When the Watergate scandal developed that brought down Richard Nixon, I was living in Northampton, MA, having moved from Columbia to UMass in 1971. This was well before the widespread use of personal computers, of course, and prior as well to the introduction of cable television, with its explosion of channels. On any given day in Northampton, there were three moments when I could get news: the early morning, when the NY TIMES arrived on a truck from Boston and could be bought at the State Street Market down the hill from Barrett Place; the middle afternoon, when the local paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette came out; and the early evening, when the three major news channels, NBC, ABC, and CBS put on competing news programs featuring such anchor personalities as Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley [Chet and David]. Political stories unfolded in stately fashion, with the network anchors – among the most respected people in America – soberly explaining to the country the significance of each new snippet of information. If it led the half hour news program, it was important. If it did not make it into the program at all, it had not happened. Life was simple, orderly, and predictable.
The political scandal named “Watergate,” after the Washington DC apartment complex where an office of the Democratic National Committee was burgled at the direction of the President, was not an exception to this generalization. It is difficult now to recall, but the entire scandal, from the break-in to Nixon’s resignation, took a week less than two years and two months!
We are now only forty-five days into the Trump Disaster, scarcely enough time for the West Wing staff to locate the bathrooms, and already a National Security Advisor has resigned, an Attorney General has been forced to recuse himself, The Director of the FBI has publicly called on the Justice Department to brand the President’s statements as false, and the narcissistic sociopath masquerading as President of the United States has been reduced to tweeting school-yard accusations at his predecessor.
All of us have been outraged by what we see as the spinelessness of the press, but reflect: it has taken little more than a month for news anchors on network and cable news channels to say publicly and repeatedly that the President is lying and that his baseless accusations are transparent attempts to distract attention from the burgeoning reports of connections between his campaign and White House and the Russian government.
To someone of my age who is a stranger to the instant gratification of snapchat, the speed with which the story is maturing is vertiginous. Now, if you will excuse me, I must surf the web to see whether any new news has broken. It has been at least thirty minutes since my last politics fix. Is this what it is like to get hooked on heroin?