« Hanged | Main | How High Will the Upcoming Oil Scandals Go? »

December 31, 2006


I didn't see the Russert thing, but I agree with your poit; I have seen the attitude elsewhere.

The irony is that we were so much better off then when the public was outraged when a President abused his office.

Now a President sets up a police state, and the public (and media) just shrug.

One price Nixon should have paid is all his docs to the National Archives.

TPM makes a similar point; how David Gergen and Richard Norton Smith blame the victims -- us -- as it were. I don't recall a constitutional crisis at the time. It felt like getting rid of a crook and his thugs.


You ask "How did Nixon explain the resignation of Mitchell, his Attorney General and campaign manager in June of 1972?"

As I recall, Mitchell resigned as AG in order to head the Committee to Re-Elect the President and to practice law. He did not hold the AG and CREEP positions simultaneously.


Nice post. Watergate is one area where I've just read the classics, so I'd love if you'd give a "best of" your yard of books. Hell--I'd love if you did that every time you posted on a new historical topic! Something like, "Sara's list of the 5 best books/articles on Watergate."

No, in June 1972 Mitchell resigned from the Committee to Re-Elect, having previously resigned from the AG position so as to run Nixon's campaign.

It is essential to comprehend that Nixon took down three AG's -- Mitchell, then Kleindienst, and finally Elliot Richardson resigned when he could no longer stomach it all. Mitchell went to Jail, Kleindienst copped a plea and lost his liscense to practice, and Richardson first took down Agnew and then resigned on the basis of honor in October, 1973. He refused to fire Archie Cox.

Now -- want more detail? If so defend the situation Nixon faced given the Saturday Night Massacre. Once that failed, what did he have going for him?

I am watching Russert this morning with Woody and it's tickin' me off. They both are going on and on about what a good decision it was for Nixon to be pardoned. I can't believe the opinion being spoken as if it were fact, with no discussion of the "other side". The "other side" being that this country has let one republican criminal go after another while they impeached a president for having an affair and lying about it. Perhaps we would not be having the continued crises if these thugs had been held accountable. And these media pundits cooing about how good it was for the country...really. Prove it. Where are the facts. Are we going to have any discussion about the negative consequences of the pardon? Were their consequences and do they plague us today? These are real questions that need to be discussed. I am really tired of people proposing "fair and balanced" spewing opinion and speaking "as if" it is fact. Ugh.

Happy New Year...It's snowing here, so as I sip my coffee I am letting go and assuming that my higher power will be doling out the consequences. America does not want to face it's flaws. Okay. We will pay for that...because you cannot change what you don't accept, and America is not ready to accept that the republican party poses itself as honest, and moral, while it breaks laws, steals, cheats and pretty much gets away with it. It's becoming more the "American way" than I am comfortable with.

There is an idea of Russert et al. that when we have to go read the Constitution to see what happens next, and then we orderly follow its instructions, the country is experiencing a "Constitutional crisis." I first heard this backwards idea articulated about 6 years and 1 month ago, and it sounds like the same thing being applied retroactively to Nixon.

One should note that the real Constitutional crisis comes when the rules of the Constitution are violated, and redress is denied. Unfortunately this is less theatrical because (by definition) the voices in opposition are largely silenced.

katie, you're completely right, and that is the history that that surrounds discussions of this month's Democratic strategy like thick smoke in a house that may be on fire.

If you're a have, then your primary goal is maintaining political stability so that you can continue to thrive economically, and so you come out sounding like the well-groomed pundits on the Sunday shows. Watergate is then reducible to the potential threat to the economy a Constitutional crisis might have have posed.

If you're a have not, then your views are not clouded by such considerations, and you can say: perhaps conservativism-cum-corporatism as a political philosophy has now twice proven itself so antithetical to the public good that its greedy machinations need to be brought fully into public view. Which, in hindsight, is what we should have done with Nixon. We just thought it was Nixon, and didn't predict that Reagan and Bush would show it was a systemic and not an individual problem.

EW, I have three yards of Watergate Books, most of which are underlined, and have pre electronic notes inserted in them. One thing I hope when I die is that who ever sells off my books makes sure these stay together. (I feel that way about my FDR collection too.)

I paid attention to Watergate because I was something of a victim of it all early on. In 71 and 72 I had been doing a seminar and crediting and monitoring students at the U of Minnesota who were doing Legislative Internships and one of my students, unfortunately, got a job working on the McGovern Campaign in 1972, and the Minnesota Daily did a feature article on him. Sadly the article appeared when HR Halderman's Daughter was getting her MA, and he was here and read the Minnesota Daily, so he sent all the local Republicans after me just after Watergate broke, because it more or less countered some of the things being done by the Watergate crowd. This was June of 1972, The University was about to throw me over the side, but I had written authorization for what I was doing from the Dean, so I got nasty, and survived. Halderman had threatened all the research money the U had -- but I fought back, and made it expensive for him. At the time Halderman thought I was a little kiddy, but no -- I had a most unusual form of cancer and the Medical School had an interest in my welfare, And to make it more difficult for Halderman, my Dad was a Consultant for the Howard Hughes folks in DC -- and Nixon had issues with them. I laid all this on University Administration, and you can't imagine the push back against Halderman. (We can't dismiss our little blond Civil Rights experienced American Studies PhD Candidate can we?) In otherwords I put up a defense, and they did not want to confront it.

