My mother cried during those awful days of Watergate 30 years ago. Like many Americans, she felt the loss deeply. President Nixon was her hero – her great hope for freedom and the values in which she believed. Mom had worked enthusiastically for his campaign in the heavily Democratic area where we lived. She had even met with Mrs. Nixon during a campaign trip – I still have the black and white photo of her and several other ladies in their beehive hairdos, best dresses and matching hand purses proudly posing with Pat Nixon.
During the first days of the scandal, my parents were convinced that the investigation was nothing more than a witch-hunt by the liberal press – an effort by the powerful media to destroy a president they hated and despised. I remember mom and dad bemoaning the vile intentions of the reporters at the Washington Post and the networks. In our household, President Nixon was the brave torch-bearer of freedom and decency and “the press” was the enemy. I was 10-years old at the time and, in my impressionable young mind, Nixon was a wounded hero – I wondered why those evil men didn’t just leave him alone.
A year or so earlier, I wrote the president a letter. I taped to it an old tie-tack with an “R” insignia that I had found in my father’s junk drawer. My family’s last name is Redd – it seemed perfectly logical in my young mind that the president of the United States would love and wear that tie-tack, understanding that the “R” was for Richard. I was so very proud when I received a letter back from the president thanking me for the “attractive initialed tie-tac.” My parents didn’t even know that I had written the president. They were both surprised and proud when the letter from the White House arrived. My mom and dad told everyone how their little girl had affectionately sent President Nixon a scratched-up, old, used tie-tac, and how the president of the United States had answered.
Then came Watergate. Those days of pride and jubilation about our country being in good hands were over. The powerful, evil press had brought down a mighty man and all his goodness. I hated the media.
As the years passed, mom and dad spoke less and less about President Nixon being a victim. We all came to realize that our hero had “done wrong.” It was no fun to come to grips with the fact that our beloved president had lied to us. I learned that Republicans and conservatives can be dishonest and corrupt too (imagine that!); I also began to highly value the role of the press in preserving integrity in government. The problem was, other than Watergate, I just didn’t see the press doing its job very often. I often found myself also wondering if those same reporters would have worked so fervently on their story had the president been a liberal Democrat.
I went on to study both politics and journalism in college at Troy State University. It is fascinating to me to observe and understand the intricate dance and posturing of politicians with each other and the media, and to analyze whether or not those in the press are maintaining what should be their constant position as an umpire – rather than participants – of the dance competition. All too often, I’ve seen members of the media enticed by the siren song – drunk with their own power – and assume the role of adoring partners with the politicians in an intimate tango at the expense of truth and duty to the American public.
Regardless of which candidate I vote for at any given time, first and foremost I am an American who expects politicians to adhere to truth, integrity, and constitutional principles. As a Christian, my allegiance is to Truth and the freedom it creates. As an American, my allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States and the liberty it protects. Truth and liberty were intricately woven into this definitive document for our government by our Founding Fathers. Upholding these principles is more important than protecting any one political party, politician or – as in the result of Watergate – any one president.
Joseph Farah, the founder of WorldNetDaily.com says it best, “The principal role of a free press in a free society is to serve as a watchdog on government.”
The importance of upholding truth and the Constitution is an important lesson I came to understand through the tears and heartbreak over a fallen hero 30 years ago. It’s a lesson America needs today, more than ever.