In the summer of 1974, I was on a day trip with some friends and fellow recent high school graduates. We had driven down to Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the tip of Cape Cod, about an hour and a half from our hometown. A news bulletin interrupted the rock station we were listening to. President Richard M. Nixon had resigned. We raised our sunburned, sandy arms and cheered.

What a long, strange trip it had been.

When you live through an episode of history like the Watergate affair, you carry the memories with you forever. And those recollections just keep bubbling up when I see headlines like: “Sessions: Suggestion I was involved in collusion with Russians is a ‘detestable lie’.”

Be still, my pounding political heart.

In April 1974, my family took a three-week trip across the country in a large, rented camper. I had a major project to do for my AP Ideology class. I had to compare articles about Watergate from the National Review (conservative) and the New Republic (liberal) magazines. As the camper traveled through the deep South, through Mississippi and into Texas, I read, then typed madly on my electric typewriter.

The year before, we had been glued to the TV, watching live coverage of the congressional hearings — on network TV. The names and faces of the people involved — heretofore unknown — became as familiar as the visages featured on Wheaties boxes: John Ehrlichman; H.R. Haldeman; “Chuck” Colson; and the boyish John Dean, with his ice princess of a wife looking on.


The members of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, or the Senate Watergate Committee, also became widely known in 1973, especially the chairman, Sam Ervin, D-North Carolina, and the ranking minority member, Howard Baker, R-Tennessee.

By the way, I looked up these names only to verify the correct spelling.

Later in 1974, the first book I bought with my own money was “All the President’s Men,” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who unraveled the Watergate story.

Though just about everything President Donald J. Trump does and says alarms me, I was particularly taken aback when he tweeted in May, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Tapes played a pivotal role in the Watergate scandal. The White House was, basically, bugged. The recordings were made on a Sony open-reel tape recorder, undoubtedly state-of-the-art at the time. The existence of the tapes was made public during the testimony of Alexander Butterfield, a White House aide. Nixon originally refused to release the tapes, which led to the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Wikipedia defines that event this way: “U.S. President Richard Nixon’s orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal.”


Before we return to the tapes, note that one of Trump’s friends this week floated the idea of the president firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

The word “tapes” is an anachronism now. Nobody tapes anymore. We use our phones and tablets to record discussions and events. If we do use a recording device, it is digital. There is no tape — cassette, reel-to-reel, or, God forbid, 8-track. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that Trump, who would have been in his late 20s during Watergate, was subliminally thinking about that affair when he tweeted about possible Comey “tapes.” Or it could just be another example of how limited his vocabulary is.

Anyway, it was the tapes that brought Nixon down. The “smoking gun” (another phrase imbedded in my memory) that initiated impeachment was found in the tapes.

But first, there was an epic embarrassment. Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, claimed she had accidentally hit the taping system’s record button with her foot while answering a phone call. An ultimately infamous 18.5-minute gap followed.

Was there an American alive back then who believed this? Photos showed Woods trying to replicate the supposed mistake; it would have been the feat of an Olympic gymnast.

Trump’s woes cannot be compared to Nixon’s. They are different kettles of stinky fish. But our nation has now been placed in the same situation we suffered through in the early 1970s. We are questioning our leader. We suspect dishonesty, and worse. We want the truth.

It took two years for the Watergate story to fully emerge. We are just at the beginning of this one. Be patient, my friends. Wait and watch.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at

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