In the wee hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard at the Watergate Hotel found some door latches taped over to prevent them from locking. He removed the tape but later found it had been replaced. He called Washington D.C. police, who proceeded to catch five “burglars” conducting an illegal surveillance operation inside the office of the Democratic National Committee. As it happened, the name of President Richard Nixon’s White House security consultant E. Howard Hunt was in the address book of two of the burglars.
Ultimately, the burglars along with two White House functionaries were convicted of conspiracy, burglary and violation of federal wiretapping laws. On Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon resigned the presidency to avoid inevitable impeachment but not for the break-in itself. He faced impeachment for his attempt to cover it up.
From this event 41 years ago this month, “Watergate” entered the language as a metonym for “self-destructive illegal act of political hubris.” Now, Canada’s reigning autocrat Stephen Harper has created his own “Watergate” nightmare by trying to cover up a Senate spending scandal.