waterloo, watergate, whitewatergate, and just plain old gate

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW what Waterloo and Watergate and Whitewatergate have to with each other? And what does a just plain old gate have to do with anything and where does ABBA fit into this? What if I brought another, more recent gate into the conversation—like Benghazigate? Yesterday I posted a piece on Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton and who’s lying about whose lies and out of that came this . . .

In “another fishing expedition without a bite,” I called the attempts of the oh-so partisan Congressional committee investigations to uncover the elusive and undefined ‘truth’ about Benghazi a never-ending story and the most recent as “the latest round of Clinton-bashing by the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.”

Why, I believe I was gated twenty years ago in a record collectors magazine for my job as author of the O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors!

Noting that this was the ninth (!) such committee, I stated that it was “committed to fishing—er, I mean finding—the ‘truth’ about what happened in Benghazi three years ago.” 1

Accusations against the Obama administration of everything from mere incompetence to a cover-up followed.

Of course.

After the first few Republican-chaired committees found no wrong-doing, shouldn’t they have quit?

Of course.

But they haven’t and the attack, its aftermath, and the ongoing series of investigations are referred to as Benghazigate, which is seen around the world as a series of partisan attacks that have fanned the flames of hatred against current President Obama and future President Clinton while failing to uncover a single shred of evidence to use as a foundation for that hatred or the investigations.

Alas, that is how the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy works.

Trent Gowdy, Benghazi committee, lipstick on a pig, political committee, political cartoon

This cartoon by Jeff Danziger for The New York Times is titled “Trent Gowdy’s Lipstick” and refers to the rhetorical expression ‘To put lipstick on a pig.’ This idiom refers to making cosmetic changes in an attempt to disguise the true nature of something.

The void that is the Internet

As usual when I compose at my computer, I have access to the Internet and the staggering array of facts and figures and even opinions. And I can get lost there: open up Google and type in a phrase and suddenly I am looking at something else only tangentially related but nonetheless related to my topic that sends my mind careening off in a new direction and I just have to add this stuff to my essay and sometime I do but mostly I don’t.

For example, yesterday a friend posted a line from a ’60s album on one of my Facebook entries: “but still you can say ‘darker and darker’.” I knew I knew that line but at first thought it was Firesign Theater. So I typed those words into Google, but I erroneously substituted and for but and that altered the results of the search. Still I had more than 43,000,000 sites to choose from! 2

On the first page, I had links to sites about Fifty Shades Of Darker, Donald Trump, lake surfaces, and staying out of the sun. The second Google page was even better, because I found an article titled “What The Color of Your Urine Says About You.”

And that allowed me to use a line from that article as a non-sequitur response to the ‘darker and darker’ quote. (You had to have been there.)

When using a search engine, the resulting possibilities may be practically endless if one keeps his mind open to those possibilities and out of that search came this . . .


This cartoon by Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Free Press depicts Hillary Clinton nonchalantly fending off the many swords of the many Benghazi committees out to flay her.

I stuck mostly to the subject

I find history and politics and popular culture and rock & roll and grammar and word-play almost equally fascinating topics, and I sometimes combine two or more in one essay. Yesterday I did not.

I stuck to the subject.


But I did get sidetracked with the use of gate as a suffix and started babbling on with my two typing fingers when I realized that I was off on a sidetrack that would make for a more fun main track as its own post. So I excised it from “another fishing expedition without a bite” and saved it for this piece today.

So here we are at that post!


This cartoon by Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News tells it all!

All gates are not Watergates

The use of gate as a suffix in Benghazigate and Whitewatergate does not refer to that wooden contraption that you have to swing open to enter a garden. Adding gate to a noun is taken from and refers to Watergate, which most people know has something to do with the resignation of Richard Nixon from the Presidency.

Actually, the Watergate is a hotel in Washington, DC. The 1972 scandal associated with it and President Nixon involved breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters along with larceny, undocumented slush funds, and obstruction of justice, among others. These crimes and misdemeanors were carried out by Tricky Dick’s henchmen, a clandestine coterie of creepy characters from C.R.E.E.P., a Rep*blican version of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Look it up!)

If S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is an acronym for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, what does C.R.E.E.P. stand for?

The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities and gate has become a common suffix. At least common among elected Rep*blican officials in the DC area in the past twenty-five years.

In brazen attempt after brazen attempt to create columns of smoke where only a match had been lit (if that!) during the presidency of Bill Clinton, those representatives have accused the Clintons of one non-event after another, giving us such non-scandals as:

•  Travelgate of 1993, in which we learned that the Clintons had the right to fire anyone they wanted to, including members of the White House Travel Office;

•  Troopergate of 1993, in which we learned that members of the Arkansas State Troopers were paid to give testimony against former Governor Clinton; and

•  Whitewatergate of 1992, in which we learned that the Clintons may or may not have made a profit in a private business venture involving the Whitewater Development Corporation during the 1970s and ’80s.

There were more.

