Salivating Washington Press Corps: 'Does This Bring Back Memories of Watergate?'

Some journalists are starting to project parallels between the media-fueled controversy over the Bush administration replacing eight of 93 U.S. attorneys and Watergate, what many reporters see as their glory days of the early 1970s. A brief video snippet in David Gregory's story on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News showed Fred Fielding, Chief Counsel in the Bush White House who worked in the counsel's office during the Nixon administration, walking down a Capitol Hill hallway as a male voice off-camera, presumably a reporter, asked: “Does this bring back memories of Watergate?” NBC didn't play Fielding's reply. And that most likely took place before President Bush's address at 5:50pm EDT in which he promised to turn over more documents, have Justice officials testify before Congress and to allow Senators to interview Harriet Miers and Karl Rove.

Bush's offer only antagonized a couple of media figures. On MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann proposed that “the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate.” Newsweek Senior Editor Jonathan Alter readily agreed: “That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate.”

Earlier, Alter reminded viewers of the special “bond” between Bush and Gonzales: “Remember that it was Gonzales who saved Bush's career when he was called for jury duty as Governor of Texas. Gonzales used a technicality to avoid public disclosure of Bush's arrest for drunk driving.”

The Watergate exchange on the March 20 Countdown:

Keith Olbermann: “This statement he made tonight upon returning to Washington, talking about free exchange of ideas being thwarted, being quashed inside a White House. He sounded, the President sounded awfully like President Nixon during Watergate and I can't be the only one to have made that comparison. Is that really a comparison he wants to invoke if the subpoenas come? Would it not be better to blink than look like you're covering up -- especially when it may be covering up makes this look bigger, perhaps, than it really is?”

Jonathan Alter: “That is a great point. You know if you go into executive privilege land, you do take us on a kind of a return trip to Watergate. Look, this idea that somehow presidential aides don't have to go up and testify under oath on Capitol Hill -- this is a very modern and really Nixonian notion. If you go back, say, to the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt's top aide Louie Howe, there were irregularities in the New Deal Congress wanted to know about, they called him up on Capitol Hill, a Democratic Congress interestingly, they grilled him. There wasn't even the slightest suggestion that somehow he shouldn't be required to testify. So this is a new idea. It will be shades of Watergate if they want to go to court to test it.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center