I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been listening to the “Bag Man” podcast about Spiro Agnew, hosted by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. I’m fascinated and a little embarrassed that I didn’t know much about this moment in history.
I knew of Spiro Agnew and knew he didn’t have a great reputation. But I couldn’t tell you anything more, probably because Richard Nixon’s Watergate problems overshadow other issues with his administration.
This podcast is just another example of “we’ve been here before.” As a historian, I take great comfort in history. We’ve just been through a momentous year, and this year is shaping up to be equally momentous. But how many momentous years have we been through before, as humans? A lot. What can we learn from what’s happened before?
The Trump presidency has been tumultuous, and now he’s facing an unprecedented second impeachment. Of course we know presidents have been impeached before. But while the Watergate scandal was unraveling in 1973 and it became clear that Nixon likely would face impeachment, at the same time his Vice President Spiro Agnew was also in danger of being impeached. Can you imagine–impeachments in the top two offices in the United States? That would vault the Speaker of the House into the presidency (at the time this was Democrat Carl Albert).
The podcast reveals the mad rush by prosecutors and defense attorneys to figure out what to do. Basically, they knew Nixon would be impeached and the last thing they wanted was another crook (Agnew) in the White House. What could they do to get Agnew out and get a new VP in, a VP who would be qualified to ascend to the presidency?
Listen to this podcast to learn about another fraught period in the U.S. presidency. Many of the players in the drama are still alive and they are interviewed. Now “Bag Man” is a book, which got a decent review in the New York Times, so that’s going on my to-read list.