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.
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.