The Watergate break-in occurred forty years ago (June 17, 1972), and no matter what self-indulgent wankathon the media engages in to mark this anniversary, Charles Pierce has a piece on the real lessons we took away from Watergate. (Hint: they can summarized in two words: Never Again)
If the “lessons” of Watergate really were that “the system worked,” and that “the people” triumphed, then Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have survived Iran-Contra, George W. Bush wouldn’t have gotten away with what his campaign did in Florida, let alone what he and Dick Cheney did once they got into office, and Barack Obama would be under more heat than he’s under right now for continuing so many of the Bush-Cheney policies in the area of civil liberties, and might think more than twice about letting the drones fly under some fanciful interpretation of Article I that should have instantly melted away, if the “lessons” of Watergate had been as thoroughgoing as they were alleged to be at the time. If we truly had learned the “lessons” of Watergate, the presence of John Yoo in our government would not have been possible.
Instead, the true “lessons” of Watergate were how we could abandon our responsibilities as citizens, and twist the obligations of self-government, so that “the country” would never have to “go through” anything like that again. What was a triumph of self-government in 1974 was reckoned to be such a national trauma by 1986 that our elite institutions formed an iron circle to keep it from happening to Ronald Reagan and his people because the country “couldn’t take another failed presidency.”