Cathy Reilly Mug

Cathy Reilly, Assistant to the Publisher

June brings with it some anniversaries, and two in particular were born from events that have had enormous historical consequences. Earlier this week was the 78th anniversary of D-Day, the decisive beginning of the end of World War II. And while it may be hard to believe, the 50th anniversary of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices in Washington, D.C.’s, Watergate Hotel is next week. It was one of many crimes committed during the administration of our 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, and part of what led to the downfall of his administration. I’ve reflected on why this still resonates for me.

Of course there is the obvious parallel between Nixon’s crimes and what the most recent former commander-in-chief and his enablers have done. Some of them are, to this day, trying to subvert the will of the electorate. Many of the details regarding what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 and the days surrounding it are still emerging. And beginning last night, some of those were revealed during the first of several hearings by the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. Information coming out of these proceedings will no doubt make history as well.

Many of the adults in the room when the Watergate scandal broke have since passed away. But there are those of us who remember it well. When the truth came out, my folks — now long gone — were middle-aged and I was just 11. I was quite aware of who Nixon was but didn’t grasp the gravity of what he and his associates had done until well into my adulthood. Then, unlike now, I saw no reason to be fearful of my government. Eventually, things in Washington, D.C., righted themselves because the checks and balances worked — bipartisanship was part of that. The bad actors were largely gone and Gerald R. Ford became the next president. The threats to our democracy appeared to be behind us.

In addition, the travesty that was the Vietnam War had ended. That conflict cast a huge shadow over my generation. Many had family sent to fight or knew veterans. The war had been beamed into our homes via the nightly news and included the daily casualty count. Indeed, with that dark chapter behind us, things seemed to be looking up.

Growing up in Florida, my siblings and I were well aware our parents were involved in the Republican Party; we were outliers in a sea of Democrats. My dad, a physician, was a delegate for the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco. It was aired on closed-circuit television and some of his patients ribbed him as they saw him smoking while in attendance. After all, the U.S. Surgeon General had announced in 1964 that smoking was a health hazard.

Family lore says our parents were invited to Nixon’s 1972 inauguration. They did not attend. But things changed, at least for my mother, after the truth about Watergate came out. She came to have Alzheimer’s and we were no longer able to communicate with her verbally, but one of my sisters said after the Watergate details emerged, our mother told her that Nixon should resign, which he eventually did. My mother also permanently changed her lifelong party affiliation.

I fear that too many of my fellow Americans have come to the foregone conclusion that what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 was not an attempt to overthrow our government but rather, as some characterize it, a “peaceful protest.” (Look it up: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) all opined some version of that.) The Republican National Committee referred to the insurrection as “legitimate political discourse.” These hearings may not have the gravitas that Watergate did; regardless, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and vice-chairperson of the committee, got it precisely right.

“There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she said last night. The questions that remain to be answered: Who will choose to be on the right side of history, and who will go down in infamy?

— Staff notes originally run in our daily email newsletter, Indy Now, along with news updates, photos of the day, a weekly poll and more. Sign up below.