Littwin: History in a hurry

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Dear readers,

If you’re of a certain age (and I confess I am), the last few mad weeks in TrumpWorld inevitably take you back to the even madder Watergate saga – the hearings, Sam Ervin, John Dean, Martha Mitchell, plumbers, I am not a crook, Howard Baker, G. Gordon Liddy, 18 1/2 minutes, deleted expletives, a certain body part caught in a wringer, Haldeman and Erlichman, Nixon on the helicopter, and, especially for a young journalist of the era, the glories of Woodward and Bernstein and The Washington Post.

I have my own sort-of Watergate story. I was a young sportswriter at the time, covering Dr. J and professional basketball, having great fun but fully aware I was missing out on the political story of a lifetime. A few years later, I would get a call from The Washington Post about a job. I did two days of interviews, scored a front-row seat for the by-then-famous Post morning editorial meeting, and, near the end of the second day, was finally ushered into legendary editor Ben Bradlee’s office.

By that time, I’d been in the business long enough not to believe in heroes anymore, but not quite long enough not to still make exceptions. Bradlee was definitely in the exception category. The interview remains one of the best 30 minutes of my life. He told great stories. I laughed in all the right places. He told more great stories. I chipped in with a quick anecdote that I knew Bradlee would top ten times over. And when the interview was over and Bradlee walked me to the elevator, he told me that ever since “that goddam movie” – meaning, “All the President’s Men”  – everyone expected him to make all decisions while elevator doors were closing. I laughed again. And then, as if the day hadn’t been good enough, he told the editor waiting to interview me, “I like this young man.”

And in case you think there’s a happy ending, well, they did offer me the job. But, for reasons I still can’t adequately explain, I turned the job down, meaning that the moral of the story is you should never, ever come to me for career advice.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this is that Trump and Putin and Flynn and Kushner and Bannon and Sessions and Spicey and Nunes and Comey and Yates and the whole gang have given me another chance. And every day, usually in the late afternoon, the glorious bombshell battle between The Washington Post and The New York Times is renewed. It could be the news that Flynn had lied about his Russian contacts or that Trump had asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation or that Trump was sharing Israeli secrets with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office or that Kushner had attempted to develop a back-channel line to Moscow – using Russian equipment, no less – in the weeks before the inauguration. Whatever the news on any given day, it is bound to be another unexpected twist in the tragicomedy that is the Trumpian era, which stars a president who persists in decrying “fake news” while also decrying leakers, who presumably wouldn’t actually be leakers if the news were, in fact, fake.

But what is true is that with each revelation, another potential column is born. We like to call journalism history in a hurry, and while it may be impossible to put the Trump era in context just yet, it’s almost impossible, for me anyway, not to try. I’ve been lucky enough over my career to cover nearly every kind of story imaginable. But now, here at The Colorado Independent, after 40-some years on the job, I get to cover the one story that completely defies imagination.

And so it works this way: I write the columns, my editors publish them, and, if we’re lucky, you read them. And if you want to keep reading them and all the great nonprofit Colorado-based journalism that The Independent publishes every day, I ask you to help out by chipping in a few bucks to keep our lights shining.

As it says now on The Washington Post masthead, democracy dies in darkness. Whatever else, we can’t let that happen here.

Thanks for your readership and support.

Mike Littwin