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Analysis Last Updated: Jun 21st, 2006 - 11:27:05

43 is handling Iraq exactly the way his dad handled Watergate
By Margie Burns
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 21, 2006, 11:22

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Should any puzzlement exist regarding GWBush�s handling of the Iraq war, one can turn to history for elucidation. Bush 43 is handling Iraq exactly the way his father handled Watergate: deny and stonewall as long as possible; muddy the issues with bogus counter-accusations; exploit the situation for whatever is exploitable in it; position oneself for future advantage; then cut bait. Few people today remember that George H. W. Bush, way back before being CIA director and after being Nixon�s Ambassador to the U.N., was head of the Republican National Committee in the early '70s while Watergate was unspooling. His son apparently absorbed some lessons from the times.

The New York Times news summaries, quoted below from archives, say it all:

  • Article contrasts White House's major role in '70 Cong elections with its anticipated low profile in '74 Cong elections. Notes that for 1st time in memory campaign is beginning with no White House official clearly responsible for coordinating efforts of Pres' party. Recalls central White House figures in '70 campaign, most of whom have left and not been replaced. Cites as reasons for White House's inactivity in campaign Pres Nixon's decision after '72 election to move pol out of White House and fact that Watergate scandal has made many Repub candidates fear identification with Pres. Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush sees Vice Pres Ford as prime Repub campaign asset, but not in way Agnew was in '70 when campaign themes came from White House. Does not foresee repetition of '70 effort to purge Repubs unfriendly to Nixon. [Jan 18, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush says if Pres Nixon is 'hounded out of office' it will be damaging to US's stability. Says he hopes HR Judiciary Com will move 'expeditiously' on impeachment bill. Says he is confident com will not vote to impeach. [Jan 20, 1974]

  • Loss of Vice Pres Ford's former Cong seat in Mich's 5th Cong Dist to Dem Richard VanderVeen appears to have left Repubs badly shaken while Dems predict landslide victories in Nov elections. Ford, who had predicted victory for Repub candidate State Sen Robert VanderLaan at Chattanooga (Tenn) news conf, and Repub Natl Chmn George Bush are cautious in expressing concern over election but Mich Repub state Chmn William McLaughlin says 'Watergate killed us' . . . [Feb 20, 1974]

  • Analysis of '74 Cong elections discusses dilemma of Repubs who would like to dissociate themselves from Pres Nixon, who they consider a pol liability, but fear alienating hard-core Nixon supporters who make up financial and activist base for most Repub candidates. Notes groundswell against Nixon is so strong that even usually optimistic Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush concedes Watergate scandals may damage Repub Cong candidates. [Feb 21, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush says relation between party and Pres is excellent. [Mar 1, 1974]

  • Analysis of Mar 5 special election in Ohio's 1st Cong Dist, in which Dem Thomas A Luken defeated Repub opponent Willis D Gradison Jr by 4,000 votes, holds outcome definitely illustrates impact of Watergate on '74 elections. Contends many Repubs who will run for re-election are more fearful and some may be marginally more willing to see Pres Nixon impeached. Repub Natl Chmn George Bush says he is 'reasonably optimistic' about Repubs' chances in Nov although he is 'disappointed' over Ohio. US Sen Hugh Scott of Penna says election is 'setback'. [Mar 7, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush says indictments in Watergate scandal have scared off potential major contributors to Repub party, speech at Hillsboro, NH, fund-raising event. [Mar 11, 1974]

  • Sen J L Buckley calls on Pres Nixon to resign as 'extraordinary act of statesmanship'. Is 1st conservative Repub in Cong to do so. Says Nixon has lost ability to govern. Says Watergate affair has become 'a disorder, a trauma, involving every tissue of the nation' and that Nixon's resignation is only way by which crisis can be resolved. Buckley's past support of Nixon noted . . . Proposal stuns capitol Hill but generates virtually no support from those who have not previously urged Nixon to resign. Gov M Wilson, Vice Pres Ford, Sens W E Brock 3d, J A Helms, C H Percy, B Goldwater, Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush and Repr D Kuykendall comment (L). [Mar 20, 1974]