Finally facing my Waterloo

Watergate has taken on meaning similar to that of Waterloo, the decisive battle in 1815 in which Napoleon lost not just the battle but also his power, abdicating his role as Emperor of France. As an idiom, to refer to someone’s Waterloo is usually a reference to a decision or action that decided the course of that person’s career or life—always negatively.

Waterloo! I was defeated, you won the war. Waterloo! Promise to love you forever more. Waterloo! Couldn’t escape if I wanted to. Waterloo! Knowing my fate is to be with you. Waterloo! Finally facing my Waterloo.” See, I got ABBA into this thing after all!

How could I not pay a nod to the grandeur that was ABBA? Waterloo was their first record to hit the charts where it mattered: in the US and the UK. As a reference to Waterloo, it is probably better known than the battle that caused Napolean to step down from power in France. Such is the power of popular culture . . .

Gate as a transitive verb

The Urban Dictionary defines the non-capitalized word watergate as “taping over a door latch to prevent the door from locking,” which is news to me as I have never heard or read the word used that way. But I haven’t read everything, so maybe it’s so, so I don’t want to confuse the situation by giving yet another meaning to whitewater.

What I suggest here is that we embrace gate as a transitive verb: to gate someone is to accuse them of scandalous behavior without a shred of actionable evidence believing the mere accusation will do them damage.

Example: During his presidency, Bill Clinton’s political enemies gated him over the Whitewater investments.

Example: On October 22, 2015, the Trey Gowdy-chaired committee gated Hillary Clinton for more than ten hours.

It would probably be best if we kept the use to gate to political situations, but it could easily break out of those confines.

Example: Throughout the 1990s, Neal Umphred’s professional enemies gated him in print about his work as the author of price guides for record collectors. Would that be Collectorsgate? Priceguidegate? O’Sullivan-Woodsidegate?

Somehow, using gate that way doesn’t carry as much clout, so I’m thinking we should just use gate for political conundrums.

That’s it: so I would like to hear from both of my readers where they stand on the use of gate as a verb . . .

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!


HEADER IMAGE: Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, and Björn Ulvaeus. What is there to say? Oh, I know: Find yourself a copy of the 1994 movie The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert with Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and the bloody amazing Terence Stamp as three drag queens stuck in the outback of Australia.


1   What happened in Benghazi three years ago was an unprovoked attack on the US embassy there on September 11, 2012. During this attack, four Americans were murdered: J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.

2   The line is from a piece of nonsensical dialogue is from a section titled Bit Of Nostalgia from Frank Zappa’s 1967 album LUMPY GRAVY.

Anyone who has resisted singing Mama Mia because they think they can’t sit through that much ABBA in ninety minutes are missing out on a funny movie. Here are the movie’s stars performing their own rendition of Waterloo. And yes, the three females seen in this video—the inimitable Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters—are like this throughout the movie!


2 Replies to “waterloo, watergate, whitewatergate, and just plain old gate”

  1. I’m late to this, but, since you ask:

    1. “What I suggest here is that we embrace gate as a transitive verb: to gate someone is to accuse them of scandalous behavior without a shred of actionable evidence believing the mere accusation will do them damage.”

    I’m guessing this means ‘swiftboating’ just ain’t gonna catch on. Which makes me sad, because I’m really tired of ‘-gate.’ Dammit this country needs a new euphemism for scandal, phony or otherwise!

    2. And just as an aside: If ABBA’s take on the concept of ‘Waterloo’ has indeed trumped the purely Napoleonic association (which is certainly possible), then does it now stand for both victory and defeat?

    As in, ‘Yeah we’re standing up here singing about how our significant others (who wrote this song) have defeated us, and won the war….but we’re also on our way to selling so many records that no one will be able to keep count,…as of RIGHT NOW.”

    1. 1. Hmmm, a “new euphemism for scandal, phony or otherwise” is tough. I think they should be distinct and separate, but that can only be determined after an investigation. A real investigation. Apparently, there will always be real scandals, and what else can we call them but what they are: scandals.

      But phony scandals originate almost exclusively from the modern right-of-right-of-center (not a redundancy) arena, whether elected officials, high paid demagogues, or the vast rightwingnut conspiracy that is the millions of interconnected websites and blogs.

      All of this is fairly recent and almost inconceivable without the Internet. It was at its most obvious and odious during the Clinton Administration: recall that the (right-of-right-of-center) Supreme Court allowed endless personal lawsuits against the President, and damn near bankrupted the Clintons. Most (all?) of these ‘gates’ were linked in some way to the donations of Richard Mellon Scaife.

      That said, without much forethought, I could suggest as a euphemism mellonize (e.g., “How many more times will Hillary Clinton be mellonized before she is elected next year?”) and/or to scaife (e.g, “Bill Clinton was scaifed more often than all the other Presidents of the United States combined!”)

      2. As Bernadette said to Felicia in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NO MORE F*CKING ABBA!”

      Your turn . . .

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