IT’S NO big surprise that
President Trump’s mouth
has gotten him in trouble again. Bombastic and even cruel, this is a man for whom the term “no filter” was invented.
Democrats have been trying to remove him from office since Election Day 2016. Whether they have enough on him this time remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: their hatred of Trump is bottomless.
But Trump won’t willingly exit stage left.
Instead, following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to move forward with an impeachment inquiry and Trump’s infamous phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, I agree with Susan B. Glasser, writing in The New Yorker: “We can now look forward to endless, circular, partisan, and highly unsatisfying debates … in the coming weeks and months. There will be much more shouting. There will be more facts to emerge, subsidiary plotlines to follow, spinoff scandals, new characters.”
We’ve been here before, in 1973, when President Richard Nixon came under fire after Watergate, and in 1998, when President Bill Clinton’s sleazy extracurricular activities gave Republicans fodder for impeachment.
During the Nixon years, I worked for the federal government. In August, 1974, stricken with pneumonia, I stayed home and watched endless hours of Watergate hearings on our old black-and-white TV. On Aug. 9, when it was clear he would be impeached, Nixon resigned.
I didn’t like Nixon. In fact, I voted for the Democrat, George McGovern, in the 1972 elections, which Nixon won by a landslide. I think it’s the only time I have ever pulled the lever for the blue ticket.
Nixon was facing impeachment for obstruction of justice in the Watergate affair—a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel during the 1972 election campaign. Looking back on it, it’s crazy—why break into the DNC? Nixon was way ahead of McGovern in all the polls. And once the culprits were arrested, why try to cover it up?
Not only did Nixon lose his presidency, but about two dozen of Nixon’s aides ended up in court over Watergate. Many pleaded guilty.
One of those aides was Charles Colson, special counsel to the president from 1969–1970.
Colson was Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He himself later admitted that he was valuable to the president because he was willing to be ruthless to get things done. Slate writer David Plotz was more dramatic: Colson, he wrote, was the “evil genius of an evil administration.”
Colson was the author of Nixon’s infamous “enemies list.” As the White House’s “dirty tricks” guy, he famously said he’d walk over his grandmother for Nixon.
But a funny thing happened to Chuck Colson on the way to grandma’s house. Dogged by the Watergate affair, he left the White House and resumed his private legal career. According to a 2012 article in Christianity Today, he went to see Tom Phillips, CEO of Raytheon, hoping to drum up some business. Instead, Phillips read him excerpts from a book he was excited about: “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis.
Colson at first thought the book was “pure Pollyanna.” But the chapter on pride (“The Great Sin”) hit him hard, as did Phillips’ prayer at the end of their meeting. On the way home, Nixon’s hatchet man broke down in tears. Later he told his wife he thought he’d had a conversion experience. He just didn’t know what that meant.
Colson’s change of heart did not immediately lead him to his best life now. When news of his new faith leaked out, the press pilloried him and Christians on Capitol Hill had to be convinced to mentor him because they didn’t trust him. After he was indicted, he pleaded guilty to obstruction against his lawyer’s advice. He ended up in Maxwell Prison in Alabama, the first of Nixon’s aides to go behind bars.
While in prison, Colson was struck by the frustration and anger of the inmates, the unfairness of the prison system, and the general atmosphere of hopelessness. Convinced God was calling him to do something about it, when he got out he applied his boundless intellect and energy to reading and learning about his new faith.
Then he founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry to inmates and their families. Today, Prison Fellowship serves over 365,000 inmates in the United States each year. You may be familiar with the fellowship’s Christmastime Angel Tree ministry, through which the public can buy gifts for inmates’ children.
Watching that old black-and-white TV back in 1974, I never would have guessed that Chuck Colson would be anything but a malevolent political operative for the rest of his life. Strange things happen when conviction falls hard on a person.
Colson, author of 30 books, champion of restorative justice, died in 2012, the balance of his life a testimony to the authenticity of his conversion.
The TV is on as I write this, broadcasting hearings before the House Intelligence Committee in the middle of the day.
I can tell we’re in for a long siege.
I look at the players: Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and California Congressman Adam Schiff, and I wonder: Where will they be in five years? Who will they be?
And I wonder if they’ve read “The Great Sin,” C.S. Lewis’ chapter on pride.