In 1972, the Deomcratic party’s HQ was the subject of a bungled attempt at a break in.
This lead to a scandal that is so well known, that it became known as “Watergate” after the hotel, and almost every scandal in the English speaking world having the “-gate” suffix attached.
Why would you break into a competing party’s headquarters? Well, you’d find information, strategies, and other things that the opposing party is using legitimately. But you’d also find material that would be embarrassing – possibly even criminal if released to the general public.
What’ we’ve seen this week has been much the same.
Imagine the Republican party operatives who broke into Watergate succeeded.
Imagine they leaked the documents to a known, friendly journalist who wrote a book without checking with any other sources, compromising principles that journalist previously claimed to hold proudly. Imagine that those affected were able to claim with credibility that not just one break-in had occurred.
What we have here is a lot like Watergate. Only, where that break-in failed and backfired, this one succeeded. Only, it didn’t really find anything much, in 8gb worth of stolen material. So little new material in fact, that the media are really struggling to find anything. So little, that an entire chapter is about a man who’s email wasn’t even hacked, and thus, relies entirely on banal, already-public information.
And, just in case you thought this book was somehow principled, it ignores long-standing allegations of worse behaviour from the other side of the isle. (For all Slater’s faults, he has always blogged under his own name, and has never made the slightest secret of his connections to that party.)
Yet, what we have are opposition leaders praising those who engaged in the dirty trick, claiming that the stolen documents show serious flaws in our democracy. There are even journalists condemning the condemnation of the guilty party.
Here’s what the politicians said about it:
Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says allegations made in Nicky Hager’s new book ‘Dirty Politics’ are “the closest New Zealand’s got to its own kind of Watergate”.
How about The Greens?
The Green Party is to lodge a series of official complaints over allegations contained in Dirty Politics.
The party was also promising to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry if elected “to get to the bottom of what has gone on and to seek recommendations on how to rebuild a clean and fair political system in New Zealand”.
[I would note that I have previously called for a Royal Inquiry into the 2005 election, and the attempts by the Labour party to intimidate public servants regarding their theft of $800,000 of public money and their breaking of electoral law and the subsequent attempt to change said law to their own advantage.
To the very best of my knowledge, the Green Party never came close to making such a demand, and still defends and supports the law changes to this day.]
“The New Zealand public cannot have any confidence in our democracy until these claims are investigated and [alleged] offenders held to account.”
The party revealed this morning complaints would be lodged with the police, Parliamentary Service, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Privacy Commissioner relating to the allegations of “corruption and abuse of power”.
“John Key has degraded our democracy,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.
What about Winston Peters?
Winston Peters is comparing the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics to the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon.
Note the language used. People are comparing the allegations spun from material from a successful break in, with a failed attempt at a break in to extract similar material.
Ladies and gentlemen, a more cynical bit of politics you will not find.
Update: Try this: There was a break in, the material gathered is being compared to water-gate.