As Richard Nixon was moving closer and closer to being removed from the presidency, another crisis was looming.
That crisis was named Spiro T. Agnew.
As Republicans and Democrats came to agree that Nixon’s sin – lying to the American people – was dangerous and unacceptable in a president, they faced the reality of what would happen when Nixon was gone.
The vice-president, Spiro Agnew, was not fit to serve as president. He was one of the most divisive characters of his time, a rigid and angry person and seemed to have little interest in or knowledge of policy issues, a view shared by Nixon.
During Nixon’s second term – which was when the Watergate crisis threatened his presidency – the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland began to investigate Agnew for financial irregularities while in state office. He had been Baltimore County Executive and Maryland governor.
“Agnew resigned the vice-presidency on October 10, 1973, after the U.S. Justice Department uncovered widespread evidence of his political corruption, including allegations that his practice of accepting bribes had continued into his tenure as U.S. vice president.” This Day in History
In return for his resignation, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to tax evasion charges. He received three years’ probation and a $10,000 fine. In 1981, a Maryland court ordered him to repay $248,000 related to bribes he took while in office.
So, eleven months before Nixon’s resignation – as the headwinds were blowing hard against him – an unqualified leader was forced from the position that would replace the president.
Under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the president nominated Agnew’s successor who then needed approval by both houses of Congress. The then-House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford, became vice-president on December 6, 1973 and, following Nixon’s resignation was sworn in on August 9, 1974 as the only president in American history never to have been voted for as president or vice-president.
So, here’s why all of this matters today…
The CIA has told us that Vladimir Putin rigged our election. It seems to be a part of a strategy to weaken us, decay our alliances and fracture the European Union. In other words, this former KGB man is out to destroy us…in pretty much everyone’s eyes, except President-elect Trump’s.
While President Obama’s unwillingness to confront this attack in the midst of the 2016 campaign will be a lasting stain on his legacy, Trump’s unwavering defense of Putin makes him downright dangerous to our nation’s ability to recognize a major threat to the nation and defend against it.
A request is now being made by electors to provide the electoral college members with the CIA’s briefing information prior to their casting their votes. In other words, they want the best information on whether the 2016 election was rigged.
This is certainly not an easy question. Changes from the status quo never are. However, in times of need and crisis, democracy adjusts for the greater good…and survives. That’s the lesson of Spiro Agnew and it applies today.
A democracy cannot be built or sustained on a destruction of truth. It needs to be sought out and allowed to take us wherever it takes us. Despite the warts inherent in being a human structure, that is what has always made America great.