  • Race for US Repr James Harvey's 8th Cong Dist seat (Mich) seen 1st time Repubs are arguing openly over whether they can afford to be identified with Pres Nixon. Repub candidate James Sparling says he invited Nixon to speak in dist, news conf. Emphasizes, however, that he does not want Nixon's support but rather his defense of Watergate and econ policies.Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush agrees that Sparling invited Nixon on his own initiative. [Apr 2, 1974]

  • Vice Pres Ford says that he has urged Pres Nixon to 'take the risk' and campaign for Repub candidate James Sparling in Mich's upcoming 8th Cong Dist election, luncheon int with reporters, Washington, DC. Concedes that Nixon's appearance might turn election into referendum on him. Says it will be up to Nixon whether to discuss Watergate scandal. White House spokesman says that Nixon is considering Sparling's invitation but has made no final decision. Invitation has set off lively dispute among state Repubs. Mich party Chmn William McLaughlin and Sparling campaign co-ordinator Robert W Grant Jr reptdly are seeking to discourage Nixon visit. Repub Natl Chmn George Bush agrees with Ford. [Apr 3, 1974]

  • More than 4,000 Suffolk County (NY) Repubs make determined effort to show unity despite effects of Watergate scandal, annual fund-raising event, Colonie Hill banquet hall, Hauppauge. Event described. Repub Natl Chmn George Bush, NYS Gov Wilson, US Sens Buckley and Javits, Repub county Chmn Edwin M Schwenk and NYS Assembly Speaker Duryea address audience.Bush asserts recent Repub defeats in special Cong elections are only 'passing disapptmt'. Says Repub party will make 'decisive and definite' comeback in Nov given adequate financial contributions and strong local orgns (M). [Apr 18, 1974]

  • Suffolk County (NY) Repubs have mixed feelings as they open '74 pol campaign amid party leaders' warning that without earnest grass-roots campaigning and solid financial contributions Repub candidates will be defeated because of effects of Watergate scandal as were Repubs in special Cong elections. Some party officials are still encouraged by what appears to be 'unshakable hard core' of Republicanism in county. NYS and county Repub Chmn Richard M Rosenbaum and Edwin M Schwenk say Repub candidates will concentrate mainly on employment and energy issues. Repub Natl Chmn George Bush says Watergate will be behind party by fall . . . [Apr 21, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Chmn George Bush outlines fall campaign offensive. Tells Repubs to put blame for 'low ebb of Cong' on Dems who control it. Calls Dem's stated goal of winning 2/3 majorities in HR and Sen the most effective issue Repubs can use. Says this would enable Cong to override most Pres vetoes. Acknowledges he is 'plagued with doubts' about responsibility for Watergate. Implies even loyal Repubs cannot be sure of Pres Nixon's innocence until White House releases more information. [Apr 27, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush says party's fund-raising drive is 20% ahead of last yr's rate despite Watergate, rept to United Repub Finance Com. Says number of big donors has declined but number of small contributors has increased. Holds he cannot conceive of any circumstances in which he would feel compelled to advise Pres Nixon to step down in interests of Repub party. [May 16, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush rejects suggestion that Pres Nixon's present troubles were caused by 'vendetta' waged by Nixon's pol enemies, int, ABC TV program Issues and Answers. Says it is Repubs, rather than their oppoenents that care most about Watergate. Holds Repub party's fate is not 'inextricably interwoven' with Nixon's. Comments on Dem campaign practices. Says edited White House transcripts did not 'play very well' around US. Says Watergate affair has already 'hurt' Repub party at polls but expresses some hope for future elections, both Cong and Pres. [May 20, 1974]

  • Natl Citizens' Com for Fairness to the Pres is holding 'citizens' Cong' in support of Pres Nixon on June 9 but most of invited 'honored guests,' including Vice Pres Ford, Treas Sec W E Simon, Sen B Goldwater, Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush, and Chief Justice W E Burger, will not attend. Julie and David Eisenhower will attend and Mrs Nixon may go. Agr Sec E L Butz will address rally. Orgn head Rabbi Baruch Korff comments. [June 4, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com chmn George Bush says he is pleased that Sen Watergate com 'confirmed in its final rept' that Repub com was not involved with Watergate. Says he is pleased that com 'reptd' that Dem Natl Com also had no part in wrongdoing alleged to have taken place in campaigns of certain Dems. [July 15, 1974]