But as a result, I paid attention to Watergate, and I celebrated every piece of it. You know, watching the live hearings every day, and then re-watching and taking notes in the evening when PBS re-did the daily hearings. Eventually the fact that Halderman had threatened the administration on me became a value, but no one wanted to admit that exactly. I made it more complicated because one of my students was the daughter of my chemotherapist, and I fixed her up with doing a lawsuit against the Mpls School Board on Title Nine grounds. My Chemotherapist was out of Germany and apparently was a junior SS Doctor pre 45, or something like that who had something of an allergy to any debate on womens' rights. (he had 10 kids, 7 of whom were women) His daughter and I eventually fixed it all up with a great dinner. Dinner fixes much. Never never forget how to cook a fantastic meal.

Anyhow, my argument with Russert is simple. Long before Ford became President the things that had transpired were profound. Any review of Ford's public statements up till about 2 weeks before the resignation had been defense of Nixon. He traveled all over the country speaking to Republican audiences prior to that. Check the record. As to a recommended book, if you have not read the post- Watergate book, "How the the Good Guys Finally Won" by Jimmy Breslin, you have no soul. It is essentially about how Tip O'Neill orchestrated the whole thing. Not true exactly, but that is where anyone who did not experience it first hand should begin.

More if questions are asked.

During the Nixon Admion I was teaching school and so had summers off. First the Senate Watergate hearings and then the Judiciary Committee the next summer. There were numerous Nixon appointees who went to jail, and there were abuses that went essentially unprosecuted, like getting info from the IRS on people on the "enemies list" and so forth. Haldeman and Ehrlichman were the particularly smarmy gatekeepers for Nixon while he sat around and shot the breeze with Kissinger on foreign policy.

Nixon's ratings weren't under 30% because of the dirty hippies in the streets, but because people had come to loathe the man. Then as now, the starf*ckers were the last to desert him, as they will be with Bush.

Hmmm. Barnes & Noble has a whole lot of the book "How the the Good Guys Finally Won." Least expensive is $1.99 and postage is $3.49.

Thanks, Sara.

Thanks, Sara, for pointing up how off-base Russert is with his comments on Watergate being a national nightmare. It was a nightmare for Nixon loyalists but it was salvation for the nation.

I worked at the Office of Economic Opportunity when it was headed by Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney was a subordinate there. Bill Casey, head of the CIA, had been a County Republican leader in Nassau County, NY where I grew up. I watched these people operate under Nixon's orders and the whole way they undercut the law scared me to death. It scared me so, I went to work full time for McGovern Campaign and my office was in the Watergate. I shared an office with Vietnam Vets Against the War which was one of the offices broken into.

During the campaign the media showed virtually no interest in publishing Watergate break-in stories. We plugged away on the campaign, raising good money but knowing that it was a losing effort many months before the election. It was a situation not unlike that of watching George W. Bush win his second election -- We had a president who was interested in increasing his power and not particularly interested in the heritage of the US or the goals of the Constitution. Here was 1973 and the inaugeration and he had four more years to demolish democracy. I thought that we were going to witness the end of the ideal of the US.

And then. And then came all the news, and information, and hearings, and swing in public opinion that came to be known as Watergate. Nixon was hamstrung in his march to overthrow democracy but was putting up a good fight to try to regain his power. I followed every moment of the events. From looking as if he would succeed in putting Watergate behind him, the balance shifted and slowly his Administration took leave as charges were brought that couldn't be denied. And then there was the day when he said he would resign. I broke out the champagne. I don't think I've ever in my life felt so relieved, except maybe this year when the Democrats gained the majority in both houses of Congress. No, not even this year was bigger relief than then.

Watergate wasn't a national nightmare. The nightmare was the Nixon Administration and Watergate was the waking up.

I watched with dismay as the years passed and principals from the Nixon administration stepped back into power during Republican Administrations to try once again to attain Nixon's plans. Nixon was dead but his evil lives on still in his flunkies.

They are getting old now. Someday they will all be gone and it can't be too soon. Russert is either a traitor or a fool.

*In the political science scope of things, I am glad that Ford moved Nixon off stage, and I suspect the only way to do that was with a Pardon, but I think he was selling cheap, and should have demanded a higher price. If confession is good for the soul, Ford ought have laid on the heavy demands. But he enabled Nixon's and Kissinger's later lies, and for that he is responsible.*

I absolutely agree. Some say America couldn't survive a full airing of Nixon's role in Watergate. Well, America survived the impeachment of Johnson and the impeachment of Clinton. In pardoning Nixon before all the details were revealed, Ford just swept the problems under the rug. Thirty years later we have a lumpy, moldy republican rug ruined by Ford's putting Nixon and party above country. In prematurely pardoning Nixon, Ford in effect said, "the President is above the law" which is counter to everything our founding fathers laid out in the Constitution. Thanks to what Ford did, thirty years later we have "King George" choosing to ignore any laws he wants in his quest for a "unitary executive".

