If all political scandals replicate Watergate to one degree or another, we are in the modified limited hangout phase of Weinergate.
Having given his disastrous interview to CNN on Tuesday, vowing not to be distracted by answering the simple questions at the heart of the case, Weiner backtracked on Wednesday. He sat for a round of interviews with Bret Baier of Fox News, Luke Russert of MSNBC, and Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
Asked in these interviews whether he was the gentleman in the lewd photograph, Weiner professed epistemological uncertainty. He’s keeping his options open on that one, though the profession of uncertainty in response to the question is laughable. Nevertheless, Weiner professed no such uncertainty about having sent the photograph to the Seattle coed. He didn’t do it.
Mickey Kaus hears another echo of Watergate in Weiner’s approach to the resolution of the mystery. Kaus notes that it is “a security firm [Weiner] has hired that is going to do the ‘investigation.’” Kaus comments: “I guess Sen. Stennis is unavailable.”
Kaus doesn’t pause to explain. If you were there, you remember. President Nixon proposed that Seantor Stennis would listen to the Watergate tapes and confirm the summaries of the tapes that Nixon would provide to the Watergate special prosecutor. Nixon was no dummy. Woodward and Bernstein report that the tapes were difficult to hear under the best of circumstances and that Senator Stennis was partially deaf.
In the interview with CNN, I also hear an echo of the Hiss case. When Wolf Blitzer pressed Weiner on the identity of the man in the crotch shot, Blitzer wondered how Weiner could not know if it was his underpants. Weiner asserted that the picture “doesn’t look familiar to me” and tried to switch the conversation back to the larger issue, that “these things happen” in today’s social media world.
Alger Hiss pretended to have to look into the mouth of Whittaker Chambers in order to confirm that he knew him. When Hiss and Chambers were brought together face to face before Richard Nixon and John McDowell meeting at the Commodore Hotel in New York on August 17, 1948, in an executive session of the the House committee investigating Chamber’s allegation that Hiss was a Communist, Nixon asked Hiss whether he had ever known Chambers. Hiss professed uncertainty. The man he had known, supposedly under a different name than Chambers, had bad teeth:
Hiss: May I ask him to speak?
* * *
Chambers: My name is Whittaker Chambers.
Mr. Hiss walked over to Mr. Chambers and said: “Would you mind opening your mouth wider?”
We trust it won’t come to this in Weinergate.