By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Again drawn in by late-night hearings

Late one night this week, I watched taped congressional hearings about presidential abuses. It was mesmerizing intrigue, and later, online, I found these comments from one of the key witnesses:

“I’m not sure (America) learned anything at all … I’m not sure (the American people) learned anything about potential (risk) of an overly powerful president … It showed an absolutely clear level of what’s unacceptable behavior to the American people: the abuses of power, known and unknown, were more than Americans thought was appropriate for their president. But what’s strange is how quietly those abuses have crept back into the system and are now ignored.”

It was a true flashback experience: That witness was John Wesley Dean III, testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee in June 1973, one year after the misguided burglary of Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex.

In 1973, I spent many a sleepless night watching PBS re-broadcasts of Senate hearings that filled 51 days from mid-May to mid-November.

This week, I was drawn to that video archive — and to Dean’s recent comments — after spending more late-night hours watching the 2022 version of congressional hearings about presidential power run amok. Here’s more of what John Dean had to say this month:

“I never really felt worried during Watergate that small ‘d’ democracy was in any trouble. But I can tell you, from the time Trump was nominated, until he left, that I had a knot in my stomach. And unfortunately, his departure didn’t end the problems that he triggered.

“I don’t think you can look at Watergate today without looking at what happened during the Trump years. And that actually makes Richard Nixon look pretty good by comparison. Nixon, it was obvious to me, had a conscience … I’m not sure that Donald Trump does.

“What’s wrong is not just a few degrees, but many degrees worse than what happened during Watergate with Nixon’s abuses … We learned some lessons for a while, but every post-Watergate norm has been shattered by Donald Trump.”

America was spellbound by Watergate, and despite the strong political partisanship of those days, ultimately, Republicans told their president to resign.

Times have changed, but there was a spark of light this week when we learned more about how Republican state officials thwarted Donald Trump’s attempted coup: Rusty Bowers, Brad Raffensperger, Gabriel Sterling.

Yet, where is today’s version of John Dean? Where is the insider who knows all? Stay tuned.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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