program "The Plot To Kill Nixon," probably to avoid the "assassinate" word which is associated with the murder of JFK. Also, the blunt title would spur interest without having to qualify the word "assassinate" with the word "attempted." The title simply would've been too long. Next, one has to question the timing. Why was this obscure event worthy of documentary consideration at this particular point in time? What was The History Channel's motivation?

In an odd way, this program had the effect of humanizing Tricky Dick Nixon. No one wants to be targeted by a psycho assassin. It's a horrific thought. Even Dirty Dick Nixon deserved better. From this view, those unfamiliar with Viet Nam and Watergate might sympathize with Nixon as someone worthy of our pity. Subtly, the program was persuading us his problems weren't entirely of his own making, an outside-in rather than an inside-out phenomenon. It's more than ironic George Bush is starting to manifest Jowly-Jaundice disease.

While George Bush's reign is considered his father's single term on steroids, he matches up even better with Nixon. Both presidents secured two terms by dubious means. Both used war to greatly increase their political capital. Both drove secrecy to unprecedented heights. Both sought and used dictatorial powers. Both trampled the constitution and the rule of law. Most important, both perceived the American people and the truth to be enemies of the state. And just like Nixon, George Bush is heading swiftly to the ash heap of history.

Plamegate is Bush's Watergate. The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Great criminals aren't convicted of great crimes. This is because legendary gangsters shield themselves with airtight alibis. It's the little, overlooked item which usually convicts them. Capone went to jail over tax evasion. Nixon resigned due to the cover-up of a third-rate burglary. Now, the stage is set for Bush's dethronement via Karl Rove's Plamegate leak.

Bush's Kismet is fast approaching. Plamegate will force him to decide whether to ask for Rove's resignation or fight to keep him. At best, it's a Hobbesian choice. Karl Rove made George Bush king. Fierce loyalty sealed their fate. Bush is grimly aware of this predicament. If he cashiers consigliere Rove, his political protection would instantly disappear. If he tries to cover-up Plamegate, he exposes himself to guilt by criminal association. This is a lose-lose situation. It was inevitable. Bush's reckless rampage was due for a big crash. And no documentary or sugar-laden propaganda will save his sorry lot.

The media are finally finding their voices bolstered by Bush's plummeting approval numbers and frequent leaks of critical evidence. The harsh grilling of Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan, hasn't reached Watergate pitch. But, it's a healthy sign the American people are getting fed up with the violence, both here and abroad. Is this deja vu all over again? Sadly, it appears so. Once more, we're confronted with the ultimate question: Will our democracy survive Bush's assault on constitutional law and moral probity? Somehow, we managed to survive Nixon's Nightmare. Somehow, we'll survive the two-headed monster, BushRove. Perhaps, all the religious wrangling, instigated by Bush, could be put to good use. Lawd knows we sure could use a helping hand from God.

Franklin L. Johnson


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