Cameron's scandal — and Nixon's | Bleader

Cameron's scandal — and Nixon's


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UPDATE: For the BBC's coverage of the House of Commons Wednesday, click here:

The BBC online gave us almost nonstop Rupert Murdoch coverage Tuesday, but every so often it paused to catch its breath. And during those pauses it posted an announcement, "Live BBC phone-hacking coverage will resume shortly." The scandal has a name.

Tuesday it found Murdoch grilled by the House of Commons media committee as Prime Minister Cameron rushed home from Africa to address the House Wednesday. There's a lot more on Parliament's mind than phone hacking. The MPs will want to know why Murdoch was a frequent visitor to the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street — entering through the back door, as Murdoch testified Tuesday. They'll want to know what Cameron was thinking when he hired as his media chief Andy Coulson, the former editor of Murdoch's now disgraced and defunct News of the World newspaper. They'll wonder why Sir Paul Stephenson, who resigned under fire as head of London's metropolitan police, has admitted that the force hired as media consultants 11 former employees of Murdoch's News International. And they'll want Cameron to tell them a lot more about the "cozy and comfortable" relationship — as he recently put it — involving Britain's police, press, and politicians, a relationship in which Murdoch's place seems to have been coziest and most comfortable.

(Here's an excellent, mildly snarky, numerical breakdown of the scandal by ProPublica, with enough links to keep you busy for hours. For instance, amount of money News International has reportedly paid to settle lawsuits from phone-hacking victims: at least $3.2 million. Amount of money News of the World allegedly spent bribing Scotland Yard officers: $161,130.)

But this is a scandal with a hook, and the hook is the phone hacking that has given it its name — in particular the hacking of the phone of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. Allegedly, thousands of phones were hacked — but Dowler's was the one that stirred Britain to abhor all the others.

Watergate was about a lot more than a break-in. But the break-in was the hook. It was a crime everyone got, and as a result the attempt to cover it up was a crime everyone got. And as a result of that, Watergate didn't go away until it brought down the ultimate cover-upper, the president.

No one without an ax to grind is saying with confidence that Cameron's job is safe. He can't do what Nixon tried to do and hide within the purple robes of state. The queen's head of state. He's just the people's humble servant, and a dead girl's phone was hacked by friends of his.


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