What’s the difference between Nixon and Reagan, Clemens and Pettite

A comment on a previous post made me decide to post this.

To refresh some memories.

Nixon, obviously, covered up the Watergate scandal (as an aside, those who know about the whole thing and who have heard the Watergate tapes, know he didn’t plan it, but he did cover up the lies).

Nixon, famously, when caught said “The American people need to know if their President is a thief. Well, I am not a thief.” An out and out lie.

Reagan, in a situation that has now been forgotten (interesting isn’t it?) was enmeshed in what was arguable a worse situation. His administration was enmeshed in what became known as the “Iran-Contra Affair” or the arms for hostages scandal.

The scandal entailed illegal funding and arming of Nicaragua’s right-wing contras fighting the leftist Sandinista regime as well as illegally trading arms with Iran in exchange for the release of seven American hostages held by Iranian-sponsored militants in Lebanon. Profits from arms sales to Iran were to be used to buy weapons for the contras.

An independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh was appointed. He concluded that the President’s most senior advisers and the Cabinet members on the National Security Council participated in the strategy to make National Security staff members McFarlane, Poindexter and North the scapegoats in the scandal. Walsh discovered much of the best evidence of the cover-up in the final year of active investigation, too late for most prosecutions. This actually bled into the Bush administration and was partially responsible for his being limited to one term.

The difference with Nixon? Reagan first appointed his own board, in addition to the independent counsel appointed by the Attorney General. The report of the board was highly critical.

When the findings came out, Reagan went on national TV, just like Nixon. But instead of saying what Nixon did, a blanket denial, Reagan, looking old, and for the first time to the public, a bit confused, said:

“I’ve studied the Board’s report. Its findings are honest, convincing, and highly critical; and I accept them. And tonight I want to share with you my thoughts on these findings and report to you on the actions I’m taking to implement the Board’s recommendations.

First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I’m still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds – well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch.

Let’s start with the part that is the most controversial. A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake.“(my emphasis in both places).

Those of us with some subtly understand that much of the differences in the response to these two speeches had to do with the way they were perceived BEFORE their individual scandals. But one, even as he waffled, confessed, the other denied.

Clemens and Pettite?

While easy, that’s one’s subtle as well. Reagan lied, Nixon lied. In Reagan’s “confession” he still said in his heart it’s true that he never traded arms for hostages (huh? ) but he still ultimately confessed. Do I wish it had been full and unequivocal? Yes.

Clemens, as anyone who knows anything, was a serial abuser of Performance enhancers. Dan Duquette the GM of the Red Sox famously said that Clemens was done and let him leave the Red Sox. He went to Toronto and suddenly he was better than ever.

He was caught lying to Congress, denying that he had ever used HgH and other drugs.

His teammate and training partner, Pettite, admitted that he had used HgH “3 times” (meaning 3 injections) that he got from his father.

Now, for me, Pettite’s “admission” made him almost worse than Clemems. He was clearly still lying, worse, he threw his own father under the bus.

But ultimately, the way the public viewed it, is that Pettite admitted it, Clemens did not.

Now, Clemens is being prosecuted for lying to Congress, and Pettite will probably end up in the hall of fame, or at least, have a career as a Yankee legend.

This is why, I am constantly stunned by politicians who do not offer a mea culpa. Imagine Bill Clinton simply saying what he did AFTER 4 years of Lewinskygate, right away, early on in the scandal. The Country would have been spared and we might be talking about him as one of the great Presidents in history. Instead, he is the butt of an unlimited number of sex jokes.

One of the things that most frustrates people about me is that I have rigid morality. When I’m right, I say it. And loudly. Does that sound arrogant? Yes.

But when I’m wrong I say it. Just as I publicly pronounced my apology to Mysst, in my personal life I say frequently, “I was wrong”.

I am always amazed at what happens when I say this. People don’t know how to react. I frequently have to say it over and over again. They are so used to people saying “…but…”.

I don’t (say but). I’m wrong. It’s really not that hard.

We ALL make mistakes. That is what makes us human.

There is a difference in what has gone on here recently. Some are now defending their actions. Others are defending the offenders.

I hope everyone recognizes the differences between those two.

The first, by their actions are really admitting that they are wrong, but they are too embarrassed, or whatever their personal reasons are, to admit what happened.

But by NOT defending the offenders, they are acknowledging what happened.

What does this say? Simple, that their values are actually in place. That they CAN recognize right from wrong.

What is sad, is that for a while, they let that get away.

Now, though, but defending their own actions, they are trying to justify. Is this frustrating? Of course, but I would ask you to recognize the difference between the groups.

The first are good folks gone astray. The second group are Nixon and Clemens.

To the first group, I would say, just say “mea culpa”.

The very reason you feel persecuted is a) because you are wrong and more importantly b) because people liked you before and WANT to like you again (like is a weenie word but I’m getting tired of typing). People want simply to know that you recognize what REALLY happened. That you weren’t neutral. You didn’t ignore. You didn’t NOT take sides.

You enabled.

Well, just as in my marriage, I enabled my wife. Did that make me the borderline who abused her husband and children?

No, of course not, but I still played my part. And I will be dealing with that forever.

We all recognize that you are NOT the offender. But you played a part.

We want to have open arms. We like you. We really like you.

All we are asking is that you let us.

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