O.K., you know the one about the old guys sitting in the diner:
“When I was a boy, I had to walk five miles to school in the snow.”
“Snow? I had to walk five miles in the snow with just newspapers on my feet.”
“Feet? You had feet?”
That’s what it feels like when you lived through Watergate and the scandal decades that followed it. I was in Washington — sentient, glued to the tube, writing about it all. And Leonard Garment, my husband and the special counsel to President Richard M. Nixon, was often the one in the center of the press mob, looking as if he wasn’t going to escape with his life. Then you read last weekend’s news reports about scandal politics “sweeping Washington.” Come on, people. Get a grip.
Watergate was about hubris, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, the culture wars and the darkest of angers — both within Nixon and against him. The current agglomeration is about bureaucracies, the zeitgeist and garden variety political calculation.
Bearing in mind the all-purpose scandal caveat — the other shoe may always drop — it looks like what we have in the news is three distinct scandals, each emblematic of a different American political phenomenon.