As the Trump impeachment inquiry rages on, millions of Americans have kept their eyes glued to the news, as House Democrats bring in witnesses in their investigation into corruption in the Trump White House. Many KO students are also keeping up-to-date on the impeachment happenings.
While no KO students are old enough to have remembered any past presidential impeachment (or impeachment investigation) firsthand, I wondered what KO students had to say about the last two times a president was investigated for impeachable offenses: in the 1970s with Watergate and in the late ’90s when President Clinton lied under oath to Congress.
I ventured into the archives (in the basement of Nicholson if you’ve never been) to find out. With the help of Spanish teacher and school archivist Brenda Semmelrock, I dug through the old editions of the KO News to find out what KO students thought of the impeachment investigations, at the time they were happening.
For context, May 1973 marked the beginning of the House investigation into the Watergate break-in.
About a year later, a controversy erupted wherein President Nixon refused to turn over the tape recordings of his phone conversations that may have included damaging information about his behavior. In the May 1974 Edition of the KO News, Rob Falk wrote in the segment “Issues at Hand” about the controversy and, that Nixon be required to turn over the tapes.
“I do not want to dwell on the guilt or innocence of President Nixon in the Watergate Affair,” he wrote. “There are still more transcripts to be released, and possibly more testimony to be heard. When all of the information is at hand, the Congress, the Senate, the American people, and the world will be able to survey the situation and arrive at a fair and rational verdict.”
There were relatively few mentions of the Watergate scandal in the old issues of the KO News, even though the affair lasted more than two years and ended with the resignation of the president. I
In a shorter piece, the Nixon impeachment is mentioned in a Letter to the Editor entitled “The ominously increasing power of the press.”
The author, G. Fowler, wrote: “[The press] have become the biggest example of the pot calling the kettle black when the press accused Nixon of going beyond his power and then abused its right by asking for a shield law.”
Many of these sentiments are shared by Americans today about the media, especially when these ideas are fanned by the president himself, who often talks about the press’s bias against him, referring to news organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post as “fake news.”
Flash forward to the late Nineties, and a student condemned the Republican-controlled Congress for attempting to use the Clinton sex scandal as a guise to remove the Democratically-elected president.
“Our friends in Congress have made a decision. They have decided that instead of passing laws as is their custom, they’re going to try something new. In view of debating about new legislation, they’re trying to impeach Bill Clinton,” wrote Editor-in Chief Ben Johnson in “A Wyvern’s Tale,” “Because the man was not completely honest with the American public about his sex life, the federal government is shutting itself down. I have a problem with this.”
Another editorial, “Sex, lies, and K-O” written in the February 1998 edition of the KO News, explored how the Clinton sex scandal might look if it happened in a school like KO, where the line between someone’s personal life and their public life is blurred.
It seems that even in the 70s and 90s, students at KO were connected to the political sphere in ways KO students are today. Even without social media or the internet of today, KO students then were still tuned in to the issues that would affect them most.