In 1973, Senator Sam Ervin, a self-described “country lawyer” from Morganton, was chosen to head the Senate Select Committee investigating the Watergate break-in. That investigation ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and propelled Ervin, along with his minority co-chair, Howard Baker from Tennessee, into the national spotlight.
Senator Richard Burr, from Winston-Salem, is head of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee and is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, as well as what, if any, involvement the Trump campaign may have had in that interference. One has to wonder if history might be repeating itself.
Burr, like Ervin, has never been the flashy representative who constantly seeks the cameras to gain notoriety. The Winston-Salem native is best known for his workmanlike approach in delving into issues like health care and tax reform. His down-to-earth persona is demonstrated by his penchant for wearing loafers without sox and off-the-rack Costco shirts.
In the Watergate investigation Ervin continually pledged to let the facts take them to whatever conclusion was called for. Similarly, Burr and minority leader Mark Warner from Virginia have pledged to do the same with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation. To date they appear to be living up to that posture, unlike their House counterparts. We can all hope that the investigation will be conducted in a fair, bipartisan, truth-seeking manner.
Burr readily acknowledges that this is the most important assignment he has undertaken, first as a Congressman and now as a U.S. Senator. The American people deserve and need evidence that our Congress can work together to uphold our laws and protect our rights as citizens. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate to North Carolinians that our elected representatives stand for truth and justice.
When Senator Sam began the Watergate hearings, few expected the “smoking gun” revelations that emerged, directly connecting a sitting U.S. President to criminal activities and a cover-up by lying to the people. Few expect that same outcome to result from this investigation, but we do deserve to be able to trust what is concluded from these investigations. Senator Burr is in the spotlight and all will be watching to see how he handles this responsibility. We pray he will continue his pledge to prevent this from becoming a circus-like affair that devolves into the partisan, ugly atmosphere we see too often in Washington and Raleigh.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.