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The -GATE suffix

It all began with Watergate, that Washington-DC-based building where a couple hired goons broke into Democratic offices and were caught doing so. Eventually, the work of the Washington Post brought down a president, Richard Nixon. It was an amazing coup, an inspiring show of effort and talent to bring the real story to light.

But in the ensuing decades, the press has demonstrated what 90 percent of them are good at: taking a good idea and running it into the ground for quick column space and headlines. Hence the "-gate" phenomenon.

We've made a helpful chart for you to track these things. Keep in mind these are a sample of dozens:

WATERGATE 1974. The first -gate, so named because the burglary took place at a hotel of the same name. The burglary happened in 1972, but over the next two years and through Nixon's re-election, a series of stories in the Washington Post eventually led to the president's resignation.
KOREAGATE 1976. A congressional investigation attempted to tie Reverend Moon's Unification Church to an influence-buying plan on the part of South Korea's intelligence service, KCIA and the Japanese Yakuza. Money was traced to Japan but no further. In this plan U.S. officials were bribed to give favors to the South Korean Government. Too bad the newspapers couldn't give it a less trendy name.
BILLYGATE 1980. Presidential brother Billy Carter's rather odd interest in Libya screwed over Jimmy Carter's re-election to a significant degree when he took three trips to Libya and recieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees. He was registered as a foriegn agent of the Libyan government and was quickly accused of influence-peddling. By the time the smoke cleared, Billy was back on the farm and Jimmy was out of the White House.
DEBATEGATE Summer, 1983. It is revealed that the Reagan campaign had been given a copy of the debate briefing book from the Carter campaign in 1980. Instead of announcing they'd been given a copy, the book was studied and Reagan was coached for the debate off of it. Among the accusations that fly are that George Will, political commentator and consultant to Reagan, researched the debate brief extensively and used it to coach Reagan, then went on the air after the debate to praise Reagan's "thoroughbread" performance on "Nightline".
CONTRAGATE or IRANGATE 1987. Arms for hostages, arms funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras illegally. Later renamed to the saner "Iran-Contra Scandal." Involved an awful lot of people, depending on who you listened to.
NANNYGATE 1993. One of many, many -gate named scandals reported in the press, Attorney General nominee Zoe Baird is derailed when it is revealed that she had not paid social security for her household help. A similar question stops her replacement candidate Kimba Woods, leading, finally, to Janet Reno, who nobody accuses of having need for a nanny.
HAIRGATE 1993. It's not true, but scandal erupts when Air Force one is parked on a runway at LAX while Clinton recieves a $200 haircut. He got the haircut, but it didn't back up LAX at all. Still, it gets a nice idiotic name by the press.
CAMILLAGATE 1993. The -gate phenomenon crosses the Atlantic as this name is applied to Prince Charles extramarital love affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, and a dull phone call between them. How does this merit a "-GATE"? Does anyone actually care about these two people? For the record, there have been a raft of UK "-gates", including Winegate (1996), Drapergate (1998), Hindujagate (2000), More, Sixsmith and Bysersgate (2001), Mittalgate (2002) and Black Rod-gate (2002). We'd give you details, but who cares? It's the British Tabloids.
TRAVELGATE 1994. An investigated scandal where it was alleged that Hillary Clinton planned to fire the White House travel staff to replace them with her own staff imported from Arkansas (if you believe some people) or where members of the White House travel staff had committed financial improprieties, leading to an investigation by the IRS and FBI (if you believe others). Either way, a meaningless use of the -gate suffix.
PAULAGATE, TROOPERGATE, ZIPPERGATE 1994. Paula Jones files a former complaint against President Clinton, claiming sexual harassment and defamation of character. She claims that in a hotel room in 1991, then-governor Clinton dropped his pants and told her to "kiss it". Most particularly, she alleged that this was done with the assistance/collusion of an Arkansas state trooper.
FILEGATE 1996. It is revealed the White House requested and got their hands on FBI records of over 400 individuals, maybe more. Most individuals were employees during previous Republican administrations.
MONICAGATE 1998. A semen-stained dress makes the news in this alternative name for the Lewinsky Affair. The president has a little oral-anal with one of the White House intern staff, then proceeds to lie and lie about it when faced with accusations arising from an unrelated investigation. After a while, attention focuses on the intern, Monica Lewinsky, who ironically lays low at... the Watergate hotel. As this concerns a president, ends in an impeachment vote, and involves the Watergate, this is the only story that really deserves the suffix.
DEBATEGATE Fall, 2000. A videotape of a practice session with George Bush preparing for his debate with Al Gore is mailed to the Gore camp, arriving in an Express Mail envelope. Eventually, a employee of the Bush campaign media consultant named Yvette Lozano is indicted. Not indicted are the press hounds who re-use the 1983 moniker "debate-gate" to describe the situation, showing off the lack of permanence to either name.
ANGOLAGATE June, 2002. Billions of dollars sent to Angola's corrupt government in exchange for Western oil contracts, and arms-for-oil deals involving French Prime Minister Francois Miterrand's son. This influx of arms had the effect of devastating the peace agreement between UNITA and the Angolan government. Oh well!
FAJITAGATE February, 2003. In San Francisco, three off-duty police officers allegedly attacked two men over a dispute about their leftover fajitas. One of the officers was the son of Assistant Police Chief Alex Fagan, and in February 2003, indictments were brought down on the Chief of Police, Assistant Chief Fagan, and five other high ranking brass for conspiracy and obstruction regarding their alleged cover-up of the incident. Oh, did we mention that the City of San Francisco is basically corrupt?

It's really quite nauseating.

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