Forty years separate the resignation of United States President Richard Nixon (August 8, 1974) from the publication of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics.
But the content of the latter suggests that little has been lost in translation in the importation of dirty tricks from the 1972 Nixon campaign in the US to John Key's campaigns in New Zealand.
Nixon's resignation was to avoid an impeachment trial in the US Senate in which his conviction was a certainty, according to his Republican advisers.
Among the charges were that Nixon abused the powers of government, including the investigative powers, to attempt to smear and destroy his political adversaries ("enemies" as he listed them) and thereby subvert the democratic process.
Hager is an investigative journalist whose credibility is bolstered by his willingness to take on either political party and offend, in turn, Labour and National with exposure of their behaviour.
Dirty Politics, subtitled How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand's Political Environment purports to show how Prime Minister John Key (along with minister Judith Collins) used a notorious right-wing political blogger as a means of smearing and denigrating Labour leaders - Phil Goff (2011 election) and now David Cunliffe - to achieve electoral superiority, all the while maintaining a posture of disinterested innocence (aka the Pontius Pilate position).
Dirty Politics is based on a large packet of emails of that notorious far-right blogger, nameless here (as customary) but identified in Hager's book.
The blogger's tone may be inferred from his own self-description as creating "chaos and mayhem", his stated admiration for the dirty tricksters of Nixon's time, and his proud (and cynical) self-reference quoted in The Guardian (August 22, 2014): "Politics is a nasty despicable game and it's played by nasty despicable people."
According to Hager, it was this venomous blogger to whom Key or those in Key's office and Collins fed information, sometimes privileged, to be used to embarrass and smear opponents, frequently co-opting mainstream media in their frenzy to find a story however slight the basis in fact.
There is room for vigorous debate over policies. Necessarily there is room for critical review of the policies of each of the significant parties, be they the policies of Labour, National or the Greens.
What there is no place for is a process whereby the electoral machinery is deliberately skewed to achieve an outcome of advantage to one party. That is what is at stake here.
The purpose of negative campaigning is to discourage critical thinking. The dirty linen of innuendo and personal disparagement is designed to cause voter disaffection, especially among independents, thereby diminishing their participation.
Perpetrators of this style of campaigning rely on turning out the vote of their most committed " base". In the US, Karl Rove - "George Bush's brain" as he was called - perfected this campaign style and expressly defined his goal in 2004 as a victory for Bush by 51 per cent of the vote, versus a plurality.
The result may be a marginal victory but one that does not truly represent the democratic will and that means electoral victory is more important than governance. We've seen the disaster of that approach in the US.
"Politics is about trust." Those were words of Key as he piled into David Cunliffe in the trumped-up Donghua Liu trick designed to make the Labour leader look suspicious.
Trust is a two-way street and Key's actions - as described in Hager's book - cast doubt not only on his own trustworthiness but just as seriously on his trust for the voters.
If an honest, straightforward election over policies is not something you trust the people to decide in your favour, then rigging the game through collusion with a dirty trickster, whose avowed purpose is creating mayhem, will have to do. That's winning by any means and it goes against the basic spirit of Kiwi fair play.
New Zealand doesn't have an impeachment mechanism, but it does have a ballot box. Key hopes the furore over the charges will simply disappear. So did Richard Nixon.