Lawyer Victoria Toensing
You have to hand it to the Republicans and their right-wing media: they are persistent in pushing their conspiracy theories no matter how improbable or insignificant, just as they are relentless in covering up GOP wrongdoing even when that behavior strikes at the heart of democratic institutions or costs countless lives.
So, we have the contrast between the nine high-profile hearings about last September's Benghazi attack and Republican determination to cover up Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq-gate, Contra-cocaine trafficking, and the two October Surprise cases (sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and subverting President Jimmy Carter's Iran-hostage negotiations in 1980).
The Republicans also showed little or no interest in delving into the facts surrounding terrorist incidents on George W. Bush's watch, including his failure to protect the nation from the 9/11 attacks, or examining his war crimes, such as his deceptive case for invading Iraq and his approval of torture against "war on terror" detainees.
Granted, part of the blame for those short-circuited investigations must fall on the Democrats and the mainstream news media for lacking the courage and integrity to pursue investigations in the face of Republican obstructionism.
With only a few exceptions, Democrats have shied away from confrontations with Republicans, sometimes fretting that a full accounting might not be "good for the country." Mainstream news executives, too, have shown a lack of stomach for going toe-to-toe with angry Republicans and their ferocious propagandists.
Thus, there has been a systematic crumbling of investigative will when the subject of a scandal is a Republican. But near-opposite rules apply when the subject is a Democrat. No matter how flimsy the evidence, Republicans and the Right demonstrate a boundless determination to build a mountain of scandal out of a molehill of suspicions.
The cumulative impact of this investigative imbalance has been that the narrative of modern American history has been wildly distorted. [See Robert Parry's America's Stolen Narrative.]
For instance, few people know that Nixon launched his extra-legal spying team in 1971 because he was frantically searching for a file that President Johnson had compiled on how Nixon's campaign had sabotaged the Vietnam peace talks in 1968 to get an edge in that close election.
Privately, Johnson termed Nixon's actions "treason," but LBJ and his top aides agreed to stay silent out of concern that the story was so disturbing it might shake public faith in a prospective Nixon administration if disclosing the facts did not stop his election.
"Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I'm wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected," said Defense Secretary Clark Clifford in a conference call with Johnson on Nov. 4, 1968. "It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country's interests."
However, staying silent also didn't turn out to be very "good for the country." After torpedoing Johnson's peace deal, Nixon continued the Vietnam War for more than four years at the cost of some 20,000 more American dead, possibly a million more Vietnamese killed and the political discord that divided the U.S. population, turning parents against their own children.
Though not divulging Nixon's dirty trick, LBJ did order his national security adviser Walt Rostow to remove the top-secret file containing the wiretap evidence of Nixon's back-channel contacts urging South Vietnam to spurn the peace talks. Nixon later learned from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover of the file's existence, but Nixon's top aides, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and Henry Kissinger, could not locate it.
The missing file became a point of urgency for Nixon in June 1971 when the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967, chronicling mostly Democratic lies that had ensnared the United States in Vietnam. However, Nixon knew something that few others did: there was a sequel that was arguably even more disgusting than the original.
That was the context for Nixon's order to bring in ex-CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to organize a team of burglars. Their first target was to be the Brookings Institution where some of Nixon's aides believed the missing file was hidden in the safe. Hunt's team later spearheaded a series of spying operations that were exposed on June 17, 1972, when five burglars were caught inside the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate.
Over the next two years, the Watergate scandal led to Nixon's political undoing, but the investigations remained focused on the cover-up, not the far-more-damning background of the foiled break-in.