  • Lr by Repub Natl Com (RNC) Chmn G Bush disputes statements in July 19 '74 ed that link RNC to illegal activity in raising campaign funds for '72 Pres election. Ed asserted RNC charged unidentified Dem candidates with violating '71 Campaign Reform Act in accepting campaign services from labor unions. [Aug 5, 1974]

  • Pres Nixon tells his Cabinet that he will not resign but will remain in office while const process of impeachment runs its course. Nixon reptdly describes with feeling the trouble he is in to Vice Pres Ford, dept heads and his top aides.Nixon's support in Sen is crumbling, severely threatening his chances of mustering enough votes to avoid conviction in Sen trial. Talk of resignation still persists in Cong and elsewhere. No one at Cabinet meeting, which was also attended by Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush, suggested that Nixon resign or took issue with his analysis of situation . . . [Aug 7, 1974]

  • Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush says he is confident Pres Nixon will do 'what is best for the country' in deciding whether to resign or face impeachment. [Aug 7, 1974]

  • Speculation is rife on who will be selected to serve as G R Ford's Vice Pres. Ex-Defense Sec M R Laird is being quoted as saying that he believes ex-NYS Gov N Rockefeller would be best choice. Rockefeller will not comment. Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush meets with Ford. Friends of Bush believe he would have pol appeal among party faithful, particularly in South and West and they think he might have expressed interest in becoming Vice Pres. [Aug 9, 1974]

  • G R Ford prepares to become 38th US Pres. Ceremony, which is expected to be small and private, is scheduled for noon Aug 9. Ford will make nationally televised speech in evening. His day revd. He met with Pres Nixon in morning and canceled scheduled 12-day speechmaking tour of West Coast and Chicago, which was to have begun Aug 9. He awards Cong Medal of Honor posthumously to vamilies of 7 Vietnam servicemen and attends reception. Met with State Sec H A Kissinger and Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush. Bush says they discussed future of nation and party. [Aug 9, 1974]

  • Vice Pres Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr is sworn in as 38th US Pres by Chief Justice W E Burger. Says 'our long natl nightmare is over'. Calls on US to 'bind up the internal wounds of Watergate' and urges US to pray for ex-Pres Nixon. Declares that he had not gained office by secret promises, that he had not campaigned either for Pres or Vice Pres, that he has not subscribed to any partisan platform. Pledges uninterrupted and sincere search for peace. Pledges candor. Plans for inauguration were coordinated by Nixon's chief of staff Alexander M Haig Jr. Haig and Nixon's sec Rose Mary Woods attend ceremony. Guests include ex-HR Speaker J W McCormack, Melvin R Laird, John W Byrnes, HR Speaker Albert, Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush, Repr J B Anderson. [Aug 10, 1974]

  • Pres Ford tells Cong leaders that he will nominate his successor to Vice-Presidency within 10 days. Sen H D Scott endorses ex-Gov N Rockefeller. Sen J A Helms indicates that score of Cong conservatives would resist Rockefeller selection in favor of Sen B Goldwater. Amer Conservative Union says it would not accept Rockefeller. Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush meets with Ford. Bryce N Harlow says he has 'no idea' whom Ford might choose or what standards he would apply in choosing. Melvin R Laird, who has endorsed Rockefeller, has helped to picture himself as instrumental in Ford's accession with repts that, as Pres Nixon's counselor last fall, he talked Nixon out of his 1st choice for vacant Vice-Presidency, John B Connally, in favor of Ford . . . [Aug 10, 1974]

  • Gallup poll repts that 79% of Amers questioned believe R M Nixon 'did the best thing' by resigning as Pres. 13% feel Nixon 'should have stayed'. 55% say they would not like to see criminal investigation of Nixon pursued and 37% believe such investigation should be carried out . . . From list of 6 possible Vice-Pres nominees suggested in survey, Sen B Goldwater was favored by 23%, ex-Gov N Rockefeller by 18%, Gov R Reagan by 12%, Sen H H Baker Jr by 11%, former Atty Gen Elliot L Richardson by 11% and Repub Natl Com Chmn George Bush by 1%. [Aug 11, 1974]

The bottom line is that these people treat American foreign policy pretty much the way an avid coin collector treats the market. What they�re doing has nothing to do with the expressed will or the best interest of the American people.

Margie Burns, a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area, can be reached at

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