Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Death of a Patriot

"The thing that's so appalling to me is that the president, when this whole idea was suggested to him, didn't, in righteous indignation, rise up and say, 'Get out of here. You're in the office of the president of the United States. How can you talk about blackmail and bribery and keeping witnesses silent? This is the presidency of the United States.' But my president didn't do that. He sat there and he worked and worked to try to cover this thing up so it wouldn't come to light."

Lawrence Hogan Sr. (1928–2017)

One of my most vivid memories of the Watergate era is of Maryland Republican Lawrence Hogan, who died earlier this month at the age of 88 following a stroke.

Hogan was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1975. He left the House to run for governor of Maryland in 1974 — and lost his bid for the Republican nomination.

Maryland is known as a blue state today, but it had two Republican senators and four Republican members of the House (half of its delegation) at the time — and a recent Republican governor, Spiro Agnew, was elected vice president in 1968 but had resigned less than a year before the House Judiciary Committee considered Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon.

There was considerable backlash against Republicans in the 1974 elections, and Hogan may well have been a victim of that — but Hogan, while regarded as a strong challenger to incumbent Democrat Gov. Marvin Mandel, may have been hurt in the primary by the stand he took against Nixon's behavior in office.

Hogan, as I say, lost the party nomination, not the general election. He may well have been a more effective candidate in the general election — Maryland was part of the 49–state landslide that re–elected Nixon in 1972, but it had never supported Nixon for president before that time, and there may well have been Democrats who would have supported him against Mandel.

But the members of his party apparently believed, in spite of all that had happened since the Judiciary Committee's hearings, that Hogan had abandoned the president.

His son, who carries Hogan's name, now occupies that office.

Hogan's political career was essentially over by then — although he did serve as county executive for Prince George's County for four years in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

But he left an impression on me in 1974. Although I now consider myself an independent, I definitely would have called myself a Democrat in 1974. I was raised by Democrats, and I shared their distaste for Nixon.

Then as now America was a polarized nation — just not quite as extreme as it is today. There were many Democrats who were eager to see Richard Nixon impeached, and there probably were just as many Republicans who tried to defend everything he said or did, even when defending Nixon made no sense. It does seem to me that there was more willingness on the part of some elected officials to seek compromise — on both the issues of the day and the question of Nixon's fitness for office.

On the latter, Hogan served on the Judiciary Committee, whose televised hearings were as widely watched as the Senate's Watergate Committee hearings, which laid the groundwork for the impeachment proceedings, had been the previous summer.

There were other members of that committee who gained more national notoriety, mostly Democrats — Peter Rodino, Barbara Jordan, Father Drinan, John Conyers — but I will never forget watching Hogan's anguished lament over the gaping difference between his belief in what should have been and his recognition of what was.

My memory is that Hogan was criticized by many in his party for being what would now be called a RINO — Republican in Name Only.

He didn't believe his obligation was to his party. He believed his obligation was to his country. He preferred principle to pandering — and most likely knew when he gave his eloquent speech denouncing Nixon that his political career was over.

He was vindicated when the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to release the infamous White House tapes — and the "smoking gun" that proved Nixon's involvement was discovered. Many House Republicans who had opposed the Articles of Impeachment then said they were prepared to vote to impeach the president — and he resigned.

But Maryland's Republicans were still furious with Hogan.

We need more Lawrence Hogans today.