QUESTION - What would the Watergate scandal look like if it happened in the year 2005? Hypothetically, what might be the goal of such a scandal? If it existed, would there be a group like the "plumbers" who orchestrated the...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 02/10/2005

huntQUESTION - What would the Watergate scandal look like if it happened in the year 2005? Hypothetically, what might be the goal of such a scandal? If it existed, would there be a group like the "plumbers" who orchestrated the break in at the DNC headquarters? If such a scandal happened, what might be the "crime" that brought the story to light?

ATTENTION - It has come to light that a reporter known for asking President Bush easy questions at White House briefings was a hired actor using a fake name and fake credentials. This "reporter" who was employed by a little known media company called "Talon News" has since quit. While many details in this scandal remain a mystery, it suggests that someone with access to the White House hired "James Guckert" (aka: "Jeff Gannon from Talon News") as part of a larger scheme to defraud the public.

SHOPTALK - Today, Frameshop starts a new column of Op-Ed pieces called "ShopTalk." Each piece in this column will begin with a question, followed by insights and opinions about current events in the tradition of Frameshop.

Frameshop is open...

Fake Press Briefing = Watergate Break-In?
The scenario I would imagine as "Watergate Version 2.0" ("New Scandal for the New Millenium!") could easily begin with a story about a White House correspondent who turned out to be using a fake name and fake credentials who then quickly resigned when he was "outed" by the press.

It's a great starting point for my hypothetical scandal because it raises a host of questions that are very similar to the actual Watergate scandal for the '70s.

What might this mysterious person be doing?
gannonUltimately, the Watergate scandal was not about a break in at an apartment complex. But the image of a small group of grown men rifling through filing cabinets at night--brandishing flashlights--this was an image too peculiar to be ignored. Eventually, this one strange event gave way to a much broader story. It turned out these men were group called "The Plumbers" who were responsible for "fixing" any "leaks" of information that might be flowing out of the White House. The Watergate break-in by the plumbers was a window into the vast conspiracy that originated in the Oval Office, wherein the President and all his advisors were using their power and influence towards a variety of illegal ends. Ultimatetly, the largest crime they committed seems to have been to "fix" a Presidential election. But more dangerous than that, they were the product of a Nixon White House who began to see the actions of the President and his advisors as correct and in the interests of the country no matter what. Their actions were not crimes--in their view--because they were initiated by the President in what he deemed to be the interests of the nation.

So, whose interests might be served by having a fake reporter planted in the White House Press briefings? It would seem, in one hypothetical scenario, that such a fake reporter could be used to ask questions that were really campaign or policy slogans. The fake reporter could ask questions that were designed by the White House PR team to slant the press briefing in favor of policies that the public did not support. Fake news reporters could ask questions that celebrated the War in Iraq, that encouraged the destruction of Social Security. If well-trained, a fake news reporter might be able to echo all of the talking points provided to Republicans on a daily basis.

What big picture scandal might this fake reporter be a part of?
In this imagined scenario, a fake reporter could be a sign of an administration that is obsessed with being the news, rather than being reported in the news.

This is a key aspect of this hypothetical Watergate 2.0: a White House that is run by a President that does not read the news or watch TV, but instead seems himself as the news--as the country itself.

A variety of possible factor could lead to a President who views himself as the news rather than being in the news.

First, it could happen that this President might have been elected to his first term by a court ruling rather than by popular vote. In such a situation, the entire first term of this President could be structured around the obsession of being elected a second time--an obsession with overturning the shame of being given the Presidency rather than earning it--of being the President of the Supreme Court, rather than the President of the Americal people.

Second, it could be that this President in this hypothetical Watergate 2.0 scandal decided that the foreign threats to America were so great that the laws that governed citizens and the principles of the Constitution no longer applied to the White House--for the safety of the American people. Just like the Watergate scandal was, ostensibly, rooted in a deep paranoia about the encroachment of communism if the U.S. government were to "fall" into the hands of the Democrats, in this hypothetical Watergate 2.0, a certain paranoia could have emerged about the danger of "Terrorism" if the government were to "fall" into the hands of the Democrats.

Third, the scandal might grow out of a President's own personal convictions about the relationship between the White House and the people. If, for example, a President believed that once elected he and the nation were one and the same--this misunderstanding of American Democracy could, hypothetically speaking, lead a President to believe that it was not for him to react to world events, but it was his responsibility as President to create world events and then make the world respond to him.

How Might this Imaginary Scandal be Uncovered, If It Existed?
Well, just like the Watergate scandal was uncovered by investigative reporters dedicated to protecting the principles of truth and justice embodied in the Constitution and the American people, an imaginary Watergate 2.0 might also be uncovered by journalists.

The journalists that might crack this new, hypothetical scandal, however, would also be unconventional in the way that the Washington Post reporters who broke Watergate were unconventional. These reporters in 2005 would be creative and driven. They would not be bound by the financial ties of large newspapers, but would be guided by idealism and a belief that their responsibility to the American people was as important as the three branches of government. The story would not be broken by people who saw themselves as reporters of the news, but by reporters who saw themselves as protecting the public interest--reporters who were deeply offended by the presence of a fake news reporter in the White House..the people's White House.

How Would the White House React when this Imaginary Scandal Broke?
Given the hypothetical nature of this scenario, I just want to draw attention to how improbably the next step would be.

Given that the entire Watergate 2.0 scandal might be driven by this President's deep conviction that he was "creating" reality in order to protect the American people from the greatest tragedies of all--the threat of a scandal might lead this President to release some classified information that demonstrated this threat clearly.

This classified information might be old information about a foreign country that the President had previously described as a potential threat to the safety of the American people. By releasing this information just as the scandal was about to break, the President in this imaginary scandal might focus the media on...say...the threat of Nuclear attack from North Korea (hypothetically). This information might have been old information, but the point would be to focus the attention back on what was important--on the dangers out there--and away from any scandal that might reveal a systematic attempt to use the media to deceive the public.

Watergate 2.0? Naahhh. It's hard to imagine that any of these things could really happen.

But it sure would make a great movie...

( process...please check back in 15 mins...)

© Jeffrey Feldman 2005, Frameshop

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