to run again for office. This was accepted as an abdication,nthough other Presidents had made similar decisions withoutnprovoking such a description. The propaganda use of thenterm “abdication” introduced the idea that the presidency ofnthe United States can be, somehow, attainment of thenpurple without the consent of the people (the people beingndefined as those who support revolutionary change).nIt is former President Nixon’s unhappy distinction, however,nto be the first American chief executive to be forcednout of office before his term expired. Hoover was coverednwith more invective (difficult thought that is to believe), butnthis merely destroyed his chances for reelection. Nixon wasnpilloried in the media on various grounds, beginning withnhis agonizingly slow retreat from Vietnam, and extending,neventually, to the fact that some members of his staffnsanctioned illegal actions by their underlings. That thenactions were part of the rough politics long practiced innWashington was beside the point; far more pertinent wasnthe truth that Richard Nixon, beneath his bluster, was anweak man who would not fight. Despite all the evidence, hencould not believe that his landslide election could be setnaside on such specious grounds as an abortive burglary innwhich nothing was taken, conducted without his knowledgenby overly zealous, low-ranking staffers.nFor all its absurdity, the significance of Watergate isnprofound. Not since the Radical Republican-Abolitionneffort had the traditional American system been so heavilyndented. Congress had overturned an election. All events,nmoreover, seemed to play into the hands of the radicalnDemocrats, whose tactics overwhelmed all moderates.nVice President Agnew, a target of harassment, wasndiscovered to have taken bribes while governor of Maryland.nAdmitting guilt, he resigned. That placed Congress innposition to name a new, unelected Vice President. Theynchose Gerald Ford, who gave his word of honor not to runnfor the presidency. (He later broke that oath.) ThennCongress proceeded toward the impeachment of PresidentnNixon, on grounds that he had not admitted his knowledgen(after the event) of the Watergate break-in or punished thosenresponsible.nAfter Nixon’s resignation. Congress appointed NelsonnRockefeller Vice President. The American nation then hadna President and a Vice President selected by Congress. Anninterregnum followed, occupied by Jimmy Carter, whonproved he did not have an “inordinate fear” of Communismnby retreating while it advanced.nSince 1980 Ronald Reagan has occupied the presidency.nFrom the first his administration has been marked bynreasonably conservative rhetoric, inflationary economicnpolicies, and feeble efforts to resist Communist insurgenciesnin the Third World. These have been portrayed by thenAmerican media as efforts to involve us in “anothernVietnam” and in Europe as saber-rattling.nMeanwhile, radical resistance against Reagan’s foreignnpolicy increased in the Democrat-controlled House ofnRepresentatives. Some wrote letters of support to Ortega;nothers visited and encouraged Castro; still others establishednongoing contacts with the Soviets. Rep. Solarz, a selfappointednsideline Secretary of State, involved himself innthe Philippines, South Korea, and everywhere that changentoward a more leftist government seemed possible (with thenexception of the West Bank).nThese efforts, although assisted by a transparently pro-nSoviet press, did not shake Reagan’s personal popularity (henwas reelected with ease in 1984), though they reduced thenstanding of his party. This was evident when Republicansnlost their precarious control of the Senate in 1986.nThen the Soviets, through channels, informed the Americannmedia that the United States was selling arms to Iran innthe hope of rescuing hostages and influencing that strategicnnation in the Persian Cul£ Combined with the Reaganneffort to assist the anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua,nthis caused Congress to launch an official investigation.nAlthough only the President is constitutionally authorizednto conduct foreign afl^airs, and only the Senate isnsupposed to “advise and consent,” the House of RepresentativesnForeign Relations Committees and Representativesnthemselves are now as vocal on this subject as Senators. Theninvestigation, therefore, consists of both Senators andnRepresentatives and has proceeded along revolutionarynlines.nThat is to say, testimony is first taken in private. Then,narmed with witnesses’ answers—elicited under threat of ancontempt of Congress charge—the questions are repeatednin more embarrassing terms in public, under klieg lights,nbefore cameras.nThe “witnesses,” as they are euphemistically termed, arenallowed to have a lawyer beside them, but the lawyer is notnallowed to speak for them. They have none of the rights ofncriminals in court because it is a fiction of the AmericannCongress that it does not hold trials. Therefore, the rulesnagainst hearsay evidence and the right to be confronted withnone’s accusers are not held to apply. If the witnessesnincriminate themselves, a “Special Prosecutor” lurks tonindict. If the witnesses contradict themselves (and all havenbeen subjected to repeated interrogations over weeks andneven months by various officials), they may be deemednguilty of perjury and so charged. (At least one suchnunfortunate is in this position and is appealing. Others arenexpected to fare similarly.)nWhile these public interrogations are underway, thenRepresentatives and Senators make denunciatory speechesnto the “witnesses,” challenging their patriotism and veracity,ntheir scruples and principles, their words and theirnmotives. A special attorney then cross-examines the witnessesnfurther, making his contempt for them clear to anhuge TV audience—and to representatives of the media.nFew men can emerge from such an ordeal without sufferingnfearful societal penalties, for which there is no redress.nThe resemblance to revolutionary tribunals is unmistakable.nWhen one important “witness”—Lt. Col. OlivernNorth—refused to answer questions on Fifth Amendmentngrounds, demands arose that the President order him tonanswer, that he be dismissed from the service. The idea thatnthe Fifth Amendment can balk a legislator is clearly, to thenpresent Congress, outrageous—as outrageous, one mightnsay, as such a privilege invoked by a Tory appeared to thenAssembly of Rhode Island on the eve of the War ofnIndependence; as outrageous as it would have appeared to anUnion Army Commission when confronted by a suspectedn”Copperhead” in 1863; as outrageous as criticism of WoodrownWilson’s wartime policies in late 1917 (this earnednnnDECEMBER 1387! 27n