waterloo, watergate, whitewatergate, and just plain old gate

Es­ti­mated reading time is 7 min­utes.

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.”

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 some­times 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 I 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!)

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.


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!

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.

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.

2 thoughts on “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. 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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