Author: Cornish, Rick


Do you remember what you did in the summer of ’73? I mean, you know, like the highlight of that summer? I sure can—I was glued to the television eight hours a day watching the Watergate hearings, or watching commentary on the hearings, or reading about the hearings in the San Jose Mercury. It was a long and particularly hot summer that year and I was working as a free lance writer, which meant I could watch TV all day long and then work until the wee hours, and that’s just what I did.

I don’t know why I was so drawn to the hearings. True, I’d been a news junkie since childhood, and truer still, Dick Nixon had been on my enemies list long before he ever had one of his own, but that doesn’t quite explain it. It was more like the fascination one feels when watching an auto accident unfold before their eyes….you know exactly what’s going to happen, you’re aware of the carnage that will ensue, the blood and gore, yet you can’t take your eyes off the scene. That’s how it was with Watergate, but in slow motion. Everysingle day, from the first report of the break-in, through the Saturday night massacre and finally the sudden appearance of the tapes, a new little piece of the cover-up would come unglued. Anyone who spent the entire summer watching that epic unraveling with his nose pressed to the television would come away from the experience with the same indelible and life-altering lesson—cover-ups don’t work.

As it happened, it wasn’t too long after the summer of 1973 that my hit and miss writing job morphed into a career as an administrator at the Santa Clara County Office of Education in San Jose. I was a direct report to the County Superintendent for all those years and, although I had many duties there, none were as important as chief of damage control. Whether it was writing a response to a Grand Jury investigation, penning an op-ed piece for my boss or preparing a rebuttal to an attack from one or another of our several labor unions, my charge was always pretty much the same—protect my superintendent the best I could. And I can tell you this with absolute honesty: the lessons I learned watching the 37th presidency crumble guided me through every task I took on during those twenty-five years. Cover-ups don’t work. They just don’t.

Last week we had a thread on the Message Board that touched on this very subject. One poster actually claimed a cover-up was in progress while several others warned against one, urging that we keep the subject ‘on the table’, (presumably rather than shoving it under the rug.) I want to use my Welcome column this morning to assure our membership that during my tenure as chairman of the board of directors of the CBA there’ll be no cover-ups…..of anything. We lost a bunch of money because of poor decision making down in Bakersfield and we reported that, in detail. We had an embittered board member resign and we surely didn’t try to hide that. For more than two years we dealt with the strange, sometimes creepy, lowercaseman and his endless string of conspiracy theories and we hung in there and let people know what was up. Most recently we realized that our Association’s by-laws were less than adequate to deal with write-in candidates and we leveled with the membership, stating what went wrong and how we’d fix it. In short, we’ve made plenty of mistakes, lived through some pretty stormy times and have had plenty of opportunities to, shall we say, skimp on the facts. But we haven’t. And that’s because covering up a mess never gets it cleaned up.
Posted:  10/26/2010

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