Missing thus far from the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump is an “official” name. At this writing, among the contenders is “Ukraine-gate” displaying 164 million Google search results — compared to a hyphen-less “Ukrainegate” with only 591,000. (Note: All Google search results are subject to change and they do, within minutes.)
Hyphen or not, “gate,” as a suffix to a beleaguered fledgling democracy that gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has not fully permeated the national lexicon.
Meanwhile, a word “the media” often uses to describe the impeachment inquiry is “probe.” Thus, “Ukraine-probe” yields 265 million Google search results and “Trump-Ukraine probe” earns 230 million.
Conceivably, if Trump has his way (by executive order of course), the words “probe” and “impeachment” or even “Ukraine” itself will be flushed down the Orwellian “memory hole.” Moreover, it is likely that this same executive order will authorize: “Witch hunt-gate”; “Hoax–gate”; “Deep State-gate”; or the real zinger, “Nancy/Biden/Schiff-gate.” But count on “Drug deal-gate” to be vaporized, along with the originator of the prefix, former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Joking aside, I would wager that “Trump-gate,” with 380 million Google searches is most likely to emerge as the unofficial name in the history books. (Correction: the history screens.) After all, the genesis of the “probe” began at the top with President Trump, from day one.
Conversely, Watergate started at the bottom. The challenge for journalists was to connect President Richard Nixon and CREEP — the ironic acronym of his 1972 Committee to Reelect the President — to a June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters located in a building named “Watergate.” Two years later, that suspicious event morphed into an all-encompassing scandal ending with Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974.
As a public service to commemorate the legacy of Watergate, here is a link to all the scandals associated with “name – gate.”
At this juncture, Watergate and “Trump-gate” are similar in that both presidents were preoccupied with their reelection rivals — Nixon with Sen. George McGovern — and Trump with former Vice President Joe Biden.
However, Trump beats Nixon in the paranoia department since Biden was Trump’s potential Democratic opponent 16-months before Election Day when Trump dropped his name on that now-infamous call with the president of Ukraine. A September 27th headline in Politico speaks volumes: “How Trump’s Biden mania led him to the brink of impeachment.”
In Nixon’s case, insecurity and fear of losing were the motives that sparked his illegal actions. As of today, Trump’s congressional jury has yet to convene, but the jury of public opinion is beginning to mirror Nixon’s shortly before he resigned.
Another interesting difference between “Trump-gate” and Watergate is the complexity of the latter — a multi-layered, wide-ranging abuse of presidential power with cover-ups, all lumped together under one building name.
At this point in early “Trump-gate,” it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s goal is to keep the impeachment inquiry narrowly focused, a smart strategic move for two reasons. First, Americans were confused, confounded and burned-out by the complexity of the two-year Mueller probe. Second, voters in general have significantly shorter attention spans than they did during the ancient Watergate era.
Speaking of that era, Watergate was very personal. My fascination with the scandal is what got me interested in politics. It was the reason why, in fall of 1974, I joined Ohio State College Republicans even though I had never met a Republican in my life before starting college in 1973 . (Boston was my hometown, which totally explains those unique circumstances.)
But what I observed, felt, and subsequently learned about our nation’s system of government, founding documents, how our leaders acted and reacted, impacted me and my generation forever. And now, as our nation careens toward a potentially similar constitutional crisis, here is the message that elected officials of both parties need to remember: “The kids are watching.”
They are seeing heroes, villains, and role models that they will want to emulate. They will learn about the meaning of the separation of powers more powerfully than from any civics lesson. Most important, they will learn that no president is above the law.
As an 18-year-old “kid,” here is what I most vividly remember about the Watergate scandal that is applicable today.
Working as a waitress in Cape Cod the summer between high school and college, I searched for a motel with a TV in the lobby. My goal was to watch the Senate Watergate hearings, hop on my bike, and still make it to work on time. After lobbying the lobby manager, on June 25, 1973, I was positioned to hear White House Counsel John Dean say:
“I began by telling the President that there was a cancer growing on the Presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the President himself would be killed by it.”
From that day forward, I was confident that America would persevere with leaders of both parties navigating our nation though the ensuing presidential crisis. Then, over the next year, the separation of powers shined like stars.
During that time I believed, the same as I do now, that our Constitution was built to withstand “such a time as this.” Hence, the next summer when Nixon was forced to resign rather than be impeached and convicted, I remember proudly thinking that there were no tanks in the street. The transition to President Ford was smooth, and collectively our nation breathed a sigh of relief.
The system worked, the entire world watched, and College Republicans gained a new member. (There were only four of us.)
Will “Trump-gate” morph into a Watergate crisis? No one knows. But I do know that a generation of young voters will be influenced and impacted by what they see playing out in Washington. Like me in that musty motel lobby, the kids are watching — albeit now on their hand-held screens — and in the end, they want to be proud of their country.
Myra Adams is a media producer and conservative writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org a ministry that evangelizes the Shroud of Turin and currently acting as principle advisers to the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. for their groundbreaking exhibit about the Shroud scheduled for February 2021.