Actually, I think they are looking at stuff from a 35 year leap. I dont' think they did much research on it and basically I think they saw no reason to go into detail with the guy dead.
I also think that we either forget or don't know how it was back then. Yes, people were pissed off and angry but, I do think Ford wanted to close the chapter for no other nefarious reason but, to just have his presidency start fresh and not get bogged down by one that wasn't governing anymore.
We also forget that back then the democrats and republicans were real parties that did not hate each other and do dirty stuff like now. There was no hate radio, Malkin and Coulter, no Fox news, no Tom Delay style politics.
They were the oppposition party not the evil one you go to war with.
You tried to get things done in a bipartisan manner for the good of the country not the good of your pocket or self.
Ford had as best friends Tip O'neil and Jimmy Carter. Things were different and politics were different.

In addition to the Breslin treatment of the last summer of Watergate and how Tip O'Neill managed the House through that period -- I should also recommend a more recent book, Stanley I. Kutler's "The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon." Knopf, 1990. Kutler is the Wisconsin Legal Historian who led most of the lawsuits to preserve and release Nixon's tapes and papers, and over the years he and his grad students have done massive work in the Nixon Vineyards.

More recently, Richard Reeves "Richard Nixon: Alone in the White House" is advantaged by all the legal victories Kutler and his associates achieved, and nicely integrates material we were hardly aware of back in the 70's with the basic judicial and legislative story. Reeves book came out perhaps two years ago.

For Washington during the final summer of Watergate, nothing beats Elizabeth Drew's "Journal". It's a first stab at interpretation, even though in that summer no one really had enough of the full story to make strong cases for meaning. Drew had some good sources within the Prosecutor's staff, and others near the Judiciary Committee, and without necessarily identifying them she makes a first effort to weave strands together and test them, and in many cases later reject them given additional information or events. She reflects where we all were that summer -- totally convinced Nixon had to go, but not quite sure which argument for removal was the most sound.

It is important to remember that people came to "removal from office" for vastly different reasons. I remember going to a local bookstore to pick up a copy of the quickie published Nixon Transcrips, (That would have been Spring, 1974) and listening to two elderly ladies tis tis over the "Expletive Deleted" bits and pieces. I remember being amused they would join the "removal" side on the grounds of bad language. Other people rejected Nixon only on the basis of his tax returns -- a good many Republicans started moving toward removal because they thought John Dean was telling the truth before the Ervin Committee in July, 1973. Essentially they did jury duty, carefully watched the witness and concluded he was their idea of a bright Republican Boy Scout, and he was a truth teller. They didn't really follow the evidence, they measured character. All of the individual stories contained in what we refer to as Watergate have to be examined in these many contexts.

Kutler did a follow-on Watergate book in 1997 called "Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes." In this book Kutler uses the new information to examine the total scope of the cover-up as it evolved, and as it began to include many more persons, and a much more complex collection of lies and disinformation. The entire book is transcrips of newly released Nixon Tapes with a few contextual settings, a few references to contemporary documents -- but for the most part it is just Nixon talking to his inner circle, with much of the book taken up with discussions that actually parallel the Ervin Hearings as they unfold. (Dick Nixon as Critic in Chief of the Ervin-Baker Production.)

I honestly loved this book, but I only recommend it if people already have a reasonably sophisticated command of the Watergate story. Of course it ends in July 73 when Butterfield spilled the truth about the tapes.

Another semi-Kutler book is the Halderman Diaries. He did a major part of the edit on these before HR Halderman died. Again -- this is not an introductory narrative, but it is a highly valuable fleshing out of many pieces of Watergate. Halderman also published a CD with the book with much more material and a search engine -- but sadly it is not compatable with newer computers. I've asked a couple of techies how to fix the problem, and no one has yet come up with the answer.

Finally, One of the better contemporary books is J. Anthony Lukas's "Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years" -- published in book form in 1976, but based in part on a series of New York Times Magazine pieces he did, beginning in 72 and continuning after the resignation. (Don't be put off by the title. This is not by any matter of means a Jerry Ford-Russert gloss-over.) In fact, for someone just beginning to read into Watergate, this is the book I would recommend as a starting point. It is particularly valuable because even by 1976 Lukas is not sure about the dominant narrative -- so he explores avenues that have long since been whited out and forgotten.

Don't forget the constitutional crisis of December, 2000, that would have led to another long national nightmare if we had followed constitutional procedures for disputed elections instead of allowing the supreme court to decide it for us.

Thank heaven we have the republican party to rescue us from long national nightmares.

Buy Viagra
Generic Viagra Online
Generic Cialis Online
Generic Levitra
Generic Propecia Online
Generic Meridia Online
Generic Zocor Online
Generic Soma Online
Generic Prozac Online

The comments to this entry are closed.

Where We Met

Blog powered by Typepad