By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – You don’t hear much about Spanish philosopher George Santayana anymore. He died in 1952 and his books aren’t exactly standard fare in the schools. But one line from his book “The Life of Reason” has endured: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That thought is especially relevant now that President Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It appears that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe since Sessions recused himself, might be next to go.

That leaves Sessions’ chief of staff, who has echoed the president’s description of Mueller’s work as a “witch hunt,” in charge of the investigation, with Mr. Trump likely breathing down his neck to squelch it.

If all this sounds familiar, it’s with good reason. Forty-five years ago this fall President Richard Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire the independent prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. He refused and resigned, as did his deputy. A new prosecutor was appointed, but the damage was done.

Congress rebelled, and public polls showed backing for Nixon had collapsed. Impeachment – and Nixon’s resignation – followed within a year.

Presidents Donald Trump (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) and Richard Nixon (Photo credit JEROME DELAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Is history repeating? It could be. Poll after poll has shown strong public support for letting the Russia probe run its course. Tuesday’s elections left the White House politically weaker, not stronger.

I lived through the Watergate era, and it wasn’t a happy time. It would be a real shame if we are condemned to repeat it because folks in the White House cannot – or will not – remember the past.

Your comments are welcome via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Jon Keller

  1. Theodore Oule says:

    Good heavens, Jon…

    Have you forgotten? Or did you never know?

    The members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.

    The DC Court of Appeals reaffirmed that very concept when it declared that the Consumer Finance Protection Board, Lizzie’s rather dubious claim to fame which was considered unable to survive if she were named as its first head, was structurally unconstitutional as its authorizing legislation sought to end-run the part of the Constitution that it is the President that is the head of the Executive Branch.

    Perhaps you should hold your phony outrage and self-righteousness until you actually understand the the laws that govern how our institutions operate.

    Also, every president in my lifetime…now fourteen of them…has held that he is entitled to the cabinet of his choice.

    Are you right, and they wrong?

    No. Jon. YOU are the one that is wrong. And in this case, really wrong.

    There were those of us, both on the left AND the right that thought that naming Sessions as Attorney General was one of the worst nominations that Trump made when he was elected.

    I was one of those. And I still think so to this day.

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