This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
October 20 is the 293rd day of the year (294th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 72 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork dismisses Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus resign in protest. Cox had conducted a detailed investigation of the Watergate break-in that revealed that the burglary was just one of many possible abuses of power by the Nixon White House. Nixon had ordered Richardson to fire Cox, but he refused and resigned, as did Ruckelshaus when Nixon then asked him to dismiss the special prosecutor. Bork agreed to fire Cox and an immediate uproar ensued. This series of resignations and firings became known as the Saturday Night Massacre and outraged the public and the media. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee began to look into the possible impeachment of Nixon.
The Saturday Night Massacre was the term given by political commentators to U.S. President Richard Nixon‘s executive dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal
Richardson appointed Cox in May of that year, after having given assurances to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would appoint an independent counsel to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. Cox subsequently issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office and authorized by Nixon as evidence. The president initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise-asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office.
Mindful that Stennis was famously hard-of-hearing, Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night-a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he also refused and resigned in protest.
Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere-Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. Though Bork believed Nixon’s order to be valid and appropriate, he considered resigning to avoid being “perceived as a man who did the President’s bidding to save my job.” Never the less, Bork complied with Nixon’s order and fired Cox. Initially, the White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as The Washington Post article written the next day pointed out, “The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned.”
Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of presidential power. In the days that followed, numerous resolutions of impeachment against the president were introduced in Congress. Nixon defended his actions in a famous press conference on November 17, 1973, in which he stated,
“…[I]n all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I’ve welcomed this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President’s a crook. Well, I’m not a crook! I’ve earned everything I’ve got.“
1548 – The city of Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) was founded by Captain Alonso de Mendoza by appointment of the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.
1740 – Maria Theresa takes the throne of Austria. France, Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony refuse to honour the Pragmatic Sanction and the War of the Austrian Succession begins.
1781 – Patent of Toleration, providing limited freedom of worship, is approved in Habsburg Monarchy.
1803 – The United States Senate ratifies the Louisiana Purchase.
1818 – The Convention of 1818 signed between the United States and the United Kingdom which, among other things, settled the Canada – United States border on the 49th parallel for most of its length.
1827 – Battle of Navarino – a combined Turkish and Egyptian armada is defeated by British, French, and Russian naval force in the port of Navarino in Pylos, Greece.
1883 – Peru and Chile signed the Treaty of Ancon, by which the Tarapaca province is ceded to the latter, bringing an end to Peru’s involvement in the War of the Pacific.
1910 – The hull of the RMS Olympic, sister-ship to the ill-fated RMS Titanic, is launched from the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
1935 – The Long March ends.
1941 – World War II: Thousands of civilians in Kragujevac in German-occupied Serbia are killed in the Kragujevac massacre.
1944 – The Soviet Army and Yugoslav Partisans liberate Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia
1944 – Liquid natural gas leaks from storage tanks in Cleveland, then explodes; the explosion and resulting fire level 30 blocks and kill 130.
1944 – General Douglas MacArthur fulfills his promise to return to the Philippines when he commands an Allied assault on the islands, reclaiming them from the Japanese during the Second World War.
1947 – The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a blacklist that prevents some from working in the industry for years.
1947 – United States of America and Pakistan establish diplomatic relations for the first time.
1951 – The “Johnny Bright Incident” occurs in Stillwater, Oklahoma
1952 – Governor Evelyn Baring declares a state of emergency in Kenya and begins arresting hundreds of suspected leaders of the Mau Mau Uprising, including Jomo Kenyatta, the future first President of Kenya.
1967 – A purported bigfoot is filmed by Patterson and Gimlin.
1968 – Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
1970 – Siad Barre declares Somalia a socialist state.
1971 – The Nepal Stock Exchange collapses.
1973 – “Saturday Night Massacre”: President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who is finally fired by Robert Bork.
1973 – The Sydney Opera House opens.
1976 – The ferry George Prince is struck by a ship while crossing the Mississippi River between Destrehan and Luling, Louisiana. Seventy-eight passengers and crew die and only 18 people aboard the ferry survive.
1977 – A plane carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd crashes in Mississippi, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines along with backup singer Cassie Gaines, the road manager, pilot, and co-pilot.
1979 – The John F. Kennedy library is opened in Boston, Massachusetts.
1982 – During the UEFA Cup match between FC Spartak Moscow and HFC Haarlem, 66 people are crushed to death in the Luzhniki disaster.
1984 – The Monterey Bay Aquarium opens in Monterey Bay, California.
1991 – The Oakland Hills firestorm kills 25 and destroys 3,469 homes and apartments, causing more than $2 billion in